First, a quick thanks to the support guys at Zulu Log. I mailed them to make sure they were okay with me posting a link here (way down near the bottom). Not only did they give me the okay, but I got another mail a few days later with some suggestions for getting data here. I’m going to start off with the “share my flight” option, and see how that goes.
Back to business, my flight today was cut a little short, due to our plan being due for maintenance. The only way to get a lesson in was to ferry the plane to the mechanic at the end of our lesson. We chose to head over to Erie Municipal for some touch and goes, which could have gone much better. I did a better job on airspeed in the pattern, though we had some wonkey sink rates on the approach to runway 33. I’m not sure if it was terrain, or the new sub division they were building there. The first landing was really hard. I was way too low for the round out, and while everything turned out okay, it was almost a painful lesson in how runway width affects your sight picture of a good landing! Since the runway’s also a good deal shorter than at BJC, this ended up being a full stop, taxi back, and start all over again. Got a few more touch and goes in after that, but had to cut the lesson twenty minutes or so short, as we were leaving the plane and our ride back to the school was en route. It was unfortunate as I felt like I was finally getting a feel for the runway, but probably better that way at the time. I was almost disappointed with the lesson as we were climbing out of the plane, but now that I’ve had a few hours to reflect, I’m actually feeling much better about it. I’ve read over and over how runways can change your perception of everything leading up to landing, but I guess you’re never really ready until you experience something.
Weather today was great. There was an 8 to 10 kt crosswind, but not terribly gusty, so we got lots of pattern work done. I’m getting things nice and square, holding TPA nicely, but still having some airspeed issues on base and final. Not nearly as much variation as on Thursday, and it’s nice to see improvement. We got in nine touch and goes, and of course one full stop. The 172 I rented today has an abysmal climb rate though, and it was a lot of waiting to get up 500 feet for turning cross. However, at some point in cross we had enough of a headwind that I’d be at pattern altitude or just above after finishing my turn. All in all it was a good day, and I had a lot of fun.
“Improved pattern but need work on consistent airspeed through base final”
This one was almost canceled due to weather as well, but since the winds were just starting to come in we decided to give it a go. I’m glad we did, as my last flight was over a month ago! My crosswind taxis and takeoffs were really good and I got some good slow flight practice, in moderate turbulence even. It was a lot of fun keeping my airspeed pegged at fifty-five knots, and flying a little 360. Facing West my ground speed was shy of thirty, but climbed way up to over ninety and back down as we went. This lesson would have been a really good example of how your heading and course can be two entirely different things (if this hadn’t already been hammered in during the ground school).
Next up we had time for a handful of touch and gos at Metro (I still had to think to not to call it Jeffco). The first was a full stop landing in the middle of 29 Left to let a helicopter work his way north. He was hanging a tire off a rope, for reasons still unknown to both instructor and me. We had seen him before we made a go/no-go decision, and used his pendulum to gauge the winds. After that I had two pretty good touch and gos, considering the crosswind. I still have a hard time with my airspeed on base and final, as it seems I spend too much time looking at the runway (finally got my eyes off the instruments), and when I do my pitch suffers. On our final landing, about 200 feet AGL (above ground level for my family who aren’t in the know yet) and 200 feet shy of 29 Right we got hit by some low level wind shear which required a judicious application of power to get up to a sink rate that wasn’t scary. Both that landing, and one of the touch and gos were sans instructor help, which felt pretty good to hear.
Here’s a quick breakdown from the log (minus a few columns that are either blank or insignificant). I put all of these in ZuluLog so I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, I’m just too tired at the moment to figure it out.
BJC to BJC
slow flt in light turb. pattern winds to 28kt, wind shear, some x-wind
51 (14 full stop)
Also, someone parked an A-36 over near Western Air. I would have been okay with scrubbing this flight, as I could have gawked at it for an hour and a half and then gone back to work. I didn’t want to crawl up the wing and peek inside (I imagine it’s the equivalent of walking up to a strangers motorcycle and trying it on for size) so I couldn’t tell you much about it, but boy was it pretty. Something to wish for should I ever win the lottery.
This video is being passed around by a large number scooterists I know. The season is turning and with the ease of cutting through traffic, not to mention between 45 and 100 mpg depending on your ride, more and more motorbikes of all sorts are out and about.
While the message is squarely aimed at drivers to keep an eye out, it’s certainly a good example of how situational awareness suffers when you’ve got a task in mind. So whether you’re heading down the street oblivious to two wheels, or at pattern altitude fixated on waiting for a clearance, stay vigilant.
I think I’ll ramble on a bit to frame up where my interest in flying comes from. My grandfather was a Bonanza pilot. He owned two or three of them over the years (I’ve seen pictures of N26JR and N16JR, both A-36s). He also owned a Cessna 320 (N316AJ), but about the only thing he ever mentions of it is how much gas it drank, and that he bought it from A.J. Foyt. He loved his Bonanzas. They always had blue trim. I’ve heard often how they’re the best plane he ever flew. I only remember riding in 16JR once, when I was very young. My grandparents had a place they would fly in to at Pine Mountain Lake, that I remember visiting once. 16JR was a 1973 that my grandpa later replaced with a 1988 (estimated), 26JR. 16JR was later owned by Peter Tomarken, a game show host. Unfortunately on March 13, 2006 16JR put down a few hundred feet off the shore of Santa Monica Bay. There were no survivors. I found this picture on airliners.net, which may be the only digital photo of one of my grandpa’s planes.
I remember flying in 26JR from Hayward Executive down to LA, with a stop somewhere in between for fuel (I was 11 or 12, it’s a bit fuzzy). We went down to Disneyland, saw the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose, then over to San Diego for the Zoo. Aside from a massive sunburn on my scalp, my most clear memory was of a ten or fifteen minute period where my dad and I swapped seats and it was my job to keep the plane in straight an level flight. I remember not being able to reach the pedals, having a hard time seeing over the console and how little force was needed to actually move the plane. I’ve been fascinated with planes all my life, but that was probably the concrete moment where I decided I wanted to learn to fly. I’ve daydreamed of flying in one form or another ever sense then. Of course life happens and dreams like this often fall by the wayside.
I’m glad I remembered to pick it back up and run with it, and with any luck I’ll be able to share it with my son if he’s interested when he’s older. I still haven’t found out what happened to 26JR (it’s now registered to a Mooney), but I would be thrilled to once again fly any A-36 with the old throw over yoke. Though if I ever manage to hunt down any of my grandpa’s old planes, I may have to start selling organs to make the current owner an offer.
And it’s taken me all weekend to find the time to get to this post (though you think with a three hour block of time freed up on Saturday it would have been easier). My instructor called me Friday evening, and he’s got a quite a flu. He lucked out with some work re-scheduling and shift covering, and I have some time booked with him for Monday if he’s feeling better, Thursday if he’s not, and I’ll be looking in to Saturday or Sunday as well. It’s starting to feel like a very long time since I’ve gotten in to the air (or on a motorbike, but that’s a different story). I’ve been tempted to fire up Flight Simulator X since I have a yoke and pedals, but I already need to break the habit of not looking outside enough.
My last flight was mostly slow flight maneuvers and lots of touch and gos. I’m not certain if that’s what we have in store for the next lesson, or if we’re going to go over emergency procedures again (that was the thought last lesson we got to do). Those are always interesting as north of Denver there are lots of fields and open spaces to choose from. Picking the best one isn’t always easy, though finding a suitable place almost always is. With any luck I’ll finally have something of substance to post. I suppose it also wouldn’t hurt to recount some of my earlier lessons and stuff leading up to this, but time can be tight with a ten month old who doesn’t believe in bed times.
I’ve been meaning for a long while to start a new and public blog about my flight lessons, but life seems to keep interrupting. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten up in the air in almost a month, either due to illness or weather. Luckily, I didn’t spend all that time sitting on my laurels. Last Saturday I finally took my FAA Written Exam for Private Pilot. I missed only three questions, and that 95% is valid until the end of March, 2010.
I think that should be more than enough time to wrap up my private certificate, and with any luck I’ll be working on a rating by then.