"My wife and I just came back from 28-day trip in Florida. The main objective was to fly solo hours required for the CPL. I would like to share my thoughts and experience gained during my stay, that may help you decide, where to spend money for your Time building.
We arrived in Miami with 4-hour delay due to Detroit's weather. It was 4AM and Sebastian (FA handling boy) told me that I have an appointment with FAA guy at 8:30 to validate my license. After a short sleep in Flying Academy family house, where we lived, we drove to his house and started with the paperwork.
The whole process took about 30 minutes and 250$ in cash. The appointment was focused on proving that you are, who you say you are and that you registered your license in FAA system.
Right after the validation, I had ground lessons scheduled about all the things you need to know to fly in Miami. That took about 5-6 hours within 3 days. The practical part of the training with an instructor was focused on emergency procedures, stalls, maneuvers, traffic patterns at controlled/uncontrolled airports, landings and communication.
The biggest challenge was, of course, the communication. As I have a full time job, I did not have much time to listen to ATC Live before we went there, so I started from the scratch right in the airplane. The first time I was listening to an ATIS with the engine running and I wrote down nothing at all. I continued listening to the loop for a few times until I was able to get at least the wind, clearance freq. and runways in use. ATIS is often recorded by a controller in a very noisy office.
After 6-7 hours of flying with an instructor, I finally got used to the controllers rate of speech and their accent. After I was signed off for solo, I took another students from the school on board to fly with me as safety pilots, just in case I would need an extra hand. After 10-12 hours total, I felt confident to fly by myself and to eventually take my wife for a trip, and so we did.
We went to Naples, Stuart, Tampa, NASA space shuttle centre, Universal studios in Orlando and many other sightseeing flights along the coast.
The services for pilots in US are very well developed. Almost each airport has private lounges provided by so-called FBO's, where you can refresh yourself and if you refuel at least 10 gallons, you can take a crew car for 1, 2 or 3 hours, depending on how busy they are, and see the downtown, beaches or go for a lunch. It is a nice way to fly and also see Florida as a tourist. And if you park at Stuart JET Center, you will step on a red carpet not to smudge your shoes when getting off the Cessna.
You may visit many places and get lot of experience while landing on new airports. Also taxiing is a very interesting lesson on wide taxiways of large airports, where you see only concrete parcels everywhere and couple of signs that don't make sense from your point of view. Sometimes, when I lost my orientation sense, I ended up elsewhere than I wanted.
Nice thing is that in the US you don't pay landing fees at most airports and when you refuel, you don't pay parking fees either. That's how we flew to Fort Lauderdale Int., Tampa Intl., St.Lucie, Melbourne, Orlando and other busy airports. Don't be scared of landing there, as you will screw something up anyway. However it is the best way how to learn a lot and very well.
When my wife was returning from her few-day trip from Washington to Fort Lauderdale Intl., I decided to pick her up at the airport. I wanted to land there directly and pick her up at the terminal using a crew car from local FBO. I called the FBO beforehand and arranged the whole thing without any problem. Busy time came when I was
joining the traffic pattern at night and few airliners were about to land. I started to get quick requests from ATC regarding heading to maintain, my intentions and so on.
Finally, it was my turn to land, when I was directed to fly behind a landing Boeing with caution for wake turbulence and the controller kept pushing on me ,,keep maximum descent speed, another traffic on final Boeing 777", ending up at 120kts at touch-down zone and using the whole runway with small C172. Fortunately that time I did not screw it up.
After 28 days I completed nearly 75 hours + couple of hours when I flew as a safety pilot with other students that came after me. Busy airports, busy airspace where you can not get your slot in radio communication for 15 minutes to report your position and intention. That's how it works sometimes. I wish everybody to experience and enjoy the time being in the air there. Have a nice sunny day.
Correction: I pad 10$ landing fee in Fort Lauderdale Intl for C172."
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