Experience Flight at Compton to Airline Pilot

One of our club members, and a long standing staff member at Compton, has very kindly written about the path he took from his first ever 'Experience Flight' to becoming a First Officer with Ryanair. If anyone wants inspiration or is just interested in how it all works - read on! Thank you Ben. 

"At the age of 16 I moved to Dorset with my parents. We were told about a great place on the top of a hill where you can have a coffee and watch the planes take off and land. A few sips of coffee in and a chat to the members, I had my first flight booked.

I was slightly nervous about this, but was put at ease by a very friendly instructor, and the general relaxed club atmosphere. We took off and, heading south, flew along the Jurassic Coast to Portland. On the way back home I was allowed a go at the controls and, with a little input from the instructor, we zig-zagged our way to the field. After we landed the instructor shook my hand and said, "Congratulations, that's your first hour in your log book towards you private pilots licence". What an amazing experience - I was hooked!

I became a club member and booked regular fortnightly lessons. Generally it's best to have weekly lessons, however it can be done on anything from a daily basis to monthly - 45 hours are required for the issue of your licence (or 30 if you choose the Light Aircraft Pilots Licence). As a member of the club there are many opportunities to get involved and meet people, from wine tasting evenings and Hanger Barn Dances, to fly-outs for lunch to the Channel Islands and back. I even got a job in the airfield restaurant; I just couldn't get enough of the place!

At first I couldn't quite envisage myself flying an aeroplane on my own, however, after a few hours of lessons things starting clicking into place. On my 15th lesson (15 hours in my log book), we taxied back in and my instructor said, "leave it running" and jumping out, "go and do one circuit". That was my first solo flight and my best landing so far. You can do your first solo flight at the age of 16, and can start logging flights from the age of 14. Things went very quickly after that and it wasn't long before I was preparing for my skills test. I passed my skills test with about 55 hours (can be less if you condense the lessons); it was just like any other flight, the examiner just sat there like a passenger and enjoyed the ride.

Now I had a PPL, a few options were available to me; buy an aircraft (which I couldn't afford), become a syndicate owner, or hire from the club. I hired from the club, it makes things very simple and all costs are included. I decided from this point that I wanted to take my flying further and go down commercial routes. I found out that 100 solo hours are required for a Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) with a total flight time of 170 hours to start the CPL training. I spent the next 18 months hour building at Compton Abbas. This is a very enjoyable and valuable part of the training, you will gain a lot of confidence, and at the same time explore the UK, and even France in a completely different way, just don't forget your tent. During this time I also took 5 months off to study for ATPL (Airline Transport Pilots Licence) exams, there are 14 to complete. You can complete this either by distance learning or in-house - I chose in-house and managed to complete the course in a short space of time. You will also need to get a Night Rating during this time (ie learning to fly at night), this is only 5 hours of flying and can be done in a week. Included in those 5 hours is 1 hour of solo circuits, make the most of it because you probably won't fly at night, in a single engine aircraft again. 
Once you have 100 hours PIC (Pilot in Command), 14 passes on your ATPL exams and at least 3 months spare you can start your CPL and IR (Instrument Rating). I would recommend combining this as it will make the IR a lot easier. This is exactly what I did. I completed the CPL in about 6 weeks, most of it is done in the same aircraft as you did in the PPL, but with a retractable landing gear. I found the CPL to be very similar to the PPL but with a few little extras, it was incredibly useful for private flying opening up more opportunities, and places to visit. After passing the CPL skills test I started the IR, the bulk of which is done in a simulator, this is a completely different aspect of flying and a big step into the world of commercial flying. I completed the last 15 hours in a Beechcraft 76 which is a twin engine 4 seater. All of the flying is "under the hood", screens are put up just after lift-off and taken down again about 20 seconds before landing, the entire flight is completed as if it was flown in cloud. It is a very strange feeling but incredibly satisfying. The IR skills test is the hardest test in your flying career. I passed my IR skills test in August 2014 after a 3 hour flight to Alderney and back, with a very friendly examiner. I couldn't quite believe I had managed to get so far. I did however, have a very sore head the next morning. 
Once you have a PPL, Night Rating, 14 ATPL Exam passes, CPL, and IR, there are two more steps to complete. The first is a one week course called an MCC, it is not a pass or fail course, but is a requirement for the issue of an ATPL. MCC stands for multi crew co-operation, and this will be the first taste of airline flying. Be aware that when you look to apply for an airline job they prefer to see everything from ATPL Exams to MCC's completed at the same school. I really enjoyed the MCC, it is all done in a simulator set up as a small private jet, it is very interesting and very useful. The second step is to wait for your Frozen ATPL licence to arrive in the post. 
After that - its a case of applying for jobs and I luckily managed to get employment with Ryanair within a few weeks of passing. After eight weeks of doing a type rating (ie learning the specifics of flying the particular aircraft that you will be flying to start off with) I was offered a full position and am now based out of Liverpool flying the 737-800 - and loving it!"