Returning to the skies

It’s been two years since I last flew an aircraft solo, and it’s been almost a year since I’ve flown one with an instructor so, needless to say, it has been absolutely amazing to get back in the sky after all this time. Nothing quite beats the feeling of waking up on a sunny morning for a flying lesson, and I’m feeling very privileged and thankful to be out here doing just that. As it has been a while since I flew regularly I was well aware that I could be quite rusty, but thankfully after a few lessons it all started to feel very familiar and it has been great to learn new skills and improve on things that I covered during my flying back in the UK. Now, this post is quite picture heavy so you may have to scroll for a while (I promise that it’s worth it)!!

Awesome views whilst flying at 6500ft over the coast near Raglan
Me on finals for Runway 18L!

As is always the way, the course out in New Zealand is passing by very quickly. After completing our Air Law and NZ Differences exams, the flight training started with four simulator sessions looking at the basics of flight, the G1000 system, as well as a brief introduction to IMC flight to allow us to appreciate the differences even at this early stage of training. After that, we began lessons on basic control, steep turns, stall, stall recovery and circuits and circuit emergencies in the Cessna 172. The lessons are all 1.3 hours in length, and cadets usually report to the training centre around two hours before the off blocks time to allow time for flight preparation, which includes: Continue reading “Returning to the skies”

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)!

Approaching Melbourne (Qantas A380,VH-OQB)
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).

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)
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.

CTC Cessna 172S (Garmin G1000 equipped)
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). << New CTC Wings 2014 Prospectus

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!

The new CTC logo!