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 =)

USA flight training

The blog is still alive, and I am still keeping going. I haven’t been posting here for a while since noting interesting was happening. I was studying (not the EASA subjects though, I switched to FAA IR preparation) and was waiting for a visa approval.

For those who is interested in flight training in the US, there are some more considerations that for Europe. I had to obtain a student visa, pay SEVIS fees, obtain a TSA permission and get a verification letter for my license. Finally all that was done, and after about 20 hours of getting here from Russia I am writing this post from the school campus.

I like this site compared to my accommodation in Czech Republic: there is a washing machine, pretty well equipped kitchen and a large store nearby. But the problem is that I wasn’t able to drive here from Russia, and I didn’t want to rent a car, so I walk everywhere, and the school campus is the only option for me.

Firstly some paperwork must be done. Mainly it’s the license validation and getting the US medical certificate – I’ve already done the longest part (TSA approval) from Russia. I’d like to finish my Instrument rating within a month. I am pretty well prepared for a written exam, but I haven’t been flying for some months, and I’ve never flown by instruments at all.

There is an uncontrolled airport here with a long concrete runway, and the weather is perfect for training. I missed flying so much!

So, here I am, and I changed my plans a little bit. Instead of full EASA conventional step-by-step route, I’m going to obrain a FAA IR, and then apply for a F1 visa. If that visa never happens, I will get the EASA IR, it will be easier to do with a valid FAA IR. Then the usual EASA route: ATPL theory and CPL. And then… I don’t know, time will show.

FAA Instrument Rating

Long time passed since my previous post, but that’s only because almost nothing was happening. I am studying a lot, it’s really hard to remember all this stuff. I didn’t have much free time, but when I did, I was looking for the best American flight school.

Finally I found the option which satisfied me enough, and I’m in progress of getting I-20 for M1 visa. I decided to obtain an Instrument Rating in the US.

I’m not going to stay in the US for a log time since I still have a job in Russia, but I’d like to obtain a Commercial License there. I am almost sure that I will have to come more than once for that, so I am talking about Instrument Rating only for now.

Since I cannot speed up the visa process, I am studying and gaining money for my training. I am going to get my EASA license as well regardless of the FAA one.

Flight training in the US

As I probably mentioned, I want to continue my flight training in the US for various reasons: native English ATC, easy CPL written test compared to the EASA one, and, of course, cheap flight hours compared to Europe… The main reason is that I don’t want to stay on the ground while I’m studying my EASA subjects, so I can obtain a FAA IR, and those hours will count towards my total flight time. Moreover, due to less expensive prices I can make it entirely in the airplane, which looks beneficial compared to a simulator.

Today I got a verification letter from the FAA. It is valid for 6 months, so I am applying for the US visa. After than I will be able to do nothing but wait.

At a first glance it looks better to study the EASA theory in Moscow now if I want to obtain the EASA license. But the simplest way is not always the best one: I believe that with a Russian passport I need both EASA and FAA licenses since I don’t want to miss any opportunity. If some door opens for me, I want to be prepared before it will close.

Anyway, it looks like a great adventure, probably the greatest one in my life so far. We should do whatever we want to do. I love flying, so I should go flying again 🙂