This is it. First time flying the airbus A320!
Well it was a 319 but it’s the same thing flying wise. To validate our type rating we have to fly the real aircraft and do at least 6 take off and 6 landings; it is called touch and go. We won’t stop the aircraft once on the runway, we will just maintain the center line while the captain will configure the aircraft for take off straight away, then full power and let’s go again! Depending how you’re doing you can do some more but nothing to worry about as you’re here to learn.
It’s also the first time I’m going to put my uniform and I have to admit I’m proud of it! We were 11 for the base training + 2 captains and 1 senior first officer as safety pilot. Our base training was scheduled on 2 days; one of the captain will fly the aircraft with the safety pilot to an airport where the weather is good enough for us to do our circuits. Then, approaching the TOD (Top of Descent), the safety pilot will move to the jumpseat and the first cadet will seat in the right hand seat, start the descent and do his circuits. It takes around 1 hour or so for one cadet to do 6 circuits; we were 11! As soon as you’re done, you go seat in the cabin and wait; it’s long, can be bumpy and uncomfortable, but you are with other cadets and you see the aircraft for the first time so it’s all about excitement and fun.
We have to report at 0730 local time in Bristol airport. As we arrived the captains welcomed us and started their briefing. Their first words: “today is probably going to be the best day of your career and you will remember it, so enjoy! And if you didn’t, it means that we haven’t done our job correctly.”
We all had a big smile on our face even though there was a bit of pressure. After all we were used to fly single engine piston of 1T and now it was a jet aircraft of 60T…!
We had to decide the order of passage for every pilots, I was number 4. We were heading for Shannon from Bristol. Not a long flight, around 30-45 minutes if I remember well.
During the small cruise we were all moving everywhere into the aircraft, touching everything (they told us during the briefing that it was going to be our aircraft for many years so we better start getting to know it and not hesitate to touch and try everything in it). We were going in the cockpit and seeing for the first time what it was like from the front. Beautiful landscapes, clouds, aircrafts passing just above us at high speed; magical.
The night before we had a deal between all of us; the one that would do the worst landing would have to pay a beer to all of us. On the very first attempt of the day, it was a go around. We looked at each other and were like ‘wow that is going to be a long and challenging day’. We learned later on that it was due to weather.
After 3 hours or so it was my time to go, I was calm and ready. I sat down, strapped in and adjusted my seat. The captain gave me a briefing and then told me to taxi the aircraft. There was a nice US Air Force C5 Galaxy unloading helicopters. Didn’t have that much time to look at it as I was focus to do a good taxiing.
I lined up on the runway and it was time to set the take off thrust. My rotation rate was good, started my right turn to join the downwind. A few minutes later I was on final fully configured to land. As we are flying under VFR rules (Visual Flight Rules) we didn’t use the FD nor the ILS (it was tuned though, so we could monitor the glide slope); we used the ‘bird’ to adjust our flight path; it’s a fantastic tool!
The bird is the small green circle with the adjacent bars
My descent was good, I went a bit under the 3° glide at the very end, heard the 50, 40, 30 , retard calls, did the flare while closing the thrust and landed in the touchdown zone. It was not a kiss landing but it was the good technique and it wasn’t a firm landing so that’s ok. Of course my goal was to do the best landing possible so I wanted to do better, smoother for the next one. During one circuit I had to hold due to a landing traffic so I did one orbit (360° turn), and during one approach, I was following another traffic inbound to land and the controller told us to continue and to expect a late clearance. We were approaching and the aircraft was still on the runway, taking his time to vacate so the controller told us to go around. The captain was nice and told me in a calm voice that I will do it myself so I said “Go Around Flaps” and initiate the go around. It was cool for my first time flying the aircraft to do this kind of maneuver. Overall I improved all of my landings; and the 2 last ones were really good and so smooth. I was happy with my performance (and I knew I wouldn’t have to pay the beers already :D).
My one hour flight where you can clearly see my orbit to the left.
As soon as I did my final landing the first feeling I had was frustration. Indeed, it was too quick! I flew for one hour but I would have loved to continue; I wanted to land again and again!! I loved this flight it was so unique. It reminded me when I was doing some circuits pattern in my Robin DR400 of 120 horse power. In fact in my mind it was like if I was flying my small single engine again; anyway I really enjoyed it!
The funny part was over for me now, I had to wait for the others. Two more cadets flew after me and we came back to Bristol, it was the end of the first day. Of course that night we celebrated and had a beer for the one that flew already. The others were a bit frustrated as they didn’t fly but there was a good atmosphere and we were all happy anyway.
The second day we went to Dresden in Germany as the weather was bad in UK and North of France. Dresden was further away, it was around 2 hours so we knew the day was going to be very long. We arrived quite early over there and stayed the whole day; around 8 hours flying over the city. It’s a small airport which is not use to this, that’s why there were 2 articles written about us:
It was two long but really funny days. We all enjoyed it and we all succeed which is the most important. That was the very end of the type rating as I was now officially qualified on the Airbus A320 family. The next step now is a real flight with around 180 passengers seated in the back!