May 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

May 13, 2004

Buzzin' the Barnyard

Tonight, I once again received help from Mother Nature when some light thunderstorms cleared the area about 30 minutes before my lesson. Prior to the lesson, I reviewed what I would be learning during tonight's flight. As usual, we reviewed previous learnings, new items on the list were steep turns at 45°, power-on stalls and emergency landing procedures.

The steep turns were difficult to master at first but I think I showed significant improvement toward the end of the lesson. As the turn starts to increase towards 45° the plane wants to pitch nose down and requires a fair amount of back pressure on the yoke in order to maintain the altitude. To earn a private pilot's license, the student needs to be able to do a 360° turn at a 45° bank without varying in altitude by more than +/- 100 feet, airspeed +/- 10 knots, bank +/- 5° and then roll out of the turn within 10° of the starting heading. This most be successfully done in both directions. I need a little more practice to meet those requirements, but feel great about my progress.

The most interesting part of tonight's lesson was the emergency landing procedures. My instructor demonstrated, then I executed a simulated emergency landing procedure. We were cruising at about 80 knots when my instructor advised the engine had been lost and turned the engine down to idle. I followed procedure by pitching the airplane in a manner that would bring the airspeed down to 60 knots the most efficient glide speed for the C-152. Next, I identified a safe emergency landing space. I chose a large flat farm field. I used the barn at the corner of the field as my reference point to be used when I would turn onto final approach.

I was surprised at how well the plane performed at an altitude of 3,000 feet with the engine cut. I manuevered around to make my turn to final approach towards the farm, flying into the wind to maximize my lift. At this point I was about 800 feet off the ground. As I completed my turn to final approach and down to just over 500 feet above the soil, I realized could have landed in that field if needed. However, to obey FAA regulations, I pushed in the throttle and started to gain altitude to ensure I never came within 500 feet of the ground near the sparsely populated farm land.

I think seeing how well the plane performed without the engine gave me a lot of confidence in the plane.

I return to the skies tomorrow night. We will be changing things up and instead of spending most of the lesson in the Lunken practice area we will be flying to Blue Ash Airport which is north of Lunken.

Posted at 9:45 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Comments (5) | Save & Share This Story

May 12, 2004

Forest Fighting is About to Get a Lift

Forest fighters are about to get additional air support. Evergreen International Aviation is retrofitting 747s to carry up to 24,000 gallons of fire retardant. Spokesman Richare Marchand said "I like the analogy 'why send in a single soldier when you can send in the army".

Not only will the 747 be able to get to the forest fires more quickly than the typical forest fighting aircraft, it will carry seven times the load. Evergreen International hopes to have FAA certification for the retrofit aircraft by July 4th, in time for the heat of the summer and the wildfire season.

Evergreen's website has many great photographs in their gallery, such as the one displayed here, of the 747 forest fighting plane. To learn more about how the 747 will be used to fight forest fires, check out Evergreen's great FAQ.

Posted at 8:57 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

May 11, 2004

We Are Going to Do What?

When I arrived at Queen City Flight Training today my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) reviewed the lesson plan for today. First off, we were slated to review what I learned the week before. In that lesson I experimented with the radios and learned about traffic patterns. Then my CFI reviewed the new maneuvers we would work on, including power-off stalls.

I knew stalls were coming up eventually in my training. But when I heard I'd be doing them tonight, I have to admit that my stomach turned a bit, though I don't think it was loud enough for her to hear. Until this week I had a complete misconception of a stall, thinking it was an out-of-control nose dive towards the ground that the pilot wrestled with before pulling up just prior to becoming a pancake.

Knowing that stalls were coming up in my training I did some reading about safe slow flight than how to transition into a stall. A stall is a rapid loss of lift caused by the separation of airflow from the wing's surface brought on by exceeding the critical angle of attack. According to my training book, Guided Flight Discovery - Private Pilot by Jeppesen, a "Power-off stalls are practiced to simulate the conditions and aircraft configuration you will most likely encounter during a normal landing approach."

Once we climbed out of Lunken airspace to a safe practice altitude of about 3,000 feet we started flying at slow speeds, 45 knots compared to our typical 70-100 knots. We had the plane in landing configuration with 30 degrees of flap, throttle out and carb heat on. Then after a demonstration I lowered the power and began to pull back on the yoke. The nose was rising and the speed dropping and the controls became slushy. Next, the stall warning started to whine as the plane continued to slow and pitch up. I announced to the cabin "stall is imminent" and the stall began, the nose dropped and we began to lose altitude - I immediatly pushed in full power followed by pushing carb heat in (off) and raised flaps to 20 degrees. A second later the plane responded and we began to level off. We only lost about 50 - 100 feet.

We completed a few more successful stalls which were much easier than I had expected and I think I actaully enjoyed it.

The other exciting part of today's lesson was that I handled almost all radio communications. My first attempt at using the radios the week before was less than stellar. But this time I felt much more comfotable and realized the tower is there to help and understands I am still learning the radios.

As we returned to Lunken we did two touch and gos then did a final full stop landing that I completed on my own. I admit it was a little bouncy but the passengers did not seem to complain.

I fly next on Thursday night.

Posted at 9:16 PM | Post Category: Flight Lesson | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

May 9, 2004

Is Flying Safe?

According to a recent study 2002 set a record low for the number of accidents in General Aviation aircraft.

One of the questions I hear often when I tell people I am learning to fly is: Is it safe? They cannot believe that with minimal amounts of training flight instructors willingly hand over the controls to their students. I am not sure they realize the instructor has matching controls and is always there to assist. Until I came across the 2003 Nall Report, I did not have any statistical information to share in regard to the safety of flying General Aviation aircraft.

The Nall Report is released each year and is considered to be the most complete review of General Aviation safety and General Aviation trends. You can download the report from the Aircraft Owners & Operators Website (www.aopa.org).

I found this fact particularly interesting: "The vast majority of General Aviation accidents in 2002 (79 percent) were fatality-free, a statistic that has held true every year since modern aviation safety record keeping started in 1938. This contrasts strongly with the popular public misconception that a light aircraft crash is nearly always an automatic death sentence."

Unfortunately, the majority of General Aviation accidents are related to pilot error (72.6 percent). According to Bruce Landsbert, AOPA's Air Safety Foundation Executive Director, "Accidents that simply should not happen - those due to fuel mismanagement and flights into bad weather, mostly under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) - continue." These accidents are avoidable with proper preperation and training.

While having my safety hat on, I also found it interesting to see how the aircraft I am training in fared safety-wise in the last year. The Cessna 152 had 22 accidents in the past year. Sadly, one of those was fatal, five involved serious injury, four had minor injuries and twelve had no injuries. You can review the Air Safety Foundation Accident Database on the Aircraft Owners & Pilot Association (AOPA) website.

I am off to continue studying and making sure I am best prepared to safely manage the pilot-in-command responsibilities.

Posted at 10:04 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

May 7, 2004

Rocket Cam & In-Flight DSL

There was a post on BoingBoing.net in January that I missed. I came across it this evening while googling for information on in-flight DSL access, more on that in a moment.

What I came across was a post about a model rocket launched with an in-flight video camera attached. A couple of Aussies were interested in the possibility of transmitting live video and audio from a model rocket to the ground. They documented their experiences, which are pretty interesting to read. Additionally, they have a few great video samples.

Now, you know where my time goes. I was originally looking into more information on in-flight DSL services and then spent 30 minutes reading about rocket videos. So back to the DSL - A recent eMarketer.com newsletter explained Boeing's plan to offer In-Flight DSL. In that report it quoted Forrester Research as saying "our research shows that 38% of frequent travelers are willing to pay at least $25.00 per flight for full, high-speed access to the Internet and their corporate network."

In response Boeing has unveiled the following pricing: $29.95 for long haul (more than six hours) flights, $19.95 for medium-haul (between three and six hours) flights, $14.95 for flights shorter than three hours.

I would think it would be a great idea if only I could get my laptop battery to last more than a half hour.

Posted at 6:20 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

May 5, 2004

Night Flight to Uncontrolled Airport

Because I believe in challenges I planned my second lesson at night, or 'cause that was the available time. But I am glad I did, as this evening was a beautiful night to fly.

After pre-flighting the aircraft on my own, my instructor and I taxied out and took off to the Lunken practice area. We spent about 25 minutes going through the things I learned last week. For the most part I retained most those learnings. So it was time to try something new. We had Clermont County Airport on the horizon. Clermont is an uncontrolled airport and the home of Sporty's Pilot Shop. My Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) explained how to communicate our intentions to enter the pattern and land to our fellow pilots in the area. I almost seemed more confusing than talking to a controlled environment.

We did one pass of the airport then entered the pattern and prepared to land on runway 22. As a smaller airport, the runways are much more narrow which kept giving me the false impression that we were higher than we were. But we made a nice approach then performed a touch and go.

After departing Clermont, we headed back to Lunken. This time my instructor asked me to call in for tower clearance to return to Lunken. I did not expect to be tongue-tied but by the time I was done with my request there was no doubt I was a beginner. But the tower personel were very friendly. This will be an area I will continue to practice on.

I handled the descent and approach to Lunken. I am becoming much more comfortable in the pattern and preparing for a landing. Before I always felt like I needed my CFI to take over to complete the landing. This time I felt like I had it going perfectly and she let me bring it down with minimal support. It felt really great.

As expected I cannot wait to get back out. But I will not be heading back up until Tuesday.

Posted at 11:23 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Save & Share This Story

May 4, 2004

F-15 Exercise Video

Check out this video of shot from the cockpit of an F-15 during a live fire exercise (MPG 60+ mb). I don't know much more about it but it is cool piece of video.

Send someone an F-15 eCard today courtesy of AerialPostCards.com. AerialPostCards offers a wide variety of military aviation post cards.


Posted at 10:43 PM | Post Category: General | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

Skies Cleared for Bush '04 Tour

The Bush/Cheney '04 tour cruised through the midwest today and affected air traffic all along the way. The FAA released Temporary Flight Restrictions in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas today. There was a 30 nautical mile restricted area for venues and a 10nm no fly bubble along the bus route.

This is a greater restriction for a Presidential bus tour than in years past. According to an AOPA representative the difference between Presidential Campaign restrictions prior to September 11, 2001 and now is as follows: "What makes this different is that whereas the old TFRs were three miles in radius, this is expected to be ten, and it's expected to extend nine times higher. That's 100 times the airspace that used to be affected." You can read more about the Presidential TFR's on AOPA's website.

Additionally, you can view the actual TFR from the FAA here.

Posted at 8:55 PM | Post Category: General, TFR | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

May 2, 2004

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Lucky for me we came down safely each time we went up. Today, I completed my first full flight lesson, logging 1.1 hours of flight time. My instructor and I spent about 30 minutes taking our time going through the steps of pre-flighting the aircraft and ensuring it was air worthy.

After that we loaded up and departed Lunken airport (view an aerial photo provided by TerraServer.com). I handled the taxiing, the takeoff and the climb to about 2,500 feet. At which point my instructor reviewed some basic flight manuevers: straight & level flight, climbs, descents, level turns and climbing and descending turns. After a brief review she handed off the controls to me to practice. I felt really comfortable controlling the aircraft. My instructor was pleased with my performance.

Next we returned to Lunken for some pattern work. We practiced entering the traffic pattern and doing touch and gos. A touch and go is literally what it sounds like. We make our approach, touch down on the runway, then throttle up and take back off and go around and repeat. We ended up doing three passes. Each time I would handle the approach, then hand off controls to my instructor to land, then I would handle the return to flight and circling around for the next pass. On the final one I handled the approach all the way down to a few hundred feet and then let the instructor handle the landing.

I think it will be a few more lessons before I feel comfortable enough to make the actual landing but I cannot wait.

Posted at 8:15 PM | Post Category: Cessna 152, Flight Lesson | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story