Posts Tagged ‘student pilot’

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

Cross-country to Summit

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

CFI Ron Klutts (left) and student pilot Pete Nardo at Palm Springs Airport (KPSP).

Newly soloed student pilot Pete Nardo and his CFI, Ron Klutts, decided to fly from Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County (KPAO) to Palm Springs, Calif., for AOPA Summit last week. The trip exposed Nardo to lots of Southern California airspace, but he got much more out of it than that.

Nardo is at that giddy “I love flying and I want to shout it from the rooftops!” stage. Apart from AirVenture (yes, he’s been there and plans to go again), there wasn’t a better place on Earth for him to express that joy and revel in it. He got to see the Flying Wild Alaska pilots and learn about bush flying in Alaska; he wandered the static display and exhibit hall; he attended many thought-providing educational seminars; and he got to spend every waking minute immersed in aviation.

It was a treat to talk about airplanes with Nardo over a sushi dinner at Summit, because his excitement was contagious and reminded me that we all should strive to nurture our love of GA. Meeting new pilots–at your airport, at a pancake breakfast, or at a national aviation venue–is a great way to do just that.—Jill W. Tallman

Dumb things pilots have done, part I

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

This is a random series of dumb, sometimes just “plane” stupid, and often funny (in retrospect) things that pilots have done. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to the order. But looking back over more than 20 years I’ve been flying, I’ve seen—or heard first hand—some real doozies. These are some of my favorites.

Tried to leave, but couldn’t. One pilot, a student, forgot to untie the tail of the Cessna 152. He started it up, did his After Start checklist, and with his instructor’s consent, juiced the throttle. The nose immediately jerked, went up a bit, and then came back down as the airplane rolled backwards a bit. The CFI had not seen that the tail rope was still tied either, but immediately figured it out. He also acted as though he let all of this happen: “Don’t make me do that to you again! Now, shut this airplane down, and go untie the rope. I hope you’ve learned something!”

At least he was a quick thinker.

Left, but shouldn’t have. Airline crews have certain things that they simply can not leave without. The maintenance log is one of them. I’ve heard of several captains, though, who have, and if they are lucky, they take off, get a radio call before they get too far away, and return to the airport. The tower usually knows what’s going on, and they take enormous pleasure in introducing the world to Captain Forgetful. It’s never happened to me, but I can only imagine what the speech to the passengers is like, let alone the explanation to the chief pilot.

What’s worse is when the crew gets where they are going, and then a special ferry flight has to be scheduled if the company can’t get the logbook onto another flight to XYZ.

As a result, guys come up with all kinds of reminders to make sure that they don’t make this mistake: turning screens off, moving their rudder pedals out of reach, writing notes on their clips or their hands. Hey, whatever works.

Left, but he shouldn’t have, Part II. Did you ever try to retract the landing gear, only to find that you didn’t remove the gear pins? Me either, but others have. The pins are put in to move the airplane after the hydraulic systems depressurize. But even modern hydraulic systems can’t overcome those pins. About the time you notice it, the tower can see the “REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT” flags flapping the slipstream. “Hey, did you guys know…?”

Maybe they’ll get the chief pilot mentioned below.

Left…the engine running. This has happened twice that I know of. The first time, jets were new to the property and the crew left for the hotel. Upon arriving in his room, the captain got a phone call from the station. He talked the station through the shutdown procedure, and went to bed. Rumor is the company never knew.

The second time (different captain), the company and the FAA got wind of it, and the captain had to do the carpet dance, as he had several thousand hours in the aircraft. Not too long after, he became the chief pilot. Go figure.

In part II, Chip Wright will share incidents that illustrate how the FAA has eyes in the back of its head, and much more.–Ed.


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

Ariel Tweto gets her ticket

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

In last season’s Flying Wild Alaska on the Discovery Channel, we were following the adventures of Ariel Tweto, wondering if she would be able to find time to hit the books and knock out her private pilot training.

Well, wonder no more. In the season (and series) finale that aired on July 20, Ariel took her checkride and passed. Of course, we didn’t learn that until the final five minutes of the episode. We had to suffer through much hand-wringing and consternation over the fact that Ariel’s examiner would be someone from the FAA rather than a designated pilot examiner. This being reality television, we also had to endure speculation that she might not pass the oral (she did) and that she might blow her short-field landing (she didn’t, but she did do a go-around).

In many ways, Ariel’s flight training experience mirrored everyone else’s. She had an extremely busy schedule, making it difficult to schedule her lessons; her flight instructor John Ponts left in mid-training. She switched aircraft a few times, so she had to familiarize herself with different systems and avionics each time. (At one point, she was training in a Cessna 207, which brings its own set of challenges to a student pilot.) Flight Training interviewed Ariel for the January 2012 issue, and you can read that interview here (and see a video of the whole gang at AirVenture 2011).

Some might argue that Ariel had a lot going for her as a student pilot–she grew up in a flying family and had well-maintained aircraft at her disposal. But she also grew up in Alaska, which probably dealt her more than a few weather delays. And it can’t have been easy for her to learn to fly while filming a reality TV show. Often while watching her struggle to land I was thankful no cable station ever wanted to videotape my flight lessons and broadcast them to a national audience. So here’s to Ariel, who eloquently summarized her hard-won flying privileges at the end of the episode: “I just need a runway, and then I have the whole world.”—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Wonderful Waco

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

 

The Waco in this photo has a wonderful history behind it. As Alton Marsh explained in the October 2007 AOPA Pilot article “A Waco for Miss Johnston,” it was built in 1935 for a wealthy 24-year-old student pilot–and a lady, at that. Read the complete article to find out all the special touches she requested, including an increased fuel capacity of 75 gallons.

Look who’s a student pilot: Vince Neil edition

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Vince Neil

If you like a side of heavy metal with your aviation news, here’s your dish: Vince Neil, lead singer of the 1980s-era heavy metal group Motley Crue (and yes, I know there are umlauts in there but darn if I can figure out how to insert umlauts in this blog software), is training hard to become a pilot even as you read this. He’s taking a two-week accelerated program at an airport in Nevada, according to The Aviators, which is filming the whole thing for its upcoming Season 3.

The Aviators posted several photos on its Facebook page of Neil in the cockpit of a Diamond. The singer is said to be a disciplined student who prepped for his intensive program by studying flight training materials while on tour overseas. He’s working with an instructor from Accelerated Flight & Instrument Training. Season 3 of The Aviators will begin airing in September on PBS stations in the United States; episodes are available on iTunes and Hulu.–Jill W. Tallman

What I miss about GA

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I recently did a flight from DTW to Kalamazoo (AZO). We had some time on the ground to kill, and our gate’s location gave us a great view of the approach end of Runway 17. Several airplanes were doing pattern work, including a Cessna 172 (with a horribly ugly paint scheme, I might add), a Piper Cherokee, and one or two others. A couple were flown by students, as evidenced by the hesitant radio transmissions and the near-misses of nosewheel-first landings. Others were likely someone out just practicing, taking advantage of the clear sky and summer-like March weather.

My first officer and I began chatting about how nice it would be to trade places for a day with these pilots.

The truth is, I can’t tell you how much I miss general aviation flying. I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I would like because of the cost, and when it comes to travel, you can’t beat the free flight benefits of the airline.

But I miss everything about GA—getting dirty on a preflight, being able to turn the radio off, tracing my flight on a sectional (not easy at 400 knots true while in the flight levels), or just taking the airplane around the patch one more time because I didn’t like my landing. If I tried that at my day job, I’d have more than a little explaining to do. They might even deduct the cost of the extra fuel from my paycheck. And I especially miss doing primary flight instruction. I’ve long maintained that if I could make the same income as an instructor as I do now, I’d trade my uniform for shorts in a heartbeat.

On occasion, we will see a 172 or a Cherokee on our TCAS that is flying at or below 1,000 feet just sightseeing or slowly going from place to place, or maybe even nowhere in particular. Once in a while we see those airplanes doing ground reference maneuvers or lazy 8s. It’s hard not to think about how far my own career has come watching somebody else go through those maneuvers that I too had to master.

If you are pursuing a professional career, take the time to enjoy the steps along the way, and if you can pull it off, stay involved in your GA roots. You will miss it more than you ever will imagine. I fly whenever I can, and I keep my CFI certificate active; I worked way too hard to ever let it expire.

There may be a thing or two about GA that I don’t miss—the broken orange juice cans in the Cessnas, not having a weather radar, bouncy fuel gauges, and I’d like to have an autopilot—but the benefits way outweigh the cons. I think I’d like more than anything to be able to fly a cross-country and substitute my iPod for ATC…just once.—By Chip Wright

The May “Since You Asked” poll: Preflighting

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

In the May issue of Flight Training, we asked digital subscribers a very particular question: “If you preflight an airplane the night before a planned flight, do you:

a. Conduct a thorough preflight the next morning as well. You never know what could have happened over night.

b. Conduct a streamlined version of the preflight, focusing on only certain things.

c. Kick the tires and light the fires; I’m good to go.”

The question was pretty directed because it was inspired by a particular set of circumstances put to Rod Machado in the May “Since You Asked” column. Specifically, K.L. wanted to know what Rod thought of this situation:

“I met someone who was preflighting his airplane the night before he was to take a trip. He was the sole owner, and the airplane was hangared. He indicated he would do a quick walkaround in the morning, but he felt taking his time the night before would result in a more thorough preflight and nothing significant would happen overnight. So the question must be asked: Do preflights have an expiration date (time)? How long is a preflight good for?”

First, let’s look at our responses to the digital poll. A whopping 87 percent of respondents said they’d conduct a thorough preflight the next morning. Just 13 percent said they’d conduct a streamlined version of the preflight, and no one–not one person–confessed to the notion of kicking the tires and lighting the fires.

When you consider that our readership is aimed at primary student pilots, many of whom rent aircraft that sits outside and unattended, it stands to reason that they would prefer to do a preflight both the night before and the morning of the planned flight. This is your last chance to check everything before you go hurtling into the air, so why waste the opportunity?

Then again, 13 percent said they’d be comfortable with conducting a streamlined version of the preflight on the morning of the flight. This could represent our readers who own aircraft and are reasonably confident that nothing will have happened to their aircraft over the eight, 10, or 12 hours preceding the flight.

And here’s what Rod told K.L.: Preflights do have an unofficial expiration time that’s based more on common sense than a timepiece. “If the airplane is secured in a hangar,  then it’s entirely reasonable to do a thorough and detailed preflight the night before departure and a less-detailed inspection the morning of the flight. This is based on the assumption that the hangar is completely secure.

“On the other hand, if the airplane is out in the open, it is unreasonable to assume that something or someone can’t adversely affeected the airplane’s airworthiness overnight. Therefore, the next morning’s flight should be preflighted by an equally thorough preflight.”

In the year I had access to a hangar for my 1964 Piper Cherokee 140, I never preflighted the airplane the night before a flight with the intention of saving time and doing a quickie the next morning. It never even occurred to me to do something like that. I know myself too well. Any tasks that take place after 6 p.m. aren’t going to be ones that involve operating an aircraft or checking its airworthiness. I prefer to leave enough time in the morning to do a thorough, unhurried preflight, when my brain is sharpest.–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.