All entries for April 2007
April 17, 2007
So I’ve been back in New Zealand for about 5 days now, and the most significant news is that CP40 aren’t back in Clearways. Unfortunately, for some reason, the number of cadets here exceeds the number of rooms available and as things stand “there’s no room at the inn”, as it were. Not only that, but our backup accommodation Peachgrove is full as well, apparently of CP48 newbies (are we up to CP48 already?! Bloody hell) so CP40 are now residing in Knox Street in the centre of Hamilton – apparently a former army barracks used to be here but now it’s all relatively nice studio accommodation. It has its pros and cons when compared to Clearways but generally it’s pretty nice and we’re happy with it.
The cons first. Obviously it’s not brand new like Clearways was when I moved into there the first time, we’ve only just got the internet sorted and the wireless signal is a bit weak for some of the guys, we’re quite far from the airport compared to Clearways, we don’t have much of a lounge and, worst of all, the room between Craig and me is occupied by a very strange Kiwi girl. When I say strange, I mean in a bad way – last night I was woken up at 3:30am by her having a row with someone on the phone. Like Clearways, the walls in this place appear to have been fabricated from a few sheets of paper stuck together, and the inordinate use of four letter-words beginning with F and C were clearly audible. Not only that, but she has a tendency to walk round the place with headphones on singing (badly) at the top of her voice, and quite often that happens at inappropriate times of the day as well. It’s pretty bad, and not what you want when you’ve got a flight the next day and you need a good night’s sleep. I think a set of ear-plugs may be required if it carries on, and we’ll certainly be visiting the accommodation office. I can handle living next door to someone who’s a sandwich short of a picnic / gherkin short of a Big Mac / etc – after all, I lived next door to Hegarty for 7 months in Clearways (only joking, Heg!) – but getting woken up in the middle of the night by a constant stream of effing and blinding isn’t on.
On the plus side, of course, the proximity to the centre of Hamilton is quite a novelty compared to the rather isolated Clearways. Knox Street is within 2 minutes
staggering er, walking distance from The Bank, our ‘regular’ here. It’s nice to have a change of scenery; Clearways, although it’s nice and has good communal areas, sometimes feels like merely an extension of the training centre. Being in Knox Street at least lets you feel like you’ve gone home for the day once you’ve finished working. Being close to supermarkets and shops also means it’s not a half-hour round trip every time you fancy a pizza or need a bit of shopping, and I’m hoping it cuts down on fuel bills because, although we’re further away, there’s actually less running about between accommodation and training centre. When you consider that both our cars are Toyota Platzes – for which fuel consumption can be considered in gallons per mile rather than miles per gallon – this is a definitely a good thing. We have carpet here too, which is far nicer than the laminate flooring we had in Clearways. So all in all, it’s not bad; when you compare it to the dreaded Dey Street, where we lived for the first 3 weeks out here last August, it’s far better.
Flying-wise, all of our long-course chaps are back in the air again now; the short-course guys are just waiting for enough instructors to be available to get them going on the Twin Star, which shouldn’t be too long. I’d have been looking forward to coming back a lot more if I’d been starting on the Twin Star now and not still finishing on the Cessna, but it’s not too much bother as long as the weather stays reasonable and we can get finished quickly.
Quite looking forward to tomorrow; Shaun and I are off to Ardmore to pick up JSP which has been up there for maintenance. Hope the weather is good enough – the forecast is a bit crappy.
April 12, 2007
I’m sitting in the free internet area of the excellent Singapore Changi airport waiting for my connecting flight to Auckland at the moment. The flight from Manchester wasn’t too bad – long, of course, but on time and fairly smooth and comfortable. Singapore Airlines were absolutely excellent once again.
When I say comfortable, I mean that for cattle class, the legroom isn’t bad, the seats aren’t too narrow and I didn’t get off in any kind of pain from having my knees wedged against the back of a seat that reclines ridiculously far. What WASN’T comfortable, however, was the noise level eminating from the seats behind me. And this is where my suggestion to the airlines comes in.
When you’re sat at the gate waiting to board, you quite often hear a call announcing “would all passengers with small children please come forward for boarding first.” This is just daft, particularly when you consider that the people who pile on with their brattish kids (and there were a few today – it wasn’t like the Saga Holiday OAP flight I came back on a few weeks ago) are dotted about all over the cabin so when the attendants then try to board everyone else by seat row number, those with kids are still fannying about blocking the aisles up. We all know how restless little kids get – so when boarding them for a 13 hour flight, why do them first? Surely making them sit in their seats first and then waiting for 250 other people to pile on is going to make them restless. It’d be far better to let them run off their excess energy in the terminal and make them get on last. It’d also make the boarding process more efficient because everyone else wouldn’t have to stand about waiting to get past in the aisles while mummy and daddy empty what looks like a Mary Poppins bag full of toys on to their kid’s seat.
Even more to the point, however – WHY are they dotted about all over the cabin? All that means is that the entire place has to suffer from whinging and crying and screaming kids all night, rather than just one unfortunate part of the plane. Surely it’d be much better if the check-in people allocated all groups travelling with kids under 5 years old seats together right at the back. Then they can board first (if the airline so insists) and not get in anyone’s way, and also those of us sat at the front of economy class don’t have blood-curdling shrieks rattling our eardrums just when we’re drifting off to sleep. Nor will they be kicking our chairs or jumping up and down or generally doing everything you don’t want little kids doing on a long-haul journey.
Of course, it’s not really the kids’ fault. I always blame the parents. I would never have been allowed to scream and wail and run up and down aircraft aisles and generally disturb other people when I was 4 or 5 years old because my mum and dad were sensible enough not to let me do it. I could throttle those parents who think it’s acceptable for their little darlings to treat the aisles like a creche.
It gets worse, however. The bundle of joy sitting in the row behind me today must have been no more than 2 years old. I could tell that by the fact that its vocabulary was limited to “Waaaaaaah”. So it as rather a surprise when we pushed back from the gate and taxied over to 24L that the dad gave a running commentary – to the baby – on what was going on outside the window. Now I know I’ve been a bit of an aircraft anorak since an early age, but at 2 years old if my dad had pointed across at a big plane and said “Look, that big plane that says PIA on it, that’s a Boeing 777-200 the same as we’re on, except for that one’s the ER model” it wouldn’t really have made a lot of sense. Judging by the kid’s response – “waaaaaah” – it didn’t make much sense to it either. (Sorry for the repeated use of “it”, I have no idea of its gender and don’t really care.) Fascinated by aircraft as I’m sure the little darling will be one day, surely learning to walk and talk is more of a priority than learning all the different intricate designations of various passenger airliners.
An hour or so to go, then it’s time to settle down for another 10 hours next to two strangers. If those strangers happen to be carrying a 2 year old kid who keeps me awake all the way to Auckland, I think I’ll probably cry. Make them all sit together and leave the rest of us in peace.
April 03, 2007
So I’m now into my 5th week of 5 and a half back on English soil before making the delightful 27 hour trip back to New Zealand. I don’t know where the time has gone exactly, it’s flown by far too quickly. I had a lovely week at home doing not very much at all; in fact the only productive thing I managed to do all week was get my Class 1 medical renewed. Apart from that I used the time to fiddle round with my now-working-again desktop computer (yes, it was the motherboard at fault despite Aria insisting it wasn’t – not buying from there again), drinking proper ale (not that piss-poor bland excuse for lager they brew in NZ) and watching proper television. You don’t realise how much you miss Sky until you’ve had nearly 7 months of Kiwi television.
Week 2 involved a trip down to University to see Naomi and it was a cracking week. It was pure chance that the Regional Brass Band contest fell on one of the weekends I was home and not working, so there was no way I was missing it! It felt a bit weird being sat up in the audience instead of playing but it was great to listen to the performance from the audience’s perspective instead of being sat in the middle of the band. Very good it was too; I know Simon didn’t think it was great but from where I was sat the band played far better than the two before it and, in my opinion, should have come higher than Matlock who came 2nd overall. I thought we were a bit unlucky but still, 5th out of 16 isn’t bad at all. The evening that followed, of course, just turned into beery carnage. I also have a vague recollection of being sat on a park bench with Jim on the way to the curry having a deep and meaningful conversation but neither of us can remember what it was about. The other notable event from that week was Score on Wednesday; being the last Score of term, the Union had got a live act on stage and guess who they were… The Vengaboys! Ok, so they didn’t actually do anything other than dance to their usual tracks and talk to the audience a bit, they didn’t even sing! But the audience loved it. Early in the week I also discovered that you can pick up a wireless signal in the Grad, which meant pretty much all of my exam revision took place in there. I should point out that there were some non-beer-related events over the course of the week; notably Naomi and I going to Leamington Bar & Grill for a very nice meal and going for some lovely walks round parts of campus we never knew were there! Walking round Lakeside, I discovered there’s something very amusing about watching ducks and geese fighting. I don’t know what they were fighting about but it was just funny.
Sadly I had to leave the following Saturday morning because my two weeks off were over and it was time to get ready for a two week intensive revision cramming session at Bristol Ground School (BGS). It was quite a trek down there (and even more so for dad, who had to drive all the way back again after). The accommodation I’d been allocated was fantastic, however – I’ve never stayed in a B&B quite like Churchill Court! The building itself is fantastic – absolutely massive, more like a country mansion than your average B&B like I stayed at down in Christchurch during the application process. And not only was the building lovely, but I really must give a special mention to John and Jan, our hosts for the two weeks, who were just fantastic. At most B&Bs you get your bed for the night, you get your breakfast and then you clear off for the day; not here. John and Jan could not have been more hospitable; constantly asking if there was anything we needed, getting in anything for breakfast we wanted, letting us use their kitchen in the evening whenever we wanted, basically treating it almost as a home than a B&B! It really did make our lives a lot easier. They had a grand piano in the hall as well; I didn’t play it because I didn’t really feel like I had the time to break off from revision, but there were a few occasions when Jamie and Beechy gave us a song during revision breaks.
BGS itself was pretty intense. You’re expected to have done all the necessary work before arriving there, of course, and be familiar with most of it so the idea is it’s mainly revision rather than teaching. The class we were in for the two weeks was pretty good; there were a couple of annoying people in there, including a Spanish helicopter pilot who kept saying “yes” all the time every time he agreed with something an instructor happened to be saying and, when occasionally translating for his mate sitting next to him, did so at a normal voice level rather than whispering (a concept I believe the Spanish generally have no idea anyway.) He wasn’t the only one, there were a couple of others. Fortunately, most of the class were alright and seeing as our lot made up nearly half of it anyway it wasn’t like we had to get stuck talking to them. We were all assigned seats which we had to keep for the two weeks. I was dreading being put next to someone arrogant who thought they knew it all about flying, but as luck would have it I was put next to a nice girl called Rebecca (hi if you’re reading this!) and we got on really well.
The one thing that you don’t really realise until you get to BGS is the sheer amount of work you get given. It’s colossal. There’s no way you can properly finish everything they give you to do unless you’re some sort of superhuman who can go without sleep. Depending on the subject you can probably get done about 2/3 – 3/4 of everything they give you every day, but the stuff that doesn’t get done just mounts up and up. I did get most of it done in the end but it left me shattered. It does work though; some subjects like Mass & Balance and Flight Planning I didn’t, and don’t, have a problem with and I did pretty well at them but with ones like Instruments and the utterly dreaded Meterology, I went in feeling like I knew nothing and now I feel more confident. The staff at BGS are excellent; Tom, the ex-Jaguar and Cathay Pacific captain who taught us Flight Planning was particularly good, but all of them really knew their stuff and more importantly knew how to teach it well. Most of them had a good sense of humour as well; a special mention must go to Baz (ex-RAF Victor and VC10 navigator) who taught us Navigation and Met. I’ve never met someone so in love with the CRP-5 computer and – to put it politely – he’s not about to win any awards for political correctness. But I came away from th ere knowing a hell of a lot more about Nav and Met than when I arrived, so it obviously all worked! It’s really, really hard work and it’s depressing when all you do every night for two weeks is come back at 5pm, bung in a microwave meal, chat on the net for a bit and then work solidly from 6 until midnight, but you just have to deal with it and get on with it.
Anyway, after 2 weeks of that I went home for the weekend to get a bit of laundry done and pick up the car. I’m now in Shuttleworth College, near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, which is the CAA exam venue and we’ve got residence here for 4 nights while we do the exams. It’s a beautiful place outside and I’ll stick some pictures up when I have time. I’ll write another entry towards the end of the week on how the exams and stuff have gone and I’ll also attach some photos (I was going to do it tonight but this has taken longer than I thought and I’ve got an exam at 9am and really need to go to sleep!) So here’s hoping it goes well. Good luck to the guys on CP35 as well – nice seeing you today!