Winter Haven

Winter Haven (KGIF) is an extremely beautiful place. There are two concrete runways and one water runway. Some day I will try it out too in a seaplane, but now I am flying an ASEL (Airplane Single Engine Land) so I have to use concrete or grass runways πŸ™‚

Flying without GPS is amazing. This airplane has a VOR, but I am trying to stick with a compass, clock and paper maps. Today I am not flying along a coastline, so it is a bit more challenging.

Actually there is one area along the route where there are no landmarks at all: it’s a large forest area. Basically I use my clock and fly the calculated course, and after finding some clear landmark (after some time) I am trying to figure out where I am and how far I am from my route. It’s fun! After about 10 minutes of flight I was about 1 mile off-track. Not so bad for a visual flight and plain magnetic compass.

I am attaching some photos for showing the beauty of the area πŸ™‚

VFR Again

The next logical step for Instrument Rating holder is a Commercial License. Finally I can fly without ‘foggles’ or ‘hood’! It’s so beautiful outside!

I decided that it does not make sense to follow 141 route for my commercial course. I already have some flight time under my belt above private+IR course minimums, so at the end of 141 course I would have about 250 hours anyway, which equals part 61 requirements. But for 141 due to my school policy I should fly the entire course in Cessna 172 (of course excluding complex and ME hours), and for part 61 I can use Cessna 150, which is way less expensive.

So now I am flying VFR-only Cessna 150 without GPS. It seems much lighter than 172. For flying alone I had to pass a check flight with one of the instructors and sign renter’s agreement.

It’s a bit unusual to fly visually again, and even more unusual to fly without GPS. It was hard to find an unfamiliar runway again. But it’s totally amazing to try flying with paper maps, compass, clock and my eyes.

Visual flying in Florida is easy: ocean coast to the west, ocean coast far to the east, straight wide North-South and East-West highways and a lot of landmarks. Even Czech Republic is not so straightforward for navigation!

This airplane cruise speed is just a little less than C172’s, but the rate of climb is much slower. Fuel consumption is less too, but due to smaller tanks we still have only about 4h of endurance. And I love this model: I started my PPL in that airplane.

This C150 has only one comm without other frequency monitoring possibility, so it’s better to quickly grasp ATIS messages and return to the active frequency ASAP. Probably that’s how our grandfathers flied: pure VFR with minimum of instruments. Even all Czech school airplanes had GPS and 2 radios, but basically the compass, clock and paper maps are enough, so I enjoy this experience πŸ™‚

IR Part 141: Long Cross Country

Every student pilot should have a long cross country flight during his training course. It does not mean that you should really cross the entire country, of course, but there are some requirements to the flight legs. The requirements depend on a particular course (private, instrument or commercial program).

Instrument rating requires a flight of 250 nautical miles with instrument approach at each airport and three different kinds of approaches (according to FAR Β§ 61.65).

We flew through an airspace B (controlled airspace above Orlando International airport), it was an interesting experience.

In the US there are all types of airspace from A to G. For example, in Czech Republic we can find G, D and C for general aviation, but here D usually means a small regional airport. Large international airports are usually have B airspace. I like this article for a quick airspace review in the US: Airspace – AOPA. And that is how the airspace in Czech Republic looks like. Looks less crowded, doesn’t it? And we can also keep in mind that there are only about 5 controlled airports in the entire country.

Finally I have some pictures: my instructor took them near Orlando International and St. Petersburg International airports. Looks amazing!

IR Part 141: Cross Country

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.

Aircraft Maintenance

As you know, now I am flying for meeting flight time minimums (and for fun, of course). That means that it does not matter a lot where to fly, so today I have a really useful task: I should fly the airplane to the mechanics for a scheduled maintenance.

While reading my preflight checklist I figured out that the flaps do not deploy. OK, let’s think: take-off is not a problem at all (long concrete runway), but what about landing? We have an 1.2 km runway at the destination. Aircraft weight is OK: I am alone, I don’t have any bags and I still didn’t have breakfast. So landing should be totally OK, I will even have some safety margin, and technicians will have more chances to find the problem. I called the flight school boss and explained the situation. He agreed that it is not a big deal, so I could fly.

It’s so cool to takeoff from some gloomy place and then enter a sunny area!

Flaps magically got back to normal upon arrival, so it was just normal landing. Technicians could not find anything wrong with them as well. Just in case I made 3 additional circuits, and everything was OK.

I flew to another school base (LKRO), and then back to the home base. Flaps worked as they should.

Today I gained my first 100 flight hours!

Strong Winds

I supposed to fly early in the morning, but it did not happen: the airplane did not have enough fuel, and the fuel service is usually available only in the afternoon. Anyway I needed some more sleep.

I took off in the afternoon. During the flight I noticed that the ground speed is way less that the airspeed. It means that I had a strong headwind, which means that I would fly faster on my way back. Today I chose a direct route from one point to another.

I found one more abandoned aerodrome on my way and made some photos.

The wind was strong, but there were not so much crosswind and no gusts as well, so the landing was smooth.

Today was really hot. I suppose that it was up to 40 degrees celsius in a sunny areas, so I experienced a longer takeoff run and a slower climb: hot air really affects the airplane performance.

On the way back I landed on some airfield where I owed a landing fee previous time, and finally paid it today. I felt some gusts, so it was safer to approach with a higher speed: the airplane was more stable.

When I returned to the home base the wind became almost calm, and the landing was very easy and smooth. Very nice flight!

Circle Around Prague

Every pilot should have some minimum flight time before taking an exam. For the modular commercial pilot program in Europe it should be 200 hours (total time). Now I am continuing gaining these flight hours.

Today I decided to go to the North-West where I found a nice aerodrome with a concrete runway. I already mentioned that I like them some more than grass runways.

It was supposed to be a sort of circle: to the West of Prague on the way forward and to the East on the way back. It’s more interesting, and the route distance is almost the same.

I am still a little nervous about controlled airspaces and talking with ATC, so it’s better to avoid crowded CTRs for now and practice somewhere else, for example, in Karlovy Vary.

In summer there are usually some thunderstorms around. I found one cell to the west of my route, but not so close to be dangerous, so I just took some photos.

Czech is really beautiful for sightseeing, especially from the air. I photographed a nice golf-club and an old windmill on the route.

I used to empty aerodromes. Small aerodromes in Czech are usually uncontrolled, and nobody is there, especially after 6 pm. Today it was different, and somebody answered on the radio. I was some unexpected communications practice πŸ™‚

On the way back some clouds started to form. Not the turbulent ones, but it is still not so good if they are low. Of course I checked the weather before departure, and nothing seemed wrong, but it’s always better to check one more time if needed. I asked the controller, and he confirmed that nothing special is expected enroute, which was really good, because I am not allowed to fly at night yet. If the weather becomes bad, I could get stuck until morning.

I landed about an hour before twilight. One more outstanding day!

Sorry for the rubbish on the windshield πŸ™‚

The Clouds

Today I planned a long flight across the country. I literally wanted to fly almost half of Czech Republic. The weather was not so bad, and I headed to the East.

The significant part of the route laid in controlled airspace, therefore my workload was higher than usual. I’m still not used to talking to ATC so much.

At some moment the cloulds moved lower, and it became really dangerous to fly below them because of the terrain, the margin was not so high. There were still some VMC corridors to climb, and I asked the ATC to climb to 5000 above the cloud layer. The weather about 20 nm to the East seemed much better, so I just needed to overfly that layer. Neither the online wx radar nor ATC observed any thunderstorms, so it should be pretty much safe. After overflying the hills I finally found a VMC corridor to descend below a cloud layer: it was more than 3000 AGL there. The rest of the flight was pretty calm.

Vysoke Myto has three runways, one of them is paved (asphalt). The aerodrome also has runway and taxiway lights and some hangars nearby. However, there was nobody there. I didn’t see a single person. Neither on the frequency, nor at the hangars. Complete silence.

On the way back I came across one more abandoned military aerodrome with a perfect wide concrete runway. It looked like a precise copy of my home base (LKLN), even the hangar looked the same. I saw a stage and some temporary buildings, probably it was some openair. Of course I did not land, I just overflew the runway.

It’s always better to practice more, so I made 7 landings on different aerodromes on the way back πŸ™‚

Clouds and Chicken

The morning weather was not cooperating, and I supposed that my flight would not happen. At about 10 am the clouds started to dissipate though, and the weather briefing did not show any thunderstorm in a reasonable time, so it seemed that we could takeoff!

Today our route was to the South-East. There is a very interesting aerodrome with a grass runway, Stankovice, and haven’t flown there yet.

On the direct route I saw some low clouds. I am still not instrument-rated, so the only option I had was to find another route with sufficient visibility. I tried to go to the South, and it worked. Visibility was perfect there, and after some miles I found a very comfortable wide corridor to the East.

I used to empty small aerodromes with a little traffic. Usually nobody answers from the ground at such aerodromes, but in Stankovice I had an answer, moreover, it was in English! It’s luck, it’s always good to practice my communication.

The airport had a grass runway with a white centerline (actually it was the first time I had ever seen a centerline on a grass runway).

It was lunch time! Let’s have one more 100$ hamburger! The city was beautiful with a nice castle and river. The food was inexpensive and delicious. I like my timebuilding!

On the way back I found a long concrete runway and decided to fly over to look at it more closely (there was no airport in that place on the charts). It was a really long runway with great taxiways. No runway markings, no tower. Probably it was an old military airfield… I found two roads crossing the runway, and some bikers on the runway itself. It’s a pity that that perfect airfield is not used for airplanes nowadays…

Finally I made some tonch-n-goes on some airfields around my home base and landed. Just in a few miles before landing I caught a small rain. The runway became wet, but the visibility was OK. That rain did not stop till the evening.

100$ Hamburger Flight

Today it was a great day. I flew a lot, and I am excited about that.

I started with touch-n-goes in the home aerodrome, then a short flight to LKPLES with a 1640-feet-long and 15-metres-width runway. That airfield is pretty close to LKLN. I made a standard pattern, and on a base leg found out that I don’t have flaps. It is not very good idea to land without flaps on that short runway, and I decided to return. Our runway is very long for Cessna C150, therefore landing even without flaps is not a big deal – just a little higher speed and longer flare.

After landing our technician fixed the airplane in a short time, and I was able to fly once more. And this is a great flight for it is my first 100$-hamburger-flight! Not literally, I ordered pork and french fries, but it does not matter. One more grass runway, a little sloped. Czech Republic is a great place for initial training πŸ™‚

Here are some photos from our home base:

The weather is great now. The sky is great, and I can see breathtaking landscapes from an airplane. I could see the scenes of terrific beauty. After about 2 pm the wind became stronger, and landings were some more difficult, but it allowed to make a progress.

I can say that the clouds look differend from an airplane than from the ground. They are almost flat at the bottom, while from the ground they look like pieces of wadding. There were some weak thunderstorms far away, and they also look very interesting.

On my way back I found a small house (actually a former windmill) where I was living some days in May. It looks even more cosy from the airplane. Actually there are a lot of beautiful places to fly here, including small villages and old castles.

From some moment I found out that I have more time on the pattern than earlier. I make all necessary actions faster, and they require less thinking. I suppose that it is a good sign πŸ™‚