Saturday, 2 June 2012

Home for the weekend

It's been a couple of weeks since I've updated the blog. I've actually managed to get quite a bit in! I've been up for the first time into the air in Waterford, completed a number of simulator sessions and returned to the UK for a great weekend enjoying the early summer.

The simulator is progressing slowly, a little slower than planned or wanted but all the same it's moving. I've now completed thirteen simulator sessions with another seven to go. In the past fourteen days or so we have progressed from the basics to working with single engine and more in depth and demanding approaches. It's also great to see the instructors adding in certain tricks. Last night being a prime example.

An ILS approach is something that is the norm for most major and smaller airports across the glove. It stands for 'Instrument Landing System' and is designed for the final approach to landing by giving a vertical and horizontal approach path. The system is quite basic in design but in today's larger more advanced aircraft it can be used to put the plane on the ground in zero visibility and bring it almost to a stop on the runway, all with the use of computers.

Unfortunately for us our aircraft aren't capable of doing that and neither will our licenses be when we leave here from PTC. We are however trained to fly, solely by the use of the instruments, to follow the ILS down to 200ft above the aerodrome. Having yet to experience it in a real situation, the simulator can create something like what we can expect in the air. It is quite an amazing sight and satisfying feeling to pop out of the clouds only 200ft above the surface with lights glaring at you from the terrain.

Anyway, I digress. We were situated at Blackpool airport in the 'sim', a local airport in the UK where in the real world a small number of airlines use. We departed and headed towards the larger and more well known Manchester airport just 40 miles away. On approach we were giving our approach procedure. We were told to fly over the airfield and track a radial (track over the ground - I'll explain in a future post) to a certain distance from the airport. We would then make a series of turns to in effect make a 180 degree change of direction to follow the approach path to Manchester Airport runway 23R.

To follow the ILS we need to insert a frequency into the aircraft computers which in turn create the vertical and horizontal profiles on our dials in front of us. Frequencies obtained and entered in to the system we began the final approach. 

To confirm that we indeed have the correct signal we are required to 'ident.' This will give us a Morse Code to confirm we are receiving the correct signal from the correct station. They're usually identifiable by three letters. Manchester, being quite a large airport, has more than one ILS station (in fact it has three!) so there is the chance (well, in the simulator there is...) of there being an incorrect signal being received from a different runway which uses that same frequency.

It's all very complicated I know but the general gist of the story is that we had not correctly identified the signal and therefore were following a signal desired for the other end of the runway. Our confusion intensified as we continued on our intercepting heading for a far greater time than would be required. 

If this were to happen in real life and we did indeed overshoot and end up somewhere we really weren't supposed to be, especially in such busy airspace as the north west of England (I dread to even think about the south east near London!) then it could all get just a little bit messy...

Obviously the likelihood of this happening in real life is slim to none with the safety factors put in to such equipment and the procedures in place to make sure that only the correct signals are being sent on the correct frequencies. However, having experienced it in a simulator, it's certainly not something I plan to experience in real life any time soon!

Alongside the simulator I have also managed to jump in the back of one flight around the local area here in Waterford. The weather after arriving hadn't been spectacular but this particular afternoon the weatherman was on our side and I headed up in to the Irish sky for the first time. 

It was such a change from what we have experienced over in the US. First and foremost the radio telephony is far more strict and advanced here in Europe and the there was no doubt from the tower of what he wanted us to do that afternoon. It's very impressive to hear the crisp, professional and efficient radio calls being used. It's something I think I am going to like.

Anyway, we headed out to the south Irish sea and performed a number of approaches in to Waterford. It's great to actually see them being performed in the aircraft as opposed to just in the simulator - it's also seems much easier as well! The flight was quite short at just over ninety minutes and soon enough we were back down on the ground.

The whole operation with regards to the flying stage over here is a complete contrast from that in Melbourne, Florida. 

With over forty aircraft, state of the art ground facilities and hundreds of students, the FIT facilities at Melbourne International; as I have referred to before, are some of the best you can experience anywhere in the world. The size of the operation makes everything much more affordable and accommodating.

Here in Waterford, where the operation is on a much smaller scale the facilities are there to mirror that. For example, in the States the majority of aircraft parking spots were 'drive through' style where one could park and then the following student simply taxi the aircraft forward and back onto an active taxiway. This worked very well and meant there was no need to push the aircraft. 

Here the process is a little different. The aircraft is parked near the hangars and pointed in the direction easiest for the re-fueler. It is then the duty of the instructor and student to push the aircraft back in to a suitable position for start up and taxi.

All in all the flying when airbourne is very similar. I'm not saying the facilities here are any worse than those in Florida, just that they shouldn't be compared for obvious reasons.

In the simulator last week, both myself and my simulator partner were unfortunate enough to have three sessions cancelled between us due to the simulator having technical faults - we still say that it wasn't our faults! This was something that was quite frustrating but obviously there is nothing we could do! 

Fortunately, after the final cancellation I was able to jump on a plane from Dublin back to the UK for the weekend. It was great to get home and enjoy the fantastic weather that we seemed to be missing down here in the south east of the Republic. 

Having enjoyed the great weather at home hopped back over the Irish Sea early Monday morning to head straight back in to the simulator in the afternoon. Upon our arrival back here we were told the weather hadn't much improved and they had only had one day of sunshine - this made the trip home sound even more rewarding!

The arrival of the remainder of our class two weeks ago from the US has added a little bit more life in to the place with the downside now being that there are a lot more students to use the facilities here. We have received our schedules for the up coming two weeks and thankfully we should be getting a significant number of 'events' but there is still a lot of downtime to play with. 

With a completion date now set to be at the start of July here in Waterford we'll head up to Dublin for a week to complete our MCC/JOC in the larger, more sophisticated simulators. This will realistically leave us with about two weeks before starting the the Type Rating in England.

This will be a very short space of time to sort out housing and transport etc (I love car shopping!) but we are some of the very fortunate so it's something we're just going to have to put up with...


  1. Glad that all is going so well and thank you for the update. -C.

  2. Weather seems pretty fine around there.
    What Type Rating are you starting then? Is this under a sponsorship with an airline?
    Good luck with the final stages of your training.

  3. Down here in WAT it's not been great apparently! Was loving it in the north of England last week though! Where are you based at?

    Starting the Q400 TR at the end of July. You can probably guess the airline! Yes it's a 'part-sponsored' scheme as they like to call it.

    Thanks - loving the videos from the flight deck! Bet it's a cool piece of kit to fly?!