Practice IFR

I went up again this morning to practice an ILS approach at Mesquite. It was a good flight in that we survived and I have identified areas to continue practicing on and learning. I feel comfortable with departures, now I need to refine my procedures to bug my heading and altitude changes ahead of time. I'm still getting used to approaches so I can't claim comfort there yet.

While I was driving home, it dawned on me that having an IFR Practice checklist will help me be more prepared. Something like this:


I may tweak this a bit before I go up again next week but it's a decent beginning.

LBB Family Adventure

With my mom only minutes away from Town & Country Airport in Lubbock, it makes sense from a pilot perspective to fly in to the small strip for a weekend visit. Renting a small airplane is expensive and adds its own complications, but the big payoff is more time with my mom. Here's how our travel options compare:


From Dallas to Lubbock
*Varies. Renters charge minimum flight hours, usually fuel cost included/reimbursed. C172 is about $145/hr 
Short distance + long time = expensive

Learning from our past adventures, we gave the kids Dramamine, had games for them to play, a nap pillow (inflatable), and extra barf bags just in case. Luckily, there was no puking this trip. Just emergency peeing in a bottle.

My mom did us supreme by renting a Jeep to pick us up then get around town in. Parking the plane is free if we pay for gas, which we need to do anyway.

The original master plan was for me to fly us to Lubbock in the 172 and for Rusty to fly us home. However, I have fallen out of practice landing the 172 in crosswinds. The last several times I touched down on one wheel before the other or came down a bit hard. It was decided Rusty would fly us. Although I absolutely love to fly, I was at peace with this.

Captain Rusty & Co-Captain Sarah
Elliot killing pigs & Joshua asking me to stop taking pictures
We flew in a Cessna equipped with a Garmin 1000 and an autopilot making the journey super easy. We were cleared to fly directly over DFW airport. Major commercial airplanes were landing below us. I had an awesome picture of DFW and a commercial flight landing below us, but those pictures are MIA.  :-(

Once we were out of the busy DFW airspace, we climbed to 6500 feet where we met 25-30 knot headwinds. We played with Garmin's engine assist feature to lean the mixture. I got it leaned to 8.4 then later we leaned it even more to 7.7 gallons per hour. The headwinds were making me nervous. We had enough fuel to get there but we were touching the yellow warning mark at arrival.

I found the airport...

"Do you have the airport in site?"
"Looking."
"It's right there- almost under the nose."
"Oh shoot, I need to turn!"

...Rusty did a good landing.

We filled it up with fuel and emptied out our luggage. Mom picked us up and away we went for our weekend visit.

Although Rusty wanted to return Sunday afternoon, there was no chance of it. High winds directly crossing the runway kicked up dust causing marginal visibility. We hung out for one more day (yay!) and spent time with friends.

Monday morning we packed up, said our good-byes then prepared to go.

Then the propeller wouldn't budge.

Rusty tried a few more times, adjusting mixture, throttle, fuel pump, no fuel pump, turn the key- click click.

It was the battery gone kaput.

I called the place we rented from for guidance then located someone at the airport to jump the battery. No, it's not like a car with another airplane hooked up. I assume it's a battery or generator contraption. The guy that showed up to help us decided it would be faster for him to hand crank the prop than to rig a 24 volt battery to jump us. After about 6-8 nerve wracking turns and a few false ka-chugs, it finally started! Images of lost limb with blood splattering the windshield and boys scarred for life melted with relief as he backed away and waved us good-bye.

Thank you Dan!!!

Rusty's voice was lost from a recent cold so I handled radios for a little bit until he got it back loud enough. Enroute to Dallas, we had almost no wind to contend with so we made good time. Although we were tempted to climb to 7500 feet to take advantage of better winds, Rusty decided to just chill at 5500. We knew Addison was reporting haze and we could see it like a cloud on the land.
Somewhere between Lubbock and Addison
Traffic much?
The boys both had to pee on the way home. This time I was more prepared having a Vitamin water bottle. (wider opening, sturdier structure)

In all it was a good flight both legs and I don't regret being Rusty's co-pilot for a moment. Yeah sure I love to fly, but this time I got to take pictures and relax!

Lights Turned On

We discussed approach plates this evening in ground school. What once seemed so mysterious was dissected and defined. Not only are there tons of abbreviations yet to learn (I don't know them all yet but you bet I'll make fun of them here), there are different kinds of approaches and various complications to watch out for.

We looked at a few very simple approaches (small town airports) based around VOR technology. In a nutshell, ya find your inbound radial and get on it (following procedures), fly over various points that signal an action (like descend), until you're close enough to see the airport and land.  I'm feeling inspired by the minutephysics series on YouTube (my choice of the month for pre-bedtime kid entertainment) and aim to create a fun (accurate) depiction of reading approach plates. Someday. maybe.

ok, I may end up being a loser like this character:


I digress- The whole journey from point A to B seems so straight forward in concept that I can't wait to try it out in the airplane, something called "shooting an approach". Monday morning I have a date with an airplane and good weather. Hopefully both will be in attendance.  :-)

IMC VFR Flight

Ok, that title is an exaggeration. My CFII and I were heading to Sulpher Springs for a short cross country to practice VOR tracking. Things were groovy until almost to our destination clouds were encroaching. As ironic as it may seem that during IFR training we turned away from clouds, we had to because we had not filed an IFR flight. So I didn't get my cross country time in, but I did get some good navigation practice, and more importantly, I got to fly!  :-)

During the flight I was intensely focused on keeping the heading, the altitude, the radio calls, etc that my shoulder started feeling tense. In a split second, a thought made me laugh out loud. That's right. I cracked myself up. This is what I was remembering:


Moving on....

Earlier this week I attended an FAA Safety seminar about approaches. It was a good session and I'm glad I went! It started out as a discussion on VFR approaches, particularly identifying hazards, knowing the runway and surrounding area, and illusions that can make pilot's misjudge the approach and landing. The second half was all about IFR approaches. Now I haven't finished all the ground school lessons on IFR flight so there's still some topics of mystery to me. Approach plates are one of those. After the safety sessions evaluation of some tricky approaches (and how certain mistakes in certain places can be deadly) I feel less mystified and more anxious about IFR approaches.

Next week is too busy for me to fly. BUT I'm soon done with work for vacation time and I intend to fly fly fly while I can!  :-)

IMC Flight, not so much

This morning was perfect conditions to practice flying in IMC. It was overcast up to 3,300 feet, low crosswind, functional C172 Skyhawk-

er, maybe.

I put myself on the schedule for an impromptu practice flight but turns out the newly maintained Cessna is not been test flown to ensure recent GPS upgrades are in proper working order. After the test flight, the schedule is packed by other students and people going up for discovery flights.

Instead of flying today, I'm being domestic: sweeping the floor, washing dishes, cleaning the downstairs bathroom, making lunches.  All busy work to take my mind off the canceled flight.

Maybe next week Friday will work out.

Palestine to Athens

Palestine, TX FBO
This morning I started the day with a cross country flight. I intended to fly to College Station but enroute the CFI decided to divert us to other closer to home locations. We canceled flight following after playing hide-and-seek with a helicopter not far from Navarro Mills Resv. We went east to Palestine where the friendly FBO lady let us use her facilities and see the AWOS computer screen display.

Kyle Raper, CFII - standing on Piper LSA N921DD

We took off from Palestine headed a short distance to Athens, TX. By this time, the wind went from smooth to choppy. We bounced around at 2,500 ft. AGL towards Athens. That landing was fun and survivable!

Inbound for ADS, we stayed in turbulent air. I did most of the flight in my foggles. I almost wished we had gone to College Station but the wind was pushing on us so much we would have taken a boring long time.

Elliot admiring the view
Earlier this week I took Elliot up for a birthday flight. He had a good time but he said he was feeling "car sick" less than halfway through. We did a full stop at Caddo Mills where he got some candy before we headed back. This was a healthy challenge for me to take a 5 year old up. I had to teach him where to step for getting in, what not to touch or turn, and manage my flight with kid related interruptions. He kept wanting to put his feet on the joystick which would have pushed the airplane nose down. We talked about crashing and how we can prevent that by not putting his feet on the stick. In flight I had no feet problems from him.
Elliot during candy break

My Baby is Five!

Elliot is five today! Out of parental guilt that he gets less attention than his older brother, we upped the ante with birthday plans by going to GattiTown. He had such a good time with his buddies playing games! Afterwards, he had fun at another friend's house celebrating her birthday. I'm sure he'll sleep good tonight.  :-)

This is the last year for Elliot to be a pre-schooler. He's doing pre-K this year then it's a pay raise for us (yay!) and Kindergarten for Elliot (yay!) next August. But this also means I need appreciate just where he is right now. It's his last year (well, 9 months left) of ultimate freedom. He's all play right now and few responsibilities. As he wiggles into slightly baggy new pants labeled 5, I am reminded how much he'll grow by this time next year and what a great age he is at now. I love his quirks, his thoughts about the world and how simple pleasures make him content. I also adore his smile and moments of hugs and kisses.

On the pilot front, I went for a flight Friday to Sulpher Springs with one of my CFIs. For most the flight there and back I was "under the hood". I did pretty good keeping my altitude and heading, and making adjustments as needed. I was also good at a steady decent in preparation for landing. Landing at Sulpher Springs was good if a bit long, so we taxied back instead of doing a touch and go. Going to Addison was fun. I kept the foggles on until we were well on final. In fact, when the foggles finally came off, I was staring at a threshold and ILS lights guiding me towards the landing. My landing at ADS was smooth and awesome.  :-)

I'm going up again tomorrow to take Elliot up with me in a light sport. He's excited to ride up front. If conditions are right, I may let him shake the wings a bit at higher altitude.  I may do a couple lazy-8s, a stall, and some s-turns. All stuff that's good to practice and somewhat entertaining for a young co-pilot.

Destination: maybe Caddo Mills.

But really, it doesn't matter much where we go so long as Elliot has a good time.

Durant Cross Country

Last Friday I flew a short cross country flight from Addison to Durant, Oklahoma. Land lubbers know these cities are about 86 miles apart and would take about 90 minutes to drive there. For pilots, this is a mere 61 nautical miles taking about 40 minutes or less- in a Piper LightSport.

My Type
We had a stiff south wind that pushed us there in record time (ground speed 125+ knots) but made coming back home torturous (ground speed <85 knots).

I wore my "foggles" most of the way. There are a variety of vision limiting devices to help IFR pilots train.

Mine are comfortable and I'm convinced they didn't contribute to feeling nauseous like these type:
My CFI's Loaner
Of course, I didn't have to go fancy with my own frosted shades. I just choose to be somewhat stylish and comfortable, unlike these alternatives:
Duct Tape, mate?Literally a hood
Ground school is tomorrow evening when we discuss navigation and radio calls. I'm looking forward to it like any good aviation junky.

Speaking of, there was another accident this week at Northwest Regional. This time it was the fault of an SUV driver driving in front of a landing airplane that caused the accident. Luckily, nobody got seriously hurt, although the student pilot is calling it quits for flying.

What gets my goat is the SUV drivers are frequent visitors to the airport, so they should know better! The husband and wife in the vehicle claim they didn't see anything, but video also shows they didn't stop to LOOK UP before crossing right by the end of the runway.

Situation awareness people!

And read a bit down how nasty the wife is right afterwards.
</ my soap box>

IFR Flight Lessons

I will be taking flight lessons for an IFR rating. For those non-pilots reading my blog, here are some terms you may see and what they mean:

VFR - Visual Flight Rules - clouds are 3000+ ft up and you can see more than 5 miles away (think clear skies)

 MVFR - Marginal Visual Flight Rules - cloud ceiling is between 1000-3000 ft and/or you can only see 3-5 miles away

VFR

MVFR


IFR - Instrument Flight Rules - cloud ceiling is 500-1000 ft up and/or you can see 1-3 miles away

LIFR - Low Instrument Flight Rules - cloud ceiling is below 500 ft. and/or you can see less than 1 mile away (think fog)


IFR

LIFR

IMC - Instrument Meteorological Conditions - weather that requires flight by reference to instruments (clouds)

VMC - Visual Meteorological Conditions - flight by ground reference

IMC

ILS - Instrument Landing System - ground-based instrument approach systems with radio or high-intensity lighting that guide aircraft to the runway.
ILS

 Lessons will be in a Cessna 172 equipped with a Garmin G1000. I know C172s, and I'm looking forward to gaining experience on the G1000. 
(Here's a G1000)

I expect that getting IFR rated will be the most frustrating and most useful training to being a safer pilot. Best part is- I get to fly more!  :-)


Grounded

Well the weather didn't cooperate. Not only is it wet outside, but the clouds are low. I made the call yesterday morning that flight would not happen. The new plan is to make our trip on Monday after the boys go to school. Elliot is a little sick today anyway. We'll just make the best of being grounded by watching a movie at home and lounging around.

Planning for Boerne, Tx

We have plans to go see a Mooney in south TX on Saturday. If weather cooperates, we'll launch around 9am. Tomorrow we have tickets for a baseball game so guess what I'm doing tonight: planning!

I'll be flying us out of ADS while Rusty will take us back home.

Stay tuned for updates!

$100 BBQ

Yes, we spent about $100 on a flight to Stephenville, TX for BBQ yesterday evening. (then we paid another $100 to come back home.) Since we decided we felt so liberated about not buying an older airplane that would cost us too much to comfortably keep over 10 years, we decided to treat ourselves (and the boys) to a short jaunt to Stephenville. The BBQ is very good, the atmosphere very outdoorsy and the flight was excellent there and back. Rusty flew us in while I took us back home.

Then, I found another Mooney today while saying good-bye to the previous "for sale" webpage. I noticed a newer only-slightly pricier Mooney for sale that had a nicer interior, that had a nice dash with IFR and weather instrument, that had new paint, low airframe time and years to go before an overhaul. This one is a 1978 M20C Ranger.

It's blue and white (y'all know how I feel about the color blue!). What I love the most about the plane is its affordability. I simply don't want to fly our finances into the ground. Whether we rent or buy, my bottom line goal is to be as economical as practicable. Excluding the occasional $100 dinner adventure!

There are some logistics to figure out. The plane is outside of San Antonio and we are not. The people selling the plane cannot fly the plane to meet us somewhere closer. "You'd have to come to us" the seller said.

It would take about 2 hours to fly there. But we can't fly it back to ADS ourselves because we're not yet certified for retractable gear. We'd need to have flight lessons in the plane that we're buying to be checked out as safe to land it.


We're Still Renters

To Buy or Not to Buy.

That was the question this morning.

We found a nice 1965 Mooney M20C for sale in Roanke, TX hangared at Northwest Regional. The plane was priced within our budget for a bank loan so we began the process of getting quotes and researching how to be plane owners: insurance, patio tie-down, annual maintenance and inspections, estimated fuel use for a year. I went on a test flight yesterday and was blown away at how easily it flies itself and accommodates the pilot. It had onboard weather, a Garmin 430 w/ upgrades, some new instruments and a nice auto pilot.

The plane as-is would fit our budget just fine. But looking 10 years out, the idea of ownership seemed to weigh us down. It's a 1965 airplane so in 10 years it will be a 50 year old plane. Most bank loans won't lend for airplanes over 50 years old. To get around that, we would need to make the plane sell itself by upgrading the paint (it currently has some chips but otherwise it's ok), upgrading the interior (from this to something like this), and upgrading the instrument panel (which has outmoded stuff that isn't used). And it would need a major overhaul costing at least $17,000 in the next 4-5 years.

These expenses stretched out over 10 years and divided into a monthly budget comes out to be more per month than the current rental rates where the planes are hangared and maintained for us.

I know the seller will be disappointed that we're turning down his airplane: we were so close. We already got approval for a loan, already called for a patio spot at Addison, already submitted information to an insurance company, already researched where to get upgrades.

Perhaps some day we'll find a pilot who's interested in a partnership who matches us in location and airplane needs. Or perhaps we'll find a plane that matches our budget better that we won't be stuck with.

Until then, we'll enjoy flying a variety of airplanes from renters and if we decide not to fly for some reason (health, budget, weather) we won't pay anything.


Gas Challenge Resolved

I am so excited to be taking off tomorrow morning!  :-D

I ran from work early to start my weekend. After this post I'll feed the family and start packing. After the boys go to grandma's I'll fill in my cross country flight plan with corrections for winds aloft and radio/weather frequencies at my checkpoints.

UPDATE: Although a Piper LightSport's Rotax engine can run on mogas (it's actually better to run on motor gas in the long run due to less build up around the spark plugs), the engine can also take avgas AND mixing should be fine. So we'll depart on mogas but refuel on avgas.  The rental place will reimburse us for gas charges upon return.

I'll be taking lots of pictures and make a detailed post upon return.

Our next trip will be to Lajitas Resort near Big Bend in south Texas. There's a private airport near the resort with transportation to and from.  What's the ocassion?

Rusty and I will be celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary!

The resort seems nice and has fun things to do like canoeing, ATV rides, skeet shooting, horse back riding and massage parlor.

Now we're in the trip planning mode- my favorite part!  I'm going to get sectionals today and reserve our rental plane. The boys will enjoy a weekend vacay with the grandparents.

The party was a smashing hit!  Everyone who attended had a good time.  I just wish more people were there.

I tried to fly today after work but there was no one at the hangar when I arrived. That alone might not have stopped me except the keys were locked in the office.  I guess a reservation isn't enough- next time I'll call to ensure someone can check me out.

With today's flight scrubbed, I'll try again tomorrow.


Oh!  And I got my official FAA Private Pilot license yesterday.  *grins*

Pilot Party!

We're planning a party! 
If you haven't been emailed or hand delivered an invitation, you can view the invitation details online:

It's been 5 years since we've thrown a party.


Why "flights.ringofsaturn.com"?

After the event, at some point, I'll change the 'flights' page to be a place for friends and family to request a flight.  There's no cost for flying.  As a private pilot, I can't charge a thing.  However, just like college road-trips, if you want to chip in for some expenses (such as fuel), I'll gladly accept a donation.

I love to fly and I'm looking for reasons to get out and get up. I hope you'll join us in celebration!

PASSED!

I passed my Private Pilot checkride!!

I am now a PILOT!

and not a student - yay!!
223 landings, 90.6 hours total

My designated pilot examiner, Alan Kasher, was so easy going and relaxed and practical about what he tested me on.  There were no surprise punches, no sudden requests to action, no lengthy exercises. I highly recommend him.  :-)

Of course, he passed me so perhaps my opinion is clouded.  heheh

Anyway, I planned a cross country trip to Shreveport as part of the exam which was used as a discussion point about navigation, diverting and general planning.  The oral exam was about an hour and a half I think but it felt way faster than that.  I answered all of his questions easily, some with rambling in detail as that's what I do when I'm nervous.

He prepped me about the flight before we left so that I knew what to expect.  I tuned into the Addison VOR on my way out pointing as if I were going to Terrell airport (one of my cross country checkpoints) then around Lake Hubbard he decided the cross country planning was sufficiently demonstrated so we moved on to unusual attitude recovery, did some slow flight, stalls of both types, steep turns and emergency landing procedures.  He gave me the option between s-turns or turns around a point.  Since my s-turns have been spotty in quality in this airplane, I chose the turns around a point and did well on that.

Then we headed to Mesquite for some landings. My first landing was a bit rough, I bounced a little, but I recovered nicely from it and he said it was fine.  I did short field landing, soft field landing, soft field take-off and take-off over a 50 ft. imaginary object.  All of these were completed nicely with compliments along the way.

We headed back to Addison.  I maintain altitude the whole way manually (something I struggle with in these light sports) but I did make a mistake on a radio call talking to Addison. It wasn't a big deal of a mistake but worth a mention after we landed and debriefed.

He shook my hand at the end as we were getting out and said "Congratulations, you did a good job. ... I'd fly with you again."

That was it!  We went inside, he printed my temporary certificate, signed it, discussed it then I was officially seen as a Pilot, not a student.

YAY!!

One year, two weeks and LOTS of money and time went into this effort. 

So what's next?  I want to be checked out on a Cessna 172 at a nearby hangar so I can share family trips.  I also want to fly half of the cross country trip next weekend to Lubbock.  I also want to throw a party and take some friends and coworkers up with me for the fun of it.  If you can read this, you're invited!  :-)

Sunday!

My checkride is scheduled for Sunday morning. I am both nervous and excited!

I am reviewing the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) for the airplane I'll be flying in, brushing up on typical oral quiz questions, and trying to remain calm.

*giddy*

I also need to prepare for a cross country flight to Shreveport, although we won't actually go there.

I am ready for this!  I am nervous, but I am ready!  :-)

*giddy*

By the way, I may be incognito this weekend whilst I do last minute studying.  If you can't reach me, I'm sure you understand.



BTW, the Piper SportCruiser (CRUZ) is classified as SP-GEN-AP if you ever have to do an IACRA form on the FAA site. :-)

Checkride in Sight!

This week I got endorsed to take my checkride.

yay!!

Now I'm waiting for the school's preferred FAA designated examiner guy to be available for testing. I'm told he only does weekends.  So far no response.  I'm worried he may not be available until the end of the month.  We'll see.  *fingers crossed*

Today I flew a couple patterns around Addison airport. I would have liked to have flown more but

  1. I ran out of time, and
  2. the winds changed to be more of crosswind component.

Also, the pilot side right brake was broken making it difficult to effectively taxi.  I could left like a champ but not right.  My CFI has on right side brake duty.

Meanwhile I'll be reading the Practical Test Standards and a little book called Pass Your Private Pilot Checkride.  And flying when it's affordable.  :-)

90%

Yesterday I flew with my instructor demonstrating all the flying maneuvers we have been practicing.  Patrick recently said I was 90% ready for a check ride. Everything was spot on except for s-turns.  For some reason I either lose speed or lose altitude during s-turns.  I'll go up again tomorrow to practice on my own. I'm also on the schedule to demonstrate my improvement some time next week.  I'm scheduled for Tuesday afternoon but now that weather is in the forecast, I may have to be flexible. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for tomorrow through Wednesday.  :-(

Today Rusty & I hung out in the hangar with other pilots and students for the school's Kentucky Derby party.  People showed up all decked out in fancy clothing and ladies with derby hats. I wore a layered outfit and the derby hat leftover from Emily's bachelorette party.

The best part of the day was talking with other pilots.  I love hearing other people's stories about how they got to be where they are now. I also love hearing pilot stories.  I can't wait to get some good stories of my own.  I have a few, and look forward to more.  ;-)

On that note, my father-in-law seemed very interested in trying out a flight.  Once I have my license, I'll be looking for excuses to fly.

I got the day off of work today unexpectedly.  There was an electrical fire on the fourth floor that caused three floors to be evacuated for the day. The only reason why I'm not jumping for joy is that is that it happens to also be overcast (no flying) and Rusty is stuck on conference calls (no matinees or lunches out).

So I'll mill around the house, maybe run an errand, study steps for flight maneuvers, and eventually get kids from school.

My future self is already disappointed that I haven't aspired to greatness in my free day off.

I went up today to practice maneuvers. It was uneventful. But I still loved going up! I go up again tomorrow with an instructor much more prepared than last time.

I flew today practicing some maneuvers and being drilled on oral exam questions. It was uneventful for the most part. I know the areas I need to work on. I'm scheduled to launch again Thursday morning (solo) to practice the points I need to work on.

Then I''ll fly with my CFI again to demonstrate I've improved.

Then I'll earn an endorsement if I somehow "wow" him.

Then I'll prove myself to the toughest CFI at the school.

Then they'll schedule a checkride.

The end feels like it's drrrraaaaaagggging on.

We're looking at planes. I found a beautiful Bellanca for sale in the area with retractable gear and a powerful engine. There's also a Cessna 172P for sale in Houston that I'm eyeing up with a new motor and new interior. To help with costs, I've put out a Craigslist posting looking for other pilots to share the plane and it's associated costs.

http://dallas.craigslist.org/ndf/wan/2959873097.html

Although I would LOVE to continue flying the Piper LightSports, they just aren't made for family travel. Renting is fine for now, but ownership would give the ultimate freedom to just go. I'll let you know what comes of the ad.

Rusty is OFFICIALLY a private pilot! Today he got his nifty plastic card from the FAA. We've already gone on two family flights in the area using a rental plane. The first trip was to Tyler to visit the flight museum (how fitting) and the second trip was to Aero Country where we inquired about hangars. We met a few pilots there who informed us that Aero Country didn't have much hangar space for rent and that the previous owner of Airpark, David Noell, died last month.

Although we really want to park at Airpark because it's cheap and close to home, we're concerned about it's future as available airport. It isn't maintained and a landowner in the area wants to raze the airport and put in a shopping strip. Booooo!

As for me, I'm prepping for the checkride. I went up this week to practice stalls, s-turns and emergency landings. I'll go up again next week then plead for hopefully earn an endorsement to take the checkride.

I flew today "under the hood" from Addison to Terrill airport Southwest of the Dallas area with an instructor. I did some short field landings and short field take-offs. It was gusty - up to 18knots from 160° - but it was manageable. I did a few great landings and a couple less graceful ones. I made mental notes of what I think I need to work on then the instructor added to this list with his own critiques.

I'm now also reading a small book to prepare for the oral test portion of the check flight. I'm not nervous about the flight check ride. I am a little nervous about the oral exam because there are SO many topics the examiner could ask about.



Yesterday I flew my long solo flight from Addison to Stamper, OK. I almost didn't get to go...

Winds were a tad high over DFW only. Not sure how this happens, but anyway... Winds were 9 knots and gusting at 210 that afternoon. I saw this as perfectly fine so checked out the plane with Sam (hangar mechanic and pilot), I preflighted, got into my scheduled plane, started the engine then saw Sam waving at me. Engine off. He asked me about the winds. I just happen to have gotten an updated ATIS, now 9 knots and gusting at 190. He asked what I was endorsed for crosswinds.

8 knots

What's the current crosswind?

Less than 8 knots

Really?

Um... I think. I'm pretty sure. (I wasn't confident at all)

Hang on. Sam talks to Patrick then tells me to check with him directly.

What are the winds?

9 knots gusting to 15 at 190.

Gusting to 15 knots!? You can't fly in that. Students shouldn't fly in winds over 10 knots. The gusts are well over that...

We discussed this for a moment. I was told to wait in case the winds died down some. I was very bummed BECAUSE there won't be another good weather day for a week. And it had already been 12 days since my last flight. I didn't want a long period of time between a lesson and practice.

I waited in the lobby checking weather underground and current metar readings, which hadn't changed at this point.

Long story short, 10-15 minutes later Patrick discretely cleared me to go under the promise I returned before dark (I didn't) and that I was safe (I totally was).

My flight was awesome! I found my visual checkpoints along the way, had flight following from Fort Worth Center, did a superb full stop landing at Durant, found my second leg checkpoint to Stamper, found Stamper and did a good enough landing there (6 knot headwind baby!). I taxied to the airport to text Rusty about my timing and get organized with my flight plan papers.

I did one touch and go at Stamper before departing back to Durant. Along the way to Durant, the sun was dropping faster than I wanted (and blinding me) so I decided to try flying directly towards DUA airport from one of my checkpoints. All I had to do was figure out my VOR course (check) and point the plane in that direction (check). Once I flew off course for this plan, I felt a bit apprehensive because this was all new territory. I was deviating off course by about 15 miles.

Then I saw the airport, gave a loud YES! to myself then called Fort Worth Center for flight following to ADS.

When I got back, it was dark. I lost Addison airport twice before finally locking in the runway. My landing there was superb again. I tied up the plane, called a few people (including Patrick to let him know I was all good) then went home. on cloud nine.

My Take Aways:
Trust what you know. I knew in theory the VOR heading would get me to my point but to see it work in practice was comforting.
Rehearse your route well. Even a second flight deserves review of checkpoints and travel plans.
Be prepared. I wasn't expecting to take off late, thus I wasn't expecting to return in the dark, but I was prepared! I had completed night flight training, I had a flashlight in my pilot bag and I had a well lit GPS dash to get me the last 20 miles home.

next up: written exam, which I got endorsed to take. :-)




I finally broke through the 80s with practice tests for the written FAA exam. I scored a 90% on a practice test, which is good enough to be endorsed for the real thing

I'm working with my school to schedule the real test for next week.

we got to tour Addison's air traffic control tower this morning. We also got to meet some of the controllers. Very nice guys, and gals. It was quieter and calmer than I imagined. I got a number to call for a tour of the Ft. Worth center tower. Mayb this summer we can do that. The rest of the wekend is booked to do camping with the boys.

I am exhausted! I flew a cross country flight today with an instructor from Addison to Hugo, OK. I had been dreaming of making this trip for a long and was THRILLED to finally make it!

No, seriously thrilled. The winds were screaming from the south (averaged 180° gusting to 20 knots) so it was pretty bumpy in areas. Luckily it was all headwind for landings and take-offs. On the landing in Durant, my half-way point, I think I said oh shit a few times right before my beautiful landing. (The plane straightened up last second)

I have to say, I enjoy dead reckoning navigation. That's where you look at what's on the ground to get there. From Durant to Hugo we followed a road and railroad line all the way and spotted a few small cities along the way.

On the flight back, as my instructor warned me, we flew straight to Addison and I had to wear the torture device that covers the view of the ground outside. All I used were the instruments: heading, VOR and GPS. I started feeling a bit woozy in the stomach after an hour of "hood time". If only I had held out for 6 more minutes, I would be done done done with hood time. I guess 6 minutes won't kill me during one of the several check rides I'll take before my final check ride.

What's next? If weather is good on Thursday I'll fly solo to Hugo. If I can score a 90% on a practice test, I'll do my written exam that day too.

My favorite great grand aunt Caroline Caldwell from Hugo, OK.
I love that she matches the plane. :-)

Looking at the above picture (not mine) I landed at runway 1 near the road.

I flew to Sulphur Springs, TX with an instructor today! It was a good flight, though the winds (18 knot gusts, 39 aloft) made the ride bumpy, bouncy, and thrilling as all hell. My landing at Sulphur Springs was beautiful. (My landing at Addison was less than 100% but not terrible.) The instructor kept testing me on my preparations asking if that body of water over there was where we were going. No, I'm positive it's that one. My heading was spot on the whole way, my timing was close enough and my pre-flight prep was good. I had radio & VOR frequencies and a folded map readily available.

My one big thing to work on is level flight. I was consistently ascending or descending. I couldn't seem to fly more than a few miles before dropping or climbing 500 feet. My plane does have "auto pilot" which can hold my position and altitude, but for some reason I tend to resist using it. Part of it is stubbornness to get better at holding altitude on my own instead of relying on that. And part of it is... I can't think of another reason. I'm just stubborn.

If I can show up next week Wednesday morning fully prepared for another trip to Sulphur Springs, I should get endorsed to fly there and back solo. I'm so there!

I drank 2 glasses of wine recently then took a practice exam. I passed with an 81%. The day prior, sober, I passed with an 86%. I think I'll be ready to take the written by next week or so.



For a third time, my plans to fly a cross country were squashed by weather. Last time it was encroaching low clouds in the area. Today it was winds gusting to 20+ knots.

I'll try again on Friday morning for a flight. I thought February would be a boring month to fly, but apparently it's more restrictive than I expected. I REALLY want to finish in Spring, before the high winds of summer sit on us.

I snapped this picture of "Fifi" today from the taxiway at Addison. I did landings at Mesquite airport during my lunch break.

The clouds were reported overcast at 5000 feet from the surface but there were some smaller clouds floating around 3000 feet. I stayed clear of them, but it was neat see those wisps of cloud so close. There was a line of fluffy clouds moving West (I was going East) but I stayed below them at 2000 feet, more or less.

My patterns at Mesquite were alright but I was consistently high on final approach. In all, I did 4 landings at Mesquite and one beautiful, damn-near perfect landing at Addison.

I told Patrick (owner/manager guy) that I was batting an 80% average on practice tests for the FAA written exam. I feel I'm ready enough to take the test knowing I won't ace it. But he insists I continue striving for a 90% average before attempting the test. I'm not in a rush so I'm not going to push the issue. But now once I've done a couple cross countries, I'll be (hopefully) more than ready to take the test.

In other news, Joshua got a part in the school play Aladdin. He's the part of an apple peddler and some character named Yogi. He worked hard to memorize the line that earned him his spot. We're proud of him. I guess I'll rent Aladdin so he can get the big picture idea of the story.

Also in family news, Rusty was diagnosed with having stage 3 osteoarthritis in his right knee and a torn meniscus. In addition to pampering his knees, he will likely need knee replacement in the next 10-20 years. He's been having knee pains leading up to the doctor's visit. Now we know why and that it's not going away. :-(

I spent time studying for my FAA exam this morning by attending the flight school's ground school. Today's session was about multiple topics that will be on the exam, in the form of a Jeopardy game. I won't bore you with the nerdy details of what I learned.

EXCEPT for this really cool trick for converting Celsius to Fahrenheit in your head without fancy math or needing to know it's 9/5 plus 32. Ready?

Prime example: let's start with 15° C
First, double the number = 30
Take away 10% = 30-3= 27
Add 32 = 27+32= 59° F
That's it!

Another example:
9° C doubled = 18
18 take 10% = 16.2 (I'll round down)
16 add 32= 48
48° F

Last example:
38° C doubled= 76
76 take 10%= 68.4 (I'll round down)
68 add 32= 100
100° F

Let's go backwards!
59° F
subtract 32 = 27
add 10% = 27+2.7= 29.7 (I'll round up)
30 in half is 15° C

85° F minus 32=
53 add 10%= 58.3 (I'll round down)
58 in half is 29° C


This doesn't help me pass my exam or fly any better, but now I can convert inflight or without my E6B handy if I need to.

(Thanks Captain!)

My first real solo flight was yesterday and it went very well. I flew out to a practice east of Lake Hubbard and practiced my turns. I did S-turns over a long road and some steep turns. I really focused on turning without ascending or descending.

On a whim, I decided to do a touch-and-go at a small airport called Rockwall. I located the pattern radio using the GPS, entered the pattern and proceeded towards Final. As I was on Final, I noticed there were tall electric lines in front of the runway. No worries! I stayed high to scale those lines then landed beautifully! My landing was so good, I got distracted that I intended to do a touch-and-go and kept going down the runway. Change of plans: taxi back to the end for another take-off!

Coming into Addison was fine. I began to drift north of where I needed to be, not from wind, but by sight. I confused a group of tall building along the tollway north of Addison with my destination. Once I realized this, I corrected myself. My landing at Addison was fine but I came in high. The benefit to coming in high is that I took up a lot of runway and was closer to my turn off for taxi. But really, I know I need to work on landing at Addison, especially when coming in from a non-pattern direction.

Overall, the flight was great! I was beaming at the end. Turns out, I did make one mistake. I was not supposed to land at any other airport than Addison or Mesquite. So that Rockwall experience is mine alone and doesn't count towards my logbook. My flight instructor forgave me but made it clear not to do that again.

Next on my schedule: prove I'm capable to plan a cross country so I can fly that.

By the way, the stylish blue visor is my solution in lieu of sunglasses. I intend to have it signed by my flight instructors when I'm done.

I'm studying for the FAA written exam. I got a 78% on my practice test earlier today. It's an improvement, but I need more focus on certain topics.

But here's one series of questions I'll never get wrong again because I came up with an easy way to keep it straight in my head.

FAA advisory circulars containing subject matter specifically related to Airmen are issued under which subject number? 60

FAA advisory circulars containing subject matter specifically related to Airspace are issued under which subject number? 70

FAA advisory circulars containing subject matter specifically related to Air Traffic Control are issued under which subject number? 90

Here's how to I'll remember which is which. The above bold words happen to be in alphabetical order and the only three numbers to remember for this type of question are 60, 70 and 90. Alphabetical order = numeric order

I truly hope I get this question on the real test. :-)

By the way, FAA advisory circulars can be found online here. I haven't figured out why this type of question is testable- who cares what number it is?

I flew today after work taking an instructor for a ride. He didn't interfere or talk much. He just wanted to know I could get around without assistance. I did fine. In the end, he endorsed me to solo out of Addison (my home airport) so all that's left is solo time!! And ground work to plan a cross country flight. And LOTS of practice tests until I'm ready for my written exam.

In other news, I went to a safety seminar last night put on by AOPA. That was engaging. I wished Rusty could have joined me but he was working late. I loved that the meeting was interactive. There were some good safety reminders and reinforcement to training concepts I'm practicing such as stall recovery, flight planning, weight & balance, and generic good judgement.

AOPA sent an email asking members to support them in a stand against a proposed general aviation user fee. It would raise approximately $11 billion over 10 years by charging $100 for flights by commercial and turbine jet airplanes, and a fraction of the fee for small planes.
Here's the FAA's FAQ on the matter: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/reauthorization/media/Questions_Answers.pdf

I'm conflicted as to whether I support a user fee for general aviation usage. If the bill means to tax corporate jets and commercial planes, I'd support a small tax like $50-100. But most small plane pilots are far from rich and wouldn't be able to afford a user tax. A small tax would help fund outdated equipment upgrades, which we need. But I do have a "don't tread on me" attitude. Taxing small plane pilots would likely deter pilots in general. Fewer pilots would mean fewer airplane sales, fewer supplies sales, high costs for flight schools (thus fewer students and some business closure), and fewer taxes from avgas fuel consumption.

But I respect that we're in tight times and need funds to support an aging aviation infrastructure.

My opinion: a proportional user tax would be fair. Small tax for small planes including flight schools, larger taxes on larger commercial planes and corporate jets. Then a repeal of this tax when we finally beat this long recession!

Honestly though, I doubt it would pass during this administration since the Republicans are very opposed to it.

I don't know for sure if he heard me but right after I took off for my first solo flight out of Mesquite, I loudly shouted,

"Yeee-haaw!! Woo-hooo!!"

(What did you expect from a Texan?)

I did three touch-and-goes at Mesquite all by myself. My landings were all great, my patterns were good, my approach was low for one landing but I adjusted fine. It was a great feeling to finally fly alone. And eerily quite without the company.

After my last landing, I picked up my CFI waiting on the ground and we departed towards Addison airport. Over Lake Hubbard I called into Regional Control. Normally, they would give me a squawk code for my transponder and direct me towards to the airport but today was different. The controller was very busy diverting traffic away from Addison. There was an airplane that (apparently) had a rough or fast landing without brakes and went off the runway. Nobody got hurt and his aircraft survived. It was a bit of a non-issue really except all of us in the sky had to circle around, land in other places or come back later. The runway was shut down for at least 10 minutes.

So we flew to the north DFW area over Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Aero Country and north of that in an area I call the North Practice Area. Oh fond memories. :-)

We did some practice turns and practiced traffic avoidance with the navigation system. After a while, Addison opened so we went straight in from the North, landed beautifully, taxied to the hangar and that's where I saw Rusty waiting for me.

My instructor* cut my shirt up, three instructors signed & decorated the shirt tail and tacked it up on their wall. It's going to stay at the flight school a few days for others to see. Call it inspiration to other students and discovery flight visitors.

So what's next??

I will review cross country planning and navigation with Rusty, do an hour of ground time at the school to review, get questions answered, and prepare for my first solo cross country. Before I do a cross country, I'll go up to do maneuvers around the lake area solo. That should be easy enough. Maybe next week if the weather is good I'll go up for maneuvers.

yay!!

*My primary instructor cut a small patch off my shirt then Patrick corrected that and cut a gigantic patch off my back. The giant patch of shirt is at the school. The humble signed patch is in my flight bag and will likely travel with me from now on.


I am endorsed to solo!!!

*happy dance*

My day went something like this...

Work in the office, leave at 2pm for scheduled flight. I flew out with Stuart, my usual CFI, to do landings, slow flight and emergency landing procedures. We did touch-and-goes at Caddo Mills on 17. That was a fun little runway space. I say space because there's another adjacent runway and a road all making a triangle. It's hardly an airport. My landings were great, my maneuvers were good, and I was on my game in every way. Back at the hangar, I was hoping he would endorse me right there. uh, no. He couldn't (apparently either he's too new of a CFI at this school or... I don't know... that's my only guess) so I turned to Patrick, the owner/manager guy.

Winds will be high tomorrow.
He's out Friday through the weekend.
We don't know the weather for next week yet.

Rather than play it nice and say "oh whenever", or get all bitchy about not knowing Stuart would not be able to endorse me, I jumped in with an enthusiastic "How about right now!?"

"Take 30 minutes and we can do that."

So I apologize to Rusty on the phone that I'm messing up the evening routine, speed through town, take the kids from daycare to home, speed back to the hangar and begin preflighting. At this point, the sun is hanging low and we have a little more than an hour of light. Patrick dumps in some fuel then we shove off with haste. < /speed reading>

My earlier flight was on runway 15 at ADS (17 at Caddo) but the winds changed within the hour so we taxied to 33. Take off was great. Navigation to Mesquite airport was good. I did 4 touch-and-goes.

My landings were all perfect. I got nothing but praise on those from both instructors. My first pattern at Mesquite with Patrick was a bit sloppy (was I nervous, excited, distracted?) but my other patterns were all fine and the last was mah-velous!

In flight as we departed back towards Addison, Patrick signed my logbook & medical certificate endorsing me to fly solo. Normally he would ask me to drop him off, I'd fly around then we'd fly back. But the sun was dropping fast so he stayed in the passenger seat the whole time.

Friday I will go out with Stuart, fly him to Mesquite, he'll jump out and talk to me from the ground while I do a few touch-and-goes. Then he'll cut my shirt. :-)

What does this mean for me?

I can finally get on with my ultimate goal of a pilot's license. I need to do a few cross-country trips solo, I need to practice some maneuvers solo and I need to pass my written exam with the FAA. And flying solo is cheaper than with an instructor so in theory I can fly more frequently.

Free at last!!

(Pictured above: my brand new paper airplane socks that I wore all day with hopes they would be good luck.)

It was another beautiful day to go up! I launched with my regular instructor, Stuart. We some basic maneuvers (turns, stalls) and slow flight. I hate slow flight because. it's. too. slow.

Then we did some touch and gos at Mesquite. My landings were all fine but my approach was consistently high today. I need to work on that.

Rusty gets his FAA check ride on Friday (followed by libations) then I fly again Saturday afternoon. wippee!

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