Actually, I didn’t eat any Edam whilst staying next to Schipol airport (EHAM). Although, every time I read the letters EHAM, when I was programming the FMGS in the sim, I secretly wished it was EDAM.
The last 6 weeks have been an adventure and it all started with a phone call one early September Friday morning. I had my head buried in a print out of a large spreadsheet, busy cross checking the data, when I saw the screen of my phone flash… someone was calling me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer but I could see ‘Luton, England’ written underneath the number and was pretty sure I knew who was calling…
I went to see my boss and asked if I could pop outside and return the call. A short while later I was back in her office asking if today could be my last day because I’d been asked if I could start my Type Rating for the A320 on Monday! Luckily, she was very supportive and said I could go. I was delighted by the news. The rest of the day was spent balancing the tasks I had to finish off at work and making all the arrangements for the LMC (last minute change) to my Type Rating date. Those helping me were fantastic and we managed to get everything arranged by the end of the working day.
Soon, I found myself walking up to the departures floor at Gatwick’s North Terminal experiencing easyJet’s auto bag drop for the very first time. I was impressed with it. It was easy and took me about a minute to complete the tasks on the screen. Very efficient! I then said goodbye to my parents and off I went to the departure lounge, a place where I have spent a lot of time over the years of my skiing career. My flight to Schiphol was due to leave from Gate 57 and I made my way over there once it appeared on the board. I was one of the first to get there and sat down near the gate. The fact I was off to finally start my Type Rating started to sink in and I couldn’t hide my excitement, which grew when I saw some flight crew arrive at the gate. One of them was a female First Officer and I just sat there thinking ‘that’s going to be me…. I can’t believe that’s going to be me!’
Once at Schiphol, I followed the signs to the hotel shuttle buses. Luckily one of the easyJet staff kindly advised me to look out for the orange bus…I was a little surprised to discover this one was missing a pair of wings, two jet engines, landing gear and an APU! I checked into the hotel and was ready to begin the next chapter in my pilot training at CAE Amsterdam.
The first two and a half weeks were very busy filled with many hours of Computer Based Training where I learnt about all the systems of the A320 and learning the Standard Operating Procedures. This phase finished with a technical exam, similar to EASA Theoretical Knowledge exams. We all passed and were ready to begin the sims the following Monday. Type Rating was my first experience of a full motion simulator, and I have to say it’s pretty amazing!
Although Type Rating was very busy and I worked hard, I did manage to find the time to explore the area a little (and opened the Health app on my phone for the first time to discover it counts your steps)! I spent most of the lunch times on my days off at Schiphol airport and became a regular customer at the La Place restaurant in the Plaza. Their sandwiches were very yummy and the smoothies were lovely. I also spent a fair amount of time up on the panoramic terrace where there just happens to be a plane on the roof! I found it interesting just standing there watching the ground and flight crew do a turn around because I’ve never actually taken the opportunity to just observe all the work that goes on.
At the beginning of October, my parents came out to visit me one weekend and we walked around Amsterdam. We started the day with a boat tour round all the canals. This is probably one of the better ways to see all the city as it is relaxing and with a good tour guide, you learn a fair amount. The innovation and infrastructure on which Amsterdam was built is very impressive. I found it fascinating. My favourite story the guide told us was about how at the end of their studies, the students throw their bikes in the canals as part of their celebrations and the bikes are later fished out, cleaned up and sold to the new generation of students….recycling in a very literal sense! Upon completion of the boat tour, it had unfortunately started raining. Nonetheless, we continued exploring the city and we came across a rubber duck shop which had an incredible assortment of ducks…you name it, it was there!! Of course, I couldn’t resist getting the airline pilot rubber duck! Additionally, I think we went into almost every cheese shop along the Tulip Market street! Something very cheesy going on around there… In between two cheese shops was a little pancake cafe where we stopped to have lunch. You can’t go to Holland without having a pancake! Our day finished with an evening meal in an Indonesian restaurant. I think it was possibly one of the best meals I have ever had. The flavours were delicious and unlike anything I have had before.
Being abroad for 6 weeks meant I eventually had to find somewhere to do my laundry and I ended up making a fair number of trips to a place called Haarlem to the North West of Schiphol airport. Whilst I liked Amsterdam, I preferred Haarlem as it’s a lot less touristy but still has the traditional, historic Dutch architecture. There are also many parks and a beautiful canal walk just the other side of the train station, hidden behind some buildings. As the weeks went by, Autumn set in and the leaves turned a deep orange, which was beautiful set against the still canal water. Haarlem has many great places to eat with a wide variety of food on offer. My favourite was a pancake place just up the road from the train station. Asides my usual pancake preference of Nutella, I gave the Hosin Duck one a try and it was a good choice!
To the west of Haarlem is a place called Zandvoort, accessible by a quick 10 minute train journey. The town is surrounded by the Dutch dunes to the south and the Zuid-Kennermerland National Park to the north. I walked along the beach for a couple of hours and just enjoying listening to the sound of the waves breaking on the sand and watching the tide come in. Despite the fact it was the end of October, it wasn’t cold.
Last Monday, my Type Rating course came to an end as it was time to sit my A320 Skills Test. My parter and I had a busy 4 hours in the simulator as there is a lot to fit in. Asides the usual elements being assessed, we had to also completed the LVO assessment. All of my course passed and are ready to begin the next stage of our professional development…induction into the company! What made passing the Skills Test extra special was two years ago almost to the day, I passed my PPL skills test, so to have gone from that to completing my A320 Type Rating course two years down the line is a pretty good feeling!
I now have about ten days off, towards the end of this block of time off, I will be spending a day at the Sofitel Hotel at London Heathrow for the Pilot Careers Live event representing FTE. Hopefully see some of you there!