how to become a pilot

How To Become a Commercial Pilot - My 10 Tips To Suceed

“How to become a pilot?” Probably the most frequent question I’m getting asked throughout my social media channels and also in real life. I am here to inform you, so I am more than happy to answer you again and again. 

Dear Loyal Aviator, 

Welcome on board my blog. Besides my series “How I became a pilot”, I want to give you 10 personal pieces of advice if you are hoping to become a commercial pilot.

how to become a private pilot

So Many Pilot Licenses 🎟

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)

BLOG: “How To Become A Private Pilot Fast

CPL: Commercial Pilot License. This license grants you to fly aircraft commercially (passengers and or cargo) as a First Officer. 

ATPL: Aircraft Transport Pilot License. This license is granted to those who fulfill certain flight hours and are holding a CPL with ATPL theory. This type of license is needed to become the commander on board.

how to become a private pilot

My 10 Tips On How To Become a Commercial Pilot:  

1. Your Health Status 👨🏼‍⚕️

Make sure you are fit to fly and you meet all medical requirements to pass the class 1 examination. The visit to the doctor should be one of your first steps when thinking about becoming a pilot. After having passed the initial examination, you need to revalidate your Medical every year which requires you to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercises and a healthy diet will tremendously increase the chance to pass every medical check throughout your career. This job is not made for lazy people even though being a pilot requires sitting a lot.

 

2. Your Genius Level 🤓

Be efficient in mathematics and physics. You do not have to be a genius, but basic knowledge in these subjects is necessary when you want to become a pilot. Your sense of space should be well developed, which will help you originate quickly when flying in a 3-dimensional space. Check the requirements of airlines and flight school as to which kind of graduation level they expect. Some airlines only hire pilots with a high school/ A-level graduation.

 

Sieh dir diesen Beitrag auf Instagram an

 

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Patrick Biedenkapp | Captain (@pilotpatrick)

3. Find The Right Flight School 👨🏼‍🏫

Find the flight school which suits you the best. There are many flight schools which all promise to make a pilot out of you. Attend “Open Days” or info events at the flight schools to gather as much information as possible. Try to talk to graduates to get genuine, truthful feedback. Consider the location of the school, training devices and length of the entire education. Here you find a list of flight schools for example.

 

4. Pilot For a Day 🛩

Go for a short test flight lesson with an instructor. This way you will find out if you agree with 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“.

I think it is a smart idea to invest this money to get a better indication as to whether your imagination of flying an airplane matches reality.

5. Who Pays For It? 💸

Flight training with an airline. This would be the best and financially, least risky way of becoming a commercial pilot. Usually airlines give you a training loan and offer you a cockpit position after graduating successfully. A certain amount of the training cost is paid back with your salary. (differs for all airlines of course). I have not heard about any scholarships for cadets and the pandemic has changed a lot in the aviation industry as well.

6. Self-funded Training 🙋🏼‍♂️

Consider the high education costs of a private flight school. I was lucky that my parents were able to support me financially. 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 daily living and accommodation. It will be quite difficult to work part time since integrated training is very time consuming. Even when you get a loan to pay for the training there is absolutely no job guarantee in the end.

7. Modular Training 🛸

In case you do not have the financial background, 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 who took out 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 turns out to be not as good as expected.

8. No professional education 🤯

A pilot license is not an official professional education. In the event of losing your medical for whatever reason, you can only show flight hours in your logbook. That is why I decided to attend a distant university after becoming a pilot, but then social media became a major part of my life.  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.

process of becoming a captain

9. Pros And Cons 👈🏼

Think about what 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 which can be extremely difficult when you have a family. Always take all possible options into account. 

BLOG: Pros And Cons Of Being a Pilot

10. Go to exhibitions ✈️

I recommend going to 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. I am sure there are career fairs near you. Do not hesitate to use google search 🙂

how I became a pilot

I hope you find my updated article helpful. Please do not forget to like the blog post.

Positive mind, positive life and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick


how i became a pilot

Final part: How I became a pilot

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Welcome on board my Aviator! Now sit back, relax and enjoy the last part of my series how I became a pilot. In my previous blog post, you read about my instrument flight training abroad in Vero Beach, Florida. In this final blog post of my series, you will read about the multi-engine flight training at Pilot Training Network and about a shocking crash at end of my training.

How I became a pilot

In my previous blog posts, you can read:

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Being the back seater on a flight lesson with the PA44

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Back in Zadar

The final and most important flight training phase took place back in Zadar, where my practical flight training started in summer 2008. At this stage, I had to recall the entire knowledge and skills I gather over the past one and a half years and transfer it to the final training flights. It was the most difficult phase since we had to fly a more complex aircraft with two piston engine. The Piper PA44 is multi-engine four seater aircraft. All flights were conducted under instrument flight rules and we practiced flying a multi-engine. Most of the time we rather flew the aircraft with one than with both engines. This required to fly the aircraft really precise and you need to apply sufficient rudder to control it along the desired flight path.

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Losinj island in the Adrian Sea with a 700m runway

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PA44 cockpit with Avidyne avionics (glass cockpit)

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On August 31 2009 I had my final check flight with an examiner of the german authority. I was very nervous on this day because I had to pass this practical check to become a pilot. This flight took place from Zadar to Pula and back via Losinj. It lasted over 2,5 hours. Not only my flight skills were challenged but also my knowledge about the EU OPS. This regulation specifies minimum safety standards and related procedures for commercial passenger and cargo fixed-wing aviation. I was so happy that I passed the final check.

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Celebrating the passed check with a jump into the Adrian sea with my flight overall

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Piper PA44 seminole aircraft

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The crash

Back in Germany we celebrated a birthday of a fellow flight student when a shocking news crashed the party. The Piper PA44, which I flew days ago, crashed into the Adrian Sea. The search and rescue team needed two days until they found the wreckage at the bottom of the sea in 68 m depth. During that time no one knew what has happened to the crew.  Unfortunately the flight instructor and the flight student died during the crash. This was so socking to hear and I could not believe it at the beginning. Usually those flight missions are flown with a student as back seater. But on this day he was late so they took off without him. As investigators found out in the end that the aircraft got into spin during the demonstration of a speed which called Vmca.

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Heart shaped island in the vicinity of the crash - RIP

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What is a spin and the Vmca?

Vmca  is the minimum control speed in the air. This is the minimum speed at which a straight flight path can be maintained when an engine fails or is inoperative and the other engine is set to maximum thrust. At this point the rudder (vertical fin at the end of the airplane) is used to counter the asymetrical thrust and to maintain directional control (heading). If flying a speed less than Vmca the aircraft enters a spin. A spin is a special form of stall resulting in the rotation about the vertical axis. A stall means that the wing does not produce lift anymore. The aircraft autorotates toward the stalled wing due to the higher drag and loss of lift. Recovery may require a specific and counteractive set of actions to avoid a crash.

During my flight training the Vmca speed was demonstrated at a save altitude in a dedicated airspace for air work. When flown correctly this procedure is absolutely save. On this special day multiple factors led to the catastrophic crash. If you are interested you can read the full investigation report here (only in German)

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The three axis of an aircraft

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Conventional instruments on a Piper PA44 wit the basic T (speed, attitude, altimeter, heading)

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MCC

MCC stands for Multi Crew Coordination. This course is a requirement to fulfill the requirements to apply for a commercial pilot license (CPL). This course is constructed to rather teach the coordination and procedures of a multi crew cockpit than actually flying the aircraft. So far I have controlled all training aircraft by myself without an additional crew member. This means I flew the aircraft, did the radio communication and felt decisions by myself. This course is done in a simulator. I could choose between the Boeing B737 and the Airbus A320. I picked the Airbus since I always wanted to know how it feels like to fly a side stick. 

The entire MCC course consisted of 5 session each 4 hours. We had to study the basic operation procedures of the Airbus and had to get used to operating the aircraft as a Tea. It is was an exceptional feeling to fly a big and fast aircraft even though it was only the simulator at the stage. In my blog post "My Airbus A300 type rating" I already described how realistic the full flight simulators of Lufthansa Aviation Training are. After the completion of the course I was even more eager to get into the air with a big bird.

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MCC flight training in the Lufthansa A320 simulator

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Graduation Dinner

In October 2009 the last three courses of the flight school came together to celebrate the graduation from flight school. I was really happy about my accomplishment on one hand and on the other I was sad that a memorable time as flight student was over. It was a demanding and tough time. I had to study a lot, did not have much free time and I had to cope with a lot of pressure. My diligence paid off in the end.

At this time I was the flight student who passed the final written exam at the LBA the best. I did not know about it until I was exceptionally honored for this during the celebration event. My flight school invited me to fly from Frankfurt to Zürich in the cockpit of an Avro Jet. That was an amazing experience at the end of my time as flight student. It would take another three weeks until I finally received my pilot license.

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Intercockpit course E308 Graduation dinner in 2009

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In total my flight training lasted less than 2 years. During that time I flew about 210 hours  and made 258 landings.

The crash in Zadar showed me how vulnerable we are and how fast a happy life can be over. That is why it is so important to enjoy every day as if it was your last. Positive mind. Positive life. Happy landings.

In which cockpit would you love to fly in?

Your Pilot Patrick

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my way into the cockpit

My way into the cockpit + My 10 application tips

The blog posts of how I became a pilot have become to one of your favorite ones. So far I have published four parts in this series and yet there is more to come. In this blog post, I want to move up to one step further. I received a lot of questions asking me how I managed my way into the cockpit. I am going to explain exactly that and additionally, I want to give some general tips when applying for your dream job.

In Dublin with the beautiful business jet Citation XLS+

My way into the cockpit

In the end of 2009, I graduated from flight school. The training at Intercockpit was independent of any airline so I was able to apply at any company I wanted to. Unfortunately, the market situation at this moment was not the best. There were some jobs on the market Germanwings and Lufthansa City Line were searching for first officers at this moment. Those jobs were highly embattled. But for a good reason, I did not have the big desire to work for the Lufthansa group.

Unlike to my fellow flight student, I still was pretty much open to fly either for a big carrier or a small business jet company. But I felt that I was more willing to fly a private jet and to experience this kind of operation. I did not want to be the kind of pilot who does not have any layovers and returns to his home base every night. Moreover, I desired to be away from home to discover new places and new cultures.

Application

I applied at many airlines throughout Europe. Most applications to german operators I send as hard copy in a nice application folder. But the majority I send per email or filled out online which is the standard procedure. I found out that more than 50% did not send any feedback and that most airlines required flight experience on a certain type of aircraft. That became quite frustrating after around 40 applications. After a couple of months finishing flight school, I became impatient, because I wanted to be in the air and not on the ground waiting. In November 2009 I received my CPL(A) license by the authority, but the Muli Engine Instrument rating would already expire in July 2010 again. This rating is required for job applications and would cost around 1.000,-€ to revalidate.

pilot patrick in new first officer uniform in berlin
My new uniform for the career on the A300-600

I thought about doing something else besides writing applications. Unfortunately, I did not know anyone in the aviation branch, who could support me getting a job. So my idea was to get to know somebody who could help me. That is why I visited the aviation fair "Aero" in Friedrichshafen in April 2010. This fair is specialized on general aviation with numerous business jet companies attending. It was the best decision to go since I found my job that way. On a small booth, I got to know my former employer. Then things started to happen very fast.

I was invited to an interview in Berlin and a second time to do some kind of screening on a Cessna 172. The idea behind this was to show my practical flying skills. Everything went well in order to begin my type rating on the Citation XLS in the beginning of July 2010. The only down point was that I had to fund my type rating myself. The costs were around 20.000,-€. Fortunately, the german authority for employment sponsored 50% of the costs. I was lucky to be at the right spot at the right time.

Seven years ago during my first rotation on the Citation XLS in Nice, France

It has become quite common that pilots have to compensate for their type rating in the beginning of their career in the cockpit. In the end, it took me eight months to find a job. This was quite fast considering that 1/3 of my fellow student pilots are not in a First Officer position until now.

Backup plan

It is always useful to have a backup plan. Mine was to go study to the university of applied sciences in Bremen. I was already accepted as a student to start in the winter semester of 2010. I would have done a bachelor in aviation management and system knowledge. Then everything changed with the job commitment.

Links I used in the past to find job offers:
latest pilots job
carrer. aero
pilotjobsnetwork.com

My 10 application tips 

Over the years I gained many experiences writing applications to numerous companies. I am definitely not an expert, but the following tips are useful for any dream job you are longing for.

  • Contact Person: Find out the person, who receives and reads your application. This name should be stated in the cover letter. A direct appellation is better than 'Dear Ladies and Gentlemen'.  To find out the name give them a call and ask. You might even have the chance to talk to the person in charge. In this case, you can assign to this phone call in your cover letter. This gives the application a personal touch.
  • Requirements: Always check you if you meet the requirements of the job offer. If you have any doubts drop a line via email or give them a call.
  • Paper or digital: Check which form the employer prefers. Nowadays most companies prefer the digital form via email.
  • File format: The file format is of uttermost importance. This can already decide if the human resources department prints out your application and if they are even able to read it. I recommend sending your documents as PDF in one single file. Check that the file size is appropriate. Not more than 10 MB.
  • Photo: Use a clear, friendly and professional portrait for your application. It is worth the money to go to a photographer to get a nice shot. Wear clothing which suits your further job. I recommend attaching a full body photo if you have a lot of personal contact with customers.
first officer application tips
Application of 2013. Example of my cover page with my hard facts at the bottom
  • Appearance: The design and the formatting of your application are really important. Use the same font and a common layout throughout the application. Make it special through a design that sticks out. Use the colors of the company and try work with their motto.
  • Cover letter: Keep it short, precise and interesting. You should surprise your reader and you should try to arouse his curiosity, so he is willing to continue to read your application. Remember you are not the only applicant and there is only a little time available to read yours.  Use correct grammar and spelling!
  • Hard facts: Consider writing your hard facts on a cover page with your portrait photo. Mention five to seven facts about which really speak for you. (see picture above)
  • Call: If you have not received any feedback within 7 working days, I would call and ask for it. This shows that you are really interested in that position.
  • Be patient: Sometimes it requires a lot of effort and time to find your dream job. Do not get frustrated when you receive many denials in a row. Always believe in yourself and do not give up!

A dream is like a private jet! It only waits for you!

It is the combination of a good application, perfect timing and a little bit of luck to get your dream job. For all future aviators, I have 10 tips for you when you consider attending a flight school.

Happy landings and good luck!

Your Pilot Patrick

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how i became a pilot

How I became a pilot III

Welcome on board of my series of “How I became a pilot". In part three I will talk about the flight training with Pilot Training Network in Zadar and the theory phase back in Frankfurt. Find out which drink was offered to me after landing in Slovakia and which malfunctions I had during one of my first solo flights.

Fleet of Diamond aircraft DA20 and DA40 models in Zadar, Croatia Beautiful views over the Adrian sea during flight training

The structure of the training:

  • 8 weeks of PPL theory classes in Frankfurt (How I became a pilot II)
  • 10 weeks of SE VFR (single engine, visual flight rules) flight training in Zadar
  • 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)
Younger me as a student pilot with my instructor "Wolle" in Zadar

The entire training in Zadar lasted about 10 weeks. I already had my first solo flight after 11 flight hours with an instructor. On 24th of July 2008 I lifted off the ground in a DA20 all by myself for the very first time. It was really exciting. At first I was nervous, because I wanted to do everything safe and correct. The first flight went really well and after 30 mins I landed safely. It was awesome.

Returning from my first solo flight DA 20 VFR flight training in Zadar (LDZD)

During the first couple of missions we always stayed either in the traffic pattern of Zadar (airport) or in close proximity. In dedicated training areas we practised special flight maneuvers to improve our manual flying skills. First lesson in aviation: aviate, navigate, communicate! Flying has always priority before everything else.

During the aerial work over the Adrian sea we did stalls, steep turns and slow flight. An aircraft being in stall means that the wings do not produce lift anymore, because of the angle of attack being too big. If not corrected may lead to a crash.

Steep turn (45 degrees) in a DA20 aircraft! Like a roller coaster!

Cross country flights

After being familiar with the procedures, the aircraft, the flight patterns and the communication with air traffic control we started flying cross country. Those flights took place between two points (e.g. airports) using navigational techniques. Some missions were flown in a DA40, which is a single piston four seater. One fellow student pilot as observer in the back and the instructor and me in the front. Usually we flew to more distant airports, where we landed and switched seats. Like one day when we flew to a small airport in Slovenia. After landing we were guided by a small motorbike to our parking position to refuel for the next flight. ;-) Before departure the handling guy offered us his self brewed liquor. I guess he wanted to fuel more than the aircraft. This guy was just too funny.

DA40 flight mission - Crew change in Solvakia

The flight training was a lot of fun. Nevertheless the pressure to be a good student pilot was high and the program did not leave a lot of space for deficiencies. This required additionally studying when on ground. Everything was new to me and especially at the beginning I had to take care that I fly the airplane and not the airplane me.

Pilotsview - Croatian islands in the Adrian Sea

Technical problems

I remember one special event during a solo cross country flight. During the approach to Pula airport I encountered problems with the engine. It did not run smooth at all. That is why I decided to stay in close proximity to the airport to figure out the problem and in case the propeller stops to glide to the runway. (We actually learn this procedure and do it simulated)  Luckily I managed to fly back to the home base safely. I informed our maintenance about the malfunction. In the end the airplane was grounded for several days.

The weeks in Croatia past by really fast. Not only because of the flying, but also because of the activities our course did together. Up in the air we have already seen how beautiful the landscape was. Krka water falls and the surrounding nature reserve is a great example.

Excursion to Krka water falls - Must see

ATPL theory

Back in Germany the ATPL theory phase began. That meant studying intensively. We learned the entire knowledge to be prepared for the final exams at the LBA (german aviation authority). It would take over 8 months before being back in a cockpit flying.

The legendary DC6 visiting Zadar Airport

Most of the questions of the final exams were in a multiple choice style. Over the years 1000 of possible of questions leaked to flight schools and to training programs like Peters software. Many students just learnt the questions and the answers to them without understanding them. I thought this is quite risky method for studying and plus I wanted to understand what I am doing in the future. My method proofed me more than right. This time the LBA changed a lot on their questions and added a lot to their question bank. In the end only five students (including me) of 20 students passed the exam at the first attempt. The exam consisted of 12 subjects which could be written on three consecutive days.  

First selfies out of the cockpit

Subjects

General Navigation, Meteorology, Radio Navigation, Principle of flight/aerodynamics (my favorite subject), Human Resources, Air Law, Power plant, Instrument/ Electronics, Flight Planning, Operational Procedures, Performance, Mass and Balance

My ATPL theory results

Since I passed the exam right away, I was allowed to proceed with the second flight training phase. Surprisingly it was not going to take place in Zadar. Read the next part of how I became a pilot.

Have you been to Croatia before?

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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