Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Africa is calling.............

I have realized with some disappointment that I have not been able to keep up to date with my blog during 2014 and my new years resolution for 2015 is to regularly post here.
The year of 2014 has been somewhat amazing having passed over 1500 hours of flight and have had a record 14 students pass their PPL's with me in Limoges.
A new adventure though is now on the horizon after I received an email from Aviation Without Borders (Aviation Sans Frontieres) asking me if I can go to The Central African Republic (CAR) to fly one of their aircraft for them as a volunteer in the New Year.
Since the email and subsequent phone calls/skype I have been up for an interview and flight test in Brussels which went well, I've been for the injections,  and this morning I have packed my suitcases for the first leg of my journey to the CAR tomorrow (New Years Day).

For the flying people who might read this I will be flying a Cessna C206 and will be flying everything from Aid to people, and other NGO staff based from the capital city of Bangui.

I have been asked by lots of people many different questions when I have mentioned I am off on this trip with some comments of "you must be mad" or "what do you want to go there for", in all honesty I have been quite surprised by some people's reactions but on the other hand I have had huge amounts of support from the people who really matter to me.
For a few facts, I am not off to fly in the Ebola zone over there in Africa which is over on the west coast and I am doing this trip as an unpaid volunteer. 
My reason for doing it is pretty simple really, I have a skill that can help people who need help and whilst enjoying my Christmas dinner with my lovely family it dawned on me about the people who are not so fortunate as we are, so giving up a few weeks of my time help isn't exactly a big deal.

It is my aim during the next 5 weeks to take lots of pictures along the voyage and update my blog when I have working internet, and my hope is that this will serve as a nice diary to remember this period as ever on my blog I would love to hear from anyone who might be reading. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Its time to ask a favor...... (just a little one)....

I have been noticing of late that there are more and more people having a look at this little blog of mine from more and more diverse countries..... infact countries I have never been to and didn't think that I knew anyone living there, examples being Finland, Germany, Russia, Ireland and the Ukraine, I have never really addressed those who read this blog before as its more of a personal diary to aid my awful memory but I would really like to invite anyone who reads my ramblings to leave the occasional comment in the comments below or even just say hello & let me know who you are or even just which city you are in anonymously as it would be nice to say hello personally.....Of course if you have any questions please don't be afraid to ask.......
Anyway just a thought as my curiosity is getting the best of me, and most importantly thankyou for taking an interest......
Stu

War games, clouds and icing

Not the best conditions for flying in
Yesterday was a bit of a hum drum type day with bad weather here in Limoges so I have been sitting and writing the new Ground School theory courses that I will be delivering for students this year.
When I was taking a short break I looked outside and my friend who flies his own Cessna 414 high performance twin engine plane was outside and invited me to go for a flight with him to La Rochelle in his plane where he was having to have a revalidation flight for his qualifications......
To say I jumped at the chance is an understatement.
I have flown this plane a few times already and have always thoroughly enjoyed it, but I have never flown in the weather conditions which we had yesterday, storms, rain, icing ...... all in all proper IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions).

The owner of the plane (JP) had filed the flight plan and in we jumped and away we go..... he went through the start up procedures and then turned around and gave me control of the plane to fly it........
Looking ahead of me down the runway I knew that we had a cloud base of about 600ft so it wasn't going to be long until we were going to be straight into the cloud at 130knots.....
Thats when I felt myself Clench.....
Having not done this before for real, especially in a plane so powerful, I realized this is the sharp end and it was time to hop onto the learning curve......
Throttles gently up to full power and away we go.
The Cessna 414
It was actually less dramatic than I was expecting although with the storms that we around in the area it certainly was a touch bumpy, what was quite nice was the fact that we were heading to the coast and fairer weather.
 Infact we broke out at about 10,000ft and could see La Rochelle away in the distance, it seemed like a pretty standard flight over there although we were routed a long way in the wrong direction at the start sue to the French air force playing war games so what would normally have taken an hour took an hour and a half and we were vectored into final approach and when we landed it was blue skies and sunny......Oh to live by the beach
The fun really came for me on the return journey. I had sat on the ground whilst JP had done his check flight and could see some proper storm clouds in the area and when it was time to head back I realized this could be a slightly different flight for me on the return.
We had a standard departure out of La Rochelle and once again had to head all the way south to Royan to avoid the war games and were immediately into the cloud from about 4,000ft. I wanted to practice my Instrument flying so hand flew the plane rather than use auto pilot all of the way back. We were cleared to 9,000ft and I felt I did a pretty good job of holding heading and altitude all of the way back, as we couldn't see a thing, its a pretty strange sensation whilst hurtling along at about 180knots.
We then had a call through to commence the descent into Limoges down to 4000ft with a warning of Icing and moderate turbulence.......mmmm I thought....... this is a new one on me. Then I noticed JP start to strap himself in properly with his seat belts.
Now he is a very experienced pilot and he had his game face on, it was time to Clench again.
We bumped and shook around a little, well quite a bit but I managed to hold at the 4000ft to the start of the instrument procedure (The IAF), taking directions from JP I made the turn and started to hit the headings that he gave me, although I have to admit I was feeling a little as though the plane was racing ahead of me like a race horse down the back straight during the 11:10 a Kempton and I was holding on with everything I have and realized I was holding on to the controls a little too tight as my knuckles were a little white.......
The magic needle came into place and after following it for a while the view in the photo below came as a welcome sight when popping out of the cloud.....


That welcome view when popping out
 The heart carried on beating for an hour or so after the flight...... maybe I'm mad but I wanted to get back up and do some more......

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cover girl me ????

Back at the end of summer I was contacted by a journalist called Cally who works for an English magazine based in the UK called Living France.
She had apparently read my blog and seen some news about my flight school here in Limoges and she asked if she could come to meet me and talk about the possibility of doing a story for the magazine.
I decided to have a read of some of Cally's previous articles and her writing was really balanced and enjoyable to read so I agreed with her to come and spend a day with me.
She came to my home firstly and then we travelled into the airport and met one of my students for a good chat with those who work around me too.
All 5 pages of the Article
I was a nice surprise them when a week ago a friend contacted me to tell me he has seen my ugly mug in a magazine in the UK and he scanned it and emailed it to me so I thought it would be a nice record to put the article on my blog. I was shocked to see it being 5 pages but I really like Cally's writing and feel she's done a great job and wish to send her a huge Thankyou.



Friday, January 24, 2014

So what's next.....?

We are at last experiencing a few days of ground school due to the weather, we are still managing the occasional flight but its certainly been limited.
Its giving me some time to reflect and start to plan for the year ahead.
What am I hoping to achieve by the end of the year and whats going to happen on this roller-coaster of aviation.
Firstly and most importantly to keep my students happy and keep them flying and thats starting well as I am getting lots of good enquiries and am pretty well booked up for the summer months. I've already managed to do more hours in January than I did in the whole of December/January & February last year.
The kind of jet I am hoping to get rated on this year
My hope also is that there will be a couple of new faces to show off for people who are coming to help out here at flying in france bringing different experience to help me with teaching and hopefully increase the amount of students we can keep happy.
Secondly on a personal note I am really hoping to broaden my horizons with my new qualifications and with the help of a couple of friends and colleagues start to fly some bigger and diverse aircraft.
The first of these is I am hoping to be able to do my Second in Command course on a Citation Jet in the spring time and thats something I am really starting to get excited about.
In addition to that I really need to build my Instrument flying time and also multi engine time so I will hopefully be jumping on a few planes for some exotic trips that I will be sure to be taking pictures along the way to keep a log of the adventures.

The most important thing for 2104 is to stay safe, healthy & happy (which helps to keep a class 1 medical)
I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy 2014 too.........
Stu

Monday, January 20, 2014

Home, qualified and in the skies over France once again

Back home flying in January in France


So it was with all of the greatest honest intensions to be writing my blog whilst I was in the US doing my flight training all of the way through, but as with a lot of things with flight training I think U underestimated the sheer amount of hard work and homework  that was needed to achieve these goals in such a short period of time.
My home base in Las Vegas for the flight tests

The Cessna 414 that I have been flying lately here in France
Needless to say here I am back in my office after landing back in France just before New Years eve (which went by in the blur of fatigue, jet lag and a stomach ulcer) getting things into shape with my students and enjoying a relatively mild January so far.
Since the new year I have had the pleasure of flying the Cessna 414 twin engine piston plane based here at the airport that is privately owned and with my new qualifications I am allowed to fly it and log my hours too.
Myself and the owner with one of his work colleagues flew the plane down to Montpellier here in France in real IMC conditions and I was able to do my first real life approach into a busy airport through the cloud which made all of the exhaustion, jet lag and that niggly ulcer all worth while.
Infact on the flight home the owner just asked me to do all of the work as he needed a nap in the back so there I was @12,000ft as a happy as a kid at xmas.........
Back to the end of the story in the US.
After I had completed my IR it was straight into the Complex Navion plane for the FAA CPL. The first flight for the start of this training too place 2 hours after I finished my IR test, so you can get an idea of how little recreation time there was.
After about 9 hours of training on the single Engine complex plane it was time for flight test number 2, and I was happy to have the same examiner as for my IR test, the CPL oral was about 4 hours long and was a real test as there is so much subject matter to go through, but I felt on top of it having studied so much in the passed for my european Commercial Licence. After a good session with the oral I was invited to take the examiner on the flight, and the CPL test is based a lot around precision flying and what mastery of flight...... ummmmm well that basically means flying the plane at the limits of the flight envelope and not breaking it.
The test was 2 hours long including a good navigation where we had a fly by of a squadron of Raptor fighter jets, fire emergencies and flight maneouvers. There were some enjoyable parts to the test with precision landings but I felt that I was really on my game the day of the flight and was chuffed to bits when the examiner said at the end of my flight to my instructor that there was no real need for a debrief as I nailed everything he asked for.
My relief was huge and I was a very happy pilot.
The Beech 95 twin which I trained on
Straight into the Multi Engine IR course, basically learning to fly the plane with 2 engines and also flying it under instrument conditions, oh and then all of that with one of the engines not working too. This was the course I had been most looking forward to and it didn't disappoint. It pushed everything I knew and I had to learn a lot, very quickly. This is a plane that will cause a lot of problems if you let it get ahead of you, particularly when flying under the hood as the speeds are quite different from what I had been used to.
London Bridge in the Mojave desert which was moved brick by brick from London
My particular favorite part of the course and then the test was trying to fly on one engine, under the hood (not being able to see outside) down the Instrument landing system into Las Vegas with traffic all around.
Lake Mead near Las Vegas
By the time the test came around I was really enjoying the plane, and it was with a smile that I found out I once again had the same examiner. When I turned up, he had a smile on his face and accused me of being his stalker......
The oral section for this test was only about 2 hours but it was intensive enough for me but I was relieved when the examiner invited me to take him flying as I hadn't failed it. So off we went for a 2 hour flight in the twin, covering all of the possible emergencies in the plane including an emergency descent with a fire, basically pointing the plane towards the ground at 150mph with the gear down descending at 4000ft per minute, that one got me clenching....... and I'll never fear rollercoasters again.
It was with a huge amount of pride for me that the examiner mocked me at the end of the flight that we don't need to go flying together again and I can stop stalking him as I had passed.
So in short I had managed 3 FAA flight tests over the course of 3 weeks and passed first time and have now FAA IR/CPL/MEIR....... no more studying for a little while.......
Since I have returned there has been some lovely flying with some familiar faces enjoying the mild weather and as I write here the clouds are lifting and its time to hit the skies once more.
I tried to take as many pictures as I could through out my time in the US and will post them with this blog.......
P.S News Years resolution is to blog more......



Limoges in January



A nice navigation flight down to Bergerac






Dawn flying in the 414 @FL110




The return from Las Vegas with the first view being the Thames and London

Lake Mead

Lake Mead

Lake Mead and me getting in the way



Around Needles where I was training there were lovely murals on each of the shops








Up and over the fog over France


Up and away again..... heading North, a long day and then home.....

At Starbucks in Beirut, thinking about where I'd like us to go away holiday this year The phone rings..... "Can we leave to...