Monthly Archives: August 2009

Post-It Notes

The past few weeks I have been dedicating myself to doing more solo time. However there was a minor miscommunication between my instructor and myself. Once I did my solo flight he gave me the green light to fly and check in with him about every other week. We agreed to this when I was only flying once or twice a week. I came into some extra funding to support my aviation addiction and well, I made seven flights without going back to my instructor.

I should point out- this isn’t because your instructor doesn’t want you to have a good time or because you are a source of income- it is primarily a safety precaution.

I had developed several bad habits that if it wasn’t for Jeff catching- I could have gotten hurt or worse- killed.

So this morning we flew again. Now this was our second flight in the past week with one solo in between. I came back from my last two flights, one dual and one solo, with my confidence shaken. I think Jeff could sense this. He knows I drive myself pretty hard and have a hard time taking feedback when I think I have been doing the right thing. He also knows that for me- I’m either making an “A” or making an “F” when I grade myself. Again- I tend to drive myself very hard. When you look for an instructor- don’t just settle for one that is technically proficient, has the best price, or is the “club recommended CFI”. Choose the one that you can build a relationship with. Remember, the CFI works for you, but make this a partnership. Jeff and I spend a lot of time crammed into the cockpit of a Cessna 152, it is important that we get along. This is the responsibility of both the student and the instructor.

Jeff set me up with some great confidence boosters. After doing a few touch and go’s, he covered up the instruments with post it notes. He let me keep the tachometer and clock. Everything else was covered. We were in real VFR mode. While we stayed in the pattern he would ask me questions about my airspeed, what altitude I thought I was at, etc. We did two landings like this. It really helped me understand what the “picture” should look like during take off, landing, and each transition.

We also did some simulated engine failure exercises. The first attempt I came up a little short of the runway and had to execute a go around. The next few times I was able to bring it back in and on one occasion landed without flaps.

My flying funds are getting tight right now and I’ve run out of things to sell, so I’m not real sure how much time I will be putting in the next few weeks. I will still fly each week, but I will be dropping my time substantially.

On a side not- I did get the new website launched and if you need training materials, please purchase it through my on-line partnership with Amazon. You will find it under the “resources” link. The website address is

Over the next lessons I will be working on short and soft field take-offs, more hood work/instrument flying, and practicing more stalls. At some point I want to take the Cessna 172 out again, this time with my daughter and (of course) Jeff, so she can experience flying in a small plane…but we’ll have to see.

Total Hours: 28.5
Total Solo: 7.1
Total Landings: 99

Making Safe Calls

Its been eight days since my last flight. I was on vacating with my family and although I didn’t fly I had about 32 hours of study time while driving. I recently purchased the Rod Machado Private Pilot Handbook audio series and downloaded it to my iPod. I constantly play it when driving, doing chores, going to sleep, etc. Some students might scoff at first in his use of humor, but I find that it helps me remember key facts as well as how those facts apply to my flying experience.

Getting back into flying today I took my time doing a thorough pre-flight, checking the squak sheet, and gassing up the plane. During the preflight I discovered that the right wing tip had a crack in it and was covered with duct tape. I called our clubs safety instructor and he insured me the aircraft was safe to fly.

My practice time has become a family affair for the three of us. My wife helps me in getting the hangar opened and my gear together, my daughter loves sitting in the plane while I tow it down to the pumps for fuelling, and each has a task they are responsible for while we put gas in. Afterwards they sit in the picnic area or go to the small café on the airstrip and cheer me on as I practice my landings.

Tonight I shared airspace with another small Cessna and an “experimental” aircraft. After doing a brief tour of the practice area I decided to practice landings. The 29 runway was active and I have not done any landings on this end by myself and had only landed on that end a few times before with my instructor. So after getting back into the groove with the airplane I decided to do some landings.

Its easy to get comfortable with one end of the runway- so I imagine it’s easy to get comfortable with one airfield. I’m going to make sure I fly to several airfields so I don’t get too used to only the “home-field advantage”.

Jeff, my CFI, still has me coming to full stops and not executing touch-and-go’s so I don’t get as many landings in during a session, but I also know this is to help me solidify certain task and skills.

After my 5th landing I called my in my departure radio calling, telling traffic which runway I was taking off from and that I would be using left closed traffic. “Left closed traffic” tells other pilots in the area that after taking off, I would be staying in the pattern. After gaining 500 feet in altitude after my take off, I called that I was turning left crosswind on 29. As I was rolling through the turn I heard the call from an aircraft that he was entering downwind for 29. As I looked out my window I saw the small experimental heading towards me. I called him on the radio to make sure he saw me and prepared to take evasive action if necessary.

Fortunately, he did see me and since he was moving at a much slower speed we were all going to be okay. A mid-air collision is not one of the maneuvers I want in my flight log. A few moments later when waiting to take off I noticed that this same aircraft was cutting the pattern short and was about to cut off another aircraft ahead of it in the pattern. I called to the smaller craft alerting him that there was another plane in the pattern. He acknowledged it and adjusted his path. The plane he was about to cut off held my instructor and a student. Until my radio call, neither aircraft knew about the other.

Using the radio to alert other aircraft not only where you are, but the location of other pilots is a skill I will continue to perfect. It’s a big sky out there, but when several planes get into the pattern it gets crowded quick. On this flight I had to not only use my radio skills, but also adjust and extend myself in the pattern and keep my eyes open not only for hazards to me, but other aircraft.

Executing My First “Real” Go-Around

Another solo flight down. I have really been enjoying the time flying by myself. I took off from Nampa and flew over the practice area. We have several agriculture plots in this area. Because of the way the way the irrigation systems are set up we tend to have circle type fields. This provides an excellent opportunity to practice ground reference maneuvers such as flying in a complete circle. The challenge here is in not straying off the path when the wind effects the path of the aircraft. You have to make a combination of steep and shallow turns to fly in a circle and not an oval.

I tried flying earlier in the afternoon but it was really too bumpy and the air density was at 4900 feet. I spoke to my instructor prior to take off. He told me I could fly if I wanted too, but that it might not be as fun. Being the eager new pilot I am, I decided that I would give it a shot.

As soon as I took off I really felt like I was out of my comfort zone. I brought the aircraft back around the pattern and went to land. I immediately knew there where some significant differences in the way the aircraft normally handles. I landed the plane but was ready to go back. I took the plane back to the hangar and decided to fly later in the evening.

On my evening flight, I had not totally forgotten the experience of the landing earlier that day. I took off and played in the practice area for about 30 minutes, then decided to try a landing. Even though the wind was dead still, I was still shaken from my experience six hours earlier and wound up having to do a go-around. The two most important points of the go-around is to give it full throttle and take up the flaps in slow increments. I executed the go-around, got my self back into the pattern, and then after getting my head back into the game I executed a text book landing.

From this experience I have really learned to interpret what the wind sock reads and how my flight experience will be. I now really look at the sock before making a decision to fly.

The solo experience is incredible and is giving me tons of confidence. The instructor keeps me on a short leash- but its for my own good and that leash keeps getting longer as I progress.

Forward Slips and First Solo

This has been an intense weekend for me. I flew on Friday, learning how to deal with an engine failure and landing the airplane with no power as well as studying for my pre-solo written test. I have also started learning about the airspace class designations.

I recently purchased the Rod Machado study manual, the accompanying workbook, as well as the mp3 audio of the study manual. This has been an incredible help in my studies. Many people think that the Machado book is kind of corny- but the thing is- you tend to remember the points he makes. I have about a 30 -45 minute commute to work, so using the audio of the handbook is helping me use what was once idle time into productive study time. I’m also using it when I am doing chores around the house, when working out, and other times I can plug in and learn. Overall I have increased my study time about 16 hours a week in addition to the few hours I was getting from the other study materials.

On Saturday my instructor and I worked on both landings as well as introducing me to the forward slip. The forward slip is designed to bleed of excessive speed. It is useful when a pilot has set up for a landing approach with excessive height or must descend steeply beyond a rock outcrop or tree line to land near the start of a short runway. If the runway is properly lined up, the forward slip will allow the aircraft track to be maintained while steepening the descent without adding excessive airspeed.

After we had a chance to practice several forward slips, I then worked on my landing techniques. I was really feeling like these were coming together. At the end of the session, Jeff administered my pre-solo exam. This had quite a bit of information from the aircraft POH or Pilot’s Operating Handbook. I knew about the POH, but admit I have not spent anytime in it. I went back to the hangar and took my test while sitting in the hangar.

On Sunday I tool my test back to Jeff and we went through the test. There were a few areas he wanted to clarify or make sure I had a good concept for. We then went out to fly.

Sunday morning was incredibly busy and after my run-up, I had to wait about 10 minutes to get into the pattern due to the high number of aircraft doing touch and go’s already in the pattern. I pay for the amount of time the engine was running so 10 minutes on the ground can get expensive. We finally found a gap and merged into the pattern and took off.

With all the traffic I had a tough time getting my head into the game. I bounced a few landings and really struggled with my set-ups. We flew for about an hour, and fortunately I got my head back into the game and started making good take-offs and landings.

My last two landings went very well, Jeff had me go back to the pilot shack and had me shut down the aircraft. He then asked me to bring in my pilot log and gear. I thought sure that I had let him down. To my surprise he signed me off to solo- instructed me to do one take off and landing and then come back. I went back to the aircraft, performed my start up and run-up checklist- taxied to the runway and launched for my fist solo. Fortunately, with my wife and daughter out there I made a great take-off and landing. My wife videotaped my solo and if you go to my website at and go to the video page not only will you see my solo but you will also get to hear my daughter cheering for me.

I will meet my instructor Thursday and Friday to learn a few more techniques and then fly by myself on Saturday and Sunday. After that I will take a break for about a week due to projects and finances associated with flying- it is getting expensive and my secondary income opportunities are evaporating soon.