Sunday, 30 October 2011

Module 2, one week down as Australia comes to a stand still

It seems only days ago that we travelled to the Annex on the bus to our very first ATPL lesson however I now sit here nine weeks on having completed our first week of the second module. The five subjects before Christmas cover General Navigation, Flight Planning, Radio Navigation, IFR Communications and VFR Communications respectively.

This module involves ground school over three days of the week and self study for the remaining four. The classes start at 9am and on certain days run through until 6.30pm in the evening. 

So far we have had General Navigation, Flight Planning and Radio Navigation as the two communication courses are much shorter in length than the other three and will come into the module in the coming weeks. The set up is exactly the same as previous. We have five weeks of ground school with weekly tests in each subject followed by one week of Consolidation exams, a revision week and then the real IAA exams. 

With a three day week we didn't begin proceedings until Wednesday which meant we had Monday and Tuesday off. Having seen Manchester United fall to the hands of the noisy neighbours quite emphatically on the Sunday morning I was very much looking forward to the flight on the Sunday evening.

Having arrived at the Flightline my instructor told me that he was to run out of hours before we would land back in Melbourne later in the evening. Therefore it was decided we would plan a shorter route north to Sanford, an airport north west of Orlando International and is mainly used by low cost and European charter airlines. 

The sun started to fall below the horizon as we departed waited for taxi clearance from Melbourne Tower.

"FIT 42, taxi Runway 5 via victor. Hold short Runway 5 at victor."

Pre take-off checks complete.

"Melbourne Tower, FIT 42 is holding short of Runway 5 at victor, ready for departure."

"FIT 42, cleared for take-off Runway 5, proceed on course to the north west."

We lined up with the smallest runway here in Melbourne. Part of the line up checks are to check that the heading indicator (HDI) is corresponding with the small compass placed midway up the cockpit window directly between the two pilots. With the Avadine glass cockpit that a number of FIT's aircraft are fitted with this isn't necessary as there simply isn't a manual HDI thanks to the many computers taking care of figures and representations we see on the screens in front of us.

"Ts & Ps are in the green (temperature and pressure gauges); airspeed is alive...55 knots, rotate."

The little Warrior lifted into the autumn sky as I pitched for the most efficient climb speed of 79 knots. She had recently been fitted with a new engine and the effects were quite noticeable as she climbed quite impressively, turning on course to our destination.

We soon left Melbourne's airspace as we powered on through 1900ft, aiming our sights on our cruising altitude for the thirty five minute flight of 4500ft. 

We made contact with Orlando Approach who guided us through to Sanford where we completed one touch and go before departing back to Melbourne. With a small amount of time remaining we asked to enter the pattern at the home airport and completed a few more touch and go's before calling it a night.

The flight to and from Sanford was my first flight in over a month but it was good to get it under my belt and get back into the swing of things. I wouldn't say the landings were anywhere near textbook but I was satisfied all the same.

The glass cockpit on board the Piper Warrior

Monday and Tuesday were spent relaxing and not having to think about anything to do with theory work however come Wednesday morning we were well and truly back into the swing of things.

General Navigation is very much focused on maths theory and we have been working this week on calculating changes in coordinates based on different factors such as speed and varying latitudes/longitudes - something I am finding quite interesting.

Flight Planning is pretty much exactly how it's named. We have so far covered basic map reading and different fuel requirements for different trips - something very relevant for future commercial piloting. 

Finally Radio Navigation, something I have yet to see the joys of. For me it is like picking the worst areas of high school physics and putting them into an intense course. This week has been very theory based however looking further into the course areas such as instrument approaches and navigation are covered which will hopefully ease the boredom that has started to creep in.

All in all a very good week in the classroom which I be matched with good results in the coming week's tests. We shall see I'm sure...

On another note, I started writing this at lunchtime yesterday (Saturday) and after reading the news it was quite shocking to see what is happening out in Australia, in fact unprecedented. 

For the national airline, a well known iconic airline to make such a move is outstanding and I'm sure it will do only damage to the name of company. Not good for the industry...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Operation Module 1: Complete

So they're done. Four exams and two hundred and ten questions over four and a half hours.

The exams were all taken at the Hilton Hotel in Melbourne over three days. They were conducted by the IAA examiners and concluded on Wednesday afternoon.

Overall I thought they were as expected although the Instruments exam was something else and I'm more than interested to see what that particular result will be! Having spoken to a number of people who have taken the exam in the past the majority seem to find it the hardest to swallow of all fourteen.

Anyway, since Wednesday afternoon it's been four full days off from any form of aviation theory...well almost. In the evening I went out for something to eat with the rest of the class before getting a well earned lie in on the Thursday morning.

Thursday was spent relaxing and just enjoying not having to look in any books! Friday however was a bit different. I was in fact hoping to get a flight with my old instructor in the morning however having arrived at the Flightline there were no planes available.

Instead, we did ground school which was a little embarrassing. When becoming engrossed in the European material it is amazing how much of the American stuff I have come to forget! We covered different subjects regarding airspace, map reading and aircraft equipment - subjects I should really know!

Anyway, in the afternoon I was again hoping to get in the air and back seat a flight to Lakeland but again due to aircraft availability we were grounded. More ground school! I was kind of hoping that I would be able to avoid all forms of aviation related thinking over the six days off however I think it was invaluable to actually get back into it and realise how much I really do need to brush up on!

This morning I woke up early to watch the Manchester derby. Since Manchester City have seen unparalled investment over the past couple of years the team finds themselves the holders of the world's oldest cup, in the Champions League for the first time and making their way towards real title contenders come May. Thirty minutes or so into today's game I fell back to sleep and woke after the full time whistle - thank goodness I didn't want the entire game!

Anyway, having seen Chelsea lose and the thought of going to Tampa this evening (after I finish my flight plan!) on a night cross-country flight I am trying to stay positive.

Hope to have a post up about tonight's flight later in the week - back to ground school come Wednesday!

Monday, 17 October 2011

They're here

As I write it's 21:11 local time. Just short of fourteen hours before the first of the four real IAA ATPL examinations.

Tomorrow morning we take on Performance followed by Principles of Flight and Instruments on Tuesday. We round off with Aircraft General Knowledge on Wednesday.

The difference between those in consolidation week and those this week coming is quite obvious. The previous were conducted internally by PTC themselves and this week will be under the jurisdiction of the Irish national aviation authorities. In short - these are the four that will count.

The revision has gone quite well over the past seven days. I have found it quite difficult to get motivated but I am hoping I've done enough.

Other than revising this week the news is pretty dry with little to report. It goes as far as saying I've watched a couple of films and seen Manchester United fight out quite a drab draw at Anfield.

One other event that took place on Friday was something I haven't really covered before which is the monthly student meetings organised to allow the students to meet on mass with the management, instructors and anyone else involved with the training college to discuss events, problems, developments and most importantly feedback. Personally I think it is a very good idea to help both progression of student learning, life in Florida and PTC as a whole. Obviously I will not be mentioning anything that goes on in these meetings as I personally believe that they should be respected for their internal privacy however I will report that the meeting last week was positive for the students to see where the company will be going in the near and distant future.

Finally, I mentioned a few weeks ago about a bizarre weekend of events here at PTC and a subject that I did say I would hopefully be able to cover more in depth in the future. Well, a student indeed had an unfortunate accident which put him in a serious condition. It was great that during Friday's meeting to see that he had made a full recovery and will be continuing with the course.

Time for an early night.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

It returns...

The four consolidation exams of our first module are now complete. The four consisted of Aircraft General Knowledge, Instruments, Performance and Principles of Flight. They were all conducted from last Monday to Thursday at the local Hilton hotel, similar to how the real IAA ATPL exams will take place next week.

The idea is after finishing each exam the results will be distributed within a small time scale so each student knows whether he/she has gained the 80% they need to be allowed to take the real assessment or whether they need/want to take a resit during the study week.

I'm happy to say I got through all the exams with an average of 92% and hoping I can increase this average by quite a few percent next week.

Since the exams finished on Thursday I've had a bit of down time that I really haven't had for a while! As I've explained before, the weather during the summer is very predictable with glorious sunshine during the morning and then mid-afternoon the thunderstorms arrive. As October and November arrived the weather extremities should start to ease and cooler (albeit still late twenties) temperatures and more calm afternoons arrive. Since Friday this hasn't really followed the trend.

The standing joke "it's almost like home" has been banded around quite a bit but in all seriousness I would imagine the weather at home to be better than this at this time of year! It has been extremely cold for Florida over the past few days (I even had to get my coat out yesterday!) and it's been three days now since I've seen blue sky above the sunshine state.

So, these few days of having a break from revision have been pretty limiting with the weather we have had to face. However, on Friday evening/Saturday morning I watched (with approximately 25-30 other people) the Ireland v Wales Rugby World Cup quarter final followed by the England v France game - it would seem a bad night for most people here studying at PTC Florida!

Yesterday I was due to fly just after lunch but because of the weather I was again to cancel my flight. After two hours of ground school, preceded by lunch at the local Irish bar it was back to the apartments to again hide from the weather.

Last night a few of us went to watch the Lion King in 3D at the cinema. An epic film (for any age I might add!) and I think Disney have done a good job in not going overboard with the three dimensional effects. This was followed by the UK Xfactor which I certainly thought was a mixed bag although there are a couple of early favourites!

Having woken up this morning, again the weather is not what is to be expected of Florida and as I speak the rain has been beating against the window. So the plans for today look pretty bleak...

Anyway, tomorrow it's back to the books for a few hours a day as we all prepare for the IAA ATPL exams starting Monday 17th.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Consolidation - Round 1

Since Thursday we have had three and and half days to revise the work done over the previous five weeks which will conclude this week in the Consolidation exams.

Consolidation exams are very similar to mock exams however the major difference being that in the tests this week, each student must attain a a score of 80% to be allowed to sit the real IAA exams in two weeks time.

Tomorrow morning is Performance. A subject which covers the basics in take-off, climb, cruise, decent and landing of commercial airliners. The exam consists of 34 questions, some with more than one mark per question, and will last for one hour.

Tuesday is Principles of Flight which focuses mainly on the physics side of how a plane flies, the pros and cons to different flight conditions, what makes those flight conditions the way they are and what designers and pilots are able to do to manipulate those conditions to the aircraft's advantage. It consists of forty four questions over one hour.

Wednesday is Instruments. This is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. The subject covers everything from how and airspeed indicator works to the very latest in auto land technology. This exam is a little longer at one hour and thirty minutes with fifty six questions.

Finally, on Thursday we have Aircraft General Knowledge. Similarly to Instruments this is pretty much as read. It covers everything from gas turbine engines used on the most modern of jet airliners to the use of a fire axe within the cabin.

Following this, and assuming passes in all four subjects, we will take the real exams starting the 17th October which will be detailed in a future post.

As you can imagine the revision has taken up most of my time and when I say that the highlight of the weekend was a trip yesterday to the local Walmart you can appreciate the amount of time is spent between these four walls.

Having said that there have been a couple of things I have been able to fit in over the past couple of days including the football at Old Trafford on Saturday and then the XFactor over the last two evenings.

Something of note. Over the past couple of days the weather has started to cool down - unlike at home! I'm hoping the current climate remains for the remainder of my stay here in Florida as it seems a little bit more bearable than previous! I heard that last night even got down to 17 degrees Celsius!

Not a long post this week as there really hasn't been much going on and the other fact that the books are again waiting for me!