Monday, 30 May 2011

It all starts tomorrow

Since Thursday it's been a very good three days.

Friday was the day of the US FAA medicals. Upon taking my JAA (European medical) in March, it was a very stringent a thorough process testing and measuring many different parts of the body and mind. Compare that to what we experienced on Friday and it's very quick to see how much more in depth we Europeans take everything. Having spoken to a couple of people already into their respective courses, they also duplicate the theory that actually we in Europe are extremely strict in all things aviation which from a reputation point of view is great.

The actual test didn't really involve anything major. It covered urine sample, blood pressure, weight and height and short time with the doctor. Just a special thanks to the lads who had been in before hand who thought it would be amusing to add that there would also be a prostate examination. Very funny...Anyway a short while later we received our medical cards/certificates and it was off to the Flightline to have them copied and have a short tour around the place we would be spending a considerable amount of time in the next ten months.

Friday evening involved TGI Fridays and the cinema (or 'movies' as Americans like to call it). We went to see 'Hangover 2' which I must say was a pretty big disappointment.

Anyway, onto Saturday and after the first lie-in in a while a number of us headed to the beach for a couple of hours before retiring to the down town Melbourne Irish bar to watch the big game. Manchester United being taught a footballing lesson by arguably the greatest club side to walk the earth. Afterwards we returned to the halls before going out into Melbourne during the evening.

Today, after a short walk to the local Walmart we had a BBQ by the pool this afternoon which was very nice. On our heads be it tomorrow morning if anyone wakes up with food poisoning... This was followed by a game of outdoor basketball. It's amazing how much of a tan you can accumulate at sunset!

The evening is now here and it's time to get into the PPL (Private Pilot License) books for the coming 2-3 weeks of ground school. This involves learning many different areas for basic flying ranging from how the engine works to the weather. I'm sure I'll do a full in depth piece on the PPL in the near future. That all starts bright and early tomorrow morning at 8.30am.

To the books I depart...

Thursday, 26 May 2011

An amazing day

As many people know I'm one of the world's best (or worst, dependent on how you look at it) moaners and I can do it with the best of them but today has been an almost life changing day.

Since Monday we have been doing a number of exercise and sitting in a number of lectures with my respective classmates for the next 14 months. Many have been about rules and procedures, the dos and don'ts etc. To be very honest, they weren't the most exciting lectures I'll ever sit through.

We currently are being taken care of, during our induction week by three fantastic PTC members of staff who are not just kind but also really passionate about their jobs, the students and the company. The 'main man' this week is really something special. Not only does he have a voice to rival those of Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman, he has a background and an ideology to match. He is one of those people you cannot help but listen to. His ideas about life are quite inspiring and the advice and tuition he has given this week has been absolutely top draw.

This afternoon he had us taking part in an activity that, for me, put a new slant on life. Since our arrival, the 13 of us who met in London, Dublin and Orlando have worked and socialised as a group which has been great. Earlier today we took part in an exercise which was designed for us to interact more with the half a dozen or so other men who have since joined our group. They are all from Kazakhstan (a country put on the map by the infamous Borat film) and have been sent here by their national carrier to become the next wave of pilots of the country's flagship airline.

Our groups were designed so that all were able to intermingle. We were each able to talk and share information about our backgrounds, our likes and dislikes and our beliefs. It was absolutely amazing to find out about a country I have never really studied (or much thought about!) before. Their culture brings them up to act like absolute gentleman and the backgrounds of a number of them have been so interesting. One being an agricultural pilot flying old soviet planes in Southern Russia and another the U19 football (soccer) national goalkeeper!

I've always been interested in learning about different cultures from countries we 'Westerners' are not too familiar with. I've been luck enough to go to places like Shanghai in China, Jerusalem in Israel and Havana in Cuba. Each country has it's own type of fascinating people and the Kazakhs are right up there with the best of them.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Well I've finally arrived.

Having had a fantastic evening on Friday I headed straight down to Gatwick to arrive in the early hours of Saturday morning ready to catch the first flight out to Dublin. In Gatwick I met a couple of the lads who were also travelling out and we waited patiently for the plane to the Irish capital.

The sun came up over a gorgeous morning in Gatwick. A quick one hour hop over to Ireland and we then had a 4 hour wait during transit. In Dublin (and Shannon in fact), the US Immigration authority have a station whereby passengers departing the America are able to clear immigration in the respective Irish city therefore arriving as a domestic flight. This is a superb idea as not only does it kill time at the departure point (during which you would otherwise be perusing the shops spending money on goods you really don't need or want) but also speeds up the process at the other end. I'd hate to have thought that we would have had to stand in a 1-2 hour queue in Orlando International (after the arrival of three UK flights) having endured a nine hour journey from the ROI. Anyway, having passed immigration we had little time to wait before boarding the Aer Lingus flight out to the States.

In Dublin the three of us that had originally congregated in Gatwick met up with a number of others. Having been placed in a middle seat and being quite tall I was dreading the flight however the aircraft had a significant number of empty seats meaning a number of us could spread out which was fantastic. By this point I'd reached sickly tired and was looking forward to nine hours of sleeping. However this was not the case and I spent much of the time either people watching or using the in flight entertainment.

Anyway, the flight passed without bother and upon arrival into Orlando International we again met up with more of our group. Unfortunately one who was travelling from Stockholm via Newark had a delayed flight from New York therefore did not join up with us until later on. The journey from the airport to the facilities was not a long one but it was a great time to get to know some of the people I'll be spending the next 14 months (and beyond!) with. They all seem a great bunch.

Having arrived at the accommodation we were all given our respective room assignments and were then left to settle in. Due to renovation of the new facilities we hope to be in by the end of the summer we are currently in something very similar to university halls. Personally I think it's great for getting to know the people on the course as it's very much more open and I wouldn't hesitate to say that it would be a good idea for all classes to start a similar way to ensure the group gel together. Upon arriving in the room we were greeted with our uniform. It was great to see what we'll actually be wearing and believe me - it's not the quickest thing to put on in a morning! Having unpacked (sort of) we headed out for something to eat and found a great little pizza place.

The following day was a day for us to visit the world famous Walmart Superstore and start to acclimatise ourselves to the weather and surroundings. As a group we visited the store to get supplies and then headed to Denny's for breakfast. It was something I have never seen before in all of my life. Bacon on an ice cream Sunday! The afternoon was spent at the mall and beach before again returning to the pizza restaurant for something to eat.

Today was the very first day of the course. Uniformed up, we went on a guided tour of the campus and in turn completed all of our tasks such as registering for ID cards, library, gym and postal boxes. The heat was quite unbearable, especially in shirt and tie. The initial holiday feel was well and truly gone.

This afternoon we went down to the 'Annex' where a number of classes will be held over the coming months. We again completed some more paperwork including registering with the relevant authorities so to keep in line with our student visas. We were also all given our flight bags with a substantial amount of gear that we will be using over the coming months. These included everything from headsets to books and measuring equipment to maps. It has certainly been an information overload sort of day but slowly but surely I'm sure I'll be able to take it all in.

Over here to get between the housing, Flightline (as you can guess, where we fly from) and the Annex we take specially laid on buses which run every fifteen minutes. This has been great in allowing us to talk to a number of students who have been here for a few months and to understand the workload involved. Let's just say we've seen a lot of red eyed, tired looking people walking around in pilots uniforms.

I've just looked over some of the books and it looks extremely daunting as to the amount of information we will have to absorb in such a short space of time. I don't think anyone can stress enough how much time and effort will have to be put into achieving that goal of a right hand seat.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Final countdown

The whole process began many weeks ago back in February but this Saturday will finally see me depart to the United States.

Late last week I received the flight details for the trip across the Atlantic. This has not only allowed me to plan the final week but the email also brought a sense of reality. A final deadline if you will.

As well as flight details I've also received more information regarding arrivals and I've also made contact with a number of fellow students by the wonder of Facebook. We all seem to be in the same boat. Excited and apprehensive.

Within the past week I've also finished work (thanks to everyone for a great last day!) which I thought would then give me some time to relax and get ready for departure. However, with all the preparation still needed it's turning out to be one busy week! A benefit of going away however is being able to see a lot of family and friends which involves a lot of eating and most importantly drinking!

It's hard to believe that this time next week I'll be in Melbourne, Florida. I know it's going to be a hell of a lot of work and dedication is paramount (something I'm well known for lacking!) but I'm sure my "that'll do" attitude will change very quickly.

I have a lot of people to thank for actually making this career path possible. It is a very expensive profession to get into and I am extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity for which I will forever be thankful. I often feel we take people for granted, especially those very close to us. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and put out lives, family and friends into perspective.

I've spent a lot of time in recent weeks on Youtube watching videos on both sides of the Atlantic trying to build a picture of what to expect. Somehow whatever my predictions and expectations maybe, I'm almost certain they will be outdone and surpassed in the coming months.

Roll on America...

P.S. Great Sunday watching United gain their record breaking 19th title. Only the small trip to Wembley on the 28th May!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Playing the waiting game

There isn't much to report this week really.

I've spent much of the past week trying to sell my car, get other administration in order and general tying loose ends. I never thought there would be so much to do before moving!

As I type I am awaiting my flight details and other relevant documents due before departure. Hopefully I’ll find these out before the end of this week.

While awaiting such information I am surfing my personal profile on the College’s extranet. It’s a fantastic tool, which brings together all the possible information I could possibly need before and I assume during training. Tips on life in Florida and Ireland, personal documents, course information and finance are just some of the options available.

So in the two weeks running up to departure it’s time to get packing and keep refreshing my inbox for that all important email!

It was also great to see Manchester United yesterday take one step closer to that historic 19th title yesterday.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Visa has arrived...

Finally all my paperwork is now where it matters with those in Waterford (PTC HQ).

On Thursday my passport was returned to me with a new addition. The middle page was affixed with a US M1 (student) visa. The turnaround time considering the bank holidays we have been surrounded by is quite impressive and being safe in the knowledge that I now have completed is a great relief.

The whole process started in February this year in Manchester. Below is a recap of the processes I've already been through having not yet left the country.

Assessment day

The assessment was run in Manchester and involved a number of group exercises, written exams and computerised tests. The latter focused mainly on exercising the required skills involved in becoming a pilot. These included hand-eye coordination, mental maths and multi-task problems. Quite fun actually! An interview later and you await your fate. The whole process takes the majority of the day and begins bright and early at 8am.

Flybe selection

Having completed the assessment day I was put into the 'pool' which I received frequent updates on the list being reduced more and more. I was then offered a mock-interview, again in Manchester, before finding out as to whether I receive a full interview with the airline. It was a fantastic experience to receive first hand not only experience of a full interview but also the feedback offered by three men in extremely credible positions to comment and coach. 

I then received an email offering an interview with Flybe. Having received my time and date I headed to Exeter before finding out the following week. 


A night in Dublin and a day of medical tests later I was back home awaiting confirmation that all had gone to plan. Three weeks later I received my Class 1 IAA medical.


To train in the USA a student visa is required. This, as previously documented, involved a trip to the capital which was possible to fit into one day. The visa arrived last week.

The above is only a snippet of what I've had to go through and for anyone reading this that is also thinking about going along the same/a similar route, time and dedication are paramount. Having said that - if those two aren't there then I guess you're looking at the wrong career path!

I now await this coming week further information on Florida including outbound flights.

Penultimately, although not a follower of the Royals it really was a day to be proud to be British. There are two 'Global Cities' in the world today. New York and London. Friday, for me, showed the difference between the two hubs. It was a day for London and the entire nation to show what kind of a show we can put on. And it seemed to go quite seamlessly! Maybe not that British after all!