Exams and Bournemouth
Yes I know it’s been a while… a combination of factors (tons of exam revision, spending time with Naomi and not having internet at my house in Bournemouth being the main ones) have resulted in a lack of blogging activity over the past month and a bit, but I’ve managed to get on for a short while so here’s an update about how things are going at the moment. It appears that the last time I wrote anything, disregarding my quick rant about hippies camping out at Heathrow, was just before I left New Zealand! Doesn’t time fly… hopefully people haven’t got bored and are still checking this blog in the vague hope that an update might one day appear!
I managed to get out of New Zealand two days early, or 12 days late depending on which way you look at things. Being 12 days past my original departure date meant I was home just a day too late to make it to London for Naomi’s birthday trip to see The Lion King, which was extremely annoying. Still, stepping on the 747 in Auckland was a moment to savour as I had expected it to be – by the time I left I couldn’t wait to get out of NZ and back to family and friends. Not that NZ isn’t a beautiful country, but the best part of a year out there is enough for me, particularly in Hamilton (which, I’ve discovered, doesn’t even appear on a load of tourist maps, it’s simply missed out. Draw your own conclusions.) The flight to Singapore passed pretty quickly as for once I wasn’t sitting next to someone fat, old and annoying (and I don’t mean that in a fattist way, I just think that people who have an arse the size of two seats should be made to buy two seats) but instead I got put next to a nice girl who was also flying to Manchester. Chatting to her and getting a bit of banter going made the 9 and a half hours to Singapore go much quicker than previously. At Singapore I met up with Shaun, who’d been to see relatives in Brisbane and happened to be connecting on to the same flight as me to Manchester.
I managed to see a fair bit of Naomi over the next few weeks, which was really nice – she came up to mine for a week and we had some nice days out at Lyme Park (apparently famous because of a bloke called Mr Darcy in some trashy period drama novel by Jane somebody) and York. The following two weeks were spent down in Bristol for the exam revision course, with Bristol Ground School being their usual excellent selves in getting us ready for the dreaded ATPLs round 2, then I had a couple of weeks off in which to cram the question bank. At the time I thought they all went OK apart from Principles of Flight, which I felt like I’d struggled a bit with – disappointing really as I’d spent the longest revising that out of any of the subjects we were doing. Still, it went reasonably quickly and then I had one week left in which to enjoy dossing about before moving to Bournemouth for the last stage of basic training.
So far I’m at the beginning of the third week here. After the induction and a few briefs, we have 11 or 12 simulator flights before going back into the aircraft. The two biggest changes for me are in RT (radio telephony) and the airspace. Things are done a little bit differently in NZ – most of it is the same or similar, but there are lots of subtle differences that must be learned, and we also each need to have a separate radio licence over here for which I have an exam sometime towards the end of this month. Not only are a few of the radio calls different, but the airspace over here is so much more crowded – and there is a lot more of it. A VFR map of New Zealand looks like a blank piece of paper when you compare it to one of the UK. This and the increased volume of traffic means that the radio gets very busy – we’ve been warned that it’s possible to fly for miles trying to get a call in on the radio and being totally unable to get a word in edgeways, so that’ll be something a bit new. The busiest I’ve had to cope with is a couple of trips up to Ardmore in NZ where the circuit is always pretty busy, but that was only locally to the airfield – in the UK, it’s busy everywhere.
I’ve done 7 sim flights so far and they’re not going too badly. It took me a few flights to get back into it again, having all that time off and taking your mind off things to give 100% attention to exams doesn’t half make you feel rusty when you come back again. I was really ready for a weekend after the second and third ones and, to put it in diplomatic terms, the somewhat stern debriefs (OK, bollockings) that came with them but since then the rest of them have been alright, I’ve been reasonably happy. I won’t bore anyone with the minute details of what actually is going on, but suffice to say at the moment we’re practising instrument flying from A to B with increasing amounts of rubbish weather and malfunctions thrown in. After that, we’ll basically be practising for the widely-feared Instrument Rating test, flying IRT profiles until we’re 100% ready to take the test.
Oh, I also found out the other week that I passed all my ATPL exams – managed to pull my average up to just below 92%. Principles of Flight was my lowest score (80%) as expected, but I always said I’d be happy with all first time passes and a 90%+ average. I’m just very glad that I don’t have to go back to Gatwick to do any again.