I enrolled at a flight school in Orange County, New York (MJG) in August of 2006 because, at the time, I wanted to learn how to fly. Within the year that followed, I managed to rack up over 35 hours of flight time. Part of this was time spent being trained in the airplane (Cessna 172) by my instructor and part of it was spent flying by myself, or otherwise known as “flying solo.” I’ve flown in various types of weather, at different times of day, have flown three different types of small plane, and have experienced ground school training as well. In this blog post, I discuss much of what I’ve experienced as well as other aspects of what it takes to become a certified pilot. Even though I never made it to that point of my training, I do offer some interesting perspective on the process.
Exploratory Flight – 9AM
Life is way too short. There are many reasons why someone would like to take flying lessons…for the thrill, the advantages of getting from one place to another in a shorter amount of time than driving, enjoyment, etc… Many reasons.
For me, the driving force is to get places fast. I really need to start visiting my family in North Carolina more. I need to see my nieces and nephews. I don’t want to be that uncle who never visits, or the one who the kids hear a lot about but never really got to know.
My dream is to have my family waiting for me at the Wilmington International Airport (KILM) and for them to watch me land in my own plane. I really think that would be something.
My father has talked about getting his pilot’s license and getting a plane, but never got around to it. Maybe some day. Until then, he will have to sit in the passenger’s seat. Maybe I will let him fly…a little.
I looked around the area for a small airport and bumped into the Orange County Airport (KMGJ). It’s about a half hour from where I live. I called Quade’s Flight School. Gary answered the phone. He seemed like a very nice guy who has been around planes for a very long time. I set up the “Intro” flight lesson for $60. Basically, it is a half hour flight to get the tip of your toe wet. When you land, you say, “Sign me up, I am taking out a loan” or “Get me the hell out of this thing.” I said “Sign me up, but I will pay by check.”
We went up in his trainer…a Piper Cherokee. The intro flight consisted of learning about the pre-flight inspection of the plane, going over the checklist, taxiing to the runway, takeoff, some maneuvers and landing. The instructor, Gary let me perform some turns at about 2500 msl (mean sea level). That was pretty cool. I have never controlled an airplane before, so that was a thrill. I flew by myself for about 15 minutes. When we were approaching the airport for landing, Gary cut the throttle. He said he liked to do this for the new students to show that if an airplane of this size loses the engine in mid-air for some reason, you won’t spiral out of control and plummet to the earth. We landed very smoothly with no power.
After we landed and taxied to the hangar, Gary asked me if I was in. I said I was and set up my next lesson for Sunday, August 20 and 10:30 AM.
Lesson #1 – 10:30AM
So I think I have been biten by the bug. When you actually sit in a small aircraft staring down a 5000 foot runway, you tend to lose your nerve a little. You wonder what you are doing and why the heck you are paying this much to put your life in the control of this small airplane.
With this said, the fear of takeoffs, flying and landings wears off very quickly. You soon have an addiction. This addiction has kept me up at night in half-sleeps dreaming of being up there looking at all my neighboring towns. Needless to say, I way very excited about today’s lesson.
The weather was a little iffy and I kept looking at the sky the whole drive over. I was very excited. I had to get this one in because I really want to start building up the minimum 40 hours it takes to take the practical private pilot’s exam. About a week ago, I purchased the Sporty’s Private Pilot Ground School, because the other half of flying is the education behind it. You will be facing a written exam before you know it. I learned a little about weather, but not much. The extent of my education at this point was, “Hey, it doesn’t look that windy at this particular moment, so let’s get up there.” The sky was cloudy and there was a strong breeze.
I showed up and Gary was standing outside with a friend. They were fixing his Coke machine right outside the hangar. I walked toward them and raised both arms like I was gliding. He looked at me and said it was way too windy and the visibility was only two miles. He said that we couldn’t go up. I accepted the instructor’s recommendation.
For the rest of the day, I had a very strong sense of “Cognitive Dissonance.” That’s basically the feeling you get when you made a choice and later on think that you made the wrong choice. I thought that since I would be taking these lessons on the weekends, and since he is closed on Saturdays and not open after 5:30PM during the week, it would take me about 4 years to get this license (really a certificate).
Now, overwhelmed by the feeling of my addiction and the new sense of urgency, I call the neighboring hangar, Freedom Air Flight School. They have 4 instructors, stay open until 8PM, while the season permits and are open both Saturdays and Sundays. I set up a lesson for August 23 at 8:30AM after calling and politely informing Gary of my choice.
Lesson #1 (again) – 8:30AM
I was pretty excited to get going again. I had been watching the Private Pilot Ground School DVDs, so I was very motivated to put all of my new knowledge to use.
It’s funny, when you sit at a computer and watch a video on how to do something, you really think you can do it. The videos explained a lot on ground work, like the pre-flight inspection, taxiing and all that, but I am not sure it prepared me for what was to come during this lesson.
I showed up at Freedom Air at about 7:55. The flight instructor, Yigal, arrived a few minutes later. He and another person pulled a Piper Cherokee out of the hangar and we went over some basics for about an hour. Yigal covered some things like aerodynamics of an airplane wing, dispatch procedures, the use of checklists (which I now have laminated), certificates and documents, the aircraft preflight, decision making and judgement, engine controls, flight controls and fuel grades.
After all this, we got in the plane and it was suggested that I taxi to the runway. I did so, only after zig zagging all over the place. A little note, you steer an airplane with your feet. You also brake with your feet. Each pedel has two sections. This took a while to get used to. I also used the radio to make a few calls. I thought to myself that Yigal was really having me do a lot right off the bat. Well, right after I had that though, he instructed me to pull the airplane onto the runway, give it full throttle, and when we reach 65MPH, pull back on the control yoke (sort of like a steering wheel). I was wondering why he wanted me to do that, and then it struck me…he wanted me to takeoff! Ok, I was fine. I pulled out from the waiting area, made a right onto the runway, stopped, gave the plane full throttle and began to accelerate. For some reason, the plane kept trying to go to the left. Yigal kept saying, “Keep it in the center, keep it in the center.” Easier said than done when you are trying to steer with your feet and you keep thinking and any sudden move is going to tip the plane over. The reason planes pull to the left during takeoff is because of the torque of the engine, propeller slipstream and gyroscopic precession. So we hit 65MPH before I knew it and I began to pull back on the yoke. Strangest thing happened…we began to rise. We climbed at 85MPH until we hit 3000ft. Now that was pretty cool.
Now that we were up in the practice area, I controlled the airplane for about a half hour. Yigal had me practice left and right turns at a 20 degree bank as well as turns to specific headings. This gave me good experience feeling the turns, using the instruments and using the horizon as a guide. After this was done, Yigal took back the controls and landed the plane.
Next lesson, Sept. 1, 8:00AM.
Lesson #2 – 8:00AM
Ah yes, 8:00AM. It is September 1st and it is getting a little chilly around here. I am starting to wear sweatshirts in the morning. When I go sit on the couch to drink my morning coffee, I now have to wear a shirt. I guess it’s ok. Better than sweating. Laura doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, she HATES the heat.
Of course, I arrived at the flight school first again. I have a problem doing that. Perhaps it is because I can’t sleep at night, tossing and turning, thinking I am going to miss the alarm and screw up the whole lesson. You have to take them when you can these days due to all the rain we have been getting.
Anyway, Yigal arrived a little later than I did. He had me go out and do the pre-flight inspection. He chose a different plane this time…a little older and smaller, but just as powerful as the last. I believe this one was made in 1969. I did the inspection and suggested that we fill the tanks with fuel. They were below the markers. Also, when I took the sample of fuel from the left wing, a little water came out in the fuel. Yigal says this is due to the condensation created overnight. No big deal. I threw the fuel downwind.
I went back inside and Yigal had me call the weather service to get the current conditions as well as the forecast for the day. A pilot should always do this whenever they plan to fly. You always want to be sure that conditions are going to be ok from where you takoff from, your path and your landing area. Of course, this day, we tookoff from Orange County Airport and landed there too. A little note about this type of weather service – they throw out a whole mess of numbers. There is no handsome man in a suit in front of a large, easy to read map. I called the number he gave me: 1-800-WX-BRIEF. Here is what I had to do: introduce myself as a student pilot, give the tail number, tell the person that we were taking off from MGJ and landing there as well, let them know that we are staying in the area as well as our flight duration. Then, I had to request a standard briefing. I also had to ask if there were any TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions). I was looking for the ceiling hieght, visibility, the forecast and the wind direction and speed. Basically anything that we should be concerned about while in a small aircraft. Well, I screwed that all up. The operator on the other end of the phone was completely rude and had no patience. He totally unnerved me when he started sarcastically sighing. At one point he asked very slowly if I was writing this down. I felt like I was getting pretty ticked at him, but because of my point in learning, I was in no place to say anything. The reason he was getting frustrated was because I kept asking him to repeat things. I really don’t think these were big requests, since I did introduce myself as a new student pilot. I thanked him and hung up. Yigal asked me how it went and I told him some of the information I received. I also told him that the person was very rude and indicated what his attitude was. Yigal shot up and got quite serious. He immediately picked up the phone and called the operator back and asked for his supervisor. He made an aggressive complaint about the poor attitude of the operator and how new students have a difficult enough time learning all of this without having to deal with people like that. I really appreciated this from Yigal, as he showed he cared about my learning process.
We went out tho the plane and got inside. We went over all the things we needed to and I started her up. One thing that I forgot was to wipe the windshield down. There was dew all over it from the night before. No problem…parking brake and engine at 2000 RPM. No more dew. I lowered the throttle back to 800 RPM and taxied to the runway and went through the pre-takeoff checklist. I pulled out to the runway and tookoff. This all went much faster than last time and I was much more comfortable. I also made all radio communications. When we were at our altitude, I practiced straight and level flight and the use of trim, pitch and power coordination, traffic pattern operations, collision avoidance, power-off stalls, power-on stalls and approach and landing. Yigal let me land half-way. His hands were on the controls, but so were mine. It felt pretty comfortable. I think I will ready to give it a shot by myself next time.
A note about airplane stalls – I really thought this area was going to freak me out. Basically, you are simulating a stall while taking off and landing. One is with full power (takeoff) and one with no power (landing). To simulate this, you climb to 3000ft. and lower the flaps. Then you pitch the airplane past 18 degrees, the point of stall. The airplane shudders and falls. The trick is to regain control with minimal altitude loss. Yigal demonstrated the power off stall first and then had me do it axactly to the way the examiner is going to want to see it. It really wasn’t that bad. I kind of liked it. We did the power on stall next…that was a little more dramatic because we really had to pull up all the way to get the plane to stall. We were at a higher speed as well. The studdering is more profound, but recovery is easier. It is a great feeling to practice these skills because they really make you more comfortable with the plane. Once that happens, flying becomes easier and more fun.
I really like these lessons and I am thrilled that I got into this.
Next lesson, Sept. 8, 8:00AM.
Private Pilot Ground School – What They Don’t Tell You
I have just been having a grand ol’ time watching my DVDs. I have been taking the practice quizzes at the end and have been doing pretty good. A few times I thought some of the questions were coming out of left field. Some questions had absolutely nothing to do with what was in the lesson. Whatever, I would get it soon.
Well, as I browsed through the Sporty’s Training Course Outline today, I discovered there is a whole syllabus I am supposed to be following. I am to follow the layout and cross reference with additional books and the DVDs. This was a surprise because Sporty’s advertised the DVD set as “All I would need to pass the private pilot written exam.” To me, all I need is…well…all I need. Apparently not.
I have to make an order on Monday. I am going to buy the following:
FAA-H-8083-3 – Airplane Flying Handbook
FAA-H-8083-25 – Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
FAR-14-CFR – Aviation Regulations
AIM – Aeronautical Information Manual
AC-00-6 – Aviation Weather (I need this)
AC-00-45 – Aviation Weather Services
Interesting. Good thing they are like $15 books. I feel like a college student does when they started class and they don’t have the book yet. You kind of just look around and try to look cool.
Lesson #3 – 8:00AM
There are two distinct sides to me…one that is aggressive and uptight (my teenage years) and one that is laid back and relaxed…just along for the ride. This is how I have trained myself to be over the years. I couldn’t continue to be uptight my whole life.
Well, with learning to fly, you can’t be laid back. Yigal acts more laid back than me, perhaps because he has over 4000 hours under his belt. This guy is good. He has the ability to look around and enjoy the scenery. One thing I really like about him is the way he periodically pulls my nose away from the instruments to look at the horizon or the colors of the trees (there are a few of them changing right now). He likes to remind me why I am doing this…for the fun and beauty.
Today we took up a Piper Cherokee. This is the same plane as last time. Smaller but pretty powerful because the engine has had some work done to it. It has had some exhaust work done and hemi-spherical (Hemi) pistons put in. The “Hemi” creates more compression, thus a more powerful piston stroke. I couldn’t grab any photos today, because there were people there already and we were ready to get going.
I am getting pretty used to doing the preflight inspection, taxiing to the runway and taking off. This time we had to fill the plane with fuel first. We did this and headed for the runway. I got off the ground at 65MPH and climbed at 85MPH. In order to gain speed during the climb, I pitched the nose down (like rolling down a hill in a car) and in order to slow down, I pitched the nose up with the elevator. Of course, we take off at full power. We climbed to 3000ft and banked 30 degrees to the left to fly crosswind of the airport and then banked again to fly downwind. We were practicing patterns and turns during ascending flight. This is really tricky, as I found out. First of all, I had to focus on my climb speed, then I had to focus on my bank degree, then I had to focus on my heading, all the while making sure that there was no traffic in the air. Focusing on 3-4 things simultaneously is tricky to say the least. Some of the things are opposite of what I am used to in a car, but it does get easier every time. Here is a photo of the airport from where we practice. Basically, if you are driving on Interstate 84 in New York, we practice in between the Mongomery exit and the Newburgh exit.
We practiced more maneuvering during slow flight, practice area operations, cockpit management, constant airspeed climbs, constant airspeed descents, airspeed transitions, turns to headings (of which I need work. I really need to get the heading indicator down) and flight at low cruise airspeeds. The real push of this lesson was Emergency Operations and landings. Yigal showed me what to do if you lose power in the plane. The first time you go over this, you feel very rushed, because you think there really is no time, but trust me, there really is time, especially if you are above 3000FT, like you most likely will be.
The first thing you do if you lose engine power is to control the airplane. You change your pitch for optimum glide speed of 75MPH. Then, you look for a field to land in and start heading in that direction…seriously. Once you have these two things squared away, and you are gliding and heading towards your destination, you begin checking the flight controls from right to left. You start with turning on the carburetor heat. You may have ice buildup if it is warm and humid. Then, you check your fuel mixture to make sure it is rich or lean. If you are coming down from a high altitude, your mixture is lean and you need to compensate on your descent and make it richer. Without doing this, you are starving the airplane for fuel. Then you need to pump your throttle to see if the plane isn’t getting fuel for some reason. After that, you check your key to make sure it is in and on and last you change your fuel tank. Maybe one tank ran out of fuel and you need to switch to another. This took me some time to cover, but Yigal assures me that it will be instinct by the time I am ready to fly solo.
We assumed that nothing worked and the engine could not be brought back. So with this in mind, we needed to land the plane. We headed towards the airport, using my new skills of descending the plane while turning to a specific heading. I did have a number of questions while doing this and Yigal had no problem being patient and answering the questions for me. Usually I feel stupid asking people questions because most people have an uncanny knack for belittling others. A sign of a good flight instructor is one who continues to encourage with patience and skill.
We followed the airport pattern for our approach to landing. This was my show, with Yigal’s hands at the ready. He walked me through step by step for a relatively smooth landing. Immediately after landing, we gave the plane full power for another take off, called a touch-and-go. I climbed to altitude and followed the pattern to simulate another engine failure from 3000FT. I flew the crosswind leg, then the downwind leg, then the base leg and then the final approach. This time I came in semi-smoothly and landed the plane myself.
We made a turn and taxied back to the runway for another takeoff. I did the same pattern and this time made my best landing so far. It’s a great experience being able to make a good takeoff and a good landing!
Lesson #4 – 8:00AM
I gave Freedom Air a call yesterday morning to see if they had anything available for that afternoon because it looked like rain today. I have a habit of calling last minute. I found out that they were booked. That was fine, the rain looked like it was towards the afternoon anyway.
I arrived at about 7:50 today to give the plane a preflight inspection. This would save some $$$ if I got this done early when the clock wasn’t running. Unfortunately, the plane was in the hangar and I didn’t have the key. Oh well, I took some photos like I said I would in a previous post.
This is a sea plane, as you can see from the upper propeller in back of the pilot.
This plane had “Experimental” written on the side of it, so I thought it deserved a photo. I have no idea was type of experiment they will perform with it.
The next one is a Cessna (the most popular small plane out there) and the last is the flight school across the way. If you look past the hangar, you can see runway 3.
Yigal arrived after me and we talked a little about the weather. I was concerned about the very light drizzle coming down and he said that wasn’t a problem, we could fly in the rain if need be. It was visibility that mattered.
He had me call the weather service again for a standard briefing. I was secretly apprehensive about making this call because the first time I called the service, a real jerk gave me a hard time. This time, Yigal told me not to let them get the best of me and had me put the call on speakerphone.
The operator came on and was a different guy than last time, or the same guy, just beat up a little bit from his supervisor. He was very, very helpful. I gave him the airplane tail number and the airport we would be taking off from. I told him the duration of flight time and he gave me a complete rundown of everything I could possibly want to know. He also gave his opinion based on his experience, which was nice. We had good visibility, so it was cool to fly. What a pleasure talking to him.
I gave the plane a preflight in the hangar and we pulled it out. We got in and taxied to the runway. Today, I was going to do touch and goes for about an hour and a half. This should be interesting. Landing an airplane is the toughest thing to do.
Basically, here is what we did. I took off and climbed to an altitude of 1000 FT. Then, I made a radio call: “Orange County, Cherokee turning crosswind at runway 3.” Then, I continued to climb, while making a left turn to1400 FT. When I hit 1400 FT, I lowered the throttle so the engine was running at 2000 RPM (cruising speed). Then, when I was about a mile out from the runway, I made another radio call: “Orange County, Cherokee turning downwind at runway 3.” We paralleled the runway until we passed the very end (where we begun our takeoff) of it, then, I raised the flaps one click. We continued past the beginning of the runway for about one more mile. Then, I made a radio call: “Orange County, Cherokee turning base at runway 3.” This is where I made the most mistakes. At this point, I had to make another left turn, lower the RPMs to 1700, raise the flaps one more click and begin our descent to about 900 FT. It took me a while to get this. It seems like the plane wants to climb when I should be descending and vice versa. When we were lined up with the runway, I made one last radio call: “Orange County, Cherokee turning final for runway 3.” There were about 3 other training planes up in the same airspace this moring, so there was a lot of chatter. I talked over one guy once or twice…I’ll have to correct that for next time. Note to self: Listen for open air before making a radio call.
So, at this point we were heading straight for the runway. I would line my angle of descent up with the lights on the runway (VIZI Lights?). When I was too high, both lights would be white (and I’ll fly all night), too low, both lights would be red (and I’ll be dead…a little saying pilots use to remember the lighting sequence), just right, the rear light would be red and the front one would be white. As we got closer to our touchdown spot, I would flare the plane slightly. Basically, I would let the plane fall, give it a slight flare, let it fall, and give it a slight flare. When we almost touched down, I would give it another flare to land the plane. Too many flares and you slow the plane too much and it begins to fall too fast for a hard landing.
It took a few times to get the entire takeoff and landing pattern down pat with no mistakes. I took off and landed 5 times and had two very good landings. The second landing was very iffy, as I over-corrected with the rudder to land kind of crooked.
Yigal says that I am doing excellent for a student with only slightly over 4 hours. Next step, continue with my ground school, start looking into my own headset and prepare for my next lesson, Thursday of next week at 5:30PM.
Lesson #5 – 5:30PM
This lesson was scheduled after work, because I used up my days off for the year. Good thing they renew tomorrow. I am going to start taking half days, so I can take my lessons at about 1PM. I think that would be the best time to fly. Mornings are good too because a nice lesson wakes me up.
I am a little razzled after work, so I needed to relax a little before getting in the plane. I needed to get in the zone. I was sitting on Freedom Air’s couch chillen like a villain when Yigal walked in. He was wondering why I wasn’t doing to pre-flight. Ok, getting in the zone…over.
I did the pre-flight and we taxied to runway 26, which threw me for a loop. It’s amazing how used to one runway and one pattern you become in such a short time. The wind was different today, so we had to mix things up. I learned that this was a right pattern runway as compared to runway 3’s left pattern. That threw me for a loop too.
Ok, taxiing done. Run-up done. Radio calls done. Takeoff number one was smooth. This lesson was to go over touch and goes again. Incidentally, touch and goes are a little taxing on the brain. There is a lot to do in a very short time. The pattern is not that far of a distance and there is not much altitude to play with. I made it a point today to use more of the rudder and to start using the horizon as a guide more than the instruments. This works much better and gets me more used to flying the plane like I am supposed to. Imagine driving a car with your nose stuck in the speedometer, gas gauge and turn signals. Not going to work well.
There were about 2-3 planes in the pattern today. There was a really nice Columbia up there with us. I found the new plane I want. This sucker cruises at 190MPH. There was another plane that came into the pattern later on from the left instead of the right. His radio call that he was entering the pattern on at a 45 concerned us a bit…because if that radio call was correct, he would be coming straight at us. Yigal took over at that moment and tried to find out where he was. We couldn’t find him at all. Apparently, since he thought it was a left pattern, he was all the way over on the other side of the runway. No wonder he was no where to be found. That’s why I like having a good instructor…it’s second nature for him.
Since there was a faster plane up there with us practicing touch and goes as well, we had to practice some slow flight waiting for him to do his thing. I am not a fan of slow flight…it’s ok, but you really have to keep your eye on the airplane’s pitch and speed. Too much pitch or too slow of a speed, the plane can stall and you will need to immediately recover. It keeps you extremely alert. We also practiced “crabbing” the airplane due to some wind coming from the North.
We made 4 landings and on our last one, Yigal asked if I remembered what to do if I lost the engine. I said I did. Of course his next move was to pull the throttle to idle. He said, “Land it.” I completed the proper steps and started my final approach. It is very difficult to maneuver in slow flight…so I had some difficulty. I pulled up the last click of flaps and slowed the plane down too much. Ok, that would’ve been a landing in the grass. Another note to self: keep your speed until you absolutely know you will make the runway. Yigal gave the airplane some throttle so we were further down the runway and I landed the plane.
I have to say, using the rudder more liberally improves my landings by giving me more maneuverability. Also, using the horizon as a guide lets me focus more on flying the airplane more comfortably. It feels like I “own” it more.
Flight Ground School – September 28
Today lesson was devoted to staying on the ground, having coffee and discussing some very important ground material. Yigal and I talk quite a bit in the plane when I am practicing, but the airplane in no way a classroom. You must take time to go over things that are going to be on the written test.
We went to Rick’s Runway Cafe with a VFR Sectional Chart that covers some of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. We also brought a plotter and a flight computer. For a good hour, we went over classes of airspace. This is pretty straightforward when talking about class A, B, C and D, but gets a little tricky when talking about class E and G. I got the concept, but need a lot more reading to get a firm grasp on it. We also went over how to use the plotter and the flight computer. The plotter is used to determine your heading (direction) and the flight computer is used for a few things. We went over how it is used to help you determine your actual heading, compensating for wind. Here is an example: say you want to fly directly east for 100 miles. Say there is a wind coming from the south at 25kts. If you take off and head directly east and continue on that heading, you are going to land east, but quite a bit more north than expected, due to the wind carrying you in that direction. The flight computer computes your heading, speed and wind speed, to give you the proper heading to fly. With this knowledge, you will “crab” (point the airplane south east, but remain flying directly east) the airplane the entire trip. Think about crossing a flowing river. If you get in a boat and head directly across, the current will bring you down stream. If your goal is to get straight across the river, you will need to point the boat up stream to compensate for the current.
For the next hour, we reviewed what I am doing in my Sporty’s Ground School. I gave him some topics I had covered and he quizzed me on them and offered some clarification on any questions I had.
I have to say, the DVDs and reading are very helpful, but nothing really beats face to face back and forth.
Lesson #6 – 5:00PM – Touch & Goes
This lesson was awesome. I got to fly the plane I really wanted to fly…a Cessna 172. This is a larger airplane than the Piper Cherokee I usually fly. There is more interior room and it has a high-wing configuration as compared to the low wing. The Cherokee had more power due to the engine modifications, so which is better is really up to the pilot.
We did more touch and goes today. The weather was good for it, so there were 3 other planes in the pattern. I did six take offs and landings. The touch and go teaches you a few important things…take offs, climbs, patterns, descent, turns, landings, runway management and communications. It also teaches you how to manage the cockpit with a passenger. Yigal likes to throw a lot at you when you are practicing. He was trying to distract me while I was flying to show me what is going to happen when I start flying with friends. He tried, but didn’t succeed. I am like an arrow heading towards its target (haha).
We had a lot of fun during this lesson. I like to keep things light and laugh. It helps me to learn. I also got to use my new headset. Wonderful!
Something has been on my mind lately. I know it’s coming and I am starting to get a little nervous. I have been doing a good number of take-offs and landings and am a pretty fast learner. Everything I do in my life is before schedule…hopefully this will be too – My first solo.
When I first got the idea to learn how to fly, I kind of thought it would be like driving a car in the sky, and it kind of is. The first few times I flew an airplane, I was nervous and over reacted, over corrected and over compensated. These days, I am pretty casual, but still think my moves need to be delicate.
Imagine flying an airplane by yourself for the very first time. Taxiing to the runway – pulling up and making a radio call – the point of no return, giving the airplane full throttle – taking off and landing.
Since I know this point is bearing down upon me, I decided to see what others thought of their first solo. I found this great piece on the web that I feel captures it pretty well:
I once heard a man speaking and he said that he “got high by flying.” Many of them laughed, but when I heard it I knew it must have been a true high. I was 14 when I first thought about what that man had said and I knew that I may want to someday experience that “high.” My dream came true one day, and it was a day I would never forget.
It was a very warm and sunny day in the swealtering heat of June…lemonade wasn’t pungent enough to expel the dryness from our mouths, yet we carried on. Learning to fly is not an “easy” thing to do; it takes practice and patience. I had become annoyed with myself simply because I was having trouble with landings. For me, landing is the hardest part because you really need to know your stuff.
Well I had done 52 landings that day and I was exhausted. I went to bed thinking that I would not be able to solo the airplane unless I got my act together. The following day was the “Solo Day.” It was the day when pilots were made or dreams shattered. I was hoping I was not in the latter. My instructor and I took off and flew around from airport to airport performing some landings. I knew he was checking up on me and I began to get nervous. I didn’t think he had confidence in me and I wasn’t sure of my own abilities. He told me to land the airplane at the local airport and that he needed something to drink. I figured he meant alcohol so that he wouldn’t have to put up with my flying.
We landed at the airport and I taxied the airplane over to where one would normally park a plane to get out. I pulled up and began to shut the plane off and my instructor asked me what I was doing. Baffled, I told him I was shuting down the airplane. Surely a man of 50,000 hours of flying, knew that I was going to turn the aircraft off. He proceeded to tell me that I wasn’t getting out to get a drink, HE was! He said, “You have some flying to do. You’re ready!”
My heart began to race and the excitement was almost unbearable. I was about to travel alone into the skies with a 180 horsepowered aircraft. As he gave me a nod and shut the door the fear of being alone for the first time began to overcome the excitement. I was afraid that something might go wrong, but I was excited about the challenge I was about to endure.
I started the aircraft down towards the runway and I waited to depart. I couldn’t wait any longer, it was now or never. I was cleared for departure and my heart was racing faster. I had a conversation with myself, but I don’t remember what I said. I rolled the airplane onto the runway, applied full power and began to pull off the runway. “Liftoff” I screamed to myself. I was never more excited. My palms were sweaty and my heart was beating, but I was never happier. I knew from that moment on that the thrill of flying would always be one of my greatest experiences.
I landed safely that day and never forgot the anticipation that I had during the whole week leading up to the solo. The fear, excitement and joy of flying resulted from a week of strenuous training and self-assurance that I was ready, willing, and able to get “high.”
I also found this great blog with all sots of stories and experiences from a student’s perspective. Can’t wait to get down to New York City.
Lesson #7 – 8:00AM – Takeoffs & Landings
I made it the flight school early again and wanted to get some of the preflight stuff out of the way, but the plane was locked. I figured it would be, so I cleaned the dew off the windshield. Yigal came and I got the key to do the whole preflight. We needed fuel, so we started the airplane and taxied over to the filling station. Putting fuel in a Cessna (high wing) is a bit different than the Piper (low wing). You need a ladder to get up to the tank caps. Other than that, it is about the same. The tanks were pretty low, so I put about 45 gallons in them.
Today was perfect weather for practicing more takeoff and landings. I am getting pretty good at them. The one problem I am still having is not gauging the height of the plane from the runway when we are almost at the touchdown point. We are generally higher than I think we are, so the touchdown is slightly bumpy. Also, in a Cessna, you need to keep the yoke pulled back while landing and after you land as well. If you don’t, you will put too much weight on the front wheel.
What really excited me about these lessons is that I actually learn things. This lesson, the major point I took away was to keep my speed at least 70kts when approaching the runway to land. During one landing, our speed was only 60kts, so when we approached closely to the touchdown spot, I stalled the plane to drop somewhat hard. Controlling the airplane at that low speed is difficult as well. I think the tendency for new pilots is to slow the plane down as much as possible to land, but that shouldn’t be the case. It just feels weird giving the airplane more throttle as you are approaching the runway. I will be sure to practice this next time, as I am sure we will be working on this more. Yigal wants me to practice staying above the blacktop at a height of about 3 feet for as long as possible. After that hard landing, I explained to him what I did wrong. That put a smile on his face. He likes it when his students realize what their mistakes are and plan on correcting them next time. He says that flying is all about corrections.
One of my mistakes during takeoff is climbing at too high of an airspeed (not enough pitch). I usually climb at 80kts, when it should be only 70kts. The way to lower the speed is to pitch the airplane up so you gain as much altitude as fast as possible. There are two reasons for this: 1. to gain altitude fast in case you lose your engine, and 2. to save fuel. I will be sure to work on this as well.
I am really starting to feel very comfortable flying these airplanes. If I had to do my solo tomorrow, I would be able to. I hope Yigal is not reading this. (haha)
After my sixth takeoff, I looked over at the ridge and told Yigal I can’t wait to start flying around to look at the beautiful views of the area. Since he seems to really love the Autumn colors, he said, “Let’s do it.” I said, “Yeah baby!” and headed towards the ridge. WeÂ flew about 10.5 miles Northwest, straight for the Mohonk Mountain House tower . I climbed to 3,500ft and we cruised all the way over at 2,200rpm (110mph). When we reached our point, I descended to about 2,000ft and we circled the Mountain House. We flew over Minnewaska State Park (earlier post) and further South along the ridge. I think I am pretty lucky to be learning how to fly in this area of the country. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.
We headed back towards the airport and I actually knew where it was. I figure that if I flew Northwest towards the ridge, I should fly Southeast back to the airport. I really felt like a genius. I descended from 3,500ft to 1,400ft and entered the airport landing pattern. When I entered the pattern, Yigal pushed the throttle to idle and told me to do an emergency landing. I banked for a tight left and kept my optimum glide speed of 70kts. I came in to land and we drifted slightly to the right. Yigal was telling me to use the left rudder, but we had already landed ok. He asked me what happened and I explained to him that we were in an emergency situation and I had to land the plane. He loves it.
Till next time!
Lesson #8 – Noon – Controlled Airport & Wind
I really have to stop flying like I drive…like an old man. You can get away with that when you drive. Slight turns here and there, slowing down as much as you want…you can even pull over and fall asleep if need be. Well, in an airplane, it’s a little different.
Yesterday was quite breezy. I met with Yigal when I got to the airport and I gave the Cessna a pre-flight. After that, we talked for a little in the office. We went over how to do cross-wind takeoffs and landings. The theory is pretty straightforward and it sounds really easy. It actually is not that tough. All you do is turn the yoke into the direction of the wind and ease up as you gain speed with the airplane. So, the slower you are going, the more dramatic the turn. Yeah, well that’s for takeoffs and landings. Flying in wind is an experience in itself. I felt like yesterday was my first lesson.
We flew over to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh (KSWF) for a few touch and goes.
This was a good lesson because it exposed me to controlled airports and communicating with the tower as well as how to fly in breezy conditions. Yigal insists that the wind was not very strong and that I will experience much more turbulence in the future. It did stretch me though. The main challenges with this lesson were getting used to a much longer runway (11,000ft), airplane speed and keeping up with the tower communications. The wind made things tough because the upwind and downwind legs of the pattern was much slower and faster, respectively. It was harder to gauge and control the airspeed because of this. Also, we got tossed around much more as I was trying to land and that mandated much more aggressive use of the controls. That is what I need to work on. I need to really get down and move the plane. I will, I promise.
Overall, I feel like this was the most challenging lesson so far, but it was good because it took me out of the mold of Orange County Airport. Also, I had a good time talking with the guys at the control tower. They were really helpful and even though they knew I was a student, they were very cool.
PS – Just to let you know, I almost have 10 hours now!
The Phonetic Alphabet for Aviation
I am really tired right now, but I wanted to get this up. I will explain in the morning when I write my post about today’s flight lesson. What a trip…
The phonetic alphabet is as follows:
A google search would tell you that the Phonetic Alphabet assigns a word to each letter in the English alphabet, so that letters can be exchanged easily and with clarity. Instead of saying “ABC,” you would say “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie.”
To elaborate, communication via radio is notoriously unintelligible. If you listen to ATC (Air Traffic Control) chatter, you’ll notice a considerable amount of background noise when a general aviation pilot is on the mic.
Note, as well, that 9 is “niner”, to prevent confusion with “five.”
Lesson #9 – 8AM-9:30AM – Wind & Balloon While Landing
Since finishing my last lesson, I have been going over my mistakes in my mind. There were a few…you can read this post to catch up. I went into this lesson on a mission. I even told Yigal that I was going to impress him today. I figured that a few days of dreaming about this lesson would handle that.
Well, today was windy again. Let’s be clear, it is good to practice in the wind. It draws out a lot of issues and teaches a student pilot how to correct them. Trust me, flying in calm air has just become much easier. Also, I appreciate the fact that I am learning crosswind takeoffs, landings and crabbing with the instructor in the cockpit with me, rather than being all alone trying to gain this important experience for the first time. It is challenging to say the least.
I am doing very well with the taxi, takeoff, climb, pattern, speed, crabbing and descent. I am actually getting the hang of descending smoothly to bring the plane about a foot off the runway. Up to this point, I have had a problem with maintaining enough airspeed to avoid a full stall before I needed it on landing, so I wanted to correct that for today. Well, apparently when you land, everything you do becomes extremely sensitive.
As stated above, I come in nicely for my final descent and bring the airplane about a foot off the runway. At that point, the problems begin. Right when I hit my target height, wham, we balloon back up to about twenty feet off the runway. Now, this is very dangerous because at such a slow speed at that height, the airplane can drop suddenly, causing damage.
Here is a good description:
“Most pilots, especially of small aircraft, will experience ground effects on landing; in fact the art of landing largely comes down to understanding when these effects need to be taken into account. As the aircraft descends towards the runway, it will not be influenced by ground effect, but as the aircraft flares and descends within one wingspan of the strip, ground effect will cause a pronounced increase in lift. If not anticipated by the pilot this can cause the aircraft to rise suddenly and significantly â€” an effect known as a “balloon”. Left uncorrected, a balloon can lead to a dangerous situation where the aircraft is rising yet decelerating, a condition which can rapidly lead to a stall, especially when it is considered that landing speeds are generally only a very small margin above the stall speed. A stall even from a few tens of feet above the ground can cause a major, possibly fatal, crash. A “balloon” may be corrected given sufficient runway remaining, but for novice pilots a better option is to go around. A good landing approach allows for ground effect such that the aircraft flares and is held off in ground effect until it gently descends onto the runway.“
So, this issue had to do with airspeed and ground effect causing a balloon. It happened twice today. A few landings were ok, with one being very good. As you can imagine, my personality does not accept this that well. Yigal tells me not to be hard on myself and that almost all student pilots experience this at this point in their training, but I really need to conquer this. I will be doing a lot of research on this to prepare for my next lesson on Sunday. Of course, any advice from other student pilots would be GREATLY appreciated. I would also appreciate other experiences…Bob C.?
PS – Yigal tells me to get ready for my first solo.
Total hours – 10.5
Student Pilot Certificate – 3rd Class Medical Certificate
By request from my flight instructor, I went to the doctor this morning. Well, he is a doctor as well as an Aviation Medical Examiner. A Real nice guy located in Middletown, NY. I went in for my medical certification. All student pilots need this before they can fly solo and get their Pilot Certification. Once your instructor endorses the back of the certificate with the date, make and model of airplane and their signature, you are golden to perform your first solo. This will be the first time in your life you are in an airplane (in the sky) alone.
I wanted to write this post to describe exactly what happened at the doctor’s office. I was kind of curious before I went and I am sure that other students out there want to know what goes down and are kind of anxious about it. So here it is…
I walked in and said hello. That was the hard part. They handed me the application sheet that basically asked me who I was and when was the last time I went to the doctor and for what. It also asked if I have any medical conditions…diabetes, hearing problems, etc…I filled this out and handed it back to the desk. They then asked me to give them a urine sample. I did this and gave it to them. Then, they walked me over to the eye test machine. They had me read the bottom row of letters…the really teensy weensy ones. I completed this fine. My right eye is slightly blurry, but I still read the letters. My left eye is crystal clear. I then had to read the sheets with color bubbles mixed with black and white ones. This tested my eyes for color accuracy. Then I went into the exam room to meet the doctor. He asked me to remove my shirt and he asked me to breath with a stethoscope against my back. Then, he checked my heartbeat from the front. He said it was beating fast and told me I needed to exercise…that would slow it down. I told him I was a little nervous because I really wanted this certificate. Oh well. He then had me sit on that little bed covered with paper. He checked my ears with the light and made me open my mouth to look in. Then, he shined the light in my eyes to see if there was anything wrong there. All looked good. Then, I had to lay flat on the bed and he tapped my stomach and my back with the tips of his fingers. All good. All the while, he kept conversing with me, sometimes quietly. This was to check my hearing and to make sure it was suitable for flight. There are certain requirements. For the third class, they are listed below:
Third class certifications require the least involved examinations of all medical certifications. They are required for those intending to be pilot-in-command of an aircraft under the Private or Recreational pilot certificates or while exercising solo privileges while a student pilot.
To qualify for a third class medical certificate, pilots must meet the following requirements:
- Distant vision: 20/40 or better in each eye separately, with or without correction
- Near vision: 20/40 or better in each eye separately, with or without correction, as measured at a distance of 16 inches
- Color vision: Demonstrate the ability to perceive the colors necessary for the safe performance of airman duties
- Hearing: Demonstrate the ability to hear an average conversational voice in a quiet room, using both ears, at a distance of six feet, with their back turned to the examiner, or pass an approved audiometric test
- Ear, Nose, and Throat: Exhibit no ear disease or condition manifested by, or that may reasonably be expected to be manifested by, vertigo or a disturbance of speech or equilibrium
- Blood Pressure: Under 155/95
- Mental Status: No diagnosis of psychosis, bipolar disorder, or severe personality disorders
- Substance Dependence: No dependence on alcohol or any pharmacological substance in the previous two years
For pilots under 40 years of age, third class medical certificates expire on the last day of the month they were issued, three years from the date of issue. For all others, they expire on the last day of the month they were issued, two years from the date of issue.
I hope I am not leaving anything out and I hope this helps any anxious students out there get a feel for what they need. Also, make sure you drink some water before you go in, because, as I said above, you will need to give a urine sample.
If you do ok during the appointment, you will most likely walk out with a card that looks like this:
This is actually a first class certificate I found online (I changed it to say “3rd”), so your third class one may look slightly different.
Lesson #10 – 8AM-10AM – Learning Landings
I felt good today. Maybe it was because of the recent change from Daylight Savings Time back to normal time. I have been waking up early because it’s now lighter out at 6:30AM than it used to be. Whatever the reason, I was on.
I had to rethink my lesson strategy after my last two rotten ones. Before those lessons, I went in on a mission. I concentrated too much. I wanted to do well and didn’t trust my instincts. Well, this time I went in on a different type of mission. This time, I was loose and wanted to act like I was driving my car…like I have been doing it for years. I think it worked pretty well. Actually, I didn’t even think about flying all week. I just keep my reading up for the ground school. There was a bit of time between these lessons, because we had to cancel Sunday because of the wind.
Again, we did touch and goes, which is fine with me. I really want to nail these landings. We took off from runway 26 and I did my normal thing. I turned in for final approach and did it…perfectly. Yes! I was back. I discovered that the “balloon” problem I was having wasn’t because of my excess speed, but because of my excessive flair. No, not my style (flair), but my pulling the yoke back to much when I get close to the runway. It just seemed to flow today, even with the breeze.
I did seven takeoffs/landings today, with Yigal handling one of the landings (it got a little hairy). I keep thinking back when landing seemed so much easier and how it seems like I got worse. But then I reminded myself that there is much more wind these days and how we are now whittling down from large, general exercises to more refined ones. In other words, we are getting down to the nitty gritty.
There was one attempted landing where I didn’t decsend fast enough and I was no where near the spot on the runway I should have been. I was way high, looking down at the blacktop. We had to perform a “Go-around.” It seemed a bit tricky today to decsend. I kept coming in high…I think it was because I was turning from downwind to base too soon. It’s funny, you can correct that problem pretty easily, just by cutting the throttle and letting the airplane decsend naturally. One would think that by pitching the nose down would be a better way to lose altitude, but you have to remember your airspeed. At that point in the traffic pattern, you already have your flaps down. If you decsend too fast and gain too much airspeed, you can tear the flaps off the plane.
I have to say that I am a champ on the radio. I was joking today with Yigal that if I could just sit on the side of the runway with a radio, I would be in great shape. He responded by telling me there are jobs for that…called Air Traffic Controllers. Very funny. I do like the communication and the authority though. The best part of it all is how I get to see other student pilots out in the same airspace as me doing the same type of training. I like hearing their radio calls and going back and forth with them. I think I will get a radio and a beach chair for the summer.
I think I want a few more lessons and then a real smooth day for my solo.
Stick and Rudder – An Explanation of the Art of Flying
I finally received the book, “Stick and Rudder.” This book was recommended to me from a nice guy I met a few weeks ago, named Al. He is a Private Pilot and we had a great conversation for about an hour on the topic.
This is supposed to be the “Bible” for any student pilot. Here is a description of the book from Amazon:
“In the early 1940’s, Wolfgang Langewiesche wrote a series of articles in Air Facts analyzing the various aspects of piloting techniques. Based on these articles, Langewiesche’s classic work on the art of flying was published in 1944. This book explains precisely what pilots do when they fly, just how they do it, and why. These basics are largely unchanging. The book applies to large airplanes and small, old airplanes and new, and is of interest not only to the learner but also to the accomplished pilot and instructor. Today, several excellent manuals offer the pilot accurate and valuable technical information. But Stick and Rudder remains the leading think-book on the art of flying. “
I will let you know what I think of it after I read it. Want to buy it? You can get it here.
Lesson #11 – 8AM-10AM – Spin Awareness & Recovery
This lesson was a really cool one. We started off by making the decision whether or not we would even go up. The winds were 10KTS and gusting at 20KTS. Yigal asked if I wanted to do it, of course I said yes. If I ever want to land at Block Island, I would have to be consistent with cross wind landings. We got up and did a few touch and goes. Since the wind was pulling us to the right of the downwind leg, I had to use the rudder pretty liberally to maintain my heading. On the third takeoff and turn to crosswind, Yigal mentioned that I wasn’t using my rudder enough. The ball in the turn coordinator was not centered. I kind of hinted that it was good, but he wanted to really plant the idea in my head of how important the rudder use was. He said that it may save my life in certain situations. I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about…things have been pretty good up to that point.
Well, he wanted to show me what he was talking about. He told me to climb to 5,000 feet. I headed out of the pattern and climbed to that altitude. He indicated that he wanted to show me what can happen when you takeoff and climb with an airplane without proper use of the rudder. A spin can occur. Of course, he asked me if I wanted to do the maneuver and I said yes…after a bit of hesitation. The maneuver is not required by the FAA, but it really is something that should be covered. Yigal performed the first maneuver. He pulled the yoke all the way to him for a power-on stall with no use of the rudder. The plane naturally pulled to the left and the nose pitched down for a spin. We made about one revolution and he pulled back to recover. He wanted me to do the next one. I was kind of apprehensive before we did the first one, but once it was done, I loved the feeling. I pulled back for a power-on stall and right at that critical point, the plane pitched down and to the left for a spin. We spun about twice and I pulled back and used the right rudder to recover. I could really feel the g-force as I pulled back to maintain altitude. What an awesome feeling. Now I know why these guys get hooked on acrobatic airplane maneuvers.
So, now I knew what could happen without use of the rudder during a power-on stall. Next, we performed a power-on stall with the use of the right rudder. The plane pitched up, maintained its direction and pitched down perfectly straight. Lesson learned. The reason this is critical, is because it only takes, on average, 300FT to recover from a stall, but 1,200FT to recover from a spin. If any of these things happen right after takeoff, every foot counts.
We headed back to the airport, entered the pattern and did a few more pretty decent touch and goes. I am getting much better at landing in these conditions.
I really liked this lesson and really like how smooth the air gets at higher altitudes. It is sooo peaceful.
PS – I found a great resource that you can get involved in yourself. They are the Sporty’s Safety Quizzes. Give ’em a shot and see how you do.
Lesson #12 – 8AM-10AM – Engine Out Procedures & Presolo Written Exam
I know this post is a little late. Things have been busy lately, so my apologies. This lesson was on Friday, Nov.17.
We decided to check my mad skillz on landings again. We are prepping for my solo. You know the drill by now, take off, do the pattern and land for some touch and goes. I have to say, sleeping on it really improves you for the next lesson. I think you learn a lot during your sleep. I aced every landing during this lesson. Yigal looked over and said, “Good, now that you learned how to land, let’s get you ready for your solo and do some emergency procedures.” Now, we did some of these during my first few lessons, but we went more in depth this time.
Basically, there are different procedures for different times you may lose your engine. Each circumstance calls for something else. We practiced what to do if you had pretty good elevation. Ok, here goes: If you encounter engine loss in flight, you,
1. Immediately trim for best glide. In the case of a 1977 Cessna 172, that is 65kts
2. Pick a suitable landing site and fly towards it
3. Make sure carburetor heat is on
4. Make sure your fuel mixture is rich
5. Make sure your fuel selector is on “both”
6. Make sure your magnetos are on “both”
7. Make sure your primer is in and locked
8. At this point, if you can’t get the plane restarted or if an off airport landing becomes necessary, you radio “mayday, mayday”
9. Turn your transponder to 7700
10. Turn your mixture, mags, master switch and fuel off (no spark for hard landing)
11. Seats and seatbelts secure
12. All sharp objects away
13. Doors ajar and open slightly before touchdown
I think this might be pretty hard to remember right now, but will become second nature if it happens. The main problem I was having was gauging my distance from the runway. Once I overshot and had to go around and once I undershot. I could’ve landed, but it was on the beginning of the runway where you aren’t supposed to land. During an actual emergency, that would’ve been a good spot to land though.
I made a few more good landings and finished up the lesson. I asked for the pre-solo written exam and they gave it to me. I am completing it right now, so I will let you know how I do. To complete it, you need your training airplane POH, the checklist for your airplane and the FAR/AIM.
Lesson #13 – 10AM-NOON – Go Arounds & Forward Slip
I told you I would let you know how I did on the pre-solo written test. I did well. My instructor and I discussed the test and I got everything right…maybe too right. I think they were looking for general ideas and I gave them every last detail. One good thing is that it pushed me to learn a heck of a lot, especially where to look for stuff (in the books).
This lesson I was half way hoping I would solo. Yigal was really eager to get up in the sky. We used up a lot of time going over the test, so time would be cut a little short.
We took off and did a few landings. Yigal had me practice a few go-arounds and showed me how to do a “Slip to land” or as Bob C. correctly put it, “Forward Slip.” That was pretty extreme. A forward slip is when you need to get down to the runway at a steep angle, for whatever reason…obstruction at the end of the runway or icing on the windshield. Basically, you apply complete rudder pressure to one side and use opposite aileron pressure for the other. This turns and banks the plane in a very strange position, but decreases altitude quite well. In other words, you are losing altitude belly first, kind of sideways.
We did this once and had to call it a day. Yigal said that I am officially ready to solo for next lesson. I am a little nervous.
Lesson #14 – 10:30AM-12:30PM – Cross Wind Landings & Stalls
First thing – 17.1 hours. Yee Haw. It’s just starting to get good.
I was soooo mentally prepared all this week for my first solo. Of course a huge thunderstorm had to roll through on Friday. Well, that lesson was cancelled. I rescheduled for Tuesday morning at 10:30. I kept looking out the window that morning to see if there was any wind. I am not allowed to fly solo if the crosswind is more that 6KTS. The wind seemed to be calm at my house. I hit the road and called the weather service for a standard briefing. The dude informed me the winds were from 210 at niner…that is…the winds were coming from the southwest at 9KTS. Also, there were gusts to 18KTS. Not a good day to solo. Oh well, maybe next time.
We did go up though. It was windy, but I am actually happy to fly in the wind now. Maybe because I learned how to land. I have to say, out of the four landings I did in this lesson, I aced them all. I mean aced. I can’t even express how good they were…you couldn’t even feel the tires touching the runway. I think this is awesome because it was quite windy and we were tossed around a bit. I finally got a handle on how to combine the “crab” with the “sideslip” for a good touchdown. I think Yigal was getting bored.
Back to the beginning of this story. We decided to go up to 5,500FT for some maneuvers. On the agenda was slow flight, power off stalls and power on stalls. I have done slow flight before, but not the way the examiner is going to ask me to do it. Let me think (first clear the area)…reduce throttle to 1,700RPM, lower flaps 10 degrees at a time, reduce speed even more until I am down to 50KTS while pitching the plane to keep its altitude. Sounds easy, but not that easy when you have to keep turning to stay in the clear area of the clouds and are being pushed around by the turbulence. To accelerate after slow flight, you give the plane full throttle, pitch down to avoid the balloon and one by one, raise the flap levels.
Now, stalls are a little different. The main reason for practicing stalls on Tuesday was to simulate taking off and landing. The power off stall is used to simulate what can happen during your approach to land. Let me think again…reduce throttle to 1,500RPM, pull carb heat on, lower flaps 10 degrees at a time, cut throttle. Now, pitch the airplane up by pulling the yoke to your chest. The plane will pitch up and stall quite easily. The minute it stalls, give it full throttle and try to recover by keeping the nose at the horizon while losing as little altitude as possible. Easier said than done.
The trickiest one is the power on stall. Just wait until I tell you why. Here it is…this is to simulate stalling after takeoff and during your climb. For whatever reason, you might pitch too high or your angle of attack might become too great. Give the airplane full throttle, pitch up, up, up. You have to really pitch up because the plane doesn’t want to stall, but when it does, you better have right rudder hard and heavy. I didn’t and learned my lesson. I forgot to use right rudder and performed a power on stall. The minute the lift broke…WHAM, the left wing fell and we went into a spin. This happens due to the airplane’s natural tendency to pull to the left at full throttle because of slipstream and torque. During the spin, I had a difficult time recovering because of my natural tendency to turn the yoke to the right. I actually aggravated the stall. I should’ve just kept the ailerons neutral and applied right rudder pressure and well as pulled back on the yoke.
We did a few of these and started to head back to Orange County. We were right above Stewart (SWF) with the Hudson River in good view. At 5,500FT, we were in Class E airspace, well outside of Stewart’s Class D airspace. Yigal asked me to make a call to ATC. I said, “Tower, November 734 Delta Sierra has Orange County in sight and is heading back now.” He looked at me and said, “Tower?” I thought we were talking to the Stewart ATC. Not the case. Since we were in Class E airspace, I should’ve been talking to “New York.” Oh well, they answered anyway. Man, you feel like a loser when you screw up like that. The tower guys are cool though. I think they hear a lot of it.
As I approached MGJ, I decided I had to pass the airport on the east to head in at 45 degrees to the downwind leg. As I began my descent to the pattern, we spotted another plane in the pattern already. I thought I could come in behind him and then do some slow flight to let him complete his landing. Yigal thought that was bad judgment because my airspeed was so much more than his. I would’ve come too close to him. We did a right circle to give him some time to get ahead and then we entered the downwind leg of the pattern. Two landings and one emergency “engine-out” landing were as smooth as silk.
Solo next time?
Lesson #15 – 10:00AM-12:00PM – Sky Acres & Navigation
Hours – 18.3
Can you believe it? I was taunted the other day. Yes, that’s right…taunted. By who? None other than Bob C. You can see his taunt here. Now, you can say what you want about greasing things all day, but I pay particular attention when it has to do with landing in valleys with small uphill runways. Well, that’s Sky Acres (44N) in Millbrook for ya.
I have really have come to terms with the fact that I will be the only student pilot taking his practical having never soloed. The examiner is going to look over at me and say, “So, how did you like your first solo?” I am going to respond, “Oh, actually, I never have.” That should make for some good conversation. Hmmm, let’s see…10KTS on the ground with gusts to 20KTS at Stewart. We calculated a 40KT headwind at 3,500FT. The airplane was barely moving, but I’ll get to that later.
Back to Bob. Ah yes, I think I read a bit of a challenge in his last comment. Well, today, after I did the pre-flight, I walked up to Yigal and told him I want to go to Sky Acres. He has never turned down one of my requests, so why would today be different? That’s what is so cool…you actually have an airplane for 2 hours to go do what you want. If you learn something too, all the better. He looked at me and seemed pretty eager to do something fun today.
Before we left, Yigal gave me a rundown on navigation. Yeah, I should probably know something about that. We discussed VOR, the VOR Indicator, the radio settings and the GPS. That all made some pretty good sense. Why does everything always seem so much easier on the ground? You know, I could really be the best pilot if I just stayed on the ground. I could be one of those guys who just hangs around the hangars talking to the mechanics about VOR. That would be fun.
With that all done, I grabbed my bucket of Crisco and headed toward the plane. I was sure I would need that for later. We taxied to runway 21 and flew that airborne vessel off the ground. I turned into the downwind leg and kept climbing. I climbed to 3,500FT and then that’s when it all started. It seemed like everything we went over on the ground was a distant memory and now I knew nothing. I am sure I will get more familiar with it all in time.
We set the radio to the proper VOR setting for Kingston…117.6. I set the VOR Indicator. We started our way to Sky Acres. Due to the strong cross wind, I had to keep adjusting my heading until it was pretty set. We talked with ATC because we were in Class E airspace. I was pretty familiar with the terminology because I have been up at this altitude before. We crossed the Hudson River and saw Dutchess County Airport (KPOU). We were heading right for the VOR beacon. Right when the Indicator switched from “To” to “From,” we turned the plane to get a good look. It looks like a small white lighthouse.
Ok, on to Sky Acres to see Bob. I saw the airport only a few miles away. I descended and switched radio frequency to 122.8 and made a few calls to see what the active runway was…17. Ok, I had the wicked beast in sight. Bob was right, a nice valley right before the end of the runway and an even nicer uphill slope after that. Hmmm…should be interesting. I entered the pattern and did my best to situate myself in new terrain. It is so weird…you can get very used to your home airport very quickly. I turned base, final…kept going down. The wind was pushing me to the left. I went down, cut the throttle, flared and touched down. We turned on to the taxiway. Great landing! I will admit that Bob does have a more difficult airport to practice from. It has “character.” I didn’t want to get smart, so I left the Crisco in the back seat (kidding of course).
Yigal and I talked for a little while and then turned back on the runway for a nice uphill takeoff. On the way back, there was a huge headwind that made it seem like we weren’t even moving. I was boggled at all the ATC chatter and the navigation. I will get that, but it was a challenge. I talked a lot and ATC and I seemed to like each other. One time, I said “yes” instead of “affirmative” and they questioned that. I responded again with “affirmative” and it was all cool. We headed back to MGJ by going through Stewart’s Class D airspace. I made some more radio calls to ask for clearance to do this. All good. I entered the pattern for MGJ correctly this time and landed with a bit of help from the throttle after my airspeed got too slow due to the wind. It’s important to remember that your airspeed needs to be a bit higher when landing in the wind.
Bob, now that I visited your home base, I would like to invite you to my neck of the woods, just be sure to give a call first, so I can be there.
Lesson #16 – 8:00AM-10:00PM – My First Solo
Hours – 19.4
Ahhh, what a beautiful morning. The birds were chirping sweet melodies, the sun was settling on my silky smooth skin and the air was calm…WHAT? The air was calm? FINALLY! Yes, that’s right. I checked the weather last night and knew today would be the day I have been waiting for through many torturous weeks. Actually, I haven’t even flown in a few weeks due to weather. I was starting to think Mother Nature didn’t like me anymore. I’m not sure why…I always recycle.
Anyway, I got to the airport at 8AM. This is a little later than usual for me. Yigal was waiting in the parking lot. I know EXACTLY what he was thinking. “Hey, look. Here comes my best, brightest and not to mention, my favorite student.”
I walked over to the Cessna 172 and did the fingertip numbing pre-flight inspection. It was a little chilly. I went back inside and met Yigal. He was putting on his heavy coat and had his radio in his hand. All set, ready to go.
We hopped in the plane and taxied to runway 3. We took off and did a few landings. On the third takeoff, at about 1000FT, Yigal pulled the throttle back and told me I had a dead engine. He caught me by surprise, but showed me that it is quite possible to make a 180 degree turn and land back at the airport at that altitude. You just need to react very quickly. I like the fact that he enjoys teaching the tough stuff to teach. This is the stuff no one likes to learn, but could save your life one day.
After I landed that time, we taxied back to the beginning of the runway. He told me I was ready to solo and that he was gonna hop out. I kept thinking of all the articles and blog posts I have read on the topic. Was I supposed to be nervous? Excited? I am not sure what I was feeling. I think I may have been a little nervous right when he was getting ready to exit the airplane, but the minute he closed the door, I know for a fact that I was ready to roll. I mean I was really excited. I just adore that fact that a few months ago, during a conversation with my father, I was almost kidding when I said I was going to learn how to fly, and now I was sitting next to a runway, alone in a running airplane. An airplane that would be in the air in about 30 seconds. I have to hand it to these instructors. I mean, the way they get their students to do the things they do is pretty incredible. This is a pretty challenging skill to learn.
I made my radio call and pulled onto the runway center line. There was so much space on the seat next to me…kind of weird. I set the heading indicator and pushed the throttle in all the way. 60KTS…the tires came off the ground. I did notice that the airplane seemed lighter. I have read that you can’t really feel a difference anymore, with the higher horsepower airplanes, but I certainly did. I climbed at 70KTS and really noticed the lighter and more maneuverable airborne vessel (you like that?). I made my trip around the pattern and came in for final approach. Everything seemed right. It’s amazing that it really didn’t seem any different that any other time I have ever done this. I came in for my landing and it turned out to be very smooth. I taxied back to where Yigal was standing and he waved me on. I had two more to do. I pulled over for a quick mag check and took off again. This time, on my final approach, I was pretty high. I cut the throttle and lost some altitude. When I saw the VASI lights turn one red, one white, I gave it some throttle. I maintained my approach at 65KTS and came in for another nice landing. Taxied back and took off for another. Landed that one and everything was great. I let out a sigh of relief and headed towards Yigal to pick him up. Over the radio, he told me to do one more and meet him back at the office. Gladly. Now I was having fun. This time, when I came in for my landing, I floated a little bit. All those hours, about a month ago, trying to correct my ballooning paid off. I leveled out and just kept pulling back on the yoke. Smooth.
We talked for a little while back at the office. I have to say that I was beaming. I asked Yigal how he felt. “What do you mean?” he asked. I said, “How do you feel having a new member in the club?” He laughed and shook my hand.
Of course, now I can’t wait for my next lesson on Sunday. I feel good.
Lesson #17 – 10:00AM-12:00PM – VOR Navigation
Hours – 20.4
This was a fairly challenging but rewarding lesson. That seems to be the default description of flight school…challenging but rewarding. I remember the first time I did VOR navigation with Yigal. It made so much sense on the ground, of course things are different in the air. It helps that I am studying my ass off for the written test. The reading makes things a lot easier.
Today I learned how to track a course with the VOR (Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range) Indicator. I also learned how to intersect a VOR radial. What we actually did today was to fly to the destination VOR station and then change heading to a nearby airport, using the VOR signal. Ok, here’s how it went down:
We wanted to fly to the Huguenot VOR station (HUO) northeast of Port Jervis and then to the Resnick airport (N89) in Ellenville. We would be flying parallel to the Shawangunk Ridge with the Catskills to the northwest. On the ground with my chart and plotter, I made a line from our departure airport (MGJ) to the VOR station, so I knew the general direction to head after takeoff. The heading is 260 (magnetic). Then, I made a line from the VOR station to the destination airport. The heading is 037. You can see the compass rose surrounding the VOR station below. You can also see the little headings written on the outside circle of the compass rose.
After I wrote those two items down, I recorded the radio frequency for the VOR station. In this case, the frequency was 116.1. Each local VOR station has a different radio frequency. Just for your personal information (so you can talk about this at parties), VOR stations transmit within a VHF frequency band of 108.0 – 117.95 MHz. Keep that in mind because I am going to quiz you on this one day. I also recorded the UNICOM frequency of 122.8 for Resnick airport. Yigal and I did a practice flight with the simulator and then hopped in the airplane.
We took off from runway 26, so we were already headed in the right direction. After I climbed to about 3,000FT, I tuned the NAV portion of the radio to the VOR frequency of 116.1. I listened for the Morse code. After tuning into any VOR station frequency, you need to listen for the Morse code because sometimes the station might be down for maintenance. If you hear no beeps, don’t use that VOR. I continued climbing to 3,500FT. Orange County Airport was pretty busy today, so I wanted to get away from all the traffic. Also, this was a good cruising altitude.
Once the frequency was dialed into, I turned the OBS knob on the VOR Indicator so the little arrow pointed “TO” and the needle was centered. Below is a sample of a VOR Indicator. The “TO” and “FROM” are not showing. What you see is what it would like like if you were directly over the VOR station. See my previous post for what a VOR station looks like from the air.
When the needle is centered, that is the track you fly. If the needle moves to the left, that means you need to fly left because you drifted to the right and vice versa. The needle acts as the actual track and you don’t touch the indicator again until you reach the station.
Once we reached the station, and actually saw it on the ground, we flew over it. Right at the point of flying over the station, the “TO” flipped to “FROM” and I changed the indicator to read the new heading to Resnick airport of 037. Then, I turned the airplane to that heading.
Basically the idea is the same. You fly based on headings and what the VOR Indicator is telling you. At the same time, you use your chart and ground reference charts to confirm your heading. We decided not to go all the way to Resnick and to head back to Orange County. How did we know where we were, you ask? We just took the closest ground reference point and made a note of the heading from that reference point to the airport and then flew it. Easy. The hard part is that Yigal kept cutting the engine when we got close to the airport for simulated engine out practice.
Also, I learned soft field takeoffs. You need this when you are taking off from a grass or snowy runway. That is pretty straightforward…basically you need to set your flaps to 10 degrees and punch it like a normal takeoff. When you reach about 40KTS, you pull back just to get off the ground. Then, you use ground effect to keep the airplane about 20FT off the ground. When you reach climb speed of 70KTS, you pull back and climb, while putting the flaps back up in normal position. This type of takeoff is used to get you off the ground as quickly as possible because the grass or snow creates drag on the wheels and slows you down.
For next lesson I need to create my first flight plan for our cross country flight to an airport at least 50 miles away. Word.
Creating a Flight Plan Using the Jeppesen Navigation Log
Do you want to know what someone said to me about my previous post about VOR navigation? They said it was boring. I didn’t think it was boring when I was writing about the fascinating topic of airplane navigation. I thought it was quite thrilling. I was actually thrilled to write that post. What a thrill.
Well, after reading that post again, I kind of came to the conclusion that unless you are an airplane geek, you would probably get a big dent in your head from the thud of your skull hitting the desk in front of you while reading that thing. I mean, I had a full glass of water next to me on the desk when I started reading it and by the time I was done reading…the glass was empty. That’s how dry that reading was.
As an apology, I decided to write a little today about how to fill in a Jeppesen Sanderson Navigation Log for a VFR Private Pilot. This should make it up to you. If you are not completely thrilled by the time you are done reading this, by all means, please let me know. You know…I am a riot at parties.
CREATING A JEPPESEN NAVIGATION LOG PLAN TO A CLOSEBY AIRPORT (50NM – ONE VOR STATION)
Here we go…step by step. I completed this navigation log this morning for a trip to a nearby airport. I hope this helps you fill in your own navigation log.
– Plot your course on sectional chart. Draw line directly from your departure airport to your destination airport. In this case, we drew a line from Orange County (MGJ) to Waterbury-Oxford (OXC).
– Plot your course from departure airport to the closest VOR station and then from VOR station to destination airport. In this case, we drew a line from MGJ to the Kingston VOR (IGN) and then from IGN to OXC.
– Measure distance in nautical miles from departure airport to destination airport. In this case, the distance was 50NM.
– You will be flying to the VOR station and, once reached, to the destination airport. Find and mark checkpoints along the way.
– On flight plan, record your departure airport in the first box in check point column and your first check point in the second box in the column. In this case, our first checkpoint was Stewart International (SWF)/Orange Lake. Draw a line through the checkpoint on your sectional chart.
– Record the VOR station identification and frequency in the first two boxes in the VOR column. In this case, the VOR identification is IGN and the frequency is 117.6.
– Record the course for your first leg in the first box in the course column. To do this, use your plotter and find the true course from the departure airport to the VOR station. In the case of flying from MJG to the Kingston VOR, the true course is 064.
– Decide what altitude you are going to fly at. To do this, look at your sectional chart. Each longitude/latitude section has a number in it for the highest point in that section. You must add two zeros to the number to get the altitude for the highest point. You must fly at least 1000FT above the highest point. In the case of this course, the departure airport section has a highest point of 4600FT, the VOR station section has highest point of 2200, we cross through a section with the highest point of 2300FT and the destination airport has the highest point of 1400FT. Since we are flying east, we fly an odd number altitude ex.- 3000FT, 5000FT, 7000FT plus 500FT. Since we know the area of the departure airport and we are no where near the highest point (the Shawangunk Ridge), we decide to fly at 5500FT. We could fly at 3500FT, but decide not to. Record your cruising altitude in the first box in the altitude column.
– Find wind direction, velocity and temperature and record in the top boxes in the wind column. To do this, call the weather briefing center at 1-800-WX-BRIEF. Ask for the information for the winds aloft closest to your cruising altitude. In this case, I asked for the wind direction, velocity and temperature for 6000FT aloft. The information came back as 250 at 37 +3. That means the direction was 250 (SW) at 37KTS with a temperature of 3 degrees celsius.
– Find and record the CAS (calibrated air speed) in the CAS box. CAS is the speed found in the front page of your POH (pilot operating handbook) recorded by the airplane manufacturer. Our cruising power is 75% throttle, so our CAS is 122KTS. Knowing the airplane’s engine capacity, we will record this number as 110KTS.
– Find and record the TAS (true air speed) in the first box in the TAS column. To find the TAS, use the ACT TAS (actual true air speed) function on your Sportys E6B flight computer. Enter the pressure altitude (5500), the temperature (3C) and the CAS (110). This should give you the result of TAS=118.8. Round up for 119. The reason you have a faster TAS than your CAS is because there is a lower density altitude (5121FT) than your pressure altitude (5500FT). This means that since the air is more dense due to the cold temperature, your airplane will fly more efficiently.
– Record your true course (TC) and the wind correction angle (WCA) in the TC column. To do this, simply re-record your course from the course box earlier. Then, use the HDG/GS (heading/ground speed) function on your Sportys E6B. Enter the wind direction (250), the wind speed (37), the course (064 or 64) and the TAS (119). This should give you a heading of 62.1 or 62 rounded down. Now, you can see that heading is different than the TC by 2 degrees. Record the WCA as the difference between the two. In this case, the WCA is -2 degrees.
– Record your true heading (TH) and magnetic deviation in the TH column. To do this, just use the result from the prior calculation (062) and find the closest isogonic line to your course on the sectional chart. In this case, the magnetic deviation was +14.
– Record your magnetic heading (MH) and the compass deviation in the MH column. To do this, just add the magnetic deviation (+14) to your TH (062). Record 076. Now, look inside your airplane on the compass deviation chart right near your magnetic compass. Find the deviation closest to your magnetic heading and solve. In this case, we chose -2 deviation.
– Record your compass heading (CH) in the CH column. In this case, we have 076 – 2 = 074.
Now, that’s basically the tedious part for the first leg of the trip. For all the following checkpoints along this heading, use the information that you recorded above.
– Record the distance of the entire course directly from the departure airport to the destination airport in the DIST box. In this case, the distance is 51NM.
– Record the distance from one checkpoint to the next and record it, as well as the remaining distance, in the DIST boxes. In this case, the distance from MGJ to SWF/Orange Lake is 7NM, therefore the remainder is 44NM.
– Record your ground speed (GS) in the GS column. To do this, use the HDG/GS function on your Sportys E6B. Fill in the required information and you should get a result of 155.7, rounded to 156.
– Record your departure time in the Time Off box. In this case we departed at 12:00.
– Record your estimated time enroute in the ETE box. To do this, use your E6B LEG TIME function. Type in the distance (7) and the GS (156). You should get 00:02:41, rounded as 3 minutes enroute. Your actual time enroute (ATE) will be recorded as you fly over your checkpoint.
– Record your estimated time of arrival (ETA) in the ETA box. In this case, we recorded 12:03. Your actual time of arrival (ATA) will be recorded during flight.
– Record your gallons of fuel per hour (GPH) in the GPH box. In this case, our airplane (C172) burns 9 GPH. We started our flight with 40 gallons of fuel on board.
– Record your fuel burned and remaining fuel in the FUEL and REM boxes. To do this, use the FUEL REQ function on your E6B. Type in 00:03:00 for the time and 9 for the FPH. You should get a result of .5 gallons of fuel used. Now, subtract this number from the total fuel on board and record your result (39.5).
That’s it. Now, repeat the steps above for each checkpoint of the trip to the VOR. Once the VOR is reached, change the course and the following figures that relate to that course. The altitude, wind, CAS and TAS will remain the same.
Once this information is complete, use your sectional chart and airport/facility directory to fill in the Airport & ATIS Advisories as well as the Airport Frequencies sections.
Yup, I just reread this post and I was right…THRILLING!
How To Read an Aviation Sectional Map – Airport Information
My father finally received his Christmas gift yesterday. I got him a Charlotte sectional map, which includes his area of Wilmington, NC. The reason I got him the sectional map is because I needed him to look around for frequencies to tune into with the new Aviation (among other things) scanner I got him as well.
I talked to him last night as he was learning how to use the scanner. This morning I thought of the greatest idea…I would put a picture of the closest airport to him (ILM) here and highlight the airport information. This would help him locate the type of information he should be looking for.
Then I thought to myself, “You know, that’s not good enough. Let me also place the key information here as well, so he has something to refer to (even though he already has the same map).”
Wow! What a plan. Now, all my mother has to do is print this page and give it to him as a little reference (Mom, please print and give to Dad). Also, someone else in this world my be THRILLED at this information too.
Long Tri-Fold Kneeboard
In my previous post, I mentioned that I made a cross country flight. Well, one of the things that I learned on that trip was that organization is extremely important. I needed my sectional chart, a sharp pencil, a backup pencil as well as note paper. There are tons of radio calls and things you need to write down. ATC is constantly telling you frequencies and squawk codes. Everything needs to be neatly written down, because you need to repeat these things back to ATC as well as program your equipment. You will also need to refer back to them later in your flight.
Let’s just say that I learned a valuable lesson during this flight. I wasn’t prepared. I actually dropped my pencil on the floor once and couldn’t find it. During my last landing, my sectional chart slipped off my lap onto the floor. I think Yigal had a good time watching as I learned what was important during this flight. Experience has much more of an impact on a person than someone just telling you what to do.
So, with that experience behind me, I purchased a pilot kneeboard.
This is going to help tremendously during my next flight. Check out the description from the link above so you can get a feel for what this thing is worth.
Lesson #18 – 10:00AM-12:00PM – Cross Country
Hours – 22
This Sunday, I decided that it would be nice to take a cruise to Waterbury/Oxford Airport (OXC) in Connecticut. We would depart from MGJ, fly to the Kingston VOR station in Poughkeepsie and from there, head straight to OXC. The round trip would take about 1 1/2 hours.
We took off and everything was great. I set up everything for VOR navigation and pilotage and headed towards the VOR station. I finished my navigation log earlier that morning. I made a few radio calls to the tower at Stewart (SWF) (my first checkpoint) and transitioned through their class D airspace. I found the VOR station just fine, changed my heading and continued to my next checkpoint, which was Rt.22/Pawling. This flight was really fun. I love VOR navigation and am actually getting pretty good at it. We crossed over Candlelight Airport in Sherman, CT at 5500FT. I looked to the right and saw the Long Island Sound as well as the island itself. You can really see a lot from that altitude. I also saw my destination airport 17 nautical miles ahead.
Things started getting a little tricky as I approached the airport. There was a bit of turbulence and I started my descent late. We had to descend faster than my ears would’ve liked. Also, I kind of screwed up my radio calls to the tower. My landing was even worse. For such a nice day, it was quite gusty at this airport. It must be in some valley or something. I came in sideways and had to correct by giving the airplane some throttle to re-land. We got down on the runway and taxied to stay ahead of a pretty good sized commercial jet. We took off before them and I screwed up my last call to the tower on my way out. Oh well…practice will make perfect.
The trip home was pretty uneventful. Made some pretty good calls to New York ATC and flew over Stewart’s airspace. I screwed up a radio call to MGJ, but came in and entered the pattern nicely for a good landing.
There really was a lot to handle on this trip and I was exposed to a lot. I am confident that my radio calls will get better in the future as I practice more. Yigal says that it is common to kind of shut down when things get hairy for students on their first cross countries. I guess so, but I am going to do better next time. This Friday, if we fly, we are going to PA. Till then!
Lesson #19 – 10:00AM-12:00PM – VOR & SWF
Hours – 23.2
Another cold day for a lesson. This one was last Saturday morning. We used up some time cleaning the snow off the plane, but still got a good 1.2 hours in. I wanted to go up to 1B1, but that wasn’t going to happen…not enough time. I just can’t seem to get up to that airport. I really can’t wait for the good weather to come back. It seems like my life now needs warmer weather. I miss flying, hiking and landscaping. From my previous posts, you can probably tell that I like plants, shrubs and flowers. Oh well.
We hopped in the plane and did our thing. I climbed to about 3,500FT and headed towards SWF. I must say that I was a little razzled because of the cold and the snow. Also, my whole game plan had been thrown off, so I was in the middle of nowhere in my mind. This is probably good practice for what to do if an unexpected event arises while flying as pilot in command. Everything you do is good practice when flying.
Yigal was throwing things at me left and right. He had me head towards the Pawling VOR. Once I had that established, he told me to head towards the Huguenot VOR. Things were coming pretty fast. I tend to forget some things while under pressure, but I will get it. I was having a little trouble with the NAV part of the radio. I forgot how to refine the frequency after the dot…like 116.1. Then, he told me to land at SWF for a touch and go. I started to put in the frequency for Stewart, 121.0, but forgot to listen to the ATIS at 124.57. You need to listen to the ATIS before calling the tower while entering class D airspace. The ATIS will tell a pilot important information that would take up too much time for ATC to say every single time to every pilot. At the end of each recording, the ATIS tells you which version of information you just heard…like, “This is information Bravo.” The tower updates this information continuously throughout the day, so it is important that you tell the tower which version you heard.
I tuned in to the ATIS and listened to the information. Yigal started going over something, so I never got to record which version I just heard. I didn’t realize this until I made my radio call to the tower. I made my call, told them my position, my altitude and made a request for clearance to land for a touch and go. Right at that point, I knew I didn’t know what version of information I heard, so I left it off. Oh well. We landed for a touch and go and then came back for another.
After we were through there, I headed back to MGJ and entered the pattern just fine. Yigal wanted to land the plane because the runway was a sheet of ice. He did a good job, but I would’ve preferred it if he had asked me for some advice. I am rather good at these things you know.
Lesson #20 – 12:30PM-2:00PM – Practice Landings
Hours – 24.3
Since I have been pretty busy with VOR navigation, airspace and communications practice, I thought I was getting a little rusty with my landings, so I went in today to brush up. Yigal wasn’t available today, but Dan, another instructor was. I wanted to go up solo, but the wind was too much at gusts of up to 20KTS. Based on my first landing, I am glad Dan was available. It was a little iffy.
Basically, it was a very straightforward day. I did 7 touch and goes and got 1.2 hours of time in. Besides that first landing, all the others were pretty good. I did make an effort to keep on the centerline during my final approach and also used more of a side slip, as opposed to my usual crabbing. I like the side slip better and think that will be my crosswind landing technique of choice.
I think I need to double my income, double up on my lessons and work half as much. That would get me done faster. How’s that?
Till next time…
Lesson #21 – 10:00AM-12:00PM – Finally to 1B1
Hours – 26
This was a pretty good lesson. We got a nice start because the airplane was already cleaned off after Wednesday’s snow storm. Also, it wasn’t bitter cold, like the last few lessons. I really wanted to get up to Columbia County Airport (1B1) in Hudson, NY. I have had the navigation log finished twice now. I didn’t make a new one for this lesson because I wasn’t sure if we were going to go. Also, the winds, speed and temp were almost the same as last time.
We took off and headed for 1B1. I was using the Pawling VOR for navigation. I am pretty used the the area now, so there aren’t a lot of surprises. We made it just fine to the VOR station and changed course and headed for 1B1. We had a nice tailwind so our ground speed was 139KTS. Going somewhere with that speed will get you there pretty quickly. We made it to the airport faster then I thought. My communications were good, but my main issue is hearing things. Sometimes the airplane gets kind of loud while I am climbing, or someone’s radio isn’t clear…I just have trouble with it. My hearing is fine, but I don’t have the $800 headset with noise canceling. I got the $300 one without. That will be my next present for myself. I had to ask ATC to repeat themselves about five times during the trip. Good thing they were different guys each time.
Early on in the trip Yigal and I got in a spat because I told him I couldn’t hear ATC because he was talking…that’s why I made a bad radio call. He said, “Fine, I won’t say another word unless there is an emergency.” I told him he could talk, but he said I was on my own. It worked out well, because I learn better when I am put in a situation. I made all the calls the whole time. A few times I said, “What did he say?” Yigal didn’t give up. I had to ask ATC to repeat themselves…just as if I were in the plane alone. It was fun.
Anyway, we made it back to MGJ with a ground speed of only 89KTS due to the headwind. I descended for a straight on approach for runway 26. Smooth landing and all that.
Next Saturday I am scheduled to practice my takeoffs and landings solo at the airport. I sure hope the wind is calm. Till then…
Lesson #22 – 10:00AM-12:00PM – SWF, Solo & Porpoising
Hours – 27.6
I was sick last weekend, so I had to cancel my lesson. Yigal was sick today, so he only stayed in the airplane for a short while. Interesting lesson, I should say.
The plan was to get me up there to get my head going again. I felt so guilty about missing last week. It was the first time I actually called in to cancel (as opposed to weather, etc…). To make a long story short, we were going to do a few laps around the pattern for a few takeoffs/landings and then I would practice solo.
We flew the pattern once at MGJ, landed and then headed towards SWF. I botched the call when entering their airspace. No big deal…just fix it and move on. We wanted to practice a few touch-and-goes over there. The first landing was ok…the second was ok…the third was behind JetBlue. There were no delays today. I know all about wingtip vorteces and turbulence. I was told by ATC to expect turbulence and I knew to land beyond the touchdown point of the jet. Well, I didn’t get a chance to see the touchdown point of the jet because I had to extend my downwind leg almost over the Hudson River. I was over Newburgh when I stared turning base and then final. It was good experience for learning how to creatively use your flaps and airspeed. I came in pretty nice (I am finally getting used to how long their runway is) and started to flare for my touchdown. I figured I was in good shape because it had been a few minutes since the jet had landed. They were already off the runway. Just as I started to flare, I guess the turbulence from the jet drifted across the runway from the right and totally gusted me up. I couldn’t get the plane down. I was sideways and slanted. Yigal grabbed the controls and gave it some throttle. He handed it back to me to re-land. Man, what a chore…it was a mess. A good word of advice is to really wait a few minutes more than you think you should when landing behind a jet.
Now, that was enough for me. No practice in two weeks and then that, I was ready to head back to MGJ. We flew towards the field and Yigal pulled the throttle for some engine out landing practice. I did quite well. Came in nice and smooth for a nice landing. We did one more lap for a nice touchdown and he hopped out. Since I now have my endorsement to practice solo, I went up for a few touch-and-goes.
I really wasn’t nervous because I was pretty warmed up. The sweat was almost dry from all the fun at SWF. Well, I came in for my first solo landing and touched the nose wheel down first. Boing, boing, boing…I was like a little porpoise. I guess I have more experience than I thought because I immediately punched it for a go-around. Honestly, a student pilot really never thinks he has to use these techniques. Anyway, I successfully climbed and removed my flaps one by one for another try around the pattern. I was a little freaked out because I think I needed a breather, but you can’t do that while you are in the sky. I took a breath and came in for another landing. I corrected my mistake and made a good, smooth landing. I told myself that it was important to do it once more, just to shake any hesitation on my part. I did so and everything went great.
Well, since daylight savings is almost here, I am planning to practice twice a week, especially since an airplane is available much more than both an airplane and an instructor. Practice makes perfect.
PS – I found a great resource on all sorts of flying stuff here. It’s from Australia, but still relevant.
Private Pilot Tips & Tricks
If you are like me, you tend to forget things. Probably at the most inopportune times.
Remember way back, when you were going to elementary school, your teacher would use examples to help you remember things? Here is a good one to remember the planet names:
Pizza pies: Pluto
Well, I think there needs to be a few for Private Pilots when flying. After bumbling through radio communications for a while, I started to make up tricks to help me remember what needs to be done with flying in general. Below is a list…I am going to add more as I think of them…and please feel free to add your own.
– Airports on aeronautical charts – blue for towered and magenta for non-towered – just think of a guy in a blue uniform sitting in the tower.
– Magnetic deviation on a compass – on a northerly heading, making a turn will make the compass lag. Just think of north as your kids…always lagging behind.
– Radio communications – this is a big one – just remember when initiating a radio call, you need to say four things…distance, altitude, where you are going and what you want. From, height, where and what.
After initiating contact in class D airspace, you would say, “I am 2 miles north of the field, 2,500 feet, heading in for a landing with information sierra.”
Another example would be for entering class E airspace. “I am 5 miles west of Stewart, 4,500 feet, heading towards Columbia County via the Kingston VOR and am requesting flight following.”
When entering class G airspace to land at a non-towered airport, you say, “I am 5 miles east of the field, 3,500 feet, will be entering the pattern on a 45 for a landing on runway 21.”
Sometimes your communication doesn’t fall exactly in the proper order, but just remember that you need to say four things.
When repeating information back to ATC, just remember the facts. They will tell you what seems like 20 things. Just repeat back what matters. Say, “Four Delta Sierra, right hand pattern, runway 29 with the option.” You don’t need to put this statement into a wonderfully written sentence.
– Taxiing – When taxiing and passing another airplane, drive like you are in England…the other side of the road.
Please feel free to add to this list as a comment. I will place your tip in the post.
Lesson #23 – 5:30PM-6:30PM – Go-Arounds & No-Flap Landings
Hours – 28.5
This was a great lesson. I wanted to get in there to ease my concerns about a few things. Remember what happened during my last lesson? Well, this time I wanted to get in some landings, go-arounds and some no flap landings.
Yigal was already booked up, so I went up for an hour with Dan. He is good at chilling out and letting me do my thing. He probably thinks I am crazy because he really doesn’t need to correct anything during the whole lesson.
I made my first landing and he looked at me. He said, “So, what’s the problem?” I told him that I was probably going to be fine since I have been thinking about my problems for about a week. He understood. I did a few landings and then, during one, he told me to go around. I was happy to and it was pretty simple. Also, he pulled the throttle for an emergency engine-out landing. I did that one fine so he made me go around before touching down.
Dan then asked if I have ever done a no flap landing. I told hime that I hadn’t, so we did one. It is generally the same as a regular landing, but you have to come in slightly faster and lower. That was pretty cool coming in that fast.
Well, I have to say that it was a great lesson. No screw ups…awesome weather and no wind. What more can you ask for?
12:30PM-1:30PM – Practicing Solo
Hours – 29.8
You may have noticed that I took out the “Lesson Number” in the title of this post. I mean really, who cares what number lesson it is anyway? Also, it was making the title too long.
I had a “practice” scheduled for 4:30 today, but the weather was marginal, so I took a long lunch to get some time in. It turned out well, so this may become a habit.
This was the first time I drove over, did my pre-flight, taxied and took off with no help from anyone. I liked it. My previous solos were always warmed up for with an instructor. Not for any particular reason, that’s just the way it happened. I feel like a have a bit more freedom now. I’m not sure if Montgomery, NY is comfortable with me flying over them all by myself.
I made a total of five takeoffs and landings today. The air was like flying on butter. Smooooth. All good takeoffs and all good landings…besides that little bounce, but if no one else saw the bounce, did it really happen? I don’t think so.
On a side note…I feel myself losing motivation. It may be the cloudy winter blues. I notice that right after I fly, I am really pumped up, but if there are a few days in between, I fizzle. I think perhaps the warm spring sunshine will get me back into shape. I know I want to do this, I just need to make some friends with other students and to start flying around with people. I am thinking of making some website schedule or something like that. Actually, I am going to push Donna to do this.
12:30PM-1:30PM – Cross Country to GBR
Hours – 31.5
This was another good lesson, although unexpected. I was scheduled to practice solo at the airport on Sunday, but Donna called with an opening with Dan for Saturday afternoon. Apparently, all his morning lessons cancelled.
I took advantage of the situation for a nice cross country up to Great Barrington (GBR). Everything was pretty straightforward. I did just fine on all my radio communications (now that I have some tips) as well as the VOR navigation. It was a good time. We flew right over the Berkshires and past Catamount ski area to land at the airport for a very short touch and go…the runway is only 2,500ft long. Also, there was some turbulence while going over the mountains.
On the way back, I flew at 6,500ft, my highest so far. The mountains were pretty high, so I wanted to be sure I was high enough. We made it back to Orange County without anything unexpected, besides of course Dan pulling the throttle on me for an emergency landing. That went smoothly for my third cross country!
I think I will fly to Stewart by myself soon and then start my solo cross countries.
1:00PM-3:30PM – Cross Country to N53 – Stroudsburg/Pocono
Hours – 33.6
The conditions were confirmed for me at the end of the lesson when Yigal told me to tie down the airplane with all three ropes. Breezy? Maybe.
This lesson was scheduled for 3 hours. I was supposed to go up for a cross country with Yigal for two hours and then practice solo for the last one. Well, let’s just say that plan didn’t work out.
I called the “Oh so accurate” weather briefers. Ummm, 8 knots of wind at 3,000ft. Good! Great day for a cross country to East Stroudsburg, PA. It was only 49.4 nautical miles away, but we would fly more than 50.
On the way to the runway, while taxiing, we waved to another guy and took a picture of his plane.
We started talking on the radio and agreed to fly in formation with him after takeoff for a few good shots. Most were blurry, but one came out good.
It was good to get some nice shots. It was important for me to get some pictures during this lesson because I have virtually no photo archive of anything that I am doing.
I had everything set up fine…the VOR, the frequencies…everything except the GPS. I wanted to fly by only VOR this time, just for practice. The GPS is very helpful, but there may be too much of a reliance on it. Well, I made it to the VOR station and changed course, just like I was supposed to.
I continue on past Port Jervis and kept with the Delaware River and passed by some beautiful land. I never knew it was this nice in Pennsylvania. I always just dismissed the state. I have no idea why.
Anyway, Yigal started asking me when I would know when I was at the airport. I told him I was aware of where I was because of the river features. There was a zig zag in the river and I was looking at it on the map as well as out the window. Also, I would see the airport. A lot of them are visible from 20 miles away. Well, as it turns out, the river feature I was looking at turned out to be the wrong one. Also, the airport was like someone’s driveway, surrounded by houses. I had no idea that it was that small. I flew right over it. Yigal kept trying to give me hints, like, “Oh, look at that big break in the mountian where the river runs through it” and “Check out that bridge.” I kept wondering what the heck he was talking about because the airport was nowhere in sight.
I was lost.
There were a few options. I could use ATC for radar vectoring, which is embarrassing, especially when you are flying right over the airport or you could use your navigation equipment. I decided to use the two VOR instruments to locate where I was. I did find an airport and thought it was the one, but it had big “X’s” on the runway. Also, the runway direction was off. Finally, I found the little, tiny runway, hidden down in the woods. I could almost see Stewart from where I was, 50 miles away, but couldn’t see the airport I was right on top of. I decided to descend for a landing on the 30ft wide runway.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, the weather briefing was wrong. The wind and turbulence up there were horrible. A few times, I thought the plane was going to go vertical. My altitude was going from 4,500 to 4,900 to 3,900 in a matter of minutes. It was crazy. The turbulence over the airport was bad too.
We flew the pattern to come in for a landing. I was on final approach and doing ok. The trees were right under me, but that wasn’t a big concern. I came in for my landing and the wind took me all over the place. Yigal had to take over and land. That pretty much sucked. He wanted me to land at this airport, so I took off again for another one. This time, there was just no way…we were running out of runway. We made a go-around for another try. Success…I finally did it. If I was alone, I would’ve just flown back to Orange County without landing.
With that done, We took off to head back home. I did my stuff after a little tif with the Allentown ATC guy. I asked him to repeat something and he told me to listen up next time. If I ever meet him in person, I would like to have a short chat. From about 20 miles away, I saw MGJ and flew toward it, getting bounced around the whole time.
I came in for an easy landing on runway 3 at Orange County. Oh so smooth, until at the last second an unexpected gust took me to the right. Yigal landed the plane. I taxied back and felt like crap.
I have to say that I am getting very tired. I mean literally. I think the pollen in the air is making me sleepy. I need a few weeks off just to get motivated again.