Another trip to Florida

Landing at Tampa Executive Airport (formerly known as Vandenberg) after the 30 minute flight from Kissimmee. Like many airports in Florida, this one is uncontrolled.

Landing at Tampa Executive Airport (formerly known as Vandenberg) after the 30 minute flight from Kissimmee. Like many airports in Florida, this one is uncontrolled.
Photograph courtesy of Andrew Simpson.

After a bit of a break from flying, it was back in November that I returned to Florida to get work on revalidating my various ratings – starting with the SEP (single engine piston). To be back in the air was great and already I’m booked to go back for more.

With so much time having passed since my last flight, the thought of going up again was daunting. Could I remember how to fly an aircraft, find my way around and then land safely, whilst constantly expecting the unexpected – an engine failure? Fortunately, the first flight went well, and, once out of the way, I wanted to go up again and again. The trusty little Cessna 172 was my aircraft of choice for this week of single engine flying. Even in training, I was very fond of the aircraft, ditching the Piper PA-28 in favour of it. For a mere $10/hour more, it was nicer to fly and offered a much more comfortable ride.

Me returning from a multi-engine refresher flight in December 2011. Taken in Kissimmee, Florida.

Me returning from a multi-engine refresher flight in December 2011. Taken in Kissimmee, Florida.
Photograph courtesy of Andrew Simpson.

So my few days of flying resulted in me getting my SEP rating added to my commercial licence again and I’ll be heading back on 16 January for some multi-engine flying. It’ll be the MEP (multi-engine piston) and MEIR (multi-engine instrument rating) this time around. The complexity of the multi-engine Beechcraft Duchess along with simulated low visibility (and the need to rely solely on instruments) mean that these few days are going to be pretty tough!

My friend, Marc, will be joining me for the trip this time around. We have travelled to America together before, visiting Los Angeles and New York in 2007, and he was to visit me during my Florida studies in 2009. Unfortunately, at the last minute, he had to cancel his plans, so he hasn’t yet been flying with me at the controls. It should be an exciting few days for him since he’ll be back-seating my flights, enjoying the ride and the fantastic Florida scenery. There really is no better place to fly.

We are staying in Davenport, renting a villa for our nine night stay. With four bedrooms and a swimming pool, it was a steal at £375. It’s the third time I have rented a villa/apartment in Florida and it certainly won’t be the last. Not only are villas cheaper than mid-range hotels, there’s plenty of space (you aren’t confined to one room – like a hotel), you have access to private facilities (nearly always including a swimming pool) and you have much more choice with location. Many of Orlando’s better hotels are in the busier and more built-up areas. There are very few hotels in almost rural Davenport; just a mediocre selection of motels.

With Florida car hire being very reasonable, hiring a big car makes sense when holidaying here. The Ford Escape was our car of choice in November 2013. We travelled 960 over nine days.

With Florida car hire being very reasonable, hiring a big car makes sense when holidaying here. The Ford Escape was our car of choice in November 2013. We travelled 960 over nine days.

A theme park or two on this visit is also a must. I have never been a fan of Disneyworld. After just one visit, where I managed to see each of the four parks in a day, I promised myself that I’d never return. It’s great for children and families but for somebody in their mid twenties, it wasn’t ‘cool’. After seeing a couple of characters I didn’t recognise, I was left feeling a little disappointed. There was no sign of Mickey or Minnie, just an unknown duck. When studying in Florida in 2009 and for the first half of 2010, I had a Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure annual pass, which was put to good use. Riding some amazing rollercoasters followed by a burger at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville was a great way to spend a day.

Thanks to competitive pricing on the flights, the usually expensive direct flights were actually very affordable this time around. The premium to go direct didn’t seem to apply this time, with only a £10 or saving to be had by choosing an indirect flight. A stop in Atlanta was necessary in November after flying with Delta Airlines. Not only was the service pretty poor, the airline managed to completely wreck my suitcase and the connection time on the return (40 minutes) was too too tight. We were those passengers who had to be called for over the tannoy because we had failed to show up at the gate. Had we not have dashed through the airport after landing in Atlanta from Orlando, I suspect we would have been spending the night in the terminal! It’ll be British Airways this time around.

I’m looking forward to another visit to the Sunshine State. I’ll post some pictures on my return. I’ll also share pictures on Facebook whilst away.

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