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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Living the dream...


How do you become a SWISS pilot? What are the necessary skills? How much practice and how much theory is scheduled? Follow Jasmin Iqbal, who just started her training at SWISS Aviation Training as she describes in fascinating detail her personal journey to become a SWISS pilot. This is the first blog entry of a series.

By Jasmin Iqbal, pilot in training

How time flies! On 22 July, a group of 19 young people, me included, began a new chapter in our lives when we started training to become a pilot.
We are now in the process of learning the necessary skills at SWISS Aviation Training PK 3/13, the designation for our pilot training class. Nineteen young people, each one of us with the dream of learning to fly. All of us are highly motivated and delighted to have the opportunity to make our dream come true. Before beginning my pilot training, I spent several years as an aircraft mechanic, working on B737 and the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. My primary hobby is hang-gliding, but I have often found myself looking up at the sky at the airplanes overhead and thinking: “I want to be a pilot”. Now the chance is here; the dream of making flying my career is coming true.

The training period lasts approximately 18 months, divided up into alternating phases of theory and practice. There are three practical phases: The first flight training takes place in Grenchen, Switzerland; the second is at Vero Beach, Florida, and the third phase sees us return to Grenchen, before we advance to process of type rating. Prior to starting our actual training, we held our first get-together on the Observation Terrace at Zurich Airport and then had dinner together at Runway 34, a restaurant not far from the airport. This occasion gave us an opportunity to become acquainted with one another. Here, too, the time went by very quickly. There was so much to talk about, with plenty of laughter included.

On the following Monday, the big moment finally arrived – the first day at the training centre. After being welcomed by members of the training centre’s top management and administrative staff, we set off on a tour of the facility, the highlight of which was visiting the full flight simulators. That was followed by distribution of instructional material, and a first “uniform” session. Further introduction and orientation followed throughout the first day, which came to an end late in the afternoon. Each of us headed home in a positive frame of mind and with a storehouse of fresh input and impressions.

The next day was the first day of a seven-week block of theory. Pilot training classes take place at the SWISS Aviation Centre facility the mornings, Monday through Friday, generally beginning at 08:15 and ending at 17:40. The range of subjects includes navigation, meteorology, air traffic rights and aerodynamics, to name just a few. There is no shortage of questions to deal with. How does a pilot fly an aircraft from A to B, taking into consideration the current wind conditions? How does weather occur? Can a pilot simply fly an aircraft around freely within the surrounding airspace? What rules apply? How does an aircraft even fly? Everything is explained with great thoroughness during the theory sessions. All this knowledge needs to be absorbed. Some of my colleagues in the course already have some form of flying experience, from motorised aircraft to model aircraft and hang-gliding. Others, however, are absolute beginners. The common goal of becoming a pilot bonds us together and makes the learning easier – as there is so much to do. The amount of material to be studied and mastered is immense. Serious commitment and self-discipline are called for. But it’s great fun at the same time. After a certain time, we are granted a radio license which authorises us to take part in radio communication under visual flying conditions. With time racing along, the first seven weeks soon come to an end. The first block of theory concluded recently with a comprehensive examination of all of the subjects studied. Now we are ready to start actual flight training, aboard a single-engine DA40NG Diamond aircraft. We are all extremely keen at this prospect. PK 3/13 is ready for take-off!

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