Saturday, November 27, 2010

wow, that was the week that was....but got signed off to do my exams

So, I have just got back from my first week of full-time study in Ormond beach Florida at the EASA, Euro-American School of Aviation which is based there and my training college from the UK, C.A.T.S uses their facilities for their distance learning course for the ATPL exams.
It was good to get to see a "Professional" school in action, by that, I mean a school training professional pilots of the future. All of the trainees were in uniform, giving lectures, briefings and dealing with flight plans.
A great environment after I have been doing all of my study at home or in hotel rooms to be able to discuss with other people on the same situation is great and helps with the studying.
The class room work was pretty tough though for an old brain like mine, I hadn't spent that much time in a class room since 1996 when I left Sidmouth College, doing 9am -6pm on the inner workings of an airplane tests the grey matter thats for sure, but I have come away feeling energized and ready for the first stage of the exams in January and the instructor agreed and has signed my application form for the first stage of the exams at Gatwick on Jan 18th.
The lecturer was great, very experienced, knew what he was talking about and also had a great sense of humor. He was also called Stuart, apparently we make good pilots.
The subjects were pretty tough, turbine engines, gyro instruments even fire extinguishers, but Stuart seemed to be able to break it down into enjoyable chunks with some good flowing lectures.
I was pleasantly surprised by the EASA school as well. I have heard and read so many nightmare stories about studying in Florida, at "foreign" schools which are cheaper than the Uk but substandard teaching.
I have now studied at 2, Naples and EASA, spoken to 90% of the instructors there at both, flown in the planes, even met the owners, and all I can say is that I would recommend them both, and will be studying at both for my future training without hesitation. Admittedly I'm not a blue eyed 22 year old student who they can boss around and squeeze money out of, and was asking them some pretty direct questions, I think you can't let these schools treat you like a student and headmaster relationship, you need to make sure they remember who is the customer and always I want value for money.
The instructors always had time for me at each school I have been to and importantly they are mainly career instructors with a gazzillion years of experience with so much to impart.
I was sharing a house with 2 guys in Ormond beach who were doing their instructor courses and this week is a huge holiday weekend here in the USA, its like Xmas in the UK, "Thanks Giving", normally everyone, and I mean everyone is off all of the long weekend, but their instructor for their course was there for them, as much as they wanted all weekend if they needed, with out question and at no extra charge. I thought that was a good touch, the instructor could have taken all of the time off with out question and the students would be left paying for longer stays in the accommodation but they were working their way through the course and hopefully will be teaching at a school in the near future.
Anyway its been a long week with a lot of study, its Saturday night and I think I deserve a Miami beer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Progress report......

So I am 3 days into my first ground school for my Commercial Pilot theory exams. I have been studying since September since I got the books. Studying usually for 15-20 hours per week, for the first set of exams in January. I have 3 modules to complete in total and for each module I have to have a week of ground school up here in Daytona, Florida to see how that I am up to speed.
So far its been long study days, and pretty intensive, plus there are only 3 of us in the class so you can't hide away for too long.
I am happy to say that so far so good, the lecturer, who is the chief ground school instructor with Cranfield Aviation in the UK is very good, got a great sense of humor and keeps the lessons flowing well. I have been doing my progress tests each day after each set of lectures and passing them. But in saying that today was the first day where I felt I was behind a bit and need to do some more work, we are doing Instruments, Gyros and Magnetics. Including the theory behind all of the workings of them and the results if each of them fail in the airplane whilst in the air.
Sitting down for 8 hours per day is hard enough, let alone the subject matter, to top it all off, the school is at a flight school right next to the runway and the weather is fantastic watching, so sitting working in the classroom whilst watching all of the pilots flying off out over the ocean is tough.
I am hoping to get some extra Instrument study in tonight and try to get ahead of the curve a bit.......
Will keep you posted.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Key Lime Pie in the Keys.....

What a great week this has been.
After my first flight in the CTLS (Light Sport Plane) and subsequently being checked out and allowed to fly it, my friend and fellow pilot John Stevens has come over from the UK for a long weekend to get his Faa conversion done for his Caa license. So whilst he was with one of the instructors, Tim, at Premier Aviation going through the Faa syllabus I was getting to know this new aircraft.
One of the other instructors, Blake, was kind enough to help me out with a navigation flight down over some of the Keys, with the idea being that if all went well with John's Faa conversion and no weather delays etc John and I would head out on Saturday ourselves.
Blake introduced me to some more advanced radio work here in the US which is a little different but not tricky, to organize "Flight Following" radar service out of the water and the northern Keys, it was new to me here doing radio calls where we were talking with them and next on the frequency were pilots driving 747's from the UK then American Airlines 757's, but they were extremely helpful and friendly.
We were given a departure frequency and squawk whilst taxiing on the ground and assigned altitude and heading for after departure, all went really well and it was a really nice flight, Blake was a really good guy to fly with.
When we got back in John had finished his Faa check ride and was signed off in his log book, so we were both off the leash and free to take rent their aircraft as we wished so we were booked in to take one of their planes for the planned route of going down to Marathon, which is 3/4 of the way down the Florida Keys towards Key West the next day.
Saturday arrived and the weather looked good, a little breezy but nothing to worry about. My wife and son are currently in the Keys for a break with some friends so the plan was to meet them at Marathon airport for a bite to eat.
The same procedures were followed as the day before to get flight following down and back with me in the left seat on the way down. With an easterly departure approved on runway 9R we were on our way out over the ocean in no time to meet op with the northern most Key and turn right to follown the tiny slither of land all the way down.

En-route the scenery was fantastic the small islands, fishing boats and kite surfers on the turquoise ocean. A few clouds about 3000ft were keeping us from assigned altitude of 3500ft but Miami central were happy for us to drop to 2500ft.
There was virtually no traffic all the way down to marathon and with a healthy tail wind we were there in an hour after a slightly suspect landing on my part. There was a really friendly welcome on the tarmac with assistance of where to tie down the air craft and even the offer of complimentary transport to a restaurant or hotel !!!
But my wife Luce and son Thomas were there to greet us and we all headed off to a local beach bar for a snack and a drink, well I say snack when I mean huge slice of Key Lime pie..... well when in Rome and all that.
When we realized the time was getting on, it and we wanted to get back into Tamiami before night fall we dragged ourselves from the beach bar to the airport where Thomas and Luce got to see in the plane up close. The FBO were so friendly and helpful and there wasn't even a landing few, not many places in the UK where you would get that kind of service !!
In no time at all John had us on our way climbing back through 2500ft. As we got back onto "flight following" with Miami Central they warned of some nasty weather ahead and offered to vector us around if we needed. We had a good weather radar onboard and could see what he was talking about so decided enroute that a change of return leg would be needed and would head north over the water and approach Tamiami airport from the West instead of over the Keys where a huge storm was sitting.
The only problem with this routing is that it goes through a "training area" which is busy at the best of times with very inexperienced trainee pilots all put in one area at the same time, a little like bees in a hive and a slightly bonkers way of doing training in my opinion, you only have to look at the accident reports.
So John and I had to be on our toes but were once again helped along by Radar service and managed to dodge the trainee who seemed hell bent on trying to play a game of Tag with us.
We were given a pretty easy approach back into Tamiami which is unusual at such a busy airport and were able to just turn right onto long final for a runway 9L and John brought her home a treat just as the sun was going down.
I think the flight gave us some good experience in working the cockpit together and we worked really well as a team getting the job done at the busy times and I'm hoping its the first of many cross country adventures for us to share.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sharks, Turtles and Stingrays..... from 300ft

Well where do I start with this posting.....
I suppose the beginning.
My Instrument rating instructor Chris, has his own business as well as teaching, he imports light sport airplane for selling on the mainland US.
I helped him out a while ago to shoot pictures for him for his brochure and website as start up costs are high and photographers are expensive beasts.
So I offered to do the pictures for free in return for getting checked out on his plane so that I could rent it in the future. Deal done and todays the day for flying.
He is based out of Tamiami Airport towards the south of Miami so I went down to his offices and I am enclosing a picture of the plane.
Its quite small and pretty light, but really well equipped with all of the latests computer wizardry. Tamiami airport, KTPM,  is pretty big with 3 runways and a ground controller who would be better off off doing horse racing commentary he can speak so quickly, so some serious work on the radio to use 4 different taxi ways/ intersections and runway crossings to get to the hold for runway 9L.
We took off to the East out over the bay area over the water until we were 6-7 miles out and over head some of the isolated florida keys.
First off we had some manouvers to get through: Power off stalls, Power on stalls, Steep turns, slow flight.
The stall were amazing, it didn't want to stall at all and the stall was barely noticeable, very smooth ride and no wings dropping, just a steady sink.
The slow flight surprised me, at 40kts we were able to hold altitude at 2000ft and put in slow turns, it was like we were floating.
With all of the boxes ticked for this part of the check ride Chris asked if I wanted to go see the sharks.
"WHAT ?" I exclaimed, "SHARKS"
He went onto explain that there is plenty of aquatic life around the Keys and with the really clear sunny day we had we could see right through the clear blue sea.
So Chris told me to take the plane down to 300ft over the water, to which I raised an eyebrow and it was time for fish spotting.
Leveling off at 300ft and soon enough with the pair of us looking out of the windows we were spotting schools (not sure if thats the correct collective) of Sharks dotted around the keys, then a few turtles breaking the surface of the ocean and lastly a giant, and I mean giant, the size of a ford fiesta giant, Sting ray gracefully swimming along oblivious to her observers 300ft above.
I have not had so much fun whilst flying a plane in my life. I am only sorry that due to the low lever, wave hugging flying I couldn't take pictures at the same time but I certainly feel like I have discovered a great reason as to why flying in southern Florida is so popular.
So after we had done out David Attenborough bit it was time to rejoin the real world back at Tamiami, 10 miles out and a few radio calls and we were back in the circuit with Lear Jets, King air twins, and a few other students. There wasn't one normal circuit as we had to slip in between planes on ILS approach, then go on super long extended down wind legs to join the queue, there was always a minimum of 4 aircraft in the queue ahead.
One great reason for being able to do the PPL at Limoges, being always able to use the Class D airport facilities but nice and quiet at the same time.
Landing the light sport is a new skill thats for sure.
In my pre flight briefing Chris had explained as much as it loves to float, so he said we were going to be doing flap-less landings and come in a a shallower angle, as with the flaps extended the plane tends to come in steep and slow and drop onto the runway, also any cross wind can pick you up and throw you on the grass. Flap-less it is then.
It was nice to be back flying with a stick rather than yoke so the aircraft feels more under control to me for the finer touches coming to land and I was pretty happy with how the 4 landings went and Chris was happy enough, one thing though, I came in a touch quick one of the, just 8-10kts and that lead to floating nearly halfway down the runway even with power off, so its important to nail the speeds in this light plane.
I have another hour and half to do to finish the check out on the plane and then I will be able to rent it myself and start building up these hours that I need to, to get to the magic 150 P1, pilot in command hours I need for my commercial license.
On Sunday I will be heading off to Daytona beach, to do my first compulsory study weeks for my theory work for my commercial pilots license, 8 hours of sitting in the classroom learning about the internal workings of piston and jet engines for 5 days.

I think I may spend some of it day dreaming about a rather large Stingray swimming around the Keys.....

And finally the Night Rating is done.....

How much fun was that.... ?
I got to travel over to Naples air centre on Tuesday night to finish up my Night qualification with Lawrence (my instructor).
In brief the night rating consists of 5 hours of total flying including doing a night navigation to another airport, various procedures and 2 hours of solo flight with 5 full stop landings and taxi backs at a towered airport.
Firstly I need to say that in Lawrence I have found a terrific instructor, really dedicated to flying and certainly not someone who is there clock watching. A really good guy to fly with and always there with some good advice and helpful hint or 3. A huge thank you to him for working into the small hours for me.
The flying itself was simply awesome, particularly the solo work, I loved it, up there at 3000ft alone with nothing but the stars and the moon for company, I would have happily stayed up there for hours, especially at its only $99 per hour instead of the 200 pounds in the UK.
The landings took a little getting used to, as you tend to use the runway lights for perspective instead of the broader horizon in the daytime, which meant I was coming in a little steep and tending to land a little heavy until Sue's voice (my PPL Instructor/Mentor in France) came back into my head from my PPL training, "look to the end of the runway and fly the runway" whilst on final approach; almost like the OB1 Kenobi Star Wars moment: "Use the Force Luke" and the problem was fixed, the force was with me.
The one problem with doing all the landings is you then have to taxi off the runway and taxi back to the start of the runway and go through pre take off once more, I think during my first hour I spent more time driving the plane around the airport taxiways than flying it.
The airspace around Naples Florida at night is unrestricted at and over the coastline with the small islands lit only by moonlight and the city lights are truly beautiful, I recommend getting the night rating done, it certainly gives some confidence at the same time as a real feeling of achievement.
I am off to get some flying done in Miami over the coming days so there should be a few more postings from there......

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Did I have some fun today...?

Today and tomorrow are the annual air days at the Homestead Air reserve base near Miami.
Now the Americans do know how to do all things military pretty well. They rolled out the cream of the cream of US Airforce, Army, Marine and coast guard pilots for some of the most amazing shows I have ever seen.
So I took Thomas along for the day free day out and we weren't disappointed, we got to get up close and personal with a huge variation of aircraft as well, from helicopters, Apache, Black hawks and coast guard to super huge cargo machines.

Tom and I were even invited to go upfront and take the seats in a $4.1 million T-1 Jay Hawk Jet. Definitely he high light of my day. The Jay Hawk looks for all intents and purposes like the average private jet but this one is used by the US Military as a trainer for all pilots going onto larger cargo and personnel carrying aircraft, the average pilot having to complete around 150 hours on this sleek speed machine before going onto the heavier sisters of the fleet.
A great day was had by all......

Thursday, November 4, 2010

So I have been in the US for nearly a year so I have been thinking...

So I have been in the US for nearly a year so I have been thinking about where I am with all things flying.
Firstly due to the first 5 months after my arrival flying being limited due to security and medical issues the total hours I have managed to fly has been pretty limited, this is not a huge problem as I am not really in a rush. But I do feel like I have had a fair amount of time and money wasted over the passed year unfortunately due to joining up with a school with rather dodgy aircraft and having to re-do, re-apply and re-pay for all of the procedures for a second time in the process of starting instrument training with the Cessna school.
There have been some massive positives though at the same time. I am very fortunate that my nan has given me the present of paying for my Commercial Pilots license theory course with CATS school out of Luton, something I didn't think I would be able to start yet, whilst over here in the US of A. Due to this I am spending every hour I'm not working in studying for the upcoming exams of which the first one is in January in Gatwick for Aircraft General Knowledge.
Due to being able to start the CPL theory I have put the FAA Instrument training to the background for the time being as doing the both at the same time is just a little too much to cope with, and I hope to pick this back up prior to doing the CPL practical exams towards the end of next sumer/autumn.
As you may have read I started my JAA night training this week and I have to say it was a pleasant surprise in many ways.
Firstly due to the fact that so many people within flying seem to have a downer on the whole flight training experience in the USA and particularly Florida. The rumours and allegations of JAA Schools (schools which teach the European syllabus)  having crappy planes, money hungry owners and instructors who don't give a hoot except for building hours and getting "A Line Job" I have found totally unfounded. The school at Naples has been a particularly pleasant surprise, my instructor Lawrence has been a true professional in every sense, he loves flying, he loves teaching, its infectious. Even though I am not doing my CPL theory with their school he has offered to help mentor me through it over Skype if I have questions that need a little explaining or if I hit that proverbial brick wall which I have a few times.
With a school of their size its nice that the owners know who I am, give me a warm welcome when I walk through the door, so when I read some of the stories on aviation websites about them in particular and other Florida based schools I am going to start taking some of these opinions with a pinch of salt.
 I think you have to take everything on merit, I made a mistake in my first choice of school, although frustrating I am glad I went through it so that I can a, see the indicators of this kind of place and b, see how a school shouldn't be run for my own personal future.
So for the time being I am 2/3 of my way through the syllabus for Aircraft General Knowledge and I will have my study week in the class room at a school in Ormond Beach Florida towards the end of this month and will get an idea if I am on the right track, with 8 hours a day in the class room, something I haven't done in quite a while.
 If all goes well I should be heading to Gatwick for the first exams due on the 17th/18th January. The following sittings will be in March, then the final exams in May. If and thats a huge IF all the exams get passed I will hope to have enough hours to go on and do my CPL practical month long training and testing towards the end of the summer.
The 150 hours of P1 flying needs to be achieved between now and then so I am pretty happy that a flying friend John is planning to come stateside and we plan on touring all over the country and build those hours up and enjoy some fun flying.
A pretty big 9 months ahead, fingers crossed it goes to plan.......

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

From Naples to Venice at night and not a word of Italian spoken

My second night of night flying was another success, really settling into the aircraft and the area.
The radio has been a little daunting as they speak with a heavy accent here and are not using JAA vocabulary as it were, so a few translations needed this evening, but got there in the end.
This evening was all about Navigation as last night was mainly about handling, landings etc.
Lawrence was more about me handing a lot more of the cockpit work and showing how to work out where we were along track as we headed north out of Naples up to Venice beach about an hour north.
We spoke with the large airport at South Western Regional to get traffic service up the coast as there was a lot of traffic around and some low cloud into the mix which kept us on our toes and keeping an eye out, but all in all a pleasant flight up, as we approached Venice, Lawrence did his magic trick again and lit up the runway lights with the radio. The fun thing this time though was as we were on short finals at about 200ft all of the lights suddenly went out and for the first time in a while I was a little worried and was about to hit the power for a go around as everything was pitch black and there was no horizon, and just after the runway was the sea, worry though I shouldn't have as Lawrence quickly hit the radio switch 7 times and just like the illuminated fountain at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas the colourful lights were ablaze once again although my heart was thumping we got down safely if not a touch long touching down on the runway.
So we full stopped there and headed to the convenient restaurant bar on the apron for a little local fair of Crab cakes and a half hour of rest.
Out of the window we started to see some drizzle coming down the runway so it was time to hop back into the trusty arrow and fire her up for the trip back down the coast.
To make things a little more interesting I started to get used to some of the Nav systems on the plane and made a few VOR fixes on the trip back to refresh my memory and also see how much different it is doing it in the dark with US style maps, I managed to get there in the end and was happy with that and also the work load of dealing with the radio workload at the same time. Its amazing the difference between the USA , UK and France for radio calls etc so the mind was boggled a little when combined with learning a totally new skill like night flying especially when we headed out to sea in the pitch black for a short while and doing all the flying on instruments alone, whilst tracking the VOR and dodging class C airspace whilst 737's were on the ILS !!
The approach back into Naples was good the clouds had cleared even the stars came out to shine, unfortunately the tower closed at 10pm so I wasn't able to complete my 5 full stop landings at a towered airport in time so another trip to Naples will be in order and hopefully another round of crab cakes.....

Top job Lawrence for making this enjoyable so far.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Night Night Naples

Well after 2 failed attempts due to weather problems I have finally got my night qualification underway at Naples Air centre here in Florida.
Lawrence, my trusty instructor showed me around and introduced me to my new steed; a Piper Arrow.
We were initially delayed for a couple of hours due to pesky storms but finally got off the ground and into the big black after 9.15pm.
A few circuits (or patterns to us USA speak) to get used to the plane and the general area and I was joined in the circuit by James in another plane, he's also another night qual. student. After half a dozen circuits and really getting into flying the arrow we headed out of the circuit for some navigation work, with James hot on our tail. We flew over Marco island which is a play ground for the rich and famous and has its own airstrip where Lawrence showed me his bit of magic, where we dialed in the Marco Island frequency for their runway, which was closed for the evening and after keying the mike a few times he lit up the entire airport like a xmas tree with all of the runway and taxi lights springing into action.
After 10pm Naples becomes uncontrolled as the tower closes so the pilots in the area all talk to each other and its pretty informal to be honest and I quite liked that. A helicopter pilot came on frequency and told us to get our umbrella's ready as a squalling rain system was fast approaching so we headed out to sea and played a little hide and seek with the rain.
We then went back into the circuit to have a well earned cuppa after as the first couple of hours was in the book, I even managed a half decent landing which is pretty tricky in the dark.
The idea was to then head off on a longer navigation trip up to Sarasota as the requisite 5 hours of night flying needs to be eaten up, unfortunately when we checked the weather radar just prior to departing and it showed the squally shower from before had built strength and come back to bite us for a second time so we decided it was perhaps time to call it a night and then give it a go again tomorrow. I was really impressed with my instructor Lawrence though as he even offered to get up a 5am to get some more flying in as the weather had spoilt the second flight.
The poor fella had been polite enough about my wayward landings already there was no way I was going to drag him out of bed at that ungodly hour, plus some may say I need my beauty sleep.
So just going to wait for the sun to go down tomorrow and fingers crossed, and weather gods providing we will get some more flying in the star filled skies.
Night night.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Aircraft General Knowledge CPL and on to Electrics

So I am putting the hours in, Air Frames and Systems is the name of the game.  I have finally got to the end of the first chapter and have gone through some most of the progress tests today and have scored above 85% in all of those.
So next is the dreaded Electrics, now I know this is going to be very difficult as it wasn't my strong point when I did physics at school. I just can't get my head around amps, Ohms and volts, let alone resisters etc.
The big test is going to be when I have done the next chapter if I can still remember the first one. This is a proper test of the grey matter thats for sure, but I'm enjoying the learning side of things although its tough going.

If I manage to get through these exams I definitely know it will all have been worth it. But I just wish the mode of learning had been invented already whereby they could plug something into my brain and I could upload it........

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The CPL Theory work is in full flow.

After the initial shock when all of the books arrived and the sudden gut wrenching realization of how much work it is going to involve over the coming 9 months or so, I have got myself into a decent routine with the study.
The first exams for me should ideally be in January at Gatwick airport if the obligatory study week here in the US goes well and CATS put me forward for the exam. My first exam topic will be Aircraft General Knowledge, and is the biggest of all of the books I have to study covering topics such as Landing Gear, Hydraulics, Cabin Pressures, Electrics, and basically anything that moves on a plane.
The best thing about the course I have signed up for is that its not all book based, they have a really good web based study course which runs along side the books, so its not a case of wading through the pages. The web based version seems to be more compact and precise and as I travel a lot with my work I am able to study for an hour here and there whilst on the road and hanging around airports whilst waiting for flights.
I am almost and I emphasis almost getting to the point where I am enjoying getting back to studying again, but I am sure I will be happier when the first set of progress tests are out of the way and I know if I am on the right track with it all.
Apart from that I am looking forward to seeing my friend John, (who has also recently started along the same study path as me), who is coming over for a visit in the coming months to get his FAA U.S License validated and also hope to get some flying in over here as a prelude to a potential flying adventure in the new year. I am busily looking at the maps for various places to go and visit during some hour building time in spring next year. A favorite idea of mine is to get as far as the Grand Canyon but we'll have to see....... but for now its back to the books.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It official, an American Pilot

Its arrived in the post, I have it, it official, after 9 months, 2 medicals and 10 hours of flying I have an FAA Private pilots license.
Solo flying around the US here we go......

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A pretty proud day

Last week I managed to carry out an ambition, and it will be a day I won't forget. I was able to rent a plane in Dunkeswell, Devon where my parents live and fly them down to Perranporth in Cornwall for a cuppa and slice of cake and then back up to Dunkeswell flying up the northern coast of Cornwall and then catching site of Dartmoor.
The idea was to treat my mum for her 60th birthday with something a little different, and also to get to show my dad that all the hard of studying has paid off. My dad spent hours and hours of his holidays last year helping me through my navigation theory study and it must have paid off as we didn't get lost once.
The trip was a good one for me as I had also just done my radio telephony practical exam and has never actually flown in the UK before.
So off we went in a PA28, joining up with Exeter radar for traffic service up until we got some fantastic views of the Exe-Estuary and then Dartmoor. We then passed over to Newquay radar where we were asked to orbit for incoming commercial aircraft, which gave us some decent views of the area. When given clearance to continue we headed straight on into Perranporth, where we later found out that we had timed things perfectly as the cloud had been down top 400ft not 20 mins before. After a decent cup of tea and a chat to the friendly locals we were swiftly on our way, down the most amazing take off I have yet experienced, basically at the end of the runway there is a 250ft cliff drop down to the sea.
A swift right turn and we were plotting our way along the Cornwall coast taking in the little coves and sandy beaches up until the mystical Tintadual the birth place of Arthur and Camelot.
We then took a right turn to get on a direct track back to Dunkeswell in East Devon.
The Devon countryside is gorgeous from 1500ft and I was really lucky that it was perhaps the best flying conditions you could ever ask for taking you mum up on her first time in a light aircraft.
After joining long down wind over Honiton we turned onto finals to come into Dunkeswell just as a whole group of freefall parachutists were landing at the airfield at the same time, it was a fitting climax to a great day.
A with a glint in his eye and pat on the back from my dad, with a hearty "well done", I knew that all the studying had been worth it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time to get serious

Today I have signed up to one of the biggest commitments of my life. Commercial Pilot License theory. The books have arrived from CATS in England who I will be doing the studying/training and exams through. Its going to be a tough 18 months of study and for me who's not one to sit in one place for very long its going to take some discipline.
The arrival of the books through the post today has made me realize just what I have signed up for.
Hopefully I will have time for some actual flying at some point too.
CATS from what I have seen so far have a very good way of being able to learn the knowledge, with a web based platform along side the books, so I can study on the road as much as I do at home. I just need to draw up a study schedule next with one eye on when the exams are and work work work.
Wish me luck.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Roger that Wilco

So i am over on the British side of the Atlantic, I went to visit Dunkeswell airflield yesterday and do the first couple of hours of my Radio Telephony practical lessons to get my UK RT License so that I can fly here.
The airfield was lovely, its an old WWII airforce base, the club is really nice and welcoming, and the Sunday Roast is awesome. There were all sorts of planes on the apron as it was busy for a Sunday, there was even a Tiger moth doing touch and goes, she seemed a little skitish touching down, it was only when she came in that I found out that it actually has no breaks, so you have to time the landing to perfection.
There were plenty of Robins aswell. The experience was enhanced by the sight of the parachutists landing just to the side of the runway, the thing I found incredible was that the jump plane, a cessna caravan, managed to drop the parachutists and then be back on the ground before the free fallers were back on terra firma......thats some flying.
I am hoping to fly during the week, so will get some pictures....

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Whether the weather be fine or Whether the weather be not

So I had my night flying course all booked and paid for with Naples Aviation but the tail end of Hurricane Alex decided to put a spanner in the works with thunder and lightening so no Night rating for the time being.
I will have to wait until I get back from my trip to Europe.
I am doing my RT practical next week in Devon and then hoping to take my dad on some cross country in the area after I take the trans atlantic flight back the UK via paris tomorrow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nighty Nighty

Finally I have managed to block a couple of days off to go to Naples Air Centre tomorrow to start my night rating, the first few hours will be Friday night then the final few including the cross country on Saturday night. The only potential spanner in the works is a little thing called Hurricane Alex which is whipping up a storm in the gulf of Mexico and could put the mockers on the plan.
I have also booked up to do my practical radio telephony exam aswell on England when I am over there for my holidays as there's not too many options for me to do it here in the US.
I am hoping to get a few hours in whilst I am in the UK for my holidays with the idea of taking my dad for a flight around the south-west and maybe a spot of lunch in north Cornwall Perranporth, (see the enclosed picture) which has an awesome cliff top airport.
I will report in if I manage to get up and dodge the windy bits of Hurricane Alex and finally get my Night rating.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The flu is back so into the theory work

I can't believe this flu is back and this time with a vengeance, the ears are blocked the nose streaming and temperature soaring.
So with as much concentration as I can muster I am tucking into my ground school as hard as I can.
The thing with the Cessna Pilot centre theory course is its very different from the way I had to study for my PPL. Its all interactive on DVD, they show you videos, and explanations on the dvd format then there are questions and answer sections after. You cannot move onto the next part until you have got each stage correct. When you get an answer wrong it takes you back to the part of the lesson you have made an error on and goes through it again with you to revise that section then goes over the questions again. The cleverest part of this is that once each section is done, its beamed over the internet to the main Cessna centre and to your school so that they can keep an eye on your progress and any problems you are having and go through them with you.
The main part of this that I like is that it is a very visual way of learning, and this suits me as my concentration span with my head in the books is not great and there is plenty of theory with the instrument flying course.
I would recommend this way of learning, I think I will do it for my Faa commercial as well.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rubbing your belly and patting your head

Another good lesson in the bag today and another 1hr20 in the book.
Chris is gradually putting more and more of the cockpit management on me whilst I am under the foggles, a bit more radio work, whilst maintaining the instrument scan. I seemed to have a bit of a fixation on the VSI and Altimeter today, so Chris started putting in a lot of directional changes whilst keeping the same airspeed so that I was forced to keep the scan moving and the adjustments slight.
Its kind of like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time but trying to keep the plane in the sky.
Overall today we got through the climbing turns and descending turns at constant airspeed and finding an exact bearing, lots of anticipation is needed, whilst always keeping that scan moving.
The training so far has been enjoyable, hard work physically as well as mentally, as the heat here now is becoming a factor. Also you can easily become disorientated and feel a kind of carsick as you are unable to look out of the plane and see the horizon, so your mind and body are saying one thing and the instruments are telling you another so flights over an hour and a half are not really possible, but we are only a few hours into the training so hopefully my brain will get used to it.
As another interesting development my instructor, Chris, has another business where he is the importer of light sport aircraft into the US and I have offered to do some pictures for him and his partner for their website and in return he will let me try the plane out for a day trip to key west. Its a stick plane instead of the yoke and out flies the Cessna with a top speed of around 120kts and a 1000 mile range, I am looking forward to see if I might use it for some hour building. This is a link to his site:
Anyone who fancies coming stateside and doing some hour building for under $99 an hour would be welcome to join me in some touring around the US, could be fun.
Right I have to get my head back in the books and get ready for the next lesson.

Monday, May 31, 2010

sniff sniff sniff

So I've been a little sick for the last 10 days or so, ears and nose blocked and coughing like 40 a day smoker. Not idea for any flying, especially for IR flying when you are using your senses and learning to recognize when they are playing tricks on you. So no point in wasting my time or my instructor's, or go through the pain of ears hurting whilst flying so a bit of patience is called for.
So my head has been in the books waiting for the medication to work and I can breath again.
I have started to feel lots better today so have provisionally booked a few lessons for this week.
Its officially the start of Hurricane season here in Florida starting this week so hoping that my flying doesn't become a casualty to the storms.
Other news from this week is that I have found somewhere I can do my CPL (Commercial Pilots License) theory studies and have decided upon CATS based out of Luton in the UK. They do an online course that I can study on my Apple Computer at my own pace. I can also do the obligatory study weeks at there training partners here in Florida so that I don't have to travel back to the UK 3 times over the next 12months.
I am not rushing into the studying though, I want to get my Faa Instrument under my belt during the coming months and also get my night rating which I am hoping to go and do in Naples next week over 2 nights so that it will also be included on my Faa Private license for night flying here instead of it being restricted.
I came across a great article I thought worth reading for anyone thinking of becoming a flying instructor:
Anyway the ground school studies for the IR are going really well, the Cessna learning system is really good and works at a good pace, I might even as far to say that I'm enjoying it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

a little dream

Yesterday I had a nice surprise as a part of my day job, and also got a good insight into what day job I would really like to do some day.
I was asked as part of my job as a photographer to take pictures for a UK tv show of the subject of the show on his Private jet here in Florida. Its an Embraer Legacy and very fine piece of kit indeed. Its a little surprising he has this for trans-atlantic flight as this Executive jet can only just make that hop, usually having to stop on in Maine for a fuel. But its not for me to question where he spends his millions I can just stand back, admire and dream a little.
The pilots were really good guys and let me have a good look around and a sit in the right seat to see how my future office in the sky could look, and it was definitely better than any corporate corner office overlooking the thames any day.
Just makes me come home and want to study that little bit harder.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Its all foggles...

Well its Friday, and thats the end of the weeks flying. Todays lesson was all under the foggles, carrying out turns at level altitudes, climbing turns, descending turns and now doing the radio calls whilst tracking the VOR, whilst descending onto finals.
The workload is starting to be increased so that the flying under IFR comes naturally and can be done whilst handling the rest of the cockpit duties. I can only imagine what its going to be like over the coming weeks when having to handle the holding patterns and the ILS approaches. I have realized how much learning there is to get done and am also very pleased I have taken on this course as it is improving my pilot skills no end and I am sure will push me on to the commercial license.
I am hoping I wont be sent too far from home next week so that I can continue. Time to get my head back in the books and ready for the next sortie.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

PFL's at 2000ft over the Alligator Alley in the everglades

Today was a good day.
Well it started a bit rough as someone had left the Master switch on over night on the aircraft so all was a bit quiet when I hit the switches and nothing happened. But after a jump start from the engineers it was all systems go. The objective today was to finish off the official check ride which I have to go through to be officially allowed to fly here. Its the same as the PPL flight test but a lot less stress as you do parts of it and then. The fun part was a 2000ft when it was time to pull off the power and go through practice forced landing, the one slightly different part to this from when I did my flight test in Limoges was we were over the Everglades which is thousands of square miles of Alligator infested swamps......MMMmmmmmm.
There is one small stretch of grass near a road and that was the target, but I was happy with the result and Chris was as well, he signed me off after a couple of circuits (or patterns in U.S parlance) and get a few landings in. So all clear for solo flight in the U.S.
Then it was time to start talking about the Instrument work, Straight and level flight, Trimming, Constant airspeed climbs and descents all with the foggles on. For those of you who don't know what foggles are, its like flying with the curtains pulled in the plane so that you can't see anything outside so you can only fly by the instruments inside the aircraft.
Its quite disorientating and you have to trust your instruments and not what your body is telling you, and I think that is going to be half of the training during these early stages.
Happy with another good day, its 94 degrees here at the moment so losing a few pounds in the warm cockpit each day, so dieting whilst flying, can't be bad.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Slow flight and getting in the swing of things

2 hours in the air today, and feeling like I am getting the hang of the 172.
After some ground school work as I have to go through the Faa "Check out" procedure as well, which is similar to the 2 year check ride. Some questions from the theory exams and also demonstrate all of the basic skills required for the PPL skills test.
Chris my faithful instructor has been going through all of the turns, stalls, landings to complete the check out which provides a good catch up for me too.
The all new glass cockpit which you can see in the picture is the newest and safest way of flying I have ever seen and is taking some getting used to. I am looking forward to the cross country exercises with it, all of the information at your finger tips, there are no maps flapping around in the cockpit.
The 172 is a pretty good plane to fly, it turns well and holds its line really well, getting used to a yoke instead of the stick on the good old Robin is is fun too. I am enjoying flying it, the stalls are pretty different, especially the powered stall, we were needing to go virtually vertical.
My main learning curve with the flying here is the radio calls, they are carried out very differently to europe, there are no standard down wind then finals calls for clearance to land, just one down wind call when you are cleared to land. Similarly taxiing and take off radio procedure is different. More practice needed and it will all slot into place.
I have to complete a set amount of take off and landings tomorrow and the check out should be complete, and the Instrument training will commence.
All very positive here, I feel happy I have found the right school at last. Back in the air again tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

N12453D New plane, new cockpit and lots of new fun

Now that was a fun first day in the new stead. Not a serious lesson but a good familiarization flight around north Miami to check out the reporting points and try to get used to the new aircraft.
A Cessna 172 and with my new instructor Chris we took to the skies to let me stretch my legs with her after a prolonged period out of the saddle so to speak.
We went through some ground school work, and the professionalism of this school over the previous disaster area was apparent straight away.
I felt unusually nervous before it all started which is unlike me but I suppose a mixture of new aircraft, instructor, airport and after my last false start it was to be expected.
After a good chat on the ground where Chris got an idea of where I am at and where I would like to get to he showed me around the plane. What I liked about this is he was in no hurry what so ever. This plane is very different from anything I have been in before especially the cockpit, with a very different check list to go through before even turning the keys.
We went through everything methodically with a good explanation, for example there are 7, yes 7 different sumps to check for fuel contamination for starters.
Then you have to fire up the 2 huge glass screens, the G1000, its awsome and is going to take some getting used to as non of it looks the same as the good old 6 pack.
We got through the check list fired her up and taxied off passed some fantastic aircraft on the apron.
There were even a few museum pieces there aswell as the US coast guard and military jets, not to mention the line of Hawker and Citation jets. I will get pictures uploaded of a few examples when I can.
We were cleared to take off from runway 18 and off we went, the first thing i realized from an over wing is they pick up the cross wind pretty quickly on take off so plenty of wing down and left rudder was needed and we nicely climbed out.
The nice thing about the G100o is on your secondary screen you have a full map showing all other aircraft and collision avoidance system, which is a handy piece of kit when in the training area in Miami which serves 4 different airports and a dozen schools !
After some basic handling and a trip around the reporting points it was time to get back to the circuit where we were cleared number 2 straight in from 10 miles out. The radio work here is going to get a little getting used to but I am sure it will come along over the next few days.
We had a nice cheeky little crosswind from the right again on approach which was nice to get used to with the Cessna and it handled nicely crabbing its way in and even earned " Nice Landing " from Chris, sure he was just being polite.
We taxied off the runway and 30 seconds later the tyre screech a Hawker Jet kissing the tarmac behind me, reminded me that its pretty busy air space here so good to keep me on my toes.
Day 1 went well, plenty of small rusty mistakes but the basics have held firm so happy with that and really chuffed to be heading straight back up tomorrow.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The head is back in the books...

Today I collected my books and software to start studying tonight ahead of my first flight at the Cessna school tomorrow. Its all very technical but very well thought out, there is a series of DVD's that you down load onto your computer with tests attached to each one after the end of each lesson. Once you have passed the test for each lesson you get to do the flight for that part of the training. Each test is automatically sent to Cessna HQ as well as the Chief instructor so they can keep an eye on how you are progressing and also how your instructor is getting on with teaching you.
Unfortunately I am an Apple Mac user and the DVDs are Windows based so I have had to go and spend $300 to get conversion software and a version of Windows but it should see me through all of my training up to CFI .
Tomorrow will be a familiarization flight, and the first chance to use the G1000 glass cockpit which should be a useful skill, so can't wait. Will report in after, just hoping it doesn't go like the other false start with the throttle coming off in my hand !!!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Night night

So I took a trip over to Naples Fl today to visit a flight school who do JAA training, (qualifications that will count in Europe) as i want to do my night rating course and my radio RT course so that I can use it when I get back to home shores.
Aswell as meeting a very helpful and informative Jaa examiner I found out some pretty intersting tit bits aswell, one being that the Faa Instrument rating counts towards the Jaa CPL crediting 10 hours, plus a conversion can be done from the Faa to the Caa Instrument.
Hoping to get over to do my night rating in the next couple of weeks and it only takes 2 nights of flying and costs $1000.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Friday, April 16, 2010

Held up by Air Force One....

I was flying back in to KTNT (MIA) last night from MYNA (Nassau) when we were put into a holding pattern for 35 minutes and were told that all arriving aircraft were in the same situation and this was due to President Obama being on the ground with his rather impressive jet.
We were then cleared to land, taxi and then park up right next to Air Force One itself.
It seems Mr Obama travels with a small army complete with snipers, tanks and all, everyone was certainly on edge around the place.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Take 2, here we go again....might be time to get wet too

So the joyful email telling me I have security clearance once again that I have paid for once again for has arrived, I am cleared to start flying once again.
It arrives the day that I am going to start 2 weeks of solid work as the Miami Open tennis has come to town and I will be there as part of my day job, so the flying will have to wait.
But I can't wait to get started in the new Cessna 172's with the all glass G1000 cockpit and try to get this instrument course out of the way. The weather is getting really good here in Florida, so I am praying for plenty of sorties to exotic places with a few lunches on the beaches.
I took my son down to the local children's museum at the weekend and parked right next to the museum is the sea plane area, where they take off down the canal that brings in the huge Caribbean cruise ships. Thomas (my son) and I had the pleasure of watching them pre flight and then drop into the water for the take off which when its taking place in down town miami is an impressive sight. The sea plane in the picture is the one recently bought by my school so I am hoping to do my rating in it when the bank manager allows. Can't wait to give it a try......

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Waiting game.......

Well I've paid $140 once again to the TSA to go through security once again to start training with the new school. I just have to wait wait and wait some more until the clearance comes through then its up up and away. In the mean time I am studying the theory side of things as thoroughly as I can and also using a flight simulator which does Instrument simulation and radio work. I can even fly around Miami so practicing as much as possible.
wish me luck.....

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I forgot to mention in my previous post that the Cessna school I am hopefully going to get security clearance to start my Instrument Rating with shortly also has just taken delivery of a Cessna float plane that is parked just down the road from where I live here in Miami. So I am hoping to mix that into the training as well. The idea of taking the plane off for the day and landing on the sea near one of the Bahamas islands is the stuff of dreams.... watch this space and I will try to get some pictures up soon to........

Friday, February 19, 2010

A new school ???

I revisited an idea today that I had previously dismissed and that was to go to a large commercial school to continue my flight training towards my Instrument Rating. I had dismissed the idea before, in particular the idea of a Cessna school, because when I very first started my training in Scotland a fair few years ago I wasn't too keen on Cessna aircraft, as I found the older 152 and 172 very small and not too comfortable for long trips and I am not exactly the smallest guy in the world. I often felt as though , when sat along side my instructor, it was like having 2 rugby players in a mini cooper.
But this morning I got up and sat with my computer to have a surf around to look at the options for flight schools once again, and the Cessna school at Opa Locka airport Miami kept googling itself onto my laptop so I thought I would give it a look.
I jumped into the car and headed out to Opa Locka which is only 15 minutes from home and thought I would knock on the door and see what happened.
I was greeted by the owner of the establishment, Freddie, a really nice guy, but very professional and straight talking. He explains that he is also a corporate pilot for a US based company as well as being a fully qualified instructor. There are about a dozen instructors working at the facility and its a family affair as well as Freddie's wife is the financial controller. There was a good atmosphere at the school, and a got to speak with a few current students who were also on the instrument course.
One thing I liked is the way the theory course work is evaluated, its all computer based from a dvd set which you can study anywhere and at your own pace, and there are regular study tests and check ups, which when you have done them automatically link up with Cessna central study school and the flight school in Opa Locka.
Next I was shown around the fleet of aircraft they have, Cessna 172SP's annd 182T's. All of which are less than 2 years old and all of which have the best thing I have ever seen in a aircraft, The Glass cockpit.
So I was invited to sit in the 172SP SkyHawk, Freddie, hit a switch and it was like starting up the Starship Enterprise, 2 huge screens sparked into life in front of me, instead of having the usual speed indicators, temp and press. gauges dials all of the usual instrumentation is in flat screen format. The huge one on the right was a massive GPS screen and was so cool I felt like Capt. James T Kirk.
You can zoom around the map, choose an airport and click on it, at that point you get to see all approach proceedures, ground layout of taxi ways, all frequencies, every piece of information needed for any arrival. No need for any maps. Well at least they can stay in the bag as back up. A far cleaner cockpit I imagine.
Anyway I was pretty impressed with the set up, so I have started to go through the security process once again, and once again parted with $135 for the pleasure.
Once the clearance comes through I will get to try out the SkyHawk, sit in the left hand seat and say "Engage".....

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Training day 1, Mmmm a little worrying.

I had my first flight today here in Miami , a bit of a refresher as I haven't flown since I passed my skills test back at the end of September, and I can say so far is that flying over here is a whole
different ball game. I also have to say not for the better.
As I have written before I did a lot of checking before signing up to a school here and found a school that I felt comfortable with to continue my training with to go on and do my IR and then commercial hopefully.
I was introduced to my new steed, N143ND, a PA28-161, she seems like a sturdy beast and couldn't wait to get in and get going.
I started the pre flight checks, all seemed ok except I couldn't get the stall warner to sound and one of the strobe lights weren't working, I was doing the pre-flight alone, so thought maybe I was doing something wrong and would question the instructor when we were in the plane together.
When I asked the question about the stall warner, the response was "don't worry about that we wont be needing it, and for the strobe light its only required to have 2 out of the 3 anyway legally speaking".......
I know what you are thinking, thats the point where you should turn around and say thanks but no thanks. But I didn't.

So we start her up and taxi away from the school, there are 3 runways at this airport and its huge so there is ground/taxi radio initially then when you have completed power checks you move onto tower radio.
What struck me was there is no handing over on the radio between stations, you don't report leaving a frequency. So I can't imagine how many missed calls there must be.
I dealt with tower radio for permission to depart and then came up against another small but significant difference here, after power checks its : "ready for take off" not "departure" as we have all been taught.
So full power on and heading down the runway, lift off and then tower comes on to direct me to " N143ND traffic left" when i was at about 700ft. The look on my face must have told the story as the instructor spoke with tower to copy that.... " left traffic = Left hand circuit" oh by the way its not "circuit" here either, its " Pattern".
I so as I start to level off at "pattern elevation" (Circuit height) I put my hand on the throttle to throttle back a bit and the throttle lever comes off in my hand !!!!!
Fortunately leaving a small piece of metal sticking out so that I could still control the throttle so that I can control the plane....... The instructor is not vexed by this at all and wants to continue onto the training area to do some slow flight and general handing, where once again I realized there is no handing over on the radio at all, you leave a frequency at will and move onto the next without signing off on the previous one, a very uncomfortable feeling, so I asked about it and the instructor informed me its their job for them them to monitor us not the other way around.
One thing that peeved me most and I am not sure if its right to be peeved, but the instructor spent a fair part of the lesson texting on his iPhone.......Yes I am a fully qualified pilot so he doesn't need to watch my every move but still.
The general handling of the aircraft (minus throttle lever) was really nice, it was quite heavy almost like a 4x4 car, and once you put in on a path it stuck to it like glue, it was a little strange to fly with a yoke and the PA 28 is a heavy beast so you are flying a lot with 2 hands instead of the 2 fingers in the Robin DR400. A few landings after flying around the pattern and the lesson was over.
A few things have dawned on me after having just one lesson.
Firstly I wouldn't recommend any first time pilot who wants to do their PPL and to fly in Europe to start their training over here, I know its cheaper but I don't think the general standards are high enough for the basic training, in particular the communications side of things are not at the same standard as the European side of things, if you qualify here you wont know whats hit you in the UK or mainland Europe.
Secondly if someone is going to do further training in the US I would only suggest doing so from a school you have been recommended to by someone you know
I have decided to give the school one further chance with a lesson tomorrow, as I am hoping this was just a bad day. Plus if I change schools I have to go through all of the security checks with another school and wait an eternity.
All in all a little disappointed with day
Lets just hope its a blip.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Radiation sickness.......

Well here's the strangest airport experience of my life and it happened today.
As you may have read, I had to undergo a stress test a little while ago as part of my aviation medical. A part of this test was to be be injected with a nuclear substance to trace the blood pumping through my heart.
Ok, so fast forward to today.
I have been away in the caribbean working as part of my day job and returned to Miami international airport today. Just after clearing passport control I was on my way to customs when walking towards the customs officer an alarm sounded and the officer looked at me as though I had robbed a bank, put a hand on his gun and his other hand up as to say stop right there, and said " Don't move !!"
Well, I laughed for a second and then realized he was serious and was pointing directly at me. Causing a huge scene in the middle of the hall with some 100 or so people edging away from me and staring. The officer approached as I stood frozen to the spot, told me to put my bags on the floor, he started asking questions very quickly and firmly, " where have you travelled from ?", " what is your job ?", "have you had any medical procedures recently?"
Yes, yes I blurt out I had a medical a couple of weeks ago I spluttered, not having any idea what this was about.
"Sir, you need to come with me, right away" and he takes me by the arm.
From where I had come from in the caribbean, I was suddenly worried that someone had planted something in my bags, and started sweating.
So, am taken to a restricted area where there are 4 other officers, non of them smiling. The lady of the group comes to me to ask more questions and then asks for the details of the medical procedure I have had, so I explain, give the name of my doctor, as the others a taking everything from my bags. I ask why I am being stopped and she explains: " Sir, its because you are nearly off the scale being so radioactive at the moment."
I laughed out loud, and protested there must be a mistake. At this point another of the officers came over and put some kind of detection machine near me, looking like Captain Kirk examining a recently encountered alien.
I see his machine reading a number 9 in Green numerals, whilst he is shaking his head.
Mmmm, I'm in trouble here, I felt.
The lady kindly explained that the scale only goes to 12, so I am pretty radioactive.
So I explained further about the Stress test I had gone through, and she explained that if this was true I should have been given a letter/certificate to travel.
The Captain Kirk officer then started to ask pretty direct questions about being a pilot, training etc. and I gave him the details about the TSA approval, the school I am training with. I then also gave them the name and telephone number of the doctors office, which they were able to verify.
"if you can just remove your out clothing please sir, so we can test that."
So, I am stood there in my boxer shorts thinking, "well if I ever get out of here... at least I have a story for the blog"
After a couple of phone calls, and quickly dressing myself I am told its ok and I am safe to leave but must get a letter from my doctor if I wish to avoid such dramas in the future.
So for the time being I am radioactive.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Caribbean dreaming

I am sitting here on an away trip for my regular day job here in the Caribbean. I am doing some day dreaming as I sit here trying to make some sense of the first of the Instrument Rating text books I have bought to start my studying, the first book of the series is bigger than all of the PPL books put together.
As I was driving around the coast line of this rather huge island I stopped off when I saw the signs for a regional airport and thought I would be nosey and see what goes on there, as there are already 2 international airports here.
All I came across was 2 local pilots and their bright yellow Cessna 210. I popped my head around the door to say hi and was met with 2 very friendly chaps who explained that they do post and parcel delivery around the island, between the 2 large airport and this little corner of the Island where I currently am. They make 3-4 flights per day to make deliveries as the terrain is quite mountainous here so takes a long time for things to be delivered by road.......
What a job, I sit here thinking..... flying, sunshine, golden beaches and lots of fresh fresh fish.... need to get into these study books.
Ya maaaan....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pilot Medical madness.....

Well today was the day, Nuclear testing and a touch of eco-cardiograph to finish things off.....
The day started with not being able to eat, drink. To those who know me, thats a tough start to a day. I had been instructed to fast for the day of the tests and then report to hospital for 2pm.
After a few forms to sign, to basically exempt the hospital of any responsibility for what they were about to perform, I was ready to strip down to my shorts and was put into a small room to wait for the nurse.
Always a nice sight at this point is the nurse walking through the door with 2 HUGE syringes.... my heart rate is already racing and I now know why they call this a Stress test. All I keep thinking is that I had passed my PPL a month earlier I would have missed out on all of this pleasure, I also have a few choice words for the Bloody french DGAC medical board for changing their rules.
"So are you normally generous with giving up a vein Mr Morton ?" Nurse Terror asks.....
"I've got to give you a vein as well as $1000 dollars for this pleasure ?" the cheeky patient asks...
Stab in the arm, with a stern look into the eyes. Mental note not too crack many more jokes. At this point I start to feel strange, i can hear my pulse in my ears and feel quite queeze and nearly fall on my back side, a rather strange experience I must say. I realized that i was about to faint. Apparently a mixture of fasting and me being a big girl's blouse....
I then had my chest shaved and gluey electrodes stuck all over me.
So the first test is to lie down after having the first syringe full of Nuclear fluid pumped into me and stay still for 16 minutes whilst going into a big tube to have my heart scanned.
After the 16 minutes its time to get on a treadmill and each minute gradually go faster and faster and at more of an incline until my heart rate reaches a certain speed and whilst speed walking I am injected with another syringe...... from that moment I have to keep on the treadmill for a further 10 minutes whilst the machine keeps churning out paper with my heart rate on it.
After the puffing and panting on the treadmill has finished you have to wait and sit still for 45 minutes whilst the chemicals spread through out my body, and then its back into the big metal tube once again to have the second set of scans of my heart. The strange thing is I then proceeded to fall asleep in the tube, but I am sure that was because the tube nurse guy, realizes I was english and proceeded to tell me about every town he had ever visited in the UK, by the time we was walking me through the white cliffs of Dover i was snoozing....
Anyway after the, napping the paperwork and a Eco cardiograph, which involved a large man rubbing blue gel over my chest, and scanning me with the same machine that pregnant women have their babies checked over, all of my 4 chambers were pumping correctly and in the right order so hopefully in a few days I should have a doctors report and leave this medical episode behind me......

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is it a bird, is it a plane... or is it a boat...

So, I have always loved the look of float planes and the idea to have the freedom to fly and land anywhere on the sea I invites the dreams of voyages that you will tell stories about for years.
Not something that is too easy to do in the UK, the float plane rating, but here in Florida, US of A it takes all of a weekend of flying, 5 hours to be exact before you can take the flight test, and with the weather virtually guaranteed and plenty of lakes, sea, islands and of course the alligator filled Everglades there is no shortage of landing zones......
Plus here its cost $1500, rather than the prices in the UK and as far as I know there is only one place in Scotland that does it, on one of the Lochs.
I really like the idea of it even if its just for the experience of getting the 5 hours done, to have to pay such close attention to the slightest cross winds on the water, the different approaches, etc, I am sure it all helps with the learning process to general aviation skills. The part that worries me though, is the fact of having no brakes on the water after landing.... so basically as soon as you land you are not so much taxiing as yachting....and the idea of parking up next to a pontoon with no brakes puts the fear into me.....
Watch this space and we'll see if I get the courage.... or get wet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

There is light at the end of the administrative tunnel.....

Today is a good day, the TSA wrote to me to say:
"Based on information available at this time, the Transportation Security Administration grants Stuart Morton Permission to Initiate Training"
So its chocs away as soon as I can get things organized.
The school I have chosen to fly with have been really helpful so far in getting the paperwork together for me, taking me to get my fingerprints taken and then showing me around.
So it was a real pleasure when I turned up there today and my instructor to be and the admin staff were all happy to see things had got sorted so quickly by the TSA.
I learnt a few things about the difference between the UK PPL and the US Private license today as well, for example the US PPL has to have a minimum of 3 hours under the hood instrument training before he/she can qualify, also you have to have your night training done before your license is issued, its not a separate rating as it is in the UK JAR.
Anyway I have had a chance to look at the course books for the Instrument course and its put the fear of god into me, and Bryant my instructor calmly told me that the IR theory exam is the hardest of any up to the ATPs....... not something I had banked on but hey, in for a penny......
I am ordering my copies of the books and will hopefully get to fly a few familiarization flights over the next week or so.... in the Piper cadet N109ND....
Bryant suggested a flight down to Keywest at the end of the tropical outcrop of small islands that descend from the southern tip of Florida, for a spot of lunch, to get an idea of US Air traffic control and do some general handling of a new plane.....
Can't wait.....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Don't judge an FTO by its website...

I arrived here early December and thought, rather naively maybe, that finding an FTO ( Flight training organization) here to continue my training and enjoy some of the scenery would be a walk in the park, as there are so many.
Silly silly Stuart.
I think I have visited 16-20 schools, clubs and organizations, ranging from one man one plane to huge schools with simulators and dozens of planes. One thing most of them seem to have in common is they aren't anywhere near as friendly, professional or just plain interested as what we have become used to in Europe.
I went to one where I walked thought the door of a medium sized school where 2 instructors and a secretary were talking when I arrived, didn't even acknowledge me coming in, and I proceeded to stand there for a good 15 minutes whilst they ignored me, until I walked back out.
As I hadn't seen one single student in the place and all the aircraft on the ground I wondered what these people were really doing there.......
In the end after visiting several places one afternoon I was pretty fed up and stumbled upon a place I had seen the website for when i was still in France before leaving for these shores and I had discounted it just after looking at the website, I hadn't been impressed. I thought "what the hell" I went to go and say hello. All I can say is don't judge a book by its cover, or an FTO by its website....
I was welcomed through the door by a really friendly bunch, given a proper tour of the place, a nice cuppa and ended up spending an hour being introduced to students and meeting the support staff. I met instructors who have thousands of hours and aren't just there to fill up their log book.
The guys there helped me through the initial paperwork to go through the security checks with the TSA (Transport Security Authority) and all that stuff and I am now waiting for the paperwork to go through and I should be starting my Instrument training within the next few weeks. I will be heading off to the islands around the bahamas and florida keys and across the Aligator infested Everglades. Just waiting for an envelope to drop through the door to give me the green light.......

Monday, January 18, 2010

First post..... if only I could have passed my PPL a month earlier....

Today I find myself here in Miami at the cardiologists office having needles stuck in my arms.....
how did i get myself into this one I ask myself.......?
I have studied to get my pilots license in France where I have been living for the passed 3 years. I finally passed my license the flight skills test in September of last year, 2009.
This is where things get tricky, I have done my test in France but have actually been issued a UK license as my instructor was English and my examiner a UK qualified examiner. The problem.... I had to get a french class 2 medical to be able to fly in France, no problems there, a quick visit to my GP who is an Aviation doctor.... quick check up and license issued. Game on, I am a pilot.... or so i thought.
The Civil Aviation Authority, in the UK, decided in August it would no longer accept French issued that means a trip to the UK to get another medical done. Return flights to Edinburgh for 200 pounds and 200 pounds less well off for the private doctor's fees, plus another 40 quid for another eye test as the french ones aren't good enough once again. Game on, I am a pilot.... or so I thought.
Results of the ECG show a slight abnormality, the abnormality to quote the CAA is not a problem nor a danger to health in any way, just a physiological difference from the norm.
But all the same I now have to go to and pay for a consultant cardiologist, in the mean time I have moved to Miami Florida with my wife and son, so to add to the complication I have to find a cardiologist who will be accepted by the CAA.....
He I sit in his office in downtown Miami.
A pleasant man, Dr Seigel, I explain my predicament, and he smiles..."Ah" he said. " You have fallen foul of the pen pushers and box tickers in the aviation world, don't worry it's just the same here in America with the FAA". "Anyway, let takes a look at you"
So the doctor gave me a clean bill of health from the general examination.
Then he says: " All seems good, you are a very healthy young man, we will do a blood test then I will see you next week for the Nuclear tests......."
"Errmmm what ?", "Pardon" " Eh ?"
"Nuclear what"
So it seems that I have to return next week to see Dr Seigel, where I will have to not eat for the day, then be injected with Nuclear material, then run on a tread mill for 20 minutes, then lie down in a tube for a 12 minute full body scan. Then I have to have an eco-cardiograph
All of this because the CAA stopped accepting the French class 2 medicals one month before I qualified.......
His parting words, : "Don't worry yourself, the results will be fine I know that already, but I have to do the tests so that I can sign the report."
I am ever so slightly banging my head against the wall.....
So next Monday I will be back in the doctors office for a whole afternoon and will be glowing the readybreck advert and hopefully he won't over do the dosage and I won't end up like The Hulk !!!

A pretty big week of flying with some centreline hopscotch.....

Hours flown this month(FEB): 33 Landings: 8 Countries visited: 5  Continents visited: 3  Quick iron of the shirt and in th...