Living with his head in the clouds

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Adam Donaldson is one young and ambitious man from the UK who had a dream once to become a pilot. He decided to follow his dream all the way to New Zealand, where he is currently training to become one.

But is it as easy as jumping into a plane and flying? We have the inside scoop.

Preparation as precise as a Swiss watch

It’s most certainly not as easy for Adam to turn up at a certain hour at the airport, jump into a plane, fly around the place for a couple of hours and call it a day.

Training to become a pilot and a good one at that requires years of hard core training. And for good reason. Pilots belong amongst the most trusted professions on the planet.

Adam explains: “Each afternoon, around 4.00 PM, we are given our schedule for the following day. This is done in such a way to take into account last minute changes to the training plan due to weather, flight irregularities, aircraft maintenance, and any other ad hoc issues which can arise.”

Early nights for future pilots

Partying or staying up late is not really an option when it comes to training as a pilot. The day’s training kicks off bright and early. So it makes sense to be as fresh and alert as possible. Precisely anywhere between 7.00 AM till 7.30 AM depending on the schedule of everyone’s flight times. Before the exciting flying happens, there is a ‘mass brief’, which is basically a lecture on the up and coming training objectives.

The rest of the day then revolves very closely around the flight times.

The ‘mass brief’ can last up to 2 hours. Everyone’s flight schedule tends to happen right after.

Adam says: “Obviously it is best to work and plan your day so that your peak performance is during the time you are due to fly. Flight lengths also vary, depending on which lesson you are due to complete. Usually they last between 1 and 2.5 hours, and you can be scheduled in up to 2 flights a day.”

After the long detailed mass briefing session, and depending on everyone’s flight time, the students can either go home for a while or if they are scheduled to fly soon after, they need to start working on their flight plans. The length of such prep depends on whether it will be a solo flight or a navigation flight.  This can take at least an hour and a half, often longer.

Why so long? Well, put simply, lots of things need to be taken into account. The students need to check the weather conditions, do some calculations of mass and balance for a specific plane they are scheduled to fly in, performance calculations for takeoff and landing, and plan for sufficient fuel usage.

The planning gets even more complex with navigation flights. There the students need to complete further calculations such as wind, speed, drift and headings. Hats off to these guys.

Flying sky high

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Just when you thought the checks and calculations are over, there is more work to be done. As the flight nears closer the student scheduled to fly needs to complete a so called ‘pre flight inspection’. This is to ensure the aircraft is safe and there is sufficient fuel and oil. If not, the student needs to top up. The duration of the flights can vary. Anything from 1 hour till as long as 2 and a half hours.

Even during the flight the students have certain criteria they have to follow and meet. They are very different depending on which part of the course the students are currently in. Adam adds: “The flight objectives normally fit in either the general handling or navigation category.”

Post flight must do’s

After each flight’s over, it’s not yet home-time.

The teacher gives each student a de-brief and makes sure the flight is logged. After this ‘paperwork’ is over it is finally home time. Unless of course the student has another flight later on. In that case the planning and calculating begins all over again.

Fun times below the clouds

This schedule sounds so incredibly busy that all the students want after coming home is to crash straight into bed. Strangely this isn’t the case at all. Adam explains: “We’rstiahnuť (25)e in New Zealand. So there is a lot of exploring and seeing as much of the country as we can.”

They however cannot go very far as they have to assume that they will be scheduled to fly the next day.

Generally speaking though, Adam and others spend their time exercising in the gym or playing football or just hanging out with friends over a nice cold beer.


Adam assures us that even though the schedule can seem extremely busy, this is not the case.

The students have plenty of downtime from their busy schedule at school.

They must be prepared to be scheduled for flying 6 days per week but this rarely happens.

The bottom line

Thanks to Adam we now know that becoming a pilot ain’t easy. It requires strong personality traits, such as  perseverance, confidence and a whole lot of trust. We got to see first hand what it is like to become a pilot and all the time and effort it takes. No wonder, pilots are among the most trusted professions on earth.


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