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.

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...