Multi-engine Checkride…

… or the story about letters collection.

I’ve already written about my oral part of the multi-engine checkride. The weather have not become acceptable for it that day, so I got a Letter of Discontinuance. It means that the checkride was interrupted for some reason (the weather in my case).

The weather still did not improve the next day, so my checkride was moved to Friday. It is not a big deal, in overall I was waiting for less than two weeks, which is not so long in Florida.

The weather on Friday was great: there sky was clear, and there was almost on wind.

During the checkride the student should demonstrate the proficiency in various tasks. It started from normal takeoff and landing, and I did a good job.

Short field takeoff and landing were good too, and the approach was very stable and smooth. It was not so hard to maintain the flight path in that weather.

There is one small detail in our airport: we have a powerline rather close to the runway, so touching down at the numbers is kinda dangerous. I asked to use a different target point, about 1000 feet from the runway threshold. It is totally OK to touch down at the selected point to simulate the short field, but you must tell the examiner that you’re going to ‘shift’ the beginning of the runway. Moreover, it can be even considered as a good decision making. The goal is to check the ability of precise airplane control, so if you make it as you planned, it’s much better than always using the real beginning of some long runway and brushing the trees.

During the next takeoff the examiner cut the power of one engine. I set engines to idle and stopped the airplane.

We took off once more, then approximately at the pattern altitude the examiner started to very slowly pull the power lever of one engine. I recognized that it was an ‘engine failure’ exercise too late, so I failed today.

As a result I got a Letter of Disapproval, it means that I have to fly once more. Luckily the examiner had some time at the next day. So today I called my instructor, and we practiced engine failures some more today.

It was a sunny Saturday… Today I was ready to any examiner’s actions. On engine failure exercises, if the examiner touched power lever, I reacted even earlier than I had felt any turning tendency.

We flew all the required maneuvers, minimum control speed demonstration. During the actual engine shutdown (there is an exercise for that) I did not manage to start the engine in the air. It just did not start even with excessive speed, I believe that it did not fully return to a fine prop blades angle. I used the corresponding checklist and finally started it using the starter after some attempts.

Then we continued with instrument flying, followed by GPS approach. During the maneuvers I found out that attitude indicator partially failed: it showed some bank angle during a level flight. I cross-checked it by some small turns, closely monitoring the attitude indicator and turn coordinator and confirmed the malfunction. So I had kind of a real-life partial panel during an instrument flight.

All went well today. Finally we landed, and the examiner congratulated me with a new shiny rating.

It took 20 flight hours: 15 I made towards my complex endorsement, and 5 additional hours just to improve my skills. I can’t understand how some people can make it in just 5 hours 🙂

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!

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 🙂

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!

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 🙂

Retractable gear adds the impression of flying boeing, the sound during retraction/extension is unforgettable 🙂

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!

FAA CPL Written Exam

Today I passed my CPL written exam. It was relatively easy after all that preparation.

I was going to buy Sheppard Air as the best available question bank, but finally I had chosen ASA Prepware, Gleim and AviationExam since they are cheaper and have an one-month subscription option. From my opinion, AviationExam is the best out of these three providers, but anyway on the real exam I met about 30-40% questions I haven’t seen in these questions banks.

In fact, it is not a problem if you really understand the subject. Sometimes the wording is not very clear, and I had to pick a “more correct” answer out of two or even three “almost correct” ones. To be honest, there is only a few questions of that kind.

As a result, I got 90%. My ambitions are not satisfied by that value, but I passed anyway, and I am quite happy =)

Question Bank for the FAA CPL written

I am in doubt: I feel that generally I am ready for the FAA CPL written test. I went through the official FAA materials, but I’d like to use some question bank for the evaluation.

With EASA subjects it is pretty easy: 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 an online version, and they are kinda expensive.
  • ASA. Users’ feedback is pretty good, slightly worse than sheppard but still acceptable. They have android version, online version, offline version… Possibly it can be a better option.
  • Dauntless. I found some mentions, but nothing more. They don’t look alive.
  • Gleim. It was great for my IR, but not sure about the CPL materials.
  • Aviationexam. Their interface is great and works on any teapot, their EASA materials are astonishing. But I am not sure that they are OK for FAA tests, not so many questions exist in their database.

Possibly somebody has any experience with these providers? Does it make sense to buy Sheppard Air? They seem like state-of-the-art.

Air Taxi

Usually our school students from abroad use Tampa International airport for arrival or departure. It’s about 100 km from here, and the most common way to go there is Uber. But we are flight school students! From my opinion, we should use airplanes! Anyway a lot of us need more flight time, so why not to do something useful?

Actually large international airports require some experience, and it’s also better to have a special endorsement from the instructor, and book a slot. But in the US there are a lot of airports, including small satellite airports around the major ones. For Tampa the most obvious option is Tampa Executive (KVDF).

Tomorrow I am returning home, so I asked one of my friends to fly with me to Tampa Executive and return the airplane back to the school. Yes, the fuel and airplane renting costs are almost the same as Uber, but it’s a valuable flight time! And it’s fun!

Lakeland

Today I decided to fly to Lakeland for some more VOR practice. Anyway it will be a VFR flight, but our Cessna has a VOR, and it’s better to refresh my skills.

Today the airspace here was very busy. A lot of small light aircrafts, some turboprops, and even a jet… The radio communications are rather intense. It was a good experience: the ATC gave me instructions to extend downwind, then to orbit for giving a way to some faster airplane. The controller was extremely nice and even apologized on final for the delay 🙂

Cross City

The route from Crystal River to Cross City is considered rather simple, and a lot of students from our school fly there almost every day. I’ve been there only once, and even that time I wore ‘foggles’, so I’ve seen almost nothing. So today I planned to visit that airport.

The route is really easy: it lays almost along the shoreline, and it’s really impossible to get lost. The airport itself is very nice: large concrete runways, predictable winds, no traffic. It was a very nice trip!

KCTY
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Night Flight

FAA CPL applicant should meet some requirements in aeronautical experience specified in 14 CFR § 61.129. For example, it requires a night cross-country flight and 10 night landings at the controlled airport. I have some days before returning to Moscow, so I decided to obtain some night experience.

Flying at night is really cool. Wind is often calm, and the airplane is very stable and predictable. I had a very similar feeling in Czech Republic at 5 am.

The landscape is very different too: a lot of lights, clearly identifiable highways and towns, airport lights. Landing at night does not differ a lot from a daytime one, but the approach seems more challenging.

I believe that after instrument experience it’s easier to fly at night since the procedures are the same: trust your instruments, don’t rely on your feelings.

Another very important thing at night is proper using of airplane lights, especially enabling and disabling landing lights at the appropriate time. Probably it is not a very big deal to forget about them at the daytime, but at night it’s critical.