Your connection with the sky

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 >>

“Get-to-the-beach-itis”

, June 25th, 2012

Coming off the high of soloing for the first time takes a while. There was about a week and a half of “local fame” before it all started to die down. The timing of the solo was perfect because I had a cross country trip planned to my parents’ house for Memorial Day weekend with my boyfriend (and back-up instructor). This was my first chance to experience real flight planning. I enthusiastically unfolded my sectional and asked, “Ok, where do we start?” I quickly learned that I was in way over my head. The whole process was a flurry of measurements, printing off airport diagrams, getting the winds, making all of these crazy calculations, and oh, yeah—learning that in order to meet our weight and balance requirements I couldn’t bring as many pairs of shoes as I wanted on our trip!

Somewhat disappointedly, we got off to a slow start. The weather at both the departure and arrival airports (KFDK and KGED) was less than ideal, with low ceilings and fog. We had to wait over an hour past our planned departure time for it to clear up. I knew what the VFR requirements were and when we got close to them, I started getting really anxious for the ceiling to rise just 100 more feet or the visibility to improve by a half mile. My boyfriend told me I was displaying symptoms of “Get-there-itis,” a potentially dangerous illness of those who would sacrifice safety just to get up in the air. Had I not been preparing to fly to the beach that day, I probably would’ve been a little more patient. Nonetheless, the weather cleared up to an acceptable level and we were able to depart. Read More >>

Heading Out for a Week of Flying

, June 25th, 2012

The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., and I woke full of optimism, only to hear the rain drip, drip, dripping. Darn! A friend had spent the night and we were hoping to be wheels off at 6:00 a.m., heading to the very tip of southeastern Oregon for a fly-in. Of course, it’s been raining for days, only partially clearing in the last afternoon and early evenings. Yet I had been so hopeful!

My fat-ultralight-type LSA Talon Typhoon has been almost completely rebuilt since last summer’s fiasco. It didn’t have major damage, but the master mechanic and his “elves” as he calls them had taken delight in re-creating the plane. All new wiring, new instrument panel, moving the regulator, the radiator overflow bottle, the battery. And on and on and on. They had such fun doing it, and I was delighted. My old Rotax 582 was toast, so I bit the bullet and bought a new one.

The test flight went flawlessly – except for oil leakage from the exhaust manifold. So that was repaired and then I did another test flight. It’s trimmed out so perfectly that I did two patterns around the Independence (Oregon) airport using only rudder – never touching the stick. Since then I’ve put about 20 hours on the plane, and am ready for a long flight. 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.

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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

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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.

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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 in...fly 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.

B

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June 15th, 2012: Relaxing the controls

, June 15th, 2012

Straight out to Petaluma today, out, up and over the Petaluma Gap, along the hills on the east side at 1700 feet it was clear and beautiful. Before reaching the Petaluma Gap I had tuned the radio into Petaluma weather where I discovered there was a 6 knot crosswind, ok, well, that should make it interesting. I'm comfortable flying into and around the Petaluma airport at this point. I have all my visual references and the timing of the pattern down, so it was easy to integrate the radio calls back into the lesson, starting with the first call, that I was setting up for a 45 degree entry into the right downwind pattern for runway 29.

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June 14th, 2012: Gaining confidence, another “Aha” moment

, June 14th, 2012

So I made good on my promise, whatever I was doing yesterday wasn't coming along for the ride today, that included recording the GPS tracking, not that I even was consciously aware of it once we were underway, but I wasn't taking any chances.

When I arrived at Skypark today there was a flurry of activity out back, so I rounded the corner to see what was going on. There on the bench was some healthy video equipment, my instructor and a few other folks from the airport all looking attentively at some video footage they had just captured of Travis, my instructor, doing intentional spins in the Citabria. It was cool and I wasn't the only one who thought so. The pilot and the videographer went up in their Cessna 172 and captured some amazing footage of Travis flipping the Citabria upside down and spinning out towards the ground not just once, but twice. The video, I'm sure, is going to be used to promote his new "Spin Class"...and we're not talking stationary bikes at the gym here, we're talking planes in the most perilous of all situations...spinning out of control, straight towards the ground. Wow...to have such confidence, that's amazing. I've told him before, that's what I'm looking for, to know that whatever happens up there I've been trained to deal with it and not fear it. Maybe next week though, today I'm going to try to get the wheels on the ground with the plane in the upright position.

After watching the video a few times over we all agreed it was impressive, but now it was time for the real work to begin, getting me closer to my solo. Here's the thing about that soloing part, no matter how much you want to do it, no matter how well you take off and fly, if you can't land the plane, it's an issue. Read More >>

June 13th, 2012. Hmm…wasn’t it just yesterday?

, June 13th, 2012

Just when you think you've got it all figured out, everything changes.

What is it about this flying thing? 11 perfectly reasonable landings one day, and then 48 hours later...

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