Tuesday, July 31, 2007
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
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
Monday, July 23, 2007
(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.
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.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
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
Monday, July 16, 2007
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
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
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!
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
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
My trusty steed.