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Old 18th May 2019, 08:35
  #281 (permalink)  
jamesgrainge
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: England
Posts: 13
Chandler Air Service

Thought I should write a review of CAS in Phoenix Arizona.

Phoenix and the surrounding area is an incredibly diverse and beautiful part of the world, with friendly people and plenty to keep you entertained. I would definitely reccomend it. The weather is almost perfect and offers beautiful flying for much of the year.

However as for Chandler Air Service I would hesitate to give them a glowing endorsement.

They were initially accommodating, well organised and structured and we were out flying within a couple of hours for the check ride. You have to do a mountain course which takes about a day and covers high altitude operations etc etc. The instructors were polite, friendly and helpful. The planes are ageing, but have GPS inside them which makes flying distance more pleasurable, especially with the countryside in Arizona being quite difficult to distinguish one area from another.

Unfortunately they also have a couple of odd procedures, as I found out after sorting my American licence, one of which is the necessity to write a flight plan which sits in their office. I found this a pain, as we know, flying in the UK is often ad hoc and changes depending on weather. I understand the need for a destination, but a full route including way points and fuel stops, really? Do you really need to quiz me about if I have checked the weather brief, got the Notams, destination info and have my route assessed by an instructor? I arrived carrying a document explaining I had met the requirements for the issue of a pilots licence that entitled me to fly, all that kind of thing is exactly what we are trained to do. Fair enough once, or go over the procedures, but every day? And to be told one day "you can't do that" and to re plan a route. Incredibly galling. Worse to find out the CFI has contacted air traffic while you're out to "check you're on an active flight plan". And due to the 365 days of good flying weather in that area, when there is a cloud in the sky within 500 miles, or the metar suggests a "prob30" of some gusty weather you will be told flying is out of the question. In the UK we would strap on our big boy pants and give it a go. Otherwise we would never fly anywhere. Twice I sat on the ground because of forecasts weather which simply never appeared.

That leads me onto my next problem. Fuel.

We know a PA28 carries roughly four hours fuel endurance in its tanks. CAS have a weird rule where you need upto a couple of hours fuel ideally in reserve. That limits the options you are given by wiping half an hour per stop, every two hours into a day's flying. It becomes a pain, and in odd circumstances, as I found with weather I was having to deviate back to Chandler for fuel instead of making the three hour leg down to Tucson as I intended.

On the subject of aircraft, the Piper I flew for the first few weeks, 11T, was recalcitrant to start. Initially they blamed it on cooler weather (a balmy 11/12C). My comments about starting multiple PA28 in the UK in 0 were not appreciated.

After a week of flying, and almost getting stuck in Lake Havasu due to poor starting, the AC began to really act up. One morning I could not start it at all. It was wheeled into the hangar and I flew another plane. The next day it was suggested it was my fault for "running the auxiliaries without the engine running". I have never once had a problem here, and checking the lights and stall horn work are hardly unreasonable pre start items. A day or two later after some lunch en route the AC failed to start entirely, leaving me with no choice but to pray on the kindness of the engineers that luckily at Havasu very kindly attempted to start her with little success. Eventually they put it on charge and started it with some ether. (easy start over here).

Apparently again this was my fault. I now was incapable of starting an AC, despite having started probably a dozen different aircraft without issue in my flying career. And I deviated from my flight plan which earned me a dressing down upon returning after this delay left me unable to achieve my destination.

After this I swapped planes. And surprisingly, had no issues with starting. Not the service I was looking for.

On my final day, through no fault of my own, I was spoken to like a child and had no respect shown to me when I was in fact a customer. A very rude instructor.

In summation I would certainly encourage people to fly in Arizona, amazing airports, scenery, people and weather. America is an incredible experience and so cost effective. I would not however, encourage any person with something about them to use CAS. If you are low hours or don't feel confident then they would be perfect, they will hold your hand and keep you safe and you have no need to exceed your comfort zone, giving you good experience and loads of support. They will treat you like a student, perhaps as a flight school a difficult habit to get out of. Annoying when you're not a student.

If however your dream is to hire an aircraft and set off to discover America, which is perfectly possible due to the access you have to any airport, airspace, no PPR, no landing fees and fuel at almost every field, you will find CAS ludicrously restrictive and frustrating. Or end up ignoring them and doing it anyway.
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