Posts about flying

Countdown to departure

What’s so significant about this journey is that for this trip, I’ll be away from home, my family and friends for at least two years. Although I have been traveling around so frequently for the last couple of years, I admit that I still experience the homesick syndrome whenever I begin packing the luggage. Granted that I’m allowed to return home annually, nothing beats being at the comfort of home, the familiar surroundings and home cooked food.

My colleague and friends are envious but I suppose that’s entirely superficial. What will really overcome this fear and anxiety is the process and journey that I’m about to experience, which is also a test of independence.

You’re invited to join me in unfolding this journey by following me on twitter.

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Chinook

Since the first 2 introductory flight simulator session before Memorial Day, I’ve had first hand experience commanding the Chinook. For once, I’m not required to memorize the lengthy check-list except for those that requires me to do so! It takes at least 30 minutes to preflight the aircraft (that’s if you know what to check and how to open the numerous access panels) and another 30 minutes to run-up if you’re new to the aircraft since you spend half the time searching for switches in the cockpit.

I’ve since flown 3 flights within 2 weeks and I’m absolutely loving it! It’s amazing how tandem rotor system aircraft function, not to mention that I’m getting accustomed to the multi crew environment and the size of the aircraft. Gone are the days of checking clear for other traffic yourself and maneuvering the aircraft swiftly.

The learning curve is steep and the pace is fast. I’m enjoying every flight and exploring the capabilities of this aircraft though there are times when I felt lousy as I can’t seem to fly the basic parameters well. Come next week, I’ll be expecting maneuvers like slopes, slings, emergencies procedure and terrain flight. This is on top of having to improve on flying the aircraft with the Advanced Flight Control System (AFCS) turned off.

I like the environment and the way things are conducted here. The academics classes are one of the best I’ve attended in my flying career thus far, with professionals conducting the classes and sharing their enriching experience. Out in the flight line, one get to see and experience encounters that’ll never happen back home – how interesting indeed.

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Hosed

It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve arrived at Fort Rucker and settled down administratively! You can never imagine how much time and effort is needed just to square away all the domestics, settle down and be comfortable with the environment.

The course has officially started last week and my mind still seems to be idling. It has been pure academics till this week and I’m already feeling overwhelmed by the loads of knowledge and information delivered by the experts. A good way to illustrate the feeling would be imagining a water hose being shoved into your mouth and turned on at full blast — at least a good 50% of the water (knowledge) is flowing away.

I thought the limitations and emergency procedures (EP) during my rotary wings course days were daunting, until I started reading and memorizing those we are expected to know of here — it’s at least twice of what’s back home! Before I could even square out the limits and EPs, simulators have started and now, I have the flight check-list to be familiar with as well! Since the course duration is so short, things are expected to happen fast and furious. Naturally, the stress level has started to accumulate now that there’s so much to learn, so little time and capacity to absorb as well as maintaining the country’s image.

Probably I’ll just have to take it easy and pace myself well to gain the best out of this deal. This is one of the best training one can get and the instructors are all experienced and professional. What I like about this course is the style of the academics being conducted as well as the training aids available.

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Life in short

For the past few days, there’s this unexplained feeling within me, prompting me to start writing — to dust of the cobwebs accumulated over the months on this blog. I was contemplating on shutting down this little voice on the internet but after reading many of the past entries, memories were overwhelming the soul and I decided to keep the contents until such a time when I have the inspiration, time and energy to reorganise it.

The last couple of months have indeed been refreshing, challenging and exciting. There were high and lows both at work and personal life. To start off, I’ve got my first ride late last year. It was a difficult decision and the only reason I got it was because of work! I’ve since learnt and accumulated much knowledge about cars from scratch. It’s amazing to see how one splurge and care so much for a piece of metal!

I’ve finally completed flying training, attained the long awaited wings and posted to the platform I desire. It has been a long and fulfilling learning journey as a trainee and one will not understand the mixed emotions and heavy heart I felt the day I graduated! There was a sense of achievement within me but on the other hand, I felt lost — not knowing what to expect and whether I will live up to expectations as an operational pilot.

Then came the mad rush to pack my luggage and head off to the next station where I’m currently stationed — Fort Rucker, United States for the Aircraft Qualification Course (AQC). On one hand, I wanted to be posted to the Chinook’s so much that I got more than I asked for but yet on the other, I wished time was more forgiving. Nevertheless, I’m glad to be given this rare opportunity and am enjoying the process and experience.

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First helicopter check ride

I’ve wanted to write this entry since a few days ago but somehow, time isn’t on my side. Anyway, I had my first check ride on the helicopter last week and this marks the end of the first module and beginning of another challenging one.

The ride was relatively manageable until I departed from circuit to the training area for area manoeuvres. The first set up for my manoeuvre was smooth but unfortunately, the tester requested for one more. At this point in time, apparently there were some radio transmissions of another aircraft joining the area. Unfortunately, I was too fixated on achieving the proper parameters for my manoeuvre that I missed out the entire transmission. This was coupled with the controller relaying the wrong information to the aircraft that was about to join the area. Just as I was about to commence my manoeuvre, the tester pointed out a head on traffic. I attempted to search for the traffic but could not sight it as the visibility was rather bad. It was only after the second prompt then did I spot the traffic and initiated a break turn to avoid a collision!

Anyway, guess I’m considered lucky to have passed the check ride though the airmanship portion cost my grades! Still, it was a great lesson learnt and hopefully, I do not commit the same mistakes again

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Smoke in cockpit

Was looking through some old notes on emergency handling when I came across this hilarious comment from an instructor. “If you encounter smoke in the cockpit emergency and panic while handling it, you will end up as cock in the smokepit.”

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Free sightseeing trip

Had the opportunity to ride on the back seat of the helicopter and played the role as a lookout man for my colleague’s instrument flight this morning. This is the first time (and expecting many more) in which I am “flying” as a non-flying pilot with no worries and enjoying the scenery! For the non-aviators, an instrument flight refers to flying the aircraft purely by relying on the aircraft instruments. This is the only means of navigating around safely when visibility or weather does not permit visual flying.

During the 2 hour flight as the observer, apart from assisting the crew in looking out for other traffic within the vicinity, I’ve made a couple of interesting observations which I thought one would never realise it when you’re actually flying. In a multi crew environment, there is plenty of emphasis in inter cockpit crew resource management (CRM). For instance, during an instrument approach, the cockpit was overwhelmed with activities such as setting up the instruments for the approach, obtaining the necessary clearances from the relevant ATC agencies, referring to the approach charts. On top of these, the pilots have to fly the aircraft and achieve the parameters as accurately as possible since this aircraft does not have the luxury of autopilot!

The only complain I have is the long ride and backaches. Unlike commercial aircraft that allows passengers to walk down the aisle, I have to remain seated throughout the flight. Otherwise, the ride was definitely an eye opening experience as I get to see almost the whole of Singapore, including some of its prominent landmarks such as the Singapore flyer and the central business districts.

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Life as a grooming scheduler

Last week, I was given the honour to learn the ropes and have a taste of life as a scheduler, managing the daily flight schedule and crew pairing. Simple as it may sound, I took up the challenge and soon realised it’s not an easy job after all! The significant difference between a real scheduler and mine is not having to worry the vital statistics and managing only a handful of events per day.

Based on the number of flights that can be launched for the day, I had to account for various considerations such as trainee’s flying currency, instructors availability, simulator restrictions as well as those with the most number of days of leave to clear before year ends. These aside, I had to ensure everyone have a fair share of duties and no one will be overworked.

Needless to say, during my time seeking exposure as a scheduler, I’ve seen those who are unhappy with the plan and will attempt to change the painstakingly drafted schedule to their own favour without even consulting me or have any due considerations for the others. I feel that this is unprofessional and these selfish individual simply pisses me off!

In any case, it has been a great opportunity and I have definitely gained a better perspective of being a scheduler.

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The three three's

The three three’s is one of the many simply and yet effective strategy that helps to manage my flying. It was taught to me by one of the most respectable instructor back in Pearce during my basic wings course and till date, I always fall back on these whenever I find myself struggling.

First three:

  • Read
  • Ask
  • Experience

The first concept does not only apply to flying context but it is also applicable in our daily lives and studies. His theory is simple: through reading, one will gain huge amount of knowledge and bound to have questions to clarify. You will then find opportunities to seek clarifications from the subject matter experts (SME). Finally, with whatever knowledge you have acquired, experience it real-time.

Second three:

  • Pacing
  • Task Prioritisation
  • Create spare capacity

One of the main reasons for task saturation while flying in the air is due to poor pacing and task prioritisation. By mastering the art of pacing and prioritising, one will find the extra capacity to focus on other task and keeping a good lookout instead of burying the head within the cockpit.

Last three:

  • Power, Attitude, Trim (PAT)
  • Lookout, attitude, performance, attitude (LAPA)
  • Change, check, hold, trim (CCHT)

These are fundamentals of flying and it applies to all platforms, be it fixed or rotary wing and they are essential and effective steps to achieve accurate parameters and smooth handling of the aircraft.

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Being fair and professional

This subject has to be one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome and conquer within your own personality and desire, especially when it risks tainting the working relations with others. Easier said than done but once you are able to seize control of yourself and emotions, it will help to improve the working relations among your colleagues. I believe that in any environment, especially in a highly political working environment, one should display professionalism and control their emotions instead of sulking when things do not happen in your favour.

Lately, I have been increasingly annoyed by individuals who decided to take things into their own hands and make use of the situation to their. I find that this is being unprofessional and very unacceptable as you are being insensitive, selfish and simply making use of the situation to your own advantage. It is indeed disappointing, as you have placed the priority of your own well-being ahead of the others — so much for being entrusted as one who is able to defend the country, lead and take care of your men’s welfare!

Knowing that such individuals actually exist within my organisation worries me as I know that such an individual cannot be trusted and one will absolutely have no idea when the hidden weapon will be unleashed.

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World flight pattern maps

My first helicopter ride

After numerous sessions of practising checks and procedures in the simulator, I finally had my first helicopter ride this week! Can’t describe how great it feels being able to get airborne again since returning from Pearce and honestly, nothing beats the adrenaline rush one gets from flying though the speed is only a quarter compared to what I previously flown.

Just in case you aren’t aware, flying an aeroplane and a helicopter is totally different in terms of aerodynamics, flight controls and missions. Gone are terminology such as throttle, rudder and stick. Instead, we call it collective, pedals and cyclic respectively. One thing I definitely miss and took for granted is the big airspace we had back in Australia! Comparing the airspace back in Pearce, a section of the training area is already the size of Singapore! Imagine how much time is spent trying to stay within area boundary and keeping a lookout for other aircraft!

Not forgetting that they are so many other aviators all operating within the same confined space as well as the numerous airspace and exams restrictions imposed. I guess trying to fly within the little space available above this island will prove to be a big challenge!

Apart from flying, I’ve been busy with ground work as usual and it only gets more! Looking at the rate I’m progressing, I’m optimistic and I hope that I’ll be able to handle helicopter flying and make the best out of it though I’m still trying very hard to hover the aircraft right now! On a brighter note, my instructor mentioned this famous quote in the spirit of keeping us motivated.

To fly is heavenly, but to hover is divine.

I can’t comment how true it is but I’ll definitely share my thoughts once I’m able to hover perfectly.

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Goodbye Pearce

Can’t believe that 314 days (that’s 10 months and 2 weeks) just past at the blink of an eye and it’s time to bid goodbye! I will never forget how apprehensive I was back then when I had to leave for basic wings flying training here in Australia, Pearce compared to how I’m feeling right now.

Many of my course mates can’t wait to pack their bags and return home but it’s the reverse for me. Not that I don’t miss home or my family but it’s just that I’ve taken a liking for the environment (especially the chilly weather) and appreciate people whom I’ve met throughout my stay here. To certain extend, life here is somewhat monotonous and boring since shops in the city and shopping malls closes after office hours. Still, the pro of being in this foreign land is that I enjoy the freedom of space and relax lifestyle.

Guess I’ll have a hard time trying to adapt to the humid weather after touchdown back home now that I’ve gotten used to the chilly weather here in shorts and t-shirts! What I’ll definitely miss is the convenience of the gym right at my doorstep as well as the fond memories I’ve experienced throughout my 10 months of stay here.

Not sure if the time will come but I certainly hope to revisit this place again in time to come! For now, it’s time to end this chapter and the start of another.

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Spotlight

As I embarked onto navigation phase of my flying training, maps and Staedtler markers surrounds me all day and the tedious process of preparing maps takes away precious time and crippled my leisure activities, thus restricting me from posting updates. I have been rising an hour early for the past couple of weeks to prepare maps, hoping that this painful ordeal of preparing maps will end quickly. Unfortunately, the weather has been unforgiving last week and this resulted in maps being redrawn numerous times.

Not to mention that things hasn’t been smooth sailing, with people committing offences and still not feeling bothered. These unnecessary spotlights have resulted in harsher measures as well as confinement. I wonder if one actually thinks of the consequences before executing certain actions. I have personally witness such situations and I felt disturbed because I can’t accept the fact that this will be the group of unprofessional people I’ll be working with in years to come.

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Night flying

As the sun starts to set and stars fills the empty skies, I feel my heart beating faster and excitement rising within me. Today will be my very first time attempting to fly a jet aircraft in the dark with minimum lighting surrounding the airfield. So much on what have been taught in the books about the various psychological effects in the night, I am keeping my fingers crossed and praying that I’ll execute the mission safely.

I never realized how beautiful the cockpit presentation is until I’ve started up the engines and adjusted all the interior lighting. The dim red console lights aids in calibrating the eyes to the night environment pretty quickly. With lightings around the airfield demarcating the various taxiways and runways, the only difficulty I encountered was to judge the separation distance from other aircraft taxiing ahead.

After obtaining clearance for take-off from the tower, I proceeded to line up on the runway for the take-off roll. Upon rotation and getting airborne, I was amazed by the night view and it wasn’t difficult to spot the brightly lighted skyscrapers in Perth City. My instructor demoed one circuit and landing before I was given the opportunity to try it. I must say that landing in the night (with landing lights) is challenging as misjudging or late in flaring the aircraft would be disastrous.

Sad to say, at our current stage of training, night flying is only an introduction and it consists of only 4 sorties. However, it is definitely a great experience and confidence booster, knowing that I am able to pilot an aircraft safely in the night.

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How far we have come

I was looking at the calendar earlier and little did it occur to me that I’ve already been here for almost five months. With four casualties and another two of my course mates whom have just completed half the course and left for the Undergrad Pilot Training (UPT) program in the states, the course strength now stands at a healthy figure of 17 — one of the largest course in history.

I remembered counting the days when I first arrived and found it hard to accept the fact that it will be a long course with uncertainties ahead. Looking back, reality came and went at the blink of the eye. I’ve experienced my first solo on a jet plane, flew in the challenging parallel runway operations as well as piloted the plane alone to the training area to perform aerobatics sequence. Never did it occur to me that I would come this far, with another half of the battle to fight before I complete the course.

Needless to say, I’ve had my high and lows throughout my stay thus far. I’ve fallen a couple of times but I’ve been taught what’s important is being able to cushion the fall and pick myself up. My instructor once used the analogy of ¹’new jet, new day’ and taught me how to relate it with my progress in flying. I realized that had I not been able to pick myself up, I would have continued to fall hard and eventually fail the course.

With instrument flying and a couple of formation and navigation sorties coming up for the next 3 months, life is only going to get harder but it should be quite interesting to learn new things. Hopefully, the seventeen of us would graduate as a course in time to come.

¹ new jet, new day means starting afresh with a new day, new mission and different aircraft. In aviator’s world, every mission and flight is never the same as before as we are bound with uncertainties (weather, emergencies etc.).

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Summer break

I was contemplating on how and what to write on this blog now that I’ve not update it for 3 months. To start off, the last 3 months has been challenging, stressful and fruitful. For one, I’ve been tied up with high intensity of flying training activities coupled with secondary duties, not forgetting the sleep debts accumulated over the weeks. When it first started, I find it hard to adapt into the new environment and the way of life. Fortunately, there were a few good folks and the other 22 of my course mates around to overcome the many obstacles.

To keep things short and save some time, I shall summarize my 3 months of experience in this entry. First and foremost, after 3 attempts, I’ve finally flown my first solo on December 13, 2007 at 1050 hours. I would say it’s one of a kind of experience in my life — the responsibility of being the captain of the aircraft and landing it all by myself *wow*. I didn’t thought that I could survive this far…to be able to go first solo, given that I’ve failed sorties and was low on morale during the circuits phase of training. If not for my instructor’s and fellow course mates’ encouragement, I would not have picked myself and overcome the obstacle.

Life here is not an easy task. There are high and low in this journey and it takes lots of preservation, determination and discipline to lead a pilot training life. Of course, there are times to unwind and enjoyed life. Weekends are usually most looked forward time of the week as it’s the only time where I can catch up on sleep, get out for sight seeing and shopping if time permits as well as prepare for coming week’s flying events. Now that it is summer break here in Australia, there’ll be no flying until the first week of Jan 08, when the routine starts once again.

Hopefully, the next 6 months of my journey here will be smooth sailing and I’ll be able to complete the course in due time. As the internet plan I’m using here is limited to bandwidth, coupled with the high workload expected for the next few months, I’ll not have the capacity to update this blog as often. This means I’ll have to stop posting links to the webscan section for the moment. However, I’ll try to post in the main blog whenever time permits.

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Leaving for Pearce

And so after a month of anticipation and preparation, I’m finally set to depart for my Basic Wings Course flying training in Pearce, Australia tomorrow. The training duration is about 10 months and this will be a test of survival. I guess this will be another phase of my life and I do hope things works out fine.

In any case, I’ll try to drop updates whenever possible or when I get hold of an internet connection. Heard from my other colleague that internet is expensive in Australia and besides this, I doubt I’ll have that much personal time now that my life would be filled with aircraft checks, systems as well as squadron duties!

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Hello, world

I’m finally back, not from any sort of vacation nor time-off. To be honest, ever since news broke on the departure date for my flying training, my schedule has been somewhat hectic and unpredictable. I can’t seem to gather enough energy and time to do self reflection, less to say sitting down to pen my thoughts in this blog. To my loyal readers whom have been constantly checking my blog for updates, please accept my sincerest apologies.

So, here’s a quick update on what has happened since last month. Just before National Day, my laptop decided to quit on me abruptly and I had to send it to the service centre for repair. Turned out that it was a hard drive failure after multiple diagnostics and the problem seems to puzzle the technician as well. As a result of the failure, I suffered some data lost and files were corrupted. Luckily, I managed to recover most of the files from my backup set though I still lost a few files along the way. This incident has taught me the importance of data backup and automating the process.

It has been three months since I’m supposedly to complete my national service had I not signed on. Most of my friends are either pursuing their further education in university or enjoying civilian life. I’m not implying that I’ve regretting making this choice but I must admit that there are times where I missed being a civilian and the freedom of life, especially after experiencing military life and its workings.

In exactly one week’s time, I’ll be departing to Australia for the second phase of my flying training. This will be a nine months course should I successfully complete the requirements. Based on what I’ve gathered, this training will be a huge difference from my previous one as it is very demanding and challenging. I guess I’m ready to pick up the challenge and I’ve cultivated my mindset to accept things positively, though I’ll be missing my family, friends and food back here.

For the next few days just prior to my departure, I’ll be busy sorting out all the necessary preparations and events that will occur. I was hoping to be able to clear my outstanding vacation leave from last year but that seems impossible now with the tight schedule that leaves no room for discussion. All this is credited to some “brilliant” individual who is demanding and has demonstrated a lack of foresight, understanding and compassion.

Enough said for now. Till the next time I write.

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Bon Voyage

It wasn’t too long before when we went for air grading as a group. Now, the time has come for the few within the group to depart for the next phase of our flying training in Pearce, Australia.

Though it’s only a few months away before the rest of us join them in Pearce, one would certainly few sad to see them off especially having gone through thick and thin together. Nonetheless, it was great to have them as course mates and soon, it’ll be my turn to join them in Pearce for training.

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Live long, techie

Lately, I’ve been taking exam papers for my ground school that are of a more technical type and require a little more technical knowledge. I realized that I was able to digest the subjects that were taught at a faster pace and am able to project more confidence during exams. I’m not sure if anyone have experienced it before but for most of the technical and practical lessons, I’m able to somewhat hack it at ease and enjoy the learning journey.

Unlike the more theoretical subjects like meteorology and aerodynamics, I have greater passion for technical stuff. This seems to be true as during my polytechnic days, I hated modules like mathematics but enjoyed software programming and networking. Also, my intern-ship back in the states have also exposed me to a wide variety of hands-on applications and projects which I truly enjoyed working on.

If I were to relate my passion and speciality in terms of technical aspect to the flying industry, I hope that I’ll be able to understand the applications and apply the concepts correctly. However, there are still many other aspects to consider since flying is all about precision, mental capacity and decision making.

Based on what I’ve experienced and observed, I’ll need to work harder to improve my mental capacity. This is because I’ve come to realize that I’m able to study only in an absolute quiet environment and I get agitated easily if I was interrupted while studying. Perhaps this could be one of the reasons why I’m unable to perform during exams while studying in a noisy environment.

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Because I fly

While entering a room back in Air Force School today, I was amazed by the new design and fresh coat of paint and somehow, this particular aviator’s poem caught my attention

Because I fly

I laugh more than other men

I look up and see more than they,

I know how the clouds feel,

What its like to have the blue in my lap, to look down on birds

To feel freedom in a thing called the stick…

Who but I can slice between God’s Billowed legs,

and feel the laugh and crash of his step

Who else has seen the unlimbed peaks?

The rainbows secret?

The real reason birds sing?

Because I fly,

I envy no man on earth.

How interesting.

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End of course

I’ve come thus far and today officially mark the end of our air grading course. I must say I’ve learnt and increased my knowledge on what flying is all about during this trip and it had definitely been a memorable and wonderful experience – in terms of both flying as well as social life!

It was a blessing that there wasn’t any major disciplinary issues throughout our stay and apart from this, we were blessed with a good course commander whom is someone really more than an instructor. Though the time spent here isn’t that long, I guess somehow one will feel a little sadness in the air after spending sometime in the environment. But life still has to move on after all.

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Air grading final test updates

After committing a critical mistake during yesterday’s sortie, I was determined not to do so during sortie 14 as well as during the actual test. This means that I have sortie 14 to iron out any other outstanding issues I’m facing before my test, which so happen to be on the same day (just 30 minutes apart). Luckily, sortie 14 proved to be a rewarding sortie as I performed up to standard.

Unfortunately, I felt that I did not perform as well during the actual test sortie. It could be due to mental fatigue or even over-confidence and this led to a poor sortie. I missed out a few procedures but the test instructor was kind enough to point it out and get over with. My flying skills were generally alright except that I was constantly reminded to trim the aircraft so that it does not yaw as much due to strong winds and occasional turbulence. Overall, I was graded a low average but he commented that I need to know how to appreciate the situation and this will help to make me a better pilot (thinking pilot)!

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Air grading final test

Last week, I was preparing for my test 1. Now, as I’m writing, I’m preparing for my test 2 profile for tomorrow. Every second seems to pass so quickly and pretty soon, all would come to an end for my air grading course. Luckily, I’ve got a few good colleagues who were willing to share their test experiences and assist me in planning my test profile for tomorrow.

Stay tune for my good news!

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