a Pilot Diary – Chapter III

This week I asked you on my Instagram @pilotmaria what subject you’d like me to focus on writing this week’s a Pilots Diary and the winning one is ‘motivation’ and motivation during flight training.

Of course it was difficult to keep motivation through flight school, I think that happen to everyone, right? After months of training, being stuck with my books 12 hours a day, repeatedly saying no to friends that asked if I wanted to come out for a coffee a drink or just hang out, I started wondering if they would still be there after I finish my training or if they’d given up on me. Eating fast energy foods, sugar and drinking energy drinks to stay awake rather than taking care of myself, didn’t help either, it might sound like an excuse but I didn’t even have time to hit the gym or go running that I normally love doing. 

In flight school we had tests every Monday, or let’s call them a small school exams to double check that everybody had understood what we went through the previous week. I usually spent all weekend studying for Monday’s exam. One weekend I had something that I had to do and I wasn’t able to study like I normally did. That Monday I was the only one who failed the exam, it was my first fail, luckily it was only a test for school and not the “real exam” but that didn’t help leaving me feeling down and embarrassed towards my classmates. That was ´Principle of Flights´and little did I know that POF would come to be my favorite subject. After I failed, it was like a kick in my butt to work harder, don’t get me wrong, I don’t recommend anyone to fail just to get motivated, but don’t be to upset if you do, don’t lose motivation just because you fail one test, it can happen to anyone. I put in that extra work on ‘Principle of Flights’ used Google when there was something I didn’t understand and where I felt that my Oxford books didn’t explain enough so that I could understand. One day it was like everything fell into place. I finished Principle of Flight with a 100 % score on my ATPL exams, and it was not 100 % because I “knew” the questions, it was 100 % because I understood the answers!

Day 1 Day 1 was my simulator check ride. I really, really do not like to go to the simulator! I don’t know what it is, the simulators are incredibly realistic, you could basically be in a real airplane and not knowing the difference, but there’s something missing, the simulators are placed in a dark hangar somewhere. Dark when you enter ‘the panic box’ and you won’t see natural sunlight for the next 6 hours. That is not at all what I associate flying with, for me flying is blue skies above the clouds, total freedom. Add that everything that you do is being judged by a third pilot, a TRE, sitting in the back watching your every move doesn’t help.

I love learning so at least that is good, and I agree that it is important that we practice scenarios that we would normally, knock on wood, never have to experience in real life, but if we do, we have to make sure that we are prepared for them and that is what we practice in the simulator. 

The check went well and I am fit to fly for another six months, until my next check in February. In addition to two simulators a year we also have one safety course and one Line Check where a third pilot sit with us in the cockpit to see how we comply and follow SOPs and other feedback that she or he might have.

Motivation during simulator studying this time has been low. Normally I would start studying at least two weeks before my check. We have online CBT and online tests that we have to take. But this year is my first summer back in Sweden and even if I tried to study, it’s been difficult when I much rather catch up with friends and family I’ve not seen in years.

Day 2 Check in at midday and no need for an alarm today, yes! I was a standby day, standby means that you’re working but you don’t have an assigned flight yet, if someone else calls in sick or for any other reason can’t fly you have to be within an hour from the airport ready to go. I already knew from a notification emailed to me yesterday that I would fly. I was flying to Castellón in Spain and back to London. An easy two sector day with a report time of 12:30 Zulu (Pilots do all our times in Zulu) 13:30 local time.

I flew with a super nice Captain and we had a great day! I’ve never been to Castellón before, this one of the reasons why I love operating from Stansted, and why I asked for a transfer there, every week I get to go to new destinations that I have never been to before, it’s great for my experience and also fun – we grow by challenge oneself. Castellón is small airports in the South of Spain where you land and you get first class VIP treatment because you are the only one there. Hearing VFR traffic on the radio reminded me of me flying small single-engine airplanes in Gothenburg, Säve. That’s where I did most of my flight training and I remember flying the traffic circuits practicing take off and landings, as soon as any of the airlines checked in on the frequency we were instructed to pick up a hold and wait until after they had landed. This was my motivation back in flight training, I used to think and dream about that one day it would be me checking in from a Boeing 737 or similar sized aircraft. Today I try to think back on moments like this, to not take anything for granted, what I have today was what I one day a dreamt about having.

Day 3 Midday check in again and a departure time of 14:20 local London time. Amazing day, gosh I must sound annoyingly positive, I’m sorry I’m sure there will be rainy gray miserable days too, the weather has just been too sunny in all Europe lately for me to be anything else than happy. We flew the newest airplane in the fleet, less than 2 months old, still smelling fresh and clean, the kind of smell you get from a car that just left the factory. I flew with an experienced Captain bosting my self confidence when I landed from the  3.4 degrees ILS slope, 2000 meters short runway, 63 tons heavy airplane, landing with 5 tons of fuel left from our tankering sector and the Captain complimenting me on my landing, or his words were ‘I’m sure that our Chief Pilot would have been very happy with that’ 😆 *diva comment 😆 It is important for our motivation and self-confidence to get compliments from time to time when doing something good. Too often we focus on what we, and others are doing wrong that we forget to give each other positive feedback.

Day 4 I’ve been lucky this week, another later than normal check-in time, my alarm woke me up at 06:35. It makes a huge difference for me to get up 6- something rather than 4- something or in worst case 3- something! I’m not human when my alarm wakes me up before 4 in the morning and I apologize in advance if I’ve been a bi*ch towards anyone at this sleepy time. Another two sector day Porto in Portugal and back. Not much to say about this day, very standard, we had an aircraft change in Porto, our 400 something aircraft rotates around the network, sometimes we bring them back to Stansted that is a big maintenance base.

Day 5 and Go Home Day! I love my job, I wouldn’t change it for the world but I also value my off days, who can relate? These off days I have a trip to Croatia planned together with @gopro so I was kind of excited to get home, to say the least!

It was the earliest check in this week, check in at 06:50 am and my alarm woke me up at 4:20 am. It was a long, almost 12 hours four sector day planned ahead to Billund in Denmark and Rzeszow in Poland. After pushback when running our ‘Before Taxi’ check a master caution light ‘AIR CON’ came on and an amber ‘Zone Temp’ light was illuminated, we read and completed our QRH checklist ‘Zone Temp’ That advices us to cool down affected zone temperature, the light extinguished but came back on again, since we were still on the ground with engineers available we contacted them, pulled back to stand, they came onboard, run some checks and fixed the fault and we were ready to go again, it cost us a 20 minutes delay, we managed to get some of the time back having tailwind helping us to Billund and we landed with just a few minutes behind schedule. It was my sector to fly back to London and I set up a Bampi 3A departure suggested from our flight plans. I also flew the third sector, to Rzeszow and we were lucky arriving just before forecasted thunderstorms rolled in. Made it back to London and I had two hours until my flight home to Gothenburg, Sweden. I was almost sleep walking when my mum picked me up from the airport in Gothenburg, it takes me a day to recover after a block, five days of work, so I was glad that I had nothing planned the next day and my mum and I spent it by the beach and in the evening watching four episodes in a row of ‘The Bridge’ what a great series, can’t believe that I just now started watching it. No spoilers, please!

Thank you for reading! As always, leave your comments here or on my Instagram @pilotmaria I’m here for you and I appreciate all the feedback and let me know what you’d like me to focus on next week.




SOP – Standard Operating Procedures. Every airline company has their own SOP written with the manufacturer on how we work out the operation in the safest and efficient way.

CBT – Computer Based Training

Zulu time – “Pilot time” Zulu never change, meaning you don’t summertime correct Zulu. Right now, summertime London is Zulu plus one but in the winter Zulu and London have the exact same time. Flying east from Zulu is ‘Zulu minus’ and flying west from Zulu is ‘Zulu plus’

VFR – Visual Flight Rules meaning you fly with visual references, normally what you would do flying in a small two or four seat single-engine airplane, like a Cessna 172.

Tankering – sometimes we carry extra fuel for reason that it is cheaper in one place than another. We don’t calculate this our selves, it is all planned and given to us on our flight plans.

QRH –  Checklist telling us what to do in different scenarios. Some checklists have ‘memory items’ that we have to know by heart. Zone temp does not, it’s not a fault that requires immediate action and we could without stress open and read the checklist.


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