CPL Update #5: Commercial Pilot Licence

It seemed miles away but in a little over one year here we are. The Commercial Pilot Licence.This is really why I started down this path, I didn’t take up flying for a hobby or something to do on the weekends, and well I couldn’t afford to be a weekend flyer even if I wanted to. I wanted to start a career as a pilot and the CPL was the first target in my sights.

Since finishing the theory exams I have been studying and preparing for the CPL test. First I had to finish the KDR‘s from the exams, just passing them is not enough, you have to be able to show you have learnt all the things you got wrong in that exam which show up on the respective KDR. I would say this is a great reason to push yourself and shoot for 100% on every exam because for each and every question you get wrong it will be lurking there in the shadows just waiting for you, and with seven exams that could snowball to a hefty toll. Most of mine were done as written short response, there is no process of elimination via multiple choice if you’re rusty. You either know it or you don’t. I went through all my KDR‘s and compiled a document with the relevant MOS reference, they don’t always give you much more information but they do help. I then used that as a study guide for everything I needed to work on, which really helped.

Next up was the pre-test, a dress rehearsal for the real thing. I adopted a different mantra this time round from the PPL. I found that by treating it as just another dual I performed much better rather than letting the pressure, nerves and stress get to me. It was probably my best flight to date, I really enjoyed it and had a great time even considering the context. We went out to a small homestead along the Clarence River, dealing with a fairly low ceiling of cloud on the way out with a few triangle diversions to avoid terrain. We went through all the procedures like stalls, steep turns, orbits around a feature and so on. The best part was probably the low-level segment following the river north, where perhaps the sentiment of this being the last dual with Jack started to set in. It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun had punched through the clouds and the river was pumping after some recent rainfall. From there we went to Casino and did all our circuit work, I got my best taste of the glide ability of the Diamond and have a new appreciation for it now.

With that done, all that was left was the CPL test itself. Then the weather set in. There is nothing anyone can do about the weather, and all anyone could do was wait it out, causing a cascading domino effect throughout the school, delaying everyone. I actually took it as a bit of a blessing and used the time to continue studying up for the ground theory component of the exam, using a similar strategy for the KDR‘s by creating sheets with all the references from the CPL Flight Test Report¬†and then adding in all the information I thought was relevant. I also made one up on the DA40, including its construction, engine, avionics, fuel system and so on. These helped me a lot, I find the process really helps cement the knowledge and fill in any blanks along the way.

The day of the test came and the weather was awesome, the cloud that had been hanging around for the last few weeks was gone and there was hardly any wind. I felt as prepared as I could, still attempting to use my “treat it as just another dual” mantra to keep the nerves down, but who am I kidding, I was still nervous. I wanted to do well. Nathan James was my ATO, he gave me good scenarios when asking me questions for the ground theory component, which I thought was quite practical and relevant, which made it more real world. We then headed out and did a walk around of the plane, with Nathan asking me various questions about things like design features and which antenna does what. It was a pretty busy Friday afternoon at Coolangatta, delivery was flat out giving clearances, it was the longest I’ve had to wait so far for a clearance, but they hadn’t forgotten about us and soon we were taxiing out. I was starting to feel calmer at this point, with the routines and procedures taking over. Soon we were heading out to Clifton, it was a great afternoon for it. Coming into Clifton though, some convective turbulence started to pick up which added to the workload. We did some orbits around a feature at equal spacing and height on Nathan’s side, then moved on to a precautionary search and landing. From there we did all the upper airwork, stalls, steep turns, instrument flying, limited panel and unusual attitude recovery.

After the airwork was a low-level segment to the south, simulating bad weather before doing our circuits at Warwick. After that we departed and I was put under the hood on instruments for about 20 minutes, where I carried out a lost procedure and we diverted back to the Gold Coast. Touchdown. It was fairly quiet and we taxied back, there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic on my fight at all really, apart from departing the Gold Coast at the start. I packed up the plane and went in for the debrief, overall he seemed quite happy with my flight. Always things to work on, and taking more professional, commercial considerations is one of those. I have been told by a few that the CPL is a licence to start learning.

Just like that, it was done. I had passed my Commercial Pilot Licence. A few days later writing this, I am still not sure if the gravity of that has sunk in yet. Maybe it will when I start IREX soon. Thank you to everybody who has helped, supported, mentored and taught me over the past year.

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