Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Enjoying Christmas

As someone once said “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Having arrived home last week there was little time for rest. We moved home on Thursday meaning I spent the first few days of my time back here in the UK packing boxes and then come the 22nd move to our new home. It’s not the best time to be moving so close to Christmas day but it’s nice to be somewhere new.

It’s also been great catching up with family and friends including a couple of late nights and rough mornings! What has been most interesting has been the lack of change here – it really does feel like I haven’t been away!

The biggest shock has obviously been the weather. As I mentioned when landing in Manchester, it was clear to see the UK wasn’t enjoying the delights of Florida but as crazy as it sounds, it’s nice to be out of the sweat box for a few weeks. Another downside of being home and moving house is the fact we are without the house internet for some time – it’s almost like losing a limb. 

Apart from Christmas day and catching up with numerous people I’ve also been to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United demolish Wigan Athletic. The ground is somewhere I used to spend a lot of my weekends and many a weekday evening and it was thoroughly enjoyable going back to somewhere I know so well.

The ATPL results were released last week but as I’m not in the US at the moment I will have to ring up tomorrow to obtain my results. Having spoken to a number of fellow students who have been lucky enough to already have got hold of theirs it’s great to hear of so many good scores – hopefully mine will be something similar!

So as the 25th has now passed it’s time to continue to demolish the remainder of the food in the cupboards and look forward to the new year.

I started this blog early this year before starting my training out in Melbourne. The main aim was to keep family and friends updated on my progress but it seems to have grown a bit bigger than that with over 13,000 views from 85 countries and over 850 cities. It’s something I enjoy updating and hope to continue doing so in 2012.

Speaking of 2012, the year will hopefully bring the end to my initial training and switch over to airline job. I have three more months is Melbourne, two spent completing the final set of ATPL exams followed by the CPL course which should last just three to four weeks. Following this I shall travel to Ireland, more specifically Waterford, to take on the Instrument Rating before heading to the Irish capital to complete the training in the simulators. Following this it is will be time to await the airline’s word as to when and where the training will continue!

It’s going to be a busy twelve months but at this moment in time I’m more looking forward to new year’s eve and to whoever has been reading this blog I hope you have all had a good Christmas and are looking forward to a prosperous 2012.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Whether it be in the centre of a bustling city or down a quiet country lane it’s always the same – it’s home.

We now live in a world where we can travel with ease across boarders at costs unimaginable twenty (even ten!) years ago. As the world becomes a smaller place and business moves ever more quickly ; the phrase “leaving the nest” has become a lot more distant than ever before.

There are certain times of year, different in different cultures, where those, wherever they may be, come together to celebrate or simply to reunite for old time sake. For those in the Christian world, this time of year is more prominent than any other.

Over the past seven months away from home I’ve worked pretty hard. Through long days and short nights it has been a rollercoaster of emotions and something twelve months ago I would never have dreamed of encountering. It’s almost been surreal but here I am, back to spend three weeks with family and friends over the festive period.

Having concluded the short stay in Orlando we headed to the airport for the flights back to our respective countries and more particularly cities. The flight to Manchester was delayed by one hour due to snow the previous day here in the UK; having a knock on effect on the airline’s schedule. As predicted the plane arrived sixty minutes late into Orlando International and the operation got underway to turn the aircraft around as soon as possible.

Plane fed, cleaned and refreshed we took off into the night sky and headed north east bound out into the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to some impressive tailwinds the flight time was reduced to seven hours meaning an on time arrival into the northern city.

Living in a climate that would feel embarrassed below twenty degrees Celsius, landing in Manchester where a frosting of snow covered as far as the eye could see was a bit of a shock to the system. The first time I’d seen the white stuff since I was last at the airport in January!

Touchdown was particularly impressive after a smooth ride. To add to a very good flight, spending only twenty minutes from disembarking the aircraft to leaving the terminal it was impressive to see the new passport chip system in operation – fantastic idea!

So here I am. Back at home. It’s been seven months; and it’s most certainly been worth the wait…

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Round two complete - countdown to home begins...

So the exams are finished and it's almost time to return to the UK for Christmas.

Monday through Wednesday saw everyone here at PTC who are currently taking the ATPL exams sit their respective subjects.

For myself, all five tests went well and I'm hoping to receive the results within the next few weeks.

Since we finished on Wednesday I was hoping to relax until returning home this weekend however on Tuesday evening I became aware that I would be having my mock-check ride on the Thursday morning. So, having completed however many hours sat in my room learning about the relevant ATPL subjects I now had less than twenty four hours to cover a number of different subjects relating to the aircraft we fly, US airspace, pilot performance and much more.

So, up at 6am the following day. Slightly tired and a head ready to burst with information I arrived at the Flightline slightly after 7am. The weather was looking good - almost cloudless and a cool (well...21 degrees Celsius) morning in eastern Florida. I started to prep for the oral and the following flight.

Due to a number of reasons the flight was cancelled in favour of rescheduling it in January. It was disappointing, especially with the amount of effort that went into preparing, but was completely understandable.

The rest of Thursday was spent resting the brain and starting to look forward to the journey home.

Awaking today (Friday) I became aware of  how little I had done to prepare for the journey home. A list of jobs needed to be completed before finishing off the packing.

This evening a few of us had dinner in the local Irish bar before heading up to Orlando to spend the rest of the time here in the US before the festive season in the villa of my roommate. En route we made a detour and headed towards a place known as 'Celebration,' a small town off the beaten track. It's known for it's perfection and cleanliness. It was quite an interesting site to see!

With all the Christmas decorations on display and the inability to spot an imperfection in the entire town it was something to behold.

Anyway, it's now time for bed and it will be the last time I post from Melbourne for a few weeks. Home bound begins soon - the countdown continues...

Friday, 9 December 2011

So close...

It's Friday 9th December. In just over a week I'll be on a flight back to the UK for the Christmas period. Between now and then there are many hours of revision and five IAA ATPL examinations.

Starting on Monday the exams take place over three days at the local Hilton hotel.

Monday afternoon involves General Navigation encompassing fifty four questions over a two hour time period. Tuesday morning is IFR Communications followed by Radio Navigation later in the day. The first is twenty three questions in thirty minutes while the latter is much longer with fifty nine questions over one hour and thirty minutes. The final day involves Flight Planning first thing followed almost immediately by VFR Communications. The former consists of fifty six questions over a large time scale of three hours while VFR mirrors the IFR test.

As mentioned last week, taking the mock examinations gave us all a good indication of what we need to work on before the IAA arrive this weekend.

Since Sunday, bar the below, there has been very little activity over here. I've done some small amounts of revision but now as the weekend arrives it's back to the studying for most hours of the day and reacquainting myself with the four walls of my room.

The weather over these past few days, bar yesterday, has been fantastic. It's quite odd being in an environment of 25°C+ at this time of year. The Christmas songs have now slowly started appear and will no doubt play a major part during the study this weekend!

I had said last week that I was hoping to get my mock FAA PPL check ride complete yesterday however unfortunately this didn't take place. The next best thing was to back seat a flight.

Although we have had cloud free skies for quite a while now, yesterday was the exception as the clouds hung over Melbourne for the entire day. It looked unlikely that we would manage to get airborne for the trip up to Daytona. Arriving early at the Flightline the visibility was looking promising. It was decided between the instructor and student that the lesson would at least be given the opportunity.

Paperwork complete, forms, binders and documents collected we headed out to the plane. The plane was prepped and we headed out to the run up area. 

As the relevant checks were being conducted by the student the instructor contacted the ground frequency here in Melbourne and asked for the latest visibility reports. A Delta jet had just departed and the controller was waiting for a pilot report from the flight crew and would report back.

"FIT 40, the Delta jet departed to the south and was therefore not able to supply a relevant PIREP, I'm seeing clouds broken at three thousand."

It was decided we would try the flight. 

"Melbourne Ground, FIT 40 is at the FIT run up area, departure to the north west with information C, ready to taxi."

"FIT 40 taxi Runway 5 via Victor, hold short Runway 5 at Victor."

Due to the short taxi distance and how quiet the airport was at that time we were in the air within a couple of minutes and heading towards the north west.

As we climbed it was evident that weather wasn't improving and the instructor made the decision as we passed two thousand feet that it would not be beneficial for the lesson to continue and as such we returned to Melbourne's airspace.

I would imagine most would think the eighteen minutes we spent in the air were a waste of time however one could argue it was good experience in airmanship in knowing when and when not to make the go or no-go decision.

"FIT 40, cleared to land Runway 5." 

Back to the books...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Consolidation complete

Five exams done, five exams thankfully passed.

Consolidation exams took place over the past week in the Babcock facility here in Melbourne. All fourteen were conducted over four days.

Four long nights since the end of ground school interrupted by Thanks Giving and Black Friday proved fruitful as the results came out all above the 80% mark needed to be allowed to sit the real IAA exams which will begin next Monday (12th) running for three days.

All of the consolidation exams are designed to give each student not only a good idea of how each test will be set but also an understanding of their current knowledge level in that particular field.

Since completing consolidation I have had a few days off spare a couple of hours of Radio Navigation whilst watching the Manchester United game on Saturday morning. It is hard to describe going from constant hours of revising to almost 'slobbing' within a matter of hours.

Tomorrow is where the work starts again as I slowly get through the material again and again before the all important tests in seven days time. Having said that, having the ten days between mock and real examinations is more of a time to buffer and fine tweak the knowledge already gained over the previous five to six weeks. If it is possible to score highly with only four days of intense study before consolidation then the extra ten days are a great way to tune the already embedded material. Having said that, I am hoping to get a number of hours in daily.

I'm also hoping to get back into the air this coming week with the mock check ride. I have been waiting a number of weeks to finally get towards the FAA PPL and although it maybe touch and go (no pun intended) I am hoping to have this under my belt before departing the country for the Christmas period.

Talking about the festive season, it is great to be able to start organising to meet up with friends and family when I'm home for three weeks. Having started in May it has been almost seven months here in Melbourne and although we are living in a fantastic climate, doing something that thousands (if not more!) would love to do it; I know it will be nice just to return to a sense of normality for a short time and what better way to do that than over Christmas.