Goodbye VFR, hello IFR!

Hello all!

It’s fair to say that EZMP01 have been very busy since my last update. Since I last posted, we have completed all of our solo navigation flights as well as our Competency Assurance test flight. The solo navigation phase was fantastic, and it was great to see more of the North Island whilst developing our flying skills. My solo navigation flights have allowed me to see some amazing places, such as Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe (also known as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings films), Lake Taupo, Paunui Beach, Cathedral Cove and many more! The phase also has a number of dual flights known as ‘ops routes’ which often allow for two cadets to fly back to back, meaning we can fly further away from Hamilton than we would normally. For myself, this involved a flight through the Auckland Gap and up to Whangerai up towards the top of the North Island and back down to Hamilton via Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel. This has been a great opportunity to see new places and learn new procedures, all whilst being spoilt with some incredible NZ landscapes. For those who don’t know, the Auckland Gap is a thin piece of airspace over Auckland city centre where you can fly without needing a clearance. Below is a picture of us approaching the city which we later flew straight over before heading further north:

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Approaching the ‘Auckland Gap’

In total, we have five ‘ops route’ flights, and it is here where the essence of the MPL really starts to come into play. Essentially, in these lessons our instructors take on a variety of roles; they can be a passenger or client who needs to be at a certain airfield at a certain time, coming to us an hour before the off blocks time with their request. In flight, they can again be the passenger and request for us to divert to another aerodrome due to their changing plans. However, for a lot of the flights the instructors essentially became our co-pilots to get us to start thinking and flying like multi-crew pilots. For example, on my last ops route I flew the busy approach into Ardmore (NZ’s busiest uncontrolled aerodrome) whilst my instructor re-briefed the arrival and departure procedures and handled the radio calls in the circuit. On many of the flights, our instructors also gave us emergency situations en-route and made us initiate a suitable plan of action. Take, for example, a battery discharge: how much time do we have? What can we afford to switch off? When will we lose communications? What airfields can we divert to? It’s all very relevant, and it has been designed to get us thinking and flying like pilots in a commercial environment, as well as making us aware of the pressures and possible situations that we will face whilst at airlines such as EasyJet. It is a great advantage to the MPL course, as not only are we working on building our flying skills at this early phase, but also taking into account multi-crew operation, crew resource management,  flight management, commercial pressures and much more. It has definitely helped to increase my confidence in my ability as a pilot as well as my ability to deal with commercial pressures and emergencies.

For the solo navigation flights we were lucky to have two hours allocated for each flight (allowing us to fly further afield) and we were encouraged to challenge ourselves further on each flight by integrating new practices; be it flying into a new control zone for a touch and go, flying controlled VFR or using challenging waypoints. For me the solo nav flights really helped to pinpoint my ‘problem areas’ and improve not only my general flying skills, but my planning and flight management skills as well as my overall knowledge of the aircraft. We also practiced some general handling exercises on the solo routes, such as the various types of stalls as well as steep turns, practice forced landings, circuit emergencies and other in-flight emergencies.

Flying back to Hamilton after an Ops route to Rotorua and Te Kuiti
Flying back to Hamilton after an Ops route to Rotorua and Te Kuiti
One of my longer navigation flights with another cadet
One of my longer navigation flights with another cadet

There have definitely been some pretty memorable moments from my solo navigation flights. The first one, across to Raglan and up to the Firth of Thames, was a pretty straightforward route but the scenery was still incredible! At one point, I even saw one of my coursemates flying a few hundred feet below me on his flight – a very surreal feeling! However, by far my most enjoyable solo navigation flights were those which included other controlled airfields such as Rotorua and Tauranga. For these airfields, you often have to fly published departure and arrival routes which adds to the complexity (and enjoyment!) of the flight. The Coromandel Peninsula and Tongariro national park are definitely my favourite places to fly to, simply because of the breathtaking landscape which is scattered with huge mountain ranges and active volcanoes – a stark contrast to the UK that’s for sure! The VFR (visual flight rules) phase is finished off with the Competency Assurance flight, which is what we were essentially preparing for on all of our dual and solo navigation flights. This first CA is the MPL equivalent of the PT1 (or flying skills test) that the Wings cadets complete on their course, and it follows the basic outline of the ops route lessons whilst testing on the vast majority of the following:

Groundwork

  • NZ AIP  testing
  • Cessna 172 Flight Manual testing
  • Mass and Balance
  • Aircraft Performance (with EU-OPS)
  • Aircraft pre-flight and general knowledge
  • Passenger briefing
  • Weather and NOTAM briefing
  • Route planning and Fuel plan

Flight Test

  • Departure, passenger and emergency briefs
  • Departure and en-route navigation
  • Basic navigation techniques
  • Diversions
  • Circuit emergencies
  • Basic flight operation (i.e. radio, general aircraft handling, airspace, checks)
  • Stalls
  • Steep turns
  • Practice Forced Landing
  • Emergency ops (i.e. fire in flight, CO deteced, electrical problem)
  • Unusual attitude recovery
  • Instrument flight/Instrument failure
  • Compass turns

It all made for a very busy flight, but as we had a lot of practice (both solo and dual) of the above exercises it was something that we were all well prepared for, so everyone on EZMP01 passed the test without a problem. For me, the day started with my instructor giving me a route to plan from Hamilton up to Great Barrier Island just one hour before we were due to be off blocks. En-route, I completed a navigation leg before being asked to divert to Pauanui beach over the Coromandel mountains which turned out to be quite tricky with a fair amount of low cloud. I flew an overhead join and a few circuits at Pauanui before flying a divert to Matamata and completing stalls, steep turns, a practice forced landing and a number of simulated emergencies en-route. After just over two hours, we touched down back at Hamilton and I was told that I’d passed the test! It felt amazing to have the flight completed and although I’ll miss the VFR navigation phase, I’m already enjoying the new challenges of IFR flying (instrument flight rules). We also have two night flights coming up which will give us an appreciation of aircraft operation at night, which I for one am really looking forward to. One of the flights is solely spent in the Hamilton circuit, whereas the other looks at the differences of navigation when the sun has gone! The IFR phase is quite short for our course as so much of it will be done in the A320 simulators, but we have already covered a number of critical techniques which we will take forward and use throughout our careers. We have had a number of mass briefs covering everything from how to read the Jeppesen IFR plates to flying manoeuvres such as procedural turns, holding patterns and of course the ILS. The phase consists of eight simulator flights, five Cessna flights (including our second competency assurance flight), five DA42 Twinstar flights and three upset recovery flights in the Bulldog (these last two phases are completed in Bournemouth).

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All of the fleet are now sporting the new CTC brand image
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Charlie Tango Yankee, one of the newest in the fleet

To date, I have completed four of the IFR simulator lessons and I’m really enjoying the challenge of getting to grips with this different style of flying. So far, we have looked at VOR and NDB holds as well as GPS routing with the Garmin G1000. Holding looks pretty complex, but once you have flown a few they are actually quite straight-forward and intuitive to fly. In the simulator we are currently focusing on briefing the plates, flying a SID (standard instrument departure) and then carrying out a procedural turn to fly back to the hold where we practice flying the different types of entries, before joining a STAR (standard terminal arrival route) to land back at the airfield. In short, there are three types of hold entries that you can fly; direct, parallel and offset, and the hold you do depends on which direction you are approaching from. Each entry has a different joining method, but each one gets you to the fix from which you begin the holding pattern which itself consists of timed legs and monitored turns, as shown below. The whole thing gets a little more complicated with wind where you have to apply single, double or triple drift for the different sections depending on factors such as the wind strength and direction relative to the hold. Practice makes perfect as they say!

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As we’ve been extremely busy with the training programme over the past six weeks, we haven’t had as much time off as we did when we started. Despite this, we’ve still managed to have some day trips, including one to Rotorua for a day of mountain biking which was awesome. Hamilton was also paid a visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge whilst on their tour of New Zealand and Australia. The airport was a hive of activity with two New Zealand Air Force 757s arriving in quick succession and a fleet of cars, a lot media and of course lots of the general public coming to get a glimpse! Prince William stayed on site for the morning to have a  look around Pacific Aerospace, an aircraft manufacturer based at the airport who produce STOL (short take off and landing) aircraft. We were even treated to a flight display by one of the aircraft which, despite it’s boxy proportions, gave a very impressive performance! CTC has also been very busy over the past few weeks, with the rebrand now in full swing and a number of new CPs starting which include Wings, Qatar and British Airways FPP cadets. The fleet is now re-painted in the brand new livery and all of the signage in the training centre and Clearways being removed and replaced.

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Prince William leaving Pacific Aerospace
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Will and Kate boarding the 757

So, whats next? Currently, I have just four simulator flights and seven Cessna flights left here in New Zealand and in just three weeks time I will be back at home in the UK before starting the Bournemouth phase. It’s bound to be a busy few weeks, with the possibility of a weekend flyaway which will be fantastic if we get the chance to do it. We’ve also got a few things planned away from flying including a trip to Auckland to watch England play All Blacks at Eden Park!

That’s all for now! Here are some of the amazing views I’ve been lucky enough to see over the past few weeks. I’ll upload some new pictures to my Flickr page soon, but for now I have pieced together a second ‘film’ showcasing some of our solo navigation flights. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed flying it!!

Speak soon,

Chris

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Great Barrier Island (the runway threshold can be seen on the green patch under the wing flap)
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South Pacific Ocean
An amazing view whilst doing the morning pre-flight!
An amazing view whilst doing the morning pre-flight!

New Zealand: The adventure begins!

Kia Ora!

Greetings from New Zealand! I’m writing this from my new home at Clearways, with one of CTC’s Cessna 172’s flying overhead. It’s a pretty hot day today, so the air conditioning is working hard (a stark contrast to the UK by the looks of things). So, how have the past couple of weeks panned out? Well, just a couple of weeks after getting our Module 2 results CP110 and EZMP01 flew out to New Zealand for the start of the four month core flying phase (eight months for the Wings cadets). I’ve never traveled further than Europe, so it seemed pretty surreal to be arriving for a flight to the other side of the globe. My journey began at 4pm when I left home to for London Heathrow, where we were scheduled for a 10pm departure. It was quite busy going through customs at Heathrow, but thankfully everything ran like clockwork and after an hour or so catching up with each other in departures we boarded our Emirates A380 and the flight departed on time. We landed in Dubai early the next morning where we had a couple of hours before boarding our next flight; a fourteen hour leg with Qantas to Melbourne, so we took the opportunity to freshen up and stretch our legs before boarding. Funnily enough, some members of our CP were lucky enough to get upgraded to premium economy which was a nice surprise for them! I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, however economy was still pretty comfortable and the flight passed by quite quickly. We landed in Melbourne at around 8am and, seeing as we had a nine hour layover, we decided to make the most of our time and take a trip into the city centre. It was a fantastic few hours where we really got a feel for this laid back city and had a chance to see some of the sights (in 36 degree heat, I may add)!

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Approaching Melbourne (Qantas A380,VH-OQB)
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Melbourne city centre. 36°C!!

After getting back to the airport and clearing customs yet again, it’s fair to say that jet lag was starting to catch up with us all so on the final flight, a Qantas 737 to Auckland, most of us caught up on some much needed rest and before we knew it we had finally arrived in New Zealand. As soon as we left the terminal we were greeted by CTC staff who took us to a number of mini buses which would take us to our final destination at Hamilton. We were surprised to find our bus equipped with pillows and blankets, and seeing as it was very late at night it gave us a much needed head start at beating the jet lag. The transfer took less than two hours due to it being so early in the morning so it wasn’t long before we arrived at Clearways, CTCs main accommodation block just down the road from the training centre at Hamilton Airport. It consists of six ‘blocks’ each with a number of rooms as well as a large common room, washing facilities, restaurant style kitchens plus heaps of outside space (including a large BBQ, of course).

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Boarding the final flight!

The rooms themselves are big, with wall-size sliding windows and air conditioning. I live in Block Five, where two rooms share a small kitchenette, a bathroom and shower room and on our side of the block we look out onto the clearways volleyball and basketball courts. In addition to these, around the Clearways site there is also a cardio gym and a weights gym, and the whole site is set in acres of land that backs onto the river which we are free to explore. There is also an on-site Operations office to allow any issues to be quickly rectified (i.e. lost room cards).

So, after an attempt of a nights sleep, for our first day we decided to take a trip into Hamilton to get a feel for the local area. CTC have made things very easy, giving us six hire cars to use for the next three weeks until we buy our own vehicles. Cadets usually buy vehicles from past cadets or from the local auctions and private sales. It is very cheap to drive over here because you insure the car itself and not the drivers (e.g. a twin turbo Subaru Legacy costs just $400 a year fully comp)!!! Hamilton is a land-locked city, but although it may not be as busy as the coastal towns and cities there is a lot to offer and the city is set in some fantastic countryside. We had some time to have a look around the centre, buy some essentials from the shops and have dinner at one of the many restaurants in the city. It was a great day out, topped off with a couple of drinks in the evening at the local bars, many of which had very good live bands playing. The following day was even better, with a few of us taking three cars over to Raglan beach for a day of sea and surf. It was wall to wall sunshine and it was great to get a feel for the wider area and have a drive on the incredible roads to the coast.

My room
My room (looking rather empty in this photo)
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Raglan!
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My new back garden….

So, with our first weekend over it was time for work to begin. We had a meeting with the head of Base Operations at 8am Monday morning, followed by an 8.30 start at the training centre. Our first day was pretty relaxed and included an introduction to the training centre and the staff who work there. We had a tour of the facilities, including the DA42 simulator on which we do our first four flights, as well as a look at a couple of aircraft out on the apron. The training centre itself is made up of simulator and lecture rooms surrounding a large open plan flight planning area where cadets plan for the flights they will be undertaking that day. There is even a large airline-style TV monitor which lists our rosters and shows when all the cadets and the respective aircraft are flying and at what time they are due to finish. There is also a large outside area which looks over the apron, a newly completed extension with more lecture rooms and a large in house maintenance facility which take care of the growing CTC fleet of Cessna and Diamond aircraft. Out on the apron we had a look at one of the G1000 Cessna 172s, which is the aircraft we will be starting on. As we are an MPL course, we don’t fly aircraft with conventional instrumentation and instead go straight onto the full glass cockpit as soon as possible to get us accustomed to using similar displays in the airline environment.

The following week consisted of ‘Induction Ground School’, which is made up of a number of sections:

1) Introduction and tour of facilities
2) Mass briefs
3) Differences
4) Air Law

The mass briefs cover a number of subjects, including general flying techniques (lookout, fuel management), a look into how we will plan for our flights, and general operations at Hamilton International Airport. Before you begin the flying with CTC out here, you are also required to sit two exams. The first, Differences, does as it says by covering the ‘differences’ between the UK and New Zealand syllabus, and filling us in on any areas that we have not covered in the UK but which are required out here. We are also required to sit the New Zealand Air Law exam, so we had a couple of days worth of lectures followed by a weekend of revision before sitting the exam. For those reading this in Ground School, don’t worry, it is PPL air law and is not as vast as the ATPL Air Law back in the UK!

So, how about the flying? Well, today I had my first simulator lesson and it was fantastic to be at the controls of an aircraft again, even if it was a simulator. I had to arrive at the training centre at 6:30am for a brief before a one hour flight which was pretty relaxed and covered basic yet crucial areas such as straight and level flight, turns, steep turns, stall recovery and spin recovery. However, things move fast and on todays flight we were already looking at basic control in IMC, as well as taxiing, approach and landing. For those who may be wondering why we’re not yet flying for real, on the MPL course our first four flights are in the DA42 simulator to get us used to the basics of flight as well as the G1000 system before starting on the Cessna 172.

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CTC Cessna 172S (Garmin G1000 equipped)
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Home Sweet Home! Clearways!

Tomorrow is my first RDO (rostered day off), and the weather looks fantastic so no doubt we will be out seeing more of this fantastic country. Over the last few days, we have also been to Raglan beach (again), went to watch a Rugby match in Hamilton and ‘sailed’ down the river on inflatable boats -great fun in some spectacular weather!

That’s about all from me for now. We will be flying in the Cessna 172 next week, so I’ll be sure to upload some more pictures to the ‘Training Photos’ section of the website (which has recently been updated) as well as more regular updates. Away from our training program, we also had an informal chat with the new Managing Director of CTC (New Zealand), and there are a number of exciting developments on the way within the company itself, including a new brand identity which can already be seen on Facebook and Twitter. There is also a new prospectus showing the training routes available with CTC which is well worth checking out if you are looking into training with CTC Aviation (link below).

http://bit.ly/1mqafLD << New CTC Wings 2014 Prospectus

http://www.facebook.com/CTCWingsPilotTraining

If you have any questions about the course, CTC or just pilot training in general, please feel free to contact me at any time by clicking on ‘contact me’ icon on this page. Speak soon everyone, and thank you for reading!

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The new CTC logo!