Today I passed my MEP Skills Test! What an absolute beast the Piper Seneca (PA34) is to fly! It’s been the most challenging flight to date, but it has brought me one step closer to my goal.
I formally started my MEP course last week but I have been preparing for it for around two weeks. Whilst hour building, I popped into the Flight Training School and asked could I buy the MEP textbook and the Twin Engine Aircraft Checklist. The Flight Training School I fly with uses a Piper Seneca PA34, actually one of FTe Jerez’s old ones. With the book and checklist I began reading and studying, particularly trying to memorise the checks, speeds and power settings that so many pilots said I would need to know exceptionally well. They weren’t wrong.
Upon actually starting my course, I initially was lectured regarding the differences inf lying an MEP compared to a Single Engine Aircraft, the systems, specifics relating to the Piper Seneca I would fly and a hell of a lot of information and detail regarding asymmetric flight. This is perhaps the most challenging and heavily tested part of the Multi Engine Piston syllabus. After my first 3 lectures or so, I jumped into the Seneca and prepared for a flight in the circuit. Normally you start with general handling but the weather had been poor most of the week and my instructor was keen to get me in the air. Although I thought I knew power settings and speeds very well, after getting in the Seneca and feeling the shear speed and acceleration I quickly forgot such basic things I thought I’d learnt very well. For most of my MEP training, it’s fair to say I feared the aircraft. The speed and size of it intimidated my confidence and flying ability which detrimentally affected my training. It did however teach me a very important lesson to carry through my training – don’t let an aircraft intimidate you!
The initial circuits gradually improved, the landings however were shocking. I was convinced that I had broken the landing gear on one of my landings where It felt alike the aircraft had landed nose first, bounced up then rolled left and landed heavily on the left gear, with the remaining gear impacting the ground subsequently. Thankfully, I learnt how to land the Seneca but by no stretch of the imagination smoothly. The amount of back pressure needed to flare was unbelievable and my instructor would chuckle when he heard me groaning trying with all my might to pull the control column back. I am so thankful for the electric trimming system installed.
Just when I thought I was getting used to the Seneca in the circuit, we began to look at asymmetric flight. This again tested my physical strength and nerves. I found that after my instructor would duplicate an engine failure by idling one engine, I would panic and again, forget the checks. It’s vital a pilot doesn’t do this. Eventually, I learnt to instead level the aircraft, push all the levers forward possible and then control the speed and get rid of any drag i.e. flaps or landing gear. Then the hardest part became holding and balancing the aircraft with the rudder. Turns out I need to be working on my legs and arms for my Instrument Rating.
Just when I really began to start feeling under control of the aircraft and comfortable in my ability to fly it with confidence, my MEP course and test were complete. This is probably the hardest thing about the MEP and I heard it a lot before training from peers and contacts that had been through it. It leaves you feeling slightly defeated and deflated, you feel you aren’t fully confident with it and need more time with it, despite perhaps holding an MEP rating in your hand. I’m very keen however, to become confident with it and develop my skill flying it during my Instrument Rating and beyond! That may be a while yet though!