Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Another Milestone in the books…. Nap time!

It’s been a while since I posted. I really got lax during the fall and mainly just worked on CFI ground materials and studying. Though studying came in fits and starts. After the holidays and in late January, I sat down with my instructor and said, “If I don’t do something and really put an emphasis on this, it is not going to get done.” It was totally on me that I was not progressing. My instructor is great. So, I proposed that I put together a flying schedule of maneuvers that I would be accountable to complete in a reasonable timeframe. He agreed and seemed happy that I was taking charge as a CFI should.

I executed on my 2 lessons per week of training in the airplane and continued to increase my study at home. I did this for the next 2 months and we got through all the air work. At this point, we both agreed that I am getting close. So, we continued to fly once per week but added 1-2 days of oral prep.

I committed to 2 hours each evening (More as we got closer) to studying my flash cards, regulations and PTS. April was going to be the month. On April 10th, I contacted a DPE that I have used in the past and asked if he had anything in April. I was hopeful but didn’t think he would. DPE’s are in pretty high demand all over the country. And a CFI-Initial takes all day so they can’t fit you in before or after another check ride.

As luck would have it, he said, “I have 1 opening that just came free on April 22nd”. I said, “Book it!”. Gave me 12 days to do my final prep. I booked the aircraft that I was planning to use multiple times for the next 12 days. I went up with my instructor 3 more times and I went by myself 5 times.

The third and final flight with my instructor he said, “You’re ready. You’re going to be a great instructor.” I don’t know why, but this landed different then I thought it would.

I thought, “Am I really ready? I feel good, my maneuvers are tight, I’m talking through the entire flight. I feel great on my flash cards and I’m able to answer every bit of oral questions I’m getting right now……. huh.”

For the final 2 days, I studied day and night. I went through the PTS over and over and every time I found something that I needed to add to my collective knowledge. The island that was my brain had accumulated all of the penguins it could fit and now some penguins were resorting to throwing others off the island. Shout out to Opposing Bases fans if you get that reference!

Finally last night, my wife asked if I was ready and I said that it isn’t going to get any better at this point… so yes.

Long story short….. I was.

It was a long oral 4.5 hours and little over an hour of flight time. I felt confident and strong in both oral and the flight portion. My DPE said he threw everything at me, and my preparedness turned it into a quicker than normal oral. Flight portion went well, and I impressed him with a few of my teaching/flying skills.

So now that is out of the way, this is just the beginning of the road. What I really took out of this experience is that I still have a license to learn and there is a lot out there that I don’t know. I may be able to quote regulations, speak intelligently about learning processes and student behavior mechanisms but overall, what I really learned was that there is still so much out there. I will continue my studies so that I can shape future pilots to be safe and competent members of the airspace.

I will rest for a bit but there is still more to do. Next stop, CFI instrument add-on!

Teaching the basics of flight

Today was the first flight of practice teaching that wasn’t really about me being checkout out as a right seat pilot. My instructor said to pick two lessons and i could practice teaching them. Stupid me showed up ready to teach slow flight and steep turns. When I told him he said, “Going right after the hard stuff, eh?” He then suggested level flight and level turns. Basics of flight kind of stuff. This totally makes more sense from the aspect of getting comfortable to teach and the material that I am teaching. And will more analog my first student. I guess the lesson here is, I still have a lot to learn and learn I shall.

We went through the startup checklist and I’m becoming more comfortable speaking through each step. I’m still trying to build my script on autopilot checks and my safety spiel. It’s funny, because you go through all of these things in your head when you’re normally flying but then when you have to verbalize in a competent way, it comes out all backwards and sideways. However, I’m getting better.

I talk through the takeoff, though sucking at my precision. We climb and head out to the practice area. I explain that we will start to level off about 50 feet before reaching our altitude of 3000ft. My instructor then asks why? I muddle through an answer of performance of the aircraft. He adds, 1/10th the climb rate. I write that down. I start to teach straight and level flight, with attention to the outside view. Teaching to keep the gap between the glare shield and the horizon consistent. Reminding that 90% of the time should be focused outside the cockpit.

Next, I introduce level turns. I first launch into an explanation of need to use the rudder to stay coordinated in the turns. I then demonstrate what happens as we turn with no rudder so they can see the nose turn the opposite direction slightly before moving in the direction of the turn. I demonstrate both left and right turns. I then showed the proper rudder control in the turn so they can see how the nose flows smoothly into the turn. My instructor then says “Me me, let me try”. He then proceeds to push the rudder too early and hard when turnings and said, “Whoa that was weird, what happened?” I said talked about how he pushed the rudder too hard and too quickly as he entered the turn and entered a skid. I then said we will brief the concept of skids/slips on the ground. I did say it is important to have proper rudder control in order to keep the aircraft coordinated at all times. After this I coached him on how to do standard rate turns with rudder coordination. We did 360’s to the left and right.

After we finished the level flight concepts, I then began to teach constant speed descents and climbs. First we started out with the constant speed descent. I explained that in order to keep a constant speed, we would slowly pull the power and not change the pitch. The the airplane is trimmed for (pitched) for a particular airspeed and removing power would cause a descent and the airspeed would stay relatively the same. I explained relatively because the power change would cause the pitch/speed wobble up and down of our target airspeed until it settles back and that we can help dampen the oscillations by small pitch corrections. I proved that using solely the throttle would allow us to descend at a constant speed. I next performed the exercise again but with a climb, increasing the throttle. I added the caveat that during a climb, that because of the angle of attach and the high RPMS, we would need to add right rudder, just as on initial takeoff climb, to stay coordinated.

Next I tackled slowing down on a descent. So changing our speed and altitude. I then spoke about how we change reduce speed and remain at the same altitude will be a coordination between the throttle and the pitch. I reiterated that if we just change the throttle, we’ll descend but stay at the same airspeed. So I suggested we change airspeed and stay at the same altitude then once we reach our new target descent airspeed, we would pull more throttle and descend at the new airspeed. So I said to reduce throttle slowly and hold back pressure to keep the altitude the same. Once we reached the target speed I said then trim out the pressure, while holding the pitch to maintain the airspeed. As we did that, we noticed that we were starting to descend. So I said, we are now descending at our new target airspeed and if we want to descend faster, we just pull back on the throttle a bit more. If we want to descend slower, we increase the throttle just as we did in steady airspeed descents and climbs earlier.

As a new teacher this was already a lot. So we headed back to the airfield and I spoke about entry patterns and the need to get the current AWOS to figure out which runway we should land on. As we entered the pattern I talked through each step, altitude, rpm’s. At the abeam point, 1500 rpm, 10 degrees of flaps, pitch for 70kt descent. Turn Base, decision point, are we high/low. If low shallow the descent, add some throttle, if high, add 20 degrees flaps keep airspeed at 70. As we turn final, I try to repeat (still trying to solidify),

“Ailerons for Drift, Rudder for alignment, pitch for airspeed, throttle for altitude”. All while saying, short final we’re looking for 65, round out, eyes down the runway, hold, don’t let it land, hold hold hold. I’m struggling here because in the right seat I can land but still not super comfortable. So part of my brain processing is still there. I’m trying to verbalize everything to look for etc. We went up one more time around the patter and I repeated. Both landings were…. meh. First a little too fast, ballooned, the second a little slow, stall warning as we crossed the threshold. Embarrassing to be honest. However, I did manage to land both straight with no side loading and I didn’t lean to the left as we touched down.. So I am making progress.

Overall, it was a good lesson and if anything, show’s me how much I still have to learn. I imagine that will be true even after this check ride because a good pilot is always learning new things. And the saying, “You really learn how to fly once you begin to teach it” seems like a very true thing.

Check me out, in the right seat that is

It’s been a minute since I last posted. I started flying right seat to get a feel for things then nearly stopped flying and started working on all the ground material for my CFI. I meet with my instructor weekly along with another student and we are taking it slow. We are nearly through all of the ground material so decided to climb back into the right seat and see if I can get checked out.

As a note, the flying club that I am training at requires a special checkout and sign off by the chief flight instructor for any member to be able to fly right seat. The Chief flight instructor gave my instructor the nod to sign off on my checkout, so up we go!

Nothing fancy today, the plan was to go up in the plane and fly all of the required maneuvers needed for the checkout and for me to try and talk/teach my way through each maneuver.

First takeoff was normal and we departed the pattern to the west in order to get to the practice area. I climbed up to 3000 all while talking through What, how and why of each step. From the crosswind altitude to lowering the nose every so often to scan for traffic. My instructor told me to start wherever so I decided on steep turns. Performed a clearing turn and espoused the reasons why we do this then executed a steep left turn. I fumbled my way through the explanation during the turn. After the left turn, back to the right. They went well, all things considered, hit my wake both times.

Next up, slow flight. I decided to start with slow flight clean talking through the how and why. I mumbled around a bit to explain why. Note to self, need to be more prepared on the why for each maneuver. After slow flight clean, went on to slow flight dirty. Performed some standard rate turns, all was good. From here, went into an approach stall. I screwed up the setup and after some advice from the instructor, I reset my throttle an attitude for 65 knot descent, like I was landing then pulled the throttle holding the nose just above the horizon. Better technique than how I started. Cleaned up the airplane and performed a departure stall. Slowed the airplane down to around 75 kts, then gently pulled the nose back to about 25 degrees with full power. Not the greatest break on the stall but passable.

After going through a stall series, performed an engine out maneuver. Airspeed 68 (Best Glide speed), Best place to land (Grass strip about a mile away), Checklist (fuel on both, fuel shutoff valve in, mixture rich, fuel pump on etc.), Declare emergency on frequency or 121.5 transponder 7700.
I’m going to be real, I started this maneuver as a real mess. I tried to go directly in and do a crapy 360 about half a mile from the runway and was still too high. My instructor gave me some advice on the setup (duh, I know this stuff, truly do but my head was in the way), I glided to a nice downwind and ended up 1000 ft above the surface right abeam touchdown. In perfect power off 180 configuration. I performed the turn a little too early, probably antsy about how close we were to the ground already for this simulated emergency. Or my head was in the way again. Either way, would have been close, would have needed to slip.

After that, we did a few commercial maneuvers, lazy 8’s and chandelles. I did ok on the lazy 8’s, Chandelles were messy.

Finally, we headed back for some landings. First landing was a normal one, pretty decent, best from the right seat so far. Taxi’d back for a short field take off and landing for this go around. It was ok, I was short of my landing spot. I was in my head a bit about the site picture and lost the glide path a bit. Next, soft field takeoff and landing. I think the take off was really good, the landing was way too hard but kept the nose off the ground…. mostly.

The last trip around we did a power off 180. I didn’t do too bad, I landed a little left of the center line and slightly side loaded. I realized this time around, I was landing crooked because I was going out of my way to line up the runway centerline with some rivets on the cowling that were too far left of my site picture. This had me crabbing the aircraft slightly right and adjusting by using a little left aileron. At about 30 feet above the runway, it finally hit me and I let go of some right rudder but no the the aileron correction which had me slide a little left of the centerline.

Overall, my instructor said I did well…. better than I was giving myself credit for. And he said he felt comfortable signing me off to now fly solo in the right seat. A bit of a confidence boost and I do feel better about flying from the right side. I just need to clean up my landings and cleanup my maneuvers a bit and i’m golden. I keep telling myself, it will come, if it was easy we wouldn’t need to practice!

Flying right… err seat.

Today was the first day of learning to fly from the right side of the airplane. It wasn’t too bad and horrible at the same time. Odd, huh? I know. Luckily my flight instructor is awesome and wasn’t too hard on me today. Where to start? hmm, the beginning!

Arrived at the club and chatted for a sec with my instructor in which his only advice before the flight today was to say “Make sure you put your stuff on the right side.” Honestly, not sure what else there was to say. This was going to be similar to any other airplane checkout flight, except from the right seat.

I did, indeed, put my things on the right side. And it was weird. As I strapped in, I noticed that my kneeboard was on my right leg and felt odd being up against the door of the mighty 172. Not sure why, I’ve flown on that side during CAP missions and while acting as a safety pilot. For some reason, today, it felt really off.

As I started the checklist my instructor said, teach me, i’m a newbie. **Gulp**. Ok….
I started going through the checklist explaining every action and probably by most accounts, poorly. I’m sure I will get better with repetition but it felt, in a word, weird. Notice the theme here?

After run-up, I got a bit of advice on explaining then doing instead of explaining while doing. Makes total sense but I felt like my first time ever in an airplane. I taxied to the runway, with little issue. I asked about the centerline sight picture as I was guessing a little bit and seemed like that was fine.

Normal takeoff, wasn’t too big of a deal, other than my hands feeling off and having to look across the cockpit for the instrumentation. During the climb out, I ran the checklist and tried to get use to trimming with my left hand.

Once in the practice area, I began with simple turns to the left and right to try to get use to the sight picture. Next, steep turns. Again, our favorite word. Weird. Turn to the left felt like the nose was dropping and I had too much back pressure. Turn to the right, opposite problem. I did a couple each way and started to get the feel for it. So, not bad, just weird.

Next up, slow flight. First clean, then dirty. This wasn’t too bad either and really it was just getting use to looking to the left while using my left hand to fine tune the throttle. I actually felt pretty decent about this. Even though I was trying to rewire my brain to coordinate my hands but backwards in a way. You see slow flight you have to understand that you’re in the region of reverse command. Meaning, throttle controls your climb/descent and pitch controls your airspeed. I’m am normally quite good at flying like this and didn’t do too badly but was interesting since my hands were doing the opposite of what I was use to.

After some turns while slow/clean, I dirtied up (added flaps) and flew slow with full flaps. Still not bad and felt I was actually getting the hang of it.

Next, stalls. First we would perform a power-off (landing configuration) stall. I slowed the aircraft down to landing speed and then pulled back a bit bleeding off speed until the stall. Recovered and retracted flaps. Next, power on (departure) stall. Setup airspeed like we were just departing the runway, 74 kts. Full power and pull to bleed off speed. Stayed coordinated, piece of cake.

Now my explaining these maneuvers, not great. But that will come, right. right?

Next onto the easy part, landings. I say easy but I already knew this was traditionally the hardest part. First landing was a normal landing. Everything went pretty well until right at touchdown. As the wheels sat down, it felt like we shifted to the right. And the plane veered right and I was extremely late on getting enough left rudder to compensate.

Next, soft field takeoff. This wasn’t all that big of a deal. I felt like I did ok except once the wheels left the ground, I didn’t quite get the nose down quick enough. Pesky right hand.

And finally, the soft field landing. The approach felt fine and started to get use to the sight picture coming down. Again, as the wheels touched down, I felt like the airplane just veered right.

Now, my instructor commented that both times on landing, I leaned to my left. And I realized that once he said something. As we taxied back, I think what was happening is that the sight picture was weird and for some unknown reason I was leaning left to fix it in my mind but inadvertently pushing on the right rudder at the same time. I think I was using it as leverage to lean. That folks is weird.

Anyway, alls well and the landings were, just ok. I’m sure more landings will start to make it feel better but i’m not going to lie, it scared me a bit. And I felt like it was the first time landing a plane all over again.

I’m told that this is normal and after about 10 hours, i’ll be fine. We shall see.

CFI Journey begins

I haven’t posted in a while. Life can be crazy but I am back at it and my CFI Journey begins. I have been feverishly studying for the written exams. FOI (Fundamentals of Instruction), FIA (Flight Instructor Aircraft) and because it is nearly identical to FIA, the AGI (Advanced Ground Instructor). The last one is really just to be eligible to be a gold seal CFI. Not sure it really matters at this point but since it is nearly identical to the FIA exam and I’ll be fresh…. why not.

I will try to blog my CFI journey here step by step as I did with my other ratings. Until then… Blue skies and happy holidays!

The One with the Commercial Checkride

The Commercial checkride is complete!

After many months, err years of study, I have finally completed the checkride and am now a Commercially Certificated Pilot. So what does this mean you ask? Not a whole lot, lol. It really is a stepping stone to greater things. Though I can technically get paid to fly now, the rules are such that there are very few flying gigs available with just a commercial certificate. You can crop dust, aerial surveying, aerial photography, cargo pilot, banner towing …. but not really the big jobs.

So why put in the effort? There is another common job and that is Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). Ultimately, in order to take the next step to flying the big airplanes you need to get your Air Transport Pilot (ATP), you need 1500 hours. CFI is the most common way to build hours and teaching tends to reinforce your current skills. I always hear anecdotes from people who teach who say they’ve learned more teaching than they did in order to get the teaching position.

So the checkride, how’d it go?

I got up early, had breakfast, 3 eggs with toast. I don’t normally eat breakfast but I do know my brain works better when I do.
The DPE arrived about 20 minutes early and we both agreed to start early since it was forecast to get pretty warm and we wanted to beat the heat.

After I signed the IACRA, he went through all the requisite details and explanation of the oral and check ride steps. Next, he had me show him the aircraft logbooks. After that, he went through my logbook to verify that I had completed all the requirements. I had my logbook tabbed out so he could easily see my Long cross country, Day VFR, Night VFR, 10-night landings at towered airport, etc. This went pretty fast, and he was satisfied.

We started with the oral. I won’t bore you with all the questions but it went well, and we got through it surprisingly fast. I wasn’t perfect but I did pretty well. *Pops Collar*

Next up the Practical:
Flight Plan: KTTA to KROA @ 6500 using Pilotage and Dead Reckoning
CHAPS (Clearing turns, Heading, Altitude, Power settings, Safe place to land) <- for reference He told me everything that I would need to expect. I needed to remember CHAPS and that we would bail out of the second checkpoint. I would do my groundspeed check and alternate calculations. He also said that stalls would be to first indication (Horn) and that in some instances he would tell me that I wouldn’t need to do a clearing turn but otherwise, do CHAPS. Normal Takeoff on 21 and departed the pattern mid field on course. As we crossed 3500, he said to go ahead and descend back to 3000 and setup cruise for the first checkpoint. He asked what altitude I was climbing to and I said that I was climbing to 6500 per our flight plan. He seemed good with that. Once I reached my first checkpoint, I started the timer. He asked me what radial I was on from RDU. I turned it to show from and the radial He asked, "If you were going to fly there would you keep it that way?" I said no, I would flip it 180 to the TO direction. As we got near the second checkpoint, he said ROA is closed due weather and KTTA is shut down due to aircraft on the runway. Where do we go? I initially told him RDU since we have the VOR dialed in ? I initially suggested RDU since we have the VOR dialed in and we know that they have multiple runways and services. He said "No, we’ll bust airspace. Anywhere else?" I don’t think that was a wrong answer, but he wanted me to turn in the direction and that would have had us going into RDU for a mock exercise which probably wasn’t a great idea. I then suggested KSCR and he nodded in agreement. Once I hit my second checkpoint and turned on course to SCR and did the time calculation based on the grounds speed I calculated between checkpoint 1 and 2. First maneuver was accelerated stalls. I did a clearing turn and performed the accelerated stall. Side note: worst accelerated stall i've ever done, and I knew it. Subsequently, I was told about it in the debrief. Steep turns: He told me my choice of initial direction and which way I wanted to turn first. I performed a clearing turn and setup on an object on the horizon. First right then left. They were fine. I actually lost a little more altitude than I liked but was able to correct and keep within standards. Up Next, Chandelle: He told me to do a Chandelle and that the steep turns would suffice for clearing turns. I setup the Chandelle using a long stretch of power lines since I couldn’t see the power plant (My normal visual aid). Performed a chandelle to the right and he seemed satisfied. Interestingly enough, early in my training, I always went to the left. And the way I was setup, the power plant was to the left but I couldn't see it due to haze. Overtime, I got proficient and comfortable doing it either left or right so it didn't really matter. Emergency descent: The DPE asked my airspeed for the descent. We barely got one turn before he said go ahead and recover. I was actually really surprised because in practice I would do a lot of circles and drop quite a bit of altitude but it was within standards. Not going to complain, lol. At this point we were near Eagles landing and he said, "Uh oh, you've lost your engine." I went through ABCDE and got my airspeed to 68 and started a spiral over the end of the runway. Once I was at a good altitude, I setup on my downwind leg (Tracking north) to runway that would track south. Turned base and was getting ready to add flaps as I turned final and he said, "That would have worked out nicely." As I recovered, we were near my pylons. He gave me a hint about needing to do CHAPS, me == stupid. I took the hint and asked if I could do a 360-degree clearing turn and he agreed. I entered my pylons at pivotal altitude and did one turn around each pylon before he said "Climb to a good altitude and let’s head back before it gets hotter." Another side Note: In debrief, the DPE stated that in all the students, check rides that he has completed and all the ones he's read, I am the only student he's seen turn right to start 8's on Pylons. I don't think it was a slight or anything and to be honest, I didn't really think about it. If the downwind was on the other side, I would have entered on a left turn. I think it was more that I just liked to start with the one particular pylon first. But I don't feel that starting with one over the other gave me any advantage. Maybe that is confidence. Finish off with the landings. Now all the landings have to be to a spot designated and for my landings I said the 1000 ft markers. The landings have to be either on the touchdown point up to 200 ft beyond. With they trickiest, the power off 180 precision landing. For the landings, the DPE said that I could choose the order of the landings but that each will be to a full stop on the runway and he will call which take off to perform. The series would include: Normal T/O and landing, Short field, Soft field and the power off 180 precision First landing was a soft field followed by a soft field takeoff Next, Short field landing - Go around, I was too high. That was problem with all my approaches, I was too high. I think an artifact of my power off 180 practices erring higher than normal. You can go around on any landing other than the power off 180, so I took advantage of it. Short field landing, successfully this time, followed by Short field takeoff. Next, I wanted to do the power off 180 but traffic entered the pattern and took a wide pattern, so I opted for my normal landing, Normal take off after that. So the time came, for one of the trickiest maneuvers of the commercial checkride. Mainly because out of all the maneuvers, this one seems to be the only one in which there are factors outside of your control that can cause you to fail. Once you start the maneuver, you must hit the target or you fail. If you get a gust of a tail wind or headwinds pick at the last second, you fail. The idea here is that on downwind, once abeam your touch down spot, in my case the 1000 ft markers, you pull power. Now you have to plane your glide 180 degrees around to land on the runway either on or 200ft beyond your designated touchdown zone. There are different methods you can use, S-Turns, Slips, flaps, squaring your turn.... I spent quite a few flights in different wind conditions including swirling winds to try to perfect this. I pulled the power and had a crosswind from my left so I kept it tight to the runway. I turned base a little early because I know that wind was swinging from cross to headwind and didn't want to be caught with not enough energy. As are turned base I knew I was high and had the energy that I needed despite the wind. I went full flaps and squared off the turn to final. I was still high, yuck. Ok, so i applied a slip to stay on airspeed but add a lot of drag that would allow me to lose altitude. The slip started to work nicely and I took the slip into ground effect. As the wheels touched down, I felt it was going to be close and I heard, "That will work, within limits" Power off 180 and ride complete Cleared the runway ran the checklist and taxi back, I'm a Commercial pilot now. Next stop, right seat for CFI.

Been quite a while, where, why, how? Commercial Training

It’s been a while since i’ve posted about my flying here, especially my commercial training.

Short synopsis

Since checking out in the Mooney, I continued some of my commercial training but not in earnest. It was hard to get motivated because I really needed hours more than anything. I joined Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and got checked out as a mission pilot in Glass 172’s and 182’s. I built time volunteering to fly maintenance and Search and Rescue (SAR) training missions. It has been a lot of fun and I have made a lot of friends along the way.

About a year ago, I took and passed the Commercial written exam but just kind of plodded along building hours.

As the new year came, I decided since I have the hours, it’s time to knock this out. I have been training weekly with my awesome CFI and am quickly reaching checkride form.

The Now times

For the last several lessons, we have been hammering Lazy 8’s, Chandelles, 8’s on pylons and 180 degree power off precision landings.

I have faced demons with each of these at some point but have continued to practice and slay each of them over time. In my last couple of flights, the 180 power offs really got into my head. I had a pretty atrocious lesson a few days ago in which I was either short or long on most of my approaches. I ended on a good one and felt I made a connection, but it was a disappointing lesson.

Two days later, I jumped back into the cockpit for a lesson completely focusing on power off 180’s. As a bonus the weather blessed us with swinging cross winds. And also and empty pattern, woohoo!

This was good because I really had to focus on energy management and what the wind was doing during each phase of the approach. With the help of my instructor, I also realized that I wasn’t focusing on my aim point until I actually turned final which hurt me quite a bit on determining altitude and energy. Once I started focusing on my aim point, I was able to make better decisions and corrections.

I quickly learned that altitude was a friend and started turning base a bit high on purpose in the windy conditions. I have many tools in the bag to loose altitude but none to gain altitude. And with the wind changing from head to tail wind depending on the lap in the pattern, this turned out to be a good strategy to help gauge the winds.

All in all, this last lesson was a big confidence booster and i’m getting to the point that the checkride is in the cards for the near future. I am going to do another flight or two by myself to cleanup a few maneuvers then I will start some mock checkrides on the way to the finish line.

I can’t say i’ll be posting more here.  However, I would like to since as soon as I finish this Commercial Certificate, I am jumping right into CFI. Going to be a wild ride!

The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 3

Weather has a big impact on aviation. That sounds pretty self evident after reading it back but it is sometimes under appreciated. I have been trying to finish my Mooney M20J checkout and complete my Duel Day Commercial X-ctry at the same time but weather was not cooperating. However, my flying club annual was nearing expiration so I am up against that deadline.

Deadlines and aviation don’t mix well with each other. It leads to hazardous attitudes and poor aeronautical decision making in order to complete whatever mission/deadline that you have in your plans. So the best course of action is to remove said deadline and thus removing the need to take risks to accomplish the task. So that is what I did… err sort of.

I removed the pressure of completing the checkout/flying club annual from my mission to complete the Duel Day Commercial X-ctry. Weather was looking good recently but when I woke up, the ceilings were not lifting all that fast. So I talked to my instructor and we agreed to drive to the airport and see if we could get in the 3 landings that I needed to complete the checkout. After about an hour of chatting, the ceilings lifted to just above pattern altitude so I proceeded with the preflight.

I just needed short field and soft field takeoffs and landings. I was able to finish with just 3 t/o and landings.  1 short, 1 soft and 1 regular. I impressed my instructor with my proficiency or else I would have had to do more. In true fashion, he boosted my ego a bit by saying how good I make him look as an instructor. It really is just ego boosting but it does feel good to have some encouragement.

I strive to fly safe and honor what I have learned from my past and current instructors. I feel fortunate to have such great mentorship in my aviation life.  So that is it, my final flight of the Mooney M20j checkout.  Overall, it was a fun checkout and I do enjoy flying the Mooney.  It is a little spending for hour building but should be a decent family cross country aircraft.

The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 2

So as part of my checkout on the Mighty Mooney I needed to complete an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC).

Let’s take a look at the basic requirements for an IPC. Good writeup at BoldMethod

  • Non-precision Approach
  • Precision Approach
  • Missed Approach
  • Circling Approach
  • Partial Panel Approach
  • Recovery From Unusual Attitudes
  • Intercepting and Tracking
  • Holding

I completed “Recovery from Unusual Attitudes” in the previous lesson, The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 1.

The Plan:

This particular flight was all about the approaches.  Today was a great day for it as the cloud deck was hovering around 700 msl at the time of departure and not looking like much lifting for the next few hours.

So I filed IFR round robin to KSCR.  KTTA -> KSCR -> KTTA.  The plan was to fly the RNAV 22 at Siler city, go missed, then fly the ILS 3 Y at TTA with the course reversal, and finally the RNAV 21 LNAV with Partial panel down to circling.  This would take care of all of my requirements.

  • RNAV 22 (SCR) –  satisfied the Non-precision approach and missed
  • ILS 3 Y (TTA) – satisfied the Precision approach and hold
  • RNAV 21 (TTA) – satisfied the Partial Panel as well as the circling approach back to runway 3.

Intercepting and tracking was used during the whole process.

It was nice because we are hard IFR for most of the flight and all of the approaches.  I didn’t have to wear the foggles at all… yay!

Time to Execute the plan:

TTA does not have a tower so you have to call to get your clearance. The clearance issued a heading of 360 upon entering controlled airspace.  So that was the limit of my clearance.  Even though I filed TTA -> OCEKO -> KSCR -> TTA, I was given the curious cleared as filed but then fly heading 360.  It was an odd exchange but figured we would get our vector to OCEKO once in the air.  That wasn’t the first oddity during this flight.

After departure, I contacted Raleigh approach and once they confirmed my location was cleared direct OCEKO at 4000.  As we neared OCEKO, we hadn’t been given any instructions for the approach and once we hinted that we were a mile out… they quickly cleared us but handed us off to Greensboro Approach and told us to tell the other controller we were cleared.

I thought that was a bit weird.  In hindsight, should have prompted them a little earlier because it seems we weren’t on the same page for approach.  I requested the approach on the phone and technically it was the same person. Oh well, no harm.

Once we were over to Greensboro Approach, they re-affirmed the clearance and asked for our intentions.  “Requesting return to TTA for another approach, N5760R”.  We were expecting to get alternate missed instructions to setup for return to TTA but it never came.

On the missed, we informed approach that we are now flying the missed and received cleared direct TTA.  I then requested the ILS 3 Y full approach, full in order to do the required hold.  Approach responded, “I’ll hand you off in a few miles and you can give your request to the next controller”.

Switching frequency to Fayetteville approach, I requested the ILS 3 Y full approach and we were cleared direct IKTOW @3000.  Now here is the first altitude weirdness.  Right  before we reached IKTOW we were cleared for the approach. Then as we crossed and I was about to drop down to the segment altitude, we were asked to stay at 3000.  I’ve never gotten an approach clearance then and altitude restriction right after with no further instructions. My instructor thought i was odd as well. Oh well, once we were inbound, they cleared us down 2100 and we proceeded with the rest of the approach.

On inbound we were asked our intentions and I requested the RNAV 21 full approach.  This time, as expected, we were given alternate missed instructions of Climb 3000 to YUXI and a switch back to Raleigh Approach.

During the missed approach, we were vectored due to traffic and positioning us for the full RNAV 21 approach.

Raleigh approach cleared us for the RNAV 21 but stay @ 3000 until we reached the final approach.  At least this made more sense because we had the clearance and knew when the altitude restriction would expire.  My instructor commented on the many altitude restrictions on approach segments today.  Once established on the approach, I went partial panel and did the LNAV step-down for the RNAV 21 down to the circling minimums.  At this point we broke through the clouds and I circled around to runway 3 for the full stop landing and finishing the IPC.


Overall, I thought I did well on the IPC.  Flying a new plane, second flight. And not flying IFR in at least 6 months, I felt I did ok.  It wasn’t perfect.  I was behind the plane a bit but was able to get the weather, briefing etc done on time.  Still getting use to a few things:

  • Adjusting the MP (25) and Prop (25) during the climb.  I am too slow on this task and need to get that drilled into my head.
  • Switching tanks, not too bad but still a little behind.
  • Flow checks were better this time, I did the 7 steps much better but I was still scolded a few times.
  • Landings… just need a few more landings to be comfortable.

My instructor is awesome and he said I did well today.  He has a way of teaching you things in ways that stick and is very encouraging through the process.  I’ve heard horror stories of instructors that are constantly putting you down and taking all the enjoyment out of flying.  I am humbled by our clubs instructors in both their skill and their ability to teach at a high level.

Whats Next?

I still need a few landings to fully checkout in the Mooney and since I need to get more dual complex hours (6.6 hrs) for my Commercial, I am going to try to do the Day VFR Dual Cross country.  Might as well knock out more than one thing at a time!

My Chariot

The Mighty Mooney M20J Checkout Part 1

After a long hiatus, once again, I spread my wings and soared through the air. Hot and Humid air but air none the less.  Today was the first flight in the mighty Mooney M20J.  And it was strange but not for the reasons you may think…. or maybe you do.

I haven’t flown in quite a while.  The last time I slipped the bonds of earth was February 7, 2020.  Exactly 120 days between flights.  To be passenger current, you must log 3 landings in the last 90 days…. so way out of currency there. Also, our flying club rules state that if you haven’t flown in 90 days, you must be checkout out by a club flight instructor.

And ……  I am due for my flying club annual and need an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC).  So  as you can see, I am not current at a the moment.  The only thing that I have good right now is my medical… which is actually due for renewal in August.

So this new Airplane checkout is more than just checking out in a new aircraft.  Going to Knock out my 90 day currency, Aircraft Checkout, IPC, and club annual all in these flights.  It sounds like a lot but it is all pretty straight forward…. a club annual pretty much takes care of all of it, including the written test needed to checkout in a new bird.

However, it is strange because I am performing all of these checkout maneuvers in a new aircraft and pretty rusty after 120 days of not flying.  I have muscle memory for the Cessna aircraft but none really for the Mooney.  New flows, new checklists, more gadgets, new prop controls and landing gear that is not welded down.

To be honest though, thanks to my awesome flight instructor, it was really just like any other flight.  Other than mucking up my flow check a few times in the pattern, I felt I did pretty well all things considered.

So what did we cover in this flight?

  • Standard takeoff
  • Climb
  • Cruise
  • Descents
  • Steep Turns
  • Stall series
  • Autopilot
  • Leaning/Enriching strategies using the new onboard management systems
  • Short/Soft landings
  • Emergency procedures
  • And emergency manually lowering of the landing gear

… I’m sure there was more that I am not remembering at the moment.


My thoughts on the flight?  Like I said above, need to work on hammering the flow check into my head.  I feel like I am hanging just with the aircraft, not ahead or behind.  I need to get a little more ahead, I think that will come in the next lesson(s) with more IFR practice.  The landings went well, we performed 4 landings in total with flap variations. (half and full flaps)  Honestly, couldn’t tell how much my instructor helped on the controls. One thing that stands out is how heavy the controls are compared to the Cessna’s.  It seems to be the difference in pushrod connections versus cable connections.  I don’t think it’s a huge deal but different.

Overall, I felt like the aircraft was more stable in most phases of flight versus the Cessna’s.  Could have just been the conditions today but I felt like the steep turns, stalls, etc were much smoother.

I look forward to part 2 of the checkout process and the many more lessons that I will have in the mighty Mooney M20J.  For my commercial rating, I need 10 Dual hours in a complex or TAA aircraft.  1.9 are in the books, 8.1 to go!

Mooney M20J – N1068X

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