Clouds you suck!

2:07 PM Monday, August 30, 2010

I am starting to feel as if someone doesn't want me to solo. Today I was ready, I was sure this was the day. I had been over the landing time and time again this morning in my head, I could visualize everything. I had studied the wind conditions, I was prepared for the crosswind. I was ready!! Then I got to the airport and the ceiling was dropping. By the time my instructor arrived back at the airport I was not optimistic. He finished up with his other student and I could tell by the look on his face as he approached me that I was not going to solo.

The clouds were now at 1300 ft above ground level. I need to stay 500ft below them to abide with federal aviation rules. Which meant I would be at 7ooft above ground level, which is not high enough for pattern work :( Not high enough by about 49ft, so close, so very close :( I think on any other day we would have gone up, but Tim did not want me to get stuck in a cloud on my first solo. I can't say that I blame him, I don't want to solo in poor conditions either.

So I packed up and left, hoping for a better day on Wednesday afternoon. I will get a solo in sometime!

Wind, I hate you

9:02 AM Friday, August 27, 2010

I really thought I was going to get to solo yesterday. Well, the wind had other things in mind for me. The unwritten rule of soloing is that you take your instructor up and show them that you can handle a couple of landings in the conditions on that day, then you drop them off and you go by yourself a couple of times. I knew the wind had been pretty unpredictable so far that day, so I was trying not to get my hopes up so that I wouldn't be disappointed if it didn't happen.

We started off in Tim's office and he signed off on all my stuff except the final endorsement for solo. I went out and pre-flighted. Once Tim was in the plane we started up and listened to the weather. Winds were 250 at 03kts, no problem, I could handle that. I radioed that we would be taxing to Runway 21. Another plane came back that he was lining up on 15. Tim asked me to taxi out so we could see the wind sock. Sure enough it was calm, calm wind runway is 15, I radioed in the change in plans and headed to 15. As we were taxing out, a wind came up that pushed us on the taxiway. The first bad sign of many. I did the run-up, all was well. Radioed my take off and lined up on the runway. Off we went. As soon as I rotated we were getting pushed around, I took a look back and sure enough that wind sock was active. We stayed with the pattern for 15 for about 3 times, then we decided we needed to switch to 21. Made the switch and I now had a bit of a crosswind from the left. Next time around I had a crosswind from the right. I was doing my best to keep up with the changes, but I just wasn't doing it quick enough or well enough that I could go by myself. I agree with Tim's decision not to let me solo, I was uncomfortable with the changing wind and would probably have turned down the chance at a solo if he had given it to me.

I was very disappointed that I didn't get to solo. However, I feel that Saturday is a great day for a solo flight, lets hope for calm winds, or at the very least consistent winds.

Almost There

4:09 PM Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So today we again worked on landings. My approaches now rock. My airspeeds are pretty consistent and I can fix the problem when I am too high, too low, too fast, too slow or a combo there of. The only thing that is holding me back is my flare is not always consistent because I am not always judging my height off the runway correctly. It is getting better and I actually had one really good landing and a bunch of decent landings today.

The scary part. I think it is time for my solo. Part of me is super super super excited, but part of me wants to shit my pants. Right now I would say the ratio of excited to scared is about 50/50. I know that I spend part of a day with Tim in the plane and then he gets out so I can solo so I think if I hit 3 good landings before he gets out the ratio will go down to about 90 percent excited 10 percent scared.

Holy crap they are actually going to let me fly alone!!

OMG Instinct

9:11 AM Friday, August 20, 2010

Well it turns out that I am going to have about 4 days off. I am already going into with drawl and it is only day 2 :( Tim had some personal things to take care of yesterday and had to cancel and he is booked for today and I am going to the Cubs game tomorrow (Go Cubs Go!). I guess maybe a few days off won't kill me. I might actually get through reading the weather chapters in my book (I am not very interested in the science of weather so this section is a bit hard for me to study).

Anyway, I had a few experiences I wanted to share that haven't made it into the blog yet. My first couple of landings seems like a good place to start. The first few times up Tim took care of landing the plane each time, we were simply working on in air stuff. So once we were in the pattern I would give the plane controls to Tim and he would land, having me keep my hands on the controls to feel what he was doing (and explaining). It seemed pretty straight forward as he was doing it, and I understood the science involved in getting the plane to the ground, so I thought no problem, I can do this. Well what nobody tells you is that when you are aimed at the ground, your subconscious (at least mine does) pulls back so that you go back up. I will call this the OMG I don't want to crash instinct. Although my mind knows that I will not crash, I will in fact land quite gently (assuming all goes well) that OMG instinct just doesn't want the plane to point at the ground. So landing number one, actually wasn't a landing at all, but a high balloon (pitching back up near the ground) and then a go-around (full power and climb back up to altitude).

Landing two. As we were climbing back up to 1500 feet I realized I was sweating like a pig, partly because it is hot in July in Iowa but mostly because of the OMG I am going to crash incident. Interestingly enough I was thinking about how the plane should smell much worse than it does, considering for at least 5 hours a day someone is sweating profusely in this seat. Then I realized we were at 1200' and I should be thinking about landing not about sweat. Downwind goes well, checklist goes well, approach goes poorly. Although now after 58 landings the steps are almost automatic, the second time around they are overwhelming. So while Tim is saying turn onto base for 060, pitch for 80kts, call your base, 2nd notch of mind is saying wait wait wait you are going to fast. But I quickly found out there is no waiting, it is do or die literally, we are sinking at a rate of 1000 feet per minute when I am not doing what I am supposed to on base (1000' per minute is pretty quick when you are 800' off the ground). So I try to quickly follow his instructions and then he is saying turn final, pitch for 70 kts, call your final, line up with the runway (I am not even close at this point), 3rd notch of flaps, power to idle, catch the plane, flare the plane (nose up to land on the main wheels). Well in this scenario I got as far as turning final, then we were much too low, not even close to being lined up with the runway and certianly not at 70kts. Tim fixed it and we (of course I mean he) landed the plane. Thankfully from here I have only gotten better. I mostly have the OMG I am aimed at the ground thing under control. I occasionally still think it, but I no longer act on it. The steps are pretty automatic although my mental checklist is still going all the way through because although the goal is to make landing a plane look easy, I have realized that it is very mentally and physically demanding.

Well this has gone on long enough. I am sure there will be plenty more antics to tell in the coming months, so stay tuned.


10:40 AM Thursday, August 19, 2010

So, yesterday things finally clicked into place for me. The winds were fairly calm and mostly at a headwind for landing which gave me the first chance at a non-crosswind landing in a while. I got a couple of really decent landings! I am super excited! I was getting pretty discouraged that I wasn't getting a smooth transition from decent to landing attitude, but now I am pumped because it is all coming together. Which is great because I think Tim is getting bored going in circles all day :)

Tim also covered up all of my instruments yesterday (he let me keep my airspeed indicator). This was actually very helpful for me. I tend to want to get everything perfect and in my mind the instruments tell me when it is perfect so I look at them a lot. What the cover-up experiment taught me is that I am a better pilot when I am not looking at them and my instincts are pretty good as to pitch, altitude and bank.

I am disappointed because my lesson got cancelled this morning. I was ready to get a few more landings in. Oh, well, hopefully we can go up later today or tomorrow.

Total Flight Time: 14.5 hrs

Getting an FAA Flight Physical

12:38 PM Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Part of being a pilot is the flight physical. Any of you who actually know me, know that my body type is not that ideal (aka: fat). Well being fat doesn't disqualify you to fly and I am otherwise pretty healthy so I didn't think this was going to be an issue.

Well, I have had issues with my blood pressure over the years (damn heredity and being fat). All my tests fall within the FAA standards so I thought I was golden. However, the FAA requires a note from my doctor that states that she thinks I am ok to fly given that I have had blood pressure issues in the past. No problem...or so I thought. My doctor says she has no problem giving the note but that she needs to see me first (first available appointment 1 week out) and then it will take 2 days to get the note after that. The FAA needs the stuff within the week, now I am faced with a conundrum. I have pushed my doctor to get it done ASAP, so now all I can do is cross my fingers that it all works out! I will keep you posted, it would suck if they deferred my license because my doctor couldn't write out three lines of information and fax it to a number.

For those of you interested in what happens during a flight physical (3rd class) here it is. You fill out a bunch of paper work. You talk to the doctor (hearing test). The doctor listens to your heart and lungs. The doctor checks your feet (diabetes I assume). The doctor gives you a color blind test and a couple of other vision tests. You pee in a cup. Blood work may be required depending on medical history. Then you are on your way. Pretty simple and nothing to worry about.

Oh, I almost forgot the most interesting part of my flight physical, the location. There are not very many doctors that perform the exams required by the FAA (I am going to assume it is because of the amount of paperwork involved), so I didn't have too many choices. I chose the guy closest to me. When I arrived at his office I walked in and immediately felt like I had walked through a time warp. Everything was from the 70's. The chairs, the counters, the carpet, everything! I almost stepped back outside to see if the rest of the world jumped back in time too. As I progressed from the waiting room to the back area, it was even more apparent that this office needed an update. Nothing was electronic, there were not even computers anywhere that I could see. They had weird wooden benches between counter tops that you sat on. I even passed through a secondary waiting room that had orange shag carpet and wood paneled walls. By the time I left, I really was convinced that everything outside the office would be 1970's as well.

I haven't written for a few days, but I have been flying a lot. Since I last wrote 10 days ago I have been up 5 times and will go again today if the rain passes.

We have mainly been working on landings. Obviously this is an important part of flying a plane and I am not sure why I can't seem to get it right consistently. I have landed a couple of pretty good landings, but I have also had a quite a few not so good landings. My approach is getting better every time. I have been able to get a pretty good stabilized approach in most of my recent landings. However, when it comes time to flare I am either to fast or too slow. Today my goal is to do two really good landings before we quit.

We have also really been working on slow flight recently. I actually kind of like slow flight, it gives you the sensation of floating, especially on a windy day. In the plane I am training in (Piper Cherokee 140) slow flight is maintaining an airspeed of 50kts and cruising around. I am not sure what I find so interesting about slow flight, but it is probably one of my favorite maneuvers to do at this point.

I am also liking steep turns (banks of 45 degrees). I actually have trouble sticking to the no more than 30 degree bank rule on most days. After talking to my dad this week I realized why. Most of my flying time was riding behind him in his airplane. He says that he almost always banks at higher than 30 degrees bank (granted his plane is an aerobatic plane) but this would explain why 30 degrees seems so small to me, and 45 seems much more fun :)

Keep those fingers crossed for no rain, I wanna go flying this afternoon.


5:34 PM Monday, August 2, 2010

Today, I struggled. Today, I felt uncomfortable behind the yoke. Today, I was discouraged. I still love flying, but today had me questioning whether or not I should be flying. As the adage goes, if you fall off the horse get back on and keep riding, so I go back up at 0700 tomorrow.

Today, we did do some ground maneuvers which went ok. Turns around a point and s-turns. The object of turns around a point is to keep equidistant from the point on all sides of a 360 degree turn. The wind wasn't too bad today, but I did not keep equidistant from it very well. It was my first try and the science makes sense to me, but the execution is lacking. S-turns, I felt, went pretty well. The object of the s-turn is to keep two 180 degree turns with an equal radius. Wings are level each time you cross your reference road (a road running perpendicular to the wind). I think I got this one pretty well. It wasn't perfect, but for a first try I almost made the turn both times.

We did a bit more foggles work, boo foggles. I don't feel like that went well at all today. I was having a lot of trouble holding headings and altitude. My mind was all over the place. I need to work on concentrating on the tasks at hand during each stage of flight instead of trying to be ahead to the next step.

I do feel like landings went better today. We only did two, but on the second one I felt I almost had it. I might see if we can spend a day working on just landings in the near future because that seems to be where my mental hang-up is. I guess I feel that if I can't land the plane, then, I probably shouldn't be learning to fly the plane.

Hours logged today 1.1 (.2 ifr)
Total hours logged 5.1