We've all had a crazy childhood dream and mine was becoming an airline pilot. Many young people who aspire a flying career are unaware of the content of flight training and the preparations which are needed. On November 23rd, 2015 I started my ATPL(A) training. Time to realize my childhood dream. I'd like to take you along on an adventure and I'll happily answer all your questions on the way. Let's do this!
On September 7th, 2017 I stood at the beginning of a new and very promising chapter of my life. It was the start of my career as a pilot. Allow me to take you on yet another adventure, but this time it won't be as a student pilot, but as First Officer!
I was only five years old when I first said I wanted to become a pilot. Not in my wildest dreams did I think this moment would ever happen, but on November 18th 2017 I flew with a real Boeing 737 for the very first time. My childhood dream turned into reality. What an amazing feeling!
The big day
On a cold, misty Saturday morning I met my two colleagues in the crew room. We were all nicely in uniform for the big day that was ahead of us. Not much later both the Captain and First Officer arrived. They would support us during the flight which is better known as the Base Training.
The Base Training is the last part of the Type Rating and it consists of flying a few circuits. In total we have to take-off and land six times in order to prove we are capable of safely flying with the airplane. If that's the case then we are officially Type Rated and we can request our license at the authorities.
It would be our very first flight with a jet-powered aircraft. Something I had been looking forward to for a very, very long time! Besides that, it's also only during the Base Training that you can fly circuits around the airport just like you would with a Cessna 152. Only this time it wasn't a Cessna, but a 50 tonne Boeing 737! Epic.
It wasn't just the first, but unfortunately also the last time we would do this in our career. But if I ever win the EuroMillions jackpot I will take all of you along for some circuits!
3, 2, 1, action!
The mist had disappeared, there was almost no wind and a cloudy sky was awaiting us. After we had prepared everything and knew what was going to happen, we went to the airplane. I didn't have too much stress. It was nothing but pure excitement!
I would fly first and could directly take place in the right seat. Ok, to be honest, I might have been a little stressed at that time... We prepared the airplane, did all the necessary checklists and asked permission to start the engines.
"Liège Ground, Quality 945T, request engine start."
After having started the engines, it was time to taxi to the runway. But first I had to wave goodbye to my dad and sister who were watching along from behind the airport fence!
The moment of truth
Not much later the moment of truth had arrived. We did the last checklist and the Captain put the aircraft nicely in the middle of the runway. Ready for departure!
"Cleared for take-off, runway 22L, Quality 945T."
Brakes released, full thrust, pure focus. The speed started building up, "V1, Rotate!"... And slowly but surely I pulled the yoke, lifting the airplane from the runway. There are no words to properly describe the feeling I had. The moment I had been dreaming of for all those years, was now real. With my left hand on the thrust levers and right hand on the yoke, I was controlling the aircraft. A real Boeing 737!
Taking off was great, but the best part was yet to come: the landing! My dad and sister had faced the cold to watch my first flight so I wasn't going to disappoint them! We configured the airplane, turned towards the runway and I tried stabilizing the airplane as good as possible. Now it all came down to small inputs and enough anticipation for a nice landing.
My first landing was a success and I couldn't wait for the next one! Once on the ground, the Captain cleaned up the aircraft while rolling and within 20 seconds we were back up in the air again. The Base Training might be a "simple" flight, but it's without a doubt one of the most memorable ones I've ever made.
I enjoyed every single second of the flight and if possible I would do circuits all day long! It was a surreal feeling to be honest.
After the sixth landing, we did a taxi-back to the beginning of the runway. That gave enough time to swap seats because my two colleagues still had to do their circuits of course. Unsurprisingly they both did well and like that we were able to finish the day with pride. It was a huge milestone for all of us.
Time flies, but so do I!
Less than two years ago I started my flight training. It's amazing how much has happened in such a short period of time. Time for a short summary!
On November 23rd, 2015 I started flight training with 17 other students. We fought our way through 30 tests and 28 exams before leaving for the USA. In the sunny state of Arizona, we passed 4 tests and also the CPL Skill Test. Later on in Oxford, there was one more flight test, followed by the IR Skill Test. The last part of our training was the MCC course in Brussels and on June 9th, 2017 I graduated!
After one month of job hunting, I received a fantastic phone call on August 2nd. My very first airline job! One month after I started the Type Rating which took roughly 3 months. And here we are, the Base Training on November 18th, 2017. Just 727 days after starting flight training! What a memorable day.
The Base Training is done! Once I have my license I can start with Line Training. You'll read all about it in two weeks in my new post!
Story series: Road to the Right Seat
Follow student pilot Bob's journey to the right seat of an airliner!