It’s been a while. My Christmas holiday ended up streching into four weeks and I have only been back to school this week. I have been to the EASA IR exams earlier this week and later had my first experiences in the Bonanza trainer.
We ended up having time off to study for the IR exams and the holiday period was extended. We took the exams this week on Monday and Tuesday in Helsinki at Trafi (Finnish Transport Safety Agency). I did IFR Communication, Flight Planning & Monitoring and Meteorology on the first day and Human Performance & Limitations, Instrumentation, Radio Navigation and Air Law the second day. I felt pretty good after the first day. In advance I was worried about Meteorology, but it turned out with a result of 93%, which I was happy about. The second day didn’t feel as good, I was really unsure about Radio Navigation and Instruments. Turned out I passed those anyway, Radio Nav just by an inch but I got a whopping 95% of Instrumentation. I did FAIL one test though. To my surprise it was Flight Planning & Monitoring. I’m quite unsure why, because it felt fine and I knew how to do all the calculations etc. I have come to a conclusion it must have something to do with the regulative questions. It just feels so strange because I wasn’t expecting to fail it at all. Anyway, the overall result was pretty good, averaging at about 90%. And on the positive note, I earned another trip to Helsinki in the near future.
On Wednesday it was time to go back to school. I had my first Bonanza trainer session. The Bonanza FNPT II is a nice machine. The teachers say it corresponds to about 80% of the reality compared to the real plane. It is of course not a full-motion simulator, it is not even called a simulator. The visuals are ok and everytime we’ve taxied it to the runway, I’ve felt like we’re going somewhere!
The first two flights in the trainer were done in VFR. These first flights were actually type training for the Bonanza. Bonanza is already a much more sophisticated airplane compared to the C152. There’s much more equipment and switches to check and operate. Also the autopilot check as well as the engine run-up took a bit of memorizing. The flow isn’t perfect yet, but it feels much better already after a few days. During the first two flights we did slow flight, turns, stall recoveries, flew the traffic circuit and approaches and saw how Bonanza flies with different power settings. We also had a few failure situations. We did an emergency descent from 12 000 ft down to 1000 ft. Then the static port was blocked, which caused the altimeter to freeze and the airspeed indicator to show incorrectly. You were supposed to notice this and use the alternate static air. There was also a malfunction with the landing gear and we didn’t get “three greens” when selecting the gear down (all the landing gear lights have to illuminate when the gear is extended normally) and we had to extend the gear manually. It was all quite a lot again and reminded me of the chaos I felt during the first flights in the C152 last year. The difference is that I already can fly and am used to being in the air, but all the new equipment is just a lot at first. Try to remember how it felt to drive a car the first time! It wasn’t that easy to pay attention to everything that’s going on around you. It feels like that to learn new things in a plane too.
Like mentioned before the Bonanza has an autopilot and we got to try that on the second flight. It’s quite nice! One thing it doesn’t do is control yaw so you have to keep your feet on the pedals. Otherwise it felt pretty nice to set it to fly heading and keep the altitude. I felt like ordering coffee at that point.
The third flight this week was the first IFR flight. The first IFR flights are basic instrument flying. The cloud cover was set to 1000 ft (300 m) and we flew in cloud, which made us fly based only on the instruments. It’s been a while since I had those few instrument flights during PPL training and it took a minute to adjust. At some point while making a full circle I felt a little confused about my attitude but just stayed on the instruments and it passed. In the end we did a VOR approach to Pori and the workload increased a lot at that point leaving me a bit overwhelmed. Flying really is constant learning and it’s not just learning new details one by one with time. It puts you to your knees when everything is new and it is thrown at you and you try to grasp it. It’s hard to come up with other situations where I would have felt the same way. Other than the driving school example maybe. And even though I don’t generally like it when I don’t know how to do something, I’m somehow enjoying this!
One great thing at school is that we get to use the trainers everyday day of the week by ourselves for self-training. That’s a great advantage and I did a couple of hours self-training this Saturday. Obviously there isn’t time to polish everything during the school flights since every flight introduces new things and builds on top of the previous. Self-training gives you time to perfect your checklist flows or flying technique etc. I wanted to get a better touch on the electrical trim and I think I managed that. I also practised stabilizing different speeds and did a fairly nice landing in the end.