Saturday, 2 November 2013

Leaving New Zealand

I know I've been bad at posting recently. My excuse is that I got stuck in to watching Breaking Bad instead - not that that's a good excuse I suppose! Anyway, a quick update on what I've been up to.

Since my last post I've:

  • Done many flights towards my instrument rating, including a tour around a good chunk of New Zealand.
  • Passed Progress Tests 2 and 3 - PT3 is our course's CPL flight test.
  • Moved to Bournemouth in the UK to continue my instrument rating - which should be finished in 5-7 weeks or so.

These are some pretty big milestones for me - so read on for more!

More Future Pilots

Just a quick post to point out that BA are opening their Future Pilot Programme again this year. For an ab-initio looking to get an airline job it's about as close to a guaranteed job as there is, and for a great airline as well!

Take a look on the programme's website for more details.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Fields of stars

Last weekend I completed another first - my first set of night flights. For me, coming from a background of gliding which is done entirely on nice days in the daytime (hopefully!) this was entirely new. I had three trips:

  • A night orientation, where we flew around Hamilton and the local area to get the hang of the night flying technique.
  • A night circuits dual lesson.
  • A solo night circuits flight.

The night technique isn't that different from the day one, but it's far easier to fall into the traps of the many illusions that flying has to offer. I won't go in to it any more, I doubt it's that exciting!

I really enjoyed flying at night. The big towns stand out like orange-coloured pools of light, and the dark areas around them look like they could easily be the sea. Flying towards a town it's easy to convince yourself you're flying back over the coast to land. In between the towns are individual houses and cars that look a lot like stars. When you're flying towards a sparsely populated area you can only see a field of white dots with no horizon, and it's just like flying amongst the stars.

Mushy description over. Sadly, I didn't get any photos - I was busy flying, and loving it.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

New challenges

Last month has been really busy - I flew 16 times, and was scheduled another 17. Those extra times were cancelled due to the weather! The reason for being so busy is that my course has been pushing to reach an important milestone - we've just had the first official progress test, and having passed it we're done with single engine VFR training, and are moving on to IFR and multi-engine training.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


May was a month of two parts for me. At the beginning and end of the month, I flew intensely - but that'll be covered in my next post. In the middle of the month, my girlfriend visited me, and we went and did some of the touristy things I'd missed out before. In the six days we had to spend together we:

  • Did (most of) the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Visited Taupo, and had a go on the Huka Falls Jet
  • Had a look at some of the steam vents in Rotorua and went to a Maori Hangi dinner
  • Sat in the spa at Te Aroha and laughed at the pitifully small Mokena Geyser
  • Pottered around Hamilton Gardens - I've covered this before though.

She also had a look at the Hobbiton movie set but I was busy flying being cancelled due to huge amounts of rain.

Obviously it was lovely to see my girlfriend after a couple of months - in many ways I'm very sad to not be heading back to see her before October or so!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Java - not the coffee kind

This article is quite techy, but probably quite useful for anyone with a Windows computer. Sorry about the techiness - read the "So, what to do about this" part at least.

I'm not a fan of Java, in any form. I hate coffee (it's too bitter for me) and the Java software environment on computers is full of security holes. If that wasn't enough, it's also a pain in the bum because it comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, so you have to deal with everything twice.

Java may be full of security holes, but at least it's supposed to auto-update. Unfortunately, it turns out that it only updates the 32-bit version. Auto-update for the 64-bit one doesn't exist.

I didn't spot this until today. This means I'd missed out on over two years of critical security fixes for Java. In the meantime, I was lucky not to get hit by any malware - a quick google suggests that sometimes you didn't even need to visit a webpage to get hit!

So, what to do about this:

  • Firstly, I found this tool which will uninstall out-of-date versions of Java. If it doesn't find one then there's no need for the next steps.
  • Second, I downloaded a new version of Java from the website. For me, the tool above removed the old 64-bit version of Java, so I downloaded and installed the new 64-bit one.
  • Thirdly, I'll have to keep updating Java by hand every so often in future.

In light of this, the old advice about not running Java in your web browser rings more true than ever. How you do this depends on your browser, but don't rely on the Java control panel tool - it will only show you one version of Java, so you could still be exposed by any others!

I'm absolutely appalled that Oracle don't have an auto-updater for 64-bit Java. The presence of the 32-bit auto-updater lulled me into believing my PC was secure, when in fact it was more than 2 years out of date. If I could get rid of Java forever I would. Sadly, some apps that I use require it, so I'm stuck with it for now, as are many other people.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

General Handling

April has been a reasonably quiet month for me. Since I've come back from Whakatane at the end of March I've had 10 flights, but I've had quite a bit of learning new things, and a few excellent and quite eventful solo "general handling" flights.

This month I've been learning:

  • Steep turns
  • Practice Forced Landings (AKA Forced Landings Without Power)
  • Basic instrument flight

These are the final lessons before I move on to VFR navigation next month. Actually, the course feels like it's progressing quickly, we're due to complete all our single engine training by around the end of June, then we'll move on to the instrument and twin-engine phase of the course

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Flying away

Hamilton is an extremely busy airport. CTC make up quite a large proportion of movements, but there's also a couple of other flying clubs, several Air New Zealand shuttle flights a day and the occasional military aircraft. I've even seen a 737 doing (very large) circuits there. It can end up being quite difficult to actually fly in the circuit at Hamilton!

Because of this, CTC elected to send me and 8 others from my course on a 4-day "flyaway" to Whakatane, which is a quiet uncontrolled airfield on the east coast. By the time we went, I'd completed 5 flights - basically covering climbing, descending and turning. By the end of the week I'd have completed 9 more flights, including my first solo and a whole bunch of solo circuits.


Between flights 2 and 3 I had a whole week off. I didn't really expect this, but since it has been beautifully sunny and warm for the whole time we've been in New Zealand I managed to go sightseeing with a bunch of the guys from the course.

There are a huge number of things to do and see in New Zealand, and there's still loads to see and do within driving distance of Hamilton. These are the things we've done so far - there's quite a bit, so this is a monster update. I doubt if there's much here you couldn't get from a Lonely Planet guide though!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


After 5 long months of ground school, I've finally arrived in New Zealand to begin the flying phase of my training. I'm here until October and when I return to the UK I'll have gone from essentially zero flying hours (gliding hours aren't good enough ;-) ) to having a commercial pilot's licence and being able to fly the two-engined DA42, give or take.

I've also had my first flight that counts towards my future licence...

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine's day

Time for a slightly self-indulgent back dated post. This year, I had Valentine's day completely free - I was between finishing ATPL ground school and heading to New Zealand for flying school. Since I had the whole day off, and I wasn't going to see my girlfriend for quite a while, I figured it was time to actually do Valentine's day.

I'm a bit broke (what with being a student and all) so I couldn't do anything super-fancy. Instead, I decided to go with making a fancy dinner and making the place look nice. I didn't fancy the obvious cliché of European food, so I decided to go a bit further afield. After a bit of browsing for ideas, my menu was:

  • Buttery chilli prawns
  • Three cup chicken with garlic spinach
  • Strawberry-heart cakes

I don't think it turned out too badly in the end!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Silly mistake

A bit off-topic this post, but bear with me! I'm only three weeks away from shipping out to New Zealand for flying training, so things should pick up then.

For ages - probably almost since I moved to Hamble - I've been having sporadic problems playing on Xbox Live. It'd work fine for a while, then for tens of minutes or hours at a time the lag would be so bad that it was unplayable or we'd be kicked.

Naturally, I suspected that the cheap Be internet we're given was rubbish, or that the phone line was poor or that someone was downloading massive files. "Who's downloading porn!" became a familiar cry here. Only recently did I shout this and get the response "No, but I'm uploading my files to Mega".

Poo. I'd totally forgotten that we could saturate uploads. And I used to work in telecoms!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Pottering along

It's been a while since I last made a post here, but there's a reason for that - ground school isn't all that exciting! Still, it's for a good cause, and I should be off to New Zealand for flying training at the end of February - there should be more interest in that...

There's a brief summary of what's been going on below, but otherwise I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year.