I'm now delighted to report that I have finally received the exam results and passed them all. Apart from one slight wobble — Aircraft Performance — got some excellent marks. Without wanting to sound like a an Oscar acceptance speech, I would particularly like to thank my wife for her help and support. Her... inventive... memory techniques (ICAO became "I-Cacky-Boo-Boos" and EASA evolved into "Eee-Arse-A-Bum-Bums") she helped me achieve full marks in the dreaded Air Law exam.
|The trusty PA28 Piper Warrior will be the basis for |
all our single-engine training - but not in this livery!
We have also crossed the bureaucratic minefield now required to undertake flight training in the USA; something they are understandably very twitchy about these days. With our visas, tickets, TSA permits, SEVIS forms, FAA medicals and other acronym-heavy paperwork firmly in hand, we are all set to jet off to start what should be the most enjoyable phase of our training — five months flying small single and twin engine planes in Arizona with the goal of a commercial pilot's licence.
An ideal birthday present for a pilotWhat would a trainee pilot want for his birthday? More flight training of course! My wonderful family clubbed together to buy me a holiday course gliding at the Long Mynd, a rather special location on the Welsh Borders.
Rather than bore you with endless technical information about gliding (don't tempt me!) I will try to let the pictures tell the story. Throughout this blog, you can click on any picture to see a full sized version.
|The sun setting as the weather clears over the Mynd on day two|
|The airfield from above|
|The superb Discus, my favourite, a high performance glider that is a joy to fly|
|Sharing a thermal with Alan, a fellow course member, in a K23|
On a signal the cable is wound in, accelerating the glider forwards rapidly. Once it has enough speed, the pilot will allow it to pitch up and generate lift, flying steeply up somewhat like a kite. Typically you can achieve heights of 1000-1300' this way though 2000' is not uncommon. After the launch, a smaller retrieve winch pulls the cable back to the launch queue.
|A Twin Astir two-seater training aircraft about to launch.|
|The club's K13 two-seater being winch launched|
Finding these thermals, and staying centred in them is a real challenge of piloting skill. It is necessary to fly slowly with a lot of bank to keep the circle small, and to control your speed very accurately to hold position and to coordinate with any other gliders sharing the thermal with you. The air is often turbulent, causing your airspeed and climb rate to constantly change. The thermal tends you throw you out, can be small and is generally surrounded by sinking air. And it is of course invisible — though if you are lucky Buzzards or Kites will show you the way, or a cumulus cloud above hints at its position.
|View from the cockpit while thermalling|
|The launch queue stops for a civilised lunch|
|The gliding day draws to a close|
|Hanger packing at The Mynd is a work of art|
Airbus G-EUOEI am a cadet in the early stages of flight training, with little knowledge, no real experience and absolutely no authority. However this does not stop people asking me about accidents and incidents, like the Airbus A319 that ran into trouble at Heathrow last week.
My usual answer is simply that I don't know and don't wish to speculate. Fortunately in this case I don't need to. The Air Accident Investigation Branch have already released a preliminary report. It's short and readable, so go ahead — get the facts not the nonsense that appears in the newspapers.