Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Instrument Rating

We are already nearly a month into the IR phase of our training, and I have to say that since I started at OAA I have never had so much time off! I’m not complaining really, we have Simulator 003really worked hard to earn ourselves a little break, though it is a little frustrating at times. We have had 5 lessons in the simulators since we started, most of which have only been because our instructor comes in on his days off to fly with us, and are still awaiting our first flight in the Seneca. This is mostly because he has other students which are higher up the priority list than us, and hopefully after Christmas we will be flying more and more, to the point where we are back in every day.

The lessons have been going fine, though the sims are set up a bit differently over here to Simulator 006the ones in Goodyear. We started off with a couple of lessons of basic manoeuvres, just to get warmed up again, and have since moved on to instrument work. The last two lessons have involved flying holds and the NDB approach in to Oxford, and we will be moving on shortly to flying the departure procedures out of Oxford.

The rest of the time we have mostly just been hanging around the house. It’s great after a year of living in student digs to have somewhere to call home again, and I am busy catching up on all the Xbox time I missed while I was working!

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Wings Ceremony

The hard work of the last 12 months was finally rewarded today at the AP308 Wings Ceremony, where we presented with our OAA wings and 2 gold bar epaulettes. It really is a reminder and a reflection of everything we have achieved in becoming Commercial Pilots License holders, and though the hard work is just Wings Ceremony 019beginning, it feels good to enjoy what we have achieved. Following the ceremony we we treated to a few drinks ‘on the house’, and then finished the evening off by a few of us going to the pub to celebrate together. We now get to walk around school proudly showing off to the Ground School kids with our new epaulettes; it feels like just yesterday we were there ourselves!

Because we arrived back quite late from Arizona, I was only able to spend a few days at home before the move up to Oxford. It is nice to be back here, and the house is amazing, but I have to say it is quite something to go from the baking heat of Arizona to waking up to de-ice the car! It will hit home even more once we step into the aircraft, and turn theWings Ceremony 043 heating and de-icing equipment on!

Last week was a week of presentations and lectures as the final part of our First Officer Fundamentals course. It was a fascinating week, learning about everything from airline economics to air crash investigations. Plus we were lucky to have talks from the recruitment guys at British Airways and Ryanair, which have really started us thinking more about our future careers. For now though, the Instrument Rating begins in earnest, and we are due to have our first meeting with our instructor tomorrow. The hard work begins here…!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Goodbye Arizona

Goodbye sunshine, palm trees and cacti, and welcome back to windy, rainy, cloudy Britain! After passing my CPL skills test on Friday afternoon, it was a rush to hand all my manuals in Seneca 024and get my paperwork signed off, and then to beg a lift to the airport, hoping there would be a seat available. Luckily the plane was not full on Friday, and I was able to get BA288 back home to the UK. It was a slightly shorter flight than when we came out due to tail winds over the Atlantic. On arrival in the UK, my parents were waiting to collect me from Heathrow T5, and then the 3 hour journey back to Norfolk. And finally, a well earned meal and some serious sleep!

My skills test in the end was spread over a few days. I took the test initially on Tuesday, but DSC00301only passed 5 out of the 6 sections. My navigation and diversion exercises went really well, as did most of my general handling and instrument work. However, the examiner was unhappy with my landings, which were a lot firmer than usual, so I had to go up again on Friday to retake that section. Unfortunately we did a flight in the morning but the traffic pattern was so busy that we had to land and try again later in the day. That flight went really well, and the landings were some of the best I have ever done. And as soon as those wheels touched the ground, I could officially start calling myself a commercial pilot!

What next? Well, as I finished pretty much on schedule, I have just one week before we start back at Oxford. I already have a house arranged with a couple of guys from my course, so after a few days of catching up with family, I will be heading up to Oxford on Wednesday to PC190221get settled in to my home for the next few months. The next stage of our training is the Instrument Rating, said to be the most difficult thing you will ever do as a pilot. All the work we will do now will be with screens fitted in the cockpit so we are unable to see outside, meaning all our flying will be done on instruments (at least we don’t have to wear those hoods any more). We will be flying up and above the clouds to practise tracking along airways, and flying departure and arrival procedures into a few of the UK’s passenger airports. Before all of that we have one week of First Officer Fundamentals training, in other words a week of presentations, and finally the presentation of our wings and gold epaulettes.

Arizona may be behind us now, but the adventure continues…

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

CPL Skills Test

Eight lessons on the Seneca completed, and only 3 left before the CPL skills test, meaning I could be on a plane back to the UK this weekend if all goes well. The flying on the Seneca has been a bit hit and miss; there is such a lot to learn in a small space of time. For a start, having 2 engines means there are a lot of new procedures to learn, including asymmetric Seneca 021procedures, or flight with one engine out. We have even practiced completely shutting down one engine in the air and then restarting it which is a very strange experience, especially when you can see one propeller completely stationary! The propellers are also ‘constant-speed’, which is completely different to the Warrior. In the Warrior, the throttle controls the RPM setting of the engine. However, in the Seneca, a separate prop lever controls the RPM and then the throttle controls the manifold air pressure (MAP), ie. the amount of air entering the engine. The way to think of it is like a bicycle climbing a hill, the RPM is like the gear setting and then the MAP is how much power you are applying. A bike climbing a hill requires a different setting to one going down hill, and the Seneca is like this which makes it more efficient. It complicates a lot of things as there a lot of combinations of settings to remember for different stages of flight. And then of course there are a lot of new technical details to learn about the aircraft, and the addition of such things as retractable undercarriage and a combustion heater.

The CPL skills test is a two and a half hour flight, consisting of:

  1. Navigation exercise
  2. DiversionSeneca 056
  3. Instrument work (climbs & descents, VOR tracking, compass turns, unusual attitudes, position fixing)
  4. Steep turns
  5. Stalls
  6. VNE-VX
  7. Engine fire
  8. Landings (go-around, normal, flapless, asymmetric normal & go-around, precision)

A fail on any one section means a ‘partial’, and can still be counted as a first time pass if completed successfully on a second flight. A lot of procedures are mostly the same as we learnt in the Warrior, with a few new things thrown in, Seneca 011but it is the length of the test and the amount we have to do that makes me the most nervous. However, things are starting to look okay, and if I can have a good few last lessons, I will be feeling confident going in to the test.

The weather here has been getting a lot cooler lately, with temperatures in the 20s for most of the day, and a lot of clouds around. In fact we were flying above the clouds yesterday which looked amazing, although I didn’t have much time to enjoy it because I was working so hard. However, the sun is back out today and the temperature is back in the 30s; I’m hoping these last few days will stay sunny so we can make the most of it. We are already preparing to leave, making sure we hit all of our favourite restaurants one last time before we go!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Goodbye Warrior, Hello Seneca

Seneca 019Last Friday I passed my fourth progress test, which was my last flight on the single engine aircraft. The test consisted of instrument flying;  holding, approaches and general handling, and it went very well. Since then it has been a very busy weekend of studying in preparation for the start of multi-engine flying which begins this Seneca 025week. We fly the Seneca aircraft at Oxford both for our CPL test, and for the instrument rating back in the UK. It has two 6 cylinder, turbo charged, 200hp engines; and is fitted with constant speed propellers and retractable undercarriage, both of which are different to the Warrior. It cruises at 140 knots compared to the Warrior’s 95 knots, and is a much more complex aircraft so it is going to be a steep learning curve. Our CPL test is only 11 lessons away, and if we are successful then we could be  heading back to the UK in just over a week. In fact, some of my course mates have already left, and are enjoying the relatively freezing weather as we speak!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Solo Cross Country Qualifier

One of the requirements of obtaining a CPL is that we have to make a solo trip of 300nm landing at 2 airports. I did this on Saturday with stops at Ryan airfield in Tucson and Chandler airfield in Phoenix. Here is a link to some photos from my journey:

2010-10-03 Cross Country

Monday, 27 September 2010

Night Flying

Here are some more photos from my second set of night flights, which were solo circuits:

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Hello Seattle

It’s officially Autumn (or Fall) here in Arizona, and for us it’s pretty noticeable as the temperatures have dropped considerably. Okay, so it’s still hitting up to 40˚ every day, but then that is a lot cooler than when we first arrived! The storms seem to have mostly disappeared, though Goodyear 006 there were a couple hanging around this week, and now the sky is pretty much free of clouds every day.

Unfortunately the turbulence is as bad as ever, and now that we have moved on to the precision flying of holds and approaches, it is especially important to fight the bumps and keep altitude. Holds are procedures that involve flying a racetrack pattern in the air, to buy the pilot some time before making an approach. Anyone flying in to Heathrow will have probably experienced a lot of time waiting in holds before ATC clear them to land. It involves very precise flying as aircraft here are only separated by 500ft, so straying from altitude is not an option! Once we have done a few laps in the hold, we move on to the approach procedure, which we fly using approach charts. They give instructions as to where we need to fly and when we need to descend, all of which is done under the hood. At the end of the procedure we should be lined up with the runway, and it is then the pilot’s decision whether to IMG_0192land, or if he can’t see the runway, to perform the missed approach. Flying these precision approaches will be part of our day to day life as airline pilots , so it feels pretty cool to be practising them.

A few weekends ago a few of us flew up to Seattle for the weekend, which was an enormous change of scenery for us! I guess it is pretty similar to the UK in a lot of ways, with a lot of greenery and overcast skies. But what makes Seattle special is the enormous lakes and Ocean  that it sits amongst, and the mountains in the background. There are also a lot of seaplanes buzzing around, which is quite unique. But then Seattle is quite a unique city, as we found out when riding the monorail to the Space Needle! We spent the Saturday evening dining at the DSC01157revolving restaurant at the top, which gave us stunning views of the city and the harbour by sunset and night. We also visited the Boeing factory north of Seattle, and saw the brand new 787 rolling off the production line. There was also a local air show on at the time, so we spent some time there, and on our second day we visited the History of Flight museum at the second Boeing field. They had one of the Concordes there, J.F. Kennedy’s Air Force One, and the first 747 test plane, though it was sad to see them all outside and not really well looked after.

Last night a few of us went to see a baseball game at Chase Field, Baseball 026home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They were playing the LA Dodgers, which sounded like it would be a good game. To be honest though, I wasn’t really sure of the rules, and it is a very slow paced game, so I don’t think we are missing much not having baseball in the UK. It was a great experience though and a good atmosphere.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Grand Canyon

It’s been a long while and a lot has happened since my last post. It’s been a bit of a tough week this last week as I didn’t pass my progress test which has meant that I am a bit behind and it has taken a while to sort out. However, I re-sat it today with the Chief Flight Instructor and he DSC00828passed me with a good score! Without going in to too much detail, I should say that I had some issues with my first examiner which have been dealt with, and now I can put that week behind me and get on with my flying!

Other than that the solo navigation exercises have really kicked in, and     I am spending a lot of my time flying from waypoint to waypoint around the desert on my own! We also started our night flying with our instructor; one lesson of circuits and one navigation exercise. The first lesson was amazing, the world looks so different at night, and there are a few new challenges you face as a pilot. Aiming for the runway is the same as before because you have the lighting, but it is very difficult to tell how high you are when you are DSC00875waiting to touch down, and it comes as a surprise when the wheels hit the ground! For our night nav we flew down to Tucson International airport, which was easily the coolest place we’ve been so far. We were taking off and landing amidst 737s, and on arrival we were directed to their very nice ‘Executive Lounge’. On the way back we did a transition over Phoenix Sky Harbor airport at 3500ft agl which was also pretty amazing. Plus we get to do 2 solo night circuit lessons at some point.

We also made it down to the Grand Canyon last weekend. We left Phoenix at 3.00am and arrived in the town of Sedona in time to watch the sunrise, which was nothing short of spectacular. Then we continued our drive further north to the Canyon and spent the day there, before journeying back for dinner in DSC00969Flagstaff, and watching the sunset in Sedona. The scenery en route is stunning, as you watch the desert  change in to the big, red, rocky outcrops of Sedona, and then the lush mountain greenery of Flagstaff, before the very unique Canyon itself. It was a great day out, and we are  hoping for another this weekend as fingers crossed we’ll be heading up to Seattle to visit Boeing field.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Flight of the Navigator

Wow, that first solo flight seems like ages ago now! Over the last week and a bit we have moved on to a lot more of the navigation element of flying, which includes solo navigation flights. This involves planning a route based on approved ones Oxford give us, and flying and navigatingDSC00646 the route as best we can. My last solo flight was an hour and a half nav flight around the Rainbow Valley and Southwest Practice areas, covering just over 100 miles. Part of the way I was also flying in to the sunset so I couldn’t see the terrain ahead of me, which meant I just had to fly  the heading on my compass and hope I ended up at the right place! Luckily I wasn’t too far off, and managed to get back to Goodyear on time and in one piece! My next flight is around 200 miles, which I’m really looking forward to! We also had a couple of really cool flights to Ryan and Phoenix Mesa Gateway airports. Ryan is a place we will be headed on some of our solos and is located near Tucson. We even stopped for breakfast at the cafe before our return journey home!

I also have had a couple of flight cancelled this week, either due to nasty looking thunderstorms en route or the high temperature. Once it gets above 45 degrees then we are unable to fly, as the plane just don’t DSC00663get good enough performance. We had a nice break from the heat on Thursday when we had our first flight in the simulator. Oxford have a couple of Warrior/Seneca sims out here which we do part of our instrument training on. It was great fun, though it is a lot more challenging to fly than the real aircraft, and is designed to be so that we can deal with tough situations. We also had time for a bit of fun at the end of the lesson, involving loops and barrel rolls from 20000ft down to an engine-out approach into Phoenix Sky Harbor, so much fun! I have another sim flight this week, plus a few more solo navs, and then the night flights are fast approaching, which I am really looking forward to!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Flying Solo

On Monday I flew my first solo flight in Goodyear! After a lesson of circuits with my instructor, he deemed that I was ready to go, and so I fired the plane up and took it DSC00589around a single circuit on my own. Once back on the ground, I was duly led to the swimming pool and thrown in by my classmates as is the tradition here at OAA! It was a great  experience, and now all of my course have flown solo, so we can really begin to make some progress. Most days we will be flying 2 flights, one dual with our instructor and one solo.

Tuesday was a lesson of circuits with my instructor, and then one hour of solo circuits, all in preparation for my first Progress Test which was on Wednesday. I was really nervous before hand as I wasn’t sure what to expect flying with a different instructor, but everything went really well and I managed to score a 2. The scores are based on 3 being average, DSC00608 above 3 better than average, and below 3 worse. So overall, I was thrilled with a 2 as only a few people on my course scored that well.

I also had a lesson with my instructor this morning, flying a few of the departure and arrival procedures out of Goodyear, and practising some forced landings in the desert. This is officially the start of my navigation lessons, which means we will start flying around using charts etc. I also have a couple of solo lessons in the circuit to complete before I start flying solo navigation lessons, which sound a bit daunting!

It has been a relatively quiet week, most of our trips out have either been to a restaurant or for food shopping. The weather at the moment is pretty interesting, it is quite humid and the monsoon season seems to be coming closer. The last couple of days have been dominated by south-mountain-lightning-strike-phoenix-az-james-bo-insognacumulonimbus clouds, and we have experienced a couple of thunder storms and some rain today. The CB clouds here grow to huge heights, about 45000ft quite often. They also tend not to move much but stay static and just grow and grow, and last night we were treated to lightning  like I have never seen before. Also, the new course arrived from Oxford on Monday, so we are not the new kids any more. It’s nice to see some old faces again, though it’s hard to believe we have been here nearly 6 weeks already.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Los Angeles

DSC00442Big news… the sun is still shining in Arizona! I am still waiting to see my first drop of rain since I’ve been here, though this morning there was lightning to the north, which was quite spectacular.

We have still been running through the basics in our flying lessons, moving on to a bit of instrument flying towards the end of the week. This involves flying with sole reference to the instruments, ie. without being able to see outside. So I took off, and after the initial climb I was made to wear the ‘hood’, which is a plastic thing that goes around your head so you can’t see above the instrument panel. The idea is to get you used to instrument flying before going solo in case you end up in a  cloud or something. It may not sound like a big deal, but the problem is that often your body gives different interpretations of the attitude of the aircraft to what your instruments might show. For example, if you roll in to a turn and stay there for a while, your body starts to interpret that as DSC00497flying level, and then when you actually straighten the plane up, the body thinks you are in a turn. It can get disorientating at times, but the number one rule is to always trust your instruments.

This week, after doing practice forced landings and engine fires tomorrow, we move in to the circuit for the rest of the week to practice our take offs and landings. And hopefully, if we get a lesson every day, we should have our first solo flight on Friday afternoon! It’s a big first step, as after that we will be doing a lot of solo flying which means we could be flying a few times a day. Next week will be our first progress test which I am already dreading!

Me and Andrew took to the road this weekend and drove the 370 miles down to Los Angeles. The worst thing is that it is the same road all the way from Phoenix to LA, and it is a long, straight drive through the desert. We had a great time though, playing the role of tourists! We did all the sights, the Hollywood sign, the walk of fame, Venice beach, even a tour of the stars homes. The best thing though
Map picture
was a tour of Warner Bros. studios which was absolutely brilliant. We got to see a lot of movie and television history, including a visit to Central Perk from Friends, which they have rebuilt as a permanent feature! It was a fun weekend but we were back flying this morning at 5.40am so I am pretty tired now! And now I have to sleep before my 7.20am flight!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Steep Turns & Stalling

Another week goes by in sunny Arizona, and we have had plenty of flying this week at least. Last weekend was Independence Day so we went out to celebrate that at the local ball park in Goodyear, which  DSC00435 included an F-16 fly over and lots of fireworks. We also then had the Monday off as it is a national holiday. Other than that, I have been up in the air every day, either flying or backseating, and have completed 6 lessons now.

We have made a few more trips out to other airfields. We went out to Wickenburg on Thursday, which is to the north west of Phoenix; there was some great scenery out that way. Also, the runway is on quite a big slope, so there was a kind of valley one side, but some daunting hills in front of us as we were climbing out, it took some skill from our instructor to navigate ourselves over them! We also headed out to Buckeye on Friday, which is on the western side of Phoenix. Like Gila Bend, there isDSC00356 pretty much nothing there, although there was a fridge full of snacks in the pilot’s lounge, which we could help ourselves to for a small donation. Best of all though, I was able to backseat one of our instructor’s other students on Wednesday. He is on the course ahead of us, and was performing one of his first navigation flights. We flew out to an airport called Phoenix Mesa Gateway which is on the eastern side of Phoenix. It is a large airport, with three parallel runways, and taxiways the size of an international airport. I flew back, and we actually took off behind a departing MD-80, which was very exciting! This week looks to be another week of general handling, followed by circuits and hopefully our first solo the week after!

Map picture
Other than that, life is very gentle, and consists of a lot of swimming, tennis, pool, table tennis and even some TV! After those long, hard months of ground school I think we have earned the right to be lazy! There is still a lot of ground work to be done, in terms of reading up about our coming lessons and the aircraft. Also, we have an essay due in soon for our Bucks New Uni Foundation Degree, so I have been working on that this weekend. Best of all though are the local restaurants, of which there are many. It has been great trying them all out, and tonight we are off to TGI Fridays.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Flying in the Wild West

After those long months of sitting in classrooms we finally took to the air on Wednesday afternoon! Flying in Arizona is pretty challenging as the DSC00331temperatures have been hitting in the forties all week which means the air isn’t very dense. This means the aircraft performance and the engine performance is pretty poor. The sun also heats the ground and by early afternoon that heat is being released which causes thermals everywhere, and hence plenty of turbulence to keep things exciting! Most of all though, it is sweltering inside the aircraft, and I have already come to appreciate how much of a blessing air conditioning is when we get back.

However, we have had some great flights so far. The first lesson on Tuesday was an introductory flight to show the basic use of controls and some general things about the local area and the training grounds. I also back-seated my flying partners lesson on the same day, which is great as I got to observe and take in a few extra things. I flew again on Thursday, and this time it was a bit more in depth things with the controls to demonstrate some of the secondary effects; and also the effects of things such as the flaps. I also got to take off and land back at Goodyear on that flight. It has been a long

Map picture
while since I landed an aeroplane, which kind of showed in my rather three-wheeled, bumpy effort which is in a video below.

We flew again today at 6.00am, which meant pre-flight planning started at 4.45. My flying partner was first up today, and we flew out west to an airport called Gila Bend, which is basically just an airstrip with a few facilities. It was deserted when we arrived at about 7.15! The scenery on the flight out was stunning, and we got to see it all with the sun just rising up behind the mountains, absolutely beautiful. I flew the return leg to Goodyear, after a quick touch-and-go at Gila Bend, which involves taking off, flying around the circuit, landing and then taking off again without stopping. This is a technique pilots use to practise their take offs and landings. My lesson today was about flying the plane ‘straight and level’, ie. at a constant altitude and at a constant heading. We flew back to Goodyear and I landed again, overall it was a pretty great flight and I was really DSC00279 pleased with my performance. It was strange to arrive back at 8.45 though and everyone is still in bed!

Other than flying, we have been making full use of the facilities here; the tennis courts, gym, swimming pools etc. There is still plenty of work to be done, but it is so nice just to relax a bit in this great environment. A few of us went out to a restaurant called Red Lobster last night which served really nice fish dishes. We are on a long weekend now as it is 4th July on Sunday, so hopefully we will fly again next Tuesday. My plan is to take it really easy this weekend ready for the hard work to begin all over again! 

First Landing at Goodyear

Friday, 25 June 2010

Phoenix at Last!

We have arrived in the glorious sunshine of Arizona! It was a long 10 and a half hour flight on Monday, followed by immigration and a bit of a drive from the airport but we made it in the end. The first thing you notice is the incredible heat, it was up to 45 degrees today which is DSC00226pretty unreal. It really takes your breath away every time you step outside, and I can only imagine that inside the planes is going to be very hot indeed! However, we are still yet to find out as unfortunately we  started in earnest on Tuesday morning with another week of Ground School! Just when we thought it was all over!

We have had quite a few briefings on procedures at the airport and the local area, and have just started moving on to dealing with the flying side of things. We are due to have our first lesson on Tuesday, though the schedules are not published yet so we will have to wait and see. We also had a big trip out to WalMart to pick up supplies, there are a number of barbecues on site so that is what we are living from at the moment. We also have a couple of swimming pools which we have madeDSC00233 great use of so far! And this evening we are heading out on our own to find a restaurant for dinner. We have a couple of cars for the course and it looks like I will be driving so we will see how that goes!

At the moment we are all pretty tired and suffering from jet lag so hopefully the weekend will sort us out and we can be full of energy ready to hit the ground running next week!

Also, nearly forgot to mention, our exam results came in:

  • Air Law – 97%
  • Mass & Balance – 100%
  • Performance – 97%
  • Flight Planning – 94%
  • General Navigation – 100%
  • Radio Navigation – 98%
  • Operational Procedures – 96%

Well, I did even better this time around and my overall average for the JAA exams was 96.3%. If somebody had told me that would be my score at the start of the course I never would have believed them! My hope now is that my flying lives up to that score!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Packing for America

Indeed, although we are still waiting for our results we have all been informed that everybody passed everything, therefore we will all be getting on that plane on Monday afternoon! After 7 long months of non-stop revision, it is time to pack those text books away (for now) and DSC00174 start getting my flight bag together. Gone are the pencil cases and calculators to be replaced by headsets and kneeboards.

It has been quite a busy week, half because of preparation though the other half has been fun. A few of us from the course went to Alton Towers on Monday which was great fun, and I got to experience the new ride Thirteen which was brilliant. That was followed up by a visit to London on Tuesday with dinner at the Rainforest Cafe and a trip to see the Lion King. We also visited the London Dungeons on Wednesday morning which was an experience…

The rest of the week has been spent shopping for new clothes for the desert and getting a few of my documents together. Packing begins tomorrow and last minute preparations on Sunday. Then the whole family is coming to see me off on Monday. We fly on BA289 from Terminal 5 at Heathrow. It is due to leave at 1435 and arrive at Phoenix

Map picture
Sky Harbor at 1710 local time. That’s a 10 and a half hour flight! When we arrive it is an hour’s drive across town to Goodyear airport where we will be living and flying. I think we are treated to meal when we arrive and hopefully and early night, ready for a busy week!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Ground School Defeated!

32047_10150187208645061_717080060_12828686_321663_nWow, I can’t believe I’m actually saying this but… Ground School is over! After a long six months of hard work on top of more hard work I can finally put my books in the cupboard and regain some normality in my life. We celebrated in style yesterday with a big barbecue for our course and loads more, and then a night out in Oxford. And what have I done with my first day of freedom? Well, I spent most of it on the balcony outside my flat enjoying the sunshine with some of the guys from AP309 and 310. Really feeling the burn now though, I have a lot of sleep to catch up on and think some TV and an early night are in order for tonight!

As for the exams, I am pretty sure they all went well. We have to pass everything to be able to go out to Arizona; if any are failed then we are re-coursed. I don’t think I have failed anything, though I shall still be holding my breath until I get that phone call in about 10 days saying what the results are. In the mean time, we still have a few days left at school tying a few things up before we head home. We started Friday afternoon with a brief introduction to RT (radio-telecommunications) in 32047_10150187208780061_717080060_12828696_640570_nAmerica and some instructions on how to fill in our logbooks and check our scheduling. We also collected our standard issue headsets, though I won’t be taking mine to Arizona as I already have my own. However, it was a great symbol of our achievement and proof that we really are going to be heading out soon. Next week we have a few more odds and ends, plus a few days of lectures. As well as studying for our ATPL we are also studying for a Foundation Degree in Air Transport Management with Bucks New University. Ground School at Oxford makes up a large part of the credits for that, though we do have essays and presentations to do as well, and all this stuff starts to kick off next week as well.

We leave OAA at Oxford for the last time on Wednesday – then it’s back to Heyford to pack and on Thursday morning I’ll be heading home for a week and a half before we fly out on the 21st. I have a few things planned for my time off, but most of all I am looking forward to relaxing and enjoying my new found freedom! 

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Final Hurdle

That’s right, after a long week and a half of pure revision, our final set of JAA exams start this afternoon. I have been practically glued to my desk for the last 10 days or so, which has been a bit of a nightmare really. I am actually looking forward to these exams really, as it will be nice to get in to school and see everyone, and also I have done all the preparation I can, it’s time to get them out of the way. They really are the last hurdle on our path to Arizona, and as of Friday this week I will be one seriously chilled out person once again! Ground School has been fun but I wouldn’t do it again for any money!

Arizona is now only 3 weeks away…

Thursday, 20 May 2010

School Finals & Sunshine

It’s been a really nice few days here in Oxford, with the sun coming out and the temperature on the rise. It’s maybe a little taste of what is to DSC00151come! We have just had our School Finals over the last 2 days and sat through our de-briefs today, which means it’s another hurdle out of the way. These are my results:

  • Air Law – 84%
  • Mass & Balance – 100%
  • Aircraft Performance – 88%
  • Flight Planning – 96%
  • General Navigation – 91%
  • Radio Navigation – 90%
  • Operational Procedures – 85%

Overall I’m pretty pleased with my results. It was especially difficult to revise for Air Law and Ops as there are just so many numbers to remember, from Air Traffic Control separation figures to the number of fire extinguishers to be carried on board! We DSC00149have about a week and a half off now to prepare for our JAA exams, so I should have plenty of time to fill in the gaps. It really is the last push now, and I’m going to have to step up my game to get the best results I can so I never have to worry about Ground School again! 

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Counting Down the Days

It’s been a while since my last post and that’s because it’s been a very busy couple of weeks for me. Everything has been moving pretty quickly in terms of school work, and we currently only have 2 days left of Ground School; well the classroom side of it anyway! On the left is my last ever DSC00147Ground School timetable! Our School Finals are Tuesday and Wednesday next week, and my main priority at the moment is revision for those  exams. Most subjects we have now finished, so we have had a lot more time to revise than we did for Phase 1 where we finished classes the day before exams. So far, all the practice tests I have been trying my hand at have been very positive, and I hope to get through these exams without too much of a problem, though much hard work is still needed.

We are also progressing further towards Arizona – after our trip to the US Embassy our Visas have now arrived, and we have completed all our fingerprinting which means everything is now cleared for our entry into America. Though there has been a bit of trouble with BA cabin crew strikes and the Icelandic volcano, we are all hoping that neither of those will affect our flights. It is very hard to concentrate on exams when all I want to do is start prepping for America, I have a lot of shopping to do for ‘desert’ clothes!

Mum and Dad also came up for a visit a few weekends ago which was nice. We spent a day wandering around Oxford and also found a few good places to eat in the evenings.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Embassy Trip

Another week down, 3 more weeks of classes to go! The exams on Monday and Tuesday went reasonably well, I don’t have all my results with me but I know the average was 89%. Although I am happy with this I know it could have been more but I only got 74% in Aircraft Performance which brought the average down. However, I know this was just a blip, and celebrations still ensued on Tuesday evening. The whole class plus quite a few more people had a barbecue outside the halls of residence at the airport. It was a great evening, only spoiled by the fact embassywe were straight back in to classrooms on Wednesday morning as we  began our stretch of Ground School. We also picked up the last of our subjects, Mass & Balance with one of our favourite teachers, Ed Waddon.

It was only a 2 day week, as Friday was our trip to the US Embassy to apply/beg for our Visas. After driving home to Norfolk on Thursday evening, I was up at 3.30am to catch the train in to London on Friday morning. The Embassy is an enormous building, and security was tight; we were made to queue outside before passing through airport style security. Inside we were given a number 25500_111670492204741_100000853711725_76927_5097588_nand called up to give our fingerprints and process our forms, and also again for a brief interview. We were all a bit nervous about how thorough they would be, however I was basically just asked to confirm why I was  travelling and how long my course lasts for before being told my Visa was approved. We spent the rest of the day doing the tourist thing around London, visiting the Palace and having dinner by the London Eye. It was a beautiful day and I managed to catch a bit of sunburn as well, something I guess I’ll need to get used to when I head out to Phoenix!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Test 2s

I almost can’t believe I’m saying it but Test 2 exams have arrived, which means I’ve hit the half way point of Phase 2. The time really seems to be going quickly now, and we are fully immersed in work. The workload is as heavy as it has ever been, and over the next couple of days I’ll find out if my hard work is paying off. So, the exams we have on Monday and Tuesday are:

  • General Navigation
  • Operational Procedures
  • Flight Planning
  • Radio Navigation
  • Air Law
  • Aircraft Performance

Whereas most of the exams from Phase 1 seemed to last about 30 minutes before everyone was handing in their papers and leaving, a few of these promise to be quite long affairs. General Navigation is a 2 hour exam and we’ve been told to expect to be in there for the whole time, and Flight Planning is pretty much the same. The reason being that DSC00099 each question will probably require a good deal of working out, and praying that the answer you get appears as one of the options!

After that, it’s back to lessons from Tuesday afternoon. We also have our visit to the US Embassy booked for Friday, so it will be quite a short week of classes. I’ll be travelling home on Thursday evening and then catching the train to London from Norwich on Friday at 5.10am! I expect to be sleeping through most of that journey! And assuming everything goes okay, it’s three more weeks of classes, followed by exams, and Ground School will be over. I’m not counting down the days already, honestly…

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Sunshine in Oxford

As the days get warmer and exams get nearer and nearer, thoughts are already starting to turn to Phoenix! We had a presentation today from the Head of Flying Training, preparing us for the adventure that awaits us. He basically just gave us a brief about where we will be staying and the facilities, a bit about the area and a little bit about the flying too. It DSC00072really does feel that it’s just around the corner now, although in reality of course there is still a long way to go.

It will be a week on Monday that we will be sitting our Test 2 exams, and we are racing through the subjects, in fact we have already completed the Flight Planning material. There is a very different feel to the subjects in this phase; it was very easy just to remember correct answers for  Phase 1 as each question was very black and white. However, there is a large amount of calculation and chart plotting required for these questions, which means if you don’t know the material and the methods, you are in trouble. There is also a real sense that what we are learning now isn’t just to pass exams, a lot of it is stuff that we will be using day to day in Arizona and beyond.

We also had a presentation from EasyJet, though I wasn’t too impressed  with them. They offer a scheme for new pilots caDSC00069lled ‘flexi-crew’, which basically means they can work you as little or often as they like, with no job security whatsoever, plus you have to pay for the training. Although this scheme is the only option for some guys leaving Oxford at the moment, predictions are showing more and more that there will be a much healthier job market at the end for us, and we might be able to land something a bit better. To be honest, I have heard a lot more positives about Ryanair than EasyJet. Still, it’s a long way off yet!