Home: L3 Commercial Training Solutions

That's a wrap - Zak Wheatley

Date: 27 September 2018

Somehow, I have just completed my training. I’ve come to the end of a course that had been my childhood mission to follow, and even though the job hunt is next on the agenda, I can’t help but feel a massive sense of accomplishment.


Following my IR test and UPART flights in Bournemouth in June, I had just over a week at home with my family before starting the final phase of training. I used this week to begin to study and learn content for the AQC, or Airline Qualification Course, that I would be starting the following week. Familiarising myself with memory flows for the Boeing 737 filled me with increasing excitement, as I was slowly realising that the next aircraft that I would fly would be a jet airliner (albeit – a simulator).


The initial week of the AQC was all in the classroom – a ground school covering basic knowledge of the aircraft and company SOP’s, as well as three days of CRM. First off on Monday morning, we were allocated crew partners, and also aircraft types. Claire Banks and I were to be paired for all of the simulator details, and we would be training on the Boeing 737-700. Our aircraft was later changed on the following Saturday as a result of operational availability to the older B737-300.


It was during this first week that I thanked myself for preparing so heavily during my week off. The company SOP’s (standard operating procedures) alongside the memory flow actions for various phases of a flight were already ingrained in my head and I was now simply revising them as opposed to learning them from scratch. From Wednesday through Friday, we were taken by the lovely Sue and Charlie Bough for a CRM, or Crew Resource Management course. Skills involved with decision making, crew communication, and workload management were enhanced throughout these days, and we were given some very helpful tools that will likely be carried throughout our careers with us.



As far as the simulator flights went, I was surprised each day at how well Claire and I were working as a team. It was great gaining valuable experience of how working in a multi crew environment differed to the ‘single pilot operations’ that had been the case throughout training up until AQC. Going from being the only pilot responsible for all pre-flight planning, actual flying of the aircraft and management of a flight, to now having another person to work alongside. As with a lot of this sort of training, the vast majority of the flights had a myriad of ‘non normal’ or emergency situations to deal with and ultimately end with a safe landing of the jet onto a runway.


A couple of scenarios that we had to deal with spanned from generator and electrics failures, to engine fires or severely damaged engines. Contrarily, there were situations of ‘severely ill’ passengers, destination airports closed due to various threats on the ground, and pilot incapacitation which each offered their own unique set of challenges to overcome. One of the most memorable scenarios for me, however, was a rapid cabin depressurisation, that was uncontrollable and resulted in the need to initiate an emergency descent. One of the first actions here is to don the oxygen masks (of which are impressively designed to allow them to fit over the head and then suction themselves onto your face all in a matter of seconds) which happens quickly as the time of useful consciousness for a person at high altitudes is around 10-12 seconds.



That final six days were extremely tiring, not least because my morning alarm was set at 4.30am for the vast majority of the days. That said, as with everything that I put my all into, the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment after each successful flight – especially the final sim assessment – was more than a big enough reward. Further still, I’m sat here now and I still can’t compute the fact that I am now fully qualified to be applying for a pilot role with an airline. It really has been a tremendous whirlwind of a ride, and I will never let go of just how lucky I am to have done, and be doing exactly what I have always wanted to. My parents have given me support in every single sense of the word, and I will never be able to repay them for allowing me to pursue this path. Alongside my two sisters, they have been the best support system that I could have ever wished for. I have made some amazing friends along the way in various training locations around the globe, of which I am sure will be great friends for life.


I’m under no naivety that the job hunt may not be easy, and that there will be a vast amount of hard work yet to come when I do secure a job, but I am beyond excited to begin the career that I’ve dreamt about since I was a child.