For the prospective commercial flying student there is a range of courses on offer; numerous UK flying schools offer modular options and a handful more can provide integrated training. This year Pilot was invited to visit one of Britain’s largest flight training organisations — CTC Aviation.
Changes are in evidence wherever you look at CTC Aviation; from its stylish new logo to the enormous A320 sim that has just been installed at its Southampton facility.
The company’s figures are impressive. Last year it received 12,000 applications, including those from direct pilot entries. The company claims that 98% of CTC Wings ‘white tail’ integrated ATPL route graduates will land a job with an airline.
CTC Aviation offers both integrated and modular courses — including partner airline programmes, such as BA’s Future Pilot Programme — working towards the ATPL or MPL. Its Airline Qualification Course enables participants to gain their Multi Crew Cooperation Certificate, as well as gaining valuable hours in simulators. Furthermore, the company has started offering an optional BSc (Hons) degree in Professional Aviation Pilot Practice in partnership with Middlesex University, which allows eligable students to apply for government loans and grants, as well as providing them with an additional qualification on top of their ATPL or MPL. For those on other courses run by the company, funding solutions such as loans and security bonds are available.
For anyone looking at becoming a pilot going to a Careers Event is invaluable; it provides an insight into the company and the chance to ask questions. Current student — and former flight attendant — Chris Eggleton is enthusiastic about the experience of visiting one of these events: “I was the only person in my school who wanted to be a pilot — I thought I was a bit weird. Then I went to one of CTC Aviation’s Careers Events and met 200 other people who also wanted to be one!”
Those who apply to join one of CTC’s courses must be at least eighteen when it starts, but there is no upper age limit. In fact, around 75% of students are aged around 23; often graduates who join the course after completing their degrees. Others are people in their thirties who are having a shot at their dream career after gaining experience elsewhere. Carla Grist, Head of Recruitment, said: “It’s good to have a back-up plan, such as a degree you can lean on. As someone reliant on a medical, a back-up option is good to have.”
Applications for the airline pilot career programmes at CTC Aviation are screened against specific criteria and those who are shortlisted are invited for an assessment day. These take place at Dibden Manor, near Southampton, which also offers comfortable rooms for those requiring accommodation (the same rooms are often used for those on the MCC course) and is currently undergoing refurbishment. The selection days consist of a presentation about the opportunity — during which those present can ask questions — group exercises, tests on technical and non-technical skills, and an interview.
“It’s not a grilling,” says Carla Grist, “we try to keep it more conversational. If the individual is relaxed we can get to know them.”
CTC Aviation’s website offers a guide with hints and tips in order to help would-be pilots to prepare.
“My advice would be to prepare. Understand the demands of the training and the career — be aware of the realities. Brush up on your maths; a number of people fall flat on mental arithmetic. You also need to consider their interaction with others — how well do you work in a team? How do you come across to others? Seek feedback,” says Carla Grist.
Current student Jonathan Miller gave some more advice for other prospective pilots: “Get some life experience. In my interview I was asked to give an example of when I’d shown determination and leadership in order to help a team achieve its goal.”
The company’s groundschool facility at Southampton is also used by students from other schools, who come here to take advantage of placement opportunities. As well as the imposing full motion sims, the school also contains fixed-based sims, ‘digitrainers’ — a series of screens that can be changed to mimic different cockpits and are used for reinforcing groundschool lessons — and Virtual Flight Decks — essentially a more complex version of the digitrainer that enables instructors to demonstrate techniques to a whole class. The school also contains classrooms and facilities for taking exams. All of the sim instructors are either current or retired airline captains.
“They really try to listen to the airlines and train you using their procedures as early on as can be,” said current student Joffrey Rode. He gave an example of students following easyJet’s procedures for jets when learning to fly in single-engine aircraft. A new A320 sim will be available from October and a visitors’ area will soon be under construction.
Once groundschool has been completed, students get the chance to spend a few months living out in New Zealand or CTC Aviation’s new facility in Phoenix, Arizona whilst they complete their flight training. The trainees that I spoke to were enthusiastic about this stage of the course.
“Training in New Zealand was a great opportunity. I didn’t think it would be somewhere I’d have the chance to go to. It’s the kind of place people dream of!” Said Joffrey Rode.
Chris Eggleton agreed: “The instructors in New Zealand were amazing. I went from no experience to getting my CPL on the first try.”
With the Multi Crew Pilot Licence proving popular, CTC Aviation‘s training delivery is also changing. The MPL requires students to spend less time in light aircraft in favour of fast-tracking into airliner simulators. An increasing number of airlines favour this route as it provides students with more — albeit virtual — experience of flying the aircraft they will use as professional pilots.
THE FINAL STAGES
Upon returning to the UK, CTC Aviation’s students will hone their skills and commence IR and upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) at the company’s Bournemouth Airport facility.
Currently the students use six Diamond DA-42s — in addition to three simulators — and the company plans to offer UPRT in a Slingsby Firefly from March onwards.
Changes in the way that organisations can measure groundschool performance are also coming into play. April 2014 saw the debut of electronic exams. Martin Hunt, Chief Operating Officer — Ab Initio Training (Europe), said: “EASA is making changes. In three years’ time a school will be able to assess its own students.”
Hunt is himself an alumnus of CTC Aviation and joined easyJet “when it was just three aircraft”, eventually becoming a training captain. He said of the flight training organisation: “We have a relationship with the airlines and I think that’s why we are successful.”
He added: “Prospective pilots need to have quality training because no matter what happens airlines will always demand quality pilots. Going somewhere else might save them money, but it may hold them back in the long-term.”
Those who graduate from the CTC Wings white tail programme have their details placed into the organisation’s ‘airline placement pool’, with a dedicated Graduate Placement Team working to secure airline placements for them. The organisation helps the alumni with interview techniques, cover letter writing and CV creation. However, only those who meet the airline’s criteria are put forward to fill vacancies. Carla Grist said: “We’ve recently placed five graduates with BA. This was quite a coup because they don’t normally take people outside of the Future Pilot Programme.”
Looking to the future, CTC Aviation anticipates more change; it will be launching a new website this year, more importantly for aspiring airline pilots, is in discussion with a number of airlines to secure more placement opportunities for its graduates.