Thursday, 23 February 2012

Operation Consolidation III: Complete

It's been a while since I've update the blog and there is a good reason for it!

This past week we have been taking our final set of Consolidation exams consisting of Air Law, Meteorology, Operational Procedures, Human Performance and Limitations as well as Mass and Balance.

The past six weeks of ground school had been leading up to this point. Four solid days and evenings of revision paid off and I'm glad to say I passed the 80% threshold required to be allowed to sit the real exams conducted by the IAA next week.

The Consolidation timetable has been designed to mirror that of the authorities.

Monday morning at 9am we sat the Air Law test. This was followed in the afternoon by Meteorology. The latter is the longest consisting of 84 questions.

Both went well and with two complete and three to go Tuesday brought about Human Performance and Limitations followed by Operational Procedures. Again, another two passes and I headed into Wednesday looking to make it five.

All the exams we have taken have been very factual based with certain subjects incorporating the use of maths and other previously taught ATPL theory.

The final exam we will sit here is however more maths based than theory. With such a small number of questions in the Mass and Balance test (25) it means that to make a slight inaccuracy in any calculation can seriously damage the percentage, and for anyone who is struggling through the exam anyway, the difference between a pass and a fail.

So, having passed four, the fifth was arguably the biggest challenge. Going into the exam I was confident. I am very confident in my own mathematical ability and with the material that we need to know in the subject. However, as I said above, any slight error, a wrong button pushed on the calculator or simply ticking the wrong box on the answer sheet can really make life difficult.

Going through the paper I was pleased to see there was nothing too tasking and nothing stood out as wanting to try and trick the student. Scores in; high nineties meaning a final pass to go with the other four.

We've now arrived at that stage. In previous modules we have had a week between the Consolidation exams and the real IAA tests. This time we have four days. Four days to evaluate the previous week's results, recap on the subjects and get back into learning for the final push.

As I have said in previous weeks, the effort and commitment this module for me has seen a small decline. Not too noticeable in terms of results but if I'm being honest with myself the dedication has lacked in certain parts. I don't know whether this is due to the new ground school policy in removing the weekly test average to be allowed to sit the Consolidation exams (although my averages far surpassed these) or the fact that we're now on the final stretch and just like doing the London marathon - the final straight is always going to be the most difficult.

Whatever it is I think over the next three days it will be exactly the same as it was the two previous weekends before taking the last two modules of the IAA exams - ATPL revision becomes your life, an obsession that doesn't go away until walking out of that conference hall after the final exam.

So, when I'd finished with all five tests by yesterday lunchtime I'd planned a twenty four hour gap between hitting the books once again.

After a lengthy lie in this morning I went to the pool to enjoy the great weather we're currently experiencing out here in the south east of the US. This was followed by watching Manchester United edge their way into the next round of the Europa League. 

Being in Europe is not just a privilege for a club but a necessity however being in the second rated European competition just doesn't seem to have that edge, that sense of elitism...a bit like Channel 5 really...However, it is good to see them taking the tournament seriously - winning it is very much a realistic challenge!

It's late afternoon here in Melbourne and the sun is starting to set. A bit like our time with the ATPL exams really...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Crunch time

I will now pre-warn you. The updates over the next two weeks will probably be the most boring so far on the blog. It's not something I'm planning - but it's certainly something that is going to happen as the exams approach.

Since last week it's again been head in the books so to speak as we prepare for the coming exams. This time next week two of our PTC Consolidation tests (Air Law and Meteorology) will be completed and I'll be sat in this same spot trying to get my head around Human Performance/Limitations and Operational Procedures.

There have been times over the past few days where I've become frustrated and quite frankly bored of what I'm studying. The workload in this module is by far the greatest and with the end so close that final push is getting pretty difficult to muster.

I keep saying to myself "it's just two weeks; it's just two weeks" and it's slowly starting to work.

So, with six classes left this week it'll soon be the end of ATPL Ground School for good - or at least that's the plan anyway!

Other than spending many hours revising I was due to fly yesterday. The weather when I woke was an extremely cool 2 degrees Celsius - something I'm sure many in the UK and around Europe can relate to at the moment!

The sky was stunningly clear with views to the highest of the heavens; and with the temperature being so low it looked like a perfect day to go flying. I was planning to head across to Tampa and then into Orlando but arriving at the Flightline I was faced with the problem of winds.

Restrictions imposed by the flight school on pilots means that yesterday nearly all flights were grounded until the wind died down. Due to the busy schedule and the persistence of the winds (which were gusting into the mid-20kts) I had to cancel.

So it was back to Southgate to again get the head down for the exams next week.

Today however was a different matter. After cramming for the majority of the day I headed again to the Flighline to get into the air for two flights merged into one. When a pilot with PTC completes their FAA PPL check ride they have to complete two further lessons - both being one hour in the pattern here in KMLB.

With the lack of time available at the moment I wanted to kill two birds with one stone and duly after 2.3 hours and 27 landings I arrived back at the ramp before heading home.

Last week of Ground School starts tomorrow - lets hope it goes as quickly as it has done over the past six months!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

"The greatest show on earth..."

A post I really wanted to get done at the weekend but I never got chance.

Last week, and indeed over the past couple of days we've been working towards finishing the material of the final five of fourteen ATPL subjects. With only eleven more classes to complete in total and considering the amount we have completed over the past five and a bit months it's that final push that I feel is going to count so much.

Since starting in August I know we have all seen, certainly not intentional, a come down from what we expected. During the first few weeks of the first of the three modules we would spend many hours every night studying the material completed that day. As we have moved on, I would say that we have all learnt how to revise the fourteen subjects much more effectively. I'm not saying we do any less revision in terms of hours - more so we know what to revise and how to answer the questions.

Having said that, the exams are now fast approaching and it's that time again where we all start to feel that little bit of pressure creeping up behind us. The brow starts to sweat and with the benefits of finishing so close it's almost impossible to stop thinking about them...

So, as I write we have another eleven classes to complete followed by five consolidation exams and then the real IAA sitting.

Last week we all received the timetable for the exams and I must say, it could have been better. We have the following:

Monday 27th February

Air Law

Tuesday 28th February

Human Performance and Limitations
Operational Procedures

Wednesday 29th February

Mass and Balance

The hardest day is most certainly the first which does come with the benefit of getting them out of the way early on to concentrate on what I believe to be the easier of the five on the Tuesday and Wednesday.

As I've said before; there has been a change in the way the exams are conducted this module. Instead of having the week of Consolidation followed a week to revise before the final week of exams; this time PTC have extended the ground school to six weeks removing the revision time in between the two sets of tests.

Personally I think that this is a good idea. Although it will be extremely tiring, to stay in that revision/exam mode will certainly be of help and from my own personal point, require a lot less motivation the following week to start revising all over again!

I'm sure I'll be keeping you posted over the next couple of weeks.

Other than knocking ground school hours off one by one and completing the PPL we got to again experience something that only America can do - the 'Super Bowl.'

Self-proclaimed at the 'greatest show on earth,' it certainly had something to live up to! Now those of us who made our way to Smokey Bones (a chain restaurant here in the US) for an all you could eat feast consisted of a significant number who were keen rugby and football (soccer) fans. How was this sporting event going to contend with what we have to offer in Europe?

The game began with the glits and glammer we had all expected and although it is very much a stop start game it was, surprisingly, quite entertaining (even if I didn't know what was going on!)

The game was concluded with a winning touchdown (I think I'm right in saying that?) with only minutes to go.

In conclusion, I wouldn't go as far as to say it's the 'greatest show on earth' but I guess that very much depends on what each person is interested in. I will say that I did enjoy the experience however I'll stick to the real football I think (sorry NFL fans!)

Other than that, this week there are a few highlights to point out.

Advertising in any industry nowadays has to be innovative, eye-catching and in many cases funny. It's not something I see very often in the US where they seem to be more direct with their promotions but in the UK (and now evidently elsewhere in Europe) this is the case.

Airlines are no exception to the rule and I would imagine all reading will remember BA's campaign a few months ago featuring the pilots of the company through the ages. Well, Lufthansa have recently released their latest domestic advertisement which has been going viral on the social networks.

Staying on the subject of videos, and more specifically YouTube videos (and my instructor is going to kill me for this) but recently a video of him came to light in a previous job. That is all I am going to say...

Sunday, 5 February 2012

FAA PPL: Complete

After a long long wait it's finally done - the FAA Private Pilot's License (PPL).

When we started flying, back in early June we had a number of goals to complete before concluding our single engine flying which we hope to do by mid-March this year. These included the following:

  • First solo flight
  • JAA check ride (PPL equivalent)
  • FAA PPL check ride
  • JAA CPL level Navigation progress test (the last flight before starting the multi-engine flying)
For those of you who have been following the blog for some time I completed the first two before starting the ATPL ground school stage back in August of 2011.

Since then, due to a number of different factors I have been unable to get the flight completed and have indeed continued the flight training beyond the check ride.

The check ride consists of two parts: an oral on the ground followed by a flight test.

The oral is conducted on the ground and is basically a one on one chat with the examiner. He'll initially checks the paperwork such as the flight plan and calculated performance figures before asking about the conditions along the route, the airspace (it's characteristics and minimas) along the flight path before moving on to more technical questions involving the aircraft (such as the make up of the engine and electrical systems) followed by questions focused around the human factors of flying (hypoxia etc.)

This usually lasts around 45 minutes to an hour.

Dependent on whether the questions are satisfactorily answered, the examiner will then let the student sit the flight test.

Departing from Melbourne airport on Runway 5 we headed on to the downwind to start the navigation flight at my starting point - above an old airfield just south west of the city. Before I reached this check point the examiner diverted me to Valkaria, an airport I have visited many times.

We entered the pattern to complete three landings. One soft field, a short field and finally a normal landing. Having done this we headed out into the practice area to do a number of different maneuvers.

Firstly he had me complete two steep turns - one left and one right. Then I was to fly a heading of 270 degrees and enter slow flight.

Slow flight is applying full flaps and reducing the speed to almost it's minimum before stalling.

Following this I conducted one stall with no power and one stall with full power (raising the nose to a much higher attitude than the former).

It was after this he cut my engine - simulated engine failure. As discussed last week I ran through the procedures and picked a spot to land. Shortly after running through what I would do he seemed satisfied and asked me to level off at 1,000ft to demonstrate a couple of ground reference maneuvers.

These basically involve solely flying with visual reference to the ground - usually a fixed spot (or a cow, as I've previously done) or a road. The idea is to keep equidistant from the point at all times, taking into account the winds to determine whether a steep, medium or shallow turn is needed.

Turns complete, it was time to head back up to a suitable altitude and go 'under the hood.'

Going 'under the hood' means putting on a pair of goggles which are designed to only allow the student to see the instruments within the cockpit with no visual reference from outside of the aircraft.

At this point he had control. He then put the plane into an unusual attitude which I had to recover from. Seeming satisfied he asked me to follow a heading and descend to 1,000ft. At this point I could hear him tuning into the radio the relevant frequency for Melbourne - we were going home.

"Maintain 030 and descend to 500ft."

Moments later: "Take your hood off."

I looked outside of the aircraft and in front, only a couple of miles ahead lay Runway 5, the same strip of tarmac we had taken off from only 54 minutes earlier.

Landing complete we returned to the stand where he duly congratulated me on passing the FAA exam and explained he would complete the relevant paperwork when we were back inside the building.

So, now I await the all important license through the post...the single engine stage of training moved ever closer to it's conclusion.