Date: 24 May 2018
Not long after we got our final ground school exam results, my course mates and I received our flight itineraries for the next part of our training, flight school. We were going to America, where we would experience our first taste of flight and put everything we had learnt in ground school to the test.
Once we had arrived at the training facility we got straight to work with finalising our student pilot applications and attending lectures. It was not long before we had our aircraft inductions and were taken out to fly with the Flight Instructors.
One huge milestone arrived quite quickly, within a month I’d done my first solo! On paper it does not look hard: take off, fly one circuit and then land. In reality, the aircraft is completely in your hands, nobody is sitting beside you to monitor the radio or let you know if you are making any mistakes. Drill-mode completely took over me, to the extent I was reading the checklist aloud even though there was nobody there to listen to it. Despite all this, you just do it, and before you know it you are back on the ground taxiing-in towards your cheering friends who were watching you from the ramp.
At the same time, you are also refining your ground-school preparation techniques. Before every flight, whether it is solo or dual, an instructor will review all your mass and balance calculations, weather reports and navigation charts before they sign you off to fly. If you are thinking about becoming a pilot, get good at this stuff because it never goes away!
Within a couple of weeks flying solo becomes the norm. You might spend an hour in the circuit doing touch-and-goes one day then fly hundreds of miles on a navigation exercise the next. Lessons are also interlaced with solo flights, so that you are always learning new techniques and practicing safety scenarios.
You achieve milestone after milestone and before long you have already racked up your first one hundred flying hours and are making the transition to instrument flight and twin-engine aircraft. And suddenly, flight exams are only a matter of weeks away!
Although keeping your head in the books is recommended, do not forget to rest. The scenery in America is simply breath-taking, and it only gets better the further out you venture. The land is vast, so road trips are a great way to relax and experience the cities and countryside. Undoubtedly, it was the adventure of a lifetime!
On the return flight home, I looked through all the photos and relived the memories created over the last eight months of training in America. I also had a brand-new Commercial Pilot Licence burning a hole in my pocket. In this moment, I was happier than ever that I had stuck it out during the tough times and was still on track to achieving my lifelong goal of becoming an Airline Pilot