Florida, here I come!

After a fair amount of work over the past few months, I am finally all set for pilot training in Orlando, Florida. The process has not been as simple as finding a school, paying them and then turning up for the training though. Even though the cost of training is going to be expensive, several hundred pounds has already been spent preparing for this big adventure.

It was last September that I made a four day visit to Orlando, visiting four different flying schools and having a look at the facilities on offer. Instantly, I could eliminate two schools from the list, and I focused my attention to the two remaining ones. Choosing between these two schools was tough, however. I had reasons for liking one and reasons for liking the other. Within a couple of days, my mind was made up.

Before applying to the flying school, I had to undergo a medical with the Civil Aviation Authority at Gatwick Airport and this happened in late October. It was a Class 1 medical, which meant that it was quite intense, involving an eye test, a hearing test, a urine test, an electrocardiogram (ECG), some sort of breathing test and a top-to-toe checkup. Each step of the medical took just a few minutes but with so much waiting around, the entire process took around three hours.

Now in possession of a Class 1 medical certificate and with a flying school in mind, it was time to submit the application, to pay the application fee and to wait for further instructions from the school, which came within a couple of days, confirming my enrollment and acceptance to the course.

The next step of this lengthy process was to arrange for fingerprints to be taken for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which were required in order for me to be able to commence my flight training in Florida. In November, I booked my appointment, which was to be at Farnborough Airport – only 20 minutes or so from home. The fingerprinting surprised me though. I was expected hi-tech fingerprint scanning equipment and got the complete opposite; a piece of card and a red ink pad. Within 48 hours, I had confirmation that my fingerprints had been accepted and that approval had been given to commence the training.

The final step of the application process was to get myself a student visa, which seemed a daunting experience based on what I had read about the visit to the American Embassy. I needed evidence of my intent to return home after training (including home ownership documents, bank accounts, family etc), evidence of sufficient funds to cover the cost of the training and three very detailed forms to be completed. I spent a lot of time gathering my documents and headed off to the Embassy in London a week before Christmas. From the outside, it looked very quiet, so I had hoped that I would be there for just an hour or so, and not the estimated four hours! Entering the building, it was full of people – literally hundreds of them – and I was there for almost 3 and a half hours. It felt like an awful lot longer.

With everything now in order, my flights have been booked, I am currently working my notice period at the bank and all that is left is to count down the days until my departure. To say I am excited would be an understatement!

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