Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Month: March 2018

Slight delay in our arrival

It has been a bit since I last posted.  I am not ignoring the blog but there has been a slight delay in my training.  Honestly, I haven’t been flying lately.  A few things have compiled to block my progress, weather, studies …… my kids neurotic afternoon schedule.  Most notably, I am nearing the end of my ground school class and I am spending a lot of my limited time, and brain power, on getting ready for the the written exam.

My lesson this week was cancelled due to the impending snow that seems to be hitting the east coast on a fairly regular basis lately.  My next lesson is scheduled in a couple of weeks due to spring break and my written test hurdling toward me at an uncomfortable speed.  Honestly, I think I’m ready but who really knows with the way the FAA writes questions.  I consistently score in the mid 90’s on practice tests but there always seem to be a question or two that is either worded funny or I have no idea what they are talking about.  The latter scares me the most.

The last bit of info is that my current instructor is moving on to higher ground.  Well, not necessarily ground but she has taken a job with a regional airline!  Really exciting news as she is very passionate about aviation.  I really enjoyed working with her in getting started with my IFR training.  Admittedly, I was completely bummed when I first heard.  After thinking about how much she will be gaining with her career, I became genuinely excited for her.  I certainly hope to hear about her training and aviation adventures in the future.  I can officially say, I know and trained with an airline pilot!

Fear not readers, I will be interviewing/trying out with a new instructor shortly.  Instead of jumping right in with a fresh approach, I want to knock this written out.  Can you tell, that the written exam is front and center on my mind?  Not sure if I have made that obvious enough, lol.

I may post in between but it will likely be 2 weeks before I have my next (First Lesson) with a new instructor.

Weather and Ground School studies, ugh

It has been a while since i’ve had an IFR lesson.  Weather and ground school studies has been keeping me away.  I am hopeful that my flight next week pans out.  We are coming to the end of my ground school class and as I prep for the test I am limiting my flight attempts to once a week right now.

That hasn’t stopped me from flying.  Last weekend I went up for a maneuvers and currency flight with my son.  Believe it or not, but during my IFR training so far, I haven’t been able to keep decently current with my VFR passenger requirements.

In order to be VFR current for passengers you must have 3 take offs and landings in the last 90 days.  The way my lessons were working out, with one landing per lesson, my currency was just slowly creeping ahead a few weeks at a time.

Look the real reason wasn’t currency at all.  To be honest, my club has a cookout on the second Saturday of every month and the burgers are awesome!  If you’re ever in the Sanford area on a second Saturday.  Come check it out.  We have an awesome club.  … And Burgers …. And hotdogs/brats … oh and also members! 😀


Scroll down to “2nd Saturday Monthly Cookout

I promise that you won’t regret it!

Wind and Aeronautical Decision Making

So today I was scheduled for another IFR lesson and the weather presented us with a test of Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM).

This morning I woke to this TAF:

KRDU 081138Z 0812/0912 27006KT P6SM SCT050
FM081400 27011G19KT P6SM BKN050 OVC060
TEMPO 0818/0822 6SM -SHRA FEW040 BKN050 OVC070
FM090300 30006KT P6SM SKC

For the un-initiated, the key factor here is “FM081400 27011G19KT”.  This means wind will be 11 knots gusting to 19 knots from 270 degrees.  My home aerodrome has runways at 03/21 so we would obviously be taking off of 21 with a right crosswind.

This presents us with a 9.5 knot crosswind and 5.5 knot headwind.  No big deal for the SkyHawk that has a 15 knot demonstrated crosswind.  Now let’s look at the gust factor.  If we take a gust right above the runway we are looking at a 16.5 knot crosswind with a 9.5 knot headwind.  This would put us at 1.5 knots above the demonstrated crosswind of the airplane.  “GO AROUND!!!!! QUICK!!!”

I know what you’re saying, there are plenty of old and bold pilots that land in crosswind components higher than this with no sweat.  You yourself may have landed a plane in a crosswind higher than demonstrated and didn’t even know.  This could be due to an unexpected gust, at the last minute on a fairly calm day, that made things a little hairy but all things worked out.

This brings us back to ADM and how important it is to have a good solid grasp on the possible outcomes of a flight.  This is a lot harder as a low hour pilot because you don’t know what you don’t know.  It takes time and experience to learn how to handle many different weather conditions and what your personal limits can handle.

I come back to a saying that I first heard from our Chief Flight Instructor when I first started flying.  A pilot starts his aviation journey with two bags.  A full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. When things start to go sideways in an airplane, pilots can pull answers from these two bags.  Eventually luck will run out… we just hope that when it does, we have enough experience to handle the situation.

As the saying goes, “Aviation is one of the few endeavors in which you are given the test before the lesson.” (Also credited to our Chief Flight Instructor)

I talk with as many experienced pilots as I can in order learn from the many years of experience that have come before me.  I have a solid understanding that I am a low hour pilot and my experience bag has very little to pull from.  That is why even though today was marginal, it is also a lesson in ADM.  If I were on my own with no flight instructor, this would have been a definite no go for me.  I have a personal crosswind limit of 10 knots right now.  The primary reason that I am training for my IFR rating, is to become a safer pilot.  A large part of being a safer pilot is having good ADM.

In closing, with the winding gusting to just above the demonstrated crosswind component I could possibly be a test pilot.  This information coupled with similar wind conditions over the past few days, suggesting that gusts can be much higher at times than forecast.  I decided I don’t want to be a test pilot today!

So today, I am trying to decide:  Which one?

Bose A20, Many $$$$$

LightSpeed Zulu 3, Reasonably priced

Beautiful Day for Flying….. the Instrument Panel is Clean.

As the title suggests, it was a beautiful day for flying.  After many simulator sessions, we were finally able to spread our wings and enjoy the great weather.  Of course, my instructor enjoyed the view and I got to inspect the instruments for most of the flight.  (The instrument glass is really clean, lol)

Even though I was under the hood, I was able to enjoy the cold smooth air.  It was a great opportunity to compare and contrast the simulator training vs the real thing.  The one thing I noticed right away is that once trimmed out, the real thing flies like a proper airplane.  No neurotic altitude and heading changes.  You can really appreciate how much a trimmed airplane can help lighten the workload.

During preflight, I had discovered that we had some light frost on the aircraft.  I wasn’t expecting this since the temp/dewpoint spread for the last 24 hours was decently large.  Of course the lesson here is that weather can be very local and differences are a thing.  No worries, rotate the airplane in the sun in order to remove the little bit of frost accumulated.  Some sun tan lotion and a pair of sunglasses and the skyhawk would be right at home at the beach. 😀

Start and runup went pretty well. Other than me being a bit slow on how to cold weather start.  It is simple so not sure what is going through my mind on how to handle the mixture as the airplane starts.  Maybe it is just nerves.

Runup went well so we taxied to the runway to depart into the wild blue yonder.  After a few runway checks, we were off!

At 700 feet I get the order to don my fashionable foggles. (They’re all the rage this season)  I comply and once back at the yoke I setup to track the liberty VOR.  It was now that I had the first,  “Hey something isn’t right here!” moment.  The VOR was centered vertical and horizontal.  I know that I am not that good coming off the runway so something is up.  I check that NAV 1 is tuned properly so what gives?  We are high enough that we should be receiving.  At this point, my instructor chimed in about the CDI being set to GPS and that if I want to use to track the VOR, I should use VLOC.  Doh!!!

Ok, so we are tracking right along and I get the airplane trimmed out.  Pretty well if I do say so myself.  Once we reach altitude, I trim up for a slow cruise.  Why? Not really sure other than the slow cruise configuration was at the top of my noggin.

My instructor asked me to perform a couple of heading changes and then we broke out the A Pattern.  The pattern went pretty well, no real surprises here.  Again, it was good to compare and contrast from the sim and I have to say, the real thing is easier. I say that now but I can almost visualize the serenity of this pattern then fast forwarding a few lessons where I am overloaded to the point I can’t remember my own name while trying to fly, navigate, talk, etc.  I can look back on this lesson like “Still easy?”

After Pattern A was complete, we performed a stall series, first an approach stall and then a departure stall…. and then a departure stall.  For the first departure stall, at current cruise speed I just pushed the throttle in and pulled back.  I felt a little weird about the process, like something wasn’t right.  However, the cold air made us climb like crazy and I could hear “Dangerzone” from Top Gun in the distance, so climb on!

After the recovery I get the question of, “Have you been taught how to do this for ACS?”  Oh… yeah… I remember now.  I need to slow to climb speed, then throttle on and climb.  Ooops!  It was an impressive climb in the cold air though. Haha!

So, for the second departure stall I killed the Top Gun music and slowed to 65 and then began a proper departure stall.

For the final bit of our flight, my instructor had me fly with my eyes closed.  Left turns, level out, right turns, left, level, left, right ……  I kind of enjoy those types of things.  It was pretty cool when she told me to open my eyes when I thought that we were level but, in actuality, we were in a slow left turn.  She also indicated that as soon as I closed my eyes, I immediately turned us to the slow left turn.  Crazy how your body interprets the feelings versus reality.  It is a good exercise to show you that you should trust the instruments.

“I have the airplane”, my instructor has me close my eyes as she banks and climbs/descends so I can setup for some unusual attitude recoveries.  I could tell she was enjoying this part. Overall, I think they went pretty well, nothing too exciting.

After a few vectors and altitude clearances like I was communicating with ATC.  I was told to remove the hood and we were set up on 45 degree into the pattern.  After doing the landing thing, I buttoned up the airplane and we debriefed.

I think the takeaways that I got from this lesson are a few:

  • Properly trimmed airplane is awesome for these maneuvers (Smooth air doesn’t hurt either)
  • I need to write down my altitude instructions ( I couldn’t seem to retain that information)
  • Knowing your pitch/power settings makes life a lot easier

The last one I felt was huge today.  This is where I think the extra sim time in the beginning is paying off.  In the sim, you can cheaply learn how to use these settings.  They seem to work better in the real aircraft than I could have imagined.

Also, I think that once you figure out that your pitch power settings are just a starting point, it helps you as well.  Example, I started out with 2100 rpm and +1 pitch angle for ~ 95 kt slow cruise.  Today, I quickly figured out that it was really 2000 rpm and right around +2 degree pitch angle.  It was pretty easy to get things stable since I committed standard numbers to memory.

Lots of fun today and looking forward to the next lesson!

If you want to see the crazy track today, –> Clicky Clicky!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén