Old 12th Apr 2019, 22:41
  #1 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 3
PPL feels close, but no cigar, need advice

Basically, I need some advice. I work as an ex-pat in Asia in a very well-paid job. At the same time I always wanted to learn to fly, but never really had the money until a few years ago. Problem is, there is nothing near me for doing a PPL course.

However, my company requires me to come to Europe every 3 months. As a result, I saw a window and started my PPL training in the UK. First some hours, then started again around 2016. There was a gap of almost a year after that, but from the start of 2017 I really worked on it earnestly. I progressed, did my first solo around 25-30 hours and tried to keep going.

Then at just over 60 hours total I tried for my skills test in January of this year. All the prep work went fine. We set out, I tracked to our first destination and then fell apart. I couldn't see what I was looking for and started track crawling all over the place and misidentified my destination. We did upper air work, did some of it ok, then did a steep turn and put on too much power and entered a spiral dive without recognizing it on time. So, it was a complete failure. It knocked my confidence, but I was determined not to let it stop me.

So I've gone back, talked to my instructor and I did another 13 hours to try and get everything down. I felt more prepared this time around. Scheduled another test with a different examiner and it went wrong right from the get-go. This examiner was new and was very by-the-book. I'd asked him for his weight and a preliminary route the day before, but he told me I'd have plenty of time the next day, so fine. However, it turned out he expected me to be able to plan the route and make all the mass & balance calculations, take off & landing distance required & check all notams within one hour. I wasn't ready for this and really struggled to get it done. He expected me to remember a lot from ground school, a lot of which I would admit I had forgotten by this point. My focus had been on improving in the cockpit. He would have asked me to do some items I'd never been taught by his school, but which are admittedly in the content of the test. I would have to be able to find a solution to various emergencies, some of which were not covered in the checklist. I would also need to be able to plan my diversion within 2-3 minutes. I can't do this; I like to be precise, and it takes me a bit longer than some people.

I just felt punched in the gut, as if the goal posts had been moved on again and my school and teacher had not prepared me for this adequately. The examiner advised me not to take the test and said I was nearly ready, but not quite. To his credit, he did not charge me a fee or give me another fail, he just allowed me to call it off. My last examiner said I would have passed on a good day, but I was having a bad one.

And now I'm at a loss as to what to do next. Every time I go back to Asia, my skills deteriorate because I won't fly for 3 months, so I need several hours to get back just to where I was. I just spent a lot of money with my school and after all this I'm apparently still not ready. My teacher is decent, but I'm loosing confidence in the school's approach like this. They also don't really provide and written syllabus to summarize what they teach in the aircraft other than the Pooley's book. The fact I'm in the UK for only 7-9 days at a time means there isn't much flexibility on planning the skills test, but still, there has been no final conversation and review prior to test. And these 13 hours may well go to waste as I can't come back immediately. I'm now well over 70 hours, I may be able to afford the cost, but that certainly doesn't make me happy about spending all that money. And at the end, I still feel no closer to getting my license.

Do I just chalk this up to being an inherent problem with having to stop flying for 3 months at a time, or was I facing a rather harsh examiner or is there a genuine problem with my school's approach? I could really use some advice.
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