Commercial Pilots Licence Skill Test

After 3 weeks out of the aircraft due to a combination of bad weather and Christmas holidays, I returned to Spain and was plunged straight into the deep end for the CPL Skills Test.  I had desperately been trying to get this done before Christmas but the weather was so poor and coupled with a limited number of aircraft and examiners it meant I would not be doing it on the back of a run of flights.  C’est la vie, I am sure there will be copious number of times that I will have to do something similar in the life of a Commercial Airline Pilot, in fact a first officer I know had to do an annual check which is 2 days of intense flying on the back of a 5 week break from flying, so it could have been much worse.

My examiner once again was going to be Peter Griffiths, so after the long lay-off this was going to be a monumental effort accompanied by a rather large dose of luck to get through the test unscathed and please the examiner.  My navigation route was given to me the evening before, it was to a place that I knew reasonably well so getting there was not going to be a problem, I just had to make sure that I demonstrated the correct techniques.

The morning of the exam my alarm went off at 6am, fortunately for me I was still not completely back onto European time after 15days on GMT+5 so I felt wide awake.  It was really cold in my room which meant it would definitely be cold outside.  I showered and dressed for breakfast and on my way across to the canteen in the dark, I noticed that all the cars were frozen over.  This was a first for me seeing not just frost on cars, but moisture frozen like rock.

I completed all my paperwork and signed out the aircraft before going to complete the A-check (a thorough check of the aircraft before it flies).  The aircraft was sat out on the apron and was frozen like a brick which meant I was going to have to defrost the whole thing using one of those pump-action garden sprinklers you can buy from the garden centre, but in this case it was full or de-icing fluid as apposed to weed killer.  I lugged it over to the aircraft and gave the pump a few primes and was dismayed to hear the thing sit there and hiss back at me, the wretched thing had a leak which meant I would have to hold the lance with one hand and constantly pump with the other.  After 15 minutes of getting rid of all the hard ice on the aircraft my arms were burning but at least I was nice and warm to complete the rest of the checks on the aircraft.

I then met my examiner an hour before take-off where we discussed the profile of the flight and the speeds I would be flying at.  I headed out to the aircraft to start it up and my examiner would follow me in 15minutes with the hope we could get away early.  So it was only natural really, that the aircraft decided that it did not want to start this morning even when using the cold-start method which is a essentially a combination of holding the starter and dousing the 6 engine chambers with Jet-A1.  I was starting to get annoyed, but luckily Mike, an instructor who I get along with well, knew I was taking my CPL this morning and came over to help me get the thing started.  After a few attempts 2 of the cylinders of the right hand engine sparked into life before eventually dragging the other 4 into the rhythmic clatter that is the sound of the Seneca III roaring into life.  This meant I could now use the alternator to give some extra juice and turn the other engine over quick enough to splutter into life.  I now at least felt some relief the thing was running and turned all of the heating on to get the cabin warmed up ASAP.

We headed out to the holding point for runway 20 where we were stuck behind Mike and his student who were being held up by Seville ATC for their instrument departure.  Mike called up the tower and requested to enter the runway and vacate at the first exit so that he could come back to the holding point behind us.  Many thanks Mike for both getting the plane started and letting me out first!

We headed out north east for the navigation and all went well, I was then given a diversion to somewhere that I had not been before but found it relatively easy.  Once the navigation part was over we put the screens up and did some instrument flying and then some limited panel unusual attitude recoveries.  The UA recoveries I struggled with a bit because the examiner kept wrenching the aircraft about to really disorientate me, he ended up giving me the leans really bad and this made the next couple of UA recoveries more difficult than they should have been.  The screens were then removed and the examiner told me to give a position fix from the SVL beacon, I did a quick check of the instruments and noticed that he had purposely made the gyros topple so the compasses were all showing different headings, this is a point that a lot of people fail on because they just give a fix using a compass that is facing the wrong way.  I re-slaved the compasses and then we carried on.

Before long it was time to do some circuits so I descended the aircraft to Seville Airport for 3 circuits – the first one would just be a normal touch and go, the second one would be flapless followed by a rejected take-off and then once back in the air I was given an engine failure after take-off where I had to do a single-engine circuit followed by a low-approach-go-around which simulates eg an aircraft entering the runway and me having to abort the landing.

Once the go-around was complete I turned sharply south and headed out to the general handling area where we did some turns at >45degree bank, some stalling and then an engine failure where I had to shut the engine down in flight.  The problem then miraculously went away and I had to restart the engine in flight before using the autopilot for a cruise decent back to Jerez but only being allowed to use the power from one engine, I continued on one engine until I landed the aircraft at Jerez.

The examiner does not tell you whether you have passed or not when you land, nor when you taxi back to the apron because this is still part of the test, as is shutting the aircraft down and signing the aircraft back in.  So 20 minutes after you have landed the plane, only then do you find out whether you have passed or not.  Finally when I was sat down in the examiners room I found out that I had passed all sections of the test and we both signed off the documentation which said that I had completed my Commercial Pilots Licence! Open-mouthed smile

I have to admit, I was quite suprised that I did not fail any section of the test, I fully expected to do something really stupid and have to re-take that part of the test but fortunately I somehow held my nerve.

I went for lunch with the examiner and then afterwards the sun was beaming outside and it was 20C, so I jumped into my cycling kit and went out for a nice 2 hour ride in the sunsheeeyine.  I got back just in time for happy hour and had a couple of beers with my course mates and then a curry.

What a day.


~ by globalste on January 6, 2012.

2 Responses to “Commercial Pilots Licence Skill Test”

  1. 1. Do you get to use the title “Captain” when signing up to store cards now?
    2. Can you now conduct marriages or is that only on ships?
    3. A Cessna can do 3k miles to Canada from the UK right? Can you fly us there below radar if we give you a few quid for petrol?

    Oh and congrats 🙂

  2. […] wanted to get the Seneca III up and running because they aren’t great at starting in the cold and I didn’t want to be relying on instructors to get my aircraft started like I needed on my CPL.  I climbed into the aircraft and went through the pre-start checks and decided that I would […]

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