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 medicals.....so 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 !!!



Pointy Pyramids and a windy Nile, back in Africa and a room with a view

The River Nile whilst on descent into Egypt Today was a good day in the air. Up early after a shockingly bad nights' sleep, unfortu...