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!

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 it seems to be as planned. I checked the airplane in advance, ensured that we have full tanks and enough oil. Ensured that nobody will fly the airplane since that check.

The airplane is just from maintenance. We fly with my instructor.

So, here we go. Checking everything one more time, reading checklists. Everything is OK. Taxiing to the runway. Accelerating. Airspeed raises, but extremely slow. It is more than 500 ft, but we still have 45. 45, 47… The runway is long, but not endless. Aborting take-off… We are OK and stopped well before runway threshold, but I think that the real speed was more than 70 when decision was made.

Some system malfunction is not a pleasant case. I was slightly scared. And I have to react quickly.

Taxiing back, shutdown. But I still want to fly! The weather is good. Another airplane is OK, fuel is OK, oil is OK. We still can fly!

The flight was good. I thought that it’s hard to see clouds at night, but actually it is not. We can fly well below them.

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

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

I like night flying 🙂

Jacksonville

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

Briefing. The area is inactive. The weather is good. Let’s fly!

It is the first flight when I asked for flight following: ATC sees me on the radar and potentially warns about close traffic and bad weather. It is very similar to IFR flight, but now I can look around =)

At about 10 miles before entering restricted area I ask the controller about area status, just in case. Everything is OK. And the controller gives me some more information about adjacent areas.

Flight following is a very useful thing. I like it. 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 idea is alive too.

At least I am piloting again. I flew more than an hour today. Normal take-offs and landing, short field take-offs and landings, soft field take-offs and landings. Stalls, steep turns. I missed it a lot!

I continue my training. I already wrote that I am going part 61 instead of 141 for my CPL, and it is really perfect. Yes, it is 250h TT vs 190, 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 FAA written. Now I use aviationexam and gleim with more than 90% score. Possibly will purchase sheppard, 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. Or I can just wait until 2020 requirement will enter into force =)

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.

IR part 141: Stage II check

Probably the most important stage in the Instrument Rating course is the stage II, when the student learns to fly approaches. It requires precise and correct piloting, correct radio communications, attention, multitasking skills, and attention again. Of course, it’s important in every flight including visual piloting, but instrument flight is even more demanding.

It is not so scary as it was at the beginning, but today we have wind gusts, which makes piloting some more difficult, especially on the glideslope. I had to fly 3 different approaches: ILS, VOR and GPS. I feel still a bit overwhelmed sometimes, but more and more confident with practice.

FAA IR Part 141: Stage II

After about one month break I am continuing my IR course. I had to return home to tidy up some work stuff, and now came back to Florida.

Currently I am on a stage II, and it’s all about instrument approaches, the most challenging one part of the course. I believe that it is not a good idea to fly a stage check after a month break, so when I was leaving, I have decided to leave one lesson before a stage check to refine my skills.

It’s a bit busy here: we have only 3 available airplanes and a lot of students. Fortunately the weather is good, and I manage to fly almost every day. My stage check will be the day after tomorrow, which is really great considering the chief pilot’s schedule.

IR part 141: Approaches

Brand-new instrument rating course student meets a lot of problems after feeling rather confident flying VFR. For example, very quick transitioning to visual approach after the words ‘runway in sight’ (when you should remove your hood and really see the runway), or calculating the optimal speed for a stabilized approach, or the stabilized approach itself. But probably the most challenging part for me was communication with ATC.

We are flying mainly in ‘Jacksonville Appoach’ area. At first, the word ‘approach’ itself is a little confusing after Europe when we’re considering some general area, but that is just a sidenote. The problem is that the controller talks way too fast and does not follow the standard ICAO phraseology. That FAA world is really different. And if I am almost OK with male controllers, I really have large problems with some lady: she speaks even faster, and her high-pitch voice challenges me even more. Of course, it becomes better with practice, but initially, especially under some pressure because of other new factors, it was pretty hard.

I have to learn more phraseology too. For example, I’ve never heard ‘Cleared for the options’ before. And again, everything comes with more experience.

We’re flying approaches in D airspace, not very busy, but it depends on time of the day. For example, once we had a holding clearance with EFC in 1 hour, i. e. in a worst case we should fly holding patterns for one hour. Fortunately in practice we asked for a VOR approach after about 10 min and got a clearance.

I strongly advice to fly in the US at least for the radio communications practice. Initially it can be challenging even for native speakers. ATC speaks fast, you should understand and comply quicker since you are usually not alone at the airspace. At the private level it does not matter a lot, but for IR it really helps to gain more experience and confidence. Moreover, there are much more controlled airports here. For example, we have at least 5 options in less than 1 hour of flight, all without landing or approach fees. Additionally, there are official GPS approach charts even for small uncontrolled airports.

One piece of advice for prospective IR students, especially non-native speakers: practice ATC. Listen liveATC, watch youtube videos, repeat phrases, try to capture the situation in the air. Probably even try to sketch aircrafts positions from some liveATC channel.

The Weather

The weather is a critical factor for any pilot. For today we were planning ILS and VOR approaches in a controlled airspace.

The forecast was pretty good and even improving: almost no wind, ceiling 4300, visibility 10 miles or more. After all preparations and a preflight check the wind became 190, 4 kt, but we planned runway 36 (the only one with ILS in that airport). It meant that we would have a tailwind, and more likely that all other traffic would use 18, and ILS would not be an option.

So, the only option for a precision approach (the one with a glideslope) could be a GPS approach with LPV, but the airplane we took does not have WAAS. It meant that we just cannot fly any precision approach.

Fortunately the airplane with WAAS was still available, and we decided to prepare a GPS approach. Instrument-wise there is almost no difference between ILS and GPS with a glideslope.

Meanwhile, the weather decided against us again, and the ceiling became 800. Definitely these were not proper conditions for a training flight, especially for the first precision approach ever for me. So we are waiting for appropriate conditions. Sometimes it just happens, and a proper decision is a part of good ADM.

IR Part 141: Approaches

Probably the most challenging (but the most interesting!) part of the IR training program is Instrument Approaches. This is that phase of a flight when we change from enroute portion to landing, and it requires even more attention and better multitasking. In theory I know how to, but in practice it does not go so well.

Instrument Approach consists of flying by some reference track on dedicated altitudes. Sometimes it can be a published track, sometimes ATC can provide vectors (compass headings to maintain). Initially it seems that the time goes too fast to do all required stuff. I remember a very similar feeling on my first aerodrome circuits. Everything should come with more practice, but it takes time and effort.

Even without visual aids the feeling that you are in the air, and you are controlling a miraculously flying machine, is really great. The happiest moments in a human life!