I finally have my licence

I have not actually made a post for a while, because there hasn’t been anything to post about. However, after the best part of 2 and a half months, I finally have my licence!
PPL Licence
I applied at the start of November for my licence but the CAA have been taken absolutely ages to send them. Towards the end of December after 39 working days, they decided to actually take a look at my application.
They said the application was correct but they could not send it as my medical was now suspended (just days before due to surgery).
3 weeks after the surgery I managed to get a report from the surgeon, send it to my AME and get my medical back. I called the CAA and asked for my licence to be sent to me and after a little back and forth they agreed to send it out immediately.
I waited for it over the next few days and nothing turned up, so I decided to call them again. I was told that they were not sure why it has not been sent, but to call back tomorrow. I did so and after a bit of back and forth, it was finally dispatched.
I just need to complete my MCC/JOC which is booked for the 5th of February. I am hoping for a cancelation on the earlier course but I don’t think that is looking likely at the moment, unfortunately.
Not much longer to go and I should be able to put some applications in at long last!

The CAA say my licence is ready, they just can’t send it to me

I had a call from the UK CAA yesterday and the CAA say my licence is ready, they just can’t send it to me.
PPL Licence
I never seem to have a smooth experience when dealing with the UK CAA. I applied for my CPL ME IR on the 5th of November.
Yesterday on the 20th December they decided to take a first look at my application, an application that should have taken 10 working days but the CAA took 38 working days!
They went through my paperwork and it was all correct (which is a task in itself), my licence can be issued. Well, it could be issued if my class 1 medical wasn’t currently suspended due to surgery.
Despite the fact the CAA took forever to look at my application, I now have to wait till my class 1 is valid again to just get the paper version sent to me. To get the medical back I need a surgeons report which I am not going to be able to get till at least January at the earliest.
I guess the one “good” thing was they said as soon as my medical is back live they will send it straight out.
What a complete and utter nightmare this is all becoming. I mean I understand I wouldn’t be able to exercise it, but if they didn’t take 38 working days it would have been here ages ago!
I guess as I can’t do the MCC / JOC until early February it isn’t the end of the world, just a bit frustrating.

Suspending the class 1 medical

So, I have recently had experience with suspending the class 1 medical.

As well as going through the ATPL theory hell over the last 2 years, I have also been going through orthodontic work that cumulated in jaw surgery this past Wednesday.  This is about as much fun as it sounds and obviously, during this time you cannot fly (and the fact I am in a world of pain).
It was actually really straightforward, I had talked to my AME at my class 1 renewal and all I had to do was send him an email the day before my surgery and he suspended me on the system.
To reinstate the class 1 he will just require a surgeon’s report. I spoke to the surgeon and he said that this should not be an issue.
Could something involving the UK CAA really be this simple? Time will tell.
Some that is not simple however is getting the UK CAA to issue your CPL ME IR. 6 weeks and counting, no license.  I am also certain they shut down over Christmas till the new year too which will only add further delays.
When you call them you get the latest date that seems to be made on nothing more than a random guess. Joy.

Quick update

So since I finished my training I thought I would give a quick update. To be honest, there is not really a whole lot to say.
welshpool

The UK CAA is being the UK CAA. I have applied for my licence on the 5th November and they have not even looked at it. I called them to find out what is going on and they stated they would not look at it until the 10th December at the earliest due to a backlog.
When you consider we are paying £260 for this, it really is unacceptable.
Many guys at the school are also in the same position and due to this, nobody is actually even able to apply for any jobs. When you think a lot of us left employment to do this, you can imagine the problems this is causing.
I guess the situation isn’t as bad for me as I can not do my MCC until late Jan at the earliest, but for the other guys, it is a nightmare.
I am desperate to go flying as I haven’t actually managed to fly since my skills test. The weather at the moment is terrible so it doesn’t look like I am going to get up anytime soon which is a bit frustrating but what can you do.
That is it really, not much more to say. Hopefully, the CAA can sort themselves out and start processing the licences quicker. If memory serves me correctly, they also shut down from before Xmas till into the new year. So if it is not sent by mid-December then it will not be seen until January.

Three years of flying

This month marks 3 years since I started flying, so following on from the first two posts, I thought I would recap what I have managed to achieve.
Brighton en route to Lydd

  1. I finished my ATPL exams – These exams were one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. What made it worse is that they were being done around a full-time job. It took me 2 years to finish but I am so happy I managed to pass them all.
  2. CPL ME IR course – I am currently on the IR part of my CPL ME IR course, a course which I hope to complete very soon.
    The learning curve has been quite steep but I am enjoying the challenge of it. It finally feels like I am becoming a “real” pilot.
  3. Visited more airfields – I have stretched my wings and visited many more airfields this year. I am a much more confident pilot these days, but I guess that is natural with more experience.

All in all, I have made good progress during this year and I hope that bigger and better things lie ahead in year 4. I am looking forward to doing an MCC / JOC course and to finally be able to apply for flying jobs.

The passenger who landed a plane

While this isn’t new, it is one of the most incredible stories that I have ever seen. I must have watched it about 4 times over the years but every time I am still in shock.
The story is about a The passenger who landed a plane.
The passenger (John Wildey) is on a flight back from Skegness with his friend (a pilot) when sadly the pilot becomes unwell and unfortunately passes away.
This is where the story gets really remarkable. John has no flying experience, none whatsoever and is also sitting in the P2 seat.
ATC manage to get hold of a flying instructor and search and rescue to assist John, but of course he is the only person in the aircraft (Cessna 172).
John manages to fly the plane to an international airport, make an approach to the airport and then execute a go around.
Now it is night time (keep in mind a night rating is 5 hours) and on top of this John doesn’t have any backlight on the plane as he doesn’t know where the switch is.
John is now facing landing a Cessna 172, at night, from the right hand seat, cannot see his instruments and with no flight training whatsoever. Oh yeah, and his friend is dead in the seat next to him!
Next he makes an approach on the lit runway at Humberside but has to do two more go arounds before finally coming in again for his final attempt.
He manages to come in (I guess technically a flapless approach), bounced a bit then comes of the runway. He landed with all this going on, absolutely incredible!
It’s just an amazing job by John, the RAF search and rescue, ATC, the flying instructor and the fire and medics on the ground.
The video is here and well worth a watch.

What an absolute legend John is and he even has got back into light aircraft again.

Two years of flying

Another year has passed and this month marks two years of flying, so I thought it would be cool to recap what I have managed to achieve.
Shoreham to Cranfield

  1. Night Rating – I managed to achieve my night rating last winter. This allows me to fly at night (funnily enough) and means if you get caught coming back from somewhere and are late you can still fly.
  2. ATPL Exams – I have managed to pass 9 out of the 14 ATPL exams so far. It is a real struggle doing these around work but I am finally at the point where there just might be some light at the end of the tunnel.
    I really cannot wait until these exams are over and I can get my free time back.
  3. Flying from a new airfield – I started flying from Blackbushe and have been flying from there for the last year. It was nice to be based somewhere new and I am on the verge of moving somewhere new again.
  4. Booked my CPL ME IR – My prefered place to do my CPL ME IR course was Bartolini Air in Poland due to the good reputation and the cost. I should be heading there next summer!
  5. Buying a plane – Well technically 1/15th of a plane. If all things go well I should be joining a group locally in the trusty C150 and flying from a grass strip.
  6. Building Hours – It has been nice to spread my wings and travel to new airfields and increase my flight time. I still have about 70 hours to build before next summer so there is still lots of flying to do.

So I feel that I have achieved quite a lot this year building on from when I had completed one year of flying. I look forward to what the next 365 days has in store for me.

 

SkyDemon Review

So I am late to the game on this one but this is my SkyDemon review.
Skydemon Android
Now I am sure most of you are familiar with this software and most likely have used it a lot more than I have. I also know that there is a large group of people who are about to scream “children of the magenta line” or “maps and CRP”, however this is 2017 and not 1950 when the skies were clear and you could fly where you like. Both GPS and old school navigation techniques are needed.
I recently changed my home airport from Cranfield where there isn’t much restricted airspace around to Blackbushe where Heathrow, Gatwick, Oxford, Southampton and RAF Odiham are both literally on the door step along with all the restricted airspace that these airports bring not to mention danger zones etc. So as you can see it is a much busier restricted environment and you run the risk of airspace infringements more easily.
For these reasons I decided to invest in SkyDemon, a product that I have heard so much about and that I have never heard anyone say a bad word about. The cost is £139 for the first year and then £89 for subsequent years. I also brought a dedicated iPad mini 2 with LTE which is only for my flying apps so it doesn’t get fill up with the other rubbish. It is only 16GB but when you use it like I do that is more than enough. The 4G part is important as it is only these cellular devices that have the inbuilt GPS in the iPad’s. If you have a non cellular iPad then you will have to buy an external GPS receiver, but with Apple being Apple only certain (expensive) ones work.
NB – SkyDemon supports iOS, Android and Windows so you are not limited to an iPad. However, SkyDemon themselves state that the iPad is the best device to run it on and it also seems to have the least issues. I am an Android fan but I believe every pilot needs an iPad anyways.
In the cockpit I use a kneeboard mount which works great as I only need to glance at it every so often as my eyes are outside or on the instruments the majority of the time (as they should be). My mobile phone (Android) has it installed as backup but I haven’t actually used it on this device in the air.
NB – I always have my map with me.
So what makes SkyDemon so great? Well it is its ease of use. Planning a trip is as simple as clicking your start point and your endpoint and then adjusting your route as you see fit (to avoid airspace, dangerzones etc). From here SkyDemon does the rest, it gets all your NOTAMS, TAF, METAR, Winds and the weather for you to check before you go airborne. SkyDemon can also do your mass and balance however I still do this separatly at the moment.
Next you can print out a plog that will have your legs, the time it should take etc along with all the radio frequencies that you should need en route. I really can’t even put into words how simple the whole thing is and in my opinion these programs are becoming essential in our ever crowded skies. However yes I do agree that we should all still practice the conventional methods as no system is infallible and should my tablet and phone fail I will still need to be able to navigate using my map.
In the air SkyDemon will warn you if you are drifting of course, if you should change frequencies, of obstacles and most importantly of airspace. It really does allow you to concentrate on flying the aircraft as even when navigating with your map an accurate position is simply a glance away. Now of course we as pilots are never lost so to say but occasionally we can be “unsure of position”. This takes the high workload of flying the plane, holding the map and trying to work out where you are away and changes it to a “oh I need to go left a bit”. Anything that reduces workload in the cockpit and allows you to focus on flying is a positive thing in my opinion.
One of my favourite parts of SkyDemon is when you approach your destination it pops up and asks you what approach you want then draws handy arrows on the map so you can see visually what you need to do and circuit direction.
When you land you can pull up the Aerodrome information which will help you with your taxi etc, I mean SkyDemon even has fuel prices.
SkyDemon can also do your flight plans, give you estimation of leg times, warn of traffic, provide airfield layouts and information and probably a lot more that I haven’t even managed to dive into yet. The maps are updated frequently and they seem to have maps for most of Europe as well as places such as South Africa, USA, New Zealand & Parts of Africa.
With the amount of money we spend on aviation I must say in my opinion SkyDemon is probably one of the best value bits of software you can possibly buy and I would not hesitate to recommend it. 5/5.

Bose A20 review

So a few months back I decided to upgrade my David Clark H10-13.4 to a set of Bose A20’s. I wanted to fly a bit with the new headset before I gave my opinion of them, so this is my Bose A20 review.

Firstly I want to start by saying the David Clark are a great starter headset, in fact of the passive headsets I used they were by far the best and you may find they are perfect for your needs. I am working towards the airlines and as I have a lot of flying to do, I wanted to at least see what the Bose could offer.

Price
The main stumbling point in regards to the Bose is getting your head around the price. Bose strictly control the price of new headsets so you won’t find much variation in regards to price and the standard selling price is £999 for the bluetooth version and £910 for the non bluetooth version in the UK.
The non bluetooth does have a line in so you can feed your iPad or your phone into this headset also, it is just one wire. It does have a mix mode which cuts the line in when you get radio communications but I cannot comment on this as I have never used this mode.
In regards to price there is a second option and that is to purchase a used set. I managed to pick up a later model A20 headset for £500 which to me is a more justifiable cost. I mean £500 is still a lot of money of course but Aviation is not a cheap thing to be involved in and by this point you have probably realised that. It didn’t cost me much to buy a replacement mic sock and foam cups for the the headset.
However, just because something is expensive doesn’t make it poor value for money. You should really do what you can to protect your hearing as once it goes it doesn’t come back. ANR helps this and while you don’t have to spend £900 it doesn’t make a £900 headset poor value. As with anything try a few headsets, I am sure there is someone at your flying club who has a set they will be willing to let you try.

Value / Features
Anyways onto the actual headset and if I think it offers value for money in regards to the cheaper headsets (as it should at £900+).
The first thing to talk about is the active noise reduction. I read reviews where people say they plug it in and turn it on and think is the engine on? I don’t know about all of that as you can clearly hear the engine, but what does change is what level of engine noise you hear.
You can hear the engine running and any changes in it, the difference is how loud it is. When I am wearing the Bose A20 the engine noise is significantly lower. This also extends to communications with ATC, they are nice and clear and the communication is easy to make out. The headset removes the sounds you don’t “need” and just leaves you with the essential sounds. If you try a passive headset then put on the Bose headset you will hear a clear difference between the two.
The next main selling point for me is the comfort levels. As this headset is £910+ you would expect a high quality construction, which you do get. When you pick up the Bose it fees high quality and looks like it costs a lot of money.
I remember after long flights with the David Clarks sometimes I just couldn’t wait to get the headset of my head. As they are passive noise reduction they have quite a high clamping pressure to achieve this. When wearing the Bose I tend to forget it’s there, they are very light and don’t put pressure on my head when flying. After landing I am in no rush to get them off my head which sometimes I am with a long flight with the David Clark’s. In fact, the Bose really are a joy to wear, they are light and so well put together.
The batteries last for ages, in fact since I have gotten them I haven’t had to replace them. Bose state that the two AA batteries should last around 40 hours.
Bose also offer a 5 year warranty on the headsets and from what I can see their fixed price out of warranty repairs are very reasonable also.

Conclusion
So would I recommend the headset? Without a doubt I would say yes, protecting our hearing is important and the Bose A20 can grow with you as you can change the cable for the different type of aircraft you may end up flying.
If the cost of the headset is too much then cheaper headsets like the David Clark’s are still great. In fact these are now my passenger set and I have not had any complaints in regards to them, however now that I have gone ANR, I won’t be going back!

This weather is awful

Not really much to say at the moment as this weather is awful so I am pretty much grounded because of it.
Awful weather
As you can see from the forecast from two of my local airports the chances of getting any flying done are pretty slim. I don’t recall the weather last year being this bad but in the first few months of 2017 it has pretty much been awful whenever I have tried to fly.
I really want to start navigating away from the circuit / local area again and I am looking to do my first trip to Kimble in the Cotswolds, however every time I have the plane booked the weather is seeming to put an end to it.
The other day it had dawned on me that my last land away was actually my PPL cross-country qualifier which was ages ago now! I did do a trip to Shoreham (nice airport but £30 landing fee?) but I flew the return leg back to Cranfield. I don’t want to get rusty on the radio or my navigation so I need to make sure I keep practicing.
Also I only have around 60 hours of flight time. I still have a lot of hours to build to be ready for my CPL course and I also need to do a qualifying flight of 300NM with landings at 2 aerodromes.
In the mean time I am focusing on my ATPL theory, I have not to long started Airframe and Systems, Electrics, Power Plant and Emergency Equipment. To say I am not loving it is an understatement but I will go into that in more detail on my next ATPL theory post.
Anyways, lets hope that the weather improves over the next week or so. I can see that Monday and Tuesday are looking good but it seems to head downhill once again after that.
Send your prayers to the weather goods to send us some clear blue skies to disappear into!