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!

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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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.

Winter Haven

Winter Haven (KGIF) is an extremely beautiful place. There are two concrete runways and one water runway. Some day I will try it out too in a seaplane, but now I am flying an ASEL (Airplane Single Engine Land) so I have to use concrete or grass runways 🙂

Flying without GPS is amazing. This airplane has a VOR, but I am trying to stick with a compass, clock and paper maps. Today I am not flying along a coastline, so it is a bit more challenging.

Actually there is one area along the route where there are no landmarks at all: it’s a large forest area. Basically I use my clock and fly the calculated course, and after finding some clear landmark (after some time) I am trying to figure out where I am and how far I am from my route. It’s fun! After about 10 minutes of flight I was about 1 mile off-track. Not so bad for a visual flight and plain magnetic compass.

I am attaching some photos for showing the beauty of the area 🙂

VFR Again

The next logical step for Instrument Rating holder is a Commercial License. Finally I can fly without ‘foggles’ or ‘hood’! It’s so beautiful outside!

I decided that it does not make sense to follow 141 route for my commercial course. I already have some flight time under my belt above private+IR course minimums, so at the end of 141 course I would have about 250 hours anyway, which equals part 61 requirements. But for 141 due to my school policy I should fly the entire course in Cessna 172 (of course excluding complex and ME hours), and for part 61 I can use Cessna 150, which is way less expensive.

So now I am flying VFR-only Cessna 150 without GPS. It seems much lighter than 172. For flying alone I had to pass a check flight with one of the instructors and sign renter’s agreement.

It’s a bit unusual to fly visually again, and even more unusual to fly without GPS. It was hard to find an unfamiliar runway again. But it’s totally amazing to try flying with paper maps, compass, clock and my eyes.

Visual flying in Florida is easy: ocean coast to the west, ocean coast far to the east, straight wide North-South and East-West highways and a lot of landmarks. Even Czech Republic is not so straightforward for navigation!

This airplane cruise speed is just a little less than C172’s, but the rate of climb is much slower. Fuel consumption is less too, but due to smaller tanks we still have only about 4h of endurance. And I love this model: I started my PPL in that airplane.

This C150 has only one comm without other frequency monitoring possibility, so it’s better to quickly grasp ATIS messages and return to the active frequency ASAP. Probably that’s how our grandfathers flied: pure VFR with minimum of instruments. Even all Czech school airplanes had GPS and 2 radios, but basically the compass, clock and paper maps are enough, so I enjoy this experience 🙂

Instructors

Today I’d like to share my personal opinion about flight instructors. I came to the training base of my school when they did not have permanent staff, and I was flying with different instructors during my PPL.

At first I’d like to talk about some moments that I knew in theory, but did not always follow in practice. Especially considering the fact that I came from a zero level, and had to learn a lot.

The main point: be fully prepared before each flight. Videos, books, flight simulator – use as much as you can and as much as you have available time for. Mark blind spots and ask the instructor about them. But do not waste valuable flight time for that.

Know your syllabus in as much detail as possible. Know your weak points and problems. Ask about them if in doubt. Try to focus on weak points. Possibly it can be a bit easier to train with the only one instructor during the whole course, because he can track your progress, but remember: it is your license and your training. Nobody can track your progress better than you.

Some instructors make great briefings. Some do not. If the instructor does not formulate detailed flight exercises and goals, you must do it yourself before the flight. Do not introduce too many new factors (ideally no more than one new factor per flight). Syllabus helps in that very much. Again, know your syllabus.

Briefly ask about any flight control from the instructor’s side. Ask for details after landing. You should know the purpose of that and correct your wrong actions. Or at least understand what happens.

Action cam is desirable, because post-flight video analysis can help a lot: you can see a lot of problems which you did not see during a flight just because of a high workload.

It’s much better if the instructor is familiar with a training site: runway(s) characteristics, approaches, aerology, typical student problems in that place. I flew in non-mountainous terrain, and it is not so critical, but still important: instructors who know their home base very well are more effective.

So, instructors, according to my personal experience. They are great pilots: they all fly well. But that is not enough. A good instructor is not only a pilot, he is also a good teacher…

Instructor #1. I flew an introductory flight and some first exercises with him. Then some short cross-countries. He hardly speaks English and hardly speaks Russian (he is Czech). It matters. I need much more instruction, not just a flight time and gestures language. It is not the only problem though. He is very nervous. All controls are abrupt. Much more abrupt than necessary. Later I realized that I learned the same piloting manner: other instructors mentioned that, and I made my analysis (again, action cam helps a lot!). Anyway, be a little skeptical, your instructor is not perfect by all means. Of course I don’t say that you should correct him or try to argue, but you should ask if in doubt.

Actually he is a good pilot. But I don’t like him as an instructor. He prevents to make any mistakes even in a safe altitude. He correct everything in advance by himself. I would not like to train landings with him: I need my landings, hot his landings. As like all maneuvers (stalls, emergency landings etc.). Theory is good, but practice is necessary. I think that instructor should allow to do the maneuvers, and correct only if it is a safety problem.

And the worst thing that I cannot ask because of language barrier! I don’t speak Czech, he does not speak English. He can act as a safety pilot, but I am zero hour student, I need an instructor, not just a safety pilot!

With that instructor I had to correct everything fast and abruptly just because if I don’t do that he does that. From my opinion, too abruptly. I did not see other instructors acting like that.

Instructor #2. I flew some circuits and a couple of cross-countries. He speaks English, he almost does not touch the controls without necessity. He is mainly a helicopter pilot, and it seems that he builds his PIC hours. Even I can see that he needs much more experience as an instructor: he hardly remembers PPL syllabus and does not provide good briefings. He does not remember Vx, Vy, Va etc. for C150. He also highly focused on flight instruments instead of external references. He is a very good pilot, and his landings are also good. But he cannot explain what’s wrong with my flying, so, cannot properly explain what should I do to correct my problems. But he is highly motivated, and, again, he is a good pilot.

WIth him I made a habit to use checklists, pilotage and dead-reckoning. He is really good in it.

From my opinion, we made too much circuits. It is my fault too: I had to land earlier for discussion, not practice the same mistake. But it’s really hard to understand that you repeat the same mistake. Possibly for instructor too, I don’t know.

Instructor #3. We flew circuits, stalls, landings and cross-countries. Great English. He did not touch controls a lot. He is an airline pilot. At least I have briefings! Actually not so man words about that instructor: we made just a couple of flights, mainly cross-countries, he is good. I am good in cross-countries too. I am not so good in landings.

Instructor #4. The most experienced, he sees the problems and knows how to solve them. He knows and tells exact action sequences, flies real VFR (I think he can perfectly fly without instruments at all), he tells some hints. As I know, he has a lot of aerobatic hours. He feels the airplane. Unfortunately he is not a PPL instructor, he is a chief pilot.

Instructor #5. Very experienced, but not very motivated. For example, we flew about 15 circuits. Debriefing, and “you do it in a wrong way”. So why 15, why not 3? You definitely have enough experience to understand it after 3-4 circuits! You know your right way? Land, explain, fly again! What for we flew so much “in a wrong way”?

Instructor #6. He has a lot of glider hours. So, his piloting manner is a bit biased: at any moment he is always looking for a suitable field in case of engine failure, and approach is usually steeper that I used to (what if we lose the engine on the approach?). But by all other means he is good. He is a real instructor, he knows how to explain, and he possibly enjoys that. He allows me to correct the problems, or, if I do nothing (or I do not see the problem), he can point on that without touching the controls. It really helps.

Instructor #7. He has about 5000 flight hours. He is very experienced, and he is very calm. He knows how to explain, he knows what to do. I fly commercial program with him, so it is not about touching the controls. But I like to feel that he knows what to do even if something goes wrong. At the same time he is OK with flying in IMC, flying in B airspace and flying to different (possibly challenging) airports.

Possibly I will increase my list 🙂