Blog Archive 2005

Blog Archive
['10, '09, '08, '07, '06, '05]

June 30, 2005 - Discovery Flight
Here we are standing at the beginning of an adventure in aviation to last a lifetime. Welcome to my blog on the quest to becoming a pilot. It starts today with a discovery flight at Rick Aviation in Newport News, Virginia. I decided early in the year that I had the funds, the time, and the opportunity to pursue a dream since childhood. Today is the first step.

August 4, 2005 - Working on Landings
I worked landings last week and don't seem to be getting just how much back pressure to steadily employ for a gentle landing. I've got about two hours practice landing now and feel like I am starting to fall behind the typical student pilot.

August 17, 2005 - Making Progress
Last night was much better. The first touchdown was pretty smooth, but then I kept flaring after I had the wheels on the ground, so we got to land twice! Of course the second time was not so good and should have never happened in the first place. My CFI wants me to cross the numbers at 60kts. I think I was coming in at 70kts, not allowing that extra speed to bleed off in the settling in phase so the plane wanted to continue to fly after touchdown.

I gotta tell you dlwyatt82's words were like therapy for me.

"At first I was essentially (and figuratively) flinching just before the flare... my brain pretty much shut down, I would keep putting in whatever my "pre-planned" control inputs were, and hoped everything worked out so the plane touched down gently."

I felt the same way. Tonight I was running a mental tape through my head before and during the training.
I just kept thinking "I am going to fly this plane and this plane is not going to fly me."

Lessons Learned:
1. You got plenty of runway, the plane will land when its ready to land, don't force the issue
2. Once the wheels touch, hold the back pressure but do not increase, the flare is over, trying to land not take off again
3. Too fast over the numbers, or any other variable not to your liking? Student - go around, land on your terms
4. Practice, practice, practice

My CFI gave me a written test tonight, so I know what that means and I must confess I am scared dung-less about being in that aircraft by myself. I am going to go out on a limb and say that is probable a normal feeling for a student pilot.

August 22, 2005 - Flying to Jamestown

I hit the practicing hard last week, 4 hours of pattern work. Yesterday I will still rough on the landing and bouncing. My instructor asked if I had anything to do that afternoon, I said "no, and he said "let's go get something to eat." So we departed the pattern and headed north to the Williamsburg-Jamestown airport. Talk about small, this airport was shoehorned in between trees and a huge dirt mound just short of the threshold. The runway was about the width of a one way country road. We contacted UNICOM, got the winds and runway info, my instructor told me to land. "You want me to land there?" This field made Newport News runways look like an international airport. We got in with some coaching from my instructor, had lunch, and flew back to Newport News. Now everything looked too easy. We made the approach, I kept that speed at 60 kts, she settled, I flared, we landed. I did it a second time. I did it a third time. I started a fourth time, we made it to midfield downwind. My CFI pulls the throttle all the way out, "engine failure, what do you do?". I respond "pitch for 65, look for a landing site. I am going for the runway." The Cessna flies without effort and without power, I cut across the terminal and taxi ways for the runway thinking what the spectators down below must be thinking. Hey this is kind of neat and different. We roll on to final with half the runway behind me, put in the flaps and land again. Oh I think I might have it now! My instructor turns to me and says "you do that three times on our next flight and I am getting out of this airplane so you better wear and old shirt." Oh yeah!

What helped? Besides finally "getting it" with lots of practice, the catch for me was not looking out the side of the aircraft to get my distance. I looked over the cowling, once I flared and could no longer see the runway, I would pretty much just pray and hope the landing was soft. Well that does not work to well. Now I see where I am at out the left front and add elevator as needed.

August 23, 2005 - Rained Out
Of course it had to rain yesterday so no flying. Thursday is the new date, if I can make three more satisfactory landings in a row I will be allowed to solo.

It has been almost two month since I began training for my PPL. I try to fly at least two times per week. I hope to be licensed by December, but there is no rush, no dead line to meet, just enjoy the journey.

August 25, 2005 - Solo!

Well I did it, four landings with my CFI...he got out and I went solo.

First landing, no problem.

Second downwind...tower tells my to keep it tight on base and final…somebody on six mile final. Ok, now I am flustered. Hindsight, should have went around but I come in high....level off, flare too much, she balloons 20-30ft....things not looking right....full throttle, carb heat off, 20 flaps, she starts descending again fast, not good, in addition I must be stepping on the left rudder because she is drifting left towards the edge of the runway. I flare harder, light touch of the gear, and I am back in the air again. My mind is racing, right rudder, fly, fly. I get corrected, gain airspeed & altitude, bring up the rest of the flaps and head upwind. Every ounce of confidence I had has just been left at the runway threshold. I was pretty darn rattled.

I usually don't talk to myself, but I did today. "Tim, you got to pull it together and put this airplane down. No one can help you now, focus!"

Third approach.

I go thru the drill, and put her down with a small bounce. I am happy to be alive, but not the least bit pumped that I just soloed. The tower says "good job" and I reply "thanks", but in the back of my head I think "that sucked."

I am on my third beer as I type this trying to feel better about the experience but I just keep replaying that second landing and feel as if I have been robbed of what should have been a momentous occasion.

August 26, 2005 - Post Solo Reflection
Feeling a lot better today. Yesterday's accomplishment is starting to sink in. I flew that plane all by my lonesome. I got into some trouble and I got myself back out of it due to my training. I am ready to keep learning and practicing. I will get that certification!

September 29, 2005 - Cross Wind Landing
At the end of my flight yesterday I experienced firsthand the difference aileron correction makes in a cross wind. I kept my correction in until I landed then I relaxed the correction while holding the nose wheel off during the roll out. I could feel the squirlyness of the aircraft; it felt as if we were on ice. My CFI yanked full right on the yoke and I suddenly felt as if the aircraft was cemented to the ground on a zero wind day. I have seen the light and will always apply correction while taxing, taking off, approaching, and landing.

October 25, 2005 - FAA Knowledge Exam
I completed my knowledge exam yesterday and scored a 98%. I used only two books for my preparation.

1. Gleim's Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test
2. Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Handbook

Machado’s book is hands down the easiest way to digest and REALLY understand the information you need to know as a pilot. The Gleim book is straight forward test prep. All the FAA questions are grouped in 11 major "units" and further grouped into sub units. Anytime I came across a question that I felt I did not really understand the answer I would return to the private pilot handbook and study the area until I had a firm grasp of the material.

After scoring in the 90s using the online exams at I scheduled a test date. Very important to get that date on the calendar so its out there staring you in the face and motivating you to finish your study.

Prior to the test date I went through every question in the Gleim book. Every question I got wrong I highlighted in yellow. I then went through the book several more times just answering the highlighted questions. This time I highlighted missed answers in orange. Eventually I narrowed my focus to 50 questions out of 700 (I believe that is the total # of ? in the ?bank). I reviewed the 50 questions several more times all the way up until 30 minutes before the exam.

When I took the actual exam I answered every question that did not require charts, plotters, etc. first. That was about 50 out of the 60 questions. That took less than 30 minutes. I then went back and answered all of the remaining questions, rechecking calculations on each one at least twice before clicking on the answer. At the 1 hour mark I started back with question 1 and began double checking every answer. At 1 hour and 30 minutes I was complete and on my way.


October 31, 2005 - Changing CFIs

My first CFI who I have been working with since June is leaving the flight school to take a job flying some big wig. I switched over to a new CFI who has been with the school for a little while and is pretty darn good instructor.


November 8, 2005 - First Night Cross Country

While I imagined flying at night to be very difficult it was in reality the complete opposite. The wind is calmer at night, less air traffic, and finding airports is much easier with extended visibility and runway lights that react to the click of your mike.

We flew out of Newport News towards the Hopewell VOR, southeast of Richmond. We had flight following and after several handoffs got in tune with Richmond approach as we skirted in the outer southern limit of Richmond's class C flying an outbound radial of the Hopewell VOR in route for Chesterfield, a non-towered field. I cross checked my nav work with vectors and distance to the field from ATC and they jived to the T. Once airport was in sight Richmond ATC said so long and I got on the CTAF to announce position and intentions, over flew the field, turned left, and entered on the downwind leg. No other traffic as we came in for my best landing ever, a real greaser!

We taxied, took off to the north, departed the pattern and headed south to Wakefield airport. This field was a little more challenging as the lights are obscured from lower viewing angles by trees. As we approached I prepared to announce my position on CTAF when I was pre-empted by a military helicopter who just happened to announce the identical location. At that moment both mine and my CFIs head went on a swivel. Like a fighter pilot with a bandit somewhere on his tail we were craning our necks in every direction trying to get eyes on the traffic. My CFI called the helicopter and announced our position and asked if he had us in sight. He replied that he was on our 6 following us in to Wakefield. Using the airport beacon as my reference and the heading indicator to visualize the runway we entered at the 45 for the downwind leg before finally seeing the runway lights. My CFI was having fun clicking the mic like a mad man to cycle thru the intensity settings on the runway lights. I replied "Too bright"..."Too low"...."Ahhh…just right!" As I proceeded through the landing sequence the heli got bored and left which was just fine with me.

I learned a great lesson at Wakefield, just because its dark (Wakefield is out in the boonies, so the only lights below were runway lights) does not mean the earth is a pool table with no obstructions. All the trees and towers that were there during the daytime are still there at night, you just can't see them until you get REAL close to them! Now I have been taught to put the wheels down on "the numbers" so I can get pretty low as I close on the threshold. As I am descending down my landing light starts illuminating the tops of trees, "hey who put them there!." I added some power to clear the trees and steepened the approach for an OK landing. Lesson learned. Stay at or above the glide slope at night! (edit note: After doing some research I have learned that I may have been experiencing the "black hole" phenomenon).

We back taxied & flew out of Wakefield bound for Newport News. Had a little crosswind at PHF but put her down without any trouble. Three takeoffs, three landings and one night cross country complete.


November 10, 2005 - First Solo Cross Country

Well today was my first solo cross country and I was so ready and so looking forward to the flight. I had no apprehensions about this flight as I have had in the past. While I still have a plenty to learn I felt confident in my ability to accomplish this task safely and to standard.

We started with a review of my flight plan. It was pretty straight forward, Newport News to Emporia, about 52 miles, just enought to count towards the 5 hour cross country requirement.

I departed PHF with flight following from Norfolk (ORF), climbed to 2000 feet, cleared to turn on course and climb to cruise altitude of 2500. Ran into some problems tracking the VOR (only bailed out by falling back on my handheld GPS). Every time I would get on the radial it would move off again, quickly. I could not figure it out, still not sure what happened. Once back on course I had an uneventful flight to Emporia. Norfolk terminated radar services about 15 miles from Emporia and I was on my own. Announced intention on the unicom 10 miles out and monitored ASOS, crossed midfield at 2500ft. No traffic in the pattern. Started a descent and did a 360 over the town and headed back to the field for a 45 entry of the left downwind. Speed was a little high and had a time trying to slow down. Made a couple of errors here, entering the traffic pattern too high and then descending too low once in the pattern. The landing was my first porpoise, way too flat! I got her down and taxied to the welcome center. Signed the log book, got a stamp on my VA aviation passport and went back out to the airplane to start pre-takeoff checks and begin home.

Because I was running out of time with the aircraft I made a b line back to Newport News at 2500. Called NN just south of Smithfield and told to squawk and ident, which I did. I was then cleared for a straight in approach to runway 7. Another OK landing and back to the FBO. Very, very pumped about my adventure, with many, many lessons learned.


November 17, 2005 - Finishing Night Flight Requirement

Seven more landings while remaining in the pattern at PHF allowed me to close out my night time training requirement of three hours and ten full stop landings.


November 19, 2005 - Long Cross Country
Finished my long cross country today. Flew from Newport News, VA (KPHF) to Salisbury, MD (KSBY) for the first leg, 94 nautical miles.

Spent a lot of time planning the trip, prepping, familiarizing and flying the route in MS Flight Sim 2004. Just for such a short trip I spent hours in the prep phase and I think it paid dividends during the flight.

This morning was beautiful for flying, +10 mile visibility, wind was calm, sky clear, but it was below freezing at 0800. The Cessna’s wing had a nice amount of frost on it, but my CFI was kind enough to position the angle of the wing to allow the sun to melt it while we reviewed my flight plan. By the time I came out to preflight the last remnants of the frost were melting away.

After my run up and activation of my flight plan I took off out of Newport News and immediately picked up the Cape Charles VOR on my VOR receiver and climbed to 5500 as I crossed a 26 mile stretch of the Chesapeake Bay. I normally would request flight following but I feel so task saturated at the beginning of my cross country trips I decided I wanted to concentrate on flying the plane and not working the radios and scribbling instructions from ATC. Made land fall, visually ID’d the VOR facility and called in a position report to the FSS. From there I picked up the Snow Hill VOR following RT 13 to the North. I over flew my second airport, Accomack (KMFV) and checked out the lay of the airport which was a good thing because my AOPA airport directory diagram did not show the new GA parking area and UNICOM location (however the AFD does, recommend always cross checking the two if you are going to use AOPAs kneeboard airport printouts). Also called in a position report to the FSS. As I closed on the Snow Hill VOR I began a power descent down to 3500 ft. I crossed the VOR and turned toward Salisbury continuing to descend down to 2500 and tuning in ASOS & tower. The airport was active with student pilots in the pattern and it sounded as if they were keeping the tower pretty busy. Eventually things calmed down enough for me to get my call in. The tower cleared me for a right base into runway 5. I landed with a nice light touch of the gear at exactly one hour, only 1 min and 30 seconds off my original calculations. One down! I had studied the taxi diagram beforehand and taxied around the airport in MS Flight Sim so I was fairly confident with ground clearance to the local FBO, Bay Land Aviation (but I asked for progressive taxi instructions anyway ). I asked for refuel, did not really need it, but I wanted to see just how accurate my fuel calculations had been and I wanted to see how that whole process worked. I took 7 gallons and had calculated a burn of 9.6 so all that rounding up had skewed my numbers and the old gal was a lot more efficient than folks had given her credit for (maybe it was the mixture lean at 5500ft). (NOTE: I went back and calculated the burn using the POH without rounding and came up with 8 gallons). The folks at Bay Land were very friendly, I grabbed a cup of coffee, closed my flight plan, and filed my return flight plan using Fast File at 1-800-WX-BRIEF.

Stretched and ready to tackle the second leg of my x-country I took off from Salisbury and dialed in the Snow Hill VOR climbing to 2500 ft. Also activated my new flight plan once airborne. Intercepted Snow Hill and turned towards Accomack. Started getting bumpy so I slowed the plane down from 105 to 90 just to play it safe. Made a straight in approach to runway 21 at Accomack with winds 150 @ 3. Another nice landing and a quick stop at the front desk to get some proof I was there and I was back in the plane again. Two down! Notified traffic I was back taxiing for takeoff and departed on r/w 21 heading south. Back to Cape Charles VOR, across the Chesapeake Bay, and landed at Newport News on runway 7. Put a fork in me, I AM DONE! Very happy with the flight and the experience.


December 3, 2005 - Under the Hood
Up until today I have had .6 simulated/actual instrument time. I am now closing out the final 3 hours of instrument training, the last on PP-SEL to do list before final check ride prep. Today I went under the hood for another 1.5. We did unusual attitudes, turns, climbs, descents, and maintain heading up to West Point airport, a small non-towered field 25 miles north of Newport News. My instructor acted as ATC as he vectored me into a simulated approach. On short final he let me out from under the foggle, and the approach was so high with no flaps in that I had no choice but to go around.

We went around and I did a normal landing that was a little too hard. It was a stop and go and we took off again, after clearing the trees I realized I had left the carb heat out, dumb mistake.

We did a second landing which was very smooth, back taxied and took off for Newport News. Back under the hood for more training. After a while my instructor called Norfolk Approach for vectors to intercept the ILS at PHF. While we worked are way back to Newport News an emergency call came into the ATC, we could not hear the plane just the controller, and I think it all worked out. But we missed our intercept vector and my CFI reminded the controller we were still waiting. The controller was very professional and apologized for the oversight since he was handling an emergency. I thought it was a pretty classy return. If I had been the controller I probably would have responded "go away Mr. VFR, I am busy with people who really need my service!" I guess that is one of the reasons I have been drawn to aviation, the high level of professionalism, attention to detail, and quest for excellence. You can't help but want to be a part of that type of community.

Any who he continued to work with us and I flew under the foggles until 300ft, short final. Off came the foggles, down came ALL of the flaps, and off came the power (I was high again). With 8000 feet of runway to work we were going to land this time. Pretty ugly landing with two balloons, and then almost a ground loop. So a perfect example of why we go around if we do not have a stabilized approach and are behind the airplane.

One of my goals today was not accepting steady deviations in altitude or heading. I tried to identify deviation quickly and use small input to correct before it became a real problem. Not difficult in straight and level flight but much more difficult with only a few additional tasks. Instrument flying for the newly initiated is taxing on mind and body even in the short time I was up. Not sure how the instrument guys can do it for hours on end but my hat is off to them. I am content with VFR.

December 8, 2005 - Bad Weather

Amazing how bad the weather has been lately as I come to the end of my training. The last few months have been the lowest flight times I have logged during my six months of training mainly due to work, travel, and weather. I feel I may end up taking a few steps back before I move forward to the finish line. I can see the end in sight, but it is going to be a challenge to reach it. Another lesson is planned for this Saturday. After that I have to sneak in solo time when I get the opportunity.

Before I can check ride I need another 1.5 hours of instrument and 3.1 of solo.

December 10, 2005 - Instrument Time

Cold, cold day, sunny but below freezing. Frost covered 7320F from tip to tail. Another 1.0 of simulated instrument for the books. Closed on that 40 hour milestone this weekend. Only .5 instrument left to complete. We flew up to West Point and did a couple of short field landings and takeoffs. Also worked on unusual attitudes under the hood and talking to Norfolk approach with IFR vectors. Pretty happy with most of my landings during this lesson. Had a 1 second scare when the engine hiccupped, never happened before, I threw on the carb heat and the engine returned to normal. Hard to believe I am almost done, the last six months have literally flown by.

I will be flying solo these next couple of weeks as I complete my 3.X hours of solo whenever I can get them.

December 19, 2005 - Solo Training

Found some time to sneak in 1.3 hours of solo. Went out to the maneuver area and worked slow flight, steep turns, and turns around a point. Used my handheld GPS track feature to evaluate maneuvers after the flight. Very helpful tool. The left steep turns were near perfect, but the right steep turns leave something to be desired. Slow flight was spot on. Returned and landed in a 6 kt 90 degree crosswind. Not very pretty to say the least, going to work landings tomorrow up at West Point.

December 20, 2005 - Sunset Solo Flight
Decided to head out an hour before sunset to spice up my solo flight. Also flew 737GR, another 172N, a little more beat up than my regular ride but better radios. Lifted off from KPHF around 1530 and headed to West Point. Another Cessna was in the pattern and caused me to extend my downwind as he sat on the runway for a few minutes. Final was a little high so I put the flaps in early and slipped to dump some altitude. Nice landing as I aimed short of the numbers and floated over the displaced threshold to land on the numbers. Taxied off and went into the terminal to get a stamp in my Virginia Aviators Passport. Back in the plane I taxied out and took off to the south as the sun started to set in the west. Practiced slow flight and right steep turns as I worked my way to the Point Comfort lighthouse. Took some spectacular photos as I flew along the coast enjoying the beautiful sunset. As the sun started to disappear behind the horizon I called KPHF tower and started back to the airport. I had a great final approach and a really nice landing. After clearing the runway I waited for two regional jets to pass before cleared to taxi. I had to hold short of runway 20 as a flock of Cessna's passed. The airport was buzzing with traffic, the busiest I have seen it. Must have taken 10 minutes to get back to my parking spot. Total Hobbs time was 1.6, leaving only a fraction of an hour left of mandatory solo time.

Blog Archive
['10, '09, '08, '07, '06, '05]