Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Some of you are aware that I was planning on a dual cross country flight with my CFI on Monday. Due to a misunderstanding, we did not have enough time to fly but we were able to get the flight all planned and more importantly, I understand how to do it now. We've rescheduled for next Tuesday.

My CFI's pseudonym is "Jimmy". I gave him a fake name for this blog so he wouldn't find it on his own. I didn't want him to read any of this until the training was done. However, on Monday he informed me that he might be going full time with his regional airline job, and he might not be able to teach anymore.

His real name is Jesse, and I'm hoping to find out who I'm flying my dual cross country with very soon. While I'm disappointed that I couldn't finish with Jesse, I understand that flight instructing is almost always a transitional job on the path to an airline career.

We'll see what the future holds, but Jesse made a good point: he's already taught me the fundamentals of flying the airplane, and all that remains is cross country navigation and preparing for my checkride. In the meantime, I've scheduled the Warrior for a solo flight tomorrow to polish up my takeoffs and landings.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Found some good grass.

Cross Country Prep

Well we are just motoring right along with our lessons. Today was the last "cross country prep" flight, and next week we start doing our full flight plans and cross country trips.

So, today I did some more hood work (instrument practice). Essentially, it was all about being able to navigate to VOR's and keep the airplane on a heading and altitude if I accidentally fly into a cloud. We also navigated to a grass landing strip (Winsted, MN) via an outbound VOR radial at FCM airport, which did actually get us to our destination. Then, to my surprise, my CFI says "we get to put your soft field take-off and landing to practical use". So we overflew the airport, looked at the windsock, turned around and entered the pattern. Jimmy made the CTAF calls (there isn't a tower so the calls are to alert traffic in the area of our intentions) and made a pattern for landing. Unfortunately, I was struggling a bit with the 90* crosswind (8 knots) and I muffed up the approach. We did a go around and I landed ok. It was really fun to land on a grass strip. The funny thing is, it's longer that the 18/36 runway at FCM and twice as wide!

I'm still working on soft-field takeoffs but on the real deal it made a lot more sense to me and I managed to do it just fine. We climbed up to 2500 and then Jimmy pulled the power. "You just lost your engine". I pitched for speed, picked a landing spot into the wind, and went through some emergency checklist procedures.

So, then we flew back to FCM using a VOR to navigate and after what Jimmy called an "atrocious" approach, I managed to grease the landing! Got to work on my approaches though...

Monday I have a 4 hour lesson where we plan out and fly to Willmar, MN. This will be my first actual cross country. These are exciting times!

Google Earth Track: Winsted
Logbook: Logshare

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back on track.

I flew again in the Warrior today, this time in the morning when it was relatively cooler. We did hood work and unusual attitudes, where the CFI has you put the view restricting hood on and look down while he does all types of crazy stuff with the airplane. Then you look up at the gauges only and try to get the plane flying straight and level. This simulates accidently flying into a cloud, getting all screwed up, and then trying to right the plane. I felt I did pretty well, until the last time. I tried to correct the airplane but it was flying soooo slow...what the heck was going on. I checked the flaps, they were down, and added power, but it still flew sluggishly. What the heck...? Ooops...take a look at the vertical speed indicator, it was showing a 500 feet per minute climb. My CFI had adjusted the artificial horizon (you can change the position of the little airplane based on your height). So, I thought I was level but I was in a pretty steep climb. I did figure it out, though, eventually.

So then, we practiced "lost procedures". Jimmy had tried to get me lost by flying to a different area, more to the north and west than to the south and west of the airport. Adding to this was the muggy weather and lower visibility. I immediately identified two distinctive lakes and turned right towards the airport. Jimmy realized the gig was up so he had me tune in the FCM VOR and fly to it. The odd thing was, as I got closer the VOR steered me in the wrong direction (after initially working fine). I double checked the frequency and it looked fine. So, I flew back towards where the airport should have been, and sure enough, it was there.

We did a regular, short, and soft field landing, and it's obvious I still need to practice landings in the Warrior. Thankfully we can incorporate landing practice in with the other lessons so it doesn't have to hold me back.

A note on the Google Earth track today: the website I use to convert the GPS file to .kmz has a limit of 1.5MB. My track today was 1.6MB so I split up the file into two tracks. If you open one, then the other, in Google Earth you will see the whole track, and it will be glorious.

Google Earth Track:
North! To Delano (Part 1)
North! To Delano (Part 2)
Logbook: Logshare

Monday, August 18, 2008

He named himself, "Banana Tree"

The cool morning air teased me as I closed the front door to my house. In the air, the faintest hint of fall lingered for a moment, then slipped quietly away. Not yet, old friend, I thought. Not yet.

My lesson was scheduled for three o'clock in the afternoon, and I assure you, the cool air was a forgotten dream. Air, to be sure, and plenty of water suspended in it. It coaxed the sweat from my hide easily, and miserably. Yet my mood couldn't be dampened - I was to be checked out in a new type of plane - larger, more powerful, and longer range. The Piper Warrior II.

Part of me was a bit frustrated, though, as this change in airplane type was hindering my training schedule a bit. No matter, there was nothing to be done and the future cares not for our present tears. Onward, lads, to the undiscovered country!

The preflight checklist was similar to the old 152, and the differences were easily noticed. I then grabbed my CFI and off we went.

I'm aware of the high wing / low wing debate, and having only flown a high wing Cessna 152 prior to today, I was ill prepared to venture an opinion. But, I would have to say that the visibility in the Warrior is better, and looking for traffic is a bit less stressful.

Overall, the maneuvers felt familiar, but a little different. The biggest thing I noticed is elevator pressure - you need a lot of it in certain situations, such as rotating for takeoff, and getting the nose down for landing. I found myself using trim a lot more than in the 152. However, I made three good landings without assistance from my CFI so he marked me as checked out on the Warrior.

Overall I think things turned out for the best. The Warrior is a better plane for cross country flights and it's a good plane to use for when I get my certificate.

Google Earth Track: Forgot to Turn On the Tracker

Friday, August 15, 2008


Where Have All the 152s Gone

My trusty Cessna 152, N46953, has joined her sister in the maintenance shop with a bad cylinder. She's out indefinitely for an overhaul like N67973 (for several weeks/months).

So, seeing that a bunch of their students were suddenly without a flight training device, the school called me and they offered me the Piper Warrior II for about 12 bucks more an hour than what I'm paying for the 152. Since I don't have a ton of plane rental hours left, this is not a huge added expense.

HOWEVER it will take a few flights to get familiar with the plane so obviously this is a setback, if minor. I spoke with my CFI, Jimmy, and he said since our next few flights are dual anyway, it shouldn't be a huge deal and I'll be able to get signed off for solo in the Warrior quickly. Also the warrior is a bit more roomy, which is a pretty big advantage.

They're going to reinstate my cancelled lessons next week and replace the plane with the Warrior, so I'll only be missing today's flight. Tuesday should be interesting.

Get well soon 46953.

My favorite airplane, and the last currently operational Cessna 152 at my airport, has been "squawked" - taken off the flight line due to a maintenance issue. Now, the other 152 is down for scheduled maintenance - usually an engine teardown and thorough inspection (which is a good thing). But it won't be available for many weeks. The sad part is that the weather is PERFECT for flying today.

I'm a little worried, because the abrupt nature of the extended maintenance downtime most likely means one of two things:

1. A serious problem with the engine was discovered. The ticking time-bomb type.


2. Some buck-toothed, knock-kneed, corn fed goat roper slammed the poor thing down on the runway and broke something important. My guess is #2, but we'll see.

So, I'm grounded for now. Updates to follow of course!


Monday, August 11, 2008

Getting ready for cross country.

Flight #20

Well I gained 165 pounds again as my instructor Jimmy insisted there was more for me to learn. Today we concentrated on short and soft field takeoffs and landings. What this means is, how do you make the Cessna 152 take off safely on grass, and also, how do you take off on a short runway without mowing down the rhubarb at the end of the runway with your bright and shiny propeller?

Well, for short fields you shove in 10 degrees of flaps and hold the yoke way back and let the airplane get up into ground effect (15 feet off the ground or so), then you build up airspeed and pitch for best angle of climb. This is actually pretty fun because it rockets you upward pretty fast, or so it seems, and you're into a nice little climb over whatever nasty stuff was gettin' all up in your grill at the end of the stubby little runway.

Short field landings are what I like to call "combat landings". You come in steep and a little fast and flare hard right at the last second and land right past the threshold. It's a nice twist to a normal landing and shall prove to be challenging to master.

Soft field takeoffs are easy, in theory. You hold the yoke back at all times to keep the nose gear out of the turf (remember: grass runway) and you use 10 degrees of flaps just like short field takeoffs. Then you pitch for best angle of climb (in the case of the 152, your best angle of climb speed is 55 knots) and climb out normally. The landings are just normal landings, but "softer". So, basically, improve your landings and you're good to go.

Next lesson is VOR operations - that is, radio direction finders used for cross country navigation.

Google Earth Track:
KFCM Pattern
Online Logbook: Logshare
Kittens: They are cute

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Leaving the pattern.

Well I have my solo student pilot wings, so I decided to use them. The wind was 8 knots today, and holding so when I got to the school my instructor, Jimmy, told me "I checked the weather and it looks good for you to fly to the practice area yourself."

I think he's eager for me to get solo hours and to be honest, so am I. I ran out quick and checked the fuel amount, ran the weight and balance, and got the tanks filled up. There is so much extra room with just one person in the plane, getting all my stuff organized is much less stressful. So I preflighted, taxied, and took off. For the first time, I departed the pattern by myself and flew into the Great Unknown.

Well it's actually pretty well known so I farted around in the practice area with some s-turns, turns about a point, and rectangular turns. No stalls by myself yet - that's madness. Madness I say!

So, on my approach back to the airport, I report that I'm 7 miles inbound from the southwest. The tower says "call when you're 2 miles" - pretty standard. Then he calls back and says "953, I've got traffic at your 11 o'clock at 1900 feet". I couldn't see him no matter how hard I tried and told the tower. I wasn't worried because I was at 2500 feet.

"953 I have traffic closing on you at 9-10 o'clock at 2500 feet." What?!?! Again I looked but couldn't see the traffic. I was getting a little nervous at this point and then the controller said "953 traffic is not a factor, cleared to land 28R."

I made my pattern and came into 28R WAY too high. I had the throttle to idle and I was just floated merrily 100 feet above the runway, and I shoved in the throttle and said "Tower, 953, go around." Made a right crosswind, hit all my numbers, and made my best landing so far. Go arounds are easy and only really add about 2 minutes to your flight. So instead of salvaging an ugly landing, you have the option of making a good solid one.

Next flight is next week, and we'll be learning all about soft field landings and short takeoffs and landings.

Google Earth Track: Solo Practice
Online Logbook: Logshare

Monday, August 4, 2008

165 pounds lighter.

Well ok, I was nervous this morning. As I got closer and closer to my 12:00 flight reservation, I could see that the weather conditions were within the parameters for my solo flight. I was getting worried that I might actually be able to fly.

I got to the airport and Jimmy wasn't there yet so I preflighted the plane. When he showed up he quizzed me on fuel, weather, and weight and balance. He's definitely expecting a lot more out of me, and for good reason.

So, I told him that the wind was 7 knots and the cloud ceilings were 2500 feet, within the school rules of 8 knots and 2000 feet. We saddled up and taxied over to the runway.

The first two landings were, well, a bit hard. My flares were just a bit late and my throttle pulled a little too early. Nothing bent, but I really wanted a good third landing to make sure Jimmy was confident that I could land the plane by myself. So, I flew a nice square pattern, lined up for landing, and set that bird down just as smooth as you'd like. Jimmy said "Ok that landing was pretty much text book". So you see, even a blind squirrel gets an acorn every now and again.

Jimmy then tells me to taxi back to the school because he "wants out". We pulled up to the school and he endorsed my logbook for solo flight. Then I shook his hand and walked out to the plane. Wow. It was weird. But you get used to procedures and I just dove into the checklists and decided that I needed to be all business. I taxied out to the active runway, did my runup checklist, and said the magic words: "Flying Cloud tower, this is student pilot Cessna 46953 ready for takeoff on runway 36 for full stop taxi backs".

The airplane jumped off the runway as I was missing 165 lbs of instructor and I made a long upwind to make room for a King Air on final. I told the tower I had the King Air in sight and they let me turn for crosswind. The rest of the pattern was uneventful, and I paid SUPER close attention to my airspeeds (I let them get too slow in my stage check flight and I knew I couldn't get into that habit). The approach was good but flying into Runway 36 is tricky because you fly over this gulley - and there is some weird wind stuff happening there all the time. But I kept it under control and the landing was straight but...I flared a bit to early, floated a bit, pulled out too much throttle and the plane touched down a bit hard. Sigh. Well, it wasn't alarming but it wasn't my best work. So the next landing I flew another standard pattern, flared too late and bumped down a little hard.

On the approach to landing number 2, the tower announced that wind was now "360 at 20", meaning 20 knots out of the north. Yikes! 12 knots more than the minimum. I sat at the taxi turn off for a minute and considered calling the school and asking advice. But I'd just done two landings with the wind not really being a factor and I figured with the wind straight down the runway, my ground speed would be slower and I'd actually have more time to get the landing right. So I taxied up to the runway and took off again. This time, the landing was great. Maybe not a greaser but nice and smooth and maybe a little crooked but nothing to get in a twist about. I taxied back to the school and my instructor met me outside, shook my hand, and took my picture with the plane. We chatted a bit about the flight, and he asked me about my landings. I told him the first two were a bit hard but the third seemed good. He said "yeah that's kinda what I saw through the binoculors". Good thing I didn't lie.

Next flight: Solo takeoff, fly to practice area, practice, land by myself.

Google Earth Track: FCM Pattern
Online Logbook: Logshare

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rage against the wind.

Yeah ok, it was too gusty out today to solo. The school's max wind for solo students is 8 knots and no gusting. Today at 3pm when my lesson was scheduled it was 10 knots gusting to 16, so we scrubbed.

So, in lieu of flying, I copied my logbook entries to the INTERNET. Using the INTERNET you can now see everything in my logbook. I suggest you go to this HYPERLINK to access it.

Good night and good luck.

-The Flying Dutchman