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.


*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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