Becoming a pilot and moving onto more advanced certificates is what flying has been all about the past almost 2 years. Continued training makes you a safer pilot and allows you to do more. Constant training and the requirements of advanced certification is one big factor that makes airline pilots so safe. Though as a private pilot working my way up the certificate ladder there is no way for me to train at the airline pilot frequency due to the costs of aircraft rental and instruction, I am striving to become the best and safest pilot I can be.
The instrument rating is a perfect example of the safety of continued training and it is widely recognized that pilots whom are instrument rated have less accidents. Instrument flying is all about procedures and precision and insurance companies recognize this in lower rates based on an instrument rating and hours flown. However its humbling that after training all summer and obtaining my instrument rating in September 2017 that those fine tuned skills can erode so quickly by the following March. My chief pilot and school owner always says you’ll never be as proficient as when you take your check ride for an instrument rating. I believe him. I flew instruments in October and some in November but since then the weather, my work schedule, and studying for my commercial pilot certificate exam only allowed me to fly a minimum amount of hours. In fact I don’t think I flew at all in December and very little in January.
So after passing my commercial knowledge exam in January I set some short term goals: 1) find some way to fly more and work on those instrument skills, but do it safely, 2) fly the Hudson River through New York and have some fun so that not all my flying is stressful like training can be, 3) get my high performance logbook endorsement to fly such aircraft, 4) figure out a plan to complete the flying and remaining portion of my commercial certificate, and 5) get the training required to fly the high performance and speedy Cirrus SR22 that I can rent from the school/Club. Best of all 2 through 5 will accomplish the 1st goal! I already posted about the Hudson River flights that I was able to do in back to back weeks splitting the costs with fellow friends who are pilots.
Though I’m still paying back a portion of my instrument rating I doubled down on trying to save where I can so that I could afford to fly more to accomplish these goals. In the past month after the Hudson River flights I started weekly lessons in the Cirrus SR22 and am happy to report that on February 28th obtained my high performance logbook endorsement and blessing from my instructor to schedule my checkout flight for the Cirrus SR22.
Thought it is not a FAA Practical type of examination done with a DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner), it is more involved than many checkout flights required by clubs or schools prior to a pilot being able to fly their aircraft solo. The Cirrus checkout must be done with a Cirrus Certified Flight Instructor or CSIP. My instructors are qualified and certified to instruct in the Cirrus but I must complete the checkout process with a CSIP. To get this far I had to complete an online course of instruction from Cirrus Aircraft via their online learning center, then fly with a qualified instructor. Since I didn’t yet have my high performance endorsement I would have to fly enough to obtain that and learn what I needed to learn to become somewhat comfortable in the Cirrus. Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) in 61.31(f) do not specify how many hours you must fly to obtain the high performance endorsement but my understanding is that normally 6-10 hours is average. Being that I was also learning a new aircraft with different avionics than I had been flying in the past I felt the 10 hours I spent getting the endorsement was money and time well spent. I’m waiting to hear when my checkout flight will be with the CSIP and will be sure to post a blog entry about it once completed.
An ever pressing concern and thought of mine is my desire to fly hounds to foster and forever homes. Since I began flight training this has been my goal and I encourage you to check out the About HoundPilot page where I have my Mission Statement, goals, ideas of what I want HoundPilot to become, and where I post major updates about the progress towards those goals. It is important to note that while I’m working my way through the required FAA Certificates I am spending huge amounts of my own money to gain the qualifications and experience necessary to reach the goals outlined on the About HoundPilot page. The time and money spent precludes me from doing the volume of rescue flights that I desire to complete; however, they are necessary and without them our vision for HoundPilot cannot be realized. However, I know that by doing everything I can and seeing the training through, the future of HoundPilot will be achieved. In the meantime I will fly hounds as often as possible.
It was therefore with great pleasure that on February 28th, 2018 I was able to combine my final Cirrus SR22 training flight with a rescue flight for ABTCR (American Black & Tan Coonhound Rescue). My instructor and I were talking about my work with ABTCR and I mentioned that the prior week I was forced to cancel a rescue flight due to extremely low clouds and poor visibility aka dense ground level fog across the northeast. He suggested that we fast forward my Cirrus training with a double length lesson that would allow us to finish the required tasks en-route to picking up the hound and then work on some instrument flying and approaches on the remaining legs of the flight. Excellent idea! So I planned the flight coordinating with my ABTCR contacts, the awesome gentleman fostering Winslow the hound, and the family adopting him.
The rescue flight took us from my home airport in Westminster, MD (Carroll County Regional Airport KDMW) to an airport between Henderson and Oxford North Carolina (Henderson-Oxford Municipal Airport KHNZ). There we picked up Winslow and flew him to his forever adopters in Delaware (Delaware Coastal Airport KGED). We flew VFR from MD to NC and completed some maneuvers that would likely upset the hound. We then completed an instrument approach for practice into Henderson-Oxford NC. From there I filed an instrument flight plan and flew instruments from NC to DE. This was great practice since I had become rusty in doing so since November and it also allowed us to more easily navigate the complex airspace surrounding Washington DC/Baltimore and the numerous military airfields and restricted areas lying along our path up the east coast.
As do most dogs, Winslow did great during the flight and slept until we neared the Delaware coastline and descended onto the water to begin the instrument approach. Just before turning onto final approach the coastal winds jolted us against our seatbelts and made keeping the aircraft on the tight tolerances of an instrument approach challenging. My instructor then reminded me that I had to complete a final task; a No Flaps Landing. Flaps help you slow the plane down for landing and allow to fly a steeper path to the runway threshold thus avoiding obstacles like buildings, terrain, and trees. However, if you lose your electrical system or have some other mechanical problem you must be able to land without flaps; therefore, part of my Cirrus checkout flight will include a no flaps landing. Doing so means instead of landing at 80 knots on short final you come in much faster because the lack of flaps require you to keep your speed up to stay airborne. Thankfully it went well and Winslow shortly thereafter met his forever humans.
On the return leg to Maryland we flew through Baltimore International (BWI) Class B airspace and over the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Arriving at Carroll County Regional Airport I flew an instrument approach and a circle to land maneuver where you execute an instrument approach for a runway other than the one you intend to land on and then once the runway is in sight you circle to your intended runway. In this case I flew the VOR 34 instrument approach and then within less than a mile of the runway I circled the airport and landed on Runway 16. It was a good flight and I was very happy to provide Winslow with his ride home. I will continue to work hard and put every resource I have towards HoundPilot and look forward to keeping everyone up to date. As the saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words and nowdays that means video also. Thankfully Winslow’s foster dad and adopters were kind enough to share with me some pictures and video that I edited into the below video (3:45).
For The Hounds!