Free Flight

The blog is still alive, as like the idea 🙂

Last week I traveled to Prague. It was not related to my aviation progress, but I did not want to miss this opportunity, and tried to find an airplane. Unfortunately I had a very tight schedule, and it did not happen.

I had a day in Warsaw though, thus I signed up for ATPL theory course there. It is a distant learning with just 2 weeks on site. I signed the papers, and now I am waiting for Polish CAA approval.

At the aerodrome I realized that I still have some time, and there are some planes 🙂 I tried to hire a plane, but did not succeed. Neither Ventum Air nor Salt Aviation could help me with that. When I had almost lost my hope I spotted a small building with the label “Runway Pilot School”. I entered there and asked for a plane, and voila! They provided both an airplane and a safety pilot in some minutes!

I got Cessna 172, but it was fuel injection modification with 180hp engine. It has fuel pumps, and does not have carb heater. It climbs faster than I used to in C172, and it flies nicely 🙂

One more flight hour, and my first flight in Poland!

Long Cross-Country

Every FAA CPL candidate should have at least one long cross-country flight with one 250+ nautical miles leg, as stated in 14 CFR § 61.129.

Today I had this long cross-country flight: KCGC-KMTH-KIMM-KCGC, more than 6 flight hours with one refueling.

The first 30-40 miles the ceiling was at about 1500 feet, going higher upon moving further to the South. After about 70-80 miles a relatively wide clear area have been found for being able to climb to 5500. The air was very calm at this altitude, and the scenery was spectacular.

There were no clouds above KMTH at all. Some scary (but beautiful) cumulus clouds sat somewhere around Miami, but they were too far.

The wind was steady and weak, so the landing was easy.

On the way back the weather was nice and shiny, except for about 30 miles around our school airport: the ceiling was still relatively low.

Anyway, one more task is accomplished. This long cross-country is a bit challenging: the weather should be fine along the route for at least 6-7 hours, and you have to book the airplane in advance for the entire day. As a result, some students have to wait some weeks for their long cross-countries.

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 =)

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!

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.

IR Part 141: Checkride

After about 2 months of flying, studying and waiting I am going to have an Instrument Rating checkride. Actually I am very happy since I was waiting only 2 days after my end-of-course check, it is not common at all.

We’re flying to Brooksville, the controlled airport nearby with ILS approach available. The weather is not perfect for a runway with ILS today, but probably we could have a low-pass. I am planning ILS, LOC and RNAV approaches there and RNAV approach at the home airport.

I am always a bit scared of exams. It is not about confidence, but just because a pressure is higher than usual. Apart from that, there will be nothing more than I’ve already done: flight planning, weather briefing, working with charts, unusual attitudes recovery, holding, airplane control and instrument approaches. One more good thing is that the ATC in Brooksville is usually absolutely amazing.

As a result, now I am a legal instrument pilot. I have a bit strange license now: EASA PPL, piggyback FAA PPL based on the EASA one, and the US instrument rating based on this piggyback FAA PPL.

What’s next? I am going to obtain a FAA CPL to eliminate the necessity of maintaining my EASA PPL for executing the privileges of the FAA one. In other words, it will become a normal standalone FAA Commercial Pilot License with Instrument Rating. Then I am going to pass the EASA ATPL theory, and obtain a standalone EASA CPL. I can count my future US flight time towards EASA minimums too.

Why am I going that way? Why two different licenses? Basically to increase my chances of being hired anywhere: I am neither the US citizen nor the EU citizen, and aviation-related things are complicated in Russia. Basically our general aviation is nearly dead. I suppose that I need as many credentials and as much experience as possible. And it’s fun at the end: I love flying.

IR Part 141: The End-of-course Check

Part 141 course requires the internal school check flight before allowing students to have a checkride. Usually the school chief pilot or some senior flight instructor performs this check. In my case this is the school owner, Tom Davis.

The weather is fine today, and I have to demonstrate that I am ready for a checkride. It means proper flight planning, good airplane control, correct unusual attitudes recovery demonstration, correct holding procedures and nice stable approaches.

The most challenging part is approaches, they require precise piloting, proper estimation and performing multiple tasks at the same time. Surprisingly holding procedures are a bit difficult for me too, especially teardrop entries: heading calculation at the beginning of the procedure is not so easy when you have to stay on the proper holding side.

I believe that I am ready for the checkride, but mastering all this stuff will require much more time and constant practice. Anyway, I passed, and in some days I will have a checkride. It’s been a great journey, but it’s only the beginning!

IR Part 141: Stage III Check

Stage III mainly considers cross country flights and everything related to that: weather briefing, flight planning, reading and interpreting NOTAMs, fuel, weight and balance computation and so on. So for checking these skills we should make a cross country flight too.

Today the weather is not perfect at all: there are wind gusts and pretty high thermal activity. All I can say about the weather was already said by our chief pilot after my first landing today: “What the hell was that?”. It is not easy at all to smoothly land the airplane in that weather 🙂

The third stage or the Instrument Rating course is the most peaceful and calm one. The flight planning part is essential, but one could take time during this process, and there is always an opportunity to postpone the flight if the conditions are above the pilot’s personal limitations. In other words, there are less external pressures and much more time than when you’re actually in an airplane. The workload during the enroute part is also much less than during the approach, the course assumes that the student is already mastered approaches in the previous parts. Or at least he is comfortable enough with them to not mess everything up.

So the course is almost done. I need now only an end-of-course check and a checkride to obtain my first instrument rating ever.