June 8, 2004

Soft and Short-Field Takeoff and Landings

redstewart.jpgToday's lesson plan was to practice short-field approach and landings and soft-field approach and landings. My instructor found a great airport where we could cover all these maneuvers in one location.

She selected Red Stewart Airport (K401) in Waynesville, Ohio. I was excited about flying there because over 10 years ago, I went ski-diving there with two great friends. That was an amazing experience and it was neat to see this field again from the air. I just needed to remember not to jump this time.

I have read that turf runways can be difficult to find from the air. This one was somewhat easy cause it was right off a road next to a golf course and clearly marked on my sectional. We entered the pattern but on the first attempt had to do a go-around as I was too high to make the landing on this short field (2442 ft.). With a short-field landing, especially one that has some obstructions like trees as this airport did, you need to use a steeper than normal approach. That allows the plane to clear the obstacle and still touchdown near the beginning of the runway with room to stop.

I had never landed on a soft-field before. It helped me imagine what flying was like for the early aviators who likely knew nothing but this type of runway. Soft-field runways require a slower than normal touchdown. So you use your flaps and pitch to slow the plane down but just before you touch down you add a little power to let the rear wheels settle nicely while you hang the nose wheel off the ground and bring it down gently. You slow the plane down but try not to stop as you could get stuck if the field is damp.

The other lesson we learned was soft-field take-offs. In this situation you start your take-off roll with the yoke pulled back causing the nose to pitch up. This prevents undue pressure on the nose wheel and reduces the chance the propeller could strike uneven ground. As the plane starts to lift of the ground you lower the nose slightly to float a few feet off the ground, held aloft by ground effect. As speed increases you can begin your climb.

All in all today's, flight was a neat one. Seeing an airport from my past was great but also learning that with a plane and a cleared swatch of grass one can go almost anywhere was also enlightening.

Posted at 11:11 PM | Post Category: Flight Lesson | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

June 6, 2004

What's Better Than a Cross Country? Two Cross-Countries!

navlog.jpgThis weekend I spent an hour or two planning my first flight that would count toward cross-country training. Luckily, it is not as tasking as it sounds. In order for a flight to be counted as a cross-country flight, the pilot must plan a trip to an airport farther than 50nm one way. I selected to fly to Fleming-Mason Airport (KFGX) just north of Fleminsburg, KY.

I first drew the route on my Cincinnati Sectional and then selected visual checkpoints along the way. Checkpoints included Clermont Airport, an amphitheater at East Fork State Park, power lines near the city of Bethel, the riverside city of Augusta, KY and then the destination airport. I used my flight computer to calculate the time enroute, the necessary heading and wind correction necessary to stay on course from Blue Ash to Fleming-Mason.

The flight was smooth, we hit all the checkpoints until the final one. The airport itself was a little illusive but after slowing down and looking around we located it and made the approach. Fleming-Mason is a single-strip small airport. I had to make too go-arounds because each time on approach I found myself tow high. However, the third time was the charm and we made a nice landing then climbed back to cruising altitude for the trip home.

On the way back, my instructor informed me she felt I was ready to fly this same route on my own and suggested that when we returned to Blue Ash that I fuel up and do just that. I think I was more nervous about this than my solo. She made a good point, however, that I had just flown the route successfully without much assistance from her there was no reason I could not do it again.

So I fueled up and took to the skies. My CFI was right - I knew what to expect having flown the route once before and I flew it slightly better this time. Like my first solo experience I found myself being more vigilant knowing she was not their to correct my errors. This time I made a single approach and landing at Fleming-Mason, and took back to the air, recalculating my headings for the return flight.

It was a great feeling when I could see my home airport of Blue Ash off the front of the cowling. I was returning around 8pm and the field was quiet so I had no traffic to negotiate and quickly made my way through the pattern and touched down safely. It was a neat feeling to know that today I not only properly prepared a cross-country flight but I also flew it once with assistance from my CFI then once on my own.

I will be flying again on Tuesday.

Posted at 11:33 PM | Post Category: Flight Lesson | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

June 3, 2004

Cross Country Preperation

Hillsboro_closeup.jpgAfter my solo flight on Tuesday I have been itching to get back in the plane. The weather was beautiful today with light winds and great visibility. When I arrived at the airport, my instructor suggested we practice some of the skills necessary to plan and fly a cross-country flight.

So we looked at the map and picked an airport that was around 40-50 nautical miles away. For a flight to count as a cross-country flight during training it needs to be at least 50 nautical miles. We selected Highland Country Airport(KHOC) just outside of Hillsboro, OH. We drew our course and chose three visual checkpoints, including a lake with a radio tower near it, a tower at the intersection of some power lines and a mining area. The total distance of the trip would be 40nm each direction falling 10nm short of an official cross-country flight. After factoring our course and airspeed for the wind at 3,500 feet we determined our time in flight to be 27, minutes burning 2.7 gallons of fuel. I used a basic flight calculator for my calculations and planning.

After departing Blue Ash, we turned to the heading we determined would be necessary to meet our checkpoints. Sure enough within 9 minutes we had reached our first checkpoint. The next few proved just as easy to find and reach in the estimated time. As we approached Hillsboro I could see the airport just past the city. The airport edges up against a lake and made for a beautiful airport and scene. We did a single touch and go on this small single strip runway. The landing was great.

After reaching our return altitude of 2,500 feet on our way back, my instructor surprised me by handing me the instrument training hood used to train pilots to fly using only the instruments. She asked me to put on the hood that limited my view to the inside of the cockpit. I was surprised that flying the airplane without outside visual reference was was easier than I thought. I did have troubles keeping the exact heading and altitude, though I am sure with practice that will become easier. I flew for about 15 minutes or about half the return flight in the simulated instrument conditions.

This was a fun lesson flying to a neat airport. This weekend I need to choose the destination airport for my first real cross-country and do the flight planning. I will keep you posted as to where I choose to fly. Let me know if you have suggestions. The flight should be just over 50nm.

Posted at 9:09 PM | Post Category: Flight Lesson | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

June 1, 2004

First Solo Flight Logged

After dreaming of becoming a private pilot for so many years, I took one step closer to realizing that dream tonight. I flew the plane solo for the first time. After my last lesson, my CFI urged me to get my Medical Certificate and Student Pilot License, as I was ready to be signed off for solo flight. That was both exciting and a little nerve wracking to hear. But surprisingly for most of the Memorial Day weekend I thought about things other than flying and was not nearly as nervous as I thought I would be.

Terrible storms came through the Midwest over the holiday but left cooler weather with clear skies behind. The weather looked great all day but as the day continued the winds began too pick up. I was worried they might become to strong for my instructor to feel comfortable with me soloing. I thought I might arrive at the airport nervous, instead I arrived focused and excited for today's opportunity. I checked the weather and although the winds were strong, they were coming straight down the runway. It was a perfect night to fly with or without an instructor.

After pre-flighting the aircraft, my instructor and I took off to do some landing practice. She had me execute a few regular landings followed by a simulated flap failure landing and then an emergency landing with no engine. I remembered my earlier lesson that with the strong tailwind on downwind that I needed to turn early on base if my engine was dead in order to ensure the plan could reach the runway safely. After successfully completing that maneuver my CFI asked me to bring the plane to a full stop and return to the terminal. She asked if I was ready to solo and I said I was. She got out and sent me on my way.

I taxied to the runway and without hesitation took to the air once my pre-takeoff check list was complete. There was little traffic around Blue Ash today which allowed me to focus on my flying. When I didn't have my instructor their monitoring my every move, I was much more vigilant, ensuring I was flying the perfect pattern. On my first approach, I looked down to see I was hitting my airspeed and descent rate perfectly and I brought the plane down for a soft landing. I followed that up with two more great trips around the pattern. My last landing was the best one I have made to date. I am sure that was partially due to the excitement of having completed my first solo flight.

All in all, I flew solo for only .3 hours with three take-offs and landings. It may seem small but I am sure any pilot will tell you the time spent on their first solo will always be remembered. I know that June 1, 2004 will be a date I will remember for the rest of my flying days.

This seems to be a great time to recap my flight training. I started my training 34 days ago and have had 12 lessons to date. I have logged 13.7 hours of flight time, with 0.3 of those hours solo. During those lessons I have made 55 take-offs and landings. In a perfect world this is where I am supposed to say joy of flight - priceless. In the real world the cost for this great experience thus far is $1529.70. I share this for those who are thinking of learning to fly and want to know what it will really takes to earn a private pilots license.

I am now cleared to train solo at my leisure. I plan to fly with my instructor twice this week with the next flight on Thursday. Next week I might take advantage of my new privileges and do some solo training. Thanks to my wife, my family, friends and instructor for all the support!

Posted at 11:04 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Comments (90) | Save & Share This Story

May 28, 2004

Pre-Solo Review

endorsement_200.jpgPrior to being endorsed by a CFI to fly the plane solo a student must pass a written pre-solo exam, review the required flight maneuvers, receive a Class III Medical Certificate with Student Pilot License and meet the approval of the instructor. Today's lesson was my opportunity to show off the knowledge and skills I had learned in my first 10 lessons.

I arrived at the airport excited for the flight. For the first time in almost five flights the weather was beautiful with no threat of storms. The weather also helped by offering up a crosswind at the airport. This allowed me to practice and demonstrate the crosswind landing. For the past few flights, the wind was coming straight down the runway not providing a crosswind landing training environment.

We decided to start with the crosswind landings just in case the weather changed before we returned. In a crosswind landing you dip the wing on the wind side of the plane slightly to keep the wind from getting under the wing and rolling the airplane or supplying one wing with more lift than the other. We did two crosswind landings without fault and moved on to the practice area.

In the practice area we reviewed everything I have learned to date including: power-on and power-off stalls, steep turns, emergency landing maneuvers, ground reference maneuvers, traffic patterns, radio communications and landing with the use of slips. We also decided to do a few touch and gos at Warren Co. Lebanon Airport (KI68), a new airport for me.

After returning to Blue Ash and performing a simulated emergency landing with power off, we taxied back to the flight school tarmac. Next, I took a 21-question written exam used to evaluate my knowledge of regulations, safety procedures and other required knowledge needed to fly a plane safely without an instructor in the cockpit. I did very well on the exam and afterwards my instructor flipped to the back of the logbook. There she signed the "Pre-solo aeronautical knowledge" for the C-152 and Blue Ash Airport. At first the CFI endorses you to only fly from the airport where training was received.

This is the first of many endorsements during my flight training. The next one will be my "Pre-solo flight training" which my instructor hinted she will sign on Tuesday when I am scheduled to fly next. With those two endorsements and the student pilot license/medical certificate class III I will be legal to solo.

If the weather conditions are right I will likely fly with my CFI for a little while on Tuesday and then she will step out and have me fly a few touch and gos solo while she watches from the ground while manning a radio in case I need assistance. I am very excited for Tuesday and think I am ready to fly the plane alone.

Posted at 10:36 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Save & Share This Story

May 27, 2004

Valuable Lesson

My tenth lesson barely made it in before the storms. For the past few weeks I have been forced to monitor the weather reports frequently to decide whether I would be able to fly. Tonight, I arrived at the airport before my instructor so I conducted the pre-flight checklist and weather analysis. After reviewing the weather, I felt most comfortable staying near the airport. When my CFI arrived she agreed. So we passed on plans to review my experiences with ground reference maneuvers and stalls that would have required us to fly away from the airport and decided to stay within the pattern and work on landings.

In this lesson we worked with some slips. A slip is defined by the Jeppessen Manuals as "A flight condition in which the rate of turn is too slow for the angle of bank." In a slip the ailerons and the rudder go opposite directions, causing the plane to slip partially sideways through the air. The plane slides partially sideways through the air and the drag of the side of the plane allows the plane to lose more altitude in a short distance. This is great if you are slightly high on approach. I thought it was a fun maneuver and a good learning experience.

Additionally, my CFI put me in an engine failure condition while having a tailwind on my downwind leg while in the pattern. The tailwind kept the plane moving at a quick pace. But when I turned to base and final without an engine and flying into the wind, I lost significant speed. The plane began to lose altitude and had the engine actually been dead, I would not have made it to the runway. This was an extremely important lesson; I learned that if I were to lose an engine while in the pattern with a tailwind I should turn early to ensure I can make the runway. If I overshoot the runway and land halfway down the runway that is fine. Much better than landing short and landing the plane on the patio of the Watson Brother's Pub Patio. I love that the so much of the training is centered on safety maneuvers!

I return to flying tomorrow night. Weather permitting, I will review all my learnings then take my written pre-solo exam. Wish me luck!

Posted at 11:53 PM | Post Category: Flight Lesson | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

May 25, 2004

Landing Practice - An Important Lesson

My Instructor called me a few hours before our lesson and suggested we move our lesson up by an hour or two to avoid an incoming storm. When I arrived at the airport the weather still looked safe to fly and the weather reports we reviewed indicated we would have about an hour window before the storm. We agreed it would be best to stay near the airport. This worked well with my curriculum because I was due for some landing practice.

So we took off down runway 24 at Blue Ash with a slight crosswind and entered the pattern. As I turned onto final approach for my first landing of the day, I found myself too high with little room to maneuver and I made the decision to go around. So I increased speed and flew over the runway at about 600 feet. My instructor advised me to pick a ground reference a little further out on my downwind leg to use as my cue to turn onto the base leg prior to final.

trafficpattern_small.jpgThere are four legs of the traffic pattern. The first is the departure leg, a continuation of the path down the runway and in the same direction as the final leg just at the other end of the runway. If you are not departing the airport by then you turn 90° staying in the traffic pattern and you are on the crosswind leg. This is the short side of the rectangular pattern. The next turn finds you flying parallel to the runway and this leg is called downwind leg. After passing the edge and waiting for the runway to fall 45° behind the wing, the plane is turned 90° again and is on the base leg. This is again a short leg of the pattern. The final turn brings the plane onto final leg. It is here that the plane gets lined up and the pilot needs to bring the aircraft down over a nice steady glideslope.

The next time around the pattern, my CFI helped me pick a reference point to use to help me determine when to turn onto the base leg. By being more patient I was able to turn onto base and then final with plenty of time to align for the landing.

Working within the pattern uses all the skills I have learned thus far. I needed to be vary vigilent in watching for traffic and communicating with traffic in and around the pattern. Meanwhile I had to depart the runway on a appropriate heading and climb at the proper rate. By the time I was parallel to the runway and at the midway point of the runway I needed to be at pattern altitude, approximately 1,000 feet. At this point I needed to begin reducing speed and work the flaps, rudder, aileron and airspeed in order to execute a smooth descent during the last part of the downwind leg, base and onto the final leg. After three or four tries I was becoming much more comfortable with each aspect of the pattern work. By executing the proper climb rate followed by descent and making sure my timing was right it put me in a situation that gave me a high probability of executing a great landing. With each landing I felt much more intune with the plane and was making better and better landings.

I also had the opportunity to execute one emergency landing procedure with the engine idling and another one without the use of the flaps. By the end of the lesson I had 10 more landings under my belt and a ton of confidence. I am anxious to get back up in the skies on Thursday.

Posted at 10:43 PM | Post Category: Flight Lesson | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

May 22, 2004

Pancakes, Hot Dogs and Flying...What a Saturday!

may_22_flight_small.jpgWhile learning to fly I have seen proof that pilots will use any excuse to fly. One of the more famous excuses is to enjoy the $100 Hamburger. When a pilot flies to another airport to get lunch in another town it is considered a $100 hamburger because of the cost of the flight. In today's lesson I came across some more excuses to fly.

My local airport was having a pancake breakfast fly-in this morning. Pilots were invited to fly in for a pancake breakfast and while the pilots eat they could have their aircraft washed for a fee. My airport was not the only one in the area inviting pilots in for food today. Sporty's Pilot Shop based at the Clermont Airport was offering free hot dogs for pilots who flew in.

So this morning before my flight my Wife and I drove over to Blue Ash and ate some pancakes, cooked by members of the international aviation fraternity, Alpha Eta Rho. My wife then had her first opportunity to watch me pre-flight with the instructor and take-off towards Clermont.

I am finding that each lesson becomes my best lesson yet. I really enjoyed today's flight because instead of just doing maneuvers, we really went out and flew to a few different airports. When we were in the downwind leg of the traffic pattern at Clermont, my instructor pulled the throttle out and asked me to simulate an engine-out emergency landing. I was able to complete the final turns and line the plane up on final approach and glide the plane down for a smooth landing. Since I had filled up on pancakes back at Blue Ash, we passed on the free hot dogs and took off towards Lunken.

Lunken is the first airport I trained at and is a controlled airport. After spending the last two lessons at uncontrolled fields it took a moment to remember the protocol. I think my tower tour helped my confidence in talking with the tower. We made a nice landing at Lunken then turned north to return to a busy traffic pattern at Blue Ash. We flew into line following two planes ahead of us and 1 behind us and maneuvered through the traffic pattern. Once the plane ahead of me cleared the runway I brought the C-152 down nice and easy onto the runway, completing my longest flight yet. I logged 1.5 hours, performing 5 take-off and landings at three different airports.

I am not sure I will need excuses like pancakes, hot dogs or hamburgers to go flying on a beautiful Saturday but it sure doesn't hurt.

Posted at 3:44 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

May 20, 2004

Unusual Attitudes and Ground Reference Manuevers

The title is not referencing my attitude but that of the C-152 I am learning to fly. As you may have read, I have moved my flight training to Blue Ash Airport, a small uncontrolled field. Today's lesson was my first in almost a week. It felt great to get back in the plane. We took off and flew out near Paramount King's Island, the very theme park where Mike Brady lost his theme park expansion plans - good times. Just east of King's Island is the training area for Blue Ash students.

Here my instructor told me about unusual attitudes and how sometimes pilots look up to realize the plane is in an unusual attitude. For instance it might be nose high, turning left and losing speed. I guess this can happen when the pilot comes disoriented from looking at a map in their lap too long or from weather. If you were gaining speed, the proper way to recover from unusual attitude is to reduct power and level the wings. If you were losing airspeed, you should add power, push the nose down and level the wings.

After mastering those moves we worked on to ground reference maneuvers. In ground reference maneuvers we brought the aircraft down to about 1,000 feet off the ground. Then we looked for a nice straight road. I then started doing "S" turns back and forth over the road with the top the "S" beginning on the road and then having the plane cross the road again, wings straight and level at the middle of the S before turning the other direction to intercept the road one last time. I learned how to gauge the wind and vary my degree of bank in order to execute an S turn while staying on target along my course.

After the "S" turns we picked a tree in the middle of a field and I practiced circling the tree at a steady distance. This also required bank and speed adjustments in order to stay equidistant from the tree at all times.

Today's lesson was one that I really enjoyed. I felt I really got the chance to fly on my own with little assistance from my CFI and I am feeling much more comfortable flying the plane. We finished the day with four touch-and-gos and a full stop landing. All of the landings I performed on my own. I was satisfied with my progress landing especially since this runway is shorter and more narrow than the one I was accustomed to at Lunken.

I fly next on Saturday morning.

Posted at 9:23 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

May 14, 2004

Learning to Land

Tonight I finally learned how to land. By that I mean how to execute a nice easy full stall landing that touches down gently on the runway. In my training thus far I have experienced ten landings. Only one of those would I have called smooth. Tonight I executed my two best landings yet and it felt great!

Prior to the flight today my CFI and I reviewed weather reports. With the weather improving we decided that we would fly to Blue Ash Airport as planned. Blue Ash is a single runway, uncontrolled airport about 20 nautical miles away north of Lunken.

We had 12-knot winds with gusts of up to 18 making for a bouncy departure. But, the air seemed to smooth out en route to Blue Ash. I did a good job of maintaining our heading and altitude once we reached our cruising altitude for the flight.

As we approached Blue Ash I notified traffic in the area that we would be entering the traffic pattern for a touch and go. The winds were coming across the runway requiring me to make a crosswind landing. I had to work hard to keep the plane lined up with the runway. The landing was good but not great. We throttled back up and decided to go through the pattern for a second landing. My CFI explained how to better use the rudder to keep stay on target during approach with winds. The second time I brought the plane down I flared at the right moment and the plenty gently touched the runway. We powered up and were gone again.

We started heading back to Lunken. As we reached our cruising altitude my CFI decided to test some of the skills I learned previously and pulled the throttle to idle and announced that my engine has been lost. I executed the emergency landing procedure and found a nice field that I prepared to land on. I was able to successfully bring the plane to within about 500 feet of landing when we completed the exercise and climbed back to our cruising altitude.

I contacted Lunken tower for clearance to land and they directed me to runway 21R. I was already pretty much online with the runway about 4 miles out. I made a nice easy approach towards Lunken. Cruising by parallel to me landing on runway 21L was a nice Lear jet. At that moment I really felt like part of the aviation community. I returned my attention to the landing and watched my glide slope and brought the C-152 down nice and easy. Shortly after crossing the threshold I executed my flare and brought the airplane down for the best landing I have had thus far. It was a great way to end the lesson.

I am off for the weekend. That will give me time to catch up on my ground school reading. I return to the wild blue yonder on Tuesday night.

Posted at 8:33 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story