Seaplane Rating

Now I am studying theory for the EASA ATPL exams, and sometimes it is very tiring and boring (sometimes it is fun though). Anyway, I decided to take a small vacation and go flying (I am a pilot, right?)

I mentioned that I have been training for my IPC, and since I am in the US it makes sense to have some fun apart from essential tasks. I decided to get a seaplane rating. It still counts towards my total time, but adds a very different experience.

I’ve chosen Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base due to good reviews and very nice and clear communication. The costs are also not so high in Florida, and the school is not so far from the place I am doing my IPC.

They offer training in different airplanes, and I’ve chosen the least expensive one – Piper J3 Cub. It’s light and easy to fly, and I suppose it’s perfect for initial training.

Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base

I don’t have enough words to describe the experience, it’s absolutely unique and amazing. Piper Cub does not have an attitude indicator and turn coordinator, only CDI, ASI and RPM meter. I asked my instructor just in case if there is an attitude indicator, he laughed and replied: “look out of the window – isn’t that enough for you?” =) It’s true stick-and-rudder flying!

Piper J3 Cub on floats

I have some tailwheel experience, and this Cub flies very similar to Citabria, both in the air and on landing. During the take-off it is essential to keep the nose slightly up (but not too much), and during landing the stick should be pulled very gently and constantly.

Ready for take-off

The airplane is really slow, and out-of-engine glideslope is terrifying at first. Floats add a lot of drag and weight. But the main difference is still in taxiing, take-off and landing.

For example, there is a step taxi procedure, when the aircraft lifts a little bit allowing the wings to carry some load, but still maintaining contact with the water surface. It’s like a high-speed boat ride. Taxi turns in this mode are frightening at first – it looks like the plane is ready to rollover, but in reality it does not even bank, just sliding.

It’s possible to turn almost in-place, like in a sailboat. A lot of fun.

Probably some of you are curious how to do a run-up without stepping on the brakes. So, it’s perfectly possible, the only difference is that the airplane is moving, so make sure that you have enough space ahead 🙂

As I already mentioned there is no attitude indicator, turn coordinator and GPS, so the visual piloting skills are essential. The landing is also some more tricky – seaplane is much less tolerant to high vertical speed on landing than the cessna trainer. The water seems soft, but in reality it is not, and it is also somewhat ‘sticky’.

Another fun is a confined area takeoff. It is the procedure when you start the takeoff with a crosswind and slowly turning into the wind upon gaining speed. There is no runway on the lake, so it is perfectly possible and useful if the lake is not so big.

One of the most complicated maneuvers is a glassy water landing. When you try to land on a glassy surface you cannot really fell the height, and it’s possible to either flare too early or meet the water with a high vertical speed, so you should not flare as usual. Instead you should find a landmark where you still see the ground, then keep the landing attitude and wait for it. Probably wait for it pretty long, but it’s the safe way to meet the surface with low vertical speed and proper attitude. That requires longer landing distance.

Sometimes it is impossible to find a landmark. In that case it’s possible to fly closer to the shoreline and use it as an altitude perception. It it is not an engine-out landing, better to configure the airplane for landing earlier – it will take more distance to land, but it is safer. And never ever use a glassy water as a surface reference.

Apart from glassy surface, the landing is almost as in a landplane: watch the ground, flare, touchdown.

Lake View

I highly recommend this experience for every pilot. It is usually not what we have during flight school (like out-of-aerodrome takeoffs and landings and pure stick-and-rudder flying). Have fun and fly safe!

FAA IPC

It is essential for every pilot to be not only current but proficient. Without practice skills degrade and can even fade away some day.

That’s why FAA requires BFR (Biannual Flight Review) for any type of flying and IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check) for instrument pilots who did not fly enough instrument procedures during the last 6 months. To be more specific, one needs at least 6 instrument approaches during previous 6 months to act as a PIC for flying IFR.

If a pilot do not have the required approaches, and it is less than a year since a pilot was current, it is still possible to fly the approaches under simulated instrument conditions with a safety pilot. Safety pilot can possess just a PPL without Instrument Rating since the flight can be conducted under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions).

After a year if the requirements are still not met a pilot must pass an IPC with a CFII (Certified Instrument Flight Instructor) or a FAA examiner.

It is different in Europe where the Instrument Rating must be just renewed every year with an examiner. Another difference – in Europe during training of flight tests one should just fly under IFR, even in VMC without view-limiting devices like foggles or hood.

My FAA IR currency already expired, and I decided to regain my skills and pass an IPC. I still don’t have a EASA IR, and I have no idea where I can find a FAA CFI in Europe, that’s why I decided to fly to the US. It could be even less expensive due to flight hour prices.

What can I say about it? More flying is better! And it always pays off to renew theoretical knowledge. I greatly recommend to take some courses from https://www.faasafety.gov (a lot of them are free!) and use these books.

During all this ATPL theory preparation I really missed flying. So good to take off again!

In The Sky Again

Since the beginning of the year I spend almost all my spare time on exams preparation, and now I have only 3 subjects ahead. One of them is Meteorology (which is not so easy), but it’s still only three exams of 14.

I foresaw that it would be very challenging, but still did not know it would be THAT challenging. Mainly it’s because of psychological pressure – you should constantly study all the time, every day, every free hour. I still have a full time job which made it even worse.

I am assured that health is essential though, so I decided to make a small break, and the most rewarding part of all that is flying. I made a gift to myself and went to the US to renew my Instrument Rating and fly some hours for staying current and, eh, just for fun.

Today I have my first flight in a low-wing airplane: really, I’ve never flown low-wing before! I’ve chosen Piper Arrow. I used to Cessnas, and I did not know what to expect, but it turned out that it is not that different in the air. The landing differs, you should take into account stronger ground-effect, but apart from that all principles are the same.

I must say that the practice is crucial. After long breaks, especially with not so many flight hours under the belt, skills are deteriorating. Landings are dirtier, patterns are less rectangular, approaches are not as smooth as I want.

I enjoy flying. Every flight hour, every minute in the airplane. It’s the best reward for all study hours and sleepless nights. I am so happy, it’s going to be a great vacation time!

EASA ATPL Exams: AGK, RadioComm, PoF, Performance, HPL

This is the second EASA ATPL session for me: as I mentioned, I already passed 6 EASA ATPL exams. Yesterday I passed two more subjects – Human Performance and Limitations and Aeroplane Performance. In my ranking these are the easiest subjects after VFR/IFR Communications.

Today I am taking three exams: Aircraft General Knowledge, Radio Communications, and Principles of Flight. Of course it’s not Operational Procedures and not even Air Law, but they still contain a lot of information to memorize.

I am way less nervous since it’s the second day of the second session, so I noticed some details. For example, in Czech Republic ECQB3 is used (in July 2019), but it seems to be highly modified ECQB3. I haven’t met any type-in question yet, all questions are multiple-choice with 4 available options. Paper materials are all dated by 2018 and older, so my old books from 2014 were still relevant for the exams.

I also haven’t met any “what option is wrong” question, so basically it’s a decent knowledge test without too complicated traps. There were a lot of questions with two statements and 4 answers like “true/true”, “true/false”, “false/true”, “false/false”. Basically I don’t remember any obvious RTFQ (Read the F**cking Question – pretty common abbreviation for a very tricky question when you need to be extremely attentive).

Now some more details about the subjects.

Aircraft General Knowledge

80 questions, 2 hours, my result is 93%. It’s more than enough time for the subject, almost zero computational questions.

There were a lot of questions about turbines and props, some easy questions about electricity and fire detectors.

There is no possibility to leave a comment (I saw some advice to leave a comment if the question seems ambiguous), so in that case just try to figure out what examiner wants to check and fire the best guess.

For example, there was a question about the reaction turbine. I know that the pressure is constant on nozzles and drops at a rotor, but sometimes EASA considers impulse-reaction turbine where the pressure drops everywhere.

Apart from knowledge-related questions, there were some computational tasks like bypass ratio computation.

The subject is very well covered by popular question banks, so it should not be too hard.

Radio Navigation

66 questions, 1.5 hours, my result is 88%.

Initially I became a little frustrated: was not sure in the first question, in the second one, in the third one… What’s the hell? OK, after the fourth one it came back to normal, but it’s really unsettling.

About the questions itself – skip-zone, night-effect for NDB (who is still using NDB?), a lot of questions about GPS (totally understandable), some questions about GALILEO (is it already working?). Some questions about MLS (the project was a failure though), a lot of questions about ILS-markers and frequency bands. Some questions about reflection-refraction-diffraction. A lot of questions about the position with RMI/ADF/HSI.

One question was about TACAN which required General Navigation supplements. I asked the surveillance person, and she gave me the materials, so don’t be shy to ask if you’re uncertain.

Sometimes the wording is ambiguous or uncommon. For example, something like “bending of light beam while passing around impenetrable obstacle”.

The timing is OK if you’re good with quick position/course/direction computation.

Principles of Flight

44 questions, 1 hour, my result is 95%. Everything is logical and familiar: props, wings, stability factors, wing polars, different forces. There were some questions with strange wording, but nothing special.

I remember very well a question about load factor: the airplane’s speed is 1.4 Vs, and the airplane experiences a gust of load factor 1.7. What would be the load factor for the same gust for speed 2 Vs? The answer options were “2.0”, “1.96”, “1.4” и “irrelevant because for 1.4 Vs and LF 1.7 the airplane stalls”. I know the proportion, but I still don’t understand why load factor is proportional to speed and not the square of speed. Probably I just need to study the questions in detail.

The timing is OK, but better to track the time on computational questions (good advice for all subjects actually). Apart from that, the subject is not so hard.

Performance

35 questions, 1 hour, my result is 79%, which is the worst among all other exams so far. This is still a pass mark, but a personal failure for me since the subject is extremely easy. The key is proper plots reading and interpretation, and quick computation. There were a few ambiguous questions, but just a few.

The reason of that result is very simple: I had a very time-consuming project at work during this topic in my ground school, and even there I got about 80%. And, of course, it is not a miracle that I got almost the same result at the exam.

The advice is very simple: just solve enough questions for this subject, and that will do the job. Almost no memorizing, just practice.

Human Performance and Limitations (HPL)

48 questions, 1 hour, my result is 95%. There are almost zero computational questions for the subject, it’s all about knowledge. A lot of facts for memorizing, but the subject is actually very interesting even for general purpose. For example, some questions were about Maslow’s and Rasmussen’s models, risk factors, aviation-related body state problems (hypoxia, hyperventilation, optical and vestibular illusions, abdominal problems etc.).

From my opinion, the subject is relatively easy, but requires remembering some facts. I suppose that it requires to remember even more facts than Air Law, but that’s some sort of general info instead of some numbers.

For example, in AviationExam it’s possible to flag a question if it makes sense to review it later once more (or more than once). I flagged about 60% of the questions in HPL, and for other subjects I had about 30% flagged questions.

This session is over now, I passed all the planned exams, and I am very happy that I’m done with the most difficult subjects. I still have Meteorology, Instrumentation and a bit of less challenging subjects ahead, but I definitely passed the equator in my sessions 🙂