Imagine the feeling. You’ve wanted to become a pilot for longer than you can remember. In school you studied hard and achieved great results. You found your perfect flight school and signed up to an Integrated ATPL course to get your Airline Transport Pilot Licence and finally your dream is about to come true. After a two month foundation period, learning the key skills and knowledge, you will take to the skies and be at the controls of an aeroplane.
Here at FlyBy, we won’t make you wait until you have completed all 14 of your official ATPL examinations before we let you begin your practical flight training! In month 3 you will begin your VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flying with one of our highly qualified Flight Instructors. Our team of over 30 Flight Instructors have a large amount of experience in both the training and commercial environment. They will share their expertise and knowledge to help you gain skills and confidence to control the aircraft and have you flying solo (yes completely on your own!) in just a couple of months. Don’t worry though, you won’t be released to fly solo until both you and the instructors are happy that you are capable of doing so.
But what is it actually like getting to fly? Personally I remember the day of my first flight clearly. I was clammy and nervous but also really excited. It was a beautiful Spanish morning, the kind we are lucky to regularly have at FlyBy. I chose to learn in Spain rather than my native country of the United Kingdom because of the +300 flying days. I was told that courses in the UK were regularly delayed and extended because of the unreliable weather. As student pilots we have very restrictive limits as to how much wind/cloud there can be.
My instructor was calm and understanding, taking me through each step as we completed all of the preparation and paperwork. It’s important that you try and take in as much as possible but the instructors know you’ll have 101 things running through your mind and they’ll be happy to go over things again in the flights that follow. We went out to the aircraft and together we completed the walk around. Before each flight we must check the aircraft is clear of contamination and in good working order. We check to see if anything is out of place, looking worn out, or leaking. All was looking great as the mechanics team had recently serviced the aircraft. At FlyBy, we have our own in-house team of mechanics who ensure that all of the aircraft are maintained to the highest standard. As they work exclusively for us there are never any delays caused by a lack of aircraft, especially with our large fleet of aircraft!
It can feel very overwhelming trying to take in what the instructor is saying and learning about all the instruments. The instructor will take care of a lot of the tasks on your first flight and as your skills grow along with your confidence you will be required to take on more and more responsibility. If you feel up to it then you can have a go at communicating with other traffic and Air Traffic Control too. Once the checklists have been completed and you are ready to go, the instructor will usually allow you to follow them on the controls as they make the inputs to get the plane off the ground and into the air.
When you are up and in a suitable airspace you will finally get the chance to take control of the aeroplane. After a quick demonstration, you will be able to perform multiple maneuvers and experience how each flight control influences the attitude of the plane. Gently pull back to make the nose rise, a slow roll to the left and right with the ailerons and yaw the aircraft with the pedals.
You will be encouraged to look outside and establish visual references so you can see how your inputs change the picture you see outside. Here, the horizon is very useful, it can help you recognise when you are climbing, descending, banking or turning. It’s very common to try and “over control” the aircraft. My instructor said to me “look at your hands”, I saw that I had white knuckles, I was gripping on so tightly that I could hardly feel my fingers! It’s only natural but you’ll soon see that these aeroplanes can be flown with very little force at all.
The flight was over in what felt like a blink of an eye. We had been up for around 30 minutes but I was exhausted and a little disorientated. My instructor asked where we were and I had no idea at all! She guided me back towards the airport and when we got back on the ground told me to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as we taxied back to the apron.
We secured the aircraft, ensuring it was in good condition for the next people flying and went into the terminal to complete the paperwork. I was high on adrenaline, excited to tell my family and exhausted all at the same time. During the debrief, my instructor highlighted the key lessons we had covered and we talked about some of the things I was unsure about. No question is stupid, you should always check and ask lots of questions if you do not understand something.
It’s important to recognise big milestones in your training and in your life. Picture yourself doing the things that you dream of doing and do everything in your power to make those dreams come true. For me, this was a very special day, one that will stay in my memory for many years to come. I’m currently writing this article from the flight deck of a Boeing 737 as we cruise down to Faro on the South coast of Portugal, but it feels like only yesterday that I was excitedly and nervously climbing into the little two seater plane ready for my first flight!
If you are ready to start your journey into the flight deck of a commercial aircraft have a look at the FlyBy Integrated ATPL course which takes you from little or no experience and provides you with all the training you need to obtain your ATPL (frozen) and enables you to apply to join airlines around the world. You too can be flying passengers around the world in no time at all!