I trained at BCFT on the integrated APA course, starting in 2017.
BCFT has a great strength in that, as a relatively small school, students can learn a great deal about what to expect on their first visit and tour. I spent a good couple of afternoons discussing the course and what to expect with Bob when I first applied, undertook a compass assessment and decided that BCFT was for me – the personal, small flying school touch is a huge asset when combined with their professionalism and commitment to quality of professional pilot they train.
On the integrated course you start off with ATPL groundschool; rightly this is one of the highlights of training at BCFT as it is exceptionally well taught, with a great deal of support available if needed. A well stocked library and a mix of instructor backgrounds, from former and current airline crew to engineers, serve to make the course engaging and relevant. Being based on a busy commercial airport interesting comings and goings (such as the BBMF) also punctuate lessons and add to the experience. Depending on requirements, some integrated students get the opportunity, results dependant, to complete their US flight training two thirds through the course and others complete the full six months of ATPL groundschool before initial flight training and leaving for the USA.
Whilst on the subject of training in Bournemouth, it is worth mentioning that most students stay at the school’s own hotel – the Silver How, just off Bournemouth beach. I live locally so didn’t require accommodation, but went back to the hotel on occasion for the odd BBQ and for study sessions with other students – right next to one of the best beaches on the south coast is not a bad place to live.
Initial training on single engine aircraft was accomplished at Bournemouth, which is a good introduction to UK airspace and ATC before you leave for what is arguably the highlight of the course – flying in Florida!
BCFT partners with Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) Aviation, one of the US’s premier flying schools, in Melbourne on the east coast of Florida. Training is conducted on their fleet of aircraft with EASA instructors and examiners. The more reliable weather and amazing aircraft availability, as well as the structured syllabus really make for an incredible package. As well as flying, airmanship, pre flight preparation and professionalism are taught and honed – solo hour building used as learning opportunities rather than just ticking over Hobbs time for the sake of it. The school’s facilities are incredible, and the experience of living and flying on the East coast of Florida is a once in a lifetime experience – I had an amazing time in Melbourne, and am still in touch with friends out there, planning some flying holidays in the future! Accommodation is in University blocks, with transport to and from the flight line and around campus provided for free. I completed all the rest of my single engine flying in the US, and finished up with my multi engine CPL, the skills test conducted with an ex Vulcan instructor which was a tad daunting but a real pleasure and great experience.
Once the 4 months or so in the US is over I was back to the UK for the MEIR. At BCFT time is spent in the simulator getting you used to the procedures you will be flying before heading out in the duchess. The placing of Bournemouth gives access to a number of good routes for training flights, and my instructor was very good at teaching habits and techniques that set me up very well for my IR and getting into a jet. This is the hardest element of training – single pilot IR flying is high workload, but BCFT teach it right, and the recent introduction of G500 avionics in the duchess fleet is truly awesome; but use of round dial simulator time is also key in getting a good scan developed. Flight planning and professionalism learned in the US come to the fore here as well – as you are very much in charge of sorting out your flight, with support from the ops desk of course. Believe me when I say this is excellent preparation for turnarounds and tech issues when you are line flying!
The final element of the course for me was the MCC/JOC at Simtech aviation – this is where, even though you are a qualified pilot, you start to realise that applying for airline jobs is firmly on the horizon. Simtech’s MCC/JOC was incredible, and as I had an interview coming up for my current employer, I made the most of it! The opportunity here is to begin to grasp CRM as well as the realities of flying a multi crew airliner.
I currently work as a First Officer on the 737-300/400 for a UK cargo airline, and I have to say that, beyond the excellent training that got me through to get my licence, my time at BCFT set me up well to perform in my sim assessment/ interview and beyond. Quite fittingly my final line check on the 737 was performed by a Captain who himself had trained and instructed at BCFT! Certainly ex BCFT students are not a rarity in the airline world, and we all seem to share a fondness for the school and our time there.
Flying training is something that you undoubtedly get out what you put in – there is no point sitting in an aeroplane learning memory items when you could have learned them just as easily and without an instructor sat on the ground at home – but I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending BCFT.