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  • Dyfrig Gibbs

Break through

Cloud surfing

Last year I would be running, watching the transatlantic traffic 36000ft above, imagining I was chasing my goal down. Now, every morning and evening I cycle 1000ft below the Bristol air traffic. It is the most fantastically literal metaphor for this journey and it makes me smile like a wild man! I hear the roar of a Ryanair 737 right behind me as we track exactly the same heading for a mile or so between Congresbury and Wrington, the idling CFM56's pass over me and I look up and there is my destination, now so much closer, now almost touchable - I kick on.

In the last month exactly I have added 7 hours 45 to my log book (It took me nearly two years to get that from my first flight logged) and I feel like I've progressed and developed at a rate that would suggest I'd done twice as many hours. I can attribute this to two things;

1. Flying really regularly is far superior - I have momentum, am retaining my learnings from each lesson and allowing muscle memory to develop.

2. The quality of the instruction I'm getting is really top drawer - I'm so impressed with it!

When I first met with, Chris he said to me straight away "so you want to go commercial ay?"

"Yes" I eagerly responded

"Ok great, so you want a hard PPL!?" came Chris's prompt rather than question.

You see, there are acceptable tolerances in terms of accuracy at PPL level. You can deviate from a heading by up to 10 degrees and an altitude by up to 100 feet in some manoeuvres - this is quite a chunk and if you are at all strict easy to be more accurate than. So we set tighter tolerances and Chris promised that my training would be strict and in line with a standard, in terms of professionalism and attitude, expected at CPL level. He explained I'd have to work hard and that learning fast is imperative.

I was sold instantly. This is exactly what I needed and wanted to hear. There is a broad criticism of PPL training that, in most cases, this attitude to training isn't present. I'm lucky I haven't experienced a bad one yet, but in my short time talking to students at BGS I've already heard some alarming stories - like being told taking 120+ hrs to get your private licence is good, because you need the hours anyway if you want to go commercial!

Learning fast is easy with Chris and Freedom because he gives me so much information during the pre flight brief (a new experience), the actual flight and the post flight debrief (also a new experience) that I am able to go home and write a page or two about the lesson and highlight all the major learning points of the day. During the week between flights I go over and over the lesson - visualise the processes I need to improve on and practice radio calls that I'll need to be better at (fellow dog walkers of the village probably think I'm barking mad, as I walk around the popular field talking to ATC). I didn't tell Chris I was doing this, but after my 3rd lesson - second on simulated engine failure (PFL's) - he said "Dyf, today was great, your checks were spot on and your procedures much more polished - I can tell you're working on this at home". That was hugely rewarding in itself and I'm spurred to maintain this routine throughout the whole of my training.

So, in brief, since I started at Freedom on April 9th, I have done a general handling refresh, PFL's, circuits with joining + departing the ATZ, crosswind landings, first nav ex, second nav ex,

completed the hour of Instrument time required for licence issue, cloud surfed at 5000ft and I have also talked to Bristol and Brize Norton Radar without sounding like a complete dithering idiot - probably my biggest surprise and success.

On Thursday I will be solo navigating from Kemble to the Severn bridges, for a wave of the wing to the fatherland, then east to Marlborough and back to Kemble. This should be about 45minutes of Pilot In Command time, otherwise known as "smiling like a complete buffoon time"

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