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-   -   PPL feels close, but no cigar, need advice (https://www.pprune.org/private-flying/620470-ppl-feels-close-but-no-cigar-need-advice.html)

Esvees 12th Apr 2019 22:41

PPL feels close, but no cigar, need advice
 
Basically, I need some advice. I work as an ex-pat in Asia in a very well-paid job. At the same time I always wanted to learn to fly, but never really had the money until a few years ago. Problem is, there is nothing near me for doing a PPL course.

However, my company requires me to come to Europe every 3 months. As a result, I saw a window and started my PPL training in the UK. First some hours, then started again around 2016. There was a gap of almost a year after that, but from the start of 2017 I really worked on it earnestly. I progressed, did my first solo around 25-30 hours and tried to keep going.

Then at just over 60 hours total I tried for my skills test in January of this year. All the prep work went fine. We set out, I tracked to our first destination and then fell apart. I couldn't see what I was looking for and started track crawling all over the place and misidentified my destination. We did upper air work, did some of it ok, then did a steep turn and put on too much power and entered a spiral dive without recognizing it on time. So, it was a complete failure. It knocked my confidence, but I was determined not to let it stop me.

So I've gone back, talked to my instructor and I did another 13 hours to try and get everything down. I felt more prepared this time around. Scheduled another test with a different examiner and it went wrong right from the get-go. This examiner was new and was very by-the-book. I'd asked him for his weight and a preliminary route the day before, but he told me I'd have plenty of time the next day, so fine. However, it turned out he expected me to be able to plan the route and make all the mass & balance calculations, take off & landing distance required & check all notams within one hour. I wasn't ready for this and really struggled to get it done. He expected me to remember a lot from ground school, a lot of which I would admit I had forgotten by this point. My focus had been on improving in the cockpit. He would have asked me to do some items I'd never been taught by his school, but which are admittedly in the content of the test. I would have to be able to find a solution to various emergencies, some of which were not covered in the checklist. I would also need to be able to plan my diversion within 2-3 minutes. I can't do this; I like to be precise, and it takes me a bit longer than some people.

I just felt punched in the gut, as if the goal posts had been moved on again and my school and teacher had not prepared me for this adequately. The examiner advised me not to take the test and said I was nearly ready, but not quite. To his credit, he did not charge me a fee or give me another fail, he just allowed me to call it off. My last examiner said I would have passed on a good day, but I was having a bad one.

And now I'm at a loss as to what to do next. Every time I go back to Asia, my skills deteriorate because I won't fly for 3 months, so I need several hours to get back just to where I was. I just spent a lot of money with my school and after all this I'm apparently still not ready. My teacher is decent, but I'm loosing confidence in the school's approach like this. They also don't really provide and written syllabus to summarize what they teach in the aircraft other than the Pooley's book. The fact I'm in the UK for only 7-9 days at a time means there isn't much flexibility on planning the skills test, but still, there has been no final conversation and review prior to test. And these 13 hours may well go to waste as I can't come back immediately. I'm now well over 70 hours, I may be able to afford the cost, but that certainly doesn't make me happy about spending all that money. And at the end, I still feel no closer to getting my license.

Do I just chalk this up to being an inherent problem with having to stop flying for 3 months at a time, or was I facing a rather harsh examiner or is there a genuine problem with my school's approach? I could really use some advice.

Capn Bug Smasher 13th Apr 2019 01:08

No time logged in an aircraft goes to waste.

I'll leave others to advise on your flying school, but if you are going to be away from flying for a long time - I would get a flight simulator. Something like FSX with the photo scenery. It won't help your handling skills much - you need a real aeroplane for that - but for practicing procedural stuff like navigation, diversions and instrument flying it will keep you sharp. Just make sure you have done the training in the real aircraft first so you are not teaching yourself bad habits.

Good luck! My only other bit of advice is to take a few weeks of leave in one go - if you can - and do all your subsequent training at once. There is nothing like continuity for success in flying training.

Cheers

R

Pilot DAR 13th Apr 2019 01:19


Do I just chalk this up to being an inherent problem with having to stop flying for 3 months at a time, or was I facing a rather harsh examiner or is there a genuine problem with my school's approach? I could really use some advice.
It is certainly partly attributable to item one, lengthy periods away from flying. It could be the school's approach, though the training should be to a common standard. As for harsh examiner, that's not something you should focus on - the examiner with examine to the standard, and it is in your interest to be able to fly to the standard, after all, it is a minimum standard, and you want to be at least as good as the minimum standard as a pilot.

You are asking a lot of yourself with low experience to recall and put into practice skills which are three months old. That can be difficult for more experienced pilots, so don't feel bad about that, though that does not solve your problem either. I find that some new pilots struggle because they do not dedicate themselves to their training, it sounds like you struggle because you cannot dedicate yourself to your training - for three months at a time.

My advice: Take the opportunity which life offers you to fly. If you cannot build skills, or reach the next stage, simply enjoy the flying. One day, with the pressure off, an instructor will tell you you're ready. I did my helicopter license this way, I just flew once a month for fun as I could afford it. After a few years, my instructor told me to take the flight test, I would pass easily, and I did. But I was not in it for the license, just for the fun. Yeah, it sounds cool to tell people that you have a PPL, but it's just a piece of paper - for now, don't focus on the paper, just the fun. If the school is dedicated to you, they should be telling you that you're not flying consistently enough, if they're telling you that, listen. If you cannot change that, it is what it is, you're the customer. Look forward to a time in your life when the training can be more consistent.

One day you'll have a license, and look back at this phase of your life as a set along the way. In the mean time, you're spending the money for the fun, not the license which is eluding you. Like many of us, you're lucky to be able to fly, focus on, and enjoy that!

OvertHawk 13th Apr 2019 09:38

If life give you lemons.... Make lemonade. Your situation limits the time you can spend flying. But take advantage of the time away from your flying to really get to grips on the theory and planning (as this seems to be an area you've identified as being an issue). Read your books cover to cover until you really know the stuff - and seek advice about anything that confuses you.

Practice flight planning whilst you're away - get your instructor to email you hypothetical sorties and plan them carefully using the actual weather of the day. Send it back to him/her for review and comment (it may cost you a few beers but it will be worth it).

Make notes after all your lessons and debriefs and read these regularly whilst you're away from flying - it will help you keep your head in the game so that you're not slipping so far back between lessons.

As your proficiency in the theory and planning improves, your stress levels will reduce and your confidence will improve. This will make it easier.

But you need to work at it whilst you're away.

All the best
OH

Jhieminga 13th Apr 2019 14:17

A lot of good advice already, the only thing I can add is have a good chat with your school and the instructors. Many schools will have a pretty good idea of which examiner will turn up and may be able to steer you towards one that they know. In such a case, perhaps you can talk to others about their experiences with this examiner, see if you can get the details about when you'll need to do the planning sorted out in advance, etcetera. You'll still need to perform to the same minimum standard, but with two attempts under your belt and a bit of a heads up about what's coming, you've got the advantage of being prepared for everything.

Sounds like you've given yourself quite a challenge in training for a PPL with such a restricted schedule. You've done pretty well in getting to this point, but with all the restrictions in place, I'm not surprised that the final hurdle turned out to be a bit bigger than normal. I'm sure you'll get there though, you wouldn't have gotten this far if you were a real hopeless case. ;)

B2N2 13th Apr 2019 14:51

Donít blame the examiner for sticking to the rule book.
You have access to the same practical test standards so you should know what is acceptable.

Maoraigh1 13th Apr 2019 21:06

"We set out, I tracked to our first destination and then fell apart. I couldn't see what I was looking for and started track crawling all over the place and misidentified my destination."
Did this test take place in an area you were not familiar with? And without easily identified landmarks?
If so, choose a flight school location with care for your next attempt.
W&B, route planning, notam reading, can all be practiced anywhere, at no cost. (IF you have access to Notams.)
Though you need a password to access Notams on UK AIS, they can be got on Airspace Avoid, a free app.

flyingfemme 15th Apr 2019 07:33

There doesn’t seem to be much you can do about the timing so arrange things to get the flying polished up when you are in position. As already said, concentrate on the ground stuff when you are away. Do a flight planning exercise every day, until you can do it in under an hour without stress. Maybe develop a template for your personal use so you just have to fill in certain blanks and follow a procedure? Definite process takes away a lot of the panic because you “know” what needs to be done. Then you can think about the flying and improve that.

RatherBeFlying 15th Apr 2019 15:31

Yes, examiners will expect you to plan a flight within an hour. So practice doing just that. The perfectly legal way to get a leg up is to get the weather and NOTAMS before leaving for the field, maybe even run through a few possible flights. Of course you get the Wx and NOTAMS again at the field, principally to catch any changes.

And yes, it's quite a feat to be away from flying for 3 months, then get yourself back to the level required for a flight test in a 7-9 day period while also dealing with work responsibilities.

The previous suggestion to book a couple weeks off is a good one.

x933 15th Apr 2019 16:53

Good advice here.

You will never be test ready if you have 3 month layoffs each time.

Planning - make life easier the night before / in the morning. Pull the F215 and synoptics before you leave home (just make sure they're valid for the flight). You can also do runway performance.

Diversions - if you can't make a sensible whole number cruise speed (60kts or 120kts corresponding to 1 or 2 miles/min) have a cheat sheet made up with the time and distances worked out (IE 5nm, 3min at 100kts, 10nm 6min at 100kts). Doesn't matter if you like being precise - if you can't do it, don't make work for yourself.

Lastly, fly the aeroplane. Sounds simple, but oft forgotten.

custardpsc 16th Apr 2019 02:07

I'd say there were a few things going on here. Its really hard to reach a standard in any subject without regular practice. The run up to a flight test needs to be a consolidaton period and you need to fly regularly every day prior ideally for a week. I did my commercial in similar circumstances and I cancelled my own check ride and came back for another 10 day period despite the cost. It turned out to be a good decision. Another factor is the theory - your comment about lack of syllabus is a telling one. I suspect you are under prepared on that. The Thom books, whilst factual are quite hard to study from alone. Might be worth looking at alterniatives such as the FAA downloadable books. Some of the airlaw is diferent but the principles of flight and other stuff is really good in these books ( and they are a complete syllabus). Its also quite hard to learn and get good at things like flight planning and weather decisions from a book. You should be able to plan a flight from scratch in an hour but you'll never do that unless you practice. You should be watching the weather for the week before your skills test anyway ( personal minima) so that should be in your head before you get to the airfield. As for performance - you can easily get a leg up on that. You should know/ask the examiners weight beforehand and you can easily work out a no-wind runway length based on that weight at say 20 deg C and your likely field elevations before you start. That will enable you to easily qualify most destination runways without further calculation. Book mark the AIS notams page and look at them the night before for likely test route. Print off the destination airflield VFR plates with taxiway names and stuff and have them ready. Get used to looking at synoptic charts and the F215 - you can do that any time.

Hope that helps?


kghjfg 16th Apr 2019 06:04

I passed in 60 hours by flying every week, and sometimes more. If I was only flying every 3 months I’d have expected it to take a LOT more.

You speak as as if you expected the examiner to pass you? Do you think you should now have a licence? That you are a competent pilot? How can you “not notice a spiral dive”?

Flying Skills tests are not like driving tests, more than 1 driving test is the norm, my first driving test was taken on the basis of “have a go, you might be lucky”. You are now on your third GST, that’s pretty unprecedented, no school should be putting you forward for a GST unless you are DEFINITELY going to pass.

There are so many issues with currency here it scares me. So, you take a few weeks off work, you cram and you get a license, you then go away for 3 months, you’ll need 3 take offs and landings on your return BEFORE you can take a passenger, anyone you rent from will probably insist on a check ride anyway. You don’t appear to be thinking what you will do with this licence once you have it? You’ll be a low hours pilot, with no currency and no means to build it. How’s that going to work?

This all sounds very negative, but I’d be realising my plan doesn’t work, then I’d be thinking of a plan that does work.If your licence is just something you want to do, 3 weeks off in Spain or the US will put a licence in your hand. The big question is “then what?”, if the answer is “join a flying club and fly with other pilots or instructors, sometimes solo”, go for it!

if the answer is “then try and take a loved one flying”, I’d have a serious think about it. If the answer is “take a work colleague flying”, I’m scared on their behalf.

My my biggest question is, on what basis are your school taking money from you? No one should have failed 2 tests on 60 hours? If you’re not ready, you’re not ready, there are people around who took 150 to 200 hours, only 1 test though!

Think of how you are going to be safe after your test. There are no lay-bys in the sky to pull into if it’s not going well. Takeoffs are optional, landings are mandatory. You really should be able to plan a route in an hour, and a diversion is only a line on a map, a think about wind, a new heading (take the wind into account) and a time. I found that very hard as a student, seemed very complicated at the time, so I used to get people to shout wind speeds and tracks at me, so I could work out headings, preferably whilst I was driving a car!

Real flying is quite dangerous if it’s not done properly, what’s your plan for after you have a licence?


double_barrel 16th Apr 2019 09:13

Maybe I can add as someone working towards a PPL in comparable circumstances? Right now I am looking at >3 weeks without flying and I know that will set me back; I will try to reduce the damage by frequently 'armchair flying' through all the emergency procedures. Personally, I find that the 'cadence' of flying is really critical - a few days between lessons seems to be a good thing, longer than 10 days begins to be a problem. I now have around 6 hours solo with perhaps 20 landings / T&G's and I am getting confident with the key manoeuvres (quite possibly dangerously confident) and being unable to fly for weeks is deeply painful when I really want to consolidate my skills.

However, my instructors are extremely demanding - I cannot imagine being allowed to take the test without them being very confident that I was ready. I think the tests - both theory and practical - should be surprisingly easy for you NOT surprisingly difficult! So far that is how I have found them.

Right now my progress is stalled because I have a backlog of theory exams to take which is blocking me from a cross-country. Getting time for work with a heavy travel schedule, plus family commitments, plus flying, plus theory, plus adequate sleep is really tough, but seems to be possible. I think there is something very wrong with the way you describe your progress and timing and I wonder about he school allowing this situation.


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