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 =)

IR part 141: Holding

The next part of the course includes flying holding patterns.

Sometimes it is not possible to make the next planned step or maneuver right away: for example, due to very congested air traffic, or rapidly changing weather. In this case an aircraft can wait some time in the air. But the airplane is constantly moving through the air to stay airborne, it cannot just stop. That is what holding procedures about: how to properly wait for the next phase of flight.

The holding pattern itself does not differ a lot from the aerodrome pattern, but both the wind speed and the airplane speed is usually higher. On the other hand, there is no climb or descend during the hold.

This part of training is mainly about how to enter the pattern, and about keeping the flight parameters (altitude, speed, course) as close to the chosen values as possible.

Stage Check

Part 141 IR course requires a proficiency check after every stage of training. Totally there are 3 stage checks and a final end-of-course check. The part 141 course also requires the strict defined lessons order, so one cannot start next stages before the previous stage check.

I have been waiting for the first stage check for three days due to the examiner availability and the weather, and finally flew it today.

Actually it should not be scary: it is not a checkride, and the instructor should not sign the student off for it if the latter is not ready. But it is a little disturbing anyway.

The student should perform the following maneuvers: steep turns, stalls, standard rate turns, climb and descend with a defined rate, unusual attitude recovery. And, of course, takeoff and landing. We also made one GPS approach as a bonus, the first one in my life.

Our chief pilot (he was my stage check examiner today) is a former fighter pilot. It’s a pleasure to fly unusual attitude recovery with him! I will definitely ask him about spin recovery training some day 🙂

We made only one hour which seemed for me to be at least two. And now I can move on!

IR Part 141: Lessons 9 and 10

It’s vital for an instrument pilot to be proficient with the airplane navigation equipment. We’re continuing with VOR and starting with GPS. We have garmin 430 in all airplanes, and its interface is not very complicated. However the main problem is multitasking: it’s not so easy to properly fly the airplane and simultaneously tune frequencies while taking with ATC.

Today we were flying 08H. It’s a great airplane with some more powerful engine than our other cessnas. Some students don’t like her flaps switch (hold, 1-2-3, release), but for me that is even more straightforward than the ‘usual’ one.

The weather today promised cloud ceiling at 6200 feet and scattered clouds at 3000 feet. Anyway I was still flying ‘under the hood’ and was not able to see anything except the instruments, and the instruments don’t show clouds. I’m already missing visual flying 🙂

I like my progress. With more experience it turns out that we enough have time to tune frequencies, push buttons and even listen to the ATIS (weather and aerodrome information). The journey is going on!

IR Part 141: lessons 7 and 8

Lesson 7 is just a brush-up of all previous lessons: mostly airplane control and unusual attitudes.

Lesson 8 is completely new though, and it is all about navigation. It contains mainly VOR interception and tracking. The theory is easy, but on practice the workload was pretty high at the first time since I had to use maps, mentally calculate some parameters, and tune required frequencies while keeping the airplane control in the allowed limits.

I’ve already had the very similar feeling at least twice during my PPL training. The first one was about starting to communicate in the aerodrome traffic pattern, and the second one was about the very first flying in CTR (controlled airspace around the aerodrome).

On the ground everything looks very straightforward, but in the air even not so many additional tasks add significant workload, since the airplane control skills are still not very strong and also take a lot of mental resources.

Actually instrument flying can be easier than visual to some extent: one village does not differ very much from another but radio aid frequency does, and it’s harder to get lost while flying by instruments. However in Florida even visual flying is not so hard since there are a lot of highways and roads running from Notrh to South and from West to East.

Today I wrote stage II check and got 85%. I am not happy with the result, and I carefully reviewed my mistakes. BTW, I have a very tricky question 🙂 Probably you know that usually SARL is less then DARL. But why is the warm and moist atmosphere is more unstable compared to the dry one?