Sunday, 8 January 2012

Back in at the deep end

So I'm now back in Florida and it's been a tough couple of days with more to come!

I left a very windy Manchester on Thursday morning and made my way back across the Atlantic to Orlando and then on to Melbourne in the Sunshine state. Leaving Manchester was quite interesting. As many in north western Europe will know the winds have been extremely strong over the past week and come 10.30am on Thursday it was no different. The winds were so strong that as we boarded and waited to leave the gate the plane could be felt rocking in the airflow. Not only this, upon pushing back from the gate we had to wait for twenty minutes due to cargo containers sat by aircraft stands which had been carried by the weather and were now sat covering the main taxiways. The captain advised he would refrain from starting the taxi until all had been safely removed to save 'embarrassment' on behalf of the airline and airport in the case of one again been thrown into the air and in the worst case scenario striking the aircraft.

Anyway, we were soon airborne and after an extremely bumping departure we quickly got above the clouds and on our way to the US.

After landing in Orlando I joined the long and laborious immigration line which lived up to it's infamous name. Finally arriving at the desk I was asked kindly to follow the immigration official into a room for secondary checks. I wasn't thoroughly informed as to why this was the case at the time but soon enough my documents were returned and I was able to leave the arrivals facility and meet up with some of my fellow students before the journey back to Melbourne.

Shortly after arriving back and unpacking I was on to the computer to see if any flights had been scheduled by my instructor. True to his word the following morning I would be flying bright and early - at 7am. I'd been awake many hours and with the five hour time difference it added extra time on to an already long day. I had to get some shut eye.

Waking up the following morning bright and early (not long after 5am!) I headed to the Flightline. Since returning I was quickly informed that the weather was not what it had been when we left less than three weeks ago. It was apparently much cooler when the sun set and as was said I soon felt the chill (even after enduring the English winter for two weeks) of a cool Floridian January morning.

The aircraft was prepped and ready to go. Just one problem - mist. Unfortunately until the obscurity had burnt itself off it wasn't possible to get back into the air for the first time in 2012. To keep the plan alive I delayed the flight and went for breakfast at a local diner with three other students. Arriving back around 10am the weather had improved quite considerably and I was able to soon get back into the seat and head towards the runway.

The checklist had been thoroughly 'checked' and I sat there, waiting to make my first radio call of the new year. If I was to ask every student here the worst part of the flying (apart from the paperwork of course) the majority would most likely say it is making that initial radio call at the run up area. It's a very simple request to the controller and we have all done in many times yet it's one of those things that we all just have to sit there for all but a couple of seconds and just think - "what on earth do I have to say?!"

Luckily I got the first call under my belt correctly and it all flowed back. Within minutes I was pointing towards the sky and heading south. The air was still cool which helped the aeroplane climb much quicker than would normally be the case. Soon enough I was at my cruising altitude of 6,500ft. Aircraft configured, radio checks complete and check lists again re-checked I got to again appreciate some of the glorious views on offer here on the east coast of the United States. Only twenty four hours earlier I was being rocketed into the tropopause in a metal (well...composite...) tube containing some of Europe's latest technology while now I sat in an aircraft designed in the seventies (albeit kitted out with twenty first century navigation equipment) cruising at 117 knots (135mph) just a mile above the earth's surface. The difference being, this time I was in control.

Soon enough I was ready to begin the descent into Okeechobee, somewhere I had been many times before. With the terminal information gathered (the weather for the particular airfield and any other relevant information) I began the approach. One thing was for certain - it was going to be quite windy!

After a few landings (which went OK - safe but not what passengers would 'appreciate' had their been many in the back) I headed back to Melbourne, this time at a lower altitude of 3,500ft. This allowed me to experience a more detailed view of the landscape and get some great shots.

"FIT 37, cleared to land Runway 5."

So that was that - first flight of 2012 complete. Although it had been quite an effort to get myself organised and ready for the trip so quickly after returning to the US I was especially pleased to get it under my belt.

Again today I was scheduled for a 7am solo flight. As yesterday I arrived nice and early and again the weather told the same story - fog. Due to me also having a dual flight with my old instructor at 10.30am I unfortunately had to cancel the flight as I simply did not have the time to wait and fit the journey in before the following lesson.

I'm hoping to get my FAA PPL in as soon as possible and after cancelling the mock check ride before going home for Christmas this has now been reorganised for Monday. Before this I wanted to get a flight in with either my current or old instructor so that I was able to iron out any creases that had formed over the past few weeks on the ground while at home in Europe - and indeed there were a few!

Luckily I was able to get a flight with my old instructor who took me up for two hours and went through the majority of the procedures and manoeuvres that would be covered in the FAA check ride. It was great to get some feedback on areas I need to work on and hopefully there will be an improvement come the mock flight.

So, having gotten out of bed at not long after 5am for the past couple of days I was looking forward to taking the Sunday off to relax before the flight on Monday and the ATPL classes which start again on Tuesday but no, tomorrow morning by 6am at the very latest I'll be at the Flightline preparing another solo cross country flight. It's certainly not something that I am complaining about and I am extremely happy to be getting as many flights as possible under my belt as the CPL training lies only nine weeks away.

So, a busy few days and a few more to come - and that's before we start class again this week!

Next week I'll give more information on the final module including the subjects and the new changes with regards to the timetables.

Time for bed - another early start in the morning.

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