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Cadet stories: Dan

Lottie Watt07 Dec 2020 Posted in: pilot, be a pilot, cadets

We spoke to FTA student Dan about his experience as a cadet. 

Which stage of your training are you at?

I've just finished my ATPL's and I'm starting on the flight line this week. I've got most of my exams under the belt but, because of COVID, not all of them.

How much longer will you be here for? 

I'm looking to finish probably around this time, October, next year because I think that's roughly how long the flying will take. 

Has flight school been what you expected?

Yeah, I would say it’s been pretty much what I expected. I wasn’t expecting quite how hard I was going to have to work for the theory, but then again I don’t think anyone really is. It’s been a pretty fun challenge but it’s been really good and pretty much as marketed on all of FTA’s website and socials and everything. It really did live up to what it was made out to be and what people who I’d spoken to at pilot careers live and stuff said when I went to that before I joined. 

Is that how you decided to come here? 

cant remember how I found FTA- I think I just found it by searching on the internet for flying schools. A bit unoriginal, but it seemed to come up and I’m quite spontaneous, so I ended up going for the first one. I did look round it obviously, but it was the kind of thing where I just thought 'I don’t really need to look at any others' because I kind of knew that this was the one I’d like to go to. I then went to pilot careers, after I’d sort of signed my life away, and spoke to everyone but, yeah, I’d sort of already decided, just from all the online information. The website was pretty good. There weren’t really many questions left unanswered. There’s obviously a lot of things you can only really pick up once youre in it from everyone around you but pretty much all the stuff you’d want to know as a complete ‘I don’t know anything’ was on the website. I found some of the new features that they’ve added, like the questions thing, quite helpful. Ergonomics can always be improved. It was obviously all a bit different when I started- there was a Spanish course. I was signed up to the Spanish course. I kind of wanted to go live in Spain for 3 months but I understand why they stopped doing it. It was nice of them to still honour the original price. It was ten grand cheaper or something. 

What made you want to be a pilot? Have you always known? 

No, I’m not one of those who is like ‘I’ve always wanted to be one’. I’ve always thought it looked really cool, but I wanted to be an actor or play guitar or something like that, but I realised I probably wasn’t good enough. It was really just discussing with family and friends- eventually I sort of landed on this as an option that fitted my personal skills and interests and maybe a desire to look a bit cool, out of slight vanity. 

I think so. It’s obviously not to look cool but to feel cool. I’m a bit of a flower in the sense that I love looking at nice views and sunsets and pretty clouds and there’s no better way to see it really. 

What’s been your favourite bit so far? 

I’d say the flying but obviously I’m only going off one day's experience so it’s probably not the best thingI would say the friends, as cliché as it sounds, are great. 

Have you still met a lot of people even though it’s all been online? 

Yeah, surprisingly so. I had the first 3/4months of ground school in person which was quite lucky because we got to meet a lot of people that way. You have your friendships, and then you go online and keep them going. Also, a lot of the students already have a private licence so during the last year or so I’ve had the opportunity to go up and flyI think it's helped quite a lot, going onto the flight line, to have been flying with friends in the right-hand seat for the last year or so. It’s been good fun, definitely 

What about the hardest bit, or the worse bit? 

Again, it’s what everyone will say, but grounds schools been the hardest bit. Certain subjects were worse than others. I personally found air law particularly boring, because, I mean, it’s called air law, who's not going to find that boring? Some of the other subjects were quite interesting. I found the ones about engines quite interesting because I'm a bit of a nerd, but I think certain subjects you must make yourself interested in, because if you're interested, you’ll do better. If you hate it, you're going to switch off and it's going to go badly. Skill follows interest with most things.

What's a typical day like for you? 

At the moment, I have no idea. I really don’t know how the flight line is going to affect my daily routine. In ground school, my daily routine was really boring. I would get up at 7.15, get washed, dressed and all that and I’d sit and do questions and revise for an hour (some days, some days I’d just sit and watch YouTube). Then we’d start lessons at 9. Obviously this was online, so it was slightly different, but we’d do lessons, drink a lot of coffee. I took to making coffee in a measuring jug because it lasted longer. Then had lunch, went back to lessons. 

Are lessons all day then, like 9-5? 

It’s 9 until 4. I think 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening. I don’t know if they’re changing that or if that’s just how it is forever now. That’s how it was when I was doing it. My foundation ground school was slightly different. That was from 8.30 until 5 or something. was glad for the slightly later start and the earlier finishes. Typically, my day is that basically: lots of coffee, taking notes and revising. When we were still allowed to we would occasionally go out for a drink and stuff, but recently it’s been more sit and cry yourself to sleep. No, it’s been just less socialising, but we’ve still found time to socialise definitely. 

What’s your living situation? Are you from around here? 

I’m from the Midlands and I live with two other guys on my particular integrated course, in a flat. We were lucky enough to find one in Shoreham which makes it a lot easier, particularly now, coming in and out of the airport a couple of times a day. During ATPL I would strongly advise anyone to live with other people doing it because it is a really useful tool to help each other, and also a bit of a motivator if you’re lazy like me. If I’m sat there doing absolutely nothing and I see the others revising all night, I'm like I should probably do some revision as well. Sort of positive peer pressure.  

Have you been to Brighton much? How do you find the location? 

The location is great, I’ve really enjoyed being down on the south coast. We were going to Brighton more back when everything was open, for the odd night out. We do occasionally still go there- we had a couple of dinners there during the ‘Eat Out to Help Out. Well, quite a lot: basically every night of the week. It’s been good and it’s a good place for... I mean I’m obviously not that old, I’m university age, and all my mates enjoy coming down here. It’s a good nightlife in Brightonnot that there’s much of a nightlife at the moment. There’s also loads of great restaurants because I'm a bit of a foodie. It’s a great place to take friends and family to get a nice meal. There’s plenty of options. 

What about Shoreham itself? How do you find that? 

Loads of cafes. It’s the land of the café. There’s not a single Costa or Beans in sight- it's all Tinkle Tankles Bakery or something like that. They’re all individually owned and they’re really good. I haven’t made it round all of them yet, but I used to have a bit of a problem going into one every morning. Then I was doing it at the airport as well, and the airport is not a cheap café- it was coming to like £10 a day on coffee and I thought that needs to stop. That’s not within the budget. Its really nice living in Shoreham, particularly where I live. I’m only a five-minute walk from the beach so it’s nice to go down and watch the sunset. It was particularly nice during lockdown. I was in lockdown here by myself for three months. My only company was the sea. That sounds really tragic. No, it was nice to have somewhere to go and sit though. 

How did you find moving to a new city? Did you find that okay? 

Yeah, it was alright. We had to go unfurnished because we couldn’t find anywhere else in Shoreham so there was a bit of moving stuff around but it was alright. There was a bit of settling in to do but you can pretty much find everything you need in Shoreham. The only thing I struggled with is parking. There’s plenty of stuff and there’s good pubs- the Duke of Wellington’s nice, that’s basically next door. I often have to resist the temptation. I probably shouldn’t only talk about pubs and drinking- I don’t even drink that much. It is obviously important though because some people are doing it as a uni alternative. 

It’s a nice social thing as well. You don’t want to come somewhere and not be social. 

Yeah definitely. You have that thing where if you’re all doing the same thing together, it kind of makes you closer, as cheesy and cliché as it sounds. A lot of my mates are 10 years older than me, but because of this, though we may be in different stages of our lives, we’re actually kind of all in the same stageIt’s a nice equaliser and everyone's from such different backgroundsIt’s not like everyones just done school or whatever- people have had weird, interesting jobs or something strange. I’m probably the most boring but yeah, everyones really interesting and really nice and really friendly.  

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