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  • Dyfrig Gibbs

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ATPL Theory

Well this is overdue.

I've clearly forgotten how to write but learned how to learn... Again.

I'm writing because I'm taking a few days off from the ATPL course: on Wednesday I received my results from my the latest lot of exams (mod2 for those familiar with the BGS layout).

I started this course late September last year - straight after I got my licence back from the CAA - It is the reason I've not been blogging: it's immersive, intense and on those nights when I've needed a brea, ,I've wanted to spend it away from the screen and with, Bella and the kids. The right balance is important to me and so fine.

I passed the first 4 exams at the end of Feb, Mod 1 - General Navigation, Meteorology, Instrumentation and Human Performance - in the bag. Immediately after, we embarked on the most stressful house move to date, it was just a distance of 20 yards but slap bang in the middle of the 'beast from the east'. After that we took an opportunity to flee the country for a week - to the rain in Spain. Then it was straight back into the books. Mod 2: Air Law (yawn), AGK (Electrics, Hydraulics, Airframes & Engines), Flight Planning (Chart reading and fuel planning, essentially) and Radio Navigation (the science behind the electromagnetic spectrum and how we use it in aviation).

The end of Mod 1 saw my weekly study hours increase and with it a benefit - a better routine and info retention. We realised that this momentum was key, so I set a shorter time frame for this module and committed more time to studying: typically 9pm-12am, 5-6 nights a week.

In the month leading up to the revision week and exams, more of life other tasks get shed and postponed until now. Bella holds the fort, like only a super hero could, and I endeavour to do us proud and still be here, in the moment, with my beautiful family.

During the revision week and subsequent exam session, I became a formula reciting, post-it note covered half being. Bella holds more reigns and becomes even superer mum, retreating with the kids to fun places - she sends pics of them in the sun, at the beach, on a boat for the first time. I'm missing out but at the same time motivated to do them proud, for it to be worth the effort.

The revision week at Bristol is awesome. I love the opportunity to discard my pink shirt (uniform), don my flip flops and join the brigade of students - all of whom have been in similarly solitary states of study and are suddenly able to discuss the absurdities of fuel tankering and how it's examined. It's great to spend normal daylight hours thinking about jet engines - not GDPR. By the end of the week you either feel totally ready or way out of your depth. Thankfully both times I've felt ready to be tested by the tormentors employed by the CAA to examine our exam technique, logic, patience and lastly, knowledge.

I've saved my least favourite subject in each module until last both times now - Gen Nav in Mod 1 - On that occasion the tactic payed off: I nailed it and really enjoyed the exam, I thought it was a fair test and I scored a healthy 91%. A good way to sign off on my first 4. This time I put Flight Planing last - It's another where two hours can fly by, it's nearly all calculations and chart studying - no time to lean bag in your chair and ponder the examiners thoughts.

I did AGK and Law on the first day - AGK was good, Law, a tad sketchy. Radio Nav on day two, I knew when I clicked finish I'd aced it: a good feeling. Then I stayed in school late to prepare for FP the next day.

On exam days I like to take a longer cycle to Clevedon; a chance to climb the steep hill that leads to the same elevation as BRS international and takes you right under the approach path for 09. At the top, I look right and can see the Localiser Antenna, it's a cracking bit of inspiration. the next 7 miles are a chance to blow out any cobwebs, get my brain in gear and get a good circulation of endorphins to help with the positive attitude.

My positive attitude dissipated as soon as I read the first question. What ensued was a frantic 2 hours that led to a sense of dispare when I clicked finish with 30 seconds left. I was convinced I'd blown it.

There is pressure to pass these exams first time and with a decent average (75% is a pass, shooting for 85% is sensible). There is demand in this industry for pilots, but there is also a lot of newly qualified pilots all vying for the few entry level position that open. One of the simple ways an airline can sort its applicants into 'yes we'd like to meet you' and 'don't darken our door' is by taking a quick glance at these results. It isn't always as black and white as that, but when the negativity has fought its way into your head it's hard to shift.

I didn't sleep much Wednesday night, in anticipation of the email due around 10 am informing me of my performances.

I was pretty inclined not to bother looking. Turns I didn't have to because my dear colleagues were eagerly checking the results on the system for me. Just after 10, Gill, my line manager, ran through to me saying '3 are through, 91, 93 & 98!'

Shit the bed that felt good but I was tethered by the fact that FP still hadn't came through. Then it did... 80%!

A feeling of satisfaction and achievement that ranks up there with getting my class 1, doing first solo and passing my PPL test.

Roll on the next time.

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