EASA PPL Written Exam

Today I took a written test. Actually there were multiple tests, because the whole exam contains 9 subjects. I remember my student years, when I used to not sleep at night before exam, and tried to fulfill all possible blind spots in my knowledge.

Generally speaking, I am a passionate leaner, if the subject is interesting for me. That’s why I don’t suffer from the theoretical part of my education. Possibly only Air Law bothers me a little bit: I don’t understand why I should remember a year of Rome convention on something like that. But to be honest, most of information is relevant and important.

Every time I am very nervous before an exam. I can do nothing with that. This time it was the same: I entered the room, got the question list. Initially checked every question multiple times. And, as usual, after some minutes my brain starts working on the subject itself: I am pretty well prepared, and I should just carefully read the question and select the best answer.

At about 6th subject I felt like that: “ONE MORE? Oh, I supposed that it was the last one!”

Generally I got a very unexpected result: I failed the subjects I was the most confident in before the exam. Of course, during the exam after getting the question lists I approximately understood that I am in danger with those subjects, and possibly I have to retake.

I failed Navigation, Aircraft General Knowledge and Principles of Flight. About Navigation – everything is OK with charts and computations, but compass turning and acceleration errors, magnetic north drift, AIP GEN 1-2-1… Uhh. About Aircraft General Knowledge and Principles of Flight – I just have to study some more, it is not so simple as it seemed to me.

I have to tell some words about question banks. I used to read the books, but I also use question banks to estimate my level. For PPL I used ppltutor.com (heh, now they provide only FAA version, but in 2017 they gave EASA) and pplcruiser.co.uk. None of them is a good idea for Czech. Later I also found aeroweb.cz, and it is great. The only problem is that it is in Czech, and google translate works (or worked in 2017?) terribly with that language. Anyway, oxford books works in any case.

I am not very disappointed. Of course I am not happy, but not a big deal. The main point is that I passed Air Law: I have to do it before the first solo. I am still not ready to fly solo according to my instructors, but it is always good to finish at least the paperwork. The next exam is in one month, so I have plenty of time to prepare just 3 subjects. Especially because now I better understand my weak points.

Navigation Flight

The first navigation flight with a full stop in a different aerodrome. The complete planning: map route, NOTAMs, weather, fuel and time estimation.

The interesting thing is the definition of cross-country time. For example, FAA strictly states that cross-country flight should be more than 50 nm from the departure point, but not the EASA. Moreover, there is no even a column in my logbook for logging cross-country time. EASA simply requires using flight preparation and navigation procedures, i. e. technically even 5 nm between adjacent aerodromes qualifies, if you prepare for that and use navigation procedures. If we strictly follow the definition, it can be even the same aerodrome! It seems that I will have some troubles computing my totals in future. Just to be totally safe, I am going to follow FAA rules for my commercial time, but now I am just following the syllabus and EASA regulations (I am in Europe now, am not I?). So, navigation.

It is relatively easy to follow the map in Czech Republic: a lot of roads, villages, towns, rivers and lakes (ponds?). For me rivers are the most straightforward, but I am trying to use pilotage (i. e. spotting enroute landmarks) as much as I can.

We flew to Roudnice (LKRO). Much easier to land there: no trees on final, so, less turbulence. But the runway is a little upslope, and I have to keep the nose higher. Somewhat unaccustomed.

We found precipitation on our leg, and had to divert for some miles. I am glad that I did not have any difficulties to find where I am after that.

I failed to properly estimate my time: my computations showed about 10% faster route than the real one.

es

Keep going, keep working 🙂

Emergency Landings

The weather is still not very calm, but not very turbulent. Therefore, we are working on emergency landings today.

It is a very strange feeling when the airplane suddenly turns into a glider. I don’t have strong skills for suitable field parameters estimation yet: height, size, distance. In theory everything is straightforward, but in practice I feel that I am falling like a stone, and all the fields are tiny.

I remember my skating training, when I was trying to make a 180 turn via jumping. Actually it is easy, but I had to overcome a psychological barrier. Now it is similar: I can just overcome a stress and start acting rationally. I think I also have to practice descend with flaps 30 and 40, when a sinkrate is relatively high, just to get used to the feeling.

I am not sure that it is possible to become fully confident with all that stuff in published hour minimums for a private pilot (a sight from the future: later I can only confirm that). But I don’t want to stop on a private license. And I want to fly after getting a license, not just put it on a shelf. I want to move on.

Landings

Today I was flying with another instructor. He told me a very simple and obvious thing, which I could not realize myself: during the landing I should look not only straight ahead, but also slightly to the left. On the early stages it helps to better estimate height above the ground. Hmm. It really helps to flare better!

Today I practice landings. Take-off, circuit, final, landing.

Today I also made my first navigation flight. Nothing special, but all towns and villages are somewhat similar from the air, and it can be difficult to understand which one I am overflying now. The best clue is usually a road (especially highway) or a river. Finally I am starting to quickly find and identify my home airport from more than 5 miles. I totally understand that it is really hard to NOT spot a 2 km length concrete runway, but that’s how it works when you start from zero level. In my first flights I experienced some troubles with finding even that huge runway 🙂

Landings

We started flying touch-n-goes: the airplane touches down, then I have to quickly set an airplane configuration to take-off without stopping, and take off again. It makes landings practice quicker: we save the time for full stop and taxiing back.

Fortunately I can fly circuits on my home aerodrome without landing fees. I know that for the US it is a usual practice (even for towered aerodromes), but for Europe it is not so simple. Some flight schools don’t care about landing fees, and just charge their students. The others try to find some uncontrolled airports where nobody charges those fees. So, I am somewhat happy in that sense: I can fly circuits at my home base, and I don’t pay landing fees for that. And we have a very long concrete runway here. I think that it is a great advantage.

My circuits are almost OK, but my landings are bad. Possibly I feel much more calm on altitude. One circuit is about seven minutes (actually it is a lot!), one landing is about some seconds. Unfortunately I cannot practice landings only, and I have to spend my flight time. I miss Western Step on Klement’eva hill, when I was able to practice landings on a hang-glider, just landings, without long approaches or circuits…

Clouds and Landings

Today the flight is especially beautiful.

Previously the sky was clear, no any clouds. In a sunny day everything is blue and homogenious. Today it is totally different: one can see clouds of a various sizes and shapes. Initially it is a little bit scary, because in reality these cute fluffy innocuous things are very dangerous. One can see nothing inside them, but it is not the worst… Just imagine a boiling kettle. And now imagine that you are inside. OK, you wear a thermal protected clothes, but you are still inside. And you are dashed in random directions with random speeds, and can easily hit the walls of the floor. But I have to admit, the clouds are still very beautiful.

After some time I realized how to avoid them, and it becomes a bit easier. And, of course, more interesting. But time and distance estimation is harder.

We started to make the first traffic patterns and landings. I know the theory, but I have no real experience. When the Earth becomes closer, the tension is increasing: I have plenty of time when I am in the air, but I have almost no time when I am close to the Earth. And our planet is very firm. Previously I did not notice that 🙂

Necessity

A summary of my day: I got my medical certificate, and passed ICAO English. I am happy! =)

So, here are some explanations. Everybody has to be healthy to fly. It means that one should pass a medical. There are three types of certificates. From the most strict to less: the first class (the most strict and expensive) for commercial and airline pilots, the second class for private pilots and the third class for air traffic controllers (and, possibly, light sport airplane pilots, I don’t remember it exactly).

The first class can be obtained only in a special clinic (for example, there is only one in Czech Republic, or about three in Poland). The second and the third one is available from designated doctors with special accreditation. At least in Czech Republic the first class medical requires booking an appointment in advance, at least before two weeks. And the price is pretty high. The second class is faster and way cheaper. So, for now I decided to make the second one.

The inspection is thorough, but relatively fast: about an hour for everything. And now I have the document.

Some time later I discovered that I can do the first class in Poland. It is available just as a walk-in, and somewhat cheaper than in Czech. There are all inspections including spirometry, blood analysis etc., and the whole time is more than two hours. It is a bit strange: every country has its own regulations, procedures and prices, even though it is an EASA…

ICAO English is simple. If you can read, speak and understand English, and don’t have any problems with PPL theory (mainly terminology), everything is easy. I don’t say something new: there are tons of books, videos and offline classes. Possibly it requires some practice for fast understanding ATIS/AWOS, but nothing special. Anyway, I have less upcoming paperwork now 🙂

Stalls

There is the second day. I am flying with a B737 pilot. A very positive person with normal English. Much simpler.

Today I was going to mount my action camera for better analyzing my errors and having a simpler progress monitoring. I even brought a box with it to the airport. But that box was empty… I forgot to put the camera there. 🙂

At least I understood that I have to look outside, not only at the instruments. Everything became simpler. The airplane flies where you look. Like a hang-glider. Of course, I am still slightly scared and nervous, and I fly very strange S-like paths (both horizontal and vertical profiles), but it is becoming better than yesterday.

The most interesting thing for today: minimum speed flight, and stall with recovery. Minimum speed flight is relatively simple. The airplane is somewhat more unstable, and thermal turbulence is felt some more, but nothing special. But stalls…

Gaining safe altitude. Setting throttle to idle, trying to hold an altitude. Speed is falling, the stall warning is screaming,and I feel some bumping… Yuhooo! The first time it is really scary. A roller coaster is nothing compared to that. Next time it is better. And better. And better. But it is still not very comfortable when the airplane stops flying and starts falling.

Today I realized that it was a really good idea to start studying theory some time ago, because I have a written test in the end of April. So, it is like in the university during my sessions 🙂

My First Flight

So, there was my first flight today. Of course, it was with an instructor. Everything is totally new, unfamiliar and interesting! Now I understand that it is really very hard to maintain altitude, direction and engine RPM and simultaneously look around to see what’s happening. I actively drive more than ten years, and I used to two dimensions, when it is enough to maintain proper speed and direction 🙂

I am not telling about take off and landing: I perfectly understand importance of altitude, and it is much more comfortable for me when there is at least 600 feet to the ground. Occasionally when I catch some upside thermal flow, my mind becomes very happy, and only some seconds after I understand that we HAVE and ENGINE, we can go up without thermal flows. Maintain altitude!

As a result, I have my first flight hour in my logbook, my mind is full of new impressions, and I am pretty sure that my decision was right: after 10+ years driving (I was driving almost every day) I am still happy with it, and I am extremely happy flying in an airplane as a passenger. And finally I got both: I am a pilot!