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My Flight Training Story

My Flight Training Story by Guest Blogger, David Gianna

Greetings - I am high-time student working towards a private pilot license. Like many people, I have had to endure many obstacles and have had to postpone or delay my training numerous times. Mostly I have trained in Cessna 172 aircraft, spent some time in Piper Cherokee and Archer aircraft, and even flew Schweizer sailplanes as part of my primary training. 

My obstacles were many: Lots of travel time for work, building a new home, adoption of children, financial issues, working abroad, weather, even a plane incident that destroyed my primary trainer. Presently, I fly with a flying club based in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Here is my story.

I completed my first solo in Fall of 2010, after studying on and off for years, and even spending time in gliders at a soaring club. I always expected I would fly solo in a glider - but it turned out that I first flew solo in a good-old Cessna 172. Not that there is anything wrong with the other aircraft - however, years of halting and restarting my training and moving around to different training platforms compounded my challenges to achieving solo status. Though it was good to get a perspective for flying different kinds of aircraft - high-wing vs. low-wing, powered vs. non-powered, if I had it all to do again, and my recommendation to anyone else is to find the ONE platform that works best and master it first. Only after earning your ticket should you spend significant time in another type or category of aircraft. If you have to suspend your training, always return to the same type you previously trained in. It saves MANY hours, although having the "holistic" experience may offer its benefits in the long run.

When I completed my solo, I was wearing the t-shirt given to me by the AOPA’s MyFlightTraining program (www.myft.org), meant to encourage student retention in flight training. The shirt came in handy, as it featured dotted "cut" lines on the tail of the shirt, and my instructor cheerfully cut off the tail (following the orange lines!) and it has since been framed in a case with a model of a 172.

Well, it was winter in the Northeast, and although I managed to schedule some longer flights with my instructor and then some solo flying, after January 1st, 2011 I did little flying.

At first it was that the weather did not cooperate. After all, it was winter in the Northeast and challenges like snow, icing, low ceilings accompanied by wind howling over terrain tend to be counter-indicative of flight training.

During the same winter of 2011, I lost my job and encountered financial issues. Recovery was quick, but the job I had found was in Singapore. This definitely put a hiatus to my flight-training. Not that flight-training was non-existent in Singapore - but hard to accomplish. I could write a book about user fees and their consequences after looking into flight training in Singapore. In a nutshell, every flight is treated like a commercial flight, you pay user fees, and it is very expensive. Then again, everything is expensive in Singapore. Clearly, not every nation offers the freedom and accessibility of flight as we enjoy here in the states!

Finally in June 2011 I returned stateside.

I re-learned how to land my trusty Cessna 172M and proceeded with a dual cross country trip. That trip turned out to be the last x-c trip and the last successful landing for that aircraft - two days later there was an accident and the airplane was totaled. I was very upset, and even cried, but two weeks later I was flying in a Piper Archer. Soon after, I was doing air work in the Archer, more dual x-c work, and preparing to solo.

 I found the transition from a high-wing Cessna 172 to a low-wing Piper Archer to be challenging, and with money tight, I decided to look for something else.

Eventually, I joined a flight club. I belong to Grasshoppers Flying Club in Poughkeepsie, and I fly out of KPOU. I was lucky to find a flight club that trains student pilots. I also belong to the Poughkeepsie Pilots Association, and once served as a board member.

 I finally re-soloed again on August 30, 2012.  I was delighted!!

Since then, I've been flying for about ten hours - at first just around a 25 mile radius, and later during solo x-c work. I have also begun an introduction to night flying, and hope to brush up my air work to prepare for the private pilot check ride. Question is: Can I realistically complete it by year's end?? That has been my question for the longest time - and I have since decided that like the rest of my training, I will move to the next level when I am ready. I take each step and each mission with careful consideration, and put the emphasis on quality - not on quantity of hours or on meeting an arbitrary deadline. This has proven to be effective for me - it removes "pressure" to achieve the next level, it affords me the opportunity to be flexible, and it allows me to begin to think of my checkride and the day I finally "earn my ticket." 

Why I choose to train with a flying club.

Belonging to a flight club, and completing my primary training as a club member has worked well for me, and has certain advantages. It gave me the opportunity to do some dual cross country work (the type that I probably would miss the opportunity at a formal flight school). One day this past summer, the Cessna Pilot's Society was hosting their annual meeting at our airport (Poughkeepsie). They organized a "fly out" to Montauk, New York.

I flew over water to the event at Montauk Point, New York State's eastern-most airport (MTP). It was a beautiful beach-side landing. It was quite the thrill, and reminded me of landing in the Caribbean!

Later that summer, I flew on another dual x-c trip to Cape May, NJ. I had the company of my 11-year son in the backseat, and we met up with family in Cape May to enjoy a weekend on the Jersey Shore and a half-marathon race. (There is a trend here - cross-country flying to beach destinations - I wonder where the next "exotic" destination will be??) The Cape May trip took me through Class-B airspace in the New York City area, and cruising at 6,500 feet; I was impressed the by the sight of large commercial airliners passing BELOW me!!

 We have had a lot of interesting aviation experiences here at Poughkeepsie. From the unfortunate crash in June 2011, to a dramatic engine-out landing in a Piper Arrow on the way back from an Angel Flight in Martha's Vineyard (which resulted in no damage, no injuries!), to our first airport open-house in 2012, to hosting the annual convention of the Cessna Pilot's Society.

Words of wisdom.

I think I can honestly say that I have had virtually every obstacle in my training - financial, family, work/travel, destruction of aircraft...

... yet somehow I keep trying.

I am a high time student with about 145 hours (including solo and x-c time, and 19 hours in a glider), but I hope to complete my check ride early in 2013, or even possibly in late December 2012. But more importantly, I aim to complete my check-ride when I am READY...

...and then, perhaps I will move onto my glider rating, earn an instrument (IFR) rating, and finally master the elusive art of driving a low-wing aircraft.

One day, I hope to fly search-and-rescue missions for CAP, and participate in the Pilots-n-Paws, PALS, and Angel Flight programs. Maybe one day I will even be an instructor? One day, one day...

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About David Gianna
David works in the field of Information Security. He is a Senior Manager at Protiviti. David is also an adjunct professor and teaches information security in the online Graduate Cyber Security program at University of Maryland University College. David is married and has a son and a daughter, is a Senior Member of Civil Air Patrol, serves as Avionics Officer on the board of the Grasshopper Flying Club in Poughkeepsie, NY, and has been trying to earn his private pilot license in both powered aircraft and in sailplanes (gliders). David holds an MBA and an MS in Computer Science from Marist College, and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology. David was born in New York City and currently lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York State.

46 Responses to “My Flight Training Story”

  1. David, great to read your story. Although I'm sure flying out east can be a little on the chilly side this time of year, you are fortunate to be learning in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I live on the west coast but travel to the east coast every summer and have for 25 years, but only this summer, did I discover how truly beautiful that area is. Seeing the east end from the sky is simply incredible. I can't wait to come back there and fly again next summer. As you are aware Montauk is a beautiful private airport at the northernmost tip of the shore, and unfortunately there has been a lot of controversy over it perhaps shutting down. I'm really hoping that doesn't happen because it really is an incredible spot to land. If you get a chance, fly out to Fisher's Island for some landings, it's spectacular fun.

    Looking forward to reading more.

  2. FYI, I thought this was posted on LGF, but apparently not...I'll have to look into that. :)

    http://whizbomb.com/flying-journal.html?bpid=11901

  3. your blog is beautiful. I like it.
    All In One BD

  4. Blaine - thanks for the note about Fisher's Island. Will definitely check it out one day soon. Nazmul - thanks for your note.

    By the way, I am fortunate enough to belong to one of the few clubs that let students join and has club instructors. Most clubs will not admit students.

  5. Hi,
    I am doing my research and planning to learn flying. I had a question: Once you get your Private Pilot Certification, what are the requirements to maintain it?

    Do you need to fly x hrs per year or give annual exams? How long is the certification valid?

    Thanks

  6. Myrtle Beach Flying Club in Myrtle Beach SC offers training from primary through instruments/commercial.

  7. Got my PPL certificate (rotor) at around 110 hours. It took that long because I did a lot of fun sightseeing, and I had to change instructors and airports. I trained at different locations because the operators dropped insurance coverage of the aircraft, and they restricted solo flight to the FAA minimums even after being certified (which was probably because their machines weren't insured).

    I found an operator at Long Beach Airport that has an insured heli, and I am allowed to fly solo when and where I want to. Now I self-limit to local airports where I have a lot of experience, because flying a small chopper is very challenging. I'm increasing my margin of safety, and expect around June will be able to take up passengers! Just keep moving forward and be patient, and someday you'll be able to do every type of flight you want to.

  8. Daryl Blankenstein Says:
    December 28th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    David,

    When I was reading your story I thought you where talking about me and my Flight Training experience that included a SLSA that was lost and the UPS and Downs that I have had.. LOTS of turbulence but I still have not given up ! I live in the Midwest and have never been much of a WINTER flyer because of the associated risks of winter flying. About a year ago I had taken my SLSA Remos GX on my cross country flight and that was the last box to check before my Sport Pilot Checkride. Four days after my cross country is when we lost the Remos and a Friend. So I searched for a SLSA for about a year and gave up when my written expired. Then I decided to go the Private Pilot tract and now have completed my night training. Still I have struggles balancing everything... Hopefully by the Spring of 2013 I will have completed everything. GOOD Luck !

  9. Chris Styers Says:
    December 31st, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Dave, great story. We are very similar in our pursuit of the elusive private ticket. I have over 120 hours and have experienced the same obstacles as you. I'm hoping to start up again soon and set the goal of February to take the checkride.

    My long term goal is to fly for CAP and the Angel flights. I wish you all of the best in your quest.

    Chris Styers

  10. I think that there are many of us that are out there,high time students trying to overcome the financial and time requirements needed to obtain our private licence,with determination we will get there.

  11. Well, here is a follow-up.
    I've been doing some solo cross-country work, and started to work on night flight with my instructor.

    Night Flight: As far as "night flight" goes, I have completed the minimum number of night landings (10), but still fall short about an hour (3 hour minimum) and still have the 100nm night cross-country trip. With completion of that trip, I will have met all the minimum for night flight, per the standards. HOWEVER, my instructor recommends exceeding the minimum in all categories, since apparently some examiners look askance on "bare minimums." So when I am done, I will probably have more like 12-15 night landings and about 15 hours of night flying.

    Solo work: Almost done. I have about one to 1-1/2 hours left of solo x-c work, and still need to do my "three point" solo x-c. This is where you make at least two landings at two other airports for a total of 150nm minimum. This trip, when completed will likely conclude my solo x-c work, but I am still free to make other solo x-c trips... and rise above the minimum.

    OTHER WORK: I still need about an hour of "hood work" and occasionally need to do dual work with Instructor just to maintain confidence. I am not ashamed to say that I found myself unexpectedly confronted with gusty winds, turbulence, AND birds during a landing in November that resulted in a go-around that spooked me. It took a couple flights for me to feel comfortable flying solo again.
    Aside from this, there is other "tune up" work you need to do - I had a great session reviewing steep turns. Another session where some unexpected breeziness gave me a good review of cross-wind landing. All with an instructor.
    Sometimes, whether you are a student flying solo, or whether you are a rated pilot, you can grow complacent or develop bad habits. It helps to work with an instructor once in a while and maintain your skills and proficiency.

  12. Winter challenge:
    I have discovered Winter flying. Flying in the Winter can require additional pre-flight and pre-heating. This adds some prep time prior to flight, and can cut into your overall flight time. Aside from this, Winter Wx can render flight absolutely impossible. Truly, all four seasons are guilty of dishing up nasty weather that contraindicates flight, but Winter with her snowfalls, frost, and ice can leave lasting effects long after the Winter storm has passed.
    As a result, I have found that my flight time in December has fallen WAY off. It is now beginning to pick up again in January. But only because Winter has granted us a brief reprieve, and we have a pretty active community at the airfield that keeps things clear - from fellow club members, members of the pilot association, and Line Service staff.
    Wx forecast can also be a drag - sometimes it seems you have the "perfect" flying weather forecast (whatever that means?) and what you actually get is weather that falls way below minimums, or perhaps something too tricky to handle. Pass. And on other days, the forecast is (absolutely nasty) on the day you want to fly - and of course it turns out to be perfect weather just as you are engaged in something other than flying. ;)
    If you mention this to any of the pilots, they will all tell you the same thing. That's flying. :)

  13. Hi, finished night training this week. At least I finished the basics for the FAA practical exam.
    [Recap: FAA requires a minimum of 3 hours of night flight, 10 full-stop landings, and one night x-c trip of 100 miles total]. Personally, I now over 4 hours of night flight, 12 landings, and x-c over 176 miles.
    Yes, this exceeds the minimum.
    My Instructor insists on exceeding the minimum in all areas prior to going for a Check Ride. Apparently it is not looked upon well by the Examiner.
    So I will expect to have at least 15 hours of night flight before I test in the Check Ride.

    My thoughts:
    1) Exceeding minimum requirements is a good thing
    2) I have exceeded minimums for night flight requirements
    3) I don't want to do any more night flying prior to earning my PPL.
    4) I can see great benefit to doing more night flying prior to earning my PPL.
    5) My exact words were,
    a) First 3 landings: "Wow, this is cool! Can't wait to get to 10!"
    b) Next 7 landings: "Not sure about this night thing. Two more?"
    c) Last 2 landings: "OK, I'm DONE. Next time I fly at night, someone better serve me a drink, give me a bag of peanuts, before I roll over and take a nap"
    6) My Instructor will say "We still gotta do a couple more hours and another 3 or 4 landings at night"
    7) Since the Examiner will not see your night performance, let the Logbook show that I demonstrated it to the Instructor who signed me off for the test...!

    OK, now on to finish up my solo and cross-country work!!

  14. The commercial licence allows you to work as a professional pilot and be remunerated for flying. As part of the commercial licence you will gain an instrument rating allowing you to operate under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules)in IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions). With a commercial licence you will be eligible for employment with any commercial operation such as charter flying, contract flying, corporate flying, survey flying, agricultural flying, flight instruction and airline flying.

  15. Winter flying:
    Requires lots of patience. Or a trip to Florida?
    Sometimes wind and participation do not cooperate. At least not on days when you want to fly.
    Patiently waiting... need to finish up solo x-c work..!

  16. Well, I am getting SOME flying done. Usually it seems to be "dual" flight these days - if I don't fly in a while, I like to have a refresher and go out with an instructor.
    So this means local flying, air work, and pattern work. No x-c time.
    No solo time either - I would like to fly solo, but I always get faced with VFR, IFR, snow, rain, and scheduling conflicts.
    What to do to stay positive?
    Study for written!
    At least I can get that one out of the way, then resume flying when able.

    March ticket: Still a possibility!

  17. Tomas A. Nunez Jr Says:
    February 14th, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    David Gianna, I don't know how many hours I have exactly because the school keeps the log book, and I haven't counted them really. I know I am a high time student who ran into your comments precisely because I searched to see if there were others in a similar position. I have done four pattern soloes and a practice area (about 25nm solo), and while these were exciting, I feel for some reason that my private ticket is so far away. My instructor tells me that I will make it, but it's just that I feel that with the many hours I have; likely well over a hundred, I should have my ticket already. Thank you because I now feel that I am not alone. I still have the desire, although at times I feel slightly discouraged that I have not become private pilot licensed yet. I did well on my written, and have begun the dual cross country stage, but struggling with diversions. Hang in there, and any thoughts or comments will be appreciated. Good luck to you and to all who are pursuing the dream toward our wings.

  18. Tomas, you hit the nail right on the head. It is actually closer than you think. Like so many things, the last steps take the longest. (At least that's what I'm learning - for others, this may vary).

    This past week, I was finally able to go out and do pattern work. I felt that I don't do enough pattern work - not a x-c trip, but just fly the pattern. It was a very crisp Winter morning, and I probably spent more time preheating than I did actually flying. I was blessed with one of those days with absolutely no crosswind component, but a few "lumps" in the pattern. Nothing big. Very smooth, soft landings (and one slightly firm landing when I kept up a little extra speed and bled it off in the flare... that one doesn't count!)
    BUT - the important thing is that I flew solo again and got more landings under my belt.
    I even had the field to myself - absolutely no one in the pattern except the controller and myself. To appreciate this, you have to see my home field on a busy day. You could have a dozen aircraft in the airspace, some in the pattern, some on the ground, some inbound, some departing. Helicopters, business jets, singles, twins, trainers, light sports. Mixed traffic.
    Since this happens about once or twice a year -- after that day, it is back to "normal" traffic and normal winds. :)

    Hang in there and see you at the finish line soon!

    PS: You have your written done. I still need this, and plan to get signed off on this soon. So congratulations on passing and on doing well!

  19. You will get this, don't worry! Earning your wings is worth every penny, and all of those frustrations. It took me over a year because of family and work obligations, but it happened. I then went on to get my instrument, and am now working on my commercial and CFI as well. Just keep plugging away-it will happen! Keep us posted!

  20. Flying again... but I have come to the end of another 90-day endorsement. Hope to checkout again tomorrow....

  21. Hello again. It is Wednesday. My "90-day sticker" expired on Monday. Unable to get checked out again on Tuesday due to IFR Wx. Thursday is my next opportunity, and I had to cancel due to high winds. Next opportunity? Sunday, St Patrick's Day.
    For now, I am unable to fly solo until I get signed off again. Crossing fingers and hoping that any "bad habits" won't keep me from being solo again...

  22. HI! Got a new solo sticker today. I even managed to earn it with a cross-wind takeoff, cross-wind landing, and a few extras thrown in, such an early turn in the pattern to accommodate a departing jet, the airport turned around in the middle of my pattern (so that I had to change pattern for the cross-wind runway), and some light turbulence. And after all this, I got my sticker and I am good for another 90 days!

  23. And I lowered my minimums too! But I still need to take the written exam...

  24. Studying for written exam. Online.

    Also starting to think of my next cross country trip. I need to the "three stop" cross country trip. But first I would like to plan and do a "point A to point B" cross country trip.

  25. Dave Gianna Says:
    March 30th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Well, two solo flights since the last solo sticker. I like to say its a "green" sticker, since I got it on St Patricks Day.
    Today's flight saw me flying on the eve of Easter. And I saw the Easter Bunny hopping into a helicopter. Later, the helicopter flew over my ramp as I pre-flighted. Full costume, left seat. Not quick enough with my camera.
    (Someone's either entertaining the kids today, or that bump I took on the flap was a bigger smack to the head than I thought!)
    The last solo flight saw me doing solo pattern work at Dutchess County.
    Today I was out again - and with give planes in the pattern, I chose to head to a practice area and do some air work. Sometimes it's just great to fly around.
    I came back to find only a single 152 in the pattern, but the arrival required a turn to the VOR for spacing. Yes, it's nice to have a towered airport!
    I stuck around and did some pattern work in lumpy bumpy air. It's just that time of year, and that's just Mother Nature. As usual, whenever I do pattern work (at least these days) the wind gradually picks up, a crosswind develops, and I end up with a slight tail wind.
    That trio is usually my cue to end pattern work.
    :)

    And with that, I close out my March flying for the year.

    See you in April!

  26. What do you do when you can't get airborne when wx is below your personal minimums for solo flight, or if challenging conditions persist?
    Connect with your Instructor and do some work - you might even move forward with something. Possibly even lower your minimums.
    In my case - got to review x-wind landing and master them - hopefully retain them and be (more) ready for the checkride...!

  27. Once again, planning for weekend flying. So far, Saturday got scrubbed (single destination x-c flight). What's next? Sunday: Was going to be a 3-point x-c flight. This is basically all I need to finish all basic requirements of the PPL: the 150km 3-stop flight. I have more than enough solo hours.
    Even after this, I still want to do some solo crosswork and other solo flight (just for the fun of flying?) and to work on various maneuvers for practice.

    After this: An hour of hoodwork - still needed. It may get combined with another night flight or two (completed all requirements for night flight, but need to do at least one more, since the last one was less than ideal).
    And when THAT is done... three hours of dual instruction as checkride prep.
    And if I start messing up - will need more - so I am trying to stay in the game by staying airborne...

    ... more to come!

  28. Today (Sunday, April 21st...):
    Attempted to complete the 3-stop, 150-nm solo x-c trip. I made the first leg. Halfway through the second leg, I terminated the trip and returned home. The Wx turned and was very different than forecast, and conditions at the second stop fell below minimums.

    Interesting: The FAA standard is for a x-c trip at least 150 nautical miles, and at least three full stops. At least one segment must be 50 nautical miles.
    As planned, I had four segments:
    Segment 1: 40 miles
    Segment 2: 55 miles
    Segment 3: 44 miles
    Segment 4: 12 miles

    This meets all requirements - if completed.
    See the problem?
    I completed the first segment, but it is 40 miles. It couldn't even be used to salvage the trip as a single stop x-c trip. It is less than 50 miles.

    So I chalk the experience up to a good exercise in decision-making, and more solo flight time.

    Will try this again next opportunity, preferably starting out with a 50+ mile leg so at least it will count as a x-c trip!

  29. LONG RIDE:
    I went out and tried it again - the long, 150nm solo cross country. It was exactly 151nm long, and included four stops.
    The regulation says "Minimum of 150nm with at least 3 stops of which one leg is at least 50nm."
    So I took of from my home airport (KPOU) in Duthchess County (in New York) and flew to the non-towered airport, Columbia County (1B1). 1B1 is 40nm north of KPOU in New York state. Made one landing, taxied back and took off to the South East for Waterbury-Oxford (KOXC), a towered airport in central Connecticut. KOXC is 55nm south-east of 1B1 (and here is the main leg of the trip!)
    Down here, it was choppy and turbulent, and I flew the pattern and landed. This was also the first place where I shut down on the ramp and stopped to organize for the rest of my trip.
    Took off again with a quick run-up, and departed due West for Newburgh-Stewart (KSWF) a field in New York with a very long runway (12,871 feet) that is used by military and commercial flights. This leg is 41 miles, and was the first leg with a significant wind correction. It was also a bit choppy at times, but somehow this was manageable.
    At this point, I was running almost a half hour late.
    20 miles east of the field (how could you MISS such a long runway on such a clear day??) I eyed both KSWF and my home field of KPOU a few miles away. If I turned north, I could enter the pattern at POU and bring the plane back on time for the next member. It would "blow" the long cross-country ride. But this time, I chose to press on, and flew straight in for KSWF.
    Handed off from New York Approach, which was working a CRJ into SWF, my concern was about timing at the airport. As it turned out, the CRJ was "well ahead" of me, and I never saw it.
    Flew straight-in, kept speed up amidst good-sized bumps (tower advised "keep your speed up").
    The tower also assumed I was doing an ILS practice approach, and I advised this was just a solo cross-country. No worries.
    I landed short, just past the long threshold, perfect landing. Landing short on a long runway means a long taxi - and even longer since the tower wanted me to clear some trucks on the main taxiway. An eternity later, I landed and taxied back for takeoff.

    Takeoff: Very short, climbed with a north turnout from Rwy 27. Keep in mind that my next leg was to be a 12nm run to get the plane back home. (Literally, just across the street!)
    TPA at KSWF is 1500, so I chose to wait until 1200 MSL before turning out. At that point, I still had about 6000 feet of runway left!
    I followed with a turn to the east, basically flying a right downwind, and climbed to 2500 feet for the short ride to KPOU.
    At KPOU, entered left downwind for Rwy 24 at pattern altitude (TPA is 1200 feet at POU) and did the final full-stop landing of the day. And it was a lousy landing... but I did complete four full stops and 151nm.
    And now....

  30. It is May 2013. Here is how the month went: Finished the "big" solo multi-stop flight. Did some more dual and solo flights to work on maneuvers. Got sign-off to take the written test. Again. I had passed it a couple years ago, and let it lapse when I thought for sure I was going to earn my Private Pilot License in a glider. Now that I'm back to powered-flight, must take it again.
    Big challenge: Reviewing maneuvers, being able to hold altitude in steep turns, proficient at slow flight, running through all the stall series (I found out that NOBODY likes doing stalls - including me). A bit more practice with night flight, hoodwork, and finally something called (gulp) unusual attitude recovery. And THEN it is safe to say that I can take my check ride. Maybe...

  31. Dual Time today:
    I had requested "actual grass landing" to address one of the items on my training card: soft/short field landings. Happily, there is a short grass strip on my home field - Rwy 25 at KPOU, which is a 1500-ft grass strip. But before this, off to the practice area to review slow flight (since short/soft field landing requires good control of speed - more so than other landings, as it were). Finishing this work, and impressed with how well I hold altitude AND can quickly get to requested speeds without "hunting" and can hold them (OK, this used to be a challenge), I set of for KPOU for my grass landing.
    Instructor asked "where is the nearest airport?" I quickly pointed out the one that was four miles away. We got a little closer, and I remarked "there it is. We could easily make it there if the engine quit."
    With that, the instructor reached over and the engine DID quit - "Show me" he said, his hand guarding the throttle, now at idle. I responded by trimming for best glide, then turning toward a straight-in approach to the airport. This is a non-towered airport, so my "declare emergency" step was an actual one - announced to pattern that we are setting up a simulated engine-out landing and going straight in. (And I quickly scanned the pattern for traffic, including NORDO traffic - saw none).
    I glided about 2.5 miles, found I was high and the nose eager to dip, so I added one notch of flaps, promising that this would be the last one. I was still high, so I slipped in. I made it to the threshold, slightly fast, and was able to bleed off the excess speed and make a nice landing on the hard runway. Success!!
    Pulling off, I announced that the aircraft had cleared the runway, and was "now back in service."

    After this, departure from the non-controlled field, flight over to the tower-controlled KPOU, and cleared for our grass strip. What a trip this was, I was nearly short just barely making out the "threshold" line painted across the grass. This field seemed quite smooth compared to the field where I used to land gliders (read: skid has no cushioning, and it finds each and every rock and hole in the grass - bang, bang, ba-ba-bang!)
    Much smoother, but boy is the braking action very different from landing on a paved runway.

    And that was the big news of the day: First actual simulated engine-out landing, and first-ever grass landing in a powered plane!

  32. Now that I got the sign-off for the Private Pilot Written Exam, I did two things today: 1) Scheduled the exam (around work/travel constraints), and 2) Completed the CAP's Aerospace Education program and got the Chuck Yeager Award.
    I figured that if I was studying for the Written exam, and had some of this knowledge fresh in mind, it would be a good time to get the Chuck Yeager Award done.

    Good timing!

  33. I passed the written exam.

  34. I passed both exams - I passed the PPL Written Exam, and got the Chuck Yeager Award. Was able to dove tail the two. Not sure what kind of "award" I get at the CAP, probably just the certificate I printed and a ribbon to wear on uniform. Some things are just about showing commitment, I guess.

  35. Renewed solo ticket today (June 22nd). My last sticker ran out on June 15th (Yes, that was the one from St Patrick's Day, March 17th). It was not the most productive dual session, but at least I got airborne after almost two weeks. Dead battery in the trainer, cancellation due to wx, another cancellation due to family, and finally a trip to Canada to work for two weeks. (Uggh!)
    Well, I am flying again and I have a new 90-day solo sticker.
    My new minimums? "VFR Day."
    No ceilings, no winds, no crosswinds.
    Time to "think like a PIC" and make good go/no-go decisions for flight.

    I've been digesting this thought - I finally concluded that if others have trust in me, I can have trust in myself to not let down their trust, and therefore trust myself and my decisions.

    I would really like to earn my signoff, take the oral and checkride, and earn my ticket in the next 30 days.
    TIME TO DO IT!!

  36. Back in the ... foggles.
    Did hoodwork. This went well, but somehow not as well as in the past. No major issues, but just not as smooth. Perhaps is is being a tad out or practice. After all, IFR proficiency goes down quite a ways when one does not fly IFR often - doesn't it?
    Same here.
    Or perhaps I spent a whole session devoted to it. Yes, that might explain it.
    Different altitudes, different speeds, different turns, directions, etc.
    What else?
    For the first time ever, there was a feeling of "claustrophobic" feeling - I felt almost trapped by the foggles. I had to focus on something hard to shake it off.
    On top of this, we added some unusual attitude training. What an eye opener. Literally.

    What's next?
    Be back soon!

  37. Hi haven't posted in a while (tap tap, is this thing on?) - been flying around solo, practicing different things on my "mission card." I think I perfected steep turns, roll out of each one with "thump" of my wake to let me know I didn't gain or lose any altitude.

    I set a tentative date with an Examiner, who put me in the schedule is lieu of getting the signoff from my Instructor. I allowed a month to "get ready" which I think is adequate time. My wife won't let me "wuss out" and miss the date, so I really need to buckle down and work on it, and "do what ever you need to do to get ready (to take the test)." And that is what she said.

    Instructor seems to be pushing me out of the nest a bit - with an emphasis on "thinking like a PIC" and working on things solo, not taking more dual instruction to work on things.

    The format is: Go fly solo, get with Instructor, show what you have, work more, eventually get ready for check ride.

    And so it goes...

  38. More practice flying today... nice weather, was 60-degF at 4500 ft, much less humidity so even the 90-degF temperature was not uncomfortable.
    More work, more hours... and as a bonus got offered a ride in an open cockpit Waco biplane. Initially, I accepted (could a "tail wheel endorsement" be in my future? Sounds like a lot of work). However my wife REALLY needed me home, so I had to take a rain check.
    (And now back to flying a 172 and passing the check ride...)

  39. Checkride:
    Still trying to find time to adequately prepare for the Oral Exam.
    Right now, in the "three hours of checkride prep time" which implies that it is all about tuning up. So far, going very well. However, I am paranoid about messing up something and having to do "additional work" to get ready. Remember, the Instructor will only sign you off when you are ready for the exam, not when you push for it. So I'm not sure if I am 99% there, 90% there, or shocked to find that I'm only 75% there. But it sounds close.

    My solution was to set a hard date - I found an Examiner who would put me in as a tentative.
    However, as the date got closer I found that I had not done as much flying as I had anticipated, and was looking at really "cramming in" for the final week prior to the exam.
    So I called it off.
    We left off at "Call me when you're ready."

    More and more, this is about me taking responsibility for making it happen. And that's the way a PIC is expected to behave - responsible for the flight, safe operations, and completion of this mission.

    I no longer have a "hard date" but I am giving myself a couple of weeks...

  40. Test Day - Scheduled Says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Hi, I am scheduled to take my check ride.

    If you know the New York area, you may appreciate this.
    I really wanted to use one of my old Soaring instructors as DPE. And he was willing to put me on his calendar tentatively. As I said - "if you know the area" - you would appreciate that he tests out of White Plains (Westchester County airport). KHPN sits below Class-B, has lots of scheduled commercial traffic, lots of private jets, lots of turbine twins, single engine planes, the CAP, helicopters - sometimes literally all mixed together in the same pattern!
    The consensus: Unless you trained at HPN, don't go there to take your check ride. Too much going on!

    I got in contact with different Examiners. One would have me go up to Columbia County. This is an easy to find space that is not too busy, has a decent runway, and NO TERRAIN. And most people in my region go there, and check out there.
    Not me.

    Scheduling didn't work, and I opted to go with a different Examiner. He could test literally everywhere in the state of New York, just not in my County. [Honestly, I never did find anyone who would do a checkride in my county?!?]
    This was not a problem, as there are two airports within easy reach.
    One of them is Ellenville (N89) and Wurtsboro (N82).
    Both have glider traffic, N82 being the more extensive of the two.
    The Examiner seemed to prefer Ellenville - nice runway, good facility to hold the Oral Exam, and not too much traffic.
    However, after discussing pattern procedures, including the fact that Ellenville lies next to a large ridge AND has noise abatement procedures I am unfamiliar with (don't overfly the hospital. Or the school. Or the prison...) I decided it was probably too complicated. A quick look at it from a passing CR-J on a recent trip showed that opposite the ridge, were prominently featured (rolling hills) right beneath my downwind. I could just picture myself in early afternoon, with thermals, bouncing all over the place...
    I moved on to Wurtsboro (N82) on a very calm day. The field was hiding behind a ridge. A very high ridge that is known to Soaring pilots for ridge running. Ay caramba! The place is in a valley. The pattern is tight, you fly a bit slower than usual, cannot extend downwind due to terrain, and you have a swamp on Final. After all this you are rewarded with a narrow, but long runway. :)

    So of course, this is where I am going to test next week!!

  41. Test Day - Scheduled Says:
    September 24th, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Hello again - I moved the test to Ellenville (N89). Wurtsboro is nice (N82) but the tight pattern in a valley sort of challenges me. It shouldn't but somehow I have a real (psychological aversion?) to flying inside a box. So Ellenville it is... and it will happen TOMORROW.
    If I survive the encounter in the mountains with the airport, the DPE and the PTS, I will let everyone know how it went..!

  42. Test Day - Scheduled Says:
    October 10th, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    So what happened?
    Early October came and I - busted!
    On the cross-country!!
    Let me explain something about the departure airport - has terrain. Let me explain something about expectations for the cross-country trip - straight-line, airport center to airport center.
    My strategy? Depart from the pattern, clean the terrain, intercept the course line, and proceed on course. This caused an immediate bust, as the Examiner's expectation was for me to gain altitude, clear terrain, and circle over the center of the airport, and pick up the heading from there.

    The argument was that if we did it my way, it is "pilotage" and not "dead reckoning."

    Less than a week later, another student did the same thing -- and it was OK. Same flying club, same CFI, same Examiner, and same airport (and same destination!)
    The difference is that the other student talked through what he was doing - and explained it well. This set and managed expectations. In a manner that I did not, to alliterate.
    In MY case, I chose to continue. I performed everything to the PTS - beginning with hoodwork (on the number at all times!), then stall series, then steep turns, slows flight (at 45mph indicated), emergency descent, lost procedures, other maneuvers, and culminating in a successful engine out landing back at the departure field.
    (I also busted two other things: my "soft field" landing was definitely not soft and was a disappointment following my silky-soft "normal" landing. Oh, and I busted on a pattern entry.

    So now I have a short punch list of three items:
    1) Re-do the cross country work, with the diversion exercise
    2) Demonstrate my soft-field landing
    3) Demonstrate proper and safe pattern entry

    I have been out with my CFI two times since then. Last week, reviewed all landings. At one point, I was setting up for a short-field landing at a my home (towered) airport and the controller requested a short approach to help with spacing. So I performed the short approach, combined with a soft field landing that also happened to be a SHORT landing. (3-in-1!)

    Today we went out to the field, and departed on a cross-country to the departure field -- we set out for a different x-c destination.
    This time I used a different strategy:
    I stayed in the pattern, rather than trying to depart straight out. By the time I came around to the downwind, I had sufficient altitude to clear terrain. Alas, I was about a 1000-ft over the pattern altitude. I simply waited until I was abeam the center of the field, then turned to my heading. I flew a straight line, and came directly to my first check point.

    Well, that's what I did - I busted.
    But this is how I responded.

    Now to retake that test. I am scheduled to retest in a week. It would be sooner, but the upcoming weekend has lousy weather, and I have to be at a business meeting out of town early in the week. This relegates me to one more practice flight, and a new test date at the end of the week.

  43. One hurdle after another.
    First a bright spot: Another student from the club took his checkride and earned his ticket. Same Instructor, same Examiner, same airport, same cross country trip.
    He passed!
    Well, he passed the second time around.
    But he busted in a different area than I did. In his case, he handled the cross country the same exact way that I did - and it was OK.
    We surmised that he managed to "talk through" what he was doing, whereas I did not. I am just not accustomed to that.

    So in his case, he went back and redid what he missed, successfully passed what he missed the first time.
    Simple?

    Not quite as simple for me.
    My retest is difficult to schedule.
    I finally scheduled for a Friday morning.
    The wind was forecast to be gusting to 22knots.
    I cancelled.

    I rescheduled for the following monday morning.
    Weather was good.

    Two things went wrong, I ended up scrubbing the flight and canceling the test.
    First: It was frost. I had to defrost my right wing and my empannage.
    Sure there's a joke in there somewhere, but I'm still in kind of a mood over it.
    This was no big issue, I called the Examiner and advised that I was delayed half an hour.
    But when I finally completed my pre-flight, something else went wrong: I could not get ATIS. On either radio. I couldn't get any audio from anything. Nothing!
    I got intermittent w

  44. But when I finally completed my pre-flight, something else went wrong: I could not get ATIS. On either radio. I couldn't get any audio from anything. Nothing!
    I got some occasional words.

    I taxied back to my spot and shut down.

    I called the Examiner, and informed him of the scrub.
    He was not happy.
    He had to drive an hour to get to the airport.
    I could not have found about this until after I pre-flighted.
    (After an ice delay, to alliterate)

    So now I feel as if I have to go back with my tail between my legs and reschedule with this guy, even though this was a circumstance beyond my control.

    All I can say is that another member of the club looked into it, and I am told that the issue has been addressed.

    My real anxiety is the x-c trip that I busted. I am sure I can set out in the right direction. But what if I go off course? (Don't)
    What if I fail to perform on the diversion exercise and bust it? (Yes, I can make a difference. Just find your approximate position, calculate direction and approximate transit time to the diversion airport).

    And now I have the added worry - what if he was really annoyed with the wasted hours, and gets retaliatory and finds something else to bust? (Starting over with some other Examiner will mean repeating the entire Oral exam, and every one of the maneuvers in the PTS. All are new points of potential failure as well as opportunities to shine).

    So I guess all I can do is reschedule and hope for the best.

  45. Test Day - Scheduled Says:
    October 26th, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Lesson learned: "A spare headset at home is as useful as the sky above you and the runway behind you." Pretty much, that is true about a spare ANYTHING.

    Tried again yesterday - and I had such a narrow window before the winds picked up that I felt there was too much pressure to proceed with the checkride.

    Where I live, this is time of the year when the winds "howl." I might fly in winds gusting to 18kts at the field, but I certainly will not take a checkride in 29kt gusts!

    I coulda-shoulda-woulda - but I cancelled. Rescheduled.
    I did however, fly solo in the pattern, and worked on my landings that I will need to demonstrate at the next checkride. I confirmed that I will perform the whole takeoff/landing series. This had the immediate effect of making my eyes roll over, but it just doesn't seem so bad once I've had a chance to think it over.

    On again first thing on Tuesday morning... in three days! Remember - cross country trip, diversion to alternate airport, then landings in the pattern.
    Check!

  46. I passed.
    That's it, the journey is over. I earned my private pilot license.
    Or is it just the beginning of the journey?

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