CPL Update #1: CPL Exams

Now I’m onto the Commercial Pilot Licence phase of my training, I thought it would be good to update on what’s been happening. The CPL moves at a different rhythm to the PPL and so I made the decision to no longer do week by week updates as they just wouldn’t work. I’ll update when I have enough content to do so but will still be aiming to keep content coming out each week, of which there are some interesting things on the boil so stay tuned.

So far I have completed the Aircraft General Knowledge, Human Factors and Navigation exams leaving four more to go. I was lucky to start off with AGK, probably my favourite subject and as it was first up I think it made the transition to CPL exams a bit smoother. Human Factors was a stark contrast to AGK, it’s quite different from the other subjects I feel, while definitely important it’s just on another wavelength, especially good old TEM. Navigation was good, the first CPL exam requiring maths, computations and problem solving and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve found that so far the exams can differ quite a bit from the textbooks at times, but providing you do the hard yards and put the study in it does pay off. Next up is Aerodynamics which I’m looking forward to and should have done by the end of the year.

I still approach the exams and theory like I did during the PPL. It is good to have them separated into separate subjects rather than the all-in-one style of the PPL because it means you can really go into detail, which suits me to the ground. The way it works in the CPL is you pre-read and study the textbook and then do about three days of ground school. After that is practice exams and then finally the exam, which post-PPL are all done at Aspeq Exams in Archerfield.

Flying wise it was a bit slow to get moving, being hit with quite a bit of theory first up. We had a CPL Navigation brief which went over the differences and expectations to the PPL such as efficiency, fuel calculations, planning and so on. Seeing as the focus of the training is now commercial it gets us thinking about the things we are likely to encounter once we head out and start working. So far I’ve done two Duals with Jack, and Dual Nav 1 was Gold Coast, Millmerran, Toowoomba then Gold Coast.

We headed out under quite dark skies, in fact for the first few minutes of departure it was so dark that it actually felt like we were flying in a giant warehouse like we had a roof above us, the cloud looked like if you touched it, it would be solid like concrete. The weather was a good challenge on this flight, though I had to plan to go to Millmerran via Eagle Heights due to the low cloud base. Once we got out past Eagle Heights the base lifted slightly and we went under the steps of Amberley Airspace, where two C-17’s (Callsign “Thunder”, how cool is that?) were doing low-level formation flying. Jack then got me to go to a place he pointed on the map to take photos as part of the scenario based training in the CPL, then we diverted to Toowoomba bypassing Millmerran. From there we headed back to the Gold Coast and got clearance through Amberley, we progressively descended back down with the lowering cloud base and had to go via Eagle Heights again to the Gold Coast. I wasn’t sure how I was going to go with it being a while since I last flew but I had a really good time and enjoyed the flight a lot, leaving me keen for the next.

Dual Nav 2 was Gold Coast, Archerfield, Watts Bridge, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast. Lots of Class D which is the airspace I’m least familiar with so I was a bit heightened for the flight. Leaving YBCG we headed north to Archerfield via Target, literally a large Target logo on the Target building in Springwood where we got our clearance and turned toward Archerfield for a departure to the north. It was pretty busy at Archerfield with lots of traffic moving around, we managed to get in on a touch and go and on to the next leg, Watts Bridge. Departing Archerfield to the north was a first and it’s a pretty tight little airspace corridor, which meant keeping good situational awareness and spatial orientation to avoid punching into controlled airspace, something which would be quite easy if you’re not paying attention. Once at Watts Bridge we did a forced landing and then moved onto a Precautionary Search and Landing at another field close by before heading to Sunshine Coast. We went in via Ewen Maddock Dam and seeing the airport from above was like seeing Gold Coast Airport in a time machine, with relatively little surrounding development and placed very similar to the coastline. After Sunshine Coast we headed south and jumped across to Moreton Island then south along the VFR route at 1000 feet, a great scenic flight, even saw a dugong. Jack then got me to fly for a while all the way to final approach without touching the yoke, so rudder, throttle and trim only. A really cool experience and great practical understanding and appreciation of stability.

I then had my first Solo Nav in a while from Gold Coast, Stanthorpe, Grafton, Lismore, Gold Coast. There wasn’t all the different airspace to deal with as this one was mainly Class G. I departed and climbed up to get on top of the few clouds which was a first, but looking out to the range I was going to go through I saw it was building in both vertical and horizontal intensity, so rather than try to out climb it, end up with all cloud underneath or worse, IMC, I decided to descend and go under until clear of the range which worked well. Once out near Mt Lindsay I climbed back up to my planned altitude above the few clouds on the other side of the range. From there on out it was pretty straightforward, a fair bit of bushfire activity near Grafton and I saw the SEAT aircraft at Grafton getting ready to head out. Upon touching down at Grafton some kind of bird was on the runway and as he took off I swear he came within arms length of clipping the propeller. Lucky for him and me he didn’t. I then tracked up to Lismore where I began to encounter the first traffic on the whole flight with RPT movements at both Lismore and Ballina, all on the same frequency it can be hard to get your calls in, gotta be quick. I landed at Lismore then taxied back along the grass while the REX Saab 340 took off for Grafton. Heading back to the Gold Coast I got my new transponder code then went over to the coast to burn off a little extra time, doing a low and slow over the coast to practice the Precautionary Search and Landing configuration before heading back into the Gold Coast.

It’s been great to get back in the air again and find the groove. I have three more solo flights before we then we start on the Diamond DA40 which will be cool, something completely new with glass cockpit avionics, low wing and turbo-diesel. It will be good to have the experience on both traditional instruments and glass avionics, however chances are the first job will be a traditional 6 pack though. The government in their process of changing and fixing VET FEE-HELP to VET Student Loans had capped aviation to $15,000 meaning I couldn’t do the MECIR. The good news is they have since amended and lifted the cap to $75,000, now meaning I can do it after all so happy days.


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