In this Aspire Aviation blog post, Barry Kennedy talks to us about his modular journey through flight training.
Check out our other blog posts on Integrated vs Modular training, a Day in the Life of an Airline Pilot or A Model to Explain Pilot Employability.
Hi there fellow pilots!
Barry Kennedy is my name. I wanted to share my story via the guys at Aspire Aviation of my journey to becoming a pilot. I am well aware of the frustrations for us all going through this “endless journey” and so I thought I’d share mine, for it did at times feel very much “endless”.
My love affair with aviation began at a very young age. I hail from Tallaght in Dublin 24 and as such am living quite close the the Irish Air Corps base at Baldonnel, Co. Dublin. I used to see cadets training on a regular basis, buzzing around the Dublin skies in the old SIAI Marchettis and remember being constantly in awe/amazed at these wonderfully skilled future aviators. In 1996 the Air Corps hosted an Air Show for its 75th anniversary and through a family friend I was fortunate enough to get a ticket and go along. To say I was fascinated would be an understatement.
In January 2001 I took an introductory flight at Weston Airport in Dublin, and from that moment on I knew that I had the “bug”. The sheer joy when the instructor handed me the controls and let me do some gentle turns, or following him through coming into land was just extraordinary. I was still quite young at this point and it wasn’t until 2003 that I was on the grounds at Baldonnell again, this time doing a tour of the apron etc with a good friend of mine who was a fixed wing pilot with the air corps.
I was doing my leaving certificate at the time and was certain that I would apply for the Air Corps. I got to the aptitude testing but unfortunately was unsuccessful. I did ok in my leaving certificate but knew at this point I would need a plan B if I was ever going to become a pilot. Cadetships with airlines were a thing of the past, and being from a family of 6 with a stay at home mother (we were more than enough work for her), my parents didn’t have the money to allow me to pursue my dream. I did an entry level year of Science at Trinity College and from this I obtained a place in physiotherapy. I decided to take a year off to work/be older and wiser starting college.
I began my studies in ’05 and graduated in June of ’09. Work wise things weren’t great upon graduating and so it took until April 2010 before I secured my first job. Starting out in a career that is quite dynamic/challenging, it wasn’t until March 2011 when I did my first logged hour of flight time -again at Weston Airport. I began to “fly away” and by August had built up 25 hours (I soloed at 13). I decided I wanted to further my education at this point as a plan B in the event that Aviation didn’t work out and so began reading for my masters degree in September 2011. This was a full time course and as such, my flying was put on hold for the time being. Upon graduation, however, in May 2012 at the height of the dreaded recession, meant that securing employment at home wasn’t an easy task. I had some savings and so decided to emigrate to Canada.
In picking my place of employment I looked into a flight school in the area, and happened to stumble across Border City Aviation In Lloydminster, Alberta. By March 2013 my flight training was up and running again – despite this however I was pretty much back to basics for the first 5-6 hours but pretty soon I had soloed again (first time in Canada) and was just happy to be back in the Air. I had to do exams in Canada to work as a Physio which meant (yes you’ve guessed it) another break. I didn’t fly from July to October of that year, but this time around everything came back much more hastily.
Flying in Canada was a whole lot of fun – weather that at times could be unforgivable, navigating by using lakes that were very hard to make out when covered in snow or using a road instead a field as a potential landing spot for a PFL (coming in at 300ft and seeing cars in the distance certainly got the heart rate up). I finally passed my flight test in May 2014- and soon after began my night rating. Having completed this I then, went on to start my CPL (very different in Canada being a 55hr course with a huge emphasis on Nav, grass strip landings (there are hundreds of landing strips in rural Canada, short field work, under the hood – again in the eventuality that Mother Nature decodes otherwise and so on.
In September 2015 my Canadian adventure was cut short suddenly as my mother had fallen ill and so it was time to move back to the Emerald Isle. You guessed right -another gap in training. I began flying again in March 2016 and over the coming month I converted to an Irish PPL (I had to sit Air law and HPL) along with a flight test. This went well thankfully and having changed my license I began hour building. I stumbled across a number of flying clubs at Weston, and as such was fortunate to have access to a number of different aircraft. During my hour building I had access to Cessna 152s/172s and a Piper Arrow. The job I was working in at the time allowed me to fly regularly, and so I wasn’t long in getting my hours to the required numbers for progression on to the CPL.
During this time I was also reading for my ATPLs. I’m not going to say it was easy because it absolutely was not. Working full time, trying to get hours done and all the time helping out at home whilst my mother was unwell made for a feeling of “this is endless”. In June of 2017 my mother unfortunately passed away and as such I needed a break. I took a month off from flying/studying but knew deep down that she would not have been happy to see me give up. With this in mind I got back in the Air and back in the books.
I completed my exams in December of 2017 with a 91% average, and by this time had my hours completed. I had hoped to attend FTE Jerez to complete my CPL MEIR, but unfortunately at that time they had stopped taking modular students. With this in mind I looked further afield and came across Stapleford Flight Centre in the UK. I registered to start in August of 2018 (I still had some saving to do) and once again life decided to throw me a curve ball. My father passed away very suddenly in August and so I was not in the right frame of mind to commence the final part of my training.
I delayed my start date to the middle of September and was confident that by Christmas time I would be fully qualified. This is not how it transpired, and due to a lack of aircraft availability/instructor availability I left Stapleford with only 13 hours done in 6 weeks. Once again I was at a crossroads, and honestly began to doubt whether this would happen. I’d had so many stumbling blocks along the way that I couldn’t help but think “what else could possibly happen?”
A friend put me in touch with Mark Casey from AFTA in Cork who said they could take me on and would likely be able to transfer the SEP stuff from the UK towards my CPL. Word from the IAA was positive, and so I relocated home again at the end of October. I began training at AFTA on the 31st of October and the experience from day 1 was absolutely second to none. I worked my backside off and in 7 weeks had my CPL MEIR done with both tests passed first time round. I got my ratings put on my license the same week and straight away registered for my MCC at Simtech in Dublin. I started there on the 20th January and finished on the 29th.
As soon as I had my MCC certificate (which was a very steep learning curve but ultimately a huge amount of fun) I began to apply for jobs. Frustration did surface once again, as it wasn’t until the 9/10th of April that I had my first interviews. In the meantime I contacted the guys at Aspire Aviation who did some pilot interview prep and a mock interview. I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have gotten over the line without their help. I couldn’t recommend it enough!!!!!
My final word to anyone – just do not give up. Unfortunately as a modular student there will be delays/obstacles along the way. I guess the big thing to remember is that if things do pop up and doubt begins to creep in, remember why you started on this journey. It is not impossible. It is difficult but with the right attitude it most certainly will work out. The feeling of being told you were successful at interview/sim check will make you realise – was it worth it? Absolutely
We asked Barry a few final questions about his experience.
What did you enjoy most during your training?
For me it was the people I got to meet! I think it’s only when you delve into aviation that you realize it really is a “community” in every sense of the word. There are of course a few bad apples but 99% of the people you meet are enthusiasts, and in going with the “community model” will try to help you in some shape way or form. I feel that I have gained some friends for life – and in saying that a group of very unique friends who share a passion for being in the skies.
In terms of the flying or ground school, which individual part did you find hard and how did you overcome it?
For me it was the balance between working full time, building my hours and studying for the ATPLs. The only way to overcome this was continuously monitor my progress through goal setting. I drew up mini monthly plans in terms of hours done, material covered and overall progress in terms of scores for the question bank. I think this allowed me to evaluate on a regular basis where I was at, and also allowed me to identify what needed more/less attention. On top of this (albeit corny or what not) I bought a uniform and took a pic of myself in it with my Mam. When I felt that the mountain was getting bigger I would look at my picture and remind myself that I was on the right path and also doing what was required to reach the finish line.
And finally, what advice would you have for someone embarking on flight training tomorrow?
Have patience. I believe this is key. I am aware that my journey is probably unique in its own right, but anyone setting off on the modular journey will most likely have setbacks or delays. I think being aware of this from the off will enable them to realise that it’s ok for these things to occur, and more importantly that it does not necessarily mean they will not get to the end of the training.
Fly regularly (easier said than done). I was fortunate in that the job I was working I had 3.5 days off a week which meant I had a lot of time to get my hours done. I also had access to a number of different aircraft which inevitably helped too.
Lastly-plan plan plan. I firmly believe that this was key. My approach was short and long term planning. Short term wise I planned each month in advance so that I knew what I had to get done each week/month. I know some people aren’t planners but I just felt that having an organised/structured plan (as could be barring delays etc) helped to keep the long term goal in sight.
We’d like to thank Barry for sharing his inspirational story and wish him well as he commences his Type Rating this summer.