My name is Andrew Mallon, former student and flight instructor at AFTA, currently undergoing my first type rating on the Cessna Citation XLS.
First off, a little bit about myself and my journey in my flying career so far…
Through school, I longed to be a pilot and after taking a break to save up for the course, I began training with AFTA on the integrated course in March 2018, and I’ve never looked back. I couldn’t have asked for more from AFTA. Everything, from the well maintained and modern fleet and the high expectations from the instructors always looking for ways to push your limits, to the operation from a large international airport, using the same airspace and runway as all of the large passenger jets, leads to a very high standard of training and the professional mindset ideal for the flight deck, and after 16 months, in July 2019, I completed the multi-crew coordination course on the state of the art Boeing 737-800 simulator and suddenly I was now a fully qualified commercial pilot.
After training however, I quite liked the idea of instructing before I move on to a larger aircraft, allowing me to refine my skills and provide the same high-quality instructing that AFTA is renowned for. So, in September 2019, through a part sponsorship from AFTA, I began training as a flight instructor.
This course was a little bit different. Everything involved I had already completed before, but this time, instead of training from the left-hand seat, I was learning how to teach the lessons from the right-hand seat. It took a few flights to grow comfortable with this but otherwise the course was quite enjoyable. More accurate flying was required at this stage as I was to show a good impression on the students as to what was required of them. This and the fact that this time, I was also flying in more demanding weather conditions, I feel really helped to improve my skills. Throughout and integrated into the course were progress checks, conducted by senior instructors and even sometimes by the Head of Training himself, Mark Casey, who is also an amazing instructor, teaching things, not only essential for the lessons, but also habits and practices that lead to good airmanship. After six weeks of training as an instructor, I passed the final skills test and I was released as an instructor.
Although now I was instructing on the aircraft that I have become familiar with, this was definitely a step up from where I was before. Suddenly, I was the pilot in command, the decision-maker, the person that the student looks to for advice. But the learning didn’t stop here. Other instructors are always willing to answer questions and offer any advice that they may have. After the first few weeks of instructing under the watchful eye of the chief flying instructor, I felt right at home.
I was then selected to move to the second base at Waterford Airport and along with it came new challenges. A new, smaller airport with a shorter, narrower runway than what I had been used to, plus different local procedures and the added responsibility of becoming our own operations controllers for the day-to-day activities. Again, after some time here, I grew more comfortable and could fully focus on the instructing where I had been happily flying for over two years. Even during the COVID pandemic, when a massive percentage of pilots were grounded, we were happily flying and I am massively grateful to AFTA for this opportunity as it allowed me to keep my flying skills current and improve on my multi-crew and communication skills in the process.
But as all great things must come to an end, I felt it was time to move on and progress in my career. After almost 1500 hours of flying and a lot of help from AFTA, I was called for an interview for VistaJet. I felt the experience I had gained as an instructor really helped me here. I did not have any multi-crew flying but I had built some experience in crew resource management on the ground, communicating with the local ATC about weather, talking to engineering about aircraft etc. AFTA’ airline preparation programme was a massive help in preparation also. This programme helps prepare all AFTA graduates for any airline positions that you are applying for.
The assessment was challenging with many experienced candidates also in my group. The interview seemed to be aimed at more experienced pilots, but I answered the questions as best as I could with my experience gained so far. The simulator assessment, I felt, went reasonably well, using the multi-crew coordination skills that I had and also the instrument flying skills that I had been practicing with students during the previous two years to maintain situational awareness and it all paid off. About a week later, I received a phone call that I was successful and from the beginning of August 2022, I began the induction and training for my new roll at VistaJet.
As I said before, AFTA have been a huge help through challenging times, not only in helping to remain current as a flight instructor with uncertainty from both Brexit and the COVID pandemic, but also that even after almost three years since I had completed the initial training, there was no hesitation in helping me along the path of securing my first position on a jet.