There is no denying it, training to become an airline pilot is not easy. Nobody wants professional pilots flying Boeing or Airbus aircraft with hundreds of passengers if they have not received a significant amount of high quality training. As a pilot, you are entrusted with the lives of all of your passengers and multi million dollar aircraft. It can be a lot of responsibility, but through your training during the 14 month course you receive the skills and confidence that you need to do an excellent job. It is very important to look after your mental health and your welfare during your studies and also during the initial part of your career without an airline. Learning to become a pilot is often compared with trying to drink through a fire hose!
Becoming a pilot in only 14 months means there is a lot to learn in a short amount of time. At the end of the day though, I’m sure you agree that you would prefer to start your job as soon as possible rather than taking many years to complete your pilot training. Have a read of the article I wrote recently about how FlyBy is able to offer pilot training in only 14 months whilst all the schools are taking two years and sometimes even more!
I’m often asked about how I managed to maintain my drive and intensive study schedule during my commercial pilot training. People saw me working many hours of the day, seemingly not taking any breaks. Through my hard work, self maintenance and time management I was able to achieve an average of over 96% in my 14 EASA ATPL examinations and eventually get a job flying in Europe as a First Officer. I want to share the two main things I did to allow me to complete my commercial pilot training in only 12 months. Being aware of my health and maintaining boundaries allowed me to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle without burning out or compromising my performance during the training.
Looking after your health is really important. Many of our students say that one of the best things about FlyBy Aviation Academy is our unique all-inclusive package which provides you with three meals per day, seven days a week. Imagine a full day of studying followed by a one or two hour flight then having to come home and cook yourself a nutritious meal. I imagine many people would put something unhealthy into the microwave or order a takeaway. At FlyBy, we make sure you have healthy and delicious meals every single day to keep up your energy levels and provide your body with the nutrients that it needs. Of course, there are the occasional days when you just fancy getting a takeaway and that is absolutely fine. A treat every now and again is something we all deserve. During the day, try to avoid too many high sugar drinks and snacks as your energy levels can suffer greatly after an initial spike. Try to eat snacks that will release energy over time like fruit and nuts.
Hydration is also very important. When sitting in a classroom or studying for hours on end it can be very easy to forget to drink. Make sure you are drinking at least 2 litres of water every day and try to spread it out. One word of warning for you, the small aircraft in which pilots learn to fly don’t have bathrooms! The last thing you want to do is fly for an hour and have to land the aircraft bursting for the bathroom! On days when I was flying, I drank some water but kept my intake to a minimum and caught up after my flight. On other days, I always started by drinking 500ml.
It is very important that you allow your brain time to switch off and recover. Burnout is something seen quite often when people are studying, especially nearing their exams. During your ATPL, you will need to complete 14 official examinations in various topics related to Aviation. As you can imagine, if you don’t allow yourself a break from time to time, your performance will deteriorate. In an aircraft , if you continuously run your engine at full power, in the red zone of the rpm, it will quickly wear out the engine and require maintenance much more regularly. It can lead to more serious issues in the long-term if you keep on doing it. Our bodies are the same. They can deal with periods of extreme stress when we put a high demand on it; however, if we try to maintain that level for too long, it is common to become sick and see performance deteriorate.
A lot of time is spent inside looking at screens or a whiteboard when you are studying. This can be detrimental to your health and your eyesight. It is vital that you get outside into nature and allow your eyes some respite. Wherever possible, take a 10-15 minute break and have a walk around the local area. Burgos is a wonderful historical town with many beautiful buildings and secrets to be found. Try to not spend your rest time staring at your phone/iPad/computer. Get some fresh air and enjoy the warm Spanish sunshine.
It can be very tempting to let your studies take over your whole life. You will no doubt see people sitting eating their meals and still trying to cram in a few extra minutes of studying. If you let it, aviation can take over your whole life! This might sound like a great life to some, but it can become overwhelming. I made sure that I had separation between life and my studies. This isn’t to say I let my studies slip to go and party. People who studied with me will know that I barely took a day off from my studies (I spent Christmas day in a study room) and barely attended social activities. I did have my personal boundaries though. I would always stop studying for eating and treat myself to an hour of “free time” each day. With this I would read a novel, go for a walk, listen to some music, catch up with friends, or occasionally spend time surfing the internet. You need to maintain a healthy balance between life and aviation even if the boundary between the two sometimes feels like it is unclear.
Make sure you reward yourself with short trips home or complete days of studying from time to time. I used to take two or three full days off and after every set of exams before I started gently re-immersing myself into studies. Bear in mind that it comes down to personal choice and an ability to assess how you are coping.
To conclude, I know how much you want to become a commercial pilot and complete your training as fast as possible. The feeling of sitting in the front seat of a jet aircraft is something I can’t wait for you to experience (it’s AMAZING!). In the grand scheme of things though, taking an extra month and maintaining your physical and mental health is definitely the better option. There’s no point arriving at the interview for your first job as a professional pilot looking and feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Take your time, and enjoy the process to ensure you perform to your highest possible level.
It is difficult, but try not to compare yourself with the progress of others as everyone’s journey is different. People come from different educational backgrounds. You are bound to feel like you are taking longer to learn about the electrical systems of an aircraft than someone who has studied electrical engineering at university before starting their training! There will be subjects which you are better suited at and they may find them difficult. Try to set your ego aside and focus on your own pathway. Concentrate on your learning and not that of others. As you grow older you will soon learn that you can’t be the best at EVERYTHING, just be the best that you can be!
If you do find yourself to be burnt out it is very important that you speak to someone about it. Here at FlyBy Aviation Academy, we have a Customer Support team and instructors who have a lot of experience and can assist you. Don’t try to fight through the exhaustion as this can compromise safety and performance. We are here to help you and make sure you perform to your highest ability so you can become the best pilot you can be.