Florida-bound again for a little more flying

In the middle of September, it was renewal time for me, and after much saving, it was time to look at spending a couple of days flying and getting myself signed off for another year as a multi-engine and instrument-rated pilot. But with one school in the UK wanting £425 per hour for use of their Piper Seneca aircraft, I had to look at alternative options, otherwise my couple of days in the air were going to set me back well in excess of £2,500!

When I was in Florida in early September, I made some enquiries with the school that carried out the bulk of my flight training – Orlando Flight Training – and they said it would be possible for me to renew with them. Having flown so many hours over there, the familiar territory made the renewals there an appealing option, but the biggest advantage was the huge saving to be had. Inclusive of fuel surcharges and an instructor, the school’s Beech Duchess works out at around £200 per hour – a vast saving on the prices back at home.

Unfortunately, time was fast running out on my week-long visit to Florida, and it soon became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to squeeze in some refresher flights and an assessment before it was time for me to leave.

Back at home, I worked out the cost of completing my renewals in Florida compared to the UK, and I was slightly taken aback by the huge difference in price. In the UK, four hours of familiarisation flying, aircraft hire for the test, approach and landing fees and examiner fees were pushing £2,800. In Florida, however, where there are no approach fees (and very rarely are there any landing fees), the bill was to be a tad over £1,300. It was a no-brainer for me!

Even the cost of booking a flight, accommodation and a car in Florida hasn’t brought the overall cost anywhere near to that of the UK, and I am still at least £800 better off and with a nice week-long trip to sunny Florida to look forward to as well.

So, departure date is set for Saturday 3 December and it is at lunchtime that I set off on the 9-hour trip across the Atlantic to Orlando. It was my preference to fly with British Airways but their cheapest fare went up considerably in price and I ended up booking a seat with Riff Raff Airways (Virgin Atlantic) from the awful Gatwick south terminal – an airport and a terminal that I try to avoid wherever possible!

On arrival, I grab my nice big Chevrolet Equinox and head off to a rather nice looking 2-bedroom apartment at a complex called Terrace Ridge in Davenport. It is ideally located for the all the touristy attractions (all of which I have done to death already) and only a 15-minute drive from my flying base whilst in Florida – Kissimmee. Or for the flying people amongst you – ISM or KISM.

The cost of flying in the UK is something I am very bitter about. The high cost of aircraft hire, the excessive fuel surcharges and ludicrous landing and approaching fees mean that it is not really a suitable place to keep current. Whilst schools in the United States continue to offer such affordable rates, that is where I will continue to go to keep my currency.

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