Blake Neale is an ASP ambassador based in Scotland. He is enrolled on the BSc Hons Professional Aviation Pilots Practice degree program with Tayside Aviation Dundee. We asked him a few questions about his experiences of studying to become a pilot:
What does your average day involve?
The first stage of the Tayside Aviation pilot’s degree predominantly involves theoretical work.
The theoretical content of the course at this stage requires the candidate to complete 14 ATPL exams (Airline Transportation Pilots Licence). My conventional day at Tayside consists of finding a quiet space to study, and simply cracking on with the theoretical knowledge.
Since the course is distance learning based, we are given the material and are expected to self-study. Unlike me, a lot of my course colleagues don’t actually live in the Dundee area or even in the country. Living in a town so close to Dundee really does have its benefits, as I can spend my breaks walking through the airfield and connecting with the physical aspect.
Whether it be going for a flight or practising scans in the simulator, I always have a way to take a break from the intense theory. During our exam stage, we are also expected to complete a certain portion of our experience building hours, flying to different airfields with fellow students to build real-world experience. This is also a nice way to remind yourself why you started the course and keep motivated to push through the incredible amount of theory.
What’s your favourite part of the course?
Acquiring enough ability and skill to rent out an aircraft from Tayside and fly up and down the UK. It’s satisfying to grow the kind of confidence needed to push yourself and conquer challenging situations like poor weather, and navigating heavy commercial traffic and airspace. It allows me to develop a far better awareness of safety and to fine tune my decision-making skills.
The last major trip I undertook was a ferry flight favour, for Jim (MD) of Tayside Aviation. A colleague from my course and I took a PA28 warrior to Cumbernauld to pick up our passenger and then set off through Glasgow Airspace, down the west coast through Blackpool and Manchester, to eventually land in Gloucestershire. We swapped the aircraft from a partner flying school and flew the replacement back up to Dundee.
What about your course would surprise someone who isn’t in aviation?
I think the most surprising thing is just how much information is involved and how much needs to be learnt. As pilots studying for the ATPL exams, we need to study everything from human biology/human psychology to international satellites and where they are positioned.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a pilot?
Be sure of the decision you are making, after all it is a big life investment involving money, blood, sweat, and tears. Somebody who wants to work with aircraft or in aviation needs to have a lot of passion.
For anyone who is too young to start training officially, I recommend you go to your local flying school and help out, talk to people and make friends. This is what I had done at the age of 13, attending Tayside to make professional connections and be helpful. When I was a little older, I was given a part time job on the operations desk, this has led to me having an amazing relationship with all staff at Tayside Aviation and I have met a lot of important people associated with the company.
Where is your favourite destination to fly to?
It depends on a lot of things. I like flying to big airports like Newcastle because that allows you to mix with heavy traffic and improve your radiotelephony skills by challenging you with complex airspace. For example, a fellow student and I flew to Newcastle in a single engine piper for fun and experience. Waiting for us to land at the runway entry holding point was an Emirates Boeing 777. We flew right past it and touched down on the ILS touchdown markers. As we vacated the runway he rocketed off behind us with his GE90’S bound for Dubai, which was an incredible first taste of heavy commercial airliners.
The smaller airfields can also be the more fun ones to land at as they can be the more physically challenging. For example, Eshott (just north of Newcastle) has one of the shortest and thinnest runways I have seen. I went there acting as pilot in command with two pilots on board. It was a nice day but a little gusty. In the end I made the decision to not land after 3 attempts on the 550metre runway and had plenty fuel to divert back to Dundee. The gusts were blowing me too much off the runway centreline and with a width of about a car sized single road; I wasn’t going to attempt one more time. I felt confident that I made the correct decision. This degree has given me skills and judgement to rely on and which make me a highly competent aviator.