LEARN TO FLY: Mr Fog Patches

Alan Gray is currently learning to fly at Kemble with Freedom Aviation. He has written another blog post following his successful blog debut in August.

Alan Gray at KembleIs it because I was born in Glasgow and raised on the shores of the Firth of Clyde that I am so obsessed by the weather? The west of Scotland frequently experiences four seasons in a day, even in summer! Despite the fact that we all live in the South of England now, I can’t finish a phone call to either son without being asked for a full weather report if I fail to mention rain or wind in the conversation. However, it still came a bit of a surprise just how much the weather matters before we take to the air, especially in VMC (visual meteorological conditions for the uninitiated and would-be fliers).

It was good for me, as a student, that from the outset I was expected to deal with as much of the pre-flight business as possible. That includes weather forecasts and weather reports from other aerodromes. Consequently, I never set off for a lesson without having a comprehensive look at all the available online weather information. This resulted in a meaningful conversation around the ups and downs of taking to the skies with my flying instructor, John Warman.

Of course there’s more to weather than flight planning. Student pilots need to take exams, one of which is meteorology. There’s quite a lot to this subject and it’s one of the meatier ones. But students, or would-be students, need not be put off by exams because learning to fly, like learning to do anything, is a shared challenge. The student has the challenge of learning and the school has the challenge of teaching, but success is in the interests of both parties. Freedom Aviation recognises this and provides excellent ground school teaching conducted by well-qualified and able instructors who reinforce and expand the students’ learning. It’s thanks to Freedom Aviation Ground School, run by instructor Bob McPhee, that student pilots avoid making heavy weather of meteorology and usually sail (should it not be fly?) through the exams with considerable success.

And finally, who is Mr Fog Patches? I knew him well but sadly, only in my mind. He was a product of my childhood imagination when following those Scottish weather forecasts, which were frequently punctuated by early mist or fog patches.

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LEARN TO FLY: Phone a Friend or Ask the Audience?


Alan Gray is currently learning to fly at Kemble with Freedom Aviation. He has written a short blog article explaining how the training is going…

It was an impulse. I had thought about it before, especially on holiday flights, but it was only an impulse. I was passing Kemble earlier this year when I felt it again. So I phoned a friend who had learned to fly and now here I am, a student pilot who is flying solo and well on the way to gaining his licence.

Like almost anything else of course, an impulse can be a force for good, or not, and often both. This impulse was positive because it made me decisive and stopped me dithering. And having thrown myself into flying there was no going back without loss of face. So that was all good because underneath the excitement I guess some of us find the prospect of flying quite daunting at times. But it was also not so good because it meant that I did not scope the project. Scoping would have revealed that there is more to flying than simply taking off, maintaining straight and level flight, and landing safely as a short flight experience suggests. There are lots of other challenging skills to acquire like cross-country navigation, stall recovery and forced landings, not to mention nine exams to pass.

There might have been some merit in a little research before diving in or taking off. What I should also have done was asked the audience and by that I mean the Freedom Team and the community of fellow flyers. Had I done so I would have picked up tips and wrinkles, such as these:

  • Take lessons at a steady pace, fly every week if you can and twice weekly if possible. It’s not like riding a bike and leaving big gaps involves re-learning.
  • Pace yourself by taking exams as the flying lessons progress and keeping them reasonably in sync.
  • Don’t be afraid of exams. The Freedom Team is keen to help and failure is not really on the radar.
  • No-one said it would be easy. For most of us it’s a steady slog. But determination pays off and if it’s worthwhile it’s worth striving for. After all, if flying were that easy everyone would have a licence, just driving a car.

These are just a few of the many helpful hints that the Freedom community would gladly offer to someone who was contemplating learning to fly, or was already on the learning curve. It’s never too late to ask. There’s lots of help available at Freedom and whatever it is you need to know or want to acquire, Sarah or Dave or one of the team will have the answer.

So if you are thinking about learning to fly, don’t delay. Phone a friend by all means but feel free to ask the audience and take off!
Alan Gray First Solo