Posts Tagged ‘pilot’


June 30, 2011 1 comment

Well it finally happened, had my first solo today!

Now the long story 😉 We started out as usual, doing pattern work did a couple of good landings, then we did a no flap and a no engine landing. My instructor says, “do you think you’re ready for a solo”. I said, “yes, definitely”. He asks if I have my medical certificate and log book, which I always do, but as this was the first time he ever asked, I realized hey this is really going to happen!

So we land park the plane, he signs my medical certificate, checks with the plane’s owner (the guy who decided a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t ready…bastard was correct!) and we’re all set. My instructor kindly files a new SFRA plan while I go out and get the plane ready for the big event. All is well, the planes have been using runway 14, but there is a slight breeze so I might have to switch later. To my surprise I was told to do 3 take offs and landings coming to a full stop each time. I was not aware that student pilots are not allowed to do touch and go’s, probably a wise rule. Anyway I go out to the holding area next to runway 14 do the engine run-up stuff and contact Potomac Control to get the new SFRA transponder code. They are confused at first, probably the new plan hadn’t hit their system, but after a minute the controller give me a new code and a departure frequency. I have no idea what the departure frequency is for, but I take it and ignore for the rest of the flight.

There is another student in the pattern, I wait for him to land or do a touch and go, turns out that he did neither, just appeared to want to land, porpoised the plane a lot and did a go round. I was smiling from ear to ear at his screwy flying, thinking, been there,  done that. I wait for him to turn to crosswind before I take off and then I just take off as usual. No problems all is fine I give the plane ahead of me in the pattern plenty of room and let me know I have him in sight. I turn from downwind to base then to final fine all hitting the correct speeds and at a good altitude and glide slope. When I get to the end of final and am about to land the plane yaws a little bit and I manage to break the glide and flair quite well but the damn plane is yaw’d a few degrees and the wheels do a nice skidding on the runway. The plane is also left of the center line, moving rapidly left, to which I think, “oh great, first solo landing and I wind up in the grass!”, but I quickly corrected and did NOT get too close to the grass, but I was simultaneously happy to do my first solo landing and pissed off that it was probably the worst landing in my last 50 or so landings.

One down, two more to go.

After stopping to taxi I listen to the AWOS and looking at the wind sock I see that the wind has picked up a little bit and it’s time to switch to runway 32.  I taxi to the short hold at 32 and listen to the other traffic which is still using runway 14. This was another student pilot and he comes in on final and never quite touches down, goes around and I ask if he’s staying on runway 14. He replies “Yep”. Soooo I figure I need to taxi back to runway 14, but my instructor who was listening in on the CTAF says “you mind switching to 32” and he says, “fine what ever you want, I’ll do a 360 on the downwind leg and switch”. I say thanks and take off, giving him plenty of room. The pattern is uneventful but I go long on the crosswind to give the other traffic time to turn around and switch runways. All was fine and I finish off just peachy coming again to a full stop. The landing was a little bumpy, didn’t quite flair enough but not bad.

Two down, one to go.

One more loop using runway 32. Totally uneventful. I do the pattern fine, turn to final and some other guy does a quick take off, still plenty of distance. I land just fine a pretty good greaser, hitting the centerline (best landing yet) and that’s it! All done the first solo!

I bring the plane to the hanger they told me this before, it needed oil. I get summarily doused with the traditional bucket of water and I’m one big step closer to being an actual private pilot. YAY!


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Hmmm you want that SFRA thing in DC?

June 28, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the great joy’s (ahem) of flying in suburban Maryland so close to our nation’s capital is that we have to file an “SFRA” (Special Flight Rules Area) flight plan. To keep us safe and all that. Now I’ve been doing these plans for almost three months and I’d say 90% of the time I never have an issue and the people at “Potomac Control” (apparently contractors from Lockheed Martin) are terrific. You file these plans via the telephone and say to a computer which state your are flying in. If the computer doesn’t understand you can wind up with a controller in podunk Utah or something and then you’re in for a treat.

“You have to give me a destination” to which I say I’m just doing traffic pattern work I’m departing from Gaithersburg, and arriving at Gaithersburg. “But what direction, what radials?” The first time I heard that a couple of weeks ago I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, he puts me on hold and talks with someone more clued in and eventually figures out to say something like 1 radial for departure and 360 for arrival or something like that. I’m not a freakin’ controller and am dealing with VFR not IFR flights. Anyway today the computer recognized my request to fly from “Maryland” and the controller that get’s on says you want to file what? I say “an SFRA plan”. He responds, “Oh that’s one of the Washington DC things.” “Yes”, I say. And then a miracle happened…he says “Hold on I’ll transfer you to someone in the area.” And then a pro got on and we started and finished up quick.

As for the flying itself I was a fairly quick 0.7 hour lesson, did 6 landings which included 2 engine failures and 1 no flap landing. I was OK nothing great, I forced the no flap landing, was too high and made a good landing but the whole approach was too high. Mostly I’m finally hitting the center line. The weather was cloudy-ish and extremely calm. I need to get some practice in with some wind and more traffic flying around.

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Grey Skys, Smooth Sailing

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

So another day around and around the loop. Traffic pattern practice went quite well today. The first loops however I must have still been asleep I started the “proceedure” late and we wound up at 1200 ft at the beginning of the final. I could have forced a landing but didn’t seem wise and did a go around, most annoying!

Almost hit some perfect patterns but not quite there. Did a couple of engine failure simulations. It’s important to realize that simply reaching the runway with no engine is fine but being 1000 ft up in the air is somewhat problematic for an actual landing.

On the second of the two failures I landed just fine but just before the turn from base to final the stall horn started to go that will wake you up quick! I saw the RPM had slowed to about 45, not real healthy. It wasn’t a problem just pitched forward to speed up and we were still quite a bit high anyway, but was interesting.

On one other approach (just regular with fully functional engine and flaps) I finally thought I’d have a perfect one, was on the center line and all was fine, then as the last couple of seconds the damn plane tilted a little bit and we landed on one wheel the rear left, but since all else was great it was still pretty smooth but annoying as usual. Perfection awaits!

PS I wonder what the flying equivalent of “smooth sailing” is 😉

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What a View

June 25, 2011 Leave a comment

The weather was kind of iffy one morning and I wasn’t even sure there was going to be a lesson. But I shlepped over to the Airpark anyway hoping it would happen. It was even a little drizzly on the drive over but I didn’t get any call from my instructor so it seemed fine. I prepped the plane and we set off. When I got into the air the sky was unusually clear with a broken cloud ceiling at about 4000 ft. There were numerous holes in the cloud cover with strong shafts of light illuminating the ground, twas gorgeous. Wish I had a camera, and this was one of the reasons to fly.

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June 25, 2011 Leave a comment

On yet another lesson flying in the pattern I finish the pre-flight checklists, finish the engine run up tests, and taxi out to the hold short area just before takeoff. The weather was kinda grayish with a broken cloud cover and the clouds looked like a couple of thousand feet high. I believe the AWOS weather was reporting 2500 ft but I’m not sure. Another plane is on final approach and were waiting and he lands saying there are voids to the west side of the airport, the part tern side. We think for a second and call out that we are departing, he calls us and says he wouldn’t recommend pattern work. We think a minute or so more and I of douse don’t have the experience to judge the call. My instructor says lets go up and see what it’s like flying a little bit lower than usual.

We take off no problem, turn to crosswind no problem, then turn downwind and I see wisps of the bottom of clouds protruding down into our path about a half mile or so ahead. We stay lower than usual and I turn from downwind to base quite early and angle the base in a very ugly way to give us enough distance for the final. We come in for a routine landing come to a full STOP and call it a day. For the few seconds we were almost in the cloud it was kind of freaky and I can see how for an instrument rating you basically learn how to fly totally blind.

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Not Quite Solo Ready

June 25, 2011 Leave a comment

So after almost 20 lessons flying the pattern I’m getting hints from my instructor that I’m getting close to being ready for my solo. Not to mention that I’m starting to get a llittle antsy myself to do the solo. In the office for the flight school I’m bull shitting with the instructor and his boss about getting ready for the solo and the boss man pipes up and says “I’ll have to check you out also before your solo”. Most amusing thought. I don’t really mind the prospect of flying with another instructor, in fact it would probably be a nice change.

So a week or so later we set up to fly with the boss man. He’s not a small man and we take off. The plane seems to have less oomph then usual, it was a pretty warm morning and I first blamed the lack of power on density altitude, that’s where the plane acts as if at higher altitude and has less power. Boss man puts his left arm on the back of my seat just making more room for himself doesn’t bother me and I’m glad he seems relaxed. I was doing fine but tended to be fighting with the plane it went higher and a bit faster then I wanted at times. My main problem was not hitting the damn center line on the runway on any of my landings. Once he even said to land on the right half of the runway (it’s a fairly wide 75ft runway) and I puled that off just fine. He says you can land on the right side you should be able to land on the center line! I agree! For the last trip around the pattern at the end of the downwind leg he pulls out the throttle to idle and says ” you just lost your engine”. I do exactly the right maneuvers, cut the speed to 65 knots, turn to aim for the runway about a third of the way past the threshold and. Plant that sucker down just fine on the runway. We taxi back and on the way back he proclaims that I need a bit more practice. Unfortunately I really agree and was a bit frustrated with myself but better safe than sorry!

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June 25, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the interesting things while flying is to keep a sharp eye out for other planes, known as traffic. Planes in the pattern are fairly good announcing their position and generally making some noise that they are in the vicinity. However I’ve also had a few interesting encounters with traffic that came out of nowhere, fortunately not all that close. Once I recall looking out to my left and there about 500 or so feet away was another plane traveling in the exact opposite direction. It’s disconcerting. Wasn’t close but the surprise is sorta annoying. I mean they could announce on the CTAF that they were passing the airport, seems just polite.

Another day also on the pattern, yes all I do is fly the pattern for now, I take a look out the left side of the plane, and down a couple of hundred feet passing us at an angle is a state helicopter. Thanks very much for notifying us!

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