If you’ve decided to pursue your life-long dream of becoming a pilot, you’re probably excited or anxious about your first day in flight school. It can be thrilling to know that you’re one step closer to your goal while feeling a bit nervous about the new experiences you’re about to undertake. To shake off those first-day jittery feelings, make sure to get yourself ready by reading up as much as you can about your chosen career path.
Whether you want to become a private pilot or a commercial airline pilot, there are some things that you can do to ensure that you have an easier time adjusting to training. From completing essential requirements to learning more about the aviation industry, here are ways you can prepare yourself for pilot training.
Consider Riding along with Other Pilots
One way you can prepare for pilot school is to ask other pilots if you can take a discovery flight with them. Also known as an orientation flight, it’s when you go on an instructional demonstration flight for around 30 minutes to an hour with a certified flight instructor. A discovery flight is similar to shadowing, where an individual accompanies a professional to their workplace to find out what it’s like to work in a specific industry. It’s also possible to use flight simulators to take an orientation flight with a veteran pilot.
During a discovery flight, you can ask the instructor questions about flight training and the aviation industry. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the profession and find out what particular career path would suit you best.
Typically, flight schools offer this introductory flight to promote their other pilot courses. Also, it’s recommended for young students who are interested in flying and want to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the cockpit. When it comes to the fee of the discovery flight, it will depend on the school and aircraft you’ll be using. The usual aircraft used in a discovery flight is a Cessna 152 or a Cessna 172, but it’s best to inquire with the flight school on what they intend to use.
Get a Medical Certificate
Before you begin your pilot training, you’ll be required to get a medical certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). This is to ensure you’re fit to fly. A medical certificate is also a requirement for many flight programs and courses in the country.
There are two types of medical certificates that pilots are issued, and they will depend on the kind of license you’ll need in your aviation career. If you need a student or private pilot license, you’ll need a Class 2 medical certificate. On the other hand, a Class 1 medical certificate is required for commercial pilot and airline transport pilot licenses.
To get any of the two medical certificates, you must be assessed by the CAAP’s Aviation Medical Examiner. They’ll come up with a report based on the results from your different medical tests including:
- Vision test (color blind test, depth perception test, and Snellen chart)
- Audiometry or pure-tone test
- Drug test
- Dental exam
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Complete blood count
- Chest x-ray
Take a Pilot Aptitude Test
A pilot aptitude test is a series of diagnostic exams that airline companies and flight schools administer to gauge a person’s skills and aptitude in becoming a pilot. This test is basically divided into three categories: knowledge tests, aptitude tests, and behavioral tests. Knowledge tests will quiz a person’s understanding various subjects such as Math, Physics and English. Aptitude tests, on the other hand, will test an individual’s ability to multi-task as well as their coordination and motor skills. Lastly, behavioral tests look at the personality, motivations, and preferences of the candidate and see how they respond to specific situations. An aptitude test usually includes a variety of tests from these three categories and are ultimately designed to see if a person has what it takes to succeed in their chosen career as a pilot.
Be Proficient in the English Language
Radio communication is necessary for flying safely. Since English is the international language used in aviation, all aspiring Filipino pilots are trained to speak and understand the language well. This way, they can efficiently communicate using the aircraft radio. Also, to qualify as a commercial or airline transport pilot, you’ll need to have at least a Level 4 English language proficiency.
So, you need to make sure you’re adept with the language. Otherwise, you’ll have a difficult time following the directions from the Air Traffic Control. Aside from communicating, mastering the English language is also necessary when you need to accomplish required documents before each flight as all these are written in English.
Learn the Phonetic Alphabet
Apart from the English language, you must also learn and memorize the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet. It is also commonly known as the NATO phonetic alphabet or ICAO spelling alphabet and is the international standard. This alphabet is composed of a series of codewords assigned to each letter of the English alphabet. The names for the letters and numbers are made to sound distinct so they can easily be understood by anyone communicating via voice messages, including radio and telephone communication, regardless of the language differences or quality of connection.
When learning the corresponding name of each number, be mindful of the special pronunciations such as three is pronounced as tree, five as fife, and nine as niner. If you want to quickly learn the NATO phonetic alphabet, you can practice spelling out license plates of street names as you pass by them. So if you see a license plate with AYG-4679, you must be able to read it as Alfa-Yankee-Golf-Four-Six-Seven-Niner.
Reach Out to Other Pilots You Know
Take the time to talk to other pilots you may know like friends or relatives. Ask them for any recommendations to best get started. Also, learn about their experiences and see what their career track was like. If you don’t know anyone who is a pilot, seek the help of your friends or the flight school you’ll be attending. Perhaps, they can help connect you with an alumnus who’s willing to talk about their career and share some valuable advice.
Before you begin your first day in pilot school, it’s always a good idea to prepare ahead of time. This can include doing your research about the profession as well as accomplishing the necessary requirements. By getting yourself ready, you’ll be able to focus better on your training and be more certain about the career path you want to take in the aviation industry.