Clouds (Photo credit: mnsc)

It’s turning into a wet day here in Berlin. Storms are on their way and a soft summer rain is falling all across the city. I love stormy weather. I wanted to go to the observation deck of our local airport today, but I think that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Sitting here looking at the radar I see a bunch of storms all over Germany. If you look at the warnings that have been issued, 80% of Germany is in red right now.  And I begin to think that there must be planes in the air right now dodging these (some of them very intense) storms. Pilots right now all over Germany are ascending to get over the storm or attempting to go around.  Storm clouds can reach a height of 75,000 feet and be as large an entire state! What happens when going up or down or left or right doesn’t work and pilots have no option but to go through a storm, whether for an extended period of time or just to break through for a landing/take-off?



A commercial aircraft flying into the clouds o...

A commercial aircraft flying into the clouds over Los Angeles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever seen one of those radars that shows all of the airplanes over a certain area (if not, here you go http://www.flightradar24.com/)? There are parts of the country that are almost completely covered with air traffic! If you were to take the weather radar and lay it on top of the air traffic radar, you would most certainly find planes that are currently right smack dab in the middle of Mother Nature’s wrath. Which makes me think: What’s it like to fly into a thunderstorm?


So far on the flights that I have had, I have never experienced more than a slight jiggle in the airplane. Just enough to get my coke fizzing. However, I have heard stories from people who have flown through inclement weather and have experienced a drop in altitude of hundreds of feet in a matter of a few seconds. How often do things like this happen? Have you ever experienced a severely turbulent flight? Did your flight ever get caught in a storm? Let us know using the comment section below!



Flying – The Beginning

SSJ100 Flight Training DeviceI’ve spent countless hours the past week researching everything aviation. I’ve watched so many videos of people training in Cessna 152s and 172s that I think I could probably land one myself if the situation presented itself. As I work on my final projects here in Germany, I constantly find myself getting side tracked looking at flight schools, reading aviation news and watching anything with wings on YouTube.

I’ve taken the first step in what will prove to be a very long and expensive journey to a career that will hopefully suit me. Late last week I contacted a flight instructor about flying lessons near my university. After a pleasant 30 minute conversation that covered everything from training fees to lasers (don’t ask), I felt like I had made a good connection with the person on the other end of the line. I was offered a 1 hour discovery flight (for a small fee of course) and all of those questions that an anxious beginner has, were answered with as much excitement as I had posing the question. The conversation hasn’t helped my recent attack of ADHD either. Now I’m looking forward to my first flight.

There are benefits in being side tracked and connecting with aviators. It’s becoming clear, that although I’m sure there are exceptions, so far, pilots seem to be very down to earth (haha, get it?), positive people. Everyone I have talked to in the aviation community has taken their time to answer all of my questions, share some useful tips and guide me in the right direction. This surprises me as the competition in the aviation community is extremely high when it comes to finding jobs. Why would these people welcome more competition?

The other thing that has come to my attention over the past week is how much flight training is going to cost if I truly go all the way and get my ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License). I’m starting to wonder how these people afford such training. Assuming most of the people who go to a private flight school like ATP (Airline Transport Professionals) or CPS (Career Pilot School) have a college degree, don’t these people still have a mountain of debt from their time at the university/college?! How can someone afford to tack on more to that sum, easily reaching $100,000+ in debt and at the same time be a regional FO (first officer) earning a meager $20,000-$30,000 a year? Personally, if I were to start with flight training tomorrow, that would be my situation.

I know most people are probably thinking, “Get a job and save up” and I totally agree with that. I have, however, two major concerns that make me think waiting too long after college will shoot my plans of being a professional pilot out of the sky: 1) The airline industry is starting to hire pilots again. In the next few years there will be (hopefully) tons of openings at airlines because of 2) a new law that the FAA has coming down the line. As of August 2013, all aspiring pilots will have to have at least 1500 flight hours before being allowed to obtain an ATPL. That’s triple the time pilots are currently expected to have. And if required flight time is tripled, costs are tripled.

So the new challenge now is not just working on getting my PPL (though expensive, I still think it’s within my financial reach), but rather figure out how I can get money together for essentially a second Bachelor’s Degree. As I devise my battle plan, I will be sifting through the numerous so-called “flight schools” and searching for the highest quality training for the lowest price. So far, the winner is offering a cool $49,000.

Taking mobility to a whole new level.

So in my blog “That’s a Wrap!” I discussed there being very little difference between people in different countries. However, cultural influences can definitely have their affect on individuals. For example, in Germany, if you can get there with a bike, you take the bike! I was sitting on the bus today with my roommate (Joseph Cloward. You can catch his blog here: http://josephintheworld.tumblr.com/ ) as we were heading to his birthday party across town. Upon reaching Potsdamer Platz, we were informed by the bus driver that due to a demonstration, we would have to take a detour. The streets ahead of us were completely blocked off and police officers on motorcycles were re-directing traffic. Deciding that he had had enough of the traffic and the waiting, a business man in a suit, driving a small compact car, mounts the curb causing bikers and pedestrians to spring out of his way. He proceeds to drive down the side walk, turns into the grass and parks under a tree. Once he gets out of his vehicle he hurries to the trunk where he pulls out his full-sized city bicycle and pedals quickly past the police barricade and the demonstration taking place, towards his final destination, leaving his car (which I assume is now locked) unattended and illegally parked, under a tree. Now, I always thought the Germans were efficient people, but that’s just ridiculous.

That’s a wrap!

August 5th will bring my 435th consecutive day in Europe and my last day in Germany. Throughout the past year I have had some amazing experiences. I have learned a lot about myself, the German culture and have improved my language skills. The time has flown by. As my time here here trickles to an end, my thoughts and questions are flowing like the Nile.

If there is one thing I learned while being in Germany, it’s that no matter where you are in the world, people are the same. Whether you’re from Africa, Asia, Europe, Mars, the USA or any other country or continent, you’re language might vary from mine, but you have the same needs and wants that I do. You want to be treated with respect, have friends, be part of a family, celebrate life’s achievements, get an education, go on vacation and enjoy that occasional vanilla ice cream when it’s blazing hot outside. Now it might be customary to eat your ice cream with ants on top and to me that might be completely inappropriate, but the point isn’t the fact that our cultures have taught us different ways to eat the “standard” vanilla ice cream. The point is that we all enjoy ice cream!

This talk about how different Germans are from Americans just isn’t true (and I’m sure if my German friends are reading this they are shouting at the screen). Sure, there are some cultural differences that lay on the surface and the Germans are definitely proud of their “Germanness” (if there is still such a thing in Germany today). But aren’t Americans proud to be Americans? During my time here I found it much easier to get to know the locals by by-passing these stereotypes we all have in our heads. I started seeing people not as citizens of a particular country but part of something bigger; a sort of global community. And it was after I started seeing Germany and the world in this way, that all barriers were broken down and I was given some wonderful opportunities to get to know some great people and start to understand what it is that makes us all tick. In today’s world it’s not just about you, or me, or our respective countries. It’s about bridging the cultural gap and digging deeper to find that common thread. The thing that makes us all the same yet unique at the same time. As soon as we all start seeing the world as a global community full of people equal to ourselves, the world becomes our oyster and the opportunities for cooperation, technological advancement, political progress and great friendships are endless. 

In closing I would like to thank all of my friends here in Europe for a great time and showing me what life is all about. I will miss all of you very much and look forward to my return to Europe. As for my friends in the States: It’s been over 450 days since the last time I’ve seen most of you. For some it’s been well over two years. I hope that you will all take the time to get back in touch with me and share with me what’s happened in your life since then. I look forward to seeing you very soon.