Eight lessons on the Seneca completed, and only 3 left before the CPL skills test, meaning I could be on a plane back to the UK this weekend if all goes well. The flying on the Seneca has been a bit hit and miss; there is such a lot to learn in a small space of time. For a start, having 2 engines means there are a lot of new procedures to learn, including asymmetric procedures, or flight with one engine out. We have even practiced completely shutting down one engine in the air and then restarting it which is a very strange experience, especially when you can see one propeller completely stationary! The propellers are also ‘constant-speed’, which is completely different to the Warrior. In the Warrior, the throttle controls the RPM setting of the engine. However, in the Seneca, a separate prop lever controls the RPM and then the throttle controls the manifold air pressure (MAP), ie. the amount of air entering the engine. The way to think of it is like a bicycle climbing a hill, the RPM is like the gear setting and then the MAP is how much power you are applying. A bike climbing a hill requires a different setting to one going down hill, and the Seneca is like this which makes it more efficient. It complicates a lot of things as there a lot of combinations of settings to remember for different stages of flight. And then of course there are a lot of new technical details to learn about the aircraft, and the addition of such things as retractable undercarriage and a combustion heater.
The CPL skills test is a two and a half hour flight, consisting of:
- Navigation exercise
- Instrument work (climbs & descents, VOR tracking, compass turns, unusual attitudes, position fixing)
- Steep turns
- Engine fire
- Landings (go-around, normal, flapless, asymmetric normal & go-around, precision)
A fail on any one section means a ‘partial’, and can still be counted as a first time pass if completed successfully on a second flight. A lot of procedures are mostly the same as we learnt in the Warrior, with a few new things thrown in, but it is the length of the test and the amount we have to do that makes me the most nervous. However, things are starting to look okay, and if I can have a good few last lessons, I will be feeling confident going in to the test.
The weather here has been getting a lot cooler lately, with temperatures in the 20s for most of the day, and a lot of clouds around. In fact we were flying above the clouds yesterday which looked amazing, although I didn’t have much time to enjoy it because I was working so hard. However, the sun is back out today and the temperature is back in the 30s; I’m hoping these last few days will stay sunny so we can make the most of it. We are already preparing to leave, making sure we hit all of our favourite restaurants one last time before we go!