Excellent intensive CPL / MEP / MEIR course

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Submitted by Mark S on Fri, 17/12/2021 - 21:54

This Review Overall Rating

I attended Smart in September and October 2021 and completed my training in seven weeks. I've been to a couple of UK commercial schools and the experience was much better. Some UK schools schedule students with two hours a day, five days a week, from 08.00 to 18.00. At Smart they'll give you whatever hours you need to get you through the particular module you're working on, and keep you on schedule. That does require some flexibility on the part of the student. If you're not flexible, you might ask yourself if you're cut out for the shift-work that aviation demands. On the minus side, I had a late finish the day before my test, which meant I was a bit tired for it and felt a bit short of planning time. Some key points:

  • The staff and instructors were extremely positive and helpful, and that makes a real difference, because we all have bad days. These weren't people who were just there to build hours, they were people who wanted to share their enthusiasm for flying, and who had many thousands of hours of commercial experience. They will pull tricks on you to make you a better pilot, like making you fly your CPL nav exercises at less than 1,000' AGL in not-so-great visibility to make sure you're not feature-hopping.
  • I had a bit of experience on the DA42 and a Duchess (with steam gauges) prior to attending - the former has FADEC and the latter requires both mixture and pitch input. The Tecnam 2006 is a nice midway between the two, with pitch but no mixture (though you still have to look after carb heat). Two of the twins had G1000 and one had G950 (I think). I'd been concerned about the lack of an anti-ice system, but it was never an issue.
  • I chose to do all my hours on twins, and it only cost another EUR2,000 - I think that's a really worthwhile investment. It also means you're not having to learn a new checklist, V-speeds, etc.
  • They have a fleet of three Tecnam 2006 aircraft and are adding a fourth in spring 2022, I believe. When I heard that my aircraft had a fractured coolant pipe my heart sank, because at a UK school that would be weeks of delays. Smart keep spare Rotax engines in stock, and a new one was fitted on a Saturday, so my training remained on schedule.
  • The sim instructors are the two airline captains who made Bartolini what it used to be, and they train you to airline standards. The small fly in the ointment with the sim is that it's not the same as a Tecnam 2006, nor is it a G1000 in the sim. That meant a different set of SOPs, a different nav system and V-speeds.
  • Poland is a great place to train because there's not much GA traffic around, and the service you get from ATC is excellent
  • Smart is in a busy class D airport, with ILS, VOR and RNP approaches available.
  • They have a maintenance facility at EPZG, which is a 25-minute flight away. This has almost no traffic, but is a class D commercial airport, and also has ILS, VOR and RNP approaches available, so you can practice in a safe and quiet environment before stepping up to a busier airspace. You're often the only aircraft on frequency.
  • Polish weather is northern European, so more credible than doing your course in Spain. It's more stable than the UK, and in the time I was there the UK was facing the usual train of Atlantic storms and weeks of non-flying weather. Poznan was flyable almost every single day.
  • Poznan is a lovely university city, with plenty of history to explore. My training buddy was mid-twenties had a very active social life. I paid about EUR700/month for a really comfortable and quiet flat with dishwasher, washing machine, underground parking space, etc. in a really quiet area just 35 minutes' walk from the school. Don't go downtown - it's noisier, the flats aren't modern and you have to take a bus or cycle. There are bike rentals for 20 pence/day, as well as e-scooters. Language was never a problem. The food is good and the people are very friendly.

I got a partial on my MEIR - absolutely my own fault. I was doing a CDFA on my last RNP approach and had been expecting a VOR. I chose the wrong DA. Rookie mistake, but I was in my fourth hour of flying because I'd chosen to do CPL/MEP and then MEIR back-to-back.

Course(s) taken: Multi Engine Instrument Rating (ME-IR) , Multi Engine Piston Rating (MEP) , Combined Advanced Training (CPL/ME-IR) , Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) , Fast-Track Training Courses

General

Facilities

5

Atmosphere

5

Student Support

5

Customer Service

5

Communication

5

Graduation Support

5

Social Life

4

Aircraft

Overall aircraft rating

5

Aircraft Availability

5

Aircraft Reliability

5

Aircraft Age

5

Aircraft Maintenance

Simulators

Simulator Age

5

Simulator Maintenance

5

Simulator Reliability

5

Simulator Availability

5

Simulator Overall

5

Practical Training

Quality of Practical Instruction

5

School Manuals

5

Lesson Regularity

5

Standard Operating Procedures

5

Practical Instructors per Student

5

Lesson Scheduling

5