Monday, 8 December 2014

Exam time! Stress, lack of sleep and red bull pretty much summed up this week for me, though I know I spent my week off re-going over my books and did the whole of aviation exam at least once for each subject. I don’t know how I could have prepared more but still went in feeling nervous. The CAA examiners were there and you needed to sign in, show your passport and have your calculator checked before each exam. You weren’t even allowed to take your own pencils!

The exams were very much like school finals and were all done on the computer. I finished most of them well before the time limit which gave me time to check. Met, Instruments and PoF were all very hard as I expected and I even got a dodgy question in Human performance which is one I was hoping to do well in. The instructors have all been very supportive after the exams though when relating these questions to them. I also love the support you get from the other students here who help you to stay positive. In the end the only exam I felt confident I’d done well in after leaving was the two Comms papers.

The results were due to be posted on the Friday and you had to wait by your computer knowing that they could be released any time before 5pm; refreshing the browser every 2 minutes was still a necessity. Mine came through one by one but I am pleased to say I passed them all with an average of 88%, maybe slightly lower than I was hoping for at the start of the course but much better than I had thought considering how the exams did go. My lowest grade was Instruments (80% but hey, I passed!) and my highest was IFR Comms (96%). That day I went to the airport to assist with showing a group of students around the school, I love doing things like that, before preparing for a relaxing weekend of celebrating and not having to do any work for the first time since being here.

I started phase 2 today and they really didn’t go easy on us even though it was the first day back and we had only a weekend to recover from EASAs. It was strange having new subjects and new teachers (though we did keep some of our old ones which I was very happy about). The timetables are fun; not only is AP365 getting scarily close to the top of the list, the week is back to number 1, we are to start doing CBTs again AND it also has new colours for the new subjects, yay!

Monday, 1 December 2014

School Finals 1!

It’s been so hard to keep up to date with this, I thought I’d be more likely to forget than anything else but I’ve been spending my time practising questions online for my exams and after I’m done with that I can’t seem to bring myself to look at a computer again. I do apologise to my few readers out there. Ground school is certainly to be endured, not enjoyed.

I had my school finals the week before last, it was tough. All exams were within two days and I found you’d be so tired by the end of the day you were making mistakes, you knew you would be making mistakes but just couldn’t seem to see it. It also didn’t help that there was a ‘computer malfunction’ during our Instruments exam which was the first one on Monday so that got added onto to the ones on Tuesday. My results were okay, HP and Comms I got 92% in each which I was quite happy with (definitely didn’t dedicate as much time to these as for other subjects). I improved upon my engines mark and managed to pass instruments, which is honestly all I was hoping for at this point. My big disappointment was Met, I got 71% which qualifies as a pass in School Finals but it was one of those that I’d hoped to do well in, I love Met L Hopefully I’ve focussed enough on it this week to pull that grade up.

We did the exams in a separate exam hall and they’re all computerised now. The computers even have a funny polarised covering which means it looks blank if you view it from a different angle; I found this so annoying on my eyes! One thing I really loved though was how positive and supportive the other staff and students have been here when they see you waiting outside the room, it really gives you a nice boost before going in J

We’ve been given this week off for studying which has been brilliant, especially since all my housemates have still been at school so it’s been quiet and I’ve been able to get on. I don’t feel particularly nervous for these exams; I just want to get them over and done with now. I’m sure I’ll change my tone on Monday morning when I realise I know nothing. Oh, and it’s Met first thing so at least I’ll be getting it out of the way.

The exam timetable is a little friendlier than for School Finals in that we only have two a day so there’s at least a break in between each of them. I really just hope I can pass instruments again. The results are on Friday so it’ll all be over soon. This weekend will be amazing.

Last weekend was another Oxford open day only this time the lectures were inside the graduation tent which just looks magical, I love it. I also can’t believe how fast a year has gone by, I attended that open day as a potential candidate only last year. Scary.

Wish me luck, my first real EASA is tomorrow morning !!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Week 11 and I haven't an original title for this post

Last weekend I went to the Heathrow flyer show, it really was good fun and very busy. Talked to quite a few people about coming to Oxford and remember what it was like when I went to one of these a few years ago and how different I am now. I actually met a few people who'd read this blog so thank you for that, I'm glad the feedback has been positive and I just apologise for the lack of posts lately. Time really does fly here (excuse the pun!). As well as chatting about OAA we had the chance to talk to the airlines exhibiting there like Virgin, BA and even Susi Air. All in all it made for a nice revision break and got to see some big air planes, yay!

This week has flown by, with school finals fast approaching (they're on Monday), it's very satisfying to have finished CBTs for some subjects however scary in that we haven't yet covered all of the subject matter in lessons like Human Performance and Comms. With Comms we've only really started this week but I'm hoping I'll have picked some of it up before in the experience flying that I've been doing.

I had my medical last week and was given the all clear, so that's a weight off until next year. I actually found it a lot more relaxing than the initial, there were fewer tests and it was done just at Oxford airport. I only ended up missing half an hour of Electrics, though that does now mean I have to make up the time during the revision break before EASAs.

All term we've given a TAF, METAR and surface weather chart to look at which has been great for familiarising ourselves with so we don't suddenly have to learn them when we reach the chapter in the book. It's also really interesting and satisfying to actual sort of pretend we know what the weather has been doing. It's been really cold this week and that's because there's an Arctic Polar Maritime air mass coming down to Britain.

Met is still my favourite subject and Instruments my least; just because of how much information there is to learn for it, I'm nervous to say the least about how I can pull this off...My School Finals are on Monday. This Monday. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

I'm suddenly finished with test 1s in week 9!!!!

Wow. Was week 4 seriously my last post?? I'm now finding myself in week 9 completely unaware of where the time has actually gone, especially as every day is very much the same here; up early, lessons during the day, CBT, then home to eat and do some work in the evening. It’s fairly intense though I must say that at no point have I found the work has increased in difficulty, we are taking it a little bit faster during the lessons now but I like to think we've adapted to the routine and it’s going well so far.

I also have the added bonus of being able to mention Test 1s. For us they started in week 5 and we finished them off in week 6. I was quite happy with my 85% average which is an indication of your progress. The test 1s are really helpful in showing you the layout of the questions and particular subjects you’d need to work at. They weren't too bad as long as you've put in the work! There is already talk of school finals which are in 1 month so I know how much more work I’ll need to put in now as they are most definitely going to creep up on us before we know it, in preparation I have caved and purchased an on-line question bank from aviation exam to help me out with my studies.

Though after test 1 we've been given a few revision guides from our instructors and Oxford’s question bank. The more practice you can do the more prepared you’re going to be and I’m finding it’s helping me structure my revision a little better in the evenings. We’ll see if it pays off…I’m also getting a little tired of CBTs, they’re a tad tedious at times…

We finally had our class picture!!!

My domestic life is going well (although completely boring as the only thing I really do is eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat. On weekends I get to do my laundry and a food shop just to shake things up a bit! We have two new house mates starting on the new 367 course this week (seriously, where has the time gone?!) and so have a full house which is great.

This week has been very heavy on Instruments which I've got to say is now my least favourite (the hardest subject) I quite enjoy systems now! As we have a lot of ground left to cover they split up the instruments topic into several different areas with different teachers and we pretty much solely have an instruments topic every hour!

It’s come up to class 1 medical renewal time (you have to get one every year!) do wish me luck? I’m also looking forward to helping out at the Heathrow flyers exhibition representing OAA this Saturday! 

Other than that I don’t really have a lot going on so will blog again (apparently I'm really bad at it!) when I have something significant to talk about other than drawling on about studying, school finals are now only a few weeks away which is very scary and I hate the guilty feeling you get where you know you could always be doing slightly more work…

Monday, 22 September 2014

Week 3

It's really scary how fast time is going here! As we're a small class I think we're making pretty fast progress as a couple of our test 1s have been brought forward, putting them in week 5 which is just over a week away. Very scary as that marks the half way point of phase one and halfway to school finals and EASAs! So far I feel it's going quite well,  I just need to practice more of the questions to get into the swing of exam mode.

Most of the guys in my class have already got the on-line question banks but I think I'm going to save that for after test 1s, more than anything I don't want my membership to expire before the end of my phase 2 EASAs and test 1 is a sort of progress exam set by Oxford and the marks aren't external. After that I believe we're given an Oxford Aviation question bank which will be great for lots of practice question for school finals and I'm planning on getting an ATPL question bank at that point aswell.

Currently my revision is to come home, make a few notes on the chapter's we've done that day and then do the questions from the textbook. The instructor's are all really great, it's so much more chilled out than when you were back in school but they're always around during the breaks in case you need any extra help. It's just really hard motivating yourself to come home and do more studying and a CBT having been sat in the classroom all day, especially since we've had another full timetable this week.

On Friday night I went to the pub with my new house mate and some of the guys in the new course who live on the same road (my course were being boring and decided to study in the evening!), it's fun to mix up with the others and the only people you really see during ground school are your own course. At least we're not the baby course any more. My weekend consisted of doing work, mostly making colourful revision notes, and a really exciting excursion to Tesco for a weekly food shop, fun, fun.

Oh well, it's only for 6 months and as it's going so fast that really won't be long at all. Motivation; that's the name of the game.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Week two of course Snow White and the Seven giants (the boys are all taller than me!)

Wow, what a busy week! Kind of scary how fast it's gone. We've been packed with 6 lessons a day, followed by a CBT, every day this week. It's been really tiring and you don't really have time to take it in before your next class. By the time you get home you eat something then get back to your books which is so hard to motivate yourself to do. I mean just look at this timetable:

We had quite a bit of PoF (principles of flight) this week which is a little tricky to get your head round at first and you just feel like you've been hit over the back of the head with the amount of information you're supposed to retain each day. It's not too bad when you get home and can consolidate the stuff from the textbook though so it's definitely all manageable. We finished slightly early on Friday as the instructor thought we needed a bit of a break so we went to the pub (of course), some of the best advice we've gotten is to not get too stressed and worn out during this first month. It's all about getting a good routine and getting used to how you study.

This weekend has been so so busy (probably why this blog post is so delayed). On the Friday night as per the instructor's instructions to take things easy, the course went to the pub. There are now 9 of us on 365 as we have a member who has been moved from a different course. I'm still glad it's a small number though as it means we get more attention and get along better.

On Saturday was the open day which was crazy. I went to one of these things last year and now I'm actually helping out?! I felt really proud of myself and it felt weird knowing I'd done a complete 180 in my life, or at least that's how it feels. Can't imagine how it'll feel when I actually get my CPL. On the open day (I had to be there at 8.45??) I did the meet and greet first in the morning, mostly just showing people where the toilets were or where the coffee was, then was sent up to the assessment centre to help run practice sessions of the COMPASS assessment. This was tricky as we were supposed to give verbal instruction, let them practice one or two of each test and then move on. The problem was most people wanted to stay on them and didn't want to switch so we had to be a little forceful at times. But obviously all while being super friendly and promoting Oxford. It was really nice talking to people though and I'll definitely try and do another Open day in the future. One thing that was strange is that I remember being terrified of the COMPASS during my assessment and it actually seemed kind of easy this time around on the few that I tried, could be that I've practised it and seen it all before?

I also felt like the open day would be a good way to meet people who were not on my course (you tend to stick with your own class all day, every day) and it was really lovely to mix and be super jealous of those who've come back from America.

Saturday evening I moved next door into the student house, and I'm finally getting a double bed, yay! I really enjoyed the other house and am very glad they're just over the fence if I need anything. At the moment there's just me and one other guy living here however there should be more moving in with the new course starting at the end of this week. Exciting to see who my new house mates will be (The only thing I know is that they're all boys).

On Sunday my parents came to visit. My dad has a PPL so flew down in his Cessna 152 so I had to go back to the airport yet again to great them and we went out for lunch which was really nice. Sunday evening I felt super guilty and attempted to do a little work as I'd seriously missed out that weekend. I'm still not too worried about them though.

I found a solution to my bag being so heavy! Behold the cart, best purchase I've made recently!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Well, I survived the first week!

Week one of ATPL ground school, done. And it's just flown by! A bit scary considering my test 1 exams are now in 5 weeks!

So far, it's been going great although really tiring, I'm hoping that wears off once I get into the swing of being back at school again. I come home from school and spend a few hours consolidating what we've done that day or as the instructors put it "writing a new textbook needlessly". But it helps and we don't have much hardcore homework yet. At the end of each day we have CBT periods with a small test at the end and I've been getting pretty good marks on those so I'm feeling good so far, I thought I'd find this phase more difficult (though I know it will get harder).

Wearing the full uniform and playing with the MASSIVE CRP-5 computer in an instruments class:

My favourite subject at the moment is 'Meterology', and we're doing about the atmosphere, there's a fair amount to learn like all the standard ISA temperatures and pressures for different altitudes but I find it quite interesting. I'm also finding that a lot of the classes link together which definitely helps broaden your understanding and finding out how the pressure we learn about about in say, Met will affect the ASI (airspeed instrument) readings we're studying in 'Aircraft Instruments'. I also love Human Performance but I knew I would, so far we've watched a few videos and discussed what went wrong, really not been difficult at the moment!

My least favourite subject is probably 'Systems', I'm finding it a little dry and technical at the moment as we're learning about structures and composite materials and the different stresses and strains experienced during flight. It feels a little like an engineering course rather than a pilot course however we are only on chapter one and its relevance will probably become clear soon. I guess we have to know that kind of thing to be aware of how the structure of the airplane could be affect by our (extreme) flying. Who knows? I am interested to see if my opinion of my subjects changes throughout the course, which it definitely will.

This weekend I went back into Oxford again to be a tourist and I've got to say what a gorgeous city! The sun was shining and we went all around just enjoying it. There won't be much free time later on in the course so I might as well enjoy seeing this part of the country while I can (while the weather stays nice!)

Monday, 1 September 2014

My very first day of ground school!

So this morning I knew how to tie a Windsor knot - yay, thank you cadets! I had to re-do it a few times as the tie was a bit thick and way too long for me but the know how was definitely there.

Ground school is split into two phases leading up to the dreaded EASA exams, the first set of exams is going to be 1st December which seems really soon!! Luckily on our first day they eased us into it and started off slow with introductory sessions as part of each period where we got to know our instructors. So far they all seem great and most are ex-military which is very interesting.

Phase 1 Exams:

  • Meterology
  • Principles of Flight
  • Power plant (Propulsion)*
  • Human Performance (Yay, Psychology!)*
  • Systems*
  • Instruments*
  • Electronics
Stars are for the ones I had today. We also have allocated times on our schedules for CBTs (Computer Based training) this is just running through a video and then being tested on it. If you don't pass you need to start over and re-do that section. Today we had a short introduction to Principles of Flight on the CBT and I got 100% on my first attempt (Again, thank you Air Cadets!)

They also asked if anyone wanted to be course representative so I volunteered! You just have to take attendance and make sure the classroom's tidy really but it made me feel important :)

I came home and made some notes about the piston engine, the work isn't too tough now and we didn't have much homework as it's only the first day but I know it's only going to get more difficult. First day's are always so scary and I'm glad today turned out okay. I definitely am NOT used to being in a classroom all day though, my back started aching halfway through from being sat at a desk and I surely needed some coffee about halfway through. Oh and the books still weight a tonne, I only took four of them in today and had to lug them all home... Tomorrow's mission is to find somewhere I can buy a little trolley for my flight case.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My brand new kit!

Thought I'd share some piccies to give you an idea of how much new kit we were given on Friday!

So here is everything:

Let's break it down!

Flight Bag

As well as the brand new, leather, super professional looking flight bag it contained the following: 
  • Clipboard
  • CPR-5 flight computer
  • Scientific calculator (loving the attention to detail here Oxford!)
  • Compass (drawing, not navigational)
  • HighVis vest
  • Fuel contamination checker
  • Two types of rulers, one was square!
I love how even the flight computer has to have the Oxford logo on it:

It actually looks really complicated and scary, I have not a clue how to use this thing. 

The 'make your momma's proud' kind, I wanted to cry when I put mine on because this is actually happening. You can take it back to exchange as long as you don't take the tags off or ruin them (just like in NEXT), I already ordered the smallest sizes in everything so I'll just have to rock it even though the shirts are too long and the jacket is like a tent. C'est La Vie. 

  • Jacket - Mine is way too big for me! 
  • Two pairs of Black trousers
  • Two Sweaters - One light and one heavy
  • 5x Shirts, I opted for 3 long sleeve and 2 short sleeved. It gets cold in winter, not a clue how I'll cope in Arizona...
  • Navy Tie
Not to mention the name badge and Epaulettes! These are the starting ones with one silver band, you get different ones after you've gained your CPL. 

The books

14 ATPL textbooks and one Jeppeson Airway Manual for student pilot navigation. I've got a lot of reading to do!

Enrolment Day! - 29/08/2014

Didn't sleep one bit the night before, I was so nervous (also kind of excited). I arrived and checked in and straight away I met two of the guys on my course, glad I'd turned up in the right place. We were led to a lounge area to meet the other members of my course, mine is a pretty small one and there are only 8 of us in total, and I'm the only girl (well this is different!)

The whole day went really well I feel, all the staff and my fellow course mates were so friendly. We started off with the boring stuff; the mandatory health and safety brief. Before going to collect our books. I couldn't even lift the box! There are 14 ATPL textbooks and they are heavy, luckily someone was on hand to carry them up to the classroom for me. We had to have photos taken for our security passes and collected our uniforms, so much stuff to take home!

We met with our chief ground school instructor who sort of welcomed us onto the course and kind of worried us about the course; ground school does sound really tough. There were a load of forms in our pack to fill out including signing up for the brand new BSc in Air Transport Management degree programme, that's something fun to have under the belt and it's all included in the course. I also registered with a local GP and handed in my 9 page training agreement to Oxford; It's like a huge contract.

I say Enrolment day, it was more like a half day really and keen to get acquainted we decided to go to the pub for a few drinks. Most of the guys live in Langford halls and dropping off their stuff was easy, I'd been lucky enough to be offered a lift by one of the students living next door (I was so grateful) so after he'd dropped me off we went to the Black Horse pub in Kidlington. I was so happy everyone got along but with only 8 of us it doesn't make it that difficult. We even had plans to spend the weekend together exploring Oxford, which is a great way to unwind in our last free weekend before the dreaded ground school. Bring on Monday!

Arriving in Kidlington - 28/08/2014

I arrived in Kidlington the day before my enrolment (definitely didn't give myself enough time to settle in or unpack but what the hey!) feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement but fairly prepared for the course ahead. Here's everything I had to get sorted before starting:

CAA UK class one medical
I actually got this one back in October before I went for my OAA Assessment just so I knew everything was alright before I started. You need to bring the medical certificate and your current passport in to be able to enrol.

BALPA Life and loss of medical Insurance 
Oxford recommend a membership with BALPA (which is free to student pilots!) and they do trainee pilot insurance so it's really easy to sort out and saves you from searching around for the best deals. This is just a bit of reassurance for you in case anything went wrong with your medical you wouldn't also be burdened with the massive repayment rates for the training.

I decided that a house share would be the way forward as the internet is not a fan of Langford or Upper Heyford (the OAA halls of residence), plus they're more expensive. I'm going to be sharing with 4 other student pilots, though I'm not sure who yet and it's only about a 10 minute walk to the airport. As the house is still currently occupied I'm going to be a lodger in a neighbours family house which I was a bit unsure of at first, but they're so friendly and welcoming and even cook for me that it's definitely a way to ease back into the student lifestyle.

You need to have confirmed with OAA beforehand where your funding is going to come from. To sure your place on a course you need to pay the £5,000 deposit and then pay the initial training fee installment (£27,000) 7 days prior to the course starting.

All uniform needs to be ordered through OAA well in advance just so they can get everything in for you, especially if you have irregular sizes. You need to pick how many short or long sleeve shirts you want then give your sizes for shirts, trousers, jumpers and jackets. In shops I'm borderline size 8-10 depending where I go (even a size 6 in NEXT!) so ordered the smallest size in everything, I'm seriously hoping it'll be okay. Uniform is all included in the course fees though so no extra cost....

...Apart from shoes, you need to get shoes yourself, I found this one really tricky even though there were guidelines as to shoe style, it's so much easier for boys! I needed to find some black leather court shoe style, no stiletto or kitten heels, no decor or buckles, absolutely no metal. It's surprisingly hard to find something that fits all these requirements but I turned to my old friend Clark's and landed on these two:

Courts for ground school and flats for flying? Again, I'm hoping they'll be alright.

Name Badge
Part of the uniform requires you to wear a name badge at all times, apparently you're allowed an appropriate nickname. I just went for the boring approach and wrote my surname and first name. You need to order this one in advance as well when you order uniform.

Later in the day I was given a tour around the house I would be moving into in about two weeks which was fantastic as there are currently 5 student pilots living there at the moment. I spent the evening chatting to them about ground school (they're nearly finished with so know everything about it) which was invaluable. I was also kind of proud of myself, I'd describe myself as a shy person but I'd managed to go around and ask questions to complete strangers and spend most of the evening there without feeling any uncomfort. What a step up from when I first arrived at University!

The advice I was repeatedly getting from them was to keep on top of the work from day one and to 'smash the bank' (?). I later learnt that this refers to question banks that you can use to practice from to prepare for the exams so I'm definitely going to give that a try. The first exams are in about 6 weeks which is seriously soon so I am feeling nervous about the workload.