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A unique path from student-pilot to First-Officer, with IFA

 Francisco is 27 years old and in just 8 years, he accomplished his lifetime dream, TWICE. 

The unravel of a dream journey 

Today an amazing airline pilot and his remarkable journey is going to catch your eye. From a small kid to an exceptional pilot, Francisco de Spinola had a typical path to earn his wings long before he conducted two distinctive Type Ratings. Nowadays, he flies for the renowned airline EuroAtlantic Airways. In fact, he went from being an ATPL student to a Type Rated First Officer on B767 and B777, all with IFA – International Flight Academy. 

Back to his childhood, the pilot shares “My first memory in aviation was back in 2004. I’ve flown before, but on that particular trip to Brazil, I was able to go to the cockpit. It was a wonderful experience for a 9-year-old.” But what made him follow this distinguished career? He explains that he really enjoys flying and the dream begun early. “Since I was a kid, I was interested in planes and that trip in the cockpit was unforgettable.” 

Personal story unfold 

Francisco describes himself as a calm person with common sense, “which is a basic but very important quality”, says. These are some of the qualities he believes makes him a successful pilot. He first started working as an airline pilot when he joined 

EuroAtlantic Airways (IFA Partner) in January 2019 and is currently a B767/777 First Officer for the that operator. When Francisco started the ATPL course with us, the main goal was to finish and get a job as a commercial pilot. Being such an outstanding student pilot, IFA recommendation to EuroAtlantic Airways was the least we could do to give him wings. 

“I think it is better to focus on the present than loosing yourself thinking about the future.”

And so, it was. He went from student to pilot, having managed to do two ratings in his career as a pilot so far. The Type Rating were on different aircrafts of the famous Boeing company: the B767 and the B777. But what made him want to achieve this mark? “I wasn’t focused on trying to do a particular Type rating. Because EuroAtlantic is the only Boeing operator in Portugal, my first type was the B767. Then this year I had the opportunity to complete B777 rating. It was a joy to experience one of the most successful airplanes in commercial aviation history.” 

Picture 1 - A unique path from student-pilot to First-Officer, with IFA

The leap to Type Rating 

Regarding the biggest challenge faced, he affirms it was the transition from Cessna and other small airplanes from ATPL training to the B767 instruction. “They are a bit different from each other”. Because it was the first job as a pilot, he barely had experience, but felt ready since he had just finished the ATPL(A) program. Francisco 

emphasizes that the professional reality hits when you change from small piston engine airplane to the big heavy jets, being a very different scenario. About the B767, he states that the first step he took was the Operator Conversion Course (in January 2019), followed by the ground school component. Afterwards, in March that year, the pilots flew to Gatwick to complete the B767 simulator sessions. 

The pilot expresses how the first Type Rating training went and says the simulators really prepare us for the real flights. Considering the training itself, the Type Rating is divided into two core segments. The first one is the ground school: “During this phase we study all the different systems of the aircraft, such as pressurization, hydraulics … etc. then we have the final exam. You also start to prepare yourself for the necessary procedures (“Flows”) required for the simulator sessions.” 

After finishing the ground school, which is relatively fast, we start the simulator instruction. “In there, you start getting a feel for the aircraft and witness how the different systems work during daily operations. You also practice several non-normal situations such as engine fire/failure, pressurization problems, electric malfunctions… etc.”. 

The Type Rating is designed to provide all the necessary knowledge so the pilot can understand the functions and systems of the aircraft. Thus, the student learns the operating procedures, use of checklists and instruments and becomes proficient in all emergency maneuvers and operational aspects. “The Simulator is extremely similar to the real aircraft. On my first flight, when I got to the cockpit, I felt completely familiarized with the airplane.”, he adds

Although it may be sensational, it is no piece of cake to complete a Type Rating. In this pilot opinion, the most difficult part is the amount of study and information to acquire in such short time: 

“These Jet aircrafts have a lot of technology and a variety of systems. It takes a bit of an effort and discipline to manage your time in order to complete the theoretical lessons and memorize the cockpit procedures before moving to the Simulator It is extremely important to practice these procedures consistently because, by the time you get to the SIM, you are expected to know them by heart. And if your cockpit procedures are solid, on the first SIM sessions, you have more freedom to concentrate on the different objectives the instructor wants you to accomplish.” 

Imagnme - A unique path from student-pilot to First-Officer, with IFA

A peek into the past and eyes on the future 

As it couldn’t be otherwise, we asked the pilot what was the most outstanding moments of his training as pilot, to which he replied: “The first solo flight and the first flight on the B767 were very nice”. And if he could do it all over again, there is nothing he would do differently. Until today, he has not had any emergency onboard, but he reports an urgent incident: 

My third flight was from Ponta Delgada, in Azores, to Porto. During our climb, a few minutes after take-off, the purser called the cockpit, informing us that one of the passengers wasn’t feeling well. We turned back to Ponta Delgada and asked for medical assistance. The passenger was then evacuated by the medical personnel. She was stabilized and then taken to an ambulance.” 

It is well known that the process to enter any airline is very competitive and finding the first job might be one of the hardest steps. Taking a Type Rating independently might provide that advantage a pilot needs or one might be lucky enough to enter an airline and that qualification might be provided by them. Francisco, interestingly, completed his entire pilot training programs with IFA. When we asked him where he sees himself in five years, he replied “For now I just want to fly the B777 and get more experience on how the aircraft and its systems operate. It’s an amazing airplane but very complex too.”

Imagbnme - A unique path from student-pilot to First-Officer, with IFA

A full voyage with IFA – International Flight Academy 

At IFA we try to give our students and graduates as much support as possible, helping whenever we can in the pursuit and communication of job vacancies or making recommendations that can improve their route and future as pilots. From basic training to Type Ratings, students can get the most out of their training with us. 

“I had a very good time at IFA. Between students and instructors, we all knew each other and got along well. It was a very familiar atmosphere, and it definitely prepared us to pursue our aviation careers.” 

Finally, he leaves an advice to young pilots and trainees: “Just enjoy the ATPL course. The smaller planes are also very fun to fly.” 


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