One more milestone is passed – now I officially possess EASA Commercial Pilot License with single-engine, multi-engine and instrument ratings. It took about 50 flight hours and almost a year – mainly because of theoretical exams preparation, and today I passed the practical exam.
The commercial course itself took 15 dual hours, one long solo cross-country flight in a Tecnam P2008JC, almost two weeks waiting due to weather, airplane and examiner, and, finally, a checkride in the airplane with a cool callsign OK-CPL.
The oral part seemed much easier than the FAA one, but it still exists. I had to do a preflight briefing (route planning, weather briefing, mass and balance), answer some questions about airspaces, transponder codes and types, performance, speeds etc.
Yesterday I wrote down all required speeds from the Cessna 172RG POH, speed limits, airspaces, VFR cloud/visibility requirements, performance factorizations. Additionally it makes sense to check the AIP, especially sections about regional QNH and VFR waypoints – it’s better to know where they are at least in the vicinity. AIP gives some human-readable description to them, for example, “lonely petrol station”.
I also recommend using google maps to get familiar with the probable routes and visual waypoints, it really helps, especially if the area is not very well known. Sometimes VFR map is not very detailed, but in reality there are a lot of well-distinguishable objects like large mall or a curved pond.
I’ve never flown my assigned route before. I knew some parts of it, but some legs were unfamiliar – probably that is because there were two small towns without airports, and we used to fly from one airport to another.
The briefing was usual: weather, NOTAMs, restricted and prohibited areas check, fuel and reserves discussion, airports en-route, navlog preparation. Total time supposed to be 1 hours 15 minutes. The examiner said that with the maneuvers it will be about two hours – better to recalculate the fuel, and we were ready to go!
The examiner shut down the moving map – no cheating, it is supposed to be VFR!
The first part is VOR radial intercepting and tracking. I was a bit nervous and initially chased the needles. I was in limits of standards, but better to keep calmer for an instrument rated pilot in two countries.
Using DME we flew to the VOR, and then continued with a paper map only.
We started from the uncontrolled airspace, then proceeded through CTR (Control Area) Kbely: it requires to have the ATC clearance. At all times it’s necessary to look out for traffic, monitor instruments, and maintain navlog records. Our airplane had a CDI with a heading bug – it’s really convenient.
Czech Republic has a lot of airports with ATZ – Aerodrome Traffic Zones. Technically it is an uncontrolled airspace, but in reality it works like Canadian MF (Mandatory Frequency): you must report 5 min prior to enter, make radio calls, and avoid it if someone on the frequency advises not to enter.
Usually flying in a controlled airspace by visual waypoints is a necessary part of any commercial checkride. We flew inside two control areas: Kbely and Prague. Prague ATC was very friendly and not very busy today, we got clearance for our route, flew by predetermined waypoints and exited the CTR to the North-West.
The next point was near a Rakovnik. The examiner pulled the throttle not far from the airport for a simulated engine out. The airport was not so far, and it was relatively easy to make it to the runway.
When the landing was assured, the examiner said ‘go around’, I pushed the throttle and carb heat, set flaps to 10, accelerated, then retracted gear and flaps. I passed the exercise, the examiner just did not want to waste time for a landing.
After some more minutes the examiner declared a ‘sick passenger’ situation. I had to describe that it’s necessary to contact the nearest FSS and turn to the nearest aerodrome with available facilities. I asked about some aerodromes nearby, the examiner simulated FSS answers. I turned to the aerodrome, and our fake passenger quickly recovered before landing.
The next exercise was a precautionary landing. It can also happen at any flight segment. In that situation we can find a suitable field (or some aerodrome, probably even abandoned) nearby, examine it with a low-pass, and then approach for landing. When the landing is assured, we make a go-around.
Then we did some airwork – flight maneuvers, followed by one more engine failure with approach to the field nearby.
One more task was a diversion. The examiner said that we cannot go to the destination but to the closest aerodrome with long runway. I found one in 25 nautical miles, calculated fuel requirements and course, noticed the hills on the way, and found a better route without overflying the hills and wide forest area. That route should have taken just 2 minutes more and did not require a climb. That was considered as a pass. Not sure how it would have been with the hills route, but probably could be a pass too.
We overflew our ‘diversion’ aerodrome and went to the home base, where performed some different types of landings (normal, short field, no-flaps).
I passed! The flight time was 1:59, so my examiner was extremely accurate 🙂