Monday 14th February 2011

It was an early start, to catch the 6:11 train from Sheffield to Manchester Airport. I guess I could have had a few more hours in bed had I decided to drive across the Pennines, and parked at Ringway, but apart from the cost saving, the convenience of the train trip made it worthwhile. I always enjoy the scenery as the train winds it was through the Peak villages, but this morning it was too dark for that. A Biker in full regalia sat opposite me on the train on the way over, but he got off at Piccadilly Station. It was only as we were half way to the Airport, someone pointed out that he had left his crash helmet on the rack above his seat! That will be a costly mistake for him; I don’t think Bone Domes come cheap.

The Virgin flight across the Atlantic went fairly quickly, probably because I sat next to a very nice, chatty lady, who was on the way to Orlando for a vacation with some friends. I decided to watch one of the movies and offer, and chose ‘The American’ as it had a good write up, and starred George Clooney. Mistake! It was a crappy, slow affair. One of those where the dialogue was at a minimum, and the actors let us know how good they think they are, by lots of meaningful silences, and tortured looks – give me a good action movie any day.

The arrival at Orlando was ‘interesting’. When I got to Immigration, apparently I had not filled in one of the (many) necessary forms, so was dispatched back to the queue to fill it in. By the time I had finished, I was the last to go through from our flight. The Immigration Officer completed all the formalities (I thought), but then led me to an office, where I was left to twiddle my thumbs for half an hour. I was eventually invited into another office, asked much the same questions as before, until eventually the new guy stamped my passport, and I was let loose.

Following my instructions from EASA, I used a payphone to call for collection, and was directed outside to wait. So I waited.... and waited.... and waited, until finally fed up, I called again. After a further two calls, the driver eventually found me, seems like he was looking for me at another drop off point than the one I was at. I don’t know if he or I was in the wrong, I was just grateful to be collected at last. However, my frustration wasn’t over, the driver informed me he had another Student to collect, so we had a couple of hours to kill! As it happened, this wasn’t too bad, we went for a meal, and Phil (the driver), was quite good company. After the meal, Phil suggested we visit the local Wal-Mart so I could collect some provisions. It’s just as well he did, or I would have gone hungry and dirty the following day, as it was about 9pm when we eventually arrived at the accommodation, after collecting the other Student.

Phil dropped me off at the house (one of three owned by EASA and let to the Students), and left me with a set of instructions for the next day. I let myself into the house, to find I was the only one there (we had dropped the other Student off at another house).  First impressions of the house were favourable, certainly quite a big place, with a communal living area, and kitchen, with individual bedrooms. OK, it had obviously been ‘lived in’, but I wasn’t expecting hotel grade accommodation. I started unpacking my things, and was trying to work out the TV, when the front door opened, and another couple of guys came in. Jens and Andres are also on the PPL Course, and had arrived the night before. They had just come from Wal-Mart, and brought in a couple of crates of beer, so they were warmly welcomed!

We compared notes for a while, and they told me that some of the things about the house were not as favourable as I had first thought. Apparently, some items in the kitchen were quite dirty, broken or missing when they first arrived (mushrooms could have been grown in the coffee filter), but to be fair to EASA, they had reported back about this, and when I arrived, a new coffee percolator, kettle, pans, glasses, and several other items were waiting to be opened in the kitchen.

By this time it was about 11pm local and 4am UK Time (or 0400 Zulu as us aviators like to call it J).  After having slept for an hour or so on the plane over, I wasn’t really feeling too tired, but decided to turn in, hopefully to be bright and breezy the next day.