Welcome to my blog.

In 2008, I received a trial flight in a light aircraft - a flight which changed my life. After a mere thirty minutes in an asthmatic old Cessna, I decided I would become a pilot. It was love at first flight. As Leonardo Da Vinci famously said - Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

However, like any relationship, there were highs (and there were puns!) and there were many moments where I thought I would never grasp this new skill.

After fifteen instructors, six flying schools and enough tears to fill a dam, I became a private pilot. And, because of a strong masochistic streak, I decided to study for my Commercial Pilot's Licence.

This blog is a working narrative of my time as a pilot, through my personal writing, my round Australia trip and my career as an aviation journalist, magazine editor, customer engagement manager for AvPlan EFB and aircraft salesperson for Cirrus Sydney.

Aviation has changed my life: through learning to fly I have discovered a part of myself that is resilient, organised and capable of great joy as a result of hard work, setbacks and learning.

In the words of Socrates, “Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.”

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to email me with advice and suggestions on


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In the Nick of Time

It was a dark cloud - the kind a pilot never, ever wants to be under; a dark a cloud of my own making. Not a scary, impenetrable cumulus, forcing me to land on a foreign strip, unprepared; rather a nagging, out of proportion, self induced cloud of despair. Created by me, over a year ago when I sat my last CPL exam, failed and never bothered to rebook.

The Marquis de CASA (distant relative of de Sade, but much, much crueller) decided, some time in the seventies when they planned their exam procedures, that the student of the seven CPL exams has three years in which they must pass all seven exams. In the seventies, when people had time. When they stopped to smell the roses, possessed one telephone between five people and still used typewriters. When Angry Birds, the BBC iPlayer and PPRuNe were in the space aged future. When three years would have felt like three years.

I can't believe a whole year had passed since I sat the last one.

I had passed six. Six in two years, three hundred and sixty three days. If you fail to pass all seven within the three year slot, you lose ALL seven exams and have to start at the beginning again, assuming of course you still possess the will to live.

The last exam - aerodynamics - had become a towering cumulus. Having already failed it three times, it mocked me now. Each failure had been a thumb in the nose: the pass mark is 70 and I repeatedly scored 68.

Five days before the exam, I started cramming. I practiced the test papers with obsessive compulsive verve. The coefficient of lift appeared in my dreams.

I told myself it didn't matter if I failed; that the CPL experience was just that - an experience, to learn more about the theory of aviation. That I never wanted to be a professional pilot anyway.

And then, on the morning of the exam, I had to pull over on the M5 to vomit in a service station toilet. I was convinced I knew nothing; that the coefficient of lift monster had stolen all my revision overnight. I contemplated not going in at all, staying on the M5 westbound, until maybe, days later, I would hole up in a country town, where I could change my identity and pretend I wasn't a sad failure of an exam every CPL student before me could pass.

At the exam centre, there was a delay. To prevent me from digging into the revision notes and replacing whatever had stuck with a jumble of nonsensical notes, I began talking to another student. Fessing up that this would be my last attempt,he looked horrified, exclaiming "I've heard of people like you, leaving the last exam til the last day, but I've never actually met one."

I felt like Rimmer in Red Dwarf, when attempting to take his astronavigatiom exam - he writes 'I am a fish' a hundred times and then passes out.

Finally, we went in. I greeted the adjudicator like a long lost friend (a year ago we saw each other so often, I believe I knew her star sign and favourite food). We went through the usual procedure and I pressed 'load exam'
After that, I remember nothing.

The only thing I did differently from the other three attempts, I did on the advice of an old hand flying
instructor: I wrote the questions down, and answered them with my own answer, before looking at the Marquis de Casa's choices and selecting one.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, I pressed submit. "Are you sure you want to submit?" it asked me. "No, actually, I don't. I want to be lying on a Balinese island, with a cocktail in my hand and a CPL pass mark in my logbook. Actually"

Sadly, that one wasn't multiple choice. I hit yes. Time stopped. Babies were born, people died, proposals were made and countries invaded. And then the screen went blank. A nano second later the result screen loaded (they use Pcs).

It said

You answered 32 out of forty questions correctly.
Your pass mark is 80%.
Well done, speccy, you earned this one.

I performed a little chair-jig and the adjucdicator gave me a sharp look. Printing out my KDRs, she smiled a bit and said "phew! That was close" while I boogied out of the room for the very last time ever.

Realising I have never wanted a full set of anything as much as these exams - not even the full Louis Viutton luggage set, or complete collection of Shirley Bassey albums - I gave thanks to the imaginary god of exams (St Swottus) and drove home.

Then I set fire to my revision notes and got very very drunk.

1 comment:

  1. YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Good work Kree!!