If you’re thinking about going down this route then unfortunately you’re going to have to find a fair chunk of money to get it done. Having dealt that initial blow, it’s the quickest way of getting yourself into the worlds’ most popular, most numerous 70 ton jet anywhere in the world - without previous experience.
For me it all started when I watched friends around me acquire jobs during a time when we all expected to be strapped in for several few months before hearing any positive response regarding any job, let alone a possibility of putting those teenage years of ‘simming’ on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator B737 into real practice. I was encouraged to at least try out for the interview and fork out the £260 for the ‘privilege’. And so with this in mind I set out scouring my ATPL Notes and worked with PCC on probable questions, technical theory, sim profile/tips, and personal/behavioural answers.
The interview went very well. They made it a very enjoyable and pleasant experience and made it very clear that they were not there to hire a percentage of the 12 candidates that were in the room, they had called upon us all because they wanted ALL of us to join Ryanair; so there was no hidden agendas in store for us.
The interview was very friendly and bar the mandatory technical questions, it was ok. After a short break, we entered the Sim. The B737 Sim Assessment consisted of an SID followed by normal tracking and then a repositioning with momentary question on where you now were based on reading the RMI ending in a manually flown NDB approach all based in Liverpool (there are other airports they use though).
Skipping on a few months, I completed my initial B737 Type Training in East Midlands where the level of training is to a very high standard. Due to the nature of there being so many trainers, we had several different instructors throughout the Type Rating Course, which was good and bad. After the course we completed our Base Training which consists of the mandatory 6 takeoff and landings in the real aircraft. Line training began and ended very quickly and there is so much to learn that it is nearly impossible to feel totally confident by the time your Line Check occurs, however, the Line Training Captains do such an amazing job of making you feel relaxed that it almost, and I stress almost, feels like a normal flight.
So this brings us to a normal day of a Ryanair pilot and let me tell you that airline flying is a totally different ball game to the GA world. Flying is almost sidelined and it’s the management and prioritisation of time and coherent use of company SOP’s that govern your time: without which the airline industry would not, could not operate.
Ryanair provides pilots with two scheduled roster periods that alternate each week, which we call ‘Earlies’ or ‘Lates’. Earlies typically start anytime after 06:00 local and Lates anytime after 13:00 local. The roster is well known to be one of the most favourable and stable patterns in the industry meaning that you work 5 days on and get either 4 or 3 days off depending which base you are assigned to. And yes anyone thinking ‘assigned to?’ by this I mean you are offered to input a choice during your training of where you would like to be based, and you are usually given something different – nobody I know has decoded this logic yet. There are over 40 bases around Europe; and all are possibilities for new cadets. You need to take many things into account before you start with Ryanair because the life does not suit everyone; but it is an amazing opportunity in this day and age of trying to get a job as an airline pilot without jet experience… so sometimes the sacrifice is worth the gain in the long run.
Starting on Earlies has it’s advantages as you are done by early afternoon unless you have one of the longer sector days which gets you in by 17:00 but I never have been nor ever will be an early morning person and you can feel it by day 4 of a 5 day working week. Lates also has it’s benefits if you’re like me, as I can work well into the night no problem, however, if you commute like me and have only managed hotels to date then you often find yourself sleeping in and waking up for duty doing nothing else with your time. There are many factors that influence what type of roster you get and the most profound one is the base that you are in. The bigger the base (by that I mean number of aircraft) the more routes it will have and the two biggest I know of are Dublin and Stansted. These along with other factors determine therefore how many sectors you fly in a day. The common theme across the board is that you fly 4 sector days although it’s not impossible to fly 6 sector days from Liverpool, Stansted or Dublin. The lucky pilots based in places where the travelling public come from afar enjoy 2 sector days consisting of flights over the 2hr30min mark; very easy days work. But you will, wherever you are, fly a variety of these combinations based on crew available, serviceable aircraft and time of year. Sometimes they’ll even roster you to work out of another base for individual days or a whole week (or more). The nature of the roster allows you to eventually plan ahead by months and sometimes years as once you have slotted into your 5/4 or 5/3 you will be able to tell whether you have Christmas and other holidays off.
For personal reasons I have chosen to commute home on my days off which seem all to few but the reward of returning to a fantastic house and wife far outweigh the negatives. If you don’t get the base you want you will more than likely encounter problems trying to find links and routes back home unless you are lucky enough and get assigned to a base that has numerous daily flights to your home country. The commute as a pilot is fairly easy but it can eat up a lot of your days off. You are allowed to ‘jumpseat’ commute as often as you like on the RYR network and some guys do end up having to take 3 connecting flights to get home.
Most pilots are contract pilots for RYR meaning that you are effectively self-employed by your own company and contract yourself through another company to RYR – it’s simpler than it sounds. You therefore get to claim all expenses against your tax income keeping your net profit as high as possible and this begins with the cost of your Type Rating Course. Through out you will have expenses like hotels, car hire, food, rent, phone bills….any and all of these utilities can be claimed as an expense for ‘your business’ meaning that you end up retaining more of your monthly income than most people. This results in RYR offering one of the better salaries around keeping in mind that you have to fly to get paid – contract pilots only get paid by the hour which does not guarantee any money but you would have be in a bad situation not to fly with RYR as they are so busy. Winter is a different story but we’ll get onto that later.
I’m stepping back a little here but I can’t leave out the procedure of obtaining Annual Leave. You are not entitled to apply for any leave until you have finished your Line Training and been securely slotted into your roster pattern in your new base. To save confusion, after Line Training is completed, you will more than likely be moved to another base where you can consider ‘home’ for the next year at least, longer if you like it. So until this point has passed, the company who employs you will not offer any leave to be allocated to you. Furthermore as a contract pilot you are obliged to take the compulsory month of leave all at once. This is by no means convenient but there is nothing you can do about it.
I am flying a lot and logging a lot of B737NG hours. That was my goal at the outset and I hope it will help me to be competitive down the road for overseas opportunities. Cheers and good luck!
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