All posts by Poul

Got my private pilot license!

Wednesday September 23rd 2015 became the day where to prove everything that I learned during the past 12 months. It was the day of the skill test – or you could call it the final practical exam.

The skill test is a 3 hour test of both theory questions and the practical carrying out. It consists of multiple elements, some mandatory and some randomly chosen by the examiner. The high level elements are:

  • Preflight briefing with flight planning including route, fuel/weight and balance calculations, start/landing distances, weather forecasts, NOTAMs etc.
  • Navigation where the focus is on the ability to plan and execute a flight plan, find and follow way points and use different navigation instruments.
  • General handling and maneuvering og the aircraft is tested by executing different kind of maneuvers and airwork e.g. steep turns in different configurations, stalls in different configurations, recovery exercises etc.
  • Emergency procedures are tested during the entire skill test and the simulated emergencies can arise at any time during the flight.
  • Positioning exercises can both be “find out where you are and find your way home” and it can be “we need to land soon, find the nearest airfield and land there”.
  • Landing circuits are carried out with minimum 3 landings, which normally would be either power-off (glide landing), flapless landing, crosswind landing and maybe just a normal landing.

I arrived 9am Wednesday morning to the airport with two hours to do the aircraft preparations and the last minut adjustments to my prepared flight plans and documentation.

I was a bit concerned on the weather reports that I got for Roskilde airport with temporary periods with low hanging clouds in 1200 feets. Not enough to cancel the skill test, but it was not going to make anything easier.  The good thing was however the calm wind:

  • TAF EKRK 230822Z 2309/2318 20008KT 9999 SCT020 TEMPO 2309/2310 BKN012=
  • METAR 230950Z AUTO 17007KT 9999NDV FEW014/// SCT017/// 15/12 Q1006=

Problem was however that bad weather was approaching from the south west and would actually hit the area of my destination with low hanging clouds in 500-800 feets were I had to cross open water, so I decided during my planning to give it a “no-go” (we were not able to reach the destination flying VFR).

The preflight briefing went well except one thing. The examiner caught me in having a wrong version of the landing distance charts from the aircraft manual. Serious stuff actually, but he actually addressed my instructor (who was also present) rather than me, insinuating that this was a point which on the flight school would need better procedures.

Then we headed out for departure in OY-BLZ and in less than 200 ft the examiner pulled the throttle simulating an engine failure. I was completely unprepared because instructors during training normally would ask tower for clearance to perform simulated engine failure after departure, which would give me some seconds to prepare mentally. But this time the examiner had prearranged that with the tower. I quickly configured for landing and landed safely straight ahead on the runway again. We taxied back for a new take-off.

After take-off I had to stay a bit below my planned altitude to stay within the vertical cloud separation limits. After leaving the control zone I got generator fault and responded to that. I followed my flight plan and when reaching the west coast of Zeeland I got low oil pressure. I responded by checking oil temperature and advised that we needed to land at nearest airfield in Korsør. Fortunately I had actually studied this specific airfield the day before because I had considered using it as a way point, so it went pretty smooth to find and approach it.

Because of the clouds were were not really able to go any higher than 1400 ft (right below TMA), so I was not able to conduct all the airwork that usually requires minimum 2000 ft, but we did some different exercises and it went pretty smooth. Under way the examiner asked questions in different topics and again pulled the throttle for a simulated engine failure. I followed the emergency procedure to restart the engine, but it didn’t work, so I prepared for emergency landing on a field. I went straight on a nice base and simulated the mayday call etc. After that the examiner was happy, and asked me to find my way home to Roskilde. I had already set up a VOR that I could follow inbound so I just did that without thinking too much of were I was. when the DME came alive I could easily position myself on the map.

Safely back in Roskilde I joined the landing circuit directly on the base and did first a normal landing, then a flapless landing. There was no less that 5 aircrafts in the circuit, so I was really busy keeping track of all the planes and when to turn behind what aircraft and who to follow. And due to the intense traffic we were not able to get clearance for a power-off landing.

Safely back in the briefing room, the examiner told me that he overall was very satisfied with the performance. There were some buts and whys, but in generally the performance was smooth and safe. E.g. he told me that I had joined the landing circuit in a too high altitude. Because of the ground elevation of 146 ft, the downwind altitude is 1150 ft, and I joined on base in 1150 ft. I should have joined lower, when joining directly on base. Also he had comments regarding my approach in Korsør which were too high.

All in all I passed. The examiner wrote my temporary pilot license and did all the paperwork, and of course congratulated me. What a relief.

First flight with fiends

Already on the Saturday I went with a couple of friends and had my first flight on my own with no instructors or anything … just me and my friends. What a wonderful feeling that was.

Martin and I on my first friends flight

I did however learn the importance of advising my passanger of any maneuvers like turns and configuration changes to prepare them on the aircraft movements, which are more severe that in large jets. I had almost forgotten how I felt my self when I started flying lessons myself back in February when I really felt uncomfortable when the instructor grabbed the controls and performed unexpected maneuvers.

Here is the video of my first flight with friends:

The long solo navigation flight

Finally the day came for the long solo navigation flight to Odense (EKOD) and Aarhus (EKAH). A total distance of 228 NM (422 km) and a total airborne time of 2h40m.

Route
Click
to see large map

It felt really good to fill the fuel tanks almost to the maximum knowing that I was going to burn almost all of it during this day (when not thinking of the cost of course).

The weather had been teasing me a bit, and originally the flight was planned for Wednesday but I had to postpone it to Friday because of bad weather. Even Friday there were a couple of weather concerns so I had actually made two flight plans; a safe one with minimum altitude to allow flying under low clouds and an optimal plan in case I was able to fly high. Fortunately the weather turned out fine. Near Vejle I did however pass some quite heavy comulus clouds with rain and turbulence, but the weather was moving slow, so on my way home I could go high in FL75 over the Kattegat sea home to Roskilde.

Flight plans:

For some reason I did not perform very well with the landings during this flight. Maybe because there was a thousand other things to think about. I discussed the landings with my instructor and I actually had extra training in cross wind landing and use of rudder. Not that I didn’t know how to do it, but to get the procedures into my bones.

Nevertheless this was a brilliant day – a great experience – that fulfilled all my expectations. I really hope and look forward to being able to fly cross country again when I am done with the school flights.

Enjoy the video. I hope you sense the great feeling of flying cross country.

Finally just a couple of pictures from the day:

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The long dual navigation flight

One of the best lessons in the entire lesson program is the long cross country dual navigation flight. The destinations are Billund Airport (EKBI) which is an international airport in mid Jutland. Second destination is Sønderborg (EKSB) which is a small airport that operates a view domestic routes and some general aviation. On the route from Billund to Sønderborg is the military air force base Skrydstrup which requires clearance for crossing of the airspace.

I grew up on a farm with my family not far from Billund and my parents still live there, so I planned a route going north of Billund to get a nice view of my home town before approaching Billund Airport.

Video from the flight with my instructor Ivan (in Danish):

The video starts where we are overflying my home town just north of Billund Airport. We did a 360 degree turn and started the approach to Billund Airport. Next we depart towards Sønderborg and get clearance to climb into the TMA (controlled airspace) because the air was quite turbulent in low altitude. Finally approaching Sønderborg in a quite strong cross wind – so because of my lack of cross wind training, my instructor had to help a bit with that one. The next day I actually went out and had 13 cross wind landings just to catch up on that one.

I had prepared the flight the day in advance and created 3 separate flight plans, and sent 3 separate ATS (ICAO) flight plans. As said the first one going a little bit north for a sightseeing at my home town, and the other two flights more or less direct.

Lang nav route
(Click on map to enlarge)

Flight plans:

During the flight there was time to focus on things that I really never had time to do during the short school flights previously – e.g. leaning the mixture correctly and play with the GPS. Also this was my first flight climbing to flight levels – more precisely FL65 on our way crossing Storebælt from Zealand to Fyn and Jutland.

One of my friends is working as a pilot for Primera Air in Billund Airport flying the Boeing 737, and unfortunately he was flying at the time I would land in Billund, but I got another surprise when I called the tower for the initial taxi clearance in Roskilde; “Cleared for taxi to run-up runway 11 via A and B, information X 1027 is correct, and then I have a greeting from Nikolas from Primera Air wishing you a nice flight.” So my friend obviously called the tower is Roskilde when passing during the morning on his way to Copenhagen in his B737.

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A brilliant day with a lot of things to learn and a lot of great impressions.

Short and soft field landings

A cold front had passed during the night with thunderstorms and heavy rain. Next morning on the backside of the front, the weather turned out beautifully. On the board for this school flight was short field landing on soft ground, so perfect conditions at Ringsted airfield (EKRS). After landing and take-off we returned to Roskilde Airport (EKRK).

Grass runways can be quite unreliable when wet. They can be soft and slippery. During landing it can be difficult to break the aircraft, so it is important to land the aircraft right at the treshold to have as much runway available for stopping.

When taking off it is advised to perform a rolling start (without stop on the runway) to avoid getting stuck in the soft ground. The aircraft is pulled in the air very early (so early that the stall horn will sound). The aircraft is kept in the ground effect (just a couple of feets over ground) to build up airspeed before starting the climb.

All in all a fun exercise and for the first time I was rather pleased with this (third) landing in Ringsted, so things are improving.

Emergency procedures

A lot of time is spend on training emergency procedures – and for a good reason. Following emergency procedures prevents incidents developing to accidents with risk of fatalities to follow. Most pilots will at some point during their career experience incidents that potentially can develop if not dealt with correctly. Far the most accidents are small incidents that escalates because they are either not dealt with or because they are overseen by the pilot.

The main emergency procedures trained for during the practical flying are:

  • Engine fire on ground, en-route and during landing
  • Engine stop (power off) during take-off, en-route and during landing
  • Stalls in different configurations (e.g. configured for landing during a turn)
  • Recovering from abnormal flight positions

Today we went out to train some of these procedures, and in the video below, you will experience how the emergencies are simulated in a controlled environment. Some of the exercises really makes ones stomach tickling because of the G-force.

Many recovering procedures involves quite violent application to one or multiple flight controls. It can be quite challenging to overcome ones own comfort zone to execute some of the procedures – e.g. pointing the nose straight down towards the ground in low altitude after an engine failure during take-off. Another aspect is the fact that the aircraft sometimes performs a bit unreliable during these abnormal configurations – e.g. during stalls where loosing lift one wing before the other causes the aircraft to bank very suddenly.

 

Solo outside the control zone

After a couple of solo flights (flying alone without pilot instructor) in the airport control zone and with the airport in sight, it was now time to leave the control zone to make some exercises and then find my way back to the airport.

On the agenda for this lesson was different maneuvering and basic navigation exercises. I had to use the VOR beacons for finding my way using the VOR radio in the aircraft. By entering the frequency of the VOR beacon on the VOR radio in the aircraft, a needle in the VOR instrument gives a left or right indication depending on how the directional selector (OBS) is set. This can be used to fly either direct inbound towards a VOR beacon or to intercept and follow a radial to or from the VOR beacon. Finally it can be used for finding the position of the aircraft by reading the radial of two different VOR stations and use the principle of triangulation to decide the position of the aircraft. All these three things I had to do today.
I think it was fairly easy but still complicated by the fact that attention should be shared between flying, looking for traffic and playing with the VOR radios and maps – that makes it easy to make mistakes. In the video you will see that it took me a little while to see that I had forgotten to enable the frequency of the second VOR beacon.

Now the practical flight training is half way done (15 lessons of 30) and now is actually the point where all the fun stuff begins; long navigation flights and getting more comfortable maneuvering the aircraft.

I am quite comfortable with take-off and landings as long as there is not too much cross wind.  I still have a feeling that every time I do a landing Circuit, there is something to improve almost every time still, but I have been told by mu instructors to be patient – it will improve further, and there is still lessons with plenty of chances to do some more landing circuits (especially cross wind).

First solo flight

Today it was time to go solo. For the last 4 lessons I have just been struggling with the landings … or to be more accurate: the flare. The difficult part about the flare is that you need to balance the aircraft over the ground and raise the nose without causing the aircraft to either “balloon” over the runway or smash into the runway too hard. It took me at least 50 landings to get it right. Today there was a 10-14 kt wind so it was also a good day for cross wind landing training. Usually you would always land with a headwind, but for training purpose we requested the tower to allow us some cross wind landings. That was fun and difficult, but actually it didn’t take me much more than a couple of attempts to get it right, so finally all my landing training has paid off in more than one aspect.

After the training, my instructor left the aircraft and I was free to do the first flight on my own. A very simple flight; take-off, one circuit and then land Again on the same runway. Airborne for approximately 7-8 minutes. The total block time including taxi and checklists was 25 minutes.

Finally I got my solo approval in my log book, so for the remaining lessons I can now on my own prepare the aircraft by refueling and parking on apron. This will save time for the instructor and I will get more flying for my Money.

Finally a selfie with my plane after a successful solo flight:

Selfie after first solo

Navigation flight training

The 9th lesson was the first navigation flight training, which is something I have been looking very much forward to do. Navigation is one of the core subjects in the practical flight training and this is were one get to combine theory and practice and make it all together reach another level.

The first navigation flight was a one hour flight around Zealand and back home to Roskilde. For the flight briefing I had to prepare a flight plan, weight and balance calculations and a full weather and NOTAM report (NOTAMs is signeficant airspace notifications/alerts which can be anything from airglider activity to temporary airspace restrictions or broken lights on tall masts).

It is no secret that I love Excel, so of course I have designed an Excel spreadsheet which calculates all the speeds, headings, times etc. Very convenient! The idea with the flight plan is to calculate the courses/headings for the entire flight taking the wind into account and calculate the speed and thereby the timings for expected arrival at all reporting points of the flight. When having a good and detailed flight plan, it is very much easier to just follow it and fly the aircraft.

During the briefing there was a couple of modifications required (had forgotten alternative airport information and I was wrong on the minimum altitudes). So here is the updated and correct flight plan with the handwritten times from the actual flight:

Flightplan 22-05-2015(Click to open PDF)

The instructor also had a couple of comments on my weight and balance calculations. These calculations ensures that the aircraft weight and balance is within limits and that I have enough runway for take-off and landing. Here is the updated weight and balance calculations:

VB 22-05-2015

(Click to open PDF)

 The flight was so much fun. There were some low hanging clouds this early morning, so we couldn’t go as heigh as planned – I completed the entire flight in 1200 feets, which is alright in the low terrain of Zealand. One of my friends had recorded the ATC from the internet from this flight – and you can listen to it here and hear me getting my clearences and reporting all the reporting points to the Copenhagen Traffic Information. I have cut it down and removed all other communication:

Download MP3 file

After landing at the debriefing I was of course excited to see how much I had actually deviated from my flight plan – both time wise and track wise. It could be better, but for a first timer I am actually quite happy with the result which you can see written in the ATO column in the flight plan and on this GPS map from my Garmin watch:

Navigation flight route 22-05-2014

You might notice the loop in the track north of Roskilde – that was basically because I was a little too late getting my check lists completed before entering the control zone of Roskilde Airport, so the instructor advised be to do a loop to get a bit of extra time.

 

First touch-and-go training

Touch-and-go training is an important part of the flight training as it trains all the procedures for take-off, climb, landing circuit, final approach and landing – the most critical phases of flights.

On the 4th lesson I was doing my first touch-and-goes – but not until we had been flying a bit south west for some airwork. Some of the airwork was rather basic but the time spand since my last training must have made me a bit rusty on the basics, so I was struggling a bit with it. The two touch-and-goes went alright, but after one hour of intense flying my brain was just exhausted and my field of focus just narrowed in and made the last landing a bit scary.

Check out the video of this training flight:

The flight was approximately one hour and we went west and then a bit south to get a bit more space for airwork under the Copenhagen TMA (Copenhagen Airport controlled airspace).

On the next couple of lessons there will be a lot of landing circuits so I will for sure become a lot better at it.

 

Pre-flight check of aircraft

Pre-flight check of aircraft is something that must be done prior to all flights. In the first lessons I was closely monitored by the instructor but later, I was expected to do the checks on my own and preferably prior to the lesson.

First of all I need to check that the aircraft is airworthy by checking when it was last flown and that there is no remarks the last flights. In the aircraft maintenance documents, I check that there is still available flying hours before the next service.

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In the cockpit I turn on the landing light, strobe and nav lights to check that they are all working. Full flaps is set for outside flaps inspection.

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On all flaps and ailerons on the wings I check that all bolts are in place and has not loosened or is damaged.

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Also the bolt holding the stabilizer on the back of the aircraft is essential and must be tight and undamaged. Loosing this bolt is something no pilots ever want to experience!

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Wing surface is checked for damages both on top and bottom. The stall warning mechanism is checked.

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Nav lights are undamaged.

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Fuel check on both left and right tank. In case of low fuel level, the aircraft must be refueled before flying. Fuel samples are taken from bottom of both tanks and from the fuel pump and checked for condensed water in the fuel tanks.

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The main landing gear cover is checked for cracks and damages, and the oleo-cylinder is checked for leaking oil.

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Behind the propeller the strop from the engine to the propeller should be tight.

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The oleo-cylinder of the nose landing gear can be checked by pulling down in the propeller. Also here the gear is checked for no cover cracks and no oil leaks.

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The engine is checked for leaks and signs of fire. Oil level is checked – minimum 4-5 quantities (out of 8).

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This is done from both sides and also it is checked that no animals (like birds) has taken rest in the engine.

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Brake fluid is checked.

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The stabilizer is checked for backlash and damages.

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The elevator trims are kept in place by these hinges so I check that these are in place.

 

If the aircraft passes all checks, it is ready to fly! If not it means a disappointing cancellation of the lesson.