how i became a pilot

Final part: How I became a pilot

[spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Welcome on board my Aviator! Now sit back, relax and enjoy the last part of my series how I became a pilot. In my previous blog post, you read about my instrument flight training abroad in Vero Beach, Florida. In this final blog post of my series, you will read about the multi-engine flight training at Pilot Training Network and about a shocking crash at end of my training.

How I became a pilot

In my previous blog posts, you can read:

[/spb_text_block] [spb_image image="16788" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Being the back seater on a flight lesson with the PA44

[/spb_image] [spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Back in Zadar

The final and most important flight training phase took place back in Zadar, where my practical flight training started in summer 2008. At this stage, I had to recall the entire knowledge and skills I gather over the past one and a half years and transfer it to the final training flights. It was the most difficult phase since we had to fly a more complex aircraft with two piston engine. The Piper PA44 is multi-engine four seater aircraft. All flights were conducted under instrument flight rules and we practiced flying a multi-engine. Most of the time we rather flew the aircraft with one than with both engines. This required to fly the aircraft really precise and you need to apply sufficient rudder to control it along the desired flight path.

[/spb_text_block] [spb_image image="16789" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Losinj island in the Adrian Sea with a 700m runway

[/spb_image] [spb_image image="16794" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

PA44 cockpit with Avidyne avionics (glass cockpit)

[/spb_image] [spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

On August 31 2009 I had my final check flight with an examiner of the german authority. I was very nervous on this day because I had to pass this practical check to become a pilot. This flight took place from Zadar to Pula and back via Losinj. It lasted over 2,5 hours. Not only my flight skills were challenged but also my knowledge about the EU OPS. This regulation specifies minimum safety standards and related procedures for commercial passenger and cargo fixed-wing aviation. I was so happy that I passed the final check.

[/spb_text_block] [spb_image image="16814" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Celebrating the passed check with a jump into the Adrian sea with my flight overall

[/spb_image] [spb_image image="16785" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Piper PA44 seminole aircraft

[/spb_image] [spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

The crash

Back in Germany we celebrated a birthday of a fellow flight student when a shocking news crashed the party. The Piper PA44, which I flew days ago, crashed into the Adrian Sea. The search and rescue team needed two days until they found the wreckage at the bottom of the sea in 68 m depth. During that time no one knew what has happened to the crew.  Unfortunately the flight instructor and the flight student died during the crash. This was so socking to hear and I could not believe it at the beginning. Usually those flight missions are flown with a student as back seater. But on this day he was late so they took off without him. As investigators found out in the end that the aircraft got into spin during the demonstration of a speed which called Vmca.

[/spb_text_block] [spb_image image="16793" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Heart shaped island in the vicinity of the crash - RIP

[/spb_image] [spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

What is a spin and the Vmca?

Vmca  is the minimum control speed in the air. This is the minimum speed at which a straight flight path can be maintained when an engine fails or is inoperative and the other engine is set to maximum thrust. At this point the rudder (vertical fin at the end of the airplane) is used to counter the asymetrical thrust and to maintain directional control (heading). If flying a speed less than Vmca the aircraft enters a spin. A spin is a special form of stall resulting in the rotation about the vertical axis. A stall means that the wing does not produce lift anymore. The aircraft autorotates toward the stalled wing due to the higher drag and loss of lift. Recovery may require a specific and counteractive set of actions to avoid a crash.

During my flight training the Vmca speed was demonstrated at a save altitude in a dedicated airspace for air work. When flown correctly this procedure is absolutely save. On this special day multiple factors led to the catastrophic crash. If you are interested you can read the full investigation report here (only in German)

[/spb_text_block] [spb_image image="16796" image_size="medium" frame="noframe" caption_pos="hover" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/2" el_position="first"][/spb_image] [spb_image image="16811" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/2" el_position="last"]

The three axis of an aircraft

[/spb_image] [spb_image image="16791" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Conventional instruments on a Piper PA44 wit the basic T (speed, attitude, altimeter, heading)

[/spb_image] [spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

MCC

MCC stands for Multi Crew Coordination. This course is a requirement to fulfill the requirements to apply for a commercial pilot license (CPL). This course is constructed to rather teach the coordination and procedures of a multi crew cockpit than actually flying the aircraft. So far I have controlled all training aircraft by myself without an additional crew member. This means I flew the aircraft, did the radio communication and felt decisions by myself. This course is done in a simulator. I could choose between the Boeing B737 and the Airbus A320. I picked the Airbus since I always wanted to know how it feels like to fly a side stick. 

The entire MCC course consisted of 5 session each 4 hours. We had to study the basic operation procedures of the Airbus and had to get used to operating the aircraft as a Tea. It is was an exceptional feeling to fly a big and fast aircraft even though it was only the simulator at the stage. In my blog post "My Airbus A300 type rating" I already described how realistic the full flight simulators of Lufthansa Aviation Training are. After the completion of the course I was even more eager to get into the air with a big bird.

[/spb_text_block] [spb_image image="16797" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

MCC flight training in the Lufthansa A320 simulator

[/spb_image] [spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Graduation Dinner

In October 2009 the last three courses of the flight school came together to celebrate the graduation from flight school. I was really happy about my accomplishment on one hand and on the other I was sad that a memorable time as flight student was over. It was a demanding and tough time. I had to study a lot, did not have much free time and I had to cope with a lot of pressure. My diligence paid off in the end.

At this time I was the flight student who passed the final written exam at the LBA the best. I did not know about it until I was exceptionally honored for this during the celebration event. My flight school invited me to fly from Frankfurt to Zürich in the cockpit of an Avro Jet. That was an amazing experience at the end of my time as flight student. It would take another three weeks until I finally received my pilot license.

[/spb_text_block] [spb_image image="16795" image_size="full" frame="noframe" caption_pos="below" remove_rounded="yes" fullwidth="no" overflow_mode="none" link_target="_self" lightbox="no" intro_animation="none" animation_delay="200" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

Intercockpit course E308 Graduation dinner in 2009

[/spb_image] [spb_text_block animation="none" animation_delay="0" simplified_controls="yes" custom_css_percentage="no" padding_vertical="0" padding_horizontal="0" margin_vertical="0" custom_css="margin-top: 0px;margin-bottom: 0px;" border_size="0" border_styling_global="default" width="1/1" el_position="first last"]

In total my flight training lasted less than 2 years. During that time I flew about 210 hours  and made 258 landings.

The crash in Zadar showed me how vulnerable we are and how fast a happy life can be over. That is why it is so important to enjoy every day as if it was your last. Positive mind. Positive life. Happy landings.

In which cockpit would you love to fly in?

Your Pilot Patrick

[social size = "large"]

[/spb_text_block]


how i became a pilot

How I became a pilot III

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.

Fleet of Diamond aircraft DA20 and DA40 models in Zadar, Croatia Beautiful views over the Adrian sea during flight training

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)
Younger me as a student pilot with my instructor "Wolle" in Zadar

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.

Returning from my first solo flight DA 20 VFR flight training in Zadar (LDZD)

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.

Steep turn (45 degrees) in a DA20 aircraft! Like a roller coaster!

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.

DA40 flight mission - Crew change in Solvakia

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.

Pilotsview - Croatian islands in the Adrian Sea

Technical problems

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.

Excursion to Krka water falls - Must see

ATPL theory

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.

The legendary DC6 visiting Zadar Airport

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.  

First selfies out of the cockpit

Subjects

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

My ATPL theory results

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

Follow me
[social size = "large"]


pilot life vs private life

Pilot life vs. Private life How does this work together?

In my last aviation related blog post "How I became a pilot part II" I told you about my first flight training phase in beautiful Croatia. Now I want to show you how a pilot life and private life work together. 

Pilot life vs. private life

In the past many of you wondered how I can have a social/private life as pilot when traveling so much and being absent from home a lot. Especially those of you who strive to become a pilot in the future asked me this question and told me their concerns-

Here are examples of two snapchat users.

This solely depends on you dude. But do not worry if you want, you can have both options. ;-) 

It is true that I am absent from home for about half of the month. Usually I am on duty for a  maximum of eight days in a row. The operation in the Business Aviation requires to overnight at those locations wherever the last flight of the day takes you to. Whereas the flights of many low cost airlines end at their home base, which equals basically to a 9 to 5 job. At this moment I would not be a fan of this kind of operation since one reason for me of becoming a pilot is to travel and get to know new places. But I could imagine that an operation, which allows you to sleep at home every night, can be a big advantage once you want to build a family.

As you can see it really depends on the type of operation and airline how many days in a month you actually spend at home. A minimum of 8 days are granted by the aviation authority.

I have arranged myself with the absence from home quite well. I have a social life with friends and private activities like everyone else. Unfortunately I can not attend all events (like birthdays, concerts, parties and family events) but due to good organization skills I get the best of my free time and I never have a big feeling that I miss out on something.

Enjoying my off days! Here on top of Montserrat mountain in Catalonia, Spain

Pros and Cons of my pilot life:

PROS

  • Getting payed well to travel, to see new places and to fly airplanes
  • I leave work behind in the airplane and so I can use my off time at the fullest 
  • More than 3 days off in a row without taking leave (sometimes even 6 days)
  • Per diem are paid for every hour I am being away from home
  • I do my paper work during my work so I can enjoy my off days without distraction
  • Hotel gyms are free of use and I do not have a contract for a gym at home
  • I have more off days than a full time job (about 12 days)
  • Some passengers pay a tip to the crew for the flight and inflight service

CONS

  • Great flexibility expected and the schedule might change at last minute 
  • I only have either Christmas or New years off at home
  • For important events and appointments I have to take leave 
  • I can not attend classes or courses which take place on a regular basis
  • Irregular working hours and sometimes only little sleep during busy months
  • It is hard to keep a special diet while traveling 
  • Especially in the Business Aviation there is a lot of waiting time

Those are my subjective impressions about my life as a First officer and other pilots would definitely mention different aspects.

Ready for boarding the VIP passenger at the pole position in Olbia

As much as I enjoy being at home, after a couple of days at home my wanderlust kicks in and I want to go on a journey again. Striving for a position of a crew member you have to make sure that you have this desire as well. If not you might not be happy in the long term.

Which aspect would you do not like being a pilot? Comment below.

Please have a look on my aviation related Links, which may you find helpful!

Your Pilot Patrick

Follow me:
[social size = "large"]


how I became a pilot

How I became a pilot II

In my first part of the blogpost "How I became a pilot" I told you about my way to become a flight student at Intercockpit Pilot Training Network.

How I became a pilot

Another requirement to be accepted as flight student is the initial medical class one examination. This examination is standardized for all pilots and needs to be revalidated every year. For detailed requirements please have a look here) For this examination I went to a special Aviation Doctor at Stuttgart airport. Of course I was a little nervous at this stage, because the outcome will decide about my future career. Not only did I pass it very well, but I also met Fabian, who later became a friend and a fellow flight student.  

Training facility of Lufthansa Flight Training (LFT) in Frankfurt

First day of school

My first day of school at the facilities of Lufthansa flight training was in April 2008. I remember it was a really exciting day, because it meant a new stage of life. The Intercockpit course E308 consisted of 20 guys and one girl. After the introduction of the team we were handed out all the training material, that we would need for our studies. I think it were around ten big binders. At this stage quite intimidating. Additionally we received a black pilot bag. Back then, I was really proud to have it.

Intercockpit course E308 in 2008

Theory classes

For the next two months we attended several theory classes to reach the knowledge of a PPL Pilot (Private Pilot License) to be prepared for the first flight phase in Zadar, Croatia. Additionally we had to pass the AZF (flight radiotelephone operators certificate), which grants the permission to communicate with ATC (Air Traffic Control). Why did the flight training take place in a foreign country? Mainly, because of the weather and the lower operating costs. Especially for VFR (visual flight rules) flights, that require a certain cloud ceiling and visibility, the weather in Croatia was definitely better than in Germany over the year.

First theory part in Frankfurt (8 weeks)

The entire flight training was scheduled to last about 18 months, depending on one's personal performance. Since the planning was really tight there was only a couple of off days in between. As this was an integrated training you had to learn continuously to be ready for the exams. It sure was a tough time, but it was worth the effort in the end. Time management was super important. I found it helpful to set weekly goals concerning learning to have a good feeling and to monitor my progress.

First time in Zadar

In June it was time to head down to Zadar for the first practical flight phase. Accommodation and transport had to be organized by ourself. Most of the course stayed at the same location of a croatian women, who rented prevailing to flight students from Germany. I shared an apartment with my friend Fabian. The place was not special at all, but it was only a short walk away from the waterfront.

The historic old town of Zadar is really beautiful. It is located right at the Adria, where we enjoyed amazing sunsets. The landscape of Croatia is unique with many small islands (66 inhabited) stretching along the coastline of 1800 kilometer and the high Biokovo mountains in the back. It did not take long until we got to see the beautiful landscape from above. After a couple of days of introduction in a basic fixed simulator the first flight in a DA20 aircraft with a instructor was due.

PA44 flight school aircraft of Intercockpit in Zadar

I was super excited and also a little scared. Not of the flying itself, rather if I really like it and could imagine to do it for the rest of my life. All sorrows were gone, when I lifted off the ground for the first time by myself. I remember, that everything was going so fast. It felt like I was flying a fighter jet. Today I can grin about it, since I take off with the Citation XLS+ at a speed, which is 2,5 times faster.

Structure of the training:

  • 8 weeks of PPL theory classes in Frankfurt
  • 10 weeks of flight training in Zadar, Croatia
  • 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)

Read in my next part about the rest of the flight training in Zadar, a drink offer after landing in Slovakia and the ATPL theory part back in Germany. I am working on more photos of my flight training.

Follow me:
[social size = "large"]