Former Rydal Penrhos pupil Alex Sharples has been speaking from the Southern Hemisphere where he is training to be a pilot.
The 2016 leaver is currently based in Hamilton, New Zealand and has just one year to go before he can take to the skies on a commercial airline thanks to earning a place at the prestigious CTC Aviation School.
Alex took part in a special question and answer session with Communications Assistant Dean Jones, where he spoke about the challenges he has faced, what he has enjoyed and how a Rydal Penrhos education prepared him for the next step:
How has your first year been in Pilot School?
“It’s been hard work. My first year was all theory exams. I had to do 14 exams in the space of six months, each exam is around 50 questions and it’s a 75 per cent pass mark.
“Classes started at 8am and finish at 4pm Monday to Friday. I found each subject very interesting as it was about something I'm very passionate about!
“For example learning the in depth technical details to how aircraft generate lift, how aircraft use satellites and ground based navigation aids to navigate around the world, learning how to plan commercial flights with regards to fuel and mass and balance and a lot more.”
What are the differences between this and life at Rydal Penrhos?
“There’s a lot more independence as I was living in a house in Southampton with five other course mates. So I had to learn how to cook and how to iron my uniform, I'm still useless at it now!
“The work intensity was so high that there was no extra-curricular activities we just focused on work. I found myself still revising at 11pm on most nights of the week.”
What have been your highlights?
“My overall highlight was receiving my final results from the CAA (civil aviation authority) saying I've passed all 14 exams with a high average.
“Another highlight was in my study of aircraft instruments I got a slot in a full motion Airbus a320 simulator which I've been told cost around £8 million!
“I was with an instructor and I learned how to set up the autopilot and the FMC (flight management computer) and how to perform an auto land in very poor visibility.”
What life lessons have you taken on?
“To be disciplined and how to manage a high workload which will important in my life as an airline pilot.”
What’s the hardest part about it?
“The sheer volume of information I had to learn in the short period of time each textbook was about 300 pages and the pressure from instructors to learn the information before progress tests - mock exams - finals.”
What is the next step for you?
“I’m currently in Hamilton, New Zealand doing my foundation flying training on an aircraft called the DA20 Katana working towards my Commercial Pilots Licence.
“I have about 50 hours left on the Katana before moving on to the multi-engine aircraft called the DA42. In total I have about 100 more flying hours to do before returning back to the UK where I will be doing my multi engine instrument rating in Bournemouth.
“Providing I pass everything first time I’ll be a fully qualified first officer in an airline towards the end of next summer.”
How did life at Rydal Penrhos prepared you for the challenges you have faced?
“The good quality of teaching throughout all departments at Rydal Penrhos has prepared me to be able to study effectively.”
What advice would you give to leavers’ this year that are about to embark on the next step of their education?
“Enjoy it! You should be studying something you enjoy, make the most of every opportunity you get and have fun.”