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Training as an easyJet pilot

Part two: Training with easyJet

In my last blog I had completed my initial training, taking me to a point where I was qualified to operate the Airbus A320, and ready to join the airline. After 18 months of intense training, and a few weeks to rest and recuperate, the batteries were charged and day one with easyJet had arrived.

As much as the cadets on induction were chomping at the bit to fly the Airbus, the brakes were put on as we had a week in the classroom as part of our company induction. And here was me thinking the last classroom I would see was in ground school! In the majority of lessons, we were taught by cabin crew trainers who brought the enthusiasm and energy that make them the face of easyJet. Thankfully rather than death by powerpoint, the mentality of easyJet trainers from my perspective is that interaction is a key to learning, so rather than show us pictures of the safety equipment or dangerous goods we need to be vigilant against, these are passed around and examined so our understanding is comprehensive and we are confident with their use.

As part of the week we also had a quick dip in the local pool, again to practice the use of some of the equipment that I hope never to use, but still want to be fully conversant with. This use of equipment continued with use of the defibrillator, a really great piece of kit that easyJet invested in.

After a week of fighting fires and operating doors, it was time to get into the nitty gritty of flight training, starting initially with a two day session in the classroom at Burgess Hill, easyJet’s primary simulator centre. Here we would learn how to use the electronic flight bag (EFB) in more detail, a tablet mounted in the flight deck used for performance calculations, document checking, as well as being the source of all our airfield charts. Gone are the days of cockpits having multiple manuals weighing many kilograms.

After what seemed an age, we were back in the simulator, the significant difference being that our trainers were now easyJet instructors, and the entire standard had changed. I have no experience as to how other airlines operate, but I know the standard expected of me is quite clear and unambiguous, and very high; easyJet standard. Essentially in order to progress a pilot needs to be achieving this standard on every flight, and I have had ingrained into me a constant desire to achieve and surpass this standard, and to do so will see me continue to develop as a First Officer, and hopefully in years to come take command of my own aircraft as a Captain.

Following successful completion of the introductory sims, I was ready for my first go flying the Airbus for real, base training. Traditionally this was a day where a group of cadets would pick up an empty aeroplane and fly circuits at base so they could practice take offs and landings, but given Gatwick is the busiest single runway airport in the world, a trip to a quieter airport in mid-France seemed to be the more appropriate! After 12 circuits the next step was line training with a plane load of passengers.

Unfortunately my base training had been delayed due to a French air traffic strike, so rather than commence my 50 sectors of line training in Gatwick, I was sent to Paris where there were trainers available. Initially the thought of flying from one of the most complex airports on the planet so early in my training had the nerves going, but as was becoming the norm my trainers were brilliant, their experience helping me to settle into the operation.
What was apparent at this early stage was that I could fly the aeroplane and knew how to operate the systems, but had a lot of learning centred around actually operating the flight with all of the other distractions, including delays due to congestion or getting a shortened route that meant a lot more work on the flight deck to get the aeroplane ready for the approach.

With experience came confidence. Again the trainers would pitch instruction at an appropriate level to my experience, and rather than just tell me what to do they would elicit solutions so that when I started flying without them I was not out of my depth. The input gently reduced, and after many years of waiting, I happily arrived at my final line check.

The check involved flying with a non-training Captain, but under the watchful eye of one of easyJet’s examiners sat behind us on the cockpits third seat. Thankfully after a trip to Marseille and back I was released for line operations, and I could finally call myself a qualified easyJet First Officer.

The journey to the flight deck was over, but the excitement of flying to destinations all over the network, meeting new people and facing daily challenges was just getting started!

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