Your connection with the sky

July 26th, 2012: IFR, GPS, and VOR Practice

, July 26th, 2012


July 26th, 2012: IFR, GPS and VOR Practice

Reading about a VOR is one thing, putting it to use is a whole different matter. A VOR is a radio navigation tool that can help supplement visual navigation and the use of a sectional chart to find landmarks out the window (also known as pilotage). While I have to say, reading about it over and over in the text and watching the DVDs was somewhat useful, using VORs still didn't make much sense to me until we actually got into the air and my CFI had me locating and flying to and away from them. This is tricky business, like everything else about flying, VORs are loaded with contradictions. Since the VOR locates the planes position and not it's direction, it's possible to be flying in exactly the opposite direction of the indicator. Now, while that seems confusing, there is some great logic to the way these things work, applying that logic however has me scratching my head a lot. Read More >>

July 25th, 2012 Maneuvers Review

, July 25th, 2012


July 25th, 2012: Maneuvers Review

I can't help but love the ground track on this one! Since the last couple of weeks have been all about getting used to the Cessna, tower work and landings, today was all about reviewing maneuvers. We managed to squeeze a bunch of maneuvers in today including slow flight, slow flight turning climbs and descents, power off and power on stalls, steep bank turns, turning on a point, and S-turns over a road. Read More >>

July 20th, 2012: Night Flying and Landings

, July 23rd, 2012

July 20th, 2012: Night Flying and Landings

Having completed my Tower Solo today I was ecstatic. This one had me up at night, not because I was nervous about flying, but I hadn't had as much tower practice as I would have liked, but the truth is, once I got into it and I was alone in the plane, it was a blast. Being able to communicate with the tower really made me feel like a pilot. I think it's one of those rare moments when you feel yourself transitioning from student to pilot in command and it was superb.


Just to put some icing on the cake, at 10 o'clock tonight I went back up in the air to get some night flying and landings in. I had heard from other pilots that this was a tough adjustment so I really had no idea what to expect. What I discovered however is that it was far more comfortable than I had imagined and a complete thrill. There was no moon up tonight so the sky was dark, really dark, but extremely clear. Taking off didn't feel a lot different than it had during the day, the biggest difference was looking out over the nose as I climbed into the night sky. I was loving every second of it! While I was flying primarily by feel, I also kept checking the instruments at regular intervals to make sure what I was feeling was also what was really happening. Looking back on the runway for the first time on my crosswind to downwind leg of the approach had my giggling like a kid in a candy store. Read More >>

July 20th, 2012 Tower Solo at Napa County Airport

, July 23rd, 2012

July 20th, 2012: Tower Solo at Napa County Airport072012_TowerSolo_Napa.png

I awoke this morning rehearsing tower calls, and I spent the whole morning repeating them over and over. I was scheduled for more tower work today again at Napa, but this time with JP. After the time I had yesterday, I was determined to get it right today. After preflighting the Cessna, JP grilled me with a couple of tower calls and hit me with a couple of spontaneous questions on the ground. "What's the first thing you're going to do today to get ready for landing in Napa?" he asked. "Configure the radios and listen to the ATIS" I responded. "Excellent, that's the answer I was looking for". Whew... I really didn't want to disappoint him before we ever even got in the plane. Read More >>

Flight Training Journal: Catching up

, July 23rd, 2012

Up until now I've been posting retroactively from my own flying journal, but it seems to me, this would all be much more interesting if you knew what was happening right now, so from this point forward I will be posting current entries from my journal, and catching up with the older posts as time allows.

Anyone who is interested can catch up with all of the entries in the meantime on my website at

Thanks for reading!


June 27th, 2012 Flying, Long Island Style!

, June 27th, 2012

June 26th

So I'm on vacation visiting my wife's family out in New York, so I thought, why not take a ride out to the East Hampton airport and see what's going on. Having visited here for over 25 years, I've always wanted to get up in the sky above Long Island and well, now that I have a means, I think I'll take advantage of it. I went inside and sure enough, right in front of me is the sign for Sound Aviation and a brochure for their Flight School. The weather being what it is out here, unpredictable, I signed up for the first lesson I could get, tomorrow morning at 9am.

June 27th

It rained all afternoon and into the evening last night making me wonder if I was going to get to go up today at all. When I woke up at 5:30 this morning I was greeted with fog and low cloud cover, but by 7am I could see patches of blue breaking through. By 8:30 most of the clouds had cleared out where we were, but a few minutes later, just as I was ready to head out the door, my cell phone rang. It was the flight school calling, but not to reschedule due to the over cast, rather, they wanted to push the lesson back an hour since my instructor was already up in the air with a local photographer who was shooting the area. Read More >>

What Every Pilot Should Know About Logbooks

, June 23rd, 2012
Pilot Logbook


Logbooks are great. More than a tally of flight hours, the logbook is a sort of journal -- a chronicle of the places we've been and challenges faced. Even now, after fifteen years of flying, I can turn to a page in an old logbook and relive each flight.

Most flight schools start their students with the small ASA or Jeppesen logbook, and it works pretty well for normal private pilot training. But as experience grows, that old logbook becomes increasingly inadequate.


June 21st, 2012: High speed taxi’s & crosswinds in the Cessna 172

, June 21st, 2012

Arriving at the airport today it was pretty hard not to notice that the wind was blowing 13 - 15 mph right across the runway. It was enough to make the Cessna rock and roll in it's parking spot. I was ok with whatever happened today, I needed practice doing the preflight check, and getting familiar with the Cessna, so if that's all that happened today I'll still be ahead of the game. The one thing you can count on every day is that weather happens and if you want to learn how to fly, you need to be ok with it, and as far as I can tell, when it comes to pilots and flight, it is the great equalizer. Read More >>

June 20th, 2012: New plane, new instructor. Flying the Cessna 172 with JP.

, June 20th, 2012


Take off, landing, medium and steep bank turns, slow flight and stall practice in the Cessna 172 with JP.

Having successfully mastered the Citabria…

Ok, so maybe that's going a little too far, but having successfully received my tail wheel endorsement from my instructor and soloed in the Citabria on Monday, which suddenly, albeit temporarily, catapulted my ego to Flying Ace, it was time to get some experience in a new plane. Today was my first flight with my new instructor JP in the Cessna 172. Now don't get me wrong, I love the Citabria, it's an amazing airplane as far as I can tell, quick and responsive, and flying stick and rudder just makes you feel like, well, like you're really flying. I also have earned a great respect for pilots who fly, and especially land, tail wheel airplanes of any kind. Read More >>

June 18th, 2012: Soloing at Petaluma Municipal

, June 18th, 2012

Pretty hard to describe a day like today but I'll give it my best shot.


Word was on Friday after having a number of nice landings, that Monday might just be first solo day. Don't think I didn't chew on that one all weekend. Not that I was worried or nervous, but it's certainly something that gets your attention, I mean, really? Sure I've been putting in a lot of hours trying to get this figured out but solo? Me? As the airplane alone? I was super excited by the thought of it all weekend and if I had any nervousness or apprehension it was more about "not" being able to do it. What if the weather didn't play along, what if it was too windy, what if I was more nervous than I was letting myself believe and when it came right down to it I wasn't confident enough?

It was a good thing it was Father's Day weekend and I had my God son and his crazy sisters in town on Sunday because they kept me totally preoccupied with mayhem. Monday morning rolled around quick and I was up at the crack of dawn...anxious? Absolutely! I made my way into work where of course I'm instantly absorbed with the business of the day, but before I knew it the alarm on my phone was going off reminding me it was time to get to the airport.

First things first. My instructor went over my pre-solo exam with me and then we discussed the expectations of the solo flight. Together we would fly over to Petaluma, make a couple of landings with him in the plane and then, if everything felt right, he'd jump out and I'd do 3 take offs and landings solo. Roger that.

And that's just how it went. I made my entry into the pattern and flew the plane in for landing #1, everything went very well and I set the plane down very softly...nice, so Friday wasn't a fluke. Ok, don't get cocky. 2nd trip through the pattern everything was looking good but coming into final I was thinking already about how if this went well, the next one would be all me. Big mistake. While my approach on final was clean and smooth, it was a good 10 mph too fast. I was anticipating the next flight so much that I didn't pay attention to my speed and found myself sailing over the numbers low and fast, ok, one quick touch of the wheels and forget the flare, we were already airborne so as it was all clear ahead it was go around time. Back in the air it was pretty obvious what had just transpired so there wasn't a lot of conversation about it. I didn't feel bad about it, I knew what I had done, and everything about my approach was fine...well, except for the excess speed of course.

The next loop around the pattern felt very good. Paying attention to all of the little details I performed coordinated turns, kept my altitude and speed on the mark and comfortably made all of the appropriate radio calls. This time my turn onto base was smooth, onto final, still smooth. Concentrating on attitude and speed I held a consistent 70 and when we caught a little lift at 100 feet or so, I even found myself putting in a slip to drop some speed and steepen my descent. Seconds later we were on the ground, another soft 3 point landing and I knew what was coming next. "Ok, drop me off in the departure area, you're ready". I wasn't about to argue but I couldn't help but think, really? who's crazier, him or me? He thinks I'm ready, but do I think I'm ready? I guess it's like having children, if you wait until you're ready, you'd never have them. If he says I'm ready, I'm going with that.

Out he jumped, radio in hand and said, "I'll test it when you get ready for takeoff and I'll be on the other end if you need me". "If you come down and it doesn't feel right, just go around and try it again". We tested the radio, I ran through my takeoff check list, and off I went.

Unbelievable. No one on the plane to save me if I botch this takeoff, no one in the plane to help me if I get in trouble in the air, no one there to make the radio calls, no one there to tell me what to do, or not to do, and most importantly, no one there to take control and land this plane, I was going to have to bring it back to the ground. You'd think I would have been a bundle of nerves but you know, instead, I just felt a great sense of calm, of relief, of confidence. I think in some ways you're more nervous flying with an instructor, after all, they know everything you're doing wrong, and they comment on everything you do or don't do as they would, and they always have one more tip, one more idea, but now, at this very moment, it was just me and that plane and whatever I knew or thought I knew was right, and it felt great. I ascended and turned, and flew the pattern making each of my radio calls in good time, I held my speed and altitude and attitude just as I had done before, checking my carb heat at the right moment and dropping my speed back to 70, trimming out the plane nicely. Entering my turn to final I was just where I wanted to be, 600 feet or so at a smooth 70 aiming straight down the center line. Was this really happening? Was this me flying this plane? Right on the numbers I set the Citabria down for what was undoubtedly the smoothest 3 point landing I had made yet, keeping my hand off the throttle, I rolled out smoothly.

I wanted to scream, really I did, I wanted to scream loud, but I didn't, I let me brain scream while the rest of me remained calm. Taxiing down past my CFI at the departure line, I flashed a peace sign out the window and he waived me on to do it again. Fantastic, I had done it. I had taken the plane up and brought it back down and in style. I was elated. The next 2 takeoffs and landings were much the same, although on number 3 I got taken by a surprise crosswind that dipped the left wing coming in on final but I didn't let it rattle me, I just adjusted and flew the plane on in landing a little more on the right wheel this time, but straight down the lines in the center of the runway and setting the plane down smoothly for the rollout. 3 takeoffs, 3 landings, solo...flying doesn't get much better than this!

My instructor jumped back in the plane, congratulated me on my performance and we headed back to Skypark in Sonoma where I made one more landing onto that infamous runway 8, dropping in lower and slower today for my last 3 point landing of the day. My first solo, exactly 6 weeks to the day from my first flight. I couldn't be happier or feel better about everything that had just transpired.