Aug 25 2012

Second Biennial Flight Review Complete

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 9:17 pm

Last week I completed my second Biennial Flight Review (BFR).  In other words, it’s been about 4 years since I first earned my Private Pilot License.  I find it hard to believe time has passed so quickly, but it has!  I guess technically it’s not called a BFR any more, but per the FAA, you need at least 1 hour of ground instruction and 1 hour in-flight training with a qualified flight instructor in the last 2 years to continue to fly (so how is that NOT a BFR?).

Anyway, like last time, my instructor uses the FAA WINGS program to track progress and create the official endorsement.  A few weeks ago I completed the ground portion by dong a few online interactive classes, and then the in-flight was last week.  I must say I highly recommend a course by the AOPA Air Safety Institute called “Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety.”  I must admit I’m VERY hesitant to practice stalls when I fly solo, and in all honesty the last time I stalled the plane it was during my LAST BFR (when my instructor requested it).  Of course we practiced them again this go-around as well, but this online course helps describe a lot of the underlying aerodynamics that relate to stalls and spins.  And it’s completely free for AOPA members!  Definitely check it out…

Well, I’m good for another 2 years, so now it’s time to fly some more!!

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Jan 13 2012

Crazy Crosswinds

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 5:42 am

I’ve landed in some heavy winds in my relatively short time as a pilot (see my other postings linked below), but I can only imagine the types of winds commercial pilots see day in and day out.  Apparently there was a storm over Düsseldorf airport in Germany last week, resulting in some great footage of big planes landing in HEAVY crosswinds.  I remember during flight training explaining to my family and friends how during heavy crosswinds you are basically flying at the runway at an angle and only at the last second do you yaw the plane in line with the runway.   The landings on this video definitely exemplify that quite awesomely.  You can just hear how heavy the winds are roaring that day, crazy stuff.  Enjoy!

 

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Aug 27 2010

Biennial Flight Review

Category: Lessons,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 2:21 pm

Today I successfully completed the flight portion of my Biennial Flight Review.  The Biennial Flight Review (BFR) is a review required of every active pilot at least every 24 calendar months.  Since I first got my license back in mid-September of 2008, I actually have until this September 30th to complete all the requirements.  My instructor uses the FAA WINGS program to handle the ground-school portion and track completion of the flight portion.  FAA WINGS is basically just an online tracking tool developed by the FAA.  I still technically need to complete 2 credits of online training to fully complete the BFR, but today I completed the actual portion that requires an instructor and flying a plane (in other words, the hard part).

The Biennial Flight Review is not actually a true TEST like my initial exam with the FAA examiner get my license – there is no pass/fail criteria, although the instructor can decline to endorse your log-book that a flight review has been completed.  As such, I wasn’t too stressed about it, but really wanted to use the time to revisit flight procedures and maneuvers that I don’t frequently use.  We ended up going through pretty much all the activities that were required for my initial license exam – and I was happy that I handled them all very well.  We practiced “under the hood” – to simulate being stuck in clouds – and utilizing the autopilot to help manage our way out.  That was fun and something totally new for me.

I purposely chose to take the BFR in a 4-seater Cessna 172SP plane since that’s the type of plane I’m mostly flying now (since I’m usually carrying  a few passengers).  It was nice to practice stalls and emergency procedures in the larger plane.  We actually practiced an emergency engine-out landing from about 5 miles away from the airport.  As always, I’m amazed how far these planes can glide with absolutely NO engine power.  We made it back to the airport with plenty of altitude to spare – I actually had to perform a slip on final to lose the final altitude and speed necessary for landing.

Back at Westosha, we reviewed short and soft-field landings, and went into a little more detail on the autopilot and GPS functions of the 172SP’s.  All-in-all, the review went great, and it was nice to have a “clean bill” from an instructor that I still fly safely and smoothly.  Once I complete the ground-school portion (which I’ll do early in September), I’ll be good to fly for another two years – until 2012.

I logged 1.5 hours of dual and Pilot-In-Command time.

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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 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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Nov 14 2008

Airspace Requirments Memory Aids

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 6:01 am

When I was in flight training I heard a lot of suggestions to help me remember the visibility and cloud clearance requirements for different airspace.  I compiled these tips into one table when I was preparing for my FAA exam.  Here it is to help others…enjoy!  My CFI drew a nice visual representation of this as well, which I’ll try to recreate electronically and post eventually.

Airspace Class Nickname Memory Aid Visibility Cloud Clearance
E & G above 10,000 msl High Regular 5-F111’s 5 SM 1,000 above 1,000 below 1 SM horizontal
C, D, E & G below 10,000 at night Low Regular 3-152’s 3 SM 1,000 above 500 below 2,000 horizontal
B Big 3 clear 3 SM Clear of clouds
G day below 10,000 msl, but above 1,200 agl Go 1-152 1 SM 1,000 above 500 below 2,000 horizontal
G day below 1,200 Low Go 1 Clear 1 SM Clear of clouds

Note – I make no warranties as to the correctness of this information in the future. It was correct when I took the test, it is always the student/pilot’s responsibility to look up the current and correct information from the FAR’s (FAR 91.155).

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Sep 29 2008

Checkride… PASSED! I’m a pilot!

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 6:15 am

Although I don’t really have time at the moment to write more about my private pilot checkride yesterday, I can simply say that I PASSED!  Obviously I’m super thrilled and proud to have completed this journey.  Over the next day or so I’ll find the time to write about the actual test experience…but I simply had to provide a quick update!  {Off to work now.}

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Sep 04 2008

Pre-Checkride Practice

Category: Lessons,Solo FlightsDaniel @ 8:50 am

In preparation for my impending FAA checkride, I’ve been doing a fair amoung of practicing the skills necessary to pass the test.  Last week I flew first with my CFI doing a sort-of mock checkride.  I had to demonstrate turns-around-a-point, s-turns, steep banks, slow flight, and stalls (power on, power off, and while banked).  I also demonstrated slow and soft field takeoffs and landings.

We identified a few points where I had to practice a little more – which I then followed by going up solo to work on them a bit.  After 3 of each, I feel very confident on the slow and soft field takeoffs and landings.  I still want to work on my turns-around-a-point (which I never feel I get perfect).

This coming week I’ll do a ground-school session with my CFI just to refresh on stuff and probably go up this weekend to solo practice one more time before a final mock check-ride and signoff from my CFI to take the real thing.

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Aug 23 2008

Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test … PASSED!

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 2:28 pm

I finally got around to taking the FAA Private Pilot written knowledge test today and passed it!  With a score of 90%, I think that may qualify as heartily passed it, dare I say, even aced it?!  In any case, I was stressing much more about the exam than necessary, it really wasn’t bad at all.  You get 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to answer 60 multiple choice questions (each with 3 possible choices).  That was way more than enough time as I finished in about 50 minutes (and I took my time).  It’s a computerized testing system, with the ability to ‘mark’ questions and come back if need be.  So, I breezed through the 50 or so questions that I could answer instantly or with little/simple calculations.  The other 10 I came back to and worked about 6 of those with multi-step calculations, the remaining 4 I took confident educated guesses because I simply didn’t feel like working on them much more knowing I had likely passed with plenty of buffer.

I never took an official ground school class, just learning from the Gleim Publications books – the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge to learn the theory and rules, and the Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test Prep book to prepare for this test.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, learning from books only cost me about $40 (verus $200-$300 for full ground school course).  I would definitely recommend these books, and the Pilot Handbook will be a great reference to check back on when needed in the future.

All that’s left now is about 1 more hour of standard solo practice flight time, and then my practical test!

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Aug 19 2008

How Expensive is it to Learn to Fly?

Category: Lessons,RamblingsDaniel @ 6:04 am

As I’m nearing the end of my initial training journey, I figured I’d take a look back at what this whole endeavor is costing me.  Plus, all my friends and family keep asking: “How much does it cost to learn to fly?”  Well, here’s my answer!  Granted, I haven’t taken the test yet, so I’ve estimated the last few hours of flight training time (I hope I haven’t jinxed myself)…but here’s a solid picture of how much it cost me to learn to fly!

  1. 44 total hours of plane time.  My flight club rental rates are VERY inexpensive and this is probably the most variable part of the equation for anyone figuring out how much it would cost them to fly.  But, in my case (and I’ve flown various planes in the club), the average cost per hour of flight time is $52/hour.  That includes fuel.  Total cost = $2,288.
  2. 35 hours of instructor time.  That’s the ground instruction and time in the air with him.  He charges the fairly standard rate of $40/hr around Chicago.  Total cost = $1,400.
  3. Pilot reference book (Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge), FAR/AIM, sectionals, E6B calculator, plotter, and study guide for written test.  Total cost = $90.
  4. Headset.  Another huge variable cost, I bought a Flightcom 4DLX (Flightcom 4DLX Classic Style Headset), a solid starter set.  You can check out my review here.  Obviously you can save costs here if you buy something used – I bought new.  Total cost = $120.

Grand Total = $3,898.

So, there you have it!  I figure I’m probably on the low end of full training costs, but if anyone knows there individual costs, put them below.

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