Pilot Life

Best Flight Simulators In The UK (2024)

What is a Flight Simulator?

Flight simulators are exactly what they say they are. Simulation of flight. Simulators start as basic as phone apps, going all the way to full-motion flight simulators. Simulators that move and are used for commercial airline pilot training (also known as Level D simulators). This article will talk about two types of flight simulators:

  1. Fixed-based flight simulator
  2. Full motion flight simulator (Level D simulator)

We’ll look at the differences, and more importantly where you can try them out in the UK! After all, that’s why you’re reading this article.

Fixed Base vs Full Motion Simulator

There are some significant differences between the two types of simulators. Mainly cost!

Fixed Base Simulator

A fixed base simulator is a 1:1 mockup of a real airliner cockpit. They contain all of the buttons, dials, and rotary switches you would expect and also have high fidelity visuals to make the experience feel even more real.

The key disadvantage is that a fixed base simulator, as the name suggests, has a fixed base and doesn’t move. The unit will stay in the same place, so you will feel no accelerations when pulling up or pushing down. This can make some feel a little queasy when taxiing as what you’re seeing and what your body is expecting is not the same. The per-hour cost of a fixed base simulator is significantly cheaper than a full motion simulator. Around 75% cheaper.

If you are a qualified pilot, you can hire these simulators without an instructor and don’t need to be supervised. If you are looking for a flight experience or are not yet a qualified pilot, expect to pay a little extra as you will need someone to operate the simulator and manage the event.

Full Motion Simulator

Much the same as a fixed base simulator but as the name suggests, the unit moves. A full motion simulator is mounted on stilts that are either hydraulically or electrically powered. When you turn left or right, you will feel it as the simulator moves around, quite an impressive thing to watch. These simulators are used during commercial airline pilot training, especially for pilots 6 monthly simulator checks. They are known as Level D simulators and the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) requires that checks are carried out in a Level D full motion simulator.

The per-hour cost of a full motion simulator is significantly more expensive than a fixed base simulator. You are not only paying for the costs of the simulator itself but also you must be monitored. Therefore someone qualified to operate the simulator will be with you, which adds cost.

Why go to a fixed-based or a full-motion simulator?

Pilot Training

Full and fixed-based flight simulators play a crucial role in pilot training programs. Towards the end of commercial training and before flying a jet airliners for real, a pilot will spend between 48-120 hours in a flight simulator practicing various emergency scenarios to prepare them for real line flying. Airlines, flight schools, and aircraft manufacturers utilize these simulators to train and assess pilots in various scenarios, from routine flights to emergencies. The ability to replicate real-world conditions ensures that pilots are well-prepared for any challenges they face during their day-to-day jobs.

I visit the simulator roughly every 6 months for 2 days at a time, as a legal requirement to maintain my license. During these sessions (4 each year) we practice emergency scenarios, operating procedures, and unique situations that we may not come across in our day-to-day lives. Think de-icing, strong winds, unique airports, challenging scenarios like an engine failure during a go-around at an airfield with high terrain, etc.

Aircraft Development:

Beyond training, full-flight simulators are integral to the development of new aircraft. Engineers and designers use simulators to test and refine the performance of aircraft in a variety of conditions. This iterative process contributes to the creation of safer and more efficient aircraft.

Recreational Use:

For aviation enthusiasts and individuals curious about flying, many flight simulation centers in the UK offer recreational experiences. These facilities provide a taste of what it’s like to be at the controls of a commercial airliner or a fighter jet, making aviation accessible to a broader audience. If you don’t have a large amount of spare cash, a fixed base simulator is fantastic value and offers a real insight into the world of airline flying.

Assessment Preparation

When you move airlines, or sometimes even for your first airline job, you will be required to attend a simulator session. These are usually in full motion simulators and you will be partnered with someone you’ve never met. Your goal is to fly the aircraft safely, and equally importantly, demonstrate your CRM (crew resource management) skills. Most pilots pay to practice in a fixed-based simulator before attending the real assessment. I certainly did! I paid for 4 hours with a friend of mine to prepare for my airline assessments. Expensive? Yes. But I saw it as an investment in my future career and therefore a drop in the ocean.

How much does a fixed-based simulator cost vs a full motion simulator?

Companies differ in their costs and prices and how experienced an instructor you have with you. That said, you can expect to pay around £100-£150 per hour for a fixed-based simulator. You can expect between £400-£600 per hour for a full motion simulator per hour. Now you can see why I suggest fixed-based simulators!

Should I hire a fixed-based or a full-motion simulator?

Unless you are a pilot paying for your own LPC check (license proficiency check), then in almost all cases, a fixed-based simulator is enough. Even if you are preparing for an airline assessment, a fixed base is enough. Unless you specifically want to practice engine failures after take-off (EFATOs) or emergency scenarios that require extensive use of trim, then the visuals and setup are so immersing that you will not notice the lack of motion.

The cost saving is so significant that I truly do not think a full motion simulator is worth it. If you have the funds, then by all means go for full motion but for every 1 hour you get in a full motion simulator, you could have 4 in a fixed-based simulator.

Fixed-based simulators in London and the UK

Below is a list of fixed-based simulators in the UK. I have personally used three of them and recommend them wholeheartedly. As a disclaimer, the two I recommend do have affiliate links, the very small amount I receive helps pay for this website’s costs and keep the content free so I don’t have to lock it behind a paywall. If I haven’t used a simulator, the links are not affiliate. I appreciate it if you choose to attend the simulators I recommend, please could you use the affiliate links.

There are lots of fixed and full-motion simulators in the UK. All simulators listed below have been used by friends and colleagues of mine and are therefore recommended. If a simulator isn’t on this list, it’s because either myself or my friends and colleagues have never been and therefore cannot recommend them without experience.

Simulators I’ve used and recommend

Flightpad (Boeing) – Ealing, London

Flight Simulator Midlands (Boeing and Airbus) – Coventry

VA Airline Training (Boeing and Airbus) – Cambridge

Simulators my friends and colleagues have used and recommend

Motion Flight Training (Boeing and Airbus) – Gatwick

Simulator Adventures (Airbus) – Manchester

pmFlight (Boeing and Airbus) – Redhill, South England

Best Flight Simulators In The UK (2024) Read More »

How to Become An Airline Pilot (2024)

There are 11 steps to become an airline pilot. Each section is broken down below in the main body of this page. Grab a cup of tea and get reading!

  1. Choosing the Right Path: Modular, Integrated, MPL or Cadetship
  2. Application and Entry Requirements
  3. Class 1 Medical Examination
  4. Ground School
  5. VFR Flying
  6. IFR Flying
  7. APS, MCC, Multi-crew Training
  8. License Acquisition
  9. Simulator Training or Type Rating
  10. Base Training
  11. Line Training

1. Choosing the Right Path: Modular, Integrated, MPL, or Cadetship

The first crucial decision you face is choosing the right training path. Modular training provides flexibility, allowing candidates to complete training modules at their own pace. You pay as you go, allowing people to work for a while, save then pay for portions at a time. Modular is considerably cheaper than integrated.

Integrated courses, such as those offered by large multinational flight schools like CAE and L3 Harris, provide a more immersive and condensed experience. Don’t be deceived by the glossy magazines, remember they are a business and you must treat them as such. Integrated is considerably more expensive but is much quicker. Typically you go from zero to type rated pilot within 18-24 months. 

MPL courses or multi-crew pilot license courses are similar to integrated courses. They are carried out at integrated flying schools but with slight course differences. You spend less time in an actual aircraft but more time in the simulator. If you pass the required standard, a job will be waiting for you at the end of training. 

Cadetships offer a structured path through a specific airline’s training program, often with a job guarantee upon completion. Recently, airlines like Aer Lingus, British Airways, and TUI have been paying for their cadet’s courses. Unheard of for more than 20 years! 

Each option has its advantages, and aspiring pilots should carefully consider their circumstances and career goals before making a choice.

2. Application and Entry Requirements

If applying for an integrated, MPL or Cadetship course, aspiring pilots must first meet specific entry requirements and pass stringent aptitude testing. These requirements typically include a minimum age, educational qualifications (often at least A-levels or equivalent), and a requisite level of English language proficiency (ICAO Level 4). Researching and understanding the entry criteria and cost for chosen flight schools or airline cadet programs is crucial to ensure eligibility.

Typically, the application process consists of 6 Steps:

  1. Online application and CV
  2. Online aptitude tests – hand-eye coordination, task prioritization, spatial awareness, etc
  3. Onsite aptitude tests – More aptitude tests but carried out at the flight school itself
  4. Group exercise
  5. One on one (or two on one) interview
  6. Referencing and class 1 medical

3. Class 1 Medical Examination

Either before or after being accepted into flight school, you will need to get a Class 1 medical. I recommend getting this before you apply, it would be devastating to get through all of the steps and fail at the medical stage. I personally used Heathrow Medical (not an affiliate link).

This rigorous (and also £600 expensive!) examination assesses a candidate’s physical and mental fitness to operate an aircraft. Aspiring pilots should be prepared for a thorough medical check, including vision, hearing, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being. Throughout your entire career, you will be expected to renew this every year (at your airline’s expense once employed) and every 6 months once you are over 60. 

Better get that gym membership updated!

4. Ground School

Ground school marks the academic phase of pilot training. It is brutal. 13 subjects of relentless information crammed into 6 months. It is not complex. But the volume is quite ridiculous. I have written a guide on how to study for ground school here.

Subjects include:

  1. Principles of Flight
  2. Aircraft Performance
  3. Mass and Balance
  4. Meteorology
  5. Human Performance
  6. Air Law
  7. Operational Procedures
  8. Aircraft General Knowledge: Engines, Airframes and Electrics
  9. General Navigation
  10. Radio Navigation
  11. Communications
  12. Flight Planning
  13. Instruments

Although a lot, it will give you the basic foundational knowledge required to progress to the actual flying stages. Whilst everything isn’t relevant and quite outdated, subjects like meteorology, mass and balance, performance, air law, and operational procedures are especially important for daily life at the airlines. Study up!

5. VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Flying

With the theoretical groundwork laid, aspiring pilots transition to practical flying experiences. If part of an integrated course, you will go to a fair weather base. Typically they are located in good-weather locations like Phoenix, Arizona, or Jerez in Spain. 

The VFR phase focuses on visual navigation and control of the aircraft in good weather conditions. Students learn the fundamentals of manual flight, honing their skills in take-offs, landings, and basic maneuvers. This hands-on experience is essential for building confidence and proficiency in handling an aircraft. These basic stick and rudder skills will set you up for life at the airlines and the jets. 

On an MPL, you will typically gain 80 hours of flying experience at this stage, or if on the ATPL you will need to get around 160 hours (as you will need 200 for your commercial pilot’s license).

6. IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) Flying

After VFR flying, you will continue to the IFR phase. Instrument Flight Rules Flying emphasizes the use of cockpit instruments for navigation and control, allowing pilots to operate in a wider range of weather conditions. This phase can also be completed in a fair weather base whilst wearing a “hood” to simulate bad weather, but typically you will come back to the UK. The UK has perfect IFR weather (ha!) and this also allows you to fly around UK airspace and learn the subtle differences with air traffic.

If on an MPL course, you will transition for a short period flying twin-engine aircraft and deal with engine failures, you will fly for around 10 hours before moving onto the simulators for the jet you will fly according to your airline.

If on an ATPL course, you will complete about 40 hours in the twin-engined aircraft allowing you to take the CPL or Commercial Pilot’s License. These 40 hours, plus the previous 160 hours in the VFR stage will give you the required 200 hours for your CPL. Your CPL plus a type rating makes up your frozen ATPL (fATPL).

7. APS MCC Qualification (Airline Pilot Standards and Multi-Crew Co-operation)

The Airline Pilot Standards (APS) and Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC) qualifications are essential components of advanced pilot training programs, designed to enhance the skills and competencies of aspiring airline pilots. 

Until now, you have been flying a single pilot. The APS MCC is designed to get you trained to work as part of a multi-crew. As that’s what will you do at the airlines. It’s a short intense 2 week course in a jet simulator. Either the Boeing 737 or Airbus 320. The course focuses on effective communication, crew resource management (CRM), and your ability to work as part of a team. 

You will be expected to deal with basic failures and to come up with a safe solution with your teammate. Whilst flying is important, you are not expected to know everything about your assigned aircraft. You will need to know the bare basics to be able to fly the plane, but crew resource management is the crucial part here as to how you deal with emergencies and make decisions. Crucial skills for your type rating. 

This is not required for MPL pilots as you will spend much longer in the simulator during the type rating phase which is where you will learn these skills. 

8. License Acquisition

Once you have finished all of the flying stages, got your CPL, and completed the APS MCC, you will be presented with your frozen ATPL or f(ATPL). I won’t what frozen means here but it is at this point you can start applying for jobs and enjoy the most expensive piece of paper in your life. 

If you are an MPL pilot, you will get your license AFTER the base training. A subtle difference in licensing regulations requires you to fly the jet before receiving your license. 

9. Simulator Training or Type Rating

The fun bit! Here is where you take all of your basic fundamental skills learned in the previous phases and now learn to fly your assigned jet. Typically (but not always), pilots start on short-haul, so your first type rating will likely be on the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

In the sim, you will cover basic flying skills and quickly move on to a variety of emergency scenarios and adverse weather conditions. You will develop crucial decision-making abilities and practice teamwork in a simulated cockpit. 

As an airline pilot, you will be tested in the simulator every 6 months for the rest of your career! In the type rating phase, you will develop your pilot competencies which is what you will be graded against for the rest of your flying life. 

If you are on an MPL course, you can expect to complete about 120 hours in the simulator or about 30 simulator details. Broken down into basic, intermediate, and advanced (the type rating). On the MPL, this phase will take approximately 4-6 months.

If you are on the ATPL course, you will do a “minimum footprint” course which is about 12 simulator details or 48 hours in the simulator. Almost ⅓ of the MPL course. Yes, it is very much like drinking from a fire hose. This phase will take approximately 1-2 months.

10. Base Training

Transitioning from simulated environments to real-world flying, base training provides candidates with practical experience in the actual aircraft. Under the supervision of experienced instructors, pilots practice take-offs, landings, and various in-flight maneuvers. This phase is instrumental in bridging the gap between simulated and real-world flying, allowing pilots to apply their skills and knowledge in a live operational setting.

If you are an MPL pilot, you will receive your license after base training. 

11. Line Training

Once you have your license, and you’ve joined an airline, you will do a few more simulators to get you up to speed on that airline’s specific operating procedures. This is called an OCC or an operator’s conversion course. It will take you between 2 weeks to a month to complete

The OCC will consist of some ground school, between 2 and 6 simulators, followed by base training. Base training is great fun where you and your pilot friends will take an empty aircraft out to somewhere that has nice weather and complete between 6-12 circuits each with very senior training captains. Once you are signed off, (or sent back to the sim if not!) you will begin line training. 

Line training consists of normal flights, with passengers, but you are coupled with a training captain. Training captains are specifically trained to deal with new entrants to an airline, they will accompany you for between 30-50 flights (or more if needed) until you are to “line standard”. At the end, you will have a line check, to make sure you can operate competently as a line pilot and a crew member. The line check will be with you as the FO and the training captain as the operating captain (2 crew) or a normal line captain, you and a training captain on the jump seat (3 crew).

Once your line check is complete, welcome to the line! You will now fly with regular “line captains” and be released to fly to almost all of the destinations. Most airlines employ a restriction during your first few months to ensure you don’t get anywhere very complex as you get used to your new role. I.e. You won’t be sent to Gibraltar or Funchal on your first day!

Enjoy your career and six monthly sim checks. I certainly am. 

How to Become An Airline Pilot (2024) Read More »

What Does A British Airways Pilot Roster Look Like?

The Pilot Roster

I often get asked about a pilot roster. Your roster, or schedule, is your life. A roster determines your working days and days off. Including the flights, you’ll be operating, layovers, and standby duties. In today’s post, we’ll look at a typical roster at British Airways, specifically at London Heathrow (LHR).

Your roster will be subject to legal rules on flying hours and also any union agreements for your specific airline, in British Airways’ case this would be BALPA (British Airline Pilot’s Association).

Understanding the Roster

The roster is the monthly plan that schedules pilots’ duties. It outlines the number of flight hours, destinations, aircraft registrations, hotel information, days off, and standby duties. Understanding your roster is a key component of an airline pilot’s work-life balance, enabling them to plan personal activities and downtime around their work schedule. Though don’t expect any of those capabilities whilst you’re junior (new to the airline)!

At British Airways, rosters typically come out around the beginning of the previous month, giving pilots approximately one month to prepare for their duties in the upcoming month. For instance, the roster for July would be released around the first week of June.

Bidding: Bidding Matters

British Airways, like many other airlines, employs a bidding system. This means pilots can express preferences for when they’d like to work and which destinations they’d prefer to fly to. At British Airways, each pilot must complete a certain number of hours work per month. How each pilot achieves that number is down to them.

In British Airways’ case, pilots can bid for day trips (home the same night), short tours (2 days away from home) or longer tours (3 or more days away from home). Each pilot will have a preference depending on their family circumstance and where they live! The system will take into account each pilot’s request in seniority order. In essence, when you’re senior, you can write your own roster, and when you’re junior, expect to get nothing you bid for.

The system doesn’t accommodate all requests, but it does aim to be fair and take pilots’ wishes into account. Everyone was once junior at British Airways, hence the coined phrase “You’re only junior once!’.

Seniority: Moving Up the Ladder

Seniority is a crucial factor that influences a pilot’s roster, in BA, seniority dictates everything. Your roster bids, leave, when you get your command, everything, absolutely everything is dictated by seniority. The faster you join a seniority based airline, the better as with time you will slowly gain seniority. As of 2023, British Airways is hiring lots of new pilots, those who joined in only February 2023 are already at 70% seniority, on their fleet (meaning 30% of pilots are junior to them), unprecedented! You can prepare for your interview here.

New pilots, or ‘junior’ pilots, will have less control over their schedule, particularly in the early days of their careers. Everyone starts somewhere, and with time, junior pilots will accumulate seniority and have more influence over their rosters. 

A Peek Into A British Airways’ Pilot’s Roster

Below is a sample of two random junior British Airways pilots on the A320 fleet during the summer schedule, of course anonymised. This is the kind of roster that you can expect when you are new to the company and during the summer or busy months (from April to October).

To simply explain, each green block is a trip. When a green block is only one day, or a day trip, the green block will extend over one day. When the green block extends over 2 or more days, it’s a tour (nights away from home). On each trip you will see a three letter code and a red number. The red number means the number of flights on that day.

For example, pilot 1 on the 4th has OTP and a red 3. They will fly 3 flights ending in OTP (Bucharest). They will stay the night in OTP, have a day off in OTP (as the day is blank) and return to LHR (Heathrow) on the 6th with only 1 flight back.

Pilot 2 has a day trip on the 5th with a red 2, meaning they will fly to Lisbon then return to Heathrow. The next day, on the 6th, they have another day trip to IBZ (Ibiza) and return to Heathrow.

Days that are blank (white) are days off at home base. Days that are blank (green) are days off down route at the destination.

LB – Type of leave so pilot 2 has some leave during the month.

TS, WR, Blue numbers – Unimportant until you join the company and will not be explained here.

What Does A British Airways Pilot Roster Look Like? Read More »

What Does an Easyjet Pilot Roster Look Like?

The Pilot Roster

One aspect of a pilot’s life that I often get asked about is the schedule or, as pilots know, the roster. Your roster is your life. A roster determines the working days and off days for pilots, which includes the flights they’ll be operating, layovers, and standby duties. In today’s post, we’ll delve into a typical roster at a UK airline, specifically focusing on EasyJet, at London Gatwick (LGW).

Your roster will be subject to legal rules on flying hours and also any union agreements for your specific airline, in Easyjet’s case this would be BALPA (British Airline Pilot’s Association).

Understanding the Roster

The roster is the monthly plan that schedules pilots’ duties. It outlines the number of flight hours, destinations, aircraft registrations, days off, and standby duties. Understanding your roster is a key component of an airline pilot’s work-life balance, enabling them to plan personal activities and downtime around their work schedule. Though don’t expect any of those capabilities whilst you’re junior!

At EasyJet, rosters typically come out around the middle of the previous month, giving pilots approximately two weeks to prepare for their duties in the upcoming month. For instance, the roster for July would be released around mid-June.

Preferencing: Your Preferences Matter

EasyJet, like many other airlines, employs a preferencing system. This means pilots can express preferences for when they’d like to work and which destinations they’d prefer to fly to. The system doesn’t accommodate all requests, but it does aim to be fair and take pilots’ wishes into account. E.g. you can preference lates or earlies, 2 sector days, 4 sector days, or night stops. At airlines like British Airways, you can ask for specific routes, or layovers in specific destinations.

The airline will try to accommodate as many preferences as possible. However, operational requirements may mean that not all preferences can be met all of the time.

Seniority: Moving Up the Ladder

Seniority is another crucial factor that influences a pilot’s roster. In the aviation industry, the seniority system is widely recognized and impacts many aspects of a pilot’s career – from the type of aircraft they fly, to their base location, to their roster.

At EasyJet, seniority doesn’t matter, pilots who have been with the company longer, or ‘senior’ pilots, get no priority when it comes to preferencing. However, at British Airways and other seniority-based airlines like Virgin Atlantic, seniority is everything. This means senior pilots are more likely to have their roster preferences met. New pilots, or ‘junior’ pilots, will have less control over their schedule, particularly in the early days of their careers. Everyone starts somewhere, and with time, junior pilots will accumulate seniority and have more influence over their rosters. 

A Peek Into an EasyJet Roster

In the image above, you’ll see an actual roster for an EasyJet pilot. It will give you a glimpse into the variety and complexity of a pilot’s working month. The three letters codes are airport names e.g. LGW = London Gatwick.

Other codes:

LSBY – Late standby

ESBY – Early standby

D/O – Day off

ADTY – Airport standby

Becoming familiar with the rostering system is a part of every pilot’s journey, from aspiring aviators to seasoned pilots. Although it can seem complex at first, with time, you’ll become an expert at managing your schedule, ensuring you maintain a healthy work-life balance while conquering the skies.

If you have any questions on rosters, feel free to email me at paul@pilotprep.co.uk and click here to see interview techniques for Easyjet and other airlines.

What Does an Easyjet Pilot Roster Look Like? Read More »

Commander’s or Captain’s Discretion: What is it?

FDP or Flight Duty Period

Before talking about Commander’s Discretion, we must quickly discuss FDP. FDP or Flight Duty Period (FDP) refers to the time from when a flight crew member is required to report for duty, which includes a flight or series of flights, and ends when the aircraft finally comes to rest and the engines are shut down at the end of the last flight on which they are a crew member. This is a basic definition and you will find your airline’s specific definition in Operation’s Manual Part A (OMA). Each airline will have slightly different definitions, e.g. how long before departure should a crew member report? Does positioning count towards FDP?

FDP has a maximum limit to prevent fatigue. In Europe, these limits are set by EASA (ORO.FTL.205), however, airlines CAN implement more restrictive conditions. Easyjet uses stricter FDPs(i.e. fewer hours on FDP due to union agreements). British Airways and Ryanair etc. operate towards full EASA limits. These considerations can sometimes form part of how much a pilot earns.

Commander’s or Captain’s Discretion

CAA regulations allow for an extension of the FDP under the commander’s discretion in unforeseen and unknown circumstances that occur at or after the reporting time. The time when people turn up for work. This rule is designed to provide flexibility in operations without compromising safety.

The commander may extend the FDP by up to 2 hours on short-haul flights. However, this is not a decision to be taken lightly. The commander must consider the current state of the crew, including any signs of fatigue, the nature of the unforeseen circumstances, and the potential impact on flight safety. The commander must also take into account the need for an adequate rest period following the extended FDP. On this note, the Commander can additionally use their discretion to extend a crew member’s rest. Conversely, they can also reduce rest.

An example of using the commander’s discretion to extend the FDP could be a situation where the flight is delayed due to unexpected weather changes at the home airport whilst downroute. Suppose the weather is forecasted to improve within a reasonable time. In that case, the commander may decide to extend the FDP to allow for the flight to proceed to the home base rather than diverting to an alternate airport or cancelling the flight and being stuck downroute.

Can any crew member decide if they want to go into discretion?

It’s important to note that the use of the commander’s discretion to extend the FDP is solely the commander’s decision. While the commander may seek input from other crew members, the final decision rests with the commander. The commander must judge if each member is “fit” to fly. Crucially, will they be fit to fly throughout the remaining duty? A common misconception by the crew is they will say phrases like “I’m not going into discretion”. This is a misunderstanding as it’s not the crew’s decision. The crew member is either fit to operate or not.

This information is then used by the commander, and the commander only to make an informed decision. This is because the commander has the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the flight. The commander’s discretion is not a committee decision, nor is it a decision that can be made by ground-based personnel. It is a decision that is made by the commander, based on their assessment of the situation, their experience, and their judgment.

I’ve gone into discretion approximately 10 times during my career and each time, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Crewing and other ground-based staff WILL try and pressure crews to “keep the show on the road”. We must remember we are in a safety-related role and the buck stops with us. If you are not fit, tell your Captain and give them all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Commander’s or Captain’s Discretion: What is it? Read More »

How Much Money Does a U.K. Airline Pilot Earn in 2023?

Show me the money

While most pilots join this industry due to passion, money is always pleasant and we need money to buy the things in life we like. So how much does a U.K based pilot earn? This post will discuss the salaries of first officers (year 1) starting out their careers for U.K based airlines.

Each airline pays its pilots differently. Essentially, a pilot receives a salary, then on top of this salary, they will receive allowances. Usually, an additional amount of money is paid per flight (also called sector pay) or a payment per hour of flying time (defined as chocks off to chocks on). Some airlines pay a higher base salary and lower allowances, whereas others pay a lower base salary and much higher allowances. 

Therefore, each pilot doesn’t earn exactly the same. The figures below are based on full-time salaries, 850 hours of flying per year, 1300 duty hours (time spent at work), 300 sectors of flying, and 50 night stops a year. This post doesn’t talk about fringe benefits like pension, staff travel, private healthcare, time to command or profit share schemes, etc. Cash money only.

British Airways (Heathrow base)

Base salary:£65,909

Flying pay: £10.35 (per hour)

Time away from base: £4.48 per hour

Nightstop: £10

Estimated annual earnings: £81,031

See here for British Airways interview questions.

British Airways (Gatwick base)

Base salary: £51,321

Flying pay: £11.44

Per diem: £2.60

Estimated annual earnings: £61,435

See here for British Airways interview questions.

Easyjet (UK Base)

Base salary: £48,918

Sector pay: Not applicable for the first 1250 hours of flying.

Night stop: £40

Estimated annual earnings: £50,918


Base salary: £57,626

Sector pay: Not applicable until promotion to first officer (you start as a second officer)

Estimated annual earnings: £57,626


Base salary: £39,000

Flying pay: £20 per block hour

Estimated annual take home: £56,000

Virgin Atlantic

Base salary: £62,000 (cruise relief pilot)

Estimated annual earnings: £62,000

Wizz Air

Base salary: £28.092

Flying pay: £30,000 (paid £21 per sector and £0.036 per km flown)

Estimated annual earnings: £58,092

For in-depth breakdowns please see https://www.pilotjobsnetwork.com/

How Much Money Does a U.K. Airline Pilot Earn in 2023? Read More »

Turbulence: What Causes it And How To Cope

Turbulence is rarely dangerous. For many passengers, turbulence is one of the scariest aspects of flying. It is the biggest reason why people have a fear of flying. Turbulence can be sudden, unexpected, and make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. However, turbulence is a normal and common occurrence in air travel. In fact, I encounter some level of turbulence on almost every flight. In this blog post, I’ll explain what turbulence is, why it happens, and how you can cope with it to alleviate your fears and anxiety.

What is Turbulence?

Turbulence is unstable air, the irregular and unpredictable movement of air, often caused by changes in air pressure, temperature, and wind. When a plane encounters turbulence, it feels like it’s bouncing up and down or shaking. Sometimes, it can even feel like the plane is dropping, even though it’s still flying level. Turbulence can be light, moderate, or severe, depending on its intensity and duration. The definitions of which can be found here.

A 123 knot headwind caused us some turbulence.
Why Does Turbulence Happen?

Turbulence is unstable air. It can be caused by a few factors, both inside and outside the aircraft. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  1. Weather Conditions: Turbulence is often caused by changes in the atmosphere, such as thunderstorms, jet streams, or wind shear (sudden change in wind direction and/or velocity). 
  2. Aircraft Movement: Turbulence can also be caused by the movement of the aircraft itself, such as when it passes through the wake of another aircraft that may have flown overhead, or a bigger aircraft that is landing in front of us.
  3. Altitude Changes: When a plane ascends or descends, it can encounter turbulence as it passes through different layers of air with different temperatures and pressures.
  4. Terrain: Turbulence, or in this case, Mechanical Turbulence can be created by the terrain below, such as mountains, hills, and even buildings that can cause changes in wind patterns.
The Alps are often a source of turbulence.
Is Turbulence Dangerous?

While turbulence can be scary and uncomfortable, it is rarely dangerous. Modern aircraft are designed to withstand turbulence and are equipped with advanced technology that can detect and avoid it. In fact, turbulence is so common that we, as pilots are trained to deal with it and know how to keep the aircraft safe, either by avoiding it, climbing or descending away from it, or increasing our speed to reduce the effects.

Turbulence can cause injuries if passengers and crew members are not properly secured. That’s why it’s important to always wear your seatbelt when seated, even if the seatbelt sign is turned off. In addition, it’s also imperative you follow the instructions of your cabin crew, who are trained to ensure your safety during turbulence.

How to Cope with Turbulence

If you’re a fearful flyer, experiencing turbulence can be a terrifying experience. However, there are a few things you can do to cope with it and alleviate your anxiety. Here are some tips:

  1. Breathe: Taking slow, deep breaths will help you relax and stay calm during the lumps and bumps. Focus on your breath and try to visualize yourself in a peaceful, relaxing place.
  2. Distract Yourself: Keeping your mind occupied can also help you cope with turbulence. Watch a movie, listen to music, or read a book to take your mind off the turbulence.
  3. Stay Seated: Although obvious, during turbulence, it’s important to stay seated and keep your seatbelt fastened. Avoid getting up to use the toilet or overhead lockers.
  4. Trust the Pilots: Remember that we are trained to deal with turbulence and we will do everything we can to keep you safe. Turbulence also makes it difficult for me to drink my cup of tea so rest assured, we will be doing our best to get you out of it as soon as possible. Trust in our expertise and experience.
  5. Practice Relaxation Techniques: If you’re a frequent flyer, it may be helpful to practice relaxation techniques before your flight. This can include yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. These techniques can help you stay calm and centered during turbulence.
  1. Understand the Physics of Turbulence: Humans naturally fear what we don’t understand. Learning more about the physics of turbulence can help you understand why it happens and how it affects your flight. This knowledge can help alleviate your fears and anxiety.
  2. Choose Your Seat Wisely: If you’re particularly sensitive to turbulence, choosing a seat over the wings of the aircraft can help reduce the impact of turbulence. This is because the wings are designed to flex and absorb turbulence, which can make the ride smoother. If seats over the wing are not available, sit near the wings or to the front of the aircraft rather than the rear.
  3. Communicate with the cabin crew: If you’re feeling anxious or scared during turbulence, don’t hesitate to communicate this. They are there to help and can provide reassurance and support.
  4. Seek Professional Help: If your fear of turbulence is preventing you from flying, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you work through your fears and develop coping strategies that work for you. Airlines also regularly run free fearless flyer courses like Easyjet and British Airways.
Lumps and bumps are a fact of life

Turbulence is a normal and common occurrence in air travel. While it can be scary and uncomfortable, it is rarely dangerous. By understanding what causes turbulence and how to cope with it, you can alleviate your fears and anxiety and enjoy a smoother flight. Remember to stay seated, wear your seatbelt, and trust the expertise of the pilots and cabin crew. With these tips, go and fly with confidence.

Turbulence: What Causes it And How To Cope Read More »

ATPL and MPL: Which Pilot License is Best?

What is an ATPL and an MPL?

One of the decisions you’ll have to make before embarking on your pilot journey is which license do you want to have. An ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) or an MPL (Multi-crew Pilot License). You may be wondering what the difference is, in short, they both take you to the right-hand seat of an airliner. There are subtle differences, costs, and advantages to both. In this post, we will discuss the differences, advantages, disadvantages, and misconceptions of these two types of pilot licenses. I personally went for the MPL when I was deciding which license I wanted.

Both courses follow a similar footprint, the ground school is exactly the same. The biggest difference is that an ATPL holder will spend 200 hours flying small aircraft before joining an airline. They will then spend 40-50 hours in the simulator for their type rating. An MPL holder will spend around 85 hours flying small aircraft and spend about 160 hours in the simulator including their type rating.

ATPL Pilot License

An Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) is the highest level of pilot license that you can get. It is required for pilots who want to fly large commercial airliners or cargo. If you study full-time on an integrated course, you can expect to have a frozen ATPL within about 18 months. It becomes unfrozen once you have achieved 1500 flying hours, 500 of which must be in a multi-crew environment. This enables you to be eligible to apply for command (to become a captain) when you have the number of hours required by your airline (varies from airline to airline).

Advantages of ATPL Pilot License:
  1. Versatility: There are more job opportunities available to you as you can fly different types of aircraft, including commercial airliners, cargo planes, and private jets.
  2. More time in a small plane: ATPL pilots undergo a longer period of “hour building”. You will need at least 200 hours of total flight time to take your CPL (Commercial Pilot License), a pre-requisite for obtaining your ATPL. Lots of fun bumbling around in a smaller aircraft!
  3. Worldwide recognition: ATPLs are known all over the world, giving you more job opportunities.
Disadvantages of ATPL Pilot License:
  1. Cost: An ATPL is more expensive due to the extensive training requirements and the high cost of acquiring the necessary flight hours. You will spend around £20,000 more on an ATPL than an MPL. 
  2. Time: The training required for an ATPL pilot license can take longer than an MPL. This is due to the high hours required (200 hours) to take your CPL and so you are at the mercy of being cancelled ALOT due to weather. This is because you can only fly VFR when you are hour building.

MPL Pilot License

A Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) is a newer type of pilot license. It is designed to train pilots to work in a multi-crew environment, where they will operate large commercial aircraft alongside other pilots. In other words, you are trained to airline standards and expected to fly in the right-hand seat of an airliner once you finish. MPLs are generally tied to a specific company, so you will complete your interview and receive a conditional job offer before you even start training. You will then be trained using “your” airline’s SOPs (standard operating procedures).

Advantages of MPL Pilot License:
  1. Cost: An MPL is cheaper than an ATPL pilot license since the training is focused on your end aircraft type, you will spend much longer in the simulator (6 months!) and spend much less time in a smaller aircraft (only 85 hours needed). Some airlines run MPL courses for free!
  2. Time: MPLs generally finish their training faster as they are not held up so much during the VFR training portion and spend much longer in the simulator. The sim is not affected by the weather!
  3. Job Opportunities: MPL pilots are tagged to an airline from day one. As long as you meet the criteria, you will join your airline as a First Officer when you finish. Yes, you can indeed fail and lose your “tagged” status. 
  4. Better prepared for the airline: You will spend 6 months in the simulator of your future aircraft, around 160 hours of simulator time. ATPL holders on a traditional type rating will only spend 40-50 hours in the sim. You will be better prepared for your airline, and it shows, Captains do notice the difference between ATPL and MPL holders. 
Disadvantages of MPL Pilot License:
  1. Job Opportunities: MPL pilots are tagged to a specific airline. Should that airline go bust, or suffer difficulties (see COVID), then MPLs very quickly find themselves with a license that is nearly useless.
  2. Versatility: MPL pilots are tied to their aircraft type and can’t rent a Cessna over the weekend to pop somewhere for breakfast. Generally, once you join your airline, it is advisable that you get 1500 hours of experience and take a skill test, at which point you will then have an ATPL.
  3. Not worldwide: Not all countries recognize an MPL. Outside of Europe, Japan, and the main carriers of the Middle East, most countries don’t recognize the MPL license and prefer ATPL, limiting job opportunities. 

So which one should I get?

Both ATPL and MPL licenses will take you to the right-hand seat of an airliner. I personally went with the MPL as a calculated risk, I wanted the “security” of knowing that I would likely join an airline when I finish. Remember, it’s likely, not guaranteed. The ATPL license is more versatile but more expensive and time-consuming to obtain. The MPL license is designed for specific environments and is less expensive and time-consuming to obtain, it’s also related to the demand for pilots so you won’t be able to apply for them year-round. Ultimately, the decision to pursue either an ATPL or MPL pilot license should be made based on personal goals, financial resources, and career aspirations.

Additionally, both ATPL and MPL pilots must meet ongoing training and certification requirements to maintain their licenses and stay up-to-date with the latest aviation technologies and safety protocols.

But MPLs can’t go to another airline, right?

Wrong. It is a common misconception that you need 500 hours, or even 1500 hours before you can move to another airline. This is not true. This rumour appeared when British Airways recruited experienced pilots and required a minimum of 500 hours on type if you had an MPL. This is not a regulatory requirement, but an airline one. When Thomas Cook went bust, the MPL cadets were picked up by Easyjet and likewise when COVID happened, some British Airways cadets were picked up by Easyjet. However, these are special cases and it’s not “a given” that another airline will recruit low-hours MPL pilots. However, before you get your ATPL (after 1500 hours), you can only move to another airline that accepts MPLs.

ATPL and MPL: Which Pilot License is Best? Read More »

7 Best Reasons To Be A Pilot

Being a pilot is a cool job, you get to fly planes every day to exotic places with (generally) very nice people! Becoming an airline pilot is a dream for many people. The allure of a high-flying lifestyle, the excitement of exploration, and the opportunity to travel the world are unmatched by any other profession. In this post, I’ll give you the 7 BEST reasons to become an airline pilot.

1) Pilot Salary

One of the most obvious and best reasons to become an airline pilot is the potential for a high salary. Airline pilots are among the highest-paid professionals in the world, and their salaries reflect the responsibility, skills, and training required to operate a commercial aircraft. You can expect to earn a starting salary of around £40,000 per year. This will constantly increase with your experience, potentially reaching close to £175,000 as a training captain.

For the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for airline pilots was $202,180 in May 2021. In addition to a high salary, many airlines offer comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and free or discounted travel for pilots, their families, and even their friends.

2) Travel Benefits or Staff Travel

Another great reason to become an airline pilot is the travel benefits. As a pilot, you’ll have the opportunity to travel the world and experience new cultures, cuisines, and landscapes. This will be part of your job, and your time down route will be paid for by your employer. Additionally, most airlines offer free or discounted travel for their employees, which means that you can take advantage of your time off to explore new destinations. I recently travelled to Porto in Portugal and back for about £30 total! 

3) Variety of work

Another appeal of being an airline pilot is the variety that comes with the job. If you prefer routine and stability, this is not the job for you! Pilots will work with different crews, fly different routes, and work different shifts also on different variants of aircraft. This variety can keep the job fresh and exciting and can help pilots avoid burnout. Furthermore, the variety can provide opportunities to learn new skills and work with different people, which can be both professionally and personally rewarding. Usually, you can bid for work patterns that suit your lifestyle, I personally prefer working late shifts so I bid for those!

4) Pilots Never Stop Learning

As an airline pilot, you’ll never stop learning. The aviation industry is constantly evolving, and pilots must stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, safety procedures, and regulations. This means that pilots must complete regular training and continuing education courses to maintain their skills and stay current with industry developments. Every 6 months you’ll be put through your paces in the simulator carrying out essential training. A good pilot is one who is always thirsty for knowledge and never gets complacent and thinks they “know enough”. You can always learn more! For those who love to learn and grow, being an airline pilot can be a highly fulfilling career.

5) Pilots See Outstanding Views

One of the most unique benefits of being an airline pilot is the chance to see the world from a different perspective. Pilots have access to incredible views of the earth, including mountains, oceans, and cityscapes. This perspective can be awe-inspiring and can provide a sense of wonder and appreciation for the beauty of the world. Daytime, night time, good weather, bad weather, the views are incredible and you have a front row seat!

The alps.
6) Pilots don’t take work home!

The parking brake is on, back to the car park and you’re done. No answering emails from your phone, no calls on your days off, no “just finishing some work off before dinner”. Your time off is your time off, period. Don’t get me wrong, you have to do SOME work at home. For example, in the weeks leading up to your simulator check you will be required to do some reading (or do it during the cruise if you wish). I’ve worked in an office and by far flying is superior. You can truly switch off from work and enjoy your time off. 

7) Prestige of being a pilot

Finally, becoming an airline pilot is still a highly prestigious profession. Pilots are responsible for the safety and well-being of hundreds of passengers, and their skills and expertise are highly respected. Furthermore, the image of the pilot as a competent and confident professional is a highly appealing one and is a source of pride for those who choose this career path. I am proud to wear my uniform every day, I’ve earned it. You can too.

Being an airline pilot a highly attractive career choice for those who are passionate about aviation, travel, and adventure. However, it is important to note that becoming an airline pilot requires a significant investment in time and money, as well as a high level of skill, dedication, and responsibility.

Despite these challenges, becoming an airline pilot can be a highly rewarding and fulfilling career. It offers a unique combination of adventure, prestige, and financial security. For those who are passionate about aviation and are willing to put in the work, becoming an airline pilot can be a dream come true. If you’re going to invest in this career, make sure you know for sure why you want to be an airline pilot. It will come up in your interview!

Nice, in Southern France.

7 Best Reasons To Be A Pilot Read More »

Can Pilots Wear Glasses?

Yes, you can wear glasses as a pilot!

One of the most common questions I am asked by aspiring pilots is can pilots wear glasses? In short, the answer is yes. In fact, I wear glasses! Pilots can wear glasses, but there are specific requirements that must be met, particularly in the UK. As pilots, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers, crew, and aircraft. Therefore, you must meet specific medical requirements to ensure that you are fit to fly.  Let’s explore the criteria for a UK Class 1 medical and renewal.

Firstly, let’s start with the basics. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is responsible for ensuring that pilots meet the medical standards required to fly. There are three classes of medical certificates: Class 1, Class 2, and LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilot License) medical certificates. Commercial pilots need a Class 1 medical certificates, while private pilots only need a Class 2 medical certificates. LAPL medical certificates are for pilots flying light aircraft. If you want to fly for the airlines, you will need a Class 1.

Initial Class 1 Medical (your first and strictest medical)

Let’s look at the requirements for a UK Class 1 medical certificate. The CAA says, you, as a pilot, must have “normal colour vision and visual acuity in each eye separately.” This means that you must be able to read the letters on the Snellen chart with each eye individually, and both eyes together. You will also take an Ishihara test to ascertain whether or not you are colourblind. Pilots must have a visual acuity of 6/6 or better in each eye separately and 6/9 or better in both eyes together. However, if your visual acuity is worse than 6/9 in both eyes together, they can still qualify for a Class 1 medical certificate, provided that they can see at 6/12 or better with one eye.

The CAA allows pilots to wear corrective lenses to meet the visual acuity requirements. However, pilots must meet specific requirements for the issue of an initial Class 1 medical. According to the CAA, “spectacle correction should not exceed plus or minus 5 diopters.” Additionally, the lenses must be “non-tinted and non-reflective” and must have “no visible scratches or blemishes that would interfere with vision.” The frames must also be “well-fitting” and must not have any “protrusions or sharp edges.” Contact lenses are also acceptable, as long as they are comfortable and do not cause any visual disturbance. Personally, I have dry eyes and contact lenses are not suitable for me to use when I’m flying.

Class 1 Medical Renewal

The requirements for a renewal of a Class 1 medical are slightly different. You must undergo a basic eye examination, which includes a Snellen chart test and a visual field test. The visual field test is used to check for any defects in the peripheral vision. The visual acuity requirement for a renewal is the same as for an initial Class 1 medical (6/6 or better in each eye separately and 6/9 or better in both eyes together). However, if a pilot’s visual acuity has deteriorated since their last medical examination, you may still qualify for a renewal as long as you can see at 6/12 or better with one eye.

Pilots with certain medical conditions that affect their vision may not be able to fly. For example, pilots with uncontrolled glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy may be disqualified from flying. Additionally, pilots with a history of certain eye surgeries or procedures, such as LASIK or corneal transplant will have to wait before flying again. You need to consult an AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) for a precise time period but expect at least 6 weeks as a minimum.

Keep your glasses nice and clean

In summary, you can wear glasses and still be a pilot as long as you meet the specific requirements set by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. You will also need to carry prescription sunglasses and a spare pair of glasses at work. Take care of your eyes, you only have one set of them! Now you know you can wear glasses, make sure you nail why you want to be a pilot. Happy flying!

Can Pilots Wear Glasses? Read More »