Commercial Written Update

Still taking daily practice tests and got my first 90+ score today which was most excellent! If I can get a few more over 90 then I will schedule the real thing. Right now my likely score is anywhere between 80 and 95 depending on the mix of questions. For instance, the following subjects just will not get square in my head:

  1. anything to do with an RMI
  2. anything to do with postive/negative static/dynamic stability
  3. the jet stream and where it is and what its doing

and those aren’t the only ones. A score in the mid-80s would be nothing to be ashamed of but I’ll give it another week or two of training to see if I can’t nudge that up.

Checkride stories are always good to read and, although brief, Mike’s description of his Commercial checkride is no exception. Go check it out.

C182 Pilot Lands 757!

Well, not quite but he did help…. Stephen Brown of Albuquerque volunteered to help with cockpit duties after the captain of a Continental 757 collapsed at the yoke. The first officer took over the plane but the Cessna 182 pilot did radios and other tasks that allowed the FO to concentrate on landing the plane. See some articles here and here.

Sounds like quite the adventure, glad it all worked out well but too bad the Cessna driver doesn’t get to log any 757 time in his book.

COM Night Cross-Country MYFCMA

Last night saw the completion of all my COM rating pre-requisites (except the written test) with a night dual flight to Camarillo, a little north north west of LA.

It started off worryingly by finding that the DG had been sqawked inop a couple of days ago but my instructor had flown it earlier in the day and said it was fine. Everything else in the Archer looked good so we strapped ourselves in and got underway. This was my first time flying this particular Archer but it felt just like the other one I have flown. One cool thing about this Archer is that it has an HSI and I had never flown with one of those before.

After making our turn towards Oceanside I gave up fighting the electric trim which just did not seem to be working and used the manual wheel between the seats. Its a little too far back for my taste, especially with a passenger in the right seat; good job we are friends is all I can say. I hadn’t used the autopilot before but figured I’d make this trip as easy as possible, switched it on, coupled it to the heading bug on the HSI and let it do all the work. The air was quite smooth and once trimmed the plane pretty much kept to my desired altitude.

We had asked for the Shoreline Route through the LAX Class Bravo which can be hard to get but the alternative was the Hollywood Route at a further 2000 feet up. At Seal Beach VOR we were cleared through the Bravo via the shoreline route but were quickly given direct LAX, an outbound heading and a descent. Halfway to LAX we were given direct Santa Monica and a further descent. I hadn’t been prepared to use SMO and had to look it up on the chart – head down on a chart 4500 feet above LAX is not something I enjoy. Once past the Class B I headed direct to Camarillo VOR and landed straight-in 26.

On the ground we asked the tower for the Hawthorne Radio frequency to close our flight plan and the guy said he would close it for us. As we taxied back to the runway he asked if we’d like him to open our return flight plan once off the ground – what a great controller! We did a brief runup at the runup area and I used the opportunity to retrieve three pens that had rolled on to the floor during the flight. Then we were off again, left downwind departure back towards Van Nuys VOR for the Shoreline route back south.

When Pt Mugu approach handed us to the first SoCal controller the frequency was crazy busy, it seemed like forever before I could get on the frequency. Our route had us heading east until we picked up the 323 radial from LAX but we couldn’t do that until we had a clearance. I waited and waited and waited…. then we got a quick turn to the south east, and then another. My instructor was watching his GPS anxiously as we headed for the Class B above the floor at that location. Every time the controller started with “Cherokee …” but with some other tail number he’d fidget nervously. We slowed to 90 knots to give us more time and got ready to descend. About 2 miles from the boundary we were turned back to the north east. After a little while the controller apologized for all the turns and said that if we still knew where we were what did we want to do. I said we’d like the Shoreline Route and he gave us a turn and a direct LAX, own navigation thereafter.

The sight of all the planes lined up for LAX was quite a sight, lots of twinkling stars in the sky to the east. After LAX we were cleared all the way to Montgomery Field own navigation and any altitude. The headwinds had been stronger than forecast so once we were past Oceanside VOR we descended fast to try to make up some time. The tower had already closed so I had the odd pleasure of making position calls on the tower frequency. I had tuned the HSI to the ILS as I was curious to see it in operation but a little too much looking at it from downwind to base left me quite high on final. We landed long on the runway and had to use the last taxiway but it was never in doubt (at least in my mind!). We taxied back to parking, put the plane to bed and arranged a sim session for next month in the club’s Frasca. I’ll renew my holds currency and I want to do some DME arcs, partial panel etc.

Busiest US Airports of 2006

According to the FAA, the busiest airports in the US for 2006 were:

Rank Operations Airport
1 976313 Atlanta
2 958643 Chicago O’Hare
3 702713 Dallas-Fort Worth
4 656842 Los Angeles
5 619474 Las Vegas
6 609522 Denver
7 603246 Houston Intercontinental
8 546510 Phoenix
9 515868 Philadelphia
10 510918 Charlotte
20 394915 Van Nuys
24 362796 Santa Ana
42 278388 San Diego-Gillespie Field

It is interesting to see that Gillespie Field is busier than Montgomery Field, busier even than Lindbergh Field (by about 4800 ops!). But I suppose I can say that I have flown in and out of 3 of the 50 busiest airports in the US.

FAA Knowledge Tests Rant

I doubt I will find any dissenting opinions but I wonder just what is the point of the knowledge test. I understand that is supposed to test one’s knowledge of some aspect of what it takes to get a rating and I would be fine with that if it wasn’t for the way the questions are posed. More often than not the question is written with the aim of tricking you, rather than testing. Having to choose between NM and SM (I can never remember which one is used for what) might be a good question academically but when I’m in the air I doubt there are many who can tell if they have a 3 mile SM or NM view from the cockpit.

When I took my Commercial written 3 years ago I got a 92. I haven’t picked up the books yet but my practice tests with both Sporty’s and Gleim (my Gleim must be out of date as it has no ILS questions) are getting a steady low 80 score, so still plenty of work to do. Mostly I am missing weather questions, and HSI/RMI questions with a random mistakes elsewhere. Once I am consistently scoring in the 90s I’ll schedule an exam.

Watching the Clouds…

The weather has been coming in all day, will probably rain later tonight. Its rare one gets any real instrument conditions here in SoCal so I’ve been watching the METARS to see if I can sneak a short IFR flight in actual clouds. For a while it was 1500 overcast which gave me hope that conditions would be right later this evening – I am looking for around 800 overcast – but now the cloud cover is 2100 which is absolutely no good. I’ll keep watching just in case.

[Update:] Clouds lifted to 3400 overcast so I stayed inside instead.

Commercial Pilot Pre-Reqs

Messing with some $$$ figures this weekend, the possibility of completing my Commercial came up so I thought I would check on what I still need to do (other than the not insignificant task of being up to PTS standards!).

  • 250 hours of flight time… done
  • 10 hours of instrument training… done
  • 10 hours of complex training… done
  • day VFR dual flight… done
  • night VFR dual flight… to do
  • solo day VFR flight… done
  • 5 hours solo night VFR… done (9.1 hrs)
  • 10 night takeoffs and landings at a controlled field… done (19)
  • written exam… done, but expired

If I can get my CFI to do the night flight in the next few weeks, I might schedule a weekend course with Sheble Aviation in the summer and try to do it that way. I know a few people who have done many ratings with them and I hear nothing but good things about them.

On a final note, you may have noticed a change in how the blog looks. I’ve added some personal images to the header and will be changing the sidebar over this week. I really hated that dreary grey I had before.

Happy New Year!

Ok, its 2007, time for this year’s new year’s flying resolutions, presented roughly in order of likely completion:

  • Stay PIC, night and instrument current all the time (night can lapse for the summer)
  • Shoot some flying videos (already got the equipment for that)
  • Fly once a month, even if just pattern work
  • Take up more (cost-sharing) passengers
  • Make some cool GPS tracks a la Jason (AnywhereMap is the best flight map but no native trip log available, sigh)
  • Make a long cross country at least one state away, UT or CO preferred, (Northern CA would suffice)
  • Get a new rating, seaplane, commercial or MEL
  • Buy a plane (lol)

A very happy and safe new year to you all.