Monday, March 03, 2008

Life of a Cadet Pilot, The Jandakot Story

On the 5th of February 2007, 14 young cadets of C121 (4 joined a month later) set off from Singapore to Perth; embarking on a journey that would become one of the most memorable experience in their life. Each came, and left, with a story of a lifetime to tell. My story; it's just like a movie, engraved onto the roll of film, frame by frame. I call it the Jandakot story.




Fresh from passing the ATPL theory exams, I was high in spirit. Nothing could stop me now from obtaining my CPL/IR and be a commercial pilot. That was what I thought initially. It turned out otherwise. I got down to fly the Cessna 172 on the very first week I arrived here. And so, my Phase 1 started. I had difficulties landing the plane and bouncing it up and down like a kangaroo on the runway. Then trouble came. I failed twice the pre-solo check because of this. My confidence hit rock bottom. Was given another 5 hours with a new instructor, Scott Porter. He's the beloved instructor in SFC and I'm grateful to be under his guidance. His patience and encouraging words soon lifted my confidence again. By the second flight with him, I was cleared for my first ever solo flight; on the 13th of April. From that moment on, my interesting flying stories began. Some of my flying sorties brought me to places far away from the city. My best flying experience was the Albany flight, 400km down south to the southern most tip of Western Australia. Flying in the night was also fun and a whole new experience for me, as I can be up close with the stars and moon. Amidst all the fun, I also had one scariest moment in my life. In one of my flight, someone was careless and nearly crashed into me. Trained by SFC to be on alert at all times, I was able to spot the plane coming onto my path from the back just when I was about to turn. I did an evasive maneuver and we passed in just few hundred feet apart. So close that I was able to see the pilot's face and his aircraft registration. I'm thankful that SFC taught me well to respond in events of emergency and also grateful to God that I'm alive to see more beautiful things in this world. Scary as it was, that did not deter my spirit nor my love for flying. It only made me more determined to be a responsible pilot and trying to make the skies a safer place. I remained under the guidance of Scott for three phases. Along the way, I cleared my P1 check on 14th June, P2 check on 9th Sep and P3 check on 20th Nov.








Winter weather came in the middle of my training. It brought endless rains for weeks and disrupted my flying. As depressed as the black cloudy skies, there isn't anything that I can do. Best not to fight the weather and risk flying out there. However no matter how bad, nature had always given me back my smile after each rainy day; with beautiful and spectacular rainbows painted in the sky.



Fast forward; I started my twin engine flying on the Baron 58 in December. Taming the beast was not an easy task. But after more flights, I'm starting to feel the plane. Unfortunately I couldn't stay on with Scott for this phase. Was assigned to Senior Instructor Jan Rebello (recently promoted to Assistant Chief Flying Instructor, congrats to him). He's another beloved instructor in SFC. Most cadets would be dying to fly with him. I'm the lucky few to get that slot.



Come January, I was 2 months behind the original 10-month training schedule. The Chinese New Year race was on. The rush to go home before CNY would become worse than the winter weather delays. Cadets were rushing to complete their flights and be home before the big day. Selfish people started to rear their ugly heads. Some resorted to jumping queue, backstabbing their mates for the precious flight slots and instructors, and fighting for the limited aircraft. When confronted, they would just say "so what if I take your slot and you'll only be delayed few more days". What they didn't see was their actions would trigger a chain reaction. The poor mates being bumped from flight would have to wait another week, but comes the new week, the instructor could be on leave, or the weather turned bad, or the aircraft unserviceable. All these resulted in endless delays. While the ungratefuls happily packed their luggage to the airport, the poor ones were left waiting. I was one of the unlucky ones to be caught out in this mad rush. After numerous weeks of waiting, I've started to slack off, to a point where I nearly lost my interest. Then disaster struck. When I took off again into the air, I was showing lacklustre attitude towards my flying. Ultimately I paid the price and screwed up by making silly mistakes during my P4 check. Failing the P4 check and then a few more repeat sorties, I slumped into a shit-hole. With confidence hitting rock bottom, I felt eternal darkness in this long and winding tunnel. Jan saw and he knew about me slacking off. I could tell from his body language. But he was patient all the time. The final repeat sortie he gave me after I made the same mistake again finally knocked some sense into me. Hey, I've come this far and only one sortie away differentiating me from a weekend pilot to a commercial pilot. There's no point of me sulking on the bad things. Time to let go and look ahead. What's the wait for a week, if we have already waited for a year - as quoted from my coursemate Anthony. I bucked up and with a renewed enthusiasm, I went for my final CPL Flight Test with the chief. I wanted to make this flight the most enjoyable and memorable of all my flights. I acted like a true commercial pilot and flew the plane professionally. I had the best flight in my life with the chief and he commended me for the effort. I felt good and glad it ended on a high note. This is the feeling that I wanted to carry on into my future flying and for a lifetime. And I got more than what I've asked for. I'm thankful for all the hours Jan had to put up for my repeat sorties and also his valuable advices that finally knocked senses into my head. And yes Sir, I will act and think as a commercial pilot from now on.



On this day the 1st of March 2008, I have achieved what I've dreamt of and working so hard the past 2 years for. Obtaining the CPL/IR is my first step into the commercial flying world. Earning it through the hard way and sweat makes it doubly sweet. I've learnt that patience is the key to success. Good things always come to those who wait. And here, special dedication goes out to Tjun Huong, Gary and Anthony. Together, the 4 of us marched through the moment of darkness and supported each other. Glad to have you guys as my coursemate, the TRUE 121 mates. All the best for your coming Flight Tests too. If "ahpek" can do it, so can you guys.


Another chapter of my life has come to a close. They say sunsets in Perth are the nicest. That's why WA is called the sunshine state. I have to agree with that. Going through 13 months of pain and happiness, I am now basking in the brightest sunshine ever. Sitting on the beach and watching the beautiful sun sets, the Jandakot story starts rolling. I will surely miss you, Perth.






* complete Jandakot story available in the 2007 archive

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, you are one step closer to your dream of being a commercial pilot with SIA. Stay focus, learn from the experiences, share your knowledge and have good friends around you. All the best , safe flying and God bless.

Nusayba said...

Hi Hoong Ji, got to your blog via Facebook. Good to know you're going on fine with your flying career.

Ian said...

congrats dude! see you back at STC

Anonymous said...

Congratulation. so happy to know that u make it! Love to read your blog about life of a cadet pilot. The photos and songs are really nice ! All the best in your life and career. Fly safe! :)