Friday, October 10, 2014

Do you even fly?

It has been a strange year.  As of this writing, I have less than 70 hours in the log book for the year.  This is pitiful.

Most recently, I was scheduled to fly from DuPage/Chicago (KDPA) to Burke Lakefront (KBKL) in Cleveland for my sister's wedding.  Depending on timing, I was planning to use one direction of this trip to satisfy the long cross-country requirement for the commercial certificate.  This requires the pilot to be the sole occupant of the aircraft, for there to be at least three points of landing, and the straight-line distance between two of those points has to be at least 250 nautical miles.  I have a number of flights where I am missing just one of these requirements, including this one where the straight line distance between KPWK and KISZ was 239 nm (GRRR). In this case, though I was planning to just jog south and then to destination. 

Well, except for the weather.  Since I had been watching the forecasts all week, it was no great shock to me on Friday morning that I was going to be driving.  DuPage was IFR and raining, but flyable.  Burke was forecast to have winds 20 gusting 35 from 70 degrees off the runway.  In case that was not enough, a very long and wicked line of thunderstorms and other convective nastiness was strung from Kentucky to Canada.  I flew the Sonata instead.

You mentioned Commercial?

Yes, yes I did. 
Always more to learn...
If you've used Gleim, you know that you'll be doing a lot of reading.  I finished the ground school months ago, and passed the written exam with a 95%.  Acceptable, but the perfectionist in me is not satisfied.  Chris over at Photographic Logbook totally understands, I'm sure.  

On to the flying.  This is coming along, and though surprisingly weather has not been a factor in my training, life and travel have.  Between work, travel in the summer with the family, and my instructor off to OSH, this has gone more slowly than I would have liked.  I have done all of the maneuvers, and it's now just about tightening to PTS.  Oh, and there are a few cross countries that have to be wrapped up.  And, I think one more solo night landing at a controlled airfield.  That last part just floors me... what difference does it make, anyway?  I think it's harder at uncontrolled fields to be honest.  

I did have a mock check ride, and the oral was actually relatively strong.  A few areas for me to work on include better understanding of the controllable pitch propeller, better presentation of information overall, and high altitude operations (beyond the Ox regulations).  Flying?  Well, it was ok.  Actually, it was about what I expected.  The navigation portion was actually pretty good, but some maneuvers - maneuvers that I had not performed for awhile - were not really there.

The owner of the school where I'm training really questioned me about why I'd transition to and fly the 182-RG that they have on the line when I have access to a perfectly good Piper Arrow (in which I have just shy of 100 hours in type).  Apparently the retractable Skylane is a PITA to land, and even the very experienced chief pilot informed me that it took him a solid 50 hours before he felt comfortable landing it.  Hmmm... and I need to be down in 100-200 feet of the agreed touchdown spot?  So, I took our club's Arrow to a nearby uncontrolled field and performed all the performance take offs and landings and 180 degree power off, and I'd say that it all seemed to be within PTS or darn close.  I guess when I said that I could get in the Arrow that day and be pretty close I was not really blowing smoke.  I think a few more hours of practice with these maneuvers will be sufficient. 

Have I mentioned that Skip at Skill Aviation is a very honest guy, and if you're in the Chicago area and considering training then you should talk with him.  He has been quite generous to me with his time and knowledge.  It says something when a person makes a recommendation clearly not in line with his financial interests.  

So, what's left?

- Tighten up all maneuvers
- Day VFR XC with instructor on board (at least 100 miles between two landing points)
- Night VFR XC with instructor on board (at least 100 miles between two landing points)
- Long solo XC as detailed above.  Sigh.  Would have been nice to knock that out last weekend.  
- 1 more solo night landing at a controlled field.  
- Study for the oral.  

I hope to have this wrapped up by the end of the year, but we will see.  It's not like I'm up against it for a BFR or anything or that a job depends on it.  


  1. Good for you on moving up to the next rating! And, yes, I completely get what you're saying about the 95%...

    I have contemplated going for the commercial a number of times for a variety of reasons, but do not see this as enabling of the sort of flying I do as the IFR has been. And the other hurdle, as trivial as this may sound, is the notion of needing to rent a complex airplane when I already own an airplane. That kind of bugs me. Maybe if the Williamson Flying Club ever decides to invest in a complex aircraft, I would have discounted access to one...

    Good luck! It sounds to me like you're much of the way there. At the rate we're each going, you'll be getting an ATP and I'll still be fuming about having to rent a complex aircraft. ;-)

  2. Hi, Chris - yeah, I figured you'd get it.

    You can do everything for the commercial certificate in your airplane except soft- and short-field take offs and landings, 180 degree power off accuracy landings, and demonstrating that you know how the emergency gear extension works. So, it's not quite as bad. But if you can find an Arrow, your transition would likely be fairly easy. I go between our club's Archer and Arrow with little difficulty - just some V-speed differences (about 10 KIAS higher in the Arrow). The positive thing about Cherokees is that they all handle very similarly.

    ATP? Maybe for single engine because the standards have not changed. For MEL, one has to do all of that extra Level 3 simulator stuff. EXPENSIVE! And unless one wishes to go to the airlines, pointless.

    1. I was kinda pulling your chain on the ATP... :-)

    2. I know... but hey, it doesn't look THAT hard. The maneuvers seem pretty straight forward, actually. It's just time and energy.. and money. And money. And time. Maybe one "PhD" is enough.

  3. Hey, I think you can safely add me to the "annoyed with a 95%" list, too! And don't fret too much about the hours - I'm sitting at a whopping 21.2 on the year myself.

    Not sure if we're currently in the same neighborhood - I'm a couple miles from 06C right now.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Well, at least I'm not alone!

      Yes, you are pretty close. Schaumburg is not far from my office, and I live in the northern suburbs. When are you leaving - Pilot Pete's has some decent fare.

    2. Unfortunately, I've been tied up in standards meetings through today. I'm at a customer site in the morning then I have to drive back home. I'll try and remember to give you a heads-up prior to my next trip this way, though!