Sunday, 27 November 2011

Consolidation and Thanks Giving

This week we concluded our five weeks of ground school for this module. We now have one week of Consolidation starting tomorrow followed by a study week and if all goes well during the mock exams the real IAA sitting in just over two weeks time.

This week was also a time for the United States to celebrate one of it's biggest holidays. As someone who lives in the UK we are well aware of the tradition but not a nation who takes part was a whole. So to be here in the US on such a day, I was hoping for an insight into the 'pre-Christmas' holiday - something a number of us certainly got! More on that later.

The time comes again where we must spend many an hour sat in front of the computer and books revising for the forth coming examinations. Round 2 is almost upon us as General Navigation kicks off tomorrow morning bright and early at 9am.

As it was eight weeks ago we all sit Consolidation exams to determine whether we are indeed ready to sit the IAA tests. We will be put forward for any or all of the subjects we achieve a score of 80% or above on.

The Consolidation papers take place over one extra day compared to the IAA running from tomorrow morning (Monday) to Thursday afternoon. All three modules will sit any of their respective fourteen subjects they're currently studying for. The results are usually distributed pretty swiftly within hours.

This week I have General Navigation on Monday, Radio Navigation on Tuesday, Flight Planning on Wednesday and the two Communication papers on Thursday.

Following this, assuming all are passed, we will have ten days to swat some more before the finals the week before leaving for Christmas.

As mentioned above, Thanks Giving is a big day on the American calendar where all families come together (maybe for the first time in twelve months) to say thanks, whether that be to their family, their friends or through their beliefs. 

Eight students from my class including myself were lucky enough to be able to attend a real traditional Thanks Giving in the home of a big American family. With what must have been over forty people coming in and out all afternoon the food production was run like clockwork. It was great to meet so many different people from so many different backgrounds who had all come together at one time.  

The evening was concluded by all gathering around in one room (I'd never imagine a family being so big!) to each say what they were thankful for. Overall it was a fantastic day and I can't thank enough the family for their hospitality.

The day following Thanks Giving is known over here as 'Black Friday.' Another national holiday (for those who don't work in retail anyway!) where the nation almost comes to a standstill...outside of their nearest superstore anyway. The country goes into lock down with consumers snapping up what I as a European can only describe as eye-watering cheap deals. Seeing people camping outside of Best Buy on Thanks Giving with tents it's the extent some will go to to make big savings and get their early Christmas shopping done. 

Needless to say I also took part in this tradition - it would after all be rude not to!

So...back to the books I go - less than twenty four hours to go...


I'm not wanting to make a habit of these bottom post-blog comments but I think it's only right to highlight the sad news today of the death of one of the Premier League's all time greatest players; Gary Speed.

The Welsh football (soccer) manager was this morning found dead at his home, believed to have taken his own life.

I grew up with the Premier League and the entertainment it has brought to billions around the world. Up to only a couple of years no other player had contributed more playing time to the spectacle that is the greatest sporting league on the planet than Gary Speed - he will be a great loss to the game.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

"The holidays are coming..."

Made famous by the drinks manufacturer the unofficial start of the Christmas period now seems to begin with the first showing of their adverts on TV screens across the world. Going by Facebook, during last week's X Factor the festive season was well and truly kicked into life.

Since the summer the majority of students have had their flights booked to return to their homelands for Christmas. A chance to catch up with family and friends and take a well deserved break from what, although it maybe enjoyable, quite stressful times along the Florida coastline. Something to look forward to at the end of this module in a few weeks time.

These past seven days saw the end of week four of the ATPL ground school for this module. We're now in full flow with all five subject and we again took another three weekly tests to help determine our credibility for the Consolidation exams coming up in only eight days from now. Thankfully all went to plan.

This weekend is also a landmark in that we are exactly half way through the whole ATPL programme. Twelve weeks down, twelve to go.

There is not much else to report actually. I'm currently awaiting a date to go flying with one of the senior flight instructors before my FAA PPL check ride but other than that the head is now solely focused on the forthcoming exams.

This coming week our timetable changes bringing forward the lectures by two days due to the holiday of Thanks Giving on Thursday followed by 'Black Friday' where all shops seem to drop their prices exponentially for only hours. A bit of Christmas shopping maybe a necessity...

Finally, I've had a few emails over the past few weeks about people who are planning to take the assessment day with PTC asking advice etc. I have added a page which can be found on the navigation bar at the top giving a bit of information on my assessment day and the weeks following that if that is of any help to anyone.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Three weeks gone and a day to remember

Yesterday we finished week three of the second module. We have this week begun the two Communications subjects and moved locations to the new Pilot Training College facility called the Babcock building.

As mentioned before, this module is over three days of the week. Monday was mainly spent revising and a little bit of downtime followed by an early night due to a solo flight on the Tuesday morning.

Getting up at 5am was not something I had done for some time and wasn't exactly what I was looking forward to! Weary eyed I arrived at the Flightline around 6.15am. In the USA (and maybe other countries over this side of the Atlantic, I'm not too sure...) the clocks switch back an hour later than those in Europe. This meant on Saturday evening/early Sunday morning the clocks stood still for sixty minutes (sort of...) and has led to lighter mornings. So, on Tuesday as I walked out onto the ramp at 6.40am the sun had already reared it's head ten minutes previous. Another difference from previous months is the weather. During the summer, as explained before, the weather is like clock work. Fantastic clear skies early in the morning and horrendous thunderstorms in the afternoon. However this seems to have changed quite dramatically and it is now almost impossible to predicted the weather without the help of the official channels.

My solo flight was the last time I would be up in the air on my own before my FAA PPL check ride. It is one hour long and designed for the student to go into the practice area to practice different maneuvers that would come up during the exam.

"Melbourne Tower, FIT 37 is ready for departure, Runway 5 at victor."

"FIT 37, cleared for take-off Runway 5. Make right downwind Runway 5 and depart on course."

"Cleared for take-off Runway 5. Make right downwind departure, FIT 37."

After a couple of maneuvers in the practice area I returned to Melbourne airspace and entered the pattern for a few landings before getting back to the ramp.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were back in the classroom for ground school in now all five subjects including IFR and VFR communications. These two are the smallest of the fourteen ATPL examinations each consisting of only twenty three questions to be completed in a thirty minute time frame. We also did three class tests on each of the other three subjects.

On Thursday we moved to the new Pilot Training College Babcock facility. The building has been open for a few months now and houses all operations staff as well as offering facilities such as classrooms, self study areas and a canteen. I personally find it much better than the Annex which will continue to be used for ATPLs for other module classes I believe.

Anyway, last night a few of us went to Smokey Bones for something to eat before spending today watching some of the England game and generally having a rest. Tomorrow it's back to the books before my last flight with my instructor on Monday before the FAA PPL check ride!


Separately, yesterday was a day for a number of countries to remember those who had fallen for their country.

In the UK we call it Remembrance Day and is honoured by a two minutes silence at eleven minutes past the hour of 11am. Something that has also become a custom is to wear a plastic red poppy as a sign of respect in the days and weeks around the 11th November.

Here in the US it is known as Veteran's Day and it was something out of the ordinary for myself to see the President of the United States aboard one of America's many aircraft carriers which had been turned into a basketball court with four stands around the centre of action. 

A game was played between two high school teams to mark the day.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Two weeks down and a broken laptop

Well...we're now two weeks into the second module, in fact as I type starting week three! Of the eight weeks we spend on each group of subjects the time just seems to get shorter and shorter and Christmas nearer and nearer.

Sitting here thinking back to when we first started in May the time seems to have flown by (please excuse the pun) but the work must continue and the weekly tests this past week again reared their heads. In all three subjects I seem to be making steady ground. It is very clear that this module is highly theory and maths based which, for me, is far better than the previous.

This week in Radio Navigation we have covered the properties of different tools for aircraft to use when navigating using their instruments such as VORs and NDBs; focusing on the characteristics and properties associated with each.

General Navigation covered different conversions from a whole list of measuring terms such as US gallons, imperial gallons, metres, feet, nautical miles, litres etc. A lot of time spent on the calculator and the cool little old-school computer known as the CRP-5.

The CRP-5 is now outdated with the scientific calculators we can all now buy from our nearest WH Smith (or any other stationary store...) however the actual theory behind it and how it's put into practice is quite superb.

Although I would love to explain it's every function it's quite apparent that I'm hardly aware of half of them as I am much more at home with the Casio sat next to it however for wind calculations the CRP-5 seems very logical, easy to use and provides very quick and accurate answers. 

Flight Planning was mainly focused on map and graph reading as well as fuel calculations.

Outside of the classroom I haven't been back into the air yet although tomorrow I hope to fly an hour solo, a requirement before the FAA PPL check ride. 

On Friday evening as a class we went to TGI Fridays for something to eat to finish off the week. Earlier that afternoon my laptop broke which means I spent a good three hours on the bike on Saturday afternoon touring Melbourne to find another computer. Alas, I returned at 6pm with new machine in tow. One thing I have found over the years, whether you're getting a new laptop out of choice or because the previous was simply getting too old it's quite frustrating having to spend time moving things across and setting everything into place. Maybe it's just me...

Anyway, it's now less than six weeks before going home for Christmas. In between then and now is another eleven class tests, five consolidation exams and hopefully five IAA examinations. Sorry this week has been a bit of a boring update - not much to say! Back to the books and the CRP-5 I suppose!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

ATPL exam results - 1st module

Just a quick post.

Today we received our exam results from the IAA in Ireland here at PTC Florida. After completion of the examinations here in the US the invigilators return to Dublin to mark the papers and sort out any discrepancies in the paper, markings and/or results.

Today I got hold of my first set of four exam marks which go towards the total of fourteen ATPL sittings.

In Aircraft General Knowledge I scored 96%, Instruments 88%, Performance 94% and Principles of Flight 93% giving me an average of 93%.

Overall I was satisfied with the results however I was kind of expecting to score a little higher in three of the papers yet with regards to Instruments, which I believed to be an extremely difficult paper, I am more than happy!

Hoping to increase the average come the end of the next module...another update at the weekend!