I passed my commercial pilot’s license skills test, yesterday!
Since my circuits flight, we practiced some instrument flying in the Seneca and the last flight before the test was a CPL profile, which is very similar to the skills test itself, but done with my instructor.Â The purpose of that flight was to see if I was ready for the test and highlight any weaknesses so I could at least be aware of them or take some extra flights to polish off any rough areas.
I was quite nervous for the CPL skills test since it is the main license that issued – and the first one by the CAA.Â Also we take the test after around 18 simulator sessions and 12 hours in the Seneca.Â Most people feel that they won’t be ready in time, but things do click towards the end!Â I found the profile a good confidence booster and quite useful in highlighting weak areas just before the test.Â Before being put up on the board (names go on a white board in college operations, where an examiner will allocate himself to you), a multi-engine test has to be taken and a 170A form signed.Â Many questions on UK airspace and other aircraft technical questions are asked before the form is signed.Â Although I have flown in the UK, I still found the airspace there much more complex than Spain.Â So with the help of my instructor, we took a look at a UK VFR chart and went through an imaginary route and discussed the many aspects of the airspace the route would go through.Â I found it really helpful and things that I had learnt before did come flooding back to me.
I decided to do all the performance calculations the night before my test to save me time the next day.Â On the day, my examiner gave me a route and after planning it, I checked the notams, weather and filed a flight plan.Â It was a perfect day – no cloud and very little wind, much luckier than I had been with my previous tests with the weather!Â I then met the examiner in his office for a briefing, one hour before the flight.Â The examiner went through what was expected in the flight, checked my planning and gave me the opportunity to ask any questions.Â The flight was originally scheduled for 09:30 UTC, however the aircraft landed late, required the engineers attention for a few minutes to replace a valve on a tyre and needed to be refueled.Â This did make me a little nervous… but with my previous experience I had already prepared myself to deal with the unexpected!Â I delayed the flight by 30 minutes to allow time for all of this and let the examiner know. In the end, the flight commenced on the new time of 10:00 UTC and there were no further delays, so I just got on with it and tried my best to relax.
We started off with the navigation element of the test and routed out to the east.Â I checked in on the Seville ATIS to get an updated QNH setting and noted down the rest of the information so I knew early on what to expect when I got to Seville.Â I was then asked to divert to a town north-west of Seville, the diversion leg being almost as long as my planned route.Â This is where I had to prioritise tasks and ensure the flight was commercially expiditious.Â So, as soon as the examiner told me where he wanted me to divert to, I worked out the heading and altitude and set the aircraft to head in the right direction as soon as possible.Â Since the diversion headed in a north-westerly direction, I had to be on even altitudes (semi-circular VFR rule for Spain), so descended to 4500 feet.Â I chose to descend since I noticed the air was not turbulent as I was climbing through it earlier and that I would be descending to a 1000 feet after my diversion when inbound to Seville anyway.Â Since we were in Class D airspace, I let the controller know of my intentions before proceeding with the diversion.Â Once I was established on the diversion, I worked out the time it would take me on the diversion and any check-points I could use.Â On the whole, I felt the navigation went well, and soon I was tracking towards LEZL, inbound to do circuits.
At Seville, we did a normal and flapless circuit followed by an engine failure after take off, an asymmetric (i.e on one engine) circuit for a low-approach go around and an asymmetric circuit to land. We ended up holding for quite a while due to the many commercial departures and traffic inbound as well.Â Once we were done with the circuits, I was asked to demonstrate use of the autopilot, so I engaged it in heading and altitude hold modes and then put the screens up to simulate IMC conditions for the next section of the test.Â In that section, I was asked to fly solely with reference to instruments – flying straight and level, climbing/descending, turning, etc.Â We also did some limited panel work, where failure of the attitude indicator, HSI and RMI were simulated by covering them up.Â This involved compass turns, flying straight and level and climbing/descending again, but with recovery from unusual attitudes as well.Â The rest of the airwork involved steep turns, stall recovery, radio-aids fixing and recovery from a spiral dive.
As the test went on I was more and more fatigued and unfortunately got a bit more nervous as well!Â I was delighted to hear, from the examiner, that I had passed the skills test!Â There’s plenty of work to do yet, the next test is the instrument rating..!Â I’ve decided to give myself a day off and then start practicing my instrument procedures tomorrow, on RANT (a computer-aid) and flight simulator.