Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Exams complete - for now...

Yesterday brought the end to the written examinations, in fact, any ground school for around 2 months. Tuesday morning, around about 7am I took the exam for the FAA PPL. It basically consisted of going into a small room with table, chair and computer to complete the task. The room is also monitored via camera.

The actual exam consisted of 60, three answer multiple choice questions which would be answered on the computer. Imagine the UK driving license exam - something along those lines. The time given for the paper is 3 hours however I wasn't planning to be in there, as wouldn't most, for more than 30 minutes to an hour. The pass rate on the exam is 70% (42 correct answers). 

In preparation for the exam we are given what is called the 'Gleim book' which consists of every possible question that could come up on the test - word for word. Now whether ethical or not it is very evident that the aim of the game is to remember as many questions, and more importantly answers, as is feasibly possible. Although this was the case a significant number were answerable by knowledge we had learnt from the far more in depth JAA material.

So, exam finished and passed by 7.30am (85%) it was time to head back home. That was it. No more serious study for nearly two months. Flying and resting is now the aim of the game. Although having said that this week I have and will continue to get up between 5am and 5.30am every day which isn't the greatest although around take off point at 7.15am I fully appreciate the early morning rise from slumber.

Following the exam it was time to celebrate and after a small unsuccessful bike ride to the Irish bar in down town Melbourne we headed for breakfast on campus. The rest of the day was spent relaxing by the pool and a quick visit to the gym.

In the air the flying is going well. I've now got 5.3 hours in my log book and already booked in twice for tomorrow and another trip the following day which is fantastic. 

Melbourne airport consists of two parallel runways plus one crossing runway. In total there is 27L/9R (longest runway), 27R/9L (2nd longest) and runway 23/5 (obviously the shortest). The runways are named by their magnetic heading to the nearest 10 degrees. So basically if a runway had a magnetic heading of 312 degrees the runway 'name' would be Runway 31. If two runways run parallel to each other as is the case here in Melbourne and at many airports across the world (in the UK we have Heathrow and Manchester as the predominant airports with such a set up) then they will be suffixed with left (L), centre (C) or right (R) as required. The main runways that we use as our particular flying school are 27L/9R and 23/5. The other is mainly used for circuits. Scheduled airlines such as Delta and US Airways use the main runway 27L/9R for obvious reasons.

Below is a bit of an indication as to how the airport is set out both as a map and picture.

After completing my flight early Monday morning a colleague was due to fly a cross country solo to Fort Lauderdale further down the Florida coast. He asked if I would like to tag along - the answer obviously being yes!

The flight was to consist of after departure following a direct route down to Fort Lauderdale International airport to complete a touch and go and then to return to Melbourne followed by a serious of touch and go's. The flight time in each direction would be little over an hour with a cruising altitude between 2,500ft and 5,500ft. During this flight I would simply be observing everything and taking no part in the operation of the flight.

After departure we immediately headed southbound directly towards our destination. The aircraft, the same type as the airplane I am currently training in, does climb quite well and will do so most effectively with an airspeed of 79 knots (approximately 91mph). The cruise speed very much varies due to winds etc. but can be expected anywhere between 100-120 knots (115-138mph) for an average journey. We reached our cruising altitude in little time and the pilot in command (PIC) set about completing the relevant checks and procedures to maintain a safe and law abiding flight. 

Being able to take advantage of just sitting and observing was fantastic. I was able to ask questions when needed and gained massive experience for future training. The most interesting and beneficial area of the whole trip was being able to listen to the interactions between ATC and aircraft. Currently I'm starting to use the communication tools more and more and this was great for both current and future reference.

As we approached the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale airspace it became apparent that the weather was advancing much more rapidly than anticipated therefore the PIC made the call to cancel the current flight plan and immediately return to base where the weather would be much more favourable. Again, more experience on how to judge the meteorological conditions from someone who has much more experience than myself in flying an aeroplane. 

On route back to Melbourne we approached Palm Bay, another busy scheduled airport about half way between both departure and arrival fields. It is served by a significant number of the larger american airlines therefore activity in and out of the airport is fast and heavy. Due to our course heading directly over the main arrival routing into Palm Bay we were instructed by ATC to head directly over the field to avoid any other traffic. Below are a couple of pictures over Palm Bay International airport.

Unfortunately as we were heading straight across I was unable to get any good views of the actual airport and therefore pictures were kept to a minimum.

Following this the PIC decided to continue to follow the new path back north and what a great decision that turned out to be. Following the coast line not only brought some amazing views but the weather was far superior to that further inland which made of a very smooth and comfortable ride home.

As you can see the views made up for any lack of in flight entertainment. As mentioned, the air was smooth for the cruise and we soon approached Melbourne. Decent and approach were dealt with quickly and efficiently and it was now time for the PIC to complete a number of 'touch and go's'. 

'Touch and Go's' are basically landings and instead of then stopping the aircraft, while still rolling down the runway, is configured to take-off conditions before returning back into the sky. The aircraft will then climb as it would on any other take-off before continuing on the circuit to complete another run. The PIC completed five of these before returning to the airport ramp. Below is a video of the final landing on runway 5.

All in all a fantastic experience which I hope to replicate many times over the coming months. It really does drive home how lucky I am to be here and the adventure that is still only just starting.

Now for two months of flying and R+R...

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