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 πŸ™‚

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!

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 πŸ™‚

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!

In The Sky Again

Since the beginning of the year I spend almost all my spare time on exams preparation, and now I have only 3 subjects ahead. One of them is Meteorology (which is not so easy), but it’s still only three exams of 14.

I foresaw that it would be very challenging, but still did not know it would be THAT challenging. Mainly it’s because of psychological pressure – you should constantly study all the time, every day, every free hour. I still have a full time job which made it even worse.

I am assured that health is essential though, so I decided to make a small break, and the most rewarding part of all that is flying. I made a gift to myself and went to the US to renew my Instrument Rating and fly some hours for staying current and, eh, just for fun.

Today I have my first flight in a low-wing airplane: really, I’ve never flown low-wing before! I’ve chosen Piper Arrow. I used to Cessnas, and I did not know what to expect, but it turned out that it is not that different in the air. The landing differs, you should take into account stronger ground-effect, but apart from that all principles are the same.

I must say that the practice is crucial. After long breaks, especially with not so many flight hours under the belt, skills are deteriorating. Landings are dirtier, patterns are less rectangular, approaches are not as smooth as I want.

I enjoy flying. Every flight hour, every minute in the airplane. It’s the best reward for all study hours and sleepless nights. I am so happy, it’s going to be a great vacation time!

At the Controls Again

It’s been quite a long time I did not fly: my previous flight was in Warsaw in October. I was studying ATPL subjects since then and did not practise at all.

Today I made a flight to renew my SEP (Single Engine Piston) VFR rating. We used Cessna 152, and I remembered the feeling of acceleration with 2 people on board on a grass runway – it seemed way too slow.

The weather was not perfect, but nothing critical, so we performed all required maneuvers. It’s so good to feel the flight controls again!

The bird
The weather does not look so good

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

Lake-City

At the weekends I used to fly from the early morning, but this Saturday I decided to sleep some more: it is not a good idea to fly if you’re tired.

Today the weather was good, so it was possible to fly to Lake-City. So, why that place? First of all, the weather is much better for northbound routes, and that airport has the ATC – it’s always good to practice. The weather in Florida is the most critical factor in summer: for example, today it is not a good idea to fly more than 100 miles from the airport, because after about 4 hours there is some possibility of thunderstorms here.

As I said, the weather was good, but not perfect. The cloud ceiling was at about 2500-2700 feet, and I had to maintain about 1500 feet for about 20 minutes from the home base. I had to avoid large cumulus clouds too: they are dangerous, and it’s better to change a course a little than fly directly under them.

I suppose that almost everyone who flew in Florida heard about KCDK. It is a small airport at the shoreline with a concrete 1500-feet runway. Our school policy prohibits to fly there (as many others do), but the weather there is usually good even in summer, so at the very worst case it still can serve as an alternate. But it’s better not to count on that. 1500 feet is not so bad, but psychologically can be surprising after all of wide luxury concrete runways in Florida. Most of them are usually at least 4000-feet long.

After about 30 min of flight the cloud base became higher, and the clouds almost disappeared.

The route itself is very easy: it’s enough to follow the road.

While on weekdays the airport is controlled, on the weekends there is no ATC there, so I should act like at uncontrolled airport. I landed and vacated the runway. There were some Airbus on a taxiway, but I did not see a single person in the cockpit or around.

On the way back the weather became even better, and I was able to fly directly to the airport without avoiding clouds. A very nice day.

High-Performance Airplane

Commercial pilot license requirements contain 10 hours of complex airplane flight time (at least it was so in 2018 – as far as I know, now only technically advanced aircraft time is required). Complex airplane means the one with a retractable gear, flaps and constant-speed prop. But from the April 2018 it is not required to use that kind of airplane for a checkride.

Usually our school uses Beechcraft Bonanza, BE-35 V-Tail. It is not a very common airplane, and it is kinda expensive. I did not want to fly 10 hours in a single engine in favour of a multi-engine one, but I still wanted to have a high-performance endorsement.

It is not very obvious, but our multi-engine Duchess does not meet the high-performance requirements in spite of even higher total power than the Bonanza. To meet the requirement, the power per each engine should be higher than 200 HP, and our Duchess has only 180 HP per engine. And it does not matter than the Bonanza has only one engine.

The airplane is beautiful and mighty. It is equipped with a 3-blade propeller, electric retractable gear, electric flaps, and rather modern avionics. At first I had kind of ‘nose up’ attitude, much more than in a Duchess. Throttle, prop and mixture levers are similar to the ones in a Cessna 172.

The airplane has only one cockpit door at the right side, and the interior looks like this:

It’s important to remember than every half-hour we should switch fuel tanks, like in Piper aircrafts.

Another problem is that flaps lever is located at the place where we have gear control in Duchess.

The airplane is mighty – the acceleration is fast, the engine sounds louder, and the prop sound is also higher: probably it’s due to a 3-blade prop.

It is not a Cessna 172 at all: it is faster, it has better avionics, and the controls require higher force. Even a rudder needs higher control forces, probably it is because of a V-Tail.

The landing is even easier than in a Cessna. The approach speed is the same, but I felt kind of stronger ground effect.

It is an interesting airplane. Thank you for flying, Bonanza!

Fly-in Breakfast

Today we had a fly-in breakfast at one of the airports nearby, in about 1h of flight. This airport does not have a communication frequency, so in these cases in Florida we should use either 122.9 or 122.75. In our case it was 122.9.

In spite of arriving rather early, we heard a lot of traffic on the frequency: about 3 or 4 airplanes nearby and 2 airplanes in a circuit.

The airport had a long concrete runway, but almost no clearway: there were some trees pretty close to the runway, so the effective takeoff and landing distances are limited by those trees.

There were no FBO there, but there were some nice houses and a cafe. Some walking paths are painted as runways πŸ™‚

The event attracted some interesting airplanes and even one gyroplane.

On the way back ceiling became lower (still acceptable for VFR flight below the clouds), and I wished I had taken our C172 instead of non-IFR C150 to fly higher πŸ™‚

IFR Gainesville

I failed to fly IFR with the school’s black N4642J due to oil temperature problem, but the weather was still OK to fly, and one more airplane became available. At 2:30 pm it was still possible to fly to Gainesville and back. The weather forecast was FM1900Z VCTS ΠΈ BKN40CB, which means that there would be some thunderstorm activity, but not necessarily. Usually thunderstorms sit at the same places day-to-day at approximately the same time. Moreover, it is very easy to see them from the very long distance.

The radar showed a very good picture too, so I decided to fly to Gainesville. I filed and IFR plan, again, just to practice these skills. The weather conditions were visual.

I saw some distant thunderstorms on the way to Gainesville, and even a small cell on my course, so I requested a deviation due to weather. After avoiding this cell I got a direct route to the airport, and landed on a longer runway.

I decided to depart immediately since thunderstorm clouds were far from the airport at that moment, but that could quickly change. I requested and got my clearance, took off and flew back to the Crystal River. At 3000 feet I had some cumulus clouds above, but after about 20 miles from Gainesville the sky became clear. I was happy that I had decided to fly today πŸ™‚

Apopka Airport

The weather in Florida is challenging in summer. Today I managed to fly early morning, when there is no turbulent clouds or thunderstorms. Visibility was worse than it would be at the afternoon, but still acceptable.

I adore early morning flights: the air is calm, it is not so hot, and it’s possible to takeoff from any runway.

Apopka airport is beautiful: one asphalt runway along the railway, and a large highway nearby. It looks nice from above.

Florida is almost perfect for navigation, it is impossible to get lost there: a lot of landmarks almost everywhere, and even if you managed to get lost somehow, you can just fly to the West until you see a shoreline.

The “Crystal River – Apopka” route is one of the easiest routes to navigate. Firstly you see an airport with a large concrete runway, then a lake, a highway, and then one more lake. That’s it. Even if you’re really bad with a paper map navigation, you will manage to find a route, and I am pretty good with no-gps flying πŸ™‚

Even at the early morning there was some traffic. For example, a lot of radio communication at the Winter Haven frequency. It seems that I am not the only one who takes advantage of calm morning flights πŸ™‚