The Trip Home and Exam Results

It was back in the middle of June, not long after my 24th birthday, that I booked myself a flight home, and this was the only thing on my mind for the six weeks between booking the trip and the date of departure. Unlike our previous ATPL module, we benefited from a study week this time around and I wanted to make the most of it. Of course, the priority was to study for the approaching exams, but I also wanted to catch up with my family and friends, back in Winnersh, that I had left behind in January. With our last week of classes over, I packed for the trip and headed off to the airport to catch my flight home.

As always, cost was the most important factor when booking my trip, and whilst not particularly cheap, American Airlines offered the most attractive fare, even if it meant flying home via Dallas and then back to Florida via New York. It was to be only my second experience with the airline and I wasn’t their biggest fan after they managed to screw up our itinerary and lose baggage on the Los Angeles/New York adventure back in November 2007. Fortunately, this time around, everything went smoothly and I arrived back in the UK on the morning of Saturday 25 July.

My parents were waiting at the airport for me and it was great to see them. After packing my suitcases in the car, we hit the road, stopping off in Maidenhead for lunch at the Harvester – good quality food at a decent price, and best of all, it was British! The McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Golden Corral and other Florida eateries had become boring and getting hold of some decent British food was near impossible. I had my first of three gammon steaks before heading home. Within a couple of hours, the travelling had caught up with me, and I selfishly fell asleep when visting my sister at her new apartment later in the day. Exhausted, I returned home and fell asleep again within no time at all.

The week that I had back at home was a hectic one, what with there being lots that I wanted to do and with the study that I had to do. I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours in the morning and a couple more hours later in the evening, allowing me to make the most of my days. The week was unfortunately over in no time at all and I soon found myself back at Heathrow Airport and about to fly back to Florida. With the school holidays well under way, the airport was ridiculously busy, and I made check-in for my flight with about 5 minutes to spare! The trip back was uneventful and again went smoothly but I was somewhat bothered by the flatulent Danish girl occupying the seat next to me. We all get a little gassy when flying but she seemed to be affected than the rest of us put together, and rather than doing the decent thing of disappearing off to the toilet to relieve herself, she would occasionally pass wind in her seat. The blanket she had over her didn’t mask the smell quite as well as she thought it would have done!

Back in Kissimmee, I had 36 hours to get over the jet lag and to cram in some last minute study for the first exam on Monday morning. Shattered after the travel, study was not an option that evening, so I got something to eat and jumped straight into bed, sleeping for 12 hours and ready to crack on with some serious study the following morning.

The exam week was long and tough, with us having to sit five exams over the course of the week, again at the University of South Florida. This time around, the exams ranged in size from 23 questions in both of the Communications exams to 90 questions in Meterology. The week seemed to get off to a good start and I was pleased with my performance on Monday morning’s Principles of Flight exam. With no exams on the Tuesday, it allowed us to study for the two killer exams on Wednesday – Meterology (2 hours 30 minutes) and General Navigation (2 hours). I found both to be equally as tough, even though General Navigation was full of numbers, formulas and various calculations. When the invigilator announced that only 5 minutes of the General Navigation exam remained, I looked at my answer sheet and saw lots of unanswered questions on it, and so, had to rush through the 56-question paper to fill in the spaces. On the last question, the invigilator asked for us to put our pens down, and I did not get time to work out an answer to it. I had a 25% chance of getting the right answer so I just put a tick in a random box! At the end of the day, I felt a bit down. Neither of the exams had gone brilliantly and I suspected that both had been failed. The final two exams were sat on Thursday morning. Both had 23 questions, both were only 30 minutes long and both were very easy, even if I did trip up on one question where I was torn between two answers! I whizzed through the IFR Communications paper in just 4 minutes and was again pleased with my performance.

Thursday 20 August was the results day and since the end of the exams, nothing else had been on my mind. I kept trying to tell myself that everything would be fine but I knew deep down that things hadn’t gone brilliantly. The instructor looked through his sheet and told me, “you failed Met”. I waited to also be told, “you failed G-Nav”, but that was it. I had failed one exam – Meterology – with 70%, and the others had been passed. Despite having failed an exam, I am still really pleased with the outcome. My scores were Meteorology (failed with 70%), General Navigation (passed with 78%), Principles of Flight (passed with 88%), VFR Communications (passed with 96%) and IFR Communications (passed with 100%). Incidentally, the pass mark for all papers is the same at 75%.

We are now well into the third and final module of the ATPL, which finishes at the end of September, with exams in the first week of October (six of the things). With that out of the way, I will be flying again on a full-time basis from the second week of October until my training is completed in January 2010, initially with the instrument rating and then the commercial licence.

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