Preface - Why I Fly

Leonardo da Vinci is quoted to say:

“Once you have tasted flight,
you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward;
for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

And he's right, you know?
I felt compelled to share in my Pilot BLogbook, the exhileration and sheer freedom of flying. Because only there, with complete autonomy of banking left or right, climbing to heights where you dare not look down, or even better, the souring down with negative G's, like a rollercoaster, your stomach in your throat, can you truly feel on top of the world, and appreciate the wind that magically keeps you aloft, the cool temperatures, the awesome power in the changing weather, rain showers you pass thru, the tranquility of cruising over the clouds, the almost spiritual view to the distant sunrise seen like no where else on the ground level, or the liberating view and vast space with a never-ending horizon stretched out before you. (And at night all this is even more enchanting.)

Now THAT's what I call a “ride!”

PilotEdge Review - ATC Practice Flying Online



While I can't speak for other students and licensed pilots, I have heard again and again that in the business of flying, talking on the radio with ATC and even other pilots, is the most common fear, difficulty, and even avoided on flights when airborne. Go the long way around, just to stay off the radio. Yeah, not that bad, but me too. While my own radio speak is not too deficient in general, and not a huge fear overall, still in some situations I lock up and become flying imbecile just like others. 

Well like anything, one must practice for advancement and perfection, and/or at least to conquer the hurdle. Online flying helps, and PilotEdge is by far the most outstanding!

Pilotedge is online flying ATC at it's best! Pilotedge is just fantastic, and I can't thank them enough for the amazing and wonderful facility and services they provide.

Here are excerpts (slightly revised) from a review of Pilotedge I found helpful, accurate, and compelling.

"If you want to guarantee that high quality controllers will be online along with functioning voice CTAF, Pilotedge is for you.

Pilotedge is for real world pilots and serious simulation enthusiasts.

PilotEdge say they provide a reliable and repeatable online flying experience by building their network from the ground up to provide a level of realism not seen in other networks. All true.

In order to guarantee ATC service they operate between 8:00am to 11:00pm (US Pacific) 7 days per week with only a few exceptions around major holidays. However, the radio systems are on 24/7 so after hours you can fly with other pilots, including the 500+ drone aircraft in Class E & G airspace.

Also, to increase traffic and maintaining quality ATC the service areas are limited to the ZLA (Los Angeles ARTCC) area and San Fransisco International airport. That means there are 4 Class Bravo fields covered, San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Fransisco. They also cover numerous Charlie airports along with way too many Delta airports to name. They also mention their choice of the ZLA airspace is due to the amount of traffic in the area as well as it is a challenging airspace for pilots.

PilotEdge also hand selects their controllers and compensates them for their time so a high level of ATC is guaranteed during all operation hours.

A very unique feature to PilotEdge is their use of drone aircraft to fill the skies of VFR traffic just like in real life. These aircraft mimic real flights made by real people and they only operate in Class Echo and Golf airspaces squawking VFR just like you would find flying in that area.

Further, the subscription fee will also deter pilots that are not ready for such simulated realism therefore bringing the pilot quality up as well.

PilotEdge does another unique thing by modeling two-way VHF radio operations. Basically this means that they simulate real transmission/reception limits not only based on range, but altitude and terrain as well.

Non-towered airports have functioning voice CTAFs with the real frequencies found on charts, not just a text based UNICOM frequency that is the same all over.

At this writing, the monthly plan is $19.95 per month and the annual plan saves you 25% at $179.

Once you have signed up for your free trial, download the X-Plane plugin directly from the PilotEdge website. The installation is also easy, you copy the PilotEdge plugin folder to your X-Plane directory Resources > Plugins. When done correctly the plugin will be in the list of your other plugins. Simply put in your email address, password you created at sign up, callsign, aircraft ICAO and you are connected.

When I connected on my first flight, just a few seconds went by when I heard the first transmission and immediately I heard the difference in quality from any other network. Calling it "incredibly clear" doesn't even do it justice, it was beyond incredibly clear.

Even though this was a short flight with simple ATC, I realized how incredibly professional PilotEdge is. It made it completely clear that I need to fully plan and brief before every flight.

Simply, I will keep my account and fly regularly. All the features mentioned on the PilotEdge website were backed up in reality. This is a great service.

Who is Pilotedge for?

PilotEdge is for:

- Real world pilots and student pilots looking for professional and realistic ATC.
- Experienced X-Plane pilots that are looking for the most realistic experience.
- X-Plane pilots that are serious about learning the real way.

PilotEdge is not for:

- Casual flight simulation pilot that likes to just power up and go.
- Long haul pilots.
- Beginner X-Plane pilots with minimal understanding of procedures and resources.

I fall into the category of people that PilotEdge is perfect for. As far as I know there is no competitor to PilotEdge either. VATSIM and IVAO are great services and I will continue to fly on VATSIM but when I am looking for a hyper realistic flying environment I will be logging into PilotEdge.

Hope to see you on PilotEdge soon too!

Just south of the California/Oregon State line, way up in the mountains, the Klamath National Forest, in the middle of nowhere it seems, on the Klamath River Highway, there's this little valley where the Klamath river curves around and runs down towards the south.

There's 36S.

So far, I haven't found a real Approach published for this airport, so I had to guess at it on sim, and the Pattern skims the top of mountain hills within the valley.

But this is yet another example of a location I just have to visit. Surrounded by mountains and trees and even a river flowing thru this one, I can see why it might be named Happy Camp (unless everyone there is on drugs...).

Navigation Methods

What do I do in my otherwise idle moments? Aviation of course. Practicing getting from one place to another with precision and certainty, and in style.

Navigation; the business of not getting lost... Imagine you're driving a long distance to a destination that's hard to find, no map to guide you, no watch to know how long since you left, or how long to arrive, no roads at all (let alone no signs on roads or highways to direct you), and of course no GPS.
How would you go? How would you know if you're going the right way? How would you know if you past it already?

Well it's no different in the air, and gets much worse at altitude and at night with varying terrain altitudes, winds, and weather conditions. So there are several methods of navigating (air, land or sea), and it's best to know and use ALL OF THEM.

So how do I get where I'm going? Here's the list:

  • Celestial Navigation
    By the sun, or moon, etc. To calculate the exact position of a heavenly body (star, planet, moon, sun) in the sky at any given time. Then from knowing the position of the star in the sky, the measure of the angle between the horizon of the observer and the star is enough to determine the observer position in latitude and longitude. Oversimplified, you might be surprised how handy it is to simply follow the sun or moon (if visually available).

  • Pilotage
    Follow yourself along by what you see on the ground, and also compare that to the map. The use of topographic fixed visual reference on the ground by means of sight to guide oneself to a destination, often with the help of the aeronautical charts. What do I see? Is what I see on my path? What does the map show? Am I where I should be? Topography helps greatly here as one tracks the position and passing of roads, cities, structures, railroad tracks, rivers, lakes, hills, mountains, etc. all being the detailed layout of the surface features of land, in reference to the intended course to the destination.

  • Compass & Dead Reckoning
    Use both direction and time, also compensating for wind. The process of calculating one's current position by using a previously determined position, or fix, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time and course. So many minutes in that direction takes me to my destination.

    Non-Directional Beacon / Automatic Direction Finder. The NDB on the ground transmits on a certain frequency, and the ADF in the plane (once tuned in to that frequency), the pointer always points to the NDB. Thus, the from the angle degree reading on the ADF compass rose display, the relationship of the aircraft to the station can be calculated. The “Magnetic Bearing to the station” (MB), is determined by the Relative Bearing (RB) which is the reading of the ADF DIAL, and the Magnetic Heading (MH) of the aircraft. This relationship is given by the equation; MB (to the station) = RB + MH. So if I'm heading north, and the NDB is to my right (east), then the MB is 90 degrees (90RB + 0MH = 90MB). Being decommissioned in most areas.

    Similar to NDB, but directional and most often distance measurable. VOR (very-high-frequency omnidirectional radio) on the ground transmits on a certain frequency, and on each radial of the 360 compass. So the receiver in the plane (once tuned in), can tell exactly what is the angle to the station by the station frequency and the radial. By my intended course, I'm not necessarily heading TO the VOR, but I know where I am in relation to it. If I'm on the 270 degree radial FROM the VOR, I know I'm just west of it. Further, if equipped with DME (distance measuring equipment) I can read just how far I am from that VOR. If tuned and read correctly, this really takes the guess work right out of knowing my location at any given time. Even better, by tuning 2 separate VOR stations simultaneously, I can navigate to an intersection anywhere with precision.

  • GPS
    GPS (Global Positioning System) is a satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. Among many available functions, the GPS is by far the most handy way to get where I want to go. Most have a built-in database of all airports (and most essential airport info), VOR stations, and either a moving map, and/or a course indicator to let you know if you drift off course. I select a certain airport destination, and the GPS unit tells me where I need to go, how long it will take to get there, and updates itself as you progress. Seems the best of all navigation methods, of course.  

  • GPS Coordinates
    Under the GPS system is the "grid" the Earth is divided into, and GPS is based on. The coordinates are the location X and Y points on the map of Earth; meaning the description of a precise geographic location on Earth, expressed in latitude (north or south of the equator being 0 degrees), and longitude (east and west of Greenwich England being 0 degrees). Example; Empire State Building, New York is expressed as N40° 44, W-73° 59, where the first number indicating latitude (40 degrees north of the equator), and the second number representing longitude (70 degrees west of England---the minus sign indicates "west"). Thus using any GPS receiver you can measure your exact position anywhere on Earth. I use this method for hard-to-find places not identifiable as an airport, beacon, or readily visible as a topographic landmark (middle of the desert or mountains, etc). So it's very handy to simply track your progress, so much north by so much west, etc. to arrive at a destination.

However, putting it all together; using ALL navigation methods at same time is prudent, and serves as backup system should any one system fail for any reason. Cloudy day, can't readily see the angle of the sun. Above the clouds, can't see the land. Miss the timing of that leg, can't estimate the arrival of the waypoint. Electrical failure leaves one without ADF, VOR or GPS, can't rely on any of those to guide. Now what?

And it's all the more difficult and important at night, where entire vast areas are simply black with no hint as to altitude above ground, hills, or surface conditions  should a forced landing be necessary.

There are quite a few airports I would like to put on my Logbook, and here's one of them, L35 Big Bear, CA.

I find in aviation, mostly the journey is more important than the destination and very often getting there is way more fun than being there.

But not with Bi Bear; Elevation 6750ft, edge of a beautiful lake, surrounded by forest covered mountains, fresh cool air, plenty snow in the winter... oh yeah, this is the life.

Although I've been there many many times, I'm thinking of flying in for once. Fly in one Xmas and rent a nice cabin with a fireplace and good view. Have a big breakfast, and off to the slopes for some skiing. Back to enjoy a warm fire and cozy cabin relaxation. In summer I'd go off to the mountain trails for a day of hiking in the forest, and some kayaking on the lake. Squirrels there all year round to keep me company, I love to embrace the sights and sounds of the pine-tree forest anytime of year.


Fun vs Stress — I.M.S.A.F.E. Checklist

My flying is going just fine, as long as I'm in the wind. I'm starting to have "the right stuff." And feeling pretty confident of my Written Exam too as practice test scores prove.

However, on the ground, life gets in the way as it typically seems to... Although this seems to strike against my previous blog of Icarus ambition and perseverance, and I shouldn't let it get to me, still, time and logistics are what they are, and the I.M.S.A.F.E. checklist dictates I should not fly with undue stress. And that applies to the practice checkrides, written exam, and the final checkride. Why muff it? Regret?

The deciding factor for me was the enjoyment.... It should be fun.

Alas, this time "parting is such sweet sorrow" as I am forced with great reluctance once again to bid farewell to another flight school, another (FAR BETTER instructor), and Tampa Florida, till my next opportunity.

* * *

IMSAFE Checklist:

- Illness - Suffering from any illness or symptom of an illness which might affect them in flight?
- Medication - Currently taking any drugs (prescription or over-the-counter)?
- Stress - Psychological or emotional factors which might affect performance?
- Alcohol - Alcohol consumption within the last 8 to 24 hours?
- Fatigue - Insufficient sleep and rest in the recent past?
- Eating - Insufficiently nourished?

Practice Checkride — Ambition — Icarus Flies Again

C172 — N9522Q — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Practice Checkride, 1 Landing — 1.6 hrs

As the story goes, in Greek mythology Icarus is the son of Daedalus, and they attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus' father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris (extreme pride or self-confidence), advising that he fly neither too low nor too high, because the sea would clog his wings or the sun's heat would melt them. Icarus ignored dad's advice, and flying too close to the sun, his wings melted and caused his fall into the sea where he drowned. (wiki...) Nice story, nice happy ending. But then what? 

Overall I don't subscribe to this Greek tragedy of failed ambition, nor its defeatist lesson. Obviously good strategy and careful pre-planning, and some moderation to be realistic is prudent. But in the face of adversity, I say keep on keeping on till you win or die in the attempt... I prefer one part brave, two parts fool, and it's better to ask forgiveness rather than permission. We learn from the plight of Icarus. One plans ahead of time, and then suffering defeat one returns for a more thorough/successful conquest. As the evidence proves, I enjoy hundreds of hours of flying despite all factors against it (and there are many), and past failures to attain the achievements I dream of (not for lack of intelligence, but more resources and distractions). Still I persist. And I never give up.

What's all this silly hype got to do with a simple practice checkride flight? Because it took a Herculean effort to get this far, lots of dedication and practice (in the air and Sim), and a good pilot is always learning and striving for a better flight, no matter the barriers.

Live the dream.

Practice Checkride

C172 — N9522Q — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Practice Checkride, 8 Landing — 0.9 hrs

There's a big difference between instructor TELLING you and SHOWING you what to do, and you KNOWING what to do and doing it. To be able to demonstrate competence.

In a practice checkride (or with an instructor, etc.) calling the shots, you're always one step behind. But in a solo flight, or having Pilot-in-Command exclusive autonomy, you can stay one step ahead of the airplane and all maneuvers, and preps leading up to them.  

Here is a list of maneuvers that are likely gonna be called for and checked on a checkride. There might also be other stuff such as tracking your ded reckoning and adjustments to calcs in flight, knowing alternate airports enroute and being prepared for them if necessary, and talking your way thru the flight, decisions and maneuvers as you go.  

  • Normal and crosswind takeoff and climb
  • Normal and crosswind approach and landing
  • Soft-field takeoff and climb
  • Soft-field approach and landing
  • Short-field takeoff and climb
  • Short-field approach and landing
  • Forward slip to a landing
  • Steep turns
  • Ground reference rectangular course / s-turns / turns around a point
  • Maneuvering during slow flight
  • Power-off stalls
  • Power-on stalls
  • Spin awareness
  • Recovery from unusual flight attitudes
  • Emergency descent
  • Emergency approach and landing

Like father, like son... kind of.

C172 — N9522Q — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Witham Field Airport, Stuart, FL > and back — The "Long Night Flt," Night ops, Pilotage, Radio Nav, night Landing, Night Airport Ops, 2 Landings — 2.9 hrs

This particular flight I had been promising myself for some years---go visit dad, on my own flight. And now I finally have a chance to do it.

I love flying at night, no matter what. It's the epitome of adventure in so many senses. City lights at night are nothing less than enchanting and magical like nothing else in the universe. In Florida, the spooky black fields of swamp with alligators just waiting for me to screw up just makes it even more the adventure.

Lucky for me, the Private Ticket requires it;
"3 hours of night flight training in a single engine airplane, that includes at least:
a) 1 cross country flight of over 100 nm total distance; and
b) 10 T/O’s and 10 landings to a full stop with each involving a flight in the traffic pattern at an airport."
Yeah, this I can do. Not a problem.

So I went. It was textbook perfect for all navigation, pilotage, weather, and everything. And spooky over over swamps.

Anyway, my dad was always a flight enthusiast, and although did not get much further than a few glider souring flights, I'm going the rest of the way. We still enjoy Simming as a common interest always.

Flight Sim vs real-world VOR Tracking, VOR Intersections and ILS Approaches - Sweet Farewell Stevie Wonder Academy of Aviation

C172 — N9522Q — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Hood Training, tracking VORs, ILS approach, Unusual Attitude Recovery, and more, 1 Landing — 1.1 hrs

One of the more fun things we did on this flight was fly to various intersections using 2 VORs. VOR navigation; finding intersections, landmarks, etc by tuning 2 VORs, and flying blind (ignoring pilotage) until you get to your destination found on the intersecting radials. Then, when we arrived only then peek out to see if I hit the mark. Now that's fun and a good challenge for hood training.

And so concludes another amusing 1 hr under the hood as I bid farewell to the Stevie Wonder Aviation Academy, and track the centerline of the ILS on down to 300 visibility.  

You know, I have the last laugh here, as many times I tell instructors I have over 4000 hours on Simulation over the years (which I take pretty seriously really), and most of the time I get a little 1-ply expression of distant indirect appreciation and condescending approval, like they think I'm more of a gamer than a real student pilot. But there I am BLINDFOLDED for the last 3 solid hours; tracking VORs, VOR Intersections, Unusual Attitudes, multiple ILS approaches, and all with completely BROKEN Attitude Indicator, and damn if I ain't DOING IT!!

So in your face with "Simming is merely a game..." because it REALLY pays off, all those hours where the real-world physical plane and looking out the window is far less important, and the instruments are there for the learning and practicing.

Truth be told, on Sim, I practice Stalls at 300ft AGL too.  ;)

More Fun Scanning Broken Instruments

C172 — N9522Q — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Hood Training, tracking VORs, ILS approach, Unusual Attitude Recovery, and more, 1 Landing — 1.4 hrs

While I'm still a low-hour rookie pilot and no one's authority, still, I'm not sure I'd just capitulate with just any instructor's method of scanning the instruments either. I mean different maneuvers have a different emphasis on certain instruments in certain phases of the maneuver. Thus it would depend. The point is to scan, check, cross-check, and not to fixate on any one instrument and neglect the others as you scan.

Even better, not fixating on any one at a time, but instead visually "sit back," zoom out, and try to see them all at a glance. Kind of a "see the WHOLE panel" drill.

I found the VSI lag is little tricky as it confuses the issue... A 6- to 9-second lag is required to equalize or stabilize the pressures of the static ports. Cool. So there's limitations in the use of the vertical-speed indicator. Sudden or abrupt changes in aircraft attitude cause wrong instrument readings as the air flow fluctuates over the static ports. Be smooth... Because rough control technique or turbulent air result in unreliable needle indications.

The Stevie Wonder Academy of Aviation

C172 — N9522Q — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Hood Training, tracking VORs, ILS approach, Unusual Attitude Recovery, and more, 1 Landing — 1.2 hrs

On this flight I got inspired to start a flight school.... I'm gonna call it "The Stevie Wonder Academy of Aviation" and we all fly blind-folded practicing our Instrument navigation in bad weather while listening to "Superstition" thru the headsets.
Ironically, turns out Stevie Wonder really did fly a plane, as the story goes.

And no, that's not the worst of it! On the plane I'm practicing in (N9522Q - "The Millennium Falcon" as we used to call it because of its funky hubcaps), sure enough the Attitude Indicator was out. Now I ask you, seems a little over the top to try to instruct a student pilot to rely on his instruments, if the instruments don't work, no? But no choice, as N733UJ was in the shop, leaving us with only The Millennium Falcon.

But again, after over 4000 hours on sim, I tend to fly instruments anyway, so this did not pose a huge problem. In fact, I rather enjoyed the challenge really, and it goes to show what happens in real life sometimes, or if the planes are not maintained perfectly. What if the Attitude Indicator goes out?? Now one must rely on other instruments to make up for the loss. One must also "feel" the plane more, as certain senses now become even more important, such as G-forces pulling, sounds, wind, etc., etc.

Good exercise really.

The Long Solo. Flying thru Rain Showers.

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Ocala International Airport > Crystal River Airport — The "Long Xcountry solo," greater than 150nm round trip, landing at towered airports, at least 2 stops, one leg greater than 50nm, 3 Landings — 1.8 hrs

Flying through rain showers is a kick. Provided they meet the min VFR requirements, and you anticipate a little downdraft as you pass thru, to me it's the ultimate mischevious playtime stunt.


Sebring Raceway — Brings fond memories of childhood Americana

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Sebring Regional Airport — Xcountry solo, Short field/Soft field, 2 Landings — 1.8 hrs

I wanted to do a more southern destination, rather than the north FL airports I was running. It posed some extended aligator territory, and longer distances between waypoints/landmarks.

I took the opportunity to practice both short field takeoff and soft field landing techniques. 

At SEF there was the race track that brought back fond memories of childhood Americana, but no one there at all in the pattern or apron. Kinda scary when no one answers any radio calls at all. Double check the frequencies and move on. But too much fun none the less, the record for furthest southbound solo. Still have my heart set on SUA.

Waving Hello to John Travolta thru the open window

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Ocala International Airport — Xcountry solo, 2 Landings — 1.7 hrs

I have to say John Travolta is a great inspiration for me in many ways. Actor, singer, dancer, movie  producer, writer, and goodwill ambassador. He's a legend, even without his aviation. He owns 5 aircraft.

This was truly one of the more enjoyable flights of my rookie career, and I just had to fly over his place, Jumbolair (17FL) in Ocala.

It was a good long solo to clock up, and a nice easy run.

I was feeling rather liberated flying with the windows open, as it was so hot that day. You wouldn't realize the wind on a calm day could be so ferocious, but in a plane at 120 knots, it pulls your arm back if you stick your hand out the window.

I waved hello and closed the window to make the entry call to OCF tower.


If rhinos were meant to fly, they would have been born with wings...

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Brooksville Regional Airport — Additional airport more than 25nm but less than 50nm (solo), 2 Landings — 0.9 hrs

Wright Brothers are quoted to say: "if man were meant to fly, he would have been born with wings." Yeah, bad marketing for sure. But here we are nonetheless.

As I make my second cross country solo I begin to wonder what would have happened if I never had an instructor in the first place. Just a plane and open space to fly in. I mean with everything else in my life I'm completely self-taught; so why not aviation? I guess I envy the old-time pilots who went up before there were rules, air space Classes, Federal Aviation Administration and everything else. Sure many died. We evolve together. And that's a good thing. But you'd be surprised what people are capable of without any formal education.

I bring drinking water, as the dry altitude makes me thirsty.

Preflight - A Tiny Bug Could Ruin Everything...

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Brooksville Regional Airport — Additional airport more than 25nm but less than 50nm (dual), 2 Landings — 0.9 hrs

Ok, so I'm grooving into my solo cross country's now. On this preflight, I found a bug in my fuel vent. Huh, what are the odds, right?

But still, knowing what would happen if any of the plane's exterior plumbing is blocked is important and essential.

Check it; the fuel vent tube on the left tank faces into the wind. This pressurizes the left tank first (and the right tank through the breather tube connecting the two). If blocked less air flows, less pressure in the tanks, less fuel if needed for climbing, and potentially uneven tank consumption.

If any of the vents are blocked less air flows.

If the Static port is blocked, no air flows to the Airspeed indicator, Altimeter and Vertical speed indicator. Shit, that's half your six pack of instruments gone!

 So a good thorough preflight is important.

Snoopy; the World War 1 Flying Ace - Soft Collar Scarf

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Zephyrhills Muni — Additional airport within 25nm (solo), 2 Landings — 0.8 hrs

Finally with no instructor there sitting next to me, I have the autonomy of all decisions, and I can stay ahead of the plane. And that's an important difference; the freedom from external control or influence from the instructor; the complete independence to command the optimum flight based on all factors present. Thus solo. It's not just being alone, you know? 

And so it's back to ZPH, but this time I'm on my own.

Not sure why I thought of Snoopy on this run, but somehow Snoopy depicts this autonomy in his flying of his dog house. And like the rest of the world, Snoopy is one my most favorite cartoon characters since childhood, an yet another inspiration for flying. 

Also notice though, that Snoopy and old-time fighter pilots would wear a scarf to fly. Well I learned first hand that it's not just for the cold; They wear a high soft collar so they can constantly turn their head and look around, but not burn their neck on the jacket collar or shoulder harness.

Still holds true today. I wear at least a high collar summer shirt even when it's hot, to protect my neck from the shoulder harness.

Within 25nm Solo prep run

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL > Zephyrhills Muni — Additional airport within 25nm (dual), 2 Landings — 0.8 hrs

So now that I've Solo'd (again), we got the within-25-miles first airport mini-cross-country to do, and this is the prep run. I almost resent the instructor there with me, but a necessary evil according to most pilot training. Still, soon I'll dump him off, and come right back myself, and that's more than I've done before, so worth the effort.

What I liked about this run, is pretending the instructor was not there at all as instructor, but treating him as merely a passenger. So we relaxed, shoot the shit like 2 friends would on a short flight. He's not busting my chops about every little detail because he's verified I've done all my homework top to bottom, and the wind being about the only variable to update, I just need to show I can do it for real.

So, that's the lesson really; once you've done your flight plan, relax and enjoy the flight.

You pay your nickle, and you go round again...

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Solo Touch&Go's, 4 Landings — 0.4 hrs

Of course a little anticlimactic as this was technically not my first Solo, but still. At least this time I didn't have to wade thru doing hundreds of Touch&Go's proving that I can do perfect trim adjustments till I'm about to go postal on the instructor and the school before I get the endorsement. For which I'm eternally grateful.

However, this time I took the opportunity to do what a student should do, and simply continue the Touch&Go's for a few more times in Solo. So with my endorsement in ink, I gave the instructor his hat and asked him what's his hurry (meaning “thanks much, now get the hell out my plane. You bother me!!)

And away I go. It's fascinating really, as alone one can immediately feel the huge weight/balance difference of the plane in solo, without the instructor on the right. It's a kick.

So round and round the pattern I fly; I'm not even paying attention to how many times up and down. Clean heart, and my song is in the wind. Finally!

Time flies when you're having fun (or is that backwards?), and after what seemed a short time to me I got a call on the radio from Unicom operator; "the instructor would like to know how many more times you gonna go around?"
To which I replied, "what, ran out of nickles already?? Damn! I was just having fun..."

So with some reluctance, I finally came down to Earth again.

Pre-Solo Déjà Vu

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Touch&Go's, 10 Landings — 1.3 hrs

Not sure why but I get the strange feeling like I've been here before... Endless Touch&Gos, looking for endorsement for solo...

Feels strange; like somebody's watching me; like somehow there's some higher meaning to all this.

Perhaps another life? Perhaps a parallel universe? Perhaps it's just in my mind.


"Who's on First??" No, that's a LEFT pattern!! I don't know! Third base.

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — More Review, Touch&Go, Ground Reference Maneuvers, CTD, Stalls, 4 Landings — 1.3 hrs

I'm trying to have an otherwise peaceful 1hr flight practicing my Touch&Go's, when rush hour hits. Out of nowhere comes some VIP ("Who??"), and he simply has to do a extended straight in approach to make use of the ILS, on a beautiful calm sunny day.  

Then up from the south there's another fast-mover ("What") who simply can't be bothered with the standard LEFT pattern as the Sectional and Airport/Facility Directory clearly dictates, and is now in my pattern at a head-on collision course to me.

Then another tail-gater ("I Don't Know") flying few feet behind me, like some mustache Fiat from Naples, Italy.

Lesson? Oh yes, these things happen in the real world of flying. No cops around to pull them over and give them a ticket for moving violations. Keep your eyes and ears peeled.

* * *

"Costello: That's what I want to find out; what are their names?
Abbott: As I say, Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third....."

Emergency landing - streets, dirt roads, telephone poles, high wires, obstacles

C172 — N733UJ — Tampa Executive Airport, FL — Review, Touch&Go, Ground Reference Maneuvers, CTD, Stalls, 2 Landings — 1.4 hrs

So, hello to a new home airport, new flight school, and new instructor. VDF; a relaxed instructor makes for more self reliance in the student. Laid back, easy going, but knew his business well. We're off to a great start and getting a lot done efficiently.

The photo is funny, but it's actually a runway lower than the adjacent hillside and road, and serves to depict obstacles on final approach just the same. With the emergency ABC's, the "best" choice of landing touch down might be a nice open field or dirt road that's obvious and appealing from altitude, but with bumps, holes, trees or telephone poles/wires that are less visible from altitude, you still run the risk of damage getting down. I learned here once more, try to make the "best" choice of landing field.

Tampa-Clearwater Refresher Tour

C172 — N1033A — Peter O Knight Airport, Tampa, FL — Basic Review, Xwind T/O and Landing, Pilotage/Dead Reckoning, Gusty Winds, Touch&Go, 2 Landings — 1 hr

by Christian Peritore

© 2015 Christian Peritore

[Test project for software study. Not for commercial or profit.]

Oh, I gotta fly… I just couldn't resist; I just had to take another flight or I was gonna go postal. Oh boy, here we go again.

Hello, I’m Christian Peri with another entry to my Pilot Blogbook.
This flight was my Tampa Clearwater Refresher Tour

This flight was Nov 6, 2012. Cessna 172, N1033A - Atlas Aviation
Flew out of Peter O Knight Airport, (Davis Island) Tampa, FL > a tour around the greater Tampa Bay and back.
Basic Review, Xwind T/O and Landing, Pilotage/Dead Reckoning, Gusty Winds, Touch&Go, and 2 Landings
1 Hobbs Hrs

See, the idea is; the plane flies, and not the airport.

I briefed the one and only passenger to keep her arms and legs inside the ride at all times, and away we go.

So we takeoff. The first Leg is across the inner Hillsborough Bay and head down. Under the TPA 1200ft Class B shelf, we maintain 1000ft and head southeast out over the inner Bay looking for the chimney stacks on the far side as our first visual waypoint.

I said to my partner in the back seat, “Hey, use your cell camera, and take some shots as we go.”
“Of what?”
“I mean be Japanese and shoot friggin EVERYTHING!”

Some gusty winds out over the Bay… The CFI jumped to catch the yoke as the wind pushed the starboard wing up sharply.
I’m like “What, it’s a hurricane? You know, I trained in the gusty Miami area, and solo’d at dusk in the rain with 35 mile-an-hour gusts. So no big deal here.”

We followed the swampy east coastline on down the inner Bay leading into main Tampa Bay inlet.

At the mouth of the Bay, the Sunset Skyway Saint Pete bridge was absolutely majestic as we crossed over and turned northwest. Oh yeah, now THIS is one of the many reasons I fly; I love a good view… Even better than spontaneous sex on a Sunday afternoon.

We follow up the west of St. Pete coastline, passing Treasure Island, Indian Rocks Beach, and up joining Clearwater.

Quick check of the gauges and safety as we go. Gauges look fine, check, check and check. Electrical systems ok. No cabin fire. We’re not pressurized so no one is gonna get sucked out of the cabin. If the engine crapped out right now, we might crash, but if we do crash, we’re gonna set down in a swamp with alligators and snakes.
So given that, what’s there to worry about?

Prop is spinning, we’re not out of fuel, everybody’s still in the plane and accounted for, so we keep going.

Flying over Flag at 2000ft was by far the highlight for me. I’ve been there a hundred times, but looking down on Ft. Harrison from 2000ft was a whole new experience that not many can say they’ve done.

Pass over CLW Airpark… Yup, it’s still there.
And we turned eastbound heading in for Tampa.

We follow the 60 Gulf to Bay Causeway over the Old Bay straight to TPA.

Right about passing Clearwater, you gotta start requesting Clearance to head over Tampa airport… See, like LAX, Tampa airport has a special passover Corridor where we cross perpendicular to a couple of the biggest and busiest strips in the country. Thus we gotta get clearance and squawk code.
So we contact the tower director for this sector, and we’re cleared for the vector, Hector, and set the autopilot detector as our backup connector protector to prevent any potential flight deviation objector.
(No, I’m not gonna repeat that one.)

Then 2200ft and follow right over the top of their smaller 9/27 runway.

From there the we head southeast away from Tampa Intl. for our final descent on the last leg back to Knight airport. The wind is coming up from 240, so we need to utilize runway 22 with the slight crosswind landing.

Then up again for a quickie Touch&Go, and back around the pattern once more, to satisfy my last quest for altitude for this trip.

A well-deserved victory dance... and another precious hour in my Logbook.

That's it for this blogbook entry.
Watch for the next entry, maybe I’ll get out of muggy Florida and fly in the snow…
That’ll be cool.

Delays in otherwise constant flight training 

Once again with living in Italy, I'm faced with delays before I get back to my flight training.

However, I do keep constant with flight simming almost everyday. Sure I miss the real thing, but simming serves to keep fresh all the routines and rules and procedures etc., that one might otherwise forget just not thinking about it.

And I think that's one if the virtues in flight simulation; is the convenience of being able to fly when you can't really fly for whatever reason.

On sim I was searching around for short runways and fun unusual places to fly, and stumbled upon this airport located just on the Oregon side of the Columbia river (which separates Oregon/Washington) as it flows thru top of Oregon a little inland from Portland.

I must have simmed takeoff, landing and patterns around this airport over a hundred times, and keep coming back to it.

Looks SO MUCH BETTER in X-Plane by the way.

Anyway, it's on the list. And besides a fun-looking runway in a fascinating rural location, I simply must visit the waterfalls there. I find waterfalls awesome in general, and by all the photos I found of this one, it looks spectacular.

IT'S NOT ME!!! - A flight school that holds you back...

One reading this blog in chrono and paying attention to the lessons therein, could get the idea I simply can't land the plane, and so the instructor is gonna Touch&Go me to death to try to teach me.... NOT!!!!

I state for the record that I could reasonably land the plane before I ever got to this school!!

Reality Check Question: 
Although I would never say there is nothing more to learn, if as a student pilot I demonstrated competence to land a C172 unassisted back in 2002 with the CFI's accolades and with almost no prior training to that point, why then must I clock up another hundred landings to prove it is not so very difficult to land the plane?

It's not me, but the school's approach to training and the instructor's expectations. And before you nod your head in disbelief, just hear me out.

Sorry to school-bash here again, but logically if my Instructor "A" (whom I respect and seek to learn from always) witnesses dozens of successful landings (in adverse conditions) and feels I'm ready to solo (as indeed the plane came down nice just fine all these times), then passes me up to the school Boss "B" (airforce background expecting his idea of perfection) for a pre-solo "checkride" (whatever that means---another arbitrary coming from nowhere in conventional flight training), then why do I somehow not make the grade for solo?? What, I might crash the plane? Clearly not after hundreds of experiments.

A hard lesson learned; Military background of Instructors can be a impediment as much as a benefit. They are taught by different methods, with different pressures, to different standards and with different ambitions. Not necessarily higher, just different. Not that I want to lower my standards, or couldn't benefit from this, but where is that fine line between pass and fail for the diligent (but civilian) student pilot?

In a later blog I recount how a more relaxed (but equally professional and demanding) CFI Solo'd me far earlier, without such never-ending T&G trials. And in still another blog I bring to focus the real purpose and training intent of the T&G maneuver, and it's far from what many students and CFI's think.

So choosing the right school is important; choosing the right instructor can mean all the difference in the world to your aviation education. Don't go in blind and suffer disparagement, frustration and disappointment later. Wastes time and money, and enthusiasm.

Interview the instructor. Take a demo flight. See how you like them. Talk to other students and get their feedback.

Sporty's Private Pilot DVDs have a whole list of questions and ways to choose the right school and right instructor.

Don't get stuck with bad school with bad instructors that hold you back. It's your money, it's your time, it's your flight education, it's your fun.

Solo.... Almost dark, raining with winds gusting 25+mph

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — Solo Pattern, 1 Landing — 0.2 hrs

My first Solo. Bitter sweet victory in many ways.

My speedjeans Pugnetto instructor just couldn't drop the obsessive quest for the perfect trim technique for his favorite sprog, and finally gave up saying "oh never mind, it's not gonna get any better than this, so I'll Solo you anyway."

"Well thank you." I replied graciously, gritting my teeth to be polite as I could, my mind quickly calculating the ease with which I might unlatch the door and his harness, and kick his sorry ass right out the plane. Splat!! 

So we land and he asks for my Logbook to enter the endorsement for the Solo, but notices there's no copy of the medical. Of course I have my medical on file, so by the book, he sends me running into the office to grab a copy so I have for the flight (like it really matters for another lousy pattern), of course keeping the engine and Hobbs running all the while. I go rifling thru the file cabinets, papers flying everywhere. I finally find my medical and go running back out to the plane. Legally correct, but friggin ridiculous given the circumstances.

By then it's starting to get more than just a little dark, and it's already raining, WITH winds already gusting to 20-25mph. He asks me if I'm comfortable to Solo in these conditions, to which I of course reply "bet your ASS I'll Solo!" And Solo I did.

And away we go... Reality check: I'm finally alone on my first Solo takeoff roll in these conditions. Oh, yeah, I'm nuts. However, I confess a certain liberation from my instructor finally, which helped. I state in a previous blog; "The price I pay for loneliness is small in comparison to the lunacy I often have to tolerate in the company of others." And this is no exception.

How important is Trim? Expertise vs Ability to Teach

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Go-arounds, Gusty Winds, 3 Landings — 0.6 hrs

For a student, is perfecting the Trim a luxury? Strongly recommended? Or absolutely essential?

Well, I already know beyond Pitch-Power-Rudder-Trim as a routine, that Trim is indeed your friend. Set the attitude you want and trim it. The plane flies itself. Reduces your workload by 90%, if you have it trimmed correctly. Hold the yoke gently. If you're yoke choking, it means you're out of trim. I got it, academically.

But should an instructor prevent a student's Solo for lack of perfect Trim?

I say no... But who am I to argue with a far more experienced instructor you ask? Just a rookie. However expertise in ability to fly (meaning the instructor), and being able to TEACH that expertise to the student, is something entirely different.

I feel a student will learn a step at a time at his pace regardless, and the instructor should find out why he's not getting it if there's something he's slow on. And though Trim IS important and does need to become second nature, still, let him land the plane, even if he's not Trimming perfectly, and thus fighting the yoke a little. Let him Solo!!! For the love of God!!! So he fights the yoke because the Trim is still not second nature. So what??? He'll get it eventually. About all pilots inevitably do. And my Trim work was not bad. Just not as perfect as the instructor's Trim, and it seems the last on my list to think of with all else going on.

Just my 2 cents.

The Formula for Lift.... NOW?????

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Go-arounds, Gusty Winds, 6 Landings — 0.6 hrs

Now HERE's a memorable flight... but not in a good way. Some lessons are indirect, as they say, observing what shouldn't be.

The lesson? Distractions (on top of it all).

Posit: A student pilot is in the cockpit with an unfamiliar instructor, in marginal weather with gusty winds, endless Touch&Go's and its accompanying fatigue, hoping to get the unicorn dream solo flight in the next day or so before I gotta leave for EU at the end of this visit in town. So there I am, and in the first 300ft after takeoff, being of course the most dangerous part of any flight. Nice situation, all of which an already nerve-wracking experience for any student. Or plug in your own genuinely stressful situation as you prefer... The lesson remains.

Conclusion?  A perfect opportunity to make it worse.

I don't know about others, but in the first 300ft after takeoff, I'm not thinking about ANYTHING else except a suitable place to land if there's an engine failure.
But my instructor finds this the best time to insert an important question like "so, what's the formula for Lift?" And repeats it like I'm supposed to know it off the top of my head. 

Now why would he ask that just now?? I mean, I thought to myself perhaps there's deeper meaning to this disruptive impigement of my otherwise already stressful flight, you know...? Are you saying my Rate of Climb is insufficient? Too much Pitch and Angle of Attack? I'm too slow? Too low? Pressure Alititude too low/high? Ambient temperature too high/low? Wind to much? Are my wing surfaces too small? Or shaped wrong? Wrong plane? Wrong seat? Is Icarus too close to the Sun again? Are any other aeronautical factors just simply not in my favor at the moment? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY??

I tried to be polite and gently remind him that I'm trying to fly a plane here, and not only is the cockpit the wrong place to figure-figure about any formulas (or deep theory schooling of any kind really), but that distracting me as I take off and hope for precious altitude and search for good ground for ABC's, is perhaps not the best time to bend my brain for a formula that plays little benefit to my quest for said altitude.

Never the less, I made the turn to crosswind and clocked up another .6 hrs of dizzying Touch&Go's and made little further mention of it.

Lesson learned? The 4 forces are not the only potential factors acting on a given flight. Mind your manners, aviate and forgive, but never forget. 

Nude Beach - How does this help me land??

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Go-arounds, Gusty Winds, 12 Landings — 1.9 hrs

"Let's take a quick flight out over the Nude beach." my instructor says to me. 

My first thoughts of course were; "So what's a nude beach got to do with landing a damn Cessna?? Nothing." So we go all the way out to the coast, just to prove the point and catch the view. 

Well you know me, there's more to any lesson than meets the eye (literally in this case), and of course I got to thinking...

Q. Why do we have orgasms?
A. How else would we know when to stop?

I mean at first "glance," logically, obviously, beyond a nice tan with no tan lines, a nude beach would serve little to no purpose for a student pilot. At a nude beach there's not much to view; even at 100 ft AGL in a helicopter hovering perfectly still, one wouldn't get much visual detail. If you wanna peep something properly, you wanna land, get out, and get up close. Duh. 

But my loopy instructor felt it would help me remember my lesson; the idea perhaps... "Every lesson has a sexual reminder," you know? Clever really; "Mischievous Pilots," "Erotic Aviation," "Pornographic Flying School," "Fly the Sexy Skies," "RandyAir," "Voyeurs in the Wind," "Learn to Fly Here---and more," or something.

I love that line of the dirty old man, Jethro Tull's classic lyrics; "Eyeing little girls with bad intent, Hey Aqualung!"

It's creative, I'll give you that; to mix flying lessons with nudity or even pornography. How about a little real "pleasure" reward for every well-done flight lesson? I mean if you're gonna take an idea like this, then take it all the way, no? Given adequate consent and accessories, it would work for either gender, monogamous or not.  

Not sure the FAA would approve of this creativity in the approach to student pilot training, but I'll bet the students would be lined up.

Nudity. Exhibitionism. What is pornography anyway? By definition, noun; printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement; writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement. Explicit: stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.

Huh, well that's about every damn movie made these days. Gotta have the gratuitous shower scene with the main stars, can't shoot the pretty girl's face without the breasts in the frame, even guys hairy butts are on film with reckless abandon. Oh please, cover that, somebody! 

Yeah sex sells, but really, learning retention aside, the nude beach was just the distraction that the instructor felt was an important addition to both the lesson and his own sexual fantasies.

Geez, get laid already.

But the lesson of the flight was what it was; Hold an altitude just above the runway in landing configuration till the plane stalls. 

It's a stall, nude or not. So now every time I land I think of pretty girls on a nude beach. Got it.

I'm good with that I guess.


Perfecting the Pattern - Tips I Use

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Go-Arounds, Gusty Winds, 8 Landings — 0.8 hrs

Here's some tips I found working for me, and wanted to jot them down for my blog.

As a pilot, I always strive for that perfect landing, and consistency in landings, regardless of whether my instructors think. Sometimes I grease it, sometimes I don’t. Even after hundreds of landings, I still suffer the occasional sloppy approach or far less than poetry landing. I think a lot of the reason I ever fail to make a clean landing is because I either; 
A.) had something in the instruction materials (written or verbally from the CFI) that I didn't fully understand, or,
B.) something was interfering with an otherwise smooth run, or,
C.) I just need more practice. And I don't beat myself up if I do.

I try to keep these tips in mind as I practice my patterns:

  1. Is there ANY (even little tiny) part of the instructions (written or verbally from the CFI) that I didn't understand fully? Can be quite subtle. Do I know what I'm going for (altitude, distances, etc.) for the ideal pattern and landing? If not, I check it out, and get it down so I got it cold. I use dictionaries, aviation glossaries, online searches, etc., and even sketch it out on paper. Then I rehearse it on the ground by walking thru the steps one by one, slow at first then faster and faster till it's smooth. Saves avgas too.

  2. What's the pattern? There are different schools on the perfect pattern; heights of legs, when flaps are best used, to err towards too high or too fast, and all that depends on wind, traffic and leg of entry.

    However, generally a standard Pattern is 1000ft pattern altitude. Then, when abeam the numbers on downwind, 10° flaps and rpm down for descent. Trim. Turn to Base leg, we call it the "perch," I'm passing thru 750ft. Bring in the next 20° flaps. At the turn to Final, I've descended to 500ft and I'm lined up. Another 30° flaps, and fly it down to the numbers. Then flare and set it down easy.

  3. A good approach makes for a good landing. By squaring off the pattern, hitting the target airspeeds, and staying on altitude throughout the approach, you are setting yourself up for a smooth landing.

  4. Configure early. Don’t keep the flaps up until short final. This tends to destabilize the approach as the aircraft dramatically changes its speed and pitch through rapid deployment of flaps or gear. Instead, configure incrementally and early. This will allow focus on the task of landing the aircraft throughout final approach.

  5. Trim the plane always. Every change of aspect, attitude and every maneuver. A properly trimmed plane will fly itself, land itself on a calm day. Trim the plane and cut down on pilot workload by making small corrections to guide it down.

  6. Keeping all that in mind, once I'm up, are the conditions right? And that could include the wind and weather, the plane, but also the CFI's attitude or my own groove is off that day. Sure, be a pro no matter what and keep your head in the cockpit, but still, what am I up against? Illness? Enough sleep? Fatigued? Hungry? CFI hounding me on every little maneuver or adjustment? Other stress interfering? Any and all of these can and do adversely affect the whole process. 

  7. Remember also that with a CFI there with me, there are far less consequences to any mistakes I might make. Indeed, he better have my back, that's his job. So I fly the plane and don't stress on right, wrong, or anyone's opinions. It's my friggin time I'm paying for, and I'm not trying to impress anyone but myself.

  8. On Final, chant the words; "Airspeed, Aimpoint, Centerline." Maintain the correct airspeed and no lower. Fly the plane down to the numbers. Tighten up the centerline, and don't drift. Takes a little discipline.

  9. The flare is setting up for a power-off stall at runway elevation. Maintain height just about a foot above the runway, and keep the nose up till it gently settles down on the main wheels.

  10. Flare, but don’t stop flying the plane. Just because the main wheels are on the ground does not relieve the necessity of flying the plane. Gently lower the nose and gradually increase the crosswind correction to full aileron into the wind during rollout.

  11. Mind the distances, and when I'm 45 degrees for the transitions for each leg. Correct distances make for correct transitions.

  12. If I turn too soon, shallow the turn. If I overshoot, don't make a steep bank to correct it. Then do the opposite next time around to compensate. 

  13. If I'm too low, increase power and don't sink. (Remembering that slow flight landing config pitch up reduces airspeed of which there is already too little, and increases risk of stall. Not good.)

  14. If I'm too high, cut power and pitch up slightly to reduce altitude. Or Go-Around.

  15. Never feel reluctant to use the Go-Around. Go-Arounds are nothing to be ashamed of, and are to be used liberally; when too high, too slow, too fast, too slow, or for any reason the landing is just not safe.

  16. When I do grease a correct pattern and smooth landing, I never fail to do the "Howard the Duck Victory Dance Jiggle" in my seat. That or a good Shuffle dance when I park.

Pegasus and Inspiration

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Go-Arounds, Gusty Winds, 7 Landings — 0.7 hrs

According to legend, everywhere the winged horse struck his hoof to the earth, an inspiring spring burst forth, and in modern times has provided symbol of inspiration. (wiki)

Another 7 Landings, and I seem to be no closer to the long coveted Solo, yet my time in Hollywood FL. is running out fast. Gotta get back to Italy and the wife.

Then I got inspired.

See, I'm not coming back to this school no matter what, so I'm done soon either way.  So I might as well sit back and enjoy the ride, regardless. I know I know how to fly a plane, and no one can take that from me. And if this school won't Solo me, then another school will. People are people, and each have their point of view and expectations of how life and others around them should be. So be it, and to each his own. Let him obsess over the Trim and perfection throughout the pattern. I have no major disagreement anyway---just wanna Solo before I go, if at all possible. 

Fuck 'em, I say.

So I started to worry about the Solo and asinine instructor less, and enjoy the flying more.

Makes a big difference too, as soon I shed the stress of perfection and was able to fly as the instructor expected (right or wrong). 

Thanks Pegasus.

Scrooged and The 3 Spirits of Xmas Flying

C172 — N66213— Opa Locka > North Perry (third leg) — Night ops, Pilotage, Radio Nav, night Landing, Night Airport Ops — 0.3 hrs

Great flight. This leg was the last short hop to get back home to HWO, and wrap very fun evening.

"Twas the night (month) before Christmas..." But I got to thinking... Here I am flying at Xmas (close enough to it); Am I selfish?
I grinned with gluttonous  gratification, looking down on all others from on high. I mean where else would I wanna be but in the wind, right? See, like Scrooge, I friggin hate Xmas. Call me cynical, but I hate the whole idea. The symbolism, and everything. Hate the commercialism. Hate the false push of "giving" when really it's merely buying and appeasing, and hoping not to forget and offend anyone. I hate the same incessant droning music year after monotonous year. I hate having to attend nauseating parties and social gatherings of all sorts, and putting on a smile out of some mysterious social obligation I never understand. Hate it all.

I just wanna be left alone and fly all the time. And why should I ever change? It's my hobby, and I'll enjoy it by myself if I have to (which works best anyway). Loneliness? Not a chance!!  The price I pay for loneliness is small in comparison to the lunacy I often have to tolerate in the company of others. Many others.

But that night I restlessly tossed and turned trying to sleep. I got advice from a virtual friend saying I'm sinking and I should change my vertical attitude and angle of attack before it's too late. H said I would be visited by 3 ghosts with some kind of special flying lesson from each.

Huh. Right. This I gotta see.


"Unable" to comply (with ATC)

C172 — N66213— Tamiami > Opa Locka (second leg) — Night ops, Pilotage, Radio Nav, night Landing, Night Airport Ops — 0.7 hrs

Important word to remember and use when appropriate. It's the Pilot in Command's right to use in a situation where safety dictates. Just feels to a student pilot, that one must comply with any direction from ATC... Unless unable.

On the way in to this, the second leg of this hop-skip-and-jump night flight, and my instructor had me make a good call; Unable.

We were in the pattern on Downwind, and although we had the right of way, the tower controller wanted us to swing in quick in front of an incoming plane, for whatever reason, instead of extend our Downwind leg. Way too tight for normal tolerance from what I thought, and my instructor agreed.

During the day for even this abrupt maneuver would have been ok, but at night practicing night landing and taxi back operations, that's not cool.

So we called in: "Unable." At first the controller didn't expect us to refuse his direction, but we reiterated "Unable to comply. Can we extend our Downwind?" to which he conceded.

A valuable lesson as a good call for safety, and to exercise my right as Pilot in Command if I ever need to.

How Birds Fly

C172 — N66213— North Perry Hollywood, FL > Tamiami (first leg) — Night ops, Pilotage, Radio Nav, night Landing — 0.7 hrs

Well after that near miss with the big bird couple days ago, I got to being curious about just how the hell do birds fly anyway??

We all presume "they flap their wings and take off" is the simple story, but that's not even the tip of the iceberg really.

The aerodynamic shape, pneumatic bones, how they move their wings is like swimming in the air, flapping, twisting, folding, and their tail is a multi-purpose stabilator that changes shape, rotation and angle of attack on demand. It really is fascinating.

Checkout the articles I found (and revised slightly) below (couple of many...).


Trim! The plane flies itself!

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Go-Arounds, Gusty Winds, 8 Landings — 0.8 hrs

If the plane is trimmed correctly for that speed and situation conditions, the plane flies itself.

It took me a while to get a feel for this and make it a habit. I mean I understood it academically but to finally get a feel for it is something entirely different.

Straight and level flight, climbs, turns, decent, or any combination thereof; any maneuver has a configuration of control inputs and correct trim, and indeed the plane flies itself.

Takes practice though to get it just right each and every maneuver, fluent and smooth, so even an experienced student should not feel like he is incompetent if he struggles with this for a while.

Pitch > Power > Rudder > Trim.
Pitch > Power > Rudder > Trim.
Pitch > Power > Rudder > Trim.

Geez! I'm gonna do a night flight to break up monotony..........

Avoiding birds - Tough choices for immediate reaction 

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Go-arounds, Gusty Winds, 6 Landings — 0.8 hrs

(More Touch & Go's...)

Taking off, full power, climb attitude, low altitude. Heading out on another 1hr practice flight. Oops, there's a bird right in my flight path.

What to do? 

If I hit the bird, I kill him, very messy, perhaps damage the plane, windshield, propeller, or engine, or otherwise prevent the pilot (me) from full control of the plane.

But what choices do I have?

  1. Climb to pass over. A good maneuver for the bird, but risks a power-on stall, and thus hopefully a recovery... At less than 500ft AGL. Not ideal.

  2. Veer left or right. Can depend on direction the bird is flying and intercepting your course. But generally too slow a maneuver to roll into a bank and wait for a turn. Plus it reduces the vertical lift, and still risks a stall there again.

  3. Duck to pass under. This is what I chose instinctively, however does pose risk as birds can dive quickly if frightened and again reduces the altitude when we're already too low.

What would you do?

Death by Touch & Go's / If I could do it all over again... Train Uninterrupted!

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Gusty Winds, 9 Landings — 1 hrs

Hey, more Touch&Gos, cooooooooooool!!

Although a bad day flying is better than a good day on the ground, these T&Gs are gonna be the death of me...

But what better way to go?

When it's my time to die and depart this life, I wanna go out as a pilot in action. An aviation statistic.

A morbid sentiment perhaps, but given a thousand other choices for such final departure, at least people will know I left doing something I love, and not as a lab-rat cooped up in some hospital at the hand of quacks and butchers.

I don't even care for fame or glory. Just make it quick, while doing something I love.

Malcolm said: "There's a lot of fine ways to die. I ain't waiting for the Alliance to choose mine."

But if I could do it all over again, what would I do different?  

Plan it out and go from start to finish without interruption!!

Although everyone gets the "flying bug" whenever in life they get it, and I got it rather late in life, I should have got it earlier. Would have been far better. Even the Military would have been at least a half a thought (not really, but still).

But most importantly, I should have planned out THE WHOLE OF MY TRAINING, start-to-end, soup-to-nuts, complete with finances, training targets and deadlines, and all barriers anticipated and prepared for.

Learn from my mistake of training without the full training lineup planned, paid, and uninterrupted.

I never give up, EVER!! But it truly costs more, in time, money, frustrations, and all.

Who's the real Turkey?? — Thanksgiving Touch & Go's — Artificial Intelligence stands no chance against Natural Stupidity

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Full Stops/Taxi back, Gusty Winds, 7 Landings — 0.9 hrs

More T&G's madness for the holiday season. I was invited to a big ThanksGiving dinner with my Instructor Boss, who shortly into it got piss drunk, and started crying (at 60 odd years old he was) in front of must have been 35 bewildered guests, babbling about how his mother (sitting right next to him equally bewildered) was always there for him, and if it wasn't for her he would have never flown a plane at all, drool, drool drool, on and on. Oh, what a scene. I was almost moved by the experience... right out of Florida. But settled for a short escape to the bathroom to get a break from it all.

But in reflecting on the experience, I am reminded of just how many truly stupid things go on, just in the world of aviation alone.

I mean think about this; With NDB's being decommissioned as obsolete, and GPS navigation as the unofficial standard of GA, and all the new technology in the world such as guys have been flying exclusively iPads for years and years, the FAA still requires us students to be able to fill out a old-school Flight Log sheet with all calculations done by hand, and know how to use an E6B* slide calculator (which I find fascinating, really. See my E6B blog...) for many flight calculations that one can ready do in their head, rounding off the numbers a little, and learn ADF navigation (which I also dig, really).

Reality Check, you spend 3 hrs planning for a flight that lasts an hour... Or, you're up there in the cockpit lost, and running low on fuel... Oh yeah, check the (paper) Sectional for the nearest NDB and break out the archaic antiquated E6B and start devoting your cockpit attention to the formulas of where you are. Right. Sure. U-huh. NOT!

I mean in reality, even without all the Sim experience i have, even a low-hour rookie pilot like me has typically already many many times tuned the GPS and flown right thru even marginal VFR with complete confidence as to where I am, where I'm going, and when I'm gonna get there. It's TODAY's technology. I know many a pilot who don't even remember how to fly a VOR radial at all, and rely 100% exclusively on their iPad GPS apps as their primary and ONLY means of navigation. They don't even plan anything. Wake up in the morning and pull the curtains to see if it's a reasonably sunny day, and jump in the cockpit and away they go. Nothing further. Not smart, but happens all the time.

My argument is not to abandon all traditional navigation as obsolete, as obviously you always need a primary and secondary navigation system, in case the primary goes inoperable or unusable for any reason. And the more you know the better. But USEFUL stuff...

My argument is the materials of learning how to fly---IN TODAY'S WORLD---should include far less archaic methodology that is not used ever, and far more contemporary methodology that is actually used in the real world of current aviators.

*Oh, no, don't take my word for it. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, on the E6B:

"An E6B flight computer commonly used by student pilot.These are mostly used in flight training, because these flight computers have been replaced with electronic planning tools or software and websites that make these calculations for the pilots."

[Again, don't get me wrong, as I'm fascinated with the E6B, and think it's great. See my blog on the E6B...]

Lastly, to further the point, VFR is not always the environment we find ourselves flying in. Only a stupid pilot flies into the face of bad weather being unprepared. But even for Private Pilot licence, we are required to do 3 hours of IFR Instrument-only training, to ensure we are somewhat prepared for that IFR conditions eventuality. Only 3 hours. Seems very little to me. Getting lost at night requires a very good familiarity with both several means of navigation AND flight controls where there is no horizon visible out there, nor even the ground. Just black space. Now what? Break out the E6B slider? Not likely.

Stupid. Naturally.


Logging Multi-leg XC Flights
(Ref: – revised for length)

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Gusty Winds, 9 Landings — 1 hrs

Here's a question I had that others have also had, and some answers I feel are the best I've found.

QUESTION: How to log any multi-leg flight?



It's all the same day, but, given XC means 50nm, the first two legs are XC but the last one, if flown by itself isn't (at least as far as a 50nm requirement is concerned).

However, it looks like if I fly them all in one "flight," the whole thing counts as one XC. What if I stop for lunch for an hour and a half in KMEV?

On multi-segment flights like this, some would log it as three lines in their book (3 entries), but the last one if logged separately isn't really XC. How is the proper/best way to log this.


The regs don't define this. They say when to stop the clock, but not what counts as one flight vs. two or more. I'd log the whole thing as one flight with two intermediate landings, and a route of flight that includes all the airports.

I would make one logbook entry like this: KRNO - KHTH - KMEV - KRNO
The Remarks section would then say something like; “Had reuben sandwich and potato soup @ KMEV”
Thus all time would be XC

So if I'm making a 3-legged flight, it fills one line of my log book if it's on the same day.
If I needed to show that a leg exceeded 50 or 100 miles or whatever for advanced ratings qualification, then I'd put that in the remarks column.

However, I would split the entry if the flight was not made entirely on the same day. If the flight gets split by an overnight, then what happened the first day goes on one line and what happens the next day goes on the next line.

Of course, if your goal is to purchase a "professional pilot log book" that is an inch thick and fill its pages, then you'll do that quicker if you use separate lines for every leg! :)

Also, a touch and go is a landing, so it counts as a cross country.

Probably the best FAA-based discussion of what is a cross country comes from the orphaned Part 61 FAQ and has been posted here from time to time. In response to a number questions about what counts when there are stops in a cross country, the FAQ came up with the same answer.

Here's one example:

QUESTION: Is the “original point of departure” subject to change if there is an overnight, extended stay, or the aircraft is left for repair and the pilot returns later to continue the cross-country or bring it home? Does “original point of departure” change with a new day?

ANSWER: Ref. § 61.1(b)(3)(ii) or (iii)(B) or (iv)(B) or (v)(B); The term “original point of departure” does not change with a new day or delay.

The basic "rule" is that, unless you are being completely ridiculous about it, what you consider a single flight for cross country purposes is up to you.


More Touch & Go's...

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Gusty Winds, 6 Landings — 0.7 hrs

More Touch & Go's...

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Gusty Winds, 8 Landings — 1 hrs

More Touch & Go's... "Airspeed / Aimpoint / Centerline"

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Gusty Winds, 7 Landings — 0.9 hrs

In a nutshell, I learned, on Final, chant the words; "Airspeed, Aimpoint, Centerline."

Means maintain the correct airspeed and no lower. Fly the plane down to the numbers. Tighten up the centerline, and don't drift. Takes a little discipline perhaps.

Why? Think about this...

  1. Airspeed provides lift and keeps away from the stall. If you're slow and have to pitch up or there's a wind gust upwind, you stall and splat.

  2. Aim for as much runway as available. Fly down to the numbers, and/or use every inch of the runway you can----you might need it someday. If you overrun the runway, especially with any obstacles at runway end (like a tree!!), you splat. 

  3. And landing one side or the other of the centerline leaves just that much less margin for error once you on the roll. You got a crosswind or gust from the side, you roll off and splat.

Definition of Splat:

To land or be squashed with a sound of something soft and wet or heavy striking a surface.
"The pilot makes a huge splat as he hits the ground."

Endless Touch & Go's — Why??

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL — T&Go's, Gusty Winds, 5 Landings — 0.8 hrs

And here is where I would start my long career with Touch&Go's (little did I know at the time). Once I had mastered a lot of landings in dual instruction, it seemed pointless (or punishment) till I realized the true purpose and benefits of the Touch&Go maneuver. Why Touch&Go, and why over and over and over again??

AOPA states that:
"Touch-and-go practice provides the advanced student and certificated pilot a technique for an emergency go-around should he or she detect a runway hazard after touching down — such as an animal or another airplane on the runway, or the inability to meet a land-and-hold-short requirement. Touch and goes can also reduce training time and student costs."

All true. And the CFI should make this purpose and benefits crystal clear so the student doesn't think he's just being tested to land the plane (or just punished) before he gets his Solo endorsement. It's NOT a test (nor punishment). Touch&Go's are a real maneuver among many that are important and can save your life, and indeed the lives of other if involved.

Example: Non-towered airport, calm wind, another plane off the radio decides to land on the opposite side to you, and you don't realize till you see him there at 12 o'clock ready for a nice game of chicken. What would you do?
Hence Touch&Go! Presume he's unaware, and it's up to you. Can't beep the horn to alert him. You're too fast to slow down and he's coming right at you cutting the time to a fraction. And you're too slow to just pitch up and fly over, as you'll stall and merge with his cockpit. You can't swerve off the runway pavement most likely, for risk of certain damage no matter what. Now what?
No choice---you Touch&Go just like it's taught, and get back in the wind on over him. 

And also know that repetitious Touch & Gos are surprisingly physically demanding too---8, 10, 12 in a row and I'm toast. So prepare for a little fatigue, and strap in for the merry go round. And tomorrow again.

It's worth the time.

Heading Indicator vs Magnetic Compass - Let's play Pin the Tail on the Donkey Student Pilot - Basic Celestial Navigation 

C172 — N64238 — North Perry Hollywood, FL > (practice area) — T/O, Stalls, Slow flt, Lost Procedures, Gusty Winds, Landing — 1.1hrs

1hr flight with lots of Stalls and basic maneuvers, but with a surprise...

My instructor knows well I'm from out of town, and not familiar with the terrain, regardless of how I studied the map and charts; it just doen't look the same from 2,500 ft. So on the way back, my instructor tells me to "close my eyes."

"What up with this??" I asked.

"Just close them and don't cheat by peeking." he asserted.

"Ok, fine; Hit me with your best shot." I yielded.

He put the plane in a gentle level turn for how long I wasn't sure (that being the drill). 

After turning and turning for what seemed quite a while, he said "Ok. Open your eyes, and take us home."

Huh, "so where is home?" I said, feeling much more like the Donkey in this game.

"Just take us home..." he replied without further clarification.

Well, I knew we had to head south, so by the Heading Indicator it was the other way, I lifted the wing in preparation to clear the turn to the south... But wait a minute here! Something's just not right. And it wasn't right. Either the Earth just shifted its polarity, or someone moved the Sun to the wrong quadrant...

Doubtful the Sun was displaced and it should be drooping to the southwest about this hour, so the Heading Indicator HAD TO BE WRONG. Sure enough what I didn't know is that with my eyes closed the sneeky bastard messed up the Heading Indicator just to prove the point.

Again, those hours on Sim really paid off in spades. I quickly reconciled the Heading Indicator with the Magnetic Compass, and with the Sun in the correct quadrant, I gave my instructor a dirty look in silence as I corrected our heading quickly to where it should be and proceded south.

He was just slightly impressed as he admitted "Well, there's no fooling you, is there?"

"Not a chance, pal."

So utilize all you got; the sun, the compass, topographic layout of the land, etc.

Checklist Logical Flow - Idiot Check - Ground Flying

C172 — N64238 — North Perry Hollywood, FL > (practice area) — T/O, Steep Turns, Slow flt, Gusty Winds, Landing — 1.1hrs

I'm sure there are many an experienced pilot who might argue with me; I mean after all, who am I to question established standardized Checklists, but some low-hour rookie pilot. But, this is how I see it...

First, Checklists are NOT TO BE MEMORIZED. Ok. So what if they're wrong? Or not in correct sequence??

Of course as one does a preflight, pre-start, startup, runup, takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, landing, taxi, and securing, there are logical things to check that take higher precedence over other things, regardless of an elegant flow. And I agree, and follow the checklist as established.

However, even over the very few Hobbs hours I have been flying compared to many, I have seen too many VERSIONS of the supposedly "standard" Checklists to think there even is one standard. There isn't. Well what IF they got it wrong? Or forgot something? Blind faith??? Not. Me as a student, I can't simply presume all materials I study for flying, and all instructors I attend are always correct without question. To me, if I see something that makes no sense to me, or is just plain wrong or untrue, then piss on it! It's wrong, and needs revision. It just seems to me there ARE things forgotten, and many things seemingly out of logical sequence to just blindly follow any checklist and/or instructor. Each new plane, new school, and new instructor, I make it a point to sit down with checklist and do a little "Ground Flying" there in the cockpit, and look over the checklist before I go up.

And even if the checklist IS correct, perhaps I might simply overlook a given item in sequence, or things are too hectic in the cockpit to be focused on the checklist away from the outside situation.

And so I devised my own what I call "idiot check" to double double check things over to ensure I have not forgotten anything after the checklist. I run thru the checklist, absolutely. But I also follow a simple FLOW throughout the plane and cockpit. As I walk up to the plane I'm already looking things over, and the preflight flow is easy enough with a thorough walk-around from left to right on around, low to high.

But inside the cockpit:

  1. I scan from the floor, up,
  2. and across the panel from low-right, to low-left,
  3. then up,
  4. high-left, to the right. 

I borrowed the above chart to illustrate the flow diagram, but it's not difficult to understand. The panel sort of divides itself into block AREAS where a given group of controls or instruments are grouped together. Scan things over; Low, up, left, up, right, and each AREA is reviewed as a group unit. 

In practice, I can't tell you how many times this silly method has already saved my ass, and not only caught both my own oversights, but real checklist errors, etc., that we needed to squawk to the school for revision.

And when parking, same deal; plus watch the wingspan on both sides, and park in the in the upwind direction.

Training Intensively - This is the life! The Ideal Routine for any student pilot...

C172 — N821SD — North Perry Hollywood, FL > (practice area) — T/O, S-Turns, Turns around point, Gusty Winds, Xwind Landing — 1.3hrs

Although I'm not in the wind quite as much as I want, I'm really enjoying the life I have been fortunate enough to find myself living (at least for now). For this next 3 months it's aviation bootcamp for me; A long extended vacation where I stay in a hotel, work in the off hours, but devote the bulk of my time to both ground school and flight training till you drop. (Tough life, I know...) In fact, the whole "work thing" is getting in the way of my otherwise dedicated schedule of eat, sleep, and fly again the next day.

However, it's an important point, as my training more so than many other people, has suffered a lot of interruptions and long delays. Things become forgotten, routines fade, and inevitably it costs SO much more money to have to backtrack and start almost all over again each time.

Lesson? Train intensively. Don't suffer these long breaks like I have. Fly right on thru to Private, or whichever level being worked on to attain.

Obvious, but true none the less. No matter what comes of this next 2-3 months, I'm confident it will have given me more than ever training in spurts could do.

ABC's over Florida swamps - Alligators need love too...

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL > (practice area) — T/O, S-Turns, Turns around point, Gusty Winds, Landing — 1.2hrs

I have to say here that there are a good handful of instructors here, but the main two are the Boss and his son (the "Big Guy"). The Big Guy is my instructor and is quite savvy and quite a good at teaching the business of flying. The Boss, although a super nice guy on the ground, and hooking me up to resources I need, etc., etc, I will come to discover later is just the worst nightmare once you get him in the cockpit. More on that later.

Anyway, the wind is gusty, but the sun is not completely hidden, and I'm expecting nothing eventful on this otherwise tranquil 1hr ride out the practice area for some routine maneuvers, when quite by surprise, my instructor (Big Guy) pulls the throttle and says: "Oops, no engine. Now what?"

"Oh, I'm all over this," I said to him in my cocky attitude; "ABC's dictate first I establish a glide speed of 65kias for this C172; then find Best landing field........  Hmm, let's see now.... Best field, best field, best field....."

"Voila! That nice open area down there to left. Right in the wind, that's perfect! I'm gonna head down there...."

He asked half chunking: "Where? Down there in the swamp with the alligators?!?"

Ouch. There's a lesson I'll never forget. You gotta know the terrain you're flying over at all times, and what dangers it may offer given an engine failure. It can and should influence your choice of route to take on your course, and of course the BEST landing field given an emergency.

Florida swamps? Nice place to visit; Beyond mosquitos from hell, here's the list of the good-natured friends inhabiting the swamp awaiting my arrival: American alligator, American crocodile, Eastern indigo snake, Atlantic salt marsh water snake, Blue tail mole skink, Sand skink, Florida panther, Florida black bear, Everglades mink, Sanibel Island rice rat, Silver rice rat, Key Largo woodrat, Flatwoods salamander, Georgia blind salamander, and Fragrant prickly-apple trees.

And if I make out of there alive, then I get to make more friends with Raptors and Vultures.

Welcome to HWO! All Skyhawks are White?

C172 — N66213 — North Perry Hollywood, FL > (practice area) — T/O, Basics, Gusty Wind practice, Landing — 1hrs

This next 3 months is kind of aviation bootcamp for me; A long extended vacation where I stay in a hotel, work in the off hours, but devote the bulk of my time to both ground school and flight training till you drop. (Tough life, I know...) So here I am: a new flight school, new planes, and new instructors, new winds and plenty of blank pages in my logbook.

And off and away we go, head west and left at the trailer park and up to the practice area for a good 1hr of orientation and maneuvers. Of course we gotta announce ourselves to other trainers coming and going, right? "North Perry Practice Area: We're a WHITE Skyhawk northbound at 2,500ft crossing the trailer park, heading into the practice area."

We get a call back; "North Perry Practice Area: WE'RE (also) a WHITE Skyhawk northbound at 2,500ft just east of the trailer park, heading up to the practice area."

We get another call back; "North Perry Practice Area: WE'RE (also) a WHITE Skyhawk southbound at 2,500ft just north of the trailer park, heading down from the practice area."

The instructor and I had a good laugh; A valuable lesson that many planes are WHITE, so we need to mention the combo color such as White and Blue, etc. in the call.

"Hey Dad, just happened to be flying in the area..."

Here's another airport I would like to put on my Logbook, Witham Field (SUA) – Stuart, FL.

Go visit dad, on my own flight.

My dad was always a flight enthusiast, and although did not get much further than a few glider souring flights in real world, we still enjoy Simming as a common interest always. This is on my wishlist for sure.

Joystick... For Real!

Cozy Mark IV — N149DM — Craig, Jacksonville > (DAB Daytona > and back) — T/O, Basics, GPS nav, Approach — 1hrs

Nice fun flt over the Jacksonville sectional in a WAY different plane.

Staying with dear friends, I got the rare opportunity to try my hand out in a totally different plane.

The Cozy is a canard (little front-wing) plane that looks more like a mini British Concorde than anything else. Light and fast, and handles good bit different than the C172 I'm used to.

The interesting thing is flying by joystick. Here again my hours on SIM come in handy as it's joystick always, but in a real plane I really miss the feel of weighted yoke, and you gotta have a really light touch for any control input.

The Cozy lands a lot faster too, so the landing was much different experience.

But a great experience all in all. I believe it's good to focus on one plane for consistency of training, but also valuable to take those rare opportunities to fly a different plane when possible. My first real flying lesson was a R22 helicopter.

Getting married and relocating to Italy tends to delay flight training...

I have no regrets really, except it's often hard to do everything we dream, especially if you don't predict the ramifications of following one dream over another.

I thought since a Pilot Licence is international*, give or take some extra recency flights once I get a license, I'd continue my flight training easy enough upon arrival to Italy, but it's not so simple. Italians are not into flying Cessna small planes for fun like Americans, and it's FAR more expensive. Even the airspace is taxed.

And even worse, the hours done in the US only count for about 10% of the real hours, when considered by European flight schools. Not for any good reason, but there it is.

Come to discover that many student pilots come to the US to train, as it's just not viable in EU.

Geez, who knew?

Now it's a question of how often can I get back and continue my training.

Here's a blurb from Wiki I should have read long time ago:

Pilot licensing or certification refers to permits to fly aircraft that are issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in each country, establishing that the holder has met a specific set of knowledge and experience requirements. This includes taking a flying test. The certified pilot can then exercise a specific set of privileges in that nation's airspace.

Despite attempts to harmonize the requirements between nations, the differences in certification practices and standards from place to place serve to limit full international validity of the national qualifications.

In addition, U.S. pilots are certified, not licensed, although the word license is still commonly used informally. Legally, pilot certificates can be revoked by administrative action, whereas licensing (e.g., a driver's license) requires intervention by the judiciary system.

In the United States, pilot certification is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a branch of the Department of Transportation (DOT). A pilot is certified under the authority of Parts 61 and 141 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, also known as the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).

In Canada, licensing is issued by Transport Canada. In the United Kingdom, licensing is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In most European countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, and many others, licensing is issued by the national aviation authority according to a set of common rules established by the Joint Aviation Authorities known as Joint Aviation Rules – Flight Crew Licensing (JAR-FCL).

Night Flying; The Pinnacle of Flying

C172 — N54538 — Night Flight, Santa Ana > (Torrance) > (LAX VFR corridor) > (Malibu) > (Pt. Mugu), and return same route — 1.7hrs

I thank the light for it shows me the way,
yet I cherish the dark
because it shows me the stars and the city lights.

My first night flight. Fond memories of flying that shall never fade. If I wasn't hooked on flying before, which I certainly was, I sure as hell am now.

It's a whole different experience at night, starting with the preflight. Gotta slow the preflight and be more careful, and not ruin your night vision, for which you need a good 30 minutes for full adjustment of the eyes to see in the dark. Cockpit management and organization is all the more important as well, so you're not fumbling around with charts or dropping things in the dark cockpit you can't see in. Pre-planning is essential to know the whole flight, the route, all navigation aids and frequencies, alternate airports, the terrain you'll be covering at any given point in case of forced landing, and of course weather minimum for night VFR which are 3 miles visibility, but I prefer clear or a good 5 miles. Pilotage and Dead Reckoning timing of checkpoints are essential to follow along the progress and track our location.

We took the easy way and followed along the coast. Although that's water on one side, it offered easy visual, and easy predictions for every section.

And there it is; the vast metropolis of shimmering city lights and tiny white and red lights along the streets and highways, neon signs, stadiums and baseball fields all lit up; All the sparkly diamonds of night life that never sleeps. Systematically aligned fireflies and embers plugged in and shining the way; It seems just second only to the majestic mountains, no other sight is more breathtaking than that of the night sky; impressing my soul with a sense of sublime enchantment. Oh yeah, this is where it's at.

Now remember this is congested Los Angeles, and if Santa Ana Class C is not enough, then of course there's LAX Class B; and they sort of built an airport right in the middle everything to break up the otherwise pristine coastline air space. And now we gotta cross over the top of LAX, one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world. It's called a VFR Corridor, and rules are quite specific. Tune the radio and VOR, align to the northbound radial, and pass over at the specified height of 4500ft. And of course announce yourself and remain vigilant of others also in the corridor. Good news is we get to fly right over LAX and that's also a vision to behold.

LAX done, then there's Santa Monica, SMO, right after that to keep an eye on. After that it's smooth sailing up to Malibu, where Point Dume beach juts out, and we turn around and do it all again southbound. Over LAX once again at 3500ft, on down passed Torrance and Long Beach to Santa Ana.

It all looks easy on paper, but finding the SNA airport in the pitch black dead dark is not as easy as all that. 

Tower gave us an easy right Base, and a beautiful soft landing on a well lit runway, makes for a great happy ending to a spectacular night.

Farewell SNA and Sunrise Aviation.

Towered vs Non-towered; Time saved getting in the wind - The idea is the plane moves, and not the airport

I state for the record, that training at a towered airport is important experience (and of course required training)... But after a certain point in gained experience, a busy airport can really delay getting up in the wind. Upwards of an hour extended on to every flight! Ouch!

At first I was eager to meet the challenge and gain the valuable experience, and as a student that's correct. But with delays getting up, and never an endless budget for flying, I did the calculation and it's very revealing just how much time (meaning money) is spent getting up.

Especially Class C, taking off you have slightly more complex ATIS, tower congestion and competing for ATC attention, Clearance, longer taxi times, more caution necessary on taxiway and intersections, more position-and-hold for other air traffic, wake turbulence from large aircraft, etc., etc.
THEN you got all the same on the landing and parking when you return. 

Now calculate the hobbs hours for all that, plus paid CFI time, and you arrive at a lot of money over just a few flights!

Again, don't get me wrong as I value my time training at such a busy airport for radio experience and all the above, as others should too. But a student should factor this in, and I confess I am looking forward to more efficient training at a non-towered airport soon as possible.

Wing Drops and the E6B Flt Computer Whiz Wheel

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, Landing — 1.4hrs

(Photo: In Star Trek episode "The Naked Time", Mr. Spock uses an E-6B to calculate the time of impact of the Enterprise with a planet. In the episodes "Mudd's Women" and "Who Mourns for Adonais?", he is again seen holding an E-6B.) 

On this flight I was truly more engrossed and captivated by the sensation of varying G-forces doing Wing Drops, and feeling like I'm on a roller-coaster. Any flight is a good time for the most part, but discovering Wing Drops is by far the most fun I've had man-handling a plane to date. Zoom, swoop, and back up. What a blast!

I made the call to So Cal Approach on 124.1 to let them know we're headed in from the practice area, and the Controller tells me I'm speaking too fast... ME?? Mr. Shy Guy on the Radio is speaking too fast for the pro ATC Controller?? Huh! That's a first. "Say again for So Cal Approach..." Now THAT's funny.


Anyway. All that day on the ground (all that week really) we were getting deep on the Flight Log planning sheet, calculations and the E6B Whiz Wheel.

Wiki states of the E6B: "These flight computers are used during flight planning (on the ground before takeoff) to aid in calculating fuel burn, wind correction, time en route, and other items. In the air, the flight computer can be used to calculate ground speed, estimated fuel burn and updated estimated time of arrival. The back is designed for wind correction calculations, i.e., determining how much the wind is affecting one's speed and course."

 That's right too. Genius really. Look at all the many calculations and functions the E6B has, and with no computer processor, battery to run down, or even paper to get wet and soggy: 

  • Multiplication and division
  • Ratio Calculations
  • Time, Speed, and Distance Problems
  • Fuel Consumption Problems
  • Unit Conversions
  • Nautical to Statute Miles
  • U.S. Gallons to Imperial Gallons
  • Quantity/Weight Conversions
  • Altitude and Speed Corrections
  • True Airspeed and Density Altitude
  • Converting Mach Number to True Airspeed
  • True Altitude
  • Feet Per Mile vs. Feet Per Minute
  • Off-Course Problems
  • Crosswind Table
  • Wind Correction Angle
  • Winds in Flight
  • and more

Here's the Sporty's E6B Flight Computer Instruction Manual in PDF format...

Me I took the time to learn the shit out of this handy device, and pick it up again from time to time just to play and practice.

Stalls at 6000ft vs Stalls at 500ft - Time of Descent

C172 — N65835 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, Landing — 1.4hrs

If elephants were meant to fly, they would have been born with wings. They weren't. So they hang glide.

Now although planes were made to fly, without wind that doesn't stop them from dropping from the sky like an elephant  without wings... Otherwise known as a stall.

So the question becomes, how much time do you have?

Rough calculation, after a brief acceleration, about 200ft per second. So even at 6000ft AGL, you got about 30 seconds to arrive back down to Earth. 30 seconds is adequate time to pull out of even a spin, but not much time to think it over. 

And this is exactly why we're made to practice stalls, because there's no time to open the book and review the subtleties of a stall. We gotta have it down second nature to react quick enough to pull out before we're back down to Earth.

And at takeoff or Final approach where you're at only about 500ft, it's only a few precious seconds to pull out.

3 Dangers; High / Hot / Heavy

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, Landing — 1.1hrs

One of my ex-military thousands-of-hours pilot friends told me in discussion: "Oh yeah, high, hot and heavy are the 3 dangers in aviation."

It's a question of density altitude, which is directly related to aircraft performance. If you're too high, or it's too hot, the plane won't fly. If you're heavy, it's worse.

I found an article to backup what he was mentioning.
(Revised for length.)

NOAA’s National Weather Service July 2012
By Jim Reynolds, Meteorologist

Hot, High and Heavy—The Deadly Cocktail of Density Altitude

Density altitude really can only be seen through aircraft performance.

Unfortunately, density altitude can have deadly consequences before a pilot has a chance to sense its presence.

By definition, density altitude is “the pressure altitude adjusted for non-standard temperature.” Simply put, increasing temperature at a given atmospheric pressure will cause the air density at that pressure to appear as though it resides at a higher physical altitude.

Pilots fly through an atmosphere of air made up of invisible gases.

Only when there is an excess of particulate matter or water vapor in the air can anything be seen in the flight environment. Because air is otherwise invisible, it is not possible to tell when it becomes thinner.

Thinning happens due to increased space between molecules when an air mass is either warmed, has water vapor added to it, or is raised in elevation. Increased spacing between air molecules, which causes air to become thinner, has the following three effects on aircraft performance:

  1. Slower acceleration on takeoff because of a power production reduction. 
  2. Higher true airspeed required to produce the same lift associated with a lower temperature, which generally requires a longer takeoff roll to achieve.
  3. Slower climb because of the reduction in power production and lift.

Any mix of the atmospheric conditions that cause aircraft to perform at the minimum range of their operating envelope are “high density altitude” situations, and are usually quite dangerous.

(Worse...) Keep in mind that the greater loading of an aircraft by either people or gear will eat away further at the diminished capabilities of the aircraft in high density altitude situations.

It's easy to miss developing high density altitude situations. You might sense an increase in humidity, or mugginess, in your surroundings or observe hazy conditions. You might also get a sense of being at an increased altitude because you find yourself catching your breath when doing tasks that don’t usually cause you to breathe deeply.

These physical signs, however, are not enough for pilots to gain a true understanding of how their aircraft will perform given current conditions.

The only way to truly ascertain how an aircraft will perform is to first compute density altitude according to a chart or a calculator and then correlate this information with aircraft performance data in the aircraft’s operating handbook.

While most density altitude effects are experienced at higher elevations, extremely high temperatures at lower elevations can lead to equally negative aircraft performance problems.

Case in point: high temperatures across portions of the desert southwest can easily exceed 115oF in the summer months. ...a temperature of 120oF will cause most pilots to choose not to fly into or out of the airport until temperatures cool down some.

While the effects of density altitude can be insidious, there are ways to beat this hidden foe.

  • If at all possible, fly early or late in the day. Any reduction in temperature may add hundreds of feet to the elevation the airplane thinks it is operating at.
  • Fly as light as possible. If you don’t need full fuel tanks to reach your destination, take on a lesser amount of fuel, much less if possible. Leave behind all of the baggage you don’t really need.
  • Bring along only those passengers necessary for the trip. High density altitude situations are bad for those individuals that just want to tag along.

In short, don’t let the cocktail of “hot, high and heavy” be hazardous to your health!

Putting the above into a practical example, if you're in a C172, your max Service Ceiling = 13,500ft. That's not very much margin if you're attempting cross any decent mountains.

By the E6B, let's say your mountain to hop over is 8500ft MSL (not so high really), and it's normal pressure day Altimeter 29.92 (which can drift widely), and it's a pretty hot day of 28°C (about 83° F).
Your Density Altitude is already almost 12,000ft, and your plane is struggling as it is, leaving you with only 1,500ft margin before you got nothing to pull you up or forward.

If you need to get any higher, or if that gets any warmer, or the barometer changes much, you're done for.

Or perhaps you gotta jettison your girlfriend out the window.

CFIT; Controlled Flight into Terrain - a classic Oxymoron

C172 — N54538 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, MCA, Dutch Rolls, Landing — 1.1hrs

Studying stalls, I read about a term CFIT; Controlled Flight into Terrain.

Meaning? It's a nice way of saying crash and burn.
But “accidents” do happen, right?
So which is it??

Wiki says:
"CFIT describes an accident in which an airworthy aircraft, under pilot control, is unintentionally flown into the ground, a mountain, water, or an obstacle. The pilot is generally unaware of the danger until it is too late."

However, seems a classic oxymoron to me.

Because the simplicity of it is, that if his plane is airworthy and under pilot control, and he STILL flies into terrain, he's either a suicide, or a terrorist.

If there were factors that were OUT of pilot control, then clearly it was an unintentional ACCIDENT, be it natural or human error.

Perhaps wind shear hit, mechanical failure, etc., etc. All valid. I believe unexpected factors are NOT under the pilot’s control in the first place. And that's one thing.

Now, if the pilot is unaware of the danger, was he really in control??

Preplanning, weather prediction, fuel, mechanical checks, etc., **ARE** of course part of controlling the flight. And that includes knowing the terrain under the flight path, bodies of water---where they are, and if you can make it across them---obstacles along your course---their height, and prediction to avoid them, pre-flight, run-up, monitoring your gauges. All that.

Well I ask, why call it “Controlled” flight at all?? If not suicide or terrorist, it was either an oversight, error, or a natural accident, and it was out of his control.

Simply call it an accident, and list the real cause, whatever it was. But please don’t call it “Controlled” flight.

It’s controlled or an ACCIDENT.

Just more shit that doesn't make sense, as I see it.

* * *

Ever see the film Air America? It's very fun, and very revealing of pilot ops in certain areas.
Air America (1990), Action, Comedy, with Mel Gibson, Robert Downey Jr., Nancy Travis, directed by Roger Spottiswoode. The story of a bunch of lunatic pilots, gun-running and opium smuggling. 

I watch it again and again.

Fog; The Dragon's Breath - VFR vs IFR

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Basics, Landing — 1.2hrs

Off we go basking in the warm California sunshine, and there we are having a nice practice flight looking cool in sunglasses. We wrap up and start coming back, only to discover that fog rolled in over SNA. Suddenly VFR becomes IFR. That changed things alright.

To me, aviation seems divided into the two categories of those who CAN see where they're going, and those who CANNOT see where they're going.

If you can see where you're going, then you follow the rules of visual flight (VFR), and look where you're going.

If you can't see where you're going for whatever reason (such as clouds) or period of time, you gotta use only instruments and get others (ATC) to help you see, and follow the rules of flying by those instruments (IFR).

Well we tuned ELB (the El Toro VOR), then ILS for Rwy 19R, and of course we got in ok safe and sound.

But I believe similar rules should apply to driving on the roads---those who can see and know where they're going, and those who can't. I don't know, but perhaps we might have less accidents everywhere.

It was fun really, but a lesson I won't forget.  "For it is the doom of man that he forget." 

Altitude with Attitude - More Stalls of all Flavors and C172 Vspeeds

C172 — N54538 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, Landing — 1.2hrs

Takeoff stall, landing stall, clean stall (no flaps), dirty stall (flaps), climbing stall, descending stall, turning stall, and all combinations thereof. Gotta practice them all. After a while, it's not unlike riding in a small sailboat on a stormy sea. Hurl.

I find it does help to know the Vspeeds cold, so you know what you're looking for throughout the whole flight.

I never found a decent chart illustrating the Vspeeds on the Airspeed Indicator, so I did the illustration myself.

John Belushi
And to one of my all-time favorite comedians, who's hysterical character in the movie 1941 often inspires me to continued perseverance thru all obstacles in my aviation career.
Altitude with Attitude.

Morse Code and more Dutch Roll Madness

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, Steep Turns, Dutch Rolls, Landing — 1hrs

The funny part about having lots of Sim hours, and only a few real-world Hobbs hours, is that I know the instruments cold, and tons of theory behind it, and yet there I am in the plane trying to get a feel for the rudder and pedals. Kinda like a college grad sitting in on 3rd Grade elementary school because he never took off the training wheels off his bicycle.

So, in my otherwise idle moments spent practicing Stalls, steep turns, and fun with more Dutch Roll madness, I'm tuning the VOR and learning Morse Code.

" -... .. - . / -- . " I said to the instructor. He gave me a blank stare. Never mind; just testing.

But the virtue is identifying the VOR as you tune them for navigation. How do you know you got the right one? Tune and listen.

Gotta head back to SNA in the fog? No problem. I tune 117.2 and listen. I hear:  . .-.. -...  Cool. That's El Toro, ELB.

With so many VORs in the LA basin area, it's an extra measure to ensure I got the right navigation lined up.

Confucius say: " - --- / -.- -. --- .-- / .-- .... .- - / -.-- --- ..- / -.- -. --- .-- / .- -. -.. / .-- .... .- - / -.-- --- ..- / -.. --- / -. --- - / -.- -. --- .-- / - .... .- - / .. ... / - .-. ..- . / -.- -. --- .-- .-.. . -.. --. . "

Lost Procedures, Visibility and Curvature of the Earth

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, Landing — 1.3hrs

The rules state we need 3 miles visibility to fly.

But that's cutting way down from what we can really see. On an average clear day, we can see about 30 miles. It's the fog, smog and humidity that cuts it down.

And get this, given that same clear day, as you go up in altitude you can see more. Lot more. (Better for VOR reception as well.)
Here's the formula for a quick calc:

Formula: D = 1.22 √ h
where d is in miles and h is height above ground level in feet.

from Height (ft) Distance (miles)
Example: at 6ft = 3 mi
Example: at 100ft = 12mi
Example: at 1200ft = 42mi
Example: at 3500ft = 72mi
Example: at 8000ft = 109mi
Example: at 30000ft = 211mi

So the virtue here is in being able to see more, which is always a good thing, but in Lost Procedures, it's a really good thing.

The basic Lost Procedure is Climb, Conserve, Communicate.

But my version of the Lost Procedures is a little different and more expanded (all C's):

  • Stay Cool, Calm, Collected,
  • Circle around as you Climb,
  • (if you really are lost) do NOT Continue forward (hoping for reorientation),
  • use the Compass and pilotage and all navigation means to Contemplate your location,
  • Conserve altitude speed fuel time visibility,
  • Communicate with available resources such as Tower etc.,
  • and Coordinate your best options if you've deviated too far and must divert.

That's a mouthful, I know, but follows advice from lot of experienced CFIs.

Just try not to get trapped on top of a cloud canopy, and find yourself lost.

Stalls; What's the worst that could happen, right? Go Around!

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Stalls, Landing — 1.2hrs

Like Mad Magazine "What, me? Worry?" So why practice stalling a plane? Kinda like practicing crashing a plane, if you think about it.

Still, I had to come to terms with stalls, one way or another, even just for practice. So...

Say on Final approach I'm too slow. Sink and stall. Ouch time.

Say I'm too fast. I over-shoot the landing, or the entire runway. Ouch time. Better to go around.

Say I'm too low. I pitch up and stall. Ouch time.

Say I'm way too high. I dive to make the numbers. Now I'm too steep and gotta pull up to break the dive, and stall. Ouch time. Better to go around than to risk a stall.

Say again I'm too high. If I make a forward slip successfully, ok. But I risk stress on the airframe, and possible damage mid-air, and a stall. Ouch time.

Say I over-shoot the turn Base to Final. I turn too steep to compensate and stall. Ouch time.

So a stall can happen for a lot of reasons really, and to recognize the oncoming stall only comes with practice feeling the real sensation.

When in doubt, punch it, and go around.

Is it because they're Ex-military??

What gave me irritating chafe on today's flight, and indeed this instructor, was his insistence on things "are just that way" or "because that's how he was taught in the military."

Huh. So I responded: "you know, without a reason/purpose for information, no real learning can take place..." and I asked him: "Did you know a chimp can read a book (or ground school materials)?"

"Yes, he sure can." I said. "He just doesn't understand the words, nor the reason."

See, like other animals, the chimp learns by mimicry and instinctive reaction to stimuli that's either good or bad. So even a chimpanzee can be "taught" to fly a plane, jet or spaceship to the moon.

But if he doesn't understand the words, then he will never understand the reason or purpose of his actions. So ask a chimp WHY should he fly (or any task therein), and he couldn't tell you even if he could speak--which he can't.

Follow where I'm going with this? Don't ever just take things on orders that it's this way or that way without knowing WHY it's that way.

Questions are never dumb unless you don't ask. And if the instructor won't answer the question, he either doesn't know, or you need a change of instructor.

Methods of Flight

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Slow Flt, Dutch Rolls, Landing — 1.1hrs

Still enjoying slow flight. And I becoming quite professional at going nowhere fast.

So why all the stress on slow flight anyway?? Seems to me the fixed-wing aircraft is the less efficient approach to flying. I mean a helicopter doesn't need a runway at all; just a tiny square pad, not more than 20ft by 20ft. How about a blimp that similarly needs only a bit of open field. All this slow-flight practice, length of runway performance calculations, and so much brain damage to learn to land the plane because it can't simply float down.

Well what other methods of flight are there, and how do they land?

In the category of falling, and not flying at all, we have:

  • Parachuting - if the chute opens ok, then no splat.
  • Paragliding (which is more being pulled thru the air with your open mouth cheeks flapping, more so than real flying) - but without the tow, you soon meet the salty water.

Then we have the lighter-than-air category (called “aerostats”):

  • Hot air balloon (unpowered aerostat) - not much for speed and directional autonomy, but given hot air, it doesn't readily fall either.
  • Dirigible “Blimp” or "airship" (powered steerable aerostat) - same, but at least more directional.

Now THOSE float.

Then the heavier-than-air category (called “aerodynes”) there's:

  • Ornithopter (old-time flapping wing aircraft) - never made it off the ground in the first place.
  • Glider (non-powered) - much the same as a plane for landing, but without the luxury of power.
  • Hang Gliding (sort of an open parachute approach to flying) - still need a runway, but on a very small scale.
  • Gyroplane (unpowered rotor) - that's messed up, but can't be so very different than a plane needing a runway.
  • Rotorcraft (Helicopter powered rotor) - again, needs only a tiny square pad, not more than 20ft by 20ft.
  • Airplanes (fixed-wing aircraft) - although many types, all need a runway, and the more the plane, the more the runway.

Then those made for flying thru no-air at all:

  • Rocket - a tower of power going up, but a mere pod with a parachute coming down.
  • Spaceship - to be determined, but I doubt it will need a long runway to meet rubber wheels.

Of course all those break down into many categories of powered by man, steam, gas engine, jet engine, etc., even magnetic force engines, and perhaps lifted by thermals as in gliders.

But having to do with slow flight and landing, it's the horizontal landing at speed on a length runway, that necessitates all this study and practice as a rookie pilot. 

I see it as less than elegant. Just my twist.

Slow Flight - Hanging the plane on the prop - The great turtle escape

C172 — N608DL — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Slow Flt, Landing — 1.2hrs

Learning to "hang the plane on the prop," as they say.

So what can I take away from all this? Well obviously, if the tortoise was meant to fly, he too would have been born with wings. But a plane will fall from the sky even with its indigenous wings, if there's no lift.

Got it.

Hence the great turtle escape... Slow flight; that delicate balance between lift and stall. Just enough lift to keep from falling out of the sky. a tortoise.

But slow flight practice is there for a few excellent reasons;

  • to prepare for landings,

  • familiarize one with known as "the back side of the power curve" and how the plane responds when flying slow, as when landing,

  • to realize in practice that a stall can happen at any time, and for a lot of different reasons, even a simple gust of wind in the wrong direction, and to feel it coming, to feel the mushy controls and how to anticipate a stall in any condition/attitude, etc.,

  • to learn that here we need to increase power for lift, and lower pitch for speed,
  • all that, and slowing down to do some sightseeing.

And so it's all about keeping lift, keeping control, and not stalling/falling.

Phat Pilot

To Fly, or Not to Fly? That is the Question...

C172 — N54538 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Basics, Nose High/Nose Low, MCA, Landing — 1.2hrs

To fly, or not to fly, that is the question— Whether 'tis Nobler in the wind to suffer The Slips and Stalls of outrageous Flight, Or to take Altitude against a Sea of thermals, And by opposing, end them? To dive, to stall— No more; and by a stall, to say we end...

1hr flt vs 3hr flt — 1flt/day vs 2flts/day?

Me, I prefer 1-1.5hr flt for training, not more. Maneuvers can take it right out of you, and it ceases to be fun and becomes fatigue. Further, to me flying is so very much fun (even if fatigued) that but one flight per day is enough.

The Shaguri Japanese Ninja 3-finger Hold

C172 — N96353 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Turns, MCA, Power-off Stalls, Basic, Landing — 1.3hrs

(And here is where I would start my long career with Stalls, little did I know at the time). I was lucky to have had an alternate instructor this day, as we ventured out to the hazy California sky to practice stalls. A very petite Japanese gal who was not just a great CFI, but a kick-ass aerobatic pilot herself. Out of my league really.

But what struck me is how in demonstrating a stall, how this tiny gal was able to man-handle the plane with the greatest of ease. Meanwhile I was yoke-choking and white-knuckle gripping for dear life. I was convinced she was some kind of Ninja Marshall artist, able to Jujitsu some big dude to his knees by a single hold on his wrist or something.

She said: "Here, try holding the yoke with only 3 fingers, and lightly so."

Almost magic. The trim had a lot to do with it of course, but suddenly from there I could see how my grip was a result of anxiety unwarranted, and the plane flew fine if I just relax and make gentle control input adjustments.

That's awesome! Thanks Shaguri, I'll never forget you.

Evil Private Jet from Hell - Taxiway Incursion

C172 — N96353 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — T/O, Basics, Landing — 1.2hrs

Already a busy day, you could feel the tension in the air. Worse, a new lady Controller in the tower is anything but smooth, and giving pilots her attitude, just made for bad juju on the apron.

The short version of this story is called Taxiway Incursion.

And so, a private jet pilot pressured by his pseudo-vip passenger clients no doubt, not wanting to wait while Miss Fumblemic in the tower still working the room, eventually gets around to give him clearance to the gate. So why wait?

Me, I saw it coming, and sure as shit this evil private jet comes barreling thru all taxiway intersections like a bat out of hell, and would have ran right into me.

So I stopped and gave way, even though the taxiway was mine. My instructor gave me an "attaboy" for my prudence, but that Controller lady went postal on him.

I certainly wouldn't wanna be him after he parks at the gate.

The Takeoff is THE most dangerous part of any flight.

C172 — N54538 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Basics, Unassisted Landing — 1hrs

See, most people don't realize the Takeoff is THE most dangerous part of any flight. Already at full power and no altitude, a stall or an engine failure here leaves one with no option but get down quick and hope you live to tell the story. I mean, what if, right? Can't turn around 180 and expect to make the runway. Gotta keep going straight ahead, and minimize the turn to keep altitude. A nice open field... A road with no traffic... Something.

Me, I'm looking for a few emergency landing options at the far end of the runway BEFORE I ever get in the plane.

SNA, you climb at 60 kias for noise abatement, and that's pretty steep up. Then if the engine cuts out, you end up in the lower end of the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.

MS Flight Sim X-Gold

New version finally out. Pretty nice scenery and ATC is not too bad either. I like that the acceleration pack makes it possible for a good frame rate for a decent computer without too much hardware cost. The future will see better computers, but they shouldn't keep pushing the need for hardware.

Still, I keep simming pretty routinely just to keep up on all theory and application.

That, and that one can fly anywhere in the world, in any of hundreds of planes, without spending a dime more than the program and the electric bill, and the best part is flying completely beyond any consequences of flying errors or navigation or anything. Can't beat that.

Class C Nightmare - Clearance Delivery Simplified - C.R.A.F.T.

C172 — N54538 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Basics, Assisted Landing — 1.2hrs

Check it, SNA is probably the worst Class C nightmare in the world. Busy with big jets liners coming and going, gotta get Clearance to come and go, and constant crazy radio traffic, you really need to stay frosty here, or you're for it.

But that's the virtue, because if you can deal with SNA, then the rest is cake. And so I embrace my opportunity to train at one of busiest Class C airports in the world.

  • Departing outbound you'll need Clearance (covered below).
  • Approaching inbound you gotta first contact Approach surrounding the area, they'll give you a squawk, radio contact confirmation, and then hand you off to the inbound Tower. 

That being the simple version, let's amplify the departing Clearance Delivery procedure. Here are excerpts (slightly revised) from an article I found helpful to make it really simple.

If you're flying out of a Class-C airport (or Class B, for that matter), you just call up Clearance Delivery after getting the ATIS and give them the usual 3-W routine -- who you are, where you are, and what you want to do:

"John Wayne Clearance, Cessna 123XY, with Bravo, VFR to the northeast at 5500".

They'll come back with something like this:

"Cessna 3XY, John Wayne Clearance, fly runway heading until 1000 feet [MSL is implied here], then proceed on course. Maintain at or below 2500 until advised, departure frequency will be 123.45, squawk 4003, contact ground 120.8 when ready to taxi"

There may be a lot of stuff to copy, but if you know what to expect, it'll be easier to understand. Basically, you're copying a watered-down IFR clearance, and they always have the following components, always in the following order:

- Clearance Limit
- Route
- Altitude
- Frequency
- Transponder

The acronym to remember this being CRAFT. You won't have a clearance limit (that's strictly an IFR thing), so maybe you better make it RAFT (like in life raft).

A trick to copying clearances is that they all follow the same pattern:
Clearance Limit, Route, Altitude, Frequency, Transponder. The acronym to remember this is CRAFT (for a VFR clearance out of a Class C airport, you won't have a clearance limit, but the other parts will still be there in the right order). What I like to do when copying a clearance is to write on a piece of paper:

- C
- R
- A
- F
- T

Just like that down the left-hand margin. Then, as the clearance is read to me, I fill in the blanks. You can write it out in full, or use shorthand, or whatever, as long as you can figure out what you wrote. In your case, I'd end up with something that looked like:

- C
- R rwy hdg
- A =< 2000
- F xxx.xx
- T yyyy

After my takeoff I'm handed off to Departure, and away I go. 

Pitch, Power, Rudder, Trim

C172 — N65644 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Pilotage, Dutch Rolls, Taxi — 1hrs

Ok, I studied all my ground school DVDs, sim'd all basic tasks, now we're ready to get to the real business of flying.

So it's in this order; pitch, power, rudder, trim. And almost every maneuver is performed with changes to each of these controls in THIS sequence.

Makes sense if you think it through, and see it works that way in practice. Change that sequence and the plane is not setup for the next part of the maneuver.

Ground School Revisited

Well out with the old, and in with the new. This time from Sporty's.

In brief, Rob Reider does a great job on these newer DVDs, and the material, though pretty much same as all Private Pilot ground school curriculum, is very well put together, and walks the student pilot thru nicely.

I personally feel that the weather is presented with a pretty dry, pedantic and tedious approach. But I also confess to weather not being my favorite subject (as with many pilots in general), and that adds to the slight lack of interest to get thru these sections.

However, I especially enjoy the "Closer Look" ditties by Richard Collins, Author at Air Facts Journal. I get next to those short clips and the lessons therein, and how he imparts some really important lessons in his own unique way.

Still, like previous ground school studies, I went thru these newer DVDs multiple times over, and then again, to ensure I had gained marked certainty of the materials covered. I still do from time to time.

I don't view myself as a pilot with many high ambitions, but regardless, the foundation of solid theory and procedures are there even for the most relaxed of flights.

Stay to the RIGHT of the common traffic lane!!

On a joy-ride with a good friend of mine, we learned another great lesson... 

Staying just in the center of the lane that others use to come or go, puts you in line with every potential head-on collision.
So stay to the right!

A simple concept when driving along on the highway that's clearly marked by double-yellow line down the middle and white on either side, you can SEE you're on the wrong side. But not 3000ft in the air. So imagine a one-way street that you could pass both ways. For us pilots, that's the airways, and VOR radials, and many other routes that we navigate for confidence of getting to our destination. ...but works BOTH ways.

Sure enough as this story goes, we take off departing Catalina and climb out over open water a good way out. Heading out the 022° radial from VOR SXC on airway V21. My good friend in the PIC seat happens to look down for a few seconds to investigate some forgotten light switch or radio setting, and of course out the blue (literally) is another small plane coming head-on.

Let me tell you, even at small plane speeds, two planes coming head-on at a combined speed of 200+kias (230+mph) leaves little to no time to react, and his head was buried in the dashboard, not even looking. (And no, your life does not flash before your eyes at such a moment.)

“Flying is hours and hours of boredom sprinkled with a few seconds of sheer terror.” 

―Pappy Boyington

Lucky for us the opposing traffic spotted us first and veered off to the right as he should. A rough guess would estimate less than 200ft as we passed each other. Not just a close call, but a shit-in-your-pants lesson I shall never forget.

But the simple precaution that would have averted such a close call to disaster, would have been to keep us just a half mile or more to the right of the traffic lane others are incoming on.

MS Flight Sim 2004

 Still simming! They did a great job with new scenery, but flight models and ATC still needs some work.

Still, I'm grateful for the chance to sim and keep up on things between opportunities to get in the wind real world.

Tight Pattern / 4 Stacks

C172 — N7245T — Santa Paula > Whiteman — Basics — .8hrs

The tricky thing about Whiteman is both the cutout Class C from Burbank, and the 4 stacks pretty much right in front of the runway. I mean it's a city airport for sure, and for a student, I recall one had to be precise on approach and patterns to get in and out ok.


C172 — N7245T — Camarillo > Whiteman — Basics — .6hrs

Flight back from Camarillo to Whiteman. Although I took the left seat coming back, flying IN to the fly-in was the interesting part for me.

A good 60-80 planes all converged on one little air strip with no tower, and nothing but the wind to dictate which runway, makes for interesting traffic.

The idea is to tune the weather and the CTAF as early as possible, and listen to the traffic already at the air field.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

C172 — N7245T — Santa Paula > Whiteman — Basics — .5hrs

I love this run; passing by Six Flags Magic Mountain and off into the peaceful low mountains of south west California. It really is liberating.

I've simmed this run a dozen times too, and it looks just as it is.

My partner and I had come here before our flight training just to test ourselves on the rollercoaster for Gforce tolerances both positive and negative. First one to vomit loses.

Although we both won the bet as no one vomited, she had both far more interest and tolerance for aerobatics. Me, I have no interest, and prefer a nice calm flight with a nice view, and nothing more.

"Oh, am I boring you??"

C172 — N7245T — Tehachapi > Whiteman — Basics — 1hrs

1hr fool around flight from Tehachapi back to Whiteman, where I was pretty certain this new instructor was offering to teach just to get a chance to seduce my unsuspecting partner, you really need to question the motives.

No preflight inspection, no preflight briefing, no planning with the map or GPS, nothing, despite asking. I mean, it's always fun to fly, but preps make it real to the student...

Then, impatiently tapping fingers on the dashboard like there's something better to be doing, is not only distracting and discouraging to any student, but downright rude. And in a world of threatened aviation, we need all the good quality pilots we can have instructors make, no?

Lesson learned: Never take on an instructor till you've interviewed them thoroughly inside and out, and there's nothing but honest instruction on the table. They're just people too, good or bad, and a student deserves a quality instructor to become a quality pilot. Just my 2 cents.

PS. Sporty's Private Pilot DVD's are great, and offer both a thorough list of things to check when choosing a flight school, and questions to ask when interviewing a new instructor. You might be surprised what you discover.

MS Flight Sim and X-Plane

4000+ hours and counting


Instruments, navigation, theory, practical drilling, adventures, missions, sharing multi-player flights, "what-if" scenarios, fun and lots more.

You know, I tell instructors I have over 4000 hours on Simulation over the years (which I take pretty seriously really), and most of the time I get a little 1-ply expression of distant indirect appreciation and condescending approval, like they think I'm more of a gamer than a real student pilot.

But it really comes in handy for knowing what you're doing with instruments, navigation, procedures, and many other facets of aviation---and without the cost.

In a later blog for real-world Under the Hood Training, I detail that there I am blindfolded for 3 solid hours; tracking VORs, VOR Intersections, Unusual Attitudes, multiple ILS approaches, and all with completely BROKEN Attitude Indicator, and damn if I ain't DOING IT!!

So thanks MS FlightSim, and in your face with "Simming is merely a game..." because it REALLY pays off, all those hours where the real-world physical plane and looking out the window is far less important, and the instruments are there for the learning and practicing.

Truth be told, on Sim, I practice Stalls at 300ft AGL too. ;)

Dutch rolls. Try not to get sick or spin. ;)

C172 — N65835 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Basics and Dutch Rolls — 1hrs

So why "Dutch roll" anyway?  Shit, I had to look it up. Apparently it has something to do with aeronautical engineer Jerome C. Hunsaker's reference to ice skating. But I believe it's connected with Geese...

I found it essential (and still do) to simply getting used to the plane...  Wiki says;  "Dutch roll is also the name (considered by professionals to be a misnomer) given to a coordination maneuver generally taught to student pilots to help them improve their "stick-and-rudder" technique. The aircraft is alternately rolled as much as 60 degrees left and right while rudder is applied to keep the nose of the aircraft pointed at a fixed point. More correctly, this is a rudder coordination practice exercise, to teach a student pilot how to correct for the effect known as adverse aileron yaw during roll inputs. This coordination technique is better referred to as "rolling on a heading", wherein the aircraft is rolled in such a way as to maintain an accurate heading without the nose moving from side-to-side (or yawing)."

However, if anyone remembers Amelia and Abigail, the twin geese from Aristocats, their theme song called "The Goose Steps High" really should be present any time one would practice Dutch Rolls. A must.

You can already land?? Really.........?

C172 — N65835 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Basics and checklists — 1hrs

Welcome to Sunrise Aviation, one of the biggest and most prestigious flight schools in the world, and my new rich-kid hobby (for poor kids like me).

1hr flight, mostly just getting oriented to the school and the business of being a student pilot with the initial basic maneuvers, etc., but what's memorable about this flight is the landing...

Students don't typically land the plane first time out, unless VERY assisted by the instructor. But with some incredulity, she wanted to test the validity of my bold statement that I could already land the plane unassisted.

I said: "Well, 'you take the blue pill, you wake up in your bed and believe anything you want.'" But you watch me land this plane.

Which I did.

Correct glide slope, air speed, runway centered, and flared right on the numbers with a smooth gentle touch down.

I never said there wasn't more to learn and practice as a student. But remember, learning to fly is largely self-taught, despite the flight school, syllabus, CFI, and tests. So don't let the instructor hold you back from your own pace and ability. Show them how it's done. There's no arguing with competence.

Cessna Ground School

In my humble opinion, I feel Cessna did a great job on their ground school kit, especially the weather. Of the small cast of characters featured herein, there are only one or two real knuckleheads, and the rest were really great.

In fact, in years to come, I would think back on these old CDs and recall their presentation of the weather, aviation basics, and specific information sections were far better than that of latter ground school packages offered and studied.

Still, at that time I went thru these CDs multiple times over, and then again, to ensure I had gained marked certainty of the materials covered. I really wanted to be prepared for a long career in flying, regardless of what capacity or certification I would eventually acheive.

"Yes, have the plane waiting at the apron for me..."

C172 — N96808 — Santa Ana > Van Nuys — Intro flt — 1hrs

Welcome to Santa Ana airport. As if I wasn't hooked already, getting picked up in Van Nuys and jumping in a plane (that i fly) to travel our way down to Santa Ana instead of a long bout with traffic down the 405, truly cinched it for me. 

We went down together, me and my partner. I flew back. 

On the return flight, first we had to get clearance out of SNA, spot the GoodYear Blimp down below, then fly the VFR corridor over LAX, and quickly duck under the 3000ft Burbank Class C shelf as we traversed over the Sepuveda Pass into Encino/Sherman Oaks valley.

The lesson? Many. But now I'm just a little part elite jetset too.

Leonardo da Vinci would be proud. So let's see if you can hover first flight? Now hover and yaw 360...!?!?

R22 — 40725 — Van Nuys > (Pacific Palisades > Malibu > Woodland Hills) > Van Nuys — Demo flt, and hovering — 1hrs

Southbound over the hills, down to the coast, then back to the airport for hover maneuvers. VERY fun! Can't believe I aced all maneuvers and challenges first time. 

I'm hooked. Simm'ing is great, but this is the real deal.

Leonardo da Vinci is quoted to say:
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward; for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

And he's right, you know?

So I wanted to take a ride... But the higher truth here, is that it's not merely a “ride” in a helicopter, like some little boy who paid his nickle and, peeing in his pants, anxiously awaits a few bumps of the saddle on some amusement park mechanical elephant with a painted smile personified.

No, indeed this world is suddenly much grander for me, and is for me now open to the greater spectrum of all general aviation and the sheer freedom of flying. Being at the controls of such a flight is all the difference in the universe. Because only there, with complete autonomy of banking left or right, climbing to heights where you dare not look down, or even better, the souring down with negative G's, like a rollercoaster, your stomach in your throat, can you truly feel on top of the world, and appreciate the wind that magically keeps you aloft, the cool temperatures, the awesome power in the changing weather, rain showers you pass thru, the tranquility of cruising over the clouds, the almost spiritual view to the distant sunrise seen like no where else on the ground level, or the liberating view and vast space with a never-ending horizon stretched out before you. (And at night all this is even more enchanting.)

Now THAT's what I call a “ride!”

MS Flight Sim and X-Plane

4000+ hours and counting


Instruments, navigation, theory, practical drilling, adventures, missions, sharing multi-player flights, "what-if" scenarios, fun and lots more.

You know, I tell instructors I have over 4000 hours on Simulation over the years (which I take pretty seriously really), and most of the time I get a little 1-ply expression of distant indirect appreciation and condescending approval, like they think I'm more of a gamer than a real student pilot.

But it really comes in handy for knowing what you're doing with instruments, navigation, procedures, and many other facets of aviation---and without the cost.

In a later blog for real-world Under the Hood Training, I detail that there I am blindfolded for 3 solid hours; tracking VORs, VOR Intersections, Unusual Attitudes, multiple ILS approaches, and all with completely BROKEN Attitude Indicator, and damn if I ain't DOING IT!!

So thanks MS FlightSim, and in your face with "Simming is merely a game..." because it REALLY pays off, all those hours where the real-world physical plane and looking out the window is far less important, and the instruments are there for the learning and practicing.

Truth be told, on Sim, I practice Stalls at 300ft AGL too. ;)