Monday, 30 January 2012


Flying. It's been a while since I've used that word on a regular basis but recently it has featured more and more in my vocabulary. 

Let me talk you through what stage I am at the moment and what I need to be at in now only a few weeks time.

When I left here for Christmas I had a remainder of nineteen flights to complete for roughly the middle of March. This included one mock check ride, two real check rides, eight dual flights and a significant number of solos. Since returning from the festive break I've reduced this to only thirteen flights with 11.3 total hours accumulated in the 25 days I have been back here in the United States.

With my FAA PPL check ride now on the horizon having completed the mock yesterday I'm looking forward to knocking down the final days of my single engine flying one by one. 

Since completing the hypoxia training I managed to get a flight last Sunday with my instructor. We went out into the local area to complete a number of the maneuvers that would be coming up over the coming weeks in the check rides. These included both JAA and FAA stalls, steep turns, navigational procedures, ground referencing (making turns around a point) and landings. The idea was to again become comfortable with the material and it's practice for the weeks ahead.

All went well and back on the ground we debriefed what took place in the air. Happy enough, I departed after quite an eventful weekend!

Come the following day I was again back in the air but this time on the back seat observing. It's now getting to the stage where every minute is a big help in the air whether it be at the controls or sat just behind. 

It was an almost repeat from my lesson the previous day but not being focused on actually flying the aeroplane I was able to take in some of the other work that we need to do while in the air such as navigating and most importantly monitoring our systems.

For all those that read this blog and are currently out here training or are planning to come out here or any other FTO and train in this profession I would highly recommend, neigh, insist that you get as many back seats as you possibly can. It doesn't cost you a penny and observing while not having to concentrate on the basic factors of flying helps you develop everything else that goes into operating a flying machine.

We headed out towards the practice area and completed a number of maneuvers, again, similar to the previous afternoon. 

As we were heading south a decision was made to head off to Vero Beach, an airport pretty close but not often visited. It's a towered airport south of Melbourne that, going by the look of the ramp, caters for a significant number of business traffic. 

A few touch and go's in the pattern and we departed north. Engine failure. Well not really, simulated

With a simulated engine failure the idea is to go through the procedure by touching and talking as to what you would do with the 'dead power plant' as the engine sits at idle. The initial plan is to pitch the nose attitude to reach the perfect gliding speed which for the Piper Warrior is 73 knots (84mph) and secondly pick a spot to make an emergency landing. This could be a field, a lake, a road or if you're lucky an airport! 

Having got yourself into the optimum configuration and you're planning for arrival to your fixed point, it's time to see if we can find out what caused the 'engine failure.' Switching fuel tanks, checking the temperature gauges, mixture, magnetos etc. If nothing is resuscitating the engine then it's time to let ATC know. 

Squawking 7700 on the aircraft transponder will set off all the bells and whistles in the relevant control tower/centre pin pointing the location of the aircraft and with more modern transponders the altitude and speed of the airship in question. Tuning 121.500 (the international emergency radio frequency) and saying the following: "MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY." Following this with the aircraft description, the predicament that the aeroplane is in and the number of soles on board. While in touch with ATC the aircraft must be prepared to the landing.

"Fuel selector: off; ignition switch: off; alternator switch: off; standby alternator switch: off; electric fuel pump: off; mixture: idle/cut-off; seat belt and harnesses: tight; cabin door: open. As you bring the aircraft down towards the chosen area the radio master switch should be switched off as late as possible to allow the communications equipment to continue track the plane to the very last moment possible.

When simulating such an event the protocol is to end the procedure at 500ft and climb back to a reasonable altitude with full engine throttle.

Following the simulated engine failure we returned to Melbourne.

Tuesday to Friday was back in the classroom which including a significant number of hours spent going through the material for the coming exams at the end of February. There were also another four weekly tests which went pretty well.

The Saturday just passed was the day of my mock check ride for the FAA PPL with one of the senior flight instructors out here in Florida. 

The same protocol was followed as would be while during the real test which includes an oral examination covering everything from airspace to aircraft systems and much more. This is followed by the flight test which involves pretty much everything I have explained above.

The flight went really well - it was great to go up with such an experienced pilot who was able to pass on a lot of advice. Thankfully he passed me and as I write I now have my FAA PPL check ride due this coming Saturday.

Yesterday I again went flying, this time on a solo cross country flight to a small airfield near West Palm Beach on the Atlantic coast. As you can see from the photo above it wasn't the most picturesque mornings we have experienced here in the US and the winds were extremely strong. Although quite challenging it was great to get up and continue to fill in the log book with more and more hours of flying time. 

It was early morning number six yesterday so this morning was reserved for a lie in. Now it's time to return to the books for another four tests this week and even more hours of classroom work.

But before I go, below is a video of what now is only weeks away - upgrading to the Piper Seminole.

We've been here in Florida now for over eight months and with only a couple to go out here, time is starting to tick slowly towards Ireland. It's amazing how fast this time has gone and I'm sure once these exams are complete and we return to the air full time it will only speed up.

But before then, there is plenty to be getting on with...

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