Monthly Archives: July 2009

Simulated Engine Failure

Mornings don’t get much better than today for flying. Nice calm winds, low temps, and just enough clouds on the horizon to block the morning glare while giving us a spectacular view.

We had only one other aircraft in the pattern today doing a few touch and go’s. It was great to be up and aloft before the other traffic was airborne. Between both Nampa and Caldwell airfields- we had the skies all to ourselves for about 20 minutes. It was fantastic!

I pre-flighted my aircraft and taxied down to pick up my instructor. I didn’t need to refuel so I had a few moments before we flew to walk through some of my checklist. I even did a run-up before he got there, giving me a little bit of practice in that procedure. I want to get where that procedure is more of a flow because I feel its kind of choppy. The run-up comes at a time just before I taxi to the active and I want to more comfortable with it so I can concentrate on everything the airplane is doing before I launch for the sky.

Today we were learning how to do go-arounds and landing with an engine failure. Once airborne we stayed in the pattern and did a few touch and go’s to get me warmed up.
To correctly perform the simulated engine loss, we stayed in the pattern and then when we were on the downwind leg and even with the 1000’ marks, my instructor had me cut the throttle all the way. Now on my first attempt, I failed miserably and would have brought us in two short. I had put the flaps in way too early. I wound up having to put in more power and slowly taking the flaps out so we could do a go around. This was my first go around and I performed it very well.

The next attempt was much better. This time I waited to put in flaps until I was right over the runway. I then put in full flaps and brought us in for a perfect landing.

This is a useful maneuver and when coupled with the emergency landing exercise we did a few weeks ago, I now a few more tools in my bag should I get into trouble.

The landings are coming together and I have had a recent rush of confidence. I was going to hold of on flying for a few weeks, but I think since I am so close to my solo I will keep my scheduled flights. I will be flying both Saturday and Sunday- giving me three days of flying in a row. Jeff has also said I would be taking my written test for solo tomorrow morning. I know we will have to go over any errors on it- so I don’t expect I will fly solo before my flight on Sunday.

Total flight time today: .8
Total Landings: 6
Total Hours: 16.4
Total Landings: 69

Pattern Work

This week I flew two days back to back.

On Sunday I was challenged by a constant crosswind, other pilots making inaccurate or simply wrong radio calls, lots of traffic in the pattern, and a maverick pilot doing whatever he wanted to.

I almost missed my flight time because the club mechanic told me the aircraft was grounded due to no oil pressure in the airplane. I was out visiting a friend on his ranch in eastern Idaho and decided to check phone messages. The club mechanic left me a message stating that the plane was grounded so I thought I would just take the extra time and stay at the ranch. I called my instructor later that day to tell him we were going to have to cancel, only to find out that the aircraft was no longer grounded.

We made a bee line trip home from the opposite side of the state so I could get there on time. Getting to the plane I did a thorough preflight and checked the gas. We were going to stay in the pattern so I made sure we had enough to support all our touch and go’s.

I made it to the flight on time but wonder if maybe I was over-fatigued from the drive. I had a 1030 am flight and it just didn’t feel like Jeff and I were connecting. After our sixth landing, I asked that we pull away from the pattern and just practice the fundamentals. This gave me a chance to work on various turns. We went back to the pattern after abut 15 minutes and I did a few more landings.

On Monday we met again at 6 am. I got to the hangar at 5:30 to do a pre-flight. I knew from the fuel level the day before I would need to put some 100 “Low Lead” in. After pre-flight I pulled the airplane out of the hangar, secured the hangar doors and took the aircraft to the fuel pumps.

A few weeks ago, Jeff approved me to taxi the aircraft by myself but I never took advantage of this until today, mostly because when the engine is running, I have to pay for it. But today I wanted to be able to do this on my own. I successfully taxied to the pumps, filled the tanks, and taxied to Jeff’s shop to pick him up.

I have to admit, doing my solo taxi gave me a lot of confidence. It also solidified my checklist procedures. I didn’t want to screw anything up.

We went on to fly for a little under an hour. Doing eight touch and go’s and I’m finally nailing some landings since for most of the morning I only had a slight crosswind.

I find that I get very frustrated with pilots who fly against the established pattern or who sneak into the middle of the pattern without a radio call. We are not far from the Caldwell airport and when pilots there fly strait off the 11 end of the runway- they came very close to our space.

Jeff is working with me on a few things prior to turning me to solo. We still have to learn about airspace and reading sectionals as well as practicing landing with an engine failure, ground reference maneuvers, and slips.

Total Flight Time to Date: 15.6 hours
Total Landing to Date: 63

Emergency Decents

My instructor and I met for a few hours this afternoon to go over emergency procedures and practice both gliding and descents.

We met at 6 pm and it was still roasting outside. I had shown up to the hangar about 30 minutes prior to the meeting so I could pre-flight the aircraft. Checking the fuel I noted that there was less than 6 gallons in the plane. Now our 152 burns 6 gallons per hour- so I knew right away I was going to have to drag it down to the pumps before we met. I like to gas up before my instructor gets there. I would rather pay for time he actually instructs and I know he would rather actually teach me during our time together.

During the preflight I noted a few loose screws that hold the aircraft fabric to the frame. I had always wondered why my fuel strainer had a screw driver on the end of it—now I know why. I tightened the screws and completed my pre-flight inspection.

Jeff and I met for about an hour before we flew. During this time we went over various reasons for emergencies, the different scenarios, possible actions, and the procedures for dealing with emergencies. We also discussed places around our own airport where I could ditch the airplane if needed.

One we were airborne I quickly got myself established in the pattern and properly turned out of the pattern once I was out of the downwind leg, this is called a downwind departure. By the time I departed the pattern we had climbed from 2537 ft (our airport elevation) to 3500 ft. I continued our climb to 4500 ft.

The first procedure we did was loss of power. For this I immediately established our glide (best glide) at 60 knots. I picked a spot to land if we needed to. Then I trimmed for glide and then went through the procedure of checking to see if fuel was on, mixture, throttle, ignition key/attempt to restart, and the check the primer. Once we established (simulated) that my aircraft was not going to start we prepared for our (simulated) emergency landing.

The next procedure was emergency descents. Here we put in full flaps, pitched the aircraft for 80 knots, and dove for the deck. At 1000 feet AGL we leveled the plane and picked a spot we could land at if needed.

On the way back I made two landings. I’m still leveling two low and I think I’m giving Jeff a heart attack. After we had a chance to talk through it- I understand better what is expected.

We took the aircraft back a little earlier than we wanted to because someone else had booked it. Unfortunately hey never showed. I wish people would cancel their bookings or at least cancel them sooner, especially when the schedule get filled up. We could have used the extra 15-20 minutes for practicing landings.

Total Flight Time: .9
Landings: 2

Flying Date with my Wife and Flying a 172

We have been planning a special way to get my wife involved in flying with me and an opportunity for her to see what my training is like. So a few weeks ago I asked my instructor if we would be able to take a Cessna 172 out for the day and let my wife fly in the back. Fortunately, Jeff was very cool with this so over the next few flying sessions we discussed various options of where to go.

This also gave me the chance to fly a different airplane. I normally train in a Cessna 152. Since it only seats two people, I would have to checkout a Cessna 172 from the club I belong to. There is a significant cost between the two airplanes. I pay $52 an hour for the 152 I fly each week. This includes fuel. For the 172 I pay $73 an hour. I’m on a tight budget as it is for flying- I don’t think I can afford to do this very often. But this wa a special situation so I was willing to pay extra. I had budgeted myself for 2 hours of flight time and 3 hours of instructor time. I figured for aircraft and instructor this would run me about $250. Still, this would be a good experience for my wife as well as giving me a chance to try something different.

The club has two C-172s for use and our original plane wa booked for 1030 am. I wasn’t real keen on flying during the heat of the day. So when I woke up on Sunday morning- I checked the schedule through an on-line program we use in the club. I couldn’t believe it- One of the 172’s was available all day! So I booked it for 9 am, called my instructor to make sure he could go earlier and left for the airfield immediately.

Now our 172 is quite different from our 152. I had printed off a checklist earlier in the week and knew I would have some questions for Jeff when he got to the hangar. I was still able to preflight the aircraft including checking the fuel quantity as well as draining the sumps to check for contamination.

After Jeff talked me through some of the differences, we gave Melissa a passenger briefing, boarded the aircraft and went through our start up procedure.

As we began our taxi to the runway, I immediately noticed a difference in handling. The 172 requires a bit more assertiveness than my 152.

As soon as we completed the run-up we headed out to the active runway – put in full throttle and started our adventure.

We took our time flying around the south practice area, allowing me to get an idea of the 172’s characteristics.

Our point of interest was to fly to the main airport in Boise. This is class C airspace so we have to contact Air Traffic Control to both fly in the airspace as well as getting set up on landing instructions. The ATC operator provided us with a squak identification on the transponder so they would know which aircraft we were. The controller then vectored us to different heading while under her control as well as telling us about other aircraft in the area. The ATC also cleared us to land on the left runway at Boise for a Touch and Go.

Landing the 172 was a challenge for me. I have gotten so used to the characteristics of the smaller plane I fly. I felt like I was landing a bus. There was also a crosswind to fight so this added to the challenge. We got the plane down- and I admit I had a lot of help from Jeff, did our touch and go, and headed for downtown.

We performed our touch and go and she vectored us to a point we could turn and head towards the area we wanted to go. Melissa got some great shots of downtown. Jeff worked with me on understanding the calls that were coming from the air traffic controller and setting up our vectoring path.

Something I noticed right away is that while I can hear the controller, I could not always hear the other aircraft. That is because the controller actually broadcast on several frequencies. This made it clear that I want to make sure that I’m not transmitting over anyone else.

After flying over downtown, we headed back towards the Snake River which gave Melissa a birds eye view of the areas we often 4×4 in. We also did two power-on stalls with her and she loved it.

With over an hour of flight time we headed back for the Nampa airfield where we entered the downwind part of the pattern at a 45 degree angle and again I got to take a shot at landing the aircraft. I had about a 12 kt wind so again I was challenged in getting the plane down.

It was a good day. Melissa had a blast flying with me and I had a chance to try a new aircraft and learn about working in class C airspace.

Flight Time: 1.5 Hours
Landings: 2
Total Time to Date: 12.7
Total Landings: 43

Squishy Flaps

I had the opportunity to get a early morning flight in this week I love getting out to the airfield when its still dark.

I asked my instructor if I could get in a day of just working in the pattern.

We had very calm skies- with almost no wind. 11 is the preferential runway so I already had it in my mind’s eye which pattern we would be working.

During my pre-flight I was sure to double check the squak sheet- since last time I missed seeing that the radio was having issues. The squak sheet is a way to communicate to other pilot using an specific aircraft if there are any known issues. When I checked it – I noticed that our write-up had been scratched out. I also noticed on the sign-out log that the club’s mechanic had taken the aircraft for a spin and checked out the radio.

The landings are coming together. I talked my instructor through each step of the pattern. After take-off I climbed to 3500 feet (MSL) which is about 1000’ AGL.

Once our airspeed came in and we set the throttle to cruise- which on the litte C-152 is about 2200 rpm at 90 kts.

As we traveled on the downwind leg I made my radio call announcing to other traffic I where I was at. I also went through my checklist for landing- including making sure seat belts were fastened. I found it interesting that seatbelts are not required for the entire flight.

As I came parallel with the 1000’ hash marks of the runway I turned on the carb heat, pulled the throttle to 1500 rpm (making sure to keep the nose level) put in 10 degrees of flaps, and pitched for 80 kts.

I continued this process from the down wind- to base- to final

I would love to be able to say that each landing was perfect- but at least I had a chance to learn how to fix different landing problems from ballooning to bouncing.

On our 5th landing / touch and go I put the flaps up, turned off the carb heat, and firewalled the throttle

Immediately I noticed there was a problem with the takeoff- when I glanced outside- I noticed the flaps were still down.

Jeff took over the aircraft at this point and we did a low and slow flight in the pattern and landed immediately—then for some reason- the flaps went back up for us

I still had some time to fly before going to work- so we took of again- giving me another shot at landing.

I’m actually thankful for the small problems that have come up in my training. It is teaching me how to handle problems once I get out on my own.

In the end- Jeff thinks that by placing the flaps lever all the way down- and then bringing them back up is what helped to rectify the issue.

Comm Out

I really enjoy the morning flights and today was no exception. I got to the airfield early enough to do my preflight and tow the aircraft down to be refueled. My instructor and I talked through the chapters I had studied on the pitot system, how it works, and what to do if if the system should fail due to clogging. We also talked through how the altimeter is effected by barometric pressure, which will come in handy when I start doing my cross country flights.

It was a busy day in Nampa since the Warhawk museum, an aviation museum dedicated to WWII aircraft, was having a fly in. There were beautiful vintage WWII aircraft that had flown into the rendezvous and I was going to get to share the skies with them today. I took a few moment before my instructor and I met to review all my radio calls- I didn’t want to sound so much like a rookie with all these guys listening.

I made my call, advising all traffic that I would be staying in the pattern and returning for a touch and go. I fire-walled the throttle and had a great take-off. I now talk to my instructor- advising him on what I am doing. This helps me to reinforce all the correct steps.

As we turned downwind, my instructor and I both noticed that the radio did not seem to be transmitting. We proceeded to do our touch and go and then headed for the practice area. Once there, my instructor tinkered with the radio to try to get it to transmit, with no success.

I fly out of Nampa- S67 wich is class G airspace, so technically a radio is not required.

The rest of the lesson we worked more on my stalls and turns. We also focused on strait and level flight.

I took us back in over the east end of Lake Lowell, crossed over the midfield point, and let my instructor know that there were four Mustangs on taxi to depart. At this point went ahead and took control of the aircraft, made a very assertive right turn around and brought us into the downwind leg. His main point was to make sure they would see us as they were doing their run-up.

Sure enough, one of the pilots saw us – and we heard him call to the other aircraft- just the call we wanted to hear. Together we landed the airplane and taxied back to the hangar.

This was a good experience for me and cemented the need to be aware of various options when things don’t work out. I am also ordering my own hand-held aviation radio in the chance I have a comm-out situation on my own.

I am still working on the concept of strait and level flight. It seems that every time I think I have the right “picture” I am either nose high or nose low. I have scheduled some time this next week to fly with my instructor to practice on just this.

30 Degree Turns and Intro to Crosswind Landings

I had the opportunity to fly again this week, which for me was a special treat. When I signed up for classes I really thought I would only beable to afford to fly once a week. With some minor tweeking of our budget, my wife Melissa and I found a a way for me to fly twice a week. But last night was extra special because it was the third time this week that I was able to take a lesson. I could get spoiled on this pretty quick.

I checked the local AWAS- the air weather advisory out of the Caldwell, Airport- a small airfield close to the field I fly out of. The temperature was 29 degrees celcius which makes it about 85 degree. The wind was out of the north blowing 6 knots, which meant we would be doing crosswind take-offs and eventually landings. An interesting note is that the air density was 4200 feet. Air density is a calculation that tells you how high altitude wise how high you aircraft thinks it is. The higher you go, the less performance your aircraft has. Since my airfield sits at 2,536- because of air density, my airplane was going to perform as if it was already at 4200 feet. The phenomenon of air density will cause an airplane to use up more runway and have less lift to fly. I will cover air density later when it officially becomes part of my training.

I got to the hanger early and performed all of my preflight according to the checklist. I had 7 gallons of fuel in each tank. The 152 I fly burns about 6 gallons an hour. Since my instructor and I planned about an hour of flight- I would have more than enough fuel. Since I want to have about a half hour of fuel in reserve- I was only required to have 9 gallons, so I was good to go.

After the preflight, we taxied adjacent to the 29 runway, I did my pre-takeoff run-up, drove the plane in a small circle in the run-up area so I could check to see if there were any aircraft in the pattern, headed to the runway, and made my radio call. Once I communicated my intention to take-off- I pushed the throttle all the way forward and launched my self into the bumpy sky.

Once airborne, I had to struggle a little with the aircraft. It immediately weather vaned and this is a new concept for me. The nose points into the wind- but somehow we fly parallel with the runway.

We made several touch and go’s before departing for the practice area.

Today’s lesson was the 30 degree turn and my instructor had me do several of these. One of the areas I need to focus on is making sure I anticipate giving the aircraft enough rudder so I don’t skid in the turn.

After about 30 minutes of doing turns, we headed back for the runway. I gave my radio calls, and we entered the pattern at a 45 degree angle.

We practiced two more landings and then took the aircraft back to the hangar to debrief.

One of the things I really need to work on is understanding what strait and level flight looks like as I look through the front window. I’m not sure when this will kick in- but it is going to be difficult to move on to other areas until I get this down.

Total Hours: 8.3 Dual
Landings: 25
Areas Covered to Date: Take-Offs, Landings, Power On/Off Stalls, Slow Flight, and Pattern Work

Aborting a Landing

This morning my instructor and I decided to do some pattern work and give me a chance to do several touch and go’s.

It was a beautiful morning with about a 6 kt crosswind, giving me my first opportunity to learn about crabbing the aircraft.

I got to the hangar around 530 am. I performed a preflight inspection, including checking the aircraft for fuel. We had just over 10 gallons in each wing, so I knew we had plenty of fuel since our C-152 burns about 6 gallons and hour.

I like getting to the aircraft early and doing the pre-flight before my instructor gets there. This gives me a chance to get familiar with the checklist at a pace where I don’t feel so rushed. By the time my instructor got there, I already had the aircraft out of the hangar and ready to perform our start up.

We were the second aircraft taking off this morning. The first was an older tail dragger. We noticed that the pilot did not make any radio calls as he left the run-up area and taxied out to the active.

We stayed in the pattern and worked on landings. I had the chance to practice landing six different times. As we turned to the downwind leg after our 7th take-off, I noticed the tail dragger we encountered earlier in the pattern and heading from downwind to base. He was holding a much tighter pattern than us and was only about 400-500 feet off the deck.

By the time we were to get set up to land the tail dragger was doing what seemed to be an extremely slow touch and go. My instructor and I aborted our landing and did a very wide go-around, keeping the other aircraft in our sight the entire time.

At this point, my instructor took over the controls, landed our aircraft, and then let me handle the taxi procedure. Today we had to drop our airplane off to be serviced, so I had the opportunity to see how this is done.

From my very first flight, my instructor (Jeff) has said that there are other people out there who are flying around and just waiting to kill me. Together we have discussed the shortcuts and outright disregard other pilots have for safety. It was good to see this firsthand.

Total Hours: 7.4 Dual
Landings: 22
Areas Covered to Date: Take-Offs, Landings, Power On/Off Stalls, Slow Flight, and Pattern Work

Getting Started in Aviation

In the past few weeks I have embarked on a new adventure. As you may recall, I stared down the path of earning my FAA Privot Pilot Certificate. I have had several people ask me about the process, the cost, and how I got started.

It seems that there is this mystique around pilot training. One of the things I am finding to be very true about flight training is that many people do not start it because it either seems like it is an unattainable goal or that they simply don’t know who to ask. Let’s face, many of us would never drive out to an airport and ask about lessons. I found the same thing to be true when I was teaching SCUBA diving. The average person is either intimidated by the jocks working the dive shop or had never really thought about the possibilities diving offered. In a 1998 survey conducted by DEMA, the synergy of the diving business, 96% of people surveyed as to the reason why they did not dive, were simply never invited.

This brings me to how pilots are recruited into general aviation. To put it bluntly, they aren’t. Most fall into it. This last week I spent some time talking to aviation clubs, schools, private instructors, etc. The main focus of the conversation was how they attracted new people into taking lessons. I was astounded to learn that they were all hitting the same venues and media. Air shows, aircraft conferences, aircraft magazine adds, aviation radio shows, etc. They were all fishing in the same stock pond.

Maybe here is where I explain “stock pond” If you are in the south and love to fish, you have been on a stock pond. A stock pond sits on a rancher’s property to water cattle. Most ranches have several stock ponds. Now most ranchers will place bass and catfish in the stock pond. If you are really lucky, you know a rancher that will let you come out and fish- and in some cases pull in trophy sized fish in that stock pond.

Now imagine that the only place you ever fish is in that stock pond. You go to the same one every weekend. Soon there are no more trophy sized fish- and in some cases no fish. Now imagine that every bass fisherman in Texas started going to your set of stock ponds. The fishing is bad…

That is exactly how general aviation has tried to recruit.

Since they won’t go to you- I’m going to help you go to them…

Get High
Go out on an introductory flight with a Certified Flight Instructor. These cost between $40 and $60 for 1/2 to 1 hour of time. This is where you see if you interested in learning. Now the instructor may want to sign you up right away- the intro flight is part of the recruitment package. I don’t believing in rushing into any commitments without learning more.

Interview Flight Instructors
The first part of breaking the mystique of the instructor is to interview them. You are paying them, which means they work for you. The relationship has to work since you will be spending a lot of time together. You both need to know style preferences, how you deal with stress, schedules, number of lessons per week, etc. Another question is if the CFI is looking to work for an airline. I found in my interview process one of the guys on my shortlist was helping to build is resume was through teaching. Nothing wrong with that, but had I selected him as my instructor, we would have completed the first six hours, he is now moving to Atlanta to take a job as an airline pilot.

I can be pretty intense as well as overly critical on myself. I need someone who is opposite who can help me laugh at my own mistakes, provide honest and useful feedback, and help me chill a bit. I interviewed 16 CFIs. I took the list to three and then met each one in person.

When looking for an instructor I actually had one of my candidates respond to my interview invitation by saying, “You don’t interview flight instructors, you just pick one”. Needless to say, he is not my instructor.

Find a Club
Clubs have distinct advantages since when you become a member, you have a pride in a partnership or co-op of the aircraft. Sometimes you can fly for less money, have the ability to buy fuel in bulk, have group rate renter’s insurance, and a pool of other aviators at all skill levels.

Some of the drawbacks can be club politics, availability of aircraft, and initiation fees. The club I joined had a $500 initiation fee, but in the long run it seemed to have more advantages.

Be Resource Savvy
I was blown away by the lack of resource knowledge the CFIs I interviewed had. When I asked about on-line training or other learning methods- the usual answer was something like, “Well I got a program I’ve been using for years…” My instructor was cool- he said to use whatever I needed and he would adjust.

As a guy who develops training for a living, I have a hard time with those kinds of folks. Going through training material of some of the CFIs I interviewed, many were using old learning methodologies set to only one learning style.

There is so much out there, it can be overwhelming. I found a combination of on-line interactive and audio/video podcast has been the greatest help for me. In a addition, when I meet with my instructor, we focus on more of the “why” rather that the “how”

Take the First Step
Right now you are the only barrier to getting started in training. Flight instructors aren’t to be feared. Check out flight schools and clubs in your area.

The price can seem daunting, but most of it can be broken down into do-able chunks. With the current economy, most schools and instructors would rather be teaching than sitting in a hanger – so negotiate price with them.

I am enjoying this new adventure and glad I took the steps to getting started- you can do this to!

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