FAA commercial requirements…

… or how to waste some money.

Firstly I’d like to tell about FAA check-ride situation in Florida: a lot of flight schools, a lot of students, and only 5 DPEs. On practice it means that usually one have to wait for a checkride more than a month. We are a little bit lucky, because DPE works in our school, 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 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 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, 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 CFII explicitly adds that in the logbook during your instrument, 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 mention of 61.129. And DPE’s position – 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 does not happen now. So, let’s fly more. I hope I will have a long cross-country tomorrow (the concern is the weather…). Later I just have to plan ahead more carefully. During my commercial training I had a small doubt about this requirement, but I did not paid attention on it, 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, but I am disappointed about longer time.

P. S. when I already realized that I don’t fly today, I figured out that the airplane for our checkride have only 1 hour before 100h inspection. Somebody flew a cross-country yesterday night.

Bartow

Today I finally succeeded in my efforts of trying to wake up early at the weekend. Actually it was a good reason to do it: much more chances to fly cross-country wherever you want before thunderstorm activity. Today I was going to Bartow. It is an airport in about 70 miles to the South-East. Close enough to have a breakfast and go back before significant weather activity.

Today it was a typical Florida summer day near the Gulf of Mexico: after about 11 am the South would be closed by some thunderstorms lines or at least isolated thunderstorms. So, I was going to Bartow. It is a controlled airport in a class D airspace. I was expecting practicing my communications. I checked tower working hours, and everything seemed OK. With that weather and my working hours I was able to fly South-East not very frequently.

I decided to ask for a flight following: good practice for IFR flight communications (of course, not exactly, but close enough). And it is a good idea to get a traffic information in that area. Climbing to 5500. The air is calm and cool, today was a perfect summer weather. No clouds, so nothing prevented me to climb to that altitude.

About 15 miles to the destination it’s better to get ASOS information: the weather and a runway in use at the destination airport. Apart from that, I heard something like “the restaurant is closed”. Oh, it seems that I have no breakfast today.

Landing, vacating the runway. I am asking for a clearance for taxiing to the FBO. Taxiing to something that I supposed to be the FBO, but… “N7692U, FBO is in another direction!”. “Request progressive taxi…” How can I know that the FBO is the small building with a 4-plane parking? I thought that it is a group of hangars and 100-plane parking nearby… No signs at the airport, no markings on the airport diagram. BTW, thank you very much for understanding!

The airport itself was a cozy place: there were an interesting small museum and a free cup of coffee available. Very friendly tower controller 😉

So, it’s time to go back. The weather still looked good, and I was done with my coffee.

On the way back I decided to ask for a flight following again: there were some clouds on the way, and it was a good idea to have traffic advisories. I fly a VFR-only airplane, which means that I cannot enter the clouds under any circumstances, and possibly I even could not manage to go direct. In that case flight following can be a good advantage.

I requested 4500, but the controller asked me for 3500. OK, why not. After some time I have been seeing clouds straight ahead. OK, asking 4500. Clouds were still somewhere in front of me and were getting closer. 6500. No way, still below the tops somewhere in front of me. Damn, I supposed that those tops should be at about 4000-5000! I had absolutely no wish to try to go through that labyrinth. So, I should either try to go higher, or descend and proceed below them. OK, descending back to the summer hot. I was not able to continue direct, I didn’t want to go back, so I had to make 360s, like a spiral. 6000, 5000, 4000, 3000. Still almost at the cloud base. 2000. OK, at least here I am well below. I can proceed to my destination, and it is easy to find a labyrinth path when you are below it.

After about 10 miles the clouds became something between few and scattered. Oh, every day in that place I can see almost the same. Two more hours, and there will be thunderstorms here. But at that moment it was still good.

What a nice weekend! =)

Tailwheel

I already told that I need 250h total time. I consider that I can fly different aircrafts during this time-building, and get additional endorsements.

One of the endorsements is a tailwheel one. It is useful so for better airplane control as for future job opportunities at least before I will gain enough hours.

In my case the training airplane is citabria. It is aerobatic plane. Pilots seat one-behind-another, not side-by-side. There is no attitude indicator and course directional indicator, but the airplane has g-meter. It shows g-load. The throttle lever is on the left side. No flaps. A stick instead of a yoke.

Taxiing is really way more difficult. I am like a drunk sailor. I should apply rudder much more precise.

Take-off. Initially the plane points up, but the tail goes up with the additional speed. Of course, it is required to push the stick a bit. After that it feels like a usual take-off in a cessna.

The ball in a turn coordinator behaves like an insane. I used to see 1/4 deflection. At most 1/2 in a turbulent weather, but here… It runs from one edge to another. The airplane is much more sensitive.

Steep turns. The airplane enters in a steep turn very easily, as like returns to wings-level state again. We can only determine an angle with g-meter and outside references.

We should turn by magnetic compass reference, so we refresh the knowledge about compass turning errors.

Stalls. Pull the stick. The speed is decreasing. Stall… Recovery. I am pushing the stick as I used to do it on a cessna, and… It seemed that the airplane went down almost vertically. I already mentioned that the controls are much more sensitive.

Sideslip – it seems that my heading and course differ at least by 30 degrees. And I have to know how to do it – remember, we have no flaps.

I flew my first traffic patterns in about 3-4 minutes, no more. I used to do it in about 6 min.

I liked the citabria a lot. It requires even more control precision and provides less time for a reaction, but it’s an amazing airplane. I think that this experience can greatly improve basic piloting skills.

Night flight

During my previous visit here I completed almost all commercial requirements related to night hours except one 2-hour cross-country. I wanted to fly it, but some circumstances prevented that flight.

This time it seems to be as planned. I checked the airplane in advance, ensured that we have full tanks and enough oil. Ensured that nobody will fly the airplane since that check.

The airplane is just from maintenance. We fly with my instructor.

So, here we go. Checking everything one more time, reading checklists. Everything is OK. Taxiing to the runway. Accelerating. Airspeed raises, but extremely slow. It is more than 500 ft, but we still have 45. 45, 47… The runway is long, but not endless. Aborting take-off… We are OK and stopped well before runway threshold, but I think that the real speed was more than 70 when decision was made.

Some system malfunction is not a pleasant case. I was slightly scared. And I have to react quickly.

Taxiing back, shutdown. But I still want to fly! The weather is good. Another airplane is OK, fuel is OK, oil is OK. We still can fly!

The flight was good. I thought that it’s hard to see clouds at night, but actually it is not. We can fly well below them.

We flew to KVNC, and requested flight following. For the some reason the controller diverted us along the shoreline, around class B airspace.

Return flight is also around class B airspace, but on the East side. Firstly because of weather avoidance, and secondly because it’s fun to fly a different route.

I like night flying 🙂

Jacksonville

One more cross-country flight to jacksonville Executive. Our route crosses a restricted area: when it is active, I cannot fly there in specified altitude range. That area can be activated in specified hours, or by NOTAM. If it is active, I should avoid it or choose an altitude out of the area range.

Briefing. The area is inactive. The weather is good. Let’s fly!

It is the first flight when I asked for flight following: ATC sees me on the radar and potentially warns about close traffic and bad weather. It is very similar to IFR flight, but now I can look around =)

At about 10 miles before entering restricted area I ask the controller about area status, just in case. Everything is OK. And the controller gives me some more information about adjacent areas.

Flight following is a very useful thing. I like it. Especially because I don’t have neither TCAS nor ADS-B equipment, and traffic information can be useful in busy areas.

I also plan some flights with IFR flight plan in a good weather to maintain my communication skills and shoot some approaches. I have to be proficient in it before entering real IMC.

To be continued

This post is becoming traditional when I continue my practical training after 1-3 months interruption: blog is still alive, the idea is alive too.

At least I am piloting again. I flew more than an hour today. Normal take-offs and landing, short field take-offs and landings, soft field take-offs and landings. Stalls, steep turns. I missed it a lot!

I continue my training. I already wrote that I am going part 61 instead of 141 for my CPL, and it is really perfect. Yes, it is 250h TT vs 190, but I highly doubt that I can find any job with < 200h TT. And I already have 150h after my EASA/FAA PPL + FAA IR, because I flew more than 50 solo cross-country hours in August for meeting my EASA CPL requirements in future.

So, it’s really great, because I can go faster. The instructor is unavailable, but the weather is good? OK, fly solo. The weather is bad for cross-country? OK, practice commercial maneuvers in the vicinity of the aerodrome. Bad weather? Fly IFR. For part 141 it is not recommended: you should follow a syllabus.

Besides, I am preparing to FAA written. Now I use aviationexam and gleim with more than 90% score. Possibly will purchase sheppard, but not sure for now.

Finally I ordered an iPad. I’m not a fan, but I’d like to use foreflight, and it exists only for iOS. I understand that there are plenty of alternatives, but what is the point? Foreflight is really great. Everybody knows it, and almost everybody uses it.

I am also thinking about portable ADS-B receiver for better situational awareness. Or I can just wait until 2020 requirement will enter into force =)

Where to Learn to Fly

For every professional pilot the first step is a Private Pilot License (PPL). The second usual step is an Instrument Rating (IR) which allows to fly in worse weather. Currently I’m at this stage, what’s next?

For various reasons I decided to learn in Europe and in the US. Australia or New Zealand are incredibly expensive and very far from me, and India or other Asian countries do not provide many options for foreign students.

European countries have a lot of flight schools. The most obvious choice was the UK: a lot of aerodromes, native English instructors, rich aviation history. But the weather and prices are not so attractive.

The second option was Spain: the weather is mostly good, the prices are reasonable. But I found only two schools there easily accepting foreign students, and Spain is still pretty far from Moscow.

I considered Germany and Austria, but they are are pretty expensive, and it’s better to speak German there.

I even checked Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Netherlands, but they are even more expensive.

Italy and Greece did not provide a lot of options too (but the climate is so good there!)

I was not completely satisfied with my results, so I started to check Eastern Europe.

Lithuania seemed to have only one school, the feedback is controversial.

Latvia did not provide any good options too.

Polish, Czech and Hungarian schools provided very attractive offers, they were pretty close to Moscow, and the weather there allows to fly most of the time. The options there were comparable, all had some benefits and drawbacks.

So, that’s what I found out so far.

Poland is probably the least expensive place to get a license, but the aviation infrastructure and culture are not very well developed compared to Czech Republic.

Hungary is also one of the cheapest place in Europe, but the infrastructure looks even worse than in Poland.

Czech Republic is a reasonable compromise. The prices are attractive, and the aviation services are comparable to the UK or Germany: a lot of aerodromes, great aviation briefing services, nice ATC/ATS.

The US is a perfect place to fly, probably the best one in the world, but there are some legal stuff to do in advance: student visa even for non-vocational training (and only limited selection of approved schools for foreign students), TSA clearance, fingerprinting. In my case it’s also at least 1 day to go there and back.

Anyway, I decided to get the Instrument Rating in the US, at least to have that experience. I contacted literally every M1/F1 (student visa type) approved school in every state. It took about a month to make a decision (I studied many factors – reputation, feedback, history, instructors, weather, fleet, location, prices), and the final option was some small school in Florida.

So far I am really happy about English-speaking environment. In Czech Republic the language was not a big deal too, almost everybody could speak English, but that ‘almost’ thing still could be a little annoying.

The weather in Florida is great, especially in winter. It summer it’s flyable too, but after about 2 pm it’s often better to stay on the ground due to thunderstorms.

Written exams preparation and aviation subjects in general are way more complicated in Europe.

Flying is great everywhere. The rules and practices are almost the same in the US and in Czech Republic: very good online (and phone) briefing services, a lot of places to fly.

Living expenses in Czech Republic are lower, especially accommodation. Talking about Europe, for me it’s also possible to drive my own car, which is obviously not an option for the US.

My personal opinion is that if one needs the EASA license, it’s better to learn in Eastern Europe. For the FAA one the US is better. If the license type is not a concern, I would prefer the FAA way.

Actually I preferred both. I want two licenses and various experience, and I will try to count as many flight hours as possible towards both set of requirements.

Why I started in Europe? Just because it’s easier and faster. Why IR in the US? The answer is different experience and one more valuable license.

What’s next? I am still not sure. Probably FAA CPL/IR/ME, then EASA ATPL theory, and then a frozen ATPL. And a new shiny job…

Crosswind

The airplane I was flying today was really great, but I cannot say the same about the weather. Crosswind and gusts up to 15 knots were not a pilot’s dream, or at least not a beginner pilot’s dream.

First of all, we made a couple of landings one of which was terminated by a go-around procedure. I just was not completely ready for this weather in a new airplane, and I decided that it’s safer not to land when we met a gust at about 100 ft above the ground.

Our school go-around procedure for Cessna 172 is not the same I used to in Cessna 150. Here I had to set flaps 10 simultaneously with full throttle. Previously in cessna 150 I was taught to apply full throttle, stabilize, the next (lower) flaps setting, stabilize, etc.

Anyway, I did not have a lot of opportunities to practice in that kind of weather, so that it was a useful experience.

My flying gradually becomes more stable, I am getting used to this airplane and instrument flying. Of course it was not ideal, but it would be foolish to expect ideal piloting after only two lessons, so I just have to practice more.

We were practicing unusual attitudes recovery. That is included in a usual syllabus in the US compared to Europe (where it is a separate course). That also will be checked on my checkride. I have to cover (or close) my eyes, then the instructor makes some maneuvers (during that you feel something similar to roller coaster riding), and then he says ‘OK, recover’. The goal is understanding what’s happening and bringing the airplane to a straight and level flight. The important detail is that all of this stuff should be done ‘under the hood’, i. e. I was not able to look outside.

My IFR hours are increasing, and I am also working on a written test preparation.

737

I’m proud to say that I flew 737! It’s so cool that I’m going to tell all my friends about it!

Of course, it was not a Boeing, it was just a small Cessna N737HW =)

Almost Boeing

Actually the airplane itself flew a little worse than the one I flew yesterday. I remembered Czech OK-STB: it was also pretty old and had a flaps switch with fixed positions (it was a Cessna 152 though). I am used to a different flaps switch: I had to push it and hold some seconds, longer time means lower flaps position.

The airplane’s takeoff run was longer, and the climb rate was less. The outside view was pretty much covered by the instrument panel so that I wanted to stand or even jump to look outside while taxiing and landing. I remembered my early driving experience with my father, when my head was barely above the dashboard.


Today we were practicing stalls, slow flight and steep turns. Everything was ‘under the hood’, i. e. wearing ‘foggles’, so it was flying solely by reference to the instruments. Initially I struggled to maintain altitude, especially in steep turns. I definitely need more practice.

When we’re not flying I prepare for the written test. I already feel rather confident since I was studying in Moscow, but it’s better to keep it up.

I Was Waiting for That So Long

All that legal stuff for studying in the US took some time, and I really missed flying. Finally I am here!

It is not easy to work with many new factors, and I had four of them: I haven’t flown since August, I’ve never flown Cessna 172, I’ve never flown under IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions – either simulated or actual), and the radio communications were a little different here.

First of all, takeoff in that Cessna differs from the one I used to: the airplane is faster and heavier. The instruments are also arranged a little differently, so it takes some time to get used to the new layout.

The flight was more difficult that I expected. I supposed that I had learned how to fly straight and level, but it seemed that it was not so. I really need more practice.

Currently I am flying with so-called ‘foggles’ which covers anything but the airplane instruments, so I cannot see the beautiful Florida landscapes. And I cannot even think about taking photos. Nevertheless, I am excited!

foggles

We landed without ‘foggles’ in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions, it means that I could remove foggles and look outside), but the landing was not perfect anyway. The approach to the runway is easier due to VASI (Visual Approach Slope Indicator). To be pedantic, it is even the improved version – PAPI (Precision Path Approach Indicator). The runway itself is long and concrete. Cessna 172 lands with much more ‘nose up’ attitude than cessna 150, so the feeling is different.

VASI and PAPI

I am so happy that I can fly again!