Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How Many Is That?

Last night, a friend and I were supposed to go for a little flightseeing... but the weather had other ideas. With visibility under 10sm (statute miles) and VCTS (thunderstorms in the vicinity) and some hz (haze) reported, I told her I didn't think it was a good idea to trek all the way out there (almost an hour from our office, even further for her to get back to her house), given that it was likely to be pretty hazy for flightseeing. But after canceling my flight Friday night, my flight with Husband Saturday afternoon, and our first IFR flight lesson Sunday-- all for weather, I decided to go out and see what happened. As it turns out-- it was too hazy for a good VFR flight out to the practice area... but it was just fine for a little pattern work.

So I did landings. I think I did 8 of them all total. It was great. Just me and the plane and the empty sky (except for some clouds!). In the beginning, there was a nice crosswind going-- so I got in one or two good crosswind landings (on a crosswind landing, you definitely want to hear three chirps-- the wind wing, the other wing, and then the nosewheel). I worked on my shorts, too. I confirmed my suspicion that those are getting rusty. And I practiced my soft fields. Those are my favorites. I especially love soft field take offs.

On a softfield t/o, you hold the elevator back as you taxi so that the nosewheel is way up (on a soft field-- like a grass or gravel strip-- you wouldn't want the nosewheel to get caught in a hole or anything-- it's fairly fragile). Then, once you are on centerline, you smoothly add the power and the nose goes up even further. As the power comes in, you start releasing pressure on the elevator. Then slowly, the airplane starts flying, one control surface at a time. It's kind of like waking up from a deep sleep, where first you start to feel or be aware of one arm, and then the other, and then your legs, and then finally, you open your eyes and you're awake. The plane slowly starts to fly, and you sense the different pressure on the controls and feel the wheels starting to lose their traction, and then the plane gives a little wiggle once it's fully off the ground. Then, you start to move the yoke forward, tiny bits at a time. Because though the plane is off the ground, it's not going fast enough to fly away from the ground (you could google "ground effect" if you want to know why), so you have to keep it just off the ground, flying along just feet above the runway, until you gather enough speed. Finally, when you reach your climbout speed, you release the pressure that you added to the yoke and the plane seems to soar up and away, finally ready to fly away from the runway.

Only a few other planes took off or landed while I was up. One of them was an instructor and his student. I had watched them preflighting earlier. It looked like it might be the student's first or second lesson as he was still learning to preflight-- and it took them a lo-o-ong time to make it to the runup area and get off the ground. When they came back from their flight (they must have only been in the air a few minutes), the instructor asked me over the radio how many landings I'd done... I thought about it for a sec and told him 5 or 6. Later, I saw them when I was parking the plane (they were in the next spot over), and he told me he thought it was pretty cool that I was out practicing, even though I already had my rating. I just seem to get a little stir crazy when I don't fly!

So I think I did a total of 8 landings- 1 crosswind, 3 shorts, 3 softs, and 1 regular (I like to end with a regular because I always want to end on a high note!)

Monday, July 30, 2007

And Then There Were Two!

Two pilots in the family, that is! Husband got his license on Saturday! I'm teasing him that he argued his way to a license, though he actually did very well on his oral and his flight. He just had a few paperwork problems that were a bit unexpected. Apparently, even though it looks in one place that our plane's ELT (emergency locator transmitter) was inspected in the last year, there's no substantiating sign off from the work actually having been done. And since that is required annually, our plane was technically not airworthy. He finally convinced the examiner to let him fly-- by finding a mechanic to remove it completely! According to the FAA, it's better to fly with none than with one that is not inspected! (I understand the reasoning for it, but it does sort of defy logic.)

In any case, he pulled through-- and stayed focused enough to pass the checkride. Unfortunately, the thunderstorms came before he was able to take me for a ride. Oh well-- hopefully, we have many years of flying together in front of us!

Sunday, we started working on our IFR (instrument flight rating)! No rest for the weary... Husband keeps telling everyone that I'm pushing him through... I guess I forgot that I got a four week break in the action-- and he got none. So much for still being able to fly if we go IFR... thunderstorms kept us on the ground again on Sunday. But we did get in our first ground session with our new instructor, A. It went pretty well, though it felt a little like the first day of school when you meet your new teacher! I think Husband's going to do very well with A's style-- he goes through things a little faster than M, I just hope I can keep up!

The strangest thing about working on our IFR is that there is a lot more stuff that we "just need to know for the test"-- but that doesn't apply to our airplane. On the one hand, I want to be a good pilot- regardless of the aircraft... on the other hand, it's hard to get excited about learning instruments that seem to be getting outdated. If we didn't own the plane, then the standard thing would be for us to do the entire first stage of IFR in the sim. But since we own the plane, the economics actually make it about the same-- or maybe a little bit cheaper-- to do the work in the plane. So others learning on a G1000 at our flight school still spend about 15 hours in the sim (on steam gauges) before getting into the G1000 stuff. For us, we'll only use the sim for the stuff that really needs to be learned there first. Hopefully, the transition won't be too hard. There are a lot of articles about pilots transitioning from the steam gauges to glass... but I haven't seen any about the other way around. Hmmm.... maybe I could get an article out of this!

Here's hoping the weather clears so I can take my friend up tonight... (though I'm not holding my breath as it's 10am and still solid IMC--instrument meteorological conditions).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Out of Order

Just a quick note for anyone who follows the blog... my last post showed up below the one before it... I have no idea why! But... thought I'd point it out for anyone who's interested.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The End of an Era

I think I might have been able to resist the lure of the Harry Potter book if I had had to wait until late afternoon when the Postman finally delivered it. But Husband, as he is known to do, surprised me with a copy of the book when he returned home from retaking his written exam around noon (he didn't realize I had ordered one a month or so ago). By 2pm, I was deep into the book, and flying was out of the question! My compromise with myself, however, was to do an early flight the next morning, post the Harry Potter reading frenzy!

(I am happy to report, I started reading at 1pm Saturday, and finished around 11:45pm-- and that included a 1.5 hour break to make and eat dinner with Husband, and a 30 minute break to catch up with M who called on his weekend break from intense airline training! And... the book was awesome!)

So Sunday morning, I pulled myself out of bed at 6am (I am not a morning person!) and we made it out to the airport around 7:30. We decided to do a quick flight up to York, PA for breakfast. It was beautiful! Clear skies, great visibility, calm air, and best of all-- cool temps! Husband and I worked some more on our crew resource management-- i.e. 'what parts of flying are you going to do and what parts am I going to do?'. We're getting more in sync on preflighting and handling the radio/navigation/flight controls, etc. The biggest things to which we have to adjust are 1) Knowing what has/hasn't been done by the other to make sure we stay safe, 2) Adjusting our workflow to fit my slower pace and his faster one, while 3) Making sure that we both have our head in the game and are focused and attuned to the airplane and the flight.

We made it to York without incident and found that the field was filling up fast! It's apparently a popular place! After some debate, we found a spot to tie down... but had some excitement as we exited the plane as I didn't realize I had parked us on an incline-- and the plane started to roll as we hopped out! Husband quickly saw the movement and grabbed the strut and we got things sorted out without further incident. Note to self: make sure the plane won't roll away before exiting the plane!

Then it was time for breakfast. The restaurant there (Orville's Cafe) is great! It's small-- but looks out on the ramp and has a lot of little airplane details. The blueberry pancakes are amazing-- huge, fluffy, and full of blueberries (thanks, M, for the tip!). And the breakfast burrito was great, too. We will definitely be back for more breakfasts! It was also nice that it was only abuot a 35 or 40 minute flight up. In no time at all, we were back at JYO and tying down Good Dog.

Dad's First Flight!

After a nap and a walk through the woods with Flyer, we were ready for our second flying adventure of the day-- a trip to Bay Bridge Airport with Dad! Bay Bridge is a nice little airport-- I've posted about it before. The trick with it is that to get there from JYO, you either have to go way around the outside of the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone-- the big restricted area surrounding Washington), or you "thread the needle" between the edge of the Washington prohibited area and the Baltimore Class B airspace-- the whole time staying within the outer boundary of the ADIZ.

The difficulty with this-- for those who are not "familiar with ADIZ and FRZ procedures", as I am asked each time I file an ADIZ flight plan (i.e. each time I fly out of JYO!)-- is that you definitely don't want to stray into the prohibited area of the Washington air space. Remember the flight instructor and student from a few years ago who was all over the news for straying into the area and getting escorted by the black hawks? Yeah... you don't want to go past that bounday! On the other hand, just a few short miles away, is the 1300 ft shelf of the Baltimore airspace. Translation: you have, at times, a corridor about 5 miles wide, that you must stay within-- and you must stay below 2500 ft to stay out of the outermost shelf of the Baltimore airspace. (To understand Class Bravo airspace-- picture a big upside down wedding cake. The cake part is what you must stay out of-- unless you're cleared by the controller. Below and around it is where you're allowed to fly. Now, add onto all of this the fact that you have to stay in contact with Potomac (because you're still inside the ADIZ)... and you can see how it might be a nerve-wracking flight. In fact, I would not ever attempt this VFR, except that we have the magic G1000 and a great autopilot to help keep us out of trouble. So we obviously approached this trip with a great amount of care. I made sure to actually call and talk to the FSS (flight service station) briefer, instead of just filing on line. He had trouble filing the plan because nobody ever asks to do something like this-- most people on VFR flight plans want to get in and out of the ADIZ on the most direct and shortest route possible. The controllers were also a little perplexed. The one on the return trip, in particular, seemed concerned. After verifying our route of flight and waypoints, he laughed a little. A few minutes later, he came back to ask what equipment were in and if we had GPS on board. Husband replied with an emphatic, "Yes, we have Golf and it is well-programmed!" (with Golf indicates that we have GPS). Luckily, the only tense moments we had were the 2-3 minutes when we were flying toward a helicopter at the same altitude on the same route (in the opposite direction). I momentarily wondered what they would do to me if I broke the FRZ orBravo airspace in order to avoid a mid-air collision. We did finally get the helicopter in sight and were able to avoid it with only a slight right turn.

The picture above shows the GPS map that we followed. See the arched yellow line? That's the boundary of the prohibited area. See the straight line that bends at the top? That's our route of flight... we flew JYO to GAI to VPONX to VPOOP to W29. VPONX and VPOOP are two VFR waypoints that define the old VFR corridor. I teased Husband that he only wanted to do this flight so that he could make the controller say "VPOOP" over frequency!

The second nerve-wracking part of the trip (besides having my dad in the plane for the first time!) was the ladning into Bay Bridge. We knew the winds had picked up-- the continuous light chop that we endured tipped us off to that. But when we picked up weather and got close to Bay Bridge, we discovered that the winds had shifted such that there was about a 15 knot crosswind for our landing. I do pretty well with crosswinds... but this was a pretty stiff one. Luckily, there was not much gust factor... so while I had to put in almost full left rudder to keep the plane lined up with the runway, it wasn't shifting around or anything. Still, I was pretty relieved to feel the wind lighten a little as we dropped below the trees. I'm pretty sure I held my breath the whole way down short final... and I think my dad did too! But the landing was beautiful-- a near perfect crosswind landing. Three distinct chirps, nice and smooth, and lined up with the runway and on centerline. After we landed, Husband laughed-- "okay, you two up there can breathe now!"

Dad likes to get actions shots... so this is getting ready for departure from JYO.

And here we are coming out over the Chesapeake Bay. Beautiful, isn't it?! Don't you wish you could see airplane wake turbulence like you can see boat wake?

This is where we ate dinner (Hemmingways)-- and the one below is looking out over the water from our table.

Coming in over JYO, the schoolbuses signal our turn onto downwind... after a cross country, I'm always amazed at how relieved I am to see those yellow schoolbuses! And the other pic is lined up on short final.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

To Go, or Not to Go....

Ahhh. A great dilemma to have. Do I heed the call of the beautiful blue sky, calm winds, and pleasant temperature and get a few laps of the pattern in? Or do I sate my curiosity by staying home and devouring the latest Harry Potter (hopefully arriving soon by UPS!)? Yes-- I confess, I'm a Harry Potter nut. Okay, so I don't go around in Harry Potter dress and hang out at bookstores till all hours waiting for the book... but I have had mine on order with Amazon for about a month now. And I did convince Husband to go see Order of the Phoenix with me last night... which has left me with a taste for more Potter.

Definitely a tough choice... especially since someone else snuck in a 2 hour session in the plane after my time slot... so no sunset dinner flight with Husband tonight.

And speaking of Husband, he finally has his check ride scheduled! He passed his Stage 3 on Wednesday, and is planning to retake his written today (his results for his written have "expired", so he must retake before he can get his license).

Good Luck, Husband! (And here's hoping Harry doesn't die!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Photos from Friday...

Tying down the plane... And a quick pose for the camera before dinner! (Thanks, Tim, for the pictures!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Airports Are Fun!

To continue our tour of airports in the area, Husband and I flew to the Williamsburg/Jamestown airport (JGG) Sunday. It was a great flight. We decided to get flight following to help us make sure we didn't accidentally wander into any of the potential hazzards along our route. In addition to the usual MOAs and restricted areas, the FSS briefer mentioned parachute jumping, an aerial circus, unmanned rocket launches, and a few others that I can remember now! But though we did hear the radio calls for the jumpers, our trip down was pretty quiet. We flew out of the ADIZ over the Cassanova VOR, and then turned on heading for JGG.

We had fun picking out different points on the chart and finding them on our route. And I think I finally have the autopilot sort of figured out-- at least for the basics (nav, heading, alt, and up/down). It was nice and cool at altitude (5500 feet)-- a great change from the 95 degree heat on the ground. As we got close to JGG, we were very happy to have flight following-- another plane had just taken off from the airport, and was on an IFR plan. They were ascending to our altitude as we were descending to where they had just come from... not a good combination. With the light haze, we had a hard time seeing them. We finally did get a visual on them, and after the quick turn to the right to avoid them, we got down to the business of our approach.

We thought we'd be coming in on more or less of a 45 for the left downwind to the desired runway... Unfortunately, we had miscalculated our approach in relation to the runway. So at the last minute, after a few very confusing seconds, we realized we needed to overfly the runway, do a right turn to enter the 45 for the downwind. This took out over the water-- which is getting less scary now that I done it three or four times-- but is still a little startling. After all the craziness, I was a little high and my airspeed was all over the place. Turning final, I thought we were way high. With Husband calling out airspeeds, and also reminding me that the runway was shorter and a lot narrower to what I'm used to... I decided at the last minute to do a go around and get more set up for landing.

This time around, though we did exchange calls with another plane in the pattern, I was much more set up for landing. There was a decent crosswind- with a little bit of gust to it, so my landing wasn't perfectly smooth... but it wasn't too bad. At that point, I was just pretty happy to be on the ground! We made our way over to the FBO-- that also housed Charly's, a great little cafe. By the time we took our seats (outside, under an umbrella, overlooking the runway!), our plane had already been refueled per our instructions. We had a great lunch-- sandwiches on homemade bread! As we sat there, we saw about 6 or 7 other planes land. That made me feel a lot better about my landing! Only one of them was any good. The others were all a little sketchy in one way or another.

Our flight home was also mostly uneventful. We played with the clouds a little, though. We still have trouble knowing how far away we are from them, so we have a lot of conversations like this: (Husband) "Do you think we'll be below that cloud layer when we reach altitude?" (Me) "I don't know. Maybe. I guess let's keep climbing, and if they are at our level, then we'll go back down." (a few minutes go by) (Me) "I think those are at our level. I think we can go up to 8500 and go over them, we'd still be able to see the ground and everything." (a few more minutes go by) "Hmmm. I can't tell if those are at our level or not. What do you think? And do you think we're two thousand feet away from that little one over there?" (Husband) "I don't know. I can't tell up here." (Me) "Well, do you think we'd be able to see a plane on the other side of this cloud to see if they were heading straight at us?" In the end, we decide that the clouds are a little to close for comfort, so we end up cruising at 4500. Not nearly as cool at that altitude, but that's ok by me!

One strange thing that happened... we heard a conversation between two pilots about a plane crash in the area. We never could tell what/where the crash was... but then a little later, we heard a Coast Guard pilot talking to a controller about doing a search and rescue mission-- and it sounded like what the pilots had been talking about. Scary.

ooh! And I think we're going to take my dad up for a flight this coming Saturday! Yay!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

First Non-Flying Passenger

Husband and I had planned to another dinner flight on Friday, but at the last minute, I have an impulse to invite my friend along for the ride. She's been begging to go up with me-- and was one of the first few I called after getting my Private. She was so excited! We decided, after some debate, that the plan would be for us to meet up with Husband and then go out out to the airport. We would then all three fly out to FDK and meet up with her husband (who would ride their motorcycle from their house-- which is only about 20 miles from FDK). It all went pretty well. We did a nice sightseeing flight out of the ADIZ, and then along the river and across Harpers Ferry and up to FDK. We couldn't believe how quickly it went by-- but it was beautiful weather for flying. Husband and Friend even saw a train chugging along across Harpers Ferry-- and saw one end of the train on one side of a tunnel, and the other end on the other side of the mountain at the other end of the tunnel.

We entered the pattern and got set up for landing behind another small plane. Just then, a Pitts flew by a little above and just in front of us! It was crazy. We could clearly see the paint design on the plane. We landed, taxied right to the restaurant and there was Friend's husband walking out to meet us. It was a great dinner. Cream of crab soup, salad, steaks and crabs cakes... way too much food! After dinner, Friend and her husband got on their bike and rode away, and we loaded up for a trip back to JYO. We were a little worried about the sun setting (the sunset was gorgeous!-- we finally had our sunset flight together!), but it was a nice flight back. It was dusk when we landed, but we still no trouble seeing where to go. What a great night!

When I get the pictures back from Friend, I'll post them...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The First Weekender!

After the successful flight Friday night, we decided to get a little more adventurous and take the plane for our first overnight trip with Good Dog (the plane)! So after Husband got a little solo time in on Saturday (now that he's out from under his big proposal-- or his rock, as he calls it-- he's trying to get ready for his checkride!), we loaded up and got underway... sort of! You wouldn't believe how long it takes to throw a some golf clubs, a duffel bag, and a dog into the plane. I never could manage to get the harness on the dog and through the seatbelt... so we finally just went without the harness. Flyer's usually pretty good on his own in the plane.

So after getting everyone settled in, and checking the weather, we were off! It's amazing how much cooler it is at altitude (thank goodness!). We decided to get flight following on the way up-- even though it was so clear that we had no trouble seeing everything around us. Our only hiccops were that I forgot to mark the chart that we were using with the route (I had done a flight plan using the AOPA flight planner so that we'd know time enroute, course headings, etc.), and I forgot to go over our route, instructions, etc. with Husband before we departed. Once we got that straightened out, it was a very enjoyable flight! In fact, it was so clear, we could see the Newcastle (ILG) airport from at least 20 nm out. Husband didn't believe it was the airport at first, so we used our pilotage skills to confirm. Tower cleared us to a left downwind for 32. After a little confusion over which runway was the correct one, and some s-turns while we figured it out, we settled into a left downwind and then were cleared to land. Thankfully, the landing was pretty smooth. I had called around prior to departure and had the name of an FBO that would give us a parking spot. What I didn't think of, though, was getting directions to the FBO for our friends who were picking us up! Fortunately, they found us pretty quickly-- and had even watched us land!

We had a great time hanging out with our friends watching the dogs (and their kids) play together. Flyer had the best time getting soaked by the hose and playing in the sprinkler. He even jumped in the hot tub with Husband, R, and the kids.

Sunday morning, after the guys enjoyed a little early morning golf, we headed back to JYO. Each flight, we seem to get more comfortable in the plane together. Flyer was exhausted-- no need for a harness on this flight! Though we forgot to put his mutt muffs on to protect his ears. Oh well, next time!

(Flyer, conked out in the back seat of the plane. He made himself right at home and even shoved our flight bag off the seat so he could stretch across it!)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dinner at Emma's

We skimmed above the hills, and through the slight haze, thankful for the coolness of our altitude. Husband handled the radios and navigation, and I was on the controls. Right on schedule, we came over the last ridge and Husband spotted the airport to our right. I made a couple of small s-turns to slow us down and get us down to altitude while Husband made our presence known on the frequency. We landed without seeing any other traffic-- and despite my nervousness, I even managed a decent (though not great landing!). As we taxied, unicom called and asked if we needed services. We declined and headed around the ramp for the restaurant. We made it! My first flight with a passenger as me as PIC!
We had a great "diner" meal-- Emma's is a greasy-spoon kind of place-- perfect for our first flight along together. It's right next door to a detail shop called "Dirty Birds Detailing"-- they detail planes and boats. So while I tied down our "dirty bird", Husband talked to the owner about their services. Maybe we'll take our plane back for a detail sometime.

After dinner, we had an equally nice flight back. I was worried that I'd be too nervous or that we wouldn't be able to coordinate our crew management-- but it was great! Husband was very helpful-- and it all went very well!

When we landed back at JYO, we met M for one last flight together. The plan was to fly over to Manassas, do a missed approach, and then fly to IAD. But alas, the controllers had other things in mind. As we approached Manassas, the controller told us we wouldn't be able to land at Dulles because there were too many departures going. So, we did the approach to Manassas, did a touch and go, and then took off again. After we were back in the air, the controller asked what our intentions were. So M very politely said again that we wanted to do the approach to IAD... and this time the controller (we thought it was another guy) snapped back at us "I already told you that you couldn't do that!", so we instead asked to go back to JYO. Oh well. At least we got a little more night flying in-- it's so pretty!

M left to become an airline pilot Sunday-- I can't wait to hear about his adventures. M, wherever you are-- happy contrails and just remember to keep the shiny side up!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Right Seat Views

M and I flew over to OKV last night to take care of some paperwork. Since we no longer are needing to work on maneuvers (yay!), we decided to have a little fun with things. On the way over, we went through some crew resource management (CRM) stuff to get me used to splitting things up for when Husband and I fly together. Basically, one of us did radios and navigation, and the other flew the plane. Since he doesn't get to do a lot of flying, I let him fly mostly, and I handled the radios. It was way more enjoyable than just looking out the window.

After getting the paperwork completed, we headed back to JYO. But for this flight, we decided to switch things up even more. I took the right seat and he took the left so that I could do a little right-seat practice in case I ever need it when Husband and I are flying together. It sounds simple to switch seats-- just do the opposite of what you do on the left, right? I mean, I still know how to fly and everything. But it was actually pretty disconcerting. Your hands aren't sure how much pressure to use on the throttle or the yoke; your eyes have trouble finding the instruments (on the opposite side of the plane); even your feet have trouble getting it straight on the rudders because the strange sight picture is messing with your head.

I sort of the got the hang of taxiing down-- and M had me practice putting in and taking out the power. Though it was tough to find the centerline, it felt a little like learning to drive a right-hand drive car (which I did in South Africa). But in the air was really when things got interesting. I even had a hard time telling (without looking at the attitude indicator) if I was straight-and-level. Lining up on downwind was tricky-- I had to keep asking M if I was aligned properly (of course, the slight crab that we had to keep in for the winds didn't help things). Making left turns felt a little like making steep turns to the right does from the left seat-- I was never quite sure if I had the proper bank angle and rate of turn. And I definitely didn't know without looking whether I was coordinated. I was convinced I was going to need M's help to get this thing on the ground! But he just kept talking me through it, helping me see where I was off the alignment, when I needed to adjust one way or the other. Somehow, I managed to pull off a pretty smooth landing-- though it felt a little like my first landing!

We did one more turn around the pattern in OKV and the headed for home. It was getting dark as we crossed the ridge and entered the ADIZ. And it was really hazy. But I still found the airport, and the water towers that we use to help guide us for entry to 17 in plenty of time. After spending so much time flying around the OKV pattern lately, it really does feel like coming home to find the safety of the JYO pattern. All-in-all a really fun flight. Nice and relaxing, though I realized later that we forgot to turn on the XM radio. That would have just been the icing on the cake. It's possible that that was my last flight with M, though I'm hoping to get one more in before he leaves to go learn to fly jets. For any CFIs out there who are wondering if they make a difference, I have to say that I will always remember M for teaching me to fly-- and for taking that job so seriously... I got so much more out of it than just learning how to control an airplane. It's freedom, confidence, fun, and a really cool thing to share with Husband!

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Checkride.

So... to tell the tale!

After getting up at 5:30 to finish up my flight planning and make sure everything was in order, I headed out to the airport around 7:30. By 8:45, I was in the air and on my way to OKV! The flight over was easy and smooth as silk... almost boring! (a good kind of flight to have) It was such a cool feeling to fly somewhere for a reason! I had an appointment-- and I was flying to it! After having horrible landings on Saturday, I decided to try a short-field landing at OKV... it went ok, but wasn't great. I tied down the plane and met the Examiner on the ramp as I walked in to the airport, right on time.

We started off with the oral... 2 1/2 hours of paperwork, regulations, weather, aerodynamics, charts, flight planning, etc. It was pretty grueling, though the examiner was pretty nice. I got a little twisted around on airmets/sigmets, and explaining aerodynamics in steep turns (why there's an increased stalling tendency). Otherwise, I think that part went pretty well, though 2 1/2 hours is a long time to do anything!

The one thing that bothered me during the oral-- he asked me about transiting through Class D airspace and whether I needed clearance... I told him I would need to establish two-way communication (i.e. the controller needs to have repeated back your call sign) before going through the airspace. He told me I was wrong, that I needed to get a specific "you have clearance..." from the controller. I started to argue, but decided that I didn't really want to get in an argument with the Examiner... so I let it drop. I looked it up later, and I do think I was right... it kind of annoyed me that he got such a basic thing wrong.

A little past noon, we finished up with the oral portion, and took a little break to check the weather and get ready for the flight. After preflighting (I was worried he might grill me on all that I was doing then, but he just kind of looked around the airplane a bit), we got settled and began the runup. After the runup, he asked for a short-field takeoff, so I began briefing him. He started to tell me I had the wrong speeds for takeoff (I use the POH guidelines-- but these use different speeds than the typical Vx (best angle of climb) and Vy (best rate of climb) combo for shortfield), but I assured him I was following the speeds in the POH. We then had a discussion about how manufacturers will make the speeds lower to make the performance data look better-- but that puts you very close to a stall speed at a critical time. He finally decided I could use the speeds I learned, but that he wanted to talk to M because he said the PTS call for using the Vx and Vy speeds. I later looked this up and PTS actually says that either the Vx and Vy speeds or the POH recommended speeds may be used.

In the time that I was inside doing the oral, the wind really kicked up. I even thought about whether or not I should do the flight-- but decided that though the gusts were pretty strong (up to 20 knot gusts), they were mostly straight up and down the runway. In any case, it was pretty choppy up in the air. But my maneuvers all went reasonably well. We jumped one to the next very quickly. I realized later that it also seemed fast because there was no 20 minute trip out to a practice area like we have to do from JYO (to get past the ADIZ). Before I knew it, he was instructing me to go back to OKV for landings.

First up on landings was a shortfield. Because we were so close to the airport, I was already on the 45, entering downwind before I realized where we were. There was a ton of traffic-- and the planes weren't necessarily all making their calls. As we turned on downwind, I thought-- I don't have my weather. We also had to slot in between two planes that were doing some crazy things-- one extended his downwind about a mile beyond where you normally turn base. I felt completely behind the airplane (I was already past my aiming point, and if I waited till I was abeam the other plane to turn base, I would be way out of sync to do a shortfield)... and just wanted to get out of the pattern and get set up properly. So, I told him that I was going to do a 360 for separation (there was also another plane doing a straight in). He told me he didn't think that was a good idea-- there was another plane entering the 45. I decided to go ahead and turn out to the right, though-- and just fly out a ways, and then plan to get back on the 45. I did this, got the weather, and tried to go far enough out to be behind the other plane. But they now weren't making calls-- and all of a sudden they turned toward us, so we had to quickly turn away to go around them. I finally got back on the 45. Then about to turn downwind, another plane turned early from the crosswind-- without any calls (departure, crosswind, or downwind!). As we were already turning, we had no choice but to make a hurried call and hope they saw us. The only problem was that the frequency was full of College Park calls, so it was a few second before we could get a word in. We finally did, and thankfully, the other plane finally acknowledged seeing us.

I thought we were in the clear at that point (remember, I'm still just trying to do that first landing), but then there are 2 planes coming for a straight in-- and they're using IFR (i.e. meaningless to VFR pilots) calls about their location. Luckily, we're able to fit in between them. We do this, and I'm finally pretty set with my airspeed, and I think all I have to battle with now is the wind-- but I'm wrong. As we turn final, I hear over the radio from another plane "Uh, Cessna on final, do you know the elevation of the airport? You are really low." Yeah, that's right, I get criticized over the radio by another plane on my checkride! I shoot a quick glance at the examiner like "WTF?". He tells me I'm doing fine, just to ignore it. I do my best to just keep focused on the landing. But my landing is horrible. I'm all over the place- the wind is just blowing us around. I probably should have used only 20 degrees flaps for the wind-- but was worried about being able to get slow enough for the shortfield. We got hit by a gust just as we flared, and then started to drop as I added power, unsure whether or not to try and land it or do a go around. Unfortunately, I didn't drop the nose as I added power, so we still sort of fell out of the sky. A big bounce, and we veered hard to the right and then the left, going almost over the side of the runway. For a split second, I panicked-- and I saw his hands start to go for the controls. Then I got control, braked, and called "Maximum braking, flaps up".

I was sure I had just failed. I was almost in tears. I taxied us of the runway, and braced for him to tell me I had failed. He told me to clean it up, which I did, and then he told me to taxi back. Taxi back to where? The parking area or the runway? He sounded surprised when he said for departure. Whew, so I wasn't finished yet! So, he gave me a minute to get myself together and then we went up again and did a forward slip to a go-around, then attempted a soft-field. I went around on the first soft-field attempt. The second soft-field, I made it in. Not the best soft-field, but not horrible considering the wind was now gusting 19 knots and variable. The last landing was an simulated engine out. While I was thankful to not have to look for a field (the part I struggle most with), we got a surprise as I was trying to get us trimmed for best glide speed... another plane appeared-- without any radio calls- on a straight in as we curved around toward final. The Examiner was really annoyed-- he had been looking for traffic, and neither of us saw this guy coming. I quickly gave a "on final, simulated engine out" and again just hoped the plane saw us in front of them. With all the craziness, I didn't have time to run the checklist, but I think he understood. We landed long, taxied off at one of the last turnouts. I had to wait a second to make my clear call-- and realized as we did, that the plane behind us had landed, taxied clear, and made his call before I could. Crazy.

At this point, I wasn't sure what to think. Drenched in sweat (even though it was a pleasant 75 degrees out), shaking, and completed exhausted, I was just glad to be done. Then the Examiner asked if I knew what it meant that we had finished, and he hadn't had to stop the exam... I hoped I did! I asked if that meant I passed-- and he said yes! He helped me tie down, and then we did a debrief and the final paperwork. I was now a pilot! I was so happy, I almost hugged the plane after we landed. Hungry (no food since breakfast that morning), exhausted (I had been with him for over 5 hours), drenched, and happy, I sat and enjoyed a Twix before flying myself back to Leesburg. I was so exhausted, I ended up having to do a go-around on my first approach because I was too tired to successfully battle the winds! But it was so worth it! Now, I just can't wait to take Husband for a ride!

My trusty steed.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I have my Private Pilot License!!!

Woo-hoo! It was a marathon day... but I passed! More details later... but... Woo-Hoo!