Saturday, 21 April 2012

United States - Complete

JAA Ground School                                         -     Complete
FAA Ground School                                         -     Complete
FAA PPL written exam                                    -     Complete
JAA PPL internal check ride                           -     Complete
FAA PPL check ride                                        -     Complete
14 JAA ATPL examinations                            -     Complete
JAA CPL qualifier internal check ride            -     Complete
JAA MEP/CPL check ride                               -     Complete

As trainee pilots we all learn the task of reading from checklists very early on in our training. They're our best friend. They detail everything we should be doing to make sure that the systems there to operate a safe flight are configured correctly at each respective stage of flight.

Over the past eleven months or so we have been working through that checklist of requirements we need outlined by both the training college and the national authorities. As you can see from above there have been quite a few and as I sit here, 35,000ft above the Atlantic ocean I'm ecstatic to say the final hurdle on the American adventure has been completed.

It's been about ten days since I've updated this page and this has solely been due to the amount of flying and ground study I have had to do to get out of Melbourne in time for the start of the next part of training on Monday morning.

I completed the flying programme on Monday evening and on Tuesday lunchtime I took to the air with the Chief Flight Instructor for my mock check ride. The flight went really well and he was happy to put me forward for the IAA exam the following day.

Preparing for the final flight in US airspace as well as preparing for a much larger flight later that evening if everything went to plan was extremely time consuming! The time passed over to 2am before my head hit the pillow. I was getting up on two hours and forty-five minutes later for the biggest test of the training so far.

4:45am. The alarm sounds. The last time my head would touch a pillow for over thirty six hours. Flight bag ready, the journey to the Flightline was as it ever was at this time in the morning. Very quiet and solemn. The fifteen minutes passed pretty quickly as I went through the emergency procedures which should be learnt to memory one last time.

Arriving early enough to complete the paperwork before the flight 7:30am soon came around and it was time to meet up with the examiner for a pre-flight briefing. He ran through everything very quickly and summarized the briefing we had had a couple of days earlier. Both happy we headed out to the plane.

The flight consists of around 2.5 hours in the air covering everything from a navigation route, flying solely on the instruments, dealing with unusual attitudes, system failures, emergency situations (engine fire, engine failures) and work in the pattern. 

It all went swimmingly (apart from a scary moment where I thought I'd lost me my during the navigation diversion!) and on parking at the ramp I was congratulated by the examiner on passing the flight. 

Over the moon I headed back into the Flightline to immediately book my flight back to the UK. With all the excitement the serious lack of sleep and thumping fatigue seemed to sit at the back of my mind bothering much less than it had at sunrise.

I now had a deadline where the car would be picking me up to take me one last time to Orlando International airport. Work to be done. Checking out of the United States was easier than expected. As with everything there is a serious amount of paperwork, most of it pompous and unnecessary but no less it was all complete, signed and delivered to the relevant persons.

Now was the hardest part. Saying goodbye to everyone. 

In the past eleven months I have had the great honour of meeting some of the most interesting, some of the kindest and most certainly some of the most talented people I could possibly wish to come into contact with. From school leavers and university graduates to those who have worked in the depths of central London. From professional sportsmen to photographers. Whatever the career path was, it was quite clear to see that everyone out in Florida is there to achieve that one goal and dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot. 

I do wish everyone still out in the US the greatest of success in the future and hopefully I'll see a number of them either in Ireland next month or in the air during the future!

With the goodbyes dealt with both in person and via email I was quickly descending on Orlando International airport. 

With the amount of luggage I was taking home I was pretty embarrassed when I saw the weight of the luggage as it was totaled up by the Virgin check-in staff. The kind lady smiled at me, gave me my extra legroom ticket and said "enjoy your flight." I can get used to these extra perks!

Through security and duty free and it was time to wait for the flight home. It was the first time since I had passed the flight test taken earlier in the day I realised what was going on around me. The rush of preparing for home blurred everything else and it hit me. 

"I'm a multi-engine commercial pilot." 

Looking out at the Boeing 747 affectionately named "Pretty Woman" by the airline that was due to carry me seven hours to the east very shortly; the perfect setting. 

The time I have spent in America will forever be remembered.

Seeing the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean from 8,000ft for the first time; visiting Miami and it's world famous beach; flying in to some of the US's biggest airports in one of the smallest planes on the market; being part of a world leading programme on hypoxia training and undertaking upset recovery training are just some of the highlights of an amazing eleven months.

So...what now? Well having been at home for a couple of days and catching up with some friends and family I'm back at the airport again tomorrow to catch a short flight over the Irish sea to Waterford. The Instrument Rating (IR) course begins on Monday morning and will take around six to eight weeks to complete.

It's time to continue packing for the next stage of training, maybe a few less pairs of shorts this time...


  1. Congratulations! I was just in the UK last week - sorry about the weather for your return - but great practice for instruments!

  2. Exciting times...Great to hear all went well and you are back over this side of the pond!

    It's been a pleasure to follow your adventures since Aviatrix highlighted your blog all those months ago - I always follow but don't always comment..

    I trust you'll be in a local hostelry on Monday cheering on the Reds?!?

    All the best

    Dave from the UK