Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holy Moly its done.....

After 3 skills tests, 9 theory exams over 12 months, and 250 hours of flying I am there.
I am now a Flying Instructor.
Today over a full day consisting of 10 hours at school being tested on 4 different areas: Pre Flight briefing, 2 hour flight test (consisting of giving lessons, teaching emergencies, instrument flying and landings), then I had to give a 45 minute lecture and finally an oral Q&A on all aspects of flying covering anything from How the Wind blows, to Flight Planning, then how the engine works to what to do if a student has a cold.
All in all a pretty grueling day, but the best part was when to examiner who has come in from Arizona held out his hand and said " Congratulations you've done a good job".
As I sit here I'm a little lost, not sure what I am going to do now that I am not having to put in so many hours of study per day.
Its been so much hard work over the passed 12 months and so many people have helped me get where I am today. I am so very grateful to all of my family and friends who have supported me all along the way, through being a stressed out friend/husband/dad/son and student. Thankyou to everyone has helped me.
I am going to take a well earned break over the xmas period and maybe get a pleasure flight or 2 in.
For the time being I am off to Miami for the weekend then for once I will be the passenger on a plane, a nice big 747 400 courtesy of British Airways back to the UK.
Merry Xmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The end of the course... after 4 weeks of training.

Today drew a close to the learning part of the instructor course, I had the final lesson this morning of the 25 hours of of the flight instructors course. Stephen Fisher my instructor in this course has been a great tutor, I have learned so much over the course that frankly its surprised me at how much I really didn't know prior to starting even though I already had over 200 hours.
Some of the demonstrations I have been shown have honestly left me open mouthed....thinking "Thats how I want to be able to fly"
The minute detail we have gone into for how to teach each aspect of the basic flying course, the PPL, has been a real eye opener and also a very enjoyable one. I felt before coming here that the Commercial Pilot course which I did all of those weeks ago was going to be like that and then the Instructor course would just be about teaching. I was quite quite wrong. As I have already written in these pages the CPL was pretty much a battle, a psychological battle between me and me to shape me into becoming Captain material. The Flight Instructor course has brought a steep learning curve to the precision of flying and demonstrating it to a student, this has been a really good process. I sat thinking the other day that I would suggest doing this course to every pilot, not just those who want to teach, but those who want to get to the standard of flying that they feel they could demonstrate how to do it. It has given me so much confidence in flying.
In all honesty Stephen has really earned his salary this month getting me through this as he has a great deal of patience as an instructor and his best quality is certainly is absolute love of flying and love of teaching it. If (as we quite often did), we hit one of those brain freeze moments where I couldn't see the wood for the trees, he would find another way to attack it until that penny dropped, but we wouldn't be landing until it did. This lead to each flight pretty much always achieving our goal and moving on. One of the nicest surprises over the course has been a decent touch of humor along the way, a few laughs has certainly helped things move along.
 We have completed the course on time and within budget just as we did on my CPL which has helped me as I am on a tight budget and time line too.
I suppose here might be the appropriate time to maybe give a more global view of the general aspects of life at flight school of here in Florida, as I was like many pilots a little wary of spending quite a large some of money across the Atlantic when there are flight schools closing all over the world and some of them taking students money with them.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise that as promised I was collected from the airport and brought to decent housing on day one. I was then met by the "high ups" from the school as I call them, welcomed here and given a proper induction to the college and introduced to the ways and whys of how things work.
Matthew, my first instructor did a great job in keeping me grounded and dragging me from being the average private pilot to being the pilot in charge of a commercial flight, no easy task on his part or mine. Quite honestly some of the toughest experiences I've had to go through over my time here were during those first 4 weeks, because you really have to throw yourself heart and soul into the CPL and work. If you don't or are not prepared to work, save your money and go on holiday somewhere nice. You have to really want this license.
It does concern me as I get to meet more and more pilots wanting to learn, some who have huge bank accounts and think that just writing a cheque will get you the license. Its just not the case. It doesn't work like that. I can honestly say that half way through the course I had to sit and have a serious word with myself,  I was sitting looking at my bags and thinking...... can I do this ? Maybe packing those bags and a few weeks on a beach would be nicer than this. I am very glad I decided to stick it out.
I have had the good fortune to meet some really nice guys to fly with here.
Not one has been the "can't be bothered" instructor and all of them has had good experience to share, Thomas who also helped with my CPL is a current airline pilot yet still teaches as he really enjoys it helped me along my way, Trevor, the head of training did a recent check ride with me and took me through the spinning exercises which were brilliant and I saw the earth from a totally different perspective and Stephen my flight instructor course teacher, the only way I can describe him as that he loves flying like I love Key Lime pie and he's like a walking encyclopedia he knows what every nut, bolt and screw does on this little Piper.
There is a great spread of experience here and personalities too. Although at my very first visit way back last year I was a little intimidated by the size and scale of things here after doing my PPL with my good friend Sue in France I was not sure that this would be the place for me, after a little thought it dawned on me that maybe a professional set up on this scale was the best place to go to do professional courses.
I am not saying that here at EFT is the perfect school, but then I don't think the perfect school exists anywhere in the world. I did my research before I signed up, I visited Oxford Aviation and spent a day there sitting in on lectures, and when I walked out of the gates after I had realized that it really wasn't the place for me. I have done my night rating a Naples Air Centre also in Florida and have visited many more.
Are there things that I would suggest could be improved here? Yes, but then we all have an opinion, am I coming to the end of my time here as a satisfied customer, absolutely.
My courses have been done exactly as I was explained before hand on time and within budget. The only flights I have missed have been as I was sick for a couple of days. The odd occasion that a plane was down for maintenance we manged to use a different plane, I have not missed one day of flying since being here due problems with planes. Very very unusual for any school or club over the period of a few months.
I have my final flight test in a few days time and we have an examiner coming all of the way from Arizona for the test !! Yes that's 2500 miles to come and test me and my other FI colleague. For those of you in the UK that's like someone coming from further away than Moscow to London to do a flight test for us, quite bonkers !!
So for the time being I am spending the next couple of days doing a bit of flying each day and then in the class room refining the lectures we have to give on our test day. I certainly need a break when all of this is done and I can't even think of any further flight tests after this, maybe I will get to do some actual teaching in the new year and maybe mix in a few pleasure flights along the way. I will endeavor to write up about the flight test day later in the week.
Fingers crossed for some decent weather.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One week to go until the test and my student is now making life a bit moredifficult

I have just realized its a week until the final test. We are getting to the end of the syllabus and my "pupil" is making more mistakes now for me to help to teach him. I am really enjoying the challenge of seeing the mistakes and then correcting them as they become more and more subtle.
The view from the back seat
I have also realized its xmas coming up and boy do I need a holiday this really has been a full on year getting all of this done. Doing the commercial license just seems like a distant memory but it was only a month ago. This course isn't so stressful but it requires far more work, along with the presentations and we also have to prepare a "technical brief" which is a 45 minute presentation for the examiner.
The test itself is a full day thing consisting of a tech brief, a pre-flight brief and a 2 hour flight lesson to teach various parts of the syllabus then a Q&A session.

Runway 28L at the end of a long day.......
Just one more week to go at this pace and then it will be time for some rest and family time.
For the moment its plenty of work and I am getting to "back seat" with my colleague on the course which helps to get an idea of the lessons from a different perspective and also gives me the chance to take a few pictures too.......

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Halfway through the course......

The home airport at Fort Pearce, the housing to the right side where I currently live seen from the back of the plane

 So my instructor here brought out the paperwork today and showed me that we have carried out just over half of the flying that we have to do for this course and says we are on track for testing in a couple of weeks' time. Suddenly I feel a bit nervous.
The lesson today was the first time I really felt like it fell into place. The nervousness seems to be falling away now and the garbling too much description of the lesson is going the same way. Its certainly not polished but I actually felt today that I managed to get all the bits in the right places along with good demonstrations that confirmed the idea. So I came away feeling a little more like I am getting there. Mind you some of the tougher lessons to teach are on the way so still having to work hard to get it there. I was teaching stalling today
 which isn't the easiest thing to teach as a lot is going on at the same time, to do, to explain and to also fly, but it seemed to be ok.
So after we had our lecture/briefing in class it was time for my fellow course student to go flying and I got the chance to sit in the back of the plane and watch her lesson from there, it was a really good lesson to watch as its the one I will be doing tomorrow and this involved flying circuits around the airport in the traffic pattern and most importantly landing....... Whilst I was sitting in the back I managed to take a video and a few pictures to go with it. The video of the landing shows how to do it with gusting 20kt wind.
So you can see the airport where we are based here and also the housing where I am living there too. As you can see its nicely near the beach, which I am not getting to spend any time on but its a gorgeous area to fly.

The runways at KFPR

Friday, November 25, 2011

The week ends well

Its Friday evening, its been a good week. Interrupted by the US holiday of Thanks Giving, but it was a nice experience as the school here put on a Thanks Giving lunch for all of the students. A really nice touch and pretty much the first "social" I have seen since starting here 6 weeks ago.
Its the one thing I am a little surprised at here, having so many people in one place with flying in common that there are not more get-togethers even fly outs of one way or another, but then there are a lot of students here on site who are mid ATPL's and we are all too aware of how tough a period that is.
Today I have managed to finish the week on a positive note, for once I came away from a teaching flight feeling like I had done a decent job of it, and I think my instructor was pretty pleased with it too as he seemed happy too. Almost in my mind that I have managed to step up to the next level of this, by no means on the ball but I can say in the right ball park. Things are starting to flow better and the correct vocabulary is becoming second nature rather than bumbling nonsense which ended up with me wanting to poke myself in both eyes at the same time.
The part of this that really is making me smile is my flying seems to be on a continual upward curve and that is taking my confidence with it. I thought my flying was OK 8 weeks ago upon my arrival, that then went through the electric shock treatment of the CPL which in reflection it really did need and thanks some decent training I got through that CPL now things have become more technical.

Not so much "you should do this or that" but "if we do this the aircraft will do that, because......" and as I have said before it really is like peeling that onion, and due to that each flight there are those light bulb moments. Which I suppose I will look back upon and will form many of the building blocks of being able to teach the trainee pilot and be able to teach with the confidence because I understand the theory of the core of that onion.
I am starting to feel that after 2 weeks of the course things are going to crank up a notch or 2 this coming week, I have been tasked with putting together a 30 minute technical briefing with the class over the weekend as well as the normal study and consolidation of whats happened this week, so a fair few hours in the briefing room as well as head in the books over this weekend to come. I was hoping to be doing some flying over the weekend with a colleague but unfortunately all of the Piper planes we have the use of here are down this weekend for servicing so we'll have to wait for that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Maybe it should come with a health warning

A funny one today.
We had a good flight today the lesson went well, the flying was pretty good, I managed to get myself less in a tongue tied and there started to be more flow to the lesson, hopefully a sign of things to come.
Its the thanks giving holidays here so we have a break tomorrow after a busy few days and lots of practice in the classrooms with the briefings and they are improving day by day.
As each day passes my flying seems to be improving as well, just little things here and there that I am learning through the process of doing this course, and yes each day when I land and walk back in I am still smiling so all is good.
I have realized that as its the holidays that makes it a year since I first went to the ground school class for the CPL Theory up at Ormond beach, what a busy year thats been. All of the theory exams passed, the hour building and flights down to Key West and all over Florida done, then some good revision flying in the summer in France then recently I have been here 6 weeks and have now passed my Commercial License.
One of my classmates has turned paparazzi....
I woke up yesterday and had a really sore shoulder having slept strangely on it and today it was still pretty sore, so after class I managed to get an appointment locally with a therapist to try to help sort it out for me. After 5 minutes of prodding and stretching the therapist asked me how hard the car accident had been.
No car accident I said, its just been a tough 12 months of study and flights tests and travel the wide eyed therapist looked at me doubtfully and asked " What on earth do they put you through to become pilot these days to end up on my table ?" as my back went crunch.
After yelping like a drop kicked puppy dog, I started to wonder the same thing..... maybe it should come with a health warning.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 1 of 4 done of the instructor course

The apron at EFT today.
The first week has been a good one, I really do like this course, there is a lot of home work required and time thinking through your lessons/briefings. The thing I do like is day by day also seeing the improvement in my own flying. Precision has become the name of the game as you need to lead by example when teaching.
Doing this though from the right seat sets you back a little as you need to get the feel for the plane from a different perspective, and as for the passed 3 years I have been flying I have been bringing the plane into land visually from one place the idea of swapping hands to fine tune the controls doing something as defined as landing takes some practice. But another challenge to get the old head around.
At the end of the week I managed to relax with a few of the other students who live on site here at the airport and the week has been a success for another few newly instrument and commercially rated pilots. We toasted their success and good health. One thing about this school, since I have been here that's around 6 weeks now, I have yet to see a pilot here fail a skills test, and one thing I have seen is plenty of new pilots taking their first solos and are due to have their PPL wings shortly.
 This weekend has been spent mainly infront of that white board practicing the briefings we have been taught and trying to get them into some kind of shape that is understandable, at the moment they resemble a pretty rough diamond that's going to need a whole lot of polishing, but its an enjoyable process to get them into shape. I pity all of the poor people around here whom I have been asking to have a look a part of the brief or for a bit of advice as they are all very busy, but everyone seems happy to help, even the instructors seem happy to pop their heads around the door and see where its at. The thing I like is most of the instructors around here whom I ask for help seem to say the same thing: that the Flight Instructor course was one of the toughest courses they have done but each one says it was their favorite by a country mile.
Tomorrow first thing I will be, weather permitting, I will be teaching "Mr Blogs" my student how to fly straight and level and if he's a good student he might be allowed to do a bit of climbing too. I will keep you appraised of his progress.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Its an all consuming course and I am all consumed......

The first couple of days of the Flight Instructors course really have gone by in a blurr.
 I have now done 4 flights and 4 days of briefings with my instructor and only really on yesterday afternoon's flight did I start to feel a glimpse of understanding about where I need to be with this course. 
There is quite a lot to take in over the first few days and also I feel like its also important for the instructor teaching us to teach to have a really good understanding of our flying skills, as a pupil will tend to copy the instructor, therefore we need to iron out any bad habits thats we have now.
To be honest with myself there are a fair few that need ironing out but I am enjoying the process of improvement and getting used to flying from the right seat. The different aspect to this course from my Commercial Pilot course is that we are spending large portions of the day in the classroom, the lectures are really quite good, I am learning each day even though we are mainly going over the Private Pilot Course and learning how to teach it.
But the days are long into the classroom for 8am today, then an hour and a half flight before lunch, then the next lesson brief all afternoon. Then home work and practice, last night I was in the classroom until 10:30 practicing on the board and trying to get a feel for my own briefings. Presenting on a white board not being my strong point, I am sure my 4 year old son would be better on it.
Having said that I am starting to get a feel for whats needed, between precise flying, precise wording and precise timing of what point you are trying to teach. I also need to learn that its possible to say something in using 5 words not giving a huge speech......
The best part is that I am still smiling though after each flight, and that's always been my yardstick of how I am doing, my instructor is like an encyclopedia of aviation, his knowledge is scary, but what I do like is his way of guiding you to get to where he wants you then getting out of you the information that you already know but aren't using as its buried in some bit of grey matter behind the kitchen sink, kind of like gentle torture, he did say yesterday that he would make a good interrogator and I tend to agree.
Its an all consuming course and I am all consumed......

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 1 of the instructor course.... not only Rick Perry has a brain freeze in the US.

Air Force One my teaching aid.
Today was a busy day here in Florida, first thing this morning was my pre-entry test for the Flight Instructor course which has started today. This involved a flight with the Instructor course manager here to show that I am up to scratch to do the course. Having only just had my Commercial Test this passed week if I had forgotten everything in less than 5 days then I really shouldn't be here.
It went ok, nothing great and a few mistakes but I am trying to re-adjust back to a very different plane once again, so whilst I was judged to be up to scratch I know I can fly better. It was only when I landed that I realised that this is the final flight for me for quite some time from the left hand seat. From now on its time to learn to not only fly from the other seat but also teach from it.... the flying has to pretty much be automatic and then on top of that demonstrate and teach the various lessons to a new PPL student.
This course is monumentally different from the CPL, this is ALL about language, communication and the delivery of it.
After the morning flight it was off to the brand spanking new classroom for us Instructor trainees and a good introduction to the course and then straight into the first of the briefings that we will have to deliver to our "pupil". Suddenly the depth of knowledge that we need to not only have but be able to communicate in an understandable manner to our brand new student who doesn't really know the back of a plane from the spinning bit at the front has dawned upon me....... The best way I can describe this at this early stage to me would be to say its like peeling an onion.
For the passed few years I have followed checklists, done my checks and carried out the manouvers as guided by my instructor at the time for over 200 hours, now we are peeling back those layers as to why we do these things which form the building blocks of the Private Pilot course and there have already been a few penny dropping Eureka moments and I am sure there are many more ahead.
After 2 hours of briefing it was time to fly once again but this time it was to be my first flight from the right seat and then the first time I was to teach anything. I manged to take off and get us to our training area and my instructor gave me the first part of the lesson so that I could see how we are meant to do this, taking 5-10 minutes initially. At this point I think it dawned upon me that Rick Perry (Rep. President Candidate) is not the only person on this side of the atlantic to suffer a brain freeze, him to forget a government department's name infront of 10 million people, me forget to be able to communicate in a normal way. I just wish I could watch a video of this flight as I am sure I started to make up completely new words as I tried to describe what I would like my student to do. Utter brain freeze at times. I am sure from the response of my instructor this was not unusual on day 1 of the course. We managed to get through it and I feel I settled after a while but its left me having 500 times more respect for each instructor I have ever had through aviation. For them to be able to sit calmly in an airplane booting through the sky at 100mph dodging clouds with a student having their life in their hands then ontop of that delivery instruction and evaluate performance. I salute you all............

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Today I remembered why I am doing all of this.....

So still feeling pretty good after knowing for sure that yesterday wasn't a dream it was nice today to know the exams are out of the way. A friend is doing some hour building here so I jumped in the right seat with him for a day out and lunch in Venice Florida. The weather was just unbelievable, clear blue skies low wind and a time to reflect on how lucky I am to be able to do all this. We flew from coast to coast of Florida for lunch...... how crazy does that sound to write. Quite quite bonkers.
Captain Diaz
But thats what we did, with my colleague Nuno, from Portugal. I have been out there a couple of times and its great to be able to head there again in such good weather.
Me blocking a great view
When you arrive there you can call a courtesy car to pick you up and take you to "sharky's" restaurant on the beach, its awesome. The food was great, and to have a nice stroll on the beach after a pretty stressful week, well couple of weeks, the chance to take a breath and have a quiet smile after all of the stress was great. The most important thing was they had Key Lime Pie......... this is one happy pilot !!!


Venice Beach
First time I have been to the beach for a while.

I really wanted to take this for a spin......

Venice beach

The views were fantastic from nearly 4000' so I have taken some pictures of the day out, hopefully there will be many more like this.
Okeechobee Airport enroute
I think sometimes its important to get away from the studying and get to breath a little and look out of the window and just realize that being able to fly where ever you want is a privilege and sometimes, just sometimes we should make sure we go out and enjoy it.
Departing Fort Pierce

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The big test......

My test certificate
I am just back from a very long day. A little bit lost, I am expecting my brain to oooze out of my ears at any time as it has melted. I know I need a beer.
I thought I had better write about it now before I forget what a day its been.
It started early with a judgement call on the weather and it was good to go so confirmation with the examiner and it was time to get the plane ready and notice my nerves going through the roof.
I bumped into another guy here, Peter who was also on his Commercial test today and when I saw hoe nervous he was I was more than happy that I wasn't that bad. With the plane ready, fueled to go and the mass and balance calculations done it was time to wait for the examiner to arrive.
The man who turned up was a really nice guy who went out of his way to break the ice, we sat down and had a long briefing before the flight explaining what to expect and what is to be expected at all stages of the exam. This took about 2 hours in total.
Then it was time to head out to the airplane with my passenger and give him the full safety briefings as though he has never been in a plane like this before, it was time to get us underway and in the air. Runway 32, N2878U cleared to take off.
The departure was straight forward and it was kind of into pilot zone then rather than nervous student, I found my heading and starting point for the navigation leg of the flight which was to be a 60nm route, through some fun airspace but due to cloud i was having to skirt quite low which makes navigating quite difficult. The navigation part of the exam is a simulated commercial flight to take a photographer to a grass air strip in the middle of nowhere, yes that would be a grass strip in the middle of a grass field, whilst flying a plane at 3000ft flying a plane at 120kts. If thats not enough, just when you get there the passenger decides he wants to go and see another one that you haven't been able to plan for and have to do the flight planning in the air, calculate heading, time to get there and the amount of fuel you will use to do it. Infact as i write that it really seems quite mad having to do all that and fly a plane at the same time. So this part got done and went the best I have managed it at all since I have been doing the training. Next I had to put my goggles on so that I couldn't see outside to simulate flying into clouds by accident, this involves getting to safe altitudes and emergency calls, then you are getting vectored away from the area so have to fly instructions, climbing and descending with only the instruments to use. Oh then the fun part, half of your instruments break down so it gets quite tough and is a real mental test as you have to trust the instruments and not go with what your body is telling you. As your body can be telling you that you are descending when actually you are climbing with the plane on its side.
Next it was time to get a position fix with the navigation instruments whilst flying the plane and still "under the hood".
Thank god this went quite well and all of a sudden I was out of the cloud and i could take of the goggles and it was time to do some landings into a nearby airfield which was pretty busy and not a controlled field which means making some good decisions and knowing exactly where every other aircraft is around in a mental picture whilst doing your own flying as well. Its pretty taxing but also an enjoyable part of it when you are getting it right. After glide approach, flapless and normal landings off we went away from the airport and it was time to start stalling the plane in different configurations, flaps, gear down and then some steep turns.
These seemed to pass in a flash and we were to start in the general direction on home and I was having a think about what would be left for us to do, just as I was thinking that my examiner pulled the power to off and it was engine failure simulation time. The examiner asked, what is your plan, I told him I would land at the airstrip just off his side of the plane, which it turned out he himself hadn't seen so he was happy with that, I flew my plan to get in and he was happy I would have got there safely and intact.
This was the final stage to the test apart from us getting back to our starting airport safely and expeditiously, joining the airport and landing. Believe it or not people have got this far landed and failed for messing up the taxi back to the ramp.
This wasn't going to happen for me, I made sure I wasn't going to mess that up, had to make sure I was concentrating until the very end.
The best bit of the day was to come when I had stopped the engine undone my seat belt and the examiner leaned over and said to me Well done Captain Morton. I had to stay sat in the plane for a few moments as my legs weren't working so well. After getting myself back into the school we had a de-briefing to go over the good bits and the bad bits of the test and there were a few bits of both, we completed the paperwork and to explain what a decent guy my examiner was he took me over the road for a well earned pint and a late lunch. A big day, and finally got through it after having it cancelled 4 times due to weather.

Its the eve of the big test.....

Here I am the night before my test, the weather has been a bit ropey today wind, rain, low cloud, the lot, so I am glad that the test wasn't booked for today, but it means no flying today to have a final practice run and get in the air.
I am really surprised how quickly this short journey has taken since I got here on the 4th October, 30 or so flights, lots of home work, sweat and stress. It has really tested me to the core, this course is very much a test of one's self and ability to get your mind around problems and be prepared to act, and act without a safety net as the guy in charge of nothing less than an airplane.
I am sure my flying has improved, I feel it has improved along with my confidence, I have learned to fly a new, heavier and complex aircraft which makes me wonder what it will be like to go back the smaller Piper Cadet after this is over. Most of the training has been thanks to Matthew Adams, who has dragged me kicking and screaming from a Private Pilot to one who is on the eve of my flight test for my Commercial Pilot License.
For now I am watching that weather to see if I will be flying tomorrow morning and if I can keep it together for 2 and a half hours, my legs are pretty much like jelly, I feel pretty sick. I have sat and gone through the whole test flight in my mind with a pen and paper, "arm chair flying" it through. I know my drills, I know how to do it, I have the skills, its just a case of putting it together on one flight.
I am not putting this post up directly as I am not wanting mom, dad and the rest of the family to be sitting there waiting upon news of the test when it might not even happen with the weather and having the 5 hour time difference. But I will post it what ever happens after test O'clock.
Game time......

Monday, November 7, 2011

No blogging for a little while

I have been sitting here for a week or so now waiting for my flight test for my commercial license. Originally it was meant to be last Tuesday at 9am and then at that point the bad weather started.... here I am a week later and I was hoping 4th time lucky (as 3 appointments have been cancelled) for tomorrow morning, yet below is the weather forecast:
When you are doing a test here, or anywhere for that matter the test is a simulated Commercial passenger carrying flight, so the weather has to be firstly within legal limits for the airplane and secondly within the legal limits for the manouvers which are to be performed on the test. Thirdly the forecast has to be within limits for the time when you are due to return, so that if the wind is forecast is to be too windy to land then you can't go either. So with all that in mind, I am sitting and waiting for the weather to get itself into shape and then it will be time for testing.
Fingers are crossed for some news soon.

KFPR 072320Z 0800/0824 05007KT P6SM VCSH SCT035 BKN070
     FM081500 04015G20KT P6SM VCSH SCT025 BKN040
KSUA 072320Z 0800/0824 04010KT P6SM VCSH BKN060 
     FM081500 04015G20KT P6SM VCSH SCT025 BKN04
KPBI 072330Z 0800/0824 03010G15KT P6SM VCSH FEW028 SCT035 BKN060 
     TEMPO 0800/0804 -SHRA SCT028 SCT035 BKN050 
     FM080400 04010G15KT P6SM VCSH FEW028 SCT050 
     FM081300 04014G20KT P6SM SCT035 SCT060
KVRB 072320Z 0800/0824 05009KT P6SM VCSH SCT035 BKN060 
     FM081500 04015G20KT P6SM VCSH SCT025 BKN040

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The 170A as its called is the official test done by the school where you are training and cannot be carried out by your instructor. Usually the chief pilot or someone in that capacity carries out this check.
So mine was scheduled for this morning. This basically the same as the CPL test that will come next but I can only be signed off to apply for my test if I pass this one.
At the appointed hour I met the chief instructor to be given my navigation route that I had 1 hour to plan out. So I was given my airport down to the south near West Palm, and having to navigate through the class D airspace and restrictions en route.
With the flight plan organized and the paperwork done, I went to meet my passenger and escorted him to the plane giving him the safety briefings all passengers must receive. We taxied off for take off as the nerves were there and the heart thumping.
What had been really nice is that the school's Head of Training came to see me prior to departure and sat and had a chat with me how to channel the stress of these moments, it was a nice touch, and helped a lot, to put it all in perspective and helped me feel ready. Its one of the things about this school that I really like, the instructors top to bottom are helpful, have 5 minutes for you to help with something, when there are 50 or more students here to still feel like an individual makes a lot of difference.
So we took off and headed south for the first part of the route, it was good for settling down to get into the right place to start from, and then see that everything is where it should be, sea to the left departure airport behind you. We were on the way and hopefully about to arrive and Palm beach county airport in 20 minutes.
Change of radios and a quick identify on radar and we were well along the leg. A small adjustment halfway down the track and it wasn't long before the destination airport was on our nose to my relief. With the first stage done it was time for the diversion which means on the spot flight planning and navigation and then brief the passenger on when we will arrive. We started off ok, I went a little left with the wind pushing me over but corrected along route and arrived into the right area to try to find a small grass air strip in the middle of a lot of fields, I knew it was there somewhere but literally couldn't see the wood from the trees situation, I circled for a while and with a small hint from the passenger was able to confirm I was over the area, so had managed to get myself there but really need to get a lot better at spotting these grass airstrips which I am not finding easy at all. Which I will come to later.
After getting to the strip it was time to simulate mistakenly head into cloud and carry out the drills involved and get a fix on the VOR from 2 sources. Following this was various manouvers under the goggles, climbing, turning, and my favorite, unusual attitudes diving and heading up to the sky like a rocket, all recovered and we were on our way.
Next was stalling the plane in 3 different stages of flight which went to plan, then we were flying along and it was engine fire time.... fire drill done and full flaps and a spiral dive until it was out, to be followed by an emergency power off landing with a bit of MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY, I have to say I am so glad of the training Matthew has done with me on this as it was always something I found tricky, but this was possibly the best I have ever done by keeping to his guidance. We were 300ft from touching down safely and it was time to push full power and climb out, only for the simulated engine failure after take off and find a new field which also went well.
It was now time to head back to the airfield for a few circuits and different landings, a flap-less approach followed a glide approach where I put the undercarriage down early but made the runway ok, and finally it was time for a normal landing. I hate to say this myself but it was possibly the best landing I have managed yet in this heavy aircraft, a swift taxi back and I was parking the plane up.
I had the debrief with my "passenger" which was very constructive and I came away having really enjoyed the flight, in the debrief the CFI made some very valid points and some suggestions on how to bring down the work flow help things along and also how to improve things heading into the test. He wants me to do some extra practice with the diversion practice and finding the airfields, which I am finding really tricky, but hopefully practice makes perfect.
But the good news is, I have passed my 170A test and have been signed off to go for my big test at some point next week. No going back now !!

Confidence, where is it, I know it was here the other day ?

Any non pilots out there know what this is .... ?
Well its been a few days since I wrote on the blog, over the weekend just gone I was suffering a slight crisis of confidence over the whole thing here, I went to visit my friend Blake and his wife in Fort Lauderdale whom I did some hour building with. Blake is a great guy and been through all of what I am going through (aswell as his wife supporting him) and had a knowing smile on his face and some words of advice.
It was nice to get away from it all for a couple of days and get my head into the right place.
Here we are on Wednesday and things feel a whole lot better, the drive and desire is there and I am smiling once again. Its funny really I have spoken to a few pilots here and who are friends and each of them so far has told me the same story that they have reached the same moment themselves. The chief pilot here put it in the right phrase for me to say that this course is very much a battle with yourself in your own head not against the plane or anything else.
So I flew on Monday and Matthew pretty much had the same thing to say to me, "You are the Captain, make the decisions, you know the answers, have confidence and follow them through".
I have been pushing on with this as much as possible, yesterday we had a technical problem with the plane that I hadn't come across before, when of the power checks there was a problem that had to be dealt with and I was pretty slow off the mark with what to do in that situation, so I have been away reading up on that, but I passed the lesson and that was meant to be my final lesson with him and I was going to be allowed to do my 170A check ride. This is a mandatory test to be carried out by the chief pilot to see if you are going to be allowed to be put forward for your test and is carried out to the letter as the test will be..... to be continued......

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nav in the clear blue skies......

This being a commercial course I am not getting to take too many pictures but I love this one of Miami
This morning was a kind of simulation to the first part of the CPL exam, I had 1 hour to plan a flight to a small grass airfield in the middle of nowhere, but there was a huge lake next to it so it shouldn't have been too hard. Unfortunately for me there was no internet working in school this morning to have a look at google earth to see what the place actually looks like.
Never mind the RAF didn't have google earth before setting off on their many bombing missions in 1945 at night, so I would have to trust in my ruler and compass and flying skills.
The last time I did a navigation flight in the previous flight, it wasn't one of my best days out in the plane and my confidence was a little low before todays sortie.
I planned the flight, then went through over once more, just to check there were no silly errors there.
All checked and it was time to collect my passenger and head on our way.
Strapped in and heading out on runway 28L which put me directly over my start point for the nav.
Time logged, heading and altitude set, and we were off. With a briefing to the passenger with an ETA of just over 20 minutes.
I found the first check point ok and on time, i was happy with that. It makes so much difference when the weather is clear, and you finally get the plane trimmed correctly. (I have been spending way to much time arsing around trimming, instead of getting it right at the start, its a lot less workload then) the second check point came and went and we were right on the button I could see the huge lake in the distance so it was time to wait for the parts of the picture to come together and confirm where we were with various roads and the lake in the right place. As the time ticked on the picture came together perfectly and the grass strip was right off our nose. I was pleased as punch but it was an easy day to do it on.
Then it was time to get the goggles on and start the instrument work, I had a complete brain malfunction here with the drill on what to do you in accidently go into cloud. I have been reading and reading this over the couple of days i was sick, and there I was goggles on and mind blank...... totally blank. Flying can be so frustrating, I think it was probably the shock of getting a nav right.
I managed to get my act together with a little prompting, but that was a serious failure.
I managed to get my radio nav fixes done properly and a little quicker than the previous times and then there was partial panel time and unusual attitudes. These seemed to be ok but my timed turns were not up to scratch, i need to stop and think whilst doing this rather than rushing straight into it. Careless mistakes.
It was then time to rejoin, and I was not an A grade student with that today I can tell you.
I could actually see myself buggering it up, slow and indecisive getting the plane ready for landing, and my passenger had pulled the fuse on the landing gear, so no green lights for landing, once again, slow decision to go around, all of this whilst I was 4 miles on final and there was someone else landing ahead of me, and I didn't think to slow us down..... Just Go Around......silly.
So I did go around and was about 500ft lower than I should have been making that decision.
The circuit I managed well and got us ready and came in for a reasonable landing, a little flat but ok.
I really need to start being the boss in the plane and not sitting behind it like a horse on the gallops.
But in debrief I have been given my papers to complete over the weekend to apply for the test and Matthew was reasonably complimentary in saying that I really am nearly there but need to get myself up  that final level be test ready. So more working on my "couch flying" going through the procedures and the Pilots handbook. Its a scary thought to be filling out exam applications already.

On a side note I really did realise why I am putting myself through all of this today and why I really do know that instruction is for me. One of the fellow international students and Italian called Michele whom I have met on a couple of occasions whilst he's studying for his first license, the PPL . Well I saw him going out in the plane this morning with the examiner and it took me back to my first test. He arrived back and I saw him having his debrief with after and then saw the look on his face when he was told he had passed. It was amazing, all of the hard work had paid off I thought he was going to explode with joy. His instructor must be so happy to take someone who can't fly at all to now being a Pilot. That's why I want to become an instructor. Well done Michele.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Coughs and splurts, Stalls and gliding......

Today I was back with Matthew, it was our first flight together in the Arrow as all of the previous ones have been with Thomas in the news plane.
Firstly just to explain that I haven't been hiding under a rock for the passed few days, unfortunately my trusty instructor is so generous with his advice and flying skills that he's also pretty generous with his flu germs too as I managed to get a smaller and reduced dose of his cold that managed to block my ears up for the passed 2 days so its been deafness, night-nurse and no flying.
But back in the cockpit this morning with a glorious day if not a touch chilly at 16 degrees C.
We were in the Arrow once again and it was the lesson to finish off all of the stalling, there are basically 3, the clean stall, the base turn stall and the finals/Approach stall to be done. All went reasonably well, but I did forget props fully forward on 2 occasions which is a silly mistake.
Then we managed some gliding turns which are a lot of fun in this plane, 60 degrees of bank !!!
I am starting to feel more and more comfortable in the plane now, not quite at home in it but another few hours should help.
I seem to have got my cockpit management more under control now, not 100% but its better each flight.
Rejoining the airport control area is better each flight but there is a little too much hesitancy there, I think its a fear of making mistakes which is causing me to do it. Need to be much more assertive and decisive, thats my goal for tomorrows flight, be ontop of those things, the actual flying seems to be ok.
Upon returning and through the debrief Matthew mentioned that over the weekend we will need to fill out the test application and send it off over the weekend, at that point I felt quite sick, we can't be at that stage already, surely. Apparently so.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bows and Arrows

The National Park beach at St Lucie
Today, Monday, involved quite a lot of flying and I am glad I did some preparation.
Firstly over the weekend I actually got to have some down time and the weather wasn't raining cats and dogs like last week, so a nice long walk along the beach at the local national park was in order, to blow away a few cob webs and have a reflect upon it all whilst building up a nice appetite.
A great bit of surf here for the locals
Before heading for a nice lunch though I decided on taking some of my instructors' advice and spend some time sitting in the new Arrow on the ground at the flying school and just going through my check lists nice and slowly, getting to know where all of the bits are that make up this new plane. Then going through some of the procedures for the emergencies, such as fires and engine failure. Just sitting there talking to myself on a Saturday afternoon on my own in a plane on the ramp without the engine turning, I can only imagine what people who were walking by must be thinking. For me it was a great exercise and will be doing it each day now.
So after a weekend with some study mixed in it was time to get 100% back to it at school today. Due to a nasty bug Matthew my regular instructor had been replaced with Danish Thomas whom I flew with on Friday as well for my introduction flight with the new plane, so we continued on from where we left off. Today's morning flight was to be instruments, tracking VOR's and NDB (Navigation beacons where little arrows point you in the right direction if you program them correctly). This I seem to be getting the knack of but the NDB still needs some working on, I am tying myself up in knots slightly but its coming along. The VOR work seems to be ok so far.
Me at the beach over the weekend
Then it was time to rejoin the airport to land the plane which I seem to have stopped myself flapping about so much. This wasn't helped today by a controller who seemed to be flapping more than I usually do as he started to give us instructions which weren't entirely possible and were back to front, then he started into a bit of a melt down, so I pointed the plane away from the airport for a while whilst he got himself together and also all of the approaching planes, when he then continued to get it wrong my instructor got onto the radio to ask him in firmer terms whats going on. At which point the chief controller took over and started to organize things in short order.

There still was a little to much disorganization on my part there but its getting better.
The weather has been closing in all day and I thought that would be it for us but we decided to give it a late call so I had some lunch at the airport tiki bar and went back to see Thomas and as the Captain it was my choice for us to go up again we were doing stalls this afternoon. This was something a bit different in an aircraft alot heavier and also with landing gear which has to be considered in some of the recoveries from different stalls.
But my trusty instructor did a good demonstration each time and then it was my turn and I felt pretty comfortable with it all, by biceps certainly feel like they have had a work out, I need to practice the procedures over again in the plane like I did at the weekend but it feels good.
It was then time to head back into the circuit and get the reigns on this plane for some glide landings, in this plane, I can only describe this as driving your own roller coaster, its BRILLIANT.
The procedure involves flying parallel to the runway about half a mile away and then cutting the power off when you think you can make it to touch the wheels down upon a certain point. The basic of the procedure is that you have to keep a certain speed so not to stall the plane and as this plane is so heavy you are pointing the nose right down to hold the 79 knots. When you are certain you are going to make the runway you put down the gear and put your flaps down, which means that you are even more nose down all the way in until its time to flare and put touch down.
It was on the point of landing the plane on the centre line that I realised I hadn't been breathing for the whole exercise. Thomas, my instructor seemed happy with the job done and it was time to call it a day.
All in all a good positive start to the week. Some things I really need to work on, cabin organization is definitely the main one. But I am smiling after a good monday.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Its a very sad day today.

Sue in her element, in the clouds.
Unfortunately today my mentor, instructor and friend Sue Virr passed away after falling ill just over a month ago.
Sue has been there since the start of my flying adventure, she helped me through all of my PPL theory exams and then my skills test after some great flying in Limoges and being able to stay at Nearlyheaven.
Having the chance to have such cross country adventures out to the atlantic coast and down in the south of France into the Alps.
It was during this learning voyage that Sue's passion for flying rubbed off on me and it was not long after I passed my test thanks to Sue that I enrolled in doing my commercial pilots license theory course work. She was never far away with an email with a bit of advice or just a word of encouragement, and here I sit now halfway through my commercial pilot course all thanks to her.
She has made a huge impact on my life and I know there are many other students as well out there who now have their licenses and a love of flying thanks to her.
Thankyou so much Sue, you are going to be missed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New plane, N2878U Piper Arrow. Nice way to end the week.

Today I have been let loose on the complex plane for the first time. A lot of new things to learn and it feels like a great plane to fly, and you actually have to fly this one, it wont go unless you make it with a firm hand too.
Due to the plane being a lot heavier it affects most aspects of flight, for instance for glide approach on full flaps is an experience to behold, I was virtually standing on the rudder pedals as the nose was so low to keep the speeds.
There are lots of other differences too with the landing gear and variable pitch propeller all make for a little more to do and think about at every stage of flight. The landing feels a lot quicker than anything I have ever done before, you literally have to fly it onto the ground so a quick landing, very different from the Robin in France or the Cadet I have been on so far. Great experience to be learning something new.
My new ride N2878U.
My instructor today, Thomas, took me step by step through all aspects of the basic operations and it was a nice introduction for the flying to come next week as I am sure the workload and pressure are going to mount once again, I like flying with Thomas, he has an uncanny knack of knowing what you are thinking, a good reader of people, you can see he loves what he is doing. He only teaches part time and then flies 737 jets the rest of the time and lives in Florida.
So all in all positive as I sit here celebrating the end to the week with a huge American style cheeseburger at the airport restaurant tiki bar which is right on the side of the runway.
I feel pretty lucky to be here.
I am getting to fly at a good school with good people who really do seem to give a hoot about their students. There is a pleasant atmosphere at the school plenty of people around who always seem to have 2 minutes if you have a question or query. There are so many horror stories you hear about flying schools these days with some particularly bad reports about some in the US, but so far, touching wood this one has exceeded expectation and I am certainly learning something new each day. I suppose time will tell when we start talking about testing in 2 weeks time.
For the time being I have some reading up to do over the weekend and maybe a bit of down time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Its better but its not great. Maybe Valium

I did a lot of preparation for today after yesterday's debacle, and felt better for it. Although I am getting myself stressed on these flights.
I did better in most of the portions of this flight today but it still wasn't good enough. Its strange, I am making mistakes, I can see myself doing it, but my brain is racing around other things and not correcting them. For instance today, at the start of the navigation I leveled out at 3300ft, my heading, and immediately saw there were a few isolated clouds on my heading and thought I must descend to remain within limits, then went onto other stuff before without actually doing it. Up until the point where I am nearly flying into it. I had just gone on and got my radar flight following and start doing my paperwork for the route we were flying. I am just rushing, its silly, almost like an outer body experience watching myself make errors and then stressing over it, to the point where I am making silly errors along the way.
It seems to be my mode of learning, make every mistake possible, then try not to do it on the next flight, the work load on these flights is huge for me, as its new and I am trying to figure out a routine. But I made my navigation and found my tiny grass airstrip.
I couldn't find my diversion, well went to the wrong one, I managed to convince myself that another airfield was the one that I needed, without even looking at the clock that I had at least 5 more minutes of flight until I should be there, @111kts that alot of ground to clear and a dumb mistake.
My briefing on the Arrow....
The emergency drills were a lot better today, I feel I have got those now and then navigating out of cloud worked well and to the drill.
I managed to get us correctly back to the airfield on instruments under the goggles and then landed ok, but it still feels very rushed. It was also very good weather today. All in all I need to be better at my decision making and stop the headless chicken routine, its bonkers, I am sure if I had a video of my my work up in the cabin up there it would be hilarious viewing.
Photo-competition.... whats this ?
I received my briefing on the bigger Arrow airplane yesterday afternoon which I will shortly be flying, its a bigger heavier beast and going to take some getting used to. I am enclosing some pictures of it.

The Variable pitch propeller on the Arrow

The High T tail which can give a bit of a bumpier ride on stalling

The blue lever on the right is the new piece of kit and the undercarriage
I am starting to wonder if a couple of valium pre flight might help me keep calm.......

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Today the wheels fell off, metaphorically speaking.

A misty morning greeted me at the airport this morning and I am sure some of it got into my brain, as today I should have just stayed in bed. Today was meant to me my half way revision flight to see where I am, and to say it didn't go well is an understatement.
The first part was to be a planned navigation and that started badly when I had calculated the heading wrongly and started off in the wrong direction fortunately I realised, but flustered and slightly panicking as I was things just went from bad to worse from there the I had to start flying towards some rainy cloudy weather. I was left wanting for my captains skills and wasn't making decisions and keeping to them, the worst part was I could actually see my self making the mistakes but I need to be far more assertive and confident in my decision making. Today it just wasn't happening, infact I was awful. My flight planning needs to be 100% better and then need to fly my plan.
Plenty of lessons learned today, and serious ones at that. I need to get into my books and see the differences between US and UK airspace too. All in all I just wasn't at the races and need to get my Captains hat on and see myself more as the one in charge of what we are doing.
Matt did say to me at the beginning that CPL students usually hit a brick wall at half way through so true not one to be late I have just bounced off it 111knts.
It can't be all roses chocolates everyday so need to pick myself up at the moment and get back on the horse and be better tomorrow when I go again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today's second flight deserves a new post.

The second flight of today was a pretty long one of 1hour 40mins, instrument flying and then it was using radio navigation with my goggles on to find airports etc. Its pretty hard work flying without the use of your eyes looking outside as you need to watch all of the instruments at the same time, kind of the rub your tummy pat your head kind of thing.
So once we were ready to head back to the airport I lined us up into the circuit and Matt told me I was to do a glide approach which means cutting the power off when you judge that you could glide all of the way in. The control tower had called us as No.2 to land behind a Cessna plane which we could see, so the landing checks were done and the plane ready. I was turning onto final approach and getting my speeds right for the glide and suddenly saw the plane a mile in front touch down on the runway and veer off it at a rate of knots well over on to the grass skidding to a stop about 40metres into the grass at the side of the runway. The controller called us immediatly to "go around" which means to abort landing and go around the circuit to do another one, whilst we heard over the radio that all were ok in the plane/lawnmower to the side of the runway. A sobering thought when you are flying this amount about how much control and concentration you need to have and keep all of the way through the flight, no matter how hot or tired you are.
Tomorrow I have my half way course check ride, kind of a mock test under proper test conditions and then it will be a promotion onto the bigger Arrow plane, which was described to me today as very similar to flying the plane i am in but towing 2 horses.....

An Island for retired space monkeys

This mornings flight was all about emergencies, fires and engines out. A lot of the training for this involves learning the checklists and finding a safe place to put the plane down. Oh and a spiral dive at 45 degrees and 100knots to put the fire out. Knowing the check list seems to slow it all down abit, but I am now going to be practicing this virtually every day from now on the "Passenger" might put the throttle and just say engines out so I have to be on my toes now to always know where I would put the plane on the ground safely.
Whilst we were doing one of the many forced landings Matt pointed out one of the funniest things I have ever seen from the air which could only be American.
To the south west of the airport is a special monkey retreat. Kind of a retirement home for them. These just aren't any monkeys, these are the fellas who went on the Space programme, each of them has a nice little pad in there with and each have their own play park on an island. I am just hoping they might do one for retiring pilots some day with our own play park........
Monkey Island for retired space monkeys
This afternoon's flying will be radio navigation and the weather is good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Naughts and crosses whilst flying with goggles on, this isn't Its A Knock Out

Today's navigation route and diversions
Fresh week, fresh Stuart, jet lag has passed and some good home-work preparation done.
Today's first flight was my first navigation trip which I would have to do all of the work myself, and now I have committed more of the checklists to memory and feel more organised I feel like time is running a little slower and I am getting more relaxed. Its all starting to come along, still a few minor errors but not the silly ones of last week. I tracked to my first grass strip and we found it within the allotted time just off the left wing and my "passenger" was allowed to take his pictures.
We were then diverted to another runway to find "on the hoof" so a quick bit of planning and my passenger turned back into instructor and flew the leg for a demo of the best way to do it. We found that one on the nose and it was then my turn for a diversion myself which I flew over 2 legs as it was 18 miles. We were slightly left of track the first one so adjusted, calculated and I then flew the second leg to left of the airport but were bang on time and found it without too much trouble.
Now as I had done the preparation before I wasn't so all over the place for rejoining the circuit, getting the weather and getting us down.
Its starting to feel like its coming into place, not quite but nearly.
Off for Instrument flight after lunch, chocs away.

The Piper Arrow which I will be flying soon
This afternoon's flight was back to the instrument flying once again, so putting the plane into unusual attitudes and recovering, dives etc. Then learning about timed turns around the compass which take 10 seconds per 30 degrees in a rate one turn, all of this with goggles on, half of the  instruments not working and not climbing or descending more than 100ft.
Kids who like computer games should come and play at the real thing. I am really enjoying it, when you feel you have it all under control its a really good feeling. So there I was feeling all good with myself that I was finally getting myself in control of the plane and it was time for my "Passenger" to start to distract my attention, so first of all it was climbing to the left, oh and now to the right, then it was: " Ok now we are going to do all of this whilst you play me at Naughts and Crosses." Laugh, I nearly wet myself there and then, but he was serious as he was drawing out the grid.
EFT-European Flight Training
Please imagine if you will 2 grown men, sitting flying a 4 seater plane, at 3000ft. The one flying the plane wearing something like ski goggles to not be able to see outside and the "Passenger" drawing out Naughts and Crosses, whilst I try to fly us back to the airfield without bumping into anything.
The lesson went really well though I thought, Matt really is a top grade instructor, what he has done with my flying over the passed week is great, I have actually started to feel a lot more confident in my surroundings here, but I do feel the hard work is really about to start, I think the gloves will come off and the pressure will rise.

I should be able to start working on the bigger aircraft by the middle of the week, The Arrow which is complex plane, which this test states I have to be tested on, so the work load will increase, and I will get no help from the "Passenger" when I am flying so I am to be the Commercial Pilot with a paying customer. As I left tonight Matt showed me the hours we have logged and dropped into conversation that after tomorrows flying I will be halfway through the course. Its going just too quickly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weather the Whether.....

Today was a strange day and a good day.
I was woken early this morning at 4:45 with a huge clap of thunder and some serious rain fall. Try as I might get back off to sleep, not a chance. No flying today I thought, this is one huge storm. A cup of tea and breakfast later and the rain really was coming down with thunder and lightening still I head off to school expecting a ground school day.
Todays weather
I met a new instructor today, Thomas, who's an airline pilot and from Denmark but lives here and flies 737's and teaches part time as well. He was to be flying with me today but the weather was stopping that for the time being.
So it was to the classroom to learn about some of the radio navigation techniques for a couple of hours, which was kept interesting by Thomas and I learned a lot, then looking at the weather forecasts it was starting to clear up and pretty quickly, so as the Captain I had to make the decision to go flying. On the agenda was instrument flying, which involves me wearing a hood over my eyes and then trying to fly the plane simulating flying in clouds. This I have practiced with Darrell last week in France so it went quite well. Next was unusual attitudes, which means putting the plane into a spiral dive or a into a position more like a space rocket whilst I have my eyes closed then when I open my eyes have to right the plane quickly and safely. Quite good fun to be honest, I am surprised how much I enjoy these.
So all in all this exercise was enjoyable, just in time for my brain to go on vacation once again and I started to get my self in a flap when having to make my way back to the airport. I still don't know why I am being like this, every now and then the red mist comes down in the cabin and I get flustered and a little lost with my procedures.
Thomas mentioned that he saw it in progress and that I need to have more preparation, give myself time and not rush. Get everything straight in my mind before I start the process.
So I am going to go through these things on paper over the weekend and try to create a mental process to go through without having a plane to fly at the same time. So definitely work to be done over the weekend to get some of the procedures into place I also have some technical reading to do regarding the airplane and learn the various speeds for flying the plane off by heart as thats now important at this stage.
For the moment in reflection at the end of the first 8 hours of the training, I am a little frustrated at the silly mistakes that I seem to be making and almost feel I have started the course with stage fright, but I am really happy at the progress I am making, I am learning each day and the instructors are top drawer. I think with a full week next week I will be exhausted by the end of it as I am sure things are gathering pace now. I am really enjoying being here and feel I am at the right place for this part of my flying career. For now its a little rest over the weekend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Radio head.

Well another early start to the day, but I had to put my captain's hat on and decide to delay the flight for 45 mins as there was some local weather around. So let it pass and we got onboard the plane, went through all of the checklists only at the final moment to have one of the instruments stop working, the attitude indicator. Can't fly without that so shut down and back in we go.
Fortunately there was another plane there and we were shortly off and away. Although once again I seemed to leave part of my brain behind as my radio work was really quite bad and not in the game at all, but the flying side of things was much improved on yesterday as I finally feel like I am getting used to the plane. We finished what we were doing yesterday in the gusty winds, with glide approaches and short filed landings. Matt seemed happier with my flying and I felt it was a marked improvement on yesterday.
I did get my knuckles wrapped over not knowing all of the approach speeds for each of the configurations of the plane today, so some serious home work to be done, I really should gotten a Pilots handbook for the plane before I started, so work to be done there.
In general one of the things I am enjoying is seeing how Matt instructs, although he must go through dozens of students doing these same lessons over and over yet at no time do I feel like he is just going through the paces, he is on the ball and sees the mistakes a mile off and we seem to be able to correct them, he's not condescending or mocking, he strikes a good balance which I must try to learn from if I get to the point of instructing further down the line.
All in all a positive start to the day but I need to get this radio work done, so a lot of concentration on that this afternoon if the weather stays away.

This afternoon's flight was my first taste of Commercial Pilot Navigation, now to explain this in simple terms, my passenger is a photographer for The Sun newspaper, Ironic isn't it, mind you he did promise not to hack my phone. My job is to collect the paying customer and brief him take him to the plane, then fly him to the place where he wants to shoot some aerial pictures. Which of course is some remote place really in the middle of nowhere. Then we went onto another one and eventually another one. The whole time whilst flying giving updates of where we are, what time we will arrive and then point out the house, building, prison, airstrip or whatever the subject of the photographs is.
All well and good you might think, programme the gps and off you go. But no, No gps its the old steam gauges with map and compass, judging where the wind has blown us off course and then correcting the course as we do.
Todays navigation route.
The first leg of this was a demonstration by Matt then it was my turn to navigate, then the 3rd leg I had to navigate, fly and do the radios and find the tiny airstrip. Suddenly I have realized that the flying part now has to become second nature, whilst you are completing paperwork, map reading and informing your passenger, the work load has very quickly increased, always something to do. The adrenaline started to flow a little as the eyes start to scan the horizon for my waypoint or the subject of the pictures. To my surprise I managed to find it, although I do think I was given a relatively easy one for starters, and my passenger got his pictures.
I let my guard down a little too early though as we were also nearly back to our home airfield and I hadn't set the aircraft up for arrival and I was rushing once again and making some mistakes. Silly errors that really shouldn't be there but I will be ironing out.
Matt seemed altogether happier with my radio work this afternoon, I am feeling more at home with the plane now, knowing where to look for things and getting the landings better and better each time. I hope this stands me in good stead for when I move up to the bigger aircraft at the end of next week.
I am really pleased to have chosen here to come and do this course, the school really is well set up, the instructors around the place seem to enjoy working there, always wishing a good morning, I even crossed a Texan in the corridor earlier as I wished him good morning I received a "Howw Dee" from him wild west style.
I am exhausted at the end of each day my brain literally hurts, so I know I am trying my hardest not sure if I can keep up at this pace, but I will certainly be trying.
If anyone reads this and would like to leave a comment feel free to on the bottom.

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...