Monday, January 22, 2007

Flight Simulator

Forget about the Flight Simulator that we used to play on our PC. The 6-legged hydraulic operated simulators in STC are the best. They offer flying simulation experience as close as flying the real plane. They can even simulate acceleration/deceleration g-forces. The cockpit is exactly the same as in a real plane with all buttons/controls functioning.

I was very lucky to be able to experience the A340 and B777 simulators. Waking up at 2am in the morning was a challenge; especially after ATPL exams where everyone was in a holiday mood. But after reaching STC and inside the simulator room, I was so excited and fully awake. It was a great feeling to be sitting in the cockpit and be the pilot in-command. After a brief intro, I was off flying, doing circuits in Changi Airport. The best part in the simulation was the HK Kai Tak Airport approach and landing. Even though the airport is no longer in use, we can simulate it in the simulator to the closest details. The approach was the most challenging of all. Now I know why they need the best pilots in the world to land in that airport. Everything has to be done visually and to the pilot's best judgement. Rolling out from a curved approach, the plane will be 50ft above the runway; so no mistake can be made. Roll out too late or too soon, you'll be landing on the grass/taxiway. Descend too much, you'll be crash landing on the clearway. Descend too little, you'll be going all the way to the end of the runway and crash into the sea.

Apart from the routine take-offs and landings, I also managed to simulate emergencies like the total engine and hydraulic failure. That was one scary sh*t because engine failures left the whole cockpit in the dark with only one screen left operating. From there, I had to go through the checklists trying to relight the engines with the plane descending rapidly. Hydraulic failure left the plane in full pitch up until stalling. The only way to control the plane is to use the rudder and trim tab for the rest of the flight. Other emergencies done were the engine failure after take off, head-on approaching plane and closing terrain.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Cpt McCully and buddy FO Nicholas for making this simulator visit possible. I would also like to thank FO Lorimer for the A340 flying guidance. Not forgetting my buddy pilot Tjun Huong in the second seat during the flying.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Life of a Cadet Pilot, Part 1

It all started in February 2005 when I was still a civil/telco engineer. I started to evaluate my achievements and targets in life after having worked for about a year. Seeing the lack of opportunities and bad economic situations in Malaysia made me look to other countries for better ones. I stumbled upon the SIA website and was attracted to this job opening; Cadet Pilot. I used to fantasize piloting the fighter jets when I was a kid. But that was just a dream and I never thought of it as an ambition because one needs to be the Cream of the Crop to fight for that limited place. But my love for flying and traveling was re-ignited after seeing that advert. So I made this big decision to switch my direction and applied for it. I was called up for the 1st interview in April and subsequently the final in May. Before I could catch my breath, I was there for the medical check-up and signed the bond agreement; and my interesting journey began.

I was sent to a 21-day OBS training for physical, mental and leadership in June. That was one helluva tough training for me; physically, as I'm not really an outdoor person. (More stories and pictures in "OBS" post below)

After OBS, I was back in Singapore for ground studies and flying. The programme's duration is 6 months leading to the ATPL exam. I have to study more than 10 subjects, all compressed into the short duration of 6 months. Classes start every weekdays from 8am-5pm with only an hour break for lunch. This was the first time I have studied so hard and so much in my life that not even the combined hours of my secondary and university can match this. The books I need to read; when stacked up on the table can even go higher than my head. Some were so stressed in the class that they started to act "weird". LOL...

Flying was fun but limited hours because it was just introductory and aptitude gauging. I have flown for 9 hours on the Cessna 152. The only thing to worry was the instructors who can be unpredictable just like the weather. But they were just doing their job and they guided me well.

The final 2-week study break was a nightmare. There were just so much to consolidate of what I have been taught and learned for the past 6 months. It was overwhelming. And I studied from morning till 11pm in the night everyday. Sometimes, my brain was so saturated and just went numb. With so much expectations from family and friends, it added up to the existing pressures to pass this exam hurdle. Others were just like me and again, started to do weird things in the house. But most of the time, we took breaks and played LAN gaming of DOTA to release stress.

ATPL exam was over in 3 days on 28th Dec. But I have missed my Christmas because of this. But nevertheless, we made it up by celebrating later; not for the Christmas but for all our countless days of burning midnight oil and sleepless nights have finally come to an end. I really had fun chilling and hanging out around Singapore. These were the days that I really have the time to sight-see and explore the island since the first day I came here.

Now that everything has come to an end here in Singapore. I have secured the frozen ATPL and will move on to Perth, Australia (hopefully end of this month) to commence more flying to obtain the CPL/IR. My journey has actually just begun. The road is still far and the challenges ahead are even steeper. But knowing that I have so much moral support from my family, friends and fellow batchmates; this will push me to work even harder to reach the skies and to realize this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you for all those who are behind me all the time. Hopefully when I come back from Perth next time, I can continue with the Part 2 stories.

BBQ Farewell Party

Leroy's dad has made a BBQ farewell party for us before we take leave to Perth, Australia. We had the party at Coastal Sands Resort in Pasir Ris. It would have been a perfect party if not for the continuous rain. But it was still fun and wonderful; as we improvised and BBQ under the rain with umbrella cover. That was certainly a first time for me and the 'wet' BBQ experience was not that bad after all. At least the rain cooled us down from the heat. I love the chicken wing marinated with Leroy's mom's secret recipe. The taste was just fantastic. Thank you to Leroy's parents for making such a wonderful party for us.