AviatorCast Episode 8: Hangar Talk w/ Nick Collett: Flight Simmer | GA Aviator | Airline Pilot


Today’s Flight Plan

It’s every aviation enthusiasts dream- start early, work hard, eventually become an airline pilot. For Nick Collett, that just recently became his reality. After years of flight simming, flight training and study, he is now an airline pilot.

Nick and I are great friends, in addition to having worked together on several large training projects here at Angle of Attack.

During this episode, Nick and I talk about his journey through a life of aviation, starting as a young boy with flight sims.

For those who are wanting to become an airline pilot, this episode is for you. For those wondering if a simulator can help you reach your aviation goals, this episode is also for you.

Nick broadcasts all the way from London for this Podcast.



Nick Collett

Give a big shout out to Nick for coming on this episode and giving us such an enjoyable time. Much appreciated, and we can’t wait for the next episode.


Big thanks to Atrasolis for providing the great music for our podcast. Please check them out on their Facebook Page or SoundCloud and get the music you’ve heard for free.


Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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Clear right, clear left, this is AviatorCast episode 8.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris Palmer:
Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I’ve got 100 low lead in my veins, my head in the clouds, and plenty of love for all things flying. I’m the type of guy that can stay up until 3 a.m. reading a book on bush flying. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an artform, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have a real flight training and flight simulation topic. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by going to AviatorCast.com.
Thank you so much for being here on this, the eight episode of AviatorCast. I’m really excited for this episode because we get to connect with my good friend, Nick Collett from London, England who is now a newly type-rated airline pilot. He’s spent a lot of time with flight simulation. He’s done a lot of training for us here at Angle of Attack. Just an overall great guy. You guys will really enjoy getting to know him and his experiences as an aviator, so we’ll have a bit of a hangar talk if you will with Nick Collett and see what it was like starting out with aviation and simulation, gaining his PPL, his commercial license and all the way up to where he now is a new airline pilot. Great story, lots of great little details to fill in and this ended up being one of the better shows I feel like we’ve had here so far on AviatorCast. Just a really great, great hangar talk here with Nick.
Before we get into that, keep in mind that you can apply still for Aviator 1-on-1. I’ll be taking on my first student this next week. Lots of great applicants there so far. If you want to know more about Aviator 1-on-1 which is a free mentoring program where I will spend a couple of hours a week with you and help you with your training progression whether that be in simulation or real word training. If you would like to be a part of that, go ahead and head over to Aviator1on1.com. So, I’m really excited to get into this hangar talk with Nick, so let’s get into that segment now.
And now, the flight simulation segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, I have Nick Collett here with me. Nick and I have been working together for a number of years. We’re no longer working together because Nick got hired by an airline and will now be flying jets, but I want to get Nick on the show today to share with you his experience of what it was like growing up through flight simulation and training and how he got to where he is today. So Nick, it’s good to be back, it’s good to be talking to each other again because we are good friends, we’ve spend a lot of time together so, good to have you.
Nick: Hi Chris. Yes, it’s great to be back. Thanks for the invite. Really good to be here. And it’s nice catch up with you regardless of the whole podcasting thing but it’s nice to be back on a podcast again. It’s been awhile.
Chris: Exactly. And you said you even listen to the show, right?
Nick: Oh yeah. Is that a bit of a wasted question then?
Chris: No it’s not. It’s not.
Nick: No. I have been and I love what you are doing here. I think it’s really unique to draw together a few parallels between flight simulation and flight training in the real world and flying in the real world. It’s nice to dispel some of the myths that people have about all of these. I think a lot of particularly the more experienced pilots who may have been in the industry for a long time, I think a lot of them tend to shun flight simming a bit because they have some preconceived notions about inaccuracies and inadequacies in modern day simulators which just aren’t true, so I think you’ve done a really good job of dispelling a few of those and I hope that we can get a few more of those guys on sight.
Chris: Right. I think at the end of the day, for intentionally using simulators to better our training experience rather than just having it as a game, then it can help us. It’s that intention about it all that really matters, so it can be as unrealistic or as realistic as you wanted to be, it just depends on how you approach it.
Nick: Yeah. Like you said, it all depends on how you use it and the attitude you have towards it. If you sit down with goals, you know, you want to practice a certain type of flying or you want to practice a certain type of approach or you want to get familiar with a specific aircraft system then yeah, it’s great, but there’s only so much limited use and just loading up the default plane and flying loops over Central London or something, you’re not really going to learn anything from that? But unfortunately, I think that’s what a lot of people see it as because that tends to be what they will see if they just go and create a YouTube search or if they see their younger kids maybe just playing it, or they see something like Ace Combat on the Xbox. It’s no representation of what a real flight sim is, even if sometimes those sort of games do get labeled as flight simulators.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. So you’re right there and smacked out in the middle of London right? That’s where you’re located.
Nick: Yeah I am. Very central which is great for me. I lived here all my life and it’s nice to be back here but I’ll be moving away out of the country fairly soon to start flying, so making the most of my last few weeks here.
Chris: You lucky dog, beautiful part of the world. I’m sure you’re really enjoying it.
Nick: Oh yeah. Yeah I am. We’ve had some pretty bad storms here actually in the last few months but I’ve been around about and lived in Europe so thankfully this has not really fazed me, but I flew out of Heathrow a couple of weeks ago, going up just across Scandinavian countries, just looking down on the floods out to the Western London, it’s pretty bad out there. So it is a beautiful part of the world but nature bites here as well.
Chris: Yeah, as it has everywhere. It’s so unpredictable and that’s part of aviation. I’ve been studying a lot of the weather recently. It’s one of those things you got to be really on top of the knowledge part of it and then realize on top of that, it’s completely unpredictable and you just got to be on your toes and try to stay ahead as much as you can. That’s what I tell people all the time. You can get a forecast but for us pilots at least here in the US, you have to get that forecast within six hours of your flight or it’s not valid and the reason is because weather just changes so much.
Nick: Oh flying would be so much easier if not for the weather. You wouldn’t have to worry about wind shear. You wouldn’t have to worry about crosswind limitations. You wouldn’t have to worry about weather minima. Flight planning would be a breeze because your ground speed would always equal your true airspeed. It’s pretty straightforward, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately that’s not how the world is. Although hey, it’s nice to have the challenge I suppose and there’s nothing like breaking out of the clouds on a nice sunny morning.
Chris: Yeah. My favorite type of flying is IFR just because you’re in such a different environment, you’re up in the clouds and as simple as that sounds, when you’re doing actual IFR, there is just nothing like it. It’s nothing like doing low on slow VFR, sight-seeing sort of stuff. It’s just awesome to be in the clouds, and maybe not totally stucked in the clouds. It’s good to have a little visibility and a little variety to that. It’s not very exciting just to look out and see white but definitely cool to be cutting along some different layers and things of that nature.
Nick: Yeah. You got a much better sense of speed.
Chris: Yeah.
Nick: Anyway sorry, I didn’t mean it derail it.
Chris: No, it’s fine. It’s fine. I’m sure everyone finds out somewhat interesting. So kind of what I want to do here as we start off this interview with Nick is I want to first share a bit of a history between Nick and I and kind of get this part out of the way because I want Nick to share later on what it was like for him to train in the United Kingdom which gives us people here in the united states a different perspective and a different perspective from wherever you are in the world listening. We have this podcast reaches a lot of different places. We have people in India and the Netherlands that have already left reviews on the podcast so we definitely have a worldwide listenership. So Nick will share that. He will share his experience not only doing his primary training in the United Kingdom but also his advanced training in Spain and then also his type rating that he did later on and recently which we may actually split up into a different show, but we’ll go through some of that.
Before we get into that, I just want to share a little bit of a history between Nick and I because it is very largely connected to flight simulation. Essentially, how Nick and I met was really simple. I put out, you could say a radio call on Facebook that I was looking for assistance with Angle of Attack and Nick wrote me and said that he was interested and so he and I started to talk back and forth. I put a Nick on a project right away for the MD-11 which eventually he ended up doing the vast majority of that MD-11 training, writing it, filming it, doing all sorts of things for it, and was just was very involved with that training which we offer through our website. And then he and I also did a lot of the initial work on the 737 which we’ve done and he largely helped create what is our groundwork structure now so not only groundwork for how we did that in the 737 but how we did it in the 777 training. Nick and I both worked on creating that structure.
And then, Nick kind of what off to School and finished his advanced pilot training and then he and I hooked up again recently and did the 777 training. He did flight work for the 777. Nick is a topnotch professional guy. Our customers absolutely love him and look up to him because he’s just so detailed and meticulous in everything that he does as a pilot and always has decision-making built into that. Nick has just been such a huge asset to Angle of Attack and has really created in a large way a lot of our inner culture and our commitment to excellence. That’s kind of how Nick and I have been involved with each other professionally. And then from there, he and I are kind of on different paths now. Nick is going the airline route and I’m still very much committed to changing the face of general aviation and how we approach airplanes not only when we first start getting our training but also how we stay sharp as pilots as we build up our hours and constantly staying safe, so we are protecting ourselves and our loved ones and putting a good name in the face on general aviation.
That’s kind of Nick and I in a nutshell and now, we’re going to go through the show and learn a little bit more about where Nick comes from, how he got his training. Before we get into the real training stuff Nick, I want to know how flight simulation had an impact on your training. Just kind of start us off where and when you actually started using a flight simulator and how that impacted you as you went throughout your training. Maybe we’ll touch on that subject as we go along but just give us an idea of how flight simulators have played a role in your training and when you actually started using them.
Nick: Sure. I’m in early 20s now and I probably started with flight simming I guess when I was probably eight or nine years old. It was pretty cool stuff, it was Flight Sim 95 I guess back then and that’s my first one. I still have it somewhere in the house, but yeah, very fun memories of just bumming around and not really knowing what I was doing. And then upgrading to Flight Simulator 2000 when I was a little bit older and that came out, and then Flight Simulator 2000 Professional Edition at which point I was convinced that I was approaching captaincy already and I was starting to fly Concord and all sort of things. But I have very fun memories of the basic version of FS 2000, trying to work out how to land the Cessna-182 with my father with him sitting next to me in his office in the house which is where I used to… that was where the computer was and that was where I used to fly and doing the landing tutorial in Cessna-182 and what you could do back then is you could load up the flight so it would load you up in the air and I don’t know whether it would put you on approach or whatever but it would put you in a scenario where you are getting ready to land the aircraft.
So my dad was sitting there with the manual which in those days was a pretty thick book, glossy pages, really nice, and all the stuff that go with it, and he was reading through this tutorial. Meanwhile, I was flying the aircraft and making a pretty hideous attempt in trying to land for the first time. But I still remember that. It was almost like it was yesterday. Really, really fun memory. And then around those days, my dad won a flight, I think he won it in a PA-28 Warrior. I went out with him, just sitting in the back and then my subsequent birthday, maybe my 10th birthday perhaps or 11th, I’m not sure, my parents were kind enough to buy me a light aircraft and this was the first time I’ve ever flown the aircraft and I remember sitting there in the briefing, at 10 years old, asking the poor instructor “What’s V1 today? What’s V2?” and he was just saying “Okay, it’s [inaudible-00:15:43] that you know that but we don’t really consider takeoff safety speeds per say in a single person but there you go. Anyway, so I had a couple flights there and then went off into FS 2002, FS 2004. Probably when I was 12 or 13, I remember flying a Cessna caravan around the world starting in Boston. It took a while but I did it over a number of weeks and hey, it was great fun for my geography and still know the capitals and all sorts of obscure countries that I wouldn’t know otherwise, and then going up into FSX and so on.
But meanwhile, I was doing a little bit of flying in the real world with a friend here in London out of [inaudible-00:16:31] Elstree in North of London. I did a bit of that and then I started actually once I was old enough logging, I was in real aircraft with a view to getting a pilot’s license. I’m not quite sure what the trigger was for me to want to get into commercial aviation but I think it was just a path I started to be led down once I started flying in the real world and I started to actually build hours and getting a license, started to look like reality. So the first hour in my logbook was on the 2nd of August 2006, 2nd of August being my birthday, and that was in a de Havilland Chimpmunk which is a single-engine piston tail dragger. It was caught and designed as a military trainer. It’s been around for donkey’s years and a few of them still few around but this was lovely opportunity to fly something very old and classic.
I had very vivid memories of that flight. We did a couple of loops, a couple of rolls and then just a bit of general handling and then fly back to Wycombe Air Park in the Northwest of London. And then from there I went on to fly Piper Tomahawks in Carlisle which is the city in the North of England and there’s a little airport there and a company called Carlisle Flight Training who I did the majority of my PPL with. I encourage anyone up there to check them out. The most lovely people in the people they really are and they were instrumental in giving me the passion that I have. And then once I got my PPL which takes 45 hours here minimum, that’s the sort of the average. Well it’s probably not the average time to complete it but it’s the minimum amount of time you can do it. So I did that out there and I did a little bit of flying down in London as well.
Then once did my PPL, I moved down to try to do some flying in London which is where I live now. It’s a very different world here flying because up there, there’s no controlled airspace to speak of really unless you go over to somewhere like Newcastle or Durham where you got some Class D over there, but out by Carlisle, it’s all uncontrolled airspace so it’s pretty much free roam, just do what you like with your danger area around. It was very unrestrictive by comparison to flying down here. Getting into flying in London took a lot of confidence for me, but it’s something that I did gladly and I’m very glad that I did because I got quite a lot of experience flying complex aircraft here and doing a lot of cross-country in the south of the UK with friends and family.
Quite how flight sim plays into all of that. While I was doing all this private flying, I was using a flight sim and I wasn’t really using it with a goal to learning anything specific. I just enjoyed flying around and doing a bit of radio navigation and some visual navigation with charts and so on. Quite how much it helps in real world flying, I don’t know. It would’ve done things like improve my instrument scan which was in PPL level unless you’re doing an IMC or [inaudible-0:20:12] called over here. So, how much it helps, I’m not sure but it certainly kept the passion alive when I was out of the real skies. I think that’s one of the most important things that it did for me back then.
I was also learning about airliners and all the PMDG things. I also recall sitting down with my down when I was very young when the 737 first came out for FS 2002, trying to work out how the heck the FMC works which was just completely beyond me initially. Obviously you get used to it. But it was just such a mind-blowing concept I guess. I’ve never seen anything like that.
Chris: That’s one thing that surprises a lot of people when they have kind of these… by people I mean people that run actual level of these simulators. They’ll have flight simmers come in and use the simulator for whatever reason. I know that you did that with an MD11 and they’re just really blown away because these people can sit down and they can start buzzing through and preparing their flight with FMS and then they do in terms of the MD11 and they have all these knowledge and it’s kind of crazy that you can do all that, but these simulators are very realistic and allow them to do that.
Nick: Oh they’re very good. They are. I remember just this funny anecdote. I used to fly the default before I even knew the PMDG tested, I used to fly the default 747, 737, and so on, and the main means of navigation back then because we didn’t have an FMC was to use the GNS530 that comes with flight sim. So I used to take off from JFK and I put in the directs to Heathrow, just a single leg, and because the depiction of the world on the GPS is a 2D representation right? It’s a top-down kind of view, and because it’s 2D and it doesn’t show the curvature of the Earth, when it shows the great circle routing across the Atlantic, it shows a curve effectively on the map, so your routing takes you up towards Greenland. Particularly if you’re going from San Francisco, you’ll touch the tip of Greenland and you may even go far north of it. And when you look at this GPS and you see this big long curving line, you think “Well this is just ridiculous. Why is it taking me through this crazily long routing with this big curve?” So what I used to do, instead of using NAV mode, I used to use [inaudible-00:23:04] to cut the corner so to speak on the GPS, which of course is just flying a roundline basically in the real world. It’s pointless. It extends your flight by hundreds of miles but I was none the wiser. I was a 10-year-old. I didn’t understand great circles or anything.
But then obviously you start to explore flight simming a little bit more and you start to unlearn these horrible habits and it starts not to become necessary to top up your fuel halfway through the flight because you didn’t quite know how much you needed.
Chris: Yeah definitely. Just as a couple anecdotes here, realistic flight simmers, guys that use it seriously, we frown upon using the default aircraft and flight simulator just because they’re unrealistically simulated. We like to use stuff that is like the real-world counterpart like Nick was talking about that has an FMS and things like that. Although you may mess with the simulator first and just mess with as we call them default aircraft, eventually we’ll want to get into something that’s more realistically modeled by a company that spent a lot of time on that specific airplane type and just makes it as realistic as possible, and they can do that with anything from a 747 all the way down to a 172. Having that extra time spent on those airplanes just makes them much more realistic.
Nick: Right. It’s very important to draw the line between the default aircrafts and even some of the cheaper, less well simulated anywhere aircraft and something that would come from PMDG or any of these larger sim development companies, because if you look at, say the default 737 flight sim and you compare it to the NGX from PMDG, there’s just no comparison at all, and you get a lot of people here fly the default one and sort of getting lulled into a sense of security that they really know what they’re doing when unfortunately, purely not for lack of trying which is by virtue of the simulation that they’re using, they’re getting a very worked view of what’s happening.
Chris: Yeah definitely.
Nick: Anyway, so I was getting more and more interested in the airliners and that led me to want to actually flying in the real world in a professional sense beyond private flying which is the route that I’ve taken through university and through further education to get me my licenses and my job thankfully now.
Chris: Great. Yeah. I mean, you’re how old now?
Nick: I’m 22.
Chris: Yes. So you’re 22, you’re flying with a great airline, or will be flying with a great airline, you start soon, but pretty impressive. I mean, just to see how fast you’ve gone up through your training and you can talk to us more about this in the flight training segment but I realize that your training in Spain was very much kind of an accelerated process or at least a crammed process and just of you in that position you are at that age is very atypical of what we experience here in the United States now especially with the 1500-hour requirement that is now placed upon pilots before they can actually fly for an airline. So, kind of a very different situation but when I look at who you are and what you represent and what you’ve been through through your training, I realize that you are very, very confident to be in the position you’re in and the people that get to fly behind you as passengers are going to be carried from point A to point B very safely, so I think a lot of that has to do with how you’re ingrained with all of these aviation knowledge from a young age.
You know, we had the Sochi Olympics recently and I promise I’m going to drop parallel here but they say that when they trained people to do the ski jump down that big ramp and off and flying hundreds of feet, they say that they start training those kids and maybe in a lot of sports, you see that in gymnastic as well, they train them very, very early and the reason they do that is to kind of get rid of the fear complex from them, but I think the younger you are too, the more moldable you are and the more you can retain that knowledge and make it a part of who you are, and so I think it kind of an unproven advantage of kids that kind of grew up in this digital world and had these simulators while they were dreaming of being an airline pilot. One of the advantages is that we just had a lot of this knowledge before and although it needs to be polished up quite a bit and some things needed to be relearned and learned a different way, there is still a base set of information there that’s pretty incredible for someone entering that market.
When you look at kind of the opposite of that, of guys that have flown steam gauges their entire career and have a very difficult time even moving over the glass. You’re kind of a case study and a perfect example of what can be done with having that simulator there as part of your passion and your growth as you learn aviation and learn to be a pilot.
Nick: Yeah, it’s an interesting… it’s always nice to draw the parallels between the flight simulation world and the real world and what flight simulation, when practiced properly can do for you. It’s not all positives though. There are some downsides to it. One that [inaudible-00:28:57] that affected me I think and tend to affect a lot of people who use flight sim and one which I think is pretty undisputed is that a lot of people that come from flight simulation especially in their younger years or even later when they start flying real aircraft, is that they tend to be far too fixated on the instruments and not the outside picture. Flying a light aircraft in the VFR environment anyway, is all about keeping a lookout, looking outside, and you can fly the aircraft very effectively just on flying attitudes and at commercial level you will be examined on that ability. If the examiner sees you looking inside all the time, you should not pass because you are not flying safely in VMC because you’re not looking outside.
In Seneca, we used to set up at best angle of climb and best rate of climb attitudes based on visual cues. While pitching for degrees on the AI, we were looking at the window, and likewise flying a steep turn, it’s possible to fly a very accurate steep turn both in terms of altitude and attitude just by looking outside. So I’d say you don’t want to crosscheck inside every so often. Of course you should be accurate, but you can fly very good, fly very far by looking at outside, and flight sim sort of discourages that.
Chris: Right, although visuals are just so much different.
Nick: Exactly. You don’t have any peripheral vision. Okay, you could argue if you buy a big wraparound monitor set-up, you probably could do it.
Chris: Even then, it’s different. It’s very different.
Nick: Exactly, and the sort of setup that most people is going to be using, you don’t have that. People who come from flight sim tend to be quite fixated on the instruments. I found that even late into my flying in Spain, I found sometimes that I was being commented that my lookout should be a little better and that’s partly because by the time they get you to CPLU, you need to be head up almost all the time and you need to make point of it so the examiner sees that you’re looking up, but a safety perspective it is very important to know all about passing exams. The other thing and I think this is a very common issue for inexperienced pilots anyway, but I think it’s another thing that flight simulators sometimes breathe into is over-controlling on flight controls because in flight sim, depending on the flight model of the aircraft, you can make huge control deflections and the aircraft will not react anywhere nearly as readily and as violently in some cases as real aircraft would. You take a CH yoke for instance which is a pretty common yoke lot of people buy, that only defect about 45 degrees in a roll and the same with the Cytec ones except for the new Cessna one I think.
So it only defect about 45 degrees in a roll but a real aircraft would be going to 90 in some cases. In the case of certainly all Pipers I’ve flown, or at least the PA-28 and the PA-34 and certainly all the Cessnas would go to 90 degrees. You are flying along in a cruise and you suddenly put in 90 degrees of control deflection, you’re damaging the aircraft above VA. Flight sim can condition you into putting in huge control inputs wherein the real world, they’re just not necessary. The time in real flying when [inaudible-00:32:51] controlling, including myself is in short final where I’ve seen videos of me flying, granted a long time ago when I was much less experienced where I’m throwing the controls around all over the place and I’m inducing more turbulence and deviations from the optimal fly path than actual wind is doing. Anyway, and it’s something that I had to really train out to myself when I was flying on my own and have trained out with me by instructors who would catch me doing it. It’s not been such a problem in recent, the last maybe 50 or 100 hours of GA flying that I did because I think I was just starting to get a lot more adept, well it’s a strong word, a lot more confident and comfortable in flying the aircraft and understanding that a well-trimmed aircraft is not going to suddenly spaz out in your final approach.
Chris: Yeah definitely.
Nick: Anyway, those are two examples of issues that I came up with and I discovered, transferring a flight sim to the real world. I’m sure there are plenty more.
Chris: Yeah, I’m sure there are, and there is always the pros and cons to all that because you wonder if all that experience you had in a simulator, actually controlling the aircraft is worth the trouble it was when you went into real training whereas on the opposite end of that, you have someone that has never touched controls before and doesn’t know how pitch and aileron and rudder work and don’t know how to correct certain things. There’s an argument there. Is it better to come in cold Turkey and not know anything at all, or have to polish up and correct some of those things.
Nick: I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Chris: Yeah. I would say so too.
Nick: Because you still have a general sense of how the aircraft is going to react, and you certainly have a good sense of scanning the instruments, at least in a simple VFR context. Certainly you do. I think probably the other major issue which is something that I didn’t have, I hope, is complacency, thinking you’ve learned more than you actually have from flight sim. And actually, I’ve already said that I was sitting there in the briefing room and talking about V1 and V2, VR and so on, but in fairness to myself, I was 10 years old. I really didn’t know better. But you do see people putting up videos in YouTube saying “12-year-old lands plane purely from flight sim experience, already ready to qualify for private license.” That speaks for itself really. You got to be humble about it, but it’s a great aid and I’ve never discouraged anyone from using it. And I wouldn’t be where I was now if I haven’t.
Chris: Awesome, well that was really great discussion on simulators and your perspective on it. I think we’ll wrap up the simulator segment and we will head over to the flight training segment, and we’ll see you there.
And now, the flight training segment…
Chris: Alright, so now we’re in the flight training segment and before Nick talked a lot about what his primary training was like in the United Kingdom, very interesting story of him training up in Carlisle and then learning to fly down in London. So Nick, why don’t we take things from there. Wrapping up your private pilot and you talked a lot about the cross-country experience you got as well. I know you flew around in a 177 Cardinal, is that right? And then kind of got a lot of time that way.
Nick: Yeah. I did about 40 hours I think more or less, just under 40 hours in a 177RG which was the successor to the 172. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very successful and this wasn’t being built anymore, but wonderful aircraft. Just so nice to fly. It was my first retractable. I was my first constant speed prop. It was a really nice aircraft to get me into longer distance cross-country flying. I flew all that thing all over the south of UK, took a lot of friends up, took my dad up. It was really great. And then from that, I went to a RE3 Turbo which was lovely, even faster, even more performance out of that thing and that was really good introduction to turbocharged engines and more constant speed prop work and more intractable gear and more adventurous flying. I did maybe 20 hours in that, so that was really great and that prepared me pretty well for going out to Spain and then stepping into the Warrior which is again, a PA-28, not the Arrow, but it’s lost 40 horsepowers. It’s got a fixed pitch prop and it’s fixed undercarriage but a very aircraft train again because we were then going to be taught to fly to a much higher standard than I had before, and the comparative lack of complexity to what I’ve been playing previously is actually very welcome because everything else on the learning curve stepped up a lot.
Chris: So you went to a school in Spain. I shouldn’t say school. This was full-on university right? Is that correct?
Nick: It’s not a university per say, no. It’s a college, flight training college or flight training organization, FTO as they call them here. So it’s an organization that is set up purely for the objective of getting people from zero hours, in my case 140, but potentially zero hours is the case in most people that go there, to the point of being able to apply to an airline as a first officer.
Chris: And this is very similar to what a lot of people do here in the United States. They go to a university or a college. There’s not a huge difference between the two. Generally, those will both be 141 program as they call it here which is very structured and very difficult, government-regulated, so they want to get you through and have checks and balances the whole way and make sure that you learn all the knowledge and generally those pilots, those 141 pilots end up becoming much better trained because they’re under the watchful eye of an instructor for a much longer time and they just have a more professional approach to the entire training process. So, your school was actually a lot like the schools here in that your dorms are essentially right there at the airport and you guys would just walk out there. You had your own kind of pilot cafeteria. I mean, this was a whole immersive experience, this training experience.
Nick: Yeah. Yeah, it was. A lot of people likened it to a prison which I always though was bit funny. You know, your parents are giving you 100,000 euros to go to a prison and then complaining about it every time. But in many cases, it was a campus. I’m not going to use the word prison because it’s just… I’ll freely admit that I occasionally refer to it like that because it sometimes drives you mad.
Chris: I’m sure it was very difficult.
Nick: But, you know, you live in this self-contained zone that it’s only airport. It’s not air site, it’s ground site, but you are living a long way from the city. Everything is self-contained like you say, so you have a dorm room, you have an on-suite bathroom which is very comfortable. You had a cafeteria. You had places you can go and get coffee, a place to go and eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s all included. If you wanted to go into town though, that’s where it got a little bit difficult because you had to take a train but if you want to go into town for dinner or to go out at night, you take the train in the evening but the only way to get back was by taxi which costs quite a lot. You could take a bus but I never saw any evidence of a bus service actually existing. I say I didn’t but I don’t know. Or you had to rely on people who had cars and there aren’t so many of those and they tend to not want to be a taxi service of their own. It was quite difficult to escape and I think that’s why a lot of people complained. I was very fortunate that I just had very good friends who did have a car so we used to escape a lot, but for some people, they will literally go weeks or months without even leaving the campus which does get pretty, pretty depressing and I can see where they started to call it a prison especially if they didn’t have the heart in it.
Chris: Yeah, that will start to weigh on your mind pretty heavy. Everyone needs a break. No matter how much you love flying, everyone needs a break.
Nick: Yeah, that’s right. So yeah, it was a very interesting environment from the perspective and from getting to know how to deal with people and relationships and so, it was a really good experience for me definitely to grow up from that.
Chris: Obviously in that type of environment too, you are living and breathing at the entire time and you’ve touched on it already too but it was very intense right? What was their training process like at this school compared to what you had previously done at Carlisle for example?
Nick: Well, the training up there up in Carlisle was very… it was a typical PPL flying club and family-ran as far as I know. Really, really relaxed friendly environment. Everything is taken seriously of course as it should be to turn you into a good pilot and out good pilots at the end of it, but they’re not teaching you to be a commercial pilot. They’re not teaching you to be marketable to the airlines. They’re teaching you to fly yourself and your friends and your family and whoever around safely as a private pilot. The sort of philosophies that needs to be engrained into the student are very different between PPL level and CPL level. And so everything that the school tried to do was going down the path of creating someone who would be marketable to an airline because obviously that’s what the students are paying for but it’s also what the school wants because the school wants to be able to say “We sent X percent of our pilots to airlines this year.” So, the first six months or so was just purely ground school, doing six of the fourteen exams that we have to do for the ATPL which is the EASA. It’s the highest form of EASA license equivalent to your ATP in America, just not on the basic level.
So you do six exams in the first few months with no flying and then while you do the last eight exams, you start flying every other day, so you do one day of flying, one day of ground school, one day of flying, one day of ground school. You do that six days a week so you will have either one or two days off each week, so it depends on how your instructor worked. And yeah, it’s very intense.
Chris: That’s very intense.
Nick: The ground school is 9 to 5 each day with a quick break for lunch, and that gets very wary. I mean, flying aside, I was very fortunate in that I had a very healthy sort of foundation on a lot of the things that we were learning from either PPL flying or really most significantly the work I did with you really, really broadened my horizons on how civil aviation works and how airliners work and basic aircraft systems. Certainly it wasn’t all encompassing but it gave me a nice foundation that I could really divide my study time between some of the things that I was much more confident in like aircraft systems and FMS and instrumentations and so on, and things I wasn’t so confident in like the weather and sort of the aerodynamics and stuff like that. So, that was it. That’s the leading in segway into how flight simulation helped me there. And just general reading and previous flying experience. And then we started flying six to eight months after I arrived.
Chris: Now, before we get there, can you explain… I’m just wondering because from what you’ve said so far, you guys are fully focused on aviation right? You’re not doing English classes or math classes. It’s aviation all the time.
Nick: Yeah, and that’s why I said it’s not a university and it’s not what Americans would consider a college because you guys sort of… you got a degree from college right?
Chris: Right, yep.
Nick: Yeah, okay, so this isn’t a degree program. It’s a year and a half long. So you’re not getting a degree out of it. All you’re getting is your flying license. So yeah, it’s completely aviation. There’s nothing tagged on at all.
Chris: It’s a lot like a school here called ATP actually. They did that same sort of thing. It’s fully aviation-focused and you go through and get all of your ratings that way. And that’s all it is. You’re not going to be doing English classes or math classes. I would even go as far as to say that that sort of stuff is mostly useless when you’re talking about aviation unless you have an aviation math class and aviation English class which in some circumstances, that would actually be very useful if you’re having international students who are coming in and doing that, but anyway, I digress. But yeah. It’s good just to make that distinction so people know you were there, you were living and breathing aviation all the time, maybe not as bad as those guys that didn’t escape the town, but you’re definitely, you were in this and you were in it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365. You guys were working really hard. So now, sorry I interrupted you earlier, but now, you’re doing it full time. So you had ground school first, then you had ground school mixed with flying, and now you’re doing flying full time, right?
Nick: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. In the last few months, I started doing flying full time. The flying phase is just sort of split into three major sections in terms of the aircraft you are flying. You start off in the Warrior and it’s a PA-28, this is 160-horsepower, fixed pitch propeller, fixed landing gear. It’s a very basic single engine piston. Much more basic than the aircraft I’ve been flying previously. Much easier to fly. Much less demanding. Much lower workload. In terms of the simple flying with the aircraft, the standard to which we now have to fly and the goals we are working towards were such a high level that the learning curve was much steeper than any flying I’ve done before.
Chris: What are some examples of that, of that preciseness that you guys are working toward?
Nick: Just the whole… the way you run the whole show really. The way you organize yourself in a cockpit. How snappy your checks are going to be. The introduction of standard operating procedures into it, certain ways that you would have to do certain things to comply with school rules and regulations, how strict they were with the way that you talk to ATC, how they strict they were with the way that you would stick to SPs and headings and altitudes. You were constantly being reminded that when you come to do your commercial pilot license skills test or your instrument rating skills test, that there are certain margins that you have to stay tolerances into it, certain tolerances that you have to stay in within or you would fail the test. The altitude must be plus or minus 100 feet or 300 feet, 100 feet I think for the IR. I always like to think that prior to going to Spain, I was more than capable of keeping my altitude within 100 feet, but that’s just a simple example. There are plenty more on top of that. The accuracy to which you would fly steep turns, the accuracy to which you would recover from unusual altitudes, the accuracy of your navigation, your time-keeping ability on navigation, your ability to cope with drift in your flying when you’re navigating visually. Everything was just so much high standard. And you being examined throughout, each flight was being graded 1 through 6 and you would be constantly being assessed. I don’t know if that sort of answers your question.
Chris: Yeah, that does a lot. That’s pretty intense. In those terms, as far as the practical test standards as we call them here, that’s pretty on-target and I think that’s what as an international body of aviation, we want to do right? We start out as private pilots. We have more freedom. We’re not expected to be as precise as we would be getting on the commercial pilot level and then on your level right because you actually went and got a full-on ATP at this school. Is that correct?
Nick: Essentially yes. The complication with the ATPL is that you actually need 1500 hours.
Chris: Okay, so you still have that but you’re at those standards essentially, right?
Nick: I’m ready to apply for that license as soon as I gain 1500 hours because I got all the prerequisite exams for it.
Chris: So you’re at that level. That’s what aviation is and what it will always be for us, even individually is just continually building those layers and continually being more precise. There’s always something else to learn about our particular body of knowledge. Whether for me it might be a challenge whereas for you, you really have a hold of that and navigation for you might be a problem whereas for me, I really have a hold of that. What I’m saying there is that on an individual basis, we have our needs that we can always work on and refine. I know you’ve probably experienced this too but most of the seasoned airline pilots that I’ve talked to always seem to have this notion or rather, they have this area that they want to work on, and it’s something they’re aware of and something that they’re continually working at whether that’s better landings or more précised hand-flying or better decision-making and crew resource management, whatever it is. Those are that high level aviator attitude with those guys that have been around the block many times. They still have that attitude that they need to be learning.
Nick: That philosophy should remain constant throughout your flying career, even if you never intended to progress beyond the Cessna-172. You look at the sort of 30,000-hour grizzled captain and you think it would be very easy when you get to that level to think that you’re so experienced that you know everything and there’s nowhere to go from there. I’m sure unfortunately there are some people who think that way and they tend to be, at the pointy end of this, making a hole in the ground, as opposed to retiring with pride and integrity. But, you also, the other end of the spectrum sometimes get pilots who are inexperienced and say “Well, I’m only flying privately. I’m never going to need to be an airline pilot and never need to go commercially so I don’t need to do any work because it’s just flying a PA-28 and how hard can that be right?” Well actually, it’s pretty stuff, and you need that positive attitude of constant betterment regardless of what you are flying, because there is nothing simple about flying a simulated piston really. When you actually step back and you look at what you are doing, it’s pretty demanding stuff, and if you aren’t taking it seriously, then you should really examine what you’re doing because there a lot of people that could die through your negligence if you don’t take it seriously, so yeah, I agree. That philosophy needs to be with any pilot, with any aviator, whatever their end ambition is, whatever stage of their flying they’re at.
Chris: Yep. I definitely agree with that. There’s a book I read recently called The Killing Zone by Dr. Paul Craig, and in this book, he essentially lays out that there is a killing zone below 1000 hours and really, the highest area of that killing zone is between 100 hours or just after someone has received their private pilot, and 350 hours. That’s where the biggest spike is. In this particular conversation, at the end of the book, he essentially wraps up that the safest way to get yourself through the killing zone is to be constantly learning and constantly seeking the next thing. And so he’s a big believer in a private pilot instrument-combined course which he actually created himself here in the US and it’s approved by the FAA and he recently released some books and course material on that, so the guys that actually get their private pilot and instrument at that same time, the way that that helps is that they’re under the watchful eye of an instructor for longer and learning more as they go through that killing zone. From there, reaching for more, reaching for a taildragger rating or a floatplane rating or a commercial rating, wherever you’re going, always trying to improve what you’re doing.
One thing that really surprises me here in the United States is that more pilots are not going for instrument ratings. There are so many VFR-only private pilots and it leads to the number one accident cause which is flight into instrument meteorological conditions which really blows my mind because it’s one of those things that I realize people kind of get themselves in traps and they might end up in the clouds but it’s one of those things, these stuff is going to happen and you’re eventually going to get in a situation where you need your instruments. You should really be seeking after that ticket and one difference that I actually know between the United Kingdom and the United States and this contributes largely to the general aviation accidents here in the United States, is that an instrument rating is not required to fly at night, and it’s really surprising because at night, I’ve had times where it’s completely pitch black and I could not see a thing. There’s this one time I was thinking…
Nick: You can go basically in IMC.
Chris: Absolutely zero reference. You have white clouds outside the aircraft right where you’re in the middle of a cloud. I’ve been in a situation and I’ve only been in this situation once and I’m sure other more experienced pilots have done it all the time, it’s no big deal to them, but I was taking off from an airport in Southern Utah, already had my instrument rating, I had plenty of instrument time, but I took off from this airport, knew that there is terrain ahead of me, technically VFR, but I took off the runway, dipped away, and it was pitch black. I could not see a thing anywhere. The air was really still as well, and so the airplane just felt like it was floating there. It was the perfect, perfect conditions for disorientation. Even though technically, we’re talking about instrument meteorological conditions, this stuff also happens at night and can be a major issue. The point here is that there is a killing zone and the way that we can get out of it is to continually train ourselves to be better and better and better and always more precise in what we’re doing and learning more. I think you and I are starting to go through similar things in our experience where I think that the season captains we talked has faced this as well is we have seen enough things now in aviation where we’re starting to realize more and more that we are vulnerable, very, very vulnerable and we’re not any different from any of these other pilots really that had been in some of these accidents and the way to minimize our risk, one of the only ways to minimize our risk is to be more cautious, to be more aware, to constantly train ourselves to be better and be in the right place at the right time, and to stop if we need to, to just stop what we’re doing and land if we have to, get out of the situation, get out of where we are and live to see another day, live to see another flight and a big reason that killing zone exists is exactly what you’re talking about, is people just kind of stop learning and as pilots, as aviators that’s what we need to do, is we just need to keep on learning.
Nick: Yeah, I think I’ve read much of that book and I think like you say is that people get experienced enough that they think they’re more experienced than they really are. They get enough hours because that’s how they base it, they get enough hours to think, to be lulled into a false sense of security and then they stop trying to learn and they then stop pushing themselves. It’s not to say that once you reach 1001 hours, you can take your service and you can fly it inverted [inaudible-01:00:53] but yeah, it’s a fantastic book and there are certain books like that that I think should be [inaudible-01:01:03] reading before going into this because it just sort of puts you in your place.
Chris: Definitely. I wished I would’ve read that book so much sooner. It does put things in perspective. I’ve been watching recently on YouTube. There are a couple of channels, I won’t say their names, but there are these, right around the 100-hour range pilots, they’re doing these videos with GoPros and things like that and it just blows my mind the incompetency and not so much incompetency from a knowledge standpoint and from controlling the aircraft. I totally see great skills there, a great foundation, but as far as cockpit chatter and not paying attention to the situations that they’re in and worrying more about what their friends they’re doing during the takeoff than actually focusing on the takeoff. I saw this one video where the pilot looked behind him to essentially tell the passengers what he was going to do while he was on the takeoff roll. It’s just one of those examples where it was like man, tell everyone in the airplane to shut up. This is your time to focus, and just go and do what you need to do. You can talk other portions of the flight but takeoff and landing, keep it sacred and keep it silent.
Nick: Actually, that’s a good rule to bring down from airline operations, sterile cockpit. I’ve had that in the real world. I remembered flying into Beacon Hill I think but it was approaching nightfall. It was getting a little bit dark and we were well within the legalities, sunset plus 30 here in UK for legal nighttime. It was a rough evening weather-wise, it was bumpy, and I was joining base to find Beacon Hill and I was getting quite overloaded and everybody was chatting away in the cockpit, I think there were four of us in the plane, and it’s amazing how much it saps your capacity when you have people talking and I did, at that point, I did just say “Guys, sterile cockpit please.” And they’re pilots as well so if they haven’t been pilots I wouldn’t have said it in that way, I would’ve said something else, but they understood. But yeah, I wonder how many of these loss of control incidents and CFITs as well have occurred with people chatting away to each other.
Chris: And it’s not so much of chatting. I’ve been guilty of that. We’re both guilty of chatting in the cockpit right? It’s good fun. It’s really great to be up. It’s just the, I guess the complacency is the beginning part of that and then the chatter. And that’s something I’ve learned more and more. I’ve been guilty of doing all of these things, of chatting during takeoff and landing and not paying attention as I should but again like I said earlier, I’ve seen enough things now through my hours, it’s like I’m not invulnerable and I really have to watch myself and make sure that as much as possible, I’m heads up, paying attention, and constantly taking in the situation while I’m flying. I think you would say the same exact thing.
Nick: Oh yeah. Complacency is a killer and yes I’ve certainly been guilty of chatting away when I shouldn’t have done.
Chris: Everyone has, I mean, you learn about those things as you go along.
Nick: But that’s not something that’s going to be acceptable in the airline world. It’s not to say it doesn’t happen. Of course, sometimes there are lapses in these things but something I’m going to have to watch of course when I’m flying passengers.
Chris: Definitely. Always. Especially, you and I are kind of people’s people right? We like to converse. We like to get to know people. We like to have a good time. In the sense, we just like to keep the conversation lively so that’s definitely a challenge for you and I too. Okay, so we kind of took a tangent here which I really like this tangent but, so you’ve finished up your training in Spain, let’s move out along for now and now, let’s kind of skip ahead because I know there’s some time in between but let’s skip ahead to you actually going through the type rating process and share what that’s like with us and what it was like for you, and then for another episode, we’ll bring you back and we’ll talk about what it was like actually flying the aircraft for the first time which I know for you was a special experience that you want to focus on. Let’s talk about the type rating while you go ahead with that subject.
Nick: Okay. I’ll just fill in a very quick blank before so people will get completely up to date. So after we finished in the Warrior, we went to the Seneca which was twin-engine piston, 220-horsepower sides, it was a much larger aircraft, very nice to fly, and at that stage, I was starting to do instrument flying as well in that aircraft so [inaudible-01:06:27] approaches, all sorts of different types of approaches, single engine work, engine failures and so on. Once you’ve done that, you do the instrument rating skills test which I did in July last year, and then you do what’s called a multicrew cooperation course, and this does sort of segway into the type rating so it’s important. This, at the school I was at, was done on a 737 NG simulator. Very, very high quality. I was absolutely undeserving there. It was one of the best times of my life.
Chris: You had a leg up on that one too.
Nick: Yeah. The last couple of months were incredible and the simulator was just absolutely crammed to the brim with all the flying that I’ve done to that date, and the MCC is 16 hours and it’s to teach you how to deal with another crew member. Up until this point, you’ve been flying single pilot in effect. Crew resource management hasn’t really been a thing. You could argue that cockpit resource management has because you’ve been managing yourself and how you conduct your flying and you conduct your paperwork and procedures and flows and chart list and so on, and you’ve been working with ATC and whoever else is part of the team, but you’ve not had another flight crew member there, and a huge part of the challenge in airline flying and the type rating, later we’re going to talk about, is how to deal with someone else. It doesn’t matter how good a people person you are and how much you can engage and get along with people, you need to be able to do all of that in a professional sense, in a standardized sense, in a sense that the other people is going to understand even if English isn’t their first language.
Chris: And going across cultural barriers, not only language barriers but…
Nick: Huge problem.
Chris: Yeah. We see that a lot recently in some of these Asian airlines where… maybe not much recently because I think a lot of it has been trained out at this point, but just in the sense that there is a very high respect for seniority in Asian culture and so a first officer questioning a captain is kind a big no-no but a lot of these airlines have trained that out by now.
Nick: There’s a certain Indonesian airline… there’s a running joke that the reason they order 77 737s is because it keeps writing them off and they just need to keep replacing it, and partly from what I have read for that sort of reason, it’s something that I don’t think has been effectively trained out of people from what I’ve read.
Chris: Not all airlines.
Nick: In many cases. In Europe, I’d like to think that it has been. Certainly in my experience, in my airline, the captains that we’ve trained with, they’ve all been exceptional. They’ve been fantastic, very nice people, very professional, very knowledgeable, and all instilling this good atmosphere in cockpit.
Chris: Definitely.
Nick: It’s very conducive to learning and to safe operation of the aircraft. Anyways, so you do 16 hours of this and then I extended it by 20 hours to do what’s called a jet orientation course which is designed to teach you about flying big jets basically. The MTC is about how to deal with other people, but in doing that, you’re not taught really how the big jets work. It’s just a people exercise really on a basic level. But the idea of a JOC is you now start to learn how to hand-fly the aircraft and deal with engine failures and stuff like that. Mixed feelings about the JOC at my school in all honesty. It was thought exceptionally well. I had one instructor all the way through except at the end, we had the skills test, it was with someone else who was equally as good. Instructions, I couldn’t have wished for better really. And I got on with a partner very well; she was fantastic. But the content of the course was extremely useful, but I don’t think there was enough emphasis on hand-flying somehow. It would’ve been nicer to look at things like that for a little bit more, say unusual altitude recoveries. I thought it was a little bit too much automation dependency there but that’s a topic for another time. Anyway, so that was 36 hours in the 737 which was fantastic, loved it, every bit of it and it was a fantastic period. And then I left Spain, came back here, I did some work for you, and I was very, very fortunate to get my first job within five or six months of leaving Spain which is tremendously fortunate for me.
Chris: Yeah, it really is.
Nick: There a lot of people who wait years and years and years, and the people who do wait years and years and years aren’t always the people who are getting drunk every night and not really giving a crap about work. There are also people who really put their heart into it and just had a hard time, and it’s not their fault. It’s just that the industry is so on its head in the moment, but I thankfully was fortunate to get a job pretty quickly.
Chris: I know you won’t say this yourself, but I want to say that you actually deserve where you are too. You have worked very hard to get where you are. I know in a certain sense you realize that, but there’s a reason why you’re in that position, a reason that airline looked to you and looked for you. I know how humble you are but there is a reason you are in that position. And you know, I guess people can take a lesson from that right? That hard work does pay off and going the extra mile pays off too in your eventual goal of becoming an airline pilot if that’s what you want to do or whatever goal you have, so I just want to interject that in there because I know you wouldn’t, but you definitely deserve to be in that position.
Nick: Well thanks Chris. That means a lot. I mean, I don’t… yeah, I like to be humble about it. I suppose though yeah, I have put a lot of work into this and really every professional decision that I’ve made in the last sixteen years probably has been going towards this, and if you look at it in the spiritual sense, I won’t reveal the name of the airline that I’ll be flying for because I don’t want to be seem to be representing anyone, but I’ll be flying the Boeing 717 which is a 125-seat in a single class configuration, narrow-body aircraft which was designed effectively by McDonnell Douglas in the early 90s and then first flew in the mid 90s and they built 156 of them, marketed as the Boeing 717, even though it’s an MD at heart, and this aircraft shares the avionic suite of the MD-11 which funny enough was first aircraft that I really learned in an in-depth sense with yourself, through introducing a product we made together. Little did I know, 5-1/2 years ago when I started flying this thing on flight sim and then when I started working with you three and a bit years ago I guess now, that I would be flying the MD-11 as an assistant. It’s just unbelievable. I’ve had pretty firm faith in myself that I’d end up flying an airliner but I didn’t for the life of me think I’d be flying a 717 of which they only built 150 of, and it just seem so improbable but here I am and I’m very, very fortunate, and however you like to look at that spiritually, I seem to have ended up my first jet being something extremely close to the MD-11 which is probably my favorite airliner of all time, so it’s a very, very nice place to be right now. I’m extremely grateful to be here and I’m putting in huge amounts of work to make sure that I stay here and that I keep moving up in the aviation world.
Chris: Right. Definitely. You know, one thing that you did all along was a lot of airline captains will get a hold of me and just share with me that they liked our training and they thought it was useful and things like that, just introducing themselves really and a lot of time you say “Hey, can I have their contact information? I like to get a hold of them.” One thing you’ve done really well is you’ve created a great network for yourself and you’ve learned from a lot of these mentors that have been in the industry and so, you realize that there are certain things that happen and certain ways you get there and certain ways you can prepare yourself not necessarily to look better for the airlines but to actually be better for the airlines and be better prepared for that situation. You’ve definitely had a good mentorship too where you’ve had a lot of these people that have helped you along the way,
Nick: Oh, networking is crucial. It really is. It’s interesting how we sort of take decisions in life and we wonder how things would’ve turned out if we’ve done things differently. I don’t where I’d be if I had not started working with you. I probably would’ve got my license but it might have been somewhere else. I wouldn’t have met the people I needed to meet to get this interview opportunity with this job. I may have not had the technical skills in terms of knowledge of the aircraft systems to have passed the simulator assessment that I passed to get a job. I may not have performed well enough in the type rating to complete this type rating, so I think everything here has happened all according to plan as a very good friend of mine says and I’m sure he listens to this and he’ll have a big smile in his face, but everything has gone very, very smoothly really and I’m tremendously grateful for that. So I left Spain. I got an interview. I got a job and I started doing a type rating. A type rating is specific training that’s done to fulfill, in my case, the Civil Aviation Authority, that I am competent and I’ve had the required training to fly a large aircraft.
Chris: Right. A specific aircraft.
Nick: That’s correct, yeah, so in this case the 717. There also type ratings for things like the 747 Classic, the 747-400, 7576, the 777, 787 combined type ratings, and all the other [inaudible-01:17:50] all grouped together into various groups that you can get a type rating for 330, 340. Type ratings can be done depending on the size of the aircraft, a period of a couple of weeks for every small one, or maybe a month for something larger like the 71, and I’m sure you can do a type rating for the 717 in a month. We did it in a little bit longer. It was Christmas and New Year, sort of got in the way, so we had a couple of weeks in the middle to get our thoughts together which was very nice actually.
So there was a period at ground school and procedures training that we did and that was fantastic. It was a really, really great experience. It was just quite interesting really to be so completely immersed in the airplane for a period of a few weeks to the point where you sort of you leave and you come back to the UK at the end and you sit down with your friends and you really don’t know what to talk about because all you can think is flat limiting speeds and all these wonderful technical information which I’m so grateful to be having crammed down my throat, but you live and you breath the 717 for so long, it’s really cool. I absolutely loved it. You sit down in the first type of this type rating in this lovely office room that was sort of briefing room and you have all these hew shiny manuals laid out in front of you and you sort of think “God, by the end of this three or four weeks, this is all going to be supposedly in my head.” The reality is, fairly a small proportion of it ends up actually going in long term. It’s all about the recurrent training, keeping your head in the manuals throughout your career, that actually cemented in there. But, just a very, very fulfilling few weeks, having assistant lessons and CBGs and so on, learning aircraft, and realizing that for the first time, I’m learning an airliner so that I can actually fly it for real. Not just for my own curiosity, not just because I love aviation. As wonderful a reason as that is, and as much I would never trade that for the world, for the first time, I was actually learning this stuff because within a few months, I was going to be sitting with passengers behind me and they’re going to be thinking “I hope this guy does know what he’s doing up there.” And you now have this newfound sense of responsibility that you know, I’m not doing this for fun anymore. As fun as it is and as much as it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, there’s also a huge aura for professionalism about it and a need to be your very best for the safety of others as much as satisfying yourself.
Chris: Time to put your big boy pants on.
Nick: That’s it, yeah. That’s right. Very, very cool. And so then, you do some training at a procedures trainer which is tremendously valuable in learning company SOPs and so on, and then you go on to the full flight simulator phase which is always 40 hours in a sim for a full flight simulator that will do. Slightly cut the nose of the 717 and put it on a [inaudible-01:21:47] wonderful, wonderful machine, tens of millions of dollars’ worth of machinery that you’re sitting in and then you start to learn how to fly the aircraft and how to manage the systems and manage failures and more sort of lessons on CRM how to deal with your colleague, how to deal with your colleague becoming incapacitated, how to deal with medical emergencies, all sorts of things. Just really, really fantastic stuff, and I can talk about that in huge depth but maybe another podcast may be best for that because this will go on all day otherwise.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. So, is there anything else you want to talk about or do you want to save for another episode?
Nick: We can just sort of dangle the carrot for everyone for the next one. The sort of the combination of the type rating is what’s called base training at the end which is getting your hands on the aircraft for the first time, doing touch and gos, basic takeoffs and landings in the real aircraft. No simulators. No fancy visuals. Just you and the jet. And that’s what… whenever you have sort of down moment when you’re along this path to become a commercial pilot, there are going to be downsides. There are going to be, whatever it is, just having a bad day or you have a bad flight [inaudible-01:23:29] into it a little bit, or you have some personal issues going on that sometimes it just gets to you and you start to maybe doubt “Why am I doing this? Why am in this god-forsaken place in the middle of Spain? Why can’t I escape? What am I doing?” You close your eyes and you see yourself, let’s start in the runway and you’ve pushed the throttles up and you’re sitting at about 40% and one and you’re sort of inching your fingers towards the TO/GA button and you’re dreaming of that moment where the captain says you have control.
Chris: Gives me the chills. That’s awesome.
Nick: Yeah, and it gave me the chills and it still does. And then one day, you finish your type rating and you go the aircraft and sit in that sit and you strap yourself in, and it happens.
Chris: Wow.
Nick: And it’s mind-blowing, and it was a real… it was a very emotional experience for me on many levels and I was choking a bit on that downwind that I got for the first circuit, and completely coherent in flying aircraft. I wasn’t sort of…
Chris: Trying to see the final [inaudible-01:24:52] of your tears.
Nick: Yeah, that’s right. Having windscreen wipers on my eyelids. No, no. Completely sensible stuff but you’re fulfilling a childhood dream and it’s a tremendously special thing but I think we’ll save that for next time because that’s really a subject of its own, it’s very dear to me so I’ll be babbling about it forever.
Chris: Yeah, and you’ll never forget that ever. I mean, it’s the crowning moment in your career and it might always be. It might just be that one thing that that’s when you made that transition. That’s when you came over to jets and that will be your career now.
Nick: It’s not that I won’t go back to the smaller things.
Chris: Yeah of course. There’s the nostalgia about it that you can’t get anywhere else, that’s for sure.
Nick: Yeah, it’s wonderful. GA flying will always be very close to my heart.
Chris: Yeah, me too. Alright man, well this was a very, very enjoyable interview. Also very informative. I know people will get a lot out of this. Anything you want to say before we sign off?
Nick: I don’t think so, other than thank you for having me along. Sorry, it’s already been so long since we hosted podcast together, with my first break but it’s very nice to be back, and I look forward to more.
Chris: You’re in a completely new space and I’m really proud of all that you’ve done. You definitely deserve it.
Nick: Thanks. Well, you’re a huge part of it and I mean that.
Chris: Thanks. Appreciate it. Alright guys. Well, we’ll have Nick back for another episode and he will share with us kind of the rest of this, so we’re going to leave this on the cliff for now and we are going to come back next time and have him share with us what it was like to fly a jet for the first time. So, I’ll close out the show now, and we will talk to you guys next time.
Now, I don’t know about you but I really enjoyed talking to Nick. I hope you guys enjoyed listening to it as much as I enjoyed being a part of it. Nick is such a top-notch guy. You can tell that he’s worked really hard to get where he is today in his aviation career, and it’s quite an inspirational story to see how much or rather how far he’s come from being a simulator enthusiast as a young boy to where he’s now, an airline pilot. I’m really looking forward to our next interview with Nick where we’ll learn more about what it was like to fly a jet for the first time, and that should just be an absolutely fantastic episode. I think this episode really sets itself apart as well as one of the better episodes of AviatorCast that we’ve had so far, so big thanks to Nick. If you guys would like to share your expression of gratitude for him, feel free to do that in the comments on the website or even in a review here on AviatorCast or through iTunes or another provider.
So, some credits for this, other than the great credit that goes to Nick for taking time with us today, is the music for this episode was provided by Atrosolis. You can download this aviation-themed album for free by liking Atrosolis on Facebook. A lot of thanks also goes to the Angle of Attack crew. Nick was a part of the Angle of Attack crew for quite a while and even just recently with our 777 training, Nick is such a top-notch guy. We have a lot of other great, great individuals with us at Angle of Attack, and they deserve a lot of credit for what they do to keep things running behind the scenes while you and I get to partake in great things like AviatorCast.
If you have questions or you have a private comment about the show or a topic you’d like to see covered, please feel free to get in touch. Simply get a hold of me at me@aviatorcast.com and it will go straight to my mail inbox. Also, if you would and you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes, leave an honest review. That would go a long way to share with others that this is just a great podcast and will also help us improve the show, so we’d love to hear your honest review on iTunes. Really easy to do. Just go ahead and head over to the show on the iTunes store and you’ll be able to do it there.
We also send out email updates each time we pose an episode of AviatorCast which is released every Friday night or Saturday morning at zero Zulu. Make sure to sign up at AviatorCast.com if you want to be notified by email and last certainly but not the least, you can check out some of our training products here at Angle of Attack. Start with the basics for free with Aviator90. Learn instrument procedures with AviatorPro, or even fly many of the world’s most popular jets virtually with our training products for the 737, 747, 777 and MD-11. Learn more about all of these products over at flyaoamedia.com.
Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. It was an absolute to have Nick Collett on board and I just can’t say enough about what I think of this wonderful individual. We are truly grateful to have you here, part of our community and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things.
Until next time, throttle on!


This entry has 15 replies

This is BRILLIANT! Really enjoyed the story and the sim/reality parallels. Very inspiring success story. Both of you.

Thanks for a great podcast. Best of luck and congratulations in all your future endeavors.

Great session. Many listeners have likely spent hours with Nick Collett in his excellent MD-11, 737NG or 777 training videos. So this was like catching up with an old friend. Everyone admires his relaxed but highly disciplined flying style, and it was interesting to hear how he acquired it. You both made some great points about the difference between flying a sim and a real aircraft, and that safety requires an attitude that there are always new and important lessons to be learned.

Thanks! I really felt this was one of the better episodes. I really enjoyed it thoroughly. Looking forward to more interviews, not only with Nick, but others!

You’ll be surprised with some of the people I have lined up!

Chris, are there any videos/tutorials that discuss the airliner’s
radar, transponder, ETL, ACARS and/or other radar systems? In light of
this is missing Malaysian Airliner (MH370, 9M-MRO), a lot has been said
regarding these “tracking” systems and frankly I’m not sure if I truly
understand how they work, when they work or how they normally help in
incidents like this. (I’m not asking for any information relating to how
this incident has occurred, given that it’s way too early for that.
Just interested in the general scope of the system’s functionality.)

Because a lot of these systems aren’t modeled in flight simulator (there’s no point for an ACARS, as there’s no company to communicate with on the other end) we don’t generally train on these items.

That said, one of the best places to go is Just Planes. You see pilots using these systems extensively in those videos.

Also, the FCOM that comes with the PMDG aircraft also has information on this.

Thanks Chris, that makes a lot of sense. AOA has done such a fabulous
job with all of its tutorials and explanations. Frankly, I’ve learned a
lot by the videos and tutorials you’ve produced here – so glad to be a
member. Can I suggest/encourage you to do one on such a topic – despite
it not being all that relevant for sim purposes, it’s just one of those
topics that I believe really provides a few pieces to the puzzle. Maybe a
basic/nut shell version of a vid tutorial. I know it would help a lot
of aviators out there…. =) Appreciate all your hard work. I
couldn’t imagine managing a ship like the one you’re managing. Lol

Sure, what’s the topic you’re thinking of? Always up for suggestions!

Oh. Lol. Well, one that discusses radar, transponders, and the like. It could be my naivety in thinking that it would be an easy 45 minute video. But that’s just my simple thinking.

That’s a great idea, especially in the light of recent events.

Awesome show Chris. I just found your podcast a couple of weeks ago. Always loved FS Break but where FS Break got the plane on the runway, you took it off and soared. Thanks for this new podcast. Keep up the great work. Will not miss another episode.

Really glad to hear! Trying to improve as we go along. Wanting to make it better and better! Thanks!

The largest growth area in Commercial Aviation is the Regional Airline.
Bombardier can’t keep-up with the orders.Delta 40 0n order with 30 ops/ American Eagle 40/35
SkyWest is one of their big customer.

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