Category: Flight Training Europe

Malaga IFR Landaway

I flew to Malaga for a second time, this time in the Seneca… so we were there in only an hour!

Lined up on runway 20 at Jerez, ready for departure:

I chose the Martin Two Kilo departure, since it routed us directly to the initial approach fix for runway 13, which was most likely in use and also gave better terrain clearance compared to the departure that took us to the Malaga VOR.  We climbed enroute at the best rate of climb, which gave us the performance to satisfy the minimum gradient requirements to clear terrain.

Once out of Jerez and settled in cruise, I listened to the Malaga ATIS and noted down the details.  As expected, runway 13 was in use and the weather was well above minimum requirements, so things were looking good.  Soon we were handed off to Malaga approach, from Seville approach.  There was a lot of traffic coming in, so they asked us to maintain altitude flight level 90 (9000 feet on 1013mb altimeter setting) and then vectored us around to fit us into the stream of traffic coming into Malaga to land.  We were eventually given a final vector of heading south and were given clearance to descend and complete the ILS approach, and we were 30 miles from the runway threshold.  Since approach asked us to maintain as high speed as possible, I kept my indicated speed up at 150 knots to fit in with the other traffic – the highest speed I’ve done an ILS at, yet!  Then 5 miles from the threshold, I began slowing down, deploying the flaps under the limiting speeds and the gear, eventually I settled at 100 knots a few miles from the threshold and reached the reference threshold speed just as I crossed over and then touched down.  We exited at one of the high speed taxiways and were then asked to contact the ground frequency, who gave us clearance to taxi, to park.

We had lunch and then it was my flying partner’s turn to fly us back, and my turn to relax and observe in the back seat.  The view, as expected, was amazing:

My flying partner’s approach plates – he was following a standard instrument departure out of Malaga:

CPL Bars

We got our CPL bars about a week ago.. and now finally used to having them on!  After 13 months of intensive training, Course 68 are now Commercial Pilots.  I eventually got around to taking a couple of photos with my new bars by the Seneca.. so here they are!

We’re all now working towards the instrument rating and the skills tests for our course will commence next week..!  The IFR flights and simulator sessions have been challenging.  There are 18 simulator sessions and 9 flights before the skills test.  I found the first two sessions a little difficult to get into since we hadn’t done any instrument flying for a while, since the CPL is all VFR apart from the instrument air-work.  So after a couple of sessions, things flowed a bit more smoothly.  I find that IFR flying is much more about getting organised and prioritising tasks to free up capacity in the air so that the high workload during approaches can be handled well.  In addition, I find that I’m having to do far more preparation than I ever had to do for any of my VFR flights!  I fly the route in my head and try to think of things ATC may throw at me and how I could handle it.  I find that this really lends me more capacity in the air, as a lot of the thinking has been done on the ground and I can set the aircraft up and its avionics effectively.  IFR is certainly a challenge, but I am really enjoying it.  The only misfortune is that I cannot enjoy the beautiful views as I would do when VFR!

I’ve been really busy since the past week… I hope all this hard work will pay off with a first time Instrument Rating pass!

CPL Skills Test Passed!

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.  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.  Also we take the test after around 18 simulator sessions and 12 hours in the Seneca.  Most people feel that they won’t be ready in time, but things do click towards the end!  I found the profile a good confidence booster and quite useful in highlighting weak areas just before the test.  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.  Many questions on UK airspace and other aircraft technical questions are asked before the form is signed.  Although I have flown in the UK, I still found the airspace there much more complex than Spain.  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.  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.  On the day, my examiner gave me a route and after planning it, I checked the notams, weather and filed a flight plan.  It was a perfect day – no cloud and very little wind, much luckier than I had been with my previous tests with the weather!  I then met the examiner in his office for a briefing, one hour before the flight.  The examiner went through what was expected in the flight, checked my planning and gave me the opportunity to ask any questions.  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.  This did make me a little nervous… but with my previous experience I had already prepared myself to deal with the unexpected!  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.  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.  I was then asked to divert to a town north-west of Seville, the diversion leg being almost as long as my planned route.  This is where I had to prioritise tasks and ensure the flight was commercially expiditious.  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.  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.  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.  Since we were in Class D airspace, I let the controller know of my intentions before proceeding with the diversion.  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.  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.  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.  In that section, I was asked to fly solely with reference to instruments – flying straight and level, climbing/descending, turning, etc.  We also did some limited panel work, where failure of the attitude indicator, HSI and RMI were simulated by covering them up.  This involved compass turns, flying straight and level and climbing/descending again, but with recovery from unusual attitudes as well.  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!  I was delighted to hear, from the examiner, that I had passed the skills test!  There’s plenty of work to do yet, the next test is the instrument rating..!  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.

Seneca Circuits

Did my first circuits flight in the Seneca in 40C today, despite it being reported as 36C!  I’m happy (and relieved) to say that my landings have transformed from controlled crashes to smoother landings that leave the gear in a happier mood!  Once I was up in the air, the temperature didn’t bother me too much, as I was too busy to think about it!  We started off with two normal touch and gos, then a flap-less and then an asymmetric (i.e. on one engine only) go-around followed by an asymmetric landing.  I’ve now got 4 more flights before my CPL skills test!

Seneca – Twin Engine Flying

My flight to Faro was my last on the single engine aircraft.  All my flights now involve dual instruction on the multi-engine Seneca with another instructor.  I remember taking a look at the study guide, checklist and syllabus a couple of weeks ago before I started on the Seneca and felt so overwhelmed with all the new speeds, checks, procedures and power settings that I had to memorise and learn!  The warrior, in comparison, seems so simple and basic – there’s only one engine to worry about, no propeller levers and relatively less instruments to look at.  I began preparing myself by first taking a quick look through the checklist to get an idea of the figures and checks I’m going to be working with and then delved into the multi-engine study guide which supported the computer-based training presentations I had been going through.  What I found really helpful was to just sit in a Seneca cockpit on the ground and go through the checks on my own.  This really helped me learn some of the checks that required to be memorised and also allowed me to familiarise myself with the cockpit, which gave me a nice start for my first few simulator sessions.

The first simulator session was just a familiarisation, which necessitated going through the checklist and doing the checks, from start up to landing, which incorporated one circuit.  The next two simulator sessions involved a bit more flying – steep turns, stall recovery, climbing/descending, etc.  After 3 simulator sessions, I had my first flight in the Seneca!  The first thing I noticed when sitting inside the Seneca was how much more roomy it is compared to the warrior, which means I have more space to organise and place items such as my kneeboard or map, and it’s generally more comfortable.  By now all the speeds and power settings were sinking in, so things didn’t seem as scary as when I first opened my Seneca manuals!  Unlike the Warrior, I could feel the acceleration as I was speeding down the runway for take-off, in the Seneca!

Once in the air, I could immediately see how different this aircraft felt – the controls were much heavier, things moved at a much faster pace due to the aircraft speed and the aircraft itself is much more stable than the warrior, which makes it nicer to fly.  The increased inertia of the Seneca was also demonstrated, as it took much longer to slow down and took a while longer for speeds to settle than the Warrior.   Turbulence that would throw the warrior around won’t have its way as easily with the Seneca! There are many more things going on, but since the aircraft is more stable, it gives me the capacity to handle the more complex systems.  The Seneca rotates at 79kt, and the warrior at 55kt, and the initial take-off climb is at 100kt, and we usually climb at 80kt in the warrior.  Whilst the warrior cruises at around 105kt, the Seneca cruises at 150kt, so the speed is immediately apparent and as a result everything happens at a faster pace.  However, I’ve found the Seneca much more pleasant to fly – it’s easier to trim and once trimmed it will stay.. and I love the electric trim button on the yoke, leaves one hand free for multi-tasking!

I’ve now had 4 flights in the Seneca and 5 simulator sessions.  The last two flights dealt with asymmetric flying – so engine failures, shut-downs, restarts, etc.   These were practiced in the simulator first and then in flight. One of the flights involved a full engine shut-down, which is a requirement for the multi-engine rating.  It was slightly unsettling to see one of the engines dead!  However, the Seneca was able to fly, albeit, at lower performance, on a single engine.   On a single engine, the Seneca cruises at around 120kt and can climb at around 200 – 300 feet per minute.  So having only one engine is a huge performance hit, as it can climb at over a 1000 feet per minute and cruise at 150kt with both engines.  Nonetheless, a forced landing is not required, as would be with a single engine aircraft upon complete engine failure!

My next flight is a one hour circuit session, giving me the chance to practice and perfect my landings in various configurations – normal, flapless and asymmetric.  I’m finding the Seneca much more difficult to land than the Warrior at the moment, and can see that it’s quite nose-heavy… so this lesson will be a great opportunity to polish that off!  Unfortunately I didn’t get to fly today due to ATC not allowing circuits and the temperature being too hot to fly – it was 37C!

Faro – Night Landaway

After checking the notams, weather, and getting the relevant information from the AIP, I started planning my route.  This was an instrument flight to Faro, followed by a visual dual instruction flight of circuits and a solo flight doing circuits at night.  My route started out by heading North, climbing to at least 6000 feet before I turned west, since there was a restricted area to clear below us.  Once heading West, I headed directly to a reporting point and joined an airway, coming off it at another reporting point.  From there, we were vectored and given descent instructions for a VOR approach to runway 28.  The flight was a pleasant, smooth one with beautiful views!

South-west coast of Spain – heading towards Portugal:

Over the Atlantic and some cloud (land on the other side)!

Once we arrived in Faro, we had around half an hour to stretch our legs, waiting for the sun to set, before we could start with circuits.

Me taxying to the Apron:

Parked up, waiting for the sun to go down and re-fueling in the meantime:

Portugese, not surprisingly, has some similarities to Spanish, airport terminal:

Once the sun set, we went up for a dual flight for about 40 minutes and then I went up on my own to do some night circuits to practice my night landings.

Quick shot of the runway at night whilst I was waiting for clearance:

Everything looks so pretty at night!  However, it’s quite difficult to judge when to flare above the runway at night.  You can suffer from the “black hole” effect, where you feel higher than you actually are and end up flaring late or not at all, or if you don’t have the correct picture in mind for the flare when using the runway lights as a reference, you can flare too early.  For me, the problem was the black hole effect, so as you can imagine, the first landing wasn’t so smooth!  However, I managed to adapt from the first one and the rest of them were much more easier on the landing gear!  It’s even more important to look towards the end of the runway to judge when to flare, at night and it’s much easier to look in the immediate vicinity since the landing light attracts your eyes.

Once we were done flying for the day, we passed through security, took a taxi to the hotel, quickly freshened up and then walked to an indian restaurant for a curry.  I was really tired by then, so despite being hungry, my appetite wasn’t great, nonetheless, I still enjoyed the food!  And everything is paid for by the school!

The next morning, we flew back to Jerez, and this was my last flight in the PA28 warrior, and with my single engine instructor, and so I thought going to Faro was a nice way to finish off my SEP flying.  On our way back I managed to catch a photo of the FIR and international boundary between Spain and Portugal – the river.

PT 2 Passed!

Passed my progress test 2.. which concludes my single engine flying – for the most part! I just have a night flight to Faro left now, which has been delayed and pushed back a few times due to various reasons.  PT2 is different from PT1 in the sense that it is treated as a commercial flight and that must be kept in mind during planning, pre-flight and the flight itself.  For example, a passenger brief must be given, the flight must be expeditious and on time, passenger comfort must be thought of – so no steep turns during the navigation leg!

The navigation route took me to a town just north east of Seville, however I was diverted from a check-point just before the end of the route to a town called Algondales. We passed directly over Moron airbase at 7500 feet, which made a fantastic check-point, and then reached the town, which is just behind a peak, which makes it difficult to see till you get there. Once the navigation part of the test was done, we did some general handling, just east of Jerez. This involved more instrument flying than PT1 – such as limited panel flying and unusual attitudes. Limited panel flying being when the attitude indicator, RMI and the directional gyro being covered, which simulates a suction failure and failure of the main references for heading/direction.

I’m looking forward to flying the Seneca – we got the notes a while ago and noticed how many more checks, speeds and power settings and flap combinations we’re expected to remember and use as appropriately, compared to the warrior! I’ve also heard from other students that it’s much nicer to fly and more stable than the warrior. I’ve got a few days off now between my first Seneca sim, so I’ll be memorising the checks and reading the POH! CPL inbound now!

CPL Cross Country Qualifying Flight!

This is the flight where you fly 300 miles between 3 airports.  I set off from Jerez to Granada, to Sevilla, and then back to Jerez.  This was one of the most enjoyable flights I had done!  The weather was perfect, started out with no cloud and great visibility, and hardly any wind, which made things much easier.

I set off from Jerez and navigated to the north-east, avoiding the mountain range and then south east.  On my way, I passed the Moron military base and turned south east just before Cordoba, which was clearly visible in the distance.

Moron – the runway is clearly visible:

Just west of Granada:

It took about an hour and 20 minutes to get to Granada, which is pretty fast!  It took us just over 3 hours to drive there by car when I went there with my family!  ATC were great – initially I was in contact with Seville, then with Malaga Approach, who then handed me over to Granada Tower once I was cleared to the visual reporting point – town just north of the airport.  More photos as I was closing in on Granada airport:

As you can see the views were breath-taking!  Unfortunately, as much as I would have liked to, I didn’t take many more photos, as my workload in the cockpit soon got too high to safely take even quick snaps as I was doing.

I was soon cleared to proceed to join the circuit pattern, and since I requested “direct base”, I was given clearance to go directly to the base leg and then onto final to land.  One thing that I had to keep in mind was that the elevation of Granada was quite high compared to Jerez, so to maintain 1000 feet clearance above ground level, I had to be at 2860 feet above sea level (which was indicated on my altimeter).  I landed with 45 minutes to spare, so I reported to the AIS office to gain a security pass and check the latest weather at Sevilla and enroute.  After lunch, I made my way back to the aircraft, eager to depart before the two commercials, so I didn’t have to wait around for them.  They were still boarding, so I had plenty of time.

Since there was no wind, I was given the choice of direction for take off, I chose to take off in a westerly direction – runway 27, since that was the direction my route was taking me.  I hit a bit of turbulence on the way up, but soon reached smoother air at 6500 feet, and away from the mountains.  As I got nearer to Sevilla, I could see cloud had began to form just below me, I was still 1000 feet clear, but decided it was best to be 1000 feet below it, in case it built up.  So I decended to 4500 feet, into a more turbulent layer of air.  This didn’t bother me since I was close to my destination and would soon be descending anyway.  Once I was in Sevilla, I refueled and started up again to depart.  I managed to take a quick snap of the runway whilst I was waiting to avoid wake turbulence.

Refueling the PA28:

Lined up on runway 27:

The trip back to Jerez seemed very short compared to the large legs I had done to go to Granada and Sevilla.  At the end of the trip, as expected, I was quite tired, but it was a very successful cross country flight!

Flat Tyre & Radio

Unfortunately I found a flat tyre this morning, which I changed and then drove the car to the garage to get the tyre fixed – they replaced it and at the same time I got a radio installed. It took quite a while, so I ended up taking a long walk to pass the time, since it was a nice day. The whole thing took more or less half of the day, and then I went to Hipercore to get the car cleaned.

I’ve got my Progress Test 2 profile tomorrow and then a night flight. I had to cut my navigation exercise short since there was a lot of cloud where I was going, and flying below it would mean I’d be below my minimum planned altitude. We have to stay clear of cloud by a 1000ft and 1500m horizontally when flying VFR.

Car’s back!

Finally got my car back after 2 weeks! I really missed it. There are so many times I use my car to get out of having toast because I missed dinner due to my flying schedule or whenever I don’t feel like having canteen food. I went into Jerez on the bus today, just to take a walk in the city – something I’ve not done often whilst I’ve been here. The weather’s not been great today, however I’m not too bothered, as it’s my day off from flying. I am hoping for good weather tomorrow though, since I have a solo VFR navigation exercise and then I’ll be doing my CPL qualifying cross-country flight. This usually goes from Jerez to Granada to Seville and then back to Jerez.