Something that I never wrote about, at the time that I did it, was my experience with taking the Operational Evaluation (OE). The OE is the final ‘test’ that you are required to take on the Fly Icarus course, and is designed to bring together everything you were taught during ‘ground school’, all of the paperwork you put together, and your flying ability. You must pass the OE before you can then make your application to the CAA for your PfCO.
The Fly Icarus team structures the OE around a real life ‘job’. Meaning that it replicates a client requesting some work from you. It’s then down to you to put into action whatever planning structure you decide to make as a business, obviously incorporating the necessary documentation required by the CAA. The OE can be taken any time within 12 months of completing the ground school, but I wanted to get mine out of the way as soon as possible, looking to gain the PfCO before Christmas.
The only thing you’ll hate about the OE is the paperwork; well maybe it was just me, but I wanted to have everything written down. Briefing templates, Operations Manual, Logs, Flight Reference Cards, risk assessments, more briefings, flow charts etc. etc. Some you require, some are helpful and some are just there to reassure. I personally find that the more I have on paper (I mean physically printed and in my hand – not just on a computer) the easier it is to follow a defined structure. So, as well as having a printed copy of my Operations Manual and Flight Reference Cards, I also had an “On-Site Documents” book. Printed, laminated, and bound together. Everything I would need, and in the order I would need it.
TIP: I had it laminated so that I could write on it with a perm-marker as I went, the idea being that I could then type up the information after the job (in order to archive it), then wipe the booklet clean and reuse – it’s worked out pretty well so far!
Something I found helpful the week before the OE was going out with someone, my Dad in this case, and simulating the entire end-to-end ‘job’. I made sure to talk through everything as I did it… “I’m now doing the risk assessment”, “I’m now going to brief you”, “I’m now setting up the drone”, “I’m now going to start”. I would also do the same with the wife (poor lady), asking her to question me as I talked though it all. I did this right up until the moment I was sitting in the Fly Icarus office, waiting to be taken through to the briefing room.
For those that have a driving license, cast your mind back to the day of your test… do you remember the sheer stress you put your mind through? Or maybe the sheer terror of taking an exam? Well that’s the OE! No amount of prior preparation will put you at ease before the big day, it’s just one of those things – quickly flashing forward, my advice to anyone about to do their OE is DON’T STRESS. There is no need to stress, especially if you are well prepared. I know it’s all good and well me saying this in hindsight, but honestly, don’t stress.
Anyway, there I was stressing myself out...time to begin!
My instructor was Tom, and he started by briefing me on the structure of the evaluation, and some health and safety points, before sending me off to commence the assessment. I won’t go through each step of the OE as that’s giving it away, but very loosely… On-Site Survey/ Briefings / Set-up / Flight / Evaluation. Simple! And this is the reason I say not to stress, because you know everything! Nothing you’re doing there is new to you. The only real dynamic you might face on the day is the weather, and it’s down to you as the ‘operator’ to call off the OE if you believe the weather conditions to be too treacherous. Also, during your ATTI mode flying (no GPS), you will face difficulty in high winds, but this is where your prior preparation kicks in. Practise, practise, practise - whenever you can, get out and fly without your GPS. Not only will this better prepare you for the OE, but it will just make you a better pilot overall.
I’m pleased to say that I passed on my first attempt. Phew!
There are a few things that I would have done differently in hindsight, but overall I was pleased with how it went. It all comes down to the knowledge that the Fly Icarus team sends you away with, and as much preparation, practise, and rehearsals as you can possibly do.
I’m thrilled that I received my PfCO just before Christmas and am now currently seeking out work. Good luck to you any of you due to undertake the assessment, and remember not to stress.
Fly Icarus Ambassador