Behind the Scenes

Possibly the best days ever

Student pilot training at European Flight Academy is demanding and challenging. But after the theory phase, student pilots are rewarded with training in the Arizona desert or at the coast of Florida. An exciting time at the aviation campus begins.

“Mobile Traffic Cirrus 836EF, solo student lining up on Runway 27 for left closed traffic mobile”, the radio reports. Oliver, a 25-year-old trainee from Essen, Germany, aligns his aircraft on the runway of Mobile, the private airport of European Flight Academy southwest of Phoenix. Just as he has practiced numerous times, he pushes the thrust levers forward and lifts the Cirrus at 71 knots. The difference to before: today, he’s all alone in the cockpit.


“An indescribable feeling”

From the cockpit windows, he can see the craggy rocks of the desert give way to clear-blue skies, and the higher the Cirrus climbs, the more ease and joy he feels at the sight of the endless desert landscape and its red valleys. The tension he still felt on the tarmac has vanished. All Oliver focuses on now is to implement what he has learned in training. There is no time to think about the fact that there is no flight instructor on board.


That is what Oliver’s first solo flight was like. “It’s an indescribable feeling to steer an aircraft all by yourself – and I think I speak for everybody when I claim that you will never forget your first flight!”

The dream of flying comes true

After all the theory in Bremen, European Flight Academy trainees approach the initial flight phase in Arizona or Florida, marking the beginning of an unforgettable time. The Arizona airport is located two kilometers southeast of Goodyear, a suburb of Phoenix, where the weather is a dream all year around. Talk about perfect conditions for flight training and visual flight! Hundreds of trainees have already completed their first flight on the desert airport that is home to the European Flight Academy’s Airline Training Center Arizona.


The dream of flying comes true. With navigation, meteorology, electrical engineering, Air Traffic Control, aerodynamics, aviation English and radio transmitting, the trainees have intensively prepared for this moment for twelve months. In Arizona, they initially share a cockpit with their instructors to complete numerous training flights.

Just like the driving test

Before they can take off on their first solo flight, they need to complete a pre-solo-flight check flight: “That check flight is comparable to the practical driving test – with the small but significant difference that you rarely ever have to use the radio, work through checklists, hold altitudes and courses, or land while driving a car”, Oliver jokes. During the “pre-solo” flight, the trainee flies previously learned maneuvers and demonstrates that he/she can handle simulated engine failures and is capable of diverse landing maneuvers. For training purposes, the academy operates a private airport that belongs to Lufthansa Aviation Training. Here, the trainees have practiced numerous takeoffs and landings. 


Full cicle left and right

Following the baptism in “solo”, the flight training goes into the Air Work phase. Here, the trainee develops a feel for his/her aircraft and, in a manner of speaking, learns to “play” with it in the air. “The aim of Air Work is to learn to fly sensitively, in order to be able to master any situation and control the aircraft,” says Patrick, a 29-year-old trainee from Augsburg, Germany. In order to accomplish this, several different maneuvers are flown in a row. For this training, the class travels to specifically designated training areas. To avoid aircraft coming too close to each other, no more than two aircraft may occupy one area at the same time. Once everything is set, the radio will report: “N832EF, you are number one in CHARLIE,” and the fun begins,” Patrick says. 


First of all, the trainees fly “Steep Turns” – full circles to the left and to the right performed with a significantly higher transverse gradient than usual curves. The idea is that the trainees are to hold the bank and the altitude as precisely as possible, and then, following the full circle, return to their exact initial position, which requires a deft touch and a solid mastery of the aircraft.

Intentionally test borders

“The learning curve here is steep, the requirements are there, and yet it’s so much fun,” says Sabine, a 26-year-old trainee from Munich. Her next step in Air Work is “Slow Flight”. The goal here is to control the aircraft in low airspeeds. During this part of training, the trainees intentionally fly close to so-called “Stall Speed” – the velocity where the airstream ceases underneath the wings, and the aircraft almost stops flying. “In rare cases, due to inattention or external influences, it is possible to get into a Stall,” Sabine explains. And yet the trainees specifically practice creating a Stall in order to learn how to catch the aircraft again.


Videos from Grand Canyon

Beside all this aeronautical fine tuning, where trainees practice to fly more sensitively, and the theory covering flight planning, wind detection, and fuel calculation practice, the class also goes on road trips into the unique area: Las Vegas with its sparkling skyline or San Diego with its deep-water port that attracts with its active naval fleet and its dream beaches. Countless individual class videos showing trainees on speed boats or in the Grand Canyon attest to that.   


In Goodyear, the trainees grow into the pilot profession. With the scent of burned jet fuel on the runway, they simultaneously get a whiff of the wide world. From now on, they also wear a uniform as a symbol of their trade. “It’s a great feeling to see others and yourself in these clothes,” Felix, 20, trainee, explains and adds that every class creates their own patch to be sewn onto the shoulders of the uniform, and printed onto stickers, caps, and cups. 



Off to the pool

Among the most significant flight academy traditions cultivated at European Flight Academy, however, is the following: after every first solo flight, the trainee is carried from the aircraft to the pool. Underway, their feet must not under any circumstances touch the ground. They are then thrown into the pool head-first and in full gear. As the outside temperature is around 43° Celsius, this is quite the shot for the photo album.


It’s almost sad to have to go back to Germany after four months. But the now awaiting simulator training in Germany offers a whole new range of challenges, following a simple rule commonly known among trainees of European Flight Academy: with every phase of their training, the aircraft become larger and faster – from the small Cirrus to the cockpit of the airliner that will eventually be the pilots’ workplace. Against this backdrop, the probably greatest heart-throbbing moment is still to come: the first landing with a passenger jet. Dennis believes that this moment “could be like the very first kiss.“


FAScINATION of flying

In the video, our students relate how they ended up joining European Flight Academy, what drives them, and what it feels like to finally fly solo.