CPL Update #4: Exams Finished

It’s been a while since my last update, I’m glad I chose to post about the CPL when I had the news because week to week would have gotten dry real fast. Recently I finished the last of the seven exams and have been back up in the air putting in the hours. The end of the CPL is nearing.

The last two subjects, Air Law and Performance (Operation, Performance & Flight Planning) are complete. Probably the trickiest of them all, to me at least. We had a new ground school instructor start, Mr Damien Fitzgerald who brings an incredible amount of real-world experience. Having flown just about everything from Queen Airs to 747s, destinations across the globe and for many airlines and clients. We are lucky to have someone with such knowledge, and it translates to the classroom extremely well, backing up the textbooks with practical explanations and examples from first-hand experience. It really makes the information stick when you can relate it to what we will be doing, plus the tips and tricks for when we’re out working are not only handy and can make things easy, but they will also make us safer pilots and increase the quality of airmanship.

Air Law is different to the rest of the subjects in that it’s open book. Don’t be thinking that means it’s easy, while yes technically the answers are all there with you, trying to find them, and finding them fast is the challenge. You may think ‘that shouldn’t be a worry, just use the index’, there is none. Not even the AIP has an index anymore, it was removed at the time of writing this and doing the exam, so who knows what may happen in the future. So the trick to Air Law is having a mental index of which regulation number relates to what topic and vice versa. Anyone who has cracked open a freshly minted set of CASA regulations will know how dry they can be to read and interpret. Anyone perused the new CAO 48.1 for some light reading? There is also a lot of them. If you can find the relevant regulation fast this will help a lot, use as many techniques to help like tags, highlighting, dog ears, dividers etc. Just make sure you check on the CASA website here with what you can and can’t do.

Performance is different in the fact that it’s predominantly calculation based. The key here is getting precise and accurate results, your calculator will be your best friend so make sure you can use it for the exam by using the link above and get one that you can work fast on. The speed of performing the calculations will improve with practice. I contacted Gavin Secombe at CASA to ask about a few things and being accurate was a key takeaway, that and knowing all the various formulas and procedures. Speed comes later, with drill exercises and practice exams. I’m actually working on a personal project right now which should help with performance, but that’s for another day. Don’t get so bogged down in the calculations that you forget to learn the theory though, there are still knowledge questions, but the majority are calculation based.

Sweet relief, the exams are complete. That feeling didn’t last long, with flights scheduled soon after and IREX and ATPL still on the horizon, so it was straight back into it. Being out of the saddle for a little while, I was a bit nervous but also keen to get up again. My previous flight was a dual nav with Jack and it was a really great flight, a bit of weather to contend with from the Gold Coast down to Coffs Harbour, but it was a good challenge and Coffs was fantastic, such a great airport. Flying back north at 500′ over the coast is just one of the many reasons you realise how cool this is. That flight felt like quite a while back though, about 20 days wedged in between Air Law and Performance, so I went over the books again just to brush up and sat in the aircraft and ran the flows before the flight to Inverell and beyond.

Heading out to Inverell at 8500′ on top of some scattered cumulus, I saw the cloud ahead was thickening up and I couldn’t see much past it so I elected to do a descending left orbit to see if I could get to Inverell under it. I had plenty of options with clear sky to the south and back to the east so I was satisfied I wasn’t going to get myself stuck under the cloud that could be reaching the ground for all I knew. As I was halfway through the turn I could clearly see under and knew I could make it through so I kept on turning, it worked well, as it was a rate one turn I only added 2 minutes to the ETA and didn’t have to divert anywhere. The rest of the flight was all fairly straight forward, under a layer of thick cloud for most of it but it began breaking up on my way home from Grafton.

Since then I did a flight out to Warwick which had active glider activity, my first time around gliders but it was a good experience and great to see a field brimming with activity. I then did a low-level segment from there to Kingaroy at 1000′ AGL, I loved it, I really like that kind of flying, following roads and powerline features. Once at Kingaroy I then headed back for the Gold Coast via Archerfield, my first transit from the north. I was a bit nervous having never transited Archerfield from the north along with its assorted arrival and departure procedures but it all went fine, another thing I’m glad to have experienced as I wanted to do a northern arrival for a while with all the airspace around there, it all helps build the confidence. I’ve really started to take on a new mindset as I get further into the commercial training, trying to take on the more difficult problems and go up when the weather is less than perfect. Nothing dangerous or unsafe, but trying to branch out and extend my experience and limits.

Yesterday I did a flight up to Hervey Bay which again I was a bit nervous about as I planned to go in controlled Class C airspace most of the way, but once I actually did it I was so glad I did, I really enjoyed the process of being in Class C for more than a few minutes when leaving or departing the Gold Coast. There was also quite a bit of cloud activity, my tracking kept me clear but being up with the clouds always heightens the senses and adds a new, sometimes surreal perspective. That was also the highest I’ve ever been above the surface of the earth solo. I’ve flown 8500′ before but it’s usually over terrain that’s 2-3000′ whereas most of this was water. It looks like a long way down from up there when you look below.

From here there isn’t a great deal to go until the CPL flight test so my next update will hopefully be once that’s complete. I have night flights coming up soon and also some simulator time too which I’m looking forward to. The summer heat is finally starting to subside which has been nice, got down to 4°C when I was up the other day, that’s the coldest for me so far, even had the cabin heat on which was a first, used it on the flight to Hervey Bay too.

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