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Schlagwort: learning to fly

I’m flying in the rain

I’m flying in the rain

Visibility: fair, rain showers
Temperature: 24°C
Wind: 290°, 2-5 knots
QNH: 1017hPa
Location: EDAY (Strausberg)
Equipment: “Kilo Sierra” (Cessna 172, D-EKKS)

Weekends at the airport are usually busy. Today it is warm but rainy. A front with rain showers and low clouds is slowly moving over the city. Many pilots stayed at home.

When I arrive at the flight school, a charter customer and his friends are drinking coffee. They got caught in a rain shower and decided not to continue their pleasure flight.

My instructor sees the weather as a learning experience. So we go. On the way over to EDON (Neuhardenberg), we get caught by the rain. He tells me to do a full circle “use the instruments and try not to loose altitude”. I concentrate on the artificial horizon, the change indicator and the directional gyro. The sound of the rain hitting the metal roof of the cabin resonates with the engines sound.

What are you doing, out there in the rain?!

Neuhardenberg does not answer our call for a long time. Finally a confused voice comes on. “We are closed today. But what are you guys doing here in the rain, anyway?”. So we “divert” to EDCE (Eggersdorf). Not the first choice on a day like this as they have a grass strip which is not too comfortable when wet.

We are following the FWE VOR (Fürstenwalde) which should bring us right by Eggersdorf. I concentrate on staying below the clouds. Eggersdorf is not far and I look for the airfield ahead and to the right. When I spot it, we are almost past it already. We are still at 2.000 feet and I will not be able to get down to pattern altitude in the remaining distance.

“Delta Kilo Sierra flying over the runway”

The instructor tells me to fly along the runway, continue to loose altitude while following the crosswind leg and sink into the pattern on the downwind leg. This gives me time to see what is going on in the pattern and makes it easy to communicate where I am to the others. He says this is a good strategy for a “surprising arrival” at an airport. And he tells me that those can happen…

Airspeed, direction, possitive rate of climb

We are alone in the pattern and go through our program. Short landing, short take-off, simulated engine failure after take-off, landing without flaps. During our last round, the rain shower reaches Eggersdorf. The controller suggests the airport restaurant to wait for the rain to pass. “We would miss all the fun!”, the instructor answers. So I fly into the rain with very little visibility. “Check airspeed, direction and make sure you climb” says the instructor. That is what Captain Dave always pays attention to. For me it’s the first time that I need to check the instruments to make sure I have a positive rate of climb!

To be continued…


(originally posted on July 11, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/im-flying-in-the-rain/)

Heavier than air

Heavier than air

More license talk:

I am a Sports Pilot transitioning to be a Private Pilot. With my Sports Pilots License I can fly Light Sports Aircraft with one or two seats and a maximum take-off weight of 475,5 kilograms. I am limited to Visual Flight Rule (VFR) during the daytime in uncontrolled airspace. I can fly in Germany and in a number of other countries, as long as I travel there in my German registered light sports aircraft. Chartering aircraft abroad can be complicated.

The light sports aircraft class is not regulated internationally. The aircraft are similar but not the same. Many manufacturers have different version of the same basic aircraft to cater to the different national markets. The class is relatively new, many of the aircraft are very sleek high tech toys. Flying light sports is fun and affordable. A great way to fly and an excellent entry into aviation.

Private Pilot

The private pilots license is a more traditional license for private flying. The training is more complex and it is more costly because of the higher price of flight hours. But it also has many more options and possibilities. Larger aircraft with more seats, access to controlled airspace which means access to more airports and the possibility to upgrade to instrument flying and multi engine aircraft. And it is valid international, so I can charter aircraft at my holiday destination, for example.

The transition to the Private Pilots License is in three steps:

First – and most importantly – the step from the national sports pilots license (SPL) to the national private pilots license (PPL-N). The transition requires a theory exam, an extended radio license, a minimum of seven flight hours and a check ride. I just completed this process and am now the holder of a SPL as well as a PPL-A(nat.). I am allowed to fly single engine piston aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 750 kilogram. VFR, in the daytime.

More airplane

The next step is heavier aircraft. I have started to train on a Cessna 172. It is a single engine aircraft with four seats. After 5 flight hours and another check-ride I will be rated for aircraft up to two tons maximum take-off weight (MTOW).

The final step for now will be the rating for Controlled Visual Flight (CVFR). This is an additional qualification for navigation. The use of VOR navigation is tested as well as the ability to hold altitude and course by the instruments only. During the training for this, I will fly with an IFR cap for the first time. This is a visor that blocks the view to the outside so that I am forced to only fly by the instruments. The CVFR rating is a first, very brief glimpse into the world of instrument flying.

The CVFR rating requires another 10 hours of flying, a theory exam and a check ride. After all of this is complete, I fulfill all of the requirements of the Joint Aviation Administration (JAA) for the private pilots license. I can transfer my PPL-N to a PPL JAR-FCL. This is the international private pilots license as it is issued in Europe.

I will keep you posted on the progress!

To be continued…


(originally posted on July 4, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/heavier-than-air/)

172 heavy

172 heavy

Visibility: fair
Temperature: 20°C
Wind: 210°, 5 knots
QNH: 1016hPa
Location: EDAY (Strausberg)
Equipment: “Kilo Sierra” (Cessna 172, D-EKKS)

The training on the 172 goes well and I like the aircraft. Today I have my first passenger flight!

The flight instructor told me that we have to fly the 172 at its maximum take-off weight (MTOW) at some point. He asked me if I wanted to bring some “ballast” in the form of passengers to the next appointment.

I sure do and both my wife and her mother are game. They are also not too heavy. That is important as the MTOW with four people and fuel is easily reached in the small Cessna.

The plan for the day is pattern work in Neuhardenberg (EDON), a large and mainly deserted airfield east of Strausberg. Before we take off, I do a last check with the passengers. All smiling faces, okay, let’s go!

The start run is a bit longer and Kilo Sierra finally looses ground contact in order to begin a concentrated climb. She feels even more stable today, not being bothered much by the cross wind.

After the short hop over to EDON we enter the pattern in the downwind leg. The first landing requires a lot of comments from the instructor. After that it is getting better. I am surprised at how much power I need on final. The additional weight shows.

After two or three landings I look back to the passengers. There are still some smiles on the faces.

To be continued…


(originally posted on June 26, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/172-heavy/)



Visibility: fair
Temperature: 18°C
Wind: 190°, 5 knots
QNH: 1018hPa
Location: Strausberg
Equipment: Cessna 172 (D-EKKS)

The stamp on my private pilots license is not quite dry yet and I am getting to work on the first additional rating already. Today I am at the airport for the first lesson in a Cessna 172. It is a four seated trainer and easily the most popular aircraft in general aviation.

The Cessna 150 that I trained on so far, is her “little sister”. I have read both of their manuals and they are very similar. Still, the 172 is a big step up in size and in power.

We start our morning with some theory in the office of the flight school. The instructor tells me the biggest differences and we go over the fuel system with the tank selector.

When it is time to meet “Kilo Sierra” in person, we start with a walk around. Cessnas are not beautiful and not very efficient either. What makes them the biggest brand in general aviation is reliability, sturdiness and very easy handling.

Kilo Sierra is white and blue and I like her instantly. She is not as old as my trusted Lima X-Ray, but she still has a certain vintage charm to her. And of course, the ashtrays can not be missing!

Kilo Sierra is not much more complex than Lima X-Ray was, but she could be. Her instrument panel is about twice the size and many of the instruments are redundant. She could be rated for IFR. She has a second VOR receiver, a second altimeter and a radio compass.

I am anxious to see what she can do, so we start-up and go. The 5 liter engine vibrates deeply and is very responsive to the throttle. On take-off, I am surprised by the torque effect. The propeller turns to the right and pushes the aircraft to the side. That’s normal and needs to be compensated with the rudder. What gets me is the amount of force I need to keep her on the center line – and we are not even airborne yet.


We lift-off and the difference in weight is immediately apparent. Kilo Sierra glides through the air noticeably calmer than the smaller Cessna or my beloved Ultra Lights. Control inputs require a lot of force and the engine moves forward decidedly. I like it.

Air work

We fly direction east, climb to 3000 feet and start with some basic air work. I try to hold my altitude and the course. Then we fly standard circles (3 degree turns) and try a few stalls. I get calmer and more confident. Kilo Sierra handles like the more comfortable and more stable version of Lima X-Ray. How could that be wrong?

After warming up, we go over to Eggersdorf. We are the only plane in the pattern. Our first approach is a bit low. Kilo Sierra will sink fast without power. The flare is easy and the landing a bit fast but not too bad.

On the second approach, the altitude looks better. I set flaps, adjust power and trim to stay on the glide path. Looking good, flare and touch down. Is it possible that this is easier than with Lima X-Ray? We try different kinds of landings. Short, long and go-arounds. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

Before we go home, we put in a pit-stop at Eggersdorf. The fuel is a bit cheaper here than in Strausberg and my flight instructor wants to use the occasion to top-up. We put 80 liters into her two tanks and only weep a little when it comes to payment.

Kilo Sierra has left a lasting impression on me. I can not wait for my next hour on the 172!

To be continued…


(originally posted on June 13, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/172/)

Flying Katana

Flying Katana

Visibility: good
Temperature: 16°C
QNH: 1008hPa
Location: Drewitz
Equipment: DA20 Katana

As part of my training, I have to fly two different kinds of aircraft. My flight school has a deal with a flight school in Drewitz. They train on a DA20 Katana, an Austrian built light trainer.

Today is a great flying day. In the morning I had the second part of my theory test. In the afternoon I go flying.

The plan for the day is to take the trusted Cessna over to Drewitz. There we will fly the Katana for about an hour before we go back to Strausberg. The weather conditions are easy and we will not file a flight plan for the half hour trip over to Drewitz. But we plan the flight on the map and talk about the Fürstenwalde VOR which is about half way on our route and will be our guide.

Cottbus-Drewitz Airport (EDCD)

Like many airports in the region, Drewitz is a relic of the cold war. The runway is the right size for an airliner and the hangars are reinforced concrete, overgrown with grass. On approach I’m having a hard time. The runway is so much wider than the one in Strausberg that it is hard to estimate the altitude correctly. There is a new, beautiful terminal building that my flight instructor is making fun of. There are no commercial flights in or out of Drewitz.

The Katana D-ELPN (“Papa November”) is waiting for us already. We park the Cessna next to it on the apron and change planes.

DA 20 Katana

The DA20 is a very popular trainer. It is about the same size as the Cessna but that about sums up their similarities. The Katana is a low wing composite aircraft. That means the fuselage is mounted on top of the wings. It is made primarily from composite materials, not from sheet metal.

The aircraft is powered by a Rotax engine, much like the ones powering many Ultra Lights. It is very efficient and quiet. Last but not least, this Katana has a constant speed prop. The pitch of the prop is adjustable. This allows the engine to run at it’s most efficient RPMs. The constant speed prop is new to me and the settings are a challenge.

Up, up and away

We go through the check list and the flight instructor takes his time to explain “Papa November” to me. We start the engine and go. The Katana has a free moving front wheel. The steering works by breaking the main wheels individually. It takes me a long time to get used to that and I’m sure the controller on the tower has fun watching us meander down the taxi way.

We take off and the air flow through the small windows is cooling us down. We were starting to steam under the large glass canopy. Once airborne, I feel at home in the DA20 instantly. She reminds me of the Ultra Light aircraft I fly but is a bit more stable. The visibility, without the wings above us, is stunning.


We climb above the pattern altitude to do some air work. While we are doing our “lazy eights”, we hear a formation of military C-160 Transall transporters announce their intention to perform some short landing maneuvers in Drewitz. They are very close to the ground and we decide to stay out of their way and watch the spectacle from above. They are coming in low and slow, touch down on the outmost edge of the concrete of the runway and break violently. Watching the large turboprops from up here is a treat!

After the two big guys are gone, we have the pattern to ourselves again. We do two or three touch-and-go’s before we call it a day. The Katana was clearly a great experience but I am also happy to be back in “Lima X-Ray” for the way home. The trusted Cessna and I have become friends.

To be continued…


(originally posted on May 11, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/flying-katana/)

Second first solo

Second first solo

Visibility: about 10 kilometres
Temperature: -1°C
QNH: 1025hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: Cessna 150 (D-EALX)

It is a cold morning. The first of the season, really although it is nearly February. The grass on the airfield is covered in white frost. The atmosphere is dense and cold and the wind sock hangs down with not enough air movement to shake off the nights frost.

There is a lot of activity on the airfield. A crew of four workers is getting three of the Stemme motor gliders ready that are parked on the apron. They perform checks and wipe the ice off of the wings. Two or three other aircraft are being made ready on the apron.

At the door of the flight school I find a note “Meet me at the hangar”. I arrive over there as the instructor has just started to pre flight the little Cessna. I check the fuel and we pull her out of the circular hangar.

Lima X-Ray starts up almost immediately. Good girl. We taxi over to the apron and give her a minute to warm up. The carburetor pre-heat expedites this process.

We take off into the cold. The sky is grey but the ceiling is more than high enough. There is almost no wind. Perfect conditions for a low time student.

The first landing is a greaser. I round out, hold her parallel to the runway until the stall horn chimes and then let her settle onto the runway. Just like I learned it. The flight instructor is happy. He gives me a bit of advice on the timing and tells me to fly a larger pattern. He starts talking about a solo.

After the second landing he breaks. He tells me to do another two of three landings on my own – if I feel like it. Is he kidding? I’m thrilled!

I am giddy but not quite as excited as with my first solo. After all I have flown aircraft on my own before. I know that I will be able to land it somehow. On take-off the missing weight of the instructor is noticeable but not as much as in the ultra light. I reach the pattern altitude a bit faster, that’s about it.

Lima X-Ray and I have started to become friends. I treat her gently and she forgives my clumsiness in return. My first solo landing is very respectable. Not as greasy as when the instructor was sitting next to me but good enough. As I take off after my second landing, I pass the instructor while he walks down the side of the runway. Apparently he is not afraid for his property enough to stay out in the cold.

After two touch and goes, I announce my intention to finally land on the third run. My instructor comes on the radio and tells me to keep going if I like. I sure do!

After six successful landings I have had enough. Lima X-Ray and I are done for the day. We go back to the apron and taxi by my first love, the trusted Lima Juliet. She is about to take another student to his wings. I waive at my old instructor and he smiles at me.

To be continued…

(originally posted on January 25, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/second-first-solo/)

Instrument flying

Instrument flying

Visibility: right around 1.5 kilometers
Temperature: 11°C
QNH: 1014hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: Cessna 150 (D-EALX)

It is a miserable day with visibilities so close to the VFR minimums, that only the fact that it is Saturday is getting aircraft in the air. I arrive at the flight school and we start our morning with an extended theory lesson.

Around mid morning we go out to fly a few patterns to see if the visibility has improved. It has not. In the down wind leg we are just about able to see the runway.

Back in the briefing room, we continue theory of radio navigation. Today I am introduced to the concept of the VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Radio). This is a network of ground based radio stations. Their signal can be picked up by the VOR receiver in the aircraft which displays the relative position of the aircraft to the station.

We go through the theory. Then we simulate a trip on the computer. After that the flight instructor looks out of the window. The fog has not lifted. “Today would be a great day to get some real life experience” he says refering to the poor visibility. I’m game.

Our half hour trip will be a triangle to the south. My job will be to follow VOR and compass and to fly the aircraft without looking out of the window (there is not much to see out there anyway). The job of the flight instructor is to tell me the new headings at the way points.

We are departing to the south, following the VOR receiver in the cockpit to a close by VOR station. I hold the course and maintain the correct altitude. Maintaining the correct attitude with the artificial horizon is something new to me. It requires a lot of my concentration.

We use the VOR station as our first turning point and change the course to the north east. Again we follow its signal, this time to guide us away from the sender.

The next turning point, which will bring us on a western course back to the airport, is more complicated to find. We calculated the time after which we should get there and we know the heading for the last leg of the trip back home. As we are getting closer to the turning point, we start calling in to the airport to get our bearing.

At about 30 degrees south of the final bearing, I begin a left bank onto the new course. I peek out of the side window. Beneath the clouds and the fog I see something dark which may or may not be the lake that markes our way point.

We keep confirming the heading to the airport and before long, we see our home field through the mist. This was great training. I’m sure I will be tired tonight!

To be continued…


(originally posted on November 10, 2011 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/instrument-flying/)

roger, Roger!

roger, Roger!

Just back form a morning of radio training. My head hurts from reading back winds and headings and from avoiding traps like not requesting clearances to cross over virtual runways.

This is gonna be fun when combined with some flying!

To be continued…


(originally posted on November 2, 2011 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/roger-roger/)

Licence talk

Licence talk

Visibility: about 10 metres
Temperature: 21°C
QNH: undetermined
Location: my desk
Equipment: the trusted Mac

I was at the airport yesterday and talked to two of the other flight schools about a “Private Pilote Licence” (PPL).

I have a “Sports Pilots Licence” (SPL) right now. It lets me fly “ultra light” aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 475,5 kg. I can fly VFR (visual flight rule) in the day time in Germany and a number of neighboring countries, that Germany has mutual agreements with.

From my SPL I can trasition to a PPL-N, the national version of the private pilot licence. That will let me fly single engine piston aircraft with two seats and a maximum take-off weight of 750 kg. I can fly VFR in the day time in Germany only.


Ultra lights have come a very long way from the “lawn chairs with wings” that they used to be. Modern ultra lights like my trusted “Rider” or the “Wild Thing” are quite capable and very economic. They are fun to fly and range from very simple fun flyers to high tech flying machines. Modern ultra lights can exheed 150 knots cruise speed with retractable gears and adjustable pitch propellers.

In the PPL world, the development is much slower. The reason for that is the very different certification process. It makes the equipment much more expensive which means it is also more expensive to get the PPL and later charter aircraft.

So why do it?

The PPL-N has no big advantage over the SPL in itself. But it does open the door to a whole new range of options which are not available in the ultra light class.

The most obvious change is weight restriction: While I start in a similar weight class, I can get a two ton rating which will allow me to fly larger aircraft. Single engine aircraft with up to two tons covers most of the market. So I will be able to charter airplanes with four or six seats.

I can get extra ratings which will expand possibilities and safety like a rating for night flight, for controlled visual flight and even a rating for instrument flight (IFR).

And some day, in the distant future, I can get the international version of the PPL which will let me charter aircraft all over the world.

So after I have the tail wheel endorsement (which should be soon), I will go back to “ground school” for the PPL theory. Stay tuned for more licence talk!

To be continued…


(originally posted on October 3, 2011 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/licence-talk/)

Steel – Bread – Peace

Steel – Bread – Peace

Visibility: about 50 km
Temperature: 27°C
QNH: 1011hPa
Location: EDAE (Eisenhüttenstadt)
Equipment: MD3 Rider (D-MALJ)

I took a quick trip to Eisenhüttenstadt today. It turns out that the lady at the aviation administration disagrees with my flight instructor over the requirements for my passenger rating. She is asking for one more trip of more than 50 km.

Eisenhüttenstadt is 62 kilometres according to my flight plan. Also it is an airport I had not been to and today was a gorgeous day for flying after a week of rain!

The city of Eisenhüttenstadt was founded in 1950 as a socialist model city around a steel mill. Today, former “Stalinstadt” is a strange melting pot of socialistic glorification of heavy industry and modern high tech. (wikipedia.org/Eisenhüttenstadt)

To be continued…


(originally posted on July 6, 2011 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/steel-bread-peace/)