philzSan Diego 2003
 
       

Frequently Asked Questions

You will find here some questions I have been asked, and answers I gave. If you have anything more to ask just do it.

Since you live in a JAA-member state (Poland), why did you do a FAA PPL(A) instead of a JAR-FCL PLL(A)?

There were few reasons:

  1. FAA one was cheaper by $1000
  2. I plan to fly most of the time in USA anyway
  3. I plan to do further FAA ratings, up to multiengine instructor, if money and time will allow (5 years timespan...)
  4. Poland does not (yet) mutually recognize JAA licences (surprise!)
What did you have to do in Poland to be able to fly?

I had to go to this Office of Civil Aviation - ULC, and they gave me authorization recognizing FAA licence as equal to national. Unfortunately, this is only one time paper valid for one year. I plan to go to Anglo-American next year for some refreshment training - then I'd like to rent N6ZP and fly to Florida and back. After that just pass JAA practical tests - with 100hr total time only 2 theoretical exams are needed: human factors and law. Hopefully next year JAA licences WILL be recognized here...

Update: I finally didn't do that, but had to do Polish medical test (valid for 5 years) and received another validation for those 5 years. Should be easier in long run!

Can you now fly Polish-registered planes or can you just fly N-registered planes?

With proper authorization: yes. I haven't found N-reg plane here yet. Anyway, I became member of Warsaw Flying Club, but I don't like prices (3 times more than in AAA) and polish airspace and rules. I really don't like flying 1000ft AGL... And I don't like lack of VOR navigation, design and size and out-of-dateness of polish aviation charts :-/ It's soo much better in US :-((((

Update: Rules were changed - now we have class G airspace below 9500ft except airways where it ends at 6500ft. Above that lays class C airspace. Terminal areas are also class C. I also found very nice privately held Piper J3 Cub and Katana DA-20-A1 airplanes, and will not continue my membership in Warsaw Flying Club - they increased prices to RIDICULOUS level in 2005.

What was your general impression of AAA?

They are very relaxed and informal - most instructors are doing "professional course", for example when I was there in april my second instructor started his flight training in june previous year. He was very excited - more nervous than me before my checkride. Still I really liked his teaching style. AAA promise you will have just one instructor, and that's true. My first one had to go back home due to some family problems.

They get most of students from Europe - mostly UK. It's quite busy there - they are in one building together with California Flight Academy http://www.flycfa.com. CFA has nice planes, instructors in ties, but not that many students. In AAA it's like almost whole time all airplanes were flying. I never had any big scheduling problems though - actually I took plane for few days after checkride for touring - no problem.

You are expected to buy headset, kneeboard and other stuff - there is pilot shop in walking distance - I left there $600 in few first days.

My usual day looked like this:

6:00 Get up!
7:00 Instructor gave me a ride to airport (you can also get a bicycle or go by foot, but last option is not really neat)
 7:15 Reading of manuals, flight planning, morning coffe
10:00
First flight
12:00 Lunch
15:00 Second flight
17:00 Reading etc
18:00 Ride back to campus

Then walk for shopping - there are two shopping centers in walking distance - one with food components, and one HUGE shopping center with many fast food places.

I got some cold in middle of training (probably splashing me with water with ice after solo helped) and had to lie few days in bed - take you medicines with you. Hopefully wetter was bad too, so not much lost time. I had more time to read all books.

Did they keep what they had promised?

Yes. I had passed practical and theory test, and what's more important I felt quite confident after training, wasn't afraid flying for short trips.

Where did you lodge?

They rent a number of small apartments nearby - two bedrooms, room with kitchen and toilet. They have airconditioning units, but those are quite loud. In kitchen you will find everything to cook almost anything (but you will have to manage to do it after shopping in US - I cooked spaghetti and tofu with vegetables for 5 weeks - came 8kg lighter back to Poland).

Why did you initially choose AAA as your flight school?

They had nice website, nice prices, and I read a lot about harder airspace in California resulting in better learning. It's true. Gillespie is just GREAT airport - it's quite big, with control tower and yet there is not that much trafic. Still there were days when I had troubles finding free second on radio to talk with tower... Besides, having class B airspace around really helps you understand all those airspace rules. You need to keep attention.

Having control tower at beginning of training is hard. Although I had read everything before coming to US (good idea), at first talking was instructors job. Then I said what I would say, and he did it. Then I was transmitting, and he listened and responded. Finally I started to do all talking. In the end I was really comfortable flying over Los Angeles Intl and using this Flight Following service...

If you were to start again from scratch would you chose to go to the US again for your flight training and would you opt for AAA again?

US - definitely. Truly speaking, I feel that you really cannot fly here I'm going there again in april next year - want to take a C172 and fly to florida and back. Then year later go again for instrument rating.

And as for US, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT SKIPPING NIGHT FLYING! It's fantastic!!! Air is soo steady, everything around beautifully lighted, you see lighted airplanes flying around (it's harder to see them at day). It was so nice that my instructor once said to me: "Wake me if you were about to crash or something". He was joking, of course. It's so sad that VFR night flying is not allowed in Europe, well at least very limited.

On all trips I did after checkride we always returned flying last 2 hours at night. It can be somewhat scary when flying over mountains, you see just darkness and wonder, if you read altitude correctly from map.

Flight following is really nice thing - you are observed by air traffic control (you have your own transponder code), and they warn you if any planes are nearby. And it's nice traing (comes handy for Instrument Rating) to constantly paing attention for your callsign when flying.

I once was flying crosscountry in N6ZP and was reporting as N20650 (two C172 I was flowing at AAA). Suddenly somebody talked to me: "Why are you doing this, N20650 is 20 miles to east?" - it was controller from military airport nearby. Said sorry and that all, but I was feeling awkward . Especially that I flew into class B without clearance (1.2nm and 300ft) hour ago - I made mental note to climb after lake - so when I saw it slightly in front of me I started climb. Problem was that from 7000ft lake just before you is 1.2nm away. Well, those first solo crosscountry flights ;-) Hopefully nothing bad happened...

Was there any special reason why you took 55 hours for your FAA PPL(A)?

It's about average. I still had problems (and still have) with use of rudder, but otherwise did just fine. Examiner was really nice at the end of checkride - I had lot's of fun.

One thing - I hurried to much on my solo crosscountries, and had 15 minutes missing for minimums. So I had to fly for 1.5h to make those 15 minutes, because crosscountry only counts when it's more than 50nm distance.

For JAA, they have examiner on staff - I did FAA exam with guy named David Reid http://www.fly-dave.com.

Owner of AAA is ATP rated pilot, he flew for some major airlines, had even his small own in US .

Funny thing in training was that as all instructors train to fly big planes, they sometimes forget that you are not and I heard few times : "what are you doing, if you did it in Boeing you would broke something".

Why do you think that "Stick and Rudder" is a necessity? Even if you do a JAR-FCL PPL(A)?

It's a book form 1945 (!) It's not about air law, it's about flying. If I had to chose one book to buy this would be the one. It's real "eye opener". It has really no-nonsense explanation of flying. And no math equations, like in many european books.

Actually explaining of lift starts like this:

"You probably heard about Bernouli law and how it works in airplanes. For now, just forget it. It's not really important."

It also has some really nice tips for "visual" flying, like using ears for airspeed, and if you see anything below horizon it means it's below you. Great for flying over mountains.

Before coming to US I bought FAA flight manuals (boring), Rod Machado book (funny), Jeppesen manuals (great), "The Killing Zone - why and how pilots die" and "Stick&Rudder". I think it helped me a lot to do reading at home - practical training fulltime leaves not much free time.

Jeppesen is great manual, but rather formal - you get sleepy reading it when tired. Rod Machado is rather humorous - it makes you stay awake. I usually started with Jeppesen in the evenings, and when felt too sleepy to read further changed books to Machado and read some more. ;-)

Threvor Thom books (for JAA) are typical "european" textbooks, really boring.

Are there any other things I should know that you would like to tell me?

Renting a car gets expensive, flying around states renting cars in every airport is awfully expensive. Truly speaking I spend two times as much as I planned to. But it was great time and I don't regret it.

I plan to go there next year, fly 50hr cross country, pass two JAA exams (Air Law and Human Performance) and have JAA checkride too. But all other rating I'll do in US. You really feel you can just fly there wherever you want. It's great!