how to become a captain

Moving to the left seat - Captain Upgrade Part 2

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Dear Aviator,

I am able to share some good, but also some bad news with you! The good news is that I passed another important step in becoming a captain, but the bad news is that I don't know when my next flight will be! How can that be? In this second part of how I become a captain, I inform you about all the steps it requires and I give you insights about my training. At the end of this article, I have a little, but special give away for you. 

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What has happened so far

  1. In September 2018 I applied as captain with my airline
  2. My application was reviewed and accepted
  3. In November 2018 I passed the assessment in the simulator

Depending on the demand and if I am expandable from the flight operation,  my training to become a captain would start. In the meantime, I continued flying as First Officer on the A300. The last flight on the right side came earlier than expected. Already on the 31st of January 2019, it was my last flight, which took me to sunny Tel Aviv. I recapped my time as First Officer which were 8 years in total and I could not believe that a new era would start soon. Check out part one if you want to find out more about the requirements and the selection process.

 

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Do not miss any of my videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel PilotPatrick

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Upgrade to Commander course

Beginning of February the UTC (upgrade to commander) training started. The first part was a ground course which lasted one week. From this point onwards I was not allowed to fly as First Officer anymore by regulation.

This ground course took place with six other colleagues who were also in the process of becoming a captain. I thought I would be one of the youngest among them, but two other colleagues of mine were even younger than me.

Topics which were covered in the ground course:

  • Laws and regulations
  • Responsibility
  • Performance
  • CRM
  • Low visibility procedures

As a commander, I will be responsible for the aircraft, the crew, the passengers and the cargo on board. When operating the aircraft I have to consider all laws, regulations, and procedures. CRM (Crew resource management) plays also an important role in the safe operation. CRM is a set of training procedures for use in environments where human error can have devastating effects such it is the fact in aviation. It is used primarily for improving air safety, CRM focuses on interpersonal communicationleadership, and decision making in the cockpit. Human error is still the greatest factor for accidents in aviation.

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Not the A300 simulator but a A320 in Berlin

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One of my biggest goals is to become a captain at the age of 30 and as it looks right now it will most probably happen

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Simulator Training

After a free weekend, the training continued in the simulator. I prepared my self as good as possible because I wanted to show my training captain and myself that I am the right candidate for the left seat.

The simulator sessions took place in Berlin which was convenient for me since I could stay at home. The training consisted of six missions and a final check. Each session focused on a different subject. One session was primarily to train the procedures for engine fires and failures. Another session was to practice the low visibility procedures and flight control malfunctions. All had in common to improve the non-technical skills from the left seat. Non-technical means: the flight management, prioritizing tasks, decision making and the communication with the crew. In the beginning, I had to get used to fly the aircraft from the left seat. This was a little awkward because buttons and levers were now on the other side. It was a little bit like driving the car from the right seat.

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Studying hard

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A lot of flight maneuvers and SOPs (standard operating procedures) were new to me on the Captain's seat. Like the rejected take off and the engine fire with evacuation on the ground.

Up to the speed of V1 (Decision speed), the captain decides with the call "STOP" to aboard the takeoff. After this speed, the takeoff has to be continued because with a higher ground speed the runway would not be long enough to brake the aircraft anymore.

In case of an engine fire on the ground, two checklists have to be read in a structured and coordinated way. In the end, it is the captain's decision to evacuate the aircraft or not.

One duty session lasts six hours in total. One hour briefing before, four hours flying and one-hour debriefing. The simulator was intense with all the emergencies and abnormals, but it was still a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.

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QRH (Quick reference handbook) Engine Fire and Evacuation checklist

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Check flight and ATPL skill test

End of February I had my simulator check flight which was combined with an ATPL skill test. As a commander, you need the ATPL license (Airline Transport Pilot license). To hold this license you need a CPL (Commercial Pilot License) with ATPL theory credit and a minimum of 1500 flight hours.

During my check flight in the simulator, it was the first time that I flew with a First officer, who was new on the fleet. This was the first time I really could demonstrate my role as commander because the simulator sessions before were flown with a captain aspirant with a lot of experience.

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Simulator check passed

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What's next?

Waiting time is next. Currently, I am waiting on my new license the ATPL, which will be issued by the authority. Once I receive it I will continue flying, but then as Captain. Not yet with four stripes, since the training continues on board of the real aircraft. The first 25 sectors/flights will be under the supervision of line training captain, who is seated on the right.

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Special giveaway

Soon I do not need my three stripes anymore. That is why I will pass the epaulets on to one of my Aviators with a personal note. They accompanied me for a long time, but now it is time for them to follow someone else journey. Maybe you are becoming a pilot and need them or you just want them as a lucky charm.

To join the giveaway

  1. Like this post (heart symbol)
  2. Leave me a comment below this article mentioning #PPstripes and answer: What is in your opinion the most important characteristic of a captain?
  3. Watch the full YouTube video in this article
  4. Like the video and leave a comment mentioning #PPstripes

I will randomly choose a winner 24th of March 2019. Good luck!

Stay tuned for part three!

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Giving away my 3 stripes!

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Subscribe to my newsletter, if you want to receive a message from me when I posted a new blog, video or event!

3 easy steps to subscribe:

  • Add me as contact: +49 152 52651846
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  • Send me the code “Takeoff”

Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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busting aviation myths and answering your top questions

Busting aviation myths and answering your top questions

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Hello my Aviator,

time flies! My blog is now online for already one year. It has been an exciting journey to share my adventures, tips and travels with you. At an early stage, I noticed that you are interested in more than just cool photos and videos on my Instagram. Therefore I launched www.pilotpatrick.com. The biggest motivation is you, my Aviators. I am not only an inspiration for you but also you are an inspiration for me. To celebrate the anniversary of my blog I will give away an original A380 model of Airbus. Additionally, I will answer the most common questions. On top, I will bust some myths about pilots and aviation in general.

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Oh! You are only the First Officer. When will you fly the plane?

I love to hear this statement. Imagine all First Officers would not be allowed to fly. How are they supposed to become a captain one day without having the experiences of flying an aircraft? Before each flight, the decision is made which duties each pilot has. This is split apart in Pilot flying (PF) and Pilot not flying (PNF). PNF means to do the radio communication and to support the PF in his task of flying. The responsibility has the commander at all times even when the first officer is operating the aircraft. The first officer is allowed to take off and land the aircraft like the captain from the beginning on. Restrictions apply when the weather is marginal or other circumstances like special airports require the commander to fly.

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Boeing 747-800 of Lufthansa in Frankfurt (FRA)

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Can travel the world for free as a pilot!

I wish I could! In my past seven years as a pilot, I paid for all my flight tickets the regular price. So far I never had the privilege of staff traveling. It would be great to have the possibility to book ID tickets. This way I would be even more spontaneous to travel to new places. The fare is much cheaper than the regular ticket price. For example, a flight in Business class from Germany to New York (round trip) would only be around 500€. The tickets are only standby so there is the risk of not getting a seat, but on the other hand, they grant you great flexibility.

As a pilot, I have to commute to my home base and the location of the aircraft a lot. Especially during my time as a private jet pilot, I traveled with airlines a lot. For those flights, I am wearing my uniform as well. Most of the time I can use the fast track at security checks or I get free drinks and food on board. I even have been upgraded to Business Class several times. Aviation is like a big family and crews help each other out and make traveling as much as comfortable as possible.

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You are a pilot. You must have good eyes!

Contrary to popular belief, you can fly commercial aircraft wearing glasses or contact lenses, as long as your vision is correctable to 20/20. For the initial Medical class examination, you have to meet a lot of different requirements. In case you are wearing glasses, they need to be in the cockpit and you also need a to bring a spare one. Each year you have to revalidate your examination and proof that your vision is unchanged.

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Pilots earn a fortune! What do you do with all that money!

Pilots make a fortune and for their job, they get paid too much. This is not correct! Especially the first years as a first officer are not paid well. For example, I started as a private jet pilot and for a full-time contract, my wage was 2,800€ a month. I would not consider this a fortune! A big benefit of being a pilot is the extra allowances. I get paid extra for being a way from my home base. Some of the surcharges are tax-free, so it helps to boost the net salary. Just so you know in Germany you have to pay about 50% tax on your salary.

Over the last years, a lot of airlines practiced some kind of loan „dumping“. To be able to offer cheaper flight tickets and to be more competitive they save on the costs of staff. There has been an oversupply of pilots for a long time and that is why companies reduced the salary of their crews. They even developed a „pay to fly" models, which means that the pilot pays for his work and not the employer the employee. I also know about a pilot of a big German charter company, who still lives at home with her parents because she can not afford moving out. With the upgrade to a captain, the world can look different. Most of the times the salary is almost doubled.

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Welcome to my office!

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Do aircraft have a horn?

I alway thought they do not have a horn but they actually do. But this horn is not used to alert other aircraft, it is used to inform the ground crew that the cockpit asks for communication. In the Airbus this button is called „Mechanic call“. Once the engines are operating you will not be able to hear this horn anymore. The private jet I used to fly did not have this feature.

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What do you do during a long flight?

My longest flight so far was from Teneriffa to London. We had a strong headwind and the aircraft was heavy. The flight was almost 5 hours and this is about the maximum the Citation XLS can do. This flight felt like an eternity because there is not much space in the cockpit. Honestly, I do not know what pilots do when they fly 10 hours straight. On short flights below one hour, you are busy from the beginning to the end of the flight. In cruise flight, the workload is really low. The auto pilot flies the aircraft and the crew monitors the systems. The PNF (Pilot Flying) fills out the flight plan and does fuel checks. The PF (Pilot Flying) checks the weather en route and of the destination. Besides such tasks, I fill out my pilot log book, eat, drink read and take some short snaps for you.

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What do your three golden stripes mean?

The stripes state the rank of a crew member. Three stripes are for first officer and four for captains. At some airlines, first officers also fly with two stripes to indicate their junior status. There is no difference between gold and silver!

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Below the wing of an Airbus A300

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How did you become a pilot and how much did the training costs?

At the European flight academy, formerly called Intercockpit, I became a flight student in 2008. I chose an integrated route which is a full-time course othat takes a student from complete beginner to a position of becoming a pilot at an airline. The course was really intensive at there was not much free time in between practical and theoretical flight training. The training facility organized everything for you and provided you with a monthly schedule. The theoretical phases were quite enduring, which made the practical flight phases even more exciting.

The ground courses took place in Frankfurt and my flight training in Florida and in Croatia. Even though the time was quite stressful and paired with a lot of pressure, I had one of my best times in my life. Already after 18 months, I completed the training. Like everything in aviation, flight training is expensive too. In total, I paid 64,000€ to the flight school. (This did not include housing transport administration fees at the authorities) In case you are interested in an extended version of how I became a pilot, I suggest to read my series on this blog.

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Do pilots sleep during flight?

The simple answer is yes. Certainly not on all flights. In pilot terms, sleeping is called controlled rest, which is taken in the operating seat. Of course only one pilot at the time. This procedure has been proven to improve safety because it improves alertness. The idea behind is that a pilot gets a sleep up to 30 minutes like a power nap and to be more fit afterwards! 

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Do aircraft have a key like a car?

Smaller aircraft do big once do not. The Citation XLS+ has a regular lock and I had a key for every aircraft in the company. You probably think that those were super fancy for a 12,000,000€ private jet. It actually looks like a simple key of a locker. The major reason why smaller aircraft or business jet has a lock is that you could enter the aircraft from the ground without any aids. On a big airliner, the picture looks different since the door is so high up that it is sufficient to remove the stairs to guarantee that no unauthorized personnel gets access.

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Give away of an original A380 model of Airbus (1:400)

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To celebrate the first anniversary of my blog, I am giving away an Airbus A380 model in the size of 1:400.

To have the chance to win the model you need to:

  • Be a follower either on my Instagram/ Facebook
  • Subscribe with your email to the newsletter of my blog below
  • Leave a comment below with the questions which is aviation, travel or lifestyle related. I will answer your questions in a later blog post.

I am looking forward to sharing my adventures as a pilot. Good luck and happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick

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how i became a pilot

Final part: How I became a pilot

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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:

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Being the back seater on a flight lesson with the PA44

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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.

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Losinj island in the Adrian Sea with a 700m runway

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PA44 cockpit with Avidyne avionics (glass cockpit)

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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.

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

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Piper PA44 seminole aircraft

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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.

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Heart shaped island in the vicinity of the crash - RIP

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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)

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The three axis of an aircraft

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

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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.

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MCC flight training in the Lufthansa A320 simulator

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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.

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Intercockpit course E308 Graduation dinner in 2009

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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

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Pilot Patrick how I became a pilot

How I became a pilot IV

Welcome aboard Aviator! I am looking forward to continuing to share my story of how I became a pilot.

In my previous blog posts, you can read:

Part I: How I became a flight student at Intercockpit (Pilot Training Network)

Part II: First theoretical training in Frankfurt (Germany) up to my first flight

Part III: First fight training phase including first solo flight in Zadar (Croatia) and ATPL theory phase including the final theory exam

In this, you will read about my second flight training phase and memorable flight hours as a student pilot.

First the bad news than the good news

Our course E308 of Intercockpit was scheduled to depart to Zadar for our IFR (Instrument flight rules) training in May 2009. At very short notice the flight school canceled the training in Croatia, because of different factors leading to no capacity for us. This was the bad news and the good news was that we were going to have our flight training in Vero Beach (Florida) instead. I was so happy about this location change since I am a big fan of Florida.  We would stay in Vero Beach for about 8 weeks before we continue our Multi-Engine flight phase in Zadar. This outsourcing to the flight school, Flight Safety, was necessary not to delay our training.

Piper Arrow of Flight Safety in Vero Beach (2009)

Flight Safety at Vero Beach

I was one five flight students who passed the theoretical exam with the first attempt. This granted me to be one of the first one to start the next training phase in Florida. We flew with Lufthansa from Düsseldorf to Miami on an A340-300.

Vero Beach is located on the East coast about a 2,5 hours drive north from Miami. It is a hotspot for elderly people of the USA to retire. By law bars and restaurants had to be closed at 1 am the latest. That is why we also called it Lame Beach. So an ideal place to entirely focus on our flight training without any discretion. Most of the time we went to the beautiful beaches and went shopping in oversized department stores. The entire course stayed at shared apartments on the Flight Safety campus, which was located on the premises of Vero Beach airport. Simple two story buildings without any luxury amenities, except of a small swimming pool. Flight students from all over the world used these training facilities of Flight Safety. The fleet of nearly 90 aircraft granted a good availability.

Vero Beach airport with the Flight Safety campus in the middle

IFR flight training

After flying under visual flight rules in Zadar the training was taken to the next level in Florida. From this stage onwards we were trained to fly under instrument flight rules. This means that the pilots entirely rely on their instruments to fly and navigate the aircraft. This technique is used in everyday airline business to fly through bad weather and to land at low visibility. But before being in the air again I had to pass 12 IFR sessions on an FNPT II flight simulator. This was a fixed based version and not like the full flight simulator you got to know during my type rating on the A300-600.

Cockpit of a Piper Arrow for IFR flight training

Why Florida?

Florida offers ideal conditions for flight training. In close vicinity of Vero Beach are numerous airports to practice approaches, go-arounds and holding patterns. In the beginning, the air traffic was difficult to understand. Nevertheless, they did a fantastic job fulfilling our requests. The weather and the shallow terrain are additional factors which make this location ideal. Even though there are a lot of thunderstorms in spring and summer, they are usually isolated so it is easy to detect and circumfly them. The sunshine state Florida enable to fly the whole year around. My training started in the beginning in May and the weather was already so hot at that time.

Palm trees in West Palm Beach Florida

IFR flight student

Our training device was a piston-powered Piper Arrow with a retracting landing gear. The instrument rating consisted of 22 flight missions with an instructor. Every mission latest about 4 hours. 2 hours of pilot flying and 2 hours sitting in the back watching your fellow flight student flying. To simulate IFR flying conditions (e.g. in clouds) I had to wear a big glasses which restricted to view outside.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eey7LYxHlA4?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

Most of the mission we did cross country flights to airports around Vero Beach. For the first time, I experienced approaching a high-density traffic airport like Orlando. This was an amazing feeling to be between big airliner aircraft. I could choose from a wide range of airports to practice ILS (Instrument Landing System) and non-precision approaches. Every flight mission had to be planned precisely taking into account the current weather conditions, the fuel on board and other legal restrictions.

IFR flight training on a Piper Arrow

My highlight Miami

The entire flight training was exciting on the one hand and on the other quite demanding since I had to get used to a new aircraft type and to new flying procedures. I had two memorable flights I want to share with you in detail.

  • I planned a flight going to Kendall-Tamiami Airport, which is an executive airport, to do a fuel stop and crew change. Due to its close proximity to Miami, this airport is used by many private jets. In the end, we were parked next to a big Gulfstream jet and in front of the private jet terminal, called signature Flight support. At that time I never have seen a Gulfstream and such a luxury terminal before. For crew and passengers, they offered a small cinema, billiard room, a library and so much more. I was totally impressed. To top it all we received the clearance to depart in an easterly direction overflying Miami Beach at a low altitude. That view was thrilling!
Fuel stop at Tamiami Executive Airport and parking in front of the Signature private jet terminal Overflying Miami Beach during flight training in 2009

My highlight Cape Canaveral

  • Several days prior a launch of a space shuttle from Cape Canaveral I approached space coast regional airport to practice missed approaches when the air traffic controller called us for an unusual request. On his radar screen, he had an unidentified aircraft without radio contact overflying the launch pad of Cape Canaveral. He asked us if we could chase him to find out his registration since this airspace is absolutely prohibited. We acknowledged his request and so we were allowed to enter that airspace. Unfortunately, we were not able to read of his tail number, but we had the chance to see the space shuttle situated in its launch pad from the air. That was a one in a lifetime experience. I tried to take pictures, but for some reason they all became fuzzy.
Cape Canaveral from the air

Leisure activities

During the weekends we had off so we could tour around to explore Florida from the ground.

Course E308 In front of Costa d'Este Beach Resort of Gloria Estefan
  • Orlando: Famous for its Amusement parks and shopping malls. I can recommend the Premium outlet mall.
  • Tampa: Amusement Park Bush Gardens. Great roller coasters, but I disliked the fact that they kept wild animals in their park.
  • Cape Canaveral: A must for every aviation and space enthusiast. Great exhibition and museum of NASA. I was lucky to see the space shuttle start of Atlantis from a beach south of Cape Canaveral. Even miles away the launch was so noisy it gave me goosebumps.
  • Miami Beach: I am a big fan of Miami. Such a vibrant city with an amazing beach. Visit Lincoln Road Mall and rent a convertible to cruise along the famous Ocean drive.
celebrating my 21st birthday at the Cheesecake factory in West Palm Beach, 2009

The flight training in Vero Beach was a memorable time and I was really lucking to have the chance to discover Florida from the air and from the ground. Stay tuned for my last blog post of my series how I became a pilot.

Have you visited Florida before?

Your Pilot Patrick

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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

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flying a propeller airplane

Flying a propeller airplane

Yesterday I went flying and I could leave my big suitcase at home. Instead of operating a private jet through Europe, I used my time off to go flying in a small Cessna 172 of ARDEX flight school.

Lets go flying - C172S with 180HP and 4 seats

Lucky it was a sunny day in Berlin and the flight conditions were excellent. The newspaper Bild was interested to do an interview with me. Since everyone can do an interview on the ground, I invited the journalists to join me on a flight to do an interview up in the air.

Additionally the interview was live on my official Facebook page @PilotPatrick, so everyone could watch me flying from take off up to landing. For some action I flew a steep turn with 45° bank angle. Use this link or scroll down to the flying interview and watch if the journalists, Anne and Celal, enjoyed it.

Back to Kyritz Airport - Shutdown checklist complete

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1220076041391323

Besides holding a valid type rating for the Citation XLS+, I possess a SEP (single engine piston) rating as well. This grants me to fly aircraft, which are driven with one propeller. I did most of my flight training on this type of aircraft. A big part of my SEP hours, I flew by myself without an instructor in Croatia. But like all licenses and ratings in the aviation industry, I have to revalidate the SEP rating every two years with a couple of flight hours.

Visting Ardex flight school for a flying interview in a Cessna C172

But why should I fly a small aircraft besides my job as pilot?

There is a big difference between flying a jet and a small piston aircraft. The flying itself and the input to the control surfaces remains the same. One major difference of course is the speed and altitude I operate at. Yesterday I flew a maximum speed of 180 km/h at an altitude of 650m. In the Citation jet I usually fly a speed of 800 km/h at an altitude of 12.000m. 90% of the flight time of a commercial jet aircraft is operated under instrument flight rules (IFR), whereas a small Cessna is primarily flown under visual rules (VFR) in VMC (visual metrological conditions). This requires a constant look out for other traffic and the navigation is made through visual guidance on the ground.

VFR + GPS chart for navigation (upper left blue circle indicates Kyritz)

A big issue in aviation is that the many pilots loose their manual flying skills over the years. Even when flying up to 900 hours in one year, the high level of automation and company procedures prevent pilots to fly manually more often. Usually only take off and landing are flown by end. But especially those manual flying skills are needed when there happens to be a failure or abnormality of a system. Read this report about it.

That is one reason why I decided to practice my manual flying skills once in a while. Additionally I enjoy flying at a moderate altitude to have a great view of the countryside and to choose the destination myself. I would say it is purer way of flying since everything feels closer without numerous systems and automation aids.

Sunny day in autumn with temperatures around 2 degrees - on the way to Runway 14 Live interview with BILD up in the air via Facebook live stream

ARDEX Flight School

This was definitely a special day of flying in my career, which I will remember for a long time. Thanks again to the flight school ARDEX for sponsoring and making this event happen. In case you want to become a pilot or want to charter a plane, this family owned business is situated only one hour from Berlin. They offer courses to a acquire a private or even a commercial license so you may become my first officer some day.

Flight School ARDEX in Kyritz (close to Berlin)

Have you flown in a small aircraft before? Please comment below.

Postive mind, positive life and happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick

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The Bild interview in full length:
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=366609890348612