Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10.8 Hour Cross-Country to Phoenix in a Beech Sundowner

I think it was my longest cross-country in a small airplane yet.

The owner asked me to fly with him from Guadalajara (my hometown in Mexico) to Chandler Airport at Phoenix, Arizona. We flew there for the plane's annual and where he'll also sell the airplane. It's a 1977 Beechcraft C-23 Sundowner, that you can probably find on eBay, since he told me he's selling it there.

I had two of my wisdom teeth removed on friday and when I called him to ask him whether I could fly it with my brother and friends over the city sometime next week, he also asked me about the trip to Phoenix and if I could fly with him. Of course!
The local flight on saturday was great. It was the first time my brother flew from the left seat in a small airplane. He liked it and told me he would like to learn to fly and get his PPL sometime.

The next day, on sunday, I got to the FBO at 8am and when he arrived, we fueled the Sundowner and inspected the airplane. Our route was: Guadalajara-Culiacán-Hermosillo-Tucson-Phoenix (or MMGL-MMCL-MMHO-KTUS-KCHD if you want to look it up on SkyVector). 928 nautical miles in total, with some bad weather developing between Culiacán and Hermosillo. A SIGMET was issued some time later, and I can tell you, there was an impressive convective activity in there.

I flew left seat all the way to Tucson, where I then flew right seat. As our flight plan was authorized and we sat on our nests, I ran through the start-up procedure and then requested taxi. Run-up complete, and we took off bound for a 3-hour flight to Culiacán, where we stopped for fuel. The flight was uneventful. It was smooth as [dirty thing here] and the landing as well.

Round two for our trip, we climbed to 6,500 bound to Hermosillo, where 20 minutes later, we could already see a wall of nimbostratus covering the bad weather formations to the north. We deviated to the northwest where we encountered a layer of cirrostratus and we climbed to 10,500.
We then flew between towering cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds with an astonishing rate of convection. As we saw a way towards our destination, the cloud closed our path with a column of highly unstable visible humid air. We were really dodging the columns of clouds that were rising above us!
Ciudad Obregón was getting hammered pretty hard by the low pressure area and thunderstorms. We heard it was 0 visibility, heavy rain and gusts up to 40 knots. Good thing we didn't plan to land there.

As we cleared the cloud mines, about 70 miles south of Hermosillo, we had scattered cumulus with tons of thermal activity on our way there. Would have been great to fly in a glider in that area!
We approached Hermosillo with good turbulence and rising temperatures, making a rather average landing there. We then taxied in and filed another flight plan to Tucson. With immigration paperwork done, eAPIS filed and fuel tanks again full, we took off for our third round of the day. We contacted Flight Services 20 miles south of the border were he gave us a new squawk code, asked us our ETA and informed us it was pretty accurate from what we filed. We strive for perfection!

After overflying the border over Nogales, we contacted Tucson Approach 20 miles south and made a right downwind for runway 11R. Touchdown right on the threshold markings!
We taxied to customs where we were greeted by two CBP officers and asked us how much time we were staying in the USA. I was going back on a flight that night from Sky Harbor (arriving at 4am, but I didn't care. It was all part of the adventure!). With fingerprints and photo taken, we were good to go and, now flying from the right seat, we started the Sundowner up and departed to Chandler.

We could see dust moving westbound, south of Phoenix, caused by the massive storm moving in from the east. There was another SIGMET in that area. We started to get low-to-moderate turbulence half-way there. With the ATIS written down and a bumpy descent towards Chandler, we flew over the dust and then into it sometime later for the approach. The visibility was good enough to find the airport, which was clear and the wind was calm. After a smooth landing on runway 22R, we taxied to the ramp at Chandler Air Services. The wind started to pick up speed and the wall of dust was upon us!

Airplane parked, nest packed in my bag, covers on, airplane chained, bags out, we hurried to the car that picked us up. The owner brought some nicely painted plates he wanted to give his sister's family and on the 100 feet walk to the car, the bag with the plates fell and two of them broke. Imagine his frustration! After flying 930nm in more than 12 hours, a 100 feet walk ruins your day.

We got to his sister's home were we had dinner and it started to rain like crazy! Too bad I only stayed for a few hours! It was my second time at Phoenix, being the first one for my long cross country solo flight for my commercial certificate. They drove me to Sky Harbor were I flew back to Guadalajara in 2:25 hours. When I got home I had forgotten the keys, but luckily the window to my room was unlocked.

It was one of the best cross countries and flight I've ever had. I now fly a Cirrus SR22T from Toluca for a construction company. The airplane is nice, but flying for hours in a VW camper with hershey-bar wings between bad-looking clouds into a country and a dust storm is an awesome adventure!

I hope you enjoyed it!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Conversion Course (Continued)

The third week of four is over. I arrived in Mexico City on a saturday, before monday's first day of the conversion course. I've been staying at a house of an elderly lady where she built many rooms so she can rent them. She rents the rooms mainly to people in aviation. It's near the airport so I can hear planes taking off. JT8-Ds, GE90s, GEnx, CF6s... those are the easily recognizable sounds. I normally take the bus to the school, since it's also near the airport.

The first day was an introduction. What we were going to do, why, and what paperwork is needed. On tuesday we had one day of "airline management", learning basic stuff such as a short history of management, scientific administration, services of an airline, legal requirements to open and operate an airline, low cost and legacy models, the structure of an airline, and marketing. We had a test at the end of the day. That's how it works: lessons and a test at the end of the subject. Everything fine with the first formal day of the course. The teacher (not instructors, teachers) was the training chief of the flight school.

On wednesday and thursday we had "ATC". The teacher there, a former air traffic controller, presented the lesson's information and tought us about the mexican ATC system, airspace, clearances, separations, emergency transponder codes, and pre-search-and-rescue phases. I found the class and the information shown very superficial, inaccurate, containing little detail and next to none practical information. The teacher didn't have a prepared test for us, but he gave us one a few days ago, in the communications class, so we could answer the questions at home.

On friday we had the first of two days of the "navigation" lesson, ending on monday of the second week. It was basically navigation terms in spanish, mexican-style radial interceptions, holding pattern speeds, radio frequencies used for navaids and communicationa, ILS categories, and how-simulator-instructors-here-like the way to do DME-arcs. We then had a test at the end.
On tuesday I had the hope we were going to learn about aeronautical information publications, specifically the mexican Aeronautical Information Publication. My hope was short lived. We were shown Jeppesen charts for Mexico and how Jeppesen presented Mexico's airspace structure. Not even the whole introduction for Mexico's procedures and rules from the airway manual. Ok, then, maybe they'll show it to us in the "aeronautical operations" class. As usual, we took a test at the end of the lesson.

Wednesday, thursday, and friday: "aviation medicine", commonly known as the "aeromedical course" in Mexico's pilot training system. We learned about human factor terms in spanish and stuff like medical certification (poorly presented), the aeronautical environment, the atmosphere and gas laws, physiological factors such as: circulation, breathing, orientation, stress and fatigue, and vision. We finished with a test at the end, where I stupidly answered it's 78% oxygen in the atmosphere.

We started this week with aeronautical operations. A friend and I agreed to talk with the training chief about what we had seen in the course and share our opinions. A feedback, more than nothing. I told him the contents of the lessons are very superficial and there's little presentation of subjects and information that is usefull for practical application. I showed him a simple conversion course syllabus I made the night before and told him there are subjects and stuff that should be important to be presented such as the certification process in Mexico, sources of aeronautical and weather information, the AIP, flight plan filing and closing, flight procedures, flight rules, air traffic services and procedures, pilot regulations, aircraft regulations (documents and inspections), test standards, the flight school's flight and simulator standards, practical management of human performance and limitations, etc. He appreciated our concerns and liked my syllabus. He told us he was going to try to teach the subjects we told him were important.
Two days, monday and tuesday, learning about General Operating Manuals, Flight Manuals, filing an ICAO flight plan, transport category takeoff and landing performance and its requirements, and weight and balance for large airplanes. As usual, we took a test at the end of the class.

In the next two days we had the "communications" class with the same teacher that gave us "ATC". We learned about proper communication procedures, techniques, the international and national communications organization, and we practiced comms in spanish, simulating an IFR flight. What about VFR operations? Nada. The test was to write the conversation between the pilot and the controller of an IFR flight from Mexico to Acapulco. What an average class quality.

Today we had "aviation security", learning about international agreements and ICAO standards and recommended procedures on aviation security and safety. The class was mainly hearing the teacher, who is an A320 first officer who hasn't been able to upgrade to captain, bragging about airport security personnel. He'll give us the "professional ethics" class, where we'll discuss about the pilot's professional degree. It'll be an interesting talk, giving I have a lot to ask about.

The lessons are done with power point presentations and teacher's explanations. We take notes during the lessons, we study for the test, and we pass the test. Simple, right? Well, there's a probem: The whole conversion course isn't well organized. They lack of a good structured syllabus, like any other pilot course they offer, and don't present sources and references where we can study further or confirm the information given in the classes. They haven't analyzed what subjects should really be presented to pilots that want to convert their foreign certificates/licenses to a mexican one. Every course should have a syllabus containing references, objectives, academic content, and conclusion standards for every lesson and subject. One problem is the theory curricula is not formed with the practical stuff in mind.

The flight school is supposed to be the most prestigious flight school in Mexico, but it lacks of structure and standards in their courses. They could learn a lot from the Aviation Instructor's Handbook.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Mexican CPL Conversion Course

The time has come to start my conversion course to get my mexican commercial pilot license.

I wasn't planning on doing it right after finishing the commercial course in the US, but since the opportunity arose, I'll start with the groundschool (theory) phase on monday, next week. I already knew to some extent what paperwork was required, so I sent the licensing personnel an e-mail and got a response with the documents required for the conversion process. I had to get an apostille for my logbook, my course certificates, a copy of my pilot and medical certificate, and a breakdown of my flights. I also have to present the original and give them a copy of my birth certificate and highschool certificate. 

I went to San Diego last week to get the apostilles for those documents. It was a pretty good and efficient trip, I must say. I first had to go to the notary, then authenticate the notary's signatures and stamps in a San Diego County building, and then get the apostille at a government's office in Los Angeles. I flew with a good friend to Hawthorne with a Warrior. The FBO gave us a crew car for two hours, which were more than enough. On the return flight I knew the purser and first officer. They are good buddies and the captain was cool. So cool that I even got to fly on the jumpseat in the flight deck! It was awesome since the FO was a good friend and he showed me how things must be done. Good flying, excellent CRM, and perfect compliance of SOPs. He was the pilot flying for that trip and he made a greaser on the runway after practicing a CATII approach. While cruising we talked a lot since I hadn't seen him for a long time.

The conversion process was implemented in 2010. At first it was a mess, because nobody knew how to do it in a good way. The root of the whole issue of the conversion process for pilots that did their commercial pilot traning in another country and want to get a mexican license, is that Mexico is the only country that requires a "professional pilot's title/degree", similar to an associates degree (two years) in the subjects of a professional pilot course. So you must complete groundschool and flight time for the CPL, pass a state issued professional exam with 330+ multiple-choice questions, and pass a practical exam in the simulator with examiners present. You the get a certificate stating you passed the professional exams and go to the licensing personnel office to get your commercial pilot license.

Because the groundschool and flight time that was done in, say Canada or the US, and the total amount of hours don't comply with the professional pilot's degree time requirements, you must do a conversion course. You first complete 120 hours of theory in classroom, you do 50 hours of simulator with an instructor to comply with the ridiculous instrument rating time requirements, and fly the time assigned by the licensing director (which is normally 11 hours: 6 hours VFR in SE, 2 hours IFR, and 3 hours in a ME, with a final practical test in it). Everything estimated to cost $8,000usd.

I have no idea what subjects are shown in the theory phase, but I'll bring everything I have to prove the teacher/instructor right or wrong on what he presents. I won't do it to demonstrate I'm better than him, but for the sake of everyone present in the course, so we can learn as much as possible, supported by reliable sources. I'll buy the mexican Aeronautical Information Publication as well. I'm sure we'll learn about mexican aviation regulations, airspace, operations, communications, and navigation procedures in Mexico.

Since I got a job offer, estimated to start in a month, I'll use that month to complete the theory phase. I'll continue with the practical phase (simulator and flights) when I have money. I hope things go as planned for me, since everything sounds too good to be true!

I'll try to write more posts as the conversion course progresses. I'm sure I'll have frustrating and funny stories to share.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sesiones Informativas (Briefings) para el Vuelo

Ántes del vuelo, con toda la información meteorológica consultada y la planeación del vuelo hecha, se debe hacer una sesión informativa ya sea por uno mismo, o con el otro tripulante del avión, del plan y condiciones generales del vuelo. Esto incluye la tripulación (enfermedades, medicamentos, estrés, alcohol, fatiga, emociones, experiencia reciente, y comida), el avión (verificación de aeronavegabilidad, combustible, peso y balance, y rendimiento: longitudes de las pistas de los aeropuertos de salida y llegada, distancia requerida para el despegue y aterrizaje determinada, rendimiento de ascenso y descenso, y topes de ascenso y descenso estimados), el entorno (clima, aeropuertos, NOTAMs, ruta y terreno; que la información meteorológica se pueda consultar en papel o electrónicamente en todo momento en vuelo, así como los NOTAMs, cartas de los aeropuertos, el plan de vuelo y las cartas VFR e/o IFR en-ruta), y las presiones externas (el avión/piloto debe llegar o estar de regreso a un tiempo estimado, más planes para el día, citas y responsabilidades que se deben cumplir).

Sesión Previa al Vuelo

Pilotos (IMSAFE)
Aeronave (Documentación, Problemas, Equipo, Peso y Balance, Rendimiento)
Entorno (Ruta, Clima, Terreno, Cartas, Aeropuertos, NOTAMs)
Presiones Externas

En caso que no se pueda consultar o actualizar la información del entorno en el o los aeropuertos a los que se vaya a volar, es mejor tener todo planeado y listo con registros de navegación (navlogs), reportes y pronósticos para las rutas necesarias desde el aeropuerto de salida (la base).

En el caso de ser un vuelo de instrucción, que se comente lo que se llevará a cabo en esa lección de vuelo consultando el contenido de la lección en el plan de estudios.

También se debe realizar una sesión informativa en caso de que se lleven pasajeros. Incluye el uso de los cinturones de seguridad, la posición del asiento para el despegue y aterrizaje, no fumar, las ventilas, qué hacer en caso de que se mareen, la ubicación y uso del extinguidor, las salidas de emergencia, cómo se debe evacuar el avión después de un aterrizaje forzoso, la ubicación del kit de emergencia, avisar en caso de que vean otras aeronaves, cuándo pueden hablar, y si tienen preguntas. Igualmente pueden informarlos de cuánto va a durar el vuelo, agua y snacks, turbulencia, etc.

Ya en el avión, estos son los momentos en los que se deben realizar las sesiones informativas:

Sesión de salida: ántes de encender motor(es) con cabina organizada y ATIS copiado
Sesión de despegue: en rodaje o en el área de prueba de motor
Sesión de crucero: al alcanzar la altitud de crucero y cada 30 minutos
Sesión de llegada: en crucero, ATIS copiado y el TOD estimado acercándose
Sesión de aterrizaje VFR: a no menos de 5MN del aeropuerto, IFR: después de la sesión de llegada

También se recomienda que se tenga a la mano una lista de sesiones para verificar que se hayan comentado todos los puntos importantes:

Sesión de Salida

Clima
Terreno. MSA y MVA.** Elevación del campo
Procedimiento de salida instrumental**
NOTAMs
Posición y ruta de rodaje
Cabina estéril
Anormalidades y fuego en encendido de motor
¿Preguntas o comentarios?

Sesión de Despegue

Tipo de despegue, configuración (y retracción de tren de aterrizaje*)
Salida y altitud inicial
Anormalidades y emergencias en el despegue y ascenso inicial
Toma de controles
Procedimientos anormales
¿Preguntas o comentarios?

Sesión de Crucero

Clima
Combustible
Top of descent
Terreno. MEA y MOCA.** MEF
Desviación
Emergencias y anormalidades
¿Preguntas o comentarios?

Sesión de Llegada

Clima
Terreno. MSA y MVA.** Elevación del campo
NOTAMs
Cabina estéril
Tipo de aproximación. Procedimiento de aproximación
Ruta de rodaje y posición
Alterno y combustible
Emergencias y anormalidades
¿Preguntas o comentarios?

Sesión de Aterrizaje

Tipo de aterrizaje y punto de toque
Viento y configuración
Velocidad de aproximación inicial y final
DA/MDA**

* Para avión multimotor ligero
** Para vuelos IFR

Además, se puede usar el acrónimo FORDEC (o HORDEC en español) para situaciones anormales:

Facts (Hechos)
Options (Opciones)
Risks/Benefits (Riesgos/Beneficios)
Decision (Desición)
Execute (Ejecutar)
Check (Checar)


EJEMPLOS

Sesión de Salida:

"El clima está __.
El terreno está al __. MSA __. MVA __. Elevación del aeropuerto __.
*Procedimiento de salida*
NOTAMs: __.
Estamos aquí y vamos a rodar a la pista __ por las calles de rodaje __.
Cabina estéril debajo de __ pies.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal arriba de 1000 pies sobre el terreno. En caso de que no se solucione el problema, regresamos a __. En caso de un fuego en el encendido de motor, cortar mezcla, abrir el acelerador y apagar la bomba de combustible mientras doy marcha. En caso de que el fuego continúe, evacuar el avión. Apagaré la batería y me llevaré el extinguidor para apagar el fuego.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Despegue para un Monomotor con Tren Fijo:

"Será un despegue normal/de pista corta/de pista suave en la pista __, flaps __. VFR: Salida directa/inicial por la derecha/izquierda a __, IFR: Rumbo de pista, vectores a __/rumbo __, vectores a __/salida instrumental __, a __ pies.
En caso de motor tosco, falla de motor, vibraciones altas, o puerta abierta ántes de rotar, abortar el despegue al cerrar el acelerador y aplicar frenos, avisar al ATC y salir de la pista si es posible. En caso de falla de motor después de rotar y debajo de 500 pies sobre el terreno, cerrar el acelerador, asegurar el avión, y aterrizar al frente. En caso de una falla de motor arriba de 500 pies sobre el terreno, volar al campo más adecuado/viraje por la derecha/izquierda de regreso al campo, asegurar el avión, y aterrizar. En caso de una falla de motor arriba de 1000 pies sobre el terreno, 'engine failure in-flight' memory items. En caso de que vuelva a encender, aterrizar prontamente como sea posible. En caso de que no vuelva a encender, lista y memory items de 'emergency landing'. En caso de una emergencia, mis/tus controles.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal arriba de 1000 pies sobre el terreno.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Despegue para un Monomotor con Tren Retractable:

"Será un despegue normal/de pista corta/de pista suave en la pista __, flaps __. VFR: Salida directa/inicial por la derecha/izquierda a __, IFR: Rumbo de pista, vectores a __/rumbo __, vectores a __/salida instrumental __, a __ pies.
En caso de motor tosco, falla de motor, vibraciones altas, o puerta abierta ántes de rotar, abortar el despegue al cerrar el acelerador y aplicar frenos, avisar al ATC y salir de la pista si es posible. En caso de falla de motor después de rotar con pista disponible, aterrizar enfrente. En caso de falla de motor con tren arriba debajo de 500 pies sobre el terreno, cerrar el acelerador, asegurar el avión, y aterrizar al frente. En caso de una falla de motor arriba de 500 pies sobre el terreno, volar al campo más adecuado/viraje por la derecha/izquierda de regreso al campo, asegurar el avión, y aterrizar. En caso de una falla de motor arriba de 1000 pies sobre el terreno, 'engine failure in-flight' memory items. En caso de que vuelva a encender, aterrizar prontamente como sea posible. En caso de que no vuelva a encender, lista y memory items de 'emergency landing'. En caso de una emergencia, mis/tus controles.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal arriba de 1000 pies sobre el terreno.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Despegue para un Multimotor de Pistón/Turbohélice Ligero o Mediano:

"Será un despegue normal/de pista corta en la pista __, flaps __. Podremos/no podremos ascender con Vyse, así que tren arriba con ascenso positivo/blue line y sin pista disponible.
VFR: Salida directa/inicial por la derecha/izquierda a __ pies. IFR: Rumbo de pista, vectores a __/rumbo __, vectores a __/salida instrumental __, a __ pies.
En caso de motor tosco, falla de motor, vibraciones altas, o puerta abierta ántes de rotar, abortar el despegue al cerrar el acelerador y aplicar frenos, avisar al ATC y salir de la pista si es posible. En caso de falla de motor después de rotar debajo de blue-line, cerrar los aceleradores, asegurar el avión, y aterrizar enfrente. En caso de falla de motor a o arriba de blue-line, realizar los 'engine failure after lift-off with landing gear UP' memory items. Podremos/no podremos ascender a 400 pies sobre el terreno, así que declararé emergencia, aseguraré el motor, y regresaré para aterrizar / volaré al campo más adecuado enfrente y haré un aterrizaje de emergencia. En caso de una emergencia, mis/tus controles.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal arriba de 1000 pies sobre el terreno.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Crucero para un Monomotor:

"El clima está __.
El terreno está al __. MEA __, MOCA__. MEF __.
Buena/mala velocidad terrestre, así que vamos a consumir menos/el mismo/más combustible calculado en el registro de navegación.
Top of descent estimado a __/__ millas de __, así que haremos una sesión de llegada y de aterrizaje a las __ horas/pasando __/a __ millas de __.
En caso de que tengamos que desviarnos, tenemos el aeropuerto de __ al __.
En caso de una falla de motor, 'engine failure in-flight' memory items. En caso de que el motor vuelva a encender, aterrizar prontamente como sea posible. En caso de que no vuelva a encender, declarar emergencia, lista y memory items de 'emergency landing'.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Crucero para un Multimotor:

"El clima está __.
El terreno está al __. MEA __, MOCA__. MEF __.
Buena/mala velocidad terrestre, así que vamos a consumir menos/el mismo/más combustible calculado en el registro de navegación.
Top of descent estimado a __/__ millas de __, así que haremos una sesión de llegada y de aterrizaje a las __ horas/pasando __/a __ millas de __.
En caso de que tengamos que desviarnos, tenemos el aeropuerto de __ al __.
En caso de una falla de motor, 'engine failure in-flight' memory items y troubleshooting checklist. En caso de que el motor vuelva a encender, continuar como planeado. En caso de que no vuelva a encender, mantener arriba de o Vyse, asegurar el motor, declarar emergencia, y aterrizar prontamente como sea posible.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Llegada para un Monomotor:

"El clima está __.
El terreno está al __. MSA __. MVA __. Elevación del campo __.
NOTAMs: __. Cabina estéril debajo de __ pies.
Será una aproximación VFR: visual a la pista __ con un inicial por la derecha/izquierda / IFR: instrumental a la pista __, *procedimiento de aproximación*.
Aterrizaremos en la pista __, desalojando por la calle de rodaje __, y rodaremos a __ por las calles de rodaje __.
El alterno es __ con __ horas de combustible.
En caso de una falla de motor, 'engine failure in-flight' memory items. En caso de que el motor vuelva a encender, aterrizar prontamente como sea posible. En caso de que no vuelva a encender, declarar emergencia, lista y memory items de 'emergency landing'.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Llegada para un Multimotor:

"El clima está __.
El terreno está al __. MSA __. MVA __. Elevación del campo __.
NOTAMs: __. Cabina estéril debajo de __ pies.
Será una aproximación VFR: visual a la pista __ con un inicial por la derecha/izquierda / IFR: instrumental a la pista __, *procedimiento de aproximación*.
Aterrizaremos en la pista __, desalojando por la calle de rodaje __, y rodaremos a __ por las calles de rodaje __.
El alterno es __ con __ horas de combustible.
En caso de una falla de motor, 'engine failure in-flight' memory items. Troubleshooting checklist ántes de llegar al IAF o ántes de empezar a recibir vectores. En caso de que el motor vuelva a encender, continuar como planeado. En caso de que no vuelva a encender, o ya pasando el IAF o ya recibiendo vectores, mantener arriba de o Vyse, asegurar el motor, declarar emergencia, y aterrizar prontamente como sea posible.
En caso de cualquier anormalidad, solucionar con la lista de verificación anormal.
¿Preguntas o comentarios?"

Sesión de Aterrizaje para un Monomotor:

"Aterrizaje normal/de pista corta/de pista suave en la pista __, con el punto de toque en __.
El viento está __, así que flaps __.
Velocidad de aproximación inicial __, velocidad de aproximación final __.
DA/MDA son __ pies."

Sesión de Aterrizaje para un Multimotor:

"Aterrizaje normal/de pista corta en la pista __, con el punto de toque en __.
El viento está __, así que flaps __.
Velocidad de aproximación inicial __, velocidad de aproximación final __.
DA/MDA son __ pies."

Ejemplo HORDEC en un vuelo IFR en IMC en monomotor:

Hechos: Tenemos una falla de alternador. Estamos usando el GPS para Com1 y Nav1, y el transponder, así que tenemos aproximadamente 15 minutos de energía con la batería. Estamos en IMC.
Opciones: Volar al aeropuerto que esté en VMC y aterrizar tan prontamente como sea posible. Checando las gráficas y los METARs de los aeropuertos de la ruta, el aeropuerto de __ es el más cercano en VMC.
Riesgos/Beneficios: Tardaremos 20 minutos para llegar así que puede que perdamos energía eléctrica, aunque ya estaremos volando hacia condiciones visuales, y podemos continuar con una aproximación visual. La elevación más alta en el área es de __ pies y está al __ del aeropuerto.
Decisión: ¿Preguntas o comentarios? OK, entonces volamos a __. También nos declaramos en emergencia y pedimos vectores a __.
Ejecución: *Declaración en emergencia notificando la situación, solicitando vectores a __, solicitando el clima en el aeropuerto*
Check: Confirmar que el clima está VMC, verificar la MOCA con la carta en-ruta IFR, checar el terreno y elevaciones con la carta visual, y realizar una sesión de llegada y aterrizaje.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ferry flight with the King Air C90GT

Yesterday, we flew to Houston Hobby in a King Air C90GT to leave it for servicing. What an awesome flying machine and great experience!

The pilot contacted me about a month ago because he wanted a safety pilot and someone who is familiarized with communication and navigation ops in the US. We planned the route of flight and reviewed the charts, the airport info, and customs procedures for the flight.

In the day of the flight, we met at 9:00am at the GA gate of the airport and had to wait for him to come with the flight plan so I could enter the GA area of the aiport. It's a ridiculous procedure in mexican airports in case you don't have an airport ID.
We then drove to the hangar and towed the beautiful C90GT to the ramp. As I organized my stuff in the cockpit, the fuel truck filled the tanks with precious jetfuel. We got into the airplane and went through the cockpit preparation checklist to start both Pratt and Whitney PT-6As and taxi to the ramp next to the DGAC offices. I got to taxi the King Air for a short time and it's really nice to taxi it. Not like the Duchess, which requires a lot of rudder pressure to turn. We cleared our departure paperwork with immigration and as I was no longer needed, I got into the airplane to call fltplan and advise our departure for the mexican eAPIS and I also called the US customs in Hobby to report our estimated arrival time, which was in the next 3:10 hours.

As I hanged up, the pilot got into the airplane and we set ourselves up in the cockpit to get our clearance to HOU: "cleared for the Houston Hobby airport via GDL-UJ14-TAM-J177-PSX, TAROS2 departure, climb and maintain FL230, expect FL250, squawk 4226."
We then completed the before start checklist and started up the enwgines. The sound of those engines starting up in real life is just music to the ears! I then programmed the route in the GPS as the pilot requested taxi to the active runway.

As we approached the runway, we completed the before takeoff checklist and were cleared for takeoff on runway 10. That sound when the engines are spooling up and the governor starts limiting the propeller RPMs... We accelerated down the runway and lifted up. Passing 6500 feet, or 1500 above ground level, we were handed off to departure control: "Radar contact, climb and maintain FL230, and fly direct TAROS." As we climbed, the pilot set the autopilot modes for the flight director and he gave me control for some minutes. The King Air is stable and heavy, but responsive. Sure is a pleasure to fly manually. We then activated the autopilot, made our 10,000ft AGL checks, passed through transition altitude, and we were handed off to Mexico Center.


"Radar contact, climb and maintain flight level 250." We flew on route to Tamuín VOR and requested direct ONDIS on the J177 airway. It took a while for them to approve our request and I took some pictures and an in-flight footage:



As we were flying on J177 to Palacios VOR, we were handed off to Monterrey Center and we started to feel light chops. Nothing too bad. An hour or so later we contacted Houston Center and we were cleared for the ROYOH2 arrival. We then did an arrival briefing without an approach review since we couldn't copy the ATIS by then. As I copied Hobby's ATIS, we then briefed our approach for the LOC runway 22 and our taxi route to customs.

We were then instructed to descend and to fly direct to ROYOH. With further descents, we were instructed to fly direct Hobby VOR and as we approached, we contacted Houston Approach. We flew directly over the airport with a southeast heading and got vectors to the localizer. It was scattered, but we got to fly through a cloud on the approach. With the final altitude and heading instruction, she asked us to advise when we had the field in sight and a few seconds later I advised her we had it in sight, and we were cleared for the visual to runway 22.

Now with Hobby tower, I called the before landing items after we put the gear down, and we were cleared to land on runway 22. I must say it was a very nice day in Houston and I didn't expect that since I checked the weather a few days before and it looked like it was going to be cool. I took my A-2 flight jacket, but I didn't use it. "Wind check" - "wind 190 at 10." Flaps down and with the approach stable, the GPWS called "fivehundred". With some crosswind from the left, we touched down on runway 22 after a really nice flight over central Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico.

We taxied to customs, stopped on the ramp, and went through the shut-down checklist. We were greeted by two friendly CBP officers who checked our passports and visas, stampted them. We had to fill out the I-94s in the customs office, because the pilot was sure they were no longer needed, but we were done in five minutes. We shook hands and proceeded to the airplane to start it up and taxi to Horizon Air, which is next to Beechcraft Services.

After going to the restroom, we talked to the friendly girl at the counter and helped us book our flight back to Guadalajara with United Airlines. She called us a taxi as well and after saying good bye, we drove to Houston Intercontinental Airport.

We got our boarding passes and went through smurf security pretty fast. After eating a double cheeseburger at McDonalds, we went to our gate where we waited for twenty minutes or so. Boarding was quick and I chatted with the flight crew. I told them it was going to be my first flight in an ERJ-145 and I was going to sit in the back, but that at least the engine sound would be nice.

Pushback and engine start, we taxied to runway 17L, and took off into the wild dark-blue yonder. I really liked the ERJ-145XR. It's not that uncomfortable and the service was pretty good. After an uneventful flight, we touched down on runway 28 and taxied to a remote position where a bus took us to customs thereafter. After a quick customs check, the King Air pilot gave me a ride where I could take a taxi, and I then got home.

It was a pretty good experience and I had a nice conversation with the King Air pilot about corporate aviation, our experiences, the King Air, and plans for the future. We were an excellent crew!
This flight, and the one in which we'll bring the King Air back, is a very good transition from student pilot to corporate pilot. I could experience what must be done in order to perform the flight, and I could experience my first real-life crew operation in an awesome airplane.
I'm definitely looking forward to the next flight with the C90GT.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Commercial Multi-engine Checkride Passed!

The first thing I have to say is that this checkride was the best one I've ever had and I totally enjoyed it. It was an awesome flight! Not because it was easy, on the contrary; it was fair, and as the 'checkride ought to be like a skirt' saying goes: short enough to be interesting, but still long enough to cover everything.

It all started on December the 2nd in my introductory flight in the Beechcraft Duchess. The weather was perfect: Few clouds and cold. It was even colder up there. Bill, my instructor, introduced me to slow flight, stalls, steep turns, an emergency descent, a Vmc demostration and how the Duchess handles with a simulated one-engine-inoperative. He even demonstrated a steep turn to both sides with one engine simulated inoperative. Cool stuff! I laugh when I think about it, because some multi-engine instructors tell their studentes to only turn to the side of the operative engine. Mexican flight training is full of satires. I'm sure a book full of flight training satires can be written.

The next four flights I practiced normal takeoffs, slow flight, power-on and -off stalls, accelerated stalls, steep turns, emergency descents, flying with reference to instruments, and some simulated one-engine-inoperative work to get used to the feel of it.
On the next flight, the sixth one, I practiced short-field takeoffs and landings, an engine failure during takeoff before Vmc, a simulated one-engine-inoperative pattern, and Bill demonstrated a simulated one-engine-inoperative ILS approach. The next flight was one of my favourites since we practiced more Vmc demos and I practiced my first real engine shut-down, feathering, securing, and restart. I also practiced my first simulated one-engine-inoperative ILS, and I only had one point deflection the localizer and the glideslope! Tons of fun.

I reviewed all the tasks required by the PTS to get the multi-engine rating on my commercial pilot certificate on the eighth flight. When I reviewed all the tasks in it to get endorsed for the practical test, my instructor didn't like my short-field landings. I floated too much. After talking with other pilots in a hangar party at Montgomery Field, I then demonstrated a good Vmc demos, very good short-field landings, and an engine-out pattern at Gillespie, the next day. Bill then scheduled the ME commercial practical test for monday the 23rd.

On that monday, I woke up at 7:00am, had a good brakefast, rode to the flightschool and met Bill, who signed my ME practical test endorsement and my IACRA application. The examiner arrived to the school and we began by reviewing my papers and the IACRA application. I then showed him the Duchess' maintenance inspection logs to show the airplane was airworthy.

Then, he continued by asking me certification and currency requirements, as well as the can/can't do's with a commercial ME rating. He asked me about certification of multi-engine airplanes, engine-out aerodynamics, systems, performance, abnormal and emergency situations, and we finished by discussing how the plan of action was going to be. I decided to do all the maneuvers west of Carlsbad, over the Pacific Ocean. I then had to do a simulated one-engine-inoperative ILS to Palomar Airport, make a full stop landing, do a pattern at Palomar, and return to Montgomery Field. I also asked the examiner who the pilot in command was going to be and who will fly the airplane in case something abnormal happens. After making everything clear, we decided to meet in a few minutes, when I was ready.

I checked the Duchess, checked the weather, NOTAMs and copied the performance with the present conditions, while eating Thai noodles with chicken.

After putting my bag on the right rear passenger seat, buckling up and organizing my stuff, I started the engines, copied ATIS and started my taxi. After contacting ground, requesting taxi and stopping on the runup of runway 28R, I did the before-takeoff procedures, was cleared for takeoff and did a short-field takeoff.

We flew over the coast at 4500ft and got to my chosen practice area, where I first demonstrated slow flight with a turn to the left and to the right to clear the area.
I then recovered from slow flight and did a power-off stall, followed by a power-on stall. He then asked me to do a Vmc demonstration, which I did After demonstrating steep turns, we climbed to 6500 feet to demonstrate an emergency descent. And then the fun part started.

We flew northeastwards towards Valley Center, passing over Palomar Airport, and he asked me to demonstrate an engine failure, so I cut the mixture of the left engine. Pitch, mixtures, props, throttles, pumps, flaps up, gear up, identify: dead foot, dead engine; verify with throttle, troubleshoot? no, and feather.
I secured the left engine, trimmed the airplane, and then followed the engine air start checklist with unfeathering accumulators. I picked up a bit of speed, brought the propeller lever out of the feather position to the high RPM setting and as the propeller started to rotate, I brought the propeller lever to midrange. The checklist goes more in depth than this, of course, and be assured I went through the checklists and procedures as efficiently and effectively as possible ;)

After giving the engine some time to warm up, we continued normal cruise flight and prepared for the one-engine-inoperative ILS approach into Palomar. Chart in the yoke clip, approach activated in the GPS, all the frequencies tuned in and OBSs set, identification of navaids, and approach briefing performed. I requested SoCal a practice ILS to Palomar and got one vector heading to the localizer. I was cleared for the practice ILS to Palomar and the examiner then simulated a failure of an engine. I was flying right on the localizer and a dot above the glideslope. That made it a nice stabilized descent towards the FAF, where I lowered the landing gear, put 10 degrees of flaps, reviewed the before landing checklist, and flew the ILS to minimums (526 feet MSL). At minimums, I continued visually, put another 10 degrees of flaps and landed on runway 24. I exited on N3 and taxied to runway 24 via N and did a magneto check on 24's runup area.

When cleared for takeoff to do a traffic pattern, I taxied to the runway's centerline, held my brakes, brought the power to 2000RPM, released my brakes, put full power and a few seconds later, the examiner pulled one of the mixtures which made me close both throttles to abort the takeoff. He gave me the engine back and we continued the takeoff. After crossing 400ft above ground level, he simulated an engine failure and I continued on the pattern on one engine. I then approached to runway 24 and on short final he gave me the power back on the simulated failed engine and instructed me to go around. After the go-around, we flew up to 3500ft over the coast, copied Montgomery's ATIS, and contacted the tower over Mount Soledad.

I was instructed to make a left downwind to runway 28L, following a Warrior. After completing the approach checklist, I slowed down and made a wider downwind to maintain a good separation with the Warrior. After being cleared to land as number two, I reduce the power, lowered the landing gear abeam the numbers and put 10 degrees of flaps. I then noticed the gear in transit light was on and no three greens. I quickly checked the circuit breaker, and as assumed, the examiner pulled it out and I pushed it in. Three green! Before landing checklist.

Now on final with flaps full and stabilized, I brought the prop levers to high RPM and made a final GUMPS check. Crossing the threshold with the throttles back to idle, I felt a wheel touch down very soft and after some milliseconds, I touched down with the mains, applied some pressure on the brakes, brought the nosewheel down and exited on taxiway G. After completing the after landing flows and checklist, I contacted ground control and taxied to the school. "Good work, Daniel" said the examiner.

Beautiful flight! Surely one to remember.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It wasn't so bad

Every year just gets better.

This one will (hopefully) close with a big win: Getting my multi-engine rating on my commercial pilot certificate before Christmas. That will allow me to start 2014 by looking for flying jobs and developing my business. New experiences that will enrichen the passion!

It would be awesome to spend Christmas with the people that supported me, and to be able to thank them. I'm also looking forward to eating my grandma's turkey with gravy, potatoes and sauerkraut, of course!

Passion, motivation, and inspiration drives people. With them, you automatically become knowledge-hungry. You need more than the minimums. You learn more, meet people, correlate the information, become more aware of what is needed to be learned and practiced... it enables you to experience things that the average person in the same field could never experience. "The interest has feet", said my father. All of this enriches life.

With passion, people see the potential in you. You gain their trust and respect, and invest in you. It's also about confidence and being sincere. The qualities of a good person.

It's about finding the thing that makes you feel like a kid in a toy store, no matter the age. The most recent example: I wanted to practice procedures in the Duchess, the twin airplane that I'm flying now in the flight school. It was sunday, so everything was pretty calm at Montgomery Field. I decided to look around the airport to see what I could see or who I could meet. I saw the Stearman Ale House where they keep a Stearman open, so I stopped by to say hi. I started to chat with the guy that had flown it that day and told me to jump in the cockpit. Kid-in-a-toy-store-moment. I had never sat in a Stearman and it's my favourite biplane. Two guys then arrived. Stephen and Fred. I'm sure Stephen saw my face when I was sitting in the cockpit and then made my day by asking me if I wanted to take a ride in the pattern with him. But of course!

They took the Stearman out and I jumped into the front seat. After some jokes and comments, I put the headsets on and the 7 cylinder Continental engine came to life. Ah the sweet music of a radial engine...

We taxied to runway 28R and as we got our takeoff clearance, the Stearman left the ground after a few seconds rolling on the runway. The sound, feel and sight of an open cockpit biplane... We did two touch and goes and a full stop. Stephen let me fly it on two patterns from upwind to final and I have to say: what a beauty it is to fly that airplane. Smooth on the controls, the wind blowing around your head and the sweet sound of the radial engine advancing you through the air at some enjoyable 80 miles per hour. Great experience.

I compared the experince when I was invited to the cockpit of an Airbus in cruise, sat on the FO's seat, had the comms and performed the arrival briefing with the captain, while programming the MCDU and reviewing the charts. It was another great experience, but because I think and hope I'll be doing it in the future, flying a Stearman beats that any time.

Today I did my seventh flight in the Duchess. I reviewed slow flight, power-off and on stalls, an accelerated stall, steep turns, and I practiced an engine shut-down and feathering, with a restart thereafter. It's great to know that you can simultaneously maintain altitude, a heading or a turn to a heading while performing complex procedures. I'm sure the ultimate test is doing all of that under IMC. I also did a practice ILS approach into Montgomery under the hood, with a simulated engine out. It was great! No more than one scale needle deflection :)

Can't wait to fly more and take my practical test!