Tag Archives: flying

Top Gun – I Feel the Need for Speed

Another geek confession. I loved Top Gun. I saw it 26 times in the span of three weeks. Most pilots over the age of 40 remembers Top Gun. This was the 1986 blockbuster with Tom Cruise that encouraged many people to learn to fly. I was one. Though it was something I had wanted to do before, but the movie sent me over the edge. I took initial lessons, joined Civil Air Patrol, talked to professional liars (military recruiters).


 I naively joined the Air Force thinking this would be my path to flying, in both the military and general aviation. I didn’t realize at the time I would spend my career in the field, eating MREs, and only talking to pilots.

Fast forward and the movie has been re-mastered in 3-D and will return to about 300 IMAX theaters beginning this Friday (Feb. 8) for a six-day engagement.

Though my love for Kelly McGillis has faded because she isn’t interested in my type, and Tom Cruise is a dweeb, Val Kilmer is fat, and Meg Ryan in her small role still makes my heart thump. But it still has Goose, AKA Anthony Edwards—who played Maverick’s back-seater/radar intercept officer. Edwards recently became a private pilot who drives a serious a Cirrus SR20.

The movie follows the story (kind of far-fetched at the end) of elite Navy Aviators competing to be the best in their air combat maneuvering class. The blockbuster earned more than $300 million in box offices worldwide. It can be corny, and if you forget everything you know about military discipline, aviation, and beach volleyball, it’s a great movie. Plus the Navy has always been great at allowing Hollywood access to ships, planes, and other aspects that incorporate real footage.

Not sure yet which Imax theaters will feature, really hoping I get to see it in BOI and introduce my kiddo to one of my own influences in becoming a pilot.

Firepuck Demo and Review

As many of you know—I have been burned (no pun intended) by survival products I have purchased in the past. Sometimes the concept is great, works well in the lab, works well in limited field testing, fails when you really need it.

I am also conscious of where I spend my hard-earned dollars. Sometimes though I have to be aware that there are guys out there that may not have the same experience as me, so I have to think about the guy or gal who is new to the woods, is cold in the woods, or the person who pulls up to a camp site and has to get it quickly situated.

Okay, enough of the prelude, let me tell you about a product we strongly endorse… Firepuck.

This is by far one of the coolest things (there is that pun thing again) we have tested in a long time. I can start fires with everything from shotgun shells to belly button lint. If you have been to one of my seminars we do just that. I will still carry a couple of these. This is a great way to get a fire started whether you are a survival expert or the guy who has to start the fire pit in the backyard.

Starting with the stats, this thing burns at 1400 degrees.  To get a fire going you need oxygen, fuel, and heat. If your fuel source is wet it is going to be difficult to light. Put yourself in a situation where you are hypothermic and all sources are wet, you are in deep trouble if you can’t get a fire going. I won’t matter how many cotton balls you can light with flint and steel, wet fuel source means trouble. The advantage of the hot temps produced by the Firepuck is that not only does it provide quick ignition of your fuel source, it actually dries your source.

For our test I soaked seasoned pine in a 5 gallon bucket for approximately 60 hours. (I had intended to do it for only 48 hours, but got side- tracked so the wood stayed submerged and extra day.) I then used a modified Tee-Pee build for the fire with no other kindling. Please check out the video for more perspective.

The Firepuck is easy to use. It has a friction based ignition system integrated into the cap. It took me three attempts in the video to light it…this is because I was a pansy and was over-cautious. In reality, like all of you laughing at my failure in the video.  I was impressed with how concentrated the flame source was, a feature you want in high wind conditions. Unlike all those cotton balls I fill with petroleum jelly, this product is petroleum free.

One of the points made about the product is that it is not water proof. Honestly, there are not a lot of products that are truly waterproof that are this easy to use when it comes to fire starting. This can be made water proof though by using either a Mylar bag also sold by Firepuck or a Zipper style baggie. I am currently testing one in a zipper baggie with two small moisture tabs (designed to pull moisture out) and will test that next week. They are sitting in a backpack in the downpour we have been receiving off-and-on the past few days. They show no signs of taking on moisture at all.

What I like about this product is that you don’t have to be an expert to use it. It takes the guess-work out of staying alive. I would ensure that I don’t use it at the back end of my jeep, in doors as a gag, or substitute it for birthday candles. I also like that it does not leave residue like a road flare would, and for the same size of a flare, I can carry six of these.

I will be carrying these in my EMT/ Wilderness Rescue bag, survival bag, and in my vehicles. If you buy anything new to go into your survival or camping kit, this should be first on the list. I would also include this on a list of something to keep on hand for those back yard parties where you have a firepit. This is a no hassle way to get a fire going for your guest.

Checkout the video on YouTube

 Be sure to check out Firepuck at their website for more info.

Hundred Dollar Hotcakes

My two favorite things in life is breakfast with my kiddo and flying. Since becoming a pilot I have been able to pursue both of these interest together.

My 11 year-old and I have been going to breakfast together for one-on-one time since she was 18 months old. This weekly ritual has very few gaps in it. To date we have had an estimated 1500 hours of time spent with just each other. A great investment in her life as a Dad.

So it is without question that the first weekend after receiving my Private Pilot Certificate that she was not only my first passenger- but my passenger on the way to breakfast. Making a short trip from Nampa to Caldwell was one of the most memorable “first” for both of us.

We have now expanded that to other destinations for breakfast. Lately this has been flying into McCall for our weekly Daddy-Daughter time.

McCall was once a logging and sawmill town but is now an all-season tourist destination for outdoor recreation. The resort town is known for its Winter Carnival, extended winters, and the highest average snowfall in the state. It is simply a beautiful place to fly into.

Flying in from the Treasure Vally you experience breath taking views of the mountains. On the ground there are several local places offering breakfast and the people are very friendly.

100th Landing

Its been tough getting in flying time this week. Strong winds kept me out of the skies on Sunday morning. Even when I rescheduled for the same evening, the wind still refused to cooperate with my desire to fly. Jeff and I were scheduled to fly on Monday evening, but he called to tell me he was stuck in Twin Falls, at the opposite end of the state, with another student. Apparently their aircraft broke down and were trying to find a way home. This got me to thinking about my own future road trips and that I need to be prepared to find a way home should something go wrong with my airplane. In the mean time, Jeff wanted me to go ahead and fly solo.

So I got to the airfield around 7 pm. Checking the squak sheet I saw that there was a write up indicating that the front wheel had a shimmy in it. Now I know from this aircraft it does have a shimmy – but goes away when you provide back pressure when taxiing. I gave the pilot who did the write up a call to get more information. I suggest this as a practice if it is practical. It gives you more insight to the issue and then you can make a determination.

After getting more information I decided to fly the airplane.

Checking the fuel I found five gallons in one tank and two in the other. This wasn’t quite enough for doing my flight, even though I was staying close to the field. I towed the plane to the pumps and put in filled it up to the tabs.

Getting to the run-up area I noticed that there was one of the local race teams practicing in the pattern. These are a lot of fun to watch- but I was pretty concerned about him doing laps in the same pattern I was going to practice in. He travels pretty fast and could literally do an entire lap around the pattern while I am just working my way out of the pattern. I also know they have very small fuel tanks and use up a large amount of fuel at the same time- so I figured he would not be there very long. I made my announcement and departed to the east.

If the world did not already have enough extreme to it- after going to the practice area to work on turns- as I came back into the pattern I had an small experimental aircraft working the pattern. Now these planes only travel about 40-60 kts so I would quickly overtake him if not careful. As I got to the downwind leg, it was apparent I was going to run up on him pretty quick so I turned out of the pattern and performed a standard rate turn.

The standard rate turn is a turn in which an airplane completes a 360 degree turn in 2 minutes. This is done by have a turn of 3 degrees per second. This allowed me to leave the pattern and re-enter it at my point of departing the pattern. This gave me approximately two minutes of distance between the light sport aircraft and myself. This was a technique Jeff taught me a few weeks ago.

Like so many things, Jeff’s teachings and advice is right on time. During our last flight he pointed out that I tend to fixate on the runway and forget to look around. Thankfully I had broken this habit. During my 2nd touch and go I called that I was departing and would be left closed traffic- meaning that I was staying in the pattern. Just after I turned crosswind I noticed another aircraft entering the pattern on the downwind –strait in- and not from a 45 degree angle. The other plane never called until after I saw him and had to stop my climb. He also called that he was at 4000 but in reality he was eye level with me at 3100. I wish the FAA would make the 45 degree entry mandatory and not just a recommendation for non-towered airfields. I have had too many of these close calls in my short career.

I did one more touch and go’s and then called it a day. I should point out that in this flight I did my 100th takeoff and landing!

I will meet Jeff tonight to go and visit the Boise Air Traffic Control tower- this should be interesting to see them work.

Total Flight Time: .6
Total Landings: 4
Total Career Landings: 103

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 http://www.barnstormingblarney.com

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 http://www.adventureiq.com 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.

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