Apr 30 2008

Flying Under the IFR Hood

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 6:18 am

This past lesson was my first with simulated instrument flying (IFR), or “flying under the hood” (it’s really just a big visor). I heard and read all about relying 110% on your instruments when in the clouds/fog, but I never fully understood the truth behind that until now. IFR HoodAt one point my CFI had me fly straight then close my eyes. Then, I had to perform small turns and “level the plane” by feeling. Upon opening my eyes, I found I was in a fairly steep descending right turn (and had I not had instruments to correct me, I would be a goner). Needless-to-say, it is indeed critical to solely trust your instruments when flying IFR …your body does get disoriented and your feelings become totally unreliable. Anyways, we flew around with me under the hood for 0.6 hours, then we worked our way back to Westosha using VOR navigation techniques. On final approach, my CFI had me flip off the IFR visor and I landed the plane visually (thankfully). Considering I had only about 2 minutes of full sight before landing, I was pretty satisfied with the quality of my touchdown.

Before flying, we actually also worked on my pre-solo written test. It wasn’t that hard as I’ve kept up on my textbook reading and it’s all stuff we’ve covered countless times during the lessons. Now all I need is another CFI to just do a quick “pre-solo check flight” with me (a rule of our flight club). Once that’s complete, my CFI said I’m totally ready to fly solo. Woohoo!

This lesson I logged 0.9 hours of total flight time.

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Apr 27 2008

Lesson of Many New Firsts

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 8:07 am

The wind was nuts on Saturday morning. When I woke up for my lesson, I was hearing the wind howling around my house and rattling the siding a ton. As such, I figured we may scrub the flight, but after txt’ing my CFI, his response was “My grandma flies in wind worse than this, and she flies a cub!” Once I saw that, I knew it would be a fun and exciting day.

Open arriving to Westosha, I checked the weather reports and saw we had winds 20 knots gusting to 30. If I was flying solo, I doubt I would have flown in such winds, but my CFI said it would be great practice. The takeoff was quite easy as the wind was mostly straight ahead. Control Tower at KenoshaWe flew over to Kenosha Regional Airport (KENW) which this was my first towered airport experience. It was a little intimidating with the fast-talking controller over the radios and I needed my CFI to “translate” and repeat almost everything he said slowly…but I managed. After approaching, we were “clear for the option on Runway 24.” I repeated back the orders and proceeded to make one of my best landings to date. We did a stop-and-go and went around a handful of times, practicing many different variations of landings: flaps, no-flaps, simulated engine failure, too high, too low. Overall, I was VERY satisfied with the quality of all my landings, and my CFI concurred. I was stoked.

Then, my CFI called the tower again and requested if we could go up and visit. We spend about 20 minutes up in the control tower, which was also a first for me. It was pretty slow that day (because of the wind) so there wasn’t much action up there, but it was neat to see how they work and the tools the controllers have at hand.

On the way back to Westosha, my CFI yanked out the throttle and said “we have engine failure, where you gonna’ land the plane?” I was surprised but calmly looked around and saw we had plenty of good farm fields to land on for this simulated off-field landing (another first for me). I picked a field and proceed to glide to base and to final. We were descending and I thought after I was lined up, he’d say “good job” and we’d be done. But we kept descending to (what seemed like) only 200 feet above ground before putting back the power and climbing away. I was seriously thinking we were actually going to land on this farm field! After that, we finished back to Westosha where I somehow managed to land in an absolutely crazy crosswind.

All in all, an incredibly fun and challenging lesson. I logged 1.7 hours of flight time.

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Apr 25 2008

How Safe Is It To Fly?

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 6:03 am

One of the first questions I’ve gotten when I’ve told people I’m taking flying lessons is some variation of them asking: “is it safe?” Or, the statement I’m sure most pilots get frequently: “I’m never getting into one Accident Statisticsof those planes, they are so unsafe“. My wife still vows to never fly with me (although she’s already buckling I can tell). Naturally, I’ve personally felt that general aviation planes are safe (otherwise the government wouldn’t allow us to fly), but I also love to prove people wrong and I knew there must be data to back me up. Thankfully the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) keeps incredibly detailed records about every aviation accident – big and small, fatal and non-fatal.

The AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Air Safety Foundation prepares an annual summary report of this data from the NTSB – called the “Nall Report”. The most recent Nall Report shows that general aviation is the safest it has been in its history. In an estimated 24+ million flight hours in 2006, there was 1,319 total accidents, 273 of those being fatal accidents. I found this statistic to be very telling in that only 1 in 5 aviation accidents are fatal (much less than what my friends/family seem to think). To put that into Accident Ratesperspective, that means for every 100,000 hours of general aviation flight time, there are approximately 6.32 accidents (and only 1.26 being fatal).

For the heck of it, I took this summary stat one step further and translated it to 1 accident per every 15,823 flight hours, or 1 fatal accident per 79,365 flight hours. In realistic terms (albeit hypothetical), if I flew 2 hours a day, every day for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t statistically have a fatal accident for 108 years! I think I’m comfortable flying! (Note – I KNOW this is NOT a statistically sound way of evaluating this data, but I like fun-with-numbers.)

The report has a ton of other great information and I highly recommend reading it. The ASF has other great articles and reports well worth reading as well.

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Apr 22 2008

My First Headset

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 6:54 pm

My CFI had been nice enough to let me use one his extra headsets for my first couple of lessons (I hear stories of some CFI’s and FBO’s even charging rental fees for sets). However, I knew I’d eventually have to get one of my own. Me being me, I had to research the crap out of headsets and find the “best bang for the buck”…my usual mantra. Of course, I picked the brain of my CFI and got some general thoughts on what to look for in a headset: comfort, comfort, comfort, noise reduction, and reliability. I heard wonderful things about the Active Noise Reduction (ANR) headsets, but they start at around $400 (and go up to $1,000+) and I knew that was simply out of my price range. Furthermore, eventually this first headset would become my passenger set (hopefully years down the road), so I didn’t want to break the bank on something I have no experience with before.

Flightcom 4DLX HeadsetTherefore, I quickly decided a passive set (PNR) was the way to go for me. I found a neat little headset comparison tool on MyPilotStore.com which I found useful to compare general features. I checked the manufacturer websites as well. My CFI mentioned that Flightcom made good quality sets that rivaled David Clarks (the apparent Lexus of headsets). The DC’s come very highly recommended all over the net, but they are a little too pricey for my first set. That being said, I knew one of the three Flightcom models would work. I settled on the middle of the road model, the Flightcom 4DLX Classic Style Headset. It had good padding, good all-around features, and didn’t break the bank.

The 4DLX does provide great ear protection and is pretty darn comfortable. Though, I do have to admit it starts to pinch my head a little after an hour or so (but maybe I need to re-adjust it a bit). The fact all passive headsets seal around your ear by a clamping action leads me to believe this isn’t anything out of the ordinary. What does slightly worry me is that the microphone seems to need a loud voice to register (although my CFI mentions the pilot side mic jack in the plane we use has always been finicky…so I don’t know if the problem is the jack or the headset…only testing in another plane will tell). I should probably do that before the 30-day money back guarantee is up!!

Anyways, I’m fairly happy with my purchase though and I must admit this makes me feel more like a “real” pilot!

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Apr 21 2008

Another Day of Takeoffs and Landings – Eighth Lesson

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 8:51 pm

This Sunday I had yet another lesson of mostly takeoffs and landings. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we’re finally starting to change into Spring around Chicago (it’s about time). I had my “alternate” CFI again, although I probably shouldn’t call him my alternate any longer since I’ve had 3 of my 8 lessons with him. Anyways, we decided to head over to Burlington (BUU) airport to practice. It was nice to go somewhere moderately far (although I think it’s only about 20 miles away). My CFI had me running the radios mostly, which was a bit intimidating, especially since Burlington is much busier than Westosha. Burlington has a much wider runway than Westosha (seems twice as wide) and Forward Slip AnimationI thought I’d nail some landings that day there, but I never got one quite perfect. My CFI said I’m progressing fine, but I still wasn’t thrilled. After about 7 landings, we headed back to Westosha.

My CFI taught me a lot of the visual cues to navigate back and forth from Westosha, along with an introduction to radio navigation. Back at Westosha, I attempted 4 more landings. We had a slight crosswind, and I got only one perfect (but I think it was just luck). I had one go-around as well (the wind and the plane were just not cooperating). We also worked on forward slips, a technique to get the plane down in altitude fast without raising the air speed (so you can still land the plane). Slips are pretty neat, it’s like skidding through the air down towards the runway (see the attached animated picture). Anyways, like my early lessons, this lesson threw a lot of new stuff at me in a short time period.

This lesson I logged 1.9 hours of flight time.

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Apr 13 2008

Takeoffs and Landings Yet Again – Seventh Lesson

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 4:35 pm

It seemed like forever since my last lesson (last Thursday) and it was great to get back into the air.  My usual CFI doesn’t work on Sundays and I flew with the same CFI I had last lesson.  He’s another great instructor and it was nice to work with him again.  The weather was nice today compared to the rain we had we had all week,  but still chilly for April (only about 40° F) and decent winds with gusts of almost 20mph.  All-in-all quite manageable and kept traffic down to nothing (which was nice).

After taking off we headed to the usual practice area (within sight of Lake Geneva) and reviewed ground reference maneuvers (which I started on my Fourth Lesson).  Some turns around points and s-turns helped me gain more understanding of how wind effects everything.  These maneuvers are also required for the practical FAA test.  I’ll be practicing these much more once I’m soloing, but for now my CFI was satisfied I understand them and can manage on my own.

We then headed back to Westosha and worked on landings again.  I’m getting more and more the hang and feel of the proper glide slope and the last “flare” before landing.  Working the pattern is becoming second nature, and I’m getting the “normal” power and flap settings ingrained in my head as well.  Due to the wind some of my landings were a little bumpy, but nothing horrible.  We practiced a go-around also (admittedly out of necessity because the wind really took us off centerline).

All-in-all another tremendously fun lesson.  I logged 1.8 hours of flight time this lesson (my longest flight yet).

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Apr 04 2008

More Takeoffs and Landings – Sixth Lesson

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 6:32 am

My usual CFI had to go out of town this week to ferry a plane, but luckily another CFI at Westosha was able to meet and have a lesson with me. Yesterday’s weather was threatening rain all day, and of course once I got to the airport it started raining lightly. That being said, there wasn’t much wind at the surface, which made it still okay to practice landings. The clouds were right at about 2000 ft and if we were doing anything other than staying in the pattern, we probably would have had to scrub the flight. As such, we worked solely on takeoffs and landings again…which was fine by me.

Our plane also had new brakes put on, so even before we took off, we had to “break in” these new brakes. Fortunately, this meant we could also practice aborted takeoffs. We basically throttled up and proceeded halfway down the runway, aborted, pulled back the throttle and slammed on the breaks. Not terribly exciting, and something not a lot of student pilots practice, but I’m glad I got the opportunity.

The takeoffs and landings weren’t very exciting either, just the usual stuff. I’m starting to get the whole routine down, although I’m still not 100% on it, especially with the final turn to line up the landing. I’ll hopefully get it nailed by my next lesson (maybe tomorrow if a plane opens up).

I logged 0.9 hours of flight time this lesson.

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Apr 03 2008

Flashback – My “Discovery Flight”

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 6:11 am

I realized last night that I never realized wrote about my first flight in a general aviation aircraft, my “Discovery Flight.” As I mention on my About Dan page, after moving out to Volo, Illinois this past year, and working in Lake Forest, I drive down Route 120 every day from work. Along this drive, in Grayslake, there is “Campbell Airport” (C81). I would see the sign for this strip every day and eventually I had to Google it to learn more about it. They have a nice little website which advertises their $59 “Discovery Flight“. For $59, it was worth a shot…I booked it.

I get to Campbell airport early on a Saturday morning in February 2008 and was surprised at how “small” things seemed. (Comparing that to my cozy Westosha airport now, Campbell is pretty bustling.) Anyways, I meet my pilot for the day (a CFI) there and we preflight a Piper Warrior (here’s a pic of a Piper Warrior – not the one we flew though). He was very nice in showing me (almost a pre-lesson) how to generally pre-flight a plane. We jump in and he tells me about how the flight will go and that, if I was interested (which of course I was), I could handle most of the controls and definitely follow along at all times.

We take off (I did the pull up) and I was hooked…I KNEW I had to continue learning how to fly somehow. Anyways, we putzed around for about 30 minutes in the sky, even flew right over my new home. It was very cool. I would highly recommend anyone even remotely interested in aviation (regardless if you want to become a pilot) to take advantage of these “Discovery Flights” at most local airports…they are just a blast!

Well, I realize this story wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be, but I think it’s important to share all my experiences about this great journey I’ve undertaken. Hopefully I’ll have a lesson tonight (if the weather cooperates)…and hopefully Saturday morning too! Will write then.

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