Jun 20 2008

First Solo Cross Country

Category: Lessons,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 5:00 pm

Yesterday I successfully completed my first solo cross country flight.  I decided to head into Illinois since I actually haven’t flown in my home state yet.  My plan took me from Westosha (5K6) to Poplar Grove (C77), up to Beloit (44C), over to my farthest point, Monroe (EFT), then back through Janesville (JVL) before arriving at Westosha to complete my journey.  The cross country took me 136 nautical miles around northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.  I couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day, the weather was just picture perfect.

Out my WindowI’m happy to report I hit all my checkpoints right on time – my plan and the weather/wind reports were very accurate.  Here’s a link to the flightplan I created – you can see I also have a page with all the VOR and radio frequencies so I could find everything quickly and easily.  I also scanned my sectional and printed out the appropriate sections for ease of use during my flight.  (I still keep the whole map with me just in case, though).  I must admit, though, that flying in Illinois a bit west is a lot more challenging than around Westosha because there aren’t as many big lakes (a luxury of Wisconsin) to quickly navigate off of.  I managed, though, obviously!

While at Janesville I asked the tower to do 3 more full-stop landings, for more practice for me to work at a towered field (plus it’s a requirement for my license).  Those landings went great, and the tower guys over there were very accommodating.  Overall, my landings were very smooth (the weather was cooperating) and I had a great time!  You can see a pic I was able to snap with my cellphone coming back from Janesville.

I logged 2.4 hours of cross country solo flight time.  Next time out I’ll try to knock out the longer 150 nm+ cross country requirement and/or start working on night flying.

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Jun 14 2008

First Cross Country (Dual)

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 9:39 am

I had my first cross country (with instructor) yesterday and it was a BLAST!  My plan had us doing a large loop to the north and west of Westosha – hitting Dodge County (UNU), Madison (MSN), Janesville (JVL), and back to Westosha (5K6).  Being a computer-guy, I used a lot of the free online and offline software tools available to help me plan my flight with ease.  My favorites are SkyVector.com and CSC DUATS Golden Eagle flight prep software.  They are both free and you get most of the hard calculations of flight planning out the way.  Furthermore, the Golden Eagle software pulls the weather and winds aloft from DUATS, so it’ll calculate EVERYTHING for you if you want.  This being my first cross-country, though, and since I’d have my CFI double-checking everything, I went the old-fashioned route and did the calculations by hand (trusty E6B) and then put everything in an Excel spreadsheet so I could keep all the pertinent information handy and printed neatly.Cross Country Flight Plan

The flight itself went very smooth.  The weather looked threatening, but my weather briefer said nothing should really be an issue…and he was right.  The long leg (59.0 nm) to Dodge County was a little cloudy along the way for the first half, so we kept a little lower than anticipated (2500 ft.)  Other than that, though, the afternoon was gorgeous!  I was hitting all my checkpoints +/- 40 seconds of my calculations, which I was very happy with.  The landing at Dodge County went perfect, I probably could have went touch-and-go, but I felt I had to full stop just to say I really was somewhere for more than 30 seconds.  I should mention that my plane doesn’t have any GPS or LORAN navigation systems, just VOR radios.  So, my pilotage was dead reckoning and VOR tracking (the good ‘ole stuff)!

After Dodge, we headed over to Madison (MSN).  I was very excited about this leg because this was the first “big” airport I would be flying into.  I’d get to really test my radio skills and well, I think it’s just cool to land at the same airport United jets fly into!  Sure enough, approaching along the same time with me was a Skywest jet.  It felt very cool to be sharing the air and radiowaves with the big boys (even though honestly I hate flying as a passenger on those commuter jets).  Apparently our controller was in training as well, since during a few calls he had to repeat himself and even his instructor clarified a direction from him.  My CFI thought it was hilarious. 

After Madison we headed over to Janesville for another towered approach (which I wanted more experience with).  That went very smoothly again and before I knew it I was touching-and-going and back to Westosha.  The last leg to Westosha was quick and back under the overcast sky, almost a little depressing.  But, upon landing, I knew I had really GONE to places!  Plus, this was really the first flight where I got to enjoy flying the plane and navigating, less worrying about time critical manuevers and such….it was liberating and like I said before, a BLAST!

This flight I logged 2.4 hours of dual cross-country flight.  My next flight will probably be my first solo cross-country…where to go, where to go!?

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Jun 13 2008

Short and Soft Field Landings

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 1:00 pm

Based on my work schedule, we decided to have a normal lesson before my first true cross-country, which will be tomorrow. The only thing we really haven’t worked long on is short and soft field landings, so we practiced those.

The wind at Westosha was a moderate head-wind, so it definitely helped make my short landings VERY short!  Even at Westosha I was able to make my landings fit in the first 25% of the runway (at a very short runway to begin with).  Actually, before this lesson I always had a tendency to come in fast for my landings, so this really helped me dial in a lower approach speed and still stay comfortable.  Plus, not having to worry about making it too soft took a lot of the pressure off.  Just plunk the plane down and stop it…not that difficult!

After shorts, we dialed in softs.  Having took off a few times from the grass strip at Westosha, I did have some experience with the necessary techniques.  I find it fun to keep the plane moving and go straight from taxi to takeoff in one fell swoop (feels like what the airlines do frequently).  I’m still trying to perfect my flare, as I’m not as consistently soft as I would like to be, but my CFI says my softs would pass the checkride just fine….I guess that’s good news.  The last landing of the night, though, I nailed and it was pillow soft!

This lesson I logged 0.9 hours of flight time and 8 landings.

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Jun 10 2008

Cross Country Flying – Literally Across the Country!

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 6:25 am

I apologize for the lack of posts this past week, but I was busy flying literally across the country for work. Of course, for this cross-country, unfortunately, it was United Airlines flying, not me. Simon|L.A. LogoI had meetings in Baltimore, Maryland (BWI), then Kansas City, Missouri (MCI), then ended the week in Los Angeles, California (LAX). During that trip, I had the opportunity to listen to a LOT of “Channel 9” on United. For those of you who aren’t familiar, that’s the live Air Traffic Control radio station you can listen to in your seat while flying on United. So, although I wasn’t actively piloting any aircraft last week, I did get to imagine plenty of busy airport radio calls!

I know this may be slightly off my usual topics, but while in L.A. I ate at Simon|LA and it was absolutely fantastic and I felt I had to write about my culinary journey. Actually, I scribed this late Friday night after getting back from the restaurant, slightly tipsy…but I figure how more honest can you get for a review than half-in-the-bag?! Here you go…

Started with the “Zen Martini” which was vodka, some sake, and “essence of cucumber”. Awesome drink, a little sweet, not lingering, fresh cucumber flavor and tiny sliver of actual cucumber. Great drink.

The special salad of the night was an arugula salad with blue cheese, apricot, and aged balsamic vinaigrette. The perfect blend of peppery arugula, the bite of the blue cheese and vinegar, with the balance of the sweet balsamic and apricot. The apricot was nice and firm, great bite to it. The arugula nice as well, just perfectly blended salad.

Entree was their Ahi Tuna, sounds normal, but was spectacular. Three huge mini steaks of ahi tuna, perfectly seared on the outside with salt and pepper, just only 1/8th of inch cooked, the rest of the 1.5 inch think steaks were raw, and even cool in the middle (which I love). There was a teriyaki and shitake mushroom glaze on them that didn’t overpower, just perfectly worked with it. Underneath it all was a wasabi mashed potatoes. The potatoes were very blended and very wasabi-ish, so it was like real sushi underneath. Perfect dish.

The finale was “Cookies and Milk”. 6 cookies, 3 different types. Chocolate chunk, peanut butter, and PB-oatmeal. All were fresh out of the oven, the PB-oatmeal just incredible. Served with a tall thick freezing cold glass of whole milk. Just awesome.

Seriously, I wasn’t expecting this! Wow. Good job Simon|L.A.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So there you have my first attempt at being a restaurant critic. I promise my next post will be about a cross country flight where I pilot.

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Jun 02 2008

Intro to Cross Country Flight

Category: LessonsDaniel @ 11:00 pm

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to fly what I’ll call a mini cross country flight. My CFI and I didn’t have enough time to plan and fly a full cross country flight (greater than 50 nm away), but we didn’t want to waste the gorgeous weather. So, we decided to do a 5-leg circle around some of the local airports to give me a flavor of the techniques and skills necessary for a true cross-country flight. Our plan was to depart Westosha and head over to Racine, then East Troy, Lake Lawn, Grand Geneva, and back to Westosha. All in all, it would be over 80 nm round trip.

The trip was a lot of fun, and was really my first flight where I got to navigate to places other than Burlington (which is very close to Westosha). There was a fair amount of wind that day (as Todd even notes in his blog)…so the landings were very challening since all these airports didn’t have many choices that avoided some sort of crosswind. I was quite satisfied, though, that every landing was very smooth (even with the crosswinds). We used general visual navigation and dead reckoning techniques and didn’t need to utilize VOR radials for such short flights. We’ll utilize that sort of navigation on my next true cross country which should hopefully be next weekend.

I’m off to various parts of the country for work this week and although I’ll be in planes a lot, I won’t have the opportunity to pilot (unless United and the FAA change their rules). I can’t wait until next week!

This lesson I logged 1.7 hours.

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