Category: Latest

January 2018 news from Rate One Aviation

Expanding Horizons for the New Year

Our small team has been joined by Jerry Marsden. He is an experienced instructor with MEP and SET qualifications. He has recently retired as a consultant surgeon with the NHS. This means we continue to be staffed by only mature instructors conducting IR training because they enjoy it.

We are now actually delivering PBN training. Unfortunately, EASA has specified some pretty irrelevant learning objectives. In order to make our course as interesting and practical as possible, we ask candidates to read the PPL/IR PBN training manual (which is a free download although also available in paper form on request.) Then we need only spend the minimum amount of time possible to quickly confirm that you have read and understood the manual. Thereafter, our theory course takes the form of short realistic scenarios mostly focused on real approach plates. Four alternative answers are provided but it’s not simply a tick box exercise and they provide a focus for discussion. All or none of the answers might be correct. The first trial run through was pretty successful and feedback has been used to refine and clarify some of the material. We are now in a position to offer the theory course to small groups of up to 5 on request.

On the MEP front unfortunately the BE76 was sold but we hope to have access to a nice local PA 34 soon. The PA 30 Twin Comanche saga rumbles on. It has just come out of Annual and we really think we have now resolved all the mechanical issues. It’s due to go to Guernsey in March for its current pretty impressive avionics tally to be expanded even further. A second GTN 750 is going in and a second transponder will provide dual frequency ADSB in and out. This will be able to access weather and traffic services while in the USA while the existing remote transponder provides redundancy on long trips.

An Aspen with synthetic vision is also being installed. This aircraft will then be equipped with pretty well the whole range of available retrofit avionics. We will then be keen to offer training in weather radar, stormscope, downlink weather and the general use of advanced avionics. There is no need for a twin rating for those aspects. The aircraft, in this context, is just a platform for the kit. With our additional instructor on staff,  Jim is hoping to be able to spend more time away from Gloucester. A transatlantic trip is planned for July going on to the Caribbean. There will be a few opportunities for pilots to join in for defined legs arriving or returning by CAT. For example, someone could fly from the UK to Canada and then return from Montreal by commercial flight or maybe join in from Canada and fly down the Eastern seaboard to Florida. If you would like to combine a longish trip within Europe with an MEP rating or avionics course drop us an Email. Three or four days to Croatia and back would work but really with a 100 NM range and 170 knots most destinations are feasible.

Getting an IR .. is the effort worthwhile for you

We now have a lot of evidence to show that our model is the most effective way for a PPL to gain an IR. It does however make certain demands on the candidates in terms of time and effort. We think this is entirely appropriate because the rating gives you to right to share airspace with CAT worldwide. It gives pilots the possibility of flying faster, more complicated aircraft in more demanding weather conditions.

Increasingly as the course progresses we are expecting you to make decisions and demonstrate that you are interested in and wanting to improve your knowledge of weather, aircraft technology’s as it affects its safe operation and the IFR environment. Really this is nothing more than airmanship brought up to date and oriented to instrument flying. No one expects beginners to be able to fly a perfect ILS without lots of help and practice. What we do expect is that you turn up for a lesson having thought about the weather, checked the NOTAMs, read any avionics manual other recommended material. We don’t think its appropriate to spoon feed you with long pre-flight briefs.

Of course, we will spend whatever time is needed to help you understand anything you are unsure of. In general we rarely find that a lack of understanding is an issue. It’s more a lack of application in some candidates who don’t memorise power settings and checks and don’t spend the time quietly in the evening thinking about how they will fly the next day’s lesson. We do appreciate that you have demands of family and work but deferring getting to grips with these basic elements until flying in the aircraft is very inefficient. It means that candidates cannot concentrate on those techniques that can only be learned in the aircraft. This real competence in what might be thought of applied theory is about 50% of the work needed to reach the required standard in instrument flying. An organised approach to instrument flying with a clear idea of operating procedures and power settings needed at every stage of the flight is the only way to fly effectively. Ironically it is even more important with advanced avionics and autopilots. If you are single crew perhaps faced by some distracting anomaly getting stuck in some obscure mode of the avionics or autopilot can kill you.

All this has been a rather lengthy way of saying that almost anyone could train to the high IR standard required but not everyone will find the effort and cost involved is balanced by the satisfaction and utility the rating delivers. If you have informed yourself to a reasonable degree and perhaps done a day’s flying with us we will be happy to try and help you come to an honest judgement as to what might work for you.

PBN Theory Course

Attending an approved PBN course will effectively be essential for any pilot wishing to fly GPS approaches after August 2018. This means that you need to have your course completion certificate in hand when you next revalidate your IR and most probably your IMC rating. Rate One has been approved by the UK CAA to run PBN theory courses and issue certificates.

We expect to run these courses at Gloucester Airport. Further details to follow

Drop an E mail to expressing interest.

Any private pilot can get an Instrument Rating

Recently on the same evening, two British TV programmes were shown which brought to mind aspects of the teaching of the PPL IR. In the first a giant African rat, a rather appealing creature not at all like the European rat, was trained to seek out and identify mines. This required a huge effort to get the animal to follow a grid pattern over a field and thanks to its acute sense of smell identify mines. Each mine it found earned it the reward of a peanut. A rat was able to clear a Cambodian minefield in a day with almost zero risk. This contrasted with a dangerous operation by humans using detectors who took a week to cover the same area.

This program, where the key actor was subjected to intensive and difficult training was followed by another making similar demands – Strictly Come Dancing. In the first case the key actor possessed hugely relevant natural attributes and, albeit not to its knowledge, the higher-level objective produced an obviously valuable and beneficial outcome. At a lower level, it obviously felt that being rewarded by peanuts was enough to motivate it to make the necessary effort – a feeling not entirely unknown to instructors.

In the second program, it appeared that some participants had few of the natural aptitudes such as athleticism, sense of timing and natural rhythm which might reasonably be seen as desirable pre-requisites for the task. In spite of these obstacles, individuals put huge effort into becoming able to perform the task adequately. It would seem some less obvious balance between effort and outcome satisfaction was being achieved.

It is both the joy and the difficulty of the CBM IR that it has attracted applicants of widely differing aptitudes and motivations. Inevitably most of those with both the time and the money tend to be older. Many are also aircraft owners in one form or another. Such people tend to have been successful in life and have not exposed themselves to difficult challenges where failure is a real possibility for many years. They are not used to doing things by rote and given their many years of established habits tend to quickly revert to the comfort zone these habits represent.

They are very different candidates to the typical airline cadet who expects to become part of a regimented and clearly defined system. They are not necessarily even similar to the existing core membership of PPL IR Europe. Members mostly obtained their IR under the old system. They for whatever reason were highly committed to the project of getting the rating, understood to a greater or lesser degree the hurdles and did not on the whole expect the system to adapt to them. They knew they were riding on the back of the commercial training process with all the compromises that implied.

This is not to say that the old system was good or the candidates exceptional. Rather for some reason they tended to be interested in flying and instrument flying in particular. In my own case for whatever geeky reason I was hooked. At one time or another I was member of almost every aviation group, subscribed to magazines, bought books etc. I did not find the learning easy but in spite of bankrupt flight schools and repeating exams that went out of validity, the balance between effort and reward somehow worked for me.

One of our longstanding members Nigel Everett decades ago co-wrote a book titled Attitude. It still rests on my bookshelves along with many other aviation related titles. One possibly slightly inaccurately remembered quotation sticks in my mind – ‘if they want you to sing rule Britannia with a banana in your ear don’t moan about it. Take singing lessons and seek out the right size banana’.

Applicants for the CBM IR have on the whole very unrealistic expectations of their own abilities, the magnitude of the task and the nature of the key problems. There is a slight undertone of them unconsciously expecting the system to adapt to them and not the reverse. The IMCR is not quite a negative but it can come close. Pilots think they can fly on instruments but some have never really been taught a proper scan, have no organised approach to the IF process and have flown almost entirely in near VMC. In short they have a VFR mindset. One of our recent candidates, a highly competent professional in his day job with a share in a high-performance aircraft and quite a lot of IMC experience commented ruefully as he left after his first training session ‘I really did not understand what I did not know’

If you read the forums, pilots complain about the difficulties of ADF tracking and the hold and apply energy to trying to find ways of avoiding learning to perform these tasks. Actually, the four key skills which if mastered are most likely to ensure success incur negligible financial outlay. It is not even necessary to be in an ATO or start the aircraft engine

  • Memorise the airborne checks
  • Know the power settings and configuration for each phase of flight
  • Really understand the avionics
  • Know the R/T calls

Most candidates arrive at Rate One Aviation have been provided with pre-course learning material and tell us that they have mastered these four skills. Almost without exception they have not. They cannot fire back a check or a power setting instantly in the way that a child can shout back 4 times 5 = 20. They cannot sit in the cockpit and set up the avionics in a matter of a couple of minutes. Even 30 or more hours into the course their finger still hovers across the various knobs and touch screens like a finger on the Ouija board at a séance. Endless ILS are commenced with GPS selected rather than VLOC, the instructors weary repetition of “Select Identify Display” forgotten yet again.

In part, our instruction is to blame. We are dealing with mature personable candidates and it is quite hard to treat them like junior school pupils. We tend to let them progress to more advanced lessons before they have really grasped the basics. It is quite hard to tell someone who has found a three-day gap in their busy work schedule that they cannot go flying until they can really shout back the checks, power setting or R/T call without the slightest hesitation. There is the old joke to the effect that teachers make the best sexual partners because they making you repeat things time after time till you really get them right. Sadly, it’s hard to see how this motivational technique can be applied to learning checks but I have wondered some computer based system in which candidates compete against the machine would work. This would make it easier to say sorry you cannot fly until you complete this exercise in under x seconds with a score of 90% so that the candidate might be motivated by competing against themselves.

Then we have candidates who are not really interested in Instrument Flight. Indeed, they may not be much interested in pilot skills at all. Perhaps they own a holiday home or have a business reason to travel regularly to Europe. They see the IR as transport and are not keen on learning anything that is not very directly correlated to their transport need. The signs are that they are not members of groups, don’t read the pilot magazines or contribute to the forums. It is perfectly possible to pass the skill test with this attitude but it is unlikely to help pilots develop airmanship or make them competent thinking participants in the overall instrument flight system.

There is a little bit of Frank Spencer (Some mothers do ‘av em’ TV Series star) in all of us but in some people there is a marked similarity. Their own aircraft has the disorganised and messy feel of a shared student flat. They never quite have all the required charts and plates. If it’s possible for some essential piece of equipment to go missing it will. Again, it is difficult for the ATO with mature customers but there is no doubt we would save pilots money and pain if they just abandoned their existing habits and let us specify which knee board to use, the exact PLOG layout and how to tie on their pencil so that it does not go missing at critical moments.

Most pilots R/T is quite poor. They say far too much and give no thought at all to the information that the controller really needs. This has its roots in poor PPL training and VFR R/T is even worse with that additional irritation that much VFR R/T serves little useful purpose. If R/T adopted the principal of the old telegram and a charge was made per word, the brevity and effectiveness of communications would be really enhanced.

On balance, I think that pretty much any one with a PPL can gain an IR. They are aided in this by the very predictable choreographed skill test format. They are also helped by the increasing difficulty in finding beacon slots for training. This means that there are only one or two test routes and they will have been practiced in advance possibly many many times. The instructional hour’s individuals need may vary wildly but if they persist they will get there in the end. The partial pass helps the most challenged candidates since examiners are human and are more likely to give the benefit of the doubt via a partial pass reserving the outright fail for the few unfortunates who make multiple clearly serious errors.

I am much less sanguine about whether candidates who take a very long time to reach test standard will be able to develop into safe and effective participants in the overall IFR system. Here there is not much demand for the precise responses to predictable challenges that characterise the skill test. Rather the demand is for good decision making, an ability to form a mental picture of the likely effect on them of multiple aircraft, ATC and the weather. They need to have enough spare mental processing power to keep track of this big picture and still retain a reserve to be able to deliver prompt effective responses to the unpredictable. This is something that someone who has used up most if not all their mental processing capacity on the basics is unlikely to be able to handle. One might hope that as with the IMC rating, common sense and a sense of self-preservation on the whole prevents pilots putting themselves into situations they cannot handle.


Revised Pricing Structure from July 2016

Revised and simplified pricing

We have recently revised and refined our pricing structure, with a view to improving clarity, ensuring this it is both fair and reasonable while covering our costs.

We have tried various pricing models. At first we tried to keep things simple with a daily rate for an instructor and a rate for the aircraft that included landings and approach fees. Some people asked what would happen if they only flew an hour or had some other problem. Gradually, in trying to address people’s questions, we evolved a complicated pricing structure more akin to the hourly rate offered by mainstream schools.

The reality with IFR training is that everything takes a day. We dedicate a single instructor and if appropriate an aircraft to every single candidate for a full day. We take the view that if the candidate turns up late or needs to leave early that is their problem. On the other hand, if for some reason beyond the candidate’s control we don’t achieve that – for example the aircraft goes tech or the weather is unflyable – then that is our problem.

Since our launch in 2014, we have gained a reputation with our candidates and throughout the industry as the “Rolls Royce” option for private pilot instrument training. Our intentional business model has been to cover our costs, maintaining a modest level of training activity to ensure high quality and tailor training programs to each candidate.

We want to encourage instrument flying in general and are happy to spend time discussing individual pilots needs and concerns and where appropriate would recommend other schools whose approach or location may suit them better.

We don’t have any administrative staff at Rate One so we need simple systems. We are reverting to our initial approach with a couple of slight variations stemming from recent experience. Unfortunately, the cost of instrument approaches is rising and their availability is constrained so it’s no longer viable to bundle them into the hourly rate.

  • Instructor £500 a day including VAT for the first 4 days training on our aircraft and first 5 days training on customers own aircraft. Thereafter charging is by agreement
  • Aircraft £250 an airborne hour plus £30 an hour if doing instrument approaches

Full vs Half Day Training

Instrument flight training is intensive and demanding.

We have found that some candidates, especially older or less experienced, cannot easily benefit from a full day’s flight instruction, especially early in their training. In theory, a fully prepared candidate could come to Rate One and complete a CBM IR compulsory 10-hour course in 4 days. In reality, this is rarely possible. Some of our candidates choose to fly a single session per day while others have taken our aircraft to fly solo and become more familiar with it unless less pressure.

Occasionally candidates share use of an aircraft for a day, but this is only by mutual agreement. Beyond the four full day charges, we will discuss costs on an individual basis with the guiding principle that charges should be in balance with the training value delivered. This is inevitably vague but to date we have not had a single customer question our charges or be unwilling to pay. You are welcome to speak to previous customers.

Perhaps look at it this way. You are risking us with your safety both now and in the future in a very demanding and sometimes threatening environment. If you cannot also trust us to be reasonable in our business ethics then maybe we are not the right training organisation for you.

Customer’s own aircraft

We are quite willing to train in our customer’s own aircraft. That said, many pilot’s aircraft are not ideally suited to IR training and they could take significantly longer to reach IR skill test standard than would be the case if they flew our own aircraft.

Rate One Aviation has invested tremendous effort to ensure that training on any aircraft has become permitted and practical. We were the first UK ATO to be granted CAA approval to train on any aircraft and from any location. Previously every aircraft had to be individually approved by the CAA and often schools were restricted to train using only aircraft in their defined fleet.

Be aware that there is still significant administration and paperwork involved when delivering training on any new aircraft. Therefore we will charge five full days instructor time when commencing training in a customer’s own aircraft and on the first day we may or may not achieve a training flight. The value of the first day will to a large extent be up to the aircraft owner and their thoroughness to provide all relevant aircraft documents and check lists.