German – Why Not?

I’m shocked at how long it’s been since an update to this, the blog that was supposed to document my move into an airline career. It remains empty in that regard, with good reason as, whilst I’m still with my airline, I am yet to fly. It has been a year and 2 months and I have done the required licence renewals every 6 months and who knows when I will actually begin what I came here to do. For now I’m not too fussed as I’m busy furthering my knowledge in a way only few English people ever properly do, I’ve undertaken language learning. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and at first I had a feeling that I would continue with French as I have some form of a foundation from Secondary School and from having lived with a French person for a couple of years whilst training for my pilots licence. In fact, I had started thinking about how I would go about relearning French and I was really looking forward to getting to know the language better however….

A visit to Munich during New Years 2013 saw me falling in love with the country. I’d never visited Germany prior to this but, this one visit, lasting only a few days, sparked my interest immensely and since January I’ve been self learning German by using various websites such as Deutsche-Welle and random grammar books. My motivation has been up and down more times than a student pilot doing circuits to build up take-off and landing experience and 8 months in, I’m still pursuing. There have been periods of about a month here and there where I’ve studied nothing, sometimes due to being busy with other things but mostly, it’s because I don’t know any German speaking people in the country I live in and so I never really get to practice what I learn, thus the motivation trickles off as quickly as any conversation I’ve ever had with a girl I take a liking to.

Prior to taking up German, I had the pleasure of reading Mark Twain’s ‘The Awful German Language’ which, I took to be quite amusing and felt that the rantings contained wouldn’t be an issue for me. I’d just put in a lot of time to learn the difficulties that he rants on about however, little did I know, the difficulties would be far harder than my mediocre human brain could handle on my own.

At first the basics can be very encouraging, a few simple phrases here and there and you start to think, “wow, this isn’t actually too bad.. sure there are some longer words in the language but the sentence structure is similar to English and there are a fair few familiar words here!”. Then of course you get into the harder grammatical points of the language, where you learn, amongst other things, that knowing the gender of a noun is highly important when you start involving the 4 cases that are involved in German but, I’m not writing this to repeat the words of Mark Twain, you can find that particular piece of literature by making a short search on a well known internet search engine. Anyway, with the difficulties I started having, I decided it was time for me to sign up for a German course.

My first thought was to go to one here, in Doha, however, the course was fairly expensive and I felt that I could definitely get better value for money elsewhere. I started searching for courses in Germany and was even able to get some advice from other German learners that I knew and often spoke with. Eventually, I settled on DeutschAkademie in Berlin as, not only were they recommended by friends, they weren’t that expensive. I was also able to find accommodation for a very cheap price with a guy who I would later be able to consider a good friend. People generally say don’t go to Berlin to speak German because nearly every German in Berlin speaks better English than you do German. This is very true and it took a few weeks for me to be able to get a German person to not reply to me in English. I think that, along with my English accent and my poor pronunciation of some words, people were able to tell very easily I was an Auslander and probably thought I was just trying German to be polite. I won’t write about my month in Berlin just yet, I’ll save that for another post, I will however recommend that you visit it when you can as it’s a really great city with lots to do and see.

During my first week I was extremely worried that I was in the wrong level (my entry test placed me at A2.1) because whenever the Lehrerin (teacher) would speak to me in German I would stare back with a blank face and reply – Entschuldigung (sorry) or Noch ein mal bitte (one more time please). Despite her saying mostly words that I knew, I was unaccustomed to hearing them out loud and felt like the class dunce. Eventually my hearing improved and I was able to hear words that I could read with ease and I was able to pick up on new words and ask for an explanation as to what they meant.

It turns out a course in German and being surrounded by German was exactly what I needed to kick me back into learning the language and I’ve actually gotten to the point where I can have a conversation in German, basic, but a conversation nonetheless. Since I’ve been back in Doha, I’ve continued my studies and I’m trying to tackle my biggest weakness at the moment – vocabulary, along with learning the gender. I’ll keep revising the grammar that I learnt during my course last month and try and pick up on some of the new grammar that I expect to learn when I do my next course (in September). I have all this free time at the moment, I may as well get down to things and use it properly. I hope one day I can move to Germany and fly for a German carrier and I also hope that, at that point I’ll have a better command of the German language.

For anyone wishing to learn German search for Deutsche-Welle deutsch interaktiv – this offers guided learning following the European Standard Framework for language learning and Warum Nicht? – a radio podcast from DW that helped me with my hearing and pronunciation.

One thing I’ve learned during this process is that you cannot learn with just one resource and I’ve found these quick learn books do not help. I also tried Rosetta Stone but I found that too repetitive and slow for me. Keep in mind that German is one of the hardest languages to learn and even some Germans have trouble with it’s complex grammar so don’t give in.

If anyone wants to get in touch and practice their German just post a comment!

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Pushing The Boundaries of Human Limitations

Felix Baumgartner (on top of the world), “I know the whole world is watching now, and I wish the world could see what I see, and sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.”

After a 7 year journey of preparation, Felix Baumgartner has made his jump from 128,100 feet, breaking the sound barrier, the highest manned balloon flight record and highest skydive. Unfortunately the free fall time was not as long as the previous record as Felix was descending at a much faster rate than that of Joe Kittinger.

This amazing feat of bravery and engineering brilliance has proven, once again, just far humans will push the boundaries of our limitations and conquer them. I’m still filled with adrenaline from the anticipation and subsequent witnessing of the jump. The above photo is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing photos I’ve ever seen. I cannot even imagine what was going through his mind, or the feelings he must have been feeling, when he stepped out onto the platform.

Looking forward to the next leap in human innovation and boundary breaking!


Congratulations to the Red Bull Stratos team and of course to Felix Baumgartner, his nerves of steal and his giant man parts! You’ve earned some major man points today Felix and inspired the world!

Press Conference confirmed the following figures –

Exit Altitude – 128,100 Feet
Freefall time 4mins 20 secs
Freefall dist 119,846 feet
Max velocity 833.9MPH – Mach 1.24
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Wasted Effort

When I left for Doha I promised myself I’d get into shape and eat more healthily and whilst I was in Doha that held true.

I began doing a fitness DVD recommended to me by a friend who is into fitness and health, he advised it was a good DVD to get started with and should help me get in enough shape to go to the gym and not feel stupid. The DVD is called Insanity and is a 2 month course where you did a 40 minute work out every day with one rest day a week. Unfortunately I was so unfit that I had to take rests every 2 or 3 because my muscles ached so much, or I couldn’t walk properly. After a couple of weeks I found I was able to do the workouts as intended and was really starting to see the benefit. My stomach, whilst not flat, was starting to feel very strong, my legs were getting more toned, my arms were getting stronger (I was able to do push ups, which I’d never been able to do), I could see an overall change in my body. I also started swimming at the olympic pool in Doha, 50 meters of pure bliss! I hadn’t swam in so long that it took time to get back into it but I was back to my normal self in no time.

Combined with this I was eating well, I reduced all of my servings, I ate fruit as a snack if I felt hungry and everything I made included vegetables. I ate chocolate maybe once or twice a week and I reduced my beer in take, something that’s easy to do in Doha as you can’t just pop to the supermarket for some. You have to go to a specific place. I practically lived on Mediterranean veg, peppers, red onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes etc.

Anyway so now I’m home and I’ve not done any of the DVD, any swimming and my eating has become awful again. The only thing I’ve kept doing is press ups as I don’t need my shorts or trainers and they are things I forgot to bring with me. Do I buy some new ones or do I just accept how I’m living now and then work extra hard at Doha? I’m starting to really feel unfit again so I think I should but then a part of me says, don’t waste money on trainers when you have some, ah, dilemmas!

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Gift of Time

I was handed the gift of time early last week so I’m back home looking for ways to make use of it.

If you saw my last post you’d have seen some photos from a pretty epic afternoon of sailing which I enjoyed thoroughly. I can’t wait to go again and eventually learn to handle the boat on my own but I’ve come home for the time being. Some may think that I’m rather mad for coming back to a cold, wet and windy country and that the sun was the place to stay and usually I’d agree with you however, in my eyes, if I can get home and resume a normal life for a little bit then that’s what I’ll try to do as when I’m flying I wont have as much of that time as I would like.

I took the 5:45am (UK time) flight bound for Manchester, with a small suitcase and a few essentials. I would be taking the train back to Nottingham and didn’t feel the urge to drag a large case around, especially because I fear getting lost on the train network by switching to the wrong train. I managed to get business class coming back, even though I didn’t really stay seated as I spent most of the time talking with the cabin crew in the galley during which, the guy who did my interview for the company came out of the flight deck. Who’d have thought it, on all the flights, I was on his. I got talking to him for a while and I was invited to join them in Manchester. Who am I to say no, I was in no rush to get back to Nottingham so I made arrangements to meet up with them.

Whilst travelling on the train from Manchester Airport to Victoria station I was fortunate to be randomly sitting next to some girls who I realised, through accidental eves dropping, were cabin crew for Emirates. Of course I made a point of talking to them, one was an English girl and the other, not too sure. They were in Manchester for a lay over and were apparently looking forward to going to Primark of all places. I later found out that the cabin crew from the flight I took were on a mission to go to Primark. Who’d have thought it was such a popular/famous place to cabin crew?

I met up with Alex in Manchester and on walking to his hotel, we walked passed the guy who played Martin Platt in Coronation Street. I was very sad to know this fact but, having grown up being forced to watch it with my mum, it was very easy to recognise him. I had a great night out with them all and soon made my way back to Nottingham at about 22:40. I didn’t get home until 1am. I was exhausted! On the train back I realised I’d actually forgotten my iPad and quickly messaged Alex to let him know of my stupidity. Fortunately he’s taken it back to Doha but, I’m feeling the lose and it’s so harsh!

I’ve got plans to do some sim work in a Jetstream 4100 sim to help a friend out and go for a flight whilst I’m home and of course meet up with mates and have some fun. A friend has recommended a few books that I should read so I’m planning on visiting the book shop to see how much they are or just buying from the iTunes book store, see which is cheaper. I’m not sure when I’m due back to the sandpit but I’ll keep an eye out. If I do get flying it’ll be the first time I’ve flown in over a year, oh well I’ve had bigger gaps in my flying! :-).

Maybe I should learn another language? Hmm….

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Sailing The Doha Coast

On my second day back in Doha, a friend and I decided the weather was good enough to go out on his boat. We’d been trying to get out on it all summer but the weather has been so hot that you’d just burn.

This single masted, triple sail, 20 foot boat was our chariot for the day. Depending on wind, the Main Sail and Jib are the sails usually the only those used however, there is a spinnaker available to if the wind drops.

My friend had promised to teach me to sail a while ago so today was my first lesson, he showed me how to set up the sails and prepare the boat to go out. It wasn’t too difficult and within about 10 minutes we were ready to push back from the mooring and get under way. There’s a small 8 horse power engine on the back of the boat that we could use to get out of the harbour however the wind was pushing us along nicely.

He taught me about Jib control and ducking under, also about optimum angle of attack of the boat and sails to the wind. There are 2 spots on the Job that allow you to gauge whether the airflow over the sail is flowing in a smooth and laminar fashion. After a little while I felt I was able to feel it without looking and 9 times out of 10 I was just about spot on. I was allowed the opportunity to change direction of the boat and pull on the Jib lines to get it to inflate on the correct side. It involved pulling on one line whilst releasing another, whilst steering the boat to the other side. I have to say, I need a bit more practise at doing the steering at the same time because whilst changing sides I allowed the rudder to deflect a little too much and ended up having a high rate of turn.

More time at required at the gym? Maybe!

Our approximate track around the Doha coast, our total time out was around 3 – 3.5 hours.

By the time we headed back in, the sun was setting and one thing that is beautiful about this place is the Arabian sunset. It’s absolutely gorgeous. We put the spinnaker up for the last bit as the wind had dropped and made our way back towards the harbour.

All in all, it was an absolutely fantastic day of sailing, I cannot wait to go out again and hopefully soon I’ll be able to sail all on my own. I’ve been told I can take the boat out on my own when I can cope with it so that’s my goal! I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the photos as much as I enjoyed sailing the boat and taking them!

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Home Again!

It’s been a very long time since I last posted anything, besides the rant about today’s media and I know what people are thinking – original dude, find a new topic.

Anyway, the main reason I haven’t posted is because I’ve not had access to my laptop and I prefer having all the functionality of the actual website, especially with adding photos. I’m writing this on the plane as I return to Doha after a really enjoyable 3 weeks at home. How time flies! But wait, didn’t I say I want to write it up on a laptop? Yes that’s correct however, I’ll get this written on my iPad, save it and then tweak it when I get back. Ah the joys of these expensive apple devices. My iPhone is currently sat on my table next to me and of course I’m typing on this so I must look like a bit of an Apple Fanboy! Anyway, here is my view currently!

So on the 6th of September I finally received my multi exit permit and my staff travel. Happy times and the beginning of a very long day. I woke up that morning at 6am, got ready and went out the door to sort out the exit permit. That took around an hour, I then went and informed them that I’d be away for a week or two, this took another hour. I then got a taxi back to my apartment for 10:00, booked my flight which was to leave at 12:30 and then got a lift with a friend to the airport to wait around for another 30mins whilst more people checked in. I was disappointed to find that I hadn’t gotten my business class seat as I was tired, having not slept much and awoken at 6am. I was pleased to find that I did mange to get on the flight, despite it being economy, because I was eager to return home. I was missing England and reasonable temperatures. You may even go as far to say that I was missing my family!

The flight was wonderful, as I expected from Qatar Airways and as I approached England I was getting ever more excited. The first glimpse of cloud was a wonderful sight for me, I hadn’t seen one cloud since arriving in Doha and then came the greenery of the various countries we over flew. Such sights I never thought I’d miss. As we approached England, from over the Channel, I felt home. My stepdad and mum were on their way to pick me up but I had an extra couple of hours wait so first things first, I walked outside terminal 4 and stood in the cool temperature of the UK. Second, I set myself up on a comfy sofa in Costa Coffee, killed some zombies on COD:Zombies and got in touch with people that I hadn’t spoken to for a while. The 2 hours flew by and soon I was sat with my mum and stepdad, having a bacon panini, which was oh so heavenly, and then I was on my way home.

I was treated to a couple of bottles of Ale, a back garden BBQ in the rare heat of the British Summer and was extremely happy to be home with my family. It’s funny how you notice the safety that being at home brings and instantly, any anxieties I had about my up coming adventures in my new home had faded. I arranged plans for the coming week, seeing old friends, seeing my nana and going to stay with my dad. I even crashed a leaving night out for one of my old bosses at Boots which turned out to be a fantastic night. I’d forgotten how much fun it was to hang out with the Boots lot, as one of the guys said on the day it was 224 days since I had left. I couldn’t believe it. 9 months had passed since I left Boots and since I’d seen my old friends. Time certainly does fly and it’s moments like these that bring about realisations just how precious time is and how you have to try your best to live in the present so that life doesn’t just pass you by. The day after arriving home we went to a local village to check out the scarecrow festival that they do every year, there were some extremely impressive creations as you can see here.

My dad lives in the countryside just outside of Grimsby, it’s full of greens, yellows and browns of the different fields and of course, many many trees and plant life. It was extremely refreshing to be back in the countryside, surrounded by these different colours and everyday we went for 6-8 mile walks around the area. We made a point of including the local pub in our trails so that we may sit outside, in the sun, with a pint of fine ale.

A good friend of mine had been working on a sculpture for a little while and on one of the days we took a road trip to Birmingham to a foundry to get the sculpture cast. Typically it was raining and miserable outside, the roads leading into Birmingham had a bit of flooding that was causing the traffic to build up but once we got there we were shown around this foundry that was basically a shed with a few tools to create moulds and carry out the casting procedure. It looks like the sculpture won’t be ready for a few months as the foundry has massive orders to fill but looking at the work the foundry has done in the past, it is set to be pretty spectacular. The sculpture is of a woman kneeling down with her arms spread out in a pose. It’s taken him around 5 weeks of work to get right and it’s certainly been worth it as she’s turned out beautiful.

It’s difficult to know what to put into posts like these; the ones you know that are going to be long essays of stuff that only I would care to read about because it’s always nice to look back and read about times that were good when you’re going through tough ones. I think that last sentence has spurred me on to include more.

I met up with a couple of really close friends that I hadn’t seen for 9 months, one of which I hadn’t heard from for a while as she had spent the year busy sorting out wedding plans and moving to London. We went into a local village and had a cup of tea and cheese cake, certainly a winning combination, and she told me all about her husband, who I haven’t met and all about the wedding and honeymoon. I’m sad I wasn’t able to attend the wedding due to being away in Doha but she seems so happy now and throughout my time knowing her, she’s worried and stressed more than I! It seems her husband keeps her grounded which is fantastic, i’m so happy she’s met someone that is deserving of her as she’s such a wonderful person. I met my other close friend for a pint and some food at a pub in Nottingham where, I was able to get Hob Goblin on draught! This made me happy beyond belief as I’m a huge fan of Hob Goblin. It was great to catch up, unfortunately 3 hours was not enough time but hopefully, when I’m back next, I’ll be able to meet up for another catch up.

My sister started university last week which was a great moment for us all, she’d been so undecided with what she wants to do with her life that I don’t think any of us ever saw her actually choosing and going for it. She seems to enjoy what she’s doing and hopefully she works hard to achieve what she is capable of achieving. She’s also moved to student halls so she can participate in the student lifestyle. Her student halls are filled with many good looking girls so I think I’m going to go to university and enjoy myself! I spent a fair bit of time getting her new laptop, printer, wifi etc all set up for her because I’m nice like that!

I went to see Paul Carrack from Mike and The Mechanics at The Glee Club in Nottingham which was a fantastic night out! I’ve long been a fan of Mike and The Mechanics and Paul Carracks voice is just spectacular, he sounds exactly the same live as he does on his records.

Before long it was time to fly back to Doha, the 3 weeks had flown by!

That’s enough rambling from me I think, until next time.


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Media Reporting

Since I began flying I’ve noticed that the medias interpretation of aviation related incidents as extremely flawed. The basic understanding of how a passenger aircraft is operated, amongst other things, leaves a lot to be desired or just isn’t there.

Whilst some may argue that these journalists aren’t pilots and therefore wouldn’t have a clue about the intricacies of flying or being a pilot, I would argue, how can you write an article that is supposed to be informative and factually correct if you don’t understand what you are writing about? I’m no journalist as you know from reading this post or any of my others however, I wrote a number of articles whilst doing a music journalism course alongside my Music Technology studies at college and I relied on my knowledge of the subject to help me to write my articles. To ensure my articles weren’t a load of nonsense, I also researched my subject further and gave my article to people that may have more insight than myself so that they may offer me pointers.

All too often I hear comments such as, “there are reports that the co-pilot was flying” or “the pilot only had 3500 hours on type”. First of all, co-pilot is an incorrect term, there is no co-pilot on the flight deck, there are 2 roles and a number of ranks. A flight deck environment is split into Pilot Flying and Pilot Not Flying. Sometimes items to be completed, such as signing the tech log, are labelled CM1 and CM2 but there is no co-pilot. Something that may shock a few people is that the Pilot Flying and Pilot Not Flying roles are swapped nearly every flight so the person in the right hand seat may well be taking you from A to B.

Second, if the media understood how long it took to accumulate “only 3500 hours” on type they may realise it’s no insignificant feat. A pilot is only allowed to fly a maximum number of 900 hours a year but it’s a rare thing for someone to get to 900; it really depends on the airline and type of operation. Flying a maximum of 900 hours a year a pilot would need just under 4 years experience on one particular type of aeroplane.

Knowing the degree of inaccuracies when it comes to these reports has had me thinking for a while, just how accurately do they report on everything else. Outside of my profession and the subjects I’ve studied in the past, I am general Joe Public, I don’t have much knowledge on a lot of things that get reported. Were I naive enough, I would base any conclusion I may make about a subject based on the medias interpretation without giving any thought as to whether what they were reporting was 100% accurate or even the truth. We all know the media like to shine a certain light on events to bring in viewers or readers, twisting facts to make stories sound even more shocking than they may be, for example, “there are reports that the co-pilot was flying”. To tell people that the co-pilot was flying is to say that a less able pilot was at the controls and that it’s such a shocking thing that someone other than the captain (or “pilot” as the media like to say) was at the controls. Both pilots undergo 6 monthly testing and are both as capable of flying the aircraft as the other, the difference is that the captain is generally more experienced and the aircraft is technically his or hers as they have signed the documentation saying they are happy enough to accept it to fly. It’s all about ratings and they know that making a mountain out of a molehill will draw people in. This is not to say that they do this with everything, there are certainly events in the world that are absolutely shocking and terrible but to reiterate, how much of these events is told accurately or by someone who actually specialises on the topic.

There will be people out there that buy into every word that is said by the media and if they feel strongly, a negative reaction may follow based on what could possibly be over hyped and inaccurate information. I am aware that journalism is checked for factual errors however, do the people who are checking for errors even have a clue on the subject themselves? Perhaps more rules need to come into force to better regulate the news to ensure it is factual and therefore provide Joe Public, such as myself, with an educated and professional take on the days events.

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