On Friday, September 18, 2020 I visited the airfield of Avernas for my practical exam ULM.
And I passed! This means I am officially allowed to fly a ULM aircraft and I can start the next part of my education.
Date: 18 sep 2020, 08:00 (UTC)
Route: EBAV - Andenne, SIERA (Tinlot), EBTX, Visé, NOVEMBER (Tongeren), ROMEO (Waremme) - EBAV
- METAR EBBE 180925Z 06008KT 9999 SCT250 16/08 Q1023 BLU BLU=
Type: Exam Navigation
Flight time: 01:42
Exam: € 180
01:42 flying time + instructor: € 220,00
After failing my radio exam, I was extremely nervous. All the effort of the last two years should pay off on this exam. I was reasonably sure of the practical side, but there was also a theory aspect dealing with aerodynamics, technology, meteo and flying techniques.
I had carefully prepared all aspects of the flight: nav log, timings corrected for wind (using the wind triangle!), METARS, NOTAM.
There weren't much relevant NOTAM's, except some low level (500 ft) HTA (Helicopter Training Areas) we'd fly over.
It was a beautiful day, a little chilly at first but it was promising to be warm and sunny. There was a moderate easterly wind (~ 12 kts).
Luckily, my examiner also wanted to do the practical part first. I agreed, because I'm usually more relaxed after flying.
We had already done the navigation on monday, so I was quite sure I knew where I was going and how to manage the maps in flight.
In the pre-flight check, the examiner remarked I should spend more attention to the engine check. He asked me some questions "what's this and that" and I couldn't answer everything. I had seen it all, but it was too long ago.
He adviced me to follow the fluids throughout the engine, check for leaks and verify everything is still solidly attached to the airframe.
My examiner took care of the radio in-flight (because that's not part of the ULM exam). During the week, EBAV is located in an active military danger area "Delta 37", managed to EBBE approach. Surely, right after take-off we were instructed to stay below 2000 ft and we saw one F-16 pass by as well. So there was some activity.
The navigation itself was going quite well, the visibility was a little lower, but I hit the waypoint almost exactly where I wanted to be, at almost exactly the same time. I had calculated for traveling at 100 kts, but the aircraft OO-H53 had a slightly lower cruising speed. But it didn't really make much difference in the time.
I was expecting the examiner to ask me to make a practice forced landing. So I was making sure I was aware of the wind direction at all time (something you really have to do anyway).
During the navigation, he did ask a few times what field I'd land in. I always choose a brown field that I can land in with head-wind.
When arriving at EBTX, we flew a circuit for runway 06 and did a low approach. We couldn't land because the field is closed in the morning.
After leaving EBTX, I had forgotten to already switch my map. So I didn't immediatly know the heading to take. So that was a little weird, but corrected it quickly.
Flying Techniques at EBAV
Apart from the navigation, you must also show you are in control of the aircraft.
First we did two stall excercises, with and without flaps. Stalls, especially in the Tecnam P92 ECHO, are almost a non event. You pull back the throttle, keep the nose up to maintain altitude and at some point the nose is so high up your wings exceed the maximum angle of attack and lose lift. The nose will drop and you will pick up speed again.
Important during a stall is to make sure you are flying coordinated. If the aircraft is going "sideways" (called slipping) then it can happen the aircraft starts rolling. If it tries to do that, it must be corrected with rudder (feet) input.
Anyway, the aircraft had a stall warning (sound), which is something ours didn't have. My instructor was clear: on an ultralight you don't push FULL THROTTLE to recover from a stall. Just pushing the nose down a little is more than enough.
"Three Sixty" (orbit)
Next the instructor asked me to do a 360 while maintaining altitude. A 360 is a full 360 turn. The tricky part is maintaining the altitude while the instructor is hiding the instruments.
But the trick is to look at the position of the nose on the horizon and keep it there. When not touching the throttle, this should keep everything stable.
The first 360 I was perfect, the second one I lost 100 ft, which was well within margin, for my examiner.
Practiced Forced Landings
At the airfield, we did some additional practiced forced landings.
This went quite well, better than I thought, because I'm used to a 600 meter grass strip, this one is 250 meter.
One time, my instructor shut the engine down completely. He told me to glide slightly faster than I would if the propeller was on idle, because even on idle it provides a little bit of thrust.
The landing was good.
On the final full stop landing, I wanted to hit the brakes because the field was so small. But my instructor said: "don't brake". He lifted the nose up and let the wind slow us down instead. No breaks needed, on a 250 meter grass strip, and we still had to taxi a bit to reach the end.
After the practical, which went super well, we did the theory. We get to prepare some things on topics such as aerodynamics, mechanics, meteo and navigation. Then the instructor will ask about each question.
He will look for things forgotten in lists: "what else causes induced drag to increase?". But also if your answers are too theoretical, he will ask to apply it in practice.
I wasn't TOO happy with how I was doing, but that's still from the radio exam I flunked. My instructor concluded I knew what I was talking about, only meteo I should review a bit more.
The exam was great, I learned a lot of things. I flew another aircraft (same type), OO-H53. I had a beautiful flight. I was calm throughout the exam (not before the exam).
Cost of an ultralight License?
So, what did it take to earn the ultralight license
- 2 years of learning: sep 2018 - sep 2020
- 26 flight hours of which 5 hours solo
- In total, I spent € 5640.34 to earn the license
- Per month: € 226,00 (I estimated € 200,00)
Note that there was a six month hiatus due to bureaucracy, weather and COVID-19.
It's not cheap, but it's much cheaper than a PPL license, which is estimated to be at least € 12,000. It's also slightly less time consuming. Of course, you have to accept the limitations that come with it.
So, technically I'm allowed to fly alone. I need the papers first. The result goes to Brussels and they will process everything.
In the mean time, I have to keep flying with my training license. It is sufficient to inform my instructor I'm flying and let him sign my pilot log after.
I haven't planned a flight yet, I need some decompression, but aiming for next week!