EASA Instrument Checkride

I completed my competency-based instrument rating course and recently got my night rating. The examiner was able to squeeze my exam into his schedule on Sunday, and the weather was perfect, so I had my checkride today.

It was my second attempt since previously the attitude indicator failed in the school Cessna 172, and we were not able to make a flying part.

The practical part seemed less difficult than in the US. There were some important moments though: for example, in Czech Republic transition altitude is only at 5000 feet, and usually students have to change the altimeter setting during the checkride.

We flew from Roudnice to Karlovy Vary and back: LKROLKKV-LKRO. Our airport is uncontrolled, so we picked up our IFR clearance in the air after take-off. This time instead of following my route I had vectors from the ATC. The important part is switching to the standard pressure after 5000 feet. We climbed to FL80.

Before and during the descent it is important to switch the altimeter to QNH before that transition level, make an approach briefing, set the avionics and get the weather. I got the ILS29 approach, and then GNSS11 with circle-to-land for 29. After the approaches I had to depart visually and climb to FL80 again even though we flew to the East – ATC assigned that level for some reason. Since we were in a piper, I had to switch tanks, and it’s better to have some airport in sight while doing that just in case.

The rest was pretty straightforward: descent, cancelling IFR clearance, closing IFR flight plan and visual landing.

I outlined the following important moments:

  • DO NOT forget about a transition altitude and transition level! In the US we usually fly below them, but in Czech Republic transition altitude is generally at 5000 feet;
  • do not forget about the second altimeter when changing altimeter setting! Forgetting to do that will be a fail;
  • my examiner asked to set both NAV1 and NAV2 for the ILS approach. I used to set NAV2 for the missed approach, but Karlovy Vary does not have a VOR for a go-around, so better to not waste NAV2 and use it for a cross-check;
  • request for descent could be made without desired altitude which means that we prepare for landing according to the flight plan and leaving the assigned flight level;
  • circle-to-land must be made by timing only, not just staying in the safe area with a runway in sight;
  • don’t forget to report departure time during flight plan activation in the air;
  • it is essential to make a start-up request at a controlled aerodrome;
  • IFR clearance should be requested before taxiing;
  • non-precision approach can be made using the DME or GPS for measuring distance to the airport instead of timing;
  • DME is pretty common in Czech Republic;
  • always fly the airplane: keep the course and altitude, follow the glideslope, never fly below DA/MDA without 100% assurance of safe landing, properly estimate holding entry, know the airplane instruments of the particular airplane.

Basically the checkride went as a usual flight. It is even possible to get the examiner involved – for example, ask to set the second altimeter. But in that case it is also essential to check that it was really set properly – some examiners could check your PIC skills by intentionally failing some tasks πŸ™‚

I also prefer to verbally comment all my actions. It clearly shows the intentions and situational awareness. It could also highlight wrong decisions though, but I suppose that it will help in future while acting as a crew member. For example, some of my basic callouts were “airspeed alive”, “positive rate, no runway – gear up”, “we have L, QNH 1016, RW in use 29, slight headwind, no crosswind”, “gas – left, undercarriage – gear down, mixture – full rich, props – full forward, seatbelts – fastened, please check yours”.

As a result, I have the fresh EASA Instrument Rating πŸ™‚

EASA Intrument Checkride: Nice Try

Yesterday I got my EASA NVFR (night rating), and today I manage to schedule my IFR checkride. It does not make sense to wait if the examiner is available and all lessons are done.

Usually students fly to Vodochody or Karlovy Vary for instrument checkrides because these airports are controlled, and they have published instrument approaches.

I got the route to Vodochody. The airport is very close to our flight school, but the instrument approach route is almost as long as the one to Karlovy Vary. Probably the picture will tell more than words:

Planned route to Vodochody

Route to Karlovy Vary is much more direct:

Planned route to Karlovy Vary

Oral part was much easier than the FAA one.

Practical portion finished during a runup check: the attitude indicator failed to level. This instrument is essential for IFR, and this airplane was the only IFR-equipped Cessna in our school. We also have a P28R (Piper with retractable gear and more powerful engine), but our school requires a checkout for any new type, and the examiner was not able to wait for it.

The examiner agreed to fly with me on Sunday, and I decided to get checked in P28R just in case. I was not sure that the ADI will be fixed by Sunday, and wanted to have a backup.

So I scheduled a checkout flight for this evening. The airplane is a complex one: it has a retractable gear, flaps and constant speed prop. It also has a 200 hp engine, so it is faster and more stable in the air. But it requires to think quicker. There were also some more differences like HSI (Hrizontal Situation Indicator) instead of conventional CDI. And this piper is more expensive.

I have a very strong feeling that we will use this airplane for my checkride. And if I get the route to Karlovy Vary (which is very likely since Vodochody tower is usually closed on Sunday), the total cost will be almost the same as in Cessna due to less flight time. This piper is really faster than our diesel C172.

Wish me luck!

Finally EASA NVFR!

For being able to obtain the EASA Instrument Rating an applicant have to meet some criteria. The full list can be found in Part-FCL 610. Summary is the following:

  • hold at least a PPL;
  • have 50 XC hours as a PIC (and for EASA cross-country time is not required to be more than 50 miles from the point of origin);
  • pass written exams at least for the Instrument Rating level; usually it’s better to pass all ATPL subjects – they are good for both instrument and commercial, and they are not that harder to study.

Night rating is technically not required if Instrument privileges will not be used at night, but my school policy includes it as a prerequisite. I completed my CB-IR curriculum more than a month ago, but I already mentioned that it is not so easy to get night rating in summer or early autumn.

Due to weather we started from a cross country flight, and today I completed the circuits part.

Today the weather was nice at the airport. Slight crosswind and rather calm air allowed to concentrate on proper flaring and basic orientation at night.

It is not so easy to find a grass runway at night. The lights are unidirectional: they are very well visible from the approach, but not from other directions. I remembered my first confusion some years ago when I struggled to find grass runways during the daytime: without experience it’s harder than one can think πŸ™‚

I felt pretty confident, my flying was predictable, and I was very comfortable with our diesel Cessna 172, so I soloed after about 1h flying with the instructor.

Even in the US we flew under supervision of a safety pilot. So today was my first night solo! And I got my EASA night rating. One more achievement πŸ™‚ Now ready for the Instrument checkride!

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™‚

Palatka

Today I planned to use a small Cessna 150 for the trip, but it is still in maintenance: there were some problems with a compass and landing lights. I prefer to use this plane since it is much less expensive, but it is the only Cessna 150 in our school, so if I want to fly today, I should book a Cessna 172.

As I said, Cessna 172 is about 1.5x expensive, but it is an IFR-approved plane, so it makes sense to file an IFR flight plan!

I was going to fly to Palatka airport, 28J: that trip allows to fly before usual midday weather deterioration. I planned a VFR flight, so now I lost some time to prepare an IFR flight plan. Anyway I will fly in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions), but I’d like to practice communications and log some IFR time (it is not FAA Instrument time, but for EASA it counts).

I was taking off from an uncontrolled airport, and I activated my flight plan in the air. The controller asked whether I’d like to fly VFR, but I was going to practice IFR, so I requested IFR and got the instructions to climb to 4000 feet and expect vectors.

At 4000 feet I was almost at the cloud base, where the air was a little bumpy. But nevermind, the clouds were cumulus and not dangerous, so it was just some practice of flying straight and level in bumpy conditions.

The landing was challenging with gusts up to 17 kts, so it was better to have some additional speed and power: the runway was very long, so the only problem was stability.

On the way back the clouds were dissipating, and the weather became less turbulent. My assigned altitude was 5000 feet, and that leg was smoother.

It was very nice to fly IFR, that practice is valuable.

IFR English

Today I passed my practical IFR English exam. In Europe it is a requirement for Instrument Rating. I don’t plan to get European IR now, but my English is pretty good, so why not? It was nothing special even in spite of the fact that I don’t have any IR experience except one flight as a backseat passenger in Cessna C172. Of course I don’t consider my flights as an airline passenger because I don’t hear any communications πŸ™‚

In the first (written) part I had to define some terms like “straight-in approach”, “jet stream” or “alternate current”. I did not find any unfamiliar terms, and it was harder to express it than understand. After that I had to unfold some abbreviations.

In the second (oral) part I described approach plates (RNAV and ILS) and answered some questions about them, and finally there was a simulated communication with ATC.

Everything was OK, and now I have one more important document πŸ™‚

IFR Flight

Today I made my first IFR flight. Actually, it was not my flight since I jumped in a Cessna 172 during another student’s IFR lesson. Now, it is almost useless for me to practice IFR by myself because my theoretical background is pretty low, but it is extremely useful and interesting to learn from someone else’s experience. Anyway, it was totally free for me πŸ™‚

We flew to Karlovy Vary, a famous spa resort in the Western part of Czech Republic. Of course, we flew there not because of spa but because of the ILS at the airport. We made ILS and RNAV approaches. I am happy that I understood a lot during the flight, and I hope that I will feel more confident when I pilot the aircraft.

I started to consider to adding photos to my blog (finally!), because I tried reading it myself and found out that it looks dull and sad, with a huge amount of text and no images. Please enjoy yourselves πŸ™‚