The past weeks have been very busy and it’s going to be busy for the rest of the spring. The Bonanza trainer sessions have advanced well and PIC time building has finally started again. A few of us have already flown the real Bonanza this week.
I re-did the EASA Flight Planning and Monitoring test, which I failed on the first try, some time ago. This time I passed with just one incorrect answer. That’s more like it. With that said the IR exams are all passed now.
The synthetic IR training in the Bonanza trainer has advanced so well that there’s about 7 sessions left of that. We have done the radio navigation training and the approach training. Right now we’re doing the cross-country training. It’s quite a bit more relaxed than the approach training, which was pretty hectic. The autopilot is in use as well as the GPS. We’ve learned how to input a flight plan into the GPS and how to modify it if we need to change the route etc. The descent planning also steps into the picture. We will not fly awfully high with the Bonanza, but still if we need to descent from flight level 100 to 2000 feet, some calculations have to be made. The ideal of course is to calculate the descent so that you won’t reach the lower altitude any sooner than you have to. This is mainly because airplanes consume less fuel when at high altitude where air density is low. Another thing to consider, when flying with passengers in a non-pressurized aircraft, is the rate of descent which can’t be very high, because it might cause uncomfortable sensations in the ears. For example the descent from FL100 to 2000 ft at the rate of 500 ft/min takes 16 minutes and at the speed of 160 kt, starts about 26 Nm before. When you add couple of miles for slowing down the speed, the descent needs to start about 30 Nm (55 km) before. It’s easy to see the reason why the descent needs to be planned. It can’t be done in a minute.
So far we’ve flown mostly without any system failures, but the cross-country flights will include that too. The first problem I had occurred as flood lights going out. The ammeter indicated zero. The alternator wasn’t giving any power. However with the help of the emergency checklist that was quickly sorted out. We flew couple of flights with some instruments out a while back and that’s also something to look forward to on the coming sessions. The cross-country IR training also includes flights to Sweden to gain experience of the international flying. Right now I’m not sure if that will happen also outside the trainer, but I’ll surely find that out later.
The approach training was challenging but very interesting. Approach and landing are probably the most exciting part of a flight anyway. The approaches can be divided into precision (ILS, PAR) and non-precision (VOR, NDB, RNAV) approaches. In a precision approach the aircraft gets guidance in both the lateral and the vertical plane. In a non-precision approach the guidance is only lateral and the guidance helps to keep the aircraft on the final approach course which leads towards the runway. In a precision approach the guidance also includes the glide path which will lead the aircraft to the touchdown point on the runway. In a non-precision approach the glide path can be monitored by the pilot for example with the help of a clock or distance. In VOR approaches for example there are published altitudes at certain distances which help you monitor your glide path, whether you’re above or below, and to adjust accordingly. The altitudes can also be referred to time. When you start descent you start the clock. The missed approach point can also be a point in time like in a NDB approach. If at that time, say 2 min 38 seconds, you don’t see the runway, you perform a missed approach.
A PAR (Precision approach radar) approach differs from the other I mentioned while it is not based on the instruments, but an air traffic controller who “talks you down”. We’ve done a few of those even though they are not common in civil aviation. They’re quite fun to fly. A unique feature in PAR is that at some point the radar controller says “do not acknowledge further transmissions”. That means that you are not supposed to read back anything they tell you. You just fly accordingly. Normally everything the ATC tells you has to be either read back or acknowledged in some way.
The coming week should be exciting. I have my first two real Bonanza flights scheduled. These first two flight are VFR flights and are part of the “type rating” for the Bonanza. I also finally get to start my PIC hour building. I have three days of Cessna ahead of me this week. The weather has been horrible here for the beginning of the year and the flying is only now getting in full swing. Let’s hope for good weather so all this can happen!