Pilot Patrick how I became a pilot

How I became a pilot IV

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.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eey7LYxHlA4?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

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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how I became a pilot

How I became a pilot II

In my first part of the blogpost "How I became a pilot" I told you about my way to become a flight student at Intercockpit Pilot Training Network.

How I became a pilot

Another requirement to be accepted as flight student is the initial medical class one examination. This examination is standardized for all pilots and needs to be revalidated every year. For detailed requirements please have a look here) For this examination I went to a special Aviation Doctor at Stuttgart airport. Of course I was a little nervous at this stage, because the outcome will decide about my future career. Not only did I pass it very well, but I also met Fabian, who later became a friend and a fellow flight student.  

Training facility of Lufthansa Flight Training (LFT) in Frankfurt

First day of school

My first day of school at the facilities of Lufthansa flight training was in April 2008. I remember it was a really exciting day, because it meant a new stage of life. The Intercockpit course E308 consisted of 20 guys and one girl. After the introduction of the team we were handed out all the training material, that we would need for our studies. I think it were around ten big binders. At this stage quite intimidating. Additionally we received a black pilot bag. Back then, I was really proud to have it.

Intercockpit course E308 in 2008

Theory classes

For the next two months we attended several theory classes to reach the knowledge of a PPL Pilot (Private Pilot License) to be prepared for the first flight phase in Zadar, Croatia. Additionally we had to pass the AZF (flight radiotelephone operators certificate), which grants the permission to communicate with ATC (Air Traffic Control). Why did the flight training take place in a foreign country? Mainly, because of the weather and the lower operating costs. Especially for VFR (visual flight rules) flights, that require a certain cloud ceiling and visibility, the weather in Croatia was definitely better than in Germany over the year.

First theory part in Frankfurt (8 weeks)

The entire flight training was scheduled to last about 18 months, depending on one's personal performance. Since the planning was really tight there was only a couple of off days in between. As this was an integrated training you had to learn continuously to be ready for the exams. It sure was a tough time, but it was worth the effort in the end. Time management was super important. I found it helpful to set weekly goals concerning learning to have a good feeling and to monitor my progress.

First time in Zadar

In June it was time to head down to Zadar for the first practical flight phase. Accommodation and transport had to be organized by ourself. Most of the course stayed at the same location of a croatian women, who rented prevailing to flight students from Germany. I shared an apartment with my friend Fabian. The place was not special at all, but it was only a short walk away from the waterfront.

The historic old town of Zadar is really beautiful. It is located right at the Adria, where we enjoyed amazing sunsets. The landscape of Croatia is unique with many small islands (66 inhabited) stretching along the coastline of 1800 kilometer and the high Biokovo mountains in the back. It did not take long until we got to see the beautiful landscape from above. After a couple of days of introduction in a basic fixed simulator the first flight in a DA20 aircraft with a instructor was due.

PA44 flight school aircraft of Intercockpit in Zadar

I was super excited and also a little scared. Not of the flying itself, rather if I really like it and could imagine to do it for the rest of my life. All sorrows were gone, when I lifted off the ground for the first time by myself. I remember, that everything was going so fast. It felt like I was flying a fighter jet. Today I can grin about it, since I take off with the Citation XLS+ at a speed, which is 2,5 times faster.

Structure of the training:

  • 8 weeks of PPL theory classes in Frankfurt
  • 10 weeks of flight training in Zadar, Croatia
  • 30 weeks of ATPL theory classes in Frankfurt  (ATPL = Airline Transport Pilot License)
  • 8 weeks of IFR flight training in Vero Beach, Florida  (IFR = Instrument flight rules)
  • 4 weeks ME IFR flight training in Zadar, Croatia  (ME = Multi Engine)
  • 1 week MCC course in Frankfurt  (MCC = Multi Crew Coordination)

Read in my next part about the rest of the flight training in Zadar, a drink offer after landing in Slovakia and the ATPL theory part back in Germany. I am working on more photos of my flight training.

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