Multiengine Checkride

Some days ago I passed the FAA Commercial checkride (ASEL, Airplane Single Engine Land). During my flight time building I made some hours in a multiengine one since I wanted a AMEL (Airplane Multi Engine Land) rating too.

Today the weather was great for a checkride. My exam started from an oral part, and it was rather challenging. The most complicated part was airplane systems, procedures for flying with one engine and limitations. In overall it lasted about two hours.

When we have finished with the oral part, Florida summer weather showed up. Cumulus clouds, wind gusts and thunderstorms covered almost a half of Florida including our airport.

Anyway, at least the oral part is done!

AviationExam discount: How to Save 50$

In my previous posts I already mentioned AviationExam, the great question bank for EASA exams. It is surprisingly good for FAA exams too: despite of the fact that almost nobody in the US heard about it, from my opinion it is the best tool after Sheppard Air. I passed my FAA IR and FAA CPL written with it, and I suppose it is comparable to Gleim, probably even better, and monthly plans are available.

The usual annual subscription price for all EASA subjects is about 170 euros. The competitors (BGS Online and AtplQuestions) charge almost the same amount. Spoiler: there is a way to get a discount.

I already mentioned a discount in case of purchasing 5+ copies. It did not work for me: my blog is not so popular, and I did not want to specifically look for people interested in that product. Therefore, I have been already ready to buy it: yesterday my BGS Online subscription expired.

Unfortunately I’ve never heard about AviationExam discount codes except for black friday or cyber monday, but I already missed those promotions, so it was not the case too.

Today I was looking for free FAA books in AviationExam application for iPad (they are really great, and they are available in the application for download). Occasionally I checked EASA yearly subscription, and it was 150$! Was it magic? I don’t know, but for some reason the subscription is cheaper from iOS app than from the website. The subscription bought from iPad remains valid for all devices, so I can study from my PC or Android app too. The price is permanent, so I didn’t have to wait for black friday to save about 50$ by this small trick ๐Ÿ™‚

Commercial Pilot

Today was The Day I was waiting for so long: I passed my commercial checkride. Now I have a FAA Commercial Pilot license ASEL (Airplane Single Engine Land).

The checkride in the US has two parts: the oral and written one. During the oral part the examiner asks about airspaces, airplane systems, weather and other parts of the commercial pilot course. Apart from that, the student should make a weather briefing, prepare a flight plan, compute mass and balance, takeoff and landing distances, fuel, wind corrections – in other words, make a complete flight planning. It’s OK to look into FAR or POH (but better to know which part). It’s better to remember critical parts (for example, airplane speeds or most common regulations). My oral took about 1.5 hours, and as I know it’s not so long. Everything was professional and thorough.

The practical part starts from flying according to the flight plan. In my case the oil temperature started to rise during our climb, and almost reached the red zone. I pointed that out to the examiner and said that I want to go back, and she agreed. To save some time, she asked to make a power-off approach and landing (simulated engine failure). We had enough altitude and distance to make it to the runway, so I prepared the airplane for a normal landing. We have a long runway and a very light wind, so the runway was the best option even with a tailwind. I made it almost at the numbers.

After taxiing to the ramp we found one more airplane. It was booked but the instructor who booked it was late, so we were able to use it for the checkride. It was a pure luck, I suppose ๐Ÿ™‚

We flew to the East. Did I already tell about the weather in Florida? Of course some towering clouds already started to form. I decided to adjust the course to the South to avoid the dangerous cloud. The examiner asked whether I know about the other airport nearby. I knew about it, pointed the direction and said the approximate time to reach that airport.

The next part was the maneuvers. Commercial pilot should demonstrate the ability to fly steep turns, chandelles, lazy eights, steep spirals, eights on pylons and some different types of landings: normal landing, short field, soft field, power-off 180. All the maneuvers should be performed according to the commercial standards.

It’s critical to use checklists, constantly look for other traffic, demonstrate the appropriate qualification and knowledge during the maneuvers, and scan the instruments. And, of course, fly withing the margins for the altitude and speed. The only recipe to do it properly is to practise more and feel the airplane.

The landings were not perfect ‘minimum sink touchdowns’, but good enough and withing the selected touchdown zone. The most challenging part could be a short field landing at the numbers since that airport has some trees not so far from the runway, but it’s allowed to select the touchdown point not at the threshold for training or examination purposes. Of course, that should be done way in advance, not just before/after touchdown.

We had landed, and after some paperwork I got a temporary commercial license. Now I am officially a commercial pilot!

FAA Commercial Requirements…

… or how to waste some money.

Firstly I’d like to tell about the FAA check-ride situation in Florida: there are a lot of flight schools, there are a lot of students, and there are only 5 DPEs. In practice it means that usually one have to wait for a checkride more than a month. We are a little bit lucky, because one of our instructors is also a DPE, and if somebody cancels, we have a priority. Of course one can apply for a FAA examiner, but waiting time is even longer. Usually much longer.

So, I met my commercial requirements according to FAR 61.129 about a week and a half ago, and scheduled a checkride. I was lucky, somebody had a cancellation, and I was expecting a checkride at July 16. And on Tuesday somebody canceled a checkride on 12th of July, and I took that slot. That is I expected my commercial checkride today. It did not happen. It has stopped even before we started an oral part, during a logbook analysis.

So, what happened? We can see the following in FAR 61.129:

(i) Ten hours of instrument training using a view-limiting device including attitude instrument flying, partial panel skills, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, and intercepting and tracking navigational systems. Five hours of the 10 hours required on instrument training must be in a single engine airplane;

During my instrument training I got 38 instrument hours, and I considered that I’m done with that. But the examiner used this and this FAA letters. In the first one we can see that 61.65 training hours (i. e. towards instrument rating) do not qualify towards 61.129 requirements (commercial). The opposite works. The letter is for helicopter rating, but nevermind, for airplanes we have the same. The second letter says that the training can qualify, but it should meet 61.129 requirements. I. e. if the CFII explicitly states that in the logbook during your instrument training, you are safe. But the problem is that I was on a part 141 during my instrument. It is a structured training with an approved syllabus. Nobody mentioned anything about 61.129. Actually standards are the same, and training is the same. But legally it does not work without explicit mention of 61.129 in the remarks section. And the DPE’s position is that I need 10 hours more instrument time (dual) after 141 instrument program.

Possibly it was naive, but I supposed to have almost exactly 250h TT before my checkride. It will not happen, I should fly 10 additional hours. I hope I will have a long cross-country tomorrow (the concern is the weather…). Later I will just plan ahead more carefully. During my commercial training I had a small doubt about this requirement, but I did not pay attention on it, and neither my CFI did.

So, I need more hours, my checkride shifts by some days, and I cannot even imagine when I can have my multi checkride. Flight hours are OK, they always matter, especially instrument hours, but I am disappointed about longer waiting time.

P. S. when I already realized that I would not fly today, I figured out that the airplane for our checkride had only 1 hour before 100h inspection: somebody flew a cross-country yesterday night, so the practical checkride part would probably be cancelled anyway during the preflight inspection.

AviationExam and BGS Online

My EASA ATPL written test preparation moves on very slowly. But I don care, because during this time I completed my FAA IR, and now I am working on my FAA CPL. Nevertheless, I am still interested in EASA ATPL, and I’d like to continue studying.

So, my yearly BGS Online subscription will expire soon, and I’d like to either renew it or purchase AviationExam product. Possibly anybody is interested in the EASA QB access? Group price is cheaper, and purchasing 5-10 subscriptions can save some $$$ =)

Logging the Flight Time

Logging the flight time can be tricky when you need to meet the requirements for different authorities, for example, FAA and EASA. They have a lot of common points, but they have some essential differences as well, so it’s better to know them to save some money.

First of all, I’d like to explain some terms.

PIC (Pilot In Command). It is the person who assumes the responsibility of the entire flight. He fills the aircraft’s logs ans has the final authority. According to the EASA regulations, you can log PIC time only if you act as a PIC, but FAA rules allow to log PIC time in some other cases – I will explain it later in this post.

PICUS (PIC under supervision). It is the person who acts as a PIC, but under specific circumstances. For example, in the UK the student logs PICUS time during a checkride with the examiner. I haven’t seen PICUS time in the FAA regulations.

SIC (Second In Command). It is a co-pilot (or a first officer) for a multi-pilot aircraft.

Safety pilot. It is not actually a pilot, but a person who monitors the pilot’s actions for some reason. Legally it is a passenger, but sometimes it can be a flight instructor who does not provide flight training (and, correspondingly, does not log his flight time). Sometimes he can log flight time too, when he acts as a required flight crew member (I will also explain later).

Passenger. Just a passenger, does not perform any duties.

VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Meteorological conditions when there are visual references outside the aircraft (for example, the horizon, or some landmarks on the ground). Basically it’s flight conditions outside the clouds.

IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions). Basically it’s NOT VMC. Usually it’s when we are in the clouds and cannot navigate using outside references. Legally VMC has necessary minimums, and when we are below these minimums, we can consider the conditions as IMC.

VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Legally we can fly under VFR when we are in VMC and can use outside references for navigation and separation with other aircrafts.

IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). These flight conditions assume that we use instruments for navigation and separation with other aircrafts. It can happen that we don’t see anything outside the aircfart, but it is not necessary. Legally we can fly under IFR in both IMC and VMC. It is mainly relevant for EASA, where we can log IFR time in any meteorologial conditions, but for FAA we cannot log instrument time in VMC regardless of our flight rules. And that is one of the essential differences.

Total time. It is the total flight time regardless of the role when we are acting as a crew member or a student.

Dual time. Dual given time means that we provide flight instruction for someone. Dual received time means that we are receiving flight instruction from a certified instructor.

Night time. Basically it’s time after sunset to sunrise, but there are some nuances. For example, FAA counts night landings only after 1 hours after sunset and not later than 1 hour before sunrise. Some EASA countries allow to log night time not earlier than 30 min after sunset and not later than 30 min before sunrise. ICAO and EASA have the same definition, but there are some local regulations, for example, in the CAP393 UK. So it’s better to check local documents to properly log night time. I log night time from sunset to sunrise, and night landings 1 hour after sunset to be legal for both authorities.

Solo time. Usually it means that you are all alone in the aircraft and don’t take aboard even a passenger’s dog regardless whether it has a license and whether it knows how to fly the airplane. That time seems to be relevant only for students. After getting a license nobody cares, only PIC time matters.

Solo acting. It means that only this person use the flight controls. Nobody else should even touch the yoke, pedals or whatever adjusts the flight parameters. For example, it can be even dual received hours with a flight instructor next to you, but the instructor should not touch flight controls.

Instrument time. It means flight time using only flight instruments, without any reference outside the aircraft. EASA world does not use that term (there is IFR time there instead), but for FAA it’s essential. We does not always have clouds to practise (and initially does not even want to fly in the clouds while learning), so FAA allows both actual (flight time in IMC) and simulated (flight time with a view-limiting device like ‘hood’ or ‘foggles’) time. It is possible to log simulated instrument time even in VMC without view-limiting device (‘I used only flight instruments for flying’), but it does not make sense since a view-limiting device is some kind of guarantee of that. The important point for logging actual instrument time – the conditions should be ‘real’ IMC, it usually means in the clouds, not just below the legal VMC minimums. It’s kind of a very contradictory question, but safer to log simulated instrument time only in a view-limiting device, and actual instrument time in the clouds, just to avoid any misinterpretation.

Cross-country time. Basically it’s when we fly not only above the home airport, but there are additional limitations for meeting different criteria. I will explain a bit later.

Total flight time can be logged in any flight when we perform any flight duties.

Dual received means that we have a training flight with the instructor. This time should be logged when we have a flight instructor who logs his dual given time. Usually he wants to even if he doesn’t talk during the flight at all ๐Ÿ™‚

IFR flight time can be logged with IFR clearance and usually under the IFR flight plan regardless of meteorological conditions. Instrument hours should be logged in IMC or with a view-limiting device regardless or ‘real’ ATC clearance: for example, the flight instructor can give a ‘simulated’ ATC clearance.

As I’ve already said, EASA and FAA have some differences in logging the flight time.

PIC for the EASA and FAA.

For the EASA everything is easy: you log PIC only when you act as a PIC. It means that only one person can log PIC time. Usually during flight training it’s a flight instructor as a person who assumes responsibility. Dual received time cannot be logged as PIC time.

FAA regulations allow to log PIC time in some more cases. A pilot may log PIC time when he/she is the sole occupant of the aircraft; is the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which the pilot is rated or has privileges; or is acting as PIC where more than one pilot is required (‘required crewmember’ rule). That is described in FAR 1.1, 61.51 [e].

‘Required crewmember’ usually means flying in a multi-pilot aircraft, but it is not the only case. The most interesting part for a training airplane (for example, small Cessna 152 or 172) is that if a pilot uses a view-limiting device, the second pilot becomes a necessary crewmember in VMC under VFR! The second obvious case is flying with a flight instructor and manipulating the flight controls: in that case both can log PIC time.

The second interesting part is logging cross-country time.

Basically “cross-country” a flight between a point of departure and a point of arrival using standard navigation procedures. FAA gives the definition in 14 CFR 61.1(b)(3)(i). EASA FCL also mentions “following a pre-planned route”.

So for the EASA we can log any flight from the airport A to airport B as a cross-country flight if we plan it and use any navigation (even visual aids).

FAA allows to log as cross-country only flights at least 50 miles from the departure airport for meeting private, instrument or commercial minimums. More details can be found in this great paper from AOPA.

For meeting sport pilot minimums any flight more than 25 miles can be logged.

But the most interesting part is meeting the ATP minimums. It is not even required to have a destination! Any flight further than 50 miles from the departure point can be logged as a cross-country flight regardless whether we landed somewhere else or just returned home.

In all other cases we can use a basic definition. For example, part 135 allows to count as cross-country all flights from A to B, even less than 50 miles.

The nightmare starts if we don’t have an electronic logbook: the paper one just don’t have so many columns to sum up everything. Initially I had only the paper one, so it took some time to properly enter all previous flights to my electronic version and set the parameters (‘cross country more than 50nm’, ‘cross-country less than 50nm’, ‘acting as PIC’ and so on).

Hopefully it will help not to get lost in the documents in regulations. You can ask me for more information ๐Ÿ™‚

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!