I Am a Complete Commercial Pilot

Today in the mail I received a special envelope from the Department of Transportation. Inside held a plastic card I never thought I would be privileged enough to hold. It has my name on it, as well as the words “Commercial Pilot.”certificate

Over the summer, I had completed the multi-engine commercial check ride, however I still did not feel like I had earned the right to call myself a commercial pilot. I worked hard, and after one vigorous week of training and studying, I aced a check ride full of fun but difficult maneuvers. These included lazy eights, eights-on-pylons, a short-field landing within one hundred feet, and the infamous power off 180 landing within two hundred feet.

The power off 180 fails a ton of people each year, including a friend of mine who is now a great flight instructor. On downwind, once crossing the landing target point on the runway, the throttle is pulled to idle, and the pilot must land the aircraft within two hundred feet of the selected point without being short. Touching the throttle is not allowed past this point, so the energy of the airplane must be managed to perfectly land on speed and distance on that target. This is very hard, especially with changing winds and temperatures from day to day that always make the maneuver different. The day I took the ride, I made it my best landing to date. It was beautiful, and my heart raced afterwards. The examiner looked over and said that was the best power off 180 and landing he’d seen in at least five years.single-commercial

The rest of my maneuvers were well-flown as well, and I passed with flying colors. It was a lot of fun to fly the airplane to its limits and look outside the windshield again. The flight instructor ride is the same, but from the right seat with a grueling oral exam beforehand. This was a good foundation for me to have as I seek out that next accomplishment in my career. As of now, I can apply to registered commercial operators, and fly just about any aircraft. This is a near dream come true, and I am very excited to enter the latter half of my education. It’s time to hit the books for an extensive review, and start to build hours and consider some of the companies that I have met. I’m h0nored to enter this tier of pilots, and look forward to entering the community of flight instructors soon.

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Summer Update

IMG_0608So this summer I have been staying in Richmond to hopefully complete commercial and CFI training. So far I have been fairly productive. I’ve passed my commercial MEL check ride, and have passed both the FOI and FIA written tests for CFI. I am about to start the flying for the single engine add-on to the commercial certificate soon, and I’m really crossing my fingers that waiting for a DPE will prevent me from meeting all my goals this summer. EKU is getting around sixty new students in the Fall, so if I can get my CFI done, I will have plenty of work as a student employee.

psa #2I also signed up to go attend the Dayton Airshow as a VIP guest of PSA Airlines. It was incredible. I saw their operations there, met the President and engineers of Bombardier, and got to get into the cockpits of amazing airplanes including a DC-3. The show was fantastic, and the whole experience really made me consider PSA as a future employer. It’s been a great summer so far, I’d love to round it out with some more temporary airmen certificates. Thanks for reading.

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A Wacky flight to Toledo, OH

After Columbia, Horace and I repeatedly faced a lot of poor weather to the south and west. Luckily, we had a long list of airports in the north to fly to, and Toledo was one of them. The weather going up was clear and amazing. The air traffic around Cincinnati and Toledo were very busy that day. However, we just took victor airways all the way up, and did a simple RNAV approach into the flat city of Toledo. Once landed, we encountered something very unique.20160405_143857

We were marshaled into a parking spot, and when we got out of the Seminole, we saw an MD-80 idling with vans parked next to it. It looked odd, so we stared at it for a couple minutes in awe and went inside the FBO to plan the return flight. When we got in, we struck up a conversation with the linemen, and they told us the plane was used for deportation flights. The vans had been law enforcement vehicles, and had driven illegal immigrants from the surrounding five Midwestern states to be flown out of the country. It was a little quirky, but a pretty unique thing to encounter.20160405_143907

Once Horace and I had taxied over to the runway for departure, we were told to hold short for passing traffic. Next thing we heard, the tower controller cleared two F-16s for a low approach. Seconds later, they came roaring in at a blazing speed, doing a low pass right in front of our eyes. My roommate Adam who is from Cincinnati later told me they often do this since there is a base nearby. Regardless, it was awesome, and we were cleared to takeoff and return home afterwards. Nothing abnormal happened on the way back, but our flying skills were fantastic. From this flight onward, our landings had become near perfect and we worked well together as a crew. I guess it really has paid off to fly through EKU’s system.

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Hosting a 5K on an Airport Runway

20160429_185519Last week, our chapter of Alpha Eta Rho at Eastern Kentucky University hosted a 5K at Madison Airport in Berea, KY. We organized the event in order to help raise money for Wings of Hope, a charity that offers free flight to sick patients.

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Me running alongside a new friend Jonathan

After advertising for months, and organizing the event religiously, the date had finally arrived. When we pulled up to the airport, we were greeted by nearly clear skies, a gentle breeze and seventy degree weather. We could not have asked for a better night to host the race. About thirty minutes before a NOTAM went active to shut down the runway, we got on the line men’s golf cart and began placing the various signs along the taxiways and runway. These included mile markers and directions. It was really weird not being in an airplane traveling down these, and it made me realize how massive airport infrastructure is.

Around six o’clock, we had all our volunteers, and the runners started to show up. I had asked our vice president Randy to run if we had enough volunteers to cover the race, and sure enough we did. So I quickly changed, donned a racing bib, and headed over to the starting line.

Randy greeted the runners at the wind sock, explaining the benefits of the 5K and thanking them for coming. Everybody’s face was excited and ready to take in the new experience. They sounded the blow horn, and the race began.

Three kids around eight years old started out sprinting, and make it half way down the runway before tiring out. The rest of the pack settled in and some like me started conversations and meeting people while jogging.

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Finish line near the middle of the runway

The course took us down the taxiway, down the runway completely, back to the midpoint of the runway, and then circled back down it and the taxiway to finish. It was a fantastic place to run, and the lights even started to pop on near the end which was cool.

As I came around to the finish, all the Alpha Eta Rho volunteers were cheering us on loudly in the golf cart, and I think I finished in the top four. Everyone else finished with a smile on their face. Many said it was the coolest 5K they had ever run, and could not wait to spread the word to their friends for next year. We came out ahead, and were able to make a good donation to Wings of Hope, and brainstormed improvements for next year afterwards. I am hoping it grows from here, and becomes a staple event in the area. Thanks for all involved, and if you are interested in the next event, keep your eye open for announcements!

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Columbia, South Carolina

After traveling to North Carolina I was very impressed with the happy, sunshiny  atmosphere. Naturally, a couple days later with the weather still being good to the east, Horace and I decided to fly to South Carolina to compare the two neighboring states.

Horace had a friend who he had previously played in a marching band that attended the University of South Carolina, so we planned to meet him there in Columbia to get barbecue.

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If you look closely you can see the line man

When we arrived a the airport, Andy had another surprise. He had a private pilot student who had been cancelled that morning, and asked if he could ride in the back. The only extra work we had to do was add his weight into the weight and balance calculations, and show him around a little bit. It ended up being more fun having him in the back.

The flight was really nice. The air was smooth at cruising altitude, and the route was nearly straight to Columbia. On the way, I got to practice teaching a bit as we explained all the procedures we performed as we did them, and explained the layout of the control panel. I felt like I did a pretty good job with it, and look forward to doing it often as a flight instructor.

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Columbia Aviation FBO

We landed in a humid, eighty degree airport with a long line worker wearing a bucket sun hat and Oakleys. We had definitely arrived in the heart of the Carolinas. Horace’s friend drove us to the barbecue place, and it was the best I have ever had. The only weird thing is their sauce has a mustard base, which was nothing like I had ever had before. He even offered to give us a quick tour of South Carolina’s campus, which we took him up on. It had a dramatically different feel than any university in the Midwest, and almost reminded me of a swamp or tropical forest. I had a great time, and we got back in the Seminole for the return trip.

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A lazy humid day in South Carolina

I was glad to have been on an IFR flight plan, because the visibility was not the best. While it was ten miles or greater, we were cruising on the boundary of the haze layer, and did not have much of a horizon. Besides that, the return trip was timely and went well.

I really enjoyed having a passenger in the back, especially with another pilot by my side. It almost felt like a commercial flight, and was good practice for flying passengers. At the end of the trip though, Horace and I had made a unanimous decision. North Carolina wins.

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Charlotte, NC

In the spirit of continuing flights to large, busy airports, Horace and I decided to fly to Charlotte, NC. Charlotte is a Class B airport in western North Carolina and is a center for PSA Airlines. I am still interested in flying for PSA/American Airlines in the future, so this was a very cool experience for us.

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Variety of jets on the ramp, as well as PSA CRJs landing on the runway behind

Crossing over the eastern Kentucky border, the mountains have a very different look and feel than southern Kentucky. They were beautiful, with lakes and valleys, and the peaks were not as intrusive. The weather that day was cold and clear, so cruising over them was still glassy smooth and a great time.

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Very cool jet, assuming it belongs to a secretive government official

When we were about to cross the border into North Carolina, we got the weather and thoroughly prepared ourselves for what clearances and directions we would be given. Sure enough, we were handed over to Charlotte Approach very soon after that. We were vectored for about fifteen minutes, and when six miles from the threshold of one of the three parallel runways, handed off to tower. Tower told me to keep my maximum forward speed all the way on the approach. So I kept my cruise speed, and dove. When I was on a mile final, I pitched up to reduce airspeed and dropped everything I had. This was very effective, and my approach was stable. I had a beautiful landing in front of PSA and American Airlines jets, and cleared the humongous runway. Tower thanked me for the approach, and I taxied to the ramp on their frequency.

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Crisp blue Charlotte skyline in the background

When we arrived at the FBO ramp, a truck with a massive light up message board was waiting. His board said “FOLLOW ME,” similar to a highway construction sign. I taxied behind him to a busy ramp covered with a variety of expensive aircraft. It was a ton of fun spotting all the different jets, while airliners constantly whizzed by on takeoff, three at a time.¬† Horace and I grabbed some coffee, and hopped back in for the return trip.

We had to hold at the runway with three airliners, a King Air, and a private jet for about twenty to thirty minutes. This was actually a ton of fun, as we had a front row seat to watching the huge jets land and experience the Class B airspace system. It was very similar to being at Chicago Midway and seeing landing lights for miles, constantly lining up with the runways. We got cleared onto the runway with landing traffic behind us, and flew a published departure procedure. We quickly got sent on our way, and had a great return trip to Richmond.

This was a great trip, and Horace and I decided to later return to try a local restaurant. I’ll have a post about it later. Charlotte will most likely become one of my favorite places to visit.

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Inteviewing with ExpressJet

For the past six months, I have been a part of a program called Ap3 from ExpressJet. It offers a chance for internships, building relationships with pilots in the industry, and most importantly being hired. Every year, the airline has come to the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, offering on the spot testing and interviewing in order to receive a conditional offer of employment. If the applicant passes this process, they receive an option to call the airline when reaching enough hours to do ATP training (in my case 1,000).

This year I did it.

12983982_1078244562221200_7162570461751385807_oI studied a couple weeks for the written test, and prepared for the oral interview. The test was composed of turbine, instrument, and commercial questions and most of it I already had a good understanding of. The interview was comprised of briefing an approach with a Jeppessen approach chart, HR questions, and technical aviation scenarios and questions. I did not think it was that hard, and the representatives were very nice. The night before the interview candidates and representatives  got to sit down together casually and talk/get to know each other. I learned a lot about the daily operations of ExpressJet, and where they are going in the future. Passing this process is a pretty big deal to me, and will be an extremely nice fall back if I do not decide to apply to other airlines. They treat their pilots exceptionally well, and are the largest regional airline. These factors are very tempting to me, and I may decide to fly for them in the future.

This ended an exhausting week for me, among other projects and flying. Next week will be slower and the rest will be much appreciated.

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