CPL Long Cross-Country

Solo cross-country flight of more than 300 nautical miles (it is about 540 km) with at least two full stop landings in different airports other than a departure airport is a requirement for any Commercial Pilot. This is correct both for the EASA and FAA, but FAA also requires that one of the airport should be located at least 250 NM from the departure point.

It means that in Europe it is possible to pick many airports nearby and fly a route between them considering that the total distance will be more than 300 NM. Some schools advice the routes where the most distant aerodrome is located at about 50 NM, which barely qualifies for a “normal” XC requirement in the US, and fly sort of a large circle around the home airport.

There is one more less obvious difference. In the US it is officially allowed to fly this long XC with the instructor considering that he does not manipulate flight controls, and both can log PIC time. In Europe only one person can long PIC time in a single-pilot airplane, so most generally this long XC must be solo. It could be done with the instructor if he does not log his flight time and does not interfere by any means. But better to fly solo than trying to explain why you still need a safety pilot if that question arises.

It is very important to know the requirements for each particular country: this long XC can definitely qualify for both FAA and EASA if it is a solo flight with one full stop in an airport more than 250 NM from the departure point and another full stop anywhere else.

Another important part for this flight – it must be fully done under VFR bor being valid for Czech CAA. If it has a night or IFR part, it will not qualify – I got an official response about that.

I did have both night and IFR part for my long VFR cross-country since I returned after sunset then. I would be OK if I logged that part as a separate flight, but I did not, and by the Czech CAA requirements I needed a pure day VFR solo XC.

The weather in Czech Republic in October is not perfect, and the sunset is before 5 pm. But today the sky was almost clear, the visibility is perfect, and that happiness lasts from about 10 am to the late night. That kind of day happens once in a week or even less frequently now.

The problem was that all Cessnas were fully booked, and the Tecnam was booked for some more than an hour in the middle of the day. I needed at least 4 hours for that flight, and that means that Tecnam was not an option too: I did not have 4+ our after sunrise and did not have them after that reservation too.

Fortunately that tecnam reservation was canceled just yesterday! I immediately booked the aircraft for 6 hours, and started my planning for Sazena to Ostrava.

Tecnam is even better than Cessna 152 for long cross-country flights: it has 6+ hours versus about 4 hours in Cessna. I can fly even without refueling. And the tecnam has more modern avionics, which is better in a long XC.

I planned the route around Caslav and Pardubice controlled airspaces, then to Olomouc, and finally direct to Ostrava. One full stop landing there, then coffee if I have time, then one landing in Gradec Kralove and then back to Sazena.

On the way to Ostrava some clouds started to form at about 3000 feet. They were not turbulent, but the tecnam is not certified for IFR, so I had to avoid them. I climbed to 4500, and found one more layer way ahead. The visibility was perfect, the weather in Ostrava was CAVOK, the layers were between scattered and broken, so I was able to stay VFR and decided to proceed at 4500 feet.

The clouds today

Near Ostrava I found a clear sky. After landing I had an assigned follow-me car – it was the first time in my life!

The wind at 4500 feet had more headwind component, and my flight became 30 min longer. I decided to get the weather, check the route and fly back right away for having some margin before night time.

On the way back I was hoping for some tailwind, but the wind weakened and became almost calm.

In Gradec Kralove I found a lot of traffic for Czech Republic: two airplanes and one helicopter were doing the circuits, somebody was taking off. It is very unusual, especially at the weekday.

By requirements I needed a full stop landing, so I taxied to the ramp, paid the landing fee and taxied back to the runway: there wasn’t much time left to sunset. Thanks to the FBO, they drove just to the airplane for getting the fees quickly and conveniently ๐Ÿ™‚

The landscape was amazing on the way back. Some fog started to form, but it was still a perfect VFR. The photo does not reflect the reality well – the visibility was still pretty good.

Evening clouds

Near Sazena the fog dissipated almost entirely, and the landing was easy and smooth.

As a result, today I met my long XC requirement for CPL, and I need less then three flight hours to complete the course. All these hours will be dual in our Cessna 172RG. I am looking forward to it!

Tecnam or Cessna?

About a month ago I started my EASA Commercial Pilot training. I flew about 4 hours and went back home, and now I am going to finish it.

Our school has some cessnas 152 and one TECNAM P2008JC. Usually all C152 are all booked well in advance, but Tecnam is less popular, so I booked it for almost a week.

This aircraft is really great. I has more modern avionics, it flies much better, and the endurance is more than 6 hours (compared to about 4 hours for Cessna 152). And it is still a high-wing.

Tecnam P2008JC

I believe that it is less popular than Cessnas because the majority of students are doing their PPL, and our school uses C152 for exams. For PPL switching aircrafts leads to more hours to complete the program, and it becomes more expensive. You should get used to a slightly different glide slope and flare attitude, and learn the instruments.

Commercial pilot program is a complete different story though. It takes less time to get used to a new aircraft, and the exam will be in a Cessna 172RG anyway.

I like it more than a Cessna 150/152 even though I made my first flight in Cessna 150. But this tecnam looks like a step forward. First of all, it has a glass cockpit (not a G1000, but still). It does not have IFR-certified GPS and autopilot, but its PFD has altimeter and speed bands, and different display modes. At first you feel like in a boeing.

Tecnam also glides better than a C150/152 – the engine-out distance can be much larger. But it is not that forgiving though, especially on landing, better to act much more precise. Probably that’s one of the reasons that it is not extensively used as a primary trainer.

In the air the airplane flies like a charm. Probably that’s because the weight is slightly less too. The fuel gauges work much better too: in a Cessna I used to not rely on them at all.

There are some drawbacks though. Tecnam acts much less predictable in a stall – at first you think that it wants to spin right away when you try to perform some stall exercises. It requires much more precise piloting on landing. It has a stick instead of yoke. Its cruise speed is 80-90 knots – about 10 knots less than Cessna. It has a fuel pump (like low-wing pipers), and you should switch tanks in flight (again like in pipers). It’s more difficult to get into the cockpit ๐Ÿ™‚

In overall I like it more than a Cessna 150/152, and it is definitely a valuable experience. I am not sure that I’d like to use it for my PPL back in 2017, but at the CPL level it definitely worths it.

OK CPL!

I am currently on the way to my EASA Commercial License!

As I already mentioned, I’ve chosen some rather unusual route to my pilot career: EASA PPL, then FAA IR and FAA CPL, and finally EASA CPL. It looks a little strange, but in reality it has some advantages.

Initially I came to Czech Republic to finish my EASA Instrument and Night rating, and it took more than a month. I also obtained my Czech Radio Operator Certificate.

After my Instrument checkride I still had some paid days of the accommodation, and the weather was nearly perfect, so I decided to start my CPL training before going back home.

Commercial pilot course requires only 15 hours for EASA Instrument Rating holder (if the EASA ATPL theory is passed and total flight time is 185+ hours).

These 185 hours should include a long cross-country flight (300+ nautical miles with two full stop landings at different airports). In Europe there is no requirement of some point at least 250 nm from the departure airport – only the total distance.

The weather was perfect, so all small airplanes were fully booked at least a week in ahead. But Commercial Pilot course requires 5 hours in a complex airplane (retractable gear, flaps and constant-speed prop). That airplane was available.

Cessna 172RG

Usually this airplane is used for exams and for final 5 hours of the Commercial Pilot program to get used to this Cessna and smoothly pass the exam, but I have no other option, and we decided with my instructor that we start with complex hours.

The airplane has a registration mark OK-CPL! I just could not resist. It’s a nice Cessna 172 with a retractable gear, and I got my first hours with her!

Multi-engine Checkride…

… or the story about letters collection.

I’ve already written about my oral part of the multi-engine checkride. The weather have not become acceptable for it that day, so I got a Letter of Discontinuance. It means that the checkride was interrupted for some reason (the weather in my case).

The weather still did not improve the next day, so my checkride was moved to Friday. It is not a big deal, in overall I was waiting for less than two weeks, which is not so long in Florida.

The weather this Friday was great: there sky was clear, and there was almost no wind.

During the checkride the student should demonstrate the proficiency in various tasks. It started from normal takeoff and landing, and I did a good job.

Short field takeoff and landing were good too, and the approach was very stable and smooth. It was not so hard to maintain the flight path in that weather.

There is one small detail in our airport: we have a powerline rather close to the runway, so touching down at the numbers is kinda dangerous. I asked to use a different target point, about 1000 feet from the runway threshold. It is totally OK to touch down at the selected point to simulate the short field, but you must tell the examiner that you’re going to ‘shift’ the beginning of the runway. Moreover, it can be even considered as a good decision making. The goal is to check the ability of precise airplane control, so if you make it as you planned, it’s much better than always using the real beginning of some long runway and brushing the trees.

During the next takeoff the examiner cut the power of one engine. I set engines to idle and stopped the airplane.

We took off once more, then approximately at the pattern altitude the examiner started to very slowly pull the power lever of one engine. I recognized that it was an ‘engine failure’ exercise too late, so I failed today.

As a result I got a Letter of Disapproval, it means that I have to fly once more. Luckily the examiner had some time at the next day. So today I called my instructor, and we practiced engine failures some more today.

It was a sunny Saturday… Today I was ready to any examiner’s actions. On engine failure exercises, if the examiner touched power lever, I reacted even earlier than I had felt any turning tendency.

We flew all the required maneuvers, minimum control speed demonstration. During the actual engine shutdown (there is an exercise for that) I did not manage to start the engine in the air. It just did not start even with excessive speed, I believe that it did not fully return to a fine prop blades angle. I used the corresponding checklist and finally started it using the starter after some attempts.

Then we continued with instrument flying, followed by GPS approach. During the maneuvers I found out that attitude indicator partially failed: it showed some bank angle during a level flight. I cross-checked it by some small turns, closely monitoring the attitude indicator and turn coordinator and confirmed the malfunction. So I had kind of a real-life partial panel during an instrument flight.

All went well today. Finally we landed, and the examiner congratulated me with a new shiny rating.

It took 20 flight hours: 15 I made towards my complex endorsement, and 5 additional hours just to improve my skills. I can’t understand how some people can make it in just 5 hours ๐Ÿ™‚

Multiengine Checkride

Some days ago I passed the FAA Commercial checkride (ASEL, Airplane Single Engine Land). During my flight time building I made some hours in a multiengine one since I wanted a AMEL (Airplane Multi Engine Land) rating too.

Today the weather was great for a checkride. My exam started from an oral part, and it was rather challenging. The most complicated part was airplane systems, procedures for flying with one engine and limitations. In overall it lasted about two hours.

When we have finished with the oral part, Florida summer weather showed up. Cumulus clouds, wind gusts and thunderstorms covered almost a half of Florida including our airport.

Anyway, at least the oral part is done!

Commercial Pilot

Today was The Day I was waiting for so long: I passed my commercial checkride. Now I have a FAA Commercial Pilot license ASEL (Airplane Single Engine Land).

The checkride in the US has two parts: the oral and written one. During the oral part the examiner asks about airspaces, airplane systems, weather and other parts of the commercial pilot course. Apart from that, the student should make a weather briefing, prepare a flight plan, compute mass and balance, takeoff and landing distances, fuel, wind corrections – in other words, make a complete flight planning. It’s OK to look into FAR or POH (but better to know which part). It’s better to remember critical parts (for example, airplane speeds or most common regulations). My oral took about 1.5 hours, and as I know it’s not so long. Everything was professional and thorough.

The practical part starts from flying according to the flight plan. In my case the oil temperature started to rise during our climb, and almost reached the red zone. I pointed that out to the examiner and said that I want to go back, and she agreed. To save some time, she asked to make a power-off approach and landing (simulated engine failure). We had enough altitude and distance to make it to the runway, so I prepared the airplane for a normal landing. We have a long runway and a very light wind, so the runway was the best option even with a tailwind. I made it almost at the numbers.

After taxiing to the ramp we found one more airplane. It was booked but the instructor who booked it was late, so we were able to use it for the checkride. It was a pure luck, I suppose ๐Ÿ™‚

We flew to the East. Did I already tell about the weather in Florida? Of course some towering clouds already started to form. I decided to adjust the course to the South to avoid the dangerous cloud. The examiner asked whether I know about the other airport nearby. I knew about it, pointed the direction and said the approximate time to reach that airport.

The next part was the maneuvers. Commercial pilot should demonstrate the ability to fly steep turns, chandelles, lazy eights, steep spirals, eights on pylons and some different types of landings: normal landing, short field, soft field, power-off 180. All the maneuvers should be performed according to the commercial standards.

It’s critical to use checklists, constantly look for other traffic, demonstrate the appropriate qualification and knowledge during the maneuvers, and scan the instruments. And, of course, fly withing the margins for the altitude and speed. The only recipe to do it properly is to practise more and feel the airplane.

The landings were not perfect ‘minimum sink touchdowns’, but good enough and withing the selected touchdown zone. The most challenging part could be a short field landing at the numbers since that airport has some trees not so far from the runway, but it’s allowed to select the touchdown point not at the threshold for training or examination purposes. Of course, that should be done way in advance, not just before/after touchdown.

We had landed, and after some paperwork I got a temporary commercial license. Now I am officially a commercial pilot!

Multi-engine

I am starting my multi-engine flights. FAA CPL requires 10 hours in a complex airplane (with retractable gear, variable pitch prop, flaps). Now it changed, but it was a requirement in 2018. I am going to obtain ME rating anyway, so I decided to fly my complex hours in a multi-engine airplane.

Usually our school use Beechcraft Bonanza (BE-36. v-tail) as a complex airplane and Beechcraft Duchess (BE-76, T-tail) as a multi-engine one. The flight hour price difference is insignificant, and FAA canceled the complex airplane requirement for a checkride. The drawback is that BE-76 engines are only 180hp, which means that it is not a high-performance airplane, so I cannot obtain that endorsement in it.

This airplane is heavier and more powerful, checklists are longer, and the pilot has less time to think. But with two operational engines it behaves very similar to a single-engine one, we just use two levers simultaneously.

There is not so many additional things – just a couple of new levers and instruments, but on practice it increases workload, expecially taking into consideration that everything goes faster.

The takeoff is hilarious. The airplane accelerates very quickly. Takeoff speed is a little higher, and our takeoff distance is longer.

Parking is a little complicated too: the distance between metal pillars are narrow, and it looks a bit scary. Mirrors on the engines help a lot, but it’s better to keep the yellow line as precisely as possible.

Taxiing turns using differential thrust are interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

Retractable gear adds the impression of flying boeing, the sound during retraction/extension is unforgettable ๐Ÿ™‚

The flight itself is very similar to usual single-engine flight, but there are some more checklist items and instruments. At first I tend to look more at the instruments than outside, especially during maneuvers.

The landing is almost the same, but it is a low-wing airplane, and it is heavier. Another difference is that we always make power-on landing: cutting the engines during the flare can result in a hard landing.

Once more I feel something new and interesting, many things to learn!

FAA CPL Written Exam

Today I passed my CPL written exam. It was relatively easy after all that preparation.

I was going to buy Sheppard Air as the best available question bank, but finally I had chosen ASA Prepware, Gleim and AviationExam since they are cheaper and have an one-month subscription option. From my opinion, AviationExam is the best out of these three providers, but anyway on the real exam I met about 30-40% questions I haven’t seen in these questions banks.

In fact, it is not a problem if you really understand the subject. Sometimes the wording is not very clear, and I had to pick a “more correct” answer out of two or even three “almost correct” ones. To be honest, there is only a few questions of that kind.

As a result, I got 90%. My ambitions are not satisfied by that value, but I passed anyway, and I am quite happy =)

Question Bank for the FAA CPL written

I am in doubt: I feel that generally I am ready for the FAA CPL written test. I went through the official FAA materials, but I’d like to use some question bank for the evaluation.

With EASA subjects it is pretty easy: there are only 2 providers (bgsonline and aviationexam), and both are really cool.

So, after some research I found these services:

  • sheppard air. It seems that it is a leader in terms of materials quality, but they don’t have an online version, and they are kinda expensive.
  • ASA. Users’ feedback is pretty good, slightly worse than sheppard but still acceptable. They have android version, online version, offline version… Possibly it can be a better option.
  • Dauntless. I found some mentions, but nothing more. They don’t look alive.
  • Gleim. It was great for my IR, but not sure about the CPL materials.
  • Aviationexam. Their interface is great and works on any teapot, their EASA materials are astonishing. But I am not sure that they are OK for FAA tests, not so many questions exist in their database.

Possibly somebody has any experience with these providers? Does it make sense to buy Sheppard Air? They seem like state-of-the-art.

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!