Friday, May 23, 2008

One Zero Right.

Lesson 5

We had a nice long flight today but I'll keep it short. I preflighted the plane, taxied out to the runup area (where we check the engine and major systems for correct operation before committing to flight). Jimmy had me handle all of the radio communications, which actually was easy since I modified a cheat sheet to be kind of a flow chart. I just followed the chart and the radio calls became easy. But enough of that. After the runup, Jimmy casually mentioned some procedure and then said "...because you'll be taking off today." Yikes!

But that's what I did. I made the radio call, waited for a Cessna 172 to land, taxied out onto the runway, and pushed the throttle all the way forward. For the most part I kept the plane centered and straight, and right on cue the front nose gear began to shimmy just a bit, so I eased the nose off the ground. After we got enough speed, the plane lifted off the runway and that was that. I climbed out to pattern altitude (1000 feet above the ground) and departed south to my most favorite practice area.

Jimmy dialed in MSP int'l to see if they'd give us traffic advisories again, but before we could talk to them, we heard them warn a Cessna 172 (yes there are tons of 172s around) that a "slow moving aircraft was northwest of them at 3000 feet". Jimmy looked at me with a grin and said, "That's us." They actually passed pretty close, and while we weren't in danger, it illustrated why it was a good idea to ask for help whenever it was available. He then made his request for traffic advisories from MSP international and we were assigned a transponder code, which allows the tower to keep track of us better.

After that we practiced cool things like turns around a point, square turns, and s-turns. Essentially, these are drills that are designed to teach a student pilot how to stay on course with wind coming from a given direction. I didn't find it all that hard, and it was really cool maneuvering the airplane while keeping track of features on the ground.

Jimmy let me find and fly to the airport, then make a right turn approach to land. I got to try a forward slip to bleed off altitude which went ok at first, then I pooched it up real good and Jimmy took over and landed.

Next week: I continue my training according to a predetermined plan!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Fuel prices affect general aviation pilots substantially. However, after analyzing the markets and oil supply and demand, I predict that gas prices will return to $3.00 a gallon within 60 days. You'll see. YOU'LL ALL SEE!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Lesson 4

A more perfect day for flying, there could not be. No clouds in sight, high sixties, and a nice breeze out of the northwest. However, this enticed many pilots to take to the skies, so Flying Cloud airport was pretty busy.

As we took off and turned south, a Beech jet was on base leg turning for final (base leg is perpendicular to the runway, and final is lined up with the runway) so we had to hold off on turning towards the practice area until he was established in final. It was cool seeing him land 1000 feet under us and about a half mile to our right. At this point, my instructor ("Jimmy") contacted Minneapolis-St.Paul Intl. airport control and requested traffic advisories since it was so busy. They weren't too busy so they assigned us a transponder code and kept us on their scopes.

Now I've been itching to take off since I started lessons, and it's been obvious that Jimmy has been easing me into it. He said that if you can't taxi straight you can't take off because it's just a high speed taxi. So apparently he thought my taxiing ability was up to snuff today and he let me operate the rudder during takeoff (he still handled the yoke and the "pulling up" part). It wasn't as hard as I thought, though I drifted left of the centerline a bit.

The new stuff to learn today was talking on the radio and stalls. Talking on the radio is a pain in the ass at first, but I'm warming up a bit on it (I'm a ham radio operator so it's not that alien to me). Stalls are pretty easy if you know what to expect and what to do. In a nutshell, point the nose down to break the stall, then pull back up slightly to start your climb again. Altitude is paramount. Stalls at low altitude are pretty dangerous so there's quite a lot of emphasis on stalls in the lesson plan. I look forward to them because they are kind of fun.

However, I made my instructor go "whoa" today when we were practicing power-off stalls, or stalls that might occur close to landing when your power is pretty much at idle. We were at roughly 3500 feet (or, 2600 feet above the ground) and I executed a power off stall per Jimmy's instructions. The plane's stall horn sounded, the plane shimmied a bit, and then we nosed over. Well the procedure is to lower the nose and break the stall, so of course I shoved the yoke all the way forward. In about 2 seconds I was staring straight at the ground. Jimmy made a suprised sound, and either he or I pulled up immediately on the yoke and everything was fine. There was no danger but I did get Jimmy's attention a bit. My other stalls went off just fine.

We landed without incident (I flew in as usual to base and final, working the flaps and keeping landing airspeed steady) but we were coming in a bit high so Jimmy used a skid approach to bring us down quickly but not increase our airspeed. Very interesting to fly that way. Again, Jimmy is a very good pilot and a good teacher, so I think I'm pretty lucky.

Next lesson: How to buzz the tower when the pattern is full.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hold on, we're in for some chop!

Lesson 3

Training is going well. I flew my 3rd lesson today, and there was some goofy stuff going on at 2500 feet today. It was really a challenge to keep the old 152 on a steady course, but Jimmy said it was good practice, and I agree. We worked on some slow flight, which is essential for landing operations.

Once again I flew the plane into the pattern and the downwind, base, and final legs. Jimmy took the controls for the touchdown, and right before we crossed the threshold, the plane shot up about 50, then the wind slammed us down right towards the ground. I will say this for Jimmy - he's a hell of a pilot. He anticipated the downdraft, shoved the throttle in, finessed the little plane, and landed without incident.

Another thing that I'm working on is taxiing - nothing else on earth drives like an airplane with steerable nosegear. Being a farm boy, I've driven my fair share of equipment and I can tell you, this is very alien to me. I'm getting quite a bit better at it but it's tough. Until I can taxi well, no takeoffs or landings for me. You have to be able to hold the nose straight while you are on the runway.

I've got two lessons scheduled for next week.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In the pipe, five by five.

Lesson 2

I skipped lunch today and flew instead. The weather was very nice today, with lots of sun and not too much wind. However, up at 2000 feet or so, it was kind of choppy, which made me work a bit to keep the plane level and pointed in the right direction. My instructor, Jimmy, said that this was good practice for me, and it agree.

Jimmy taught me how to use trim (to neutralize the elevator) and we also did climbing and descending turns, power off gliding, clearing turns, and mock landing approaches with flaps.

However, the best part was Jimmy let me fly to the airport pattern, enter it, and line up with the runway while descending. I did everything but set the plane down. A few more of those and I'm thinking that I might be ready to try the touchdown.

As usual, Jimmy was quick with compliments and he told me it's more fun to teach when the student is intuitive. I'm having a lot of fun and hope that I can stay ahead of the curve.

Next lesson is scheduled for the 16th of May (Friday) but it's supposed to be pretty windy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed but so far the weather forecasts have been maddeningly accurate.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Airspeed Velocity.

I had to settle for "ground instruction" today because the hurricane force winds won't give me a break. Either this is the windiest spring I can remember or I'm noticing it because it affects my training.

Right now I'm back on the schedule for Wednesday and Friday from 11:00-12:30. I'm curious to see how flying during lunch hour works.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Stick time

Lesson 1

Well my student pilot training got off to a bumpy start but it's all behind me now. I went up today with my new instructor and I had a blast! Also, I learned some things.


Since I had gotten very detailed training on preflighting the 152, my instructor (I'll call him "Jimmy") handed me the 'tin' and the fuel strainer and told me to preflight the airplane. So with my checklist in hand, I went over the plane like he showed me, and it was pretty easy with the checklist in hand. I did find some sediment in the right hand fuel tank which Jimmy complimented me on. When I was done, Jimmy double checked my preflight (do you blame him?) and we got in.

Point of No Return

We did our runup and when we got to the checklist item for testing the right and left magnetos, I held my breath. The other 152 had failed this test and we had been forced to scrub our flight. This time, though, there was barely a flutter in the RPMs and we proceeded onto the runway.

Pilot in Command

Jimmy shoved the throttle to the firewall and we were soon airborne. We climbed up to 1500 (~500 AGL) and turned south to the practice area. He explained some things to me, like how you have to "pull up" when you are turning and apply rudder to counteract skids and slips. He then turned the controls over to me and had me bring us up to 2K ASL. We did some shallow turns, with Jimmy making sure I was keeping altitude and turn coordination. Then we did some medium turns, some climbing, and he showed me how to maintain attitude and altitude by using outside references, which I found to be much easier than I expected.

At that point Jimmy did a 45 turn to show me what the plane was capable of. The g-forces were a bit disorienting at first, but I adapted quickly and it wasn't a problem. I suspect that Jimmy was try to see how my body reacted to higher g-forces. One cool note is that up until that time I was not at all tempted to try to find my house (as the practice area is right over my house) but when we did the high-g turn I looked straight down and saw a grass airstrip that a farmer has about 2 miles from my house. That was it for familiar landmarks, the rest of the countryside looks all the same from the air.

"Flight Simulator Promotes Bad Habits"

My flight instructor pointed out a number of times that my ability to hold a course and maintain altitude was very good for a beginner, and asked if I'd ever flown before. I said "not a real plane, only flight simulator". He said that some students were more naturally comfortable with the mechanics of flying, and others it was a lot harder. I've been using various combat and regular flight sims since I was 15, and I think that has given me an advantage. So I would have to say that although MSFS is not a substitute for real pilot training, it certainly gets you familiar with the basics of flying an airplane and it definitely helped me. As Jimmy said, it's probably going to save me a few hours of training.

Wrap Up

Jimmy let me fly the plane to the downwind leg of the pattern and turn the base leg. He said he'd let me fly the approach but the whole part about using attitude to govern speed didn't sink in fast enough and he took over for the final approach. Landing was uneventful and we debriefed a bit before I headed home.

All in all, it was a great flight. I learned a lot, I did a good job flying, my instructor is very good at what he does, and I had a lot of fun. Best of all, I have .9 hours of flight logged in my book now. I fly again on Monday!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cocked. locked, and ready to...

The ways of this world can be very mysterious. I have chosen what is considered by many to be the premiere flight school in the seven county metro area. The first hurdle I faced in actually flying was weather related, which, considering where I live (frozen Midwest) and considering how weather dependent flying can be, is not surprising or improbable. The second time I selected a time for my first flight, I came to the flight school and found out that my flight instructor is not checked out in the Cessna 152 that I'm signed up to fly in. The flight school supervisor insisted that he'd get checked out quickly and I could be in the air lickety split. Fine.

That was Saturday, and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning went by without a word. So, "screw it" I said and drove over there. I walked in and explained my situation to the dispatcher and as I was talking, the supervisor walked out to get a cup of coffee. He didn't even look at me - he just said "Ok Keith, go ahead and yell at me." I walked over and said "Bill, I'm not here to yell. I'm here to learn. What is the situation and how can we fix it?" The short version is that they did what they should have done to begin with...they assigned me another instructor and scheduled me for a flight at 1430 this afternoon. Excellent!

I get to the flight school and the new instructor helps me preflight the 152 and go through the checklist for everything. We get into the plane, fire everything up, and taxi to the runway. We turned into the wind and began our engine run-up, and the checklist says to switch the magneto selector from "Both" to "R" and then "L". "R" (right) is ok but "L" makes the engine drop 300 rpm and run very rough. My instructor tried running it at 1700 RPM at full lean to clear a fouled plug but nothing he could do made it run better. So we taxied back to the school and he says "well I'll preflight the other 152 real quick and we'll get in the air yet today".

Well, we met the other 152 heading out to the runway so that was the end of that. The good news is that I'm on the schedule for tomorrow again and their 152's don't get a lot of heavy use so it shouldn't affect my training much.

But I remain confident that someday I will fly a plane...

90 minutes.

My first flight is in 90 minutes. I will explain all in my next post. Stay tuned...IF YOU DARE.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ground school.

While I'm waiting to get some flying time (I'll explain later), I've started my "learn at home" ground school program. This is huge because I don't have time to go to ground school class at the airport twice a week for eight weeks. I've been given an excellent set of CD's as part of my flight training that I can study on my own time and the results are automatically transmitted to the flight school.

While I'm disappointed about the delay in getting in the air, it's nice that I can work through the ground school course in the meantime and read the Operating manual for the Cessna 152. My instructor did go through a pre-flight of the airplane with me so when it's time to fly it shouldn't take long at all to get going.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Confusion and delay.

Mother nature does not wish me to fly today. That is the bad news. The good news is that the next few days look very good for weather so it shouldn't be too long before I'm in the air. In the meantime I'll begin the ground school courses and wait for the weather to clear.