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Learn To Fly Student Life: Starting Flight Training in Melbourne

So you’ve made the decision to learn how to fly! It’s a decision you won’t ever regret. Flying is a wonderful experience, and knowing how to pilot an aircraft is an amazing skill. But the learning journey itself is something that you should enjoy, and choosing the right flying school makes all the difference. Our students love flying with us, and so we thought we would give you some insight into Learn To Fly student life.

This blog looks at your first day, when you arrive at our Learn To Fly Melbourne training base.

Arriving at Learn To Fly Melbourne

Do you remember your first day at school, or at a new job? New place, new people, feeling a little unsure? As you get older, ‘first days’ get a little easier, but they can still be daunting.

On your first day when you arrive, you’ll be greeted by our HR team who will welcome you and take you through our enrolment procedures. They’ll show you around our state-of-the-art facilities and give you a bit of information about Moorabbin Airport and the surrounding area.

We’re lucky to have a lot of great retail, food and transport options available nearby. This makes things a lot easier, especially if you are new to Melbourne. We have a lot of international students, and many of them have only just recently arrived in Australia. Having some local knowledge really helps, and this is your opportunity to ask about anything you need to know.

You’ll be spending a lot of time at LTF’s training facility while you become a pilot, so we want you to feel like this is home. Learn To Fly student life starts the moment you step through the door!

Meeting Your Flight Instructor

Having the right flight instructor is so important. The right instructor will bring out the best in you, and make your flight training journey enjoyable right from the start. Flight instructors are as much a part of Learn To Fly student life as the students themselves.

Our LTF instructor team has a huge amount of flying experience, from diverse backgrounds around the world. We have Grade 1 instructors through to Grade 3, as well as instructors with specific skill and knowledge areas such as IFR training, multi-engine training – even down to aerobatics and formation flying.

Just as important as flying knowledge and experience is an instructor’s ability to connect with you. Everybody has different learning styles, so you need an instructor that you can connect with. At LTF you will be allocated a primary instructor and a secondary instructor to look after you and your training progress. But if it turns out that there’s another instructor that may be better suited, our large team means that you’ll have the opportunity to change.

On your first day you will meet your primary instructor, and they’ll have a chat to you about your flight training journey. They’ll show you through the features of our online student portal, and how our training model works – including our huge range of online training options.

Moorabbin Airport and the LTF Flight Training Fleet

There’s a lot to learn about the airport you will be training at, and Moorabbin Airport is quite complex. With a complex taxiway and runway layout, high aircraft movements, and ATC tower, there’s definitely more to learn here than at many other aerodromes.

Whilst this may seem daunting at first, it’s actually going to be a huge benefit to your learning. And don’t worry, your flight instructor has got your back! On your first day they’ll spend time going over the layout and procedures with you. Of course, you’ll learn more in your first lesson.

The LTF flight training fleet has a great range of modern and traditional aircraft. This means you can choose between learning on analogue instruments or in a glass cockpit aircraft with advanced Garmin avionics and screens. If you are beginning your Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) training, you can choose between the sporty Sling 2, the modern Diamond DA40, or the classic Cessna 172. We also have the A22LS Foxbat for RA-Aus RPC training.

It’s likely that you will have already chosen which aircraft you are going to fly before you start, but it’s good to know that you can always change throughout your training.

Moorabbin-Airport-Runway-Layout
The Moorabbin Airport layout is complex, but a fantastic place to learn.

Your First Flying Lesson

Do you want to know what the BEST part of Learn To Fly student life is…? That’s really easy. It’s FLYING!

When you start flight training, your first lesson will be Effects of Controls and Straight and Level Flying. Your instructor will brief you in one of our briefing rooms, before showing you how to pre-flight check your aircraft. And then it’s time to head towards the runway, and begin your love affair with the sky!

Student Culture at Learn To Fly

One of the things that we are really serious about – other than safety of course – is ensuring that we create an inclusive learning environment, and a just culture. What that means is that we engage in open and honest conversations at all levels, from our students all the way up to our CEO and Chief Flying Instructors.

Our students and our flight training team support each other, and we have seen many fantastic friendships form over the years. Learn To Fly student life is a lot of fun, and we can’t wait for you to be a part of it!

Learn-To-Fly-Student-Life
Learn To Fly student life is fun!

If you are interested in finding out more about our learning to fly with us, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Preparing For Airline Pilot Interviews – Student Pilot Journal Part 4

Student Pilot Mickey Wu travelled from Taiwan to Melbourne to train with us at Learn To Fly Melbourne. Despite not being able to fly for 3 months due to Covid lockdown, he managed to complete a CPL, MECIR, Multi-Engine Class Rating, and 5 ATPL exams. Now back in Taiwan, Mickey talks about preparing himself to be the best possible candidate for airline pilot interviews.

“What kind of pilots are the airlines looking for?”

People are called by the sky for different reasons. Some people want to be an instructor to pass down the fun of flying, while some simply fall in love with flying and want to keep it for themselves. For me, I want to be an airline pilot.

In order to prepare myself as an employable airline pilot, I decided to ask myself a few questions every day. The first thing I asked myself is:

“What kind of pilots are the airlines looking for?”

Before I started my training, I consulted a few experienced airline captains. One of them told me a story about a candidate that they interviewed years ago. This candidate built 300 hours within 8 months, and got his CPL and MECIR. And he knew all the settings and speeds of the Boeing B777 and Airbus A320, which were the aircraft in the fleet at the time.

“If we don’t hire him, we are making a big mistake”

That was the comment from one of the interviewers. I want to be just like this candidate.

Looking for a pilot job is about a mindset. We are hired to help solve problems. As Steve Jobs once said in an interview:

“Good employees are self-managed. They know the system well, and they know what they can do with the system. You put them together and they just know what to do”

I believe that applies to aviation as well. They don’t actually expect us to know everything. But having said that, the least we can do is to make them believe that we have the potential. And that brings us to the second question I asked myself.

“What can I do to make myself irresistible?”

Airline-Pilot-Cockpit
A well prepared airline pilot interview could see you sitting in a cockpit like this.

“What can I do to make myself irresistible?”

Based on the anecdote that the captain told me, airlines are looking for someone who knows what to do already. Or who knows enough to take the initiative and work the rest out. So how do we make ourselves closer to that standard to prepare for airline pilot interviews?

The systems on a big jet airliner are different from that of General Aviation training aircraft. A good thing to start with is the ATPL subject “Aerodynamics & Aircraft Systems (AASA)”. CASA uses the Boeing B727 as an example, so the candidates are able to have more tangible material to work on.

It’s similar to the Aircraft General Knowledge theory (CSYA) for CPL, except that AASA is for larger jets. So if you have finished the 7 CPL theory exams and are just building your flying hours, AASA theory is definitely worth spending your time on. AASA and the Boeing B727 syllabus can give you a good general idea about the operation on a big jet airliner.

Realistically, the manual of the actual aircraft we are hired to fly will be the most useful tool to make us more eligible. After passing the CPL flight test, there will be a long period of time during which you are getting ready to apply for airline jobs. This is the phase I am in right now. So now is the time to do some research on the fleet of the airlines I am hoping to apply to, and get familiar with the aircraft inside and out.

While I am preparing myself to be an eligible candidate for airline pilot interviews, the next question I ask myself every day is:

“Is what I am doing now taking me closer to my goal?”

“Is what I am doing now taking me closer to my goal?”

In order to fly properly, we always monitor our altitude, heading, and speed. We are constantly making corrections. Likewise, when we are shaping ourselves to be an employable pilot, it’s a great idea to monitor ourselves constantly. This allows us to keep everything on the right track.

I always try to compare myself to airline cadets. As my friend in Eva Air (Taiwanese Airline) told me, life during their training was pretty intense, and it felt quite similar to serving in the military. They get up at six or seven in the morning for self-study, and the classes are scheduled from eight to five in the afternoon. They will do some exercise after the class and end the day with more self-study. That’s five days a week.

If that is what it takes to succeed as an airline cadet, then this is what I will do to prepare myself to be an eligible airline pilot interview cadidate. So when I was in Melbourne, I kept a fixed schedule, pretending as though I was in the military or studying as an actual airline cadet. I even did this during the 3 month Covid pandemic lockdown in Melbourne.

I made my schedule six days a week, because honestly, if I were as good as those cadets then I would have been one of them. But I was not. So I figured that I would have to work at least a little bit harder than they did. I got up early and studied, cooked, and then studied more. Sometimes the daily Covid announcements kept me company in the afternoon. Sometimes it was the Taipei Tower on Live ATC.

Does it work? I don’t 100% know yet. We’ll find out. But I have faith!

We would like to thank Mickey for contributing these journals on learning how to fly, and on preparing for airline pilot interviews. To get an even greater advantage over other applicants, check out our Airline Pilot Interview Preparation courses hosted by Airline Check and Training Captain Darren McPherson.

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Captain Darren McPherson teaching his airline pilot interview students.

Contact [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Some Tips For Learning How To Fly – Student Pilot Journal Part 3

Student Pilot Mickey Wu travelled from Taiwan to Melbourne to learn how to fly. He returned home to Taipei having completed a CPL, MECIR, Multi-Engine Class Rating, and 5 ATPL exams. In his third journal instalment, Mickey talks about finding the right attitude for straight and level flying, and teaching his mum how to fly using a simulator!

Challenge Accepted

Written on January 15th, 2021

Let’s bring the storyline back to the current day. Well, current at the time of writing. January 2021 in Taipei, Taiwan.

I bought a used set of Logitech controls and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. I wanted to stay sharp. The practice was alright, but without expecting to do so, I actually ended up teaching my Mum how to fly. I found that teaching someone how to fly is not an easy task. The reaction of the aircraft after each input has become second nature to me, but it’s not like that for those who are just starting to learn.

Me: “Mum, this is not straight and level flying. Are you going up or down?”

Mum: “……down.”

Me: “Good. So do you push the control or do you pull to fix it?”

Mum: “……push.”

Me: “Okay, let’s see what will happen.”

Mum (five seconds later): “Hey Mickey, the houses are getting bigger and bigger really quick!!!”

Me: “Tell me about it.”

Warning on the screen two seconds later: “You just damaged your landing gear.”

Just the landing gear?! Wow, that is forgiving!

My instructor once said that sometimes you have to let go and let the learner see the consequence of his or her action or inaction. Obviously, they didn’t let me learn this in a real aircraft, and so my landing gear (and the houses) were safe!

But it’s interesting to see that the way my Mum and I learn things is so similar. Like mother like son. But I have faith in her. My goal is to take her to her first solo on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. I give it two months. Challenge accepted!

Microsoft-Flight-Simulator-2020-YMMB-DA40
Challenge accepted! Mickey is teaching his mum how to fly using MS Flight Sim 2020!

The Right Attitude

Written on January 17th, 2021

The “attitude” of an aircraft is an abstract idea to me. It can look like it is straightforward on the aircraft’s artificial horizon, but in terms of the real visible horizon, it’s quite intangible. But it’s obviously very important when learning how to fly, especially for straight and level flying.

LTF Instructor Shannon taught me to judge the attitude with the position of the visible horizon in relation to the dashboard. For instance, on a cruise climb in a Sling 2 we position the horizon on the dashboard. To climb at Vy (the abbreviation for the best rate of climb), the horizon goes through the top of the PFD (Primary Flight Display). And to climb at Vx (the abbreviation for the best angle of climb), the horizon cuts through the middle of the PFD.

It may sound weird, but it works quite well. And for straight and level flying, we put four fingers on the dashboard and the visible horizon stays at the top finger. For a cruise descend, we put five fingers instead. Last but not least, for an approach, we use a “half-land-half-sky” attitude. Of course, we have to adjust the power setting accordingly.

It’s hard to judge the attitude at the beginning when you’re learning how to fly, for straight and level flying and for climbing and ascending. I even had doubts about the whole idea, considering that my visual perspective is different from that of Shannon’s. In addition to that, my four-finger attitude is not the same as that of LTF Instructor Alexey (Alexey is very tall and has huge hands).

But the key is to have a mental snapshot when your instructor says, “OK, this is the straight and level flying attitude.” Memorise what this attitude looks like from your perspective, and set it that way next time you need it. Trust me. It works!

Learning-To-Fly-Instruments
A big part of learning how to fly is learning how to trust your instruments

We would like to thank Mickey for contributing these journals on learning how to fly in Melbourne. Stay tuned for the next journal entry!

If you are interested in finding out more about our flight training courses and online learning options, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Training with a Melbourne Flight School – Student Pilot Journal Part 2

Student Pilot Mickey Wu travelled from Taiwan to learn to fly with a Melbourne flight school. He has now returned home after completing his CPL, MECIR, Multi-Engine Class Rating, as well as 5 ATPL exams. Mickey is sharing his flight training experiences with us in a series of journals.

Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon

Written on January 1st, 2021

Learn To Fly, my Melbourne flight school, is a place full of so much talent. The Flight Instructors are the ones who set up the framework and foundation. And sometimes it is my classmates that inspire me and help to build my own character.

My classmate Terry is an exceptional pilot. He flew the Sling 2 and converted to a Diamond DA40 later on. He is very devoted, and creates his own system to take in and digest the knowledge from the textbooks. Terry also takes flash cards with him everywhere he goes, so he can review VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) requirements or air laws whenever he wants.

His notes on airspeeds and the use of the CR-3 (Jeppesen CR-3 Flight Computer) are so concise and accurate. I wish I had taken a screenshot of it. I admire the way he answers his Flight Instructor’s questions. He can quote the rules in the AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) with the right reference, not missing a single word. And when he says it, he beams with confidence.

Brandon is another hero. He has flown the Cessna 172 all the way from the beginning. I would say Brandon is a born pilot. There were more than six months that he wasn’t able to fly, when pilots were unable to attend their Melbourne flight school due to the coronavirus lockdown. But once he came back, he flew as if he had never been away.

Preparing for a flight is not an easy task. Measuring distance and track, checking the weather, drafting a fuel plan, submitting the flight plan…  you name it. What makes Brandon incredible is that he has three jobs to support himself flying. And he makes it all work. Every time when I felt lazy, I thought of Brandon. And that helped me to pull myself together and do what had to be done.

Terry is the best advocate for practice makes perfect, and Brandon’s story always motivates me to keep going at the right pace. I never tell them, but to me, they are the tiger and dragon.

Cessna-172-Student-Pilot
Brandon Smith with his Cessna 172 aircraft at Learn To Fly

You Have To Leave Something Behind To Move Forward

Written on January 4th, 2021

At certain points of life, you may feel that the burden on your shoulders is so heavy that you cannot breathe. The pressure from your workload keeps you awake at night and makes you reluctant to get up in the morning. But then it is time to hop in a Sling 2 and go for a spin. Well, not really a spin.

The Sling 2, designed and built by Sling Aircraft, is a one-of-a-kind aeroplane. It’s like a sports car in the sky, light and agile. The real-time response to the control inputs builds confidence in the pilot. It’s like an iPhone 5, sharp and smart. The intuitive touch screen interface integrates all the information you need. The exchange of information between the aircraft and the pilot is so instant, it’s as if the pilot were the brain and the aircraft were the extension of his or her body. At 55 knots, slightly faster than what you usually do on the M1 highway, you can defy gravity and take to the sky.

With a Melbourne flight school, you don’t even have to fly far to enjoy the experience of flying. A trip from Moorabbin Airport to Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula to see the shimmering water of Port Phillip Bay is just as good as an orbit around Melbourne’s CBD to feel the vibe of the city from above.

The point is, once airborne, you feel that the worries that have been occupying your mind are left in oblivion far behind. The pressure that was suffocating you becomes so trivial, far below. And that is the magic of flying, because you can savour the purity of the blue sky, and all your troubles are left on the ground.

It’s Just Like Making A Cup Of Coffee

Written on January 6, 2021

“Once airborne, you feel that the worries that have been occupying your mind are left in oblivion far behind.”

That was what I wanted to say about flying. And, well, that is partly true. The fact is, there were moments when I found myself so task-saturated that I actually didn’t have time to worry or even think about anything else.

Shannon helped me to overcome this ‘tunnel vision’ mindset. One day when we were flying back towards Moorabbin Airport, he asked me:

“Mickey, who is your favourite athlete?”

I replied “Lewis Hamilton” without even thinking.

I was so immersed in the pre-landing checks that my brain didn’t actually have time to think about anything else. Shannon took over control, and said:

“I think that you can see the mindset that you need to have when flying in some professional athletes. They are very calm when they play, but you can tell they are still thinking. You can tell from looking at their eyes. They play with their brain. Good pilots are no different.”

He then explained that if we visualize and actually think through the situations we might experience before the flight has even started, then we can focus on more things during the flight.

That problem had been haunting me for a long time. It was not until a couple of months later that I fully realised this philosophy. I was coming inbound from Brighton, and I was thinking about how stunning the beach was. I was also on top of everything else I needed to think about in the plane. It was at this point that I actually started to reap the fun of flying.

Learning how to fly is like making a nice cup of coffee. It takes some skill and some pressure to make the crème, and it takes some time to get the grind and drip right. But it is worth the wait, and when done properly, it tastes delicious!

Taiwan-Student-Pilot-First-Solo
Taiwanese student pilot Mickey after flying his first solo in the Sling 2 aircraft

We would like to thank Mickey for contributing these journals on learning how to fly in Melbourne. Stay tuned for the next journal entry!

If you are interested in finding out more about our flight training courses and online learning options, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Starting Flight Training in Melbourne – Student Pilot Journal Part 1

Taiwanese student pilot Mickey Wu has just returned home after an amazing experience training with us at Learn To Fly. Mickey’s achievements are inspirational to other pilots. His time in Melbourne was affected by a COVID19 lockdown that meant he couldn’t fly for 3 months, however he still managed to complete his Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), Multi-Engine Class Rating, Multi-Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR), and 5 Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) theory exams. Mickey has been kind enough to share his experiences in a student pilot journal series. In part 1, he talks about starting flight training in Melbourne.

Tap the Brakes, Positive Rate, Gears Up

Written on December 30, 2020

Light shower of rain, 11°C. In other words, a typical winter day in Taipei, Taiwan. Now I am sitting in front of the window, staring off towards the south in the distance, as if Moorabbin Airport were right there behind the overcast clouds. I can see Carrum, and I can see runway 35L. There is the windsock by the northern run-up bay, and I see the Diamond DA40s parked on the apron. It was an amazing year of flight training in Melbourne – I think I miss the sky there already.

I went from piloting the single-engine Sling 2 to the twin-engine Piper Seminole, and from flying circuits around Moorabbin Airport to as far away as Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland.

There were frustrating moments for sure, like having trouble with radio calls or actually getting lost during lost procedures. Sometimes I even sat in my car for hours, thinking I would never make it. But my Flight Instructors always said, “don’t worry – we’ll get you there”, and that is all you need to hear when you have days like this.

Bob Tait (one of the most respected authorities for aviation theory) says long-term memories are subject to errors. Sorry Bob, but I beg to differ. I’ll say, these memories are vividly engraved in my mind, and just like a good wine, they taste even sweeter afterwards.

This is my adventure starting flight training in Melbourne with Learn To Fly at Moorabbin Airport. It is the adventure of an ordinary guy with an extraordinary dream. So, fasten your seatbelt. Tap the brakes. Positive rate. Gears up.

Sling Aircraft Pilot Training
The Sling 2 is an excellent aircraft for starting flight training.

Day One, Meeting My Flight Instructor

Written on December 31st, 2020

Just like college tutors, Flight Instructors come from different backgrounds and vary in their fields of aviation expertise. For example, at my school, Learn To Fly in Melbourne, some instructors are experts at flight theory, and some specialise in Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operations. They are all great instructors, and they all have a unique teaching style. This means that they are able to help different students in their own ways.

On my first day of flight training in Melbourne, I met my first Flight Instructor, Shannon. Shannon is a composed and knowledgeable pilot. On the first day of flight school, he showed me how to read the weather forecast. I loved the way he put together bits and pieces of weather information. It started with mean the sea-level pressure map on the Bureau of Meteorology website, so we had a big picture of what was going on with the weather. Following that, he explained how the weather on GAFs (Graphical Area Forecasts) corresponded to what was on the pressure charts. Then he referred to the TAFs (Terminal Area Forecasts) of the aerodromes on our planned route for a more close-up look. Just after that brief, I already felt that I could give a more persuasive forecast than most of the weather reporters do on TV.

Shannon may seem calm and composed on the outside, but he actually also has a warm and playful heart with a great sense of humour. The first aircraft I flew was the Sling 2 and as I recall, when Shannon demonstrated the pre-flight check, this was what he said:

“Now to measure the fuel quantity, we use what I call a high-tech measuring device.”

With a complete poker face, he took out a wooden stick with a measuring scale drawn on it. The corner of his lips lifted – in other words, he knew that his joke totally got me. There were times when I just did not get his punch lines. I could sense his disappointment in the awkward silence. However, it never stopped him from bringing some fun to the flight!

I feel lucky that Shannon was my first ever Flight Instructor, because that gave my flying career a really good start.

We would like to thank Mickey for contributing these journals on learning how to fly in Melbourne. Stay tuned for the next journal entry!

If you are interested in finding out more about our flight training courses and online learning options, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Instrument Rating (IFR) Flight Training – A Whole New World Of Flying

We recently published a blog from airline Second Officer Vincent Mok, who talked about how important completing an Instrument Rating (IFR) flight training course was to his career. An Instrument Rating really does open up a whole new world of flying for you. It allows to you to plan and fly in a far greater range of light and weather conditions. No longer restricted to daylight and clear skies, it can also drastically reduce the time it takes you to build flight hours.

What is Instrument Flight Training?

Under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions, the weather and light must be better than the visual meteorological conditions (VMC), as specified by CASA. You must be able to operate the aircraft with visual reference to the ground, and by visually avoiding obstructions and other aircraft.

Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) Flight Training teaches you to fly using the aircraft’s instruments rather than relying on visual cues. You will become an expert at communicating with Air Traffic Control (ATC). All of your aircraft’s procedures will become second nature to you. You will read your instruments as though you were actually looking at the information they provide physically.

During Instrument Rating training, pilots learn on both the simulator and in the actual aircraft. At Learn To Fly we have both the TRC 372 (Cessna 172) simulator and the Alsim AL42 (Diamond DA42) simulator. Both of these simulators recreate the full cockpit environment of each aircraft with highly realistic features and accurate instruments.

Learning in the simulator is a very effective method of training. Simulator hours are far less expensive that flying an actual aircraft. You can save money by perfecting procedures on the ground, which means there’s less chance of having to repeat them in the air. Simulators obviously also provide a highly safe environment to learn unfamiliar procedures.

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Our state-of-the-art Alsim AL42 simulator is a crucial part of Instrument Rating flight training

What Are the Benefits of Completing Instrument Flight Training?

Having to fly VFR means that you are limited with the number of hours you can fly, often based on things that are out of your control. When you are trying to build flight hours, it can be frustrating when changes in the weather cancel your flights. It can also be frustrating when other flights are delayed and you run out of daylight hours to go flying.

Completing an Instrument Rating training course will allow you to fly in the dark, and in most weather conditions. This means that you will be able to fly when others can’t, and you will build your flight hours far more quickly.

Pilots with IFR training are far more desirable to employers in most pilot roles. In fact for many pilot roles, including airlines, having an Instrument Rating is required.

Aside from the skillset and career benefits mentioned above, instrument flight training means that you can fly in some stunning conditions. You can enjoy the amazing sensation of soaring both through thick cloud, and above it. You can watch colourful sunsets from the sky, and cruise above sparkling city lights.

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Enjoying sparkling city lights from the air is just one of the benefits of completing Instrument Rating flight training.

Meet Instrument Rating Training Graduate Mickey Wu

Taiwan student Mickey Wu has just completed his Commercial Pilot Licence, along with a Multi Engine Class Rating and Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR), as well as 5 ATPL theory exams. He completed this in just 14 months, and he was unable to fly during 3 of those due to our forced coronavirus lockdown.

Following his amazing achievements, and before he jumped on a plane back to Taiwan, we had a chat to Mickey about his IFR training and his thoughts on the MECIR course.

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Instrument Rating training graduate Mickey Wu with the twin-engine Piper Seminole aircraft.

What are the main differences in flying during instrument flight training?

Instrument flight training is simpler, but not easier, if that makes sense. This is because it is all process and procedure based. Your planning is simpler. ATC provides you with more information. Learning all of the procedures is hard, and it feels like you are going right back to square 1 at the start. Once you are familiar with them however, everything just feels simpler. You feel like a real airline pilot.

What new skills have you learnt during IFR training?

I have developed a much larger understanding of ATC terminology. My communication skills and the my relationship with ATC has really improved. Instrument Rating training gives you hands-on experience with a lot of things that you learn in theory. Some of these things you might not use a lot in VFR flight. It’s a great feeling when you realise it’s not “just theory” anymore and you put your knowledge into practice.

How have you used the simulators to help with your training?

On the simulators you can train different types of approaches, and some are much harder than others. When you are training in a sim and you make a mistake or you want to do it again, you can just restart. It’s far more costly to do this in an actual aircraft. With my LTF instructor, we trained on the Alsim AL42 simulator as well as the G430 X-Plane simulator.

What are the benefits of completing an Instrument Rating?

Completing an Instrument Rating will allow me to build more hours quickly by flying in more conditions. It is required by the airlines, which is my ultimate goal. It will also make me more employable in other pilots roles, including becoming a Flight Instructor which I will find very rewarding.

Why would you recommend choosing Learn To Fly to complete an Instrument Rating course?

I have had the best year of my life in Australia at Learn To Fly. I really enjoyed the people and the atmosphere. The instructors are very supportive and come from a wide range of experience and backgrounds. At LTF you can choose from a range of reliable aircraft. You can choose to fly in a glass cockpit aircraft like the DA42, or an analogue cockpit like the Piper Seminole.

We would like to congratulate Mickey on his inspirational flying achievements during difficult times. We’d also like to thank him for taking the time to share his thoughts and knowledge on IFR training. We will catch up with Mickey again for a blog on what it is like as a Taiwanese student training in Australia, and how training here can help you become an airline pilot in Taiwan.

If you are interested in finding out more about our flight training courses and online learning options, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Resilience – An Airline Pilot’s COVID Pandemic Experience

We’ve all seen a lot of news about how the COVID pandemic has affected airlines and airline pilots. Guest blogger and Second Officer Vincent Mok shares an airline pilot’s COVID pandemic experience.

“Resilience”

There were 20 round tables in a classroom the size of a basketball court. We found the specific light switch for the ceiling light at the front, leaving the rest of the room in a dark void.

“Don’t bother with name tags” the CRM instructor said.

This time last year, the same room was buzzing with activity and smelled like perfume and cologne as second officers, first officers, captains, junior flight attendants, flight pursers, senior pursers, chief customer managers and CRM instructors made introductions, all keen to find out what hypothetical in-flight emergency awaited us. Today, the 5 of us were greeted by the silent hum of the air conditioner as the smell of alcohol rub filled the void.

The CRM instructor wrote one word on the whiteboard.

“RESILIENCE”

A picture of an A350 oleo strut came into my mind. I hadn’t seen one for 2 months.

“What can you tell me about resilience?” the instructor asked.

“The ability to spring back like a landing gear, which I might not see again” I said.

“During these times with lockdowns and job losses, the uncertainty can cause our minds to ruminate into a dark corner.”

The instructor then led a discussion on Unhelpful Thinking Styles and how we could challenge them to become resilient professionals. As an airline pilot during the COVID pandemic, a resilient mindset is so important.

1. Mental Filter

Written on December 31st, 2020

As COVID took hold, flying schedules became scant and people lost jobs, I began to question my career decision to become an airline pilot.

“During times of stress, our minds have a tendency to focus on the negative and filter out the whole picture. This mental filtering is an unhelpful thinking style that can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.”

“You mean tunnel vision?”

“Yes. Instead of focusing on a small part of the situation and ignoring the rest, try to see the whole picture

Tunnel vision had made me focus on the transient financial insecurity as a pilot during COVID and filtered out my reasons for leaving a high paying secure job. I’d forgotten that I’d left a 9-5 desk job in a little cubicle with no windows to see thunderstorms from above; to feel the rattle of the nose gear as the jet took off; to take my friends, family, strangers, and essential cargo like vaccines safely across the Pacific Ocean. The job satisfaction from airline flying is unique.

2. Jumping to Conclusions

“I realize that I love being an airline pilot, but with all the upcoming job cuts due to the COVID pandemic, I’ll lose my job in the next few months”

“You see, jumping to conclusions is unhelpful thinking” the instructor said. “You become too busy assuming that you fail to see the opportunities in the present.”

He continued to impart his wisdom.

“Rather than jumping to conclusions, focus on what you can control.”

“A resilient airline pilot knows they’re like an elite sportsperson who is ready to perform during competitions and has back-up options in case of injury.”

The opportunity presented to us while flying less is the free time to improve ourselves as pilots by practicing in the procedural trainer, reading operation manuals and learning more about the aircraft we fly. It also gives us the opportunity to pursue back-up options and other interests. Like elite sportspeople, many pilots have a second vocation to fall back on during economic lows while waiting to return to an airline job. I know of pilots who pursued their fitness goals, learned hydroponic farming, and built their CV through teaching.

“You don’t want to jump to conclusions then give up”.

3. Catastrophising

“OK, you’ve widened my perspective to see the positives and the opportunities. But with all the parked aircraft and no end in sight, I feel that the aviation industry is dying and it’ll never recover!”

“Don’t you think this is catastrophising? It is unhelpful thinking to blow things out of proportion. Instead try to look at the facts rationally.”

Aviation has suffered many setbacks throughout its history, from the Wright Flyer crash in 1908, to September 11 2001, and also the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. Although flying would never be the same after each crisis, it consequently led to advancements in efficiency and safety. Aviation will continue to evolve through each challenge, and pilots will always be there as safeguards.

Furthermore, history has shown that all pandemics end. There are already promising advancements with vaccines and scientists are also building their knowledge on COVID at a rapid pace. When it is safe to do so, people will return to the skies and the industry will bounce back.

“Aviation is dynamic. Resilient pilots stay rational through crisis and therefore prepare themselves for disruption through devotion to learning and self improvement”.

Looking To The Future

During these unprecedented times, resilience has never been so important. Part of it is in recognizing and also mitigating unhelpful thinking styles. When encountering a crisis, it helps to step back and look at all the evidence instead of mental filtering, jumping to conclusions and catastrophising. Adopting a positive attitude and eliminating unhelpful thinking styles helps us build resilience. This keeps us moving forward, not just as an airline pilot during the COVID pandemic, but in life as well.

For flying students, try to see the opportunities in the increased availability of aircraft. Think about the uncongested airspace, or unique experiences like being able to fly into Melbourne International Airport while a jet’s at the holding point. On one of my recent flights out of Sydney, ATC cleared us to overfly the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is something that would usually only be reserved for special events (such as the recent Qantas Boeing B747 farewell flight).

As for the commercial future of airlines and airline pilots, there’s no doubt the world still needs aviation, and it will bounce back. There will be changes, which will most likely include more stringent health requirements for passengers. Initially, it’s likely that the first sectors to bounce back will be the domestic and cargo markets. Australia is similar to China in that COVID outbreaks have been well controlled. Post-COVID, China has actually seen an increase in domestic passengers already compared to last year. It’s looking very likely that Australian domestic flights will bounce back strongly very soon.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. In my opinion, there has never been a better time to pursue recreational flying or flight training.

Flying into Melbourne International Airport in a Diamond DA40 during the Covid pandemic.

We’d like to thank Vincent very much for providing this valuable insight into an airline pilot’s COVID pandemic experience. If you are interested in finding out more about our flight training courses and online learning options, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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An Airline Cadet Pilot’s Road To The Line

Now flying an Airbus A350 for a major international airline, Second Officer Vincent Mok looks back on his airline cadet pilot journey and shares some of his experiences. In his first guest blog, he talked about his airline cadet pilot training. If you missed that you can read it here. In this edition, he discusses the next step – the road to the line!

Week 1: “The Honeymoon”

Within the space of a week, barely enough time to recover from the graduation party, we went from being the most respected gold-bar-on-the-shoulders seniors at airline cadet pilot school, to the most junior fresh pilots at the airline headquarters. It took 20 weeks to transform into a line pilot.

Day one at the airline started with a buffet breakfast with the chief pilots. With the same hands that commanded many heavy jets around the world, they opened a small envelope and brought out a piece of paper with the company logo at the top.

“Who’s Vincent?”

I put my hand up and gulped down the partially chewed fried egg in my mouth.

“Airbus.”

It was no longer flying the Slings, Foxbats, Diamond DA40s, Cessna 172s or the Diamond DA42 Twinstar. The link between my fingers and the ailerons will no longer be a few mechanical rods. Instead, a twitch of my finger will send digital signals through a myriad of wires connecting stacks of computers conferring at the speed of light whether they will grant the wish of that finger twitch. I’d be flying the Airbus A350.

There were two days of Safety School during the Honeymoon week. We trained for evacuation through various tasks:

1 Retrieve Snoopy the dummy from a smoke-filled cabin mock-up after donning a smoke-hood
2 Operate aircraft doors
3 Jump down an inflated 2-storey-high slide (which isn’t as easy as the “safety cards in the seat pockets in front of you” suggest)
4 Drag a classmate across a 25m swimming pool
5 Drag the same classmate from the pool into an inflatable life-raft
6 Set up shelter in the life-raft

The last day of the Honeymoon week was “new joiners’ day”. We broke ice with new joiners from other departments. We played games, toured the simulator building and maintenance hangars.

“Your accent sounds funny,” said the maintenance hangar tour-guide.

“I grew up in Australia”.

“People will start thinking you’re a pilot with that accent”.

Instead of saying “you’ve just met a pilot”, I grinned nervously. The upcoming schedule was ruminating in my mind.

Weeks 2 – 3: Ground School

At airline cadet pilot school, we had 20 weeks to digest ATPL theory. The Airbus ground school was 2 weeks. We had to put everything we’ve learned, from airline interview preparation to cadet school theory classes, to full use.

Tip: Take the time to completely understand the aviation theory taught at interview training and airline cadet pilot school. Your future self will appreciate it.

The course consisted of:

  • Computer based training on a dedicated laptop where a monotonous voice explained the operation of all the A350 systems.
  • Study guide of questions, all of which we need to answer before the end of the course.
  • Technical briefings by our instructor, an experienced Airbus engineer.
  • Use of a fixed base procedural trainer where we learned Standard Operating Procedures and dissected the function of all the buttons and switches.

I once thought the Diamond DA40 Aircraft Flight Manual was extensive until I started studying the airline manuals. To list a few of them:

  • Flight crew operating manual (7000 pages FCOM)
  • Flight crew techniques manual (500 pages FCTM)
  • Quick Reference Handbook (90 pages QRH)
  • Minimum Equipment list (2000 pages MEL)
  • Operations Manual: Policy, Procedures and Requirements (1000 pages)

Tip: You don’t have to be a “walking FCOM”. Memorise the safety critical information and know where to find the rest.

Weeks 4 – 10: Simulator Training

Simulator training commenced at 10pm the day after we passed our ground school exams.

The first session was in a full motion A350 simulator and is similar to the “Effects of Control” lesson. The most challenging aspect was handling the momentum during landing. If we flared like a DA40, the jet will float and run out of runway. If we flared too little too late, our buttocks would learn a lesson as if the instructor hit them with a paper FCOM.

The remainder of the simulator sessions consisted of normal and non-normal training, each lasting 4 hours.

Tip: Spend plenty of time rehearsing each lesson in advance on a “paper flight deck”

The goal of normal procedures training was to learn the Standard Operating Procedures and associated manual handling. There were:

  • 4 sessions in the fixed based procedural trainer
  • 4 sessions in a full motion simulator

The non-normal training included handling failures (e.g. engine failures, electrical failure, hydraulic failure, decompression) including their associated ECAM actions, decision making and manual handling. There were:

  • 3 sessions in the fixed based procedural trainer
  • 5 sessions in a full motion simulator

Our final two airline cadet pilot simulator sessions consisted of low visibility operations and performance based navigation training and general revision for the upcoming type rating and instrument rating.

For our type rating and instrument rating in the simulator, we had to demonstrate to the senior training captain our proficiency in rejected take off, takeoff, go-around, diversion, hold, and landing in manual flight as well as with automatics (autopilot and autothrust).

Weeks 11 – 20: Line Training

“Where’d you go for lunch today?”

“I went to Korea”

The observation flight you do will be one of the most memorable of your career. You’ve trained for 14 months as an airline cadet pilot and finally get to sit back and observe the masters at work over a sandwich or two. I went to Seoul. After observing the first sector, I had a Bibimbap over a 2 hour lunch and bought some Kimchi with my meal voucher. I was a school kid on my first excursion.

Line training is about learning to fly safely, legally and efficiently in a multi-crew operation. It consisted of 10 sectors and took me to multiple exciting destinations including:

  • Auckland
  • Melbourne
  • Sydney
  • Barcelona
  • Washington DC
  • Brisbane

The 17 month journey from the beginning of airline cadet pilot school to the line check was full of challenges and triumphs. I made many lifelong friends and learned a lot about resilience, persistence and comradery.

I was lucky to have the ongoing support of my mentors including Darren McPherson from ACS – Aviation Consulting Services as well as my family and friends. Realising my dream would have been impossible without them. If your dream is to be an airline pilot, certainly consider the airline cadet pilot pathway.

Airline-Cadet-Pilot-Graduates
Vincent’s airline cadet pilot class graduates with Captain Darren McPherson from ACS Aviation Consulting.

We’d like to thank Vincent very much for contributing these fantastic blogs on his airline cadet pilot journey. If you are interested in finding out more about our flight training courses and online learning options, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Airline Pilot Guest Blog – Why You Should Consider An Instrument Rating Course

Now flying an Airbus A350 for a major international airline, Second Officer Vincent Mok discusses why an Instrument Rating course is so important. He also provides some handy tips on the must-have tools to look at before your first lesson.

All pilots should consider completing an Instrument Rating course which will enable them to fly in Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) conditions. Not only is it an essential step in a professional pilot’s career, but also an invaluable skill for every private pilot because of:

1. Safety

Even though entering cloud or flying in reduced visibility should not happen with adequate planning, Visual Flight Rules (VFR) pilots can still make this fatal mistake. Completing an Instrument Rating course gives you the option of upgrading to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) for an additional margin of safety.

2. Efficiency

Some seasons are bad for VFR flying. An Instrument Rating increases the likelihood of being able to get to your destination all year round. If you are still training or building hours, completing an Instrument Rating course will allow you build hours and experience faster, with more available days to fly.

3. The Views

There’s just something magical about flying next to clouds, and of course those amazing city views at night!

Instrument Rating Night Cockpit
Completing an Instrument Rating Course allows you to enjoy spectacular views.

I’d like to share with you the tools I used during cadet pilot school that helped me get the most out of my first Instrument Rating flying lesson. They were also essential for my ongoing progress throughout the Instrument Rating course:

1. IFR Cheat Sheet

This free resource (link: weflyplanes.com.au) will be an invaluable tool for your IFR flying. You should be familiar with the whole document before your Instrument Rating course exam and check flight. However in the meantime, you should focus on the following sections initially:

Phraseology

IFR radio calls are slightly different to VFR but are something you can nail before your first flight. You will get more out of IFR flying if you can communicate with Air Traffic Control (ATC) professionally early on.

Alternate Requirements

Knowing these is crucial for IFR flight planning. Use these to check the TAFs (Terminal Area Forecasts), NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen), and aerodrome charts to make sure it’s safe and legal to fly IFR.

Holding Patterns

A competently flown hold is the bread and butter of IFR flying. You should understand holding patterns and sector entries well enough to teach it to other students!

IFR Cheat Sheet

2. Captain Joe’s Sector Entry Tips

While the IFR cheat sheet is great for learning the theory, Captain Joe (link: https://youtu.be/szkZ9VaNfrc) tells you how to fly it. My instructor was amazed at how fast I could work out sector entries during my first IFR flight! Make sure you watch this a few times!

3. G1000 Simulator

Flight simulators are a lot more useful for IFR flights compared with VFR. I practiced sector entries and flew the entire sortie on my laptop before my first IFR lesson. I’d tried X-Plane 11, Flight Simulator X but found the best trainer for IFR procedures was the G1000 Integrated Flight Deck Trainer (link: https://www.mypilotstore.com/mypilotstore/sep/5990).

Learn To Fly also operates a state-of-the-art Alsim AL42 simulator. This simulator provides a highly realistic cockpit environment based on the Diamond DA42 aircraft.

We’d like to thank Vincent very much for contributing this fantastic blog on the importance of completing an Instrument Rating course. Stay tuned for Vincent’s next guest blog on his journey to becoming an airline pilot.

Vincent was successful in his cadet pilot application after completing airline pilot interview preparation courses with Captain Darren McPherson from ACS – Aviation Consulting Services. Darren is a Check and Training Captain with a major international airline, with over 30 years of industry experience. We are proud to offer a range of highly successful airline pilot interview preparation courses taught by Darren. For more information head to https://learntofly.edu.au/airline-interview-preparation-programs/

To find out more about completing an Instrument Rating Course, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Airline Pilot Guest Blog – Looking Back at Cadet Pilot Training

Now flying an Airbus A350 for a major international airline, Second Officer Vincent Mok looks back on his cadet pilot training and discusses some of the lessons he learned.

While I was backing up my photos, the past year and a half at cadet school literally flashed before my eyes. It’s an amazing journey to go from an office worker to an airline pilot in the space of 15 months. I’d like to share with a few photos with you from my cadet pilot training and the stories behind them. Hopefully they’ll help you in your journey with aviation.

First Solo, First Milestone

The journey to my first solo didn’t go as smoothly as planned. I needed two checks before the training manager was happy to send me up. The night before my first solo check, I had 15 Xiao Long Baos and a plate of noodles at a restaurant notorious for their use of flavoring enhancer (MSG).

I couldn’t sleep because of the flushing and palpitations which didn’t help with the anxiety before the first solo. My final approach profile was inconsistent because my power adjustments were more spasmodic twitches than smooth and decisive.

Lesson Number 1: Healthy eating is as important as checking the weather before a flight

Lesson Number 2: Sleep quality is essential for learning especially in an accelerated environment

That night I had better quality of sleep. My circuit geometry, final approach profile and landings were consistently safe during my second solo check. Alone in the cockpit, while I did my flows and checklists, I saw the windsock pick up a little and started worrying about it approaching my crosswind limit.

“If tower announced a 10kt crosswind, I’d have to do my solo another day”

I taxied to the holding point, did the required checks, lined up and took off after tower clearance.

“200ft AAL, brakes applied, flaps up” I said out loud.

I reached for the flap lever but it was already at its upper stop, realising that I missed a part of the before takeoff flows and checks. If I was on a 737, I would have crashed at the end of the runway and killed 300 people behind me, destroyed a runway and the reputation of my airline. Distraction is the biggest threat in aviation.

Cadet-Pilot-Solo-Flight
Vincent’s first solo flight during cadet pilot training.

Lesson Number 3: Don’t rush!

In the above photo taken after my solo, behind the smile, half tucked sweat stained shirt and tired legs were multiple lessons that I had learned. I’d been under a lot of pressure because I was the only one in my course without recent flying experience, despite having a PPL from 10 years ago.

After that solo flight, I knew that I had the potential to complete the course.

Memorable Flights

After the first solo, cadets progress through the following hurdles as part of the flying phase:

1 Recreational pilot licence/area solo standard
2 Private pilot licence (PPL) standard
3 Commercial pilot license standard
4 Single engine instrument rating standard
5 Multi-engine command instrument rating standard
6 Upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT)

The flying at each hurdle was both challenging and fun and reaffirmed my passion for aviation. I saw many sunrises, sunsets, coastlines, country airports as well as the world upside down from 6000ft high. I also recall the dread in my stomach during my UPRT but looking back was an utmost invaluable experience and was the most memorable.

“Do you actually get sick, or are you just scared?” My instructor asked while we were upside down in a roll.

“Imagine this was your Airbus and somehow the attitude is like this. Recover.”

Without much thinking, I adjusted the power, rolled wings level, fixed the pitch, and flew straight and level while the chicken I had at mess a few hours ago wanted to fly its way back out.

Cadet-Pilot-Vincent-Aerobatic-Flight
Cadet pilot training includes some memorable flights, like aerobatics!

Another time during the PPL training phase, I was admiring the sunrise and the little houses along the coast I could see from 500ft.

“Enjoy it while it lasts”. The instructor said in a mocking manner as I increased the power to climb to 2500ft.

“You’ve just suffered a partial engine failure”. He placed his hand on the throttle and retarded it to a few inches of manifold pressure.

I immediately pitched for best gliding speed and performed trouble checks, then looked for a field nearby.

“You’ve still got thrust, I don’t feel like landing on a vineyard today”

“Oh yeh….Goolwa Airport is in the vicinity and it seems someone just took off from 01”. I turned the aircraft towards downwind, idle power, made a descending turn to base then final.

“You’re way too high. Do a touch and go and we’ll do a diversion after that”

I took flaps and landed around a third of the way down the runway.

“Why’d you make a full stop?”

My bladder had taken over controls and I taxied to the terminal where we all had a toilet break.

Lesson Number 4: While enjoying the beauty of flight, always be prepared for the unexpected

Weight Gain

“Everybody gains weight at cadet school” was a well known fact that our seniors, course mentors, and instructors stated again and again. We had access to buffet style food at the mess for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The chef nicknamed me “Mr Six Eggs” after my breakfast choice, because there wasn’t enough time in the morning to say “Mr Six Eggs, Two Tomatoes, Bowl of Oatmeal, Scoop of Mushroom, Scoops of Baked Beans, Bowl of Yoghurt”.

Thankfully, one of my coursemates was obsessed with Arnie and I stumbled across photos of “Gympilot”, who used to be overweight but transformed himself into a muscle machine so that he could apply the required 60kg worth of force on a rudder during asymmetric flight on a DA42.

I built lots of friendships (and muscles) at that gym. It became my sanctuary in an otherwise stressful course.

Lesson Number 5: Make exercise a commitment

Cadet pilot training school was one of the most memorable, challenging and fulfilling part of my life. I’d highly recommend any aspiring pilot to consider this path to an airline career. The habits and lessons learned from cadet school lay the foundation for a career as an airline pilot and I attribute the following to my successful completion of the course:

1 Healthy eating is as important as checking the weather before a flight
2 Sleep quality is essential for learning especially in an accelerated environment
3 Don’t rush
4 While enjoying the beauty of flight, always be prepared for the unexpected
5 Make exercise a commitment

Cadet-Pilot-Vincent-Gym
Eating well and exercising is important during the rigours of cadet pilot training.

We’d like to thank Vincent very much for contributing this fantastic blog on cadet pilot training. Stay tuned for Vincent’s next guest blog on his journey to becoming an airline pilot.

To find out more about our flight training courses, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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