Steve Tupper, May 14th, 2012
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can." - Herman Melville; Moby Dick
I'm not especially "grim about the mouth" (although I love that expression). And I'm not yet to the point of knocking off people's hats. But any time I begin to figure that I know a lot about aviation, I account it high time to get into a strange and different aircraft as soon as I can. So what started as an evil plot by glider instructor John Harte to lure me into training for a new rating has turned into a regular source of joy in my life. Read More >>
Blaine Transue, May 11th, 2012
May 11th, 2012: Flying the "Box"
Just an amazing day flying today. Preflight check was smooth, pulling the plane out for the run-up area and the taxi down the runway all went very well. Still didn't get to "take-off" but that's coming after a little high speed taxi practice on Monday, hoo-ha, can't wait. In the air today I was very comfortable; still a little heavy on the controls but definitely getting better, much more coordinated flight all around.
Leveled off at 3,500 feet today after heading south out towards San Francisco, practiced a few turns at altitude and then "flying the box", that's where you point the nose of the plane in different directions, up, left, down left, down right, up right, all the while maintaining a constant flight path, i.e., forward while also maintaining speed and altitude. Amazing what you can do in a plane. Flying the box was great practice for flying in a "slip" since that's essentially what you're doing…I think. All of this is done at idle or near idle speed to mimic the approach for a landing. In fact, that's "why" you practice it, because these are the skills you need when bringing the plane into a landing under various wind conditions, at least, that's what I've read, and been told, although I haven't actually experienced it yet.
The Citabria is a stick and rudder plane, which means you fly with, well, a stick that comes up from the floor between your legs, as opposed to a yoke, which is more like a steering wheel mounted on the dash board, and you control the rudder with your feet. Now, I've been driving on the ground for more than 35 years, but piloting a plane, in 3 dimensions with a stick is a totally new sensation and there's an entirely new coordination that I have to develop between my hands and my feet. Fortunately, it's more intuitive than I imagined, the brain has a remarkable way of figuring these things out. My understanding is that at many flight schools, students learn to fly a "yoked" plane like a Cessna first, and then perhaps transition to some stick and rudder training later, but since this is the only plane I've flown, I have no idea what it's like to fly with a yoke, but I can tell you that controlling this plane with the stick allows me to feel every adjustment I make and every subsequent movement the plane is making. Read More >>
Blaine Transue, May 9th, 2012
May 9th, 2012 (email to my instructor)
I felt way more comfortable today. Not that I wasn't Monday, but something was different today, and not just the air, although I'm sure that didn't hurt. I was much lighter on the foot pedals today which really helped, but I do need to remember what you said, and alternate between them, instead of stomping on both of them. That was actually a very helpful bit of information as I was feeling like I had to be on those things at all times. Lightening up on the feet and learning how to alternate better really helped...and ironically, felt more like the first couple of times we went up when I wasn't thinking about it all so much. You may need to remind me a couple more times before I get it.
That's the thing with me, just so you know, you may have to repeat yourself a lot, and that's really ok with me, that's how I learn, that's why I also thought that recording these interactions and lessons somehow could be really helpful. I'm just the kind of guy that would put that on my iPod and listen to it over and over, climb, level off, reduce throttle, adjust trim, hold it at 65, start your turn…so much of it seems to be about timing, and timing is something I think you can learn at least in part, by listening.
Taxiing felt good today, and maneuvering the plane around on the ground felt much more comfortable, I think I'll get the hang of that fairly quickly, of course, I haven't tried it at 60mph yet.
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Blaine Transue, May 9th, 2012
May 9th, 2012: Lighten Up Lead Foot
I'll start by saying, flying today was incredible. While the air was very hazy it was also incredibly calm, I'm guessing those 2 things go hand in hand around here, if not everywhere, I'll have to look into that.
Compared to the last time up, I was much more comfortable today. While the seat height felt much more comfortable today, I still felt that I was way too "heavy" on the rudder. I still feel like I should be a little farther back from the pedals. Perhaps it's because of the way I drive, or ride a bike with my legs more extended, but I feel as though I would have more control of the rudder if I wasn't so much "on top" of them. Maybe it's just something I have to get used to.
After what seemed like a total loss of coordination on Monday, I felt that today was much better, although I was still trying too hard to alternate between pedals rather than just using one or the other when needed. I have to learn to lighten up on the opposing foot, on both feet actually. Once I started doing that today, it helped immediately to get my turns more coordinated. Of course it helped that there was minimal turbulence kicking me all over the place today, and it didn't hurt that my instructor made some physical adjustments to the trim tab as well. According to my instructor, that was partly responsible for my funky coordination on Monday…glad to know it wasn't all me. Read More >>
Blaine Transue, May 7th, 2012
Officially, flight #3.
(this was an email I sent to my instructor within an hour of my lesson)
If I had to evaluate my own flying today I'd give myself a C+.
For the most part I felt comfortable with the preflight check, although there were 2 things that through me off, the ELT of course, and the gas valve under the nose, which took me awhile to remember where it was, both of which will be no problem next time. By the way, the binder doesn't contain a printout of the preflight side of the card. I think that would be a helpful study item just so I can visualize the preflight check in my head.
I'd say I gained a "little" more comfort and control on the ground in the couple of minutes we had, although doing circles in front of the office is a little un-nerving especially while other planes are landing, it's obvious I need some practice, but I'm certain I'll get a good feel for that. Braking to swing the tail around was a good tip and reminded me a little of how you drive bumper cars at the fair...maybe you're too young for that one. Taxing down the runway felt fairly comfortable, and I didn't feel like I leaned on the brakes too much, of course there was no wind, which helped considerably, and taxiing down the runway at 15mph is one thing, landing on it 65mph is a whole different ball game, I'm sure. Read More >>
Blaine Transue, May 4th, 2012
May 4th, 2012.
At some point I had read that famous quote by Leonardo DiVinci, that once you experience flying, your gaze will forever be upward towards the sky, as having been there you would always long to return. It was hard to believe it had been over a year, but I don't recall a day that went by when I didn't think about it. Almost exactly a year after that first flight I returned to Skypark and met with my new instructor for my first "official" lesson.
After going over a few pieces of business, getting my account set up and getting my flight training materials together we walked out to the hanger, opened the doors and rolled the Citabria out onto the driveway. You have to learn how to work everything, from the hangar door on if you want to fly from small airports, and there isn't anything you do that isn't part of your instruction.
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Blaine Transue, May 3rd, 2012
April 4th, 2011
While this wasn't my first flight up in a small plane, it was my first experience piloting a small plane. I read about a new flight school opening up in Sonoma where I live, the owner and instructor was a school mate of my son and the same age, which at the time of my first flight was 22, I was 51. I probably should have, but I didn't feel the least bit of apprehension jumping in the plane with him. I always knew him to be a very bright kid, and he exuded a certain confidence that made me comfortable. I was a little nervous about the idea of flying in such a small plane, in this case, a 1974 Citabria, but figured if it had been in the air for 40 years, it would probably make it another day. That's the thing about small planes, people tend to worry if they're old, but to me, that just means they must be very good, after all, if they weren't, they wouldn't be in the air today. Read More >>
Blaine Transue, May 1st, 2012
I've been dreaming of flying my entire life. As far back as I can remember I have had dreams about flying, in planes, on kites, on bikes, in cars, just by myself, my body in the wind. For years they terrified me a bit as most of them didn't end all that well, they ended with the realization that I didn't know how, which of course sends you careening to the ground like Wiley Coyote.
When I was a teenager I recall reading a book about controlling your dreams, essentially the art of consciously realizing that you were in a dream state and controlling that state to some extent. This new found enlightenment allowed me to fly without falling, it allowed me to hover off the ground and into the air where I could experience controlled flying anytime without fear. I flew through canyons over hills and through trees, one night I even flew across San Francisco Bay between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. I still don't understand it really, how the mind can conjure up such things complete with 3 dimensional views from a vantage point I've never actually been at, but you learn to roll with it, you accept it. Now when I dream of flying, there's only a brief moment of apprehension which quickly turns to spectacular control over the mind, body and this dream state environment. These days I find myself not only welcoming those experiences, but often times attempting to create them. Read More >>