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Bournemouth Bound – Zak Wheatley

Date: 13 May 2018

After returning home to the UK following my CPL skills test pass, I had a week at home to get over the jet lag and have time to refresh myself for the next phase of training. That week off was never going to feel long enough - as always! Nonetheless it was time to get myself on the way to another new location – this time it was Bournemouth, on the south coast of England. I have been housed pretty much in the middle of the New Forest, which has some nice scenic views and plenty of adorable wild horses.


I was meant to move in on the Friday of my week off, but due to the bad weather of the ‘Beast from the East’ I could only get down on the Sunday (not that I was complaining, it gave me an extra two days at home with the family).


Bright and early on Monday morning, it was back to the routine. There were two days of welcomes, inductions and presentations specific to the Bournemouth phase of training. I drove straight into the syllabus, I had my first few simulator flights in the UK on the subsequent three days of that week.

Shooting back into the world of IFR flying, the first few Sim sessions were for UK orientation – easing back into the various procedures and techniques. It was more difficult than I had anticipated to adjust so suddenly to the slightly different ‘UK way’ of doing things. The RT (how to speak on the radio) is quite particular here. Whilst it is not massively dissimilar to that of New Zealand, I’ve found there are a lot of things that would be said as common practice out in Hamilton that are just either wrong or not used in the UK. Furthermore, regardless of the fact that they are simulator flights, getting used to the vastly more complicated airspace of the UK has had to happen very quickly. But in the big picture these are merely small hurdles.



I hadn’t really had time to take a breath properly during that first week, I was constantly needing to be consolidating the sim from that day, or preparing for another the following morning. For the days that I am scheduled in, there’s plenty to be keeping me busy. In Bournemouth, you are paired (or placed into groups of three) for each training event. For example, as a pair, we would be briefed for the task of the flight, one would fly for two hours whilst the other observes, before swapping seats for a role reversal. It’s quite amazing how the capacity of a person is so much larger as an observer as opposed to being the pilot flying the flight. With both of the sims sessions complete, a thorough debrief of both sims, and a few pointers for what to plan for the next flight brings the day to a close. Subsequently, the days are very long, often waking up in the early hours and not getting back into the house until dinner time. But it’s simply a matter of routine and is a constructive method for learning in the long run.



I then moved onto the single pilot LOFT phase of sim training, or ‘line orientated flight training’. These are designed to act as a demonstration of an IFR flight with you and only you as the crew, including aircraft systems failures occurring en route. With each of the LOFT sim sessions, the amount and level of failures is constantly increased, from complete control surface failures, to fuel leaks, engine and electrical failures. With hindsight, these were actually quite fun flights to do, as everything that happens is up to you to manage and deal with. You do everything from the planning stages, to orchestrating a diversion to a different unplanned airport due to a ‘PANPAN’ or ‘MAYDAY’ situation – that of urgency or emergency. That said, at the time, they were definitely quite stressful situations for obvious reasons.



Moving swiftly on, the next phase of sim training are UK IR test routes. These act as an introduction to the format of the instrument rating flight test. In total, there are only three sim sessions, six flights in a real aircraft, a ‘170’ (basically a practice test) and then the real IR test itself. So – all in all, not a lot of time between now and the next big hurdle.



Having lived in New Zealand for the best part of a year, back home it feels like so much yet so little has changed. It’s quite surreal really. Being so much closer to family and friends is a welcomed addition to my lifestyle – that’s for sure!



Read more about Zak’s journey to the sky in his personal blog here