Sunday, 1 April 2012

Knocking down the hours...Part II

Firstly, sorry for the long time between updates - I've been extremely busy this past week or so!

I know sit here writing having completed all of my single engine hours. Tuesday was the final day of making up time I was short.

Over the past week I have done so much with my flying it has been great and it is sad to see the end to the work horse that is the Piper Warrior. The thousands of miles I've taken inside the cockpit of the aircraft produced only down the road in Vero Beach have been busy, sometimes stressful, challenging and most importantly thoroughly enjoyable.

As much as instructors try to say that every one of them is the same it really isn't the case. They each have their own ways - some are good climbers, others very responsive on the controls. One thing I can say about each and every Warrior here at FIT is that they're maintained to a world class standard by a truly fantastic team of mechanics who quite literally work through the night to make sure as many aircraft are available as possible for students and rentals to use; even if that can sometimes drop below the number so dearly needed. I'm sure everyone would agree that they'd rather have wait for an airworthy aeroplane than take one there and then that is not.

My final few flights included a trip across to Tampa and then on down to West Palm International before returning home. This four hour flight completed the two that are included in the programme. It is great to get out of the local area and explore some of the major airports in Florida, especially in a state that is designed more so for general aviation than any other location on the planet.

In the US the air traffic control is much more well invested than what we will be used to in Europe (although when flying with airlines there is very little difference). However, for general aviation here in America we can really take advantage of the services on offer, the most frequently used and user friendly being flight following.

As VFR pilots we're supposed to be flying by reference to what we can see outside of the aircraft. This is all well and good but when entering or maneuvering around airspace that has jets moving at over 200kts at flight levels similar to those we operate it really is of benefit to use ATC.

The majority of the time is spent under our own navigation but with the assistance of the controllers can be vectored on altitudes, headings and traffic advisories. Working in much heavier airspace is a great benefit as it increases the workload and prepares us for what we face ahead in our careers.

Using flight following on these legs was fantastic. In fact all the controllers over here are very good at what they do and are also very used to students who may not have the skills and knowledge in place to react as those with increasing full log books would do. It is also to their credit the amount of patience they have in dealing with such people, effectively from all corners of the globe.

My final solo flight (well, in the progamme) was a two hour navigation flight. Since arriving here in Florida and began to fly I have always wanted to go into Orlando International (MCO). It's the gateway to the world famous theme parks and the majority of traffic heading to the northern parts of the state.

Handling over 35 million passengers per year it puts it just ahead of the likes of Gatwick (albeit it with three additional runways) and the second largest here in Florida after Miami. The flight went very well and with the help of Orlando Approach and the tower I was in and out of the airport within minutes before heading back to the practice area to prepare for the internal check ride known as 3.D.15 due a couple of days after.

During the run in to completing my hours I was extremely lucky with the weather and aircraft availability. There has recently been a shortage in the number of planes, mainly caused by an unexpected rise in aircraft having to enter the hanger for maintenance issues. Hopefully this will be sorted as soon as possible and the usual number of aircraft available will resume.

After completing another two duals with my instructor I was then ready to take the all important 3.D.15.

3.D.15 is an internal check ride and is designed to be the final single engine flight students take before moving on to the twin engine Seminole to complete the Multi-engine Commerical Pilot's License (MEP/CPL). The flight is conducted by either the Chief Flight Instructor or another senior pilot within the company. The idea is to complete a full review of everything that we have learnt in the Piper Warrior and moving forward if we are prepared to cope with the increased work load experienced in it's larger brother.

The flight went well and having discussed my hours with the CFI I was told that I needed to complete an one hour solo and just under one hour dual to meet the minimum required hours outlined under the JAA scheme we currently reside under.

I spent one hour in the pattern here on my own before in the afternoon taking to the air on my final single engine flight.

My instructor and I decided we would head up to NASA and complete the low approach now possible over the 15,000ft runway.

With 0.9 of an hour it was going to be tight but managable. We made the low approach only 100ft above the runway heading over it to the north. We then made a right teardrop and flew down the opposite end to the south.

I wasn't aware of the shear size of the facility. Not only is the runway ridiculously long but the launch pads that we could see in the distance really did show the scale of the operation that has and continues to go on here in Florida.

It was quite surreal seeing below us where history has been made on so many occasions - a truly memorable trip that I would recommend to anyone who is flying general aviation or flight training here in Florida.

So, with 3.D.15 complete, my single engine hours in the record books it was time to prepare for the Seminole. As I said at the start, I've had a great time learning how to fly in the Warrior. It's an aeroplane I would almost insist anyone with a pilots license get to at least take for one or two flights.

A true work horse.

The Piper Seminole. The big brother to the Warrior. Two engines each producing 180bhp accelerate the aircraft to it's rotation speed of 75kts (just over 80mph) within seconds.

The design of each engine is more complex than that of the Warrior and it's something that is particularly interesting to learn. So far I have had one lesson in the twin with more coming over the next five days.

With the intensity of the course (the plan is to be out of here in just over two weeks) it's definitely worth getting as many back seats as it is possible. Over the last few days I have managed to get in the back for two flights.

With such an increase in the amount of work within a reduced time period as the plane travels at higher speeds that we're used to it is a great surprise but a challenge I'm sure we'll all relish.

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck as you move to complex twin. Things do happen much faster with more HP. Just remember to put the wheels down before landing and you'll do alright.

    As it happens last Tuesday afternoon I was also at MCO, but I was in seat 4F of an American Airline MD80 - not having as much fun as you, although the free drinks did help.