Pilot’s Logbook

Every pilot logs the flight time and needs a logbook for that. There is no any problem with the paper one, but it is not very convenient when you need to filter the flight time for some task. For example, sometimes it’s good to know the complex time, or the time in a multi-engine airplane, or solo time. And when you have more than one license with different requirements, it can become a nightmare.

For example, I have to log instrument time (simulated and actual), but additionally so-called “IFR time”. “IFR time” means all time with an IFR flight plan, but “instrument” time means flying without visual references.

“FAA PIC” and “EASA PIC” time should be also logged differently: for instance, you cannot log PIC time according to EASA rules if you are receiving flight training.

Moreover, there are flight hours for cross-country, for Instrument Rating currency I have to log the approaches, and later it will be probably dual given time…

The point is that the electronic logbook can be a solution. Not as a primary source of information, but as a convenient tool to filter my flight time. Currently I use FltPlan as my EFB, but their logbook did not allow me to enter any item, so I started looking for an alternative.

Finally I found MyFlightBook, and I am totally happy with it. The service can do anything I need and even more: logging flight time, store photos, extract information about airplanes by their tail number, store information (for example, which maneuvers were performed in the flight, how many toch-n-goes and so on) and even attach a telemetry. Their filters are great, and they have export to Excel for more advanced filtering. They allow to print the logbook according to different requirements and formats. And surprisingly the service is free.

Now I can easily say how many flight hours I have in, for example, Cessna 172 or which rating will be expired soon =)

Bartow

Today I finally succeeded in my efforts of trying to wake up early at the weekend. Actually it was a good reason to do it: much more chances to fly cross-country wherever you want before thunderstorm activity. Today I was going to Bartow. It is an airport in about 70 miles to the South-East. Close enough to have a breakfast and go back before significant weather activity.

Today it was a typical Florida summer day near the Gulf of Mexico: after about 11 am the South would be closed by thunderstorm lines or at least isolated thunderstorms. So, I decided to go to Bartow. It is a controlled airport in a class D airspace. I was expecting practicing my communications. I checked tower working hours, and everything seemed OK. With that weather and my working hours I was able to fly South-East not very frequently.

I decided to ask for a flight following: it’s a good practice for IFR flight communications (of course, not exactly, but close enough). And it is a good idea to get a traffic information in that area. I climbed to 5500. The air was calm and cool there, the weather was perfect. Today there were no clouds, so nothing prevented me to climb to that altitude.

About 15 miles to the destination it’s better to get ASOS information: the weather and a runway in use at the destination airport. Apart from that, I heard something like “the restaurant is closed”. Oh, it seems that I have no breakfast today.

I landed and vacated the runway, then asked for a clearance for taxiing to the FBO. I mean taxiing to something that I supposed to be the FBO, but… “N7692U, the FBO is in another direction!”. “Request progressive taxi…” How can I know that the FBO is the small building with a 4-plane parking? I thought that it is a group of hangars and a large airplane parking area nearby… No signs at the airport, no markings on the airport diagram. BTW, thank you very much for understanding!

The airport itself was a cozy place: I found an interesting small museum and a free cup of coffee available. The tower controller was also very friendly ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, it’s time to go back. The weather still looked good, and I was done with my coffee.

On the way back I decided to ask for a flight following again: there were some clouds on the way, and it was a good idea to have traffic advisories. I had a VFR-only airplane, which means that I cannot enter the clouds under any circumstances, and possibly I even could not manage to go direct. In that case flight following can be a good advantage.

I requested 4500, but the controller asked me for 3500. OK, why not. After some time I have been seeing clouds straight ahead. OK, then 4500 could be a good choice. Clouds were still somewhere in front of me and were getting closer. 6500. No way, still below the tops somewhere in front of me. Damn, I supposed that those tops should be at about 4000-5000! I had absolutely no wish to try to go through that labyrinth. So, I should either try to go higher, or descend and proceed below them. OK, descending back to the summer hot. I was not able to continue direct, I didn’t want to go back, so I had to make 360s, like a spiral. 6000, 5000, 4000, 3000. Still almost at the cloud base. 2000. OK, at least here I am well below them. I could proceed to my destination, and it was easy to find aย labyrinth path when you are below it.

After about 10 miles the clouds became something between few and scattered. Every day in that place I can see almost the same. Two more hours, and there will be thunderstorms here. But at that moment it was still good.

What a nice weekend! =)

Lake-City

At the weekends I used to fly from the early morning, but this Saturday I decided to sleep some more: it is not a good idea to fly if you’re tired.

Today the weather was good, so it was possible to fly to Lake-City. So, why that place? First of all, the weather is much better for northbound routes, and that airport has the ATC – it’s always good to practice. The weather in Florida is the most critical factor in summer: for example, today it is not a good idea to fly more than 100 miles from the airport, because after about 4 hours there is some possibility of thunderstorms here.

As I said, the weather was good, but not perfect. The cloud ceiling was at about 2500-2700 feet, and I had to maintain about 1500 feet for about 20 minutes from the home base. I had to avoid large cumulus clouds too: they are dangerous, and it’s better to change a course a little than fly directly under them.

I suppose that almost everyone who flew in Florida heard about KCDK. It is a small airport at the shoreline with a concrete 1500-feet runway. Our school policy prohibits to fly there (as many others do), but the weather there is usually good even in summer, so at the very worst case it still can serve as an alternate. But it’s better not to count on that. 1500 feet is not so bad, but psychologically can be surprising after all of wide luxury concrete runways in Florida. Most of them are usually at least 4000-feet long.

After about 30 min of flight the cloud base became higher, and the clouds almost disappeared.

The route itself is very easy: it’s enough to follow the road.

While on weekdays the airport is controlled, on the weekends there is no ATC there, so I should act like at uncontrolled airport. I landed and vacated the runway. There were some Airbus on a taxiway, but I did not see a single person in the cockpit or around.

On the way back the weather became even better, and I was able to fly directly to the airport without avoiding clouds. A very nice day.

High-Performance Airplane

Commercial pilot license requirements contain 10 hours of complex airplane flight time (at least it was so in 2018 – as far as I know, now only technically advanced aircraft time is required). Complex airplane means the one with a retractable gear, flaps and constant-speed prop. But from the April 2018 it is not required to use that kind of airplane for a checkride.

Usually our school uses Beechcraft Bonanza, BE-35 V-Tail. It is not a very common airplane, and it is kinda expensive. I did not want to fly 10 hours in a single engine in favour of a multi-engine one, but I still wanted to have a high-performance endorsement.

It is not very obvious, but our multi-engine Duchess does not meet the high-performance requirements in spite of even higher total power than the Bonanza. To meet the requirement, the power per each engine should be higher than 200 HP, and our Duchess has only 180 HP per engine. And it does not matter than the Bonanza has only one engine.

The airplane is beautiful and mighty. It is equipped with a 3-blade propeller, electric retractable gear, electric flaps, and rather modern avionics. At first I had kind of ‘nose up’ attitude, much more than in a Duchess. Throttle, prop and mixture levers are similar to the ones in a Cessna 172.

The airplane has only one cockpit door at the right side, and the interior looks like this:

It’s important to remember than every half-hour we should switch fuel tanks, like in Piper aircrafts.

Another problem is that flaps lever is located at the place where we have gear control in Duchess.

The airplane is mighty – the acceleration is fast, the engine sounds louder, and the prop sound is also higher: probably it’s due to a 3-blade prop.

It is not a Cessna 172 at all: it is faster, it has better avionics, and the controls require higher force. Even a rudder needs higher control forces, probably it is because of a V-Tail.

The landing is even easier than in a Cessna. The approach speed is the same, but I felt kind of stronger ground effect.

It is an interesting airplane. Thank you for flying, Bonanza!

Spin Training

Spin Training is a part of the flight instructor course, but I suppose that this training is useful for all pilots. Of course it’s better to recognize approaching spin in advance, but sometimes shit happens anyway, and it’s good to know what to do in that case.

In theory the process is not very hard: we should put the ailerons in a netral position, stop the rotation with a rudder, and then act like in a situation with an unusual attitude.

In practice we set the engine to idle, then slow flight without flaps, and then pull the yoke, simultaneously stepping on one of the pedals. And the airplane starts to spin. It feels like we’re falling. The Earth is just in front of us while it should be somewhere below. It’s really scary! So we are seting the ailerons to a neutral position, then eliminating the rotation with the rudder, and waiting. After some time the rotation should stop, and we can recover by pushing the yoke and maintaining the direction.

The attitude indicator is useless in this situation, we should use mainly external references and probably a turn coordinator (with some precaution).

The feeling is unforgettable. But the main outcome is that now I know what to do not only in theory – it’s a completely different experience.

Our C150 spins relatively easily, and recovers also very well. But it’s better to act quickly: one rotation takes more than 300 feet, and the recovery is becoming more difficult with more rotations.

Fly-in Breakfast

Today we had a fly-in breakfast at one of the airports nearby, in about 1h of flight. This airport does not have a communication frequency, so in these cases in Florida we should use either 122.9 or 122.75. In our case it was 122.9.

In spite of arriving rather early, we heard a lot of traffic on the frequency: about 3 or 4 airplanes nearby and 2 airplanes in a circuit.

The airport had a long concrete runway, but almost no clearway: there were some trees pretty close to the runway, so the effective takeoff and landing distances are limited by those trees.

There were no FBO there, but there were some nice houses and a cafe. Some walking paths are painted as runways ๐Ÿ™‚

The event attracted some interesting airplanes and even one gyroplane.

On the way back ceiling became lower (still acceptable for VFR flight below the clouds), and I wished I had taken our C172 instead of non-IFR C150 to fly higher ๐Ÿ™‚

Commercial Maneuvers

Currently I am flying complex airplane hours, and I decided to do that in a multiengine airplane. The basic principles in flying the maneuvers in a multiengine airplane are the same as in a single-engine one, but there are some more procedures, and the speed range is wider.

The main difference for me is even not an additional engine but complex airplane features like fixed-speed prop and retractable gear. I’ve never flown that kind of aircraft before. Two engines require more careful instruments scanning, there are literally two sets of engine instruments. In basic maneuvers the pilot has to move all kind of levers (like throttle, mixture or prop) for two engines simultaneously. Our airplane does not have automatic engines sync, so I also have to slightly move the controls of one engine to reduce noise and vibration.

The main difference in the multi-engine course is one-engine operations. Compared to maneuvers, tt is a completely new set of procedures, and everything develops quicker. I am going to have an ME rating, so we are flying one-engine procedures too.

Anyway, I love this heavy mighty airplane ๐Ÿ™‚

IFR Gainesville

I failed to fly IFR with the school’s black N4642J due to oil temperature problem, but the weather was still OK to fly, and one more airplane became available. At 2:30 pm it was still possible to fly to Gainesville and back. The weather forecast was FM1900Z VCTS ะธ BKN40CB, which means that there would be some thunderstorm activity, but not necessarily. Usually thunderstorms sit at the same places day-to-day at approximately the same time. Moreover, it is very easy to see them from the very long distance.

The radar showed a very good picture too, so I decided to fly to Gainesville. I filed and IFR plan, again, just to practice these skills. The weather conditions were visual.

I saw some distant thunderstorms on the way to Gainesville, and even a small cell on my course, so I requested a deviation due to weather. After avoiding this cell I got a direct route to the airport, and landed on a longer runway.

I decided to depart immediately since thunderstorm clouds were far from the airport at that moment, but that could quickly change. I requested and got my clearance, took off and flew back to the Crystal River. At 3000 feet I had some cumulus clouds above, but after about 20 miles from Gainesville the sky became clear. I was happy that I had decided to fly today ๐Ÿ™‚

Florida Summertime

The summer in Florida is much worse than the winter. It is generally correct that it’s possible to fly all year long, but in winter we have almost all day, and in summer we can have only about 2-3 hours or nothing at all.

I used to thunderstorms after about 2-3pm almost every day: they are predictable, and they are visible from a long distance. I used to the fact that heavy rain right now does not mean that in about an hour the weather will become flyable again. Flight planning in summer can be very interesting.

Today it was extremely hot. The only available airplane for today was N4642J, the one painted in black. I decided to fly IFR, just for practice: the weather is good.

Preflight and runup checks were OK. In a climb I contacted ATC and activated my flight plan. At about 4000 feet oil temperature raised almost to the red zone. I cancelled my flight plan, reduced power for better cooling and turned back. Just in case I was checking fields nearby, but in case of engine failure I had about 8 minutes, which was enough to fly to a home base from my altitude.

Fortunately the engine was still alive, and even the oil temperature started to drop. At about 5 miles to the airport I started to prepare for a normal landing with some altitude margin in case of engine failure.

The engine did not quit, I made a normal landing and taxied to the ramp. But I don’t think that it is a good idea to fly this airplane without further inspection, especially for a cross-country flights, so I left a red ticket for maintenance guys.

Multi-engine

I am starting my multi-engine flights. FAA CPL requires 10 hours in a complex airplane (with retractable gear, variable pitch prop, flaps). Now it changed, but it was a requirement in 2018. I am going to obtain ME rating anyway, so I decided to fly my complex hours in a multi-engine airplane.

Usually our school use Beechcraft Bonanza (BE-36. v-tail) as a complex airplane and Beechcraft Duchess (BE-76, T-tail) as a multi-engine one. The flight hour price difference is insignificant, and FAA canceled the complex airplane requirement for a checkride. The drawback is that BE-76 engines are only 180hp, which means that it is not a high-performance airplane, so I cannot obtain that endorsement in it.

This airplane is heavier and more powerful, checklists are longer, and the pilot has less time to think. But with two operational engines it behaves very similar to a single-engine one, we just use two levers simultaneously.

There is not so many additional things – just a couple of new levers and instruments, but on practice it increases workload, expecially taking into consideration that everything goes faster.

The takeoff is hilarious. The airplane accelerates very quickly. Takeoff speed is a little higher, and our takeoff distance is longer.

Parking is a little complicated too: the distance between metal pillars are narrow, and it looks a bit scary. Mirrors on the engines help a lot, but it’s better to keep the yellow line as precisely as possible.

Taxiing turns using differential thrust are interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

Retractable gear adds the impression of flying boeing, the sound during retraction/extension is unforgettable ๐Ÿ™‚

The flight itself is very similar to usual single-engine flight, but there are some more checklist items and instruments. At first I tend to look more at the instruments than outside, especially during maneuvers.

The landing is almost the same, but it is a low-wing airplane, and it is heavier. Another difference is that we always make power-on landing: cutting the engines during the flare can result in a hard landing.

Once more I feel something new and interesting, many things to learn!