Archive for the ‘Flight’ Category

AIF, 45.1 hours (1.0 hours last flight)

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Got some flight time with my old instructor today! Instructor time? But you are already a pilot!

Yep, but there are times when you are trying something new, that you want to do it with a CFI next to you instead of just by yourself.

Spins were out of the question today. The main reason for this is that I’m not going for my spin CFI endorsement. The secondary reason is that spins screw up the gyros in an airplane. Since those things cost $250/each, the mechanic does not want us doing it in any IFR certified plane. N52119 is the plane I flew today, and it is the best IFR 172 that the school has.

So here’s the plan on spins. We’re either going to wait for 5915A to be ready for flight (it has no working gyros), or I’m going to go to Marcair and do some spin training there. Either way, it’s important to me and I’m going to do it.

Today we flew up to Ironhead. The whole point of this was to get practice landing on turf. I did beautifully, logged 3 landings on turf (to a full stop), and then we headed home. Quick day of flight, but I am comfortable on turf now. Pretty easy actually, and it was not nearly as rough as I thought it was going to be. And the North end had a 25 foot slope rise on it!!

I also got a look at one of the SportStars in the hangar. Nothing special, except someone crashed it! Thankfully no one was hurt, but it was another great lesson at someone else’s expense on aviation safety. When the report from the FAA comes out, I’ll post it so you can see the official details.

AIF, 44.1 hours (1.3 hours last flight)

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Happy Labor Day! I’ve been itching to get back up in the air, and James & I decided to take the SportStar (919LA, which is harder to say than 901LA) up for a spin. We planned a short trip from 52F, around the Class B, to Alliance (KADS). After topping off the tanks, we departed! The wind was calm at the field, so I departed to the south, but the winds ended up picking up enough to have us switch around to landing & taking off to the north.

About 13 miles from KADS, I picked up their ATIS and we listened. It told us to contact regional approach for any VFR traffic inbound. That was a new one for me! So we contacted regional approach, got a squawk code so they could track us, and handed us over to Alliance Tower. After the handoff, we were given the option to make left or right traffic (I always prefer left as you get better visibility of the runway), so we called out left traffic and were cleared to land.

We taxied to one of the FBOs on the field to be greeted by three VERY eager guys wanting to give us fuel. The SportStar burns 5 gals/hour, so the 30 minute flight really did not give them a reason to roll the truck. They looked a bit disappointed. Sorry guys.

We sat in the FBO for a little bit, and then packed up to leave. This was a practice run for us as I’m going to be taking some folks skydiving (not out of the plane I am flying) in October, so I wanted to have seen the layout of Addison with my eyes before asking folks to meet me there. Though, after looking more closely at the chart, in order for me to get cross country credit for the trip, it I need to take off from Alliance. That will be easy for the folks to get to (much easier than 52F).

On the way back, things were uneventful (as on the way out). 52F was much busier when we landed. Two planes departing the runway, one departing the pattern, and one doing a run up. We landed without incident and taxied back to the flight school. Off to park, and then in the car!

Now it is time to do expenses. FUN!

AIF, 42.8 hours (1.1 hours last flight)

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Last Friday was a big day for us. It was the first time I took up the family in the Cessna 172! I had James sit right seat so that Mama & Garrett could enjoy the back together. Garrett LOVED it. We were worried he would scream at the plane, but after being a little tentative, he walked right up to the plane and hopped into the backseat.

We just stayed local as we didn’t have a ton of time. We flew out to Lake Bridgeport and then came on back. James wanted to do a landing on the big runway at Alliance, but there was too much traffic, so we just did a touch & go on 16R.

Then we got our turn out over Texas Motor Speedway and headed back to the field. The only bummer thing is that the audio in the back seat was not working properly, and they could not hear us. We could hear them though. Mama got bored I think and Garrett almost fell asleep.

I’m going to be checking with my instructor sometime in the next couple of weeks so I can get some time to have him demonstrate spins in the 172, and then do a couple of actual soft field landing/takeoffs. 52F has grass, so hopefully I can do it there.

AIF, 41.7 hours (0.6 today)

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Well, did a quick little flight in the Sport Star this AM with Dad. I wanted Chris to be the first one I took up, but our schedules did not work with me leaving for Australia today. So Dad & I went for a spin.

We had some low level clouds around the airport when we arrived, so I just did the normal preflight in anticipation of waiting around a bit. Turns out, the weather cleared for a bit, so we got gas and went! Course, we got off the runway and quickly noticed another low level bank about 20 miles to the north west that was moving our direction. We flew over to Denton, but by the time we got there (3-4 minutes) we noticed that bank getting closer.

I didn’t want to get stuck today.

So I turned around and called Flight Watch and asked for a weather update. That layer of clouds was coming our way! So I decided to run back south and this would just be a very quick (but safe flight). So we flew over Alliance so Dad could get a picture, and then entered the pattern to land. On final, I noticed that cloud bank had stalled a bit, so I decided to do a touch & go.

On our way back around, the clouds that were to the south were coming back up to the north, so I decided to make this our last one. We landed and taxied back.

Now I’m preparing for Australia!

The QPT Wrap, Lesson’s Learned & Recap

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Greetings everyone. From now on, you will see my flight adventures still categorized as Flight, but will be called AIF (Adventures in Flight) with the number of hours. I’ll likely continue my training into new areas (such as instrument training), so I will label those appropriately.

I’ve had some people ask me about costs. I wanted to outline some of the costs you can expect if you are considering a private pilot license. Incidentally, there is a recreational pilot license that was set up a few years ago, and that is cheaper to get. Based on FAR 61.99, you can do it with less than half of the minimum flight time. There are limitations though. For example, it is daytime VFR only, limits to the number of passengers, types of planes, domestic only flights, etc. It’s a good place to start if you want to get up in the air on a budget, but just remember that you are limited.

If you decide to go the private pilot route, you will have much more flexibility and it does not cost too much more. Here are some of the minimum requirements of a private pilot (I’m going to stick with single engine fixed-wing aircraft here) under FAR 61.109 are:

  • 40 hours of total flight time (at least 20 instruction and 10 solo)
  • 3 hours of cross-country flight training (dual)
  • 3 hours of night flight training (dual with 1 cross country and 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop at a towered airport)
  • 3 hours of flight training on maneuvers (dual)
  • 3 hours of practical test flight training
  • 10 hours of solo flight training (at least 5 cross country)
  • 1 solo cross country flight with three stops
  • 3 take offs and landings to a full stop at a towered airport
  • Ground instruction

So here’s how you should figure out cost. The numbers I am using here are valid for an average Cessna 172 at a flight school. They are pretty close to what I paid at my flight school. One thing to note is whether your rates are wet or dry. Wet rates mean fuel is included. The last time I filled up at 52F, AVGas (100LL) is running $4.76/gal, and the 172’s burn about 10 gallons/hour.

  • 45 hours of flight time, this rate is a wet rate so fuel is included (45 hours @ $106/hr = $4,770)
  • ROUGHLY 45 hours of instruction time, though this really seems to vary (45 hours @ $35/hr = $1,575)
  • Charts, you need a current sectional from where you fly (they expire every six months and cost $10), and an optional Terminal Area Chart if you are flying in a highly congested area ($5)
  • An Airport/Facility Directory is something you should have in your bag as well as it contains information about all the airports in the covered area (they expire every 56 days and cost $5)
  • Speaking of bags, you will need a flight bag with the appropriate instructional materials, E6B, plotter, and headset. Most pilot shops have a kit for this, and it will run you about $400 for everything, though you can go higher with an electronic E6B (HIGHLY recommended) and a better headset
  • Red flashlight for night flights ($10 headlamp from Home Depot)

So, if you total all of that up, we’re looking at around $6500-$7000. Fuel makes a big difference here, but it is what it is. I ended up paying less than this because I had some dry rates in the beginning, and I also completed it in much less time.

Some optional equipment to consider…

  • GPS. You cannot use this for your navigation, but it is a really nice backup. Prices vary
  • Kneeboards are excellent for using your VFR flight plans and navigation logs with. They are also very handy in storage of additional things (such as light gun signals), and a nice hard surface for writing down the fast list of instructions that ATC may give you. These range from $20-$50
  • Upgraded flight bag. The one that you get is nice and sturdy, but mine lacked enough pockets and zipped areas to keep things organized. I ended up upgrading to a bag that has the flexibility to store my headset. Range from $70 to $150 and up on the high end

So how about some lessons learned?

  • Do your medical early. It’s not convenient, but really easy to get done.
  • Memorize the written test and take it early. It’s not too hard, but the question bank is pretty large. Read the book, go through the lessons, and do the questions. Memorize if you do not understand, and you will understand later on, I promise.
  • Shop flight schools. Make sure you get a seasoned instructor or at least one you are comfortable with.
  • DO NOT just pull handles in an aircraft. Make sure that if you are trying to pull carb heat out for landing that you don’t accidentally lean the mixture all the way. If you do, don’t panic, just put it back in quickly.
  • When I fly, I usually fly the GPS path I entered from my sectional, and validate it is correct by checking visual references and using instruments such as a VOR or ADF. Never trust any one instrument or method, always double or triple check your position.
  • Better yet, USE ATC! They have one of those thankless jobs, but they are there to help you. Flight following, Flight Watch, Flight Services, and other resources are there to help you.
  • Make sure you have all the correct endorsements you need in your log book before taking your FAA Written, Solo, Cross Country, Class B operations, Night operations, or landing at another airport within 50nm of your home airport.
  • File and activate a flight plan! That way if you get lost, someone will come looking for you.
  • CLOSE your flight plan when you have the airport in sight (or after landing) so you don’t have the search and rescue squad sent when you are safe.
  • Get renter’s insurance, and get enough coverage. AOPA has good deals.
  • Over plan your cross-country trips. And be sure to get weather briefings! It will go a long way to building the habit and being a safe pilot.
  • Over prepare for your written and your final check ride. It will make it seem much easier when you do it.
  • You will blow some landings. At the worst times (like when an FAA examiner is sitting in the right seat). Just don’t quit the day until you get a nice one.
  • If you get airsick, Bonine is your friend. Even if you normally don’t (I normally don’t), hot summers or the Unusual Attitudes (google this. Essentially it’s where you can’t see out the window and the examiner pulls and pushes all kinds of levers, and then makes you recover using only instruments) can make you airsick.
  • And finally, FLY EVERY DAY YOU CAN. I can’t stress this enough. If you want to do it in 40 hours, you should fly as often as you can. I started on July 7, and did my checkride on August 10. That’s 33 days. In that date range, I did not fly on 7 days due to travel and family commitments. It’s imperative that you keep your skills up (long term as well, but very important in the beginning).

Thanks to all of you guys (and gals) who kept me encouraged during this quest! Your encouragement as well as a blog to keep me honest made this a very rewarding experience! Time to go flying for real now!

QPT, COMPLETE (41.1 hours)

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

The quest has officially come to an end! I’m a private pilot!

I did my check ride this afternoon, and it was pretty good all around! The oral exam was about 1.5-2 hours (I lost track of time), and I logged 1.1 hours of flight time. I have my temporary license and am ready to go!

Now I am going to take a break from all things aviation and grab a beer.

QPT, 40 hours (15 solo)

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Made it to 40! Showed up early today for my checkride and had to get .7 more hours. Went up in 5915A and got my .7 hours. Was unsure if it was going to start this AM, battery seemed a little sluggish. This was confirmed when I tried to start it after fueling it. NOPE.

No worries.

But then I had to go run back to the house to get some paperwork and hit an ATM because we could not submit the FAA stuff online.

Next is the checkride!

QPT, 39.3 hours (14.3 solo)

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

ALMOST THERE! So much so that I’m scheduled to do my checkride TOMORROW! WOH!

So I did my oral prep, and now have my study materials to do this thing tomorrow. Wish me luck!

QPT, 38.2 hours (13.2 solo)

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Checked out on the Sport Star! Now all I need is to do the checkride.

Today was pretty light, just flew up to Denton and hung around that airport for a while. I also finished my instrument requirements, so that is now out of the way. We did a little porpoise like maneuver that put us weightless for a few seconds. Fun, but a mess for the gear in the back.

I’m traveling today, but will be back in the left seat on Saturday for my check ride prep!

QPT, 36.8 hours (12.9 solo)

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Just got back at my desk from a quick trip out to San Francisco and I realized, I FORGOT to tell you about my flight yesterday AM! I took out the same plane I did my night flight in (N80508) and went over to Alliance to do more touch & gos. Why do we continue to practice this? Well, take off and landing are the most dangerous parts of flight. It’s important to keep up the practice with this critical maneuver.

So I threw down just short of a dozen, then headed back to 52F. One thing I did get to see was several helicopters taking off from Alliance. The tower has them hover taxi over to the main taxi way (Alpha) and then clears them for takeoff. Kinda weird to watch while you are in the pattern and using the main runway.

Tomorrow morning I fly the Sport Star again so I can get my five hours of dual instruction. Then I can take it when I want (after I finish).

Just 3.2 hours to go!

QPT, 35.4 hours (11.5 solo)

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Getting close now! I just finished my night cross country! It was AWESOME! I think navigating at night is actually easier if you are familiar with landmarks or study the map. I did have the GPS backing me up (I would not have done it solo if I didn’t), but I saw the destination airport easily when I was about twenty miles out. On the way back, I saw the Texas Motor Speedway before I saw my airport.

I had ATC following me the whole way, and I do want to say that those guys do an incredible job. I could not imagine working in that career especially after doing my flight tonight and listening to the workload they manage. Those guys do not get enough credit, and I thank them for the job they do! It’s so comforting to have a safety net helping you out.

At any rate, I am less than 5 hours from being able to qualify! Provided the weather holds out, I will be doing my check ride on Monday!

QPT, 33.3 hours (11.5 solo)

Monday, August 4th, 2008

More hood work today! Not as exciting as yesterday, but we did fly direct to the Bowie VOR so I could practice flying on a radial and see the gauge flip from TO to FROM over the top. I could also see it from the air (and saw it before my instructor did, but only because I knew exactly what I was looking for, and I cheated by lifting my head up so I could see out the window).

I need .4 more hours of simulated hood time. We’ll do that on my checkride prep which will probably be this Saturday morning. I just filled out my second page in the logbook, so I thought I’d list my stats to date.

  • Total Hours: 33.3
  • Solo (PIC) Hours: 11.5
  • Dual Hours: 21.8
  • Cross Country Hours: 9.4
  • Night Hours: 1.3
  • Hood (Simulated IFR) Hours: 2.6
  • Total Landing/Take Off: 133

Tonight I am doing my night cross country in N80508. If you are in the Dallas area and want to try and follow me, you can start by tuning to 135.15 (Alliance Tower) in your trusty scanner until you hear the instruction to contact departure, and switch to 118.1. They will keep up with me as I do my trip. You will need to listen for my call sign and catch any frequency changes they call out or you will quickly lose me.

Will write some time tomorrow on my experience!

QPT, 31.7 hours (11.5 solo)

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Today was hood work. What is hood work? It’s instrument only flying. You do that in the 172 by putting on Foggles, which block your view outside. It was very weird flying that way, but it got REALLY weird was when we practiced something called unusual attitudes. This is essentially prep work for my checkride where the examiner will pull and push all kinds of levers in the plane while you are looking down at your lap, and then tells you to recover.

Why is it wierd?

You cannot see the horizon. So your inner ear is telling you that you are doing one thing, but your instruments are saying another. The exercise is designed to make you trust your instruments.

If I had not taken my airsick medicine, I would have probably yakked. The heat certainly contributed to that.

So I only got 1.2 hours of hood time today and I need three total hours. We’re doing more hood work tomorrow AM, and then I do my night cross country tomorrow night. I’m going to get some good hours there because of the amount of flying I have to do. 2.5 for sure, if not three.

QPT, 30.3 hours (11.5 solo)

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Made up for yesterday’s puny .4 hours today with 1.6! I just spent the time over at Alliance. Logged 15 landings!!! Really starting to get the feel and finesse of those. I am sure I will still have the occasional carrier landing, but hoping that I’m getting the hang of just having the tires kiss the ground.

I did all but one of my landings on 16R, the first was on 16L. The field was dead when I arrived, but was REALLY busy when I left.

Couple of important milestones today. 1) Over 30 hours! Not too far from my checkride now! 2) Met my solo hour requirement (10 hours). Now all I need are 1.7 hours of night flight (will do that Monday), and three hours of instrument training (will do that tomorrow & Monday).

Finally, I’m going to get my last 1.5 or so hours in the Sport Star that I need to go fly that thing solo next week. I think that’s the first one I’m taking Mimi up in.

Off to the circus!

QPT, 28.7 hours (9.9 solo)

Friday, August 1st, 2008

.4 hours? That’s it? Yeah… more weather. That same low level trough that has been sitting over Oklahoma has been kicking up storms around here for the latter part of the week. Before I left, everything was south and west, and moving to the north west. Then when I got there, a cell popped up over Frisco, and it was pouring rain at 52F.

I spoke with one of the other pilots there for a while and we eventually moved the plane out of the hangar. I got greens across the board and decided to just do touch & gos at the 52F.

After the third time around in the pattern, I started seeing flashes of lightning in the cell that was to the north east. It was still easily 20 miles away at that point, so I kept on it and decided to do a few more. On the 5th time around the lightning was probably 10-15 miles now, and I decided that it was probably not safe for me up there anymore.

So I hopped on down to the field and made a quick stop at the gas pumps and filled up.

So there you go. Four take offs, four landings, one go around, and .4 hours.

Going to shoot for more flight time tomorrow.

QPT, 28.3 hours (9.5 solo)

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Today was NIGHT FLIGHT! Nothing solo at night yet, but I’m going to do a solo night flight on Monday. Cross country from AFW to Sherman or Grayson County or something. I have all weekend to plan.

We took off around 8:30 and headed over to Propwash. NOT TO LAND! We decided to use their electricity though and fire up the runway lights. Then we did a low approach, but the wheels did not touch the ground. No $100 landing fee!

Something I was wondering after the fact was how many landing lights I tuned on when I hit the ones at Propwash. There are MANY airports that use the same frequency.

Anyway, then we headed over to AFW to meet my ten landing requirement. We did most on 16R, but then got switched over to 16L when there was a clearance issue, and I got to land on the christmas tree! No, not an actual christmas tree, but all the lights lit up like that look pretty fun (kinda like a christmas tree!).

So we did that a few times and then headed home.

I’m flying a bunch over the next several days to prepare for my checkride!

QPT, 27 hours (9.5 solo)

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The weather finally cleared, and I headed to the field today. This flight had a couple of new experiences for me. For one, I started using a different VFR navigation plan worksheet. Once I figured out that my mac was printing the duplexed part upside down (and I corrected that), it started making much more sense. I LOVE them. They are so much easier to use than the other two pages of forms you normally use.

Secondly, I actually ACTIVATED my flight plans today! I’ve had issues with previous radios, and yesterday my online flight plan filing did not work. So I had two flight plans, and did flight following, and dodged birds of prey for my 1.5 hours today.

Tomorrow I do my first night flight! I’m going to fly the Sport Star again. I just need to get 5 hours total in that and I can take it solo. I’m halfway there now, so it will probably take 2-3 more flights to finish that requirement.

I’m getting pretty close! I’m not sure if I’ll make my goal of doing my checkride before I leave for Oz, but I’m certainly shooting for that!


Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Went to go fly this AM and I was greeted with a pretty lightning show out towards my airfield.

Wait, lightning? That’s bad, right?

Yeah. Not so good. So instead of being up in the air right now, I’m back at the house. I’m going to be heads down all day to get 100% caught up, then I think I’ll head out for an afternoon flight. Weather briefers are telling me that it should be fine by the afternoon.


QPT, 25.5 hours (8 solo)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Did my second solo cross country today! Just a quick trip out to Possum Kingdom (F35), an airport I am becoming as familiar with as I am with Alliance or Northwest Regional. There was (and still is right now) a large area of convection north and west of my flight path, but it stayed up there and did not bother me. With the exception of a 30 kt headwind.


It did help me a bit on the return though. Not as much as if I would have been flying directly north, but I’ll take anything I can get. This was my first experience in heavy winds. It felt very strange doing 90kts and looking out the window to see the ground barely moving below me.

So I have another one tomorrow. Same trip, hopefully the winds will be more favorable and my trip won’t take as long. It has to take at least 1.3 hours so I can meet the requirements! I will be flying N5915A tomorrow, so feel free to track me!

QPT, 23.9 hours (6.4 solo)

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Today I soloed on my cross country! We started the morning by flying the long cross country with instruction. The plane I wanted to take would not start, so we took the Sport Star on the long cross country. Sure does look cool, but it is SLOW. At least 20 knots slower on cruise (if not more). So instead of taking us a quick 2 hours, it took us about 2.5. Got HOT towards the end.

We went from Northwest Regional to Possum Kingdom to Gainsville, then back. I filed flight plans, but we did not end up activating them because I filed them on the old aircraft. We just did flight following instead. We did that on the first two legs.

Then we landed, I drove into town to get some lunch, and headed back. The plane started right up this time so I headed over to the pumps and filled it up. Then I took off to do the same trip we just did, but SOLO! It was a real experience too. I filed flight plans for all my legs, but again, did not activate any. Why? BECAUSE MY RADIO WAS BROKEN!

I could receive just fine, but my transmissions were garbled very badly unless I was within a mile or so of the receiving station. So I was able to transition through Alliance and Denton class D airspace with clearance, but just barely. I figured I was going to be OK continuing my flight, simply because there was not a ton of VFR traffic out in the heat of the day, and I could still hear other transmissions. Since I stayed out of the Class B, I am technically not required to have two way radio comms.

I finally landed, and relayed my story.

Tomorrow I am taking my old favorite, N5915A, over to Possum Kingdom for a short flight. If you want to track me en-route, click here!