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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Airbus A300 type rating

My Airbus A300 type rating

In my last blog post, I revealed my new aircraft type I will be flying in the near future. Currently, I am getting trained on a flight simulator of Lufthansa Aviation Training in Berlin. But what does the A300 type rating actually mean? In this blog post, I want to give a more detailed explanation and an insight view of my training.

My career as a first officer started six years ago on the Citation XLS+ business jet. During this period I gained a lot of experiences of operating a jet engine aircraft, I flew to many challenging airports and transported thousands of VIP passengers. In total, I have flown over 2000 hours on this private jet. As I informed you in my blog post "Big changes in 2017" I recently switched my employer. Since the new airline operates a different type of aircraft it was mandatory to undergo a so-called type rating to be able to fly the Airbus A300-600.

Welcome to my new Airbus office (simulator)

My A300 type rating

The theoretical phase of the type rating ended with a skill test about the systems of the aircraft. The entire December I read the manuals of the aircraft and studied with computer-based training (CBT). Do you know what the alpha floor protection means? This protection sets automatically maximum power when reaching a high angle of attack. The angle of attack is the angle between the relative wind direction and the wing chord line. Lift varies with angle of attack. Increasing angle of attack increases the lift coefficient up to the maximum, after which lift coefficient decreases again, leading to a stall condition.

I also had to attend ground courses about the performance of the aircraft. As a pilot, I am required to determine e.g. the take off performance to find out whether the runway is long enough for a certain take off weight and under certain meteorological conditions. Before the simulator training started, I was trained with a mock-up cockpit. This helps to familiarize with the location of the buttons and the operating procedures.

Mock-up cockpit to learn the location of the buttons

Full flight Simulator

I remember playing the Windows flight simulator when I was a kid and now I am flying the most realistic simulator I could imagine. Those full flight simulators (FFS) are built to exactly replicate the respective aircraft type with its performance. All the checking and training take place in those big boxes. This extends the life of the real aircraft and saves fuel, thus protects the environment.

Full flight simulators with motion systems

From the inside, the simulator looks like the real aircraft cockpit with one additional seat in the back. From this position, the instructor can control the setup of the simulator. The whole simulator is built on a platform which can be moved by a motion system to any realistic attitude. When flying the simulator it is fascinating how real everything feels. From the vision, motion, up the acoustics, everything is build to imitate a real flight.

I was nervous and I was looking forward to my first simulator flight at the same time. The first three sessions consisted of normal operating procedures, after that we were introduced to abnormal procedures. All kinds of scenarios can be trained, which could not be replicated in real flight conditions. In modern flight simulators, up to 500 malfunctions can be programmed in the system, for every malfunction, there is a checklist with a special procedure to cope with the situation.

My training highlights so far:

  • Reverser unlock: flight with one engine and asymmetric drag
  • Both engine flame: Cockpit becomes dark and only standby instruments work
  • Emergency descent: After a decompression of the cabin quick descent wearing oxygen masks
  • Dual hydraulic failure: coping only with one hydraulic system remaining
  • Slats and Flaps stuck: Landing without high lift devices the approach speed needs to be increased by over 110 km/h
  • multiple engine failures: making a safe landing and handling of asymmetric thrust
A300 simulator cockpit wearing the quick donning oxygen mask (practicing procedures)

Most of the malfunctions are not independent, which means the cause secondary failures. For example, a problem with the hydraulic system causes the flaps not to be operational and for the approach, the landing gear needs to be extended by gravity with a hand crank.

I have completed session eight and there are five more to come. Every session is basically a check flight, from which I learn. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be successful and not to make any mistakes. But this is almost impossible since you do most of the procedures and abnormals for the very first time. The Airbus is a complex aircraft and I am really impressed how advanced the system are, keeping in mind that the design is from the 1960s. I am not used to flying an aircraft with an auto throttle and an auto flight system with extensive modes. This gave me a hard time at the beginning of the training.

Full flight Simulator A300 (in Schönefeld since 1990)

Practice makes perfect

Flight simulators are the best possible device to train pilots well in a most efficient way. The costs for an A380 simulator are about 1,8 Mio €. That is why the price for a type rating is in a range from 15,000 to 50,000€ depending on the aircraft type. The full flight simulator I am currently training at is almost as old as I am (check my FAQs for my age) and also quite historic. It used to belong to the DDR airline Interflug when Germany was separated between east and west.

I am looking forward to flying the real aircraft soon and I am already excited to let you know how it feels like to control a jet with a maximum takeoff weight of 170,5 tons. Check out my Instagram stories, where I give you an insight view of my training.

What is your favorite Airbus airplane?

Your Pilot Patrick

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revealing my new aircraft type

Revealing my new aircraft type

HAPPY NEW YEAR MY AVIATORS!

Welcome on board of a new year full of new challenges, adventures and hopefully many happy landings. I am really sorry, that I have not published a blog post for a while. But I have a really good excuse for that. As I mentioned in my previous post "Christmas greetings with big changes" I started 2017 with a new aircraft type and a new employer. This has been keeping me busy for the last couple of weeks. In this blog post, I will reveal my new aircraft type I will be flying in the near future.

Hard decision

You got to know me as a first officer for private jets. In 2010 I started flying for a german VIP charter company on the Cessna Citation XLS +. I became a big fan of the exclusive operation since the everyday work was always very diverse. During the last six years, I met really interesting and famous people and got to stay in many different cities throughout Europe, Russia and North Africa. The working atmosphere on board was great and it sometimes felt like being on tour with friends.

With the Citation Business Jet on Malta

After six years of flying a small jet, it was time for a new occupational career. In the first place, it meant for me to fly a bigger aircraft type. In the end of 2016, I received a job offer by a big german air carrier to become a first officer on their A300-600 fleet. At the same time, my former employer wanted me to upgrade on the Legacy 650 aircraft. At this point, I had to decide for one or the other. This was a really hard decision for me. One the one hand I could stay in the private operation, flying a big business jet around the world and on the other hand, I got the one and only chance to fly the legendary A300. (read more about this type of aircraft below)

In the end, I decided for a new employer with a very good reputation and the bigger aircraft. Many pilots are a big fan of the A300 because the level of automation is less than on other modern jet aircraft. Flying this jet takes me back to the roots of aviation and the flight hours on this type of aircraft will allow me to operate on any other aircraft in the future. As much as I love the General Aviation, I decided to move on to accept a new occupational challenge with a totally different operation. But I do not spurn that I might return back to the business jet operation as a Captain on a private jet.

Welcome to my new office! Currently in Simulator training at Lufthansa Aviation Training

Revealing my new aircraft

The A300 is a twin jet airliner and is the first aircraft ever manufactured by Airbus. Development of the A300 began during the 1960s as a collaboration of different European nations. Its first flight was already on the 28th of October 1972 and was at that time the first twin wide-body aircraft of the world. (two aisles in the cabin) It typically seats around 266 passengers with a maximum take-off weight of 170,5 tons. This is 17x the takeoff weight of the Citation Jet I used to fly.

The production ceased in 2007 with 561 aircraft built. Another world first of the A300 is the use of composite material to reduce overall weight and improve cost-effectiveness. When it entered service in 1974, the A300 was a very advanced plane. Its state of the art technology influenced later airliner designs. As far as I can tell from the simulator the handling capabilities are excellent for such a big aircraft. I am fascinated by the advanced  I am already looking forward to flying this oldtimer, which sure is already a legend in aviation.

My new aircraft type: A 300-600 copyright: widebodyaircraft.nl

Flight training

In December I started with ground courses and online based training for my new employer. I studied hard to pass the technical skill test last week. All efforts paid out because I passed the exam with 94%. That qualified me to continue with the practical flight training. All complex aircraft require so-called type rating to become familiar with the systems and how to operate the aircraft according to the books.

I currently get trained at Lufthansa Aviation Training in Berlin in a full flight simulator. The type rating started one week ago and will last until the first of February. Yesterday I finished session number four. It is quite demanding, but also a lot of fun. I am totally in love with the new "old school" cockpit and I am really looking forward to flying the real aircraft soon.

Flight Simulator at Lufthansa Aviation Training in Berlin A300 cockpit of the full flight simulator

I am looking forward to sharing my future adventures with the Airbus A300 and to write about my first impressions. It will be really interesting to compare both operations to find out their advantages and disadvantages.

I know you have been waiting for the next part my series "how I became a pilot", but I am really busy acquiring my new type rating. Please stay tuned!

Are you an Airbus or Boeing fan?

Your Pilot Patrick

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