Resettlement training resettlement courses, ex forces jobs
Whether you have long planned a career in the aviation sector on leaving the Armed Forces, or you are among the many Service people working in an aviation-related career who have suddenly found themselves unexpectedly facing redundancy and would like to continue to work in this area, this feature aims to provide you with the background knowledge that will help you get your new career off the ground. We look at the main employment sectors, and the training and qualifications you will need to make the transition to a career in the civilian aviation sector. Our focus is on those roles of greatest interest to Service leavers, and to which – due to the skills and qualifications they have gained while in uniform – they are likely to be eminently well suited.
Aviation-related skills gained in the Services
Obviously, the Royal Air Force specialises in aviation, with both passenger and cargo operations. It manages airspace, maintains aircraft fleets and runs air stations, like any other large aviation organisation. The Royal Navy and the Army also have smaller aviation branches that carry out similar activities.
The routes from the Armed Forces into civil aviation are well established and many Service leavers have found successful second careers through following them. Holding the required licence(s) is absolutely essential for civilian employment and these can be expensive to obtain (see below), so all pilots and engineers should ensure that they use the Service opportunities available to gain them.
In terms of engineering, all three Services have aviation engineering specialists, working on sophisticated and complex instruments and aircraft, both rotary and fixed wing. Civilian employers are generally looking for someone who can work on a number of aspects of the same airframe, however, with some Service training being too specific for them. Most Service people translate their skills and experience into civilian qualifications while serving; those who do not may have to prove their expertise and pass exams later.
From a more general perspective, in view of the enormous number of non-aviation-specific jobs also encompassed by this industry, it is entirely possible for many of those in the Services to consider this as an area of potential employment. Many of the personal qualities and skills possessed by Service people are valued and sought after by major aviation employers.
Employment, training and qualifications
In the following sections, we take a closer look at the main roles likely to be of interest to our readers.
‘To be employed to fly as a commercial pilot,’ says Roger Henshaw, Head of Training at Ground Training Services Ltd (specialists in distance learning courses), ‘you must hold a professional licence that is either a Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) or an Airline Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL) – the ground training and examinations are different for the two licences. These licences also apply to both aeroplanes and helicopters, although requirements differ for the two types of aircraft. An ATPL requires a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying experience and is normally acquired only after being employed as a pilot for several years. It is essential to hold an ATPL to be the pilot in command (PIC) on a commercial flight of an aircraft that must be flown by two pilots. To be the co-pilot (first officer) a CPL with an instrument rating (IR) must be held and the written examinations for the ATPL passed. This combination is in effect a “frozen ATPL”, meaning that the qualifications for an ATPL are complete except for the relevant flight experience.’ ‘The IR,’ adds Captain Mike Kent, Head of Training at Bond Air Services Ltd, ‘is an essential component for potential airline pilots or helicopter pilots wishing to enter the world of offshore operations.’
A CPL is sufficient to act as PIC of a single pilot aircraft on a commercial flight. ‘It is worth bearing in mind,’ continues Roger Henshaw, ‘that, in addition to the larger airlines, there are also many smaller companies conducting what is called “aerial work” for which only the CPL is required. To obtain a CPL only, the ground training is simpler than for the ATPL. “Aerial work” can include glider towing, parachutist dropping, aerial photography and survey, pleasure flights, private corporate work, and flight instructing for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and CPL. Most of these activities require only one pilot holding either a CPL or CPL with an IR.’
Integrated courses combine ground and flight training from ab initio (literally ‘from the beginning’) to frozen ATPL in about 56 weeks (these cost between £70,000 and £95,000). A fixed-wing integrated course usually includes an IR – a helicopter one will not. For the helicopter pilot, the only way to achieve this is at an FTO approved for IR training, and the course effectively has to be conducted on a multi-engine type, usually involving extensive use of simulators. This will require a decision as to which type will be of most use in the future, and a type rating course will have to be carried out prior to commencing the IR.
The alternative is a modular course, which does the same thing but in individual sections, thereby spreading the cost (typically £40–45,000). This type of training is more suited to military pilot conversions for which special terms are currently available. To qualify for modular training without military experience, the student must obtain a PPL, for which numerous flying clubs and training schools offer courses. Modular professional licence courses are available from about 20–30 schools in the UK. Once a school is identified as providing suitable courses, it should be contacted directly for further guidance regarding costs, etc. The ground studies for a modular course can be completed via full-time classroom study or distance learning. The advantage of the latter is that you can study part-time while in current employment and (most of the time) regardless of your location (distance learning courses are also required to contain a small amount of classroom tuition).
On completion of the written examinations, a student would move on to a CPL flight training course (typically of about six weeks’ duration) ending with a skill test flown with a CAA examiner. The CPL flight training can be started only when the student has acquired 150 hours of flight experience as a PPL holder. Following the CPL course, those students training to obtain a frozen ATPL would also complete IR training.
Licence application to the CAA is made following the satisfactory completion of all necessary training, examinations and tests.
Ground operations, flight dispatch and airfield operations
‘The areas of airline ground operations (“ground ops”) and flight dispatch,’ says Andrew Wakely, Director of Avtech 2000, specialists in all aspects of aviation operations training, ‘are often grouped together, but tend to be separate disciplines in UK and many European countries. In the USA they are very much considered “together”. Airfield operations is different again.’ He offers the following information to Quest readers.
Dispatchers are employed by either the airlines themselves or by their handling agents (e.g. Servisair, Menzies Aviation or Swissport). Airline operations staff are normally employed in an operations centre, which may not even be located at an airport. Airside operations staff are employed by an airport authority (e.g. one of the airports operated by BAA plc, like Heathrow or Edinburgh, or the Manchester Airports Group, such as Manchester or East Midlands).
Airlines’ or handling agents’ dispatchers are responsible for aircraft turnrounds and, although their duties may vary by company or location, these are likely to include making weight and balance calculations, providing crew with weather details, and general turnround supervision and progress chasing, followed by dispatch of post-departure signals.
Airline operations staff check the progress of the flying programme worldwide, which may involve sending and receiving signals, obtaining ATC clearances, checking the significance of delays and re-routings with regard to crew duty periods, and arranging for ground support in the event of diversions, among other things. They may also become involved in route planning and preparation of flight plans.
Airfield operations staff employed by airport authorities are responsible for the operational serviceability of the runway and manoeuvring areas, airfield lighting, aircraft marshalling, bird scaring, snow clearance, and dealing with incidents or even accidents.
Training in these disciplines is often done in-house following employment, however it is also available through open learning programmes, some of which lead to recognised qualifications from bodies such as City & Guilds.
This is sometimes done by airlines themselves, but normally by their specialist handling agents. The work involves the processing of cargo documentation, dealing with customs clearances and security, and ensuring the correct handling of special cargo such as dangerous goods and live animals. The work also involves the physical handling of both import and export cargo through airport freight sheds and to and from the aircraft.
Working for an airline
Each individual airline employs its own flight crew (pilots and cabin crew), and will be able to advise anybody interested in such jobs about the qualifications they will need. Airlines run special training courses for candidates with the right aptitude for some of these positions, and subcontract other training to external suppliers. The personnel department of the airline in which you are interested will provide the criteria for each job (e.g. pilot, cabin crew, passenger service staff, airline operations and dispatch staff) and details of what you will need in order to be a candidate. Individual airline contact details can be found through the CAA website (see ‘Key contacts’), and details of recruitment opportunities and procedures should be obtained from them direct.
Understandably, suitably qualified and experienced ex-Servicemen and women are a welcome addition to the aviation engineering industry, which essentially splits into two areas: aircraft and avionics. Aircraft engineers inspect, repair and maintain the airframes and the engines. Avionics engineers are concerned with the electrical and electronic equipment on aircraft, including instruments, radio and radar.
Entry and training
Taking the example of an aircraft maintenance engineer’s licence, training to obtain one is usually via:
It is also possible to enter the industry with the equivalent UK Armed Forces training. However, for a Part-66 licence, one year’s civil experience is required. In addition to relevant experience, exams need to be completed and no exemption is given. There is also a special route for CAA licence holders seeking registration as Incorporated Engineers (IEng) and Engineering Technicians (EngTech). For further information and guidance please contact the Royal Aeronautical Society or the Engineering Council (see ‘Key contacts’).
Information on how to obtain a Part-66 Engineer’s licence may be found on the CAA website. The minimum age to hold a Part-66 licence is 18 years. To certify an aircraft release to service, the minimum age is 21.
Categories A and B1 are further divided into the following sub-categories:
The wider privileges of the Category B licence and the role of the technician in defect diagnosis/rectification and system inspection require a more detailed knowledge than that for Category A. This requires a longer period of experience and examination at a higher level.
Applicants who successfully complete a Part-147 approved basic training course will have received instruction in the required subjects, and passed the exams associated with that course and the respective licence category.
Under Part-66 there is a requirement to record satisfactory basic training and skills attainment as a prerequisite for basic licence issue. To assist both basic and type rating applicants to demonstrate that they meet the licensing requirements, the CAA has introduced an aircraft maintenance engineer’s logbook.
We have just given some examples here, but as you can see, licensing and training to work as an aircraft or avionics engineer is quite a complicated area, so to find out about current licensing requirements in more detail, please refer to the CAA website and CAA publications (see ‘Key contacts’).
Aviation security staff deal with air rage, drunkenness, assault, smuggling and crime, as well as the threat of national and international terrorism. Heightened security continues to make the headlines. Other security concerns include stowaways, espionage, people-trafficking, illegal immigration, theft, sabotage, hijack and environmental protests.
Aviation security officers have two broad responsibilities: first, to detect prohibited items, including unauthorised weapons, explosives and incendiary materials; second, to prevent these being carried onboard an aircraft or into a security restricted area. The most significant difference between domestic and aviation security is the use of technology such as X-ray machines, explosive detection techniques and biometrics, among a host of others.
Space constraints mean that we are unable to cover this sector in detail here, so please take a look at our complementary aviation security feature at www.questonline.co.uk. Further information can be obtained direct from potential employers. Those with the necessary instructional skills and previous aviation experience, who wish to become instructors in this sector, are advised to visit the DfT’s website (www.dft.gov.uk) to find out more.
Air traffic control
Aircraft movement is controlled by National Air Traffic Services Ltd (NATS), which is regulated by the CAA. It provides air traffic control (ATC) to aircraft flying through UK-controlled airspace and at several UK airports, with a training college at Bournemouth. (There are two other non-NATS air traffic control training colleges at Cwmbran, and Shoreham and Gloucester.)
Air traffic controllers provide instructions, advice and information to pilots by radio, to keep air traffic flying safely, efficiently and quickly. They deal with weather changes, unscheduled traffic, near misses and emergencies. Area controllers look after aircraft transiting an area along routes; approach controllers take over as pilots get close to airports and guide them into landing patterns; while aerodrome controllers cover take-off, landing and movement on the ground.
To find out more about becoming an air traffic controller, contact NATS direct (see ‘Key contacts’).