Pilot Training During a Pandemic

Florian Bruchez

Two years ago, the UK entered its first lockdown due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases. Airlines around the world were forced to ground their planes and layoff or furlough pilots after the demand for air travel collapsed in March 2020.

Student pilots were also severely affected by lockdown restrictions as flight schools temporarily closed, delaying hour building and training.

In response to the new restrictions, the leading UK training organisation for pilot theory studies, Bristol Groundschool (BGS), moved all teaching online with the introduction of live revision weeks and recorded webinars.

At the start of the pandemic, Bristol Groundschool student Florian Bruchez, had recently started his ATPL(H) theory while training to become a helicopter pilot. He said “I grew up in the middle of the Swiss Alps and spent a lot of time in the mountains. Since I was a kid I loved to watch helicopters moving in the air, coming to save lives. I’m a fan of this machine, the way they fly and help people!  I always dreamed about flying, helicopters were for me the most adapted machine to our mountainous region. 

“We had to stop flying for 3-4 months when the first [covid] wave came. I took advantage of this to work on my theory! For me who’s not too studious, that wasn’t that bad, that forced me to sit and work on my books.

“I didn’t have enough time and money for an integrated training course, for me the modular was the best option which would fit with my main job and my life. I did my whole ATPL(H) in distance learning. The way BGS did their distance learning course was perfect. The instructor did their best to make it as animated as possible and I’m more than happy with how it worked!

Despite the last two years of uncertainty, there are signs that the commercial aviation industry is starting to recover with Hungarian airline WizzAir announcing an ambitious plan to hire 4,600 pilots by 2030 and Easyjet reopening their pilot training scheme.

Jamie Tipling

Jamie Tipling started his ground school studies with BGS in 2020, just as the pandemic started to affect more countries across the world. He has recently been offered a job with Ryanair and will be starting his Type Rating in March 2022. He said “The constant fear of the unknown and the effect covid was going to have on the industry really made me question whether it was going to be the right time for me to start flight training. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong! In fact, COVID really pushed and motivated me to hit the ground running with the study and have all of my exams completed.

“Each and every one of the instructors at BGS are so totally devoted to each of their students’ success. With the ability to join online webinars, ask questions via email and at the end of each webinar, certainly got me to where I am now and without the team at BGS, my success story wouldn’t quite be as fantastic as it is now! 

“After knuckling down, really focusing hard and remaining extremely patient and what felt like a complete lifetime from day 1 of studying back in January 2020, all of my EASA exams were finally over, and I was ready to start my CPL MEIR flight training in September 2021 with Adriana Aviation in Poland.

“My advice to future students starting their training now would be to never give up. Aviation is certainly back on the rise now after what has been a terrible effect on the day-to-day operations of the industry and it will only get better. Stay focused, motivated and determined to succeed and, like I say never give up because one day you will make it just like I have because it is all 100% possible. And most of all, I hope one day to see you all on the Boeing 737 flight deck.”

With coronavirus restrictions easing in the UK, Bristol Groundschool are giving their students the opportunity to attend in-person classroom lessons from their school in Clevedon, North Somerset, from next month. Hybrid lessons are designed to be streamed live online for those students wishing to continue distance learning as well as accommodating students for in-person classroom learning.

Alex Whittingham, Bristol Groundschool’s Managing Director said “Since the start of the pandemic two years ago, our online courses have been a lifeline for students looking to continue their pilot studies. Our instructors have done a fantastic job at adapting and delivering lessons online.  

“We’re looking forward to welcoming students back to the classroom and have invested a great deal of time and money into ensuring our students get the best possible learning experience, whether that be online or in-person.”

Bristol Groundschool is UK and Europe’s leading ATPL and CPL modular theory provider with the option of studying 100% online, enabling students to learn from anywhere in the world.


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