School finals, JAR Exams and Edinburgh Air Museum

It’s been so long since I last wrote, so much has happened.  School finals went well, well enough for me to sit the official aviation authority exams.  I think the JAR exams went well enough, at least six of them did.  The only one I’m not too confident about is Principles of Flight.  Results day is a week on Friday – I haven’t thought about it much, there isn’t anything I can do to change what happens now so I might as well enjoy the break and chill.

G-BOAA Flight Deck

G-BOAA Concorde Flight Deck

I’m currently in Scotland for the week as part of my two week break from ground school.  The Edinburgh air museum has a Concorde and it would be stupid to be so close and not go and see it.  It was a spectacular sight, a magnificent piece of engineering.  Unfortunately you couldn’t go in the flight deck, the picture is as close as you can get but that’s pretty close.  It’s amazing to see the differences between this one and the modern flight decks of today.

Check out that ugly snout

Check out that ugly snout.

Talking of things that fly, here’s a fly.  Rather ugly if you ask me.  I’m only really interested in things that fly because they have two jet engines bolted to them.  As you can probably tell, I’m starting to ramble.  I’ll do my best to write better in the next phase.  I’m glad to see the back of phase one, it was great but it was insanely hard work.  It requires a lot of focus and my friends will tell you, I wasn’t always focused!


You’re either wondering what that is, how to pronounce it or both.  It’s easier if you break it down into smaller chunks: bromo-chloro-difluoro-methane.  Easy as pie.  It’s a type of fire extinguisher that is especially good for use on aircraft because it can be used on most types of fire that could occur – including electrical fires where water would only cause you more problems.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated.  There isn’t too much that changes about ground school – we’re studying the same subjects with the same instructors.  Something that has changed since the last update is our classroom.  Wow.  I was sceptical of the change when it was first spoken of but as soon as I saw the new room I realised it was a really good one.  It’s clean, it’s tidy, roomy and you can learn stuff in there.  What more could you want?  Plus the air conditioner is powerful enough to freeze anything you want.

School finals are just around the corner.  In two weeks they will be over and we will be on study leave to prepare for the Joint Aviation Authority exams.  I’ll admit to being rather nervous, there is still a lot to do between now and then.  The volume of information is immense.  It seems strange to be wrapping up these subjects already.  In some ways it’s seemed a long time but in others, no time at all.

I’ll update again if I find some interesting news or another crazy word but for now, I must study some more.  Take it easy.

Sunset at Eynsham Hall

Sunset at Eynsham Hall

The Inertial Discumbobulator Has Failed to Reciprocate

As previously stated, our instrument teacher is a comedy genius and just might be one of the best teachers I have ever encountered.  He is extremely knowledgeable on his subject (as you would expect) but also on the English language.  He explains things in a terrific manner and often with much humour.  Today we were discussing the inertial navigation system and how it warns of errors and then the procedure for identifying them and correcting them.  The error he came up with was that the ‘inertial discumbobulator has failed to reciprocate’ which makes absolutely no sense but the way in which he said it just cracked me up.

What else is going on since T1’s?  We’ve finally finished propellers and made our way on to gas turbines, we’ve covered way too much AC Electric theory and nightmarish amounts of stability and control in Principles of Flight.  Other subjects such as Human Performance and Airframes & Systems are seeming to flow along nicely (or so it seems!).  Meteorology you ask?

Sunset at Eynsham Hall

Sunset at Eynsham Hall

There were some recent JAR examinations (the big ones, the real thing) recently which means some more people have left Eynsham Hall to go on to bigger and better things like Arizona and aircraft.  As far as I’m aware, there are only three of us left here now.  We’re extremely lucky, the surroundings are wonderful and the facilities are great.  The sunset picture was taken just last night and it was taken by my phone so it’s not the best.  I don’t take much time to get my ‘proper’ camera out at the moment.

All in all, things are going well here in North Leigh.  I wouldn’t have said the same thing yesterday, it was a tough one and I let it get on top of me.  Today has been far more positive and far more productive as a result.  To enable tomorrow to be as positive as possible I’m going to go and get a decent sleep.  Bye for now.

Post Exam Debrief – or Relief?

My three-day weekend.

Last weekend was the run up to the first school tests, aptly named Test 1’s.  As previously mentioned (I think), these tests are to see how we’re doing and how well we’re receiving the ‘stuff’ being taught.  The three-day weekend was a life saver, I don’t know how I would have covered all that I wanted to without it.  Notice how there isn’t a book in sight in the picture?  No comment.

Runway parallel with the coast, crosswind due to sea breeze.

Super cool diagram.

Above is one of my super cool diagrams.  Probably one of the best I have ever done.  The thing is, they don’t really need to be so detailed.  I was trying to visualise which way the crosswind would be coming from when approaching in a particular direction.  Notice how I put the wrong approach on first!  Like I say, they don’t need to be so detailed, I was just looking for a way out of answering more questions.

Drawings help you out in a number of subjects – instruments, meteorology, and some systems stuff too.  I used drawings in many of my recent tests, I’m certain they earned me a good few marks.  I’m not quite ready to publish my results to the entire world, it is sufficient to say that I did well enough to not have to see the chief ground instructor or be thrown off the course.  I’m relieved, I worked really hard over the last six weeks.  I was worried that I wouldn’t get the grade I expected because I wasn’t sure what I would do differently to improve.  So, relief all round.  I’m going to have to keep up that pace to maintain (and hopefully improve) my score throughout the next six weeks.

Sunday Lunch

Here’s one I made earlier.

It’s important to eat well when you’re working really hard, hopefully that is common knowledge.  I don’t make a Sunday lunch everyday, but it does make a nice treat on a Sunday afternoon when there’s a bit more time to make one.  I’m a cheat, I think everything on the plate was frozen an hour before the photo was taken.  Everything except the gravy that is, that was still powder.

My family were down for the weekend, that was most enjoyable.  Had they been down the previous weekend I would hardly have seen them.  There was much good food to be had over the weekend too.  The weather was amazing and I had no studying to do.  All this combined made for a wonderful weekend.  Now…back to work!

As air temperature increases, density…?

Air temperature and density is most important to the aviator.  On Monday the temperatures rocketed to levels I didn’t know were possible for the UK in mid summer, never mind May.  The thing is, I wasn’t doing any aviating so all it did for me was ensure I got frostbite from the air conditioner in the classroom.  It also made me enjoy my lunch too so that’s two things.

Last week I was two weeks away from T1’s, now there is only one week to go.  I’m not as wound up about it, there’s no need to be.  There has been an improvement in Principles of Flight; Meteorology too but there’s still a long way to go.  The rest of the subjects are going quite well, the pace is still rapid and there is a lot to remember but they are not quite as complicated.  Human performance is the least complicated and is just based on remembering stuff – including how the memory works!

Recently, in Instruments, we started looking at gyroscopes.  I knew they were cool and all that but I didn’t know how cool.  It turns out that they are extremely useful.  I finished off my studies this evening by answering some questions on gyro wander.  I was going to offer a decent explanation as to what gyro wander is but it’s really late and I can’t get my head round it enough to do so.

Resident Squirrel

I tried to find a ‘picture of the week’ but there were only two options and I didn’t think either of them were suitable.  One was a picture of the resident squirrel attempting to break into some bin bags left over from a party and the other was the address of a local dentist.  See what I mean?

It has been a crazy week, there has been so much to do.  In each of the subjects we are more than one hundred pages into the text book.  Some of them we are more than two hundred pages in.  I managed to get some studies done at the weekend but not as much as normal because I went home for my Dad’s birthday.  When I first decided I’d go I almost talked myself out of it thinking that it would stress me out too much with the amount of work I had to do.  When the time got closer, taking a break and seeing my family became ever more important.  Now, post-weekend, I can definitely say it was the right decision.  It’s not something I can do too often but it was a great refresher.

We’re in our fourth week of ground school and today finished the third day of that fourth week.  In two weeks we will have our T1’s.  Test 1’s are some school tests to see how well we have understood the things we have been taught so far.  They will be a good measure of how on track we are – something I’d quite like to know.  Before our JAR exams we have school finals but they are a little further down the line right now.  Not as far as you think though, by the end of this week we’ll be a third of the way through Phase 1.

I’m finding Meteorology and Principles of Flight the hardest right now, for reasons that I’m not quite sure how to explain.  Simply put, they are complicated subjects.  I’ll see if I can expand some more on this later, I’m not even sure what you want to know.  All I know is that it’s time to get a decent sleep so I can pay attention tomorrow.  On occasion the only thing keeping me awake is the freezing cold air conditioner blowing in my face.

Quote of the day:  You know this stuff, you just…forget it.

Punk Planes, Punk Instruments, Punk Readings

CRP-5, timetable and a calculator.  What more could
a trainee pilot wish for?

Our instruments teacher is hilarious – and a very good teacher.  We’re already finishing his sentences for him.  One of his favourite is ‘you only get what you…’ ‘…PAY FOR’  comes the response from the group.  He was applying the principle in question to instrument error – manufacturing imperfections.  He then came out with the best summary ever and said: “If you’re going to fly punk planes with punk instruments then you’re going to get punk readings.”

It’s been an interesting week, I’m still coming to terms with the work load.  Some subjects are going really well and I’m finding it relatively easy to keep up with them.  Other subjects, such at Meteorology, are a different story.  I’ve reviewed some of the earlier stuff this evening and it’s making more sense now.  There is still a lot I’m yet to understand though so I’m going to have a quick chat with the instructor over lunch.

Talking of lunch, I was happily munching away on my ham sandwiches when this nice shiny jet rolled past.  That’s motivation enough to finish those sandwiches and get back to class.  Apologies for the top photo, it was taken on my iPhone in poor light conditions – not a good combination.  That’s about it for now, I’d like to tell you some more but I don’t want to bore you to death.  I’ll see if I can pull some more highlights out of ground school during the rest of the week.

The Wonders of Subsonic Airflow

How many times have you stepped onto an aircraft and wondered about the subsonic airflow that would occur over the surfaces of said aircraft?  I think the answer is highly likely not many.  It’s okay though, I hadn’t thought about it either before this week.  The first I heard of it was in ground school.  It’s all very interesting but at the same time quite complicated – you know, the kind of stuff that never goes in first time.

This week we have begun studying the principles of flight along with six other subjects.  Those other subjects are:  DC Electrics, Airframes, Instruments, Human Performance, Piston Engines and Meteorology.  I don’t have a picture of those book because they are scattered around my room and some are in my flight case.  Take a look at the following picture and imagine twice the amount of books.

That pretty much sums up my life for the next six months.  The pace is rapid, in some of the books we have already covered more than sixty pages.  I’m determined though, I haven’t made it this far by chance.  With it being a bank holiday today I had the day off school.  Normally that would be cause for a celebration but in this case it was cause for more study.  I really needed the time, I don’t know how I’m going to get through the work next weekend in just two days.  I’m sure it’ll be fine, hundreds of others have somehow managed it.

First Few Days

I can’t believe how fast the past few days have gone by.  Two weeks ago I was in Gunlock, Utah; one week ago I was in Paris, France; and this week I’m in Oxford, England.  On Thursday I arrived here at Eynsham Hall, a fantastic place out by North Leigh – about six miles from the airport.  There is another guy here on my course and a good bunch from other courses both pre- and post-Goodyear (foundation flight training phase).

Friday was a nice easy day, we had a couple of presentations and then came the hardest part of the day – getting our uniforms and making sure they fit.  Everything went according to plan except my jacket.  I ordered the medium and it was a bit too medium so I swapped it for a large.  It’s a smart uniform, I think most uniforms are supposed to be smart!  I’ve since ironed all the shirts and don’t want to do that again any time soon.  After lunch we had an induction at the gym and then we were free to go.  Oh yeah, we also got our flight cases.  They contain all sorts of stuff that we don’t need until the flying stage like the fuel tester and high-vis jacket.  The also contain stuff that we will need during ground school – calculator, some kind of navigation computer (like a super cool slide rule) and some other basic instruments.

That’s not exactly where I’m staying, that’s the main building.
I’m in one of the outer buildings, Eynsham Court, which is still

Monday was another steady day.  We had another couple of presentations, they went over in greater detail the contents of the course so we could get an idea of the schedule and what was expected of us exam-wise.  Another job for the day was collecting the fourteen ground school books (picture coming soon).  I’m sure you can imagine what fourteen books look like anyway.  Ground school started too, the instructors were kind enough to give us a gentle intro.  For our first lesson on piston engines we spent the first ten minutes in the classroom and then went out to one of the hangars for a look at some of the aircraft in maintenance.

P1070793Trainee pilot?  I don’t feel like a pilot yet.  I’m sure
as ground school progresses and I learn some things
that pilots need to know – things will change.

We had a full day of ground school today.  We had two lessons on piston engines, two on human performance, one on DC electrics and one on flight instruments.  I have used piston engines for years without fully appreciating the amount of work that has gone into them.  I am amazed to see how many things had to be taken into consideration.  I’d love to go onto detail but there just isn’t time.  It’s well worth looking up.  I was similarly amazed in the flight instrumentation lesson when we were learning about considerations required to be taken into account when designing a temperature gauge.

I wonder how long it took them to design and refine this.  It is designed so it can take an accurate reading in almost any situation – it has anti-icing, it removes moisture from the air and can take an accurate reading using a method I’m not sure how to describe in a few words on a blog.  It suffices to say that I’m amazed.  Along with the engine and the temperature sensor, I was amazed when we looked at the human circulatory system in the human performance lesson.  The detail of the system and all the various situations it can compensate for leave no doubt in my mind that it had an incredible Designer.