Letter from Jerez (Part 2)

Back in September 2014, we heard from Lisa Cusack, who was in the process of completing the Aer Lingus cadet pilot programme. Lisa has since qualified (congratulations, Lisa!), and here she tells us about the final six months of her training.

Aer Lingus Pilot Cadet

After 14 months of training in Southern Spain, I’m delighted to return to Ireland as a fully qualified pilot. The cadet programme was without a doubt a once in a lifetime experience, and one in which I certainly faced some challenges along the way. I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve come through these and had a great time doing it.

With my first solo flight ticked off the list, the programme was a whirlwind of flying combined with studying for the final six months. With the airfield based in Jerez, the surrounding terrain is quite mountainous. This, combined with high temperatures, brought many varieties of weather scenarios. From mountain waves to thermals, all can be quite an experience when flying solo, but with the high standard of instruction in FTE I felt fully in control and equipped to deal with every eventuality.

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of the course for me was the conversion from the single engine Piper Warrior to the twin engine DA-42. The skills required to operate the twin-engine were not dissimilar to the single engine. However, the DA42 was designed for individuals of 170cm or taller. Let’s just say that at 155cm, my petite stature didn’t do me any favours, but as with everything at FTE, nothing that can’t be overcome with a little ingenuity! Luckily I won’t have to face this issue when flying the Airbus fleet with Aer Lingus, which is fitted with electrically operated adjustable seats combined with adjustable rudder pedals. Pure luxury!

Aer Lingus Pilot Cadet

The biggest challenge of all was the phenomenal pace of the course. Over 800 hours of Ground School, 14 exams with a minimum pass rate of 75 percent, combined with over 150 hours of flying, non-stop study and preparation with consistent good grades. This combination was essential to complete the course in such a short time frame. Given the high standards required, I felt lucky to have 16 fellow cadets who I could turn to if I needed any help or advice.

However, it wasn’t all hard work and challenges. The freedom of flying solo is an experience like no other. Most memorable for me was my Cross Country flight. A five hour solo flight, landing in Granada and Seville along the way and returning safely to Jerez.

I also did an unforgettable hour of Upset Recovery Training in a Bellanca Decathlon. I learned to recover the aircraft from all sorts of unusual attitudes including spiral dives and even got a chance to do some aerobatics!

I finished the course with the MCC (Multi-Crew Cooperation) and this was certainly one of the most enjoyable parts for me. After 150 hours working as a single pilot, I spent 20 hours in a 737 Simulator, with a fellow cadet, flying as part of a crew. This for me was a huge turning point as it was a very real glimpse into the life of an airline pilot and reminded me of the exciting and challenging career that lay ahead.

MCC Training with Cadet James Cahill

To have come through this process is beyond a dream come true for me. Having decided at an early age that this is was the path I wished to follow, I set about doing just that. It took a lot longer than expected, having spent over 12 years studying, working, saving, and gaining my Private Pilot License. And of course, not forgetting baking and selling over 10,000 cupcakes over the years to fund my journey! It was all more than worth it.

Lisa receiving wingsReceiving my wings from Captain John Kelly of Aer Lingus at my Graduation Ceremony in May with eight other cadets was certainly a day I will never forget. Without a doubt, the icing on the cupcake is the amazing oppor-tunity of an exciting, enjoyable, challenging and safe, life-long career with Aer Lingus.

For now, it’s back to Ireland, where I will commence my A320 type-rating with the hope of carrying my first guests in August. It will be an honour and a privilege to welcome you all on-board a flight very soon.

Retired Cygnet 882 and soon to be Shamrock,

Lisa Cusack

Read Lisa’s first blog post here.



Aer Lingus Cadet Programme