Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It didn't happen

I had a flying lesson booked today. The plan was to do circuits and it would be my last lesson before I set off to NAC in Florida. Despite apparently good weather with sunshine and light winds, the visibility was poor and somebody who had just been doing circuits confirmed that it was not worth going up. Even though the temperature was just a couple of degrees above freezing, the poor visibilty was not really apparent until I got to the airfield. However, I got my log book signed up and a copy of my training records so far.
Here is GBZEA that most of my hours have been flown in.

My interest in flying started long ago and my first flight was as a passenger on a short trip to Alderney. Here is the aircraft.

It is a de Havilland Heron.
Before it could land, the cattle had to be moved off the landing strip. It is probably still the same at Alderney today, except that they use Trislanders.


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Sunday, January 22, 2006

I'm only doing this for fun

Some are learning to fly as their intended career and will devote much time, effort and money with the goal of becoming an airline pilot as their day job. I wish all these students the very best in their endeavours and hope that they achieve their ambition.

In my case having reached the age of 60, I want to get a PPL as fast as possible so that I can have as much fun flying as possible before passing medicals becomes an obstacle.
Maybe an instrument rating could follow the PPL(A) but that is as far as my ambition stretches.

Here is a picture of me in a C152 taking off from Shoreham

OK, to be truthful it is me taking off at Shoreham in a Flight Simulator C152

In reality I have reached the stage of flying the circuit pattern and would hope to go solo soon.

Here is an aircraft that I would not want to fly but some brave individual obviously does.

It looks rather like a flying baking sheet.
Can anyone think of a better description ?


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Air Law

The CAA written exams.

One of the first subjects to study is Air Law. This is 180 pages of rules and regs. plus procedures. It also contains all the useful details on the various methods of signalling at airfields. Understanding the rules of the air is important.

Knowing who has right of way in all situations helps avoid unforseen incidents.

I found this one of the hardest subjects to learn just through the sheer volume of things that need to be remembered.

This coming Tuesday, I have got a flying lesson booked at Blackbushe where I expect to be revising circuits (as long as the weather allows). This will be my last lesson in the UK before heading off to Florida on the 6th February.
Keeping up circuit practice has been a problem over the last couple of months having only got into the circuit twice since the start of December.


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Saturday, January 21, 2006

The CAA written exams

I am off to Florida to learn to fly during February.

Whilst it is possible to spend the time flying during the day and studying for exams in the evening, I decided to make it easier by getting the study done in the UK.
There are 7 written exams. These are multi-choice papers that can be taken at most flying schools. Each question has four answers and you need to answer at least 75% of them correctly. The number of questions and time allowed depends on the subject. For example in 'Navigation' you need to answer 25 questions and are allowed an hour and a half. This time is required because you will be plotting routes on a chart and using your flight computer. In 'Radiotelephony' there are 30 questions to be completed in 40 minutes.

The 7 topics are 'Air law', 'Meteorology' 'Navigation', Aircraft general', Flight planning and performance', Human performance' and 'Radiotelephony'. These topics can be studied at home using a series of text books. I used the set produced by Jeremy Pratt of AFE. There is also avery good book called "The PPL Confuser" which has a lot of practice questions (and answers) that can be used to test yourself to indicate if your knowledge is to the required standard.

In this post I shall just cover Meteorology. It is important to be able to know where to get weather information and forecasts, as well as how to interpret the information. There are 170 pages in the text book on this topic and it does need to be learnt. The effect of changing air pressure upon the indicated altitude is particularly important if you want to avoid flying into the ground.

Ignoring weather information can cause problems

PPL pilots can only fly in conditions where they can always see the ground and understanding weather forecasts should prevent you from not arriving at your intended destination due to low cloud and having to have to turn back.

I passed the exams over a 6 month period and it was good to be able to study when the weather was too bad for flying.

More about the other topics next time.


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Friday, January 20, 2006

Why fly ?

I am going to Florida in February to learn to fly.

Why do people want to do this ?

Man has been firmly stuck on earth for a few thousand years and only in the last 100 years have we been able to release the shackles imposed by gravity. We are therefore fortunate to be among the small percentage of people that have populated the earth to be able to break free and take to the skies. Being the pilot of a small plane provides this opportunity to take off from the ground, see the landscape from a birds eye perspective and travel in a direct route between two locations. Our ancestors were always trying to find ways of imitating birds. I was always interested in flight and made visits to Heathrow airport as a teenager to watch the aircraft come and go, as well as listen in on VHF radio to the dialogue between air traffic controllers and pilots. In later years I was able on frequent occassions to join the airline pilots in the cockpit and watch the business of flying a passenger jet. These days since the advent of terrorist attacks on aircrew, the cockpit is a no go zone.
So for less than the price of a small family car, anyone can learn to fly and experience being in control of an aircraft in flight, look out of the window and achieve what previous generations could not.

Having been earthbound for so long the human body is perfectly adapted to the ground level environment. Our bodies are not quite so good at dealing with some of the aspects of flight such as altitude, flying in cloud, g force, etc. Part of the training to become a qualified private pilot is to understand what these limitations are and how to deal with them.

My first solo flight is less than a month away, I can't wait.

In my next post I will provide a brief rundown of the home study subjects required.

Happy flying


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Thursday, January 19, 2006

So why choose Naples Air Center (NAC)

I booked this trip some time ago and when viewing a forum on the website www.pprune.org I sometimes wonder if I have made the right choice. However there are a sufficient number of good reports of NAC to make me feel happy with what lies ahead.

Here are some pluses and minuses so far :-


Naples in Florida is a good holiday resort. What better place to learn to fly in blue skies and warm temperatures.

NAC provide JAA PPL (they also do FAA for those staying in the USA) courses so that the qualification is useable in the UK with no conversions necessary other than the different phraseology used in radio procedures.

NAC can provide student accommodation.

NAC organise a lot of the visa paperwork and send you a student handbook.

NAC have a reasonable number of aircraft (mainly C152 for the PPL) and a large number of courses.

NAC operate a pay as you go policy.


Despite having booked months ago, NAC are now saying I need to spend some time in a hotel and that they will try to sort out the student accommodation when I am there. This sounds very unsatisfactory and three emails on the subject have been ignored. They are obviously just planning on hoping to sort it out at the time.

Prices have risen since I booked.

I suppose I should be happy with the overall situation, but it is annoying when emails are deliberately ignored. I hope 'deaf ears' is not something they suffer from in connection with flying matters.

Till the next time.


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Monday, January 16, 2006

Why go to Florida to learn to fly


1) Excellent weather for flying most of the year.
2) Learn and get qualified quickly. (4 weeks for a PPL(A))
3) Aircraft hire (including an instructor) is $125 per hour for a Cessna 152. UK price £133 per hour.
4) Plenty of flying schools.
5) Learn to fly in a holiday destination.


1) Need to get US visa involving lots of form filling, lots of fees, and an interview at the US Embassy in London (allow a whole day for an interview that lasted 1 minute). Allow a couple of months for this process.

2) Allow for cost of flights and accomodation.

3) Need to be able to take a month off work.

4) Be aware that this is not a holiday and involves hard work especially if you are studying for the written exams as well.

5) It can be very hot and humid in the high summer months which is why I am going in February.

In my next post I will cover the good and bad (so far) about the Naples Air Center.


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Sunday, January 15, 2006

hi all
just trying a post from my pda

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JAA PPL training at NAC Florida


My name is Phil Whitten and I live in Surrey, England.

I want to learn to fly small aircraft. I started in June 2005 by going to a local flying school at Blackbushe where I commenced my lessons in a Cessna 152. After a couple of months I realised that with my weekly lessons being regularly cancelled due to bad weather that it could take 18 months or more to get a basic PPL license. As I am 60 years of age I felt the need to get on with this process so that I could get some flying in before the medicals become difficult. Flying is something I have wanted to do since I was a teenager.

I decided to solve the problem by going on an intensive flying course in Florida. Here they have schools that specialise in these intensive courses as they have the benefit of excellent flying weather for most of the year. It is possible to go to one of these schools as a complete novice and in 3 to 4 weeks complete the training and come back to the UK with a PPL that is recognised throughout most of the world. However this can be extremely hard work because there are seven written examinations that must be taken and passed as part of the training. I decided to do three things :-
1) Continue with some lessons here in order to confirm that flying small private aircraft was for me.
2) Carry out home study and complete all the written exams.
3) Book up to go on an intensive course but where I could enjoy the flying more having already completed the written examinations.

In three weeks time I am setting off for the Naples Air Center in Florida to carry out my PPL training. I am hoping to be able to keep this blog running whilst I am there. I will be taking my laptop and a PDA so as long as I can get web access and have some energy left after each day of flying I should be able to keep posting. My plan is to include photos where possible.

In later postings but before I leave for Florida I will provide more background in terms of the events that have happened so far eg. getting a suitable US visa, doing the exams, choosing a school in Florida, etc.

I know that there are many wannabe pilots like myself of all age groups and I hope this blog will prove to be of interest to them.

Bye for now Phil

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