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.