Archive for November, 2013

My aviation bucket list: soaring, helicopters, finishing that RV

Monday, November 25th, 2013

glider, soaringIt’s good to have an aviation bucket list. Mine has stayed pretty consistent over the years. Much of it I have accomplished, but there are some items of unfinished business on it. When I first started flying, I wanted to fly airplanes with retractable gear and more than one engine. My first multiengine experience was in a Piper Aztec, and on that first leg, it might as well have been a 747. It just felt huge! I got my multiengine rating in 1994.

Seaplanes were always a favorite, and I bummed rides in them whenever I could. I finally got to the point where I couldn’t stand the wait anymore, and with my wife’s blessing, took a five-day trip to Florida, two of which were spent splashing around in the lakes getting a seaplane rating. It’s some of the most fun flying one can do, and it’s more challenging than it appears.

Seaplanes are right up there for me with ultralights. Some think that the UL world is filled with lunatics, given that many of the airplanes have little or no structure surrounding the pilot. That’s true, but the open air, the slow speed, the grass landing…they all add magnitudes to the fun. If you haven’t done it, you don’t know what you’re missing.

IRV-8, experimental aircraft, homebuilt’ve always wanted to build my own airplane, and I have at least begun that. Several years ago I finished the empennage of an RV-8. I don’t know if or when I will be able to start on the next sub-kit (the wings), but it was a very rewarding process at the time, and it convinced me that I can do it. For me, it wasn’t the time that was the issue, but the money. I may have to wait until my kids are out of the house, but it’s a dream that is only dormant—not gone.

helicopters, learn to flyAlso on my list of “gotta do” is to learn to fly helicopters. It’s such a different kind of flying, with totally different skills. Whirly-birds just look like so much fun (to match the danger!). Again, this one will have to wait a while (also because of the cost), but I have long vowed that I will achieve this particular dream. Not for any particular reason, but just because. That’s good enough for me.

I taught my dad how to fly, and something we both long wanted to do was to learn to fly gliders. Glider flying is pure flying, since the duration of the flight is up to your skill in finding the thermals. My dad has since passed away, but I’ve never forgotten how much he wanted to learn to fly gliders. One day, I will take the time to go somewhere where I can devote the time necessary to master this particular art.

I’ve been lucky to also get a few other items on my list knocked out. Flying jets, including one of my favorites—the 737—has been a blast. The high-speed, high- altitude regime is totally different from the low and slow of an ultralight or a Piper Cub, but both are rewarding for different reasons. Fast airplanes are much more complex, but the personal satisfaction can be just as rewarding.

My list still has a few items on it, and hopefully for each one I knock off, I can find another one to add to it. After all, with nothing to strive for, what’s the point in getting out of bed every morning?—Chip Wright

Is learning to fly on your aviation bucket list? Get a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high…

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Jean Moule last wrote about flying with a different instructor for the Flight Training blog. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

learn to fly, student pilot, flying in Hawaii

Rather than go snorkeling, student pilot Jean Moule (right) arranged a flight lesson during her visit to the islands.

Spiraling up on thermals in a glider, circling Kauai dodging clouds: what a way to spend time and funds for vacation fun.

I expected to take to the air between islands and headed home. Yet…something called…

Normally time in the tropics leads to sunset and/or snorkeling cruises. Fancy meals overlooking the beach. And, for more active adventure: zip lines, parasailing, scuba diving, SUP (stand up paddling), horseback riding. There are hikes and special coves for swimming. So, what did I unexpectedly do?

Oahu

This time…it was different. Even as we landed from the mainland onto Oahu, I knew I wanted to see more from the air. On some of the islands 80 percent of the scenery is only visible from a boat or from the sky. A bit of research and a few calls and I was scheduled to take a mini-glider lesson.

What was it like without an engine? Everything seemed different. Until Yuki had us up in the air after our release from our tow plane and we turned slowly upward and she let go of the controls. Somehow it began to feel familiar. She had told me earlier, “A student pilot learns a lot about flying from the engineless experience.” Now, if only I could take my eyes off the scenery long enough to solidify my growing skills.

She let me take the glider wherever I wished, while maintaining her watch on the altitude, the other gliders, and parachuters in the air not far from us. I FLEW. As we got ready to return to the airport she took over the controls and did a few steep g-force turns that had me laughing and joyful. Then she landed. My mini lesson helped me understand the power of rising air and the feel of an airplane, as all of them are, designed to fly on its own.

Kauai

Quite a day. This is an adaptation of what I wrote to my Salem, Oregon, flight instructor:

Remember the time you took over the controls after we were landing to quickly clear the runway for a corporate jet flight coming in? As we landed in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii, my flight instructor took over the controls to get out of the way of an American Airlines flight about to take off. Oh my…amazing to be intertwined with the big guys. And, like, holding them up!? We also had to wait in line for the takeoff earlier. Almost cartoonish: Big planes and little us. A first for me.

As I took off Bruce said, “You’ve done this before.” He also appreciated that I was gentle on the controls. Certainly learned a bit about flying in the mountains, near the rainy clouds and in some turbulence. Now I know to say 492 Echo Romeo unfailingly (OK, confession: Since my regular N number is 75765, I had never asked for a briefing with a tail number with letters. The briefer let me know my error when I said E R, even added “November” for the N part of the number! I have studied, my husband has tested me: At this point I think you can wake me up in the middle of the night, give me a letter of the alphabet, and I can tell you the standard word…I am even dreaming of them).

As a CFI, Bruce, a former college prof, freely shared that he could not get a student to pilot certificate level as I believe the island situation has limitations. He certainly knew his island. I was surprised that we carefully avoided flying over populated areas to reduce the noise to those communities. And I learned to skirt clouds. Raindrops on the window did not freak me out this time either.

The scenery was awesome and the cost—that had both Robbie and me up in the air—was all of $2 more than if we had both taken the regular scenic flight with the same time and route!

Worked for me. And Robbie took 100 photos.

I think I enjoyed it most when Bruce and Robbie were talking and I just flew over the coastline with some turns and altitude adjustments as I felt like it. 1.1 Hobbs and I have an entry to paste into my logbook.

Thought you might like to know…

And, one last surprise: having now flown a different Cessna 172, my heart races every time I see one…and I want to fly it.—Jean Moule

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

 

 

I get by with a little help from my (aviation) friends

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

I’ m delighted to be the newest blogger for Flight Training. I’m Benét Wilson, and I’m the editor of the ePilot Flight Training eNewsletter and social media editor for AOPA. I’ve been an aviation journalist for more than 20 years, and—most imporantly—I am a student pilot.

Having been in the business for as long as I have, I’ve met some great people along the way, many of them pilots.  And as I continue to slog away at earning my certificate, I’ve used social media to ask my pilot friends for their tips and tricks of getting through the process. Their advice has been great, so I thought I’d share some of their pearls of wisdom with you.

Rob Mark is based in Evanston, Ill., and is an ATP, CFI-A, CFII and CFIM. He loves to talk about the time he flew an Airbus A380 in the captain’s seat (making us all jealous of him). He is publisher of the Jetwhine blog, co-host of the Airplane Geeks podcast, and a longtime friend. The one piece of advice he shares with everyone he meest who begins flight training is to suggest that they treat flight training like any other high-level classroom experience.

“The best way to receive the most value—as well as to feel like you really know how to handle the airplane—for your training dollar is to schedule training as often as possible. I expect students to commit to two lessons each week, knowing full well that most can’t make every lesson, of course,” he said. “But if students truly commit to arriving at the airport on time and prepared for the lesson—and that includes the homework I assign—I guarantee them they’ll see real progress in just the first month alone. That progression usually keeps them coming back.”

Mike Miller and I went to the same university, worked on the school newspaper together, and had many mutual friends. But we never actually met until 1997, when we were working at the same aviation publication. His approach to earning his ticket was that he saw it as an extra degree.  “So, if this was easy, everyone would do it.  I was paying for it, and it gave me new job skills I never had. And it was a marketable skill. But it wasn’t easy,” he recalled.

One instructor told him that pilot skills erode the instant you don’t use them.  “So if you don’t fly for a while, your landings will be rough, your checks will be slower, your training won’t be as sharp. That was true,” he said. “So I tried to fly every week, and in the end (before the checkride), I flew twice a week when the instructor told me I should. I had two main instructors, and both told me to keep asking questions and keep asking where I needed extra work. I leaned on them.”

One aspect of learning to fly that became important to Miller was being ultra-safe. “So my best advice: Be 100 percent safe, and never cut a corner ever. Never say `it’s good enough.’ Say ‘Did I do everything I possibly could to check this situation?’” he asked. “And be inquisitive at each step and don’t complain when you’re told you have to work on stalls or slow flight, because they’re telling you for a reason.”

Finally, said Miller, just go up once in a while to fly. “Not to practice. Just say, I’m going to Luray Caverns to see the Caverns. And fly there,” he said. “Even when you’re training, you should find a way to enjoy just being in the air.”

I have traveled the world with Gideon Ewers, an aviation consultant based in the United Kingdom, when we both covered the regional aviation industry. He kept his advice short and sweet.  “The best advice is relax and enjoy the journey from your postings in specific,” he said. “Accept that not every landing will be perfect. Strive to make it so, but be accepting when it is not quite as perfect as you’d like.”

Understand that this is a journey without end, which is probably the greatest of flight’s gifts, said Ewers. “I have been around flying for way more years than I care to think about and if I’m honest, my most recent lesson was the last time I flew and the next lesson will be the next time,” he stated.—Benét Wilson

The back side of the clock

Monday, November 11th, 2013

alarm clock.svgIn my old job, it was unusual for me to fly late at night, with “late” being defined as anything past 10 p.m. With time, I got the seniority to make sure that I didn’t fly at night, as I am a morning person and prefer to just get up, get started, and get the day done. Sometimes, I miss those days…

In my new gig, there is a lot of night flying, including all-night flying. These flights aren’t the classic red-eye, per se, but the effect is the same: You spend a lot of time on the “back side of the clock,” flying between midnight and daybreak. For most of my life, I have not been a real good napper. Getting older helps, but more importantly, I’ve learned to do it out of necessity. On days when I know I’m going to be flying at night, or if I know that there’s even a possibility of flying late, I will force myself to lie down and catch some Zs. It’s a bit easier when I already have an assignment. I will generally lie down in the early afternoon and allocate at least 90 minutes to sleep, and if I can get two hours, I’m ecstatic.

The key is to figure out what works best for you. I’ve asked a lot of people how they do it, and everyone seems have a slightly different methodology (except for those who have no methodology). For me, if I can go to bed shortly after my normal lunch time, I don’t feel “rushed” to get some sleep. Sometimes I don’t really sleep, but I can just lie there and rest, and that’s enough. Fortunately, my new home has shutters that allow me to make the room as dark as a dungeon, so it looks and feels like it does when I go to bed at night. I’ve also found that for napping, I sleep better without an alarm. Instead, I have someone in my family wake me up.

By napping early, I can still get up and be somewhat engaged in the goings-on of my household, and it also gives me a chance to come to my senses slowly, take a shower, and maybe even eat something before I go to work. In fact, I try to push lunch back until after I nap, since I know I will get a meal when I’m on the airplane.

Flying at night is against the natural programming of the body, but it can be done. But, to be safe, as the pilot you must make sure that you are properly rested before you go to work. You also need to make sure you don’t aggravate your sleep debt by not sleeping the next day. I always crash the next morning for a few hours, and because I don’t drink caffeine on a regular basis (I don’t drink coffee at all), I can fall asleep more easily than most people, and if I need a soda to keep me awake, I can count on it working.

Staying engaged during the trip also helps. Nothing is as stimulating as a good conversation with the person I am flying with, and that goes a long ways toward passing the time. Sometimes the weather becomes the “stimulant,” but most of the time I just count on having a good rapport with my fellow workers. Good communication is also key in another respect: If you are flying tired, or have not slept well prior to a night flight, you need to convey that so that your fellow pilots can keep an eye on your performance.

Night flying can be fantastic, but it comes with a new set of challenges. Make sure that you are “up” for them!—Chip Wright

Why we need GIFT

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

GIFT1 Tamara and CatherineThis week my Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up with many smiling faces of ladies learning to fly, or getting back into flying. That’s because the skies of Vernon, Texas, are filled with the Girls in Flight Training (GIFT) participants.

I went out to GIFT last year and spent a couple days with the GIFT gang, led by designated pilot examiner Mary Latimer; her daughter, Tamara Griffith, a CFI; and granddaughter Amanda Griffith—who, at age 18, had just become a CFI. Here’s the complete article.

Briefly summarized, Mary wants to create more women pilots, and she does that by conducting a free week of flight instruction for women, aimed at helping them get over hurdles, or make them more comfortable with notion of flying. Here’s a video of the 2012 event.

Some people periodically question why we need programs like GIFT that are aimed at getting more women to fly; or Girls With Wings, which strives to introduce girls to flight at a young age; or the global Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, which seeks to celebrate women in aviation while introducing women to the opportunities that aviation offers.

Their arguments generally run along these lines: Women aren’t being held back from flying, so why should a special effort be made to include them?

The best counter-argument to that likely comes in the form of a survey of airline travelers conducted in the United Kingdom, published this week in the U.K. Telegraph. The survey found that 51 percent of respondents said they would be “less likely” to trust a female pilot. The survey polled nearly 2,400 survey respondents, all of whom had taken a flight in the previous year, according to an article in the Telegraph.

It would be easy to say that the British survey respondents are harboring some stereotypes, or that perhaps they just are a little off-base in what they want from an airline crew. (A survey conducted in 2012 among 1,000 British travelers found that a majority of respondents prefer their airline pilots have a Home Counties accent—I’m not sure what that is—and they found Cockney and midlands accents least reassuring. But I digress.)

I’d like to think that a survey of 2,400 U.S. travelers would be a little more progressive in their responses–but I can’t say for certain that they would be. Women make up just 6 percent of the U.S. pilot population and represent 5 percent of airline cockpit crews. So, until such time as the sight of a woman in an airline uniform is as unremarkable as the sight of a woman in a doctor’s white coat or any other professional occupation, I will say that we need female-centric programs like GIFT (and GWW, and WOAW, and the Ninety-Nines, and Women in Aviation International…).—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.