Part 61 Professional

Hopefully helpful writings of a career minded pilot, working through the ratings in a Part 61 school while still managing to eat and find time to sleep and work.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I'm not dead! I made it!

I realize some aspiring pilots may be ending up here in the hopes of finding information on how to further their career, and then realizing that there's a handful of sort of useless posts. Either way, I eventually found work in a PC-12 Pilatus this last summer after instructing a year and a half. If anyone would like any advice / inspiration and you can't locate me on jetcareers (sounddoc) then I'm at pkemble at gmail dot com.

Monday, February 6, 2012

first time squawking a 7000 number...

Recently while giving a lesson in a newer warrior with dual GNS430s, comm 1 decided to no longer transmit after liftoff. My student and I were remaining in the pattern and getting calls in the crosswind which were unanswered by the tower it seemed. My student was on the radio as I'm trying to get him ready to solo. He got distracted by the failed radio, and was in a 1000fpm climb out of the pattern, passing through the downwind. I tried at the same time to answer tower on my radio, while telling my student to descend and turn downwind, immediately. I should mention this was superbowl weekend, so there were a steady stream of business jets departing for Indiana...oh and did I mention there were about 5 other students in the pattern!? So, needless to say it was a busy time, and the expected New England winter bumps weren't helping my student's concentration. I took the controls, and continued to try to communicate with the tower. At this point, I should have tried comm 2, but ATC started to call my traffic and clear me for a touch and go! Without hearing me? This seemed odd, and I later learned that the controller was a trainee. He sequenced me in for landing, I had my traffic, so I did what I thought was best, and squawked 7600, telling my student to watch the tower for light gun signals. We never saw them, so I landed, and taxied off the runway. I changed to comm 2 and they heard us, so we continued the lesson on that radio. On the way back from the practice area, I tried comm 1 again and they heard us, so I just squawked it at the FBO as intermittently working.

The takeaway I tried to teach my student was the seminal aviate, navigate, communicate. In hindsight switching to comm 2 to troubleshoot in the downwind would have been the better idea but I was trying to descend and join the downwind with others in the pattern while the tower was still making calls to me. Instead I aviated and navigated to get back in the downwind. Since I was unable to answer back my clearance right away while concentrating on seeing and avoiding, the first thing I thought was squawk 7600, i.e., take the failure out of the mental conveyor belt that is flying...and lo and behold; that counts as communicate!

...But I never got to see any light gun signals... :(

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The FAA recalculates my FOI written to make this the BEST RAPTURE DAY EVER

Got a suspicious and scary looking thin manila envelope from the FAA today....thin letters are usually the bad ones, right? Before opening it I said, 'please let this be good news...' and it wasn't good was fantastic news!!!

I passed!!

With a 72%!

My lowest written test score ever!

You need at least a 70% (only 15 wrong in this particular test) to pass, so I guess I padded it with one question..heh.

What a great day! I don't have to take the test again!

315 total time and counting...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Building more actual instrument time

Today was yet another milestone - this time not marked by failure! I gained my first actual time in the airplane without an instructor present. Around Massachusetts today there were scattered showers, some bumps, but most importantly; not a lot of convection. Claire and I decided to head to KBAF - Barnes / Westfield Ma. as they have a nice little on field restaurant. I filed direct as I knew that with such a short flight (about 45 minutes in the air) I would get an amended clearance which would be largely radar vectors anyway. I'll never forget that feeling I got as I was just about to punch in the clouds. Pitot heat on - carburetor heat on momentarily. You're initial instinct is that you're careening at 150mph into a solid object, but that of course goes in the back of your mind with all the vestibular leans and spatial disorientation. Aware that these fair weather cumulus clouds contain some fair weather bumps, I applied pressure to both pedals and made sure my instrument scan was complete and rhythmic. And there it was - woosh - in the cloud, then almost immediately the rain starts picking up, which incidentally is very loud in a small airplane. I do a quick check of the outside air temperature, and look for any ice - all good. for about 30 minutes we were in and out of clouds and Claire got some great shots below.

Here's the plot to:

The way back was similar, only less actual. It was grey VFR, then went marginal, then just past Worcester we went into a particularly lighter grey, but very thick cloud. The rain was intense. It was also think enough where the wingtips were disappearing in the clouds - with a 35' wingspan that puts the visibility at about 12-13'! Somewhere in there the top of the windshield started leaking as well - a big drop soaked my brand new charts...i'm not complaining though.

I flew the vectors for and started the ILS11 back into KBED, but we broke out of a scattered layer at about 3500. A few minutes went by and I picked up the runway and canceled IFR. The controller was happy to do so as that meant he didn't have to vector all the pattern traffic around me anymore :)

Here's the plot back home:

And some photos by Claire, some using the retro camera app for Android. Next time I need to bring along the Mino HD to get some decent quality video:

i finally took the 4 minutes to learn microsoft movie maker

And I made this nifty video I plan on giving to students:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fundamentals of Fail

Update! The FAA has apparently decided to re-calculate my test score, and I passed. Just barely, but still...woo-hoo!

I took the Fundamentals of Instructing written test last weekend (FOI) and only managed only a frustrating 66% (you need a 70% to pass). It's not because I didn't know the material, or because I didn't prepare, but because of a recent change that the FAA has made to their question bank which has AOPA and future CFIs all riled up - and rightfully so IMHO.

What happened is that the FAA had found that applicants taking the FOI had been breezing through it in 15 minutes and getting very high scores. The fact this test requires no calculator and only has one figure, it was an obvious decision to change the question bank as applicants were employing rote memorization to breeze through the test.

Up to now, I'm in total agreement of the FAA changing the test bank - I don't think you'll find anyone that isn't in favor of this. The problem is that the study material is simply the test source, the Aviation Instructor's Handbook. That is to say, there's no study guide, practice tests, etc... provided by the FAA. Naturally that leaves an opportunity for companies like Gleim and ASA to fill in the gaps and make some money as well. So once a year these companies will release books with all the questions and answers (and incorrect answers) that they obtain most likely through the FOIA from the FAA. Because these commercial products are all that exists for applicants to see before the test, naturally they are bought and used, and along the way a good deal of rote memorization takes place.

The problem mostly manifests itself with this particular test, the FOI. The questions are mostly educational psychology based and let's face it, the FAA is not on the forefront in the field. Even more obviously, the non-psychologist writing the test certainly is not. The questions are largely based on semantics and read as though someone without a conceptual grasp on the material had picked a few important looking words and wrote 'main idea' type questions around them. I'll give you an example:

Responses that produce a pleasurable return are called:

  • positive feedback
  • praise
  • reward

Go ahead...figure that one out. There actually is a right answer, and a justification for it, but tell me how anyone who isn't memorizing portions of the study material are getting this question correct? It's complete semantics, and it should have no place in the test. Unfortunately this is not the only question that is similarly dumb.

So now with a changed test bank, ergo; no study materials, what should we future CFIs do? Well, the way I'm looking at it is that the test so far has cost me about $160 total. $140 to take it, and about $20 in prep materials. It's going to take another $140 to take the test, so this little trick of the FAA is certainly costing me. I think what I'd like to do is study the text again, take extremely thorough notes, and try not to fail again. ASA's updates page are far better than Gleim's update pages, plus they represent closer to what I've seen on the test. There's some solace. Maybe I'll pony up the cash and try ASA's prep material? Should I wait for the June/July cycle to do it? Are the FAA going to keep changing test banks?

310 total time and counting...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

planes trains and automobiles

it's a banner day in the old logbook. there's a shining .4 (yes, that's 0.4) PIC logged that I didn't have to pay for. I landed my first commercial gig ferrying a club plane from KBED to KOWD - Bedford to Norwood. Well, I should back up and mention that technically my first commercial pilot gig was driving approach plates for the club owner up from Norwood airport to Bedford for his trip to Sun 'n' Fun...0.0 in the logbook, but hey, we all have to make impressions?

I drove up to Bedford this morning (automobiles) flew N813ND, a Piper Arrow down to Norwood (planes) and now i'm sitting on a train back to Boston to head to the day job (trains). check, check and check...maybe I'll try to fit a boat ride in later, as the subway will be covered once I get in town.

The flight itself was very quick, a minute airborn I had the field in sight, and before I knew it I was back on the ground. A hefty tailwind didn't help much either. On top of that, not a moment of smooth air, but what the hell - this is what that commercial certificate's all about, right? free flight time? By my fuzzy math I saved somewhere around $54...not too bad for a Wednesday morning before 9AM.

306.9 total time and counting....