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.