Apr 23 2010

Guest Blogger Post #2 – Scary Spins

Category: Guest Blogger,LessonsDaniel @ 7:24 pm

I thought after flying Saturday on such a windy day, nothing could scare me anymore about flying.  After all, you did such a good job landing us.  But yesterday I went for my lesson again.  I had a total of 10 hours and felt really comfortable.  The day started really nice.  The winds were 7-10 knots,  not bad.  I did the pre-flight and we took off.  After climbing to 3,000 ft. we did some hand-leg coordinated maneuvers and then it happened.  The instructor told me that “we are going to do some power off and power on stalls.”  I thought “nothing new” I was very comfortable, since we have done many of these in the past.  First was a power off stall, it went smooth.  Next was the power on stall.  As we were starting to approach the stall, the instructor tells me “let go of the rudder and start turning to the left.”  I did not know but this is a spin.  As the plane started to roll and we lost control of the airplane I screamed as loud as I could, let go of the flight controls and grabbed the instructor’s arm.  I felt powerless.  The ground was coming at us very fast.  It was the scariest thing in my life so far.  I look at the instructor and he has his arms crossed at his chest.  I’m thinking to myself “why is this guy not grabbing the controls?”  After about 5 seconds the plane recovered BY ITSELF and leveled off.  I was shaking, scared and all the sudden my body temperature was really high.  I was sweating at 40 degrees Fahrenheit with the heat off.

After I was able to gather my thoughts again, I asked him: “What happened?  Why didn’t you grab the controls?  We could have died.”  He looked at me calmly, and said this was nothing dangerous.  He asked me if I wanted to do this during take off.  My response was I NEVER want to do this period.  And he said “that’s why we have to do this so that you can recognize what happens and you don’t do it during take off.”  Unfortunately, I let go of the controls and it was only a half spin and before he releases me from training we have to complete a full spin.  YIKES!  Not looking forward to that.

Next thing that he said was: “Do you want to try this again, or do some landings at Kenosha?”  I was scheduled for a 3 hour lesson and this happened 15 minutes into it.  I was asking myself, “is he kidding?”  Let me go back and walk on the sweet ground again.  I was done for the day, but my ego didn’t let me do that.  So we ended up flying to Kenosha and did about 10 landings.  After the first 2 landing we started doing emergency procedures.  First was engine failure.  I was on the down wind leg and all the sudden the engine went quite.  I was like oh crap!  The spin must have done some damage to the engine.  And then he tells me “lets pretend that your has engine failed, land us.”  We also did flaps failure and all other sorts of emergency procedures.  On the way back to Westosha, he told me to fly without the yoke.  So the ailerons and the rudder were not functional.  I was impressed with the airplane.  If something fails, you still have options.  You can fly and land with engine failure, or other failures.  Again, the plane functions as a glider.  We concluded our day with some cross wind landing at Westosha.  Let me tell you, I was glad to be on the ground again.

Later, Kenan

[This post authored by Dan’s friend Kenan]

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Apr 19 2010

Some Windy Flying

Category: Guest Blogger,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 8:30 pm

As I’ve said many times in the past, flying in Chicago can be a little frustrating. The weather never seems to cooperate, especially on weekends. The last few times I had a plane booked recently it was either too low ceilings, pouring rain, thunder-storming, foggy, or a combination of all three. I was itching to fly. I had a plane booked for this past Saturday for over two weeks, so when the weather reports said skies were going to be clear, I was definitely rearing to go. I had my parents coming up to fly and it just worked out that my new friend and guest blogger Kenan was finishing his 3rd flying lesson minutes before I had my plane booked. So, the four of us were going to hit up lunch in Sheboygan.

When we got to the airport, it was windy (I won’t lie), but nothing atrocious. Automated reporting stations had it at 15 knots gusting to 20. I had flown in worse plenty of times, so I wasn’t too worried it – and didn’t really feel like canceling since so many recent flights were scrubbed for weather. We didn’t want to waste this beautifully clear day. The takeoff went fine and although the flight was a little bumpy at times, the air was fairly smooth and everyone enjoyed the 77 nautical mile journey. Upon getting to the Sheboygan area the winds had picked up though, and although KSBM has two almost perpendicular runways, the windsock had the wind splitting the runways at a 45° angle no matter which way you cut it. I knew landing would be fun. I tried Runway 31, didn’t like the approach and went around. I then tried Runway 3 and things weren’t lining up again and I went around. Finally, on my 3rd try I put her down quite smoothly on Runway 3 (more smoothly and softly than even on some no-wind days). Needless-to-say, the first topic of conversation at lunch was how happy we all were to be safely on the ground.

What I failed to realize earlier in the day is that although I’m plenty used to going around, my passengers (my parents in particular) might not be so cool with it. I have no ego, I’m totally fine with going around if something isn’t lining up correctly – ultimately it’s the safest thing to do. However, it’s easy to forget sometimes that even normal landings can be a bit stressful for some passengers in a general aviation plane – doing it 3 times in a row doesn’t help or lend to their confidence. Kenan, a fellow (student) pilot, who went around a couple times earlier that day himself, didn’t bat an eye about my going around – but I know my parents definitely had their hearts racing and probably a little sweat too. The flight back was fairly smooth but the wind was solidly perpendicular to the one runway at Westosha (see the picture of the wind sock just after we landed). I nailed the landing the first try (I guess it’s all about knowing your home runway). BUT, like many good crosswind landings, it involves a substantial crab angle, landing on the windward wheel first and putting the plane down seemingly at an angle. Again, although everything went textbook, one could cut the stress tension from my parents with a knife.

Ultimately, we all laughed about the experience and my parents still want to fly again with me – just maybe on less windy days now. Lesson learned – flying alone or with other pilots is a LOT different than flying with general passengers fairly new to general aviation. And although landing in crosswinds is good practice, letting your parents “see the workings of the sausage factory” might be something to keep for solo days. Lunch at Sheboygan was great though – “The Final Approach” restaurant is a nice classy airport restaurant right off Runway 21. All in all, a really “fun” day though! Check out the pic of Kenan, my dad, and me – and all our hair (what’s left of it) being blown around. My Mom had to take the picture because the mini-tripod for the camera wouldn’t stand up in the wind!

This flight I logged 2.3 hours of cross-country pilot-in-command time.

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Apr 16 2010

Guest Blogger Post #1 – Starting Out

Category: Guest Blogger,Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 8:55 am

It’s finally becoming a reality.  After wanting to learn how to fly for so many years, I’m finally taking lessons.  4.7 hr down and hopefully many more to go.  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamt about becoming a pilot.  However, when I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and I thought my dream of flying was out the window.  The other thing that kept me from taking lessons, was the expense.  That’s all until I started causally talking to somebody I work with and he started explaining to me that his son (Daniel) became a private pilot recently.  He directed me to this blog and I found basically all the info that I needed.  Daniel’s farther also showed me the pictures that they took when they were flying down the Lake Michigan shoreline to downtown Chicago.  This was the convincing point for me.  I decided to look more into it.  Like Daniel explained, Westosha Flying Club www.directwfc.com is one of the least expensive places (if not the least expensive) to fly.  Their rates are very reasonable compared to other places around Chicago.  I have looked into Midway and Aurora and basically when I did the math it would cost me around $10 000 to get my private pilot’s license.  Westosha seems to be almost half of that.  Please understand that it all depends on how fast you learn.  Some people need more time than others, so this is just an estimate.  For example, Midway charges $120/hr wet for a Cessna 172, at Westosha you can fly a Cessna 152 for $59/hr wet or 172 $74/hr OR 172SP $86/hr (new rates effective 04/01/2010, the website is not updated yet).  I know that everyone would like to fly big airplanes but for just learning the 152’s are just fine.  Especially when you are beginning and you have to buy headsets, books, pay the instructor, gas money to the airport, etc. every dollar helps.  Plus the instructors are not Commercial Pilot wannabes, so they are very reasonable.  They have a lot of experience.  The new rate for instructors is $45/hr.  This includes flying and a little bit of ground lessons.  At Westosha they do not offer ground school and you are responsible for studying for the written test.  Some people take classes at colleges, others buy DVD courses and there are also some that study from books (least expensive alternative).  The disadvantage about Westosha for me is that it’s 65 miles from my house.  So I have to schedule multi hour lessons to make it worth driving to the airport.

But before I started taking lessons I wanted to make sure that I can get a FAA medical certificate.   My condition is disqualifying but I was eligible to get a Special Issuance Medical.  All this means is that you are getting the medical under a special condition.  I got my private pilot medical for 5 years with the condition that I have to provide an update on my condition from my doctor in the form of a letter stating the current status of the condition.  As long as my condition doesn’t worsen, I can still fly.  You do not have to get another medical exam, just provide the letter at the 3 year mark.  This can be a little discouraging.  You invest so much into flying and you are loving it and then somebody tells you that you can not fly anymore.  However, my doctor has been doing medical certificates for 30 years and I talked to him a lot about this.  He explained that the FAA became more lenient with the medical and that most conditions that were disqualifying in the past, are now OK for flying.  If you decide to do this just be patient because it might take some time and some paperwork.  I had to provide a letter from the doctor stating my condition and recent blood work results.  It all depends what the FAA needs.  The doctor that did my medical assured me that he has patients that fly 747’s across the world with a special issuance medicals.  So it’s not a big deal, but it’s something extra that you might have to deal with.  The best source for info on your condition is the FAA website www.faa.gov OR a FAA Medical Examiner.  I just started out by typing my condition OR medication is the search box.  This is the most accurate information.  I do know that there are companies out there that want to charge you thousands of dollars to help you get your medical but this is a complete waste of money.  Do the research yourself and you should be well informed about your condition for your own good.  Talk to a medical examiner and see what he/she suggests you do.  These guys are doing so many medicals that they are usually well informed.

If someone has any questions, please let me know.  I will try to answer if I can.

Daniel thanks again for your blog.  It has helped me a lot.  I’m scheduled to fly again this weekend if the weather permits.  Will keep you updated as I go through my training.

[This post authored by Dan’s friend Kenan]

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Apr 16 2010

Introducing a Guest Blogger

Category: Guest Blogger,RamblingsDaniel @ 8:52 am

I started blogging over 2 years ago mostly to document my experiences for myself and my family, but it is amazing to me how much this blog has grown since then.  I’m always surprised when I check my website analytic data to see visitors from all over the world reading this blog and my experiences around flying and learning how to fly.  I also find it pretty darn cool when people comment on my posts and mention how/if something I wrote helped them or gave them information they needed.  I’m especially humbled by a new friend of mine who recently took up flying lessons – partly because of this blog.  Kenan works with my Dad, and found out about this blog through casual conversations with my Dad around the water cooler there.  Long story short:  Kenan wanted to fly since being a kid (like me).  He always considered taking flying lessons but never really took the leap assuming it would be too expensive.   After talking with my Dad and eventually me (and this blog) – Kenan realized how affordable it could actually be and took the plunge!

I thought it would be great to hear about some of Kenan’s flight training experiences – so I asked him to “guest blog” whenever he felt like writing.  He’s a great writer with some new challenges and points of view that I think would go great on this site.   Anyway, enough introduction from me… stay tuned for some guest posting soon!

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