May 22 2008

First Solo!

Category: Lessons,Ramblings,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 9:15 pm

Today (May 22nd, 2008) was the big day! I SOLOED! The weather held up nicely and the skies were beautifully clear … I had a good feeling on my drive to the airport. I got to Westosha for my lesson and my CFI told me to pre-flight, start the plane up, and taxi it to the clubhouse by myself. I did all that, picked him up, and we ran the pattern at Westosha a few times. Everything wet swimmingly – the winds were at a slight crosswind for Westosha, but my landings were right on the mark. My CFI then said to head over to Burlington (BUU) to try some landings over there. After a short 10-minute jaunt I was on final for Runway 11 at BUU, with a perfect slight headwind. The landing was incredibly easy (as BUU’s strip is almost double the width of Westosha) and my CFI told me to taxi over to a hangar were he proceeded to get out and asked me a final “you ready for this?” I of course said yes and he told me to run the pattern a few times … by myself!

I taxied to the end of Runway 11 and called out my first solo radio announcement: “Burlington Traffic, Cessna 920, Departing Runway 11, Remaining in the Pattern, Burlington” and was off. Full throttle and I was kickin’ down the runway, accelerating faster than ever before. The plane felt like it leaped off the ground without the added weight of my CFI. I was soon in the air realizing, holy crap, this is all me! I was 10000% responsible for getting me on the ground. It was incredibly exhilarating and scary at the same time.

There was another plane around the airport that was taxiing towards the runway as I was making my way around the pattern. I was turning final and had made all my proper radio calls, yet he still took the runway in front of me and proceeded to takeoff. In retrospect there was plenty of room to land after him, but I wanted to give myself tons of space so I executed a go-around on my first pass…no biggie, but I was a little disappointed and spooked. However, I worked the pattern a 2nd time and was again lined up for final. My glide was perfect and my first solo touchdown was very smooth…I was elated! I did it, I officially became a pilot at that moment!My shirt after my first solo

Although I had plenty of room to touch-and-go, I went full stop and taxied back around and ran the pattern again. All in all, I did three takeoffs and landings solo, a full 30 minutes worth of flying. I picked up my CFI and he said the landings looked great and I handled the traffic just fine. We headed back to Westosha and I finished the day with a nice moderate crosswind landing.

I fueled up the plane and my CFI came out and cut the my shirt tail off my back (the tradition for first solos). You can see a picture of what’s left of my shirt here. I don’t think I’ve been more proud of a destroyed item of clothing before!

I can’t wait for my next solo flight! This lesson I logged 0.9 hours and 5 landings dual, 0.5 hours and 3 landings SOLO, baby!

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May 21 2008

Really Nailing Crosswind Landings

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 5:54 am

So my last lesson (this past Saturday) probably should have been the day I go solo for the first time, but it was very windy and directly across the runway at Westosha (thanks a lot, Chicago weather). So, we worked on crosswind landings yet again. I’m happy to report I had some of my best landings to date this day, even when conditions were extremely challenging. Also, the crosswinds afforded us the opportunity to practice various landing types I’ve done only sparsely in the past: no flaps, little flaps, and shortened runway.

All-in-all, the lesson wasn’t very eventful and I’m very much looking forward to a non-windy day at Westosha so I can finally solo. Hopefully it’ll be tomorrow!

This lesson I logged 1.5 hours of flight time and 10 landings.

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May 15 2008

Nailing Crosswind Landings

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 7:21 pm

As part of my pre-solo check flight last time flying, that CFI recommended I only need to work on crosswind landings before going solo.  So, that’s what I worked on this past lesson…for over two hours!  Luckily there was a fairly decent crosswind of about 10 knots or so, directly across the runway.  As such, we had the option most of the time to takeoff and land from either direction, which made for an efficient use of time!  All-in-all, the lesson wasn’t terribly interesting as we literally just stayed in the pattern and worked on landings and takeoffs over and over.  Some were better than others, some were pretty ugly, but ultimately by the end I had a much improved grasp on this complicated maneuver.  I still wouldn’t want to tackle heavy crosswinds all by myself, but that’s what practice is for.  I also now finally get (and can verbalize properly) how to put the ailerons while on the ground with wind…that got me last time out.

Hopefully next lesson will be the big one…my CFI told me “not to wear my Armani t-shirts”…I figure that’s a good sign.  This lesson I logged 2.3 hours of flight time and 16 landings.

P.S. – While en route to Mexico for my vacation last week I listened to ATC while on my United flight.  It was funny and interesting to hear air traffic control in Spanish half the time once we crossed the border.  Our pilot/navigator was definitely having a hard time understanding them sometimes and had to have commands repeated multiple times (in the heavily accented English).  I was expecting the controller to swear in Spanish, but they always kept their cool.

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May 07 2008

Incredibly Useful Navigation Simulator

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 5:53 pm

I came across a very useful free tool on the internet today that I thought I must share. It’s called “Tim’s Air Navigation Simulator” and it simulates how various navigation instruments (VOR, HSI, ADF, RMI, DG) act in flight.Air Navigation Tool I found this incredibly useful as I’m starting to learn/practice navigating in my training. The tool is quite accurate at replicating the instruments and is a very clear and easy to understand.

What I found particularly useful was the ability to add a wind vendor. In theory, you could even simulate general wind effects on flight maneuvers. I’m definitely going to use this tool as I’m preparing for my eventual cross-country flights.

Anyways, check this tool out and I hope you find it as useful as I have! Good work, Tim (the developer).

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May 06 2008

Pre-Solo Check Flight

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 8:00 pm

This past lesson I had my “pre-solo check flight” – a requirement of my flying club.  It’s really a stage check for the club to make sure students won’t break the planes and for another CFI to make sure my usual CFI isn’t out of his mind.  I rode with the club president, which was a little intimidating at first, but things went pretty well.

This CFI first had me pre-flight the plane and gave me a small verbal quiz.  He was definitely asking very difficult and obscure questions, to probe how deep my knowledge was and probably to teach me a little.  Some of the stuff I had no idea, but again, he didn’t really expect me to know it either.  We then proceeded to taxi and takeoff.  It was exciting (and a little weird) to taxi and takeoff without ANY words/prompting from the CFI.  Once in the air, he made me show him general flight maneuvers like slow flight, steep turns, and turns around a point.  All went fine.Checkmark

The CFI promised there would be some type of simulated emergency during our check ride, and sure enough on the way back to the airport he said “you see smoke in the cabin, what do you do?”  Me being me, I over-thought the exercise and starting reciting back some of the emergency procedures from the Cessna manual.  He then asked, “but what first”…of which I started blanking.  He then said “get the damn plane on the ground first…you don’t want to be in the air with a fire…screw the checklist at that point.”  That makes sense I guess!  So, we pulled the throttle, looked for a place to land (which we were over Westosha anyways) and I glided the plane down for a no engine (with simulated fire) emergency landing.  Surprisingly, this landing (without any engine power) went great…I was pretty happy.

We taxied back and took off again, this time with a fairly steady crosswind.  I was spacing a bit on how to hold the ailerons during crosswinds in general (still not coming natural to me) and verbally I called the wind direction wrong.  We remained in the pattern and I landed with the crosswind.  The final approach was a bit rough as I overshot the runway on the base leg (not compensating enough for the crosswind).  I put the plane down okay, though.

The CFI was generally fine with my abilities at this point and recommended just working on crosswind landings a bit more with my usual CFI (which I can’t argue against).  He said I should be solo’ing with just a few more crosswind landings under my belt…exciting stuff!  I’m off to Mexico now for vacation, so you won’t hear from me for a week or so.

This lesson I logged 0.9 hours of flight time.

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