It’s been a little while! Since my last entry on this blog, I’ve earned my commercial single and multiengine certificates. This post is about my experience earning the multiengine certificate.

After earning my commercial single engine certificate, I reached out to Jeff — the instructor whom I trained with for my private pilot certificate in 2011-2013 — for advice on where to do the multiengine rating. He recommended Accelerated Aviation Instruction in Albert Lea, MN, and an instructor that he was familiar with, Guy. Guy has a really cool background ranging from flight test engineering at McDonnell Douglass to being a maintenance test pilot in the US Air Force to his current job as a captain on the 767 at a major airline. Accelerated Aviation advertises the commercial multiengine course as 3 days of training with a checkride on day 4. We likely would’ve kept this schedule, but ran into substantial weather delays.

Guy and I initially met on Monday, September 17 with a plan of training full time for 3 days, then traveling to Waterloo, IA for a checkride with Tim Newton. I also met the owner of the school, Jim Jacobson, and Camille who handles much of the logistics of the operation.

After introductions and thoroughly going through the commercial pilot ACS, we started to brief the traffic pattern and other maneuvers. We went flying in the afternoon, which was my first exposure to the Seminole.

Piper Seminole
N3048R, the Piper Seminole we used for training

Piper Seminole
The interior of the Seminole

The airplane flew very nicely. Takeoffs were docile if the stabilator was held in the neutral position, and we got a pretty healthy climb rate. Our first flight was intended to get me used to the airplane in general; we did steep turns, power on/power off/accelerated stalls, slow flight, and three trips around the pattern with normal landings. The airplane has good handling characteristics in the air. With trim, steep turns are very straightforward and only require rudder during the roll in because of adverse yaw — the propellers are counter rotating, so the turning effects from the engines are equal and opposite to one another. The traffic pattern happened a bit faster than I was used to, but the speeds we used were only around 10 knots faster than what you’d fly in a 172. There were a lot of call-outs to memorize, and managing two engines with constant speed propellers takes a bit of time to get used to, especially with all of the power changes in the traffic pattern. I tended to flare too high initially, but once I figured out the sight picture, I found that the Seminole was a very nice airplane to land.

We were able to get two flights in the next day, but a storm rolled in before we could get a third. It became apparent that the next day was not going to be flyable due to thunderstorms and low ceilings, and we decided to postpone the checkride. We did two full time days of ground which were invaluable to me. Guy and I both have engineering backgrounds, so we worked very well together. I learned a ton from him in those few days. We also did a few instrument approaches on the RedBird simulator, which was awesome. You have to do a single engine precision approach on the checkride to be able to use your instrument rating in multiengine airplanes — the simulator was a great way to get the muscle memory down and reimmerse myself in the IFR world.

We went home on September 19th with a plan to reconvene in October. We were planning on reconvening on the 11th, but ended up getting weathered out that day. We started up again on the 12th, and did three flights that day the covered the entire multiengine gamut of maneuvers: steep turns, slow flight, stalls, go arounds, emergency descents, one engine inoperative landings and instrument approaches, systems emergencies, engine failures, engine shutdown/secure/restart in flight, normal and short field takeoffs and landings, the Vmc maneuver, and the drag demo.

Guy’s schedule meant that he had to leave after the 12th, and I would finish the rest of the training with Jim. The schedule got a bit complicated, but it worked out very nicely in the end. Another student was also training for the multiengine rating, and I was able to ride along on her training flights in the back seat. I learned a lot watching these flights. On the 13th, I rode along on all of her flights and did ground with Jim. We were in the RedBird simulator again the next day practicing approaches in Madison, WI where we would be doing our checkrides.

On the 15th, we both trained and traveled to the checkride. The other student took the first leg, and I watched as she practiced maneuvers as well as takeoffs and landings at Fillmore County airport. We stopped, switched seats, and then it was my turn to practice takeoffs and landings. Fillmore County was a great airport to stop at, and we grabbed lunch in Preston, MN at a bowling alley that Jim’s family used to own. We went back to the airport, and the other student was up for some more traffic pattern practice. Afterward, we switched seats again, and I flew us from Fillmore County to the Middleton Municipal airport near Madison. En route, we practiced steep turns, slow flight, stalls, the Vmc maneuver, and did the VOR 28 approach into the Middleton Municipal airport (near Madison) single engine. After landing there, we switched seats, and the other student flew us to the Madison airport. She did an ILS to runway 36 single engine.

Piper Seminole
En route from Albert Lea to Fillmore County airport

We spent a night in a hotel in Madison with the checkride scheduled for the following morning. I did a lot of review in the hotel, and somehow pulled off sleeping really well. Normally, I feel like I lay awake all night before a checkride, but the busy training days tired me out enough to actually fall asleep. The wind was very strong when we woke up (20 gusting to around 30 knots), and I was nervous about doing the checkride on a day like that. Jim was very reassuring, and we went up for a flight in the morning beforehand to quell nerves and get used to the crosswind. After that flight, I was confident that I’d do the checkride that day.

We met the examiner Jim Notstad at Wisconsin Aviation, the general aviation FBO at the Madison airport. He was very friendly, thorough, and fair. The oral portion of the exam went very well, and I ate lunch while the other student did her oral exam. We then went out to the airplane for the flight portion of the checkride. He watched me preflight, and we jumped in. I gave him the standard passenger briefing and we were off.

The flight was very thorough — we did every maneuver in the ACS, including a full engine shutdown/secure/restart while under the hood. I had never practiced that while under the hood before, but it went well. The checkride adrenaline helped me nail all of the other maneuvers, and then we headed back to the airport to do a single engine ILS and a short field landing.

After landing from the single engine ILS approach, we taxied back for another trip around the pattern. He failed my left engine in the turn to crosswind, meaning that I had to fly the rest of the traffic pattern on one engine. This normally is not a big deal, but the tower controller threw me a curveball. The airport was very busy and we were instructed to do a left 360° turn while on the downwind leg. You are taught in multiengine training to avoid turning into the dead engine, as the airplane will tend to continue the roll and get away from you, potentially leaving you inverted and out of control. I made the left 360 very gingerly. It was stressful, but when I looked at the GPS log after the flight, it ended up being just about the closest to a perfect circle I’ve ever flown. The rest of the pattern was uneventful until we were on final. A United Airbus landed in front of us, and we were asked to make several s-turns on final for spacing. I did two, again being very gentle with left banks. After landing, the United pilots took their sweet time getting off the runway. We were hanging on in ground effect waiting for them to vacate — as soon as they did, I pulled power out on the operating engine and set the Seminole down. Jim grabbed my shoulder and told me that I did a great job handling a difficult situation with one engine inoperative.

After an uneventful taxi back in, we shut down, and Jim congratulated me and shook my hand. What a relief to have this training finished!

Piper Seminole
After the checkride with examiner Jim Notstad

The other student passed her checkride shortly thereafter, and we enjoyed a nice evening flight back to Albert Lea.

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