Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Month: November 2015

Instruments anyone? Comes with a side of quiz!

Today, after preflight, we went over several tests that I had to take to qualify pre-solo.  One test was on the Cessna 152 POH.  Things like facts and weight & balance as well as takeoff distances and landing distances. We also had a quiz on the club SOP’s and finally a quiz on the FAR.  These were open book quizzes so that was a plus.  I did quite well only missing a couple of questions due to me reading them incorrectly. Tricky questions with the wording not unlike what I will see on the written test.  With that out of the way, I am one step closer to my solo.

We talk about todays flight and we are going to work on simulated instrument conditions which means I get to where a site limiting device most commonly referred to as foggles.  The purpose of these stylish glasses are to limit your visibility to within the cockpit, so you can’t see outside and the horizon.

We departed runway 3 and from the downwind leg we departed the pattern to the West.  We climbed up to 3000 feet and I donned the new headwear.  I have many many hours of instrument in the simulator so I was familiar with the principles.  I have also read many stories of how people did not trust the instruments and tried to fly with their feeling as you do with VFR.  This leads to very bad things, most likely a spiral until you meet the ground.

We did simple maneuvers where my instructor would call out headings and I would turn keeping an eye on the instruments.  We would descend and ascend all while looking at the instruments.  Nothing too taxing since this was my first time.  The idea here is to get use to a continual instrument scan. You have a pattern and a temp in your head to which you scan the instruments.  My instructor explained it to me like a waltz, you keep tempo “1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and 1 and ….”  You start with your attitude indictor then move to your airspeed, then back to attitude, then to heading, then back to attitude, then to vertical speed, then back to attitude then altitude.  Once you compete the scan… you start again.  This keeps you from focusing on one instrument too much.

I seemed to do well with the basics so she threw in some extra work load and I started to fall apart a bit.  “Show me which radial we are off of on the liberty VOR”.  Now I had to add my chart to my scan and tuning the VOR, so things started to get shaky. I did it again with the RDU VOR and I think I did a bit better the second time.  Overall, I think I did ok for my first time  under the hood, but it will need to be tightened up.  I have to get in 3 hours of hood time (simulated instrument) as part of my Private Pilot requirement.  As of today, I have 0.4.

After I was released from the foggles, I had about 5 minutes to just relax and let my instructor fly me.  I figured this was a quick reward as it is pretty draining.  once back at the controls, I hear ” You just lost your engine, what do you do?”  I pitched for 60, found a field off of the nose and setup for downwind.  Ran through startup checklist, turned base, then final with full flaps.  “Go ahead and go around, we would have survived that one”.  YAY!  I like it when we survive. 🙂

We have been wandering around, from my point of view with now site, and while I was able to relax I found a few suitable fields for emergency landings, which came in handy the paragraph before but also when she asked “Ok, where are we?”  I had already identified a brick kiln and a major highway and quickly pointed it out on the chart.

We headed back to the airfield for a little pattern work.  Nothing too crazy here, first landing felt really good, the second landing was on a simulated engine out, then we performed a go around and a final landing.  During the pattern work my instructor said she thought I was ready and asked how I felt.  I told her I felt pretty good, much better than I did just a few weeks ago.  I am pretty comfortable in all phases of flight and confident that I can get up and down safely.  I am hoping to Solo before Christmas, would be a cool gift.  We will see how it works out, I have some obligations coming up that will keep me on the ground more than normal.  I also have the written test coming up.  I may sacrifice some air time in order to make sure that I am prepared.  As I have always felt, I will solo when my instructor and I think i’m ready, doesn’t matter how long it takes.


Steep Spiral Engine outs… Pop Quiz Day

Today, the airport was pretty quiet.  People out on cross countries and probably lots visiting with family.  No better time to go up for a lesson.

Once preflighted, we sat down to go over what we were going to learn.  First, since it was quiet, we were going to try to get in some engine out spiral descents over the runway so I could get a feel for a good descent with a fixed site picture.  It helped a lot and I think will be useful when we have these engine out practices over fields.  Next she had me take a short quiz, basically stating whether I thought I was satisfactory or not on a bunch of different maneuvers.  In this case, Satisfactory meant safe not perfect.  In that case, I felt like I was satisfactory across the board.  But definitely not perfect by any means.  After finishing the quiz, my instructor informed me that we were going to go up and she was going to stay as quiet as possible and take notes on my performance.

Up we go….

First we performed two spiral descents from 3000 msl over the runway.  She asked me to land on the first 1/3 of the runway… first time.. I turned base too early and was a little high landing about halfway.  The second time, I was pretty spot on, this time knowing that I had zero wind and good altitude, I measured my turns a little better and landed on the first 1/3 of the runway.

Next, off to the practice area.  First maneuver, was a steep turn to the left.  I stabilized and started my turn, “You just failed your check ride”…. then it occurred to me… clearing turn. doh.  After performing a clearing turn I setup for a 45 degree left turn.  I performed the turn but losing about 100 feet.  Next I setup for the right turn.  “You just failed your check ride”.  AHHHH.  This becomes a common phrase because for some reason, I can’t seem to remember to perform a clearing turn before each maneuver. I did really well on the 45 degree right turn, nailing the altitude.

Next we setup for slow flight.  “Show me 60 kts clean”.  Ok, so I stabilized and started to pull the throttle. You can guess what I heard next… yep “You just failed your check ride”.  I am at a loss as to why I can’t get it through my head… as I was stabilizing I thought to myself that I need to do the clearing turn.  The clean 60kt maneuver wasn’t too bad.  Next she wanted  50 kt dirty slow flight.  After failing my check ride yet again, I perform the maneuver but during the turn gain 200 ft of altitude because I seem to be flummoxed on why we are gaining altitude.  we descend back down to our maneuver altitude and try again… this time I say, “Going to do my clearing turn”, she says “That is a wonderful idea”.  After the clearing turn, I enter 50 kt dirty slow flight, and perform a 180 degree turn while staying slow and dirty.  One thing I thought I did well today was holding my heading with right rudder in slow flight.  That part felt a lot better.  We re-enter cruise speed at 2500 ft msl.

Next I hear, “Tell me what radio we are tracking outbound from the Liberty VOR”.  No big deal, dialed it up and showed her that we were on the 115 outbound radial.

Finally, she asked me to take her back to the airport, make all of the radio calls and land without her help.  COOL!

I call our 3 mile entry over the river as I am descending to pattern altitude.  Enter the pattern, oops forgot my in range checklist… I run through that real quickly… she didn’t say a word.  Then I performed my before landing… which is committed to memory.  Pattern felt great, on target.  Turned final at 500 ft agl, right on target… shot the numbers to the ground, flared and hear a light chirp and barely even felt it touch down… right on centerline.  I hear from the right seat, “Fantastic!  My old instructor would call that a snotty landing”.  Good way to end the lesson.

I was pretty frustrated with myself, even though it has been a few weeks since I have done these maneuvers, I had higher standards for myself.  Other than failing the check ride about half a dozen times, I only busted PTS on one maneuver.  She told me that was pretty good since I was still pre-solo.  Small victories I suppose.  As I have a habit of saying, as frustrating as it was…. I still got to fly an airplane and that is cool.


Crossing the winds and the Controls


Today we had a nice 6 to 9 kt crosswind.  I say nice because before I can solo, I need to get crosswind landings down.

After preflight, I had some time to burn before my instructor landed with her current student.  I took in a gorgeous afternoon on the club deck and noticed something new coming up the runway.  I really cool Pilatus painted up like a blue and red cartoon bird.  The turbo charged engine sounded really cool and the take off was silky smooth.  I would end up chasing this bird around the pattern but we have to get off the ground first.

So… we go.

Today we stayed in the pattern for the entire lesson.  The plan was, crosswind landings / slips, some engine outs and a spiral descent over the runway.  (If it was light on traffic).

First take off was fine, I could tell it was going to be tiring as I fought the crosswind and some turbulence.  I crabbed into the wind making sure that I held runway heading, all the while looking for that Pilatus that was in the pattern.  I spotted the blue bird (the Pilatus.. ), getting ready to turn base as I rolled out on downwind.  I made sure to keep him in site as we came abeam so I could start my descent.  First landing was ok, I crabbed as we came down and touched down but not feeling real confident.  I was high and flared too high so we floated… been a while since I actually got some practice landing… that last flight was more of a hold on and ride.

As soon as we were down and under control, throttle up and back up chasing the blue bird.  Next time around, as we were abeam the bird, “You lost your engine, what do you do?” I pitched for 60 kts, started turning toward the runway since it was best available…. that Pilatus was just now touching down.  Everything went fine and as I was about 50 feet, we performed a go around as to not create a runway incursion.  The Pilatus was still on his landing roll.  Seemed to go ok.

Things went like this for the next couple of landings, and two more engine outs.  I think I have a grasp of the A,B,C,D,E procedure and able to perform it without causing distractions from flying the plane.  I am still having trouble slipping to land.

As I turn Final, I try to do this half slip half crab thing, (non committal) and lose airspeed and needed some help… I set the plane down hard on the runway.  As we take off, I tell her “I feel like the plane is flying me and I am afraid of the rudder.  I need to quit being as you say ‘Namby Pamby’ with the rudder.”  She responds, “Let’s do one more so you can redeem yourself”.

Last landing, I turn Final and leave some right crab in for the wind.  Then I kicked the left rudder hard to line up with the runway and dropped the right wing into the wind as I hold forward to keep airspeed from dropping.  At the same time, I applied some throttle to counteract the increased descent rate.  It felt really good and I was doing it.  As I got to flare height it went a little sideways…. literally.  As I came out of the slip, the nose went left because I still had my foot on the rudder… but we were right of centerline so I thought it was fine… except we were a little sideways but not bad.  I go… “Ugh” but she says “Nice job on the slip couldn’t have done it better myself”.  I, of course point out my sideways landing and she comments on that is how rubber comes off the tires.  I took it in stride and felt pretty good over all about the slip and landing.  It felt like it clicked and she thought so as well.

As I entered the club house to debrief, she said “Let me introduce you to ****, I want you to go up with him so he can do a check that precedes your pre solo checkout.  I want him to put you through the paces before you do your pre-solo ride with the Chief Flight Instructor” Pretty awesome, that means I am getting close to that magical milestone.  I’m a little excited, a little nervous, pretty hungry right now…. I do feel like I am ready to take the next step. Can’t wait until my next lesson


Here is a pic of the Pilatus, not the best and I wish they wouldn’t have departed to the South.  I wanted to get a close up picture but, you get what you get.  Still cool.




Off the ground again! Briefly…

Today was marginal.  A cold front (High Pressure) was coming through that would push all the yucky clouds away but bring us some pretty gusty winds.  The reports were calling form 350-010 at 10 kts gusting to 15.  We decided since we have had many cancellations recently due to wind that we would give it a shot.  The wind was coming mostly head on to runway 3.

As I preflighted, I noticed a couple of times, large gusting winds that rocked the plane quite a bit as well as chilled me to the bone.  I decided to leave the plane tied down until we were ready to get underway.

As my instructor arrived, she rushed out and said, “Let’s go ahead as soon as you are ready”.  So I released the tie down and we got started.

Everything went fine and we taxi’d to runway 3 for take off.  My instructor said that we should increase airspeeds 5 kts all the way around the pattern to account for the gusty winds.  This meant, rotate at 55 instead of 50 and climb out at 70 instead of 65.

As we lifted off it was pretty bumpy, you could definitely feel that the little 152 was struggling.  Personally, I thought it was cool.  As we proceeded around the pattern it became clear that the weather around us was not quite as good as forecast so we decided that we would be full stop on this landing and call it a day.  Once on final, I found myself ill equipped for the task as I struggled to hold centerline and approach speed.  With a little (or a lot) of help from my instructor, we touched down nicely and taxi’d back.  There was another student/instructor pair struggling with the decision to fly and we gave them our Pirep (Pilot Report).  They waited around a bit to make a decision and about 20 minutes after we landed, the wind shifted to nearly 90 degrees crosswind at 14 kts.  This was above the cross wind component of the mighty 152.  So it turns out, we made a good decision today.

I learned a valuable lesson in Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM)  and it was good to get up in the conditions to have a feel for what they are like.  Even though it was a short flight, many lessons were learned.


This morning was gorgeous.  Winds were calm, it was pretty cold out, just above freezing so our climb performance was pretty awesome.  The density altitude (DA) was reporting as -1500 in the area.

Since we didn’t have any winds that would facilitate crosswind landings or ground reference maneuvers, we moved to a new topic of study and practice.  Emergency engine out procedures.

As we left the pattern,I make the radio calls ( I’m making all of the radio calls now by the way 🙂 ), and we head west towards the practice area.  Once we reach cruise altitude, I perform the cruise checklist and my instructor says, “See anywhere that we could land?”  As I look, I notice that there isn’t any were particularly inviting.  Most fields are small and green.  We are looking for more long and brownish.  I finally find a location and she says to head that direction.  Okydoky.

As I come downwind on the field that I think is good, she pulls the throttle and says to go through my emergency checklist.  It’s as easy as A,B,C,D,E  or so it should be but at this moment I don’t know what I am doing.  So with some prodding, I go through the checklist:

A – Pitch for best glide (Vg), which is 60 kts for the Cessna 152 that I am currently      floating above the earth.

– Find the best spot to land.  Well I got to pick it before this started  so I guess that is where I am landing.

– Checklist for restart procedure.  This is more of a flow, check fuel shutoff valve is set to on, mixture rich, carb heat off, mag switch on… to start if prop stopped, primer closed and locked.

– Dialog.  This is where I would declare an emergency on 121.5 and squawk 7700. If in the pattern or near patter of airport I would declare the emergency on the airport frequency.

E –  Exit procedures. Shutoff fuel, electrical and unlatch the doors.

I pretty much had to let my instructor talk me through it because I was busy trying not to crash with no engine.  It was oddly real feeling even though I know that we were ok and the engine was actually spinning.  She would clear the engine every X amount of descent to make sure we didn’t have a REAL emergency.

So… the first attempt… too high and too low to make the field on the other side… 🙁

Second attempt, I was high so I tried to perform a spiral descending turn but I was way to close to the sides of the landing area so when I rolled couldn’t actually complete the final turn onto final without overshooting.  🙁

We headed over to KSCR and I entered the pattern and was getting ready to turn base and…… engine out…. throttle back to idle.  This one was pretty uneventful and I landed successfully with full flaps deployed.  This was weird because it was the first time that I had landed with full flaps extended.  There was a bit more vibration and the nose pointed down a bit more than normal to keep approach speed.  Wasn’t too big of an issue, just different.

We back taxi’d and took off heading back towards KTTA.  I found a field and we lined up for another engine out landing.  This time I learned from my second attempt where I was crowding the pattern.  This time I flew a pinpoint pattern all the way down to around 500 feet, then I pushed in power and slowly retracted the flaps. “We would have survived that one, good job”   😀  YAY

We tuned in the Liberty VOR and followed the 120 radial back to Raleigh Exec.  Talking about finding spots and always having somewhere that you could land if an issue were to arise.  I expressed my dissatisfaction with my performance and she reminded me that it was my first lesson performing this maneuver and that I did well, considering.

The pattern at KTTA was buzzing, not surprising since it was an absolutely beautiful day to fly.  I was a following an RV-7, that was really fast,  who was downwind when I entered the pattern.  The RV turned final about the time that I was abeam the numbers to I extended to give room.  Once abeam to the RV, I began our initial descent, one notch of flaps, descent attitude.  Turned base, second notch of flaps, then final.  I was a bit high but coming down nicely.  “There’s a deer on the runway!”  So I go full power, cut carb heat, accelerate and slowly retract flaps, ten degrees at a time.  She always gets me with that one.  Not 100% sure if it was because I was a little high and she was giving me an out or just part of the curriculum.  I suspect the latter.

Next time I am abeam the numbers, engine goes to idle…. you guessed it, engine out.  We go through the A,B,C,D,E and me being really slow… I made the base turn at the normal point… um yeah, well…   No flaps because we don’t use flaps until know that we have made the runway.  I turn final and we are a little about right on with no flaps.  My instructor makes the radio call “Raleigh Exec Cessna 40B final runway 3 simulated engine out, full stop”  Since we are low, she makes the comment that flaps are unavailable due to electrical failure.  My indication that we will not be using flaps.  If we did, we wouldn’t make the runway.

As we approach the runway, the site picture is looking good and she comments to me that the airplane is going to float and to let it float and slowly settle down. I comply and we touch down nicely on the runway.  The lesson here is, when the engine is out and you have a 6500 ft runway at your disposal… go ahead and make a tight base and final so you can use flaps.  The happy side effect is that I was able to practice my first no flap landing.

We taxi back discussing the lesson.  I tell her how displeased I was with my coordination when we went full power after each of the emergency landings.  I really need to get that in my head… slow and full power means p factor and I need right rudder.  She didn’t seem too worried about it.. probably pleased that I recognized it.  The common theme is when I learn new things, I am behind the aircraft…  It will get easier.  She sent me home with a bit of homework so now to get studying.  Next Flight is Friday… can’t wait to get back up.

Cancelled lessons, 11 days, biggest break yet

Weather here went sideways for about a week and a half.  I had 3 lessons in a row cancelled… boooo!  I finally got back in the air and boy was I a bit rusty.

After pre-flight, my instructor and I went over the flight plan.  We were going to take off and head over to the practice area and work on a new ground reference maneuver.  S-Turns.  S-Turns are a good maneuver for calculating rate of turn with wind coming at you from different angles.  The simple gist is that you find a road perpendicular to the prevailing wind.  Then you set up on the downwind and cross the road back and forth make a continuous S pattern.  This challenges you to make smooth turns with increasing/decreasing bank angles depending on where the wind is coming from.  Oh, and you only have to make the turn 1/2 mile from the road each time, coordinate the bank, make sure you keep airspeed within +/- 10 kts, altitude +/- 100 feet while watching out for other traffic, towers, obstacles, etc.  Easy Peasy.

Actually, I think I did ok.  I know we didn’t have a real strong wind but I managed to keep everything in check and after about 8 or so turns we headed off to KSCR (Siler City) to land on their brand new runway.

As we dialed in the CTAF, I noticed there is a lot of traffic.  Well, what can you expect, horrible weather recently, airport that just reopened after brand new runway…. everyone has the same idea.  Pattern work!

I entered the pattern and here is where the rust started to show.  Here I was again in a landing pattern and behind the airplane.  That coupled with a wonky site picture because the runway is shorter and more narrow, my first attempt ended in a go around.

“Siler City, 46B go around because I am a noob, Siler City”

I didn’t really say the noob part but I thought it.  Second attempt I came in a little high but ok.  At the last second I feel a kick on the rudder then we touch down.  “You feel that right push?”


“You weren’t lined up straight, need to stay active on the rudder”


Now the fun part.. remember when I said everyone was at the pretty new runway? Well, another cool feature of KSCR, there is no taxiway.  At all.  Which is actually more common than you think but it means if you land long, you taxi back down the runway to either take off again or you pull into the ramp to turn around, which in this case is midway down the runway.  Since there was an aircraft on the ramp waiting, we pulled onto the ramp and followed him out back down the runway to do our run up and prepare for takeoff.

and then……  we wait.

4 planes in the pattern….. we wait and then wait some more.  When you don’t have a taxi way, things take longer.   Anyway, boring, skipping forward.

We take off from KSCR and head back to Raleigh Exec for some pattern work.

Flying back, I tracked the 120 radial from the liberty VOR back to Raleigh Exec.  Really didn’t need to but might as well work on a little navigation.  After about 10 minutes or so… I thought “wow, just flying a plane from one point to another”.  I wasn’t working on clearing turns or maneuvers.  Or navigating using pilotage… I knew exactly where I was, in the middle of our practice area.  It was really cool and relaxing.

As we got in range, Raleigh Exec was bouncing with traffic as well. I made the proper radio calls, and we entered the pattern.

On the first landing, touched down a little floating but on center line.  “Somebody used rudder this time”  Yay!! but…

short lived.

My next landing was meh, right of center line and sideways… now I am all over the place with the rudder.

Next approach, overshot the base turn but back on center line.  It continued like this for a few more times around the pattern, then I heard…

“Don’t fly the radio, fly the airplane”

hmmm.  I had been so worried about making my radio calls, I was late in all of my turns in the pattern putting me out of shape and behind.

As we took off, my instructor said “Last one, you’re getting tired”.

This time, I made the turns and fit in the radio calls when I could and focused on flying a precise pattern.  As I turned final, I was right on and I heard so from the right seat. 🙂  My approach was good, lined up nicely and sweet touchdown on center line.  Great way to end the lesson.

As we taxi’d back, I ruminated over my rust and we both agreed that my landings got better as the lesson progressed.  The taxi back was gorgeous as we watched the sun set.

There were some frustrations but it goes to show you that muscle memory is key and the key to muscle memory is repetition.  Hopefully mother nature will cooperate but that is unlikely.  Either way, I will stay at it until it becomes second nature.

Let’s go to another airfield, shall we?

This early morning was a pretty quick lesson but filled with a heaping helping of new.  During our brief we talked about visiting another airfield KHRJ.  Not too far away, it would expose me to a new pattern with a different runway that was about 1500 feet shorter and a little more narrow.  We also plotted our heading and found some waypoints along the way to navigate via pilotage.

We took off and for the first time, I turned east instead of toward the west practice area.  Was kind of weird but cool.  I like new things.  We picked up a river and power lines and followed a heading of 120 toward the town of Lillington.  I was looking out for a couple of areas of water that were positioned south west of the town and would be right off of runway 5 at HRJ.  After a little help, I spotted the airfield and made radio calls out to the one other plane in the pattern.  Oh yeah, I am making radio calls today.  Another new.  As we talked about before, the shorter runway means less time to get stabilized and boy is it.  It is only 1500 feet shorter but it seemed like as soon as I hit downwind I was almost abeam the numbers.  Luckily, I have been doing fairly well at that and it didn’t take too much concentration to get us stabilized at 70 kts and 1200 ft pattern altitude.  As I hit abeam the numbers, I dropped the throttle to 1500 rpms, 10 degrees flaps and descent site picture.  I made the radio call for base… again weird that I am doing it now.  Dropped 10 more degrees of flaps and added a little throttle because I felt low.  Again, radio call for final, and shot the numbers at 65.  Was a little high so dropped to idle, shot the numbers and made a nice landing, a little right of center line but decent.  I cleared the runway, made the radio call and taxi’d back to runway 5 for run up and take off.

Once in the air, we followed the river and power lines back to Raleigh Exec, paying attention to scary tower (Radio antenna that is 1700 ft msl).

We made a cross field entry to downwind.  I made all the radio calls here as well.  Everything looked good on approach but as I crossed the numbers I felt my instructor push on the yoke a little.  I let my airspeed drop to 60 from 65kts.  🙁

Touched down, a little floaty but ok and kept up a little speed since we had someone right behind us.  Cleared the runway and made the radio call before I crossed the hold short line…. made a mistake.  We taxi’d back and I told her the things that I did wrong and she agreed.  I think adding in the radio work put me a little behind the aircraft today.  Not a bad lesson today, flew to a new airport, learned some pilotage, made a couple of landings in a new (to me, not really new, still 1978) airplane.  And, handled all of the radio calls.  Not a bad Saturday morning.

On the approach to the airfield I heard two other pilots on the radio talking about meeting up later.  One exclaimed how much they have done already and what are the non pilots doing on this beautiful day.  The other said, sleeping.  It reminded me that we were up in the air doing something that others rarely do… and on a beautiful Saturday morning underneath some wispy Cirrus clouds, I couldn’t think of a better place to spend it.

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