Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Wonderland

Tiny pic

Today, my instructor contacted me to cancel our flight lesson for tomorrow. We're in the midst of a winter storm. No flying for me tomorrow. Boo.

Friday, January 27, 2012

First Day of Ground School

January 9, 2012
Pain Field
Ground school

I almost forgot to give an update about how ground school is going! I can honestly say my CFI did a good job teaching me the basics because the first and second week of ground school was nothing but a review for me. It felt wonderful to actually know that I am learning something! Every flight lesson I sit there more and more lost. Some days I feel like I'll never know all that needs to be learned... And I'm just working on my private pilots! Whats going to happen when I'm doing my instrument rating or working towards my commercial?! It's all so overwhelming and discouraging at times. Yet, for once I felt like I was doing alright (while short lived of course).

I'm not going to post after every ground school lesson, there's really no point, though I may give an update every now and again. Ground school is just getting me prepared for taking the written exam, though you don't have to attend a formal ground school for this. You can self-study. I however, recommend it if you have the money. I'm assuming most of the guys teaching the ground school is pretty knowledgeable, my instructor for instance always has a story to tell. It usually reinforces whats being taught and helps the information stick, there's also lots of little ways or tricks I should say that help you remember things you need to know. Not to mention the fact that you'll get to interact with other student pilots. I really have no one to talk to about my training besides my dad (no one who really understands it I should say) so its nice to meet others going through the same rewarding struggles as I.

I'm doing the traditional ground school course. Its ten weeks long, every Monday and Wednesday from 6:30pm-8:30pm. The flight school I attend has an accelerated program, its something like two or three weekends 8 hours each day and you're basically hustling through the information. If you can do that, all the more power to you! I however, prefer the slow paced method so the information can really sink. After all, I'm just starting my training and I have a long road ahead of me. All of what I'm learning now is not going to go away anytime soon.

Lesson Learned

January 12, 2012
Paine Field
Cessna 152
1.6 hours, 18 landings

Let me just start off by simply saying; worse flight lesson ever. If I had known what this day had to offer me I probably would have canceled my flight lesson, well not really because I love flying too much to willingly cancel unless Im unable to fly the plane safely. Then I would cancel. Anyways, I did nothing but touch and goes for the full 1.6 hours. I will never do that again. I’ll start off with the fact that I started my day at 5:00am after having fallen asleep at 11pm. I can usually function just fine on 6 hours of sleep. However, I had to wake up and prepare for my college courses that start at 7:30, I was then in college till 11:30, to which right after I went to my flight lesson. Needless to say I was slightly drained mentally (especially since it was the first week back), but exhilarated to be taking my flight lesson. After a week of getting back into the college schedule and being swamped with work, it was nice to get away. Yet, this flight ended up being more draining than anything I’ve ever done.

At first I was excited to do a marathon of touch and goes. That meant I could work on my radio skills as well as my landings and get that much more closer to soloing. If my CFI had thought I was getting anywhere close to soloing I know that after this flight he changed his mind. For the first half hour I was doing pretty good in the pattern. That's the key word though; pattern. My landings were absolutely all over the place, I did okay at first, then did a bunch of horrible landings, off center-line, one with a bounce, then back to doing decent, but not that great of landings. Sometime after that I started to get not just mentally but physically drained. It sure showed as well. At some point I just wasn’t able to stay consistent, my pattern was fine but my landings were getting worse. Twice I started a nose dive towards the runway and one of thoses times my instructor jumped to quickly pull the plane back up. Another time I was getting frustrated with my approach and tried to force the plane to land- bad bad BAD decision. Lesson learned; never force a plane to land if it doesn't want to! Things wont work in your favor! You must fly the airplane, not let it fly you. After that I knew I was unable to continue to fly, I was too drained to process how I needed to have my landings. My CFI saved me the trouble though, he said we’d only do 2 or 3 more, so I held my tounge. I could do a couple more, and so I did. Once we did a full stop landing I let out a sigh of relief that I hadent known I’d been holding in. I knew I had pushed myself too far this flight. I also knew I should have spoken up to my instructor, but it was a great learning expirence. I’d rather I push myself while I’m with my instructor then do that when I’m alone. I am now able to recognize when I need to stop. So it was a good learning experience.

I knew I had pushed myself too far before I even made my next string of mistakes. I honestly, don't know what I was thinking here. Perhaps just the fact that I was ready to get out of that plane so I could go home and crash. I half heartedly went over the after landing check off list and ripped the mixture out unintentionally. My instructor thankfully being on his toes saved us before it was too late. I mumbled an apology about being tiried to which he told me I needed to tell him when I was getting worn out, I already knew that though. I can tell you, I wont be making that mistake again.

After we taxied back, I was slow to get out of the plane. I felt like I was in a fog. I couldn't move quickly nor think fast enough, it was an effort just to take my seat-belt off. I couldn’t even calculate how long we’d been flying, even though I’ve done it several times, my instructor had to double check it. I also left my kneeboard in the plane and had to run back out to grab it. I was a complete and utter disaster. I wasn't able to function or think clearly, and that scared me. If I had been alone, what kind of mistakes would I have made? I don’t even want to think about it. Lesson learned. I no longer need to guess about what my limits are. I now know and will be able to tell for future flights. I won’t make this mistake again.

Total cost invested thus far: $2769

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Another Ground Lesson

January 5, 2012
Pain Field
Ground lesson
.6 hours

I woke up around 7am, feeling like death and congested like no other. Worried I’d have to cancel my flight I got up and jumped in the shower before going downstairs to make myself something to eat. By this time I felt much better and noticed my congestion would come and go. I waited a little longer before calling my instructor to see what he thought. He said we could give it a try.

As I sat in my car, I could feel the wind shaking it. Definitely not a good sign. I got out and walked toward the flight school, as I did so the wind was blowing my hair all over the place. I had a sinking feeling it was going to be too windy to go up. My assumption was correct. My CFI was already waiting for me, and told me there was wind shear so we wouldn’t be going up. We had a few things to go over though. So at least my drive there wasn’t a waste. He talked about spin recovery. Not that we had to do them, but that I’d need to know the procedures to get out of one. So here we go again with the acronyms: PARE.

Power – idle
Ailerons- neutral
Rudder- Full opposite
Elevator- forward to break stall

I thought it was really odd that you’d need to push forward on the yoke, wouldn’t you want to pull back so you could get out of it? But no, you wanted to push forward so you could again get lift, break the stall and then pull up.

Then he briefly talked about forward slips. You know, if you’re too high when you’re coming into landing. Or if there’s crosswinds. You want to turn into the wind and then apply opposite rudder.

Power- Idle
Rudder (usually full)
Nose down- not up ( you don’t want your air speed to increase)
Flaps 20- not full

15 minutes in and my instructor is already putting me to sleep. So many different procedures for all these different maneuvers. Would I honestly be able to remember all of them? How many more did I have to learn?

“So what do you think a runway incursion is?” he asked. As with almost every other thing I have no idea. So I throw a guess out there. “When two planes run into each other on the runway….?” He shook his head and said, “that would maybe be a runway collision”. A runway incursion is basically when a plane is on the runway when they aren’t supposed to be. I laughed at myself. Apparently, my CFI had thought the same thing when he was asked way back whenever it was he learned all this. So that didn’t make me feel so retarded. Which is rare because usually at these lessons I always feel dumb. I never know anything, even if I try and read up ahead of time. So whenever my instructor asks me anything, I normally guess, and about 95% of the time is a wrong guess.

Next he discussed wind shear. He said he usually keeps his knots up when coming into landing. Let’s say the winds at 5, with gusts at 20. You’d take the distance between the 2, which would be 15 and cut it in half to add to your approach speed. Which would be about 7, so you would add that. If the winds are strong you also don’t want to have your flaps full. And finally, there was a quick discussion of microburst.

Before I headed out I asked him if ground school (which I’ll be starting in 4 days) was going to be as boring as this. He said the guy teaching it was a cool guy, and usually students didn’t come out complaining about him. Plus they had videos and PowerPoint’s. Not just a whiteboard and a marker. I still am not looking forward to my ground school, not mixed with everything else I have going on. But I am looking forward to becoming more knowledgeable.

On a side note, my solo was brought up finally, and how after this that’s what we’ll be working on- getting me to solo. I’m excited and terrified! My goal is to solo by my 20th birthday which is in March. That gives me about 2 months and a couple weeks. I hope I can do it.

Total cost invested thus far: $2475

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Visit to a Different Airport!

January 1, 2012
Paine Field- Arlington- Pain Field
Cessna 152
1.6 hours, 5 landings

How fitting that I welcome the New Year with a flight when all my resolutions are about it. Can you tell I’m obsessed yet? As usual my nerves got the best of me on the way to my flight school. I’m not sure why, but even to this day I get those butterflies of excitement that I’ve learned to accept. That is right until I start my preflight, and then it’s like I’m a different person. How could I be nervous when I’ve got to inspect the plane to make sure it’s suitable to fly? I’ve heard about how a lot of students just breeze through the preflight, but I pay careful attention. The whole point of preflighting is to make sure that the plane is safe to fly. If you don’t pay attention, then you’re at fault for your own idiocy. And becoming a pilot is all about being safe, everything in aviation is about being safe. I take my preflighting serious, I take my time. It’s not like I’m being charged for it, and even if I was, I’d still take my time. Why compromise your life for a few extra dollars?
So, I walk into the flight school, and wait until my CFI is done talking to some other student. He approaches me afterwards and tells me we’ll be doing touch and goes at the Arlington airport. How exciting! I’ve wanted to go to different airports for a while, I don’t want to just get used to Paine and be useless at other airports. He then proceeded to ask me if there was anything I wanted to do. Sadly, I said I wanted to work on my slow flight. I’m not at all comfortable with it so I wanted to get it out of the way. It’s the one thing I dread. He sends me off to preflight the plane, which I’ve got down. And even inside the cockpit it’s all coming together wonderfully. No longer do I sit there with a confused look on my face waiting for him to point it out, instead, I say each item on the checklist and perform them all easily.

I get the ATIS and talk to ground like a pro. Quickly taxi to the runway and perform the rest of the checklist. It’s all a piece of cake. Finally, I approach the hold short line, call up tower to get my clearance for takeoff, then off I go. My second takeoff in crosswinds! Horrible! I did horrible! The plane would not stay straight for the life of me. I’ll need to work on that a little more. It’s hard trying to find the right amount of rudder and aileron correction. But, otherwise up until that point all was smooth.

My instructor told me to point us towards baker, and if I remembered the steps to doing slow flight. I remembered the basics. Clearing turns first! Then we’re going to be slowing the engine down, and carb heat out! Second, reduce the rpms, it is slow flight after all, don’t let the nose drop though! So I set myself up, using power to adjust my altitude, if I was dropping, more power, rising, less power. Trying to find the equilibrium between the two. Once I was set up, with the annoying stall horn going off in the background, he had me turn to a heading of north. My first turn I did better than I ever had! What was my cure? Right rudder! Right rudder is your friend let me tell you! Without it the plane doesn’t want to stop turning left! At least that was my problem. Now back to east, trying to figure out the right rudder correction for that was a little trickier, the turn wasn’t as smooth and my first had been. Back to the left, and then the right, and left again. I learned a lot more this time around. And that was, can you guess it? RIGHT RUDDER! Even when you’re just nose up, trying to adjust you need right rudder otherwise the plane turns to the left. I never noticed it the first time I had done slow flight because I didn’t pay attention to my heading (weird a student pilot not staring at their instrument!) that was because my instructor every five seconds “eyes outside.” Simply looking outside it’s hard to tell you’re moving because its ever so slight and I hadn’t yet developed the skills to know. Even when I did my reading on slow flight and knew I needed right rudder, it’s hard to remember the little things when you’re actually up there. That was my main problem for my first few flights after all, trying not to freeze up in the middle of performing a maneuver. And trying to keep the information from slipping from my mind.

After we did slow flight we headed to the Arlington airport. Wow, was the radio busy. I’m sure the radios are always busy, but whenever we’d go out my CFI would switch the radio so he could walk me through the maneuvers. It was crazy cool listening to everyone talking. my instructor would point out which airplanes had just spoken, which I was thankful for because I had no idea who was saying what. Okay great, someone is over some river thing and another is on downwind. Where’s the airport again? And there are two rivers that go into one… what part of the river is he at?! It was hard trying to keep up. my CFI took control of the radio and just let me fly, at first I entered downwind and was confused to which runway we were landing on. I had to keep looking for the numbers, it wasn’t that I couldn’t find them, I just kept looking to where I was used to looking at Paine Field. First mistake, it’s a different airport. It felt awkward doing the traffic pattern here after having done it numerous times at Pain Field. But, I quickly fell into the pattern. Carb heat out on downwind, reduce rpms abeam point, start my flaps once we hit white arc, turn base, power at 70 flaps to 20, turn final power at 80 flaps full, work on power adjustment, was I coming in too high? Or too low? Two white lights, okay too high. The landings were apparently all me, which I hadn’t noticed until after he had told me so. My first one, I landed too fast. We taxied around the airport so I could get a feel for it, then back to the hold short line. My CFI had told me something in a way to help remember it. Camera, lights, action. I remember laughing at him. It was supposed to help me, but all I can remember is laughing. I think it was something along the lines of carb heat, lights, mixture or flaps? I have no idea.

After a few more touch and goes we headed back. I was happy with my progress up until my instructor told me I would be calling tower. My heart sank. I was definitely not ready to talk to tower yet when heading back. I did anyways; I had to write it down. “Paine tower, cenna 12345, over north Everett in bound for landing.” Okay, I had that down, now to repeat almost word by word what was to be said back to me. “ Cessna 12345 something something something something…… (long pause) 2 miles out” Are you kidding me? He paused! I couldn’t remember the first half, I still don’t. My flight instructor came to the rescue and repeated whatever it was back to him. I felt like such an idiot, but I can only remember something for so long, and the guy paused! They never pause! But they’re just people too. And I needed to get over my mike fright. Next time I’m writing it down! Fly the airplane and talk to tower while writing what they say down simultaneously. I got this! Next time I will report back with success! Well probably not, but hey, I'm trying.

So we got back to the airport and man were crosswinds bad! They were so bad my instructor didn’t even attempt to have me land, instead he had me feel the controls as he talked through it and landed the plane. He said that was one of the strongest crosswind he had ever seen when out with a student pilot. Let me tell you, it was the most awkward landing I’ve ever felt. It just didn’t feel natural going in for landing tilted so much and facing off the runway. I was jealous though. Even in crosswind landings my instructor landed the plane smoothly. He does have a few hundred hours over me though..

Total cost invested thus far: $2432

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crosswind Taxiing

December 29, 2011
Pain Field
Cessna 152
1.1 hours, 3 landings

This day flew by. I was nervous until I walked into the school. My instructor took me back to quickly go over cross wind taxiing, takeoff, and landings. Seemed simple enough to me; if you have a quarterly head wind, turn into the wind. If it’s a quarterly tail wind; dive (move yoke forward), and away from the wind. Once in the plane however, it was more confusing. As we sat there my CFO tried to walk me through it(I say try because I was horrible), I’ll need to read up on crosswinds a little more and hopefully be more prepared for the next flight. Today, was just some more turns around a point and S-turns. My CFI had this cool app where it showed our ground track so afterwards I was able to look back to see exactly how well I did. The first turn around a point was horrid; the second didn’t look so bad. The S-turns were alright. Where did my s-turn mojo go? Must have been beginners luck, or maybe I was over thinking it. We headed back to do some touch and goes. There was some slight crosswind, so he had to help me with the landing. Crosswind landings are awkward, it’s going to take me awhile to get them, especially since I haven’t even gotten a normal landing down yet.

Total cost invested thus far: $2138

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Simulated Engine Failure

December 21, 2011
Pain Field
Cessna 152
1.3 hours, 4 landings

Today, I was flying a different 152, there are 3 that the flight school has. But each are slightly different, some are more upgraded. This one hadn’t been flown in almost a week. Yikes. It had been freezing out the last few days, but I just shrugged it off and finished my preflight. After I was done we jumped in the plane and what do you know, the plane wouldn’t start. So my instructor and I sat there while we waited for maintenance to come jumpstart our plane. I was very curious about the process, it just seemed scary, and as I watched, it sure as hell was. I really can’t explain it, but when jumpstarting a plane you’re very close to the propeller. Too close for my comfort zone anyways. Once the plane was started I got the ATIS, called up ground, and taxied to the runway. Today, was finally the day I got to call up tower. They intimidated me more than ground did. Even though I knew they were located in the same place. I did it like a pro though; it’s always so much easier after you do it. Usually, it’s the process of trying to figure out what to say and how to say it that’s so intimidating. And then you don’t want to forget anything because they’ll have to ask you for it and you’ll be clogging up the airwaves.

“Paine tower, Cessna blah blah blah blah, at Golf 1, ready for an east departure.”

The main thing to remember about talking to tower is that you have to repeat almost word for word what they say back to you. For example, if they ask you to hold short of runway 16, you can’t simply say “holding short”, you have to say “holding short of runway one six”. My only worry was that I wouldn’t be able to say back everything, or that I’d forget something. It was simple though, and soon I was cleared for takeoff, and was back in that beautiful sky. We worked on slow flight again, which still frustrated me. We did some stalls, and then a simulated engine failure.

I had to be walked through the procedures, but I did fairly well. First thing is first, always fly the airplane. You will need to achieve your planes best glide speed, and then trim to relieve control pressure, make sure to watch your airspeed (A). After I had done that (minus the trim part because I always forget the trim) I scanned the area for a suitable field to land on, remembering I must land into the wind, I selected a field and began to circle it (B). Once my field was selected I grabbed the checklist and followed it (C). Just as my instructor had said, we followed the ABC. Airspeed, best landing spot, checklist.

That little Cessna is a gliding machine, I don’t know how many times we circled that field but we were there for a while. My only oops, was choosing a field where the rows would be against the way I was landing, not with. I hadn’t even noticed until we were much lower. I’ll need to be more observant next time. After that we headed back to do some touch and goes as usual. My landings don’t seem to be improving at all. It’s probably my biggest obstacle at this point. Even though, I know landings are something a pilot is always trying to improve on I just don’t feel as though I’m getting anywhere.

Total cost invested thus far: $1931

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ground Reference Maneuvers

December 16, 2011
Paine field
Cessna 152
1.2 hours, 3 landings

I didn’t anticipate going up this day, I remember the clouds looked angry and threatening. I checked the METAR, and then called up my instructor to see what he thought. Seeing as how he’s at the airport he would be able to see first-hand what the weather was like there. He said it was clearing to the south, so we should have nothing to worry about. Fine by me, I jumped in my car and hurried to my lesson which I hardly made it to on time because of all the holiday shoppers..

Just as I had expected preflight was all me today. How I ever thought preflight was overwhelming I’ll never know. I breezed through it, only having one question when my instructor headed out. We got the ATIS and called up ground, I was still nervous, but I made sure to write down what was said back to me and repeated it back easily enough. By this time my taxiing was coming along, I still wasn’t great at it, but I could stay on the centerline for the most part, my only challenges were turns and lining the plane up to do the before takeoff checklist. Steering with your feet just doesn’t feel natural, soon enough it will for me, but for now, it’s still as awkward as ever.

Once we were in the air we headed towards Woodinville to do some ground reference maneuvers. First up: turns around a point. This maneuver was a little tricky to me; it took me awhile to figure out the bank needed for each part. When flying directly downwind the steepest bank will be required, shallowest when upwind. Not surprisingly, I didn't have enough bank so the wind blew me off my course, then trying to compensate I ended up closing in too quickly. It was a mess of a circle. He had me do a second, which turned out a lot better. Next: S-turns which I ended up liking a lot more. When doing this maneuver you want to be turning throughout but you want your wings to be level right as you pass over your reference point, so in my case my wings would need to be level as I crossed the telephone wires. It is important to keep in mind that when your angle of bank increases you may experience a slight loss of lift, so to compensate for that you’d need to add back pressure to increase your lift. Yet, you don’t want to forget about that back pressure because as you let out some bank, if you’re still pulling back, you’re obviously going to start flying up. So throughout this maneuver you’ll constantly need to make adjustments. I did my first S-turn perfectly. I forgot exactly what my CFI had said, but I remember it being a compliment, and a confidence booster. Finally, something I nailed without having to practice repeatedly. My airspeed stayed the same, and I didn’t lose or gain more than 100ft of altitude. How I pulled it off, no idea, I just did the S-turn and somehow it came out wonderful.Finally: the rectangular course, which is like the traffic pattern. Enter it a 45 degree, and make your appropriate turns. Simple enough and easy, how many times had I practiced this already with my touch and goes? Plenty of times. I believe I did this once or twice, and then headed back towards the telephone wires to do one more S-turn before heading back for some touch and goes. I remember my instructor telling me to make this S-turn as beautiful as the first. Well, I tried. The first had came out perfectly and the second would have been perfect if I’d had straightened up quicker, unfortunately I didn’t. But I’d like to think it wasn’t too shabby for it being my second.

Total cost invested thus far: $1494

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Steep Turns

December 9, 2011
Paine Field
Cessna 152
1.4 hours (.2 hood time), 3 landings

As usual, the whole drive before my flight my nerves were on edge. By this time, I’ve come to accept these butterflies of excitement. I know they’ll fade as soon as I begin my preflight. My preflighting has come together nicely. I’m able to anticipate what’s next on the checklist, and then double check that I didn’t skip anything. My CFI simply stands there watching as I complete this list. I get the feeling that next time I’ll be preflighting alone, which I look forward too. A sign that I’m ever slightly advancing.

We jump in the plane, and my instructor mentions that I’ll be talking to ground today. I knew this was coming, but I was not looking forward to it. I also remember him telling me he’d give me a type of cheat sheet to make talking to them easier, which I never receive. Not that it really mattered to me. Learning the hard way is usually more beneficial. I did great the first part, but crashed and burned the second half. It went a little like this, and mind you I sounded like a 12 year old girl terrified out of her mind;

Me: “Paine Ground Cessna one two three alpha bravo, at location b, would like an east departure, we have Hotel.”

Ground: “Cessna one two three alpha bravo, Paine Ground, Taxi to runway one six left via Golf”
Me: ”three alpha bravo:”

Ouch. I spaced and forgot to repeat back their instructions. So now I was a 12 year old girl who had no idea what she was doing. My instructor had to step in;

CFI: “one six left via golf three alpha bravo”

I did a mental and physical cringe. How the hell did I forget to repeat back what they were saying? You always repeat it back! I don’t know what was going through my mind. But even now I cringe looking back on that. I should be thankful I was able to get the first part out. It probably was due to the fact that I wrote it out before saying it. Not so hard then. Always remember:

Who are you talking to?
Who are you?
Where are you?
What do you want?

Soon we were taking off and getting ready for slow flight. Oh, how I dreaded slow flight. As with before, I did horrible. At least this time I was able to almost make my headings, so that was an improvement. But, as for the rest, utter failure. Slow flight would be the death of me. I couldn’t even remember the procedure and had to yet again, be walked through it.

After a left and right turn in slow flight, my instructor had me do my first steep turn. Up until this point I was afraid of turns. Even doing a 20 degree banked turn made me nervous. Seeing the ground suddenly facing me made me sick to my stomach. Probably because I’m afraid of heights, and yes I realize for being afraid of heights flying a plane probably isn’t smart. But I’m a fear conquering kind of girl. Being afraid of heights wasn’t going to stop me, at this point I’d even considered spin training to get me more comfortable with the plane.

When doing a steep turn, if you noticed the airplane losing or gaining altitude use minor power adjustments to fix that. Be careful not to put yourself into a steep spiral dive. Yikes! From the bits and pieces of what I read this happens when there isn’t enough back pressure being applied so the plane begins to descend. To which point the pilot pulls back on the yoke to stop the decent. A pilot can then be too busy focusing on the back pressure that they forget about their bank and actually over bank the plane. Thus, the steep spiral dive. Sounds fun right? Ha, I doubt it!

So, I did my clearing turns and got ready to do my first steep turn, I went in a little nervous but half way through it, wow! I loved it! I made sure that while doing the steep turn I didn’t lean away from the turn, I stayed seated banking with the plane. It was exhilarating! Oh, you want me to now do the turn to the right Mr. CFI? Well, gladly! I was trying so hard to hold my girlish giggles in. I was enjoying the turn so much I wasn’t paying any attention to my instruments, yet somehow I managed to not lose or gain more than 100 ft.

Sadly, the time for steep turns ended as my flight instructor told me to turn to the north so I wouldn’t be facing the sun anymore (I don’t yet have sunglasses). Still in awe by my steep turns I started banking the plane more than necessary for the turn. “You can let out a little bank, that’s more than you need,” I did as I was told and tried to bring myself back down to reality. I did .2 hours of hood flying as well that day. Ick. Let me tell you, I am most certainly NOT excited for my instrument rating. Not if it’s going to be like that 10 minutes! My CFI handed me these weird goggle glasses thing and told me to put them on. I didn’t like how they let the sound of the plane seep in through my headset making it harder to hear him, and I definitely didn’t like not being able to see anything but my instruments. Those were the longest 10 minutes of my life. At first I did absolutely horrible, I wasn’t able to develop the scan right away, and when I finally got the scan down I would forget what instrument’s needed attention. We started off straight and level. The plane started turning to the left. I finally straightened it out, or so I thought, we started climbing, and then we started descending. “Okay, now turn to the left.” I couldn’t even hold straight and level flight yet! I did as I was told and the turn was more of a descending turn. Then to the right, I started climbing. After a good few minutes of utter failure I finally started to get it. Back to straight and level, bam! I knew what to scan and where to scan; I was flying level, with an ever slight left heading. The turns, oh they were so much more beautiful. I definitely was nowhere close to being pro, but I was able to hold my own. Would I trust myself if I got caught up in a cloud? HELL NO. But for 10 minutes I felt I did pretty well.

After that we headed back to do some touch and goes. My landings were still horrid, but by this time I was getting a feel for the traffic pattern, and slowly but surely developing a pattern of my own.

After this flight I felt worn out. All my previous flights were exhilarating, and had me basically floating back to my car. Yet, this day I felt sluggish. Which I took as a sign that my brain was doing its thing and processing what the day had offered me. Being worn out was good, it meant I was pushed. After we officially landed for the day I called up ground for clearance to taxi back. This time I didn’t forget to repeat their instructions back to them!

Total cost invested thus far: $1230

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How I Hate Winter Weather

December, 2011
Pain Field
Ground lesson
1.2 hours

I scheduled my next lesson which unfortunate got canceled due to bad weather. There was however and always are things to go over. So it was a ground kind of day. Disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to fly I sat and took notes while my CFI went over instrument flying because you need a set amount of time of instrument training before you get your private pilots. You know, in the case you get stuck in bad visibility conditions. Speaking of, in case you’re wondering I’m VFR which is visual flight rules, so I have to stay a certain distance away from the clouds, where as IFR is instrument flight rules, flying by your instruments without visual reference. After I’m done with my private pilots I’ll be working towards my instrument ratings. Which, you’ll hear all about once I start it.

So, back to sitting and taking notes. I remember I had to try extra hard to focus. Who wants to sit down and learn when you’re used to flying and learning? Not really much to report here, just which instruments to look at when doing straight and level/ descents/ turns. Then there was a discussion of the magnetos, and the go around procedures. He also went over the emergency landings, in an ABC way:

A: airspeed
B: best landing spot
C: checklist

Set myself up for the best glide speed, find a suitable landing spot (no roads, if it’s a field make sure to land with the rows not against) and fly over it using the traffic pattern (after I figure out where the wind is coming from so I can land into the wind), and do the emergency landing procedure on the checklist.

At this point I remember thinking about changing my flight instructor (not because he wasn’t doing a good job I just needed to stay focused). When in the plane I’m completely focused on the job at hand- flying the plane. But outside of it doing these boring ground lessons I had to force myself to listen to what my instructor was saying. This wasn’t one of my college courses where I could easily just daydream and pass effortlessly, here I needed to stay alert. This was all completely new to me, sure I was raised with my father’s love for planes but I was never told how the engine worked, or what the emergency procedure for landing a plane if the engine fails on you was. The thought of changing instructors was pushed out of my mind as I rationalized my feelings, and chose what was best for me. I also, began to notice how I fell into the student role more with each passing flight.

Total cost invested thus far: $971

Friday, January 6, 2012

Power on Stall and Slow Flight

November 20, 2011
Paine Field
Cessna 152
1.1 hours, 2 landings

I remember this flight quite clearly. Perhaps, the only day I dreaded going up. I knew we were going to do stalls because my CFI had told me to read up on them. And read up on them I did, obsessively. A stall could turn into a spin. Get into a spin and don’t get out of it in time you could crash. I read every little detail. If a wing drops, let the nose drop and apply opposite rudder. Be careful not to apply the same rudder though! You’ll put yourself into the spin faster. Be careful about getting yourself out of a stall because you can easily put yourself into a secondary stall and have the same issues all over again! Would my CFI be able to get us out of one if I messed up? I didn’t help myself by reading up on those stalls because soon I was taken to statistics, which let’s face it, those things never make you feel better.  But hey, if I was going to die, at least it would be by something I loved. So, I walked into that flight school and preflighted that plane like a champ. Who me afraid of stalls?! Never! Okay, that’s a lie. I was terrified, and my CFI knew it. He kept telling me I’d be fine. As if that was any help. Will we be fine if the right wing drops and I freeze up then impulsively kick the right rudder in and send us into a spin? No Mr. CFI, no we will certainly not be okay!

This was another one of those days where I can’t even remember taxiing or take off. My mind was on the stalls I would be performing soon. I kept going over the procedures in my head. Two types of stalls, power on and power off. First thing first, once up to a sufficient altitude do clearing turns, 90 degree to the left, then back around to the right. When everything was clear, it was time to start the power on stall.

I really think my CFI was out to get me that day or something because he had me doing god knows how many stalls (okay it wasn’t that many, but still! One was enough!). I remember that I did so many I felt sick to my stomach. After all you bring the nose of the airplane up till it drops and when it drops it’s almost like a rollercoaster ride. Up and down, up and down, up and down. Then to top it off I distinctly remember after a certain point him saying, “this will be the last one”. But was it?! Of course not, he made me do two more after that! Sheesh. What a jerk. Not really, I know he was just trying to make me comfortable with stalls, and hey! It worked! Stalls weren’t so bad after all. If I slowly brought the nose up, little by little, and focused on keeping my wings level, once the stall hits the chances of a wing dropping was lower than if I went in uncoordinated(obvious, I know, but when you’re up there things are more confusing than you’d know). I don’t remember how many power on stalls we did, but at no point did the wing ever drop to the point where my pulse raced. Later on in my training however, I had more wings drop to where it did race. I partly wonder if my instructor was just trying to get me more comfortable with it and wouldn’t allow the wing to drop too much? I should ask him sometime.

We also did some slow flight which in the end I disliked more than stalls. The controls are so sloppy it’s ridiculous! And no matter how hard I tried the damn plane wouldn’t stop turning once it started. I wanted to kick the stupid thing. I remember my instructor saying the whole time, “small corrections, small corrections”. Okay, I get it, small fricken corrections, as the plane spun past its point yet again. I was frustrated. Not soon enough my CFI ended the slow flight and had me fly us back to the airport to do my first touch and go landing. Now let me tell you, I was horrible at landing. That poor plane! I can’t imagine how they can withstand all the abuse us student pilots put them through!

Total cost invested thus far: $899

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Lesson-and in Love!

November 6th, 2011
Pain Field
Cessna 152
1.0 hours, 1 takeoff, 1 landing

Cessna I fly

My first official lesson by myself (no father or brother with me). And my first flight in the Cessna 152 (which I’ll be flying from this point on). This day too is a blur to me, I remember the whole drive there I couldn’t believe I was actually going to fly. I was officially a student pilot! I had even gotten my 3rd class medical. The only thing between me and my private pilot’s license now was time and money. I parked my car, and quickly rushed into the flight school before my nerves got the best of me. Once again, my flight instructor took me aside and quickly talked about a few things, before again taking me out and helping me preflight the plane. This time I paid attention, after all, soon I would be preflighting the airplane without him helping me out. Better I learn now then forget something when he wouldn’t be around. Before I knew it, we were sitting in the plane and I was again taxiing, which I did so much better the first time than I did then. I listened as my CFI talked to tower. “I’m going to walk you through take off,” he said. My pulse jumped. Take off? Already? I hesitantly nodded, as he told me what to do, and of course helped me.

I can't remember the take off at all. I think I was terrified. I can remember leveling off though, and suddenly being hit with the biggest rush I'd ever felt (or so I thought at the time). I could feel the adrenalin pumping through my veins. I felt free.

My whole life I've craved something more. I was never happy just being in school, I had to be doing things on the side. Soccer. Tennis. Track. Dance. Photography. French. Hiking. Camping. Yoga. Writing. And so on. I thought that it was just the desire to achieve my dream that I was missing because no matter what I tried, nothing ever quite fit me. Don't get me wrong, I loved all of that, but none of that fulfilled me. Until that is, I flew. By this time, I just knew that flying was what I had been missing. I can't explain it, but I feel complete when I'm flying. Nothing else matters when I'm up there. 

Looking back I wonder what my CFI though of me. My first two flights I hardly said a word. Were all students like that? I would freeze up, and everything I’d read up on would simply fly out of my mind. Never in my life has that ever happened to me. I’m not the type of person to freeze up. I’m usually on top of my game. But flying is different. I can’t explain it. I simply nodded most of the time, and only talked when he asked a direct question. I still do that now, but for different reasons. Now I’m  focused on learning to fly this plane as best and as smoothly as I can. Then, I was simply terrified. Not of crashing or anything, but that I was actually flying and still couldn’t fathom it.

This lesson was basically the same as my discovery flight, straight and level flight along with turns and descents. Simply getting a feel for the plane and learning to control the basics. When we landed I felt light and free. I walked out of the flight school, in love and with a much bigger rush than I had when I started. I was in love with flying, never in my life had I ever fallen in love with something as quickly as I had this. I can’t even begin to explain to you the feeling of flight, there’s just this rush with flying that’s nothing like anything I’ve ever felt. It’s amazing, that’s all there is too it, flying is simply amazing and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

That day, I left my heart up there in that beautiful sky.
When my feet are on the ground, I feel less complete.
But up there, I'm whole.

I know you don't understand, and you probably never will unless you're one of the lucky few to escape to the sky of your own accord- not someone else. But you, in control.

Total cost invested thus far: $441

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Discovery Flight

October 29, 2011
Pain Field
Cessna 172
1.0 hours

My discovery flight. I was sitting at home doing my usual college work when I got a random call from my father. Can you guess what it was about?

He had asked me if I was still interested in getting my private pilots and if I was, to look for a flight school to attend. I spent the day excitedly talking to the receptionists at the nearest flight schools. The closest was Arlington’s, but I didn’t like how they didn’t have a control tower. I wanted to make sure I’d be comfortable talking on the radios and what better place than an airport with a control tower? So, in the end Paine Field was where I chose to take my lessons. Once, I had chosen a school I contacted my father who then set everything up. My discovery flight was the first week of October, but the weather was too bad and we had to reschedule. Then the third week, once again the weather was too bad, but I did get to meet my potential flight instructor, and was introduced to the planes they had. The planes were so small! I was terrified!

Finally, the day had come. I was to be introduced to a different instructor, seeing as how the previous one was getting a job somewhere else. Which was fine by me.  Anyways, my CFI took us aside to quickly break down the basics of flying, before taking us out and talking about the preflight. I of course, was too busy trying to stop my heart from ripping out of my chest. I was actually going to fly this little Cessna 172! But would I like it? I’ve wanted this for so long…. What if it wouldn’t be what I expected? I was so nervous I couldn't even put my seat-belt on! The CFI had to lean over and do it for me. Talk about embarrassing, though I wasn't caring about that at the time. Besides being in a helicopter, this was the smallest plane I had ever been in. Being slightly claustrophobic, I had to focus on what I wanted, not what I was about to do. My dream. I kept playing it over and over again in my head. This was the first step to getting closer to my dream. There was no backing down. Everything I've worked for has lead up to this moment.
I will tell you this much, I don’t remember much about getting into the plane, or taxiing down the runway besides the fact that it was awkward trying to steer with my feet.  I do remember that all too quickly we took off and were in the air, and suddenly I was being told how to hold the yoke. My pulse raced, my hands were shaking, and I could hardly breathe. I was terrified. Absolutely in every way possible terrified. We soared into the sky and I numbly turned the plane left and right as I was shown. I could feel the weight of my brother and father in the back. That instant, I looked down over the water and became dizzy. If I did one wrong move and the flight instructor didn’t catch it fast enough I could end all of our lives (well not really, but it sure felt like it). Somehow though, all my fear started to fade away as I began to feel the airplane. If I trusted it, and treated it well, it would in turn treat me well. Eventually, my fear of the airplane simply falling and crashing to earth dissipated. Once that fear was gone I broke out into the biggest probably cheesiest smile I’ve ever had. I couldn't fathom how a chunk of metal could stay up in the sky. Funny how I had always been surrounded by planes but never once wondered how they could fly. I've flown from here to Europe as a passenger, and the thought never crossed my mind. Yet, sitting there, in that tiny Cessna, I couldn't understand it. But, suddenly I wanted to. That was the start of my hunger for aviation.

My life changed completely and forever at that exact moment. I would never look at planes or the sky in the same way again. A whole new world suddenly opened up to me. If I wasn’t trying so hard to play it cool, as if flying was no big deal, I probably would have thrown my hands up and yelled at the top of my lungs. I completely gave into the world of aviation that day and ever since, nothing has been the same.

Total cost invested thus far: $250

Monday, January 2, 2012

How my Love of Flying Began

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to fly because my father had his private pilots, and worked in the aviation industry so naturally I was surrounded by planes (mostly my father’s love for them).  Yet, for the longest time I honestly believed girls weren't supposed to fly, mind you I was a little girl. As I grew older life took its hold on me, and flying along with a few other dreams were set on a back burner as I went through the ups and downs of growing up.  Once in high school however, they were relentless about us writing up a plan about our future of where we wanted to be and how we were going to get there. So I sat down, and thought about what was important to me. Space. I love space. And that’s when my dream of flying was rekindled. Suddenly, I wasn’t going to let go of flying again. I was determined to get my private pilots license no matter what the cost and to work towards my dream. I was determined to get as close to my dream as I could. And getting my private pilots was just the first step to it. Never however, would I have thought I’d love flying as much as I do, and if you would have told me then that only a few years later I’d be flying, I’d have laughed at you.

But, here I am happier than I’ve ever been! I have a few posts to write up, to get you caught up to where I am now, but one thing is for sure. Learning to fly is the most challenging endeavor I’ve ever taken on. For once, I’m doing something that is not only making me a better person, but pushing me to my limits. I’m working on becoming the safest and best pilot I can be.
So here is to the New Year! My first resolution: to earn my private pilot’s license as quickly as possible and to start my instrument. My second: To come back here after my lessons to update you, even though I’m more swamped than I’ve ever been. 

 By coming here after my lessons I not only have a way to discuss my flight process, but I can also process what was done that day. By no means am I saying this is how you should fly. For information on maneuvers and so forth regard the FAA Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. This is simply my story in becoming a pilot.