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How to become a pilot - My 10 personal advices

"How to become a pilot?" Probably the most frequent question I get on my Instagram account @pilotpatrick.

Additionally to my series "How I became a pilot" I want to give you 10 personal advice when you strive to become a commercial pilot.

My epaulettes. Three stripes for a First Officer / Copilot

Licences

First of all I want to clarify the different types of licenses:

  • PPL: Private Pilot License. As the name suggests this license is solely used for private operation. (e.g. flying in a small piston engine, non commercial)
  • CPL: Commercial Pilot License. This license grants you to fly aircrafts commercially as a First Officer. The A states for airplane.
  • ATPL: Aircraft Transport Pilot License. This license is granted to those how fulfill certain flight hours and are holding a CPL with ATPL theory. This type is needed to become a Captain.

My first day of flying a commercial Jet in 2010

My 10 tips how to become a pilot:  

1. Make sure you are fit to fly and meet the medical requirements to pass the class 1 examination. After having passed the initial examination you need to revalidate your Medical class one every year.

2. Be fit in maths and physics. You do not to be genius but the basic knowledge is necessary. Your sense in space should be well developed. Check the requirements of airlines and flight school which kind graduation level they expect. Some airlines only hire pilots with a high school/ A-level graduation.

3. Find the flight school which suites you the best. There are many flights schools which all promise to make an airplane out of you. Attend “open days” or info events of the flight schools to gather as much as information as possible. Try to talk to graduates to get a genuine feedback. Consider location of the school, training devices and length of the entire education. Here you find a list of flight schools for example.

4. Go for a short “test flight” with an instructor. This way you will find out if you agree to Leonardo Da Vinci’s quote: When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return“. This way you will easily find out if aviation and flying is for you

5. Flight training with an airline. This would be the best and financially the least risky way of becoming a pilot. Usually the airline gives you a training loan and offers you a cockpit position at the end. A certain amount of the training cost is paid back with your salary. (differs to all airlines of course). I have not heard about any scholarships for cadets.

Cockpit of a Piper Arrow in Vero Beach during flight training in 2008

6. Consider the high education costs of a private flight school. I was lucky that my parents paid for my entire training at pilot training network. The costs were around 70.000€. Depending on the school and country the prices range from 50.000 to 150.000€. Additionally you have to consider the costs for a daily living and accommodation. It will be quite difficult to work part time since an integrated training is time consuming

7. Modular Training: In case you do not have the financial back ground, it would be a more safe way to do the training step by step. This type is called modular training. I do not want to scare you, but there are students you took a high loan to afford the training. This can be quite risky when you do not get a job right away and/or the salary might not be so good as expected.

8. A pilot license is not an official professional education. In case you lose your medical for whatever reason, you can only show flight hours in your logbook. That is why I decided to attend a far distant university to have some kind of back up. Maybe think about going to college or learn a profession before becoming a pilot. Sounds strange, but it is always good to have a Plan B.

9. Think about the pros and cons of a pilot life could mean for you. Especially at the beginning of your career you should be quite flexible in terms of your home base location. During your training you might be forced to move to different places.

10. I recommend to visit exhibitions, where flight schools introduce themselves. For example: The ILA  (Internationale Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung) in Berlin. At the career center you have the chance to get to know different flight schools and chat with them.

Overflying Miami Beach during flight training in 2008

Have a look on my aviation related Links page, where you might find additional information.

I hope this blog posts helps some of you. In case you have further questions comment below!

Positive mind, positive life and happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick

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pilot life vs private life

Pilot life vs. Private life How does this work together?

In my last aviation related blog post "How I became a pilot part II" I told you about my first flight training phase in beautiful Croatia. Now I want to show you how a pilot life and private life work together. 

Pilot life vs. private life

In the past many of you wondered how I can have a social/private life as pilot when traveling so much and being absent from home a lot. Especially those of you who strive to become a pilot in the future asked me this question and told me their concerns-

Here are examples of two snapchat users.

This solely depends on you dude. But do not worry if you want, you can have both options. ;-) 

It is true that I am absent from home for about half of the month. Usually I am on duty for a  maximum of eight days in a row. The operation in the Business Aviation requires to overnight at those locations wherever the last flight of the day takes you to. Whereas the flights of many low cost airlines end at their home base, which equals basically to a 9 to 5 job. At this moment I would not be a fan of this kind of operation since one reason for me of becoming a pilot is to travel and get to know new places. But I could imagine that an operation, which allows you to sleep at home every night, can be a big advantage once you want to build a family.

As you can see it really depends on the type of operation and airline how many days in a month you actually spend at home. A minimum of 8 days are granted by the aviation authority.

I have arranged myself with the absence from home quite well. I have a social life with friends and private activities like everyone else. Unfortunately I can not attend all events (like birthdays, concerts, parties and family events) but due to good organization skills I get the best of my free time and I never have a big feeling that I miss out on something.

Enjoying my off days! Here on top of Montserrat mountain in Catalonia, Spain

Pros and Cons of my pilot life:

PROS

  • Getting payed well to travel, to see new places and to fly airplanes
  • I leave work behind in the airplane and so I can use my off time at the fullest 
  • More than 3 days off in a row without taking leave (sometimes even 6 days)
  • Per diem are paid for every hour I am being away from home
  • I do my paper work during my work so I can enjoy my off days without distraction
  • Hotel gyms are free of use and I do not have a contract for a gym at home
  • I have more off days than a full time job (about 12 days)
  • Some passengers pay a tip to the crew for the flight and inflight service

CONS

  • Great flexibility expected and the schedule might change at last minute 
  • I only have either Christmas or New years off at home
  • For important events and appointments I have to take leave 
  • I can not attend classes or courses which take place on a regular basis
  • Irregular working hours and sometimes only little sleep during busy months
  • It is hard to keep a special diet while traveling 
  • Especially in the Business Aviation there is a lot of waiting time

Those are my subjective impressions about my life as a First officer and other pilots would definitely mention different aspects.

Ready for boarding the VIP passenger at the pole position in Olbia

As much as I enjoy being at home, after a couple of days at home my wanderlust kicks in and I want to go on a journey again. Striving for a position of a crew member you have to make sure that you have this desire as well. If not you might not be happy in the long term.

Which aspect would you do not like being a pilot? Comment below.

Please have a look on my aviation related Links, which may you find helpful!

Your Pilot Patrick

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how I became a pilot

How I became a pilot II

In my first part of the blogpost "How I became a pilot" I told you about my way to become a flight student at Intercockpit Pilot Training Network.

How I became a pilot

Another requirement to be accepted as flight student is the initial medical class one examination. This examination is standardized for all pilots and needs to be revalidated every year. For detailed requirements please have a look here) For this examination I went to a special Aviation Doctor at Stuttgart airport. Of course I was a little nervous at this stage, because the outcome will decide about my future career. Not only did I pass it very well, but I also met Fabian, who later became a friend and a fellow flight student.  

Training facility of Lufthansa Flight Training (LFT) in Frankfurt

First day of school

My first day of school at the facilities of Lufthansa flight training was in April 2008. I remember it was a really exciting day, because it meant a new stage of life. The Intercockpit course E308 consisted of 20 guys and one girl. After the introduction of the team we were handed out all the training material, that we would need for our studies. I think it were around ten big binders. At this stage quite intimidating. Additionally we received a black pilot bag. Back then, I was really proud to have it.

Intercockpit course E308 in 2008

Theory classes

For the next two months we attended several theory classes to reach the knowledge of a PPL Pilot (Private Pilot License) to be prepared for the first flight phase in Zadar, Croatia. Additionally we had to pass the AZF (flight radiotelephone operators certificate), which grants the permission to communicate with ATC (Air Traffic Control). Why did the flight training take place in a foreign country? Mainly, because of the weather and the lower operating costs. Especially for VFR (visual flight rules) flights, that require a certain cloud ceiling and visibility, the weather in Croatia was definitely better than in Germany over the year.

First theory part in Frankfurt (8 weeks)

The entire flight training was scheduled to last about 18 months, depending on one's personal performance. Since the planning was really tight there was only a couple of off days in between. As this was an integrated training you had to learn continuously to be ready for the exams. It sure was a tough time, but it was worth the effort in the end. Time management was super important. I found it helpful to set weekly goals concerning learning to have a good feeling and to monitor my progress.

First time in Zadar

In June it was time to head down to Zadar for the first practical flight phase. Accommodation and transport had to be organized by ourself. Most of the course stayed at the same location of a croatian women, who rented prevailing to flight students from Germany. I shared an apartment with my friend Fabian. The place was not special at all, but it was only a short walk away from the waterfront.

The historic old town of Zadar is really beautiful. It is located right at the Adria, where we enjoyed amazing sunsets. The landscape of Croatia is unique with many small islands (66 inhabited) stretching along the coastline of 1800 kilometer and the high Biokovo mountains in the back. It did not take long until we got to see the beautiful landscape from above. After a couple of days of introduction in a basic fixed simulator the first flight in a DA20 aircraft with a instructor was due.

PA44 flight school aircraft of Intercockpit in Zadar

I was super excited and also a little scared. Not of the flying itself, rather if I really like it and could imagine to do it for the rest of my life. All sorrows were gone, when I lifted off the ground for the first time by myself. I remember, that everything was going so fast. It felt like I was flying a fighter jet. Today I can grin about it, since I take off with the Citation XLS+ at a speed, which is 2,5 times faster.

Structure of the training:

  • 8 weeks of PPL theory classes in Frankfurt
  • 10 weeks of flight training in Zadar, Croatia
  • 30 weeks of ATPL theory classes in Frankfurt  (ATPL = Airline Transport Pilot License)
  • 8 weeks of IFR flight training in Vero Beach, Florida  (IFR = Instrument flight rules)
  • 4 weeks ME IFR flight training in Zadar, Croatia  (ME = Multi Engine)
  • 1 week MCC course in Frankfurt  (MCC = Multi Crew Coordination)

Read in my next part about the rest of the flight training in Zadar, a drink offer after landing in Slovakia and the ATPL theory part back in Germany. I am working on more photos of my flight training.

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private jet pilot

A day of a Private Jet Pilot II

Welcome back on board and enjoy reading about the rest of the day. Be sure to sit back, relax and have read the blogpost: "A day of a Private Jet Pilot Part 1" before continuing.

Departure London

Holding Point Runway 26 in Luton. We are ready for departure. Two minutes left until we have to be airborne. No problem for a german crew being always on time. At 08:20 we are finally airborne for our flight to Malta. The airspace in London area is quite dense especially during rush hours. You have to be really concentrated to comply with the instructions and not to miss a radio call of the super fast speaking british ATC (Air traffic control). We need to level off several times before receiving the clearance to climb to our cruising altitude of 13.000m.

Healhy snack above the clouds to be a fit pilot

After crossing the Street of Dover we are handed over to a french controller. Our route takes us southbound overhead Eastern France. The flight conditions are really smooth so the passengers can enjoy a delicious breakfast served by our flight attendant Victoria. She offers us something to drink. As always I have a green tea with honey.

Cruise flight

During cruise the autopilot is activated. This a requirement otherwise we are not allowed to fly in this upper airspace. We continuously monitor the aircraft systems, we keep track of our fuel consumption and we have a look on the weather en route. After having crossed the french and swiss alps we reach italian territory. CIAO! says the controler. From now on the quality of the ATC deteriorates with every mile flying southbound. Our route takes us between Corse and along the west coast of Italy to Sicily. Our final destination this evening will be Naples. We already can see a huge build up of clouds in Southern Italy. This is caused by a low pressure area. We are hoping that those thunderstorms will not effect us later on this day.

Weather build up in Southern Italy

Shortly after passing Palermo we start our descent towards Malta. We expect nice weather with winds coming from the north and temperatures around 30 degrees. Runway 31 is in use which means we have the fly past the airport to start the approach after a 180 degrees to the left.

Malta is in sight. Descending for Runway 31

Touchdown on Luqa airport after a flight time of 03:08 hours. A short taxi takes us to our parking position on Apron 8. My captain leaves the aircraft first to take care of the luggage in the cargo compartment. I say good bye to my passenger and thank them for flying with us. I will see them tomorrow again when we fly them to Cannes. A small bus of the handling service picks them up.

A long turn around

Due to the slot in London we have a delay of almost one hour. Which means we should be airborne for our ferry to Malaga within an half an hour. But we still need to print out fresh weather, pay the landing fees and most important we need fuel for the outbound flight. Since we are in a hurry I start the APU (Auxiliary power unit) again to prepare the cockpit and to have air condition in the cabin. But then the phone rings. Our operations informs us that the flight with passengers from Malaga to Naples is not yet confirmed. It seems like that there is no proof of payment by the broker. As long as the flight is not confirmed we stay on the ground and use this time to have a coffee inside the terminal. That is how the charter business works. Flights can be cancelled our booked at last notice.

Waiting on the flight confirmation

We finally receive the GO of our company. Now everything has to been done as quick as possible. Fortunately my captain printed the new flight documents already saving some time now. We also filed a new flight plan since the old one would have taken us overhead Northern Africa. Our decision is to fly a more northerly route to be one the safe side. In aviation always safety first.

On the ground with the metal bird in Malta FMS set up for the next flight - 940 Nautical Miles

Leaving Malta

Take off in Malta. Now I am the pilot flying and my captain is doing the ATC communication. The responsibility still lies with the captain no matter who is piloting the plane. Scheduled flight time is again around three hours. To make up some time we cruise at max speed of 0.75 Mach and try to get some shortcuts on the way. Mach 0.75 is definitely not the fastest but for the short duration of the legs you would not save a lot of time flying faster. Our advantages are good takeoff and landing performance and a max flight level of 450 (13.700m). Even flying flight level 410 to Malaga today we have to request headings to avoid weather. Flying through an area of thunderstorms or even flying too close to them can cause severe turbulences, icing and hail could damage the aircraft. We would never take the risk.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9VF-y5waF0]

Good bye Malta - hope to be back soon.

During this long flight without passengers I stretch out in the cabin for a while. I have a chat with Victoria while I am having lunch. It is 15:00 by now and I have not really eaten. I drink a green tea and a freshly squeezed juice to boost me with some energy. It is still a lot of flying ahead.

I hope you have enjoyed flying with me so far. In my next blogpost "A day of a Private Jet Pilot Part III" you will read how this day finally ends and which scary event happens during the final approach to Naples.

Your Pilot Patrick

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Private Jet pilot

A day of a Private Jet Pilot I

In my last blogpost I explained what I exactly mean with the Business Aviation. Now I want to tell you how a busy day of flying in this aviation branch can look like.

Welcome on board of a day of a private jet pilot

Hilton Hotel Luton Hotel 05:00 my alarm goes off. Time to get up! I question myself why so early? I snooze and sleep for another 10 mins. First thing in the morning I check my messages, my instagram and then I refresh my flight schedule. Unfortunately the take off is still early at 08:00 to Malta. I check the weather at the destination, alternate and en route. Smooth flying conditions during cruise and we might encounter some turbulences during the descent to Malta airport.
I catch a glimpse outside the window. It is still dark and it looks cloudy. The fact that I will see the sun in a couple of hours and that I will cruise at Flight level 430 (approx. 13.100m) motivates me.

Before I do anything else I turn on music on my portable Bose speaker to wake me up. I pack my suitcase, iron my fresh pilot shirt, take a shower and I jump in my uniform.

First breaky

Fortunately this hotel starts quite early to serve breakfast. Me and my crew captain Sven (32 years old) and flight attendant Viktoria (28) meet up at 06:00 to have breakfast before our taxi picks us up at 06:30. Today we are quite young crew. Through this job I managed to be hungry no matter what time it is. On this morning I have some hash browns, eggs and cereal with fruits (I always take my own almond milk) I drink a green tea with honey.

Even that early the atmosphere is really good. We talk briefly about the upcoming day of flying. Three legs with two different clients. It will be a long day! We depart from London Luton (EGGW) to Malta (LMML). Then after a quick turnaround to Malaga (LEGM) ferry to pick up passengers to fly them to Naples (LIRN). Final landing is scheduled to be at 19:30 Local time.

Beautiful sunrise at the airport

Pick up

A short taxi ride takes us to the VIP Terminal of Signature Handling in EGGW. After having our passports get checked, we proceed to the crew reception and lounge without any security check!! We have an espresso, print our flight documents and do a flight briefing to get everyone in the loop.

Now it is one hour prior departure and we walk over the parking position of our Citation XLS. It is only a hundred meter walk. Those short ways are awesome in the business aviation. I open up the entry door, stow our luggage in the aft hold and remove all red covers, which protect the engines and flight sensitive areas of the aircraft. The sun slowly rises and the temperature is pleasant. Luckily no rain!

The VIP catering of Air Culinaire is being delivered together with hot water and freshly brewed coffee. Rush hour in Luton. This airport is used both by low cost airlines and high cost airlines, the Private Jets ;-) The airport situated further outside the city than Heathrow. But since the ways on the airport are really short, you safe time in the end.

Early bird - Waiting on the passengers to arrive

Flight preparation

After the completion of the outside check of the airplane we start the APU (Auxiliary Power unit) which provides electricity and air conditioning without the main engines running. While I set up the flight deck and do all required cockpit checks, Victoria prepares the cabin and creates a nice boarding atmosphere for our two passengers.

The captain is inside the VIP terminal waiting for the passengers and informs me that we received a slot 30 minutes after our filed flight plan. That means we have a time window of only 15 minutes. Only within this period we are allowed to take off. A delay on the first flight of the day is not helpful. Good news the passengers arrive on time so we might manage to make the slot.

Boarding complete! While the Captain does a passenger briefing in the cabin, I request our clearance for the route and the approval to the start the engines. Start up approved. Let's go!

A lot of checklists have to be read before we are in a queue of aircrafts waiting to depart. We are currently number five to depart, which means a minimum of 10 minutes to wait. Finally reaching holding point 26 I call ready for departure. Only two minutes left until the slot expires.

Read my next blogpost "A day of a Private Jet Pilot Part 2" to find out if make the slot!

Your Pilot Patrick

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general avaition

What is the General Aviation + what do I exactly mean with Business Aviation?

I have been asked many times for which airline I am working for. Unfortunately I am not allowed to tell you the exact name of the company, but I am more than happy to let you know what we are doing. There is a big difference to the major airlines you maybe know.

General Aviation

General Aviation (GA) is easy to explain. It is basically all traffic which is non-scheduled. In this case all major airlines like Lufthansa, Air Berlin, Swiss, etc. do not belong to the GA because they operate on a fixed flight schedule. Airlines and most of the GA traffic fly according a flight plan which as to be submitted prior to flight execution.

The GA exists of many different types of operation. This could be the hobby pilot operating his own small Piper or the flight student flying a glider he just chartered. The Business Aviation also belongs to the GA since it depends on the demand of the passengers when they fly. Thus there is no fixed flight schedule they operate accordingly. This does not mean those aircrafts are automatically smaller. Private Jets or Business Jets can be a small as a 4 seater or even as big as a Boeing 747 VIP. The major difference is that you fly alone or take those persons on board you like to.

Citation XLS +

I am flying for a german Business Jet charter company. Everyone is eligible to charter a plane and can fly with us. Once you have booked a flight you are automatically treated as a VIP. You choose your type of aircraft, the route, the times, the catering and the people who travel with you. This service is quite expansive when you compare it to a regular ticket with an airline. But keep in mind you get the most exclusive flight experience.

As a commercial airline we have to obey the same regulations and rules from the LBA (German aviation authority) and the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) like a big airline company. We are always two pilots in the cockpit. One Captain one First Officer. Additionally we have a flight attendant on board, but she is not required by regulation to fly with us.

Most owner put their aircraft to a management company to take care of it. They organizse crew, schedule maintenance and charter the plane to others when he does not need it. Just to tell you a number: yearly costs to operate a Gulfstream (fix costs) are about 400.000€ without one minute of flying.

Citation XLS +

Our daily flight schedule can consits from 0-6 legs. Usually we fly different customers on one day but it can happen that we only fly one customer to different destinations in one day. For example Business men who have a tight meeting schedule.

Who flies private with me?

Unfortunately I can not tell you exact names because discretion is most important in this industry. But I can tell you that I have flown international superstars, politicians, sports men and those you can afford a flight hour of more than 3.000€. Of course it is really exciting to have someone really famous on board but this does not change anything on my job I am doing up front. I always try to give my best and everyone is treated equally.Remember: A Private Jet is like a dream. It waits only for you!

Your Pilot Patrick

Next blogpost: A day of a Private Jet Pilot

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become a pilot

How I became a pilot I

In my last blog post I told you "why I fly" now I want to tell you how I finally became a pilot. I haven been asked this question many times on Instagram and I am happy to give you a more detailed answer.
In general there is not THE way to become a pilot. Many different ways all lead to the same goal sitting on the right side of a cockpit. I will tell you mine.

How I became a pilot

I did not have any flying experiences before I applied to be a flight student. So as we say in aviation I still was a "pedestrian" before I started my training. Like almost all Germans I applied at Lufthansa to become an airline pilot. This was in 2006 at the age of 18. Back then they still had a demand of pilots but nevertheless I did not suceed to pass their first assessment in Hamburg at DLR. I studied so hard to pass one of the hardest tests but all the effort was not worth it. Those bad news did not stop me from my dream to fly. Moreover it reinforced my willingness to show the stupid assestemnt center that I can also fly without them.

Flight school

Through a friend I heard about this flight school in Frankfurt which is subsidiary of Lufthansa Flight Training. Attending an information day I found out that they also offer an ab initio training like Lufthansa only on different locations (ab initio= no flight experiences) The downside was that I had to finance my traing myself and I did not have a job guarantee at the end. Where as the Lufthansa pays for your training in advance and you will pay off with your loan. The costs for my training were over 70.000€!

Before I applied to be a flight student at Intercockpit, today also called Pilot Training Network, I interviewed people who were students at the moment. I wanted to get an insight feedback  making sure that it is the right facility to do my training.

To become a flight student for an ATPL course, I again had to pass tests in Maths, Physics and English. Nothing really special at this stage. After being accepted by the training facility I already started the course with the number E308 in April 2008 with the age of 19.

In the next part of "How I became a pilot part II" I will write about my first theory phase and my first flight as pilot student.

Your Pilot Patrick

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brief vita pilot patrick

A brief vita

This is your First Officer Patrick speaking. Welcome aboard! Now sit back, relax and enjoy my brief vita!

I am a First Officer and from 2010 to 2016 I have worked for a german Business Jet. Up to that point I was flying the Citation XLS+, on which I have over 2000 flight hours. In total I have over 2500 flight hours. My home base is currently Berlin.

For my first pilot job I moved to Berlin in 2010 and in August 2016 I took a time out of three month in Barcelona. During work I have been to Barcelona many times and it was love at first sight. I decided to move there to improve my Spanish skills and to enjoy good weather and a beach at home. But then a switched companies three months later, which changed everything agin. The new employer grants me to live outside Germany as well, but since the extensive type rating on the A300-600 took place in Berlin, I decided to move back. About my time in Barcelona I wrote a blog post.

Growing up close to Frankfurt I attended high school and finished my A-levels with the age of 18. The german government used to require either to join the military or do a social year after school. Due to the fact that I prefer love over war, I decided to work at a Kindergarten in Friedrichsdorf. Fun fact here the telephone was invited by Philipp Reis in my home town.

During my social year I was accepted at a flight school to begin training. Luckily I was allowed to interrupt the social year, so I could start right away with my flight training to become a commercial pilot. The next two years of training were a lot of fun, but also quite intense and hard. I was putting a lot of effort into my flight training thus graduating with excellent results. In my series of "How I become a pilot" I share the full story. Never the less it took me about one year to find a cockpit job. I was open to all branches in aviation but I always preferred to commence my career with an executive company flying VIPs from A to B.

pilotpatrick_vita
A300-600 cockpit

Since February 2017 I have been flying the wide body aircraft A300-600 at a renominated German Airline. Currently I am in the supervision phase, which means that my training continues during the daily flight business. The conversion from a small private jet to a big aircraft with a maximum take off weight of 170 tons was not easy. But my occupational experiences helped me a lot to adapt to the new operational procedures easily.

Besides my job as First officer I study business administration at a far distant university in Germany. In my free time I love to meet my friends. I like to prepare healthy meals and to got to the gym. I work out regularly in a Crossfit studio. My wanderlust never ceases, so during my leave I spend vacations around the world. On my bucket list are Brasil, Australia and Iceland.

Read in my first blog post: "My dream to fly and why I fly"

Happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick

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