Posts Tagged ‘solo’

Photo of the Day: Pattern or practice area?

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

So, what’ll it be today? A trip or two (or 10) around the pattern, or a jaunt to the practice area to practice maneuvers? Maybe a little of both? If you’re flying solo, make sure you have a plan for your valuable Hobbs time. Don’t just fire up the airplane and start taxiing. Sure, all flight time is good time, but it’s also somewhat expensive time. So figure out what you’re going to do before you do it, and make your solo time count. Photo by Mike Fizer.—Jill W. Tallman

A GIFT in Texas

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The women you see here all have one thing in common: They want to learn to fly. (And the state trooper in the background? He’s a student pilot.) As I write this, the ladies who are attending Mary Latimer’s Girls in Flight Training Academy at Wilbarger County Airport in Vernon, Texas, are hard at work, drilling through ground school, poring over sectional charts, and of course getting up in the air.

But there’s a lot more going on. There are friendships forming; the students are dealing with their concerns and fears about some aspects of flight training (stalls = yuck), and some of them are scaling mental hurdles that have prevented them from achieving their goals.

Latimer came up with the idea of an all-woman’s flight “camp” in 2011. For her first attempt (in which attendees aren’t charged for flight training, or housing, or food–only for the avgas they used), she had about 15 women. For this year’s event, which received some advance press in AOPA’s ePilot Flight Training newsletter and in Flight Training magazine, she had 40 or so sign up. That meant a scramble for enough housing, not to mention airplanes and flight instructors (who also donated their time), but if you have ever met Mary Latimer, you’d know that such minor details as not enough airplanes or instructors doesn’t phase her. She simply finds out a way to make everything work.

I spent some time with the GIFT attendees this past weekend, and I was struck by the fact that the women were so excited and so happy to be there. The perfect weather was another plus—I’m told Texas weather can be capricious this time of year, but blue skies and fairly light winds were forecast for the entire week. There was a lot of flying going on, and as soon as I get an update from Mary I’ll pass along the success stories. In the meantime, look for an article about women and flight training featuring the GIFT experience sometime in 2013.—Jill W. Tallman

Pete’s solo story

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Pete Nardo (left) shows off his snipped shirt tail with his flight instructor, Ron Klutts.

While in Palm Springs for AOPA Summit, I hung out with student pilot Pete Nardo and his flight instructor, Ron Klutts. Pete had soloed just a week or so before the show, and after I got back to Maryland he sent me his account of the big day. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did, not only for the encouragement it gives to pre-solo students but also for the perspective it lends to those of us a little farther down the path.—Jill W. Tallman

The morning of Sat. Oct 6 2012 started for most people the normal way. For me, it was anything but normal. The day before, I flew with a chief pilot aboard. He said I had it in me to solo, but today we would put that statement to the test. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, flying the pattern in my head and watching aviation videos till the wee hours of the morning. I imagined Lindberg had similar anxiety flying the Atlantic, 33 hours without sleep.

0900- I make a cocktail of energy drink and soda, plus a light snack. “Charlie-Alfa-Tango, Hold Short” I said to the cat as I made my way out the door. I looked to the sky and it was blustery, gusts to almost 18, Clear visibility. Would this be the day? Would I orphan my cat. Ultimately the answer was yes to the first question, no to the second. 

I take my first step out the door. I would return as a pilot.

 1400-I brought along a photographer friend Johnny to document the event, waiting for me was a crew setting up cameras in N48849.  I did my preflight, checklist in hand, as I had a number of times before. To me, this is an act that ties me to the Wright brothers, Chuck Yeager, Neil and Buzz, and Amelia Earhart. 

They all had their first flight alone…This one, however, was mine.

 1530-It seemed to take longer than I wanted it to but we got through to taxi and run-up. It’s a good idea to practice a few times around the pattern with Ron my CFI aboard before committing to the solo. The winds at KPAO rattled us around a bit for an hour, and I was getting fatigued and dehydrated so we decided to put her down and decide if it would be go, or no go. We talk aviation stories at the terminal till the ATIS weather is updated. 

 1650- The weather was not improving much, indeed, the wind picked up another knot. Crosswind component was 4.5 knots, I’ve landed in worse than that. After agonizing for a few minutes it came down to one question. Do you have it in you? Yes I do. 

Back in the plane for a few more practice laps.

 1800- Taxing back we felt good about my chances. Ron warned me that the plane would climb like it had JATO bottles stuck to it without him in the right seat. Filling out the paperwork it felt like, this is the real deal, it’s official. I get to do this. We turn this into a photo opportunity because the sun is lighting up the sky a pretty shade of orange. 

We shook hands.

 1815- I turn to my instructor and say “Ron you’re good a pilot, a friend and a fine instructor…But get the hell out of my aircraft”. He smiles, shuts the door behind him, the cabin grows eerily quiet. “Well, that’s just great, now what am I supposed to do?” Ron’s voice in my head: Mixture in, Clear Prop, Master on, Key to ignition…Go. “Time to get some,” I must have said as the little Cessna started rolling with one guy in it. That guy was me. Run-up and make calls to the tower like I did a hundred times before, then the “Hold short” call.

 “Iv’e waited all my life for this,” I said. “Cleared for takeoff,” they said. “What do I stand for, What’s in you?…Throttle up, Gauges green, Airspeed alive, Rotate 50…..YeeHaw!” 849er went up F-16 style. I’m a 7-year-old kid flying his kite all over again. Today I’m not building a model airplane, I’m flying a real one!  Two times around, it feels like the plane was on rails tracing around the pattern. Training kicks in and you don’t think much about the nitty-gritty aspects of flying, you just do it like you did a hundred times before, almost on reflex. A look left revealed the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. This is exactly why I fly. To experience firsthand the beauty, the majesty, the wonder of it all. There will not be another sunset like that one in my lifetime. I wanted the clock to just freeze right then.  

It was my defining moment, Pete Nardo—Pilot. 

  I could have been in the pattern all day, but it was getting dark, and as much as I would have liked to stay, I had to put the plane down…safely. Planes like this one don’t land themselves, It’s all on me. A little bit of crosswind wanted to blow me to the left, so I did a crab then a slip to maintain centerline. Flare, Flare (I could hear Ron’s voice in my head). The chirp of the tires meant I was on the ground, but no time to celebrate yet. I gotta park this thing. I roll to a stop, tower says, “Great landing 849er.” I said thanks but was too choked up with emotion to say much more. I take a minute at the taxiway to clean up the aircraft, and say “I did it, I’m a pilot”.  Then I put on a Hachimaki (Japanese headband worn for inspiration, mine literally said Kami-Kaze) in honor of my Senseis (Teachers). I got clearance to park, which I did, and then the motor was silent. 

 1845-As I sat there in front of the flight school the sun was emitting the last of its rays, I was in a quiet moment of reflection. Everything about my life up to this point prepared me to do this. In my flight bag were three photos. One of my family, one of my Grandparents, and one with a 7-year-old kid who is flying a kite, and missing his front tooth. That kid, this pilot….Was me. 

 I must have had a tear in my eye, probably balling too, and I was so happy, I didn’t care.

Every pilot that solos has their own story to tell. This one was mine….What will yours be?

 Peter Nardo

Cessna 152, Palo Alto Municipal Airport

October 6, 2012

The July “Since You Asked” poll: How many hours to solo?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

For some, it’s a badge of honor. For most of us, it is what it is. We’re talking about the number of hours it took you to solo.

We asked that question of digital subscribers in the July issue of Flight Training magazine, and here’s what you said.

The majority of respondents–39 percent–said it took from 11 to 20 hours to solo.

More interesting–or troubling, depending on your viewpoint–37 percent said it took more than 20 hours to solo.

Just 10 percent had soloed in 10 or fewer hours, and 14 percent said they hadn’t soloed yet.

Our poll is admittedly very unscientific since we don’t draw from a very large sample. Still, it raises some interesting questions. Are we taking longer to solo? If so, why?  Is it the aircraft? Are instructors trying to make sure that students know more before they sign them off for solo? Are we just slower? (I offer that last one in jest, sort of.)

It’s expected that people who aren’t teenagers might take a little longer to solo. A student who has logged well into 20 or more hours, however, runs the risk of becoming frustrated, and we all know where that road leads.

Your thoughts?—Jill W. Tallman

“Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

This month in solos: July 2012

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

The 24-hour news cycle is a blessing and a curse for general aviation. A curse, because now anybody who has ever had a gear-up, an emergency landing, or even a “hard landing” is likely to find themselves the subject of breathless-bordering-on-sensational coverage. A blessing, because the happy events of general aviation–like solos and certificates–are now finding their way into the mainstream media more often. From time to time we’ll post the good stories so that we, too, can celebrate the successes. Congratulations to all!

  • Ashley Peniston of Chillicothe, Missouri, soloed a Cessna 172 on July 17. According to the Chillicothe News, Ashley was the first female to solo at Chillicothe Municipal Airport since 2000. (!) She did get her shirt-tail cut (there’s a great photo with her instructor, Mike Langwell). Note to the Constitution-Tribune: It’s yoke, not “yolk.” Ashley and her husband, Bob, are both pilots. Bob soloed on Feb. 25.
  • CAP Cadets Matthew Angelo and Jack Nordell soloed in July. Both are from Canon City, N.M. According to the Pueblo Chieftain, Angelo flew at Fort Pickett, Va., and Nordell flew at Shawnee, Okla. A photo shows the cadets in CAP uniform, holding their cut shirt tails.
  • Robert Pinksten of Nashua, N.H., soloed a helicopter on July 2. The Nashua Telegraph was quick to crown Robert “Youngest in New England to Pilot Helicopter Solo,” but we’re also happy to give Robert his props, since you don’t see teens soloing helicopters every day. We also love it when media solemnly inform readers that the soloing youngster will be flying an aircraft before he is driving a car. —Jill W. Tallman

Catching up with…True Course Flight School

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Just about 18 months ago, I interviewed Jeff Vandeyacht, the proud new owner of True Course Flight School at Oswego County Airport in Fulton, N.Y., for a brief article in the March 2011 issue of Flight Training. At a time when flight training seemed to be hemorraghing student pilots (and we’re not in the clear yet), Jeff had decided to purchase the flight school at his home airport when he found out that the owner was planning to shut it down and retire to Texas.

How’s the flight school doing? I checked in with Jeff this week on a whim, and he quickly got back to me. “We’re doing pretty well,” he reports. True Course has a Cessna 150 and a 172 on the line, as well as a Socata Trinidad on leaseback, which is used for commercial and complex/high-performance training. A tailwheel aircraft is the next planned acquisition.

Jeff hired a retired military pilot who is a part-time instructor, and he has been looking for a full-time CFI for months. “We’re busy enough that a person could make a fair living,” he says. (So, CFIs, if you’re looking for a change of venue, please give Jeff a call. Click here for the website.) Four or five students are preparing to take their private pilot checkrides in the next month.

Jeff went into this with the desire to provide quality training as well as a learning atmosphere where students can feel connected and excited about their progress. He regularly posts students’ accomplishments on a Facebook page, along with photos like the one you see here of Kevin Todd earlier this month. And yes, solo students get their very own T-shirt to commemorate the great day.

Shortly after Jeff got back to me, a prospect came in to True Course Flight School. After a tour, a review of the aircraft and the syllabus, “he’s all in and he starts his training tomorrow,” Jeff reported. “I think you’re bringing me luck!” Maybe, but the more likely explanation is that the prospect liked what he saw–a flight school whose owner is knowledgeable about business and good customer service, as well as someone who can help him make his aviation dream a reality.—Jill W. Tallman

Savor the moment

Friday, May 4th, 2012

If someone tells me they just soloed, or completed a cross-country, or finished the checkride, I’m happy for that person–and I say so. I congratulate him or her and ask for details of the event. (I really do want to hear all the gory details. It reminds me of my student days and keeps me humble.)

If someone says she just soloed, what you won’t hear me say is, “That’s great–when’s the cross-country?” Or, if she completed her checkride, “Way to go! Now on to the instrument rating.”

Whenever we achieve a goal in our flying, we need to take at least a couple moments to savor that accomplishment. From the day you walk into a flight school to schedule an introductory ride to the moment your designated pilot examiner signs your new temporary certificate, you’re on a journey that is rigorous and challenging. It will be incredibly rewarding, too–especially if we realize what we’ve achieved.

Take the solo, for example. You just flew an airplane all by yourself–something only about 628,000 other people in the United States have done. And if you’re 16 years old and soloing, consider that you’re likely flying an airplane at an age when your friends are driving a car. (On second thought, don’t remind your parents of that.)

That’s why we celebrate a solo with a cut shirt-tail. It’s why some of us still ask for a signature in the logbook at the airport on our solo cross-country–even though we’re not required to do that any more. It’s why AOPA’s MyFlightTraining website shares photos of milestones and “attaboys”. Those tangible expressions of our accomplishments bolster us and keep us going on what can seem like a very long road to the ultimate prize: our ticket.

So if you’re a student pilot, keep up the good work! Tell me about your milestones (Twitter: @jtallman1959) because I love to hear about them. Oh, and… congratulations!–Jill W. Tallman

Your first flight with a passenger

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

If you’re a student pilot reading this, I hope you have not taken your first flight with a passenger–because that would be a violation of the FARs. But we all know that the privilege to take a passenger flying is something we anticipate when we’re in the throes of training, performing our umpteenth power-off stall or plotting yet another flight and squinting over yet another weather forecast. There’s just something special about the prospect of sharing the joy of flight with someone else–hopefully someone who will come to love it as much as we do.

In the March issue of Flight Training, just gone to the printer, we bring you a story of a brand-new pilot who chose his dad and a good friend to be his first passengers. What happened on that flight made it memorable in more ways than one. I’ll say no more, except to tell you to read it when your issue hits your mailbox or your digital device.

And when you’re finished, if you’re a certificated pilot, please share your memories of your first flight with a passenger. Was it everything you thought it would be? Was it scary to have that responsibility–or was it fulfilling–or maybe a little of both? Please share your memories in the Comments section.–Jill Tallman