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.

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...