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  • Dyfrig Gibbs

Uniform Yankee FOF

Pilot training

As I get closer and closer to the launch of my funding campaign, I'm being asked, quite often, what if it fails? And my honest answer is; it can't fail.

In the pursuit of this goal I have already had so many moments that, by many peoples standards, would be classed as failures: so many that I no longer view them as failures; they are moments of progression, pointers to a new direction, or spurs to input more effort.

It's true that, at the outset of this adventure I was closer to the 'now or never' mindset, but after each knock back I found that I was still absolutely hell bent on achieving my goal - before long I was knocking at the next door. That's not to say that the moments of disappointment slid from my back like water from a ducks; they really hurt. I am the type of person to invest a heavy amount of energy and effort into each project - maybe sometimes too much - so when the negative response comes to an application I have poured over for weeks, yes, it sucks, it feels awful. However, invariably it gives rise to a gritty beast of determination who pushes me to do better next time.

My first set-backs came in 2011, when my latent intrigue in the profession had me reading an article about becoming a pilot (at this time I was still of the mindset that it was impossible for me), in this article was a link to the re-launch of British Airways' cadet scheme - the Future Pilot Program. I can clearly remember how my heart rate raced as I discovered that my childhood dream may actually still be possible. I was qualified enough to apply. Over the next two weeks I devoured every bit of information I could find that related to the profession and BA. I crammed my small skull with volumes of 'Airliner world' and 'Aviation news' then I studied BA's annual reports so as to get to grips with their business strategy and ethos. I put poured more effort into that application than any I had done in the past. Eventually, sleep deprived, but buzzing with excitement, I submitted it. In my ignorance, I believed I was well worth at least stage 2 - I had put so much effort in and I was qualified enough. Two weeks later I had my rejection letter. I was gutted. I had started learning though, about the aviation industry and pilot training.

A few months after, autumn 2011, easyJet launched their cadet scheme, the MPL, aimed at people with little or no flying experience. I repeated the whole process above; the application was just as challenging, but I learned all about another airline. I submitted it, confident I'd done a good job and would get a call for the next stage. I felt I was a better fit for easyJet - having orange hair an all. It took a month to get my second rejection of the year. I was definitely more disappointed this time. However, I resolved that, although applications were open to people with no flying experience, some immersion in the industry would surely be favourable. We weren't in a position that allowed me to embark on actual flight training, but I could start studying the PPL theory.

Our wedding and parenthood happened next, and before I knew it, it was early 2014. Every year the Honourable Company of Air Pilots (then GAPAN) give out seven PPL scholarships. This discovery felt like finding rare treasure. I was sure this was my chance to get a foot in the door. The application has to be written by hand; mine's awful so I spent a month perfecting this document. I was unsuccessful.

Almost immediately after I'd had that rejection, the easyJet MPL program re-opened. This time the application form was really basic. I applied to Oxford (OAA) and Southampton (CTC), almost immediately, OAA called me for stage 2 - aptitude testing. When you get this email, you have a week, max, to prepare - 6 months would be handy - but it's an aptitude test not a swatting test. My brain was a fog with nerves and excitement. To use a Welshism; the tests were proper solid. I didn't need to wait the 2 months for my results, I knew as soon as the 3 hours were done that I'd failed: my maths had let me down badly. For a week or so I agonised over my performance, then plucked the positives out of it, and resolved to re-learn GCSE maths and become real sharp at mental arithmetic.

About a month after my trip to Oxford, CTC called me, asking why I had not come forward for testing as they'd requested. Apparently my email account had inexplicably blocked theirs. There was only a week left of stage 2 screening. I'm not sure of the origins of this saying but it's perfect; I was cockahoop. This is it, I thought, luck is on my side, my hard work and dedication is paying already - I felt vindicated in my strong belief that this is going to happen. A month was no where near long enough to put right the mistakes I'd previously made. I performed far better - in far more aspects of the testing - but I was still substandard at Physics and Maths. I had an A and a B, respectively, in these subjects at GCSE, but 15 years is too long a time without using them. Gutted again, I left. That time I was given feedback on the day - re-apply in 6months. I took encouragement from it. I also resolved that it was time to get back up in the air - the only hour I'd spent at the controls was the trial flight I'd had ten years prior. I needed to get up and truly explore this yearning; I needed also to assess my suitability and basic aptitude.

By November the 2nd, I wasn't just sure I wanted to be an aviator, I was in love: just as the little ginger kid was many years ago.

In that same month the British Airways program opened again. I had done a solid 6months of swatting, every opportunity I had, I spent testing my arithmetic: I'll not bother to explain all the ways in which I furthered myself in the key aspects of aptitude testing... Because the list is extensive: I was relentless with it, and I spent a fair few bucks on software, textbooks and apps. The BA FPP came at just the right time, in my mind. I was also sure this was the program for me - I'd learnt enough to know that I wanted an ATPL not an MPL. In the intervening time between the two BA applications, I had learnt so so much. By this time I had a real grasp of the aviation industry, the politics that affect it, the major players within it - companies and personnel - I had learnt technical information about every plane in the BA fleet and could explain jet engines and Bernoulli's theory. I was definitely ready. I put a solid few weeks into my application form, when it was done I felt proud, it was, in my mind, a masterpiece - technically and artistically. I was sure I'd be called for stage 2 screening because I'd reached this stage with easyJet. Two weeks later I got a rejection letter. This was the most gutted I've been during this journey.

Early 2015, I re-apply to the Honourable Company for a PPL scholarship. Maximum effort again. Same result. Rejection.

By this time though, I've learnt enough about the industry to know that I don't have to be on a mentored program to achieve this goal. Gaining my ATPL through a white-tail course at any of the big three FTO's will stand me in excellent stead: I'll get a job, sooner rather than later.

In May 2015, Bella, Aria and I head out to Andalusia to visit FTE in Jerez. This, we think, is the place where we can all be in close proximity for the duration of the intensive 18month course. We return from our trip enthused, excited and committed to this route. All I had to do was negotiate getting the 100K through a secured loan... And then pass the entry tests. In my ignorance, I thought the loan would be simples, but it turns out, that to borrow the full 100K, you need 170K in equity on one property - Bella and I, and my folks fail this marker.

By now though, I have totally stopped seeing dead end signs; only new problems to solve. This whole process has brought me to this point of absolute certainty, that the route I'm now on is the right one for us... I just need to raise the much friendlier 50K to complete it.

To reduce that cost; in the early part of this year I applied to the Honourable Company of Air Pilots again - for PPL sponsorship - I must surely be a good candidate for an interview by now. For the third consecutive year, in April, I received a rejection email. Water. Ducks. Back.

So, as I'm about to launch my funding campaign, I'm not in the slightest bit fearful that it could fail. There is actually no failing anymore; whatever I raise, however small, will go directly towards my training and take me a step closer to my destination. I believe in my campaign, and feel strongly that I have something to offer - even if it's just a message: never give up. I have no expectations though, only knowledge that this is the right course of action, and whatever the outcome, the process will take me to the next stage of development.


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