Friday, May 04, 2007

The Oxfordshire countryside from 5000 ft

If somebody could tell me what it looks like I'd be very grateful !! As soon as I take off screens are placed around the aircraft so that I cannot see outside; I have to fly the plane with sole reference to instruments. (Note: The screens are designed so that the instructor can see outside).

Apologies to regular readers of the blog for the lack of updates. Now that I am back in the country most of the people who read this will get regular updates at the pub therefore the need to post updates has lessened. I will continue to add updates but far less frequently.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Drapes gets his wings

It's official. I, along the rest with of my class (AP259) were officially presented with our commercial pilots "wings" on Friday 9th February by Anthony Petterford, CEO, Oxford Aviation Training. Just the small matter of the Instrument Rating now (Flying a plane without looking out of the window)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

First Officer Fundamentals

Well I've been back in the UK over a week now and haven't been near an airplane which feels slightly weird. I'm on a course called "First Officer Fundamentals" which is as much about what the duties of a first officer are as it is about securing a job with an airline. Anybody that's experienced management training courses will be familiar with many of the things we've done (teamworking, Resource management, lots of presentations). It's a bit of a throwback to my old life and whilst it's been fun, I can't wait to get flying again.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Drapes In Oxford

Although Drapes is no longer in Phoenix " Drapes in Phoenix" will continue to be updated with my progress back in Oxford. I've been very pleasantly suprised by the interest in my blog and especially the number of friends who have asked me to continue with it. I thoroughly enjoy writing and maintaining it and for simplicity will retain the same url.

So keep watching for stories of my aviation exploits here in Oxford. For those of you living close to the Kidlington airport flightpath, don't worry; There will be an instructor with me at all times.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Drapes is a commercial pilot !!!

Objective achieved !!! Yesterday I passed my Commercial Pilots License test at the first time of asking. I still find it amazing that when I arrived here I had exactly one hour of flying time to my name. The test itself was a two and a half hour flight plus associated flight planning. My last lesson (a 2 hour flight) finished at about 1-00 pm and I was given the glorious news that due to bad weather forecast for the following day, I was to do my test one hour later. I was absolutely knackerred from my lesson, however, on the positive there simply wasn't time to get stressed so I got on with it. One hour of planning a navigation, getting Notams (Notices to airmen), TAF's/METARS (weather), mass & balance and performance calculations and there I was sitting in the cockpit starting the engines. The first part is a navigation exercise. You have to get to a pre-determined position at least 40 miles away (within + or - 3 minutes). Along the route I was asked to divert to another airport, in my case 57 miles away. This involves flying the aircraft whilst simultaneously plotting lines and taking bearings on your map. It went well and I got there bang on my ETA. Next followed a series on instrument manoeuvures under a hood (so I couldn't see out of the windows). This included descending and ascending turns, compass turns, flying the aircraft on limited panel (simulating instrument failure) and recovery from unusual attitudes. I then had to demonstrate stall recovery,steep turns and an engine failure drill in which I had to shut down an engine and retstart it in flight. The final stage of the CPL test was the hardest yet my best work of the day. I had to demonstrate various "normal" landings (with and without flaps) followed by an EFATO drill (Engine failure after take off). The EFATO drill is tough as the examiner throtttles back an engine at about 400 feet off the ground (simulating an engine failure). You have to regain control of the aircraft (it will yaw heavily, then bank and finally spiral into the ground if not compensated for) and then fly back around and land on one engine. I know I said that was the final stage (I thought it was) but it turned out it wasn't. When I got back to Goodyear airport, immediately on landing I was asked to take off again. As I was speeding up and close to lift off speed I was asked to abort the take off. I'd never done this in practice so I was relieved that I brought the aircraft to a stop without skidding and retaining centre line.

My time here is now complete and I'll be on the next BA flight to Heathrow. Generally I've been impressed with the people and OAT's whole operation out here but special mention goes to two instructors in particular. Brad Bartelson (pictured with me above) got me through my last two flight tests with some thorough and fun instruction. Jason Hart gets a mention for really turning my flying around at a time when I was finding it extremely tough. Thank you Jason and Brad.

So one more obstacle cleared and on to the Instrument Rating back in Oxford. Lots to work on to get to that standard but so far so good.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ode to the Warrior

Having had my pilots logbook and records scrutinized by OAT, they were quite insistent that I was down on the required PIC (pilot in command) time so I was duly despatched today for my last solo flight (also my last on a single engined aircraft at least during training). Having flown the two-engined Seneca the Warrior suddenly seemed mind bogglingly simple in comparison; I guess that's progress. Whilst some of the flight was used to practice navigation in preparation for my upcoming CPL, most of it was just noodling about in the air for fun and trying a few tricks that I'll tell people about at the pub but had best not put in writing !!

Back to serious flying tomorrow assuming they get any of the Seneca's back from maintenance. I was supposed to fly the Seneca today but one of the engines broke. As the lesson was on assymetric flight I only actually needed one engine but they preferred that both engines work when you take off; Hence, my last Warrior flight

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Twin Trouble

They say that the purpose of a second engine on an airplane is to take you to the crash site if the first one fails. Having passed my instrument flying progress test I'm now onto the twin engine phase of the training with one of the major objectives of this being to learn to fly the aircraft with one engine out and thus ensure that my opening statement doesn't come to fruition.

My first flight on the Seneca (pictured) is later this week. It cruises at about 140 knots (compared with around 95Knots for the warrior) and has quite a few more buttons to press/levers to pull/dials to watch/things to break so I now have my head stuck in checklists and a pilot operating handbook to prepare me for the higher workload and greater speed of the Seneca.

Instrument Flying

In the early stages of flight training you are taught to fly the plane "visually" with only occassional glances at the instruments. Having spent quite a bit of time on flight simulator learning how to use the instruments I initially found this a hard habit to crack but 80 flights later I've got it just about sussed. Now they've told me that I can only use the instruments and they make me wear a hood to stop me looking out of the window (see above). Yeap, I'm on to instrument flying and after a stressful start due to a very steep learning curve I'm now quite enjoying it.

As well as instrument flying in the aircraft we spend a lot of time on simulators. The FNPT2 (pictured) is a fairly high-tech piece of equipment with a 120 degree wrap around screen. The students flys these with an instuructor sat behind monitoring
progess via computer.

Finally, there are a couple of stand-alone simulators (FNPT1's) which students can use at any time. This is where I have spent a good portion of the last week learning to fly holding patterns and runway approaches.