Taking-Off: Initial Airline Training

Flight Training, How to Become a Pilot, International, Student Tips

Taking off (4)

It’s like drinking from a firehose”. This sentence will always stick with me no matter what other pilots say about initial airline flight training. And it’s true, when you start your first type-rating they throw a lot of information at you. In the last part of this series, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned during this journey from general aviation to the right seat of a multi-million dollar jet. 

I was having a coffee when my phone rang. I noticed it was from my airline recruiter. I didn’t hesitate the slightest and picked up.“Do you think you can start your training sooner? We have an opening in an earlier class.” I looked at my schedule and was able to start at that date. Before I knew it I was on an airplane to start my ATP/CTP training in Dallas, Texas.

Exams, exams, exams

ATP/CTP training is a course consisting of groundschool, mostly slides, 10 hours of real time simulator experience with a sim-partner and an exam at the end. During ground school we were lucky to have excellent instructors helping us every step of the way. 

in class

Ground school

While in Dallas, Texas my classmates and I went through ground school followed by the big ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) written exam. It’s the last and largest of the FAA knowledge tests. I was happy I already started studying for that exam weeks in advance. I didn’t think it was hard, but it definitely required all of my attention. The tension was high the hours before the exam, it’s always scary to take one. Especially one as important as this.

However, with hard work and focus comes reward; and we all ended up passing the exam. After that we started 2 weeks of Indoc training at the headquarters of the airline I work for. Not the most exciting 2 weeks of my life, but we all got it done.

After completing basic indoc, this is where you learn about the company, my class got sent to Phoenix, Arizona to start the real work. Systems ground school followed by a systems exam. Then, we would all get scheduled for our simulator sessions.

My days consisted of waking up earlier to study, head to class, get back to my room, relax a little bit and wrap up the day with a study session with my study partner.

Unfortunately, two of my classmates ran into issues and got dropped during systems class. This made me realize how serious airline training can be at times. In a way, it made us all study even harder, for the better.

The day came and we all aced our systems exam. Here me and my sim partner got news that we would be the lucky ones to be sent back to headquarters to do our simulator sessions there. You might think that might not be too bad, but it was quite hard for me to be honest. Our simulator schedule was tough, and we missed out on group study sessions with our classmates in Phoenix, Arizona. On top of that we already had our oral check coming up the week after we finished our ground school.

I remember thinking “Oh well, it is the way it is. We’ll make it work” and eventually, we did.

The Sweatbox

We went through all the simulator sessions in about 2 1/2 weeks, followed by our checkride. Each simulator session consisted of about a 1 hour briefing, followed by a 4 hour session where we would switch captain and first officer roles each time, and then we would end it with another hour of debriefing. All-inall it took us about 2 ½ months to go from nothing to become proud pilots with our first type-rating. Passing the checkride might have been one of the most satisfying moments in my flying career, ever.

cockpit study

My study area in the hotel

On to the next; really flying the plane and passing the line-check.

My first flights & getting line checked

All these great stories of pilots flying perfectly, greasing the landing on the first time, and the passengers clapping for the pilots. Well, not me. My first landing was quite hard to be honest. Nevermind hard, it was just plain awful. The captain even started laughing a bit and after we got to the gate the Flight Attendant came up to me and asked me if I   just got out of training, I replied with a soft “Yes, I am new”. It truly was a great start to my new career.

first flight as first officer

After my first landing. Can you see my semi-angry face?

Luckily I had an awesome Captain that taught me everything I needed to know in order to start making better landings, and become a better pilot. The day came for me to do my line-check and by that time everything felt like second nature to me. Flying is all about learning, adapting and applying.

I can honestly say that I am proud of myself. Proud of what I have achieved and the career I have ahead of me. The hardest part of getting to this point was not flight training itself. It was managing life in between. Look at me, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Fly high, I’ll see you on the flight levels.