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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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." 

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.

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.

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.

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: " - --- / -.- -. --- .-- / .-- .... .- - / -.-- --- ..- / -.- -. --- .-- / .- -. -.. / .-- .... .- - / -.-- --- ..- / -.. --- / -. --- - / -.- -. --- .-- / - .... .- - / .. ... / - .-. ..- . / -.- -. --- .-- .-.. . -.. --. . "

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.