Wednesday, 28 July 2010

CPL training, part 1

Having completed the necessary ground exams years ago for the issue of my IR, I did the extra few that are required for a Commercial Pilot's License.  These exams expire after 3 years and that time is coming next spring.  In case I ever want to use it, I might as well get myself a CPL so with the arrangement made, today was the day for the first lesson.  As an IR holder, I must complete 15 hours of instruction before I am able to take the flight test.  I also need to get a class 1 medical.

On arrival at the airport, I sat down with my instructor for a lengthy pre-flight briefing about what we were going to be doing.  As this would be the first of the general handling session, it was all relatively straightforward stuff with the main focus on stalling and flying circuits.  Some people are very apprehensive about stalling but there's no need to be so.  Provided you know what's going on, there's nothing to be afraid of, and recovery from a stall is a simple affair.  No matter what the configuration of the aeroplane on entering the stall (gear up or down, flaps deployed or retracted) a forward motion on the controls and application of more power will always see you come out of the stall.

Since qualifying and during my PPL training, I have not kept count of the number of circuits I've flown but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was more than 1,000.  I would hope that anyone undertaking a CPL course is capable of flying a circuit to a reasonable standard!  The whiteboard session was to ensure I had been doing things right and making the correct radio calls, etc.  I had been, and I'm sure my instructor would have pulled me up on this during my IR training or type conversionif there had been any issues!

With the briefing complete we conducted a normal VFR Chester departure from Liverpool's airspace.  Flying circuits at a big place like Liverpool can be a waste for a couple of reasons.  The runway is very long, making the circuits take longer, and you can easily be interrupted by IFR traffic (Easyjets and Ryanairs) causing you plenty of delays.  With that knowledge, we chose somewhere else to fly to.  Manchester Woodford was the original choice, but they are currently reinstalling or repairing their runway lighting so unusable from our perspective.  The next choice was Tatenhill (EGBM) , not too far away, very friendly and conveniently my instructor wanted to have a word with their engineer about another aircraft!

On the way, we were going to do some stalling exercises.  For this, we needed some height, above the level of the cloudbase.  There were plenty of gaps in the clouds around so we climbed up into them to take advantage, completing fully developed clean stalls and incipient stalls in the approach and landing configurations.  All things I'd done before and no problems encountered at all.  Next, further en route to Tatenhill, we took on some steep turns.  60 degrees angle of bank, one to the right then one to the left, remembering to increase power slightly as the angle steepens.  Again, nothing much to report and that item ticked off the list.

After making a standard overhead join it was time to complete a few circuits.  There's a small noise abatement kink that cuts the corner of the turn from base to final, and a ruling to go outside a garden centre that's in the perfect place to turn from downwind onto base.  The first landing was a normal approach, flaps at appropriate places, engine power available to be used etc.  Following a touch and go, the second was the same again only with a better landing.  The third circuit was completed without the use of flaps, so we maintained 95kts all the way down final approach.  Another touch and go and the fourth circuit would be a glide approach to land.  I was asked to say when I thought we would make the runway without engine power and said so a short way into a tight base leg.  The throttle was pulled back and that was it, no more power to help!  I had perhaps chosen to begin the glide a little early and for a while it didn't look like we would make the runway, but leaving the flaps and gear until fairly late had us landing easily onto the runway and a very smooth landing prompted my instructor to call me a show off.  I'll take that compliment!

After a quick visit to the engineer's offices and to pay the landing fee, we set off back to Liverpool.   No right turn out on commercial operations with a left hand circuit, even if I wouldn't have done that anyway!  We simply flew out of the 2 mile ATZ in a straight line before making the right hand turn towards Liverpool.

The fun on this leg began with varying the speed we were flying at.  First up we would fly slower than the normal cruise of 140kts. Initially this was 100kts, then back to 80kts, then trying for 70 but the stall warner was blaring somewhere between 70 and 75.  After pootling along a lot slower than the Commander is designed for and keeping everything in balance we moved on to flying at high speed.  After climbing suitably, we entered a steepish descent with cruise power still applied.  The idea was to increase the airspeed to Vne (never exceed velocity) which in this case is 187kts.  It took quite a steep dive to get there but we did, and with the controls feeling rather heavy we recovered to a climb, allowed the speed to bleed off and moved on.  Apparently some people never even fly in the yellow arc, let alone getting anywhere near Vne!

Continuing our progress towards Liverpool,we practised some forced landings (PFLs).  This was a good opportunity to try out the constant aspect approach rather than the high key/low key that I was originally taught.  In this, you aim to keep the landing point in your chosen field in the same position in the window, effectively pointing at it with the wing.  It's meant to be easier to judge than the high key/low key method and in my limited it doesn't seem difficult!  We'll do plenty more during the course, but there's not much to it really!

With 2 or 3 PFLs complete, we made our way back to Liverpool for an uneventful VFR rejoin at Oulton Park and followed a Ryanair 737 on finals (careful of wake turbulence!) down to the runway.

Sorry for the lack of pictures but this was a training flight rather than sightseeing and I was being worked pretty hard - all the above in just an hour and a half.


  1. Sounds like an excellent day Daniel, you will have to change the title of the blog eventually.

  2. I'll just be an overqualified PPL, really!