Keeping Going During Lockdown

With most European states and many countries worldwide in various states of lockdown, trainee commercial pilots find themselves in an unexpected situation where they have time on their hands but a limited ability to progress with their training. For example, we are aware of only two of our partner flight schools who are still training. This blog contains some ideas for those in a similar situation.

Should I Try to Progress?

This is the first and obvious question.  Given that there are no airlines recruiting and, when they do, there will be quite a few experienced pilots ‘ahead in the queue’, how fast should your training be?

The answer varies according to your personal circumstances and the arguments were discussed in our last blog about training and coronavirus. Certainly, if you are approaching your CPL/MEIR there is a case for slowing down your progression.

Students starting out or at a much earlier stage of training, however, may wish to make the most of the time on their hands.

ATPL Theory at Distance

Of course, starting training is only part of the battle.  To complete the theory course students must do at least 650 hours training including at least 10% which is ‘face-to-face’.  The regulations to allow for this to be conducted by means such as webinars, so we have done a trial of and proposed to the UK CAA a web-based alternative to our traditional classroom-based revision courses.  The response of the students involved in the trial was overwhelmingly positive, many suggesting that it may be permanently suitable as a replacement for traditional revision courses.  For now, though, it is possible to study right through to the exams.  Our intention is to hold 2-3 webinars per module per week, giving you lot of opportunity to progress.

ATPL Theory Exams

Currently, the biggest problem is the examinations themselves.  At the start of the lockdown, we were authorised to conduct one exam session on behalf of Austro Control who were able to observe the sessions by webcams.  We have proposed to both the UK CAA and Austro Control that they should consider remote examinations, but that is a big step for any authority to take, given the potential for cheating; remote exams under the supervision of a trusted ATO is one thing, but at students’ own homes it proved to be a step too far for EASA, who have rejected the application made by Austro Control.

It’s likely, therefore, that an extended lockdown will see a growing number of ATPL theory students ready for exams but unable to progress further.

The good news, however, is that Austro Control are already making plans for recommencing exams in their Vienna exam centre and facilitating exams at our testing centre as soon as movement restrictions permit.


Flight Training

Clearly, most student pilots may not do any flight training.  However, it’s not possible to over-prepare.

PPL / Hours Building

Have you seen our long brief CBT course?  If not, ask for a free copy from (for people who already have an ATPL account with us only).  It is a complete course which will help you prepare for each phase of PPL flight training.

Don’t turn your nose up at Microsoft flight sim or other PC-based simulators.  They might not teach you to fly but can be useful procedure trainers.

IFR Training

Likewise, make good use of PC based IFR trainers to keep your skills up.

The ‘10 000 hours theory’ is a popular derivative of work by sports science researcher K Anders Ericsson which suggests that 10 000 hours practice in any field will result in elite performance.  While the original study has been widely misquoted and misinterpreted, many people instinctively recognise the value of experience.  By the time you complete your CPL, you’ll have a little over 200 hours flight time and maybe 700 hours theory time, so a long way short of 10 000 hours.  It goes without saying that putting the time into preparation for flight training and maintenance of your knowledge can only be a positive thing.

Pilot Competencies

Another theory, widely accepted within the airline community, is that there are a definable set of skills, knowledge and attitudes common to successful pilots.  In our industry, these are known as ‘core pilot competencies’.  It is beyond the scope of this blog article to describe what they are; that will be the subject of the next blog.

Teaching of these becomes mandatory for the new Theorical Knowledge Learning Objectives released by EASA in 2018, which will be the basis for all EASA examinations starting sometime later in 2020.  Although you may be past the point at which you’ll be required to complete this training, you will find, when you eventually start working for an airline, that airline selection, training and assessment is largely based around pilot competencies.  Therefore, it will be extremely useful for you to understand and be adept at them.

If you’d like to get ahead of the game, you can ask for the 100 KSA subject, which is what EASA are calling this in the context of ATPL Theory Training, to be added to your ATPdigital account for free (for BGS students only); just email with your request.

Looking Ahead

None of us has a clear picture of when we will come out of this crisis, or what the effect will be on airline recruitment.  However, all of us realise that it is going to be a tough couple of years for CPL/IR graduates.  When searching for that elusive first job, you’ll need to be competitive in every possible way.  That includes:

  • CV/covering letter preparation
  • Job market intelligence
  • Interviewee skills training
  • Your flight training choices, and the quality of your flight training

Making the right decisions and getting the right advice, support and training is tricky.  Doing all this on your own is tough at the best of times.  When the job market becomes ultra-competitive, you would be wise to get help.  We cannot directly provide the support you need, but we are founder members of the Wings Alliance which is a not-for-profit organisation set up to make the career accessible, and this is exactly what they do for their student members.

As a Bristol Groundschool student you are entitled to a £50 discount on the Wings Alliance Airline Pilot Assessment day which is a great starting point for understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are as a candidate for airline employment and comes without commitment or bias.

We all hope that things will start to return to normal soon.   We hope you are able to make the best of this situation and use any extra time you have to your best advantage.  We’ll do our best to help you.

Our next blog will be published soon, covering core pilot competencies.