The Hour Building Phase – How To Become A Commercial Pilot

southaficappl - The Hour Building Phase – How To Become A Commercial Pilot

Commercial Pilot Training – The Hour Building Phase

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to train to become a commercial airline pilot? In this post, we’ll explore the exciting flying phase and provide insights on how to successfully go through pilot training to become a commercial pilot.

This post is part of our detailed guide on “what is a Commercial Pilot licence. You will find valuable information about choosing the right flight school, different paths for pilot training, acing assessment tests, and much more!

Commercial Pilot Training – What Is The Hour Building Phase Like? 

Once you finish the Ground School phase, the real adventure begins. The flying and hour-building phase is the most exciting part of the training because, in the end, we’re all here to learn how to fly!

Depending on your pilot school, you might do your flying training in your home country or in another country. For example, the flight training organization (FTO) I attended sent their students to places like Hamilton, New Zealand, or Arizona, USA.

I was lucky to do most of my flying in New Zealand, and it was an absolutely fantastic experience.

Before we could take to the skies in New Zealand, we spent a few more weeks in the classroom. This time was important for understanding essential concepts before flying, like the correct way to join a flight pattern, how to communicate effectively with air traffic control (ATC), and how to do a thorough and safe inspection of the aircraft.

This phase of pilot training might feel a bit overwhelming because there was a lot of information to learn, and it was crucial to have a deep understanding of every detail.

Finally Taking To The Skies

To begin with, when we started our pilot training, we were each paired with an instructor and given an airplane to use. Most trainee pilots used a plane called the DA20, but because of our body sizes, another cadet and I got to use a more comfortable plane, the Cessna 172.

For each flying lesson, we had a set routine. We first did some calculations to figure out the weight, balance, and performance of the plane. We also checked the weather and any important notices for pilots. Then, we met with our instructor to talk about what we were going to learn in that lesson.

In the beginning, our lessons were all about the basics: flying in a straight line, getting the hang of how to control the plane’s angle and speed, making turns, and other important skills. Those first few weeks of flying were tough, and I often felt very tired after each lesson. But, despite the challenges, it was incredibly exciting because we had spent a lot of time in a classroom before this.

Pilot Training – Going Solo

After about 12 hours of learning to fly with our instructors, it was time for us to do our first flight on our own. Yes, after only 12-14 hours of training, we got to take off by ourselves—a memory I’ll always remember.

I still remember when I started the plane’s engine, drove it to check everything before flying, and tested the flight controls and engine gauges. With the permission of the air traffic control, I drove the plane to the runway for my first solo flight, where I had to fly around the airfield in a ‘circuit.’ It was an incredible feeling to take off on my own, one of the best moments in my pilot training.

Leaving The Zone

The exciting part began after finishing the first solo flight. Up to that point, we were flying in a place near the airport where air traffic controllers kept an eye on us. In order to go in or out of this area, we had to ask for permission, which is how the airspace system works around the world. There are different categories of airspace, and the busier places, like London’s airspace, have strict rules and require permission for planes to fly there.

As new pilots, we started flying outside of this controlled area, with our instructors keeping a close watch on us. There were specific entry and exit points that helped manage the traffic and make sure everyone was safe.

The Flying Phase – Navigation Routes

southaficappl - The Flying Phase – Navigation Routes and details about hour building to become a pilot

In this phase of flying, we focused on something called VFR, which stands for “visual flight rules.” It’s quite simple – we depended on what we could see through the airplane’s window.

Our main job was to find our way, and it wasn’t easy. We had maps right there in the cockpit, and becoming skilled at using them required a lot of practice.

Our plane usually flew at around 100 miles per hour, so things happened quickly. Picture this: one way to leave the area was by flying through a gap between some hills to the west of the airfield. To do this, we followed specific steps and procedures.

We would contact air traffic control and ask for permission to exit the area using a specific point as our exit. It might sound something like, “Can we leave through point X, please?”

Before each flight, we planned our route, and the key was to find landmarks on the ground to guide us. For example, I might take off, head east, and watch for a big lake. Once I reached it, I’d turn south and fly until I reached a particular part of the coastline. From there, I’d head northwest to a distinctive hill that was easy to spot. When I got there, I’d ask air traffic control if I could re-enter the area at a specific point, join the circuit pattern, and get ready to land.

Once our instructor believed we were skilled at navigation, we were allowed to do it on our own. This was when flying became my favorite. I could search for beautiful places like waterfalls, stunning coastlines, or majestic mountains on the internet, and the next day, I’d be flying over them. We had a fair amount of freedom to explore, within reasonable limits, of course.

But it wasn’t all about sightseeing. We had to keep improving our essential skills. Things like making sharp turns, recovering from stalls, and practicing emergency landings were a must. These skills were crucial, especially because we were flying small planes with one engine. If the engine decided to stop working, we had to be able to land the plane safely, whether it was in a field or another suitable spot.

Stall recovery was a skill we had to master. It’s a big deal, even when flying much larger commercial planes. A stall in an aircraft is different from what happens in your car; it has nothing to do with the engine. When a plane stalls, it means the wing isn’t producing enough lift to keep flying.

Unfortunately, some large planes have crashed because the crew didn’t realize the plane was in a stall, so they couldn’t get it back on its regular flight path. We study these tragic incidents to learn from them and make our training even better. This is how aviation has become the remarkably safe field it is today.

Becoming a pilot is an exciting adventure. When you start, you’ll learn to fly by looking out the window. But as you progress, you’ll learn to fly using instruments, without looking outside or using maps. However, you still use your eyes for take-offs and landings.

Switching to instrument flying can be tough. You have to learn new skills and use navigation tools like radials. The world of aviation has lots of complicated words, but this part is important, especially for commercial pilots who spend most of their time flying this way, even in single-engine planes.

Instrument Flying – Become A Pilot

Once you become really good at flying and can do it just by looking around, you move on to something called IFR, which stands for “instrument flight rules.” IFR flying is when you fly the airplane by paying close attention to the instruments, like dials and screens, rather than looking out the window or following a map. But remember, when you take off and land, you still use your eyes.

This part of flying can be tough. It involves learning new things and using tools and methods for finding your way, like following specific paths in the sky. The words and phrases used during this phase can be pretty technical and hard to understand.

But even though it’s complicated, it’s a really important part of learning to be a pilot, especially if you want to fly big planes for a job. During this stage, you’re still flying small planes with one engine.

Twin Engine Time

Moving from a small plane like the Cessna 172 to a bigger one like the Diamond DA42 with two engines is a significant step in a pilot’s training. The main challenge isn’t just using two engines; it’s about knowing how to handle the plane safely if one engine stops working. In aviation, we always prepare for emergencies.

As part of pilot training, you practice what to do if one of the engines fails. You also work on improving your ability to control the plane with something called the rudder. Being good at this is really important.

For pilots like us who fly for a living, we practice dealing with engine problems during take-off and learn how to fly and land the plane with only one engine in our simulator training every six months.

Flying a plane with two engines is not only fun, but it also lets you travel much faster. We were lucky enough to take two planes on a trip around New Zealand’s North Island, which was an amazing experience.

Commercial Pilots Licence Skills Test

Firsty you have to spend about 130 hours flying, it’s time for your Commercial Pilot’s License Skills Test. This test happens in the same twin-engine plane you’ve been practicing with, and it’s all about your flying skills when the weather is good and you can see outside (we call this VFR or Visual Flight Rules). The exam for flying in bad weather (IFR or Instrument Flight Rules) comes later in your training.

During this test, they’ll be checking how well you do a few important things while flying. These include making sure the plane is ready to go before taking off, talking to the air traffic controllers effectively, going in and out of controlled areas in the sky, following a planned path on a map, and handling the plane properly during turns and if it starts to stall. You have to do all of this while following some specific rules and limits.

For example, you need to keep the plane’s altitude very close to what you’re told, staying within 5 miles per hour of a certain speed, and getting to specific points on your route at the right time, which we call ETA (estimated time of arrival).

Before the test, the person in charge will pick a certain spot on the map and tell you to find it while you’re flying. You’ll need to use the map and your navigation skills to get there and then show them where it is. If you do this correctly, you pass this part of the test.

This marks the end of your training hours and learning how to fly when the weather is good. It’s important to remember that you don’t have your full Commercial Pilot’s License at this point, which you need if you want to fly for an airline. But you’ve made a big step closer to that goal.

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