In The Sky Again

Since the beginning of the year I spend almost all my spare time on exams preparation, and now I have only 3 subjects ahead. One of them is Meteorology (which is not so easy), but it’s still only three exams of 14.

I foresaw that it would be very challenging, but still did not know it would be THAT challenging. Mainly it’s because of psychological pressure – you should constantly study all the time, every day, every free hour. I still have a full time job which made it even worse.

I am assured that health is essential though, so I decided to make a small break, and the most rewarding part of all that is flying. I made a gift to myself and went to the US to renew my Instrument Rating and fly some hours for staying current and, eh, just for fun.

Today I have my first flight in a low-wing airplane: really, I’ve never flown low-wing before! I’ve chosen Piper Arrow. I used to Cessnas, and I did not know what to expect, but it turned out that it is not that different in the air. The landing differs, you should take into account stronger ground-effect, but apart from that all principles are the same.

I must say that the practice is crucial. After long breaks, especially with not so many flight hours under the belt, skills are deteriorating. Landings are dirtier, patterns are less rectangular, approaches are not as smooth as I want.

I enjoy flying. Every flight hour, every minute in the airplane. It’s the best reward for all study hours and sleepless nights. I am so happy, it’s going to be a great vacation time!

At the Controls Again

It’s been quite a long time I did not fly: my previous flight was in Warsaw in October. I was studying ATPL subjects since then and did not practise at all.

Today I made a flight to renew my SEP (Single Engine Piston) VFR rating. We used Cessna 152, and I remembered the feeling of acceleration with 2 people on board on a grass runway – it seemed way too slow.

The weather was not perfect, but nothing critical, so we performed all required maneuvers. It’s so good to feel the flight controls again!

The bird
The weather does not look so good

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™‚


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!

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™‚

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™‚

Apopka Airport

The weather in Florida is challenging in summer. Today I managed to fly early morning, when there is no turbulent clouds or thunderstorms. Visibility was worse than it would be at the afternoon, but still acceptable.

I adore early morning flights: the air is calm, it is not so hot, and it’s possible to takeoff from any runway.

Apopka airport is beautiful: one asphalt runway along the railway, and a large highway nearby. It looks nice from above.

Florida is almost perfect for navigation, it is impossible to get lost there: a lot of landmarks almost everywhere, and even if you managed to get lost somehow, you can just fly to the West until you see a shoreline.

The “Crystal River – Apopka” route is one of the easiest routes to navigate. Firstly you see an airport with a large concrete runway, then a lake, a highway, and then one more lake. That’s it. Even if you’re really bad with a paper map navigation, you will manage to find a route, and I am pretty good with no-gps flying ๐Ÿ™‚

Even at the early morning there was some traffic. For example, a lot of radio communication at the Winter Haven frequency. It seems that I am not the only one who takes advantage of calm morning flights ๐Ÿ™‚

Sightseeing Flight

Today I decided to relax and have a sightseeing flight. After departure I climbed to 5500 feet and flew along the shoreline. The landscapes were astonishing, it definitely worth to see them from above.

The air was calm, especially at that altitude. I saw some cumulus clouds, but they were far, so I did not feel any turbulence. And as usual the clouds were very beautiful.

My tablet cam is a little better than the one on my phone, but still not perfect. Probably later it makes sense to buy something better, but today I wanted just relax and enjoy the scenery.


Flight time building is a great period, especially its cross country part: you just enjoy flying and have fun. Of course, it’s a big deal of planning, preparation and studying, but it is a great possibility to explore new places while gaining more experience.

Summer in Florida is challenging. It is not only sun and clear skies as we can see in flight school brochures, but also frequent violent thunderstorms and gusty winds in the afternoon. But today the weather was great, so I could plan one more cross country flight.

I had just returned from my previous flight to Palatka when I was told that Cessna 150 is back to service. So, it looks like I will have a flight without GPS ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually, I even don’t need a paper map for flying North-East since I know that route pretty well, so GPS is not an issue at all.

At about 10 miles before Gainesville I got ATIS information: wind 310 (North-West), 10 knots, gusts 15 knots, runway 29 in use. Gainesville Regional airport is inside class D airspace, so I contacted tower and reported my intention to land. The controller gave me runway 25, which means that I will have some crosswind.

Runway 29 was rather busy at that time: one jet was taking off there, and two more were in line.

Landing with a gusty crosswind requires some more attention and concentration, but it is a good practice. Here in Florida there are usually more than one runway in a lot of airports, and crosswind takeoff and landing is not a skill that we practise every day. There are two basic techniques: “crabbing” and “one wing down”, and it is better to know both.

This flight was a very good exercise!