Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Category: Comercial Training Page 1 of 2

The One with the Commercial Checkride

The Commercial checkride is complete!

After many months, err years of study, I have finally completed the checkride and am now a Commercially Certificated Pilot. So what does this mean you ask? Not a whole lot, lol. It really is a stepping stone to greater things. Though I can technically get paid to fly now, the rules are such that there are very few flying gigs available with just a commercial certificate. You can crop dust, aerial surveying, aerial photography, cargo pilot, banner towing …. but not really the big jobs.

So why put in the effort? There is another common job and that is Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). Ultimately, in order to take the next step to flying the big airplanes you need to get your Air Transport Pilot (ATP), you need 1500 hours. CFI is the most common way to build hours and teaching tends to reinforce your current skills. I always hear anecdotes from people who teach who say they’ve learned more teaching than they did in order to get the teaching position.

So the checkride, how’d it go?

I got up early, had breakfast, 3 eggs with toast. I don’t normally eat breakfast but I do know my brain works better when I do.
The DPE arrived about 20 minutes early and we both agreed to start early since it was forecast to get pretty warm and we wanted to beat the heat.

After I signed the IACRA, he went through all the requisite details and explanation of the oral and check ride steps. Next, he had me show him the aircraft logbooks. After that, he went through my logbook to verify that I had completed all the requirements. I had my logbook tabbed out so he could easily see my Long cross country, Day VFR, Night VFR, 10-night landings at towered airport, etc. This went pretty fast, and he was satisfied.

We started with the oral. I won’t bore you with all the questions but it went well, and we got through it surprisingly fast. I wasn’t perfect but I did pretty well. *Pops Collar*

Next up the Practical:
Flight Plan: KTTA to KROA @ 6500 using Pilotage and Dead Reckoning
CHAPS (Clearing turns, Heading, Altitude, Power settings, Safe place to land) <- for reference He told me everything that I would need to expect. I needed to remember CHAPS and that we would bail out of the second checkpoint. I would do my groundspeed check and alternate calculations. He also said that stalls would be to first indication (Horn) and that in some instances he would tell me that I wouldn’t need to do a clearing turn but otherwise, do CHAPS. Normal Takeoff on 21 and departed the pattern mid field on course. As we crossed 3500, he said to go ahead and descend back to 3000 and setup cruise for the first checkpoint. He asked what altitude I was climbing to and I said that I was climbing to 6500 per our flight plan. He seemed good with that. Once I reached my first checkpoint, I started the timer. He asked me what radial I was on from RDU. I turned it to show from and the radial He asked, "If you were going to fly there would you keep it that way?" I said no, I would flip it 180 to the TO direction. As we got near the second checkpoint, he said ROA is closed due weather and KTTA is shut down due to aircraft on the runway. Where do we go? I initially told him RDU since we have the VOR dialed in ? I initially suggested RDU since we have the VOR dialed in and we know that they have multiple runways and services. He said "No, we’ll bust airspace. Anywhere else?" I don’t think that was a wrong answer, but he wanted me to turn in the direction and that would have had us going into RDU for a mock exercise which probably wasn’t a great idea. I then suggested KSCR and he nodded in agreement. Once I hit my second checkpoint and turned on course to SCR and did the time calculation based on the grounds speed I calculated between checkpoint 1 and 2. First maneuver was accelerated stalls. I did a clearing turn and performed the accelerated stall. Side note: worst accelerated stall i've ever done, and I knew it. Subsequently, I was told about it in the debrief. Steep turns: He told me my choice of initial direction and which way I wanted to turn first. I performed a clearing turn and setup on an object on the horizon. First right then left. They were fine. I actually lost a little more altitude than I liked but was able to correct and keep within standards. Up Next, Chandelle: He told me to do a Chandelle and that the steep turns would suffice for clearing turns. I setup the Chandelle using a long stretch of power lines since I couldn’t see the power plant (My normal visual aid). Performed a chandelle to the right and he seemed satisfied. Interestingly enough, early in my training, I always went to the left. And the way I was setup, the power plant was to the left but I couldn't see it due to haze. Overtime, I got proficient and comfortable doing it either left or right so it didn't really matter. Emergency descent: The DPE asked my airspeed for the descent. We barely got one turn before he said go ahead and recover. I was actually really surprised because in practice I would do a lot of circles and drop quite a bit of altitude but it was within standards. Not going to complain, lol. At this point we were near Eagles landing and he said, "Uh oh, you've lost your engine." I went through ABCDE and got my airspeed to 68 and started a spiral over the end of the runway. Once I was at a good altitude, I setup on my downwind leg (Tracking north) to runway that would track south. Turned base and was getting ready to add flaps as I turned final and he said, "That would have worked out nicely." As I recovered, we were near my pylons. He gave me a hint about needing to do CHAPS, me == stupid. I took the hint and asked if I could do a 360-degree clearing turn and he agreed. I entered my pylons at pivotal altitude and did one turn around each pylon before he said "Climb to a good altitude and let’s head back before it gets hotter." Another side Note: In debrief, the DPE stated that in all the students, check rides that he has completed and all the ones he's read, I am the only student he's seen turn right to start 8's on Pylons. I don't think it was a slight or anything and to be honest, I didn't really think about it. If the downwind was on the other side, I would have entered on a left turn. I think it was more that I just liked to start with the one particular pylon first. But I don't feel that starting with one over the other gave me any advantage. Maybe that is confidence. Finish off with the landings. Now all the landings have to be to a spot designated and for my landings I said the 1000 ft markers. The landings have to be either on the touchdown point up to 200 ft beyond. With they trickiest, the power off 180 precision landing. For the landings, the DPE said that I could choose the order of the landings but that each will be to a full stop on the runway and he will call which take off to perform. The series would include: Normal T/O and landing, Short field, Soft field and the power off 180 precision First landing was a soft field followed by a soft field takeoff Next, Short field landing - Go around, I was too high. That was problem with all my approaches, I was too high. I think an artifact of my power off 180 practices erring higher than normal. You can go around on any landing other than the power off 180, so I took advantage of it. Short field landing, successfully this time, followed by Short field takeoff. Next, I wanted to do the power off 180 but traffic entered the pattern and took a wide pattern, so I opted for my normal landing, Normal take off after that. So the time came, for one of the trickiest maneuvers of the commercial checkride. Mainly because out of all the maneuvers, this one seems to be the only one in which there are factors outside of your control that can cause you to fail. Once you start the maneuver, you must hit the target or you fail. If you get a gust of a tail wind or headwinds pick at the last second, you fail. The idea here is that on downwind, once abeam your touch down spot, in my case the 1000 ft markers, you pull power. Now you have to plane your glide 180 degrees around to land on the runway either on or 200ft beyond your designated touchdown zone. There are different methods you can use, S-Turns, Slips, flaps, squaring your turn.... I spent quite a few flights in different wind conditions including swirling winds to try to perfect this. I pulled the power and had a crosswind from my left so I kept it tight to the runway. I turned base a little early because I know that wind was swinging from cross to headwind and didn't want to be caught with not enough energy. As are turned base I knew I was high and had the energy that I needed despite the wind. I went full flaps and squared off the turn to final. I was still high, yuck. Ok, so i applied a slip to stay on airspeed but add a lot of drag that would allow me to lose altitude. The slip started to work nicely and I took the slip into ground effect. As the wheels touched down, I felt it was going to be close and I heard, "That will work, within limits" Power off 180 and ride complete Cleared the runway ran the checklist and taxi back, I'm a Commercial pilot now. Next stop, right seat for CFI.

Been quite a while, where, why, how? Commercial Training

It’s been a while since i’ve posted about my flying here, especially my commercial training.

Short synopsis

Since checking out in the Mooney, I continued some of my commercial training but not in earnest. It was hard to get motivated because I really needed hours more than anything. I joined Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and got checked out as a mission pilot in Glass 172’s and 182’s. I built time volunteering to fly maintenance and Search and Rescue (SAR) training missions. It has been a lot of fun and I have made a lot of friends along the way.

About a year ago, I took and passed the Commercial written exam but just kind of plodded along building hours.

As the new year came, I decided since I have the hours, it’s time to knock this out. I have been training weekly with my awesome CFI and am quickly reaching checkride form.

The Now times

For the last several lessons, we have been hammering Lazy 8’s, Chandelles, 8’s on pylons and 180 degree power off precision landings.

I have faced demons with each of these at some point but have continued to practice and slay each of them over time. In my last couple of flights, the 180 power offs really got into my head. I had a pretty atrocious lesson a few days ago in which I was either short or long on most of my approaches. I ended on a good one and felt I made a connection, but it was a disappointing lesson.

Two days later, I jumped back into the cockpit for a lesson completely focusing on power off 180’s. As a bonus the weather blessed us with swinging cross winds. And also and empty pattern, woohoo!

This was good because I really had to focus on energy management and what the wind was doing during each phase of the approach. With the help of my instructor, I also realized that I wasn’t focusing on my aim point until I actually turned final which hurt me quite a bit on determining altitude and energy. Once I started focusing on my aim point, I was able to make better decisions and corrections.

I quickly learned that altitude was a friend and started turning base a bit high on purpose in the windy conditions. I have many tools in the bag to loose altitude but none to gain altitude. And with the wind changing from head to tail wind depending on the lap in the pattern, this turned out to be a good strategy to help gauge the winds.

All in all, this last lesson was a big confidence booster and i’m getting to the point that the checkride is in the cards for the near future. I am going to do another flight or two by myself to cleanup a few maneuvers then I will start some mock checkrides on the way to the finish line.

I can’t say i’ll be posting more here.  However, I would like to since as soon as I finish this Commercial Certificate, I am jumping right into CFI. Going to be a wild ride!

The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 3

Weather has a big impact on aviation. That sounds pretty self evident after reading it back but it is sometimes under appreciated. I have been trying to finish my Mooney M20J checkout and complete my Duel Day Commercial X-ctry at the same time but weather was not cooperating. However, my flying club annual was nearing expiration so I am up against that deadline.

Deadlines and aviation don’t mix well with each other. It leads to hazardous attitudes and poor aeronautical decision making in order to complete whatever mission/deadline that you have in your plans. So the best course of action is to remove said deadline and thus removing the need to take risks to accomplish the task. So that is what I did… err sort of.

I removed the pressure of completing the checkout/flying club annual from my mission to complete the Duel Day Commercial X-ctry. Weather was looking good recently but when I woke up, the ceilings were not lifting all that fast. So I talked to my instructor and we agreed to drive to the airport and see if we could get in the 3 landings that I needed to complete the checkout. After about an hour of chatting, the ceilings lifted to just above pattern altitude so I proceeded with the preflight.

I just needed short field and soft field takeoffs and landings. I was able to finish with just 3 t/o and landings.  1 short, 1 soft and 1 regular. I impressed my instructor with my proficiency or else I would have had to do more. In true fashion, he boosted my ego a bit by saying how good I make him look as an instructor. It really is just ego boosting but it does feel good to have some encouragement.

I strive to fly safe and honor what I have learned from my past and current instructors. I feel fortunate to have such great mentorship in my aviation life.  So that is it, my final flight of the Mooney M20j checkout.  Overall, it was a fun checkout and I do enjoy flying the Mooney.  It is a little spending for hour building but should be a decent family cross country aircraft.

The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 2

So as part of my checkout on the Mighty Mooney I needed to complete an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC).

Let’s take a look at the basic requirements for an IPC. Good writeup at BoldMethod

  • Non-precision Approach
  • Precision Approach
  • Missed Approach
  • Circling Approach
  • Partial Panel Approach
  • Recovery From Unusual Attitudes
  • Intercepting and Tracking
  • Holding

I completed “Recovery from Unusual Attitudes” in the previous lesson, The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 1.

The Plan:

This particular flight was all about the approaches.  Today was a great day for it as the cloud deck was hovering around 700 msl at the time of departure and not looking like much lifting for the next few hours.

So I filed IFR round robin to KSCR.  KTTA -> KSCR -> KTTA.  The plan was to fly the RNAV 22 at Siler city, go missed, then fly the ILS 3 Y at TTA with the course reversal, and finally the RNAV 21 LNAV with Partial panel down to circling.  This would take care of all of my requirements.

  • RNAV 22 (SCR) –  satisfied the Non-precision approach and missed
  • ILS 3 Y (TTA) – satisfied the Precision approach and hold
  • RNAV 21 (TTA) – satisfied the Partial Panel as well as the circling approach back to runway 3.

Intercepting and tracking was used during the whole process.

It was nice because we are hard IFR for most of the flight and all of the approaches.  I didn’t have to wear the foggles at all… yay!

Time to Execute the plan:

TTA does not have a tower so you have to call to get your clearance. The clearance issued a heading of 360 upon entering controlled airspace.  So that was the limit of my clearance.  Even though I filed TTA -> OCEKO -> KSCR -> TTA, I was given the curious cleared as filed but then fly heading 360.  It was an odd exchange but figured we would get our vector to OCEKO once in the air.  That wasn’t the first oddity during this flight.

After departure, I contacted Raleigh approach and once they confirmed my location was cleared direct OCEKO at 4000.  As we neared OCEKO, we hadn’t been given any instructions for the approach and once we hinted that we were a mile out… they quickly cleared us but handed us off to Greensboro Approach and told us to tell the other controller we were cleared.

I thought that was a bit weird.  In hindsight, should have prompted them a little earlier because it seems we weren’t on the same page for approach.  I requested the approach on the phone and technically it was the same person. Oh well, no harm.

Once we were over to Greensboro Approach, they re-affirmed the clearance and asked for our intentions.  “Requesting return to TTA for another approach, N5760R”.  We were expecting to get alternate missed instructions to setup for return to TTA but it never came.

On the missed, we informed approach that we are now flying the missed and received cleared direct TTA.  I then requested the ILS 3 Y full approach, full in order to do the required hold.  Approach responded, “I’ll hand you off in a few miles and you can give your request to the next controller”.

Switching frequency to Fayetteville approach, I requested the ILS 3 Y full approach and we were cleared direct IKTOW @3000.  Now here is the first altitude weirdness.  Right  before we reached IKTOW we were cleared for the approach. Then as we crossed and I was about to drop down to the segment altitude, we were asked to stay at 3000.  I’ve never gotten an approach clearance then and altitude restriction right after with no further instructions. My instructor thought i was odd as well. Oh well, once we were inbound, they cleared us down 2100 and we proceeded with the rest of the approach.

On inbound we were asked our intentions and I requested the RNAV 21 full approach.  This time, as expected, we were given alternate missed instructions of Climb 3000 to YUXI and a switch back to Raleigh Approach.

During the missed approach, we were vectored due to traffic and positioning us for the full RNAV 21 approach.

Raleigh approach cleared us for the RNAV 21 but stay @ 3000 until we reached the final approach.  At least this made more sense because we had the clearance and knew when the altitude restriction would expire.  My instructor commented on the many altitude restrictions on approach segments today.  Once established on the approach, I went partial panel and did the LNAV step-down for the RNAV 21 down to the circling minimums.  At this point we broke through the clouds and I circled around to runway 3 for the full stop landing and finishing the IPC.


Overall, I thought I did well on the IPC.  Flying a new plane, second flight. And not flying IFR in at least 6 months, I felt I did ok.  It wasn’t perfect.  I was behind the plane a bit but was able to get the weather, briefing etc done on time.  Still getting use to a few things:

  • Adjusting the MP (25) and Prop (25) during the climb.  I am too slow on this task and need to get that drilled into my head.
  • Switching tanks, not too bad but still a little behind.
  • Flow checks were better this time, I did the 7 steps much better but I was still scolded a few times.
  • Landings… just need a few more landings to be comfortable.

My instructor is awesome and he said I did well today.  He has a way of teaching you things in ways that stick and is very encouraging through the process.  I’ve heard horror stories of instructors that are constantly putting you down and taking all the enjoyment out of flying.  I am humbled by our clubs instructors in both their skill and their ability to teach at a high level.

Whats Next?

I still need a few landings to fully checkout in the Mooney and since I need to get more dual complex hours (6.6 hrs) for my Commercial, I am going to try to do the Day VFR Dual Cross country.  Might as well knock out more than one thing at a time!

My Chariot

The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 1

After a long hiatus, once again, I spread my wings and soared through the air. Hot and Humid air but air none the less.  Today was the first flight in the mighty Mooney M20J.  And it was strange but not for the reasons you may think…. or maybe you do.

I haven’t flown in quite a while.  The last time I slipped the bonds of earth was February 7, 2020.  Exactly 120 days between flights.  To be passenger current, you must log 3 landings in the last 90 days…. so way out of currency there. Also, our flying club rules state that if you haven’t flown in 90 days, you must be checkout out by a club flight instructor.

And ……  I am due for my flying club annual and need an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC).  So  as you can see, I am not current at a the moment.  The only thing that I have good right now is my medical… which is actually due for renewal in August.

So this new Airplane checkout is more than just checking out in a new aircraft.  Going to Knock out my 90 day currency, Aircraft Checkout, IPC, and club annual all in these flights.  It sounds like a lot but it is all pretty straight forward…. a club annual pretty much takes care of all of it, including the written test needed to checkout in a new bird.

However, it is strange because I am performing all of these checkout maneuvers in a new aircraft and pretty rusty after 120 days of not flying.  I have muscle memory for the Cessna aircraft but none really for the Mooney.  New flows, new checklists, more gadgets, new prop controls and landing gear that is not welded down.

To be honest though, thanks to my awesome flight instructor, it was really just like any other flight.  Other than mucking up my flow check a few times in the pattern, I felt I did pretty well all things considered.

So what did we cover in this flight?

  • Standard takeoff
  • Climb
  • Cruise
  • Descents
  • Steep Turns
  • Stall series
  • Autopilot
  • Leaning/Enriching strategies using the new onboard management systems
  • Short/Soft landings
  • Emergency procedures
  • And emergency manually lowering of the landing gear

… I’m sure there was more that I am not remembering at the moment.


My thoughts on the flight?  Like I said above, need to work on hammering the flow check into my head.  I feel like I am hanging just with the aircraft, not ahead or behind.  I need to get a little more ahead, I think that will come in the next lesson(s) with more IFR practice.  The landings went well, we performed 4 landings in total with flap variations. (half and full flaps)  Honestly, couldn’t tell how much my instructor helped on the controls. One thing that stands out is how heavy the controls are compared to the Cessna’s.  It seems to be the difference in pushrod connections versus cable connections.  I don’t think it’s a huge deal but different.

Overall, I felt like the aircraft was more stable in most phases of flight versus the Cessna’s.  Could have just been the conditions today but I felt like the steep turns, stalls, etc were much smoother.

I look forward to part 2 of the checkout process and the many more lessons that I will have in the mighty Mooney M20J.  For my commercial rating, I need 10 Dual hours in a complex or TAA aircraft.  1.9 are in the books, 8.1 to go!

Mooney M20J – N1068X

Transitioning to G1000 course, because… why not?

One of the things this pandemic has given everyone, is an abundance of time. Along with learning to fly more complex aircraft, I am also learning to fly a technically advanced aircraft (TAA). One of the requirements, for the aircraft I want to fly, is that I take a transitioning to G1000 course via online ground school.

Had the first class last night. We covered all of the internal workings of the G1000 system including the electrical bus and Line Replacement Units (LRU’s) that replace all of the fancy electrical and vacuum systems in current steam gauge aircraft.  See Diagram Below:


G1000 LRU Diagram


We went through each of the systems and discussed how they are connected, failure modes, etc.  Being an engineer, this fascinated me.  I have a good understanding of how steam gauges work and their failure modes and basically each of these LRU’s replace a single analog component.


  • The GDC (Air Data Computer) replaces your vacuum system and calculates the Airspeed, Altitude, VSI and Temperature.
  • The GRS (AHRS) replaces your attitude indicator to give you Attitude, Rate of turn and slip/skid.
  • The GMU replaces your vacuum DGI to give you heading.
  • The GTX 33 in this diagram replaces your transponder/ADSB

You have two screens that read information from these core systems to display data.  Each has a dedicated GPS, Comm, Nav, Glide slope, etc.

If one screen fails, it defaults all the pertinent information to a single screen.

If your alternator fails, your avionics run on a battery just like a normal steam gauge aircraft.  You will have to unload some of your avionics to preserve power just like any aircraft.  If that battery fails, you will automatically kick over to a backup battery that powers the “Essential Bus”.

The Essential Bus powers, the PFD, the main LRU’s (ADC, AHRS, GMU… etc), Com1, Nav 1.  The MFD and push to talk on copilot side is disabled, but engine data that is normally displayed on the MFD is moved to the PFD.

Basically, you’re now in an emergency situation and you need to get down.  Once on the backup battery, you have 30 minutes of power in order to find a safe place to land. You still have the backup steam gauges as a last resort but you really want to find a place to land and figure out what is going on. Especially if you are in anything but Day VFR conditions.  Safety first!

We haven’t even talked about using the G1000 in any practical manner but I found the background very interesting.  Of course as a pilot, I want to know how everything works in case of an emergency situation, things are easier to troubleshoot.

I am technically familiar with the G1000 through at home simulators and several training flights that I have had in the past but I haven’t had any formal training that can fill in the gaps.

Besides… I’m stuck at home for the most part, might as well learn something new!

Bigger Airplane? The time has come …. sorta

It has been a while but it is time for me to start my commercial training in earnest. In order to complete the training, I need at least 10 hours of commercial training in a complex or Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA). So the time has come to checkout in a bigger airplane. Well, bigger than I have flown myself.

I am going to checkout in one of our clubs Mooney M20J’s. Not quite high performance, only 200 hp.. 1 hp short of high performance, but complex. It has a variable pitch prop and retractable landing gear. Quite a bit faster and more capable versus the Cessna 172 that I normally fly.

A bigger airplane and more complex airplane introduces more challenges and opportunities to learn. I look forward to the challenge. So far, I have limited my flying to Cessna aircraft. This means that I have been engrained with the Cessna way of doing things. I don’t worry about switching fuel tanks, I am used to how high wing airplanes enter the ground effect, etc.

I will need to build a new set of skills as I transition to this new aircraft. I’ve only flown 1 aircraft with a variable pitched prop and during this flight, I didn’t mess with it because I was in cruise during my time at the controls. It isn’t really all that difficult from what I understand but it is another variable to deal with.

The new skills that I will need to learn include but not limited to:
– Remembered to switch tanks
– Adding the fuel boost pump during takeoff and landing
– Remembering landing gear on takeoff and landing
– Obviously the V-Speeds
– Prop adjustments
– Fancy Fuel management system (Installed in the Mooney)

Those are just the things I can think of at the moment. It should be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to it. My club is just now starting to reopen as my state has entered Phase 2 of the Covid re-opening. Everyone at the club is taking special care to make sure that we keep each other safe… so things may not move as fast but looking forward to getting back in the air.

Crazy Times, lockdown blues… a view from the couch

It has been a while and as the title says, it is crazy times my friends. Since my last post I haven’t actually been flying as much as I want. A lot of work and other obligations have gotten in the way.

This past fall, I joined Civil Air Patrol and currently, working on getting qualifications for Search and rescue as well as flight operations. I should be qualified transport pilot in the next few months. My sights are set on Mission Pilot and Cadet Orientation Pilot.

I have always wanted to do more with my flying, searching for purpose outside of hanging certificates on the wall.  The dream has always been to fly with purpose.  $100 hamburgers are fun with friends but the goal has always been more purposeful.

I have not abandoned my quest for Commercial certification and hopefully will be back in the air working on that in the next few months. My quest to build time has been slow but I am coming up on the 250 hours that I need. I am currently sitting at 204 hrs. I figure around 15-20 hrs of commercial training, so really only need around 25 or so. Between trying to get current VFR & IFR after the lockdown ends, I will be close.

We may be in strange and crazy times right now but it is a chance for all of us to be thankful for what we have in front of us and refocus on the things that matter. Family, health and safety as well as looking to the future. I hope everyone stays safe and see you in the sky soon!

Flight Review, Club Annual and a curve ball

In early June my family and I took our annual summer vacation.  I knew when vacation time was over it was time to get my flying club annual and biannual flight review (BFR).  Today was that day.

I am alway nervous for these things, though not sure why.  It always results in good refreshers of procedures and I get to shoot some approaches since I am now instrument rated.

I scheduled some time with an instructor but could only get afternoons after 2:30pm.  The temperatures have been obnoxious lately and wasn’t particularly looking forward to a couple of hours of sweating and thermals.

As luck would have it, I was able to slide into a last minute morning slot at 7:30am due to a cancellation. Yes please!

I arrived early and completed the preflight.  Once my instructor arrived, he suggested we do the flight portion first, while it is cool.  I agreed so we jumped in and got to work.

This flight was pretty laid back, it isn’t a test as much as brushing up on skills.  I liked that I was asked questions in general conversation on how I would handle this or that.  It was very informal which made it more fun and less like an examination.

We departed for the practice area where we went through steep turns, stall series, unusual attitudes.  Then I shot the VOR – A approach to KSCR with a low approach to runway 22 before breaking off.

We headed back to KTTA and along the way I was tested on an emergency descent.  My field selection was spotty as it looked more hilly than I thought it would be.  It would have been survivable but not pretty.

Next, I shot the ILS 3 approach into KTTA.  Nothing earth shattering here, I was pretty stable and the air was nice and smooth which aided tremendously.

After going missed, I headed back to the IAF at IKTOW to shoot the RNAV 3 approach.  While I setup, I was asked a few more questions followed by idle chit chat.  A lot of the time this is just for distraction, to see how you cope.  As I got setup, my instructor covered up my Attitude Indicator and Directional Gyro.  This would be partial panel.  It was fine, it is good practice.

I briefed the approach and entered teardrop for the procedure and here’s where things got interesting.

As I turned inbound I noticed the vertical guidance flagged.  I thought, hmm that is odd.  Soon I realized why.  As we approached the FAF at IKTOW, I saw a message popup on the GTN 650.  It displayed “Loss of Integrity” and the LPV went from green to yellow.  Either we are having a real GPS failure or the instructor did something.

Soon after, all the information on the GPS went blank.  The squawk book reported this but it was supposed to be fixed.  My instructor obviously didn’t set it up because he was taking pictures to document for maintenance.

I decided to flip the CDI back over to the ILS 3 Y approach since I was already setup and follow the ILS down.  In hindsight, I should have just did the step down with a timer but for some reason felt better about the ILS 3 since I just shot that approach and was configured.

It was interesting shooting partial panel with just the compass and not having the GPS available for track.  It was awesome real world practice though.

Things turned out fine and I landed without any drama.  If you have read previous posts, I seem to struggle landing with instructors…. not this time demons!!

All in all, it was a really fun flight and got my flight review and club annual completed.  I really enjoy the instructors at our club and always learn new things.  More flying to come soon!

Commercial cross country, why not!

In my previous post, I talked about my first commercial lesson.  As part of a commercial certificate, you need to complete a commercial cross country.  You can do this on your own without an instructor but it must be solo.  The regulation states (CFR Commercial Cross Country):


i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straightline distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point.

I found a day that was unusually severe clear throughout the southeast so I figured let’s go flying!

I have been planning this flight for several weeks waiting for the right time.  The plan was to depart TTA (Raleigh Executive) and fly down to SSI (Mckinnon St. Simons) and back. Flight plan:

KTTA – KMNI (refuel) – KSSI – KTTA

How we meet the criteria:

One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance

The total distance of the flight from KTTA – KMNI – KSSI and back is 589 nm.

… with landings at a minimum of three points,

I landed at KMNI, KSSI, and of course KTTA. (I actually landed at another point but i’ll get to that later)

… one of which is a straightline distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point.

The straightline distance between KTTA and KSSI is 289 nm.

So as you can see, the flight plan completes all of the criteria for the Solo Commercial Cross country.

Note: I call this solo because you have to either be solo or have a CFI ride along.  The CFI isn’t supposed to help you just there for moral support I suppose.

Let’s get to the flight portion of this trip.  Honestly, it was a pretty easy trip, not a whole lot of excitement.  Mostly just listening to ATC and hearing some horrible radio calls.

I woke up early planning to depart at 7:30 am EST.  The weather was predicted to be sky clear all day but the temperature told me that afternoon clouds/thunderstorms are definitely in play.  I figured this would take me around 6 hrs of flight time and around 7 hours total with the stops.  So this would have me back around 2:30 – 3pm EST.

After thoroughly evaluating the weather and convincing myself that this could actually be true (Severe Clear all day). I decided to go for it.  Because you always need a backup plan, I am an instrument rated pilot so if need to file, I can.  And the backup, backup plan … land and wait out bad weather.

I departed TTA at almost exactly 7:30 am EST.  I navigated to my first landing to refuel at KMNI.  However, nature would have other plans.  Since it was early in the morning, my bladder had decided that it wasn’t completely ready to start a long trip.  As such, I decided to make a quick stop at KUDG which was right in front of me.  I figured I could refuel and de-fuel (if you get my meaning).  I was able to successfully perform one of the tasks.  Unfortunately, they unexpectedly ran out of AvGas so a bathroom break would be the only event.

Back in the air for a short flight to KMNI.  This was a sleepy little airfield with Lake Marion right off the southern end of the runway.  After refueling, I was set for my next leg to KSSI.  The lake being right off the southern end of the runway bothered me and with calm wind, I decided to take off on runway 02 (North facing) and do a wide pattern to gain altitude before blasting across the lake.  My reasoning was that I wanted to gain enough altitude to be able glide to land while I was over the water.

The rest of the flight to KSSI was pretty uneventful.  The flight path took me along the east shoreline of South Carolina and Georgia.  Very pretty and very swampy.  It made for a good exercise of “Where do I land if my engine goes kaput!”  I had a few options including some private airfields and long stretches of empty beach in which the tide was low.  It was actually rare that I wasn’t within gliding distance of an airfield and the chances of a catastrophic engine failure is low.  From my understanding, if you have engine issues, typically partial loss of power, not complete failure, is the typical scenario.  However, it was a good exercise to stay vigilant.

Mckinnon St. Simons airport is pretty nice, with picturesque views and nice FBO.  I had a 6 knot gusty crosswind on landing.  Not a big deal, was able to smoothly land.  I watch a few others land and let’s say they made it more interesting than should have been.  Students perhaps?  I guess we’re all students of flight so I shouldn’t pass judgement… I’ve had my moments even after my certificates.

Some pics from the KSSI FBO (Golden Isles Aviation):


After a short break here to eat a snack and top off the tanks, I departed KSSI for the flight back to TTA.

The flight back was a little more eventful in that clouds started to pop up around the 4500′ level.  About an hour from TTA, I had to descend from 5500′ to 3500′.  To say bumpy as hell would be an understatement.  So much so, I thought about getting a popup IFR so I could climb back up out of the chop.  However, I was already maneuvering a bit to avoid the restricted area and Fayetteville approach seemed to have their hands full with all manner of strangeness.  From pilots not responding due to radio issues to pilots who didn’t seem to know the phonetic alphabet.  D is Delta, not DogF is Foxtrot, not Frank … and so on and so on!

At one point, this pilot just quit with the phonetic alphabet and just said letters.  I have to give Fayetteville approach credit, they were extremely patient.  The request was for a flight following and at one point the controller said, “Can you please repeat your aircraft number and type?”  The wayward pilot responde by telling the controller the letters to the intersection that he was going to. (Not phonetic or faux phonetic, just letters)  The controller then said, “I am asking what the numbers are on the side of your aircraft.”  I have to admit, I giggled a bit.  The struggle is real.

I arrived back at TTA at 2:23 pm which proved my estimate wasn’t too bad.  I logged 6.1 hrs of flight time.  I was pretty efficient in my stops and didn’t lose a whole lot of time on the ground.

It was the longest flight that I have taken without appreciable breaks and once home, I took a nap.  It was really fun and I built some confidence along the way.  I am looking forward to building more hours and starting my commercial training with vigor.

Few more pics from the flight:


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