Nice Box

Currently I am mainly flying the airplane without GPS, so I decided to order some things for better situation awareness.

First of all, I ordered an iPad for using it with foreflight (which works only on apple tablets/phones). At the end I’ve chosen FltPlan Go instead, but anyway flying with EFB is easier: I can read METARs, use airport diagrams for VFR and approach plates for IFR. I still prepare paper charts for every flight, but now they become my backup source of information.

BTW, FltPlan Go is not available in some local App Store versions (for example, it is not available in Russian App Store).

I also bought stratux: it is an ADS-B device combined with AHRS and GPS. As a result, I see the weather and traffic data, and have a backup attitude indicator. It is not a primary source of information, but one more safety measure.

Summer Florida brings a lot of thunderstorms, they are forming quickly, and typically there are more than one cell. In case of thunderstorms we can see “VCTS” in the METAR: it means “thunderstorms in the vicinity”. We see that sign almost every day after about 2pm, but before 1pm it is usually safe, and the sky is clear.

I have planned to fly North-East and back before large cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds would start to form, but today it happened earlier, and I saw some towering clouds from the destination airport. They were still rather far to the North-East from me, and South-West direction was still clear, so I took off and turned to the South-West.

After about 15-20 minutes some cumulus clouds ahead turned into small thunderstorm cells, so it was better to deviate. After some more minutes I saw a really large dark cloud of about 6000 feet height in about 25 miles, and some more not so big cumulonimbus clouds.

I was looking for aerodromes nearby all along my route just in case if the situation becomes worse, but fortunately thunderstorm cells did not form a long line, so flying about 10 miles straight to the South did the job to safely avoid them.

It was a bumpy ride anyway, and wind gusts became about 16 knots according to our weather station.

In about 1 hour after landing thunderstorm cells formed a continuous wall almost along the shoreline with about 10-15 miles shift to the East. The wind became stronger, but those cells was not moving: moist air from the ocean fed them. Further to the East the clouds were dissipating, occasionally forming some new not so strong cells. And all this lasted for some hours.

That kind of weather is typical for summer Florida. It’s true that almost every day is flyable, but in summer it’s better to be on the ground after about 2 pm.

Tailwheel II

I am continuing with my tailwheel training.

I found out that taxiing in citabria is not so difficult at the end, but just requires very precise pedals manipulation.

There are two different landing methods: the first is when you keep nose-high attitude and let the tail wheel to touch down, and then apply even more pull force to slow down until the main wheels become on the ground too. The second is when you keep the airplane’s nose relatively low, and very gently and precisely let the main wheels to contact the ground while still keeping the tail wheel in the air.

The second way is much more challenging, and requires very low vertical speed at the touch down moment. Moreover, it is a little counterintuitive: you have to push the stick then the wheels are on the ground, the reflexes force to do the opposite.

Flying and landing a tailwheel airplane is really interesting. It improves visual flying skills (especially directional control and landings), so if you are a pilot (or thinking to become a pilot), I strongly advice to have this experience.

Tailwheel

I’ve already told that I need 250h total time to meet the commercial requiremens, and I considered that I can fly different aircrafts during this time-building for getting additional endorsements.

One of the endorsements is a tailwheel one. It is useful both for better airplane control and for future job opportunities: I am considering a bush flying route.

In my case the training airplane is citabria. It is an aerobatic plane. Pilots seat one-behind-another, not side-by-side. There is no attitude indicator and course directional indicator, but the airplane has g-meter which shows g-load. The throttle lever is on the left side, no flaps, a stick instead of a yoke.

Taxiing is really way more difficult: I feel like a drunk sailor. I should apply rudder much more precisely.

At the take-off the airplane’s nose initially points up, but with gaining some speed we can slightly push the stick and align the airplane almost horizontally. After that it feels like a usual Cessna take-off.

The ball in a turn coordinator behaves insanely. I used to see 1/4 deflection, at most 1/2 in a turbulent weather, but here… It runs from one edge to another. The airplane is much more sensitive.

Steep turns. The airplane enters in a steep turn very easily, and easily returns to a wings-level state as well. We can only determine an angle with g-meter and outside references.

We should turn by magnetic compass reference, so we refresh the knowledge about compass turning errors.

Stalls. As usual, we should pull the stick, and the airplane is slowing down. Then it stalls, and we can start the recovery procedure. I am pushing the stick as I used to do it on a cessna, and… It seemed that the airplane went down almost vertically. I already mentioned that the controls are much more sensitive.

Sideslip – it seems that my heading and course differs at least by 30 degrees. And in this airplane proper sideslip can be really necessary since we don’t have flaps.

I flew my first traffic patterns in about 3-4 minutes, no more. I used to do it in about 6 min.

I liked the citabria a lot. It requires even more control precision and provides less time for reaction, but it’s an amazing airplane. I think that this experience can greatly improve basic ‘stick-and-rudder’ piloting skills.

Night flight

During my previous visit here I completed almost all commercial requirements related to night hours except one 2-hour cross-country. I wanted to fly it, but some circumstances prevented that flight.

This time this flight seemed to happen. I checked the airplane in advance, ensured that we had full tanks and enough oil. Ensured that nobody would fly the airplane since that check.

The airplane just came from maintenance, and we were going to fly with my instructor.

So, here we go. We checked everything one more time, read necessary checklists. Everything was OK, and we started taxiing to the runway.

During the take-off roll the airspeed was raising, but suspiciously slow. It was more than 500 ft, but we still had 45. 45, 47… The runway is long, but still not endless, so it was better to abort the take-off. We safely stopped well before the runway threshold, but I think that the real speed was more than 70 when the decision was made.

Some system malfunction is not a pleasant case. To be honest, I was slightly scared.

We taxied back, but I still wanted to fly if possible: the weather was good, and it was not the only available airplane in the school. So we still could fly!

The flight was good. I thought that it’s hard to see clouds at night, but actually it is not, and we were able to keep us well below them.

We flew to KVNC, and requested flight following. For some reason the controller diverted us along the shoreline, around class B airspace.

Return flight was also around class B airspace, but on the East side. Firstly because of the weather avoidance, and secondly because it’s fun to fly a different route.

I like night flying 🙂

Jacksonville

Today I made one more cross-country flight to Jacksonville Executive. Our route crossed a restricted area: when it is active, I cannot fly there in specified altitude range. That area can be active during specified hours, or by NOTAM. If it is active, I should avoid it or choose an altitude out of the area range.

During the briefing I found out that the area is inactive. The weather is good. Let’s fly!

It is the first time when I asked for flight following: ATC could see me on the radar and potentially warn about some close traffic or a potentially bad weather. The communications in that case are similar to any IFR flight, but it is still VFR, and you must be in VMC.

At about 10 miles before entering the restricted area I asked the controller about the area status, just in case. Everything was OK, and the controller gave me some additional information about adjacent areas.

Flight following is a very useful thing, especially because I don’t have neither TCAS nor ADS-B equipment, and traffic information can be useful in busy areas.

I also plan some flights with IFR flight plan in a good weather to maintain my communication skills and shoot some approaches. I have to be proficient in it before entering real IMC.

To be continued

This post is becoming traditional when I continue my practical training after 1-3 months interruption: blog is still alive, the goal is getting closer.

At least I am flying again. I flew more than an hour today and practiced different kinds of take-offs and landings: normal, short field, sort field. Then stalls and steep turns. I missed flying a lot!

I’ve chosen part 61 instead of 141 for my CPL, and it is really perfect. Yes, it is 250h TT vs 190h, but I highly doubt that I can find any job with < 200h TT. And I already have 150h after my EASA/FAA PPL + FAA IR, because I flew more than 50 solo cross-country hours in August for meeting my EASA CPL requirements in future.

So, it’s really great, because I can go faster. The instructor is unavailable, but the weather is good? OK, fly solo. The weather is bad for cross-country? OK, practice commercial maneuvers in the vicinity of the aerodrome. Bad weather? Fly IFR. For part 141 it is not recommended: you should follow a syllabus.

Besides, I am preparing to a FAA written test. Now I score 90%+ in aviationexam and gleim. Possibly I will purchase sheppard air, but not sure for now.

Finally I ordered an iPad. I’m not a fan, but I’d like to use foreflight, and it exists only for iOS. I understand that there are plenty of alternatives, but what is the point? Foreflight is really great. Everybody knows it, and almost everybody uses it.

I am also thinking about portable ADS-B receiver for better situational awareness – our airplanes neither have a weather radar nor TCAS =)

Priorities Update: FAA CPL

It looks like I have to change my priorities compared to my December plan.

Currently I have to stay in Moscow due to my job, so I am not flying now. Meanwhile, it is becoming some more difficult to obtain the US visas, and risks of not getting F1 at all are becoming pretty high. So it is safer to obtain my FAA CPL now, using my M1 visa, and postpone (or even abandon at all) CFI/CFII/MEI programs. Anyway FAA CFI(I) license is useless anywhere out of the US.

I need about 100 more flight hours total time for meeting CPL minimums, including about 15 complex hours (retractable gear, constant-speed prop, flaps) and 2 night hours. It is not so much, and with a proper dedication it’s doable in two months. I am pretty well prepared for a written test, so I can fully utilize my free time for flying.

I contacted some Polish flight school for the ATPL theory classes, and they have a program starting this October. That perfectly aligns with my current schedule!

So, my new plan is the following:

  • FAA CPL under M1-visa before the end of this summer;
  • EASA ATPL theory before spring 2019;
  • EASA IR after passing ATPL theory exams;
  • EASA CPL after obtaining the EASA IR.

Of course, I will try to find a job just after getting my FAA CPL, but it seems highly unlikely for a brand new pilot with a FAA license who is not a US resident. I knew that even before start. But currently it’s better to concentrate on getting my license than on thinking about far future: I will think about it later. Our life is challenging, and flying is fun just the way it is 🙂

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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