To Dubai!

So what is a pilot to do when a friend asks him “Hey, do you want to come to Dubai with me for a few days?”

The hotel was cheap, the flights weren’t too bad and the activities that we planned to do didn’t amount to much of a cost so, to my surprise, I found Dubai to be quite a cheap trip compared to what I thought it may be.

We travelled on a United Airlines 777 out of Doha and touched down in Dubai 45 minutes later to weather a little more humid than our point of departure. Getting through the airport security was surprisingly painless, compared with previous transits through Dubai, and making our way to our budget hotel was just a short taxi ride away.

The Royal Falcon Hotel, the name sounds rather grand and you might expect high quality rooms; or at least you would if you hadn’t just paid £60 for 3 nights! There was mould in the corners of the walls, the shower was an absolute state and the bed was as hard as a rock. It was all expected and we shrugged our shoulders, dumped our stuff and went out to find food. With it being Ramadan at the moment the only time you are able to find any food shops that are open is after sunset and we found a lot! There was plenty to choose from with many different shops serving many different types of cuisine…. We settled for KFC in the end which is quite an awful choice but we made up for it over the next few days with our willingness to explore strange new foods.

The first day in Dubai we booked a Desert Safari and City Tour and decided to go for a walk around the large Souq that was just a metro ride away. The metro is really nice, you can tell a lot of money has been spent in its construction and in its upkeep; the cost of a day rider wasn’t too bad either. Having only ever visited London once, I had very little experience on underground trains so I left the navigating to my travel companion and we were able to arrive at our destination in no problems. The Souq was extremely large and we quickly found we had no idea where we were. There were many various shops around the place selling all sorts of things from all sorts of different cultures, and every 5-10 steps some random person asked if I wanted to buy a watch. One of my favourite shop filled alley ways in the Souq was filled with various spices, I had no idea what most were but if I could have bought some and taken them home I would have done. Upon walking down the alley I was overcome with the overwhelming influx of smells, many I had never encountered before and I spent a long time leaning in to get a better smell of single spices that took my fancy. The shop keepers were very keen to sell to me however, as fun as it would be to try and get them back to Doha I decided against it.

After walking around the Souq for many hours in the heat of the day, maybe 50 degrees or more – with no water as it was ramadan, we headed back to the metro to make it back to the hotel in time for our safari pick up. Of course, we were lost but, with the help of a few friendly locals we were able to get back to the station in time.

 

 

 

 

If I can recommend anything whilst in Dubai it is to get yourself on a desert safari, I enjoyed myself thoroughly and so did the rest of the people it seemed. One thing, it’s not for a weak stomach because you are thrown around so much. The contrast of the desert against the sky was beautiful, it looked like something from a windows default desktop background and the various dunes made for some unusual attitudes which, I had previously only experienced in an aeroplane. After a while the car came to a camp set up out in the middle of the desert where various wooden huts had been constructed for eating, cooking and entertainment. It was a really lovely location and myself and my travel companion made our way into the camp. I had been talking to a girl from Ireland for a long time and she came to join us as we went up stairs in one of the open huts to find a place to sit down. We were sat on cushions on the floor talking for a very long time whilst my friend broke the fast and generally enjoying the moment. The desert is such a quiet, peaceful place and all that could be heard was the wind as it passed through the hut and the laughter of nearby people. It was incredibly soothing, in the absolute dead of night, being able to gaze up at the stars, more visible than I had ever seen them due to the lack light pollution and feeling a warm light breeze blowing over me. We forgot that food was available downstairs and almost missed it, the food was various different things that I had never tried before, one looked like it might be a tongue from something but after daring to try it I realised it was most likely fish. We were later called upon to go back to the hotel by the driver, I waved goodbye to tranquility as I had never known it and vowed to return soon. Upon returning we retired to bed as we had an early start for the city tour the next day.

As with any city tour we were taken around many of the landmarks that made up Dubai, it was pretty much a drive by photo taking opportunity, I’ll just post the photos here as I had no clue what the guide was saying about the buildings!

That night we went to the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building! This was one of the things I most wanted to do when I was asked to go to Dubai as it’s such an amazing feat of engineering. We went down stairs to the entrance and bought tickets to go up. My friend wanted to walk up the stairs however the staff said no, we had to go up the lift. Phew! I’m not a lazy person, I don’t think, but 220 od floors… I’ll give that a pass. The downstairs section was minimalistic however gave a lot of information on the construction of the building and had some memorabilia from the Mission Impossible film that had the Burj Khalifa in it.

When we got to the top, I was pleasantly surprised to find the observation deck as being an open deck. The feel of the wind coming up through the decking and through the gaps in the windows was really great and of course the view was spectacular. We sat down next to one of the windows for a very long time, just taking in the breath taking view, I felt so at peace. We spent around 3 hours up on the observation deck, only leaving when it closed and then we spent some time looking at more information on the construction of the tower on our way out.

After the Burj Khalifa we decided to take a walk around the gigantic mall and have a look around. We looked at going to the aquarium there however by the time we had come down from the Burja Khalifa we were too late. We did get to view some of it from the mall, apparently through the worlds largest single glass pane on an aquarium. I’m not sure of the truth on this but it was rather large.

After this my friend had the idea of walking to the beach, looking at the map it didn’t seem far so we decided to get our walking shoes on and go. It looked like it might possibly take around 30minutes to get there, which wasn’t too bad.

1 and a half hours later, my feet killing and my back aching; we gave up. We got a passing taxi and he asked us, in conversation, what the hell we were doing out so late (it was around 3:30am), we explained and he laughed his head off whilst informing us that if we’d have carried on it would have been another hour. Oh dear. It’s a good job we gave up!

Our last day in Dubai we made our way to another mall, this one with the indoor ski slope, unfortunately we didn’t have time to use it but we wanted to have a look and see what it was about. Next time! It was soon time for us to catch our flight back, we were given Qatar Airways on the way back, which was a nice surprise, as the United flight was a couple of hours late. I got home and went straight to bed. All in all, a great trip! It’s taken a while to write about it as there was so much to write, I’ve actually condensed this down a fair bit just because of the word count. I certainly recommend Dubai and apart from the flights you can certainly stay there and have a good time without spending a fortune. In total I think I spent around £250-£300 with hotel, food and activities included.

I’m looking forward to my next trip but I’ve got a lot of work to do before that happens. Roll on flying!

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Observation Flights

Things have been rather stagnant for a month or so here, it’s meant a fair bit of money spending to keep occupied as there isn’t much else you can do. I’ve met many nice people and had a really good time whilst spending said money.

I recently asked for some observation flights so that I could focus my studies better and get to know the way the aircraft is operated so that when I finally get flying, I’ll be in a better position and hopefully with have learnt exactly what I need to learn.

My first flight was Doha – Dubai and back, this is a relatively short flight and there isn’t much time in the cruise before you are descending to land. It was good to see how the pilots operated in such a short space of time and I learnt a great deal about how they manage their time. This flight was scheduled to depart at 11:45 so I arrived around 2 hours before hand so that I was able to get involved in the preflight planning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was shown which documents needed to be collected and what needed to be checked. We looked at the weather and NOTAMs (notices to airmen) and decided on fuel requirements for the flight. After the paper work was signed and everyone was briefed we made our way to the aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got on board the aircraft, got ourselves settled in and met with the cabin crew to have a briefing with them before the Captain and I stepped outside to do the walk around whilst the First Officer set the flight management system up for the flight to Dubai.

After take off we climbed to FL250 and before we knew it, it was time to come back down. The departure and majority of the flight was over the water although you wouldn’t know it as there was a thick layer of haze in the air blocking the view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The approach into Dubai was a little bumpy but the F/O, who was pilot flying, handled the aircraft nicely and the touch down was very smooth.

On the turn around we had something to eat, had a nice chat with the cabin crew and an hour later were taxing out for take off to return to Doha. In all it was a great day, my first time ever on a flight deck whilst flying, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next flight was to Kuwait and back, this was a night flight, departing at around 2030 and arriving back in Doha around 0100. The captain and first officer were very helpful, again taking me through everything on the preflight and also asking me questions on the various manuals that I have been reading through. To my surprise there were only a few questions I didn’t know the answers to, which means that somehow, the stuff I’ve been reading has actually been making it into my long term memory.

Personally I really enjoy flying at night, there is something so peaceful about it and of course there is the beauty of the lights all around. The approach into Kuwait was very beautiful, we were brought in over the sea and over the sky scrapers along the coast. I tried to take a good photo of them however the photos were blurry. I was only really able to grab one photo which looks half decent.

And another not so great one on the approach.

As with Dubai, we landed, ate between the turn around and then departed again to come back to Doha. Another great flight and a lot of good information gathered for me to come back home and revise in preparation for when I start flying.

The next event should be me doing my base training, I’m not sure when that is but I got a phone call from the UK CAA saying that my licence verification had gone through so it shouldn’t be too long now. If it isn’t base training then I’ll be doing more observation flights through August. I might even go to Dubai for a few days whilst I’ve got the chance.

Remember to keep those seat belts fastened until the aircraft has come to a complete stop and the seat belt light has been turned off!

Journeym4n

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Sleepless in Doha

Tonight has been one of those nights where, no matter what you try, you just cannot get to sleep. Anxiety, thinking, poor sleeping patterns etc all contribute to not being able to get to sleep and this evening I am affected by all of these.

I’ve almost completed 2 weeks worth of leave that I was given due to operational reasons. Whilst I’ve been moderately busy, splitting my time between trying to learn the ops manuals and going out with people, I’ve found myself with a fair bit of free time to think about things. Especially whilst trying to go to sleep at night.

A couple of days ago I was filling in a form and under “age” I put down 21; it was only after I handed the form in that I realised, actually I’m 23 and I’m only 2 months away from turning 24. Later on I started thinking, where has the time gone? How has two years past so quickly? Then I started thinking about when I started at my flight training school and I was overcome with a strange feeling in my stomach, I just couldn’t believe that it had all come and gone. I’d been to New Zealand, I’d learnt to fly, had some incredible experiences, come back to the UK, completed the end of my training, gained all of my flying licences and then it was finished. The effect of this sudden realisation was like being dragged violently through time to present day.

The two years following the completion of my flight training I spent a lot of time in Sheffield, living a semi student life whilst my girlfriend of those two years attended university. At this point I was certain that no job offers for flying would appear for at least a year or so and thus felt determined to relieve the stress I’d felt throughout my training by living this student life. Having never been to university myself, I was so glad I got to experience the social side of it for that period of time. I fell in love with Sheffield and with the lifestyle of a student. I enjoyed partaking in the intellectual conversations of minds that were growing through education, going to student events, having long nights out without worrying about flying exams and many other things. Also, I’d never been anywhere, where you step off the train and the place somehow feels friendly.

When I finally got a job in Nottingham, 5 months later, I was very sad that this little break had to come to an end. Fortunately I was able to get back up to Sheffield at the weekends and I used my holidays to spend time there with my girlfriend. Over that two year period I got to know the place very well, I got to experience what it was like to be part of the university social experience, I got to experience a deep love for someone and sadly have it fall a part towards the end and I was able to completely get out of my own head, where I so often find myself.

Flash forward four years from the beginning of my training to now and I’m looking at the past with a great sense of longing and I find myself holding it on a pedestal. It wasn’t that those years were amazing, there were amazing parts and there were awful parts – it’s that I became so secure in those years, with my surroundings and with my life, that this huge change has left me reaching out for that familiarity. It has left me craving the old times.

Right now I’m still on the cusp of the unknown. I’ve just moved to a new place, to start a new career, with many new people and it’s miles away from home. It’s a massive shake up and that’s why I’m feeling like this. I’m extremely lucky to be here, I would not be anywhere else and I’m looking forward to the adventures and experiences that await me with my new life. At this point I’m still going through the grieving process because as humans we aren’t always as instantaneously adaptable as we would like to be and we need time to adjust. You feel a loss because you’ve lost that security, that stability, those familiar things and you need to allow yourself the time to let go and embrace the new. I guess this is where the need to long for the old comes into things and eventually that will pass as I get settled in here.

The realisation of just how quickly time can go by has me thinking of ways I can try and hold onto the moments that matter. I know one thing, that the value I place on these moments will increase substantially because of this.

To anyone older than me thinking, this guy is only 23/24 and he’s talking about how quickly time flies, he has absolutely no idea. You’re right I don’t and I’m sure in years to come I’ll look back on this and think wow I really had no clue.

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Evacuate, Evacuate, Evacuate!

Yesterday (Friday), we were down to go for ditching training at the Emirates training centre in Dubai. I was really looking forward to this as it would be the first time I’ve ever been part of operating crew, yes we were only dead heading however, we were in uniform whilst air side and for me that was exciting enough!

We arrived at the technical building at the airport, received our boarding passes and proceeded to the aircraft in one of the crew transport buses. Ironically, whilst I am type rated to fly the A320 family (A319/320/321), I’ve never actually been inside one… not even to go on holiday. Today our chariot was an A321 and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a quick photo with it. Unfortunately you can tell it’s a quick photo but never mind!

For some reason, every photo of me that day, my tie wasn’t straight!

The crew were a very friendly bunch and it made for an even more enjoyable flying experience. The flight to Dubai would only be around 45 minutes from take off to landing and at a cruising altitude of 31,000 Feet, it meant that as soon as we were in the cruise, it was pretty much time to descend. During that short duration we were given a bolognese and cheese wrap and some chocolate biscuits that I managed to get on my shirt. Fortunately a wet wipe was able to scrub it out and I’m just glad I didn’t spill the orange juice down myself!

On take off I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take a photo of NDIA (New Doha International Airport). It’s an absolute monster of an airport and I’m very much looking forward to operating out of it. The approach into NDIA, right besides the water, is going to be amazing and the actual design of the airport itself is set to be quite spectacular. It’s due to open in December so not long to go! You can check out the development on http://www.ndiaproject.com/.

Taken during the arrival into Dubai Airport. Sadly we didn’t go over the Burj-Al-Arab or at least not from my seat anyway.

After landing we were able to use the immigration counter for crew which meant that we were out of the airport within a few minutes whilst others were made to go through the normal immigration process. I had a nice chat with the Amiri crew who were along with us for the ditching and with the Spanish pilots who we’d done most of our inductions with and found that we had a really good group with us.

The Emirates training centre is a very unique building, i’ll post this image and allow you to see why.

Inside the part where we were to be doing our ditching were various fuselage’s from the Emirates fleet surrounding a swimming pool. The A330 is the one we were sat in for most of the time, allowing the cabin crew to practice their drills and also allowing us to try out the slides to see what they were all about. Apart from the A380 fuselage, the others all had motion and monitors in each window so you could see and feel what phase of flight you were in. The cabin crew did various smoke and fire procedures, as well as ditching and crowd control.

A380

A330

So for the actual ditching, we were told to put on life jackets, inflate them and get into the rubber slide/life raft you can see in the A330 image. We were then asked to erect the protective canopy, which takes some effort, and then asked to jump into the water. I didn’t hesitate to jump in however upon breaking through the surface I was in mild shock as the water was quite cold! Also my life jacket came off…

After jumping in people were asked to climb up the side to get out of the pool and into the raft using the red handles you can see on the left hand side. There was a big rush for people to get out so I just swam a few laps of the pool whilst I waited, completely forgetting that I would need my limited upper body strength to pull myself out. When it came to my go, the first time I slipped off and the second time I was actually able to get in so, fortunately I was able to save myself a fair bit of embarrassment.

On the way back, I quite enjoyed walking through Dubai Airport in my uniform, I couldn’t have felt prouder of my achievements so far and where I was. I enjoyed a nice cold Iced Tea from Costa and sat around chatting to one of the Spanish guys about training and flying related things. I hope that I continue to achieve in my career and that my base training goes well, whenever that may be.

The flight back felt a lot quicker than the flight to Dubai, I took a couple of photos of Dubai at night however as my iPhone is the only camera I have, they didn’t come out as well as I wanted. The flight was extremely full and I ended up waiting until we were nearly pushing back to be able to find an over head compartment for my flight case. During that time I had a nice chat with the crew on board and eventually having my first food since the morning flight there.

Don’t you just love the hustle and bustle of the airport! (air side at least). To think, the last time I was here was in 2009, having just completed my training in New Zealand. It’s great that the next time I should visit, I’m actually in my dream job. The first time I came to Dubai I was stood down in the middle of those shops, just next to the counters on the right, with my course mates chatting about the future. It’s incredible just how quickly time goes.

Dubai at night on the departure from Dubai Airport.

On the apron at Doha, home sweet home! The end of a really fun day, the next thing now is base training, hopefully another fun day!

In the mean time, keep your aircraft dry – don’t land in water!

Journeym4n

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Pre Base Training

I’ve been rather useless when it comes to posting new entries and the impact it can have on views on the blog really shows. Unfortunately, until I start flying, there isn’t much to write about however, I’ve been doing a few things recently that have been blog worthy in my opinion hence this entry.

Last week I had my pre-base training simulator lesson. This is to prepare us for our first flight in the Airbus aircraft where we do 6 take offs and landings. We had to complete around 13-15 approaches with various winds and turbulence levels to learn how to deal with different conditions that may exist and the landings all have to be to a decent standard to be passed to start flying fare paying passengers. The simulators here in Qatar are state of the art and far newer than those at CTC. They are a lot smoother in terms of motion and they handle a little differently also. My one worry about this lesson was my centreline tracking, in the simulator I’ve never been able to track the centreline properly as the perspective always looks wrong for me but in the real world I’ve never had a problem. This lesson I wanted to make a good first impression so my centreline tracking is what I focused on when it came to watching the auto pilot demonstrate an approach and landing. I managed to burn the image into my head and my approaches were quite good.

My landings were not the best, for some reason, whilst using the same techniques I have throughout my A320 type rating I was pitching too high on the flare. I’ve never had a problem with my landings so this was frustrating me quite a bit. I started making smaller inputs and this led to me making rather positive landings. I can’t tell whether I had an off day or whether the simulator just handled differently to what I was used to but whenever I pulled on the stick to flare, it just kept pitching up as though you were in normal law, not flare mode where it should simulate reverting back to commanding an elevator deflection. On another note I left my iPhone in a taxi on the way back so I think I may have just been having one of those days.

All in all, I was signed off to say I was ready for the base training so it can’t have gone too badly. I’ve just got to try and step over the line, put it behind me and get on with the next thing. Base training in the real aircraft. It was booked in for Wednesday but the UK CAA haven’t sent over my licence verification yet so I haven’t got my Qatar licence. Hopefully this comes through soon as I really want to get flying, despite the draw back of the other day.

Aviation is never ending cycle of ups and downs,

Journeym4n

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Ground Courses

So I’m going to start off this post by introducing you to a video that pretty much explains the mindset of most aviators. Being aware of this, most do not act this way however it is there waiting to burst out. Enjoy!

It’s been a while since I last posted an update, the reason being that at the moment not a lot is happening in terms of training or flying due to massive back logs.

Our first week was filled with paper work – not really post worthy material to be honest. No one wants to sit there and read how I had to total my logbook hours more than twice that week and how I filled in form after form of information for my residence permit and for the companies records.

Since that first week of HR stuff we’ve done a few things, all ground school and actually pretty enjoyable to be honest. The first course was a fire fighting course, basically the place was about 20 minutes out of Doha, into the desert and most of the time I couldn’t help but feel like the taxi driver was lost but eventually we got there. The company we did the training with had set a room up with a mock up of a jet cabin with fake ovens and a fake loo. Our mission, of which we had no choice to accept or not, was to put out an oven fire and a loo fire using a small fire extinguisher. We were then taken to a metal container that they use on cargo ships, with no air con or anything, to do a smoke demonstration where, behind some glass the guy taking the lesson lit a fire and sat there in breathing apparatus waiting for the room to completely fill with smoke. Hot was certainly not the word in this metal container but it was interesting to see how the smoke acted.. the bodily smells were not so interesting!

Security training was really interesting, we were shown many famous attempts at hi jackings or bomb threats on board aircraft and given an awareness as to how these people think and how their bombs are designed to work. It’s scary to think just how many ways these people keep coming up with to try to destroy lives and cause as much damage as possible.

Meet George the Autopilot!

As you can see he’s a dab hand with the ladies….

George was taken out of the cockpit for the day to allow us to practice CPR on him. Poor thing, he didn’t need 30 odd blokes lipping him and blowing litres of air into his mouth but I guess it makes a change from keeping aircraft straight and level for hours on end!

Next thing is CRM which, as you can see on my blog, I’ve done before. Infact I’ve done CRM twice before and the CRM here is two days long. I don’t understand how they can spread it out over two days. In the past the CRM days have been literally one day. Ah well I’ll find out soon. I’m booked in to do my zero flight time simulator on the 29th, this is the pre simulator lesson for the base training in the actual aircraft. Beyond that, the only thing I know I have for definite is ditching at the Emirates training centre on the 30th which should be a fun day!

Hope you enjoyed the jet pilot video!

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My New Life Begins

Well here I am, I’ve arrived in Doha, Qatar! First impressions? The airport is ridiculously efficient, we were in the terminal, through immigration and out the front door within 15 minutes! I expected a million and one forms to fill out however fortunately that was not the case. It was a very nice warm temperature that evening, just the kind of temperature you could get used to however, the prospect of the temperature going up by a lot during the day was well known to us all and hopefully we would be able to bare it.

Our accommodation at this point was still unknown to us and we were very happy to see that we were housed at the Holiday Villa as we’d heard some good things about it. I’m sharing with one other person in a three bedroom apartment which, is a lot bigger than I was expecting. My twin bedroom with ensuite is a very welcome surprise and the air conditioning is lovely. I tend to turn it off when I go to sleep as I like waking up to a warm room in the morning, it helps with the transition of getting out of bed!

Nearly every night we’ve been out to eat at somewhere in Doha and I do believe that the Souq Waqif has become the place we most enjoy going. The Souq Waqif is a traditional market place type area and is the largest in Doha; it’s home to a wide variety of shops selling items such as clothing, souvenirs, crafts and many other things. There are many restaurants that can be found down the streets of the Souq, a few examples include Iraqi, Moroccan, Indian, Sea Food bars and many more. So far we have been to the Indian and another place that did a mixture of dishes with a Qatari twist. Both have been very satisfactory and I’m sure when we’ve finished doing the rounds on the restaurants that we’ll go back. The atmosphere is really quite amazing, it feels so friendly, so soft, so peaceful, yet there’s so much going on. There are many people walking around, talking, having a good time, there are shop keepers busy creating their latest craft or restocking shelves, or trying to bring customers in with the fancy nicknack’s they have and these things combined with the heat of the evening just make you feel so at ease. We were sat outside one of the food places we ate at on the first night we visited the Souq and I could have sat their for hours watching everything that was going on and not get bored.

The Souq Waqif has been around for at least a hundred years however, with an injection of funds from the government they have restored the area and have even flattened it in places to rebuild it and return it to it’s former glory.

There are many wonderful buildings around Doha, the West Bay area is full of sky scrapers and when looked at from a place called the Corniche it really does look beautiful. The Corniche is along the sea front and spans around 5km’s I believe, it’s a really nice area for a walk. The boats in the harbour are quite unique looking, to a westerner, and the view over the bay is breath taking.

The above is the Museum of Islamic Art, unfortunately we’ve not had a chance to visit it yet however it is on the to do list.

I believe I’ve rambled on a little too much so I think I’ll end my post here. I’ll update again when I get time. Credit for the photos goes to one of my course mates as her camera is a very good one whereas mine is not so good and the same photos came out quite grainy.

Thanks,

Journeym4n

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