Your connection with the sky

August 12th, 2012: Jack be Nimble, Soloing to Napa for some night flying

, August 12th, 2012

Tonight I was scheduled to fly my Night Cross Country Duo with my instructor JP. While I had done my first night flight and a number of landings a couple of weeks ago, this was going to be the first time I had to put all of the new cross country skills I had learned, to use during a night flight. The entire route had to cover 2.1 hours so JP and I decided on a route south of our area, leaving from Napa I would fly south to Modesto, put in a few night landings and then head north to Rio Vista where I would land a few more times before taking off and heading back to Napa. Simple enough right? Well...first I had to get the plane to Napa, and we were quickly running out of time. Read More >>

August 9th, 2012 Hot August Nights, Hot Rods & Flying Lake Tahoe at 12,500′

, August 9th, 2012


I'm a gear head so I love cars, but I had no idea what was waiting for me in Reno. As it happens, it's a week of Hot August Nights and there are some 10,000 beautifully restored hot rods and show cars cruising the streets all over town. Thankfully, I had packed my camera on this trip and despite the 107 degree heat, I was out in the vast parking lot across the street from the hotel soaking up the sites and smells of some of Americas finest achievements, the automobile! While the girls were inside testing their luck at the Black Jack table and testing the water at the pool, I was in boy heaven, weaving my way through hundreds of the most beautiful cars I had ever set eyes on.

IMG_5090.jpgAfter getting an eye full of auto candy yesterday I headed back in to join the gals out by the pool and relax for awhile. It was a perfect afternoon and we had little on our agenda besides soaking up some sun and stepping out for some dinner later, after which I managed to convince the ladies to come with me to look at even more cars that had rolled in during the afternoon. It was a beautiful night and we walked around in awe of the craftsmanship in front of us, each of us picking out the one we were going to drive home later when we hit those slots over at the casino. Read More >>

August 8th, 2012: Happy Anniversary! X-Country, Mountain Flying & Precious Cargo

, August 8th, 2012


Last week when I looked at the upcoming syllabus for my flight training, I couldn't help but notice there was a "long cross country" item next on the list. Normally, this would be a cross country flight to Ukiah, a small town north of here 60 miles or so, which would have been absolutely fine with me, but as it happened, on the day I was scheduled to make that cross country flight, I also need to be in Reno, Nevada, a not so small town some 150 nautical miles from here on the other side of the Sierra mountains, so of course, this got me thinking… Read More >>

August 7th, 2012: Flying Point Reyes + Maneuvers Solo

, August 7th, 2012


Time for another Solo.

Since I'm planning on flying my cross country tomorrow, I thought I'd take the Cessna up today and get in some additional solo time. The flight school is closed on Tuesdays, but I had gotten the ok from my instructor yesterday to take the plane out today, so I booked it for my usual 11am - 1pm slot. When I arrived at Skypark today there were three planes on the ground and a half dozen new faces milling around. It was a beautiful day and these folks were taking advantage of a little R&R on their way to Los Angeles. I'm not sure where they came from, but clearly they had been flying for awhile and Skypark was a nice stop on their way. There was something about it that just struck me as so completely cool, these 3 couples each with their own uniquely different planes, flying together...somewhere, anywhere. This is exactly the kind of thing that inspires me to fly, the freedom to just get in a plane and go, stopping at little airports along the way, gassing up or resting for a bit and then continuing on. One couple was flying some sort of old war bird, the kind of plane you'd expect to find in an old John Wayne movie, both with their names emblazoned on the out side of the cockpit, a beautiful piece of machinery from era's past. Another couple was flying what looked to be an older Cessna 182 and the third couple, some type of vintage V tail. I don't know enough about planes to tell you what's what, but I can tell you there are a lot of beautiful planes out there of all vintages and pilots seem to love flying them all, no matter what they are or when in time they came from. Read More >>

August 2nd, 2012: VORs, GPS, IFR Maneuvers and Soft Field Landings

, August 2nd, 2012


Earlier in the week I had been up practicing a couple of my new favorite things, VOR tracking and Unusual Attitude Recovery, and on the agenda for today was a little more of the same, with a twist, today I was flying "under the hood".

I love IFR training. IFR stands for Instrument Flight Rules, and when I'm doing my IFR training, I'm flying with something they call a "hood" which is essentially a pair of opaque glasses that fit over the top portion of your eyes, or in my case, over my glasses. Once you have them on they limit your vision to what you can see inside the cockpit so you don't have all those pesky distractions outside, like the sky and the ground, and the horizon and the mountains and all the other things you might be tempted to use to determine silly things like which way is up...or down. Read More >>

August 1st, 2012: Unusual Attitudes and Engine Failures

, August 1st, 2012


When I looked at the schedule for today it said, "introduction to unusual attitudes", ok, now having grown up with 3 older brothers and having a couple of kids of my own, this was a subject I knew something about. Actually, turns out those aren't the attitudes my CFI was talking about. Read More >>

July 30th, 2012: Solo Maneuvers in the Cessna 172

, July 30th, 2012


I discovered today that there's soloing, and then there's soloing! Up until now my 3 solos consisted of flights in the pattern around an airport, with one each in the Citabria and Cessna at Petaluma Municipal and the tower solo in the Cessna at Napa County. Today, however was the first time I simply booked the plane and went flying. Read More >>

A Commercial Certificate is Still Just a License to Learn

, July 29th, 2012

A pilot certificate is just a license to learn.

When you’re doing your initial training, that must seem like a foreign concept.  Those guys and gals who have completed initial training and have certificates must know something, right?  Well, of course they do.  But you’ll be surprised at how much each additional rating shows you what you don’t know about flying.  And how much you’ll want to go learn that stuff!

I try to practice what I preach.  After the instrument rating, I began a quest to visit as many corners of the aviation envelope as I could find.  And there are plenty!  Multi-engine aircraft.  Seaplanes.  Flying upside down. For several years, I didn’t need to get a flight review because a new certificate or rating resets the clock on flight reviews.  In fact, I went months at a time carrying a paper temporary certificate for this or that because the plastic certificates couldn’t keep up.

It’s not that I gave that up.  I shot a movie about aerobatics, got more involved in CAP, and flew competition aerobatics myself.  But I hadn’t gotten a new rating in some time.

If you’d asked me in March if I thought that I’d be a commercial pilot now (and in gliders no less), I’d have chuckled at you.  But here I am, one of the nation’s newest commercial pilots. Read More >>

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 >>