Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Commercial Pilot exam: Debriefing

The exam was a few months ago but it was a day that I'll not forget easily. So here is the report.
The D day arrived, it was time for me to demonstrate correctly all the things that I been training for the last 2 years.

A long day was waiting for me. The exam was scheduled for 15h00 but before that I had my last training flight in the morning, just to complete all the hours necessary. 

The weather wasn't great (at least if you want calm winds and clear skies for your final exam) but I always love to have some clouds :). In Portugal is typical to have a low layer of clouds along the shoreline during the summer and that week was no different! 

Here is the METAR reports for that day at Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, Porto:
170900Z 33004KT 260V060 4000 BR OVC004 18/17 Q1020=
170930Z 32004KT 290V360 6000 BKN005 20/18 Q1020=
171000Z 34004KT 260V050 7000 FEW007 21/18 Q1020=
171030Z 29006KT 8000 FEW008 21/19 Q1020=
171100Z 29006KT 240V320 6000 SCT008 21/18 Q1020=
171130Z 29006KT 250V340 6000 SCT006 20/18 Q1020=
171200Z 30007KT 260V340 8000 BKN006 20/18 Q1020=
171230Z 30007KT 260V350 7000 BKN004 20/18 Q1020=
171300Z 29005KT 240V360 7000 BKN004 19/17 Q1020=
171330Z 29005KT 240V330 8000 BKN004 BKN007 19/17 Q1020=
171400Z 30005KT 240V350 8000 BKN004 BKN006 20/17 Q1020=
171430Z 31006KT 260V350 8000 BKN005 19/17 Q1020=
171500Z 30005KT 260V350 8000 OVC004 19/17 Q1020=
171530Z 30006KT 260V350 6000 OVC004 18/17 Q1019=
171600Z 29005KT 250V320 7000 SCT003 OVC005 19/17 Q1019=
171630Z 29004KT 250V360 6000 BKN003 OVC006 18/17 Q1019=
171700Z 29005KT 240V320 6000 BKN003 OVC007 18/17 Q1019=
171730Z 29004KT 6000 BKN004 19/17 Q1018=

For those who can not decode this cluster of numbers here is a resume.
At 0930Z, 10h30 local time, the wind was calm with a visibility of 6 Km and cloud base at 500 feet (broken), temperature 20ºC.
At 1500Z, 16h00 local time, the visibility was 8 Km and the cloud base was 400 feet (overcast).
The minimums for an ILS CAT1 approach at Porto is 351 feet (200 feet above ground level). So the weather was really close to the minimums!
Low visibility ILS CAT1 approach to runway 17 at Porto airport. 
In my training flight (morning) I flew twice the ILS CAT1 approach until the minimums. The cloud base for that time was around 500 feet. You can see the video of the last approach below.

Last instruction flight from ATPL course 1/11 aka "Haboobs"

After the training flight, a pause to eat something quickly and then start planning the flight exam. Always in a rush! 
After checking the Porto METAR I was expecting a lower cloud base than in the morning flight but still above the minimums. If it was below minimums the Plan B was to fly to Vigo airport, Spain.
The plan A was to takeoff from Vilar de Luz, Maia, ask Porto Approach for 2 ILS approaches then fly to Viseu where I should do rest of the exam.

Check one last time that all the paper work is done and time to go sit with the examiner. He explained what he was looking for me to do during the exam and did some questions about the velocities V1/V2/VMCA, the ASDA (Accelerate Stop Distance Available) distance and how we can reduce this distance, some emergencies like a vacuum pump failure, what is the critical engine and P-factor and what effects has during the takeoff roll.
Me executing a low pass at Porto airport, Piper Seminole. Photo credits: LapaG
Briefing completed! Time to go to the airplane, Piper PA-44 Seminole, but before that a last check on the METAR just to make sure the weather still above minimums!
Battery ON...  Magnetos ON... Fuel Pump ON... Primer  and Starter ON...  Engines running!
After start checklist please!
During the instrument setup for the departure I forgot to setup the NAV2 accordingly, the first small mistake. During the take-off roll a simulated engine failure was done successfully and we continue the take-off direct to Famalicão at 2000 feet as per Porto Approach instructions.
We requested an ILS approach which was granted with "CS-DGN, cleared to final ILS17, expedite". We climbed to 2400 feet and increased our airspeed. There were some big jets coming to land, it's better if you rush if you don't want to get in a hold!
At the localizer interception, power reduced, check airspeed, landing gear down, flaps down, trim the airplane! This all happened faster than I usually do because of the excessive airspeed that I was flying but I manage to get the airplane establish on the ILS well! :)

"Porto Approach, CS-DGN establish ILS 17, request another approach after this one"
"CS-DGN continue. At the minimums turn right heading 260 climb 4000 feet"

I never had an approach with such low cloud base and which better time to have one than on your final exam! :) Even the air controller was worried (I think more than me! :)) because just before I made the callout "100 to minimums" the controller asked if we had the approach lights in sight. Which we answer "Negative!" 
A few seconds later, approach lights in sight, minimums and go-around turning right to the sea getting ready for another approach. The downwind leg was flown at slow airspeed, 80 kts, to give time for the big jets to land. Then:

"CS-DGN descend 3000 feet. Clear for ILS approach"

Just as I was intercepting the localizer my examiner pulled back the throttle of one engine. I continue the localizer interception while doing the procedures for one engine failure! I had a little trouble to find the right trim setting but after a few moments I got it. Nevertheless, in the last 1-2 nm of the approach I started deviating from the glideslope and ended up arriving at the minimums 1 dot above glideslope.
Go-around turning left this time to heading 090 and climbing FL060 (Flight Level) direct to Viseu VOR (VIS). During the climb I was asked to climb at different airspeeds.

At cruise, partial panel was simulated and I calculate the winds aloft. At some point during the cruise I felt an engine was quitting to work! I quickly set mixtures rich, prop forward, throttle forward and checked the fuel pressure decreasing on the right engine! I checked the fuel selector and it was in the OFF position. Returned it to the ON position and the engine started to run again smoothly! One more emergency completed successfully :)

After this I did the basic maneuvers as the 45deg bank turn, clean configuration stall recovery, stall turn, approach to stall recovery in landing configuration, VMCA (Minimum control speed in the take-off configuration) demonstration and the unusual attitude recovery. 
Stall recovery
45deg bank turn
Then it was time for one more emergency, this time was a loss of oil pressure on the right engine. I did all the memory items to shutdown the engine (Identify, Throttle idle, Mixture OFF, Prop Feather, Fuel Selector OFF, Cowl flap close) and then run the checklist to secure the engine.
IMPORTANT: Before switching any button or handle I confirmed with the examiner that was the correct engine. You don't want to shutdown the other engine also!

Uupps...Something that is suppose to be turning isn't!
It was time to do the restart engine procedures (it take more time to start than normal) and do an ADF holding and VOR approach to Viseu aerodrome. There was some turbulence to make the things more challenging. 

It was time for another emergency, engine failure after take-off! Procedures done to simulate a feather engine (2000 RPM, 15' MP) and continue with a Single-Engine circuit followed by a SE Go-Around. One more single-engine circuit for a touch and go. Once again, to increase the challenging, the crosswind intensity was greater than I had experienced in that airplane, until that day!
VOR app chart for runway 36 at Viseu. 
And because this is all about emergencies (most of it), time for a landing gear problem. I selected gear down and the three green lights that are suppose to light are OFF. Run the checklist for manual extension of the landing gear and magic happens: 3 green lights ON! :)

At this point I was so tired, thirsty, with a little headache and a little airsick that I just wanted to land the damn airplane! So I was glad to hear the examiner saying "It's time for you to take me home!" But I knew I had to keep focus because the day was not over!

So direct to Vilar de Luz, during the cruise I relaxed a little (maybe 3 min) then was time to prepare the descent and approach (GPS approach). I arrived high (very high!!) on final. One more thing to be tested, can I make the landing or not? Power idle... airplane dirty (landing gear down and full flaps)... 70kts... 1500-1700fpm rate of descent until short final. Resume normal airspeed and rate of descent and touchdown.

The eagle has landed safely and successfully! :) 

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Parents baptism flight

This was a flight that I was trying to make for some time. Finally, all conditions lined up and it was time for all the family enjoy a flight trip. :)

My mother gets motion sickness easily so I thought the flight should be on a calm day and she would be sitting in the front seat. But after take-off I decided to push the limits a little higher. I did some steep bank turns, quick climbs and descends. She withstand all that better then some pilots! :)

My plan was to go to Nazaré to see the big waves at Praia do Norte. There been some surfers trying to beat the record established of 30m wave by Garret McNamara.

Plane: C172
Route: LPJF (Leiria) -> Arroteia -> Sismaria -> Pedrogão -> Nazaré -> LPJF (56 nm)

Here are some photos (credits go to my brother :)) and the video that resumes the flight.

S.Pedro Moel pool
S.Pedro Moel Lighthouse

Praia da Povoeira

Praia das Paredes

Praia do Norte, Nazaré


Nazaré marina

Leiria Stadium
Leiria Castle

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Brother baptism flight

After 2 months without flying, since my CPL/ME exam, I was "hungry" to be up there again at the controls of an airplane.
So this short flight, a promise done lot of time ago to my brother, was enjoyable as much as it could be.

As I hadn't flown for a while in a single engine airplane (3 months) and in this runway, I thought it was a good idea to do 3 touch and go first with an instructor to refresh my "internal sensors" :). Then the instructor goes out and my brother comes in, the other two passengers were already inside the plane.

We departure from runway 02 at LPJF direct to Arroteia, where my passengers live, then to Sismaria where I live, another thing that I wanted to do since some time ago. The next waypoints were along the coastline of Portugal.

The landing was on the last minutes of sunlight, with a great low pass from an another pilot just to close the nice flight.

I hope all passengers enjoyed the flight! :)

Route: José Ferrinho Aerodrome (Leiria, LPJF) -> Arroteia -> Sismaria -> Praia Osso da Baleia -> Pedrogão -> Praia da Vieira -> LPJF

Thursday, September 5, 2013

F-16 Monte Real AB

During my few days of holiday I made a small visit to the Airbase Nº5 - Monte Real, Portugal, to see my favorite airplane in action: F-16

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

First night flight - 21/05/2013

After about 2 month without flying I thought it was better to re-study some procedures before my first night flight. So I refreshed my memory about scan flows, airplane systems, VOR and ILS approaches, NDB tracking. I also studied a little about night flying (emergencies, illusions).

Waiting for the sunset :)

After departure from Vilar de Luz, Maia (LPVL)

Proceeding to Crestuma dam
Crestuma dam

Beautiful sunset

Looking for Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto cities

Looking for the Boavista Avenue, Porto (right side) on VOR approach  for runway 35 of Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport

Final runway 35
It was a busy night with a lot of traffic. We were doing approaches between the comercial airplanes (TAP, Ryanair, Luftansa ...). The controller just asked if we could do an approach before the next traffic arrive in 6 or 7 min and we accepted every one we could doing shorter downwind legs. Other times we were vector to the sea and hold for the traffic to pass.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I haven't flown much in this months so I don´t had much to talk. I will soon start the night flying instruction, I'll try to post some pictures and videos. 

Meanwhile, here is a video about airplanes but a little different from the others that I usually fly. This is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that I have been testing at work. It is a RC airplane that we bought and install some equipment (wifi communication, ArduPilot, video camera).
This video shows some of the test flights that we have done in a week at Sesimbra (near Lisbon). The take-offs and landings are manual but we are working to make them autonomous too.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Video: SAIL

One more production! This time the theme is clouds. 
Hope you enjoy! :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Video: Porto ILS rwy17 approach

This post is about one of my first ILS approaches that I have done on Porto airport. It was a great flight, passing through clouds and flying low along the shoreline.

Non-pilots may be asking what the heck is an ILS approach? 
I'll try to explain the basics behind this system.
ILS stands for Instrument Landing System and helps the pilots bring the airplane to near the runway or in some cases to do an automatic landing in poor visibility.

This system is divided in 2 parts:
- Localizer: This gives horizontal guidance, telling the pilot if is left or right of the runway centerline.

Localizer antennas
 - Glide slope: This gives vertical guidance, telling the pilot if he is below or above the glide path. This glide path normally has a slope of about 3 deg. The glide path antenna is located at the point of touchdown.
Glide path antenna
The instrument that I use in the airplane to guide me to the runway is like this one:
CDI - Course Deviation Indicator
The goal is to maintain the lines perpendicular (try to see this in the video). The easy way to fly this is "turn to the needle". Here are some examples:
Localizer guidance
Glideslope guidance

For practice, normally, I do this approaches under the hood (can not see the outside) and I can only look out when I'm at the "minimums" (point where I have to abort the landing if I can not see the runway). This point is about 200 feet/60m of height. 

Here is the video that I did:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

TODO Before each flight

In this post I'll enumerate the things I have to do before I seat in the airplane. Some of the things can be done on the day before, to save some time on the flight day.
Here they are:
  • Airplane documentation
When I arrive the first thing to check is the airplane that I'll fly and respective folder that contains all the airplane documentation (Property register, Airworthiness License, Radio License, Weight&Balance) and are valid. Check any past problems unresolved and resolved. How many hours until next inspection.   
  • Fuel
Then I'll check if the airplane has the fuel needed for the flight. Normally, we depart with the tanks full.

  • NOTAMs (NOtice To AirMen)
This is like the newspaper of the pilots :D (updated daily). We check it to see if any airspace reservation is active, if any airport is closed, if any navigational system is inoperative,  if there are gliders or parachutes on our route, basically anything out of normal that can affect the flight.
  • Meteorology
Check the wind forecast (direction and speed) for the altitude that I plan to fly, any significant weather on the region (turbulence, ice, cumulonimbus). The altitude of 0ºC is important too because in case there is clouds at a temperature below 0ºC there is the likelihood of ice formation which our airplanes are not certificate to operate in this conditions.

  • FlightStar or manual planning
This can take some time to do, especially if done by hand (a flight of 1h30 can take about 1h to plan). We calculate the groundspeed, heading to the waypoint, estimated time to the waypoint and the fuel needed, using the wind forecast at that altitude. At this time I check also if the charts that I have of the airports are updated.
  • Submit the flight plan
If it's a local flight we have to submit the flight plan 30min before the departure, if it's a IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight we have to submit 1h before.
  • School flight process and Weight & Balance
Here I make the the school flight process (type of flight, time, instructor name, airplane,...) and check if the center of gravity is within the limits and not overweight.

  • 360º Walkaround
This involves the airplane inspection (tires, control surfaces, oil quantity,...)

  • Flight Plan acknowledged 
Confirmation that the flight plan was processed without problems.
  • Weather update
One last check on the weather. Typically, only done if the initial weather report is poor. We want to have the most recent weather before departure to make sure that not worsened.  
  • Briefing
I brief the instructor with the information that I have about the flight (airplane airworthiness, route, weather forecast, NOTAMs,...) and discuss what we are going to do.
  • Let's go fly....
The fun part :)