After going 2 for 5 on planned flights in January, February is off to a much better start. I got up for 2.5 and flew to Saginaw (KMBS) and back and tarried on the way back southeast of Flint (KFNT) to have a look at the maneuvers I’d need to do if I pursued my commercial certificate.
You might ask why I’m flying all the way to Saginaw and back. Good question. I did my private certificate and instrument rating through a Part 141 program and therefore didn’t need to have as much pilot-in-command (PIC) cross-country time. In order to count for the commercial, you have to touch down somewhere at least 50 nm away from the starting airport. So now, on every training flight, even if we’re just going to the practice area, I head up to Saginaw, shoot an instrument approach (the ILS for 23 in this case), and get a landing before heading back to the practice area.
The commercial maneuvers are chandelles, lazy eights, eights on pylons, and steep spirals. There are other elements, but that’s the initial set that I wanted to see.
The objective of the commercial maneuvers is, as far as I can tell, demonstration of your mastery of the airplane. Each of the maneuvers involves finesse. You have to demonstrate that you can coordinate your flying across all axes of motion and do it smoothly. Airspeed, bank, altitude, and other factors are very important and you have tight tolerances that you have to meet.
The commercial flying is very different from the instrument rating, even though that’s the certificate that’s usually the next logical step after the instrument ticket. I trained so hard for the instrument rating that I still feel guilty looking out the window (and, in fact, I flew to Saginaw under the hood just to keep my scan sharp). Commercial maneuvers are all about demonstrating a true feel for the airplane’s handling characteristics.
I have to say that I was pretty darned pleased with my performance. I’m the first to say that I am not a naturally gifted pilot. I’ve had to work very hard on the kinesthetic elements of flying. The instrument rating was actually easier for me than the private certificate, largely because it’s more cerebral and requires less kinesthetic sense. And, in fact, the ability to avoid relying on your kinesthetic senses and instead depend on the instruments.
A friend of mine once told me that he’s a natural mouth breather. That’s an insult in many circles but, when you consider that he’s a master diver, you realize that it’s a respected trait in some endeavors. So it is with me and instruments. I’m a natural mouth breather.
But the airplane obeyed me yesterday and I can see that the commercial maneuvers are going to be more a matter of fine tuning than learning ab initio. I’m very excited about that.
I haven’t committed to pursuing the commercial certificate yet. But it’s definitely a challenge and a part of the envelope of flight that interests me and I want to explore it more. At the very least, all else being equal, I’ll pick a complex airplane over a non-complex one and I’ll start looking for ways for each flight to include a landing somewhere at least 50 nm away. That way, if I decide to go for the commercial certificate, I’ll have as many of the requirements completed as possible.
Yet another part of the envelope to explore!