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Back to School – Olly Sartain Berry

Date: 2 November 2017

Prior to commencing ground school our home was bustling with activity and excitement. The once distant prospect of flight training was quickly becoming a reality and finalising all the various contracts marked the point of no return for my career change into aviation.

Whilst driving the unfamiliar route to the academy on the first morning of ground school I felt excitement, disbelief and uncertainty. Once everyone had arrived, my course mates and I were shown to our classroom where we found our places and brand new equipment waiting for us.

 

After being introduced to our management and instructor team, our first lecture came in the form of a sobering declaration of the performance we'd be expected to achieve. The eighteen months ahead of us had been meticulously planned and formed into modules and phases with tests every step of the way. Objectively, this managed and monitored approach to flight training was why I'd chosen to invest in an integrated course in the first place, but by all accounts the journey was guaranteed to be tough.

 

I was struck with fear by the realisation that my future career hung by a very thin thread - my individual ability to perform academically. Nearly ten years had passed since my secondary education and nothing had stretched me academically in the interim. I thumbed through the seventeen training manuals and array of aeronautical charts and quickly concluded that I wasn't going to cope with the seemingly impossible workload and time constraints. I had never experienced recoil like it.

 

 

During a brief coffee break I waited outside our classroom and shared my concern with a senior manager. In all seriousness, I asked him if I should go home and try to get my old job back. With sincerity and kindness he steered my resolve back on course and convinced me to at least try before giving up.

 

Without doubt, ATPL ground school is the hardest thing I've ever attempted academically. I had to pay full attention in every lesson, ask questions to verify my understanding, copy all my class notes into neat when I got home and study everything coming up the next day just to stay on track - it's no joke.

 

But by settling into a daily routine, putting one foot in front of the other and reducing every task into bite size goals, I managed to keep up. What helped the most by far was that I actually enjoyed the learning!

 

Another aspect of ground school I relished was working with and alongside the mix of nationalities, backgrounds and personalities my course mates all brought to the team. There were some clashes of course, but most days were filled with humour, banter and belly laughs - these are friendships that will stand the test of years to come.

 

Only seven weeks later, our module one exams were looming. We'd learnt four subjects in fine detail and had our knowledge tested in a series of progress tests and mock exams up to that point. The final exams were held under strict conditions and I found them to be a strong challenge.

 

 

When the CAA results came through I could hardly believe the good news. I was officially one third of the way through ground school and closer than I'd ever been before to actually achieving my boyhood dream to become an airline pilot. With that, it was onwards and upwards to ground school module two.

 

The next morning my one year old boy presented me with a 'well done Daddy' card with which he'd had a little help writing, highlighting the fact that, having looked after our son for the majority of the previous eight weeks as well as working herself, my wife had facilitated and was very much a part of this achievement.

 

I slept well that weekend. Thinking back to the nerve-wracking first day of ground school, I would have regretted forever giving up so quickly had it not been for the wisdom and positivity of an experienced mentor - this, in itself, had been the greatest of all the lessons so far.

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