I woke up to a cloudy and windy morning today (04/18/2012) and as usual I checked the aviation weather website and found that although it was cloudy outside, the aviation weather website indicated that the cloud ceiling was 10,000 ft, visibility was in excess of 6 miles, but winds were gusting up to 24 knots! I could hear the wind whistling outside as I checked this very information on my laptop. I began to wonder if we would fly today but continued to get ready to go to Thunderbird Aviation. I had my oat meal breakfast and noticed that it was now 8:15 am. Jeremy hadn’t called so I assumed class as usual, but I thought I would check anyway by calling Jeremy. The phone rang for 5 or 6 times and then I was directed to voice mail. This was unlike Jeremy as he usually picked up by the second ring, but I left a message saying that the weather conditions seemed fine according to the weather website with the exception of the wind which was going to be gusting up to 24 knots by 9:00 am. I further stated that I would be willing to fly and asked what Jeremy thought, and ended my message with a thank you and my call back number. I continued preparing to leave for school with my logbook, pen, check list et al. Almost a half hour had gone by and I still hadn’t heard from Jeremy. I left home at around 8:45 am and at 9:05 am while I was on my way and close to school, I received a call from Jeremy. “Hi Tiger”, said Jeremy. “Good Morning Jeremy” I replied. “Good Morning” he replied and continued, “I got your message. Sorry I was flying at the time you called. The winds are gusty but we can fly and practice some of the maneuvers that are great during windy conditions. It’s not a good day for practicing landings though. So if you want to fly we can, otherwise I would understand if you would want to leave it for the weekend”. “Well I’m on my way and almost there” I replied. “Ah! Okay. We’ll see you when you get here then” said Jeremy and our conversation was over.
I stepped out of the car in the school car park and was immediately hit with a gust of wind in my face. I walked in and noticed that Mary was training another girl to do the job she does. In fact this girl is another student pilot whom I’ve seen before. I heard Mary saying, “This is Tiger, when he hands you the check-in information, you enter it into the computer. Then you hand him the plane’s folder”. Once I checked-in, I went to pre-flight the plane. I had been reading and watching the “Cleared for Takeoff” DVDs which go through the pre-flight procedure. I remembered they said to examine the plane as you approach it, and this is what I did. I looked to see if the wings were level, if there were any visible dents anywhere, if the propeller was straight and undamaged, if the tricycle gear was even, tire pressure etc. Then I continued with the usual pre-flight procedure. Once this was done I returned to the school and met Jeremy who was chatting with one of the instructors. We greeted one another again as I hadn’t seen him since I spoke to him on the phone. “Okay let’s go to the office and see what we’ll be doing today”, said Jeremy. “Today I’m going to let you do what you want. You’re free to just fly the plane, and practice any maneuvers you want to and I’ll just watch. If you forget anything you can ask me, or if I see you miss anything or do something incorrectly I will step in to help you. Basically it’s, “Show me what you got. There’s no pressure just relax and do whatever you can” he concluded. Then he asked, “What do you think?” “Oh that’s great. I’ve been contemplating on doing something like this, that is, that I go through some maneuvers on my own”, I replied. “Okay do you remember all the maneuvers we’ve covered?” asked my instructor and I listed them. “Wonderful now let’s go and fly” said Jeremy. As we walked out toward the plane, Jeremy indicated his delight with a smile as he said, “So you ordered the “Stick and Rudder”, you jumped on that right away”. I said yes and he continued, “Well you’ll get a new understanding of how the plane works. I’m learning that myself, so any previous thoughts you might have will change as a result of reading this book. Many instructors are recommending this book to their students”.
Once we were aboard I successfully executed the:
-Before Start Check
-Before Taxi Check
Then I got the ATIS information and called Crystal Ground to taxi to the active runway with departure to the North West. Having taxied close to runway 32L I went through the Run-up Check. I made some mistakes here. When I was checking the magnetos I was listening for the RPM rate of the propeller to drop. Jeremy said, “What are you doing?” “I’m listening for the RPMs to drop” I replied. “That’s good but that’s not a good indication, its supplementary information IF and when you’re clearly able to hear it. On a windy day like today it might be difficult to hear the RPMs drop. You should look at the Tachometer and see the RPMs drop there”, said Jeremy. I did as instructed. Then I made another mistake. When it came to the Alternate Static check, I was again looking at the wrong dials and Jeremy said that I should look for a slight drop in the Altimeter and the VSI indicator. Again I did as instructed and continued with the remainder of the check list without making any more errors. I called Crystal Tower and informed them that I was ready for takeoff. I was given the go ahead and then Jeremy asked, “Now which way are you going to turn the yoke since it’s windy?” I turned the yoke to the right and then Jeremy said, “Now let’s think about this”, I had realized I was wrong. “Look at the wind sock, see which way it’s blowing. The wind is coming from that direction”, said Jeremy. I looked and saw that the wind sock was blowing to the right indicating the wind was coming from the left. I should have known this because the ATIS information had said the winds were from 320 and hence our runway 32L. So I turned the yoke all the way into the wind i.e. to the left. As I pushed the throttle to full power, I gradually and smoothly turned it to the right as I approached takeoff speed of 56 knots. By the time I was ready to pull the yoke I had fully turned the yoke to neutral and I was off the ground. Now I had to take off at the best rate of climb speed of 79 knots, and I maintained that pretty well. At 2000 ft I leveled the wings and was flying straight and it was time for the Departure check list. Tim then said let’s climb to 4000 ft and it’s calmer up there. I continued upward and then once I reached the requested altitude I leveled the wings once again and reduced power to 2300 RPMs and was cruising. Then came the Cruise Check list. Once this was complete we flew out to the practice area to practice the maneuvers. “Okay do whichever maneuver you want” said Jeremy. “I would like to start with slow flight Tim….err sorry Jeremy”, I said. Jeremy smiled and said that’s okay. I called Jeremy, Tim two more times after this and Jeremy said don’t worry about it. One by one I went through the following maneuvers:
- Slow flight
- Power-off Stall
- Power-on Stall
- Steep turns
- Turns around a point
“Okay now let’s go back to the airport” said Jeremy. When we were around 10 miles from the airport Jeremy asked “Do you know which direction the airport is in?” “Well there’s the dome” I said. “Is that the dome or is that the dome?” asked Jeremy pointing to another dome which is a landmark we use to locate the airport. I pointed to the one he mentioned and he agreed. Here again I made a mistake or rather had suddenly become directionally challenged. “Which way are we heading?” asked Tim. I looked at the heading indicator and for some reason wasn’t able to say what heading. Then Jeremy asked, “Which heading did we depart on from the airport?” “North West” I replied. “That’s right so which way are we heading now? Jeremy repeated the question again. I just didn’t know, so now I began guessing, “West….South….Southwest…” Tim was getting frustrated and asked “What is the opposite of North West?” “South East” I replied. “Okay now call Crystal and tell them you’re inbound 7 miles from North West. I did as instructed. Then I went through the Descent Check list followed by the Before Landing Check list. Jeremy had to help me with the landing as it was quite windy. After landing I went through the After Landing Check list and finally the Shut Down check list.
We returned to Jeremy’s office and this is what he said:
“You’re performing to the PTS (Pilot Training Standard) standards. You performed all the maneuvers within the required range, they weren’t perfect but they were within the expected standards. You performed the second steep turn to the right correctly, although the angle of bank could have been a little steeper, but it was within the requirements. You went through the checklist well and on time. The only point I became a little frustrated was toward the end there where you said every heading but the required one. You should know this information like this…..” Jeremy indicated by snapping his fingers. “Well I have to go and see Kyle now so I’ll see you this weekend”. I said okay, thanked Jeremy and left for home.
As I drove home I reflected upon today’s lesson. I felt as if I had improved a little, not much, but a little and this was enough to keep me going. I enjoyed the fact that I was given free rein to fly and could do what I wanted without any pressure. This allowed me to show not only Jeremy what I had learned thus far, but also to myself. However, toward the end I was frustarted that I wasn’t able to locate where we were, but recently I’ve been reading a number of different books and watching DVDs which are helping considerably. I’m sure the “Stick and Rudder” will be of great help too. Further, I found the follwing text on a website entitled, “How Hard is Learning to Fly?” I found it to be motivating and now know that there are other student pilots in similar situations:
“I’m easily frustrated 😦
Let’s be honest: this could be a problem. Learning of any kind has a saw-toothed progression, three steps ahead, two back. In learning to fly, however, it can sometimes be exaggerated: there are days you can’t do anything right and it’s impossible not to get frustrated. That’s not the problem. The problem may lie in what you do about it. If you’re not a dust-myself-off-and-get-right-back-on-the-horse kind of person, maybe you’d be happier doing something with fewer challenges. However, if you like the feeling of coming back and conquering something that has previously defeated you, you’re going to love learning to fly. It’s amazing how great the feeling of accomplishment can be. That alone is reason enough to learn to fly.” 😀