“So you want to be a pilot”. A phrase from our blog which grabbed the attention of the masses worldwide! Primarily, it sparked the interest of those who have always dreamt of taking up flying– as a career. To many of these aspiring young pilots, the thought of flying a big airplane with hundreds of passengers, wearing that particular hat, tie & wing uniform combination, travelling and meeting new friends etc – to them, they see the role of a “Captain” as a person who ha$$$ it made for life.
To most of mankind, this is living “The Dream”. Sadly, the fantasy will remain its own fairy tale as those who have achieved this much envied role of a “Captain”, will tell you how it’s all not just glamour, riches and non-stop-excitement! No, its not.
As you may have read some of the thousands of blog entries we received for the pilot-hunt competition, airasia-cadet-pilot-wannabes have said over and over again; that they would do whatever it takes to one day possibly live “The Dream”. Whether it is running a mental marathon, physically climbing a mountain or even sacrificing the relationship between friends, loved ones and even family!
Now, it’s not really a big surprise to have these aspirants believe and eventually probably do as such for “The Dream”; however, one common denominator between all of the 35 aspirants to undergo training with us this June were that – these handpicked selected 35 cadet pilots were all NOT working towards “The Dream” but were yet still willing to make unparalleled sacrifices. They were however, all working towards an inspirational-reality. The reality of achieving a dream, that is truly their own.
My initials are JFK, and over the next couple of weeks, I would be humbled if you would hear my side of the story, as I work excessively hard towards my own version of inspirational reality.
So what is Inspirational Reality? I define it as having an excessively strong motivational urge to achieve something inspirational yet realistic. Cliché as it may sound, believe me, if there were words which have brought me through what I have accomplished to where I am now, it would be those exact two words.
For more than 10 years, I have been living a lifestyle ala “The Dream” by deejaying on the radio, hosting television shows and even via my work as an artiste & music producer for the entertainment industry – some people till this very day, especially other pilots, ask me questions like “why did you give it all up to do something so routine and mundane?”. The world is strangely fair isn’t it? Pilots believe that Non-Flying jobs (particularly in my case, the entertainment industry) would be a fairly exciting one whereas for those like you and me who are not directly related to the flying-business, we believe the same thing about their high-altitude job!
Well enough said about the comparison, let’s get straight into the reality of things.
So here I am now on the Gold Coast, studying for my Diploma in Aviation at the Australian Wings Academy. The diploma includes a Commercial Pilots License and Multi-Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR). I’ve been here since January and have just recently only completed the ground/theory part of my commercial course! Oh and hence, why I now have a tad bit more time to write this blog! You will soon discover how that over the past 5 months, writing to you now, would not have been remotely possible. Sigh.
As soon as I touched down on AirAsia X’s Xanadu 2702 early January 2009, I went straight at it. With a little under 200 flying hours under my belt flying privately in Malaysia since 2005, I told myself that I would want to do all my ground or theory courses before I even take flight here in Australia! This would give me realistic inspiration to complete, (personally for me) the hardest part of the entire pilots course – straight up theoretical academics of flight. This would also mean that when I’m done with ground school, I’d be able to then just focus on the flying.
Now, Ground school or “class” as I would rather call it, is the part of the course which tackles the theories and academics behind flying. It is the chance for you to debate “what would happen if…” way before you get into the flight simulators, let alone a real cockpit! For my diploma in aviation, I had to do a course on basic aeronautics (BAK), private piloting (PPL) before I could even think of sitting for the core commercial subjects – 7 (CPL) + 1 (IREX/Instruments) for the commercial level thenceforth proceeding onto the airline transport level (ATPL).
So you want to be a pilot? Here is an insight into the 7 core commercial subjects covered in the course and why they are important. This way, you would have an idea of what to expect and what requirements-of-knowledge would be beneficial to prior to learning them.
1. Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK) – Deals with the systems of the airplane and how they work. It also helps you identify technical problems and troubleshoot them before they escalate into an even bigger challenge. In this subject, you will learn about engines and theoretically, how the plane operates in the sky. A fair understanding of mechanical engineering & electronics is crucial; an advanced understanding of the subjects would be highly beneficial!
2. Meteorology – The only thing predictable about the weather is that it will always be
unpredictable. With Met, you will have a pulse on why sometimes, flights get delayed “due weather” and will appreciate the times when they do. If you were a science nut, and actually remembered the differences between radiation, convection & conduction, you will go fine learning this subject.
3. Navigation – Although air traffic control, computers, GPS’s and autopilots exist, in this subject, you will learn how to manage finding-your-way, even if all of these navigational devices suddenly went missing across the face of the earth! I remember learning how to use the sun to find my way home should I get lost. Hey! If you were an ace in Geography while in school, this subject shouldn’t be a problem for you at all.
4. Performance & Flight Planning – Going one step further from AGK, this subject looks at the weight & balance of an aircraft, the conditions to take off and land in, the ability for the plane to perform under various conditions of flight (temp, weather etc), it all gets covered in this subject. Psst.. some say that this could be the hardest subject in the entire course! My thoughts are, if i could pass it.. you can too! With the right effort!
5. Air Law – This should be pretty self explanatory but I’d add that for every country, the law or procedures of the air are a tad bit different from each other. The world mainly is governed by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) so the bulk of the law is pretty much standard however there are still some disparities.
6. Aerodynamics. Another challenging subject (well for me at least), which teaches you the reasons why an airplane flies. From how the wing generates lift to, what happens when it doesn’t (gulp!), you will learn the reasons behind most of why airplanes are designed the way they are. Ever wondered why different airplanes have different wing shapes? Well, they are all designed for different things. Learn all about it here.
7. Last but not least, Human Factors or Human Performance and Limitations (HPL). This is my most favourite subject of the lot as it deals with the human body and its limitations to flying! You will learn about personalities in the cockpit, how to manage stress, what happens in-flight as the plane goes up in altitude etc. You will learn about the much talked about in the industry, “CRM shift” from Cockpit Resource Management to Crew Resource Management (of course some now refer to it as Company Resource Management) and in HPL you will learn why 80% of all air incidences are a resultant of pilot-error, which means it can be avoidable!
Now, those are just the 7 core subjects needed to complete your commercial license.
Don’t think that just because you were not strong in school with any (or all) of these subjects that, you can’t become a pilot. Coming from a guy with a brain as big as a peanut who slept most of his way through his primary & secondary education (kids don’t do this at home!), you will need to put in a lot more effort to catch-up and, it can be done! Heck, I did it! Again, you just need something realistic to be inspired with and voila – you too could get 100% in your pilot theory exam(s). For me, the realism is that I get high when flying in the sky, literally and mentally. Some people have that feeling. It’s not the job of flying or its much perceived perks of the job, but the feeling.
You already know that if you love what you are doing, you will never work a day in your life right? Well there you go. Personally I can see myself flying everyday for the rest of my life. But again, it’s personal. Now, do you think you have that feeling too?
To share, my life here at the Academy (and yours too would be) evolving around the large amount of books and study material that is needed just to understand one particular subject. Again, the best way to understand something is to listen to all sides of the story. In this case, the more references you have, the easier it is to understand. For me personally, one book would just confuse me even more while another would just draw it out in a nice cute picture which gets me all the time!
Don’t be too shocked when you are made to remember countless amounts of items too especially for the exams! From formulas, graphs & charts, theories etc—the best way to remember them (well for me at least) is repetition. Yes, practice makes perfect. And often has come the time where I’d be having dinner and then force myself to run to a notepad and write (or recall) a particular formula or theory to a problem. I told you, it’s going to be the most nerdish time of your life, if you choose to become a pilot.
Oh and Flight Sim (the computer programme) does help out a lot as well – as long as you treat the game as if it was a real life flight. This includes flight planning, pre-flight preparation, making the right radio calls etc. No point if you are just going to get into a red bull aircraft and race around the skies!
I can actually spend hours in front of flight sim with my classmates, just conducting a flight as if it was the real thing. The amount of work put in even before the engine starts, all adds to the realism of things and helps you prepare for the time when you actually have to do it for real!
Now on to the freebies! Here are 5 free tips when in ground school. Focused for you who might be considering (or will be) jumping on the flying bandwagon in the near future. Oh! And I must credit my ground instructor, Captain Anthony Belly for teaching me—the right way. Thanks Anthony!
When in groundschool:
1. Say goodbye to all your friends and family—for now. This will be the start of the most gruesome nerdy times of your career. Notice I wrote “start” and never wrote “finish”. My take is that once you have set-in to your new lifestyle of constant studying, things will start to make more sense to you and by then you should have a LITTLE bit more time to yourself. You see, classes will run 1/3 of the day, another 1/3 of it SHOULD be dedicated to self studying and homework, of course the remaining 1/3 is given to sleep. For some of us, we steal time from the later to make up for our peanut sized brains. Hehe.
2. Don’t ask questions in class! Well, let me rephrase that. Only ask intelligent questions. Imagine a question as a bullet you might have in your hunting rifle. You don’t have many and you always want to make each question/bullet count. Oh and don’t bother asking questions if the answer is in the book! Learn to be self-sufficient. For me, I would now think of a question, write it down, go home and get online (and with the books of course) try and find the answer. 90% of the time I scrub the question-off and the remaining 10% gets tossed in heated debates the next day! Oh nerdy fun. I must add though, that I never thought that way – i’d be the clown asking the most amount of questions in the class! So, there you go.
3. Get a flight simulator program and practice with it. You don’t need a fast high-tech computer, the most simple graphics card and basics would do. You don’t want to be playing it as a computer game; you want to be using it as a learning tool! You can learn most of everything on it and what fun when on a weekend, your classmates come over and work with you on a flight! More nerdy fun. Oh and when in flight sim, don’t be doing those big fast jets just yet, start with the basics and understand them from ground-up. You will advance (even in the computer game) soon enough!
4. Patience when learning is vital. We are all not born as brainy geniuses (well not me for sure!) so things might take a tad bit longer to sink in. Know your pace and never compare yourself to your classmates. Everyone studies differently too and every person comes from different backgrounds so, if you don’t understand something, relax and take a tad bit more time and effort to get it – you will, eventually with the right methods of study. Do what works best for you. Oh and Anthony keeps on telling all of us as well, that we are not in his commercial class to become rocket scientists! Learn and master what we have to, the other “nice to know stuff” will remain as “nice to know”.
5. Last but not least, don’t dump stuff you have learnt when you are done with a particular subject! Oh this is one of the hardest things not to do, but if there is anything I would advise for new cadets NOT to do, is NOT to dump whatever you have learnt after you complete an exam. The best way to do this is always have your books handy and play more flight sim. Operate flights virtually and you will unintentionally need to re-call memory items which you probably learned months before! Yes, practice makes perfect so don’t think of ground school as a “walk in, learn & walk out” gig.
There you go.
I guess I’ve covered the basics for now when it comes to ground school. This should give you an idea of what to expect and how to handle the classes. This part of the course lasts for a good 4-6 months. You go through hundreds of hours of classroom time and a few more hundred hours of self-study. Hey! Nobody said it was easy, but with the right inspiration, you wouldn’t even see the time pass!
Also remember that we are learning to become pilots. The most crucial lesson any pilot could learn is to make decisions. We know and appreciate that in order to make a decision we would need to have the facts presented to us. The better the knowledge, the better our understanding of the facts therefore, we tend to make better decisions. This is one of the reasons why we work so very hard at the books so that when the time comes, we have all the facts at hand (or in the brain) to call a command and make that decision!
Okay that’s it from me this week. Next week, I will dab into the flying part of the course! I will even share with you what it’s like being a student again (after working for many years), all from the land down under with the kangaroos and koalas.
In the meantime, for more pictures do visit my website at www.johanfaridkhairuddin.com and of course you can add me up on facebook as well! I’d love to hear from you and possibly guide you where I can, through one of the most challenging parts of a pilots career – flying school.
If you are on twitter, follow me via www.Twitter.com/jfkjohan.
Till then, paint the blue skies with red paint!
Juliet “Fox” Kilo
Captain Lim’s Take
JFK’s great passion for flying is a good start to his future career in the airlines. He is now at a stage where he is raring to get his hands into flying the commercial jets. Before he does that, it would be nice for me to quote these words if he has not already heard it mentioned by his previous or current flying instructors.
“A pilot with 50 hours of flying experience thinks he knows it all; a pilot with 500 hours knows he knows it all and a pilot with 5000 hours knows he will never know it all.”
This leads me to bring up a little sad and unfortunate event that I have recently overheard. It is about how some young trainee pilots who found the freedom of flight so irresistible that they went on a frolic of their own during their scheduled training flights. In breach of the rules of the flying school, they tried to emulate the “Top Gun” stunts at low altitudes. Of course, the consequences were disastrous. One of the planes crashed and that poor trainee pilot never saw his airline dream fulfilled and the other one went ‘missing’.
So the moral of this episode happen to fit quite nicely with this aviation truism that, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old and bold pilots!”
I am not saying that Johan would be like those undisciplined trainees as I want him to be a role model to the other aspiring pilots. So keep this in mind. Be disciplined and follow rules and procedures at all times whenever you fly!
Johan, I hope you would emerge as one of the top flying students of the Australian Wings Academy in Gold Coast Australia soon!
Oh ya, JFK has confessed that he is so in love with flying that he would marry a bird (haha!)
By the way, for those who would be flying on any Air Asia flights this month, I hope you would enjoy reading my latest contribution to the June issue of the Travel 360 Magazine titled “Should pregnant mothers fly?”
Captain Dominic Has a Say
If I may add to Captain Lim’s observation… the following is what I tell my trainees when I speak to them about Decision Making as well as Uncertainty Avoidance… “We have all heard about the duck being dead with the saying “dead duck”, but no one has heard of a “dead chicken”, therefore, when in doubt, take the SAFE way out – be a chicken, but you will survive another day, be the ‘macho’ pilot, and you might be a dead duck”. Sounds rather disheartening, but the fact is we CANNOT compromise SAFETY!
Rules and regulations are there to ensure we operate safely, so fly safe – and in order to do that, we will have to respect the rules and regulations, as well as procedures already in place. There is another saying with this…
“checklists are written from the blood of others….” As with Captain Lim, I am not aiming this at anyone in particular, rather just an advice to all present and future aviators out there – BE SAFE!
Muhamin – Yes, it was me at the carnival, had a great time there, managed to get some great deals from Maxis, had a relaxing day out with the family and even won a ticket to London. It was great news also to hear that won a spot for the simulator and that you enjoyed it. Good luck for your pilot interview next month!
JFK – which sort of ‘birds’ were you referring to for marriage? just don’t forget to invite me ya?! Heh heh. We are trying to make a trip down under next month, maybe we’ll get to meet then.
Happy and Safe Landings,