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!
The next step on my list was the Line Training. The goal of this stage is to learn how to fly operationally and this throughout our whole European network. But before I could do that I first had to receive my licence. The waiting game begins!
While I was waiting for my licence I got the chance to do an observation flight to Lisbon, Portugal. This would already be a great opportunity for me to get a look into my upcoming life as a cargo pilot.
A little after two o' clock I met the Captain and First Officer who I would follow during their duty. It was quite funny to see how much life their is at the airport, even in the middle of the night. The world of transportation is wide awake while the world sleeps. We checked all the paperwork such as the flightplan and the weather observations and not much later we departed to the airplane. Let's fly away!
The video above shows what an average night at my base looks like. Quite nice to watch!
I had to opportunity to follow both the external inspection and the preparations in the cockpit. And even though I wouldn't be flying it did feel great to be up in the air once again.
Before flying to Lisbon we first made a short stop in Toulouse, France. There I managed the operation of the cargo door and I helped with various small tasks. During the flight to our final destination I already learned how to fill in all the paperwork and from time to time I took charge of the communication. My hands were itching to go flying again!
The observation flight gave me a good idea of the life that was ahead of me. Waking up early, short flights, a lot of hotels and also the great atmosphere between colleagues. It gave me a reassuring feeling and I couldn't wait to be in the right seat again...
In this post I won't go too far into detail about a day in the life of a cargo pilot. Those who are interested should definetly come back next week!
After two weeks of waiting I was finally able to pick up my licence on December 2nd, 2017. Now it was black on white: I am Type Rated on the Boeing 737-300/900! What a fantastic day that was.
As I said before, the purpose of the Line Training is to learn how to fly operationally. This means that you are still under training, but you are transporting actual passengers or cargo in my case.
This phase is also split up into multiple stages. For example, during the first 10 flights I flew with aType Rating Instructor/Examiner (TRI/TRE) and a Safety First Officer (SFO).
The TRI/TRE has an extra Rating on his licence which allows him to train and examine pilots on a certain type of aircraft. It is safe to say that we are talking about true aviators with plenty of experience. Pilots from whom I'd certainly learn a lot!
The job of the SFO is to spot mistakes of both myself and the Captain. During my first flights I noticed how much information came my way and that time management is essential. It was convenient when the SFO could relieve some of the workload by taking over some of my tasks (such as the paperwork).
Once the first 10 flights had passed and the instructor had approved it, I was allowed to fly without an SFO. On top of that the Captain also didn't have to be a TRI/TRE anymore, but a "normal" Line Training Captain was sufficient.
After each flight there was a thorough de-briefing in which we discused my mistakes, things I could improve on and also what I did well obviously. It all came down to preparing me for the Line Check. This test follows after the 40th flight and with approval of the instructor.
Once again it promised to be a demanding, but rewarding phase of my training.
The first flight
A few days after receiving my licence the came had come. During the night from the 5th onto the 6th of December I had my very first Line Training flight. It wouldn't be a long night however as we would simply fly to Nürnberg in Germany and back!
The flight time for both flights was only 40 minutes and due to this fact my main focus was on flying and not on paperwork. As I said before it is nice in cases like this to have an SFO to reduce your workload ever so slightly.
A little after half past two we took off. What an amazing feeling to be in the right seat once again. It may have been a short flight to Germany, but it surely was an interesting one and I learned a lot from it.
When we arrived at our parking stand in Nürnberg the whole circus began. The airplane was off-loaded and loaded, we received extra fuel, a lot of paperwork came into the cockpit and not much later our nose was already pointed back home!
After a smooth landing and a motivating de-briefing it was time to drive home and to get some rest. I didn't really have a choice as the night after I would be flying to sunny Lisbon. No reason to complain however!
Quickly summarised: 44 flights – 65 flight hours – 20.000 kilometers – 400 tones of cargo
Just to be clear: it wasn't always blue skies and sunshine during Line Training. Each country and each airport has it's own challenges. The weather in Madrid was usually great, but the airspace is quite busy and the airport itself is just one big mess.
The airport in Örebro (Sweden) might have been tiny, but in the north I learned how to operate in cold weather conditions. For example, we had to de-ice and de-snow the airplane regularly. Oh and special care had to be taken during the walk-around not to slip and fall on the ground. Been there, done that.
The purpose of the Line Training was to expose me to all kinds of situations. From beginning to end it was a steep learning curve, but after 40 flights I was lucky enough to be signed off for my Line Check immediately.
The big night
On January 9th, 2018 I had my Line Check. A straight flight to Madrid and back to Liège via Rennes in France. Both flights went quite well and once we arrived back at base I received good news. The Line Training was done! An important milestone in my young career as a pilot.
Once I had passed the check I was now allowed to fly with all the Captains. I would be meeting a lot of new faces in the upcoming week and months and that's something I surely looked forward to.
Off to the next flight!
Do you still have questions about the Line Training? Feel free to comment them below or send me a private message on my Instagram account: @bobthebelgian