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.

London's calling..... London's calling.....

Well, where are we......? I was reminded at the weekend that I hadn't done my blog in a while, (thank you Gruff) so I have sat myself d...