Date: 30 August 2018
Hi, my name is India and I am currently in college trying to decide on what career I should pursue after playing professional basketball and if I have the capabilities of becoming a pilot. I wanted to know more about what it would take to become a pilot, so I contacted L3 and was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to spend five days at their Airline Academy in Southampton.
Here’s my diary of the five days I spent with L3:
Day 1: Observing 737 Simulator training
I travelled down to Southampton in the early hours. When I arrived at the training Academy I met with an instructor for a Boeing 737 pilot interaction/communication lesson. First we went into a briefing room where I met the two cadets who were training that day, we recapped their previous lesson and talked through the aims of the day and what they were focusing on. They were working on their communication and teamwork with each other without the autopilot.
While observing them I learnt that this was a tiring and physical process. I found this experience extremely fascinating, I especially loved listening to the communications between the two cadets, although half the time I had no clue what they were going on about! However, I focused and followed as much as I could. I found out what PF (Pilot Flying) and PM (Pilot Monitoring) meant. I learned that the Captain and First Officer take it in turns with each of these roles throughout their working day. Previously I believed that the Captain had most of the control. But now I understand that a higher level of teamwork is required in the cockpit.
Being in the simulator, it was clear that this is one of the highlights of training due to the thrill of feeling like you’re actually flying an aeroplane. I was really fortunate to have this opportunity, to be able to sit in on this lesson, and at the end of the day I was even given the chance to have a go at landing! I obviously didn’t want to mess up after the cadets made it look so easy – but let’s just say it’s a good job it was a simulator because the landing was mostly on the grass! I’ve got lots to work on before I’ll be on that centerline. But what an experience and opportunity I will always remember.
Day 2: Ground School
Today, I got the opportunity to sit in on three ground school lessons. All of the cadets were at different stages of their ground school training. It was interesting to speak to some of them and get some of their views, advice and perspectives on training and becoming a pilot. Some of the cadets were at the beginning of their ground school learning and seemed slightly worried by the amount to learn and tests still to come! There were also more experienced cadets who were coming to the end of the long intense six months of hard work and they couldn’t wait to get the last leg completed so they could get out of the class room and into a cockpit.
All of the teachers who I met today were all really striving for success of their students. They were all easy to talk to, approachable, happy to help and great to be around. The main point I picked up on from many different people that day was that ground school is six months of your life you’re not going to get back! You’ve got to be willing to devote everything into this part of your training – there’s no easy way around it.
After today’s experience it became very clear that you have to be a dedicated person to become a pilot, you have to be someone who is fully committed and has great passion for the industry. This level of professionalism, teamwork and dedication seems very important, it’s clear it takes a lot of hard work to get to the cockpit.
Day 3: Simulator Engineering
Today was going to be something completely new and I was really looking forward to seeing pilot training from another angle and perspective – the engineering perspective. The simulator engineers made me feel so welcome!
The first thing I did today was what’s called ‘fly around’, this was in an Airbus 320 simulator. What a way to start the day! Our job was to check all the systems were up and working correctly, looking for any faults. We didn’t find anything wrong with this particular simulator. But when the team set up a simulated engine fire and we landed with only one engine I knew it was going to be another great day!
The day continued with more fly around checks. In a short break one of engineers I worked with explained to me the difference in set up between a simulator and an actual functioning aircraft. I learnt that due to having to have the ability to control failures for training purposes means that everything has to be wired and connected individually almost like a very large parallel circuit. This is different to an aircraft where a lot more of the systems are connected together.
Day 4: Ground School
Today started with A320 Ground School. This is a part of the Type Rating training, where pilots learn to fly a specific type of aircraft – in this case the A320. This was interesting as it was completely different to the more generic ATPL Ground School earlier in the week, there were only two people on this 10 day course. In today’s lesson the pilots were answering questions about the particular aircraft and discussing possible situations, and then how to deal with them. This was interesting but very hard to follow. After we were done in the classroom I was fortunate enough to sit in the back of their simulator lesson. As this week has gone on I have discovered a love for watching and listening to pilots and cadets process information and communicate with each other in the simulator environment.
Day 5: Pilot selection
So today was completely new! I was working with new people again, but this time at a different venue. When I arrived I was introduced to the team and the day started with an introduction and explanation of what the day was going to look like for the people on selection. After this there was a group discussion exercise, followed by maths and pilot aptitude test, lunch, and then lastly interviews.
Although I wasn’t flying a 737 or A320 today, out of all my experiences during the week, this was the most beneficial one of them all. It’s shown me how to get into the role of a cadet pilot and what it requires. For a young person like me who has never even been through an interview process before, it frightened me slightly, but after today I feel a lot more relaxed about the process. Today was a great experience for me to be able to see the process from the other side and I hope it wont be long until I’m in the hot seat being interviewed my self.
Thank you to all of the L3 staff who I worked with this week, you have all been wonderful and integrated me into your professional world allowing me a unique inside view of a small part of the cadet pilot training process.