Welcome on board of my series of “How I became a pilot“. In part three I will talk about the flight training with Pilot Training Network in Zadar and the theory phase back in Frankfurt. Find out which drink was offered to me after landing in Slovakia and which malfunctions I had during one of my first solo flights.
The structure of the training:
- 8 weeks of PPL theory classes in Frankfurt (How I became a pilot II)
- 10 weeks of SE VFR (single engine, visual flight rules) flight training in Zadar
- 30 weeks of ATPL theory classes in Frankfurt (ATPL = Airline Transport Pilot License)
- 8 weeks of IFR flight training in Vero Beach, Florida (IFR = Instrument flight rules)
- 4 weeks ME IFR flight training in Zadar, Croatia (ME = Multi Engine)
- 1 week MCC course in Frankfurt (MCC = Multi Crew Coordination)
The entire training in Zadar lasted about 10 weeks. I already had my first solo flight after 11 flight hours with an instructor. On 24th of July 2008 I lifted off the ground in a DA20 all by myself for the very first time. It was really exciting. At first I was nervous, because I wanted to do everything safe and correct. The first flight went really well and after 30 mins I landed safely. It was awesome.
During the first couple of missions we always stayed either in the traffic pattern of Zadar (airport) or in close proximity. In dedicated training areas we practised special flight maneuvers to improve our manual flying skills. First lesson in aviation: aviate, navigate, communicate! Flying has always priority before everything else.
During the aerial work over the Adrian sea we did stalls, steep turns and slow flight. An aircraft being in stall means that the wings do not produce lift anymore, because of the angle of attack being too big. If not corrected may lead to a crash.
Cross country flights
After being familiar with the procedures, the aircraft, the flight patterns and the communication with air traffic control we started flying cross country. Those flights took place between two points (e.g. airports) using navigational techniques. Some missions were flown in a DA40, which is a single piston four seater. One fellow student pilot as observer in the back and the instructor and me in the front. Usually we flew to more distant airports, where we landed and switched seats. Like one day when we flew to a small airport in Slovenia. After landing we were guided by a small motorbike to our parking position to refuel for the next flight. 😉 Before departure the handling guy offered us his self brewed liquor. I guess he wanted to fuel more than the aircraft. This guy was just too funny.
The flight training was a lot of fun. Nevertheless the pressure to be a good student pilot was high and the program did not leave a lot of space for deficiencies. This required additionally studying when on ground. Everything was new to me and especially at the beginning I had to take care that I fly the airplane and not the airplane me.
I remember one special event during a solo cross country flight. During the approach to Pula airport I encountered problems with the engine. It did not run smooth at all. That is why I decided to stay in close proximity to the airport to figure out the problem and in case the propeller stops to glide to the runway. (We actually learn this procedure and do it simulated) Luckily I managed to fly back to the home base safely. I informed our maintenance about the malfunction. In the end the airplane was grounded for several days.
The weeks in Croatia past by really fast. Not only because of the flying, but also because of the activities our course did together. Up in the air we have already seen how beautiful the landscape was. Krka water falls and the surrounding nature reserve is a great example.
Back in Germany the ATPL theory phase began. That meant studying intensively. We learned the entire knowledge to be prepared for the final exams at the LBA (german aviation authority). It would take over 8 months before being back in a cockpit flying.
Most of the questions of the final exams were in a multiple choice style. Over the years 1000 of possible of questions leaked to flight schools and to training programs like Peters software. Many students just learnt the questions and the answers to them without understanding them. I thought this is quite risky method for studying and plus I wanted to understand what I am doing in the future. My method proofed me more than right. This time the LBA changed a lot on their questions and added a lot to their question bank. In the end only five students (including me) of 20 students passed the exam at the first attempt. The exam consisted of 12 subjects which could be written on three consecutive days.
General Navigation, Meteorology, Radio Navigation, Principle of flight/aerodynamics (my favorite subject), Human Resources, Air Law, Power plant, Instrument/ Electronics, Flight Planning, Operational Procedures, Performance, Mass and Balance
Since I passed the exam right away, I was allowed to proceed with the second flight training phase. Surprisingly it was not going to take place in Zadar. Read the next part of how I became a pilot.
Have you been to Croatia before?
Your Pilot Patrick