Advantages of studying in the US for the EASA PPL holder

At the first glance it does not look very natural to go study to the US if the final goal is the EASA CPL, but I’ve chosen this way on purpose.

First of all, my final goal is not only EASA license but both EASA and FAA. That is because I consider job opportunities all over the world, and in some places FAA license can be more valuable. But even for Europe it makes sense to consider studying in the US:

  • the flight hour is way less expensive – in 2018 I got Cessna 150 for $100 per hour;
  • the flight experience is much more interesting – usually there is more traffic, mush more various airports (both controlled and uncontrolled), more complicated airspace. Additionally, usually there are no landing fees almost everywhere;
  • ATC speaks English. They talk really fast and provide a lot of information, and if you struggle with communications, it’s a great way to learn. Moreover, the ATC is really great almost everywhere;
  • it’s always fun to travel somewhere. I believe that it’s a great advantage for a (future) pilot. And flight experience in a different country could be a great vacation time.

Cost-wise I believe that my way was even less expensive than the “standard” EASA PPL, night, IR and CPL.

I still consider my US experience as the most valuable one during the entire training towards CPL, but, of course, there are some drawback too:

  • a student visa is required;
  • TSA flight training approval is required for Instrument Rating and Multi-Engine Rating;
  • living expenses are a little higher;
  • you should travel and live far from home.

I consider that the drawbacks are negligible compared to advantages. For some more details about the differences between Europe and the US please the post.

Fly safe!

Seaplane Rating

Now I am studying theory for the EASA ATPL exams, and sometimes it is very tiring and boring (sometimes it is fun though). Anyway, I decided to take a small vacation and go flying (I am a pilot, right?)

I mentioned that I have been training for my IPC, and since I am in the US it makes sense to have some fun apart from essential tasks. I decided to get a seaplane rating. It still counts towards my total time, but adds a very different experience.

I’ve chosen Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base due to good reviews and very nice and clear communication. The costs are also not so high in Florida, and the school is not so far from the place I am doing my IPC.

They offer training in different airplanes, and I’ve chosen the least expensive one – Piper J3 Cub. It’s light and easy to fly, and I suppose it’s perfect for initial training.

Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base

I don’t have enough words to describe the experience, it’s absolutely unique and amazing. Piper Cub does not have an attitude indicator and turn coordinator, only CDI, ASI and RPM meter. I asked my instructor just in case if there is an attitude indicator, he laughed and replied: “look out of the window – isn’t that enough for you?” =) It’s true stick-and-rudder flying!

Piper J3 Cub on floats

I have some tailwheel experience, and this Cub flies very similar to Citabria, both in the air and on landing. During the take-off it is essential to keep the nose slightly up (but not too much), and during landing the stick should be pulled very gently and constantly.

Ready for take-off

The airplane is really slow, and out-of-engine glideslope is terrifying at first. Floats add a lot of drag and weight. But the main difference is still in taxiing, take-off and landing.

For example, there is a step taxi procedure, when the aircraft lifts a little bit allowing the wings to carry some load, but still maintaining contact with the water surface. It’s like a high-speed boat ride. Taxi turns in this mode are frightening at first – it looks like the plane is ready to rollover, but in reality it does not even bank, just sliding.

It’s possible to turn almost in-place, like in a sailboat. A lot of fun.

Probably some of you are curious how to do a run-up without stepping on the brakes. So, it’s perfectly possible, the only difference is that the airplane is moving, so make sure that you have enough space ahead ๐Ÿ™‚

As I already mentioned there is no attitude indicator, turn coordinator and GPS, so the visual piloting skills are essential. The landing is also some more tricky – seaplane is much less tolerant to high vertical speed on landing than the cessna trainer. The water seems soft, but in reality it is not, and it is also somewhat ‘sticky’.

Another fun is a confined area takeoff. It is the procedure when you start the takeoff with a crosswind and slowly turning into the wind upon gaining speed. There is no runway on the lake, so it is perfectly possible and useful if the lake is not so big.

One of the most complicated maneuvers is a glassy water landing. When you try to land on a glassy surface you cannot really fell the height, and it’s possible to either flare too early or meet the water with a high vertical speed, so you should not flare as usual. Instead you should find a landmark where you still see the ground, then keep the landing attitude and wait for it. Probably wait for it pretty long, but it’s the safe way to meet the surface with low vertical speed and proper attitude. That requires longer landing distance.

Sometimes it is impossible to find a landmark. In that case it’s possible to fly closer to the shoreline and use it as an altitude perception. It it is not an engine-out landing, better to configure the airplane for landing earlier – it will take more distance to land, but it is safer. And never ever use a glassy water as a surface reference.

Apart from glassy surface, the landing is almost as in a landplane: watch the ground, flare, touchdown.

Lake View

I highly recommend this experience for every pilot. It is usually not what we have during flight school (like out-of-aerodrome takeoffs and landings and pure stick-and-rudder flying). Have fun and fly safe!

FAA IPC

It is essential for every pilot to be not only current but proficient. Without practice skills degrade and can even fade away some day.

That’s why FAA requires BFR (Biannual Flight Review) for any type of flying and IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check) for instrument pilots who did not fly enough instrument procedures during the last 6 months. To be more specific, one needs at least 6 instrument approaches during previous 6 months to act as a PIC for flying IFR.

If a pilot do not have the required approaches, and it is less than a year since a pilot was current, it is still possible to fly the approaches under simulated instrument conditions with a safety pilot. Safety pilot can possess just a PPL without Instrument Rating since the flight can be conducted under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions).

After a year if the requirements are still not met a pilot must pass an IPC with a CFII (Certified Instrument Flight Instructor) or a FAA examiner.

It is different in Europe where the Instrument Rating must be just renewed every year with an examiner. Another difference – in Europe during training of flight tests one should just fly under IFR, even in VMC without view-limiting devices like foggles or hood.

My FAA IR currency already expired, and I decided to regain my skills and pass an IPC. I still don’t have a EASA IR, and I have no idea where I can find a FAA CFI in Europe, that’s why I decided to fly to the US. It could be even less expensive due to flight hour prices.

What can I say about it? More flying is better! And it always pays off to renew theoretical knowledge. I greatly recommend to take some courses from https://www.faasafety.gov (a lot of them are free!) and use these books.

During all this ATPL theory preparation I really missed flying. So good to take off again!

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!

AviationExam discount: How to Save 50$

In my previous posts I already mentioned AviationExam, the great question bank for EASA exams. It is surprisingly good for FAA exams too: despite of the fact that almost nobody in the US heard about it, from my opinion it is the best tool after Sheppard Air. I passed my FAA IR and FAA CPL written with it, and I suppose it is comparable to Gleim, probably even better, and monthly plans are available.

The usual annual subscription price for all EASA subjects is about 170 euros. The competitors (BGS Online and AtplQuestions) charge almost the same amount. Spoiler: there is a way to get a discount.

I already mentioned a discount in case of purchasing 5+ copies. It did not work for me: my blog is not so popular, and I did not want to specifically look for people interested in that product. Therefore, I have been already ready to buy it: yesterday my BGS Online subscription expired.

Unfortunately I’ve never heard about AviationExam discount codes except for black friday or cyber monday, but I already missed those promotions, so it was not the case too.

Today I was looking for free FAA books in AviationExam application for iPad (they are really great, and they are available in the application for download). Occasionally I checked EASA yearly subscription, and it was 150$! Was it magic? I don’t know, but for some reason the subscription is cheaper from iOS app than from the website. The subscription bought from iPad remains valid for all devices, so I can study from my PC or Android app too. The price is permanent, so I didn’t have to wait for black friday to save about 50$ by this small trick ๐Ÿ™‚

FAA Commercial Requirements…

… or how to waste some money.

Firstly I’d like to tell about the FAA check-ride situation in Florida: there are a lot of flight schools, there are a lot of students, and there are only 5 DPEs. In practice it means that usually one have to wait for a checkride more than a month. We are a little bit lucky, because one of our instructors is also a DPE, and if somebody cancels, we have a priority. Of course one can apply for a FAA examiner, but waiting time is even longer. Usually much longer.

So, I met my commercial requirements according to FAR 61.129 about a week and a half ago, and scheduled a checkride. I was lucky, somebody had a cancellation, and I was expecting a checkride at July 16. And on Tuesday somebody canceled a checkride on 12th of July, and I took that slot. That is I expected my commercial checkride today. It did not happen. It has stopped even before we started an oral part, during a logbook analysis.

So, what happened? We can see the following in FAR 61.129:

(i) Ten hours of instrument training using a view-limiting device including attitude instrument flying, partial panel skills, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, and intercepting and tracking navigational systems. Five hours of the 10 hours required on instrument training must be in a single engine airplane;

During my instrument training I got 38 instrument hours, and I considered that I’m done with that. But the examiner used this and this FAA letters. In the first one we can see that 61.65 training hours (i. e. towards instrument rating) do not qualify towards 61.129 requirements (commercial). The opposite works. The letter is for helicopter rating, but nevermind, for airplanes we have the same. The second letter says that the training can qualify, but it should meet 61.129 requirements. I. e. if the CFII explicitly states that in the logbook during your instrument training, you are safe. But the problem is that I was on a part 141 during my instrument. It is a structured training with an approved syllabus. Nobody mentioned anything about 61.129. Actually standards are the same, and training is the same. But legally it does not work without explicit mention of 61.129 in the remarks section. And the DPE’s position is that I need 10 hours more instrument time (dual) after 141 instrument program.

Possibly it was naive, but I supposed to have almost exactly 250h TT before my checkride. It will not happen, I should fly 10 additional hours. I hope I will have a long cross-country tomorrow (the concern is the weather…). Later I will just plan ahead more carefully. During my commercial training I had a small doubt about this requirement, but I did not pay attention on it, and neither my CFI did.

So, I need more hours, my checkride shifts by some days, and I cannot even imagine when I can have my multi checkride. Flight hours are OK, they always matter, especially instrument hours, but I am disappointed about longer waiting time.

P. S. when I already realized that I would not fly today, I figured out that the airplane for our checkride had only 1 hour before 100h inspection: somebody flew a cross-country yesterday night, so the practical checkride part would probably be cancelled anyway during the preflight inspection.

Logging the Flight Time

Logging the flight time can be tricky when you need to meet the requirements for different authorities, for example, FAA and EASA. They have a lot of common points, but they have some essential differences as well, so it’s better to know them to save some money.

First of all, I’d like to explain some terms.

PIC (Pilot In Command). It is the person who assumes the responsibility of the entire flight. He fills the aircraft’s logs ans has the final authority. According to the EASA regulations, you can log PIC time only if you act as a PIC, but FAA rules allow to log PIC time in some other cases – I will explain it later in this post.

PICUS (PIC under supervision). It is the person who acts as a PIC, but under specific circumstances. For example, in the UK the student logs PICUS time during a checkride with the examiner. I haven’t seen PICUS time in the FAA regulations.

SIC (Second In Command). It is a co-pilot (or a first officer) for a multi-pilot aircraft.

Safety pilot. It is not actually a pilot, but a person who monitors the pilot’s actions for some reason. Legally it is a passenger, but sometimes it can be a flight instructor who does not provide flight training (and, correspondingly, does not log his flight time). Sometimes he can log flight time too, when he acts as a required flight crew member (I will also explain later).

Passenger. Just a passenger, does not perform any duties.

VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Meteorological conditions when there are visual references outside the aircraft (for example, the horizon, or some landmarks on the ground). Basically it’s flight conditions outside the clouds.

IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions). Basically it’s NOT VMC. Usually it’s when we are in the clouds and cannot navigate using outside references. Legally VMC has necessary minimums, and when we are below these minimums, we can consider the conditions as IMC.

VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Legally we can fly under VFR when we are in VMC and can use outside references for navigation and separation with other aircrafts.

IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). These flight conditions assume that we use instruments for navigation and separation with other aircrafts. It can happen that we don’t see anything outside the aircfart, but it is not necessary. Legally we can fly under IFR in both IMC and VMC. It is mainly relevant for EASA, where we can log IFR time in any meteorologial conditions, but for FAA we cannot log instrument time in VMC regardless of our flight rules. And that is one of the essential differences.

Total time. It is the total flight time regardless of the role when we are acting as a crew member or a student.

Dual time. Dual given time means that we provide flight instruction for someone. Dual received time means that we are receiving flight instruction from a certified instructor.

Night time. Basically it’s time after sunset to sunrise, but there are some nuances. For example, FAA counts night landings only after 1 hours after sunset and not later than 1 hour before sunrise. Some EASA countries allow to log night time not earlier than 30 min after sunset and not later than 30 min before sunrise. ICAO and EASA have the same definition, but there are some local regulations, for example, in the CAP393 UK. So it’s better to check local documents to properly log night time. I log night time from sunset to sunrise, and night landings 1 hour after sunset to be legal for both authorities.

Solo time. Usually it means that you are all alone in the aircraft and don’t take aboard even a passenger’s dog regardless whether it has a license and whether it knows how to fly the airplane. That time seems to be relevant only for students. After getting a license nobody cares, only PIC time matters.

Solo acting. It means that only this person use the flight controls. Nobody else should even touch the yoke, pedals or whatever adjusts the flight parameters. For example, it can be even dual received hours with a flight instructor next to you, but the instructor should not touch flight controls.

Instrument time. It means flight time using only flight instruments, without any reference outside the aircraft. EASA world does not use that term (there is IFR time there instead), but for FAA it’s essential. We does not always have clouds to practise (and initially does not even want to fly in the clouds while learning), so FAA allows both actual (flight time in IMC) and simulated (flight time with a view-limiting device like ‘hood’ or ‘foggles’) time. It is possible to log simulated instrument time even in VMC without view-limiting device (‘I used only flight instruments for flying’), but it does not make sense since a view-limiting device is some kind of guarantee of that. The important point for logging actual instrument time – the conditions should be ‘real’ IMC, it usually means in the clouds, not just below the legal VMC minimums. It’s kind of a very contradictory question, but safer to log simulated instrument time only in a view-limiting device, and actual instrument time in the clouds, just to avoid any misinterpretation.

Cross-country time. In the EASA documents the “navigation flight” term is used. For the EASA it’s any flight when we leave the circuit, and for FAA it’s any flight conducted by a pilot in an aircraft that includes a landing at a point other than the point of departure. There are additional limitations for meeting different criteria. I will explain it in details.

Total flight time can be logged in any flight when we perform any flight duties.

Dual received means that we have a training flight with the instructor. This time should be logged when we have a flight instructor who logs his dual given time. Usually he wants to even if he doesn’t talk during the flight at all ๐Ÿ™‚

IFR flight time can be logged with IFR clearance and usually under the IFR flight plan regardless of meteorological conditions. Instrument hours should be logged in IMC or with a view-limiting device regardless or ‘real’ ATC clearance: for example, the flight instructor can give a ‘simulated’ ATC clearance.

As I’ve already said, EASA and FAA have some differences in logging the flight time.

PIC for the EASA and FAA

For the EASA everything is easy: you log PIC only when you act as a PIC. It means that only one person can log PIC time. Usually during flight training it’s a flight instructor as a person who assumes responsibility. Dual received time cannot be logged as PIC time.

FAA regulations allow to log PIC time in some more cases. A pilot may log PIC time when he/she is the sole occupant of the aircraft; is the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which the pilot is rated or has privileges; or is acting as PIC where more than one pilot is required (‘required crewmember’ rule). That is described in FAR 1.1, 61.51 [e].

‘Required crewmember’ usually means flying in a multi-pilot aircraft, but it is not the only case. The most interesting part for a training airplane (for example, small Cessna 152 or 172) is that if a pilot uses a view-limiting device, the second pilot becomes a necessary crewmember in VMC under VFR!

The second obvious case is flying with a flight instructor and manipulating the flight controls: in that case both can log PIC time.

Logging cross-country (XC) time

Basically “cross-country” means a flight between a point of departure and a point of arrival using standard navigation procedures. FAA gives the definition in 14 CFR 61.1(b)(3)(i). EASA FCL also mentions “following a pre-planned route”.

So for the EASA we can log any flight from the airport A to airport B as a cross-country flight if we plan it and use any navigation (even visual aids).

FAA allows to log as cross-country only flights at least 50 miles from the departure airport for meeting private, instrument or commercial minimums. More details can be found in this great paper from AOPA.

For meeting sport pilot minimums any flight more than 25 miles can be logged.

But the most interesting part is meeting the ATP minimums. It is not even required to have a destination! Any flight further than 50 miles from the departure point can be logged as a cross-country flight regardless whether we landed somewhere else or just returned home.

In all other cases we can use a basic definition. For example, part 135 allows to count as cross-country all flights from A to B, even less than 50 miles.

The nightmare starts if we don’t have an electronic logbook: the paper one just don’t have so many columns to sum up everything. Initially I had only the paper one, so it took some time to properly enter all previous flights to my electronic version and set the parameters (‘cross country more than 50nm’, ‘cross-country less than 50nm’, ‘acting as PIC’ and so on).

Hopefully it will help not to get lost in the documents in regulations. You can ask me for more information ๐Ÿ™‚

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 =)