I like them. Clear and structured, in question-and-answer format.
I am in doubt. I feel that generally I am ready for FAA CPL written test, but I’d like to test myself with some question bank. I went through official FAA materials, and I am pretty confident in the subject. I need QB just for sure.
With EASA it was very simple: there are only 2 providers (bgsonline and aviationexam), and both are really cool.
So, after some research I found these services:
- sheppard air. It seems that it is a leader in terms of materials quality, but they don’t have web-version, and work with a very limited number of platforms. I am also not sure about UI.
- ASA. Users’ feedback is pretty good, slightly worse than sheppard but acceptable. But they have android verison, online version, offline version… Possibly it can be a better option.
- Dauntless. I found some mentions, but nothing more. Not sure about it.
- Gleim. It was great for my IR, but not sure about CPL.
- Aviationexam. I mentioned it just because it is great in terms of UX/UI, and EASA QB is also perfect. But I am not sure that it is good for FAA test preparation: just 610 questions.
Possibly somebody has any experience with these providers? How good is sheppard? Is it worth to use my old forgotten win environment?
The 3rd stage of the course is almost entirely about cross-country flying. This means that the student must prepare and safely conduct the entire flight to some remote airport (more than 50 nautical miles from the departure airport).
First of all, I’ve never created a flight plan before. Of course, I was preparing mass and balance, weather briefing and fuel, but I’ve never done the plan itself. Fortunately it is relatively easy in the US and can be done online.
The most challenging parts for me are still approaches and ATC, especially IFR clearances. The flight itself is relatively easy, just instruments monitoring and keeping all flight parameters inside their limits.
We had some issue with our flight plan though. I used 100wsbrief.com for filing, and it uses EST timezone by default. I used to UTC for my logbook records and all related services (like weather), and as a result our plan was filed for 5 hours later. We had VMC, so decided to continue in simulated IMC with the instructor as ATC, and changed our flight plan for the way back to our airport to get a proper clearance.
I still have to work on my approaches to better keep the glideslope and my approach path. The enroute part is OK.
Probably the most important stage in the Instrument Rating course is the stage II, when the student learns to fly approaches. It requires precise and correct piloting, correct radio communications, attention, multitasking skills, and attention again. Of course, it’s important in every flight including visual piloting, but instrument flight is even more demanding.
It is not so scary as it was at the beginning, but today we have wind gusts, which makes piloting some more difficult, especially on the glideslope. I had to fly 3 different approaches: ILS, VOR and GPS. I feel still a bit overwhelmed sometimes, but more and more confident with practice.
After about one month break I am continuing my IR course. I had to return home to tidy up some work stuff, and now came back to Florida.
Currently I am on a stage II, and it’s all about instrument approaches, the most challenging one part of the course. I believe that it is not a good idea to fly a stage check after a month break, so when I was leaving, I have decided to leave one lesson before a stage check to refine my skills.
It’s a bit busy here: we have only 3 available airplanes and a lot of students. Fortunately the weather is good, and I manage to fly almost every day. My stage check will be the day after tomorrow, which is really great considering the chief pilot’s schedule.
What to do in a bad weather? Of course, the best choice is studying! I felt pretty confident about my knowledge, so I decided to take a written test. The exam itself is not so hard. The program interface looks exactly like gleim’s software, the pictures are the same as the ones available in all popular question banks (for example, gleim, jeppesen, sportys, aviationexam).
The questions are not exactly the same as in preparation books, but nothing special. Take your time, read the question very carefully, don’t hurry up, and you’re done. The point is knowledge.
One more advice for those who prepares for the FAA IR tests: apart from reading the books (which is essential), use question banks to get the idea about your knowledge. I heard a lot about Sheppard, but less expensive alternatives work too. For example, I used gleim and aviationexam (both are good, the latter also offer monthly subscriptions – very convenient if you want only refresh your knowledge) and got 87%. Not an astonishing result, but not bad too.
Brand-new instrument rating course student meets a lot of problems after feeling rather confident flying VFR. For example, very quick transitioning to visual approach after the words ‘runway in sight’ (when you should remove your hood and really see the runway), or calculating the optimal speed for a stabilized approach, or the stabilized approach itself. But probably the most challenging part for me was communication with ATC.
We are flying mainly in ‘Jacksonville Appoach’ area. At first, the word ‘approach’ itself is a little confusing after Europe when we’re considering some general area, but that is just a sidenote. The problem is that the controller talks way too fast and does not follow the standard ICAO phraseology. That FAA world is really different. And if I am almost OK with male controllers, I really have large problems with some lady: she speaks even faster, and her high-pitch voice challenges me even more. Of course, it becomes better with practice, but initially, especially under some pressure because of other new factors, it was pretty hard.
I have to learn more phraseology too. For example, I’ve never heard ‘Cleared for the options’ before. And again, everything comes with more experience.
We’re flying approaches in D airspace, not very busy, but it depends on time of the day. For example, once we had a holding clearance with EFC in 1 hour, i. e. in a worst case we should fly holding patterns for one hour. Fortunately in practice we asked for a VOR approach after about 10 min and got a clearance.
I strongly advice to fly in the US at least for the radio communications practice. Initially it can be challenging even for native speakers. ATC speaks fast, you should understand and comply quicker since you are usually not alone at the airspace. At the private level it does not matter a lot, but for IR it really helps to gain more experience and confidence. Moreover, there are much more controlled airports here. For example, we have at least 5 options in less than 1 hour of flight, all without landing or approach fees. Additionally, there are official GPS approach charts even for small uncontrolled airports.
One piece of advice for prospective IR students, especially non-native speakers: practice ATC. Listen liveATC, watch youtube videos, repeat phrases, try to capture the situation in the air. Probably even try to sketch aircrafts positions from some liveATC channel.
The weather is a critical factor for any pilot. For today we were planning ILS and VOR approaches in a controlled airspace.
The forecast was pretty good and even improving: almost no wind, ceiling 4300, visibility 10 miles or more. After all preparations and a preflight check the wind became 190, 4 kt, but we planned runway 36 (the only one with ILS in that airport). It meant that we would have a tailwind, and more likely that all other traffic would use 18, and ILS would not be an option.
So, the only option for a precision approach (the one with a glideslope) could be a GPS approach with LPV, but the airplane we took does not have WAAS. It meant that we just cannot fly any precision approach.
Fortunately the airplane with WAAS was still available, and we decided to prepare a GPS approach. Instrument-wise there is almost no difference between ILS and GPS with a glideslope.
Meanwhile, the weather decided against us again, and the ceiling became 800. Definitely these were not proper conditions for a training flight, especially for the first precision approach ever for me. So we are waiting for appropriate conditions. Sometimes it just happens, and a proper decision is a part of good ADM.
Probably the most challenging (but the most interesting!) part of the IR training program is Instrument Approaches. This is that phase of a flight when we change from enroute portion to landing, and it requires even more attention and better multitasking. In theory I know how to, but in practice it does not go so well.
Instrument Approach consists of flying by some reference track on dedicated altitudes. Sometimes it can be a published track, sometimes ATC can provide vectors (compass headings to maintain). Initially it seems that the time goes too fast to do all required stuff. I remember a very similar feeling on my first aerodrome circuits. Everything should come with more practice, but it takes time and effort.
Even without visual aids the feeling that you are in the air, and you are controlling a miraculously flying machine, is really great. The happiest moments in a human life!
The next part of the course includes flying holding patterns.
Sometimes it is not possible to make the next planned step or maneuver right away: for example, due to very congested air traffic, or rapidly changing weather. In this case an aircraft can wait some time in the air. But the airplane is constantly moving through the air to stay airborne, it cannot just stop. That is what holding procedures about: how to properly wait for the next phase of flight.
The holding pattern itself does not differ a lot from the aerodrome pattern, but both the wind speed and the airplane speed is usually higher. On the other hand, there is no climb or descend during the hold.
This part of training is mainly about how to enter the pattern, and about keeping the flight parameters (altitude, speed, course) as close to the chosen values as possible.