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.
Stu.

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.

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

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