Don’t Anger the Bull

I’m not referring to my CFI.  My latest training flight began at 8:00 AM Sunday morning.  After a preflight and a fill up we were taxing out to the runway.  Todays mission to continue working on landings.  The night before I’d had a few landings completely on my own.  I am still struggling on realizing when I should round out the descent and when to flare, but I’m getting closer.  I no longer feel overwhelmed during the downwind, and base legs of landing, and even the final approach seems comfortable, but its the short final where I still need to get things figured out.  So on the mornings flight we were experiencing 3 – 8 knot direct crosswinds which make for the perfect conditions for learning to land in a a cross wind.  I however hadn’t really figured out landings in no wind, so now adding a cross wind to that really upped the learning curve.  We worked on the landings for approximately two hours.  It was interesting being in the left seat crabbing in to the runway.  I have been on so many flights in northwest Alaska in intense crosswinds as a passenger where the pilot skillfully set the plane down as if there were not wind at all.  So to see that familiar sight picture with me at the controls gives me even more of an appreciation for the skill they possess.  I was able to put the plane down a couple of times all on my own.  I really struggle with keeping the upwind wing dipped down.  It feels so unnatural to have the plane approaching the ground with the wing dipped down like that.  I worry that a gust of wind would push it down into the ground.  I guess this will just be something I will get more comfortable with as I fly more.

So now the reason behind the title of this post.  We had done about 10 landings in a row staying in the pattern the entire time we were out that morning.  We got a call over the radio that a local farmer had called in complaining that our consistant pattern work had upset his bull.  Upon hearing this we decided to do one more landing and call it quits for the day.  We had been flying for a couple of hours at that point.  We did our final landing of the day bringing the total to 11 for the morning and headed in to the hanger.  While we were putting the airplane away the airport attendant came by to let us know that he was by no means telling us we couldn’t fly.  We told him we appreciated the heads up.  The last thing we want to do is upset the neighbors.  We had been doing quite a bit of flying early in the morning and late at night the last few days.  This was to be our last flight for a week or so.  Hopefully this will give the bull some time to relax before we start training again.

At this time I’ve got 12.6 hours and 53 landings.  I’m hoping some more time in the plane will improve my landings substantially.

Until next time… I can’t wait to go flying.

More time in the left seat

My last flight in the left seat was on June 3rd.  19 days later waking up at 5:30 AM in search of calm skies my Dad (CFI) and I head out to the Cook airport (KCQM).  This would be my fourth instruction flight.  The sun was just making its way into view as I started my preflight inspection of the Cessna 172P.  I feel like I’ve got the hang of the preflight.  I check a quadrant of the plane, then refer to the checklist to ensure I’ve hit everything on the list.  We typically don’t like to leave the plane in the hanger completely full of fuel so we usually fill it up before we go out flying and then put it away partially full.  This prevents the expansion of fuel from leaking out onto the floor of the hanger.  So the routine has been to open the hanger door, preflight the plane, then taxi over to the pumps to fill up before our flight.

Taxing is taking me a bit to get used to.  Getting the fine control steering with my feet has been slow going for me.  Also since the breaks are applied by tipping the pedals forward I feel like I need to have my heels off the floor so the balls of my feet are just below the top of the pedal which allows me to apply the breaks more easily.  This however is a little uncomfortable as I’m having to hold my legs up there virtually unsupported.  As soon as I take off though I drop my heels down on the floor so the balls of my feet are directly on the pedal and as breaking in the air is pointless.  🙂

We have been working on some short field and soft field takeoffs as well as normal takeoffs.  These differ based on flap settings, angle of attack held while still on the ground, and how quickly you get the plane of the ground.  Once in the air if on a soft field takeoff you keep the plane in ground effect until the plane has gained enough airspeed to safely ascend.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with ground effect it is phenomenon where the airplane gets increased lift from a buffet of air being compressed between the earth and the ground.  This will allow and airplane to fly with a lower airspeed than usually required by the aircraft.  This effect can be experienced within the fist 20 feet of liftoff.  So by using this to your advantage you can lift the plane off of the soft takeoff surface even before the plane really wants to fly.  You can then hold the airplane in this buffeted area while the plane picks up speed.  Once you’ve reached your normal liftoff speed you can then pull back on the stick and climb on out.  With a short field take off you are theoretically trying to clear a 50 ft obstacle at the end of the runway like a stand of trees you may find in some back woods runway.  With these takeoffs you use a speed recommended for your aircraft which produces the best altitude gain over distance traveled.  Both of these types of takeoffs are preformed with one notch of flaps down.

Once we have arrived at our practice location we work on clearing turns, 30 and 45 degree bank turns, and slow flight.  I’m still finding it a bit difficult to make those bank turns and maintain the same altitude throughout the turn.  I am able to compensate during the turn to where I usually end up close to the same altitude when I get back to the starting point, but I am oscillating up and down throughout the turn.  Part of it is the different back pressure needed between a turn to the left and a turn to the right.  I just need to do more of them so I can get a muscle memory for what is required for each turn.

Now on to landings…  Boy oh boy.  With my first impression I want to compare this to riding a unicycle and juggling chainsaws.  You have to actively use all of your limbs during this phase of flight.  I know there is a sense I have’t tapped into yet that tells you when the plane is about to settle.  I’m struggling with determining when to round out the descent and when to flare before landing.  I do know the plane has an amazing ability to float down the runway.  My dad somehow always seems to know right before the plane wants to settle and either begins the flare or has me apply a touch of power.  I hope to find this sense sometime soon.

The flying has been fun.  I love the opportunity to learn with my dad.  He’s a great teacher, and very patient.  I know he loves flying, and I hope he is enjoying the time we get together as much as I am.

Can’t wait for my next flight

A New Headset

So I haven’t really done a great job of keeping you up to date on my flight training.  I was able to get up for  a couple of flights a week ago.  We went out to an area we deemed as a practice area as there isn’t much instruction based out of this airport there isn’t an official one.  We found an area over some fields West of the airport that we plan to use for training.   I’ll break down each thing we worked on in hopes that those of you hoping to learn to fly will get a better understanding of what we are working on.  Also if I am mistaken in my explanation I hope you pilots out there will kindly correct me.  🙂

We took off and climbed to 4000 feet MSL (mean sea level) and flew out to our practice area.  We started with clearing turns which enables you to survey the surrounding skies for other planes before you start your practicing.  Even after you have done this always make sure you are constantly scanning for other aircraft, but this is always a good practice to get into before working on a skill.  Once we were sure there weren’t any other planes in our area we started working on 30 degree bank turns.  To practice this we lined up on a compass heading and then banked the plane to 30 degrees and completed a 360 degree turn.  We practiced this both to the left and the right.  Things to work on in this exercise are maintaining altitude during the turn, learning what the sight picture should be for a 30 degree turn (this is what it looks like out the window), and coming out of the turn at the appropriate time which places you on the same heading you started the turn at.  Next we worked on 45 degree bank turns.  In this exercise we worked on the same skills as a 30 degree bank.  When doing both types of turns you can tell if you pull them off correctly when you finish your turn if you feel a bump of turbulence.  In a perfect 360 degree turn you will enter the same space of air you disturbed when you started the turn which feels like hitting a bump in the air.  After working on turns we did some slow flight.  This is where we slow the airplane down by pulling power, but maintain altitude by increasing our angle of attack and by applying flaps.  We slowed the plane down to just above stall speed and worked on turns to the left and right.  In slow flight it is very important to keep the ball centered to prevent the plane from going into a spin.  This helps learn to control the plane when it is flying at slow speeds much like you are when on final approach for landing.  Doing it at a higher altitude allows you to practice with room to recover if you make a mistake.  After some slow flight and turns we finally pulled the stick back until the plane stalled.  Recovering from the stall we made sure to keep the ball centered lowered the nose, gave full power, and once our airspeed increased slowly pulled back on the stick.  This all happens very quickly and not much altitude is lost.  Then we headed back to the airport and started to work on landings.  The first day we were running out of time so we just did one landing and called it a day.  The next flight we did the same things with the addition of a few more landings.  I really can’t get the hang of landings yet.  Its quite overwhelming to have all of your limbs involved as well as watching the gages and making radio calls.  I hope that as we continue to practice this will become more confortable and I get the feel for the whole process.


I also picked up an adapter for my Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones that turns them into a set of avionics headset.  I bought the adapter from  I’ve only used it on one flight so far.  I’ll do a little better review once I’ve used it a few more times.  So far so good.

Hook Point – Valdez, AK

On a beautiful sunny day we hop in the 172 and take off from the Valdez headed out to Hook Point.  This is a beach landing on an amazing Alaskan rugged coastline.  The shores are filled with tall pine trees and jagged rock formations.  The beach at low tide has more than enough room for landing.  A tidbit of information for those of you unaccustomed to beach landings.  You want to put the plane down on the dark colored sand.  This is the part of the beach that still is fairly damp which allows the sand to be very firm.  If you land on the light colored dry sand you can easily flip your plane onto its nose.  Just a disclaimer here.. Never attempt landings like this unless you receive some training first.

This beach happens to be give you acces to a cabin put up by the forest service for fly-in stays.  Its a nice little A-Frame structure with a wood stove a little loft and a couple of bunks.  A great little weekend getaway.  Make sure you sign the guest book if you do end up visiting.

Log Book

My log book arrived in the mail today.  With my dad’s recommendations I ended up getting an ASA-SP-30.  I am looking forward logging my first hours in it sometime in May when my dad gets down here and my flight instruction begins.  The one thing I’m concerned with this whole book thing is the fact that I have to actually write in it.  My handwriting / spelling is less than stellar and I don’t want to make mistakes when I’m filling it out.  It is also such a small area to work in that I feel errors are going to be almost unavoidable.  Anyway, just wanted to keep you all up to date with my quest towards getting my pilots license.

First time up in N53373

I woke up this morning to a snow globe outside.  The flakes were falling pretty steady, but were light enough to float around through the trees.  There had been some talk a week ago about going out for a flight with Bill Conger today.  The forecast has a big snow storm rolling in around midnight tonight which is supposed to dump 5 -8 inches of snow on us through Monday morning.  Based on this information and the current skies I saw out the window it didn’t look very promising.

I got a call from Bill asking if I wanted to just go and check out the plane even if we couldn’t fly.  I was game and he said he’d swing by and pick me up in about an hour.  During that time the skies parted and the sun took command of the skies.  What was a snow globe turned into a bright blue skied day.  We headed out to the hanger and after a preflight we were up in the air.

Our flight took us North toward Orr and then we looped back by Elbow Lake and then the length of Vermilion to Tower flying over Fortune Bay and then back to the Cook airport.  Along the way we saw many snowmachiners out riding and quite a few people out ice fishing.  It sure was a great day to be outside.  I got a little big of flying in from the right seat.  Bill was patient enough with my turns and difficulties keeping at a steady altitude.  Sure was nice to be up in the air.  I can’t wait until my flight instruction begins and I can start doing some of this from the left seat and start to work on my landings.

Flying Podcasts

As I continue to study up on flying by reading the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge I have also been listening to some podcasts about flying.  Actually I’ve only really listend to one show so far, but I have others on the list once I finish this one up.  I’ve been listening to the Student Pilot Cast.  Bill put this podcast together starting back in 2008 when he got started learning to fly.  He does a very nice job of blending audio captured during his lessons with commentary debriefing what is happening in the air.  I typically listen to these on my drive to and from work, but also during the day while I’m working on computers and doing other tasks where I don’t need to interact with others.  Its a nice background to my work and allows me to help get my ears tuned to radio chatter as well as get a good insight of the things I’ll be learning to do down the road.

In listening to his podcast I’ve found out about a few others that I’m excited to listen to.  Here is what I’ve found so far.

If you know of any others that I should be listening to please leave them in the comments below.  You can also email me by using the contact link on the top right of the site.

Well its time to get back to reading.  🙂

Prescribed Reading

There is quite a bit of reading that one needs to do when starting out with flight instruction.  On the list so far are the following…

  • Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK)
  • Airplane Flying Handbook
  • Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)
  • United States Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR)

So far I’m about 150 pages into the PHAK.  So far it has covered the history of aviation and we are beginning to get into the principles of flight.  The reading is somewhat slow, but I’m looking forward to getting in the cockpit and begin learning some practical skills.