How I became a pilot IV

How I became a pilot IV
05/02/2017 pilotpatrick
Pilot Patrick how I became a pilot

Welcome aboard Aviator! I am looking forward to continuing to share my story of how I became a pilot.

In my previous blog posts, you can read:

Part I: How I became a flight student at Intercockpit (Pilot Training Network)

Part II: First theoretical training in Frankfurt (Germany) up to my first flight

Part III: First fight training phase including first solo flight in Zadar (Croatia) and ATPL theory phase including the final theory exam

In this, you will read about my second flight training phase and memorable flight hours as a student pilot.

First the bad news than the good news

Our course E308 of Intercockpit was scheduled to depart to Zadar for our IFR (Instrument flight rules) training in May 2009. At very short notice the flight school canceled the training in Croatia, because of different factors leading to no capacity for us. This was the bad news and the good news was that we were going to have our flight training in Vero Beach (Florida) instead. I was so happy about this location change since I am a big fan of Florida.  We would stay in Vero Beach for about 8 weeks before we continue our Multi-Engine flight phase in Zadar. This outsourcing to the flight school, Flight Safety, was necessary not to delay our training.

Piper Arrow of Flight Safety in Vero Beach (2009)

Flight Safety at Vero Beach

I was one five flight students who passed the theoretical exam with the first attempt. This granted me to be one of the first one to start the next training phase in Florida. We flew with Lufthansa from Düsseldorf to Miami on an A340-300.

Vero Beach is located on the East coast about a 2,5 hours drive north from Miami. It is a hotspot for elderly people of the USA to retire. By law bars and restaurants had to be closed at 1 am the latest. That is why we also called it Lame Beach. So an ideal place to entirely focus on our flight training without any discretion. Most of the time we went to the beautiful beaches and went shopping in oversized department stores. The entire course stayed at shared apartments on the Flight Safety campus, which was located on the premises of Vero Beach airport. Simple two story buildings without any luxury amenities, except of a small swimming pool. Flight students from all over the world used these training facilities of Flight Safety. The fleet of nearly 90 aircraft granted a good availability.

Vero Beach airport with the Flight Safety campus in the middle

IFR flight training

After flying under visual flight rules in Zadar the training was taken to the next level in Florida. From this stage onwards we were trained to fly under instrument flight rules. This means that the pilots entirely rely on their instruments to fly and navigate the aircraft. This technique is used in everyday airline business to fly through bad weather and to land at low visibility. But before being in the air again I had to pass 12 IFR sessions on an FNPT II flight simulator. This was a fixed based version and not like the full flight simulator you got to know during my type rating on the A300-600.

Cockpit of a Piper Arrow for IFR flight training

Why Florida?

Florida offers ideal conditions for flight training. In close vicinity of Vero Beach are numerous airports to practice approaches, go-arounds and holding patterns. In the beginning, the air traffic was difficult to understand. Nevertheless, they did a fantastic job fulfilling our requests. The weather and the shallow terrain are additional factors which make this location ideal. Even though there are a lot of thunderstorms in spring and summer, they are usually isolated so it is easy to detect and circumfly them. The sunshine state Florida enable to fly the whole year around. My training started in the beginning in May and the weather was already so hot at that time.

Palm trees in West Palm Beach Florida

IFR flight student

Our training device was a piston-powered Piper Arrow with a retracting landing gear. The instrument rating consisted of 22 flight missions with an instructor. Every mission latest about 4 hours. 2 hours of pilot flying and 2 hours sitting in the back watching your fellow flight student flying. To simulate IFR flying conditions (e.g. in clouds) I had to wear a big glasses which restricted to view outside.


Most of the mission we did cross country flights to airports around Vero Beach. For the first time, I experienced approaching a high-density traffic airport like Orlando. This was an amazing feeling to be between big airliner aircraft. I could choose from a wide range of airports to practice ILS (Instrument Landing System) and non-precision approaches. Every flight mission had to be planned precisely taking into account the current weather conditions, the fuel on board and other legal restrictions.

IFR flight training on a Piper Arrow

My highlight Miami

The entire flight training was exciting on the one hand and on the other quite demanding since I had to get used to a new aircraft type and to new flying procedures. I had two memorable flights I want to share with you in detail.

  • I planned a flight going to Kendall-Tamiami Airport, which is an executive airport, to do a fuel stop and crew change. Due to its close proximity to Miami, this airport is used by many private jets. In the end, we were parked next to a big Gulfstream jet and in front of the private jet terminal, called signature Flight support. At that time I never have seen a Gulfstream and such a luxury terminal before. For crew and passengers, they offered a small cinema, billiard room, a library and so much more. I was totally impressed. To top it all we received the clearance to depart in an easterly direction overflying Miami Beach at a low altitude. That view was thrilling!
Fuel stop at Tamiami Executive Airport and parking in front of the Signature private jet terminal Overflying Miami Beach during flight training in 2009

My highlight Cape Canaveral

  • Several days prior a launch of a space shuttle from Cape Canaveral I approached space coast regional airport to practice missed approaches when the air traffic controller called us for an unusual request. On his radar screen, he had an unidentified aircraft without radio contact overflying the launch pad of Cape Canaveral. He asked us if we could chase him to find out his registration since this airspace is absolutely prohibited. We acknowledged his request and so we were allowed to enter that airspace. Unfortunately, we were not able to read of his tail number, but we had the chance to see the space shuttle situated in its launch pad from the air. That was a one in a lifetime experience. I tried to take pictures, but for some reason they all became fuzzy.
Cape Canaveral from the air

Leisure activities

During the weekends we had off so we could tour around to explore Florida from the ground.

Course E308 In front of Costa d’Este Beach Resort of Gloria Estefan
  • Orlando: Famous for its Amusement parks and shopping malls. I can recommend the Premium outlet mall.
  • Tampa: Amusement Park Bush Gardens. Great roller coasters, but I disliked the fact that they kept wild animals in their park.
  • Cape Canaveral: A must for every aviation and space enthusiast. Great exhibition and museum of NASA. I was lucky to see the space shuttle start of Atlantis from a beach south of Cape Canaveral. Even miles away the launch was so noisy it gave me goosebumps.
  • Miami Beach: I am a big fan of Miami. Such a vibrant city with an amazing beach. Visit Lincoln Road Mall and rent a convertible to cruise along the famous Ocean drive.
celebrating my 21st birthday at the Cheesecake factory in West Palm Beach, 2009

The flight training in Vero Beach was a memorable time and I was really lucking to have the chance to discover Florida from the air and from the ground. Stay tuned for my last blog post of my series how I became a pilot.

Have you visited Florida before?

Your Pilot Patrick

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  1. Rania 3 years ago

    Hello my sweet prince ♥ how are you? I have friends in Florida ♥♥ they visited me last summer in Morocco♡ and we spent beautiful moments ♥♥. In fact I’m waiting for ” miracle ” to visit Florida ♥♥. Love youuuuuuuuuuuuu

  2. paradiiiso 3 years ago

    What avoir your course mates? Are they flying for airlines and legacy carriers now,?

    • Author
      pilotpatrick 3 years ago

      Hey, that differs. Some of them are working for airlines, some for business jet companies and some are without a job.

  3. ralf 3 years ago

    florida is really great and my second home
    for many times.
    awake in the morning and take an ocean swimming.
    can imagine you had a good time there.
    have you ever been to key island ?

    • Author
      pilotpatrick 3 years ago

      Hey Ralf, Florida is a lovely place indeed. Yes I have been to the keys. But I did not stop on the way to Key West.
      Many greetings!

      • ralf 3 years ago

        would be great to go by convertible car to key west.

        do you like snorkling or wind/kitesurfing and could explore the caribean sea or do you like more the mexican bay for fishing ?

        at the east coast you have to be careful with rip curls.
        Is there anything similar you have to be careful when you fly in the caribean area?

        have a great start on monday 😉

  4. Rania 3 years ago

    Hey captain thanks for asking ♥ I’m fine ” still breathing”. Miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws 🙂

  5. Haris 3 years ago

    Hello Mr Patrick,

    At first I would like to thank you for sharing all that very interesting aviation info through your blog and letting us know what it is like to become a pilot.
    My name is Haris, I come from Greece and the last year I have been considering of becoming an airline pilot. I have almost all your posts concerning aviation ,still I have some questions , that I ‘d appreciated a lot if you answered.
    1. What is your opinion about pilot schools in Greece ? Would you suggest I trained somewhere else in Europe or America ?
    2. As I can remember ,you have mentioned that some airlines fund students’ training at the beginning and then after graduating they (partially ?) need to pay back that financing. Which airlines offer such loans ? Do airlines employ and offer Type Ratings to new pilots or do they have to finance it by themselves ?
    3. As I can understand after finishing your training in Florida you did not attended any Type Rating by that time . Right ? Does this mean that you cannot fly for any commercial airline rather than private jets companies ?
    4. What is the usual pricing for Type ratings of a320 or b737 ? Does this come extra to the ATPL ?
    5. What is the actual difference between CPL(A) and ATPL ?
    6. What are the possibilities of being employed from major airlines as a new pilot. ?
    Sorry for asking that much , but I hope your response will be more than helpful to me !

    I really like your blog and I ‘d like to meet you one day.


    • Author
      pilotpatrick 3 years ago

      Dear Harris, thanks for your comment which is almost longer than my blog post 😉
      You are very welcome. I do my best to help!
      1. Unfortunately I don’t know any flight schools in Greece. I suggest to train at a school in northern Europe (e.g. Germany, UK and Scandinavian countries ) The standard will be much better.
      2. There are some airlines which pay for the training and the type rating. I suppose that Arabic airlines offer such programs.
      3. My series series is not completed yet. After Florida I undergo Multi Engine IFR training in Zadar. My type rating was independent of my flight school. No difference between business aviation and airline operation.
      4. A320 and B737 are inexpensive since there are many simulators on the market. I can only guess. Maybe around 15,000€
      5. Difference of CPL / ATPL is a checkflight. To become a Captain on a JAR25 certified aircraft you need to hold an ATPL. Before that a CPL is sufficient. When you finish flight school you are holding a CPL with ATPL theory credit.
      6. Like in any other branch it is more easy to find a job if you have experience, but there are airlines which except ab initios. Especially low cost carrier
      I am sorry that I can not name you certain airlines! The best is to check the websites of the airlines you prefer to work for.
      I wish you all the best. Let me know if you have further questions.
      Happy Landings Patrick

      • Haris 3 years ago

        Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer to my long comment. It was really helpful for me to get all that info.

        What is an IFR ? Is it included in an Integrated ATPL program or do I have to attend it separately ?

        What is an average approximate cost for an Integrated ATPL and an a320 Type Rating in northern Europe ?

        Thanks a lot ,
        Happy and safe landings to you too !!


  6. Milan 3 years ago


    Do you have a degree on the side. And how many hours did you sign in before having this job?

    Hope to catch you soon,


  7. Krishna 3 years ago

    Hey Patrick.
    I am commercial Pilot here in Daytona Beach, Florida. I am doing my time build to reach 1500 hours. I saw that you have 2400 hours total with 2000 in jet aircraft.

    My question is that how did you got the job for private company with 400 hours?

    Thank yoy

    • Author
      pilotpatrick 3 years ago

      Hello Krishna,
      that is nice. I love Florida! Please read my blog post. My way into the cockpit
      If you have further questions please leave me a comment. Sorry for my late reply.
      Happy landings

  8. Maria 1 year ago

    Wow Patrick excellent and detailed content. Very easy reading. Wow what an amazing journey u have had to get to where u are today. Wow u look like such a young boy there (no offence) still handsome and that hair . Will go re read ur blog in case I missed anything out. Such a joy to read and follow. Thank you Patrick for taking the time to talk about ur journey ‍✈️ excellently written as always. X

  9. vimalan 10 months ago

    Hello sir. My name is Vimalan. What is the education requirements for pilots.


  1. […] the second flight training phase. Surprisingly it was not going to take place in Zadar. Read the next part of how I became a […]

  2. […] Part IV: IFR Flight Training in Vero Beach, Florida […]

  3. […] the second flight training phase. Surprisingly it was not going to take place in Zadar. Read the next part of how I became a […]

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