PPL Renewal - 2009/2010

Around mid 2009 I decided I would begin the process of renewing my Private Pilots licence once again. I figured that given I am building an aeroplane it would probably be helpful if I learned how to fly again and have a current licence for when it is completed.

So for those of you who are interested, what follows is a summary of my PPL renewal process. This will probably not be of much interest to many folks but it gives me a way to record what I have completed during the process.

The Airline Flying Club

The club I chose to learn at is the Airline Flying Club based at Ardmore airfield and was recommended to me by a friend because of its friendly atmosphere and because of the easy going way it goes about training students without any pressure. The Club is not just another flying school grinding out students as quickly as they can but more of an old fashioned flying club with helpful senior members who are there because they love flying and who are more than willing to share their knowledge. Many of the Club's members and instructors are also active senior airline pilots so they have a huge amount of experience to offer to newly fledged pilots.

Anyway long story short, I rocked on up to the club and spoke with the full time instructor (Chris Dixon) and he was very helpful and gave me the following list of tasks I would need to complete to renew my licence:

1. Resit the five PPL Exams (Aircraft Tech, Navigation, Meteorology, Aviation Law, Flight Radio and Human Factors)
2. Pass an Class 2 Flight Medical
3. Revise my flying skills (about 10-15 hours flying) including a couple of cross country flights.
3. Sit (and pass) a Bi-Annual Flight Review.
5. Submit the necessary paperwork to CAA (English Competency Test, Fit and Proper person, PPL Application).

PPL Exams
After completing four lots of night classes throughout late 2009 and early 2010, I began booking and sitting the PPL exams in March 2010. I was initiallly aiming to sit one exam every two weeks and this worked well for the first four exams (Aviation Tech, Met, Radio and Human Factors) however I ended up taking four weeks to revise for both the Nav and Law exams as I found these were more difficult and I wanted to give myself plenty of time to come up to speed on these subjects. I completed the final Law exam in July 2010 and although I do not consider myself to be much of an academic (I am just too lazy) I managed to pass the 5 exams with a 91% average which I am extremely pleased with.

Exam Results
Aircraft Tech      - 88%
Radio Operator - 93%
Meteorology      - 91%
Human Factors - 93%
Air Navigation   - 95%
Aviation Law     - 86%

I sat and passed my flight medical in early February 2010, however to get the medical certificate issued I ended up having to get an extra set of glasses (a requirement under NZ Aviation law), a chest X-ray, a hearing test and present my full medical history to the Doctor doing the medical. It took about 3 weeks to round up all the necessary info and it cost a helluva lot more money than I wanted to spend but I now have a Class 2 Medical certificate valid for 2 years.

Flight Training

First Flight - Sun 25th July 2010 - My flight training began almost by accident today in that I went out to the Airline Flying Club to make a booking for a lesson and ended up going up for a fly almost immediately because the instructor, Mike King, ended up being available as a student had cancelled his lesson. Mike took me up in Cessna 152 - JFY and we flew out to the local flight training area south of Ardmore and spent about 40 minutes practising steep turns and a few stalls before flying back to Ardmore to do a couple of practise circuits. I have to say it all felt a bit rushed and I felt behind the aircraft the whole time I was up. This is in reality the first time I have flown left seat in a Cessna 152 and I felt unfamiliar with the layout of the aircraft and fairly unprepared in general. I was not deterred however and I have booked another lesson for next weekend and will be better prepared next time.

Second Flight - Sat 31st July 2010
Today Mike King decided that we would stay in the Ardmore circuit and spend the time revising my circuit and landing skills to try and get me to a point where I can go solo again. We went up in Cessna 152 - ETZ and I have to say that the first couple of circuits were pretty hairy and really not that flash. However by the third circuit I was beginning to get the hang of it again and starting to remember what I had been taught when I first learned to fly. By the sixth circuit I had managed to complete three circuits without frightening Mike enough to want to grab hold of the controls and as such after we did a full stop landing and had taxied off the runway he asked if I was happy to go up by myself. I have to say I was pretty apprehensive but I said yes and as he climbed out he left me with the parting words of "don't break my aeroplane". I did three more circuits by myself the first of which was a bloody awful because I wasn't expecting the aircraft to be so light with Mike not in it. The last two landings were much better however and I am now reasonably happy with where things are at. I have booked another lesson for next weekend to practise engine failure on takeoff drills and to do some more circuit consolidation.

Sat 28th August and Tues 31st August 2010
Its been a month since my last flight. Weather and work have conspired against my getting back into the air any earlier. The two flights on the Sat 28th and Tue 31st were basically just to consolidate my circuits. The circuits on the Saturday were very average but improved on the Tuesday to the point where I was happy enough to decide to move on from circuits in my next lesson.

Sat 4th and Sun 5th Sept 2010
On Saturday I asked Mike to take me out to the training area to practise steep turns and stalls. The day was fairly windy and turbulent and after about 40 minutes I started to feel somewhat airsick so said to Mike we should call it quits and head back to Ardmore. I have been susceptable to motion sickness all my life so have to be careful in training that I don't overdo things. I have been caught out once before getting motion sick while flying solo and then having to land the aircraft - not a good look. Anyway we terminated the flight early and we were back on the ground before I began feeling too bad. The landing however was nothing to write home about.

The following day we went out again and did some familiarisation with the joining and departure tracks into and out of Ardmore airfield where I am learning to fly. Ardmore is New Zealands busiest GA airfield with often hundreds of aircraft movements per day and it is also uncontrolled so student pilot arrival and departure procedures have to be tightly controlled. After flying a couple of overhead rejoins, Mike and I did a couple of steep turns which went really well and then an engine failure on take-off, which didn't, before calling it a day. Mike tells me we will start on practising the more advanced exercises in the next lesson.

Sat 11th Sept 2010
The weather today was pretty iffy so Mike said we would stay in the circuit and practice a number of different landing and takeoff excercises. Specifically we worked on Glide Approaches, Flapless Landings, Minimum Distance Landing (Short Field Approach) and Maximum Performance Takeoff's. It is amazing to see how quickly a 152 can get off the ground when you want it to. It helps when you have a 15 knot headwind as well.

Sun 26th Sept 2010
Completed an evaluation flight with the Airline Flying Club CFI today. Went very well. He recommended I focus on learning my procedures off by heart rather than working from checklists all the time. He pointed out a couple of other things I need to focus on but overall he was happy with my progress.

Mon 27th Sept - Fri 1st Oct 2010
I have spent the evenings this week researching and writing up model answers to the Knowledge Deficiency Reports (KDR's) I received from the questions I got wrong from my exams. Most of these were fairly straight forward but the Human Factors questions took a bit of researching as the answers to the questions I got wrong were not to be found in the standard reference document. Fortunately there is always Google. :)
The reason I need to produce the model answers is that I have to prove to the club CFI that I understand the knowledge areas in the KDR's as he has to sign off my KDR reports for CAA that I have met this requirement.

Tue 5th Oct 2010
Today I sat my English Proficiency Test to prove I can speak English to the required level for a PPL licence. The test involved providing spoken answers to questions given to you over a telephone which presumably were recorded and then evaluated after the test. The questions were fairly straight forward and were designed to get you to speak for progressively longer periods of time (up to about 40 aeconds) on a number of general aviation topics. Fortunately the tests were not designed to test your aviation technical knowledge as some of my answers were not that flash. I can't have done too bad however as I managed to pass the exam with an "Expert" rating.

Flight Test Preparation

Mon 25th Oct 2010 - 31st Oct 2011
I have decided to take a full week off work and concentrate of completing my PPL renewal. The idea is to hopefully complete all the outstanding air exercises and get current so I can sit a flight test at the end of the week.

Mon AM: - Revision of Low Flying, Compass Turns and Short Landings with Mike King.
Mon PM: - Terrain Awareness (Mountain Flying), Low Flying and Full Flap Steep Approach landing with Rob Utting.
Tue AM: - High Level Cross Country (Ardmore - Hamilton - Te Kuiti - Raglan - Ardmore) with Richard Sinton.
Wed AM: - Forced Landing Without Power (FLWOP), Circuit Revision with Richard Sinton.
Wed PM: - Solo consolidation.
Thu AM: - Stalls, Turns, FLWOP and Circuit with Mike King.
Thu PM: - Solo consolidation.
Fri AM: - PPL Syllabus revision with Mike King followed by solo consolidation.
Fri PM: - Min Distance T/O & Landing, Glide Approach, Flapless Landings with Mike King.
Sat AM: - Full PPL Syllabus Assessment with Rob Utting (CFI) followed by Ground Theory revision with Rob Utting.
Sat PM: - Ground Theory Assessment with John Gemmell (Examiner).
Sun AM: - Instrument Flying and Forced Landings with Mike King in the morning.
Sun PM: - PPL Flight Test with John Gemmell (Examiner) in the afternoon.

Flight Test Summary
The following is the entry from my diary.
Heading out to the aircraft, John Gemmell followed me round as I did the preflight and I gave him a passenger briefing before climbing in. We taxied out and took off runway 03 seal and vacated the circuit downwind heading out past Drury to Ramarama. Out round Ramarama John put me through my stalls, medium turns, steep turns and compass turns before we climbed to 2500' and headed east towards Hunua. John pulled the throttle on me for a forced landing just as we reached the hills to the east of Ramarama. Fortunately we were directly over an ag strip although the ground there was at 700' so I had to rapidly recalculate my 1000' and 1500' spots. Did a good FLWOP after which we tracked off eastwards to the low flying area by the Wairau River mouth. I did the low flying component before heading back to Ardmore. My first landing I had to go round as I stuffed it up (nerves and a strong crosswind), the second landing was good even with the crosswind. I followed this with a flapless landing followed by a short landing. Went round on my first attempt at a short landing as I was way too low over the trees by the threshhold of the 03 grass runway. Nailed the second short landing after which we taxied in. John then said I had passed my flight test. Have to say I was one pretty happy and relieved tramper.

The only damper to the whole day was when John did the paperwork for my licence he found my solo cross country hours were not sufficient to grant me a full PPL. He gave me my licence but endorsed it to say I could only fly with 50km of Ardmore until I had completed another couple of hours solo cross country.

Solo Cross Country Endorsement
Wed 5th Jan 2011
It has been a couple of months since I sat my flight test and I still need to complete the solo cross country component to get the endorsement removed from my licence. As a precursor to this today I flew with Mike King down to Hamilton to work with the Hamilton tower and get used to flying in controlled airspace.

Mon 10th Jan 2011
Today I completed the solo cross country requirement for my licence. I completed a 3 hour cross country flight from Ardmore to Whitianga to Tauranga to Taumarunui and back to Ardmore. Beautiful day for flying.

Sat 15th Jan 2011
John Gemmell removed the endorsement from my PPL today. I now have my full PPL.

My First PPL Passenger
Sun 16th Jan 2011
To celebrate getting my full licence my wife and I decided to fly over to Whitianga today. The trip had two purposes really. The first was to take my wife up as my first passenger and the second was to visit Whitianga to take a look at the section we have recently purchased by the airfield. The section is runway facing and will allow us to build a hangar house which is within walking distance of Whitianga township and within walking distance of the main beach at Whitianga. Couldn't ask for a better setup. With luck we should be able to build within a couple of years and move to Whitianga. We will probably need to maintain an apartment in Auckland for work but eventually we will retire to Whitianga permanently. Awesome.
Below is composite picture of the section. It is not overly clear but you get the idea of the section location on the runway.