MY FLIGHT LOG



 Overview: 

This is a detailed account of my flight training experience, which I hope you will find useful and enjoyable.  I started this log so I could look back in my old age and remember the joy that flying, and learning to fly, has brought me.  Somewhere along the way, I also realized it could possibly be useful to new student pilots, who surely have the same questions, fears and concerns that I did when I first began.  So I hope you enjoy reading it and can profit from my experience.

The more I fly, the more I enjoy it, and on every single flight, my goal is to learn something new.  You've heard it before - getting a Pilot's License is a lesson to LEARN.. and there's a LOT to learn.  Think back to getting your drivers license...  only after years of driving can you begin to feel you have mastered driving, and there's so much more to learn beyond just earning the license.  Exactly the same with flying.

Now that I have my Private Pilot SEL (Single Engine Land) license (and Complex Endorsement - 07-07-10), I'm in the process of building cross-country hours towards my Instrument rating.  I don't expect to be flying in the clouds anytime soon, if ever, but I do expect that an Instrument Rating will sharpen and hone my skills to precision so I may fly safely and confidently.

This whole thing began for me when I was 5 years old, my first plane ride ever, in my Uncle Lazarus's Cessna 172.  I remember that day like it was yesterday. I loved every second of it and swore... some day... 

That "day" - after an earlier start and stop in my late-twenties, took 52 years to arrive.  I soloed in 14.6 hours, but the vagaries of New England weather made if difficult to fly as often as I planned.  After 18 months total training time, I earned my license in 66 total hours, (not counting 8.5 hours from 30 years ago) and that doesn't begin to address the many (many) cancelled lessons due to weather, the many (many) hours spent on Microsoft Flight Simulator, or the never-ending number of hours dreaming about my next flight and/or flying in general.  Pick an instructor you like and can get along with, 'cause you're going to be spending a lot of time with him or her.

If you're planning on taking lessons, or currently in the process of flight instruction, I recommend that you purchase MS Flight Simulator, AND the control yoke.  All the terrain, elevations, contours, airports, VORs, highways, landmarks, mountains, rivers, even the notable buildings, are all there.  Its GREAT GREAT GREAT practice, especially prior to your cross-countries- so you'll have some idea of what to expect along the way, as well as the time it takes to get there -  and you won't ever regret the time or money spent.  You can even set the VORs and follow the CDI along your route, or locate your exact position, etc.  As you get more advanced, you can tighten the difficulty, and even add dynamic real time weather at no additional cost, so long as you have an internet connection.
 


I'd love to hear from you, and I'd love to help you in achieving your dream if I may be of service.
Feel free to email me at wayne@brimfieldshow.com with any questions you may have.

Let your imagination and dreams take wing....  Enjoy and Safe Flying.
Wayne B. Hodges
Brimfield, MA
January 8, 1008

Quick Links:

 

PreSolo Flights/Instruction

First Lesson:

Sunday April 22, 2006 - Lesson 1 - 1 Total Landing - Includes 1 Today
 

Arrived at ORH at 9:00 AM... this was my second time to see Jeff, and the first time to be flying in 23 years.  Back then I had around 8-9 hours at an uncontrolled country airport in NJ.  Not really enough time to do too much in the way of learning, but enough to learn that I really enjoyed the sensation and freedom that flying offered.  Today, I think Jeff - my instructor - was more nervous that I was, and why wouldn't he be???  He has no clue who I am or what I'm up to.  Once we got in the air, things were fine.  Today, he let me lift the plane off the runway, and gave me directions to fly.  We wound up flying over my home in Brimfield, MA.  Very cool.  Pretty smooth flight, completely lost, a little bit of trepidation about being in a small airplane again, but nothing that I didn't enjoy. Jeff let me assist in landing the airplane, but I have to say, he pretty much did it all, which is just as well at this point.

 

Tuesday April 25, 2006 - Lesson 2 - 2 Total Landings - Includes 1 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:30 AM... today Jeff let me lift the airplane off the runway again, full coaching on everything. Today was my second flight, and the focus was on the 4 fundamentals of flight - Pitch and Bank, Straight and Level.  We worked on climbs and descents, and Jeff is teaching me how the airplane controls don't do what you think they should.  For example - you expect to climb when you pull back on the stick, but it makes you slow down.  You expect to speed up when you increase the throttle, but instead you climb. So what I am trying to learn, is that to climb, you increase the throttle.  If we want to speed up, we point the nose down.  The airplane can fly in any attitude you want or need to - nose-down or nose-high.  And yes: to climb, you do pull the stick back but without adding any throttle, the airplane will slow, and the wings will eventually stall if enough back-pressure is held.  Same thing is true in reverse  - point the nose down and you land longer.  Point the nose up and you land shorter.  If you want to descent, reduce the power.  Very interesting, and THIS is going to take some time to get used to.   Jeff landed the plane, the tower told us to make a short/steep approach, so I'm definitely not at that point yet.


Sunday April 30, 2006 - Lesson 3 - 3 Total Landings - Includes 1 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:30 AM... today Jeff let me lift the airplane off the runway again, full coaching on everything as before. Today we flew out to our practice area - western MA, and the focus was on continuing the 4 fundamentals, particularly reviewing the essence of climbing and descending (using power) and pitching the airplane (using stick).  After a little time on this, Jeff had me add full flaps and slow the airplane to Vs - Minimum Steady Flight Speed, 63 Knots.  Adding full flaps - 40 degrees - really makes the nose jump up.  To negate this pitch up, you have to apply down-pressure on the stick, in a coordinated way.  Very interesting...
After we practiced slow flight in different configurations - full flaps, no flaps, he had me do a power-on stall... which is done at cruise power, (no flaps) and continually feeding in more backpressure on the stick.  The nose pitches to an unbelievable high attitude and the airspeed bleeds off.  Pretty soon, you get the wing buffeting and the stall horn goes off.  At which point, as Jeff says, its Power Up, Pitch Up and Clean Up.  In other words, you add immediate full power, down pitch on the stick and then clean up the airplane attitude.  We also did stalls in slow flight landing configuration, which means 63 knots, full flaps, and the same routine as above.  Even though we did not take the airplane to a full-blown stall, I understand that in a full stall, as lift dies, the "most-stalled" wing will break and pitch the aircraft down sharply.  In a spin, both wings are stalled, (one more than the other) - something I hope to never experience.  I'm reading a great book, written in, like 1944, called Stick and Rudder, and there is an interesting passage.  It says, when you are practicing stalls, the ground comes up to you and says "Boo!".  But in a full, unanticipated stall, the ground simply comes after you.  I understand many pilots don't realize when they are in stalls, which is why I suppose they spend so much time teaching them to you, so you can recognize and respond.  The ONLY was to recover from a stall - and avoid a spin - is to push the nose down.  It goes against human nature to want to dive the airplane when it's already diving.  But I know this is a lesson that must absolutely be learned and adhered to - no matter what: in a stall, push the nose goes DOWN to recover.  More on May 5.

 

Friday May 5, 2006 - Lesson 4 - 4 Total Landings - Includes 1 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:00 AM... I am getting pretty good at flying the plane off the runway, but still have some radical veering on rotation. I am still really just getting used to feeling the airplane and its responses to control inputs.  Jeff says as time goes by, things will "slow down", particularly in the landing stage.  Right now there seems to be a lot going on, a lot to have to focus on at the same time, and sometimes, I reach for the wrong control, or do the wrong thing.  Like, when Jeff tells me to climb.  The inclination is to pull the stick back, but again - its really increasing the throttle that makes the airplane climb.  Today we did more stalls, more slow flight and started work on turns: 10 and 20 degree turns.  "Turning", for me has always been one of the fun parts of flying, so its not something I worry about or really even think much about.  I just love the sensation of smoothly pivoting on a wing, all the while applying back pressure to hold the altitude, and finally, to recover from the turn, a quick little opposite-rudder brings the wings level quite nicely, thank you very much.  My previous instructor taught me I could turn quite steeply - 45 degrees, hold the back pressure on the stick to maintain altitude and apply opposite rudder to snap out of the turn.  I really love that sensation!  Jeff has not mentioned this technique to me, and I am wondering if it is a given that pilots should use this technique, or if maybe not too many do.  It works, I love it and it really gets the wings level without any wing-waggling.  Still making small steps, I am realizing flying is not something you learn quickly, but rather a series of small steps all put together that equals a pilot.   Scheduled to fly again on Sunday - more then.


Sunday May 7, 2006 - Lesson 5 - 5 Total Landings - Includes 1 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:30 AM... Today was a continuation of Friday's lesson - more stalls and turns, with an added twist. Today we did 45 degree turns to the left and right.  WOW, that is COOL and FUN.  That's a LOT of ground looking up at you at that angle.  Its really very much fun, and no problem for me.  Just remember to watch a point on the windshield and hold it there - steady - on the horizon to maintain your altitude, using the stick to keep the point on the windshield on the horizon.  Really, not a big deal.  For me, I get so enthralled in the turns and recovery that I forget to watch for my starting point.  So my 360 degree turn at 45 degrees is sometimes 400 degrees or 320 degrees.  So, I am aware of this and will watch for it going forward.  The whole purpose of a turn in flight, I suppose is achieve a compass heading or bearing.  So its "probably" a good idea to watch the heading indicator to see where you are.  Ahhh.  Also today, Jeff is introducing me to the forward slip.  He says he didn't learn it until after he had his license.  And he is really good at it, so I am looking forward to learning.  My timidity in this maneuver has prevented me from doing it...  it can result in a different sight picture where the angle seems quite steep angle down, and the purpose is to shed altitude quickly without adding speed... by exposing more of the airplane (the side of the airplane) to the relative wind, thereby reducing altitude (fast).  An interesting maneuver, one I hope - and will need - to learn.  Scheduled to fly again on Tuesday, more then.


Tuesday, May 9, 2006 -  Rained Out


Thursday May 18, 2006 - Lesson 6 - 10 Total Landings - Includes 5 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:30 AM... today we flew out to the practice area..  Jeff is letting me fly the airplane more and more, but of course, I still need -lots- of help when landing.  We are getting is lots of landings, and even though I am tense at the flare, I do understand the concept and am improving with each landing.  Today's primary lesson was again focused on pitch and power...  I am still trying to understand the concept....  but it is clear that if you want to climb a little, you can do either... pitch up....  or add power.  Pitch-up changes the angle of attack, slows the airspeed of the aircraft and can ultimately lead to a stall.  Power-up lets the airplane climb without (apparently) - changing the aircraft's angle of attack.  For minor climbs during cruise, you might just pitch up a bit.  For climbs during landing - say - where you have fallen below the glide-slope, you'll want to add power.  For a go-around, you'd use pitch and power... so it seems the trick is knowing when to do what, but for most situations, he seems to be saying... that power up is the preferred method of climbing.


Wednesday May 21, 2006 - Lesson 7 - 15 Total Landings - Includes 5 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:30 AM... today we flew out to the practice area. Today, we continued to do more work on pitch and power, and we again practiced stalls - power off and power on.  Both seem pretty basic...  power on stalls result under full power with the nose pitched higher and higher until the buffet and stall warning occurs... then its pitch down with full power, attempting to minimize altitude loss.  As he says, Power up, Pitch Up Clean Up.  Power and Pitch up to climb, then once the aircraft is in stable flight, clean up... reduce power and pitch.  Same process with power off stalls.  I am not really sure at this point why both are taught if the recovery process is the same for both, except that you might consider that one could occur while taking off and one could occur while landing.  Also, it gives you a sense of what it feels like in each case.  Also, definitely, with the power off stall, I notice the aircraft wants to pull to the left big time, so a lot of right-rudder is required to hold the heading.  This phenomenon is know as P-Factor: "P-factor, also known as asymmetric blade effect and asymmetric disc effect, is an aerodynamic phenomenon experienced by a moving propeller with a high angle of attack that produces an asymmetrical center of thrust."  You can learn more about P-Factor at Wikipedia.  At any rate, the stall experience in the airplane and the recovery seems to be the same in each case: pitch down and add full power, then clean up once stable flight is re-achieved.  I'm sure there's much more work to come on stalls.

 

Wednesday May 24, 2006 - Lesson 8 - 20 Total Landings - Includes 5 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:30 AM... not too much to report... today was the second day of practice for Touch and Go's.  I am getting the feel for how the airplane responds to control inputs a little better now, but still everything I do is a little timid.    And the airplane is kind of swerving to the left as we take off.  I know it has to be rudder input - or lack thereof, so this is another point I need to be aware of and think about when taking off.  Jeff is spending less time on the controls now, but he is still coaching me through 100% of the process.  I have not yet begun to do any radio work, but I think it's pretty cool, yet I can see that it complicates things a bit - you're not just flying - you have to concentrate on flying and communicating.  I don't have a clue how to work the radios yet, or even what to say.  More to come soon.
 
 
Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2006 - Lesson 9 - 26 Total Landings - Includes 6 Today
Arrived at ORH at 6:00 AM... winds were reported a steady 11 mph crosswind across runway 290.  AH thank goodness for small revelations.  For the past several lessons, the airplane upon rotation has taken a nasty swerve to the left... despite holding in right-rudder.  Jeff has chastised me for using right ailerons (silly me its not a steering wheel), particularly with the wind from the left.  Today, it all came together.  Its not just holding right-rudder - its about holding an increasing amount of right-rudder and adjusting it as we go down the runway, and upon rotation until the aircraft gains speed to overcome the propeller torque effect.
 
Jeff wants me to pick a point and turn left into the pattern at a good rate - 20 degree turn or so... but wants the turn onto base to be at 30 degrees - crisp, to leave plenty of time to set up for landing.  I'm feeling confident and good at managing the airplane all the way down to the final stage of landing.
 
For today, I made 8 landings, no probs at all getting airborne, going around the circuit, applying flaps, all proper turns, etc.  The problems occur for me around 50 feet off the ground.  Worcester being Worcester, there are the invariable gusts that take you from one side of the runway to the other, and it can be a struggle to get the airplane back on track.  I also have to learn to fly level above the runway longer - to be less eager to descend - I "know" the plane will descend by itself as speed decreases and angle of attack increases.  Its just a matter of nursing the airplane down onto the runway until we get the flare and a s-m-o-o-t-h touchdown.  As Jeff said, all my landings were survivable, with at least one good one thrown in, but I'm not satisfied and I know I can - and have- to do better.  Three days from now, I'll be back at it.

 

Thursday,  June 1, 06 - Lesson 10 - 33 Total Landings  - Includes 7 Today
Arrived at ORH at 7:00 AM, visibility was one mile, winds were calm.  Wow, what a great day... sometimes things click and sometimes they don't.  This was one of those days where I squeaked nearly all of my 8 landings - no bounces, but one hard landing... the rest were very good and two were probably the best I have ever made - smooth... soft... nice.  Even Jeff was impressed, and said that the bouncer was a good one too.  The best part was he was hands-off the controls for every landing, so I feel like I'm "getting it".
 
Today, lesson 10, was my first day working the radio.  Its contact ground for taxi, tower take-off, and no departure clearance needed.  Its pretty cool - I really felt like a pilot today!  Only thing is, on the last landing, we had traffic on the final, and the controller was delayed in responding to our mid-point call... by the time he responded, we were way extended past the usual turn point, when he instructed a short final due to a Skyhawk two miles out.  So, it was very cool, seeing what its like with a bit of "busy" going on in the cockpit, aviating, communicating, getting set for landing, all the while coordinating speed, turns, flaps and approach.
 
Also, I forgot to mention, last lesson, Jeff gave me a 7 page pre-solo, take-home test.  He said the FAA requires it, and I think he thought it would take me a month to complete...  fortunately, I had purchased an FAR 2006 book, as well as a used POH for my make/year of aircraft, so over a couple nights, probably 5 hours time, I was able to complete the test.
 
I feel confident I could solo now, but I know Jeff wants to see more confident landings, and also discuss the other instructions I could unexpectedly receive from the tower, like short final, extend downwind, change to right departing traffic, etc.  Its easy to get distracted on the radio while in the pattern, and I know I need to concentrate on the aviation part... as one of my turns to base was late and discombobulated. 
 
So the adventure continues again this coming Sunday, 6/4/06.
 

Sunday - June 4, 2006 - Rained Out
Arrived at ORH at 8:00 AM, amid rain and visibility of less than one mile.  No way we were going to fly today.  Jeff spent the time reviewing my answers to the Pre-Solo Test, and at the end we discussed radio procedures.  The test is a formality - open book and all, but still took a serious commitment to look up the answers.  Anyway, he gave me (my first) endorsement in my logbook for passing the FAA-required Pre-Solo test.  Hopefully I can sneak in some more instruction time this week.

 

Monday - June 5, 2006 - Lesson 11 - 39 Total Landings - Includes 6 Today
Arrived at ORH at 10:00 AM today - after getting home yesterday from my rained out instruction, I checked the weather and today and tomorrow are the only decent days predicted for this entire week, weekend included.  So I did the prudent thing, and scheduled some instruction.  When I arrived at the airport, cloud cover was closing in, by the time we lifted off, skies were fully occluded with visibility of 5 miles but ceiling of 6,000 feet, and winds calm.   In other words, the perfect day for more Touch and Goes.  I have now mastered the use of the rudder on rotation and climb out, so the nose points straight, and my pullback on the yoke is mostly smooth and uneventful.  Today we used Runway 33 which is 5000' long and 100' wide, as opposed to the more usual Runway 29, which is 7000' long and 150' wide.
 
At one point on final I was a little high.... so Jeff demonstrated again the side-slip.  That maneuver is quite a thrill ride, really gets the airplane down fast without increasing ground speed, which is the whole point of the thing I suppose.  Anyway, I feel that when I can master that, that I will be able to land confidently anywhere, anytime. 
 
All 6 landings were quite good, no bounces and a few fairly kissed the runway on touchdown, with no assistance on any controls from Jeff.  With no cross-winds, I am definitely the master of the airplane.  But we know what that means....  much more work on cross-wind landings will be soon upcoming, as will those exciting slips.
 
The biggest issue for me at the moment is the radio work.  Being at Worcester (Class D during the daytime) and quite a busy place today, the radios were active.  I'm much more nervous about the radio work than the flying.  For example, at the end of the downwind leg, the tower gave the instruction to turn right for a 360 and report back on the downwind leg.  First of all, its not that easy to understand what they say - they speak so quickly... and second of all, I am really just now beginning to get a clue as to what to say back to them.

Bottom line advice to anyone wanting to learn to fly - sure, you'll solo sooner at a remote airport with no control tower... but does that make you a better pilot?  For me, the answer is that I want to fly often, on business and pleasure, to different airports on flights of different duration.  I pondered long and hard learning at this airport because of the tower controlled airspace, but felt for my future plans, it would make me a better pilot to learn early, and to get comfortable asap with ATC communications.  I definitely still feel that way, and don't mind sacrificing an earlier solo for the ATC-Comm experience.  Scheduled to fly again this Thursday, but weather definitely "iffy" - we'll see.

 

Thursday, June 8, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums



Sunday, June 11, 2006  - Lesson 12 - 40 Total Landings - Includes 1 Today

Arrived at the airport with sunny clear skies, wind gusts up to 20 KTS.   We took off from runway 29-er with winds at our quarter, and had a pretty rough ride up to 3500'.  From there, Jeff had me practice slow flight, 360 turns in slow flight, power-off stalls, engine out and emergency landing procedures, also did S turns across the power lines and before we landed, 'got a couple of practice slips in.
 
It was a pretty good day all in all, with an uneventful landing, although Jeff took over and did a few steep slips to get us down to the proper altitude - tower had cleared us to land direct from the downwind leg in order to beat a 757 coming in, so we cut the base short and headed for the numbers - were a bit high at the outset.  Reduce power to 1500', full flaps and maintain 73 KTS, Jeff threw the two slips in here, dumped the altitude, then turned the controls back over to me a couple hundred feet off the ground.  Initially I flared a little to early, and started up again, but finally got the plane settled down, and then re-flared to a smooth touchdown.  N-I-C-E.
 
Gusty Gusty Gusty today - between the ground and 3500' we had at least one -really- good drop ... sometimes the plane feels more like a boat in a good sea than an airplane, the way it gets tossed around. 
 
But 26-Juliet hasn't let us down once, not for a second, so I have good confidence in the airplane and am gaining my own confidence. 
 
I've really learned, once you get the runway lined up, just play it cool, take your time and make small corrections as needed.  Close to the ground we use ailerons only for drift and the rudder for directional control, left-or-right.  Today I also stopped by to get finger-printed for my ramp pass, required prior to solo.  I'm getting there... one day.... soon, maybe.
 
More to Come on Tuesday... and Thursday.   
 
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 - Lesson 13 - 48 Total Landings - Includes 8 Today
Arrived at the airport at 7: 00 AM with sunny clear skies and completely calm winds. 
 
I was a bit thrown from the very beginning today, when Jeff said...  Why don't we go up and do a few touch and goes and maybe a solo or two?!   NOT something I was expecting to hear.  Yes I do feel pretty confident handling the plane, but am never quite sure what/how to respond when the tower inevitably changes the game plan.  I think my trepidation regarding Jeff's "solo" comment definitely threw me off a little bit today - things were not as good as they had been - all the landings were fine, but there was some definite regression in my flying - flared too high, or too late, or altitude drifting up or down while in the pattern, or confusion on the base turn: managing the throttle and flaps, etc., although all the landings were fine, with one minor bounce.  The thing that really catches me off guard, are all the change instructions from the Tower.  For instance, today it was a couple unexpected right-pattern requests while on downwind, then a request to switch back to left-pattern, then a request to switch back to right-pattern for two touch and goes, then a request to switch back again to left-pattern and a runway change, and on top of the runway change, a short-approach request while on the downwind. 
 
It was all fine, with Jeff coaching me what to say about 50% of the time, a little unnerving to be cleared #1 to land and watching helicopter traffic approaching straight-in for the #2 slot, while we were turning onto final.  Once cleared to land, the instruction was to cross runway 33 and hold short of (taxiway) Foxtrot - which was a new instruction - normally after landing, we are simply cleared to taxi direct to the ramp.  I am sure if Jeff were not there, I'd muddle my way through it, or simply plead "Unable, student pilot", which as every pilot knows, are the "universal magic words" at every control tower, and I am still glad to be at a tower-controlled airport, but it definitely adds a touch of complication to the mix.  Anyway, it was a beautiful day, and any day you can fly is a good day, which it was.   I am scheduled again for this Thursday and will hope for being more on my game.
 
Friday, June 16, 2006 - Lesson 14 - 55 Total Landings - Includes 7 Today
Arrived at the airport at 6:30 AM with sunny, clear skies and a 5-7 Kt NW wind.  Also, a small amount of turbulent air above the runway, probably 50-100 feet AGL.
 
Oh, regression-regression-regression.   My landing troubles are continuing, maybe even getting worse.  Today was completely focused on touch-and-goes and remaining in the pattern.  The process of landing is fairly mechanical and pretty calm now.  Only thing is, on takeoff, I have been climbing the airplane at Vx (Best Angle of Climb = 63 KIAS), because I like to get to within 300 feet of pattern altitude before making the crosswind turn - It just makes it a little less busy when you are already at the pattern altitude before you begin the downwind turn, as opposed to continuing to climb to the pattern altitude during the downwind leg.  Today Jeff told me that I should really maintain Vy, not Vx.   (Vy = Best Rate of Climb = 79 KIAS).  Because Vy is a less steep angle, the engine gets more cooling which is good (because the engine is air-cooled only).  And also, because you're climbing faster, you're better able to overcome any downdrafts such as those we encountered today.  OK.  So I guess we'll be climbing at Vy from now on.  (KIAS - Knots Indicated Air Speed)
 
Troubles compounding today...  had a male controller who - to me - just sounded like he was mumbling, not enunciating very clearly at all.  Jeff seemed okay with it, maybe it was me or my headset.  This is troubling to me, because if it were just me up there, I'd be asking him to repeat everything he said, just about, anyway.  I much prefer the female controller whom I can understand perfectly. 
 
As for the landings today... well, I'm doing everything I'm supposed to - except now I am definitely flaring way too high and not making great landings.  Survivable and controlled but again today, there was to be no "runway-kissing".  Having a real problem and perplexed what to do to fix it.  As a result, during one landing I dropped the airplane onto the runway pretty hard.  Ummhhfff!!!   Which resulted in a high bounce and Jeff taking the wheel to settle the airplane so I could re-flare. Other than that, no real catastrophes, but not what I would call landings to be proud of either.  So I need to continue to work on landings, just when I thought I pretty much had it down.
 
Not to make today's journal too long, but another thing worth mentioning.  This little crosswind today.  Its a weird thing, when on final approach and coming in for a landing... to be tracking in a straight line towards the runway, but having the airplane cocked to a ... I dunno...  10 degree right-angle?  Then as we entered the ground effect, the crosswind mostly disappeared and we used just a smidge of left-rudder to straighten out the airplane to line up with the runway.  Bet its really even more weird with a stronger crosswind and more crab angle - I'm sure I'll get the chance to find out.  Well my big task now is to get back to more consistent landings - get the airplane flared at the right height above ground level and I should be fine.  Jeff also said today, that before I solo, he wants me to have more practice on emergency and power-off landings.  Fine with me.  Flying again on Monday morning.

Monday, June 19, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

Thursday, June 22, 2006 - Lesson 15 - 61 Total Landings - Includes 6 Today
Arrived at the airport at 7:30 AM with partly cloudy skies and a steady 12 Kt wind out of the northeast, directly across RW15.  From approx 100 feet AGL to 1000 feet the winds were quite gusty and really bounced the airplane around quite a bit, so much so that it was impossible to hold a constant attitude or heading.  Also, a small layer of really turbulent air, probably 75-150 feet AGL.
 
Today we started with slow flight, power-off stalls and go-arounds, but went back to continue practicing touch-and-goes, but my game was off, not having had much sleep, I felt pretty tired from the start, and emotionally a little drained because of some work-related issues.  All the landings were good, one or two were great (kissed it), but because of the wind, my patterns were not squared, I forgot instructions just given to me, I couldn't determine wind direction, had trouble holding the proper altitude, my concentration was way off, I did not execute the power up/pitch up/clean up routine very well and it was all a bit confusing in the beginning.  Fortunately things did improve and my landings were pretty good. 
 
I have resolved to try a different headset next time because a lot of what I hear on the headset sounds muffled, garbled or distorted. I was having trouble even understanding instructions from Jeff over the headset, so I am hoping a new headset will improve things. I am also going to purposefully come in high on final a few times if Jeff says ok, so I can start to get the feel for slipping the airplane myself.
 
Taxi and Runway clearances were new and I didn't hear them well...  this time it was taxi via Echo to RW15.  It sounds like such a simple direction, but they are giving you so much other information (altimeter, winds, temperature, pattern instructions, traffic advisories) that it is pretty hard (for me) to sift out what I really need to know at that moment.   I am also learning to be more aggressive on the controls, but again that is a difficult and slow thing to learn, because you want to fly efficiently, but you definitely do not want to put the airplane into an attitude where it will get out of control or where you feel you might lose control.  It turns out I think, that flying is a lot about finding that "control envelope"  On Day One, every control input you make feels risky, but over time you learn that every control input is not risky, and you can therefore learn that making larger or more dramatic control inputs to get faster or more direct results is not necessarily risky - it may be required, in fact, such as when slipping to lose altitude, or worst case, maneuvering to avoid another aircraft.
 
I am scheduled to fly again tomorrow morning, but weather is expected to be much like it was today, which was not great, but still, all-in-all a very good learning experience.  Flying is not easy, but I can see it is a lot of repetition - and if you are flying in controlled airspace - a lot of listening. 
 
My landings, and judging height above the runway is getting better, and I learned to crab today - for the first time it was needed - and I was able to hold altitude and heading pretty well, as well as I made a few independent calls to the tower to request verification of the pattern they wanted us to be in, so it really is coming along fine, which is what Jeff says too.  I'm gonna get a good night's sleep tonight, you can bet. More tomorrow.  Gotta' keep smilin'.

 

Friday, June 23, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

 

Saturday, June 24, 2006 - Lesson 16 - 67 Total Landings - Includes 6 Today
Arrived at the airport around 1:00 PM, which was a last minute reschedule after bad weather cancelled my 7:30 AM lesson.
 
Winds were light, and partly cloudy skies were in order, with thunderstorms moving in towards the end of the lesson.  Final landing saw the rains begin to come down heavily.  Today, upon arriving at the airport, the first thing I did was switch headphones, which seemed to help.  Understanding communications was a bit better, and my landings were also much better.  I made a point to have greater awareness of what was going on outside the window upon landing, as opposed to just focusing on the end of the runway. Kissed it a couple times, 4 decent landings, and one where I flared too high and caused a pretty good bounce, which required re-flare.  Winds were light which was a big help, of course.  Going around the circuit to make a landing or touch and go is getting to be boring routine, except the tower calls make things a bit more exciting.
 
'Couple interesting calls from the tower to look for traffic, which with no contact resulted in a request from the tower to do a 360 and contact back on downwind.  Tower called for a couple right-closed-patterns and even a short approach, all which went pretty well. Then there was another call which I did not understand at all and needed Jeff to interpret, again to look for traffic on final (no contact again) and 360 around to downwind.  Still glad Jeff is in the plane.  Weather lately here - past two weeks - has been terrible - either cloudy, rainy or windy, so there has been no option to solo.  I am really wanting a bright, clear, sunny day with no wind so I can get that behind me, and get on to other things.  Next lesson Tuesday morning at 6:00 AM - yikes.  Praying for better weather.
 

Tuesday June 27, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

Thursday, June 29, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

Friday, June 30, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

 

SOLO DAY
 
 Saturday July 1, 2006  - Lesson 17
73 Total Landings Includes 6 Today + Solo Flight (3 Solo Landings) -
Soloed in 14.6 Hrs Total Flight Time 2006
 
  
Worcester Airport after takeoff on Solo
 
Oh Solo Mia!!!!   An absolutely beautiful, clear, picture-perfect July 1 dawned today, with 8-9 kts of wind.  I had a feeling that today would be the day, and indeed it was.  After arriving at the airport, Jeff told me to be sure to bring my log book into the airplane, (a good sign).  After two near-perfect touch and go’s, he told me get clearance from the tower for a full-stop landing, with taxi back to Amity (the flight school).  Approaching Amity, he told me to stop, asked for my log book….endorsed it and my medical cert for solo flight...and after bidding me a quick “enjoy it”, hopped out, latched the door, and I was on my own. YIKES.
 
I tuned the radio to ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information System) for the updated weather and conditions and called Ground and requested permission to taxi with “Foxtrot”, (the latest update), but had trouble making contact with Ground.  Ahhhh, then I realized I was still tuned to, and attempting to transmit on the ATIS frequency… (its a "listen-only" frequency!).  After getting this little fiasco squared away, I taxied to the hold-short area of the active runway, ran through the final pre-flight checklist and engine run-up... Then, transmitted something like "Worcester Tower, 8226 Juliet’ is ready for departure on runway 29-er, remaining in the pattern; be advised 26-Juliet is a student pilot on initial solo”, which sort of put things into perspective for the tower folks, and … ah… for the student pilot as well.  The tower cleared me directly onto the active runway for takeoff for a left closed pattern. 
 
It must be one of the most awesome and awe-inspiring moments one can have…  as Pilot-in-Command for the first time, sitting on the centerline of a 7000’ active runway with the assignment of “#1 for takeoff”.  So its... release brakes, full power, hold in a little right-rudder as we go down the runway to keep ‘er pointing straight, rotate the airplane at 60 KTS and... Off we go, and hold the airplane at Vy (best rate of climb speed - 79KTS ).   What they say is true, with only one person in the airplane, it does climb much faster.  With no wind to speak of, the flight track down-runway was straight, and soon, climbing through 700’ it was time to turn left-crosswind into the traffic pattern.  Turning onto the left-crosswind track at 2700 RPM, still climbing for 1000’, then at 1000’ reduce power to 2200 RPM, contact tower at midfield (“Worcester Tower, 26 Juliet is mid-field for touch and go”), get clearance for the touch and go…. Opposite the runway numbers now, make sure we’re below Vfe (max speed for flaps deployment = 103KTS), put in two notches of flaps and reduce power to 1500 RPM, let the airplane settle…  then with the runway numbers at 45 degrees behind us and to the left, turn onto the base leg….  Continue on and anticipate the turn to final so the airplane is lined up on the centerline when the turn to final is completed….(AHH so that’s what those S-turns in training were for!), add one more notch of flaps…  then…  just monitor the altitude, attitude and speed, making small adjustments as necessary, and let the airplane do all the work.  If everything works out as it should, the airplane will deliver you to the end of the runway in fine shape.  Then its just a matter of choosing the proper time to flare the airplane… back on the yoke… back… back… back…. Hold ‘er steady….. back…..back, let it settle…  (squeak-squeak)…   Touchdown!  That's all there is to it!  Then its retract flaps, full power and off we go again.  All three landings were good: one was ok, one was better than average, one was very good.  The only tricky moment was being advised by the tower that “8226 Juliet is cleared #2 for landing behind a Cessna Skyhawk, contact tower with traffic in sight, extend downwind leg, will call you for turn to base”.  ‘Spotted the traffic, called the tower, got cleared to land, same deal as before.... (squeak-squeak). N-I-C-E.
 
This descent included a full side-slip to get the airplane lower faster, since the extended downwind leg meant maintaining pattern altitude – no descending below pattern altitude (1000’) until cleared to land. (Slips are kind of a radical maneuver to the new pilot, because it places the airplane in an unusual sideways-nose-down attitude while dropping (lots of) altitude at the same time - an exciting maneuver.)
 
The flying part was easy today, the ground part was the hard part. After landing and still at near-flying speed, ‘got the direction from the tower to “taxi right onto Foxtrot, turn left onto Runway 33, right turn onto Echo, proceed to ramp, monitor Ground”.  (YIKES)  I think I asked 3 times for a repeat of all that before I could get it all straight in my mind.  Then when I got to Runway 33, I  asked the Tower to verify my location, which they did, before proceeding to the ramp.  Just wanted to make sure I was where I was supposed to be.  (Next time I know to ask for a progressive taxi, step by step.) The rest was cake.  Got a ruined shirt out of the day - (when you solo, the instructor cuts the shirt tail off your shirt... a symbolic thing).  A big congratulations from Jeff, and a huge sense of relief.  The anticipation was a lot scarier than the flying, which wasn’t scary at all.  More to come July 4th.

 

Tuesday July 4, 2006 - No Flight - Got my lesson time bumped by a pilot to had to retake his FAA check ride.

 

Thursday, July 6, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums
 

POST SOLO FLIGHT & INSTRUCTION

Friday, July 7, 2006 - Lesson 18
74 Total Landings Includes 1 Today
 
(Aircraft:) <Pre-flight checklist completed>
(Aircraft:) "Worcester Ground, Good Morning, Piper Warrior 8226-Juliett ready for taxi from Amity with "Alpha".
(Ground:) "Warrior 8226-Juliett, proceed via Bravo to Runway 29-er, Hold Short Runway 29-er"
(Aircraft:) "26-Juliett, Hold Short, Runway 29-er"
(Aircraft:) <Taxi's to Hold-Short Position Runway 290, Pre-Takeoff checklist completed, comm frequency change - Worcester Ground to Worcester Tower >
(Aircraft:) Worcester Tower, Good Morning, Piper Warrior 8226-Juliett is ready for takeoff, straight-out"
(Tower:) "Warrior 8226-Juliett, proceed onto Runway 29-er, Position and Hold"
(Aircraft:) <Taxi into position on Runway 290, hold for departure>
(Tower:) "Warrior 8226-Juliett, you are cleared for takeoff, departing the pattern straight out"
(Aircraft:) "26-Juliett, cleared for takeoff, straight out"
 
So begins another lesson with Jeffery.  Jeff had informed me we would be practicing a short-field-over-obstacle takeoff...
 
so it was, engage brakes, add full power, 2 notches of flaps...  once engine reaches full rpm, release brakes, rotate at 60 KTS, climb over the short-field obstacle at Vx (63 KTS - Best Angle of Climb), once clear of obstacle, retract flaps, continue climbing at Vy (79KTS - Best Rate of Climb).
 
Once we arrived at 3500', Jeff told me we would be practicing instrument flying.  First, he wanted me to get the feel for straight and level flight.  So he said... "Close your eyes... put your chin on your chest... and just hold 'er straight and level".  3 seconds into it he says... "doing fine, just hold it steady"..... 7 seconds into it he says... "doing fine, just hold it steady"..... 10 seconds into it he says... "ok, open your eyes and look where we are".   I was shocked to discover we were in a steep 45 degree right-turning bank, and headed so steeply down that no horizon was visible.  YIKES.  (YIKES!)  "That's to show you, you can never believe what your body is telling you", he says.  (GREAT.) 
 
We next practiced standard rate turns, also under the hood, able to see only instruments, and nothing out the windows.

 

 A standard rate turn is a shallow turn... at which speed will take 2 minutes to complete a 360 degree turn.

 The formula for determining the proper angle of bank for a standard rate turn is based upon aircraft speed:  Speed ÷ (divided by) 10, plus 1/2 of the result = proper bank angle.  Therefore, at 200KTS, 200 ÷ 10 = 20.  20 + 1/2 the result = 30.  Therefore 30 = the proper bank angle for a standard rate turn at a speed of 200KTS.  At a speed of 100KTS, 100 ÷ 10 + 1/2 = 15; the proper bank angle for a standard rate turn at 100KTS in 15 degrees of bank.   

 
We spent the remainder of the time, with me still under the hood,  with Jeff playing traffic controller, giving me vector directions, "turn left to 220 degrees, maintain 2000", or "climb to 3500, turn right to 090 degrees".  He gave me 30 minutes worth of vectors and altitude changes... then told me to contact the tower "8 miles NW of the airport for left closed traffic".  A few vectors and minutes later, he asked me to contact the tower for permission to land.  At that point, he had me remove the hood... we were lined up nicely on the centerline on final approach for an uneventful landing 30 seconds later.
More to come, Sunday July 9.
 
Sunday, July 9, 2006 - Lesson 19
80 Total Landings Includes 6 Today
 
Its hard to believe, 80 landings since April 22.  It may sound like a lot, but given my proficiency level, its clear I'll need at least 80 more to get really comfortable with the various landing scenarios that will doubtlessly present themselves.  Now that the solo is behind me, the remaining 20 (of the required 40 total) hours of dual instruction will be spend on 5 phases of learning:  Instrument flying, Navigation (dead reckoning), Navigation (radio), Solo/Cross Country, and Short/Soft Field take offs and landings. 

 
Today's lesson was a combination of "Stop and Go" landings utilizing techniques for Short and Soft Field Take-offs and Landings.  Short field means just that - not much room to take off or land (take-off technique described below, so we won't go into it again).  Soft field starts off as a normal takeoff, except we extend the flaps two notches (25 degrees) and begin the takeoff roll with the elevators in the full up position.  As the airplane accelerates through 40 KTS... it wants to fly and it lifts off... but unfortunately... with full elevators, it is too slow to fly except through ground effect. If we were to continue the ascent out of ground-effect (that cushion of air low to the ground, produced by wings generating lift), the airplane would smack back down on the runway.  So, once we lift off, at a very low airspeed (40KTS), we immediately lower the nose to gain speed and once we reach 60KTS, we retract the flaps and climb at the normal Vy speed.  The purpose of this maneuver is to get the airplane off the ground and flying as soon as possible, since we assume the ground to be uneven, soft and cushy, perhaps a damp grass field possibly strewn with rocks, etc.  Interesting and fun lesson. 
 
The reverse is true upon landing... we maintain a very low airspeed (60KTS), which means the nose of the airplane is pointed higher than usual during the descent.  Immediately upon touch down, we're hard on the brakes to stop the airplane's speed-roll over loose and unpredictable ground.  We also tried to go to Southbridge (3BO) today for a couple of touch and go's but Southbridge had lots of airplanes launching and landing.... so we returned back to ORH to practice the soft/short field TO/Landings.  More on Thursday.

 

Thursday, July 13, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

 

Friday, July 14, 2006 - Lesson 20
81 Total Landings - Includes 1 Today
 
Wow, today dawned a beautiful, clear, cool, crystal-blue sky day!  Arrived at the airport at 6:30AM - by 7:00 we were flying.  Got cleared to taxi to the hold-short area of runway 29-er, got cleared onto 29-er for position-and-hold, and finally got takeoff clearance. 
 
Today, the weather was so perfect that when rotating through ground-effect, 26_Juliet behaved like the lady we know her to be, a silky-smooth rotation and climb, just like you'd experience on a jetliner, (but seldom on a small single-engine).  Immediately after clearing 3500', Jeff had me put on the hood so we could work on the instrument requirements, and I spent the entire hour navigating to his pretend ATC directions.... "turn left to 260, descend to 2500".... "turn right to 360, climb to 3200"... "make a 360 left turn, maintain 3000 feet", etc etc etc. 
 
The only stand-out moment, (apart from the smooth rotation) was, at one point, Jeff said... ok, take off the hood and look where we are.  The last time he said that (July 7) we were flying at a 45 degree steep right bank, and pitched steeply down and "plummeting to the ground" (as he likes to say) -  so I kind of wondered what I'd find when I took the hood off - (even though the instruments all said we were straight and level!) 

Anyway....  what I saw was... that we were perhaps 1000 feet over a solid layer of clouds and pointed directly at  Mt. Monadnock in NH.  Only the top part of Monadnock was visible (rest was cloud-obscured), and the sun was rising over the cloud bank.  The clouds appeared to be illuminated from beneath and golden on top.  It looked like we were flying towards Mt. Kilimanjaro, the way the clouds encircled Mt. Monadnock with the sunlight on the clouds and beautiful clear blue-sky above us.  Beautiful - Spectacular!  I was really glad he paused the lesson to show that sight to me.  The other cool thing is... we had left Worcester just 25-20 minutes earlier and were already closing in on Mt Monadnock - which is almost a 2 hour drive from Worcester. Amazing how flying cuts down the travel time.
 
Anyway, the lesson resumed with the hood back in place... the lesson ended with Jeff's vectors to the airport:  Jeff telling me what to say to the Air Traffic Controller, since I couldn't see where we were in relationship to the approach pattern.  The next time Jeff told me to remove the hood, we were 1000 feet above the runway and on final-approach.  It was just a matter of adding some flaps, lining up on the centerline, throttling back to idle, and letting 'er settle down.  Nice Landing, nice lesson.  More on Sunday.

 

Sunday, July 16, 2006 - Lesson 21
82 Total Landings - Includes 1 Today

Wow, another gorgeous day, with light winds, blue skies and puffy clouds. I arrived at 7:30 AM, by 8:00 we were flying.  Taxiing and take-off requests were honored immediately, but we were given a request by ATC to "position and hold" on the active runway while another aircraft cleared the runway.  Once cleared, we were given permission to take off with a planned departure route to the south.
 
Today was an intro to VOR navigation and pilotage.  The requirement for VFR flight in Class D Airspace is clear of clouds: 500' below, 1000' above and 2000' laterally.  Many of the clouds were rather transparent so we flew through them which was kind of cool. 
 
We climbed to 3500, and it became quite hazy, plus having to dodge clouds kept us occupied.  Once at our altitude, the lesson in navigating began.  We flew from Worcester to local airports: Southbridge, Gardner and Palmer, flying into CT and RI at various times.  But today, I became Forest Gump....I didn't know where I was, where I had been or where I was going.  Jeff told me I was terrible, that I was killing him....  that some day I would look back and smile on all of this.  I told him I hope so.  well, ok.  I didn't have my reading glasses with me, so it was difficult to spot where we were on the map.  Also, I kept losing my place on the map...looking up to fly the plane, then looking for landmarks on the ground, and by the time I looked back at the map we were in a different place...  things move and change quickly underneath you...  everything looks the same... at one point Jeff asked me to point out the Mass Pike to him and I pointed out a reservoir.  When it is hazy, plus being new to pilotage and piloting, things are difficult to pick out.  NOT GOOD. 

The good thing is, whether you have a chart or not (but you'd better!), with the many navigation aids, like VOR, VORTAC, TRACON, RNAV, DME, ADF, GPS, it is really pretty hard to get lost.  But here, the issue is learning how to use and quickly tune the various radios to get navigation guidance and cross-checks, and there are a LOT of options, which I won't go into here.  The point is, it all has to become second nature: first and foremost, you have to fly the airplane, all the while you are avoiding other airplanes, listening and talking to ATC, referencing your progress on the chart, staying out of clouds, tuning your 4 radios to different radio beacons and nav aids, monitoring the instruments while you track to and from these beacons, nav aids or checkpoints, etc.  It seems overwhelming, but not totally impossible.
 
Upon approaching the airport for landing, we were given a lot of different vectors, including being cleared for landing, and then at the last minute, an unexpected runway change, which meant a 270 degree turn to intercept a new runway, so we could avoid a landing Alligient Air 737 Jetliner. Wingtip vortices from large aircraft can be deadly to small airplanes, and we didn't mind the diversion.  It was cool... upon landing, I noted that ATC had held-short the 737 from crossing our runway...so we could proceed to our ramp... a planeful of tourists waiting for us in a tiny airplane to get out of their way...  Funny! 
 
The final, cool thing was, before we took off in the morning, a young pilot, maybe 20 yrs old, showed up with his sister and her girlfriend with their beach towels and lunch baskets....  he pre-flighted a rental airplane, they hopped into the airplane and took off for Block Island, a 30 minute flight from Worcester, for a nice day in the sun at the beach.  I figure if he can do it, I can do it.  So maybe there is still hope for yours truly, Forest Gump.  More later this week.
 

Thursday, July 20, 2006 - No Flight - Juliet Got Sick, and We Made a Good Decision.
Well, showed up at the airport as usual, did the pre-flight...fuel samples and all the rest - everything checked out fine.  Then, got gassed up, since the tanks we pretty empty... checked the fuel again - everything fine.  I completed the pre-flight, advanced the throttle to half-an-inch, mixture to full rich and started the airplane and taxied to the ramp for clearance to taxi to the runway.  OOPS.  We're sitting there at the entrance to the taxi-way.... I've got my finger on the mike button to call ground control for clearance to taxi... but I look over at Jeff.... and he's looking at me... 

I say...."gee, that really doesn't sound right to me... does it to you?  She's running rough, too..."  I take my finger off the mike button and lock the brakes....  give 'er full throttle... and man... its like shake n' bake.... this thing is bouncing around like I don't know what...  He does a few checks, fuel pump, magnetos, amps, vacuum... things still no better.  We taxi back to the ramp....   lock the brakes again.... full throttle... full mixture.... man... bad-bad-bad.  I suggested I'd be curious to see what happened if we switched fuel tanks - no better and maybe even worse.  The topper is...  Jeff reduces the throttle all the way down.... and the airplane is vibrating heavily...  like a cylinder is not firing...  as he leans the mixture control, the engine RPM increases and starts to smooth out.  OH this is definitely not right.  If the throttle is all the way out, and the mixture is all the way out, the engine should stop - not speed up!   
 
Final decider for no-go... is he pulls the throttle all the way back...  and mixture all the way forward (rich).... and the engine almost dies.  Well, this is exactly the scenario in landing.... throttle off, mixture full rich... definitely don't want the engine to die on the turn to base or final approach. 
 
I say all this to say... when we were sitting at the ramp... it would have been very easy - too easy... to just figure 'everything is fine, and the roughness will work itself out on the final engine run-up, or that things would just be fine in the air.  The fact is that had we proceeded under the conditions presented, the engine would have -stopped- at the most critical time in the air - when approaching for a landing.  Today was the best lesson ever: if unsure about conditions for takeoff, "just say no". 

Saturday, July 22, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

 

Monday, July 24, 2006 - Lesson 22
83 Total Landings, Includes 1 Today
 
Man, I hate to keep saying it, but today was a perfect-perfect-perfect day.  Arrived at 6:30 AM with a cloudless and near wind-less day;  Juliet was feeling better (See July 20) - (a stuck carburetor float, btw), and we were flying by 7:00AM.  A silky smooth lift-off into silky smooth air.
 
Dang, I forgot my reading glasses again, but I was a better prepared mentally for what was to come in the lesson, which was a continuation of the July 16 lesson - navigation by pilotage and VOR (Very-High-Frequency Omni Directional Range).  VOR is a radio transmitter on a specific frequency... that transmits a slightly different signal on each degree of the compass.  (Interested readers can find out more info on VOR here.
 
So, if you dial in a bearing on the VOR receiver and fly to that compass heading, the navigation (nav) radios can figure out and display whether you are flying TO the station on a "bearing" or away FROM the station on a "radial"... and display that information to you, along with also displaying visually any deviations -left or right- to the selected course.  (If the bearing is 90 degrees, the radial for that bearing is 180 degrees.) When you're heading to the station, your VOR radio shows you that you heading "TO" the station and when you have passed it, the indicator on the display changes to "FROM", meaning you are now traveling away from the station, (see the TO/FROM in the picture below).  Most airplanes have at least two of these nav radios, and by using them both and "triangulating", you can figure out exactly where you are, if you don't already know.  Its how basic navigation gets done, (generally speaking), (along with ADF), without using GPS - (which GPS is not usually taught to student pilots, since "its important to focus on the basics" as I am told). 
 
VOR stations are scattered - thickly - around the country, so you are never far from one, or two, or even four or five.  Plus, their broadcast is line of sight, so you can literally tune into a VOR station a hundred miles away or more, and fly right to it.
 
So today's lesson was using the charts and VOR to navigate to different airports on different bearings.  I was able to follow our route pretty well on the chart, and was actually amazed to see things on the ground, exactly where the chart said they should be!  We flew to Spencer Airport, Gardner Airport, headed into NH, then did a 180 back to Gardner and Spencer before heading back to Worcester.  The rest of the flight, landing and tower communications were uneventful. 
 
Jeff wants me to spend some time in the IFR simulator back at the school - which will also involve VOR simulation -  which the FAA allows in place of actual IFR simulated flight in an aircraft.  (Its cheaper and you can do "more" in a single lesson.)   He also gave me a bit of homework, which is to put a list together of all local airports, all VOR stations, as well as the VOR, tower, ground, ATIS and FSS radio frequencies in use, runways in use and lengths, etc.  I am getting the feeling I will soon be flying around the (local) countryside on my own. (YIKES!)  I used to say - "flying is the easy part and landing is the hard part".  Now I say... "flying and landing are the "easy" part, navigation is now the hard part".  Truth is, its not really that hard, but it is complicated - and I haven't even yet discussed the different types of airspace (A, B, C, D, E, G) or requirements for flying into each.  Its a LOT.  (If any pilots reading this have any corrections or additions, pls send them along. )  More to come on Thursday.
 

Thursday, July 27, 2006 - No Flight - Weather Minimums

 

Saturday, July 29, 2006 - Lesson 23
84 Total Landings, Includes 1 Today

Today dawned another clear day, with temps in the 70s and light winds when I arrived at the airport at 8:00 AM.

Takeoff/landing and radio communications were fine, although I am still getting "feeds" occasionally from Jeff on what to reply to ATC at various times when I am not sure what they are asking. I do feel I am making progress on that front though, which is encouraging to me.

However, today was very frustrating for me - today we are working on VOR navigation but concentrating nearly all our efforts on pilotage by visual reference. The frustration I feel stems from the fact that - even though we have only done this a time or two before, I feel quite disoriented. The goal is to identify ground landmarks and reference them against the chart as we fly, so we can track our progress to our intended destination. Today, we flew to a number of local airports, from lots of different compass headings. The purpose in all this, is obviously - so I will be confident (and not get lost) when I begin solo flights away from the pattern. What makes this so difficult for me, I think, is that there is often haze - which doesn't help - and - things look <really> different from the air, plus you've got to fly the airplane straight and level, keep the instruments/airplane tracking the VOR radial, all the while trying to spot reference points on the ground and apply them to what you see on the chart, which you are constantly turning to match your direction of flight. Its like a juggling act!!! I am really having trouble sometimes even knowing if I am N/S/E/W of a destination. I know my general confusion will fade over time, but it is something that I am going to have to get past in order to keep moving forward. Another big thing also, is that Jeff is local to the area and knows generally the layout of the land in his head, and where things are in relation to each other, (and has been doing this a lot longer than I). I live quite a distance away (by car) and do not have as much familiarity with the areas over which we fly, so I am sure this is a contributing factor to my current troubles. Oh, I forgot to mention, as all of these lessons are going on, I am studying for my written FAA exam, which is another "piece of work" that I must move past. So, lots going on... and more to come.

 

Sunday, July 30, 2006 - Lesson 24
85 Total Landings, Includes 1 Today
 
Again, another nice day - a carbon copy of yesterday - arrived at the airport at 6:30.  Had a smooth takeoff to the south, where we planned to do more flying by ground reference.  Just to make my point about how differently things look from the air, I had told Jeff I would like to fly over my home in Brimfield.  (Have been promising Cindy I would do this for a while!) Another phenomenon - we flew towards the house direct from Worcester, in a different direction than how we would normally approach it by driving.  So, we flew directly over the MA Pike, over a golf course, and there should have been the house.  But I missed it the first time.  I had to fly into the town center, then back out to where we just were, using the landmarks I am familiar with - church, Sherry's house, pasture, barn, etc... and in the order I am used to seeing them.  I think the mental picture of how you are used to seeing things works to confuse a new pilot, but I am certain that the more time one spends in the air, the easier it will be to discern different types of ground reference points from different angles, and even begin to recognize where you are by visual reference alone.
 
After circling the house a couple times in a fairly steep turn, (30-40 degrees), (and Cindy waving from below), we headed back to the Worcester area, where Jeff continued to challenge me to find different airports in the area, about 4 in all, navigating by reference to the chart only. 

Most of the time, I was able to figure out at least the general direction we needed to fly in, and I think it went better today than yesterday.  But I feel it is going to require 3-6 more "orientation" flights of this type in order to be more comfortable and confident with landmark recognition. I do believe I could get from one airport to another even now, but I would like to have a higher level of confidence before I embark on that flight alone.
 
After it was all over, we got permission to land from the east - "straight in", which was really cool, flying directly over the city of Worcester, and had an 11 KT crosswind during final approach, so Jeff got to show me again how to keep the airplane pointing into the wind with the ailerons, but holding a steady straight track down the runway using the rudder, finally lining up on the runway just before touchdown.  N-I-C-E.  The flying part is really the best part for sure. 

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2006 - Simulator Intro Because I have not been flying due to a large project at work, I decided to try the simulator.  Time in this particular simulator is allowed by the FAA, (up to one hour) as fulfillment towards the 3 hour instrument requirement.  Even though the instruments are all there - and it looks like the inside of a small aircraft, it really seems far removed from the real thing.  So many external clues are missing, the feel in the seat of your pants, the sound of the air moving around the airplane, the sound of the engine.  I really didn't find it very useful, and probably won't use it again.

 

Monday, October 30, 2006
Took and passed the FAA Knowledge (written) Exam. Scored an 82 - not perfect, but thank god, its done and behind me now.
 


Saturday, November 4, 2006 - Lesson 25
87 Total Landings, Includes 2 Today

<Aircraft>"Worcester Ground, Piper Warrior 8226-Juliett, ready to taxi to runway 29'er from Amity with ATIS information Oscar"
<Worcester Ground>"Warrior 8226-Juliette, you are cleared to taxi via taxiway Bravo to Runway 29'er.  Hold short Runway 29'er"
<Aircraft>"8226-Juliette, cleared via taxiway Bravo, hold short runway 29'er"
<Aircraft>"Worcester Tower, Piper Warrior 8226-Juliette, holding short runway 29-er, ready for take-off from runway 29'er, northbound"
<Worcester Tower> "Warrior 8226-Juliette, you are cleared onto runway 29'er for Position and Hold"
<Aircraft> "8226-Juliette, position and hold"
<Worcester Tower> "Warrior 8226-Juliette you are cleared for takeoff, northbound, exercise discretion exiting Class D Airspace, maintain Visual Flight Separation Rules"
<Aircraft>"Warrior 8226-Juliette, cleared for takeoff"
 
YOWIEEE!!!    Airborne Again, (finally!)
OK, a lot has happened since my last flight update of July 30.  First my instructor was on vacation the first two weeks of August.  Then I was on vacation for the last two weeks of August.  Then September and October, we were crushed with work: a very important client project that could mean the difference between a good future and a great future for World Incentives.  I'm not one to tempt fate (too much), so I put the flying on hold until we got through the tricky programming stuff.  My thinking on this runs like this, e.g., if something happened to me while flying, it would leave Cindy and the Company in a difficult position, because as the technology manager for new accounts, there would be no one else with the "master plan" for this particular client.  So....now that this client's site is live, I decided to return to flying, even though there are still some rather important projects underway.
 
Anyway, you get the idea.  So, since it has been three months since my last flight, we reviewed the basics.... slow flight, level flight, turns, stalls, climbs, descents, etc.  After a while, Jeff had me flying a compass course to Gardner Airport... about a 10 minute flight from Worcester.  There, he let me land the airplane on the short (by comparison) runway - (3000').  We gassed up, taxied out (no tower), and took off.   So because its a short runway, we did a "short-field" takeoff:  line up on the end of the runway, power up all the way, holding brakes till full RPM is reached... then release the brakes and blast down the runway and pitching up at 60 Knots, climbing at 79 Knots, climb to pattern altitude and head back to Worcester Airport.  Sweet....Quite a difference taking off on a short runway with 50' trees at the end, getting closer and closer.  No big deal.  Gardner Airport is a nice little airport, just the one runway.  So we steered a compass course back to Worcester Airport, again, he let me fly and land the airplane in a small crosswind.  No biggie, and the landings at both airports were good - no bouncing, pitching around, etc.... Jeff was pleased, complimented me, and personally, I was very pleased that I was able to strictly hold my altitude and heading at all times, and make good landings... so we do seem to be making some progress.
 
This coming Friday night, Jeff wanted me to schedule a couple hours for a Night Orientation flight.  I hear the Worcester Airport lights up like a jewel when you turn on the runway lights, and I have heard Worcester Airport is really a beautiful sight from the cockpit, so I am eager to go... oh, and .... (yes runway lights and intensity are controlled by pilots at many airports).
 
Also, I should mention that I recently purchased Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and the flight-control yoke to go with it.  This thing is so real... it really allows you great practice and you can pick the airport you want to fly out of, the airport you want to fly to... you can fly via compass, VOR or GPS... and all the inputs are there.  All the basic landmarks are there, also.  I flew from Nantucket to Worcester on a compass course, and knew I was at Worcester because I flew by the city (which I recognized) and a large hill with radio towers on it.  Its practically like flying the real thing, and you get a bunch of different airplanes you can fly - from a small Cessna to a 747.   I recommend it completely, but only if you get the control yoke with it.
 
Also, per my posts below, I took and passed the FAA Knowledge (written) Test.  So now I can concentrate on the flying requirements.  I am hoping to have my license by Spring, but perhaps even sooner, depending upon how often I fly.  That's it for now... More after the night flight!

 
Friday, November 10, 2006 - Lesson 26
90 Total Landings, Includes 3  Night Landings T
onight
 
 

 
Today dawned beautifully clear, and the sunset at 4:30 PM was equally gorgeous.  With the moon rising, and just past full, my first night flight promised to be an unforgettable experience.
 
I had a <lot> of questions going into this night flying thing, mainly like... uhnn well.... exactly how are we going to see while flying at night.  After one of the most thorough pre-flight checks I have even done in my life, I deemed the aircraft flyable, and got permission to taxi to the active runway, pretty much routinely.  Jeff had given me a few tips beforehand, like, 1) use the instruments if you lose the horizon, 2) use the horizon just as you do in the daytime, and 3), be aware that the runway is closer than it seems when landing at night.  After calling the tower and getting takeoff permission, we taxied onto the active runway, gave 'er the gas and accelerated down the runway.
 
Takeoff was uneventful, i.e. rotate at 60 knots, maintain best rate of climb airspeed, (79 knots), keep the wings level, but ... truly, with the aircraft pitched up in the air and no visual references, all you have to look at, that tells you anything useful are the 1). attitude indicator, 2). airspeed indicator, and 3). the altimeter.  I've attached a little picture of part of the instrument panel, so you know what we're talking about.  The (#1) attitude indicator is extremely useful because it tells you pitch and bank angle, relative to the horizon, so with that alone, you're in pretty good shape.  Add in (#2), the airspeed indicator, and by using the elevator, you can maintain speed to keep the airplane from stalling or overspeeding.   #3, The altimeter, tells you the altitude of course, so you'll know when you can release the death-grip on the yoke, as you climb out to cruise altitude.  (ahh, just kidding about the death-grip.)

 

 
 
 
 
So How Was It?  D'ja ever look out the window of a jetliner, on a perfectly clear night... and wonder what it looks like out the cockpit windows?  Well, EXACTLY like that!  Very cool.  There are some real benefits.... you can easily see where you're going, Springfield, MA, Providence, RI, Boston, MA were all perfectly clear.  And, its a real feeling of comfort knowing - for once, for sure, where all the other aircraft are around you.   The airplane cockpit is warm, bathed in red light and the outside sky is actually bright, illuminating the horizon.  Towns and vehicles sparkle below.  Its a magical, peaceful, almost cocoon-like experience.   
 
So, we flew north towards Gardner MA, and did a few basic easy maneuvers along the way - turns, climbs, descents.  Then we turned southwest and headed to, and landed at Southbridge Airport.  Jeff turned on the runway lights (5 clicks on the airport Common Frequency), and we proceeded to land using self-announce at every leg of the pattern - (no tower at Southbridge).  My first landing was a huge bouncer.  Runway absolutely comes up fast.  Jeff re-established the glide and settled the airplane down to the runway and re-landed it.... we taxied back to the takeoff point and did another takeoff.  Smooth, flawless.  Cold air gives an airplane lots of happy lift.  Then back home to Worcester.  Following the Mass Pike, we flew northeast of the airport and turned toward the airport 12 miles out.  The runway was like a jewel, lit up, beckoning us in.  We got clearance to do a touch-and-go, and I was able to land in a slight cross-wind without a bounce.... yeaaaaah.  Then retract the flaps, full power, rotate at 60 knots ... and head up again for left-hand closed pattern, call Tower at mid-field, get permission to land.... and another decent landing.  I think with practice, it gets much more commonplace and less of an "event", but for me, it is still very much an "event", i.e., landing at night.
 
Well this has been a lot longer than I planned, so I will   close, but not without saying that my first night flight was as memorable as my first solo. To get my license, I will need two more night flights, (no night solo is required), and I look forward to it. 
 
Cindy and I have business trips over the next two weeks, so the opportunity to fly will be minimal, but stay tuned... more flying soon.  

 

Sunday, November 19 , 2006   

No Flying - Weather Minimums > 

 
 

Friday, December 3, 2006 - Lesson 27 
90 Total Landings, Includes 2 Landings Today 

 

  

<Worcester

Tower:> “Warrior 3572-Zulu you are cleared to land runway 29-er: 
Winds are 340@3, altimeter 30.02; Exit runway 29-er at intersection taxiway Foxtrot, cross runway 33, proceed taxiway Bravo to ramp, ramp to park, remain this frequency.”
 


 
<me – 3572Z): “Cleared to land runway 29-er, exit foxtrot, cross 31, bravo to ramp, this frequency, 72-Zulu”


 
<instructor:>  “better get the nose down or add some power.”
 
 
<aircraft:  extended stall-warning horn


 
<me – “yikes, (gulp)”


 
<aircraft:  ***big bounce***

 

 

 

Upon landing, Jeff’s comments were…. “Well I think I may lose more fillings from that last landing than from the saltwater taffy you gave me as a gift”…  (cackle.)

 

Wayne’s comments:  “gee, I hope there weren’t any little kids watching, as in “gee daddy, I want to be a pilot just like him, one day”.”  (embarrassment)

 

So, not flying for a couple weeks has disadvantages, mainly you “lose your touch” on landings, and undoubtedly other things as well. 

 

If you are one of the pilot-types out there following my flight logs, you may have noticed the call sign for the aircraft was different – 72-Zulu, versus 26-Juliett.  So, we were in a different aircraft, virtually identical in all respects, but flight characteristics do vary from aircraft from aircraft. 

 

With virtually no wind upon landing, full flaps, nose-high configuration, and power pulled all the way out…the aircraft lost lift about 6 feet above the runway and fell through ground-effect – (that cushion of ground-level air you can normally count on to soften any landing)… resulting in a solid bounce back into the air.  Got the aircraft under control, re-flared, landed… fine.  It seems the throttle on this aircraft retards back to a lower engine setting than on Juliette.  I don’t know… maybe I’m just a hack after all.  Anyway, having this happen while landing – at a height above the runway can damage the mains (main landing gear), so my lesson on this landing is… don’t just look out the window while landing… watch the airspeed indicator too, and be ready to give some gas to keep it flying.  Crash landing onto the runway is not cool.

 

Next time, (Dec 17), because of my non-regular flying schedule lately, Jeff wants me to stay in the pattern the whole time and practice-practice-practice landing skills. 

 

This lesson was pretty simple – we are now (really), past the basic skills of learning to fly, and I am learning navigation, getting used to going places so I can go there myself with confidence, and generally, gaining confidence every hour I fly. 

 

So we flew to one of the neighboring (non-towered) airports (Gardner), landed and gassed up the plane.  I feel comfortable getting to Gardner airport now, and also confident getting back to home-base.  The landing at Gardner was fine, but there is definitely some rust there.
I am expecting to solo to Gardner and back in the near future – (not that near).

 

Radio communication is still a concern, but less so now that I’m getting used to it.
My main concern is simply not getting lost.   Over the next few lessons, we will concentrate on ground-reference flying and electronic navigation.  But … to tell you the truth, I feel as confident about flying to Gardner and back alone, as I did before my initial solo… so…  I think, until you do it, you always have that little bit of self-doubt.  I won’t mind one bit a little more experience before I do it, though.  Flying is all about gaining experience and confidence.

 

More after my Dec 9 lesson.       

 

Sunday, December  9, 2006   

< No Flying - Weather Minimums > 

 

Sunday, December 17 , 2006   

< No Flying - Weather Minimums > 

 

Sunday, January 7, 200 76 - Lesson 28 
95 Total Landings, Includes  5 Landings Today 

 

  

  

WOW, it feels like a long time since my last flight, and indeed it was!  In spite of warmer than usual temperatures, neither the weather nor my work (or vacation) schedule has been cooperating to make this easier!

Cindy and I enjoyed the Christmas and New Years holidays in Rome, so that was 13 days alone out of the flying schedule... not that Rome was so terribly bad.  ;-)  (in fact, it was g-r-e-a-t!)  Happy Christmas, and New Years to All!
 
I thought I should post some photos of 26-Juliet, since I keep talking about her so much.  She is an older bird, rated for IFR flight, 1976-ish, and gets more flying time and maintenance/servicing than most privately owned birds; she is safe and a joy to fly...and golly... I wish she were mine.  The way to keep aircraft in good shape... is actually to fly them...often, and Juliet gets probably, in a good week, 30 - 50 hours.  Its when aircraft are ignored that things begin to disintegrate, so we are glad that the flight school's aircraft are kept flying rather constantly.
 
After the rough landings, and absence of almost a month, Jeff and I took off, and went through all the basics - climbing and descending turns, power-off stalls, emergency landing procedures, flight "under the hood", i.e. by instruments only.  The 5 landings were fine - one - the first, was a bouncer, one was a perfect squeaker, the other three were just fine.  Next lesson, he wants to practice navigation using VOR, and then some solo work in the pattern. 
 
The lessons to come, I will do some solo flight out of the pattern to local airports, etc.  I have a few more hours to do towards the basic requirements - recovery from unusual attitudes, night flights, instrument flight, etc., and then the final remaining work will be the cross-country solos, and finally, preparing for and taking the "check-ride" where I will (hopefully) earn my pilots wings with the FAA Examiner.
 
This lesson was pretty usual, except because of the beautiful clear day, the traffic pattern was busy busy busy.  One of my biggest hurdles has been needing to be able to relax and "slow things down", particularly so I can understand and respond to the Air Traffic Controllers. There was lots of traffic in the air AND on the radio, and I was able to handle all of it, without any assistance from Jeff, including some rather complicated calls to "extend the downwind leg",  or "execute a 360 and re-enter the pattern", or "execute a short final" --- all of these calls in order to avoid other aircraft on departure or landing cycles, or other calls like, "you have permission for the option, use discretion", or "cleared to land runway 29-er, exit taxiway foxtrot, proceed to park, remain this frequency".  A friend recently asked me, how can non-native-English speaking pilots ever master ATC communications, and the answer is... its like learning a foreign language, yes, but with an extremely limited vocabulary, maybe 100 words or less.  Most of the time, I've learned, you can anticipate the calls, but even when not, if you know the 100-word vocabulary, you'll be fine.  Which is why on some international airlines, the pilots speak barely-understandable English over the intercom, but can understand and communicate to ATC perfectly.  Its that limited vocabulary.
 
So, thank god, I feel like I am finally "getting it"... it is all finally coming together, and not seeming like such a huge impossible task. The flying is under control, the communications are under control, now if I can just get the radio navigation and weight/balance calculations under control, I'll be real close to where I need to be to qualify for my license.  Flying again next weekend, will continue then.
 

 Wednesday, January  10 , 2007
< No Flying - Weather Minimums > 

  Sunday, January  14 , 2007

< No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Thursday, January  18 , 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

 

Sunday, January  21 , 2007- Lesson 29 
 

100 Total Landings, Includes 5 Landings Today 
 
 

 

<Aircraft enroute:> Worcester Tower, this is Skyhawk 7987-Charlie, inbound, 2 miles north of the field, request full stop>
 
Worcester Tower:> Cessna Skyhawk 7987, contact tower 3 miles out, make right traffic, you are number 1, cleared to land runway 29-er>

< Warrior 8226-Juliet (us):> Worcester Tower, 26-Juliet is mid-field, downwind left pattern for touch-and-go>


<Worcester Tower:> Warrior 26-Juliet, be advised Cessna Skyhawk making right traffic on downwind leg, advise when you have traffic, you will be #2 to land after the Skyhawk, continue left-hand traffic on climb-out>

 

< Warrior 8226-Juliet:> 26-Juliet is looking for the traffic, no contact on the traffic>

 

<Worcester Tower:> Warrior 26-Juliet, extend downwind, advise when traffic in sight>

 

< Warrior 8226-Juliet:> 26-Juliet has the traffic>

 

<Worcester Tower:> Warrior 26-Juliet, you are cleared runway 29-er for the option, #2 to land behind the Skyhawk>

 

< Warrior 8226-Juliet:> 26-Juliet will do the touch and go, cleared #2 behind the Skyhawk, left-traffic on climb-out>

 

Worcester Tower:> Cessna Skyhawk 7987, Expedite. Exit Taxiway Charlie as soon as possible, you have traffic landing directly behind you> 

 

So... who would have believed it... but 29 lessons later and today marked 100 landings.  As you can maybe tell, the first nice day in quite sometime, and the airport is busy with traffic.  Radio work is definitely under control, standard landings are no sweat.  Have been practicing VOR navigation and courses on MS Flight Simulator X which is a HUGE help.  Today also marked more practice on cross-wind landings, which means the aircraft is crabbed at an angle to the runway, instead of lined up straight with the runway. More challenging, but really just a variation on the theme.  (This is a GREAT example of an extreme cross-wind landing, 'gotta check it out! -

MAJOR CROSSWIND LANDINGS
(Click the back button after viewing to return to this page).
 

 

Also, we practiced slips - which is a maneuver one does when high on final approach... essentially, you are apply left-full-rudder and right-full-aileron.  In this condition the controls are said to be "crossed" and the effect is that the airplane flies straight ahead, but descends rapidly.  A great way to get lower fast, although not so recommended with passengers!

 

 

Lessons progressing but weather is definitely NOT cooperating.... More after this weekend's lesson, and maybe more photos!

 

 

Friday, January  26 , 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Saturday, January  27 , 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Sunday, January  28 , 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Friday, February 3, 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Saturday, February 4 , 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Sunday, February 5, 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Sunday, February 11 , 2007

- Lesson 30
10
7 Total Landings, Includes 7 Landings Today 
 

 

Man, this is getting ridiculous.  Now I am beginning to understand, why, here in the Northeast, many pilots simply don't fly in the wintertime.  If it is not the snow, it is the winds.  Virtually every non-flying day recently has been due to high winds.  And even if you do manage to get up while its still dark, you still have to preflight the aircraft in the freezing cold, and hope it starts... and if it doesn't get a battery charger.  And oh, did I mention the engines must be pre-heated with a big propane gizmo prior to starting?!?  And oh yeah... if there happens to be snow or ice on the wings, you have to scrape it off, assuming no one has flown before you.  Tough-tough-tough.  It also explains why fully 50% of all private aircraft are located in sunny California.  Anyway, because it has been so long since I've flown solo, (more than 60 days), I need to re-qualify for my solo endorsement.  Flying once every 2 or 3 weeks, the best you can hope for is that you don't lose ground.  So...  this entire lesson was spent in the pattern, doing touch and goes with Jeff...  Again, we are seeing pretty steady cross-winds, with gusts.  All of which add some element of unpredictability to landings.  Although all went well - a couple were perfect... but it has been long enough since I've flown solo, that he would like me to have more time in the pattern on a reasonable calm day. 

 

Friday, February 16, 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Saturday, February 17 , 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Sunday, February 18, 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Saturday, February 24 , 2007

No Flying - Weather Minimums >

 

Sunday, February 25 , 2007- Lesson 31 
15 Total Landings, Includes 8 Landings Today 
 

 

Did I say things were getting ridiculous last lesson?!!?  Preposterous is more like it.  Almost every day for two weeks has featured winds in excess of 15 knots, usually more like 20, with gusts as high as 35 - 40.  Just NOT flyable weather.

 

Anyway, again during this lesson we again stayed in the pattern, with an eye towards regaining my solo endorsement.  But with 12 knot crosswinds coming directly across the runway... and the occasional much stronger gust, there was no way from the outset I was going to solo again.  In fact, at the initial climb-out...at about 700 feet above the runway, I thought Jeff has grabbed the wheel and yanked it violently to the left.  In fact he had not touched the controls, but a sudden high gust of wind had hit us, resulting in an immediate sudden and severe dropping of the left wing.  I was able to make the correction immediately and the entire incident was not really anything major... but it just shows that you can never be complacent.   

 

Another interesting event was that due to a good amount of traffic in the pattern, the tower has us maintain right traffic (right turns) around the runway, rather than left traffic.  Of course, with left traffic, it is always quite easy to know exactly where the runway to your left is because you can see it out your left window all the time.  But with right traffic, when you are on the "downwind leg", approaching the turn to base, and then onto final, of course, the runway is on the passenger side... and it is largely obscured by the right wing .... especially as the wind pushes you closer towards it.  The trick is,  rather than steering straight down the runway... parallel... you head out at almost a 45 degree angle away from it.  This stabilizes (and straightens) your track on the downwind leg of the pattern.  This angle is called the wind correction angle, and can be calculated based upon wind speed and direction.

 

With lots of moderate wind gusts, and flying a right-traffic pattern to an invisible runway, and lots of communications to the tower, it was a pretty busy day.  At one point, while we were on final approach, the tower instructed us to "execute a go-around, with a climbing right turn to re-enter the pattern on the base leg".  Turns out an airplane had not cleared the active runway quickly enough, so, its best not to have two airplanes on the same runway at the same time.  I guess the best that can be said... is that I am doing the best I can to keep my hand in the game, anticipating when spring rolls around that my flying can continue on a much more regular basis.  I am hoping to have my license by the end of April.  More soon... hopefully.

 

 

Friday, March 9 , 2007- Lesson 32
16 Total Landings, Includes 1 Landing Today 
 

 

Today I managed to steal some time away from work - it was a beautiful day, and I am always conscious of how long it has been since I've been in the cockpit, so I was lucky to steal away for a couple of hours.  Clear blue sky with light winds...  Today was a continuation of VOR navigation and ground reference orientation.  I should probably mention again, that even though weeks are passing without flying, I am spending an hour or two a week using Microsoft Flight SimX to practice cross-country flights.  Of course, they do not "count" towards the requirements, but with an accurate aircraft type, cockpit, controls/response, speed and even accurate elevation contours... and airport layouts, it is a super-great way to experience in advance those flights that I know I must soon be making solo. 

 

Having said that, this actual flight to Gardner Airport, by VOR and ground reference, is quite a familiar flight now.  Again, as it is winter and still close to freezing, I admit - it is hard to wake myself up while it is still dark, travel the hour to the airport and march myself out into the cold to pre-flight the aircraft.

My resolve has been to try to "hang in there" to get past winter and out of Daylight Savings Time. This flight with Jeff, was a quick hop to Gardner by VOR and reverse course back to Worcester. 

The flying was uneventful, radio communications were passable, and the one landing was good.  As I have mentioned previously, "flying the plane" is the "easy" part now - the hard part is not getting lost, and being able to orient myself by ground references to the aviation charts.  More flying soon, weather permitting..

 

Saturday, March 31 , 2007- Lesson 33
118  Landings, Includes 2 Landings Today 
Sunny/Clear - 9:00 AM takeoff - No winds - Temp 50°

 

Its pretty rare that the flag at Worcester Airport is hanging straight now.  Today was such a day - now with Daylight Savings Time over, it is light earlier, and the temps are climbing - finally.  Today felt like a spring day - the kind of day that inspires one to want to fly.

 

Interestingly, Runway 29 was closed and arrival and departure traffic was routed to Rwy 33.  Its a bit of a longer taxi to get to that runway, past some taxiways that I was not that familiar with, so I was glad to experience a takeoff from Rwy 33 with Jeff in the cockpit, so I can manage it myself next time if need be. 

 

Our request for a straight-out departure was approved, and we were cleared immediately onto the runway.  Full throttle... watch the groundspeed .... 30, 40, 50 knots, and...

Rotate at 60 Kts, climbing to 2000', traffic pattern altitude.  Once past the airport traffic pattern, we climb to 3700 feet to clear the Worcester Class D Airspace, and then descent back down to 3500'.
 
Today was a continuation of navigation training by VOR and ground reference.  And we are ranging quite far out, away from the airport now, flying to different airports.  The scenario is like this:  Jeff asks me to show him where we are on the chart, and then has me fly to different airports. 

 

Starting from Worcester, he first asked me to find Tanner-Hiller in Barre, MA.  Its a short flight on a 320° course, adjacent to the western part of the Quabbin Reservoir.  From there, he asked me to find my way to Sterling Airport in Sterling...  opposite direction, easterly course heading of 90°, about a 10 minute flight.  From there, "lets go to Fitchburg Airport"....  8 minutes, approximately 30° northerly heading...from there... a turn to the west to head towards Jaffrey NH....340° course for 25 minutes,  Then Jeff asked me to find and fly to Gardner Airport - southerly course of 220°.

 

Approaching Gardner Airport, we dialed in the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) to self-announce that we were entering the downwind pattern for landing on runway 36.  The landing at Gardner was easy, fun, uneventful.  A quick fill-up, then taxi back to the runway for a self-announced takeoff on Rwy 36... climb up to pattern altitude, execute a 180° turn to the south, still at pattern altitude of 2000'.  Shortly after leaving the airport behind, we climbed to 3500', where the radio towers next to Worcester Airport were clearly visible.  So, we maintained a course of 180° at 3500'.... then, about 7 minutes later - 8 miles out from the airport, we tune to, and contact Worcester Tower for landing instructions.  Worcester told us to make right closed traffic for Rwy 33.  We worked our way down to the pattern altitude of 2000' and entered the downwind pattern, got slowed down enough to lower the flaps, turned onto the base leg, added more flaps, turned onto final, added the final flap setting.  Then it was a simple matter to line up with the runway, and watch the VASI lights to make sure the altitude, as we descend remains proper.  (Here's more information on the VASI (Visual Approach Slope Indicator) system - which all pilots, from small aircraft, to commercial pilots to shuttle pilots are always mighty glad to have as a reference when landing.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VASII 

 

One final thing... after over 100 landings... I realized today... for the first time, ... then I have been holding my breath as I've transitioned the airplane from the final descent phase to landing flare.  I first realized it today when landing at Gardner Airport. When I realized that I was doing this - it was such a surprise... so I just took a few deep breaths, -continued to breath - , continued the descent, flared the aircraft and landed ... perfectly.  Again, landing at Worcester, I noticed the same tendency to hold my breath, but instead, again, breathed in and out deeply while transitioning to the flare and landing. Another perfect landing.  Funny the things you learn that you least expect to learn.

Jeff wants me to do some flight planning for flights to local airports - wants to observe my method and see what I come up with.  Me too! 

With the warm weather coming, my spirits are becoming more positive and my confidence in actually being able to earn my license is growing.  There is still much <much> work to be done... but I look forward to the benefits the gift of flight provides.  Some day in the not-too-distant future.


This entire coming weeks looks like rain, and Easter, and a car trip to NJ is in order.  My next scheduled flight time is Saturday, April 14, so I'll have more then!
 

 

Thursday, May 3, 2007- Lesson 34 - First Solo Local Area Solo Flight
121  Landings, Includes 3 Landings Today 
Sunny/Clear - 8:00 AM takeoff - Winds 270 @11 Gusting to 17 - Temp 56°

 

Wow, today is the first time since I began flight instruction that I was able to log my own PIC (Pilot In Command) time into my log book!  Way Cool!!!

 

Its been over a month since I was last able to fly... I cannot begin to list the number of times in the last month that I have been at the airport for my scheduled lesson - waiting for the skies to clear, waiting for the winds to drop, waiting, waiting waiting.  If you figure at least once a week, and throw in at least another 5 attempts, that means 9 trips to the airport to fly with no success in the past 30 days.  Sure, 40 hours required to get your license doesn't sound like a lot, but even when the spirit is willing, the weather-gods will do what they want. 

 

When I arrived at the airport today, Jeff said... "why don't you do a couple of touch and goes in the pattern, and if you feel you brought your "A-Game" with you... fly to Gardner and back"?  I said.... "SURE, LETS GO!!!"...  Jeff looked at me and said... "lets"???  I said... "oh... ummm... you want me to fly there alone...???"  He said, "do you think you can find your way back?"  I said, "sure, I can find my way back, but its been over a month since I've been in the cockpit"... to which he replied, with a tone of finality... ."I understand that"...  so.... okay.  As Julius Caesar said, "jacta alea est"... or..."The Die is Cast...(historical reference: Alea denotes the *game* of dice, rather than the physical die: meaning the dice game is in its thrown state.)

 

So, I gathered up my headset, my aviation sectional chart, my cheat-sheet of radio and navigation frequencies and runway headings, and headed out to 26-Juliet.  After a quick pre-flight of the aircraft, I climbed into the cockpit and settled myself in.  Was I nervous?  Well, I wouldn't say nervous or

 

Like my first solo, there was a very dynamic element of... shall I say... "serious consideration and contemplation" about what one was about to embark upon.  My largest "considerations" were the radio work and the gusting winds.  Depending upon how busy the tower and traffic pattern is, radio work can be somewhat complex and fast-paced.  The gusting winds would likely mean a bumpy ride..

 

I went through the various checklists that look like this:

 

Pre-Start Checklist
 

Loose Items stowed
Seat adjusted
Hatches & Harnesses secure
Trims advance through range - set to take-off
Flaps advance through range - set to zero
Park Brake on
Fuel on - set to lowest tank
Carburetor Heat off
Mixture idle-cutoff
Throttle closed
Instruments checked and set
Avionics off
Switches off
Master in
Circuit Breakers in
Controls advance through range - free and clear - correct sense

 

Then... the Start Check, which looks like this:

 

Start Check

 

Mixture rich
Throttle .5 inch open
Fuel Pump on, check pressure and off
Prime 5 times
Area Check "Clear Prop"
Magnetos start

 

And... finally the After Start Check, which looks like this:

 

After-Start Checklist

 

Throttle set 1000 rpm
Oil pressure green within 30 secs
Alternator on
Ammeter positive charge
Suction within limits
Gyros erection and sync
Annunciators test and out
Avionics on
Beacon on
Transponder STBY - squawk "1200"
ATIS receive
Heading Indicator align with magnetic
Altimeter set

 


After the checklists were complete, it was time to taxi.... a quick call to Worcester Ground provided permission to "Taxi via Bravo to intersection Runway 29-er, hold-short runway 29-er".  Once at the proper hold-short location, it was time for the final Run-Up Check...(another detailed pre-flight checklist similar to those above).  With all checks completed, a frequency change and call to Worcester Tower requesting to remain in the pattern for touch and go practice resulted in the Tower reply of "Permission granted for take-off, maintain left-closed traffic and contact me midfield" gave permission to take off and remain in the pattern for touch and go practice. 

 

After a couple of touch and goes... I felt confident enough after takeoff after the second touch and go to contact the Tower to terminate the touch and goes and request departure to the north, which was quickly approved.

 

Climbing north out of the pattern altitude 2,000' to 4,500', I cleared the Worcester Class D Airspace and switched the radio frequency to the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) so I could monitor local traffic, including Gardner Airport.  Gardner Airport is a short 15 mile flight from Worcester Airport.  Once at the right altitude and heading, there wasn't much to do except look and listen for traffic, monitor the electronic track of the aircraft (Compass heading, VOR and altimeter) and enjoy the view.  And what a glorious day it was - beautiful blue sky, puffy white clouds... a little haze but simply fantastic.  I was able to hear a good deal of traffic... lots of pilots entering traffic patterns at airports as far away as Sanford, Maine - but none at Gardner.  Flying past the airport at 4,500', I worked my way down to pattern altitude (1,900') and made my radio calls, entered the downwind, transitioned to base leg, and turned onto final.  Gardner's runway, at 3,000' is shorter than either of Worcester's runways - (7,000' and 10,000'), but things worked out just fine, and after landing, I taxied down the main taxiway back to the runway for a quick takeoff.

 

Because there are trees at each end of the runway, and after making the appropriate radio calls, I taxied onto the runway, applied full brakes and accelerated the engine to full-rpm for takeoff.  Once the engine hit 2,700 rpm, 'released the brakes and within a matter of seconds was at 60 knots and airborne, climbing to pattern altitude.   Once at pattern altitude, 'continued the climb to 3,500 and made a climbing left-hand 180° turn back toward Gardner Airport and... Worcester Airport.

 

Aside from the electronic navigational tools, there are a LOT of great landmarks around Worcester Airport, so in clear weather it is pretty simple to get back.  I haven't mentioned yet that since the climb-out from Worcester, gusty winds buffeted the aircraft, so much so that at times, it was more like an elevator ride... but for perhaps 87% of the time, the ride was smooth... lovely - and still a beautiful, beautiful day... accompanied with a true sense of accomplishment and exhilaration at what was happening - a long-time dream, since the age of 5.

 

Approaching Worcester Airport, I switched to the Tower frequency to monitor traffic in the area, ('and for the pilots reading this - got the ATIS Information - "Papa"), and flew past the airport so as to be setup for left-traffic instead of a right-traffic pattern, (personal preference: can't see the runway out the right-hand window with the right wing down).

 

Approaching Worcester Airport, now from the Southwest, the initial radio call was...:

"Worcester Tower, Warrior 8226 Juliet is with you, 8 miles southwest, level at 4,500, inbound for landing Worcester, information Papa", to which the reply, as anticipated was: "Warrior 8226 Juliet, make traffic for left-pattern Runway 29-er, contact me when you enter the downwind".

 

Then, a short time later, my call ... "Worcester Tower, 26-Juliet is level at 2,000, entering downwind for left-traffic 29-er"... and the reply...: "Warrior 8226 Juliet, I have you in sight, cleared to land"... any my reply:  "Cleared to land, 26-Juliet"

 

SUHWEEEEET!!! No delays, no extended down-winds, no traffic, no re-vectoring.  Then it was a simple matter of turning base-leg, then turning onto final approach, lining up with the runway and bleeding off speed and altitude.  The best landing of the day - in all respects imaginable - was the one back at Worcester.

 

I will say...because of the gusting winds on all the landings today, instead of landing at idle power, I found that keeping a little more rpm in there until touchdown steadied the descent and smoothed the landing.

 

Rolling out after touchdown, the final call from the Tower - "Warrior 26-Juliet, exit taxiway foxtrot, cross runway 3-1, taxi to ramp, remain this frequency"... and the reply..."taxiway foxtrot, cross 3-1, taxi to ramp, this frequency - 26-Juliet, thanks a lot and good day".  Tower:  "Enjoy your day too, sir".

 

When I pulled up to the hangar, Jeff was standing there... like an expectant father, with a big smile.  Did you enjoy yourself?, he asked.  My reply -  "Life-long dream... life-long dream".

 

Final analysis and afterthoughts.  It was a great flight, nothing untoward or unexpected happened. It was a beautiful day.  I managed to stay ahead of the aircraft and the radio work.  It did occur to me to keep an eye out for places to make an emergency landing, but fortunately didn't need to.  The gusty winds were a "little bit" disconcerting, especially when the seat leaves your behind in mid-air...but it did not really affect control of the aircraft.

More than anything, and just like after the initial solo, this flight was an enormous confidence-builder.  I know I have a lot more to learn - so I have promised myself always to be careful,  cautious and thoughtful about what I am doing. And as they say, let the adventure begin.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, May 8, 2007- Lesson 35 -  Solo Flight
122  Landings, Includes 

1 Landing Today 
Sunny/Clear - 8:00 AM takeoff - Winds 290 @7 Gusting to 12 - Temp 52°
 

 

Oooooh I got lost today.  Well, not exactly.  I knew where I was, but the airport to which I was headed was not where I expected it to be.  I departed Worcester Runway 29, headed to Southbridge Airport - a short 7 mile flight.  I'd been to Southbridge only once before - at night - and had only a vague idea of where it was located in terms of visual landmarks.  Worcester is easy to know where you're at - if you think of the letter "V"...  Mount Monadnock and Mount Wachusett are the two tips of the letter... and the bottom of the V is Worcester airport - more or less.  So anywhere within a 100 mile radius of Monadnock, and you know where you are, generally speaking.  So I had a good idea of where I was, but Southbridge, being a small airport without a lot of landmarks isn't that clearly identifiable. 

 

I flew the planned compass course, intersected a radial from the Gardner VOR that I knew would take me direct to Southbridge, and kept flying. And flying, and flying.  But it became clear after 10 minutes that I "missed" the airport somehow.  'Best I can figure is that when I intersected the radial, I was over the airport at the time, but couldn't see it because of the low wings. 

 

Anyway, after about 10 minutes of continued flying, I knew I had missed it, so I turned around, and after about 10 more minutes of flight - there it was, out my right-hand window.  I was only 3 miles out from Southbridge airport, did a quick turn to enter downwind... except I was too high... way too high... 3,500' for a 1,900' traffic pattern.  By the time I had turned final I was still too high - around 2,000', so I "side-slipped" the airplane virtually all the way down to within 150' of the runway height.  At that point I was at the correct height, but WAY too fast.

 

Having eaten up already 1/5 of the 3,000' runway, and still about 20' above the runway, I decided to simply fly over the runway and abort the landing.  However, the airplane had other ideas and continued descending.... the main gear touched down very lightly....  I could have landed but it would have required hard braking, so I just decided to pick it up and fly on. I retracted the flaps, gave 'er full throttle and climbed out for Worcester.  At 2,000', Worcester Airport was clearly visible in the distance - its hard to miss.  It should have been a quick flight to Southbridge from Worcester, but I did not have enough visual clues to ID the airport from takeoff at Worcester.  Next time I will.

 

What I learned from this flight....  couple things.... 1). I will always make sure I am at the traffic pattern height when I enter the pattern.  I should have flown around/over Southbridge  airport to bleed off altitude and speed, and then entered the pattern, but was concerned about the amount of time I had already been out, and wanted to get there faster, so I could get back faster.  2). I confused the runway headings in my radio calls - Southbridge has Runways 2 and 20, which I was thinking of on my radio calls as "20" and "200", calling my traffic pattern to Runway "20" when I really intended Runway "2", and still lining up on Runway 2.  Forgivable at Southbridge but not a towered airport, and not really "forgivable".  3). When I decide to abort a landing, I will make my decision height higher and immediately go to full throttle and retract flaps.

 

Things I did good - I did not allow myself to continue flying, "hoping" I might still find it, and instead turned around.  I made the decision to abort the landing - Jeff says sometimes pilots become "committed" to landing and are unable to make the abort decision.  I got all the radio calls right except for the runway headings at Southbridge.  I really got the hang - definitely - of what a slip is all about, and was experimenting with this maneuver to see the different results I could produce all the way during the descent at Southbridge.  Again, a real confidence booster to be able to fly somewhere new, find it, and return home.

 

All in all, it was a great day, a great flight, great fun and a beautiful day.
Jeff says I am doing very well and that it proved to be a very useful learning experience.

 

 

 

Saturday, May 12, 2007- Lesson 36 -  Solo Flight
124  Landings, Includes 
2 Landings Today 
Sunny/Clear - 10:00 AM takeoff - Winds 300 @8 Gusting to 14 - Temp 57°

 

Today I got another shot at finding Southbridge, and wow, its like only a 5 minute flight from Worcester.  On the field at Southbridge is Jim's Fly-in Diner.  Cindy and I made plans to meet each other there for a 10:15 AM breakfast.  I pre-flighted the aircraft, Worcester Ground gave taxi instructions - a new runway this time (Runway 11) with complicated taxi instructions.  Had to ask 3 times and finally confessed to being a student pilot and requesting progressive (step-by-step) taxi instructions. Man, I'm really glad I decided to learn at a tower-controlled field with multiple runways, but wow, does it complicate things. 

 

'Finally taxied to the hold-short position for Runway 11 and contacted Worcester Tower - got cleared for takeoff to the southwest.  'Tower instructed to fly the runway heading on climb-out for 2 minutes to avoid traffic in the pattern.  The 2 minutes took me right to the Mass Pike, so when I arrived over the pike, 'requested a frequency change which was approved, switched to CTAF at Southbridge... lots of traffic in the air, and lots of it landing at Southbridge. 

 

Jim's is a pretty popular place especially on the weekends - good food at cheap prices.  Following the Mass Pike took me within easy view of Southbridge... 'entered the pattern, self-announced the legs and landed uneventfully with traffic ahead and behind. 

 

After meeting Cindy, she told me she was thrilled because as she was driving up the hill to the airport, I had flown directly over the car on final approach at low altitude.  I was pretty thrilled too.  Pretty Cool, and perfect timing.  'Had a great breakfast, took Cindy out to the plane, we sat in it for a while, tried to take pictures, (dead battery in camera), then it was time to leave.  After walking Cin back to the main gate, I settled back into the cockpit for the flight back.  As I worked through the pre-takeoff checklist, 'noticed Cindy had pulled the car nearly across from the taxiway to watch.  COOL.  We waved to each other.  'Self-announced departure on Runway 02, took off, then flew to the west to build some additional solo time, before turning back to Worcester for - lucky me - landing on Runway 29 - (the most familiar approach and runway to me). They had just changed the active runway from 11 to 29 and I was #1 in the pattern for landing.  'Called the tower at mid-field as requested, was cleared to land...  landed uneventfully, taxied to the ramp.  Another flight under my belt and a super, super day meeting Cindy for breakfast at Jim's Fly-in Diner.  Recommended!!! 

 

 

Sunday, May 13, 2007- Lesson 37 -  Solo Flight
126  Landings, Includes 
2 Landings Today 
Sunny/Clear - 9:00 AM takeoff - Winds 010 @13 Gusting to 20 - Temp 57°

 

 

Some Photos from Sunday's Flight:

 

 

 

Baby!!! Rough ride today.  'Also a different runway in use at Worcester, due to wind direction.  'Got permission to taxi to the hold-short line at Runway 33.  Fortunately I had done this once before ("Warrior 8226-Juliet, Taxi via Bravo to Intersection Alpha, Hold Short Runway 33").  This ATC instruction clears you to cross Runway 29 as you taxi via taxiway Bravo to the intersection of taxiway Alpha and Runway 33, but it is not explicitly stated as "cleared to cross Runway 29-er.  It is always a careful moment for any pilot when crossing a runway, (active or not), so with all due care exercised, I crossed Runway 29, proceeding to the hold-short line for Runway 33.  From the hold-short line, 'did the final pre-takeoff check, then got route clearance from the tower to proceed to the Northwest toward Gardner airport.  After clearing the Worcester Class D Airspace, 'got permission for a frequency change and switched frequencies to CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency), so as to monitor the traffic into and out of Gardner.

 

Immediately upon initial takeoff from Worcester, and en-route to Gardner, it was 'rock and roll all the way, at every altitude I tried, up to 3,500'.  Normally, once an aircraft is trimmed, it will fly straight and level by itself.  But today, there was not a moment when control of the aircraft would be relaxed.  Today's flight had constant and sometimes heavy buffeting, where the wind would take momentary control of the aircraft and raise a wing, or drive the wing down, or lift or drop the aircraft like an elevator ride.  All in a split second's time.  Interesting. 

 

Soon, Gardner Airport came into view; 'pre-announced left-traffic to Runway 36, turned base and final... lowered the flaps to the final setting, and probably had one of the worst landings ever - bounce-bounce-bounce. No harm done, only lasted a second or two, but was glad I wasn't being graded on that landing.  Safely and firmly established on the ground, 'retracted the flaps and slowed and steered the aircraft to the end of the runway for exit onto the taxiway.  From there, it was taxi to the active runway and 'self-announce for entering the active 36 for takeoff. There's plenty of room for takeoff on this (3,000') runway under almost any imaginable condition, but with the big trees at the end, I like to set the brake, accelerate to full power, release the brakes and rotate off the runway as early as possible. After takeoff, 'continued the climb on the runway heading, north, until out of the pattern altitude (2,000').  At about 2,500', its a 180° turn to the South and 15 miles or so back to Worcester Airport.

 

'Approaching Worcester airspace, its time to tune to ATIS, (Automatic Terminal Information Service) to get the field information (winds, altimeter, dew-point, active runway, advisories), and report into the tower with this current hourly "Information".  After getting the recorded ATIS, and upon initial contact with the tower, it is required to give them the Information letter you have received  - "Mike" or "November" or "Oscar"... wherever they happen to be in the alphabet at that time for that particular hour's update. This way they are assured you have the proper information for a safe landing.  

 

Reporting in with Information "Mike", 'was cleared to a 3 mile left-base for Runway 33.  Again, Runway 33 is not a commonly-used runway at Worcester, and I am not used to entering the traffic pattern on the base-leg (usually enter the downwind leg), so I had to fly an unfamiliar pattern to work myself around to the base-leg for 33.  Upon reporting a 3-mile base for 33, Tower informed "Warrior 8226-Juliet, I have you in sight, cleared to land, runway 33."  From there, it was a quick 90° left turn for runway 33.  During the descent, a final advisory from the Tower... "Warrior 8226-Juliet, be advised winds are 010 @14, gusts to 22". (That's a pretty decent gust velocity for any small aircraft.) After an uneventful landing, Tower reports..."Warrior 8226-Juliet, nice job...  exit Echo, taxi to ramp, remain this frequency".  I think the controller was as glad to see me on the ground as I was.  According to Jeff, the next flight will be dual with him to Concord, NH, working the flight plan he wants me to prepare, in preparation for my solo to Concord, NH, about 60 nautical miles.  He says its time to take the next step.  More soon.

 

 

Thursday, May 24, 2007- Lesson 38 -  Solo Flight
128  Landings, Includes 
2 Landings Today 
Sunny/Hazy - 9:00 AM takeoff - Winds 270@8 - Temp 63°

Completed FAA Requirement for Local Area Solo Time

 

Today, for the first hour, Jeff reviewed the flight planning process with me including cross-country planning: establishing checkpoints and calculating time, distance, speed and fuel between checkpoints. The original plan was to fly dual to Concord, NH - one of the airports I must fly to solo, which is 60 miles from Worcester.  But we ran late with the flight planning lesson, and I was short on time, it being a work-day.  So rather than take a couple hours to fly to Concord and back, I suggested doing a solo flight to Gardner to build my solo time, and Jeff agreed.

 

This solo flight completes my local-solo requirements - now I  have a couple of long distance solos and can then prepare for my FAA check-ride. 

After a smooth liftoff, 'turned right out of the pattern to Gardner and the first communication received (in a somewhat higher-pitched voice than usual) was:

<Worcester Tower:> "Warrior 8226-Juliet, be advised, Boston Center reports converging traffic your altitude, 10-o'clock."


<Me - Warrior 8226-Juliet:> "Worcester Tower, that traffic just flew right by us"

 

I had spotted the traffic just before the call from the tower - a single engine aircraft heading into the pattern at Worcester as I was heading out... close but not too close - maybe a couple hundred feet away...as we say, "traffic not a factor".  But to the radar controller in Boston Center who made the call to Worcester Tower, it must have also seemed that the two converging blips had converged into one at our nearest point of flight.  Anyway, it really was not a factor - it is not a regular occurrence that we see other traffic so close, but we do see traffic every so often.  And it is also good to know Boston Center is keeping an eye on Worcester Class D Airspace.

 

What really differentiated this flight to Gardner more than anything else was the visibility.  Even though the sky was clear blue on the ground, once at altitude, there was a great deal of haze which erased all but the nearest landmarks. Leaving Worcester, none of the landmarks I count on - especially Mount Monadnock- were visible until closing in on Gardner Airport, and by that point, Mount Wachusett - a landmark on the return trip had disappeared.  I am very comfortable on that routing - Worcester to Gardner and back, so no real issues.

 

Landed at Gardner, taxied back to the runway and took off, back to Worcester.  Smooth flight, but hazy-hazy-hazy. 

 

Next lesson I have to put together a flight plan to Concord, NH based upon current winds aloft and Jeff and I will review it together.  Then we plan to actually fly the flight plan - this is my next step:  using the visual ground references and the chart to guide me to my checkpoints, time each leg and calculate speed and fuel burn and ETAs for each leg.  Sounds like a lot.

 

 

Saturday, May 26, 2007- Lesson 39 -  Dual Instruction
129  Landings, Includes 1
Landing Today 
Sunny/Hazy - 9:00 AM takeoff - Winds 305@11 - Temp 65°


Again, the first hour today was consumed with creating a flight plan which Jeff planned to execute with me, in part anyway. It's 'gonna be a little tough to explain flight planning so I'll try to keep it short and simple, but you have to imagine the sky as a constantly moving air-mass, which moves faster as you go higher... and the airplane flies within and is affected by this wind-mass. The first thing to be done is calculate the winds aloft along the course-line.

 

To determine the course-line, the computational part goes like this -

Calculate your True Course
Compute your Wind Correction Angle based upon Winds-Aloft forecasts
Calculate your True Heading adjusted for WCA
Convert True Heading to Magnetic Heading
Convert Magnetic Heading to Compass Heading


After this is done, the 2nd half of the task is to calculate time and fuel.  Using the trusty E6B flight computer, you calculate the estimated time between checkpoints and the total time en-route based upon winds-aloft. When this is done, you can calculate your expected fuel consumption.   Now you theoretically know how long the trip will take and how much fuel is required.

 

Here's what the flight plan looks like

 

The actual flying part isn't much easier... it means orienting the aircraft to a starting point on the course line and flying the magnetic heading course... starting and stopping the stopwatch between checkpoints which you identify on the ground according to references on the sectional chart.  At each checkpoint, based upon the time it took to reach the checkpoint, you can recalculate the ETAs, fuel burn and fuel required to make the trip.  All the while holding the aircraft at a steady speed, attitude, altitude and heading, stopping and starting the stopwatch and recording the times, looking for checkpoints and using the flight computer.  Add in a little turbulence and haze... and.... its a busy cockpit.

 

In theory it works fine, but in reality, not many pilots I've spoken to actually do this once they pass the check-ride.  Every pilot I have spoken to depends on GPS to do all this, and some of the fortunate ones have their autopilots slaved to the GPS so they don't even need to steer the course or manage the flying.  In fact, GPS is so accurate with the new enhancement called WAAS (wide area augmentation system), that the FAA certifies aircraft equipped to this standard to make approaches in the most limited of weather conditions.  In fact, it is this system that the FAA envisions as the basis of the "Highway in the Sky".

 

At any rate, during the actual flight planning process, my chronometer failed and threw everything off.  We got almost as far as Manchester, NH and then turned around for home.  In actual practice with the turbulent air, its a tough-tough-tough thing to do - almost a juggling act and I can see it is going to take a little while to get up to speed with it. 

 

Next lesson, we are going to do the same thing again, probably going all the way to Concord, NH, to where I will be flying solo soon, about 60 miles.  After that, more dual instruction again, actually into Manchester Airport, which is Class C (more complicated) airspace. Then a longer solo to Concord and Sanford, Maine.  Then, who knows... more solo flights for fun and prep for the FAA checkride. 

 

Extra:  Here's a nice video of a 757 taking off in less than 100' of runway... 

 

Thursday, June 7, 2007- Lesson 40 -  Dual Instruction
1
31 Landings, Includes 2 Landings Today 
Sunny/Clear - 9:00 AM takeoff - Winds 290@8 - Temp 63°


Upon arrival at the airport, I completed the flight plan to Concord, New Hampshire, a distance of 60 miles each way. The idea was to replicate the previous lesson, where we are following the flight plan I have just created, including wind correction angle, and recording elapsed times between checkpoints, predicting ETA of next checkpoints, fuel burn, and flying by visual reference and pilotage.  Sure enough, the checkpoints came into view one-by-one as planned, and we arrived in Concord on schedule - 60 miles - in about 35 minutes.  This had our groundspeed at just over 103 knots with a slight headwind, slowing down our airspeed from the normal 110 kts.  COOL thing is... by car from Worcester, its 92 miles each way... about an hour and a half each way.  So by flying, we were able to get to Concord and back in less than half the time it would have taken to drive it in a single direction.  This is one of the truly great things I love about flying... it cuts travel time a LOT.

This time, we flew all the way to Concord and landed.  It was GREAT to see the checkpoints fall into line, one after the other, right on plan. And as Jeff likes to say... by doing it a second time, "things slowed down" for me, and I was able to juggle all the flying and navigating tasks with no real issues.  And unlike last time, visibility was great and the ride was smooth, so seeing the most distant landmarks/checkpoints and/or keeping the plane right-side up was considerably easier.  Immediately after touchdown... Jeff was saying to me, "okay lets go...lets go..."  I didn't get it!  He meant "lets take off again"!  He meant for us to do a touch and go...but it wasn't clearly communicated at any point previously.  So, I retracted the flaps, 'gave her full gas and lifted off the 6,000 ft runway with plenty of runway to spare, self-announcing the takeoff as we rolled.  Sweet!  On the way home, we tuned one of the nav radios to the Gardner VOR and flew to it; during the flying, Jeff demonstrated to me the use of RNAV.  This radio navigation  equipment allows you to enter an electronic waypoint - and fly directly to it, just as if the point you selected was a VOR station.  All you need to know about this waypoint is its distance from any VOR station and the radial it lies on.  Using RNAV allows you to "follow the needle" all the way to your destination... ANY destination which you set up.  And it also tells you the distance you are from the waypoint, as well as your speed.  This is the next best thing to GPS.  Here's some general info on RNAV:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNAV

Next lesson, Jeff says we will fly to Manchester Airport (which we pass on the way to Concord).  This is part of the training because Manchester is Class C airspace, which is a bit more complex to deal with than Class D, E and G.  In Class C airspace, you add Approach Control and Departure to the list of people you have to talk to... not just Ground and Tower.  After Manchester, I think I get turned loose to try to find Concord on my own.  Very cool.
If interested, here's some info on the different types of Airspace: 
http://www.allstar.fiu.edu/AERO/airspace.htm

More soon....

 

Saturday, June 16, 2007- Lesson 41 -  Dual Instruction
1
32 Landings, Includes 1 Landing Today 
Sunny/Clear - 11:30 AM takeoff - Winds 305@5 - Temp 68°

Completed FAA Requirement for Instrument Training

A perfect day - finally... since the last flight, weather has been crummy (again) forcing cancellation of two lessons. 

Today, I had scheduled 11:00AM - 1:00 PM, 'arrived at the airport right after 11:00, but had not had time to complete my flight plan... today was supposed to be the trip with Jeff into Class C Airspace (Manchester, NH), but with only two hours booked and not having the flight plan completed when I arrived, there simply was not time to do the flight planning and go to Manchester.  Fortunately, Jeff had a "plan B", which was to finish up my instrument requirements... turns out, less than one hour was remaining out of the 3 hour requirement.

I spend nearly all of the lesson "under the hood" - with the vision obstructing glasses on, so you can only see the instrument panel.  From there, Jeff gave me lots of different headings and altitudes to fly, which I find pretty easy to do... its a lot like video games... Microsoft Flight Simulator... to be precise.  Also, on the FAA check-ride, there is an exercise they take you through called "Unusual Attitudes".  In this exercise you have the hood on... and the examiner puts the aircraft in unusual attitudes, nose way up, nose way down, wings high, wings low.  You have to figure out - by instruments alone - the attitude you are in, and correct it, hopefully without breaking the wings off the airplane.  If you are in a dive... with the wings way off the vertical... and you yank back on the control yoke... you will likely separate the wings from the aircraft.  And if you are in a dive.... past Vne (Maximum Speed Never to Exceed)... the aircraft will start to fall apart by itself.  Conversely, if you are in a steep climb... and airspeed bleeds off below VS1 (Minimum Steady Flight without stalling), the aircraft will stall and pitch over. 

So, we did this exercise where Jeff takes the controls... makes it like a roller coaster ride ... and then says.. "ok... you have the airplane".  The trick is... if you are pitched way up, you have to add full power and lower the nose and level the wings.  If you are screaming downwards in a dive... you reduce power and carefully raise the nose... and level the wings. So.  we did this exercise 5-6 times... seemed ok.  Would like to do some more of this before the check-ride... cause it is not an instinctive reaction.  We don't want any abrupt control inputs in either case.... here's an example of what you don't want to have happen...  torn-off-wings.wmv 

Now they are predicting good weather days ahead, so lets see if we can make the best of it.  Unfortunately, this coming week, I have a business meeting out of town when the lovely weather is predicted, so 'will have to make do with what I get back.

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2007- Lesson 42 -  Dual Instruction
1
34 Landings, Includes 2 Landings Today 
Sunny/Hazy/Hot - 87° - Winds
240@12-G18KTs
Completed FAA Requirement for Flight into Class C Airspace

Well, 'have cancelled other scheduled lessons due to clouds/winds, etc.  Decided I can't wait anymore if I'm ever going to get my license.  Today was HAZY - visibility like 6 miles - really poor.  Air was mostly smooth, bumpy every now and then - nothing notable.  Biggest issue was that the haze obscured ALL the local landmarks.  Today was the FAA-required flight into Class C airspace.  Its quite a complicated thing if you've never done it, like me.  Along the way, we followed some of my usual course line to Concord - so I could again observe the landmarks to get better prepared for the solo to Concord, N.H.  Which will come soon enough.  Also in the hot hot weather - even though this is something we learn, it is clearly obvious... the aircraft does not climb as fast or high or perform as well as it does in cooler weather.  Interesting experience - the difference in performance we experienced today will make me consult the tables for aircraft performance whenever hauling passengers and luggage on hot days.

So... flying into Class C airspace...requires positive contact with Air Traffic Control as well as a Mode-C Transponder (altitude reporting).  Both of these we can cover.  So... outside of the Class C Airspace, we contact Boston Approach Control... who assign us a Squawk (Transponder) Code.  This lets them know where we are at all times within the airspace.  Once you're in contact with Approach Control, they provide vectors and altitudes to fly, as well as traffic alerts which is GREAT.  Then, as we get near the airport, they hand us off to Manchester Tower, who clear us to land.  This is the exciting part 'cause Manchester Airport has lots of commercial airliner service.  We were cleared second to land behind another aircraft.  The landing was ok - a little bounce, nothing serious... and Tower directed us to switch to Ground Control, who directed us to taxi from the runway to different taxiways and finally to the ramp.  Once parked on the ramp... we left the engine running... and proceeded to go through the steps for take off. 

Getting airborne out of a Class C airport is a little tricky too, for a novice pilot, anyway. Definitely NOT something to try on your own without previous experience.  The first thing we need to do is contact Clearance Delivery.  Clearance Delivery assigns us a squawk code for departure and gives us the radio frequency for Departure Control.  Next we contact Ground Control for permission to taxi to the runway.  'Permission granted to taxi via Bravo to Runway 17.  After we do our pre-takeoff check, we're ready for takeoff, so we contact the Tower.  Tower tells us we have to take a mandatory 3 minute hold for jet-wake turbulence from a departing commercial airliner.  Finally the Tower clears us for takeoff.  After takeoff, we switch from the Tower frequency to Departure Control frequency, who steer us clear of other aircraft in the vicinity.  As we leave the immediate area, Departure Control hands us off to Boston Center who provide continuing traffic and position advisories all the way to Worcester Airport.  Once in the vicinity of Worcester, Boston Center terminates Radar Contact and have handed us off to Worcester Tower.  Landing at Worcester was perfect, and aside from the haze and confusion which I felt when talking to these Center and Approach/Departure Controllers, it was a GREAT DAY.  If all this sounds easy - NO!  Its a LOT for a new pilot to absorb.  I felt a lot of confusion when getting instructions from the various approach/departure and center controllers, and Jeff had to tell me how to reply to most of their communications.  Even though I had studied beforehand what they would say and what I should say back....there's just an awful lot going on.  I need for it - as Jeff says - to slow down for me.   Its pretty stressful, cause there's a LOT of other stuff going on, never mind, oops, oh yeah... 'gotta fly the plane too.  I'm sure next time will be a whole lot better.

Also, Jeff has pointed out, that using Center can help you get a landing slot at busy airports - such as Nantucket.  Its better than just showing up in the airspace unannounced, but not as good as the guaranteed landing slot you'd get if you filed an IFR flight plan. Plus the coolest thing is the vectors and traffic advisories you get to help steer you in the right direction... and avoid other aircraft. 

I definitely want to get more experience using Center and Approach/Departure Control, but I can tell it will take a little while to get accustomed to the rapid-fire speak these controllers use.  They are professionals in the truest sense, and if you expect to get some of the optional services available to a VFR pilot from them (like flight following), you better be - and sound like - a professional too.  I've got a long way to go till I'm anywhere near comfortable with this, but at least I'm aware of where I need to be, and I'm convinced that using the available services are the safest way to go.

Next flight - either solo to Concord or a 2 hour night cross-country trip to Concord with Jeff.
Need two more hours for my night requirement, and that will also take care of the night cross-country solo.  Yaaayyyyy!!!!  Almost there.  Well, getting closer, anyway!

More soon.

 

Saturday, June 30, 2007- Lesson 43 -  Solo Cross Country
1
36 Landings, Includes 2 Landings Today 
Sunny - 74° - Winds
290@8


Hey, not to make this political or anything, but today I figured out another reason I'd don't like GeorgeW.  Today was supposed to be my solo cross-country flight to Concord, NH...but GeorgeW had other ideas...  take a look below at how much airspace this guy commands when he travels...

OK.  You are looking at a map of the southern coast of Maine, the entire coast of New Hampshire and the northern coast of Massachusetts.

Like I was saying...    I  - if you follow the red "I" to the left... straight up, two inches or so... you'll see KMHT in green letters.  That's Manchester Regional Airport in Manchester, NH.  An inch to the northwest of KMHT is KCON in magenta letters. That's Concord Airport, Concord NH.  The gray circles are "do not enter" zones... essentially these TFRs (Temporary Flight Restriction zones) take up the entire coast of New Hampshire, much of Maine's coast and quite a bit of space to the west.  KCON is on the very edge of the TFR- you really can't fly there unless you are willing to risk getting upclose with a few unfriendly F-16s. My next solo after Concord will be KSFM - that's Sanford Airport in Maine - where Air Force One lands when the President visits Kennebunkport. (Actually to bring the Presidential 747 onto the 6,000 foot runway there is pretty damn good - short runway for big plane.) Below KSFM and to the right is a permanent no-fly zone - notated by a square blue box with the designation P-67, (which on the chart above looks like P-57).  The "P" stands for "Presidential or Permanent".  Anyway, invade any of those temporary spaces without authorization from the Secret Service anytime from June 30, 2007 to July 2, 2007... or that "permanent" space anytime and you will be the personal guest of the U.S. government while you undergo interrogation as to why you flew into those areas.

So I thought you'd be interested to see how much airspace is commandeered while our Commander in Chief travels.  Definitely stepped on my plans.

What it means to me, is that instead of being able to fly my solo cross-country today to Concord... I flew as far as the edge of the Manchester Class C Airspace - denoted by the purple lines surrounding KMHT, and then turned southwest to KGDM (Gardner, MA) airport, and then finally back to Worcester.  A total flight of over 100 miles.  To have counted as a cross-country solo, it has to be a minimum of 50 miles from your home airport to the farthest point of your destination.  Concord is the only airport exceeding 50 miles or more that as a student pilot am permitted to land at.  So even though the total distance was 100+ miles, the flight doesn't count as a cross country because I did not travel 50 miles away from my home airport. 

Tomorrow - Sunday, I will check to see if the TFR is lifted or revised for Concord.  If it is, I have the airplane from 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM, so I will do it then.  If not, I will have to wait until after July 2, when the TFR is lifted and GeorgeW has departed the northeast.

Anyway, that aside, the flight today was great, weather was clear, skies were a little hazy but the flight went perfectly.

I've taken some photos along the way of this solo and added commentary here....

Hopefully more to report tomorrow.

 

Sunday, July 1, 2007- Lesson 44 -  Solo Cross Country
1
39 Landings, Includes 3 Landings Today 
Sunny - 72° - Winds
360@8

Completed FAA Requirement for 50 Mile - 2 Hour Cross-Country Daytime Solo


Today, exactly one year after my initial solo in the pattern, I completed my first 50 mile cross country solo.  Its taken a long time to get to this point because of the weather.  As I've said before... to get 40 hours of perfect flying weather in New England just is not as easy or fast as you might expect, or hope.

So here I am, with two requirements remaining in order to go for my check-ride: a long solo to an airport 100 miles or more away with three stops (and 3 more hours of cross-country solo time).  Also, a two hour night cross-country with dual instruction- weather permitting - This night cross-country will happen this coming Saturday night.

Today, my route took me the same as yesterday, but the Temporary Flight Restriction area was lifted around Concord, so I was able to complete today what had been sort of a test run yesterday.

Unlike yesterday, there was some light to moderate choppiness, and due to the broken clouds at 5,000, I was unable to fly above the Manchester Class C Airspace at 4,500 and still remain in abeyance of the rules - (rules require a minimum of 1000 feet below clouds, a minimum of 500 feet above clouds and a minimum of 2000 from clouds).  Also, a further rule applies to you as a student pilot - that you be able to see the ground below you at all times, so a student pilot is not allowed to fly above a broken cloud layer.  Therefore, instead of flying over Manchester Class C Airspace, as the red arrow #2 shows, I had to make a slight detour to the west in order to remain clear of that airspace, denoted by concentric magenta circles at Manchester Airport, just south of #2 - Concord Airport.

Today's flight took me from Worcester (MA) Airport #1 to Concord (NH) Airport #2, to Gardner (MA) Airport #3, and back to Worcester. This is an overall flight distance of around 130 miles, but the key is that the furthest distance (Worcester to Concord) must exceed 50 miles, in order to count as an FAA Cross Country flight, for the purposes of qualification for the private pilot's license.

As I did on yesterday's flight, I took photos as I flew, and have posted them here, along with some more details of the flight.

All in all a great experience... similar to yesterday in that it was a tremendous confidence booster, and I have the confidence that I can now fly almost anywhere from point to point.
(Except maybe not in Class C or B Airspace.)

More details next flight, after the dual-instruction, 2-hour night cross country flight.

In order to understand more about the chart below, please read the previous flight log update.


 

 


Saturday Night, July 7
, 2007- Lesson 45 -  2 Hr Night Cross Country
1
39 Landings, Includes 3 Landings Today 
Night - Clear - 68° - Winds
250@6

Completed FAA Requirement for 3 hours of night flying, including one cross-country flight of at least 100 nautical miles


Tonight's flight featured lots of fireworks - literally.  Due to much inclement weather last Wednesday, (July 4), it seems that many towns and cities rescheduled their firework displays to Saturday - tonight!  Jumping ahead of the story a bit, I have to say that it is always - to me - a wonderful sight to be flying along between towns and cities... and seeing all the fireworks displays below you.  Tonight was no exception. 

I arrived at the airport at 8:00 PM - still plenty of light - and pre-flighted the aircraft, had it fueled, and Jeff and I sat down to discuss the objectives of tonight's flight and wait for darkness to arrive.  Our plan was to takeoff around 10:00 PM to meet my night-cross country requirement with a flight to New Bedford, MA -- about 55 nautical miles by air, approximately 75 by automobile.  I had already previously accumulated an hour of night flight, so we expected this flight to last two hours (for a total of 3), and the 100 miles plus distance will also fulfill the FAA's 100 mile night cross-country requirement.

As Jeff explained to me, the FAA requirement of 3 hours of night-flight requirement is designed to show new pilots --- how difficult it is to fly at night, and to demonstrate that night flying should not be undertaken lightly.  Compounding our particular flight-plan to New Bedford, MA is the fact we will be sandwiched on a narrow course-line between two airspaces that we must avoid - Boston's Logan Airport (Class B) to the northeast and Providence's T.F. Green's Airport (Class C) to the southwest.  For this purpose, even thought the night was clear and our landmarks (cities) were easily viewable (but not so easily recognizable), Jeff brought his GPS for an added measure of safety- which unfortunately he didn't let me get a peek at.  (He had previously promised me that I would never touch the "easy" stuff until I had earned my license - he wants me to learn the basics and I agree.)

We became engaged in conversation as usual, and this delayed our departure - we were wheels-up around 11:00 PM.  It was weird - flying out of what is normally a tower-controlled airport without first having to get permission to taxi and later, to take off.  Worcester's Tower (and New Bedford's too) close at 9:00 PM.  At that time the airspace reverts from Class D to Class E, and different rules apply; pilots self-announce on CTAF in order to remain clear of each other. 

One of the coolest things is how you use the com radio to turn on the runway and taxi lights and markers.  With a few clicks of the mike button, the automated lighting systems obeys your command and lights to full brilliance (you can choose low, medium or high intensity lighting).  BEAUTIFUL.  The orange, green, blue, red, yellow, solid and flashing lights make for a very pretty sight, in a viewpoint seen only fleetingly - if at all - by airline passengers.  (Thanks to
Airliners.net for the great shot below, gives you some idea of what I'm talking about.)

 

With a smooth takeoff into the calm night air, we climbed to 5,500 feet, oriented ourselves on the course-line and began checking off our checkpoints to New Bedford.

After a bit of early confusion on my part, I got the hang of it.  But that is not saying I would attempt to fly anywhere at night myself, at least not without clear weather and GPS. Soon we were entering the traffic pattern at New Bedford, self-announcing our turns and intentions and avoiding other traffic.  Finally we turned onto final approach --- the runway lighting and markers at New Bedford were of a different type than from Worcester, but equally impressive.
A bit of a hard landing - (distances are deceptive at night), but no harm done.... so it's retract the flaps, add full power, and rotate at 60 knots for our trip back to Worcester.

Coming home, we were particularly lucky to spot the airport beacon at Worcester quite early - from Woonsocket, Rhode Island. (Yes to get to New Bedford, MA, we fly through Rhode Island.)
From there, it was relatively easy to monitor our checkpoints, maintain our course-line and altitude (now 4,500) to Worcester, guide by the flashing green/white beacon.

Approaching Worcester from the east, we self-announced our way into the pattern, again switched on the runway lights, and again - a bit of a hard landing, again no harm done.  And home safe and sound, a little bit after midnight.

With this flight, I completed the requirement of 3 hours of night flight, including the required cross-country night flight.  Still, however, I need 6 more night landings, (a total of 10 are required), which I plan to do in the traffic pattern at Worcester, a relative quick and easy matter.    

As we were walking to our cars, Jeff congratulated me - "Good job, Wayne... you're really almost finished now."  I sense that we are both sort of lamenting the end of the flight instruction and our time together.  I feel we have become friends, and speaking for myself, I enjoy Jeff's company and I will miss our frequent get-togethers and his dry wit and hilarious sense of humor.
I am hoping to be able to stay in contact with him after my check ride. 

All that remains now, after the night landings, is the cross-country solo to Sanford, Maine, and then a couple hours prep time for the FAA check ride. 

As excited as I am to hopefully earn my license very soon, and as excited I am to begin this new chapter of my flying career, I feel a sense of sadness seeing this part of this great adventure come to a close.

Hope to do the trip to Sanford, Maine this coming weekend, and the 6 more night landings... perhaps later this week at Worcester.  More updates soon!

 

Saturday, July 14, 2007- Lesson 46 -  3 Hr - 150 Mile Solo Cross Country
1
42 Landings, Includes 3 Landings Today 
Clear - Haze - Broken Clouds 6,000 - 82° - Winds
284@8

Completed FAA Requirement for 150 Mile Cross-Country Solo Flight with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is at least 50 nautical miles from the original departure point.
Completed FAA Requirement for a total of 5 hours Cross-Country Solo Flight.

Today's anticipated 3 hour flight turned into almost 6 hours due to mechanical troubles at Sanford Maine. 

The takeoff from Worcester was smooth, into hot and hazy skies with a broken cloud deck at 6,000 feet.  Visibility was not great, (as you can see from the photos here), but at least the usual landmarks were generally visible through the haze. Today's flight represented the final requirement, prior to taking my FAA check-ride - the long solo, as well as it fulfilled the required 5 total hours of cross-country solo time.

My flight plan took me past Fitchburg, MA, then Manchester, NH, then on to Concord, NH for the #1 landing there, then on to Sanford, Maine for landing #2.  Unfortunately once on the ground at Concord and ready to take off for the return trip, the engine would not start.  I notified the ground crew at Sanford that I might be needing a battery charge-up if I could not get it started.  Sure enough, after repeated attempts at starting the engine failed over the next hour, the battery was dead, and it was time to get some expert help.  Unfortunately - there were no mechanics around and - lucky for me - the FBO manager there (Tim) was a kind, wonderful, and generous person who worked hard over the next couple hours - charging the battery (no easy thing to get to in an airplane), cleaning - by an actual sand-blast machine - a couple of the spark plugs and re-fueling the airplane.  We were able to ascertain that fuel was flowing, so we felt it had to be the plugs.  If we were not able to get it going again, my instructor was going to fly up from Worcester and bring me back, leaving the airplane in Maine for our mechanic to look at the following Monday.  And I would have to begin the cross-country all over again some other time.

As it worked out, around 2:00 PM - and with the help of another mechanic who showed up - we got the engine started, and Tim gave me taxi instructions on how to get back to Runway 25.

Within minutes I was airborne but ... flying a course of 270° (which should have been taking me west), but instead was taking me east - towards the fast approaching ocean.  After a few minutes of confusion, and cross-checking other navigational equipment, I realized I had failed to align the electronic gyro-driven navigation compass with the non-electric (reference) compass. The gyro compass has to be set before each flight because of precession caused by the winding up or down of the gyros as the airplane is moving while the gyros are spinning up to speed. Once the gyros are spinning at the full speed, the nav compass can be set. Not setting it at all, can cause it to indicate a complete reverse direction than the one you are actually heading.  Which was precisely the case here. 

Because of the increasing clouds, haze and turbulence, I opted out of my original flight plan, which would have flown me direct to Worcester.  The direct flight would also have had me going into (or over) Class C airspace and dangerously close to Logan's Class B airspace over unfamiliar terrain using Portsmouth or Boston Center for traffic and flight advisories.  Given the troubles I had experienced up to that point, as well as lowering clouds, increasing turbulence and decreasing visibility...and owing to the uncertainty I felt relying on the instruments for navigation up to that point, I chose the more familiar... and longer route home.  At least this route had checkpoints that I knew I would be able to recognize.  And besides, I needed the total flight time on this flight to total 3 hours to complete the 5 hour total time requirement for cross-country solo.  As it was, it added only 10 - 15 minutes of additional flight time and a world more of security knowing that the route I would be taking was a familiar one.

Sure enough, pilotage - reference to ground objects and finding them on the chart - got me going initially in the right direction after the confusion.  Then, getting the compass alignment squared away... and finally the continued pilotage combined with a VOR course first to Concord, then to Gardner, made the day a successful one.

All in all, it was a good and successful day, but a long, tiring and somewhat exasperating one.
It really goes to show you, that sometimes when you need help, you can find the nicest and most generous people, as I did in Tim, at the Texaco FBO at Sanford, Maine.  As it turned out, when I landed back at Worcester and was unloading the airplane, I discovered that he had accidentally dropped an aviation transceiver in the back seat floorboards while he was working on the battery.  After landing, I called to let him know that I had made it safely and that I had his radio and would FedEx it home to him on Monday.  Tim has invited me back to visit him, and he was such a kind and generous fellow pilot that I plan to return to Sanford again this summer for a visit and perhaps even take him and his wife to dinner.  His unselfish help and interest in my situation really saved the day and made my return and completion of this cross-country flight possible. A genuinely nice guy. (Thank you Tim!)

I have 5 night landings left to do - just minor cleanup work; then a few review flights in preparation for my check-ride will take place, and hopefully the check-ride by the end of July.

More soon!

 

Friday Night, July 20, 2007- Lesson 47 -  Night Landings
1
48 Landings, Includes 6 Landings Tonight 
Clear - 74° - Winds
290@9 - gusting to 14

Completed FAA Requirement for
10 Night Landings

Completed All FAA Requirements for Private Pilot License

Well, this was my last "official" lesson.  I have now completed all the FAA requirements, and it was a good and uneventful flight.  Essentially, we just waited for nightfall- at 9:00 PM it was twilight - which gave me a good half hour to preflight the aircraft and get it ready to go.
There was plenty of fuel, the tower was closed... so we self-announced on the CTAF/Tower frequency throughout - from Taxi to takeoff to pattern work/landings, back to taxi and ramp.

It was a pretty straightforward flight, just 6 touch-and-goes to complete the night landing requirement.  The night was clear but the air was a little choppy.  Nothing too serious, but it makes it difficult to relax and enjoy it when the plane gets buffeted unexpectedly.

So it was repetitive, climb out under full power to 1700 feet, turn downwind and continue climbing to pattern altitude of 2000'.  Throttle back to 2200 RPM...  and continue past the end of the runway a bit... then throttle down to 1500 RPM, put two notches of flaps in.... turn to base leg till lined up with the runway and then turn onto the final approach, another notch of flaps... then watch the
vasi lights on the ground to keep the proper glide-slope: not too high, not too low...  continue the descent until over the runway threshold.... then flare the aircraft and keep flying it...until touchdown, where we'll retract the flaps, apply full power, and off we go again.

5 More times.

So that was the night... and as mentioned the final "official" lesson.

Jeff wants to do a few more flights with me to do things we have not done - like filing an official FAA flight plan and then cancel it from the air, as well as, while flying to contact Center or Approach Control to get flight following, which will get you an assigned transponder code and traffic advisories. Neither of these things are requirements, but they are very helpful for cross-country flying.

The remaining work will be to do the review for the check-ride - both on the ground and in the air.

As it turns out...  Jeff leaves for vacation in 7 days, upon his return I leave for a business trip that gets me back like 6 days after he returns ...  so that probably means I will not be able to do my check-ride until the end of next month, assuming the weather cooperates throughout.  Whew.  This is one long process.

More soon.

 

Sunday Afternoon, August 5, 2007- Flight 48 -  Solo
1
49 Landings, Includes 1 Landing Today
Clear - 82° - Winds 11@8 - Rwy 33 in use


While my instructor in on vacation - returning August 12, I have some downtime.  Unfortunately, when he returns, I have a business trip the 14 - 17th returning on the 18th.  So, when all the vacations and travels are over, Jeff and I will do a few flights as a review session prior to my check-ride which is looking now like it will probably be end of this month or early Sept.

This flight was just to keep my hand in the game, really - more for fun.  The plan was to fly over our house and take some photos.  What I didn't really realize is that we live in a "bowl" - surrounded by mountains and hills.  Its hard to get low enough to take good photos cause of terrain, but it was still fun.  I took off from an "unusual" runway - 33, due to the winds out of the north.  Its easy finding and getting to Rwy 33 from the ramp.  Its not really easy to see it from the air because it is partly hidden by trees and really does not stand out that well.  In fact, Runway 29 and the various taxiways are much more distinct from the air.  But no matter, all in good practice.

Takeoff was really smooth, my destination to Brimfield would take only a few minutes.  I had been there only before with Jeff, but its an easy trip...  follow the Mass Pike to the first golf course you come to that's right next to the Pike, hang a left, look for a horse farm... and another farm ... and there we are!  Pretty easy!  Circled the house 3 times, took some photos and then headed back to the airport.  Flying back to Worcester, its much more direct to fly a straight-line course to the airport, rather than follow the highway.  The airport is very clearly visible even from Sturbridge (next town over to us), and all the usual landmarks are visible - Mt Modnadnock, Mt. Wachusett, so it is hard to get lost on the way back.  Still, to be on the safe side, I tuned one of the Nav radios to the Gardner VOR, but never needed to use it since the airport came into view so quickly.

Once back in the airport area, it was time to tune to ATIS to get the latest information, then call the tower with ATIS and IPAIDS (identification, position, altitude, intentions, destination and squawk code - e.g. "Worcester Tower, this is Warrior 3572-Zulu, 6 miles to the south, level at 3-thousand-five-hundred for landing Worcester, squawking VFR (1200)".  Once I had established communications with the Tower, they gave me the following instruction: "Warrior 3572 Zulu, cleared for straight-in approach. Contact me on a 3 mile final". Meaning I could enter the pattern on a straight-in final approach, and just needed to contact the Tower again when I was on final approach, 3 miles out.  After my usual confusion finding and identifying Rwy 33, (I'm so used to using Runway 29), I made a left-hand turn from the south onto the final approach for 33, called the tower - notifying them I was on a 3 mile final.  From there their communication was as  expected - "Warrior 3572 Zulu, cleared to land".  From there, after touchdown and during the rollout, Tower instructed to exit 33 onto taxiway Foxtrot and contact Ground; Ground provided taxi clearance direct to the ramp.  Cool.

Comments about the flight- there was some unexpected bumpiness - nothing serious, but just goes to show you, even on a clear beautiful day you can experience it.  I was surprised to see, as mentioned before, as I got lower around our home that we live in a little valley - more like a bowl - surrounded by mountains.  I let my altitude get down to around 1500' on the altimeter (like 1200' above ground level), and that was quite low enough for my tastes, especially with all the nearby mountains.  The landing was the best I ever made - hardly even a "bump" - so gentle... and no one there to see it!  :-(   I wasn't even focused on making a "great" landing - as Cindy says, maybe there is such a thing as trying too hard.  Anyway, I took some more photos. 
You can see them here.


The next updates will be during my flight reviews towards the end of August, then I'll go straight to my check-ride and hopefully earn my license.  WOW can it really be almost over?  No way... there are two sayings pilots are <real> familiar with:  1) the only time you can have too much fuel is when you're on fire and 2). getting your pilot's license is merely just a license to learn. Think you're a pilot after getting your license?  <think again>.  Cindy says... oh, when I have 100 hours she'll maybe think about flying with me.  hmmmm.  thanks for reading, more soon.

 

Tuesday Morning, August 7, 2007 - No Flight - weather
We used today to review the oral part of what the FAA Examiner is likely to ask me on my check-ride.  The way it works is... I will fly solo to Rhode Island to meet the Examiner.  He and I will sit down for an hour and a half and he will ask questions about flight rules, regulations, airspace, flight visibility and restrictions, weather, instruments, runway markings, right of way, mechanical & electrical systems and so much more, (how fun ;-(     Assuming I get through the oral part of the exam, we will proceed to the aircraft where I will be reviewed and judged on everything from the walk-around inspection to various flight maneuvers, procedures, etc.  Both parts of the exam will take about 3 hours.  Here's the official FAA document of what is required to pass.... short 115 page document ... Private Pilot Practical Test Standards for Airplane

So today was a review session of the oral part.  Got some studying to do!

 


Sunday Morning, August
19, 2007- Flight 49 -  Dual Instruction- 2.2 hours
154
 Landings, Includes 
5 Landings Today
Clear - 76° - Winds 260@12 - RWY
29 in use

The purpose of today was a review session in preparation for the skills part of the FAA check-ride.  In the beginning of my flight lessons, we learned these basics - slow flight, steep turns, short field takeoff and landing, soft field takeoff and landing, engine failure, power-on stalls, power-off stalls, etc, but until today I never really attempted to do them with any real precision.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) the FAA check-ride calls for an exacting degree of precision in all maneuvers.  There are clear specifications that must be met with respect to not gaining or losing more than 100 or 200 feet of altitude or wandering off course more than a few degrees.  Hey, I would call it an "eye-opener" - now that I know what is going to be on the test, in relatively what order, to what degree of precision, I can get ready.  Its a little daunting, but I haven't come this far for nothing.  More soon!

 

Tuesday Morning, August 28, 2007- Flight 50 -  Dual Instruction - 2.2 hours
1
58 Landings, Includes 4 Landings Today
Clear - 82° - Winds Variable@4 - RWY
33 in use

OK.  I'm getting it.  It went a LOT better today.  We flew to North Central - the airport near Woonsocket, RI, where I have to go for my check ride, so I could figure out how to get there.  Its not that far, maybe 15-20 minutes flying.  I did fine - "passing" - on most of the maneuvers, except on a steep turn I dropped about 300 feet which would maybe have been a fail, depending upon how generous the examiner was feeling.  Also I get confused about exactly how to get setup for short field vs soft field take offs and landings. 'Landed and took off in each of the configurations; need a little more practice to make it more natural as to what things I have to do when.   

Also the one thing I need more work on is unusual attitudes.  You are flying with a "hood" on, blind except for seeing only the instruments.  The instructor puts it nose high or nose low at crazy angles and you have to figure out the aircraft's orientation and fix it.  Basically if you're plummeting, the first thing you want to do is power back to slow down and then level the wings.  You want to level the airplane <carefully> so you don't tear the wings off.   If you are climbing sky-high, the first thing to do is give it full throttle to prevent a stall, and again... level the wings.  So throttle is always the first thing, even if you're basically upside down, plummeting to the ground.  The trick is to NOT look at just one instrument (Attitude Indicator), but to look at TWO instruments -Airspeed Indicator and Attitude Indicator.  Between the two, you can figure things out and get the aircraft squared away.  With today's flight I'm feeling more confident about the check-ride, even though I am not there yet - I think I can get it figured out enough to pass. 

 

Wednesday Morning, August 29, 2007- Flight 51 -  Dual Instruction  - 0.9 hours
160
 Landings, Includes 
2 Landings Today
Clear - 80° - Winds 190@9 - RWY 29 in use

67.0 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Ahhhmannnnn... sometimes I wonder where my confusion comes from.  Things I did great, that I never had problems with before, all of a sudden I'm having problems with.  I have GOT slow flight down -  you're flying so slow - 45 knots... the wings are buffeting, the engine is roaring... the thing feels like it wants to suddenly plummet to the ground.  Turns at this speed are done exceedingly carefully.  In actuality, the worst case in this situation is that the aircraft falls below stall speed, actually stalls, turns on its side and starts to fall... but... all you'd have to do is "let go" of the controls... and the aircraft rights itself.  "Inherently stable" they call it.  But they make you practice this over and over until you master it, because most crashes are at slow speed as the aircraft is turning... from base leg to final during landing.  Other stuff, like power-on and power-off stalls, suddenly I'm needing coaching on what to do.  Everything else is coming together fine, 'probably a couple more flights for practice and review and then I think I'm good to go.  Maybe next flight Jeff will let me make the appointment for the check-ride.  Then its major study time in the books and more practice flights.  Jeff told me that instructors don't sign off students for the check-ride until they are reasonably sure they will pass, because instructors - upon their 3 year -instructor rating re-certifications - are expected to demonstrate a student pass-rate on the check-ride of 80% passing on the first attempt.  I hope I can contribute to his success factor.  Man, this process took a whole lot longer than I expected, and I am glad the check-ride is finally approaching.  I started lessons on April 22, 2006 and it has been fun, but it is kind of exhausting now.  I am just trying to make it across the finish line.

 

Monday Morning, September 3, 2007- Flight 52 -  Dual Instruction  - 0.8 hours
168
 Landings, Includes 8 Landings Today
Clear - 77° - Winds 220@4 - RWY 29 in use

67.8 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


OK... I found out today that Jeff has scheduled my check-ride for .... September 17th.  Whether I pass or fail, it will surely be a memorable birthday, being that my birthday is Sept 17th.  Purely coincidental.

Today was more of the same from the previous lesson, all the different kinds of takeoffs and landings... short field, soft field, no flaps, as well as slow flight, all kinds of stalls, etc.  At the same time I picked up a copy of Jeppeson's Private Pilot Practical Exam, which has all the maneuvers as well as questions and answers on the applicable subject matter.  The Practical Exam is just that - 1.5 hours of oral exam and 1.5 hours of actual flight.  I am really looking forward to getting it over with.  It has been a long haul - longer than most in total calendar time because its really hard to get decent flying days with any regularity here in the Northeast.

I have scheduled flight time for Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and hope to have all the maneuvers down cold.  Its coming....  just keep telling myself.... almost there.

 

Thursday Morning, September 13, 2007- Flight 53 -  Dual Instruction  - 1.4 hours
173
 Landings, Includes 5 Landings Today
Clear - 72° - Winds 350@6 - RWY 11 in use

69.2 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Today was our second trip to North Central Airport - where my check-ride will take place this coming Monday.  North Central is just east of Providence Airport, in Rhode Island.  The purpose of this flight was to review navigation to and from North Central, as well as practice basic maneuvers... steep turns, standard turns, slow flight, stalls - both slow flight and departure, takeoffs and landings - short field, soft field, etc.  These things are getting pretty routine, except I forgot to do the basics on the Short field... things that would be obvious were it <really> a short field... like "maximum braking" upon touchdown and yoke full back after touchdown (in order to put maximum weight on the wheels upon landing).  On the Soft field landing, I sometimes forget to add a touch of power at touchdown... to keep the nose-wheel high and "out of the turf", which of course, there is no turf.

For my check-ride, I was given a cross-country trip to Syracuse NY to prepare for.. this means completing the flight plan, including calculating wind correction angle, fuel consumption, weight and balance, takeoff roll distance, etc.  I'm pretty much okay with these, but plan to spend all day Sunday reviewing these basics.

All in all, I feel it is coming along okay...  pretty soon I'll have over 200 landings, so that's pretty comfortable... actually - extremely comfortable and fun, and one of the things I most look forward to.  More after the flight on Saturday.

 

Thursday Morning, September 16, 2007- Flight 54 -  Dual Instruction  - 1.6 hours
177
 Landings, Includes 4 Landings Today
Clear - 69° - Winds 265@4 - RWY 29 in use

70.8 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Today's flight was to continue to review for the check-ride.  More of the same from the previous flight, except the focus was on unusual attitudes, turns-around-a-point and s-turns, all required maneuvers.  No problems here, very mundane flight doing the usual mundane kinds of maneuvers.
Even though I am nervous about my check-ride, I am optimistic and hopeful that I can nail all the maneuvers and requirements.  Most particularly I am concerned about two areas - the cross-country flight, which was assigned to be Syracuse, NY and Unusual Attitudes.  The cross-country flight requires one to be highly organized, timing each leg, predicting ETA to next checkpoint, determining fuel burn, navigating within proscribed standards as to altitude and heading, finding checkpoints on the ground compared to the chart.  Its a lot, particularly when one has never seen the ground one is flying over in order to compare it to the chart.  You have to be an excellent chart-reader.  The other concern, unusual attitudes... is where you are wearing vision-obscuring hood, so you can only see the instruments, and the examiner puts the airplane in different strange attitudes - steep turns pitched steeply up or down.  Here the goal is to look at the airspeed indicator and the attitude indicator to understand your relationship in space... and make the needed corrections.  A little tricky.  We'll see how it goes and I'll provide a further update tomorrow.

 

Thursday Morning, September 17, 2007- Flight 55 -  Check-Ride  - 1.9 hours
181
 Landings, Includes 4 Landings Today
Clear - 72° - Winds 350@6 - RWY 33 in use

72.7 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Today was my check-ride and I am very disappointed that I did not demonstrate to proficiency a maneuver which has been so simple and never caused me any problem at any time in the past:  Slow Flight.  You only have a maximum of 100' +/- to work with to perform the maneuver in and I exceeded this by 200'.  Its a SIMPLE maneuver... maybe the MOST simple.  And was the LAST required item in my entire exam.  I forgot to slow down.  When you are slow... the airplane will only climb when you add power even if the nose is pointed up, and the attitude has to be nose-high to maintain slow flight.  If you point the nose high with any more power than that on, you're 'gonna climb.  Which I did.  On the flight back home, I realized the mistake I had made in not slowing down. Tomorrow I need to get with Jeff and I want to try it again with him in the airplane.  I am quite sure I know the cause, and I am equally sure this maneuver will never be a problem again.  Disappointment but no disaster.  I go back to the examiner on Oct 1 after my vacation to demonstrate this again and will get a sign off and my license.  

The Check ride, slow-flight aside, went precisely as my instructor and Examiner had told me it would:  Oral portion lasted an hour or so and covered most of what was in the Written, plus questions and review of the aircraft documentation. There were a lot of questions about airport signage/runway/taxiway markings and chart symbols.  The maneuvers were straightforward, even though as time passed, I became more and more nervous that I might actually pass the thing.  The cross-country planning was perfect, and that aspect of the flying was the most enjoyable part of the exam.  Slips, landing, Steep Turns, Emergency Landing, Instrument Flying, everything else went great. I muffed short-field landing by applying the brakes upon touchdown, but had described the process perfectly before I did it, so he gave me a provisional pass on it.  I just got excited and nervous about the final maneuver, didn't slow down adequately, and as a result, could not keep the airplane at the proper altitude when I tipped the nose up.  It was very disappointing - all reason and logic seemed to escape me, and the more I tried, the worst it got. The examiner was very kind but it was clear that I was not the master of slow flight today.

Aside from that, the flight to and from Rhode Island was great - a gorgeous day and on the way home, I even flew directly by the Hood Blimp... which was on the way to Boston to broadcast aerial shots of the Boston Red Sox Game.  A gorgeous lovely day in spite of everything.

 

Thursday Morning, September 18, 2007- Flight 56 -  Dual Instruction  - 0.7 hours
185 Landings, Includes 
4 Landings Today
Clear - 70° - Winds 160@7 - RWY 11 in use

73.4 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


I told Jeff about my unfortunate experience with slow flight and I he was in dis-belief: 
"But that's the one thing you've been doing really well...". Once we got airborne, I told him... don't tell me anything... just tell me what you want me to do:  slow flight will full flaps, no flaps, part flaps... over and over and over.  Damn... of course - no problems.  Just a day late.  Hey, slowing down to 1500 RPM... like... makes the difference.  Why I couldn't have done it all yesterday and "ended my pain", I'll never know.

Well at least... there's no further work to be done instruction-wise.  This flight lasted just half-an-hour to prove my skill to myself and to Jeff.  Bottom line is to go slow and maintain altitude within 100', you have to start off at a slow airspeed.  You cannot be going fast and expect to transition into slow flight without gaining altitude.  So... now, I am angry and disappointed with myself for not doing a simple easy thing yesterday... but I am fully ready to demonstrate this maneuver to the FAA check-ride evaluator and finally earn my wings.  DAMMIT.  I will report success... on October 1.

The fall is here now, leaves are beginning to turn, the mornings have a real chill and we are getting occasional frost warnings.  It is nice to see the seasons change, but I am really glad I will not have to be arriving early some freezing mornings and scrape frost off the wings.  I am also hoping to be able to do some fall foliage sight-seeing from the air with my beloved.

 

Sunday Morning, September 30, 2007- Flight 57 -  Dual Instruction  - 0.7 hours
189 Landings, Includes 
4 Landings Today
Clear - 72° - Winds 180@6 - RWY 11 in use

74.1 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


My check-ride is scheduled for tomorrow, so this is just to practice slow flight and soft field landings once more.  I've been away for a week, on vacation in S.C., and wanted to make sure I was sharp for Monday.  Everything went perfectly, no issues at all.  I'm ready to go!

 

CHECK RIDE

Monday Morning, October 1, 2007- Flight 58 -  Solo - Check-Ride  - 1.2 hours
192 Landings, Includes 3
Landings Today
Clear - 72° - Winds 150@6 - RWY 15 in use

75.3 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983



My check-ride (re-visited) went off without a hitch and I was pronounced QUALIFIED.  This was my second attempt, after previously becoming flustered during the last maneuver - slow flight - of my initial check ride.  You can read about it in the previous two posts.

So I am now a qualified private pilot with a Single Engine Land rating (as opposed to Sea).  The 20 minute flight from Worcester to Pawtucket, Rhode Island was beautiful and smooth, with a few of the landmarks obscured by low level fog.  Essentially, you dial in the Providence RI VOR and fly "to" it, keeping an eye on Rt 142 below, which leads you right to the airport.  Spotted the airport with no issue, picked up Ray, the examiner, and off we went.  First, it was slow flight with 25 degrees of flaps - (two notches in the Warrior), transitioning into slow flight with no flaps, transitioning into clean flight to cruise speed.  The goal is to maintain altitude within 100 feet and compass heading within 5 degrees.  I had the altitude and heading pegged the whole time and there was never a question of competency.  The whole trick to slow flight is.... "slowing down".... ;-)

The soft field landing also went fine - just add a bit of power at touch-down, keep the nose-wheel off the ground by having the yoke in the full-back position... and NO BRAKES.    It was a decent touchdown and I knew when he told me to taxi to the ramp that I had passed.  It was both a thrill and a relief. 

Today was the culmination of a dream that began when I was 5 years old, when I first flew with my Uncle Lazarus in his Cessna 172, in St Marys, GA.  From here I will begin to start working on my Instrument Rating... not that I <ever> intend to fly in the clouds... but so that I will be better equipped to manage the situation should I ever find myself in that condition.

Coming back from Rhode Island, at 2,500 feet, I noticed something in my windshield... growing closer and closer... faster and faster.... with no increase in size or even any discernable shape - certainly not an airplane.  It was perhaps at 2,400 feet AGL - just below me, and directly ahead, and coming towards me.... fast.  I veered left.... and passed it.  As I passed by, I could see it was a child's white balloon.  On its way to god-knows-where.  Thankfully it was a near-miss of not much magnitude or consequence.  Landing a few minutes later, and back on the ground at Worcester, no one was around... I tied the aircraft down and went into the flight school and entered my name and date on the chart of Certificated Pilots and left the airport, knowing and hoping... that many happy days and hours of flight, and interesting and fun journeys are ahead of me (and Cindy maybe).

I give my wife Cindy a lot of credit - she's a white-knuckle flyer under the best of conditions, but she is already talking about - and we are tentatively making plans - to fly to Queechie, VT, and to New Bedford, MA and other places even further away.  I know she is as excited about the potential to easily visit further-away places as I, and is willing to give it a try.  Our first flight will be from Worcester to Southbridge - about 10 minutes flying time, to Jim's Flyin' Diner where we'll meet friends for breakfast.  If after landing at Southbridge, Cindy doesn't want to continue flying back to Worcester, our friends can take her home.  We'll hope for the best.  If things go well, we'll soon be flying to NJ to visit family and friends, I want to go to Gettysburg PA at some point, and the longer trip will be to visit our vacation grounds in Kiawah, SC.  And others I'm sure as time goes by.

I'll continue updating this log, but this concludes the Training To Private Pilot portion.

Thanks for reading and flying along!

 

Initial GPS Flight


Sunday Morning, October 21, 2007 - Flight 59 - Solo - 1.0 Hrs.
193 Landings, Includes 1 Landing Today
Perfectly Clear - 74° - Winds 260@8 - RWY 29 in use

76.3 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Today was a perfect day with practically no wind, with not a cloud in the sky. This was my first flight after getting my license, and the purpose of this flight was to familiarize myself with a used GPS unit I bought.  Now I understand why Jeff did not want me to use GPS.  Its TOO EASY...!!!

I bought a used
Magellan GPSMAP 196 on eBay for $125.00, and purchased a cable from PC to GPS so I could update the map database, which had not been updated since 2001.  For $125.00, I was not expecting very much, as I have had my eyes on a more advanced unit that sells for almost $2000.00, but which is not yet on the market.  But I wanted to get introduced to GPS and this was an easy inexpensive way to do it.

While I still very much look forward to the added features (Terrain Awareness and Warning, Next-Gen GPS and Weather superimposed on the screen, as well as the larger color screen that the
Avmap GeoPilot II Plus offers, I must say the GPSMAP195 offers virtually everything a pilot could want - all the basic features to get you wherever you want to go.

At the push of a button you can find all the NEAREST airports, and at the push of another button, you can GOTO that airport, with the GPS providing you the proper heading to fly, displaying your progress on a scalable map as you fly.  It also depicts airspace near you and provides a variety of different types of warnings in regard to that airspace. It also displays your current altitude, heading, bearing to target, estimated time en-route, distance and time remaining to your destination, course to fly, track, etc.  And it does this pictorially against a map, or in a HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator) display, or in a text-based screen.  It does a lot more too, but I think you get the idea, that with GPS, you can get detailed information on virtually everything you might want to know about your course, heading, direction, speed and destination.

The biggest advantage to GPS (in my mind, anyway), is that it eliminates the uncertainties of VFR (and IFR) navigation, and adds tremendously to your peace of mind.

Anyway, not that this has anything to do with the flying, but the day was made perfect by a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox win Game 7 of the American League, and make it to the World Series playoffs.  YEAYYY WHAT A NIGHT.

Anyway, I'll update more next flight, scheduled for this coming weekend.  Fall is in full color, the weather is unseasonably mild... but the cold weather is definitely just around the corner.  Have to enjoy it while we can.


Post Check ride Flights


Sunday Morning,
November 17, 2007- Flight 60 -  Solo - 1.0 hr
197 Landings, Includes 4
Landings Today
Mostly Clear - 52° - Winds 310@4 - gusts to 12 - RWY 29 in use

77.3 hours total flight time now including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Today was another great day for flying.  I am still looking for that perfect day with no wind so my wife, Cindy, can get her first flight, but today was a little gusty/bumpy, so I knew it would not be an ideal day for her.  It has been almost a month since I've flown and I thought I should get some practice in, so I found myself at the airport mid morning.  After a smooth take-off, I did two touch-and-goes to make sure my landing skills stayed in good shape, then headed off to Rhode Island where I landed, walked around the airport, and after a short while, took off again, headed back to Worcester.

Sooner or later, Cindy and I are going to visit family in New Bedford, MA, and I wanted to get a little more practice with flying a GPS course, so I flew a GPS course "from" ORH (Worcester) "to" SFZ (Woonsocket, Rhode Island) and back again.  SFZ is about half-way to New Bedford, and is a place I am very familiar with already.  So this was a good practice/orientation flight.  I have been to New Bedford previously, (at night), but am confident another 15 minutes of flying beyond SFZ should be just fine.

Returning back to Worcester, as I was on a straight-in approach, the tower notified me that there was traffic in the downwind pattern, so ATC assigned me a #2 landing slot and turned me 360 to wait for the landing traffic. Once the traffic had landed, the aircraft was given the ATC order to expedite off the runway, at which time I was cleared to land.  It all seems so simple now... and tower communications are quite easy once you're used to it.   Anyway, you can see more photos here, but below is my favorite, this is landing back at Worcester:

 

Sunday Morning, November 25, 2007- Flight 61 -  Solo - .7 hr
200 Landings, Includes 
3 Landings Today
Clear - 47° - Winds 300@11 - RWY 29 in use

78.0 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Today dawned cold and clear.  Winds were predicted to be at 11 knots, but in fact gusting was much higher, resulting in probably the 4th all-time bumpiest ride. 

The plan today was to take off from Worcester and fly to Southbridge Airport, where I was to meet Cindy and friends at the Southbridge Airport for breakfast... then take Cindy up for her first ride.  However, soon after take-off from Worcester, it became clear that today was not to be the "ideal" day.  There was a goodly amount of turbulence which caused the pitch and attitude of the airplane to be erratic ... what pilots would call moderate turbulence.  After landing at Southbridge - disappointment - Jim's Flyin Diner was closed for the season!  Big Disappointment!!!

I was glad that Cindy decided to postpone her flight to another time, because I do not think she would have enjoyed it very much.

After takeoff from Southbridge and heading back to Worcester, I radioed the tower that I was "6 miles to the southwest, inbound for landing".  Immediately, other airplanes called in....  ("inbound, 6 miles to the west" and "inbound 6 miles to the east"), and I knew we were all going to arrive at the same place at the same time, and that ATC would have to sort it all out.  After further instructions, I was given the #3 slot to land, and was instructed to extend the downwind leg, which I did.  Shortly thereafter, the Tower instructed me to make the base turn and then cleared me to turn to final and land.  While there was absolutely no problem with any of this, I can't help but thinking that if I were a new pilot on my initial solo, that all the conversation and ATC instructions would have been unnerving and confusing to say the least.  Time is a great teacher.

The weather looks like it might cooperate again later this week, but after that things appear sketchy.  And with a trip to Hilton Head, SC - and then Christmas two weeks later, I am not sure how much opportunity Cindy and I might have to fly anytime soon.  We will keep trying.


 

Saturday, December 5, 2007 - Flight 62 - 1.3 Hrs
202 Landings, includes 2 today
Clear - 42° - Winds 295@4 - RWY 29 in use
79.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Today, again, dawned cold and clear. Winds were rather calm, and after a bit of engine pre-heat, I took off and headed northeast - the goal of the trip was Nancy's Airfield Cafe in Stow, MA, which has received a lot of good comments from visiting pilots. Normally, cafes and diners on the field are visited mainly by pilots - this one is quite popular with the locals; in fact - when we were there, it was quite busy and we appeared to be the only flyers visiting.

After an extremely smooth takeoff from RWY 29, 'followed Wachusett Reservoir to its end... GPS said Nancy's was only 6 miles away at that point.  Because of the recent snow, I wanted to assess the runway condition, so I overflew the field to check it out.  As everything seemed fine, I descended to the pattern altitude and self-announced entering the pattern at the 45 on the left downwind.  The landing was a little rough with a few embarrassing bounces, and the runway was even rougher.  Even though there was no snow or ice present, the runway was full of patches which made for a very rough landing and taxi.  Alas, no harm was done and I taxied to the parking ramp, careful to avoiding hitting the high piles of snow with the wingtips. Then, 'went in and ordered lunch.  Service was great, everything was fine... stayed there approximately and hour, and then it was time to depart.  At departure time, it became quite busy with a few incoming aircraft and a few departing helicopters.  Its a great little respite that I recommend to everyone who can get there.

Departing on RWY 21, 'flew back towards the Reservoir, and at the corner of the (Prohibited Airspace) Ft Devens Airspace, turned right so we could circle Wachusett Mountain and still avoid the airspace.   Again - I recommend to every new pilot- GPS helps you find and avoid these types of MOA and Prohibited Areas - if you don't have one, GET ONE.  My instructor, (rightly I think) would not allow me to use GPS until I had my license, but I think there are plusses and negatives to that approach.  Sure, you learn the "hard way", but it would have been a tremendous psychological comfort on my long solo to have had it with me.  In fact, the instructor I met at my long cross-country solo destination recommended that every student pilot should have and use one.  Anyway, back to this flight - Wachusett Mountain was very busy with skiers, as we have had heavy recent snows, and it was quite pretty to see.  From there, we headed back to Worcester, got the ATIS, contacted Worcester Tower and was cycled into the pattern, #1 to land with two other aircraft following.  A great and fun trip...  I plan to go back to Nancy's Airfield Cafe, this coming Thursday with Cindy, weather permitting, for a nice breakfast.  More details then!

 

Sunday,  February 24, 2008 - Flight 63 - 1.0 Hrs
207 Landings, includes 5 today
Clear - 32° - Winds 280@10 - RWY 29 in use
80.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

It feels like, and has been a long time since I've been up flying.  Even Jeff says he has not flown much this year, and it is the worst year weather-wise that he can remember.  Sunny, clear weather-free days have been the exception rather than the rule, and when we have them, they are most likely spoiled by winds and too-high gusts.

Because the FAA requires "currency" in order to carry passengers - 3 landings within 90 days, and because my currency had lapsed, I wanted to keep everything legal and get current before flying with Cindy to Nancy's Airfield Cafe.  Yep... you guessed it... we are still trying to get to Nancy's. 

Several previous attempts to fly on acceptable days have been met with an airplane engine that would not start - or a dead battery, or both.  Today, after pre-flighting and pre-heating the airplane, I settled into the cockpit, got organized, and actually was successful in starting the engine.  But it was COLD, and with a foot of snow two days previous... I was happy to see that Jeff has cleaned off the snow and ice from the wings.  So far, so good!  After going through the pre-taxi checklist, I accelerated the engine to move out to taxi... and... NOTHING.  It made a lot of noise but no forward motion.  After several more tries at accelerating the engine for taxi... I thought perhaps... I had not untied the tail... or had missed a wheel chock.  So, I shut down the engine, climbed out to have a look.  Well thank goodness, I had missed nothing, but it was clear that both wheels of the main gear were sitting in a frozen pool of water.  The airplane was frozen to the ground!  OK.  Climbed back in, started up, gunned it again... nothing.  Finally, a little rocking motion did the trick and the plane burst free of the ice and lurched toward the end of the ramp.  After I got the airplane turned around, I radioed Ground Control for taxi permission... and now ... the radio is acting up!  Finally, I was able to reach Ground, and got permission to taxi to Runway 29, where I did the final pre-takeoff checklist and after getting permission for take-off from the Tower, launched into the air.  Hurraaaaay!!!

Right away, I did 3 quick touch-and-goes, then headed northwest to Gardner for fuel.  Along the way, the radio acted up again - I don't know if there was a problem with the radio, or perhaps there was ice at the antenna... but slowly...the radio would just die.  Turning if off and on again would bring it back for another minute or two.  Also, at 3000' it was really bumpy... but above or below that altitude was fine.  Funny how unsettled air masses can be limited to very narrow bands of air.

Landing at Gardner, there was no one around to dispense gas, and now the airplane was within 5 gallons of its legal daytime reserve, (a total of 15 gallons now remained) - about half an hour of legal flying time, with Worcester about 15 minutes away.

After an unsuccessful walk around the airport looking for someone to unlock the fuel pump, I got back in the airplane, started up, and taxied for takeoff.  On the takeoff roll, lack of currency reminds you - its a big difference taking off from Worcester, with its 7000' runway, versus the 3000' runway at Gardner.  And the trees at the end of that runway approach fast. No problems of course, but it is an eye-opener.   This time -  the radio worked fine on the way back, which makes me wonder if the extreme cold, or possibly ice on the antenna had caused the intermittent outages earlier.  Contacting the Tower 8 miles out, I was instructed to " enter the right downwind pattern for landing on RWY 29, and call the Tower at midfield" - at which point I was cleared to land - which all of this was uneventful.

Back at the tie-down area on the ramp, I reflected on the several months long lay-off.  Yes, my flying confidence and skills had eroded slightly, (but fortunately not my landing skills) - at least I was able to land with no problems.

It was great to get back in the air, but it was clear that the short lay-off affected my confidence level more than my skills.  Still, I think it is easier to restore confidence than skills, and continuing to fly as regularly as possible restores and maintains both.  It was GREAT GREAT GREAT to get back in the air.  I'm scheduled again for this coming Sunday, weather permitting and will file another update then.

Sunday,  April 26, 2008 - Flight 64 - 1.6 Hrs
215 Landings, includes 8 today
Clear - 65° - Winds 160@10 - RWY 14 in use
Airport: 7B2 Northampton, MA
81.9 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Aerial photo of 7B2 (Northampton Airport)A lot has happened since my last flight out of Worcester.  Namely, Amity has been relocated, perhaps permanently, and all the aircraft have been moved to the Gardner Airport.  Gardner is a nice little airport, but about a 90 minute ride from my home, so I decided to seek out something closer.  Cindy suggested Northampton, but I replied that it was too far.  Well, she was right as usual.  Mileage-wise, it is further than Worcester... time-wise, it is about 10 minutes shorter due to the congestion around Worcester, and because of the high speed highways that take you directly to Northampton with no traffic delays.

So it was that I found myself in Northampton taking an aircraft-checkout ride with Mike Mosher, one of the young instructors at Northampton. We got thru all of the work - standard turns, steep turns, departure stalls, approach stalls, landings.... I really thought he was being quite hard on me. I figured maybe he thought I wasn't qualified because we did things over and over, especially landing. At the end, I was rather tired, so the one thing we didn't get to was emergency landings/procedures. Anyway, we spent over an hour and a half in the air, with the plan for me to return shortly to finish up the emergency landings/procedures.

 

Wednesday,  May 7, 2008 - Flight 65 - .5 Hrs
219 Landings, includes 4 today
Clear - 67° - Winds light and variable - RWY 14 in use
Airport: 7B2 Northampton, MA
82.4 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

WOW - today was a gift - one of those rare, crystal-clear, blue-sky days, pleasantly warm with just a bit of cool in the air, and no wind. The scenery around Northampton is absolutely gorgeous - it is western Massachusetts, very scenic and even more so from the air.

I met Mike at 9:00 as planned and we flew in a different Warrior. (They have 3 which they rent). It turns out that Mike had been giving me a biennial flight review... rather than an aircraft checkout review. Of course, the Biennial is FAA-required every two years, so of course it is a lot more involved, (and I have almost two years until I am due for it!). Anyway, I survived all the maneuvers last time, so this time we revisited landings - Mike wanted me to shoot for a more nose-high flare upon landing - which I did and liked, as well as we ran thru emergency procedures and landings. For me, even though it may not exactly follow the emergency checklists, the rule ABCDE is always in my mind in case of emergency/engine out situations:

A - Airspeed - maintain Best Glide Speed of 73kts. Without it you won't be flying... but falling.
B - Best Field - find it quickly and plan the approach.
C - Cockpit Procedures - if engine failure, switch tanks, check ignition switch, check primer lock, check magnetos are on, check mixture, check oil temp/pressure, check throttle, etc. If no engine restart, fuel to off, etc.
D - Declare Emergency - Mayday on 102.5, transponder to 7700, verify ELT Armed

After a few landings, and about a half-hour in the air, Mike passed me on the aircraft rental checkout ride, so we headed back to the ramp for tie-down and post-flight review.  Now I'm cleared to rent aircraft from Northampton.  YAAAY!!!

At this time, even though I am still hoping to fly with my original instuctor Jeff, Mike also agreed he would be happy to fly with me to Lebanon NH the first time as well as Nantucket, so the landmarks and layouts would be clear in my mind when I returned on my own.  Looks like Cindy and I may be flying for Mothers' Day - this Sunday.  More to come!!!

 

Sunday,  May 11, 2008 - Flight 66 - 1.4 Hrs Cross-Country Flight 7B2 - 6B6
221 Landings, includes 2 today
Clear - 69° - Winds 090@06  - RWY 14 in use 7B2, RWY 03 in use 6B6
Airport: 7B2 Northampton, MA to 6B6 Minuteman - Stow, MA
83.8 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983


Sunday morning dawned bright, sunny and clear, but there was some expectation of winds - not the best new for Cindy's planned maiden flight.

I had made a 9:15AM Mothers’ Day Brunch reservation for Cindy and myself at
Nancy’s Airfield Café in Stowe, MA, a 50 mile flight from Northampton.  By leaving early, I hoped we could avoid turbulent air that often arises later in the day.

We arrived at the Northampton MA airport (7B7) right around 8:15 AM, planning for a takeoff no later than 8:30 AM.  With the flight time anticipated at 30 minutes, I expected it would be a good first-flight for Cindy - with a nice treat awaiting us in Stow, MA in the form of Nancy’s Mothers' Day Brunch menu.  Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the aircraft needed oil and fuel which delayed us more than I would have liked, and we did not lift off until around 8:50AM.  Nancy’s Airfield Café is strict on being late for a reservation – collecting a credit card upfront in order to charge a $20.00 cancellation/no-show penalty, and I was concerned we would not only miss our reservation, but lose our $20.00! Naturally, once we lifted off, we were faced with headwinds, and even under 85% power, did not land until almost 9:30 AM.

Fortunately, we met a very nice host and fellow pilot at Nancy's named Dan Hnatio, who even offered us a ride in his classic airplane, and who - even though we were late, understood our plight and managed to seat us rather promptly anyway.  Nancy’s is a great local cafe with a reputation for great food, and is mostly frequented by local non-flyers; because part of the attraction of the café is to be able to be seated very close to the runway and seeing various aircraft flying in, it seems they may give those arriving in aircraft some flexibility. THANK YOU DAN!  

After a great Brunch of Eggs Benedict and Lobster Tails - unfortunately we arrived too early for the champagne (and Cindy would have loved a couple of glasses by this point) - we headed out to do the pre-flight and startup, for the return flight back to Northampton.

So the question everyone wants to know is how did she like it?!  I think she prefers being on the ground, but she did great, and we may yet fly again.   Shortly after takeoff from Northampton on the way to Stow, somewhere over the Quabbin Reservoir, we encountered slight to moderate turbulence.  Flying at 3,500’ on a GPS course of 95° Magnetic, we tried a few altitudes but there was pretty consistent bumpiness at every altitude.   Not too bad, though.  Once past the Quabbin, our landmarks began to fall into place:  Mt Wachusett, then the Wachusett Reservoir, and not long afterwards, there was Minuteman.   Landing was uneventful, although the runway still needs work – it is a little rough.  Taxing and parking was a breeze, as there was not a lot of other aircraft traffic. Taking off after Brunch, after having been wished a safe trip by radio by the flight-line manager at Nancy's, we climbed to 2,500’ on a reverse GPS course of 277° Mag and ran into moderate turbulence, all the way up to 3500’ – no escaping it.  We had planned to overfly our home in Brimfield, but because of the increasing turbulence, we decided to make a beeline back to our Northampton base.

Passing the mountain range around Amherst and Northampton, the turbulence worsened, and Cindy, I think, was a little “less comfortable” with the return trip because of the increased bumpiness, but still handled the trip – and turbulence - GREAT - a real trooper, (she says she did it for me :-)  Not what I would have liked our first trip together to have been, but still the skies were clear and blue, so… we somehow managed. 

Will she fly again?  I’ve asked her to contribute her thoughts here…. perhaps in the following days we can get the trip from her perspective.

I’ve got some business travel and other commitments coming up over the next couple weeks but hope to be back in the air late May or early June.  Thanks for reading!



Sunday,  June 8, 2008 - Flight 76 - 2.9 Hrs Cross-Country Flight 7B2 - KGDM - KLEB - KGDM - 7B2
225 Landings, includes 4 today
Clear/Hazy/HOT - 92° - Winds 270@06  - RWY 35 in use 7B2, RWY 36 in use KGDM, RWY 25 in use KLEB
Airports: 7B2 Northampton, MA to KGDM Gardner to KLEB Lebanon NH to KGDM Gardner to 7b2 Northampton, MA
86.7 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983


 

WOW what a great trip.... 3 hours of flying: some solo,  some flying with Jeff - my instructor, flying long distance, flying to a new location and utilizing a "new" service  (VFR Flight Advisories).  And all this on a sunny, almost perfect day.... except for lowering clouds and some light turbulence.

I wanted Jeff to come on this flight because I had never been to Lebanon New Hampshire before, and at an hour, it is a relatively long trip.  I also wanted to have Jeff in the plane when I called Boston Center and got Flight Following.  Flight Following means you're on someone's radar screen and they are watching your progress and notifying you of conflicting traffic.  It means getting a squawk code for the transponder, and in general - talking to controllers who are very busy with (mostly) commercial/scheduled air traffic.  VFR Flight Advisories are given on strictly a workload-permitting basis for VFR traffic, but a good thing to have, if you can get it! 

The day began in Northampton, where I fueled the plane, then flew to Gardner Airport to pick up my buddy and instructor Jeff Gulick.  From there we took off for KLEB, Lebanon, NH.  I had planned to fly at 6,500 feet, but lowering clouds prevented it... instead we flew around 4,500 feet with occasional dips below to avoid clouds (VFR rules require you to remain 500' below clouds (1,000' above and 2,000 horizontally).  Additionally, there is a requirement when flying from 360° - 180° to fly at odd thousands of fee + 500' - conversely, when flying from 181° - 359° rules require you to fly at even thousands of feet + 500'.  This helps keep aircraft headed in the same general direction flying at the same altitude.

Because of the time dedicated to determining the best available altitude, we were almost to Keene, NH - about halfway - to Lebanon, N.H., a little late to get VFR Flight Following.  We proceeded north, avoiding clouds and mountains, as we approached with 10 miles of KLEB, the mountains narrowed, forcing us to fly the Connecticut River Valley up to the airport.  Within 5 miles, we contacted the Lebanon Tower (KLEB) - (this is Class D Airspace), and were cleared to a 4 mile base-leg to set up for landing on RWY 25.  The most interesting thing about KLEB is the situation of the runways - they are nestled in a valley, hidden by mountains.  We were cleared from the base-leg to land #2 following light traffic, and very interestingly - did not see the runway until we were on our final approach.  Very Interesting.  We changed our request from landing to a touch-and-go and were cleared for the touch-and-go.  After landing, climbing back out, we were cleared to leave the Class D Airspace, and proceeded on a GPS/VOR course back to Gardner, continuing to climb and descend in order to avoid enroute clouds.

Once established on course, Jeff suggested we go ahead and contact Boston Center in order to get Flight Following back to Gardner, as this was one of the stated goals of the flight.  I called Boston Center, gave our approximate position and requested VFR advisories, but forgot to give the altitude.  Interestingly, the controller did not request it, but gave us a squawk code in order to track our progress on her radar screen.  Also interestingly, she did not confirm "radar contact", and after 30 minutes of flight with no further communication from her to us (we did hear her communication to other aircraft), we assumed she had forgotten about us.  Approximately 5 miles from Gardner she called us - (glad Jeff was in the plane and listening - I had stopped listening for our call sign), she radioed us to ask if we had our destination in sight, which we did.  At that point, she terminated radar coverage and assigned us back to the VFR squawk code.  So she HAD been following us after all!!!

After we landed, and I dropped Jeff off, I took off again for Northampton.   Another interesting observation... on a "standard" day - (29.92 Barometric Pressure and 59° F), the aircraft is rated to carry almost 950 lbs.  On a day of very high temperature - 90° - and pressure - 30.22  - takeoff distance increases and carrying capacity decreases.   With two people in the airplane, climb performance was slugglish.  An additional passenger would have required some calculations to be sure it was safe, and I think it would have been close.  With four people in the plane on that same day... the plane would run out of runway before it would be able to takeoff.   Which explains the crash a year ago at the same airport under similar temperatures with four people in the aircraft.

Taking off solo from Gardner and headed back towards home still evidenced sluggish climb performance, but once I had climbed to altitude, it was GREAT to be back in the air, flying alone again.

This was a great flight - got to do a little solo, got to fly with Jeff, got to go somewhere new on a long cross-country flight, and got to experience some new things:  landing "blind" to the runway and utilizing VFR Flight Following services!  Thanks for reading... more soon!


Sunday, July 12, 2008 - Flight 77 - 1.1 Hours Local Flight - 7B2 - KGDM
227 Landings, includes 2 today
Clear/Hazy/HOT - 87° - Winds 330@06  - RWY 35 in use 7B2, RWY 36 in use 7B2
87.8 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Today was a simple training flight, just to get some flight time and landings in. Flew from Northampton to Gardner Airport... Uneventful flight...

Saturday, July 19, 2008 - Flight 78 - 1.0 Hours Local Flight - 7B2 - 3B0
229 Landings, includes 2 today
Severe Haze/HOT - 85° - Winds light and variable - RWY 14 in use 7B2, RWY 02 in use 7B2
88.8 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Wow, all i can say is thank goodness (!!!) for GPS! We had some friends - Debbie and Dave - visit us from NJ, and the plan was for me to meet them and Cindy at Southbridge Airport. Weather was light winds but major haze. The area was VFR - but just barely. After takeoff from Northampton in severe haze, I considered turning back, but just then spotted another aircraft in the distance... well over 5 miles away. At that point I knew it was legal to fly, but aside from seeing directly below and off to the sides of the airplane, haze obscured all the major landmarks. I knew where I was - generally speaking, within a couple of miles at all points in the trip but even so, without GPS to confirm the location, it would have been a more difficult trip, navigating by VOR. Alas, I made Southbridge and landed fine with no issues.. in fact, a pretty decent landing. Upon pulling up to the diner, I saw Cindy, Deb and Dave, where we enjoyed a nice breakfast. Dave informed me he would be returning to Northampton with me, and all too soon, we had to leave Southbridge... i had only booked the plane for two hours and had someone book immediately at my projected return time, so i knew we could not be late.

Returning, again in thick haze, we climbed to 3300 feet and flew north toward the Quabbin Reservoir. We could have flown direct, but it would have taken us over Westover AF base - an active base where large military aircraft fly out of. In the thick haze, i felt it would be prudent to avoid that area altogether, and the slight detour only added a few minutes to our flight. And with Dave in the airplane, it allowed us a little more flexibility so he could take the wheel for a while. And Voilà, another pilot was born! Dave flew us over the Quabbin Reservoir into Amherst... even made a few slight turns and held the altitude just fine. A consumate musician with the innate capability and experience to sense the "nuances" of flying, Dave would make a great pilot if he chose to embark upon it. We approached Amherst without ever seeing the surrounding mountains... but surely noted the uplift from the air around those mountains, and setup for a left-downwind entry into the pattern for RWY 14. As we were turning base and final, Dave was busy snapping photos, a few of which are posted below. We landed uneventfully on the centerline just past the numbers... little harder touchdown than I would have liked, but still. They say any landing you can walk away from - and use the airplane again - is a great landing.

It was a pleasure to have Dave aboard, and perhaps we will do more flying together in the future.
These photos were all taken by Dave and remain his property - thanks for sharing, Dave!









Saturday, August 9, 2008 - Flight 79 - 1.3 Hours Local Flight - 7B2 - 3B0
231 Landings, includes 2 today
Partly Cloudy - 78° - Winds 330@8 - RWY 14 in use 7B2, RWY 02 in use 3B0
90.1 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Ahhhh, its always great to return to the skies after a little time away!

This morning, a colleague and friend - Erick - met me and we made our way together to Northampton Airport.

The plan was to fly to Southbridge for breakfast, and then back to Northampton, for just an hour-long flight.
Takeoff from Northampton was smooth and uneventful - skies were partly obscured with low clouds, so I elected to go "on top" -  - we navigated via GPS fly over the clouds.  As we climbed out at 5,500 feet, it was like flying through slot canyons - cumulonimbus were towering to perhaps 7,000 feet and it was difficult to maneuver around them and still maintain FAA-mandated cloud-separation distances for VFR flying.  Also, I realized that the sky was more than 70% obscured and there was no reason to expect it would lessen.  As I was pondering a return to the clear-of-clouds area we ascended through, a small opening appeared approximately a mile ahead and perhaps 2 thousand feet below us. I reduced power to idle and utilized the maximum-possible side-slip to descend the airplane through the opening.  Had we not made it, we would have to have climbed rapidly to avoid the clouds and return to clear-air for a legal descent. 

It was generally rather uneventful however, and we approached 3B0 and got ourselves lined up to enter left-traffic for RWY 02.  Arriving at 3B0 around around 11:00 AM, we had a nice breakfast at Jim's Flyin' Diner.  All too soon, it was time to return to the airplane for takeoff and return to Northampton.

On the way home, I remembered my instructor's admonishments to not let a flight pass without practicing at least one basic maneuver.  With Erick an experienced passenger, I elected to practice steep turns, a few of which you can see in the photos below - thanks Erick for the photos!

I am leaving for 2 weeks of vacation soon and have no immediate aircraft reservations.  Upon my return from vacation, I'll return to the air with more flying adventures.

 

 

 

   

Take-off Video from Southbridge  (click image to play)- - - Landing Video at Northampton (click image to play)
       These videos take a minute to play - Thanks to Erick Candelaria for the photos and videos today!

 

Saturday, September 21, 2008 - Flight 80 - .4 Hours Local Flight - 7B2
233 Landings, includes 2 today
Partly Cloudy/Hazy/Fog - 78° - Winds 190@6- RWY 14 in use 7B2
90.5 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Man, what a disappointment.  Cindy and I were going to fly to Southbridge for breakfast, then fly over our house so she could get her first look at it from the air. The air was very smooth, and even though visibility was legal, it was really too poor to enjoy the view out the windows.  We took off from Northampton and headed east over the Quabbin, thinking the haze and fog might dissipate after we cleared the reservoir.  Alas, it was not to be, so we turned around, headed back to Northampton and landed.  At least we managed to get up, and I say any day that you can spend some part of it in a small airplane is a good day.  More soon.

Sunday, October 5, 2008 -
Weather not cooperating - no flight.  Was going to fly to Lebanon NH, but weather was bare minimums, so cancelled.

 

Sunday,  October 12, 2008 - Flight 81 - 1.4 Hours Local Flight - 7B2-KEEN
235 Landings, includes 2 today
GORGEOUS Sunny - 72° - Winds calm  RWY 14 in use 7B2/ 02 in use KEEN
91.9 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

WOW WOW WOW - how many times can I say it?  A GORGEOUS day.  Smooth air, clear air, no bumps and despite what the photo shows below, visibility forever. We got to Northampton around 10:00 and planned for a 10:30 AM departure.  We had decided to fly to KEEN, (Keene, NH), as it is half-way to Lebanon, NH (near our favorite spot - Simon Pearce in Queechee VT), and it was a bit of a longer "distance" flight to see how well Cindy would manage it, as well as to try a local favorite restaurant there called Campy's Country Kettle.  We took off and flew direct to KEEN.  The amazing thing was that this 39 mile flight... 5 minutes after takeoff, we were outside of Northampton and over the Quabbin Reservoir.  From there, we could <see> the runway at Keene and flew directly there, no navigating necessary.  The radio traffic for KEEN was quiet until we arrived in the area, and suddenly there were half-a-dozen aircraft departing and landing.

We extended the left down-leg for departing traffic on 02 to allow a Pilatus to take off, landed ourselves and taxied to the ramp.  Landing here on these gorgeously wide and long runways was reminiscent of Worcester.  Its hard to make a bad landing in beautiful weather on a long perfect runway, and this was a fine landing.  We climbed out of the aircraft and walked out the security gate, up a hill and arrived 30 seconds later at Campy's front door - nothing fancy!!!  Once inside, we realized we had about $12.00 between us, and then we found out Campy's does not accept credit cards.  No matter, our server told us to order whatever we liked, and send a check when we got home.  Well, we were a little uneasy with the genuine country-hospitality extended, so we had enjoyed our $3.00 sandwiches, soft drinks and had just enough for a tip.  While there, we met a fellow pilot and his wife - Michael and Faith Nickolas from Spencer.  Funny... to fly 40 miles for a sandwich, to run into someone from the next town over.

Returning to the aircraft after lunch, we pre-flighted, taxied out and took off, headed to Northampton.
Visibility was great, but a slight bit of chop in the air, so we climbed to smooth air at 6,500 and flew direct to 3B0.
Approaching from a different angle, I lost sight of the airport and flew over it.  ( I wonder if I would have done that in a high-wing aircraft), but it was no problem - I just declared '2 mile right-base-leg for 14', circled back and landed. Little wee-wo in that landing, but not bad landing at all, considering the somewhat not-perfectly-stabilized approach.

Cindy is not an aficionado of flying - as you can see from the photo below -  but she's trying and I give her tons of credit for that, and still have hopes for her!

I think our next trip will either be to KLEB (Lebanon, NH - Simon Pearce) or KEWB (New Bedford).  More soon.



                                                                                                  
KEEN from over the Quabbin - not perfect.. but its there!!!

 

Saturday,  December 6, 2008 - Flight 82 - 1.1 Hours Local Flight - 7B2-BRIMFIELD
236 Landings, includes 1 today
Mostly Sunny - 32° - Winds calm  RWY 32 in use 7B2
93.0 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Cindy and I have some construction going on in Brimfield.  We are adding a large addition which necessitated the removal or relocation of almost 60 trees; after a complete demolition of the area, construction is well underway.  I wanted to fly over and get some aerial photos to document the progress.  Fortunately, my buddy and usual copilot - Erick Candelaria was available.  We agreed to meet at 9:00 AM for a 10:00 AM takeoff. 

I had booked Piper Warrior aircraft N8090H because it was in use the previous hour and would mean I would not have to do the cold weather-required engine preheat.  I was delighted to see this old bird has had a new paint job and an engine overhaul, so after preflight and a quart of oil, we were again ready to fly.  Runway 32 was in use, which requires several hundred feet of back-taxi down the active runway.  'Meaning you're taxing against the incoming landing traffic in order to position for takeoff.  Not really an issue, but one must be careful to do it quickly and watch (and listen) for landing aircraft.

As we completed the back-taxi, I began a 180° pivot onto the active runway for takeoff, and called on the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) that 'Piper Warrior 8090-Hotel was on the active and rolling for takeoff'.  "SURPRISE".  Another aircraft had been following us as we back-taxied down the runway, and was still several hundred feet from the hold apron, rolling directly towards us on the runway as we began our takeoff roll.  I chopped the power, applied full braking and cancelled the takeoff roll.  We waited as the other aircraft completed its back-taxi and took its holding position for the #2 takeoff slot on the safety ramp.  It wasn't close at all, but was a good lesson learned not to initiate the takeoff sequence too early after a back-taxi.

Once the other aircraft was clear of RWY 32, we released the brakes and applied full power for takeoff.  Takeoff was uneventful and we made a climbing turn to 3,500' over the Quabbin, towards the east.  Erick filmed the takeoff with video, and once airborne, I input a direct GPS course to Brimfield into the flight computer.  Approaching Brimfield, we descended to 2000 feet and Erick began snapping still photos.  We circled the house 3 times at 60 degrees of bank angle, and then headed towards the town of Barre to take photos of the house of our friends in Barre. I had some difficulties enroute with the transmit button on my yoke, but simply used the transmit button on the yoke in front of Erick which solved the problem. I also had issues with my headphones cutting in and out and have decided to take them to (manufacturer) David Clark in Worcester for a bench test to check for a short in the wiring harness. 

Once our photo-mission was complete, we turned towards Northampton and noted the dark clouds building to the west - snow was predicted for later that evening.  On the way towards Northampton, the turbulence increased to a scale of around 2.5 out of 10 - not bad at all, but slightly uncomfortable to passengers, particularly after a series of steep turns around a point. 

I had not flown in almost two months, and was curious to see how the time away would affect my landing capabilities.
I was careful to maintain a respectful distance opposite the runway on the downwind leg, so as to allow for a longer turn onto the base leg.  With no traffic in the pattern behind me, I was able to make a very comfortable turn onto final, allowing for an early stabilized approach and descent with full flaps on final. Landing was among the better ones surprisingly, and as much as I love to fly, it is also a moment of mixed emotion upon landing.  Happy to be on the ground safely, but sad to be leaving the skies.

The photos came out ok, not great, but acceptable due to the low resolution setting of the camera.  At any rate, we will continue to fly and photograph the construction as it continues.

Anytime you can spend an hour or two airborne is a great time, and it was a great flight, successful mission and nice to get back in the air.   Thanks to Erick for being co-pilot and for the photos below.

Photos of the construction can be seen below:

 

Saturday, March 14, 2009 - Flight 82 - 1.5 Hours Local Flight - Rental Requalification
241 Landings, includes 6 today
Hazy Sunshine - 46° - Winds calm  RWY 32 at 7B2
94.5 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

After a long long (and I do mean LONG) winter, spring has somewhat arrived, and it was time to take the bull by the horns and get up in the wild blue yonder.  Part of the reason for not flying over the winter has been the brutal cold - many single digit days this winter, the ever-present short/dark days, and most of all  - having to clear snow off the aircraft.  As I learned today, that ws the way things worked at Amity. 

Thank God, at Northampton, they fit all their rental aircraft into a huge hangar which does not get below 40

°, so pre-heating is rarely required, and snow scraping is never required.  COOL.  Wow, that would have been interesting to know...  

So, after not flying for 90 days, I lost my currency, which meant it was time to go for a flight review with an instructor.  I grabbed my favorite instructor, Mike Mosher, and after a quick review of the plan, we headed out to 8090H for preflight and takeoff.  He suggested we work on soft field takeoff and landings - since if you can do this, you can make regular takeoff/landings no problem. 

In a soft field takeoff, the idea is to get airborne as quickly as possible, even before the airplane is fully capable of sustaining the climb.  The idea, again, is to get the aircraft's nose wheel off the "soft field" as quickly as possible so as to avoid burrowing into the ground.  Apply two notches of flap (25°), yoke all the way back, apply full power and let the nose come up almost immediately. Very soon after, the aircraft will lift off.  The trick is.... if you continue to climb out of ground effect at that speed (usually 40kts or so), the aircraft will come back down - at that low speed, it can only sustain flight in ground effect.  So, you arrest the climb once airborne, and fly over the runway at low altitude, slowing climbing out as you gain airspeed.  Slowly retract the flaps, and continue the climb-out at Vy.

We took off and flew over to Three Rivers, where we practiced soft field landings, and more takeoffs.  We also did stalls from slow and cruise flight... fun!  We returned back to 7B2 for a couple more soft-field landings.  By that time, we had been flying for 90 minutes, so finally, we taxied back to the ramp and shut down the aircraft.   

Mike signed me off for rental, and that was that.  We agreed - my bi-annual flight review comes due in October, so he and I are going to plan a trip to Nantucket as the basis of my bi-annual.  I'm looking forward to it, as Nantucket has long been a goal, but since it is over open water, I have been hesitant to do it without having an instructor in the airplane first.   More flights to come soon! 

 

Saturday, April 25, 2009 - Flight 83 - 1.1 Hours Local Flight
244 Landings, includes 3 today
Hazy Sunshine - 80° - Winds 180@8 gusts to 12 RWY 14 in use
95.6 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

For the past 5 weekends in a row, weather has washed out the flying, be it wind or rain.
Now that spring has finally come upon us, we are having some fluke hot weather, and I was able to get up for the purposes of some photographing the new construction.

Unfortunately, I forgot to set the camera to high-resolution (again), so the photos are grainy, but you can get the general idea of the new construction.

Initial takeoff was routine, as was the short flight to Brimfield.  Three quick circles of the property, and then it was back to Northampton.
'Did 3 practice landings just for fun, todays' flight was uneventful, although there were quite a few aircraft in the air around Northampton.
I am saving up for a Zaon traffic alert that plugs into my gps and displays traffic in the area; traffic is the one accident prone area that can be avoided with proper tools.

Hope to get back up in the air this coming weekend with a better camera.

 

 

Monday, May 26, 2009 - Flight 84 - 1.1 Hours Local Flight
246 Landings, includes 2 today
Sunshine - 73° - Winds Calm  - RWY 32 Departure/14 Arrival in use
96.7 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Today - Memorial Day's - flight was into a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day.  Cindy and I departed Northampton around 10:30 AM for a short flight to view our home - and construction site - from the air.  After flying over the house, we turned left (east) towards Southbridge Airport (3B0) and home of Jim's Flyin Diner, and then back to Northampton after a leisurely lunch.

Departing Northampton, we flew between Westover AFB and the Quabbin Reservoir, skirting the two, at 2700 feet.  Because of the air flow around Mt. Norwottock, there is always a little turbulence departing the Northampton area and today was no exception, especially at 2700'.  As we approached Southbridge, there was a fair amount of radio traffic and arriving/departing aircraft into Southbridge.  With winds out of the northwest, we entered the left-downwind pattern on the 45 for Rwy 02, and with a fair and gusty crosswind across the runway, we extended and widened the downwind, so our approach could be stabilized early into the final approach.  Carrying a little extra power, we slipped the aircraft to bleed off the speed and altitude, and despite the gusting crosswind, managed a decent landing just past the numbers.  We watched during our lunch as another pilot did 3 go-arounds, attempting to land, but never managed to get it on the ground. :-) Taking off after lunch was a little exciting with the gusting winds, but we managed to climb out despite a rocky-winged lift-off.  I wanted to give Cin a smoother ride on the return flight so we climbed up to 4500' and found some calmer air. 

Passing the Quabbin and rounding around Mt. Norowottock, 5 miles out from Northampton, we were descending out of 3000' down to pattern altitude of 1122', and managed to avoid turbulent air.  The visibility had become hazy, and with other Northampton-bound aircraft operating in the vicinity, we were careful to communicate with the other aircraft to ascertain their position prior to descending into the pattern.  Other aircraft were not a factor as we began the descent, and we entered the pattern and set up for a landing on Runway 14.  Turning base, then final - and clearing the trees at the end of the runway on our final approach - full flaps extended, we touched down just past the numbers.... another mission completed.

Here are some photos from the day:

Flight 84 - 1.1 Hours Local Flight
246 Landings, includes 2 today
Sunshine - 73° - Winds Calm  - RWY 32 Departure/14 Arrival in use
96.7 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

 

 

Sunday, July 5, 2009 - Flight 85 - .8 Hours Local Flight
247 Landings, includes 1 today
Sunshine - 75° - Winds 280@12 G18  - RWY 32 Departure
97.1 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

From April - July 3rd, weather has been dismal - cool and mostly rainy every day - sort of the monsoon season.

Yesterday, Independence Day, the weather finally broke, and although it was windy and a bit rough flying, it was clear and beautiful.  I managed to velcro a video camera to the dashboard to record the entire 48 minute flight, but somehow managed to delete it when i got home (great job, wayne).  Anyway, I also took some photos along the way. 

The purpose of the flight was to fly over our house under construction to capture some later progress.  Not much has changed on the outside, except the curved concrete wall has been poured and forms stripped off.  Inside the wall will be a patio area and small pool.  Construction on the new bedroom/garage has not yet begun yet, but looking carefully at the first image of the house, you can see part of the concrete foundation.  The flight was good, quick and rather bumpy, but it was GREAT to get back in the air.

In the two images below, we are flying out of Northampton looking out the passenger side towards Westover Air Force Base.  HUGE Galaxy C130s fly out of there, and as it is Military and GA Class D airspace, we have to avoid the airspace unless we get ATC or tower clearance to transit the airspace. Click the image on the right-hand side to get a better view of Westover.  FYI, you are looking at a 11597 × 301 ft runway, over 2 miles long.  (Huge)

Looking at the GPS depiction in the first image below, you can click it to get a better view to see Westover's Class D airspace displayed to the right of our current position, and you will note we are flying between the Quabbin Reservoir and Westover Airspace at 4120', nice tailwind puts our Ground speed at 138Kts, (about 158mph), while the actual airspeed indicator above the right-corner of the GPS indicates our airspeed is just below 108 kts. Nice Wind upstairs today! The track of our course to our home is displayed in yellow dotted line (a little left of our current track displayed in a green dotted line). GPS indicates we are 10.4 nm or 4 minutes ETA to arrival. All of the purple and blue targets displayed on the screen are airports within our vicinity.  The white circle around the airplane icon indicates a 10nm radius, while the GPS itself is set to a 30nm range.  Photo on the right is on-course.

Below, we are "in the neighborhood" - the photo on the right shows the small grouping of neighborhood homes, ours is the far-most right.

The purpose of the flight was to get some images of the curved foundation wall which is surrounding the future patio and pool.  Bedroom and Garage construction will begin in September.

Having taken the intended photos, we are back on our way towards Northampton, with the Quabbin Reservoir dead ahead.  Off to our left out of the photo is Westover Air Force Base. Yes, if you managed to spot it, that is another aircraft in the photo, 11:00 o'Clock High, about 500' above us.

Yours truly, being bounced around but still trying to smile.

Blue skies, puffy white clouds, as we descend towards Northampton.

University of Massachusetts Amherst Campus is in the center of the image below, looking north towards Vermont.
Click the photo to see a closeup of Amherst and the UMASS campus.

Approaching the airport, 8 miles out, the airport is to the left of the airplane, we're looking out the right-hand side at the Connecticut River, towards Vermont here - click to see a closeup.

Here was our aircraft today, 8090H, beautifully maintained 1970s-era aircraft, Piper Warrior.

After flying today, i drove around to the end of the runway and took this shot of the approach end of Rwy 32.  This runway is 3365', about 3/5 of a mile long.  Sorry that the videos I shot (of the entire flight) got deleted during transfer.  It would've been great.  But now that I know the trick, next time will be great!...  

 

Friday, July 17, 2009 - Flight 86 - 1.1 Hours Local Flight
249 Landings, includes 2 today
Hazy Sunshine - 76° - Winds light & variable - RWY 32 Departure
98.2 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

This was a local sightseeing trip with a dear buddy - Ivan Alexander, and his wife - Cinzia, From Newport Beach, California.  We took off around 9:40 for a quick flight over our house to view the construction from the air, and headed southeast to Southbridge (3B0) for a bite of breakfast.  It was a terrific flight, with Ivan and Cinzia both getting some time a flying pilot.  Thanks Ivan and Cinzia for a great visit, and a great flight!

 

Friday, August 28, 2009 - Flight 87 - 1.2 Hours Local Flight
251 Landings, includes 2 today
Hazy Sunshine - 74° - Winds light & variable - RWY 32 Departure
99.4 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Today's trip was too long in coming.  An acquaintance - Fred - whom I had met and got to know while taking flight lessons a couple years ago - and with whom I have subsequently become pals with - finally got to do a fly-in today!
We had planned to do this trip many times over the past year, but never managed to pull it off until today.  We each departed our home bases (Worcester and Northampton respectively) around 10:30 AM and arrived at KEEN (Keene, NH) around the same time.  Enjoying an all-too-short lunch at Campy's Kountry Kitchen just off the field, it was a shock to climb back in the airplane after lunch and find that it was 1:00PM!   The time my airplane was supposed to be back!!!
(Where did the time go Fredo?)  Anyway, here are some photos from the day.  Thanks Fred, for a great fly-in, and hope to see you again soon!

 

 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - Flight 88 - 1.3 Hours Biennial Flight Review - Intro to Arrow
Total Complex Time: 1.3 hrs
254 Landings, includes 3 today
Mostly Sunny - 63° - Winds 280@10 - RWY 32 Departure
1
00.5 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Wow wow wow, after a week of studying, I went for (and passed) my FAA-mandated biennial flight review/checkride.  Also, I thought it would be fun - and got my instructor's permission  - to check out in the Arrow - a 200HP, fuel injected, complex aircraft (i.e. landing gear and  constant speed prop). The two hours worth of Q&A was mostly fun, as we covered a lot of arcane topics germane to flying in general, and airspace, weather minimums and sectionals specifically.

Then it was time to go fly.  Wow, this Arrow is all the airplane you might hope to fly - fast, powerful, retractable landing gear, 200HP fuel injected engine, constant speed prop...  a real racehorse compared to the Warriors I've been used to flying. Even though it is really considered far below the capabilities of a Baron or Mooney, it is a big step up for someone used to flying a Warrior.  'Got to start somewhere I guess.  A lot more to think about with engine manifold pressure, prop rpm, fuel richness/EGT, Garmin 430W GPS, and of course, landing gear.

Flying Northampton's Piper Arrow, as solo Pilot In Command requires a minimum of 10 hours dual instruction - there a lot of extra stuff to fiddle with.  But the good news is that the flying is exactly the same... only better, because being a heavier aircraft, it handles much solidly.  In fact, whereas in the Warrior - retarding the throttle to idle produces a nice prolonged glide, doing the same in the Arrow produces a fairly rapid descent.

The other thing that is very cool about the Arrow, is that if for any reason you forget to lower the landing gear, the aircraft systems will automatically lower the gear at a certain airspeed.  Thats nice to know! 

My plan is to get fully checked out in this aircraft, so when I ultimately purchase a high performance, complex aircraft, I will be good-to-go with minimal learning curve.  Also, having this airplane as an option means being able to fly to Savannah, GA in about 4-5 hours depending on winds with no fuel stop: (75 gallons usable fuel - COOL.)

 

Monday, November 2, 2009 - Flight 89 - Dual Instruction - 1.5 Hours Arrow/Instruments
Total Complex Time: 2.8 hrs
256 Landings, includes 2 today
Mostly Sunny - 57° - Winds calm - RWY 32 Departure
1
02.1 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Wow, what a workout.  right now, it feels like a lot -flying a course on instruments with the hood on (no visual reference outside), managing power and prop controls, talking to ATC, managing frequency changes... wow.  Today we took off, retracted the gear and headed on course to Nashua, NH.  Once off the ground, we called Barnes for flight-following, were assigned a transponder code and got confirmed radar contact.  On the way to Nashua, there must have been some confusion about our destination or call sign because we were handed off 3 more times, which i understand is quite unusual.  After initial radar contact at Barnes, Barnes handed us off to Bradley Approach, who handed us off to Boston Center, who handed us off to Manchester Approach, who handed us off to Nashua Center.  Every handoff was a new squawk code and a new radar fix. And all this while aviating and communicating - maintaining course and altitude by reference to instruments only. It feels like I am a beginning flight student again... things happening a little too quickly to comprehend them all. I was glad Mike Mosher was in the cockpit as my instructor.  Mike managed most of the ATC communications, but started to get me talking to ATC on the return from Nashua. Also, the Arrow has a new piece (new to me) of equipment - the Garmin 430 - which i have to use and learn at the same time... talk about overload.

Well its all fun anyway and I treasure every moment spent flying and learning.  They say getting your pilots license is a lesson to learn, and that is true 100%. My goal now is to get checked out in the Arrow and acquire the skills and dual instruction time required for the instrument rating - thats 15 hours for the Arrow checkout and another 20 for instruments.  In April of the new year, I'll have to get serious about taking the instrument written exam.
I'll be back in another week or so with the next instructional flight. 

 

Monday, January 11, 2010 - Flight 90 - Recurrency Flight - 1.7 Hours Warrior
Total Complex Time: 2.8 hrs
258 Landings, includes 2 today
Mostly Sunny - 24° - Winds 230@10kts+ (crosswind) - RWY 32 Departure
1
03.8 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

I can't believe it has been over 2 months since my last flight.  Truth is, with temperatures in the 20s'... and many days in single (LOW) digits, its just hard to even think about going flying!  The flying part is the fun part - the pre-flight is the not-so-much-fun part.  I hit a day today with hazy skies, light wind and temps that while cold - were tolerable.  The thing is, I've been flying the Arrow lately, so unfortunately my 90-day currency on the Warrior expired (for insurance not FAA purposes).  Anyhow, Mike Mosher agreed to check me out, so we headed out in N8990H, with a plan to fly to 6B6 (Stow, MA) and Nancy's Airfield Cafe for lunch. Since I've been doing my instrument training with Mike, we're pretty comfortable with each other's competence in different aircraft, but the one area where i'm weakest is talking to ATC - copying transponder codes and communicating in the most routine ways.  Fortunately for me, Mike is not going to let me slide in that area, so every flight we take now, its....

[Us:] "Boston Center, Request" 
[Boston Center:] "Aircraft calling Boston Center, say your request"].
[Us]: "Warrior 8090H is 3 miles North of Northampton, level at 3000 ft, request Flight Following to 6b6, Stow, MA". [Boston Center:] Warrior 8090 Hotel, Ident...  Warrior 8090 Hotel, Squawk 2275..... Warrior 8090-Hotel, Radar Contact 4 miles north 7-Bravo-2, Contact Boston Approach 127.750, see ya..."

[Us:] (tuned to 127.750) Boston Center, Warrior 8090-Hotel is checking in...  
[Boston Center:] 90-Hotel, proceed on course, airport is 50 miles at your 10-o-clock...
[etc]

Transiting a mere 50 miles from Northampton to Stow usually means a minimum of 3 radar handoffs to other controlling Boston sectors.  Its tricky, requires one ear always tuned to the radio... and careful listening when called upon.
I'm not entirely comfortable with the process, but thanks to Mike I am feeling some increased comfort level.  I am sure as we continue to fly and use Flight Following that i will become comfortable and proficient when talking to ATC.

We flew into 6b6 and I managed to pull off a beautiful landing on that rough-rough runway.  Coming back to 7B2 after a nice lunch at Nancy's Airfield Cafe, we navigated using Flight Following to 7B2 via Gardner VOR.  It was a great learning experience, and I am actually becoming excited to get to the point where I can comfortable work with ATC with no jitters...  Yeaaaaayyyyy Mike!  Here's some photos of our flight:

 

Monday, January 22, 2010 - Flight 91 - 2.0 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 4.8 hrs
260 Landings, includes 2 today
Hazy Sun - 34° - Winds 270@5kts - RWY 32 Departure
1
05.8 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

It is always good to get back in the air.  I'm continuing to check out in the Piper Arrow with Mike Mosher as my instructor. I had been wanting to go to Lebanon NH for a while, as it can be somewhat tricky getting in and out, as the runway sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains.  It is tricky because you lose sight of the runway as you descend toward it, the view being obscured by the mountains.  With Mike's guidance, we made it in and out, although today's key lesson was paramount.  We had received flight-following with ATC advising about other traffic around us.  Despite repeated cautions at 12, 8, 5 & 3 miles away about an aircraft approaching from dead ahead at our altitude, we simply cannot see it.  Aircraft approaching from dead ahead at your altitude have absolutely no relative movement... they are pinpoints in the windshield, lost in the horizon.  They don't move... they only grow larger and larger as they get nearer and nearer.
And because "your altitude" almost always means "at the level of the horizon", the lesson was brought home that it is extremely difficult to spot aircraft in such attitudes.

Finally we spotted the other aircraft, essentially as it flew by us.  WHEW.  Not close, but certainly not something to disregard.  I'm convinced - a traffic alert system is essential.  Luckily, the one I'm looking at plots the 3 nearest threats onto the moving map display on my GPS.  Couldn't be easier... just another 1300.00 to have to spend.

Here are some photos from the trip:

Here's Mike in front of the Boston Red Sox owner's Gulfstream Jet:

Another shot at Lebanon, showing our aircraft (ahhhh -
yeah, its the one on the right :-) - next to another nice jet:

Here's Wayne in front of 83-Mike;
Non-stop range of 600 miles @ 130 mph, ceiling 12,000'
Climbs like a wounded duck in comparison.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - Flight 92 - 2.5 Hours Arrow - First Trip to Nantucket
Total Complex Time: 7.3 hrs
262 Landings, includes 2 today
Hazy Sun - 47° - Winds 280@7kts - RWY 32 Departure
108.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

I'm still checking out in the Arrow and have a couple more flights to go.  I'm feeling comfortable with the airplane and am learning my new mantra well:  GUMPS GUMPS GUMPS:  Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Prop, Switches:  the basic pre-landing check-list for complex aircraft.  The Garmin 430 is becoming a trusted friend since Mike won't let me use mine in the airplane.  My biggest personal criticism is that I still occasionally misunderstand - or miss entirely - communications to us from ATC.  My ears are getting sharper but still not where they need to be, in order to be considered a fellow professional by ATC.  I'm getting there tho.  I also recognize I need additional cross-wind landing training which I'm gonna do with Mike some breezy day.

Our Arrow's 'Pilots Operating Handbook' indicates a cruising speed of 145 kts (about 167 mph).  I understand - because it's an older aircraft that we would normally expect to see cruise speeds around 130-135 (about 155 mph).  Today, because of winds at altitude (5500'), we saw our ground speed as high as 170 kts (about 197 mph).

Needless to say our trip to Nantucket was fast.  REAL fast compared to the 5+ hours it takes to get there by car.
By airplane is the best way to get to Nantucket, for sure!

We picked up flight-following from Barnes who handed us off to Bradley Approach, who handed us off to Boston Approach who handed us off to Cape Air Approach (several different times thru different sectors), who finally handed us off to Nantucket Tower.  I'm not sure I got all the handoffs there correct, but there were about 5-6 handoffs each direction. Tricky to hear the call, copy what was said, repeat it back and then perform the correct action.  I'm getting there tho!

Getting into Nantucket was a breeze and it was a terrific flight.  Coming back we lost our tailwind and it took us a good hour and a half.. but still beats 5 hours by car.  I am hoping to go back to Nantucket with Mike again next flight to get more practice, as it is probably where I will take the Arrow the first time out with Cindy.

Enjoy the photos!

Here's our radar track from KCEF to KACK, (we picked up flight following (radar coverage) at Westover, (KCEF) and terminated radar coverage just before Martha's Vineyard, was using autopilot:

On the Return trip, a little more meandering, - we were failing the autopilot and then recovering the aircraft - we picked up radar coverage just northeast of Nantucket:

Here's a navigation chart view of the the island, we're roughly following flight corridor Victor 146:

Approaching Nantucket from the Southwest: (the "dashboard's" fabric covering is reflecting on the windshield, which is causing the "ridged effect" in the photos below.) The first island in Muskeget, the second one Tuckernuck; the "big island" beyond is Nantucket.

In contact with Nantucket Tower: cleared to land Runway 6:

On the return trip, flying back home, Newport is in sight:

Flying over TF Green Providence Airport at 4,500'.

Flying toward the city of Providence, R.I.:

 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - Flight 93 - 2.9 Hours Arrow - Second Trip to Nantucket
Total Complex Time: 10.2 hrs
264 Landings, includes 2 today
Sun - 87° - Winds 292@12 gust to 23 - RWY 32 Departure
111.2 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Yeah, you're reading it right - April 7 and 87°.  Like a summer day.  The flight over to ACK was uneventful - flew on autopilot most of the flight, using flight-following.  I am pretty comfortable with getting flight-following and the various check-ins along the route.  Mike and I managed to get to the Nantucket Airport gift shop, but then it was time to hop back in the plane.  I learned the actual insurance requirement for solo flight in the Arrow is 15 hours.  That's a lot, but they showed me that it used to be 25 hours.  WOW.  That's a lot of time.  I'm comfortable in the Arrow now, including using the avionics, autopilot, constant speed prop, retractable gear and flight-following.  I've posted some photos from this flight below.

Here we are, landed at ACK...


photos below are after takeoff returning to 7B2 - you can click the first 3 to enlarge them:                       


Here's the cockpit of 83-Mike featuring Garmin 430 and constant speed prop control - climbing thru 3,400 on the way to 4,500...enroute to 7B2 (Northampton)

 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - Flight 94 - .8 Hours Arrow - 7B2 Pattern Work
Total Complex Time: 11.0 hrs
267 Landings, includes 3 today
Sun - 67° - Winds calm - RWY 14 Departure
112.0 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

If all goes well, I have 3 more hours of dual instruction in the Arrow before the FBO's insurance regs allow me to fly it solo.

I can say I am now very comfortable in the Arrow...  it would be my aircraft of choice for going anywhere.  Today we stayed in the pattern.  When you are doing multiple touch-and-goes as we did today, things are much more busy in the cockpit, as you have multiple things to attend to in short order, which you would ordinarily have to do such things only once each flight, on a normal flight.

For the pilots reading this, it means: take off with full propeller pitch, full throttle, full mix and fuel pump on (all the normal stuff).   Once positive rate of climb is established, retract landing gear, climb to pattern altitude at 90 kts, throttle back to 20 lbs manifold pressure, prop goes to 2400rpm, fuel pump off, announce position in each leg of the pattern: crosswind, downwind - reduce MP as needed to get speed below 129kts so as to lower landing gear - and go ahead then and lower gear.  Then, do the first GUMPS check....  (Gas Undercarriage, Manifold Pressure, Prop, Switches)...  fuel pump on, mix rich, 3 greens - once opposite the runway, reduce MP as needed and add first notch of flaps... announce turn to crosswind, announce and turn to final...pitch for 80 kts, add second notch of flaps when turned to final... second GUMPS check and advance prop to full forward, maintain 80 kts, third and final GUMPS, add last notch of flaps when runway is made -  pitch for 80 kts throughout final approach to flare and touchdown.  At touchdown, retract flaps, apply full power (ensure prop full and mix rich) - rotate at 65 kts and retract gear at pos rate of climb. Now, repeat 2 more times in rapid succession.  So it gets a little busy, but still its manageable, no real worries.  In fact, it's really fun.  Takes whatever stress that you might have been feeling earlier, completely away.  NIIIIIIICE.

This plane will really take you places and I am looking forward to going places in it, probably first and foremost to Nantucket with Cindy, then to NJ and later, on to S.C.  More soon!
 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - Flight 95 - 2.7 Hours Arrow - Flight to KCQX - Chatham, MA
Total Complex Time: 13.7 hrs
269 Landings, includes 2 today
Sunny - 76° - Winds 290@12G16 - RWY 14 Departure
114.7 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Today's flight was to Chatham, MA... way out on the Cape.  The idea was to build additional Complex time and practice different types of in-flight tasks, e.g. getting weather enroute, making pireps, getting flight-following and working the radio and GPS.

The flight was very uneventful with yours truly wandering off course and altitude a few times, but nothing serious. As we strive to become more professional pilots, maintaining heading and altitude to a high degree of precision is the expected norm.  In the beginning of flight instruction, what counts is the act of controlling the airplane properly, since the controls do not work as expected by the layman, and precision is not expected or necessarily desired at that point.

However, once handling the aircraft becomes second nature, we focus on more micro details, even something as "simple" as staying on the centerline during taxi, takeoff and landing requires attention.

On the way over to CQX, we picked up flight following and as we neared the Cape, were bounced around a few times between Providence, Cape and Boston Approach Control(s).  It seems Cape Approach radar was out and neither Providence or Boston wanted to handle what is normally someone else's workload.  Alas, the handoffs slowed down and we terminated radar contact 10 miles out from Chatham with the field in sight.  Cruising over at 3500 feet, we climbed to 5500 looking for smooth air.  On the way back, the bumpiness had increased to moderate chop, and we climbed as high as 8500 to find smooth air.  While there, we had lunch at a great cafe, right on the field.

I did learn one very important thing which i did not previously know - which is flying along with flight-following, you are permitted to enter Class C & D airspace without contacting those towers, etc.  Flight-Following controllers clear your entry into those airspaces for you (if you are within them).  Cool, didn't know that!

Anyway, that's the news on this flight - sorry no photos this time, but you can see a partial radar track to Chatham below.  Stay tuned for more flights next week!

 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - Flight 96 - 1.0 Hours Arrow - Flight to ORE - Orange, MA
Total Complex Time: 14.7 hrs
271 Landings, includes 2 today
Sunny - 92° - Winds 270@4 - RWY 14 Departure
115.7 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Work has been excruciatingly busy for the past 2 months and after a major new client success, I rewarded myself with some treasured time off into the blue yonder.  It was the perfect day.

Headed out to 7B2 with no A/C and temps pushing 93° with 70% humidity and rolled up at 10:00 AM to meet Mike.
After a thorough pre-flight of the airplane and fueling to half-tanks, we took off from RWY 14 into hot air.  Climbing at 500fpm, we were only at 250' 30 seconds after liftoff.  It makes you realize how dangerous it would be taking off at such a high density altitude with full tanks and full payload.  In fact, you likely couldn't do it.

As it was, we turned out of the pattern and input KORE into the flight GPS, heading Northeast.  We had noted excess bus voltage prior to takeoff and discussed canceling, but Mike felt it represented no danger as the engine would continue to turn with no alternator or battery power, so we noted it with the intention to monitor it throughout the flight.  Soon over the Quabbin, bus voltage returned to normal, but it became clear that there was a clear problem as voltage would drop to zero, requiring recycling of the main bus breaker.  Approaching ORE, we lined up on RWY 32 and with little wind the landing was gentle and perfect...  amazing after 2 months off from flying.  All runways at ORE have displaced thresholds, and it is always fun landing on those for some reason!  After landing we taxied back to the beginning of 32 for takeoff.  Liftoff was slow and climb rate was slower so we threaded thru the mountains as best we could, keeping an eye out for a place to land in case of any engine trouble.  The main bus voltage was still acting up and we discovered the autopilot was not working, so rather than risk damage to the electrical system by going to Barnes for practice touch and goes, we decided to return to 7B2.  I feel very much in charge and ahead of the airplane now - from managing manifold pressure and fuel flow to constant speed prop to retractable gear.  I'm at the point now where instead of managing just flying the airplane, I'm trying to discover all the possible 'what-if's'.  Hydraulic pressure controls prop and landing gear on different systems and different results will be encountered depending upon which hydraulic system fails. 

Also somewhat problematic is that this is the aircraft I would be taking with passengers to SC or Nantucket, and it seems the autopilot more often has a problem than not.  So while it is clearly not a necessity, it does alleviate some of the workload and would be nice if it were more reliable.

Also, as much as I love this airplane and am looking to spending more time in it, I am also contemplating that the aircraft that would be my preference to own would be the turbo version... flying higher, it can fly faster which means lower passenger stress on longer flights.  Guess we'll see.  Not ready to purchase yet, but looking...

Flying again Thursday 7/14 and will post more then.  PS. Perfect Day - pool was 85°, cookout was great, watched the night fall from the pool, and saw first fireflies of the season.  N-I-C-E.


Thursday, July 16, 2010 - Flight 97 - 1.2 Hours Arrow - Local Flight
Total Complex Time: 15.9 hrs
278 Landings, includes 7 today
Sunny - 88° - Winds light & variable - RWY 14 Departure
116.9 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Well, I promised Mike the last flight that I'd schedule Complex time with him again so he could 'put me through the ringer', to make certain he was confident in his endorsement for my Complex rating.  We topped the tanks half-way and took off (again) into steamy skies, again with 500fpm climb rate.  We stayed in the pattern, with Mike doing everything he could to make me forget to do something - like forgetting to put the gear down or forgetting to CONFIRM the gear was down.
At several different points while I wasn't watching him, and while all the while providing what the FAA likes to call "realistic distractions", he turned down the rheostat switch which dims all the cabin and panel lights (including the 3-green landing gear lamps).  When I lowered the gear, I could feel the gear coming down and noted the change in the aircraft's speed and attitude, but those "3-greens" weren't illuminated. I -knew- he had done something and immediately checked "my" rheostat switch.  NOTHING... all good.  Mike says, "well, it looks like we have a real emergency, lets head out to the practice area to sort it all out".  I checked everything I could think of, believing for a few moments that we may actually be experiencing a real emergency.  Finally, Mike says... 'Wayne, what other controls does the instructor have access to that could have caused this?".  Then he points to 'HIS' rheostat control.... which was OFF, of course.

Turning that switch on, we had 3-green illuminated and headed back to land at 7B2.  Lesson learned - it is the rheostat switch on his side of the aircraft that controls panel lights and landing gear indicators.  DAMN he got me on that one.

On the downwind for 14, and for our next bit of fun, Mike pulls the throttle completely out and says, "Emergency - Simulated engine out, head Direct to the runway".   Well. my first mistake was forgetting we were NOT in a Warrior, so I turned rather leisurely towards the runway - (standard rate turn actually), and allowed the airspeed to slowly bleed away to Best Glide Speed, 79kts (VBG).  It became quite clear quite soon afterwards that we were going to crash away from the runway unless we got power back.  So, Mike applies full power and I climb out and away to re-enter the pattern and try again.  Having now personally witnessed the 'flying brick' capabilities of the Arrow, when Mike again said: "Emergency - Simulated engine out, head Direct to the runway" I immediately wheeled us over into a nice bank and raised the nose to drop the airspeed - and with 79kts pegged on the airspeed indicator and no power coming from the engine - landed with plenty of energy left over.  WOW what a difference.  So, again - key lesson learned - when you lose power, if you want to get any kind of range out of your glide, you'd better get that airspeed to 79kts with -zero- hesitation.  That exercise, aside from being illuminating was a lot of fun. 

So after an hour of fun, it was time to land for the day.  I'm all signed off now for solo rental with passengers in the Arrow, so now it's just a question of when, where and who will go!  I'm looking forward to flying to Nantucket or NJ with Cindy, and ultimately to SC this season.

 

Thursday, October 7, 2010 - Flight 98 - 1.0 Hours Arrow - Instrument Flight - Actual IFR Conditions
Total Complex Time: 16.9 hrs
282 Landings, includes 4 today
Instrument Approaches: 1

Broken Clouds - 71
° - Winds 32@12G18 - RWY 32 Departure
117.9 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Maybe you noticed the new addition to the block of header info, above:  Approaches:1.

Its been a while since I've flown - almost 3 months due to too much work work work, and I wanted to take an instructor along, since I'm flying a complex aircraft now.  Since I'm also working on my instrument rating, i thought it would be great to combine both a re-familarization flight with some IFR training.  So, starting out, Mike had me file an IFR flight plan (my first) from 7B2 to KNSC (Chester, CT) to 7B2.  And from Chester, we flew the RNAV GPS RWY 14 approach to 7B2. The entirety of the flight was in actual IFR conditions (means: CLOUDS, turbulence and gusty winds today).   WELL.  WOW.  This was the first time I have ever been:

1).
In the clouds(!)
2).
Flying an actual approach as opposed to under the hood maneuvering
3). Talking to ATC while doing the above (and of course the most important):
4). keeping the wings level and on-altitude, (i.e. flying with the precision required by ATC)

Welllll what to say... well, what CAN one say:  I feel like a beginning flight student again.  In the clouds, flying a strictly proscribed course, turning, descending, maintaining on-course...  it feels like a lot.  Of course, when you're first "under the hood", the biggest goal is to keep the wings level and make very minute, almost subtle adjustments.  But of course, when you're in the clouds and you have to make a turn on-course, you have to "let go" of keeping the Attitude Indicator wings-level and let the wings dip in order to initiate the turn. So in instrument flight, we don't exceed the standard-rate turn indication, (for which the AI is coordinated to display standard rate turn = 360° in 2 minutes).  Add in the winds and turbulence we experienced today, and it was an interesting lesson.  Not out-of-control interesting, and not really that turbulent.  But turbulent enough where you could not relax your flying skills or you'll be off-course in seconds.

I am looking forward to my next Instrument lesson.  I don't know exactly what is required to get your Instrument Rating, but I do know I have a long way to go.  Things have to slow WAY down.  At the end of the lesson, we made three visual approaches and landings on RWY 32 and even that was fine, albeit with a bit of positive rudder input being required to maintain proper alignment with the runway.  It was great fun and I am very excited to do more approaches in actual conditions (although that will have to end as winter approaches - can't fly into clouds in freezing weather!)

Stay tuned for more, Mike has offered to fly with me to S.C. (Hilton Head) in two weeks to visit my mom, and I may take him up on it!  Time and finances permitting!  Thanks for reading - more soon!

 

Sunday, November 21, 2010 - Flight 99 - 0.7 Hours Arrow - Solo
Total Complex Time: 17.6 hrs
286 Landings, includes 4 today
Instrument Approaches: 1

Sunny - 54
° - Winds Calm, RWY 32 Departure
118.6 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

It was super to get up today.  It has been over 30 days since I got up, mostly because the Arrow seems to be a popular aircraft these days, and it is hard to find an opening that coincides with flyable weather and my work schedule. My trip to SC wound up being commercial air.  Disappointing, but actually much less expensive and $$$ do matter.

Today, the Gods of Aviation smiled.  Since it has been a little while since I have flown, and since I had not previously flown the Arrow solo, I was extra-careful in all the checklists: - preflight, prestart, pretaxi, runup and pre-takeoff.  I finally got settled into the aircraft and set the heading indicator, GPS, radios and altimeter and had taxied to the Hold Short line on Rwy 32 for the run-up sequence, when I heard a call for landing light sport aircraft for Runway 32.  As I continued the runup sequence, i noticed the LSA on final approach - thinking he was not tracking the runway well for landing, when I heard the call that the LSA was going to land in the grass next to the runway.  It was pretty amazing as he crossed directly in front of me on a parallel track to 32, but landing on the turf.  That was a little surprising, as I had never seen anyone forsake a good runway in favor of turf, but perhaps it was part of a training flight. 

Anyway, with the runup completed and landing traffic out of the way, it was my turn to call, "Northampton Traffic, Arrow 3783Mike is back-taxiing to 32 for Takeoff"... and then "Northampton Traffic, Arrow 3783M is taking 32 for takeoff". And off I went.  Upon reaching the turnaround area for the runway, i checked the pattern, and seeing it was clear, reviewed the target speeds (65kts for rotation, and 90kts for best rate of climb.)  Takeoff was uneventful, but I was so busy re-adjusting to flight, and watching the airspeed that i realized that I had neglected to raise the gear.  Still well under the permissible speed to raise the gear, with a simple twist of the wrist, the gear were on their way up and the airplane continued its climb.  "Northampton Traffic, Arrow 3783Mike is turning crosswind, remaining in the pattern for landing Runway 32"...  I planned to do 3 touch-and-goes just to get the feel of the airplane again before flying out of the area.  Only... I noted that my headset was cutting in and out.  Since I had a spare, rather than do the planned touch-and-go, I elected to land with a full-stop, in order that I could fish out my spare headset, (actually my wife's headset  :-).  The flare was a little "floaty" and upon landing, I realized that I had only put in 10 degrees of flaps... explains the long and "floaty" flare.  

Having switched headsets, it was... "Northampton Traffic, 3783Mike is taxiing from the ramp to the hold-short area for 32... " and then "Northampton Traffic, Arrow 3783M is back-taxiing for 32"  and finally "Northampton Traffic, Arrow 3783M is taking 32 for takeoff"...      

Finally got airborne again, remembered this time to raise the gear and maintain 90kts airspeed, and make all the turn-calls, setting up for a touch-and-go.  Approaching mid-field down wind, was the first GUMPS check - and gear goes down (yes 3-green) ...  Opposite the numbers, it was 'reduce power to 1800rpm', 'first flap settings' and the second GUMPS check.  Upon turning base and final, another GUMPS check, and flaps are lowered another notch, and double check again the gear-down indicators - then at the turn to final, prop goes full forward, flaps are moved to final setting and we do one more GUMPS check.  Now, this is the best part... all the work is done, GUMPS checks are complete, final checks for fuel pump and prop are done, radio calls are done and we have 3-green...good to go - and now its just more-or-less... sit back and let the airplane land.  A long stabilized approach is a thing of beauty, and is one of the best and most fun parts of flying as you allow the airplane to continue its decent, watching the runway fill the windshield.  Finally, its time to flare the airplane and transition into the landing... holding the nose off... off... off... as the airplane settles gently down.  Then, its retract flaps, full power, confirm positive rate of climb and gear retraction - and shoot for 90kts and level off at pattern altitude, reduce power and turn crosswind to repeat the process all over again.

After my 3 landings, all eventful and each one better than the last, I turned east upon reaching pattern altitude after takeoff towards the Quabbin for a quick little sight-seeing trip.  'Managed to have time to reduce MP (manifold pressure) and prop settings to the proverbial 24-squared, trimmed out and enjoyed this thing of beauty called flying.  Remaining clear of the Class D airspace around the Quabbin, I turned back towards U-Mass and back towards Northampton.  Setting up for landing on 32, it was a repeat of the last landing with multiple GUMPS checks, 3-green, prop forward, flare and gently touch down for taxi back to the ramp.  I feel that the ability to fly is such a gift that I never take it for granted, and always remember to never become jaded or complacent of this great privilege.

'Last thing to point out that I learned this past week - not in the airplane but from an interesting article in Flying Magazine - dealt with a discussion about the "Impossible Turn": i.e., "to attempt to turn back to the runway after an engine failure or not".  This is truly the dead zone, where many have died, where instead, had they only elected to continue forward they would likely have survived.  Landing in trees at low speed is oh-so-much better than stalling and falling into the ground while trying to make the "impossible turn".  The article stated that the turn is possible if you initiate it within 4 seconds of engine-out... AND push the nose WAY down to best glide speed - AND only if you are at least 800 - and preferably 1000 feet AGL.  Other than that - it is best to land in the trees, straight ahead.  So the only decision to be made at engine failure on takeoff is "how high am i?" and if 1000' feet or higher, sure, go ahead and try for the turn.  I have made the turn from 1000 feet with power at idle and prop pitch full forward to add drag ... and I can see....it can be done... but there is surely no time to waste and you really must make that turn (and i'm talking about 40+ degrees of bank at low speed and low altitude). WHOA. Its one challenge I prefer not to have to face, but its a chance we all take.  I've posted some photos from the flight, below.

More flying scheduled for Dec 1... just a week away!  Stay tuned!

Light Sport Aircraft landing on the grass:



Downwind Runway 32 Northampton:

 

Heading towards the Quabbin Reservoir:

Out over the Quabbin, turning back towards the airport:

Returning from the Quabbin, this would be the view for Downwind of Runway 14:

Just a peek at the cockpit:

 

Getting ready to land:

Final approach at Northampton Runway 32:

 

 

Friday, December 3, 2010 - Flight 100 - 1.8 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 19.4 hrs
286 Landings, includes 3 today
Instrument Approaches: 1

Sunny - 52
° - Winds Light/Variable, RWY 32 Departure
120.4 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Today, I met a family friend, Sherry, who is a fellow pilot, for a trip to 6B6 - Minuteman Airport in Stow, MA, for a trip to Nancy's Airfield Cafe.  The trip started off with a quick touch and go for some practice before heading off to 6B6.  There seemed to be gremlins with us on this flight - there were issues raising the landing gear, and later, the radio mysteriously presented us both with issues.  We could hear other traffic, but were unable to hear each other.  As mysteriously as the troubles appeared, they disappeared.  Both issues were a little troubling, but thankfully with Sherry competently flying the airplane, I was able to raise the gear (yes speed was kept to below 109kts), and as mentioned - the radio issues cleared themselves. 

Skies were overcast with ceiling predicted at 4000', but seemed to be around 3500' and lowering, so we were watchful of the weather.  We had just enough time for a quick cup of coffee at Nancy's, and then headed off again, back to 6B6.

The flight was good and fun...  here are some photos:

Just after the touch-and-go, and heading off to Stow, MA.  Skies
don't look too bad (yet).  Sherry took this shot, looking back at the airport
just on the other side of the river:



Here's my friend and co-pilot for the day, Sherry.

Heading East over the Quabbin, not the prettiest of days:

This is coming back from Minuteman - ceiling is lower...

 

Dark and murky skies, but still VFR with 10+ miles visibility:



Sherry got her pilot's license 20 years ago... here's Sherry as PIC -
just like riding a bike! (Some things you never forget!). Thanks Sherry!

 

 

Tuesday, May 31. 2011 - Flight 101 - .9 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 20.3 hrs
290 Landings, includes 4 today
Instrument Approaches: 1 to date

Sunny -
84° - Winds Light/Variable, RWY 32 Departure
121.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

I am embarrassed to admit it but I have become a fair-weather flyer.  The winters are too long and cold, the airplanes love the cold, but the pilot does not.  So, today was my return to the air in the Arrow, with Mike along to check me out, since it has been over the required 90 days between 3 landings. 

We did slow flight, stalls, multiple steep (45 degree) 360˚ turns, intersecting headings, straight and level, multiple landings, engine out scenarios... Mike relishes the idea of distracting me and then pulling some switches or levers to see how I handle and recover the aircraft.  Its called Scenario Based Training and its the FAA's latest new thing, which I do agree with by the way.  Twice on final approach to landing, while distracting my attention away from the controls, Mike first extinguished a single gear-down lamp and later disabled the 'three-green' gear-down lamps to see if I'd notice.  (Of course I did!  ;-)   Then on the next landing, I proceeded to do the GUMPS check without verifying undercarriage.  So, it was a surprise when the landing gear extended themselves over the runway threshold, (as they do at a certain speed and power setting).  OK, so the lesson is to always DO and VERIFY GUMPS.  (Gas, Undercarriage, Manifold Pressure, Propeller Setting and Systems).  Geeze, never again.  I never want the gear to come down by themselves again!  A good lesson, and it is always a privilege to fly with Mike.

 

Friday, July 1. 2011 - Flight 102 - 1.30 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 21.6 hrs
294 Landings, includes 4 today
Instrument Approaches: 1 to date

Sunny - 92
° - Winds Light/Variable, RWY 14 Departure
122.6 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

Today turned out to be the perfect beginning of a perfect July 4th long weekend, that began with this flight to Southbridge Airport, progressed to a summer's day pool party and ended with a Tanglewood concert (4th row seats) to see James Taylor.  It is going to be hard to out-do this July 4th weekend.

So we topped off the tanks and took off into the hot sultry day. Climbout was abysmal as expected, as we remained in the patter for a couple of touch and goes. After two, we retracted the gear and headed off for lunch at Southbridge, were the June 1 tornado had devastated the airport. As we crossed the Mass Pike over Brimfield, the path of destruction became painfully evident. I regret we did not get photos during this part of the flight, but at places, the parth of the tornado is over a quarter-mile wide with - as far as we could see - a continuous path from Springfield, MA to Sturbridge, MA. Damage is severe all along the path, with many damaged or destroyed homes and a path of fallen timber the entire distance - all the trees fell in the same direction.

Reaching Southbridge Airport - which was hard hit, were piles of airplanes. Some were still in their t-parking places, but all airplanes we saw were damaged. Some of the airplanes were just piles of pieces of airplanes which had been bulldozed into neat little piles, we can only assume, awaiting the insurance adjusters. Any airplane on the field at the time of the tornado was surely destroyed, as was at least one of the hangars, with others being severely damaged. Lucky for us that day, Jims Flyin Diner was relatively untouched with just the front part of the overhanging roof replaced.
Regardless of the destruction around us, we had a nice lunch before launching again into the cloudy skies. I've posted photos from that day. Next flight is scheduled for July 31. More then!

Sunday, July 31. 2011 - Flight 103 - 1.1 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 22.9 hrs
297 Landings, includes 3 today
Instrument Approaches: 1 to date

Sunny - 90
° - Winds Light/Variable, RWY 14 Departure
123.9 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

I am keen on maintaining proficiency - and also wanted to have some fun, so today i made my way to 7B2 for a local flight in the Arrow.

After a thorough pre-flight, and after setting up inside a sweltering cabin, I finally got airborne around 11:00 AM. Gear-up upon achieving a positive rate of climb is now second nature, as is a paranoid 3x "Gumps" check prior to landing.

After takeoff, I raised the gear, maintained best rate of climb speed of 90kts, and announced my intention to remain in the pattern. Turning crosswind, continuing to climb to pattern altitude, I noted there was another airplane in the pattern, and all throughout my flight time in the pattern at 7B2, the other aircraft would continue to be practicing touch and goes also. So it was interesting to be able to continue to aviate while communicating our position/intentions so as to avoid a collision.

After my second touch and go, I decided to head to Brimfield to try to take a few photos of our home.  Circling the house a few times, flying at 1500' - I really didn't want to get much lower, so I snapped a few quick shots and headed back to 7B2.  Without the added stress of flying low while trying to take photos, it was a few wonderfully enjoyable minutes of pure sightseeing happiness.  The air was smooth, the skies were clear, the airplane performing well.  I placed the aircraft into cruise setting (24-squared - i.e. 2400 mainfold pressure and prop rpm), pulled the fuel back to 12 gallons/hour and just enjoyed the blue sky.

I steered back to 7B2 over the Quabbin so as to avoid turbulence coming off the nearby mountains and turned north to fly over UMass before heading back to 7B2. Announcing my position as over the training area, I encountered the same aircraft as before, as we announced our positions and kept a careful watch out for the other.  We agreed I was number 1 for landing, the other aircraft was number 2.  Turning from base onto final, my last Gumps check complete, power near idle, full flaps deployed - and only 15 seconds from landing, I watched in disbelief as another aircraft turned onto the runway for takeoff.  While it was not a crisis aversion - in fact, had I continued the landing, the departing aircraft would likely have cleared the runway as I was touching down.  But in the event that the other aircraft had a failed engine on takeoff, had I continued the landing, the situation could have turned ugly quickly.  My flying has always been about caution and safety and I hope to live to be an OLD pilot.  At any rate, had I been the departing aircraft, I certainly would have waited another 20 seconds for landing aircraft to pass, but whether it was an error or rudeness or unintention on the part of the other pilot, I will never know.

So upon making the go-around decision, it was retract the flaps, raise the gear, and full power immediately.  I announced I was exiting the pattern to the east for a go-around, then entered an extended base-leg for RWY 14 from the south.  It was a good training exercise in that it was real life, but one i could have lived without.  Anyway, its good to know that the training works when called upon!  Landed safely without incident, a good flight.  More soon! 

 

Friday, October 21, 2011 - Flight 104 - 1.1 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 24.0 hrs
201 Landings, includes 4 today
Instrument Approaches: 2 to date

Mostly Sunny - 62
° - Winds West @ 8 Gusting 12  RWY 32 Departure
125.0 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

BFR Completed 10/21/2011

Every 2 years, the FAA requires a flight review (competency check), consisting of an hour of flight maneuvers and an hour of regulations and procedures review.  Today was that day.  Mike Mosher (my instructor) landed a job with Cape Air and is due to begin his new job in two weeks.  So I was glad to fly with Mike today, and have him conduct the BFR.  We did a series of takeoffs and landings with an 8kt crosswind straight across the runway.  We also did departure and power-off stalls.  I had wanted to experiment and see how the aircraft (Piper Arrow) behaved in a full stall, and asked Mike if we could take it all the way to the break.  On a power-off stall, yes the aircraft buffets strongly prior to the stall and gently turns on its side and initiates a dive.  I suppose if you maintained the stick back position, you would find yourself in an incipient spin.  My experiment was to go hands-off at the break and see if the airplane would recover.  At hands-off after the break, the airplane did recover from the stall, but placed itself into a dive, which the pilot must initiate action in order to recover from.  Amazingly, in a power on (departure) stall - with full power and stick all the way back to the stop, the aircraft will fly in a full stall without breaking.  Airspeed was around 55kts, with full buffeting, but no loss of altitude and no break.  Interesting - AMAZING!  To recover from the stall, simply point the nose down to lower the angle of attack.  It was amazing to me to be able to fly at the stall, with no break and no loss of altitude. 

After that, we did several unusual attitudes, where I'd recover the aircraft... no big deal actually.

On the way back to the airport, we did a simulated IFR approach, since I wanted practice in interpreting the attitude indicator - we me under the hood and Mike calling out course turns and altitudes.   Back at the airport vicinity, we did a couple touch-and-goes, with mike pulling the switch on the landing gear lights... making sure i'd pick up on it during the GUMPS checks.  All the landings were decent, even given the crosswinds... no issue at all.  Fun Fun Fun, and I never get tired of flying.  I only wish I were 30 years younger and knew what I knew now, and I would make aviation my career.  On the other hand, there is nothing quite like owning your own company.

Well, I will miss Mike, but more than my sadness at losing his as an instructor, I am thrilled at his success and new path as a professional pilot with Cape Air. Mike and I are going to fly to Nantucket this coming Monday (with Cindy), and that will be our last flight together.  I will write more after that flight.

Monday, October 25, 2011 - Flight 105 - 3.1 Hours Warrior
Total Complex Time: 24.0 hrs
201 Landings, includes 4 today
Instrument Approaches: 2 to date

Partly Sunny to Rain - 64
° - Winds 270@ 8 RWY 14 Departure
128.1 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

BFR Completed 10/21/2011

It was a bittersweet day, only because it was my last time flying with my instructor - Mike Mosher.  Cindy has wanted to fly to Nantucket for a while but has wanted Mike to be in the airplane the first time she did it.  So, today, Mike, Cindy and I headed off to ACK.  Weather was a little unpredictable - cloudy/rain in Northampton, but beautiful and sunny in ACK.  It was also to by my last flight with Mike, as he departs now for his new job with Cape Air as a single pilot Captain in a Cessna 402.  Also, the Arrow was sidelined in maintenance for an alternator replacement, so we took a new aircraft - Warrior N83131, new to Northampton's rental fleet, anyway.  This airplane is a little beauty - even though it is slow compared to the Arrow (110kts cruise vs 130kts), but it has the Garmin 430, as well as a great autopilot with vertical hold as well as weather radar.   Obviously the only down-side is the speed.  So rather than taking 40-45 minutes to ACK, it look more like an hour.  Still not too bad.  We had flight following all the way over with three handoffs and one squawk code -  same for the way back, pretty easy.  We were handed off from Cape Approach to Nantucket Tower and cleared to land while on extended right-base to RWY 24.    While there, we managed to catch a taxi into town and do a little shopping and have lunch while there.  Returning to the airport and flying out was pretty much the reverse of the way in - taxi to RWY 24, line up and wait behind departing traffic, and then cleared for take off.  Requested frequency change (approved) and contacted Cape Approach for flight following.  We flew back as we did over - on autopilot, which meant we just needed to monitor the radio an look for other traffic.  Coming back towards Worcester, skies darkened and outside of Northampton, we picked up rain - a first for me.  The air was generally smooth both ways, and Cindy seemed to tolerate - if not actually enjoy - the time flying, as well as the time spent with Mike.  I think she understands why I like and think so highly of him, and her sentiments are the same.  I will miss Mike very much and wish him great success on his new career path.

Below are some photos from the day.  Now I'm off to look for a new Instructor for check-rides, signoffs, and my IFR ticket!

On the way over to ACK - 6700' and broken clouds

CFI, CFII, MEI, COMMERCIAL, ATP, Captain for Cape Air, Mike Mosher.  We'll miss you Mike!
Your truly after a late night and too little sleep...

Cindy & Mike - Big Thumbs UP after safe arrival in ACK
Lunch at Arnos on Main Street
Thanks to Cindy for the Photos - Here we are, departing ACK

Monday, December 12, 2011 - Flight 106 - 1.5 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 25.5 hrs
203 Landings, includes 2 today
Instrument Approaches: 2 to date

Sunny 38
° - Winds 285@ 8 RWY 14 Departure
129.6 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

BFR Completed 10/21/2011

I had planned this day with a Scottish Rite friend of mine, HR, for a couple weeks previously; the idea was to fly to 6B6, (Minuteman) in Stow, MA for a bite of lunch at Nancy's Airfield Cafe; alas, we arrived and discovered the Cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays!  We had a great flight, tho, and I think HR was glad to return to the air after an absence of a decade or more.  HR is an experienced pilot who has seen some great adventures... here are some photos:


HR and Wayne  -  aviating, navigating, communicating

HR & Wayne at 6b6

This is the Overlook at Charlton, MA 

Photo of Worcester Airport 

 

Friday, April 6, 2012 - Flight 107 - .6 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 26.1 hrs
207 Landings, includes 4 today

Sunny 62
° - Winds 370@ 12 Gusting 17/RWY 32 Departure
130.2 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983

BFR Completed 10/21/2011

Due to a hectic and demanding work schedule, and some personal business that took us away for 2+ weeks, I met with John Smith to re-start my instrument training.  However, recognizing that I am away the next 2 weeks+, I asked John, if instead of starting instrument training, he could check me out in the Arrow, since my 3-month currency had elapsed for rental purposes.

Happily, John was agreeable, and the day was gorgeous and clear, if gusty.  John had limited time only, so we stayed in the pattern, doing multiple landings and touch and goes.  I could tell for sure I was rusty, but it was wonderful to get back flying again. As an added benefit, there was a fair amount of activity in the pattern, plus a nice little crosswind.  So it was fun, busy and a very product training session.  I am hoping once I return from being away for the next 2 weeks to get mucho-serious on my instrument rating.  Assuming I can accomplish that, I am going to seriously consider purchasing an ownership stake in an aircraft.  More soon!

Friday, May 18, 2012
Total Complex Time: 26.1 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 1.0 hrs
My "Official" IFR training program

Because flights in simulators do not count towards "total hours logged" I have omitted "total hours" from all simulator-based flights.

I have been considering for a long time purchasing an aircraft, or going into a partnership of some kind.  The rental fleet at 7B2 is great, but the difficulty is going somewhere  like SC and getting stuck due to weather.  So I have decided the first step to purchasing an aircraft (or a share in an aircraft) is acquiring an IFR rating, which will allow a pilot to fly in and out of airports that would normally be closed to VFR pilots, due to weather.  So this is the 'official' beginning of my IFR training.

Today's flight was in the Redbird full motion simulator.  Of the 40 hours dual instruction required to get your IFR ticket, a full 20 may be conducted in an FAA-approved simulator.  Redbird fits the bill.  It feels and looks exactly like flying, except in my case, all of the flying in the simulator is done in the clouds. It has huge advantages over the real aircraft in that you can begin an approach in exactly the same place every time - the instructor can place then aircraft in any condition or location he wants, including weather, visibility, turbulence, etc.

Today's lesson was to get re-acquainted with the instrument scan.  In your private pilot training you get only 3 hours of simulated instrument training.  In IFR training, all of it - all 40 hours - is 'in the blind', i.e. non-visual conditions.

So it was a lot like initial flight training - conducting basic maneuvers -straight and level, turns, etc, strictly by reference to instruments.
An amazing experience and after an hour I was exhausted and almost unable to do it, because of the high concentration level required.

 Friday, May 25, 2012
Total Complex Time: 26.1 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 2.0 hrs including this flight

Today's lesson involved continuing to learn to scan the instruments to maintain level flight. We flew patterns as well as tracked VORs.
It is a challenge to maintain attitude, course and altitude, and still focus on the task at hand.

Monday, May 28, 2012
Total Complex Time: 26.1 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 3.0 hrs including this flight

Today was a continuation of last Friday's lesson - John is introducing me to holds over a VOR.  Essentially flying a racetrack pattern, over and over - the goal is to make the track stable and even... flying one minute legs around the Chester, CT VOR.  Difficult to do this simple task and fighting to maintain control over the aircraft.  On a scale of 1-10 of things moving too fast to comprehend, I'm at a 100.  I have new respect for IFR-rated pilots.  Its an amazing achievement, I question whether I will be able to do it, but am not going to give up.   

Monday, June 4, 2012
Total Complex Time: 26.1 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 4.0 hrs including this flight

Today was a repeat of last week's lesson - I am struggling to control the aircraft, struggling to maintain the desired track and even comprehending what is going on - and where I am in the pattern is beyond me at this point.  It is all I can do to maintain some semblence of a consistent "racetrack" pattern.  Today we did Holds over the KEEN VOR.  WOW, this almost feels like a losing cause.

Monday, June 11, 2012
Total Complex Time: 26.1 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 4.8 hrs including this flight

Today was a continuation of everything in the previous lessons.  I am still struggling and feeling like I am not "getting it".  Today we continued to fly holds over the Chester, CT VOR.  Things are still moving too fast for me to comprehend.  Most of the time I don't know if I am (literally) coming or going to/from the VOR.  I am getting ingrained into:  Turn, Time, Twist, Throttle, Talk.   Are you kidding me?
This feels impossible.

Friday, June 15, 2012 - Flight 108 - 1.1 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 27.2 hrs

216 Landings Including 9 Today - Temp:
87
° - Winds 370@ 7 RWY 32 Departure
131.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983
BFR Completed 10/21/2011

IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 4.8 hrs

Today it was great to get back into a real airplane, and one that I am so comfortable with.  We flew the Arrow to re-qualify me since I was over the 90 days requirement.  Great flight, 9 landings, a gorgeous but hot day.  Fantastic!

Monday, June 18, 2012 - Flight 109 - 1.0 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 28.2 hrs
224 Landings Including 8 Today - Temp: 88° - Winds 270@7 RWY 14 Departure
132.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983
BFR Completed 10/21/2011

IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 4.8 hrs

Today was a practice day for me in the Arrow to get back into better practice... did Go-Arounds, Engine Out, multiple Take off and Landings.  A great day, hot-hot-hot.

Friday, June 22, 2012 - Flight 110 - 1.0 Hours Arrow
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs

225 Landings Including 1 Today - Temp: 84° - Winds 320@3 RWY 14 Departure
133.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983
BFR Completed 10/21/2011

IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 4.8

Today was IFR training in the Arrow - Holds over the KEEN VOR.  The Arrow, being a complex aircraft which requires attention to manifold pressure and prop RPM, makes for a tough IFR training lesson.  Still confused and doubting.

Monday, June 25, 2012
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 5.8 hrs including this flight


After a brief escape in the Arrow, today was a continuation of IFT training in the Redbird.  With John watching my every move, today we did holds over the KEEN VOR.  Even though it is sheer repetition each and every IFR flight, things are still moving at "100" on a scale of 1-10.  John says not to worry, but I am starting to get concerned about whether this is ever really going to "click" for me.  It is a struggle-struggle-struggle.  Things are still moving too fast for me to comprehend, and still - Most of the time I don't know if I am (literally) coming or going to/from the VOR.  Still feels impossible.

Friday, June 29, 2012 - Flight 111 - 1.0 Hours Warrior 83131
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs

226 Landings Including 1 Today - Temp: 82° - Winds Calm RWY 14 Departure
134.3 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983
BFR Completed 10/21/2011

IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 5.8

Today was IFR training in the Warrior, nice to be in a real aircraft again. Today we were back at the Chester VOR, doing a single VOR "A" approach into 7B2. I am feeling nowhere near being ready to initiate even a simulated approach.  Still struggling to maintain control over the aircraft - altitude, attitude, course, speed, wow.  REALLY???

Monday, July 2, 2012
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 6.6 hrs including this flight

Exact continuation of the previous flight, except in the Redbird. - holds over the Chester VOR, and a single "A" approach to 7B2.  Things are still not looking good, i am becoming less confident and generally more stressed.


Friday, July 6, 2012 - Flight 112 - 1.1 Hours Warrior 83131
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs

227 Landings Including 1 Today (Weather not recorded)
135.4 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983
BFR Completed 10/21/2011

IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 6.6

Exact continuation of the previous flight, except back in the Warrior. - holds over the Chester VOR, and a single "A" approach to 7B2.  My feelings are still not changed.  Although i feel I am not making much progress, I have observed that learning to fly IFR is non-linear, (3 steps forward, 2 steps back - 2 steps forward, 4 steps back, etc).  John observes there is progress being made, but still, things are moving too fast for me to work the radios, descend at the proper rate, hold the attitude, fly the needles, start and stop the timers, communicate ... wow wow wow. Well i knew it was not going to be easy.  I am definitely getting better at flying the airplane solely by reference to instruments, but layer on some more responsibilities and it gets too complex.  I do think the flying tasks are beginning to slow down, but not enough to accomplish much else.  Much of the time, when flying a hold, I still have problems knowing where I am - coming or going - and forget to start the timer, etc.  OK.  Lets keep going.

Monday, July 9, 2012
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 7.6 hrs including this flight

Back in the Redbird...  did 2 VOR 02 Approaches to KEEN and holds over KEEN.  I'm still a disaster at this. And I can't say its getting any easier or me any better.

Friday, July 13, 2012
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 8.5 hrs including this flight

Back in the Redbird...  did 3 VOR "A" Approaches at GDM.  Still having doubts.  Most of the time I'm flying the aircraft ok, but distract me for a minute and i'm off altitude or course.  Also, still getting confused about where I am in the hold - coming or going, and still forgetting to start the timer.  This is definitely among the hardest things I have ever done, but in a wierd way, also fun to learn.


Thursday, July 16, 2012 - Flight 112 - 1.1 Hours Warrior 83131
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs

228 Landings Including 1 Today (Temp 85 Degrees)
136.5 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983
BFR Completed 10/21/2011

IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 8.5 hrs

Back in the Warrior4 again today, flying a VOR A Approach into GDM and also a VOR Approach into 7B2.  With the high temperatures lately, I am completely wiped out when the lessons are over.  Actually feel almost dazed.  Still having difficulties in every department.

Friday, August 3, 2012
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs
IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 9.5 hrs including this flight

John has been on vacation for the past 2 weeks, so it has allowed me a chance also to 'calm' down and try to pull things together. I recognize things have got to start going better for me in my IFR training.  I think this rest has helped me.

Back in the Redbird...  two VOR "A" Approaches at GDM.  And unfortunately, because of that time of year - fall - other responsibilities are returning to my schedule.  I leave at the end of this month to receive my 33 Degree in Cleveland, OH.  And shortly after that, Scottish Rite responsibilities return, requiring my attendance almost each and every Monday night. Means I can't fly Monday mornings and leave early for S.R. Meetings.  So, I am forced to drop flying on Mondays at the end of this month. Disappointed, but flying twice a week, takes a full 8 hours out of my work schedule.  I had already given up ballroom dancing one night a week.  Learning how to fly IFR is an all-encompassing task - it really becomes a lifestyle.  But I am not giving up.

Monday, August 13, 2012 - Flight 113 - 1.3 Hours Warrior 128PC
Total Complex Time: 29.2 hrs

229 Landings Including 1 Today (Temp 88 Degrees, Winds Calm)
137.6 hours total flight time including 8.5 hrs from 1983
BFR Completed 10/21/2011

IFR - Redbird Sim Time - 9.5 hrs

I know you must be getting sick of reading how tough and confusing this process is. So let me give you some encouraging news.  Today I flew the Warrior with John, and the flying was great.  It is actually feeling - today, at least - like a piece of the puzzle came together.  The flying was great... on course, on altitude, on the mark, starting to get better at knowing where I am, where I am going, and what I am going to do when i get there.  Today was a VOR "A" Approach at GDM, and holds at the GDM VOR.  Things are still moving way too fast for me to comprehend all of it, but if i can keep the flying at this level - meaning it is not occupying 85-90% of my effort - (more like 50%), i can start to absorb and participate in more of what is going on around me, namely talking to ATC and knowing what it is I have to do next.  John has done all of that for me in the past, so I could focus on the more direct task of aviating.  I am still not ready yet to do all that, but I do feel like today was a major change in my own attitude and confidence. I don't know if today is a turned corner, but if other previous days have been 3 steps back, today definitely felt like 5 steps forward.  I fly again this Friday, so we will see where we are at that point.