30 May 2018

How to pass the ATPL exams

How much is too much?

In my previous post made after taking the first four ATPL exams I have promised to come back to you soon with more information on my study. Unfortunately this took longer than expected. In fact I am writing to you only now – one year later – at the time where I have passed all 14 exams in total (yupii!!!). Truth to be told, it has been impossible to find any free time at all apart from the time dedicated to preparing for the exams. In fact, studying the ATPL subjects has entirely occupied my mind and my daily life. For the past sixteen months or so I have almost entirely resigned from any normal pleasures of life; each and every spare moment that I had has been dedicated to study. I studied when other partied, I studied when others relaxed, I studied when others enjoyed family time…what’s more due to the fact that I had the AviationExam app on my smartphone I also studied wherever I went…anyplace which would afford me staying stationary for more than 1 minute…i.e.: at a traffic light, in an elevator, on a bus, in a plane, queuing at a cashier…..I could go on with a long list of strange places where I managed to study.

Study, study, study – materials worth more that 1500 pages and 14 000 questions in the question bank

I have almost forgotten what it means to relax in front of a good move after a long day of work, or to have a free weekend just not doing anything special.

Life after the exams

But now at last I feel like my life is back. Believe me, it’s a great feeling to realise that I won’t have to go through this anymore ever again. What’s even more important is the fact that I won’t have to put my family through this enormous sacrifice anymore. It’s been a tough period for them; I couldn’t always be there were they needed me, I have been half present in the family life and they had to cope with many important things on their own. This was tough both for them and for me; it made the studying even harder. So I want to say it clearly to anyone that has a full time job and a family and plans to study for the ATPL exams: it might be very tough for all of you and might put your relationships close to a braking point; make sure (if you ever can) that you are well prepared for that. I’ve been lucky that I passed all of the exams at the first attempt because I fear even thinking what would happen if I had to dedicate a single day more to studying at the expense of my wife and kids.

The only way is up

For me, the trigger to start an ATPL course was just an idea to continue with the dream (you can read my previous post on this); I didn’t really have a concrete plan how to develop professionally as a pilot, I did not even have enough self-confidence to think that much forward into the future. However, the more advanced I have become in the course, and the more sacrifices it has required from my family, the more I realise that in some way I have made a very significant choice and stopping or turning back risks forsaking all of the efforts made be myself and all around me. Once you’re gone through the ATPL course you kinda realise that the only way is up. On the one hand it feels good, a part of a big dream of mine has been realised – I have in my hand an ATPL certificate which opens the door for the practical part of the professional pilot training. On the other hand this is the first time I start to realise fully the significance of the career choice I am making and start to seriously consider all the good bad and ugly of a pilot profession.

Best office view in the world

The higher the risks the higher the rewards

The more I read and think about the pilot profession the more I realise there are so many misconceptions, myths and misinformation about this job. To start with, there seems to be as much positive glorifying opinions of this job as the damning ones. On the on hand the pilot profession is portrayed in superlatives as a fascinating, variable and prestigious, well paid job. On the other hand it is said to be highly stressful, poorly paid job without any stability. It is universally admitted that the training required to obtain the required license is extremely expensive, leading often to debts and does not guarantee employment with about 15% pilots never being employed.

There may be some truth in all of these statements but this doesn’t have to be the truth you or me will have to face as pilots. I think that very much depends on your expectations and individual circumstances (obviously staring a pilot career will be very different for a 20 year old freshly out of school than for me who has already an established professional career and a family to take care of). My personal opinion is that this job can offer high satisfaction to these that do it from passion (like most pilots) and this sometimes requires paying a higher price than in case of more ordinary professions. It’s like in life, the higher the risks the higher the rewards….However, I think we should shun from extreme black-and-white opinions and a pilot can lead a reasonably normal life. The key is to prepare in advance for all the changes and steer your career wisely.


Best seat in the world

Success can be scary

Nevertheless, with the success of passing the ATPL exams I start to understand that the road to realising one’s dreams can be quite scary. You feel fine as long as you’re just fantasising and making plans about your dreams. There’s no commitment, no responsibility, just words. However things change once you realise you are making actual steps on your way, achieve significant milestones, little or bigger successes and move forward. This is the first moment that you’re actually starting to live your dream…you leave the known and comfortable world behind and you start to live in the unknown, outside the comfort zone. I guess this is the moment when lots of people back up, find an excuse not to go forward, because no matter how dull is the reality it is known and predictable, safe…

Once you start living your dream you have to assume the responsibility for your decisions, your mistakes, be ready to embrace failure, be ready to lose your old life…but then the old life wasn’t so bad – was it? Maybe it is not worth risking it….

Someone said that if your dreams do not scare you they’re not big enough. I would add that your courage in the face of success defines the ability to pursue your dreams.

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