When I knew I was allowed to start my ATPL training at the Sabena Flight Academy (now called the CAE Oxford Aviation Academy Brussels) in September 2011, I started this blog and decided to post a few notes each month to keep you up to date of how things go on. But studying at SFA took of course a lot of spare time away, and plans were changed. This is actually my first real blog post
After 7 months of ground school and a few weeks of exams I finished the ATPL theory training. With a very nice average score of 92,7% I passed all 14 official exams at the Belgian Civil Aviation Administration. My reaction was easy to describe: very, very happy!
The first chapter of my flight training is finished.
Here is a small overview with some highlights what happened last months:
September the 5th was my first day as an airline pilot student. We were all expected at the SFA-building in Steenokkerzeel in the afternoon for a welcome briefing, an overview of the training and to receive the rest of our uniform and some tools like measuring instruments, Jeppesen charts, our 14 Oxford ATPL books, a pilot case, etc. We also received our course schedule for September. A normal day begins at 08:20 until 12:10, lunch and then from 13:00 until 16:50. Of course we have some brakes in between. Our class, “Promotion 21″, consists of 24 people (the limit).
Our first course was Piston Engines, followed by Electrics, Meteorology and Air Law, Turbine Engines, General Navigation, Physiology and Psychology, VFR & IFR Communication and Principles of Flight. All very interesting courses, with all very nice instructors.
I made myself volunteer to man the public relations stand of SFA at the 35th Sanicole Airshow. I was the only one of my Prom, together with 2 of Prom 20 and one ex-student. Our task was to answer questions and handover information to interested people, give away some ballpoints and stress balls, etc… While doing that, we could enjoy the show. It was a nice experience.
“Time flies”, was what I thought the first month, but that is not always true. Being in classrooms with only artificial lightning is tiring, and when you come home, the day mostly ends with studying for a test (which requires 75% to pass) or the next courses.
We had new courses like Airframes and Systems, and Basic Radio Propagation which is basically an introduction for Radio Navigation. I subscribed to help at the Open House the 22nd of October: guiding visitors to and through the building.
With groups of 6 students, we started the practical communication courses. Fun to do, and a good way to learn/practice our radio telephony. For our last Turbine Engines course we want to SFA’s basement for some engine starts on a Boeing 737 Classic mockup. We also dealt with hot starts, hung starts and other problems and received general explanation about different B737 systems. It is always nice to see the theory in practical examples! This month we also started the Performance course, which was very interesting.
There were nice things in December: we visited the planetarium in Brussels, and a briefing about observation flights was given, which meant we could finally plan great observation flights with Jetairfly, Thomas Cook or Luxair ! There were also three other briefings: one about Jeppesen charts, Rules of thumb and the effects of controls.
We also started BFC, which stands for ‘Basic Flying Course’ and consists out of a few briefings and 6 sessions. It is a kind of course which works on the development of professional attitude, understanding the basic tasks of flying and how to apply them, the teaching/learning process, the link between theory and practice, and how to create a Personal Pilot Handbook. During the sessions we flew on a basic flight simulator and learned procedures, call-outs, scanning techniques, etc. Discipline is one of the most important factors to pass BFC courses.
We did not see a lot of daylight during winter time: going to SFA in darkness, going home in darkness. During the training we also do not have holidays: for example the second day after Christmas started with a test. January was quite a busy month: together with the tests, BFC brought an additional workload.
Because BFC is in small groups of 3 and lasts half a day, the other students have extra study time or other ‘split’ courses. Extra study time was welcome to keep the required level of knowledge up to date, and to learn for next tests. We made a nice visit to Aviapartner at Brussels Airport to have a look behind the scenes at the airport. We generally followed the whole flight preparation of an Ethiad flight to Abu Dhabi, made a walk-around at Ethiad’s Airbus A330-200 and had a briefing about loadsheets, etc. At the end we could take a look in the cockpit. Then we all wished we were already flying for company
March was a month of lots of visits. We first visited Belgocontrol where we were guided around the site, visited the control tower, training simulator and CANAC (the air traffic control centre). It was my second visit there, but still interesting. We also visited the cargo part of Aviapartner where we saw the cargo handling itself, the Maastricht Upper Area Control Center, and the Brussels military airport. The C130 is a magnificent aircraft ! At SFA, we had a lot of Performance and started also with Mass & Balance, on of the more practical courses.
This month, I also did my first SFA observation flight! I had the privilege to fly from Brussels (BRU) to Tenerife (TFS) and Lille (LIL) with an Airbus A320 of Thomas Cook Belgium. A great flight, a great experience. A big thank you to the crew and company!
Our last month of theory. Great ! With a lot of tests in our last 2 weeks, we also had a simulator session in a B737NG to finish the Instruments course. A nice experience! During these weeks, one evening, we also had the ‘Pre-departure briefing’. We were briefed about our departure and stay in Mesa, Arizona. I would depart the 9th of August, which was coming closer and closer . After these two lasts weeks of theory training, studying for the official exams at Brussels began…
May – June:
Two months of studying hard for one of the most important exams until then. While studying, everything what you have seen and studied comes together, which gives a great overview and a boost to remember all the required knowledge. The official exams are split up into two ‘blocks’, A and B. Both blocks consist of 2 days, with each 3 or 4 exams per day.
The 20th of June I finally finished the theory.
I really enjoyed all these months. It is great to be together with people with the same interest and motivation in aviation. After a day at SFA, we sometimes went to Leuven, someone’s ‘kot’ or the café The Pitchers’ for a drink . Sadly enough, 3 people of our Prom already had to quit.
What rests now, until my departure to Mesa, is FNPT II and a lot of paper work. FNPT II consists out of a few briefings and 8 simulator sessions in the Diamond DA42: 5 IFR and 4 VFR courses. That is going to be fun! Paper work also has to be done: preparing the VISA application, doing another JAA medical examination and now also an FAA medical, TSA, SEVIS, etc. There is a lot to do to enter the States to fly, but definitely worth it.
Click here for the pictures from these months.