Saturday, August 30, 2008


It wasn't pretty, but both I passed the written instrument (Husband passed his, too). The actual exam was harder than any of the practice exams than I took... and I was a little disappointed with my score (an 82), but then again, I passed and it is done. I do think that I know a lot more than that score suggests. Unfortunately, I definitely get test anxiety!

The B-17 was awesome. I'll post about that-- complete with photos! But I think my next stop now is a shower! It's been a long (and hot!) day!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Eve of the Instrument Written

It's probably a good thing that my commercial flight lesson cancelled this morning. It meant I spent more time studying for my instrument written exam that I have scheduled for tomorrow. Husband came home around 3pm, and we studied off and on all night. Now I'm heading to bed soon in hopes of a good night sleep. We'll see how the test goes-- I got in the 80-85% range on the practice tests I took. But I've been drilling using Sporty's Study Buddy this evening (highly recommended-- you can select different topics and go through the FAA questions on each), and seem to be converging on scores more in the 88-95% range.

Tomorrow should be fun!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Rain Will Come

Long drought in posting, I know. I've been busy trying to get my written instrument course wrapped up, starting instrument flight lessons again, and generally trying to get started with the commercial course.

Husband and I did successfully complete the King Schools coursework to prepare for the instrument written exam. And we have the exam scheduled for Saturday. Now it's just practice, practice, practice! We both took practice exams last night. I scored and 83%. Not great, but definitely passing (>70%). That was without any review. So we both reviewed the sections we missed together, and we'll take another practice exam tonight. I'm hoping to stay solidly above passing... my ultimate goal is to get better than an 85% (though of course higher would be great!). The stuff we have the most trouble with is, not surprisingly, stuff we don't have in the airplane, and therefore have no experience with. Like-- for instance-- ADFs. But, it seems to be finally sorting itself out in my head... I hope.

Husband and I have now done three flights with our new instrument instructor. I think they're going well. We went for a practice flight 10 days ago to dust off our instrument tracking abilities-- we did climbs, descents, turns, stalls, slow flight, and steep turns under the hood. Last weekend, we met up with T and did our first lesson. It was a late afternoon flight on an incredibly hot and humid day. The air was bumpy and the density altitude high. It took some doing to get Good Dog off the ground and in the air. I really didn't think I performed well. Husband said it wasn't too bad, but I couldn't get the airplane to stay trimmed for more than a couple of minutes. I was pretty frustrated (and a little nauseaus!) by the time we landed and switched pilots. The next evening was a world of difference. The air was smooth, and I felt in control of the plane. I hit my altitudes and my courses pretty well. All in all I was pretty happy with my flying. The third flight was a night flight. Husband started flying before sunset, but by the time we switched seats and I took controls, it was well into night. I think I did ok, but I didn't have the same confidence. Everything seemed a little different-- little things, like glancing at the approach plate to verify the speed became much harder (because now I needed to also balance a red flashlight at the same time as the approach plate!).

I now have a new commercial instructor as well-- but we haven't actually met up yet (though I know who he is from seeing him in the office). If weather holds, then I'll start my commercial training tomorrow! I think I'm about to get all the flying and training I want!

More to come. (Oh- and Husband made us reservations to fly on the B-17 at JYO this weekend!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oshkosh Day Two: WomenVenture

The day starts early at Oshkosh. The airport opens for departures at 6am, and therefore we were awakened by engines starting up each morning at 6. Once I got eyes to properly open, I realized we could see airplanes taking off through our tent (screen) door. I savored lying there for a while before actually getting up. But then I was up and going. We had cereal (still no propane!), cleaned up a bit, and then headed over to the bus stop. Husband made the comment during the week that he hadn't spent that much time on a bus in a long time. For the most part, the bus rides were interesting- we enjoyed seeing all the different planes and camping set ups. One of our favorites was a Cessna with a tarp draped over the wing. Printed on the tarp was the saying "Reason #23"- referring to Cessna's ad campaign of the 100 reasons to own a Cessna. I can't remember the exact wording for it, but I think it's something like "Camping under the high wing of your Cessna 172."

We hopped off the tram at the fly market and wandered around the stalls for a while. Not too much of interest here, though we did try a cool folding hammock. Maybe next year. The tent with all kinds of spare parts was much more interesting. You could buy old life vests still in their pouches, cylinders, or all sorts of engine bits and pieces. Outside the tent there were several old plane bodies- crumpled in places from previous unintended impacts with the ground. It was interesting, though a little morbid, to try and imagine what had caused the various wrinkles and tears in the skin and structure of these planes.

After making our way through the spare parts, we headed for one of the exhibit halls. Inside these are the usual jumble of vendors-- selling everything from training courses to extra fuel bladders to aviation art. There's so much that it kind of runs together after a few minutes. After poking through the exhibits, it was time for me to head over to Aeroshell Square for WomenVenture.

WomenVenture was pretty cool-- the organizers were handing out pink shirts and then all the women pilots gathered behind the KC-10 for pictures. I liked the idea... though I think maybe the organizers weren't quite prepared for the actual execution. Though it shouldn't be remarkable that I am a woman and I fly, it somehow still seems like it is. Only 6% of all pilots in the US are women. That's a pretty low percentage. I'm always interested that I seem to get more attention as a pilot/owner at our flight school than Husband does-- because I'm a woman. Aviatrix wrote a post on this topic-- but I kind of disagree. Though she knows and I know that women can be a pilot just as easily as a man, it is still a little surprising to people to find that a woman is the pilot. The more people are exposed to the idea, the less surprising it becomes. And besides-- there are a lot of girls in my family or in my neighborhood that benefit from seeing that it's not just a dream for little boys. I'm happy to say that when my parents bought a book about airplanes and rockets for my niece (4) and nephew (almost 3), my niece was far more intrigued than my nephew. She talked about flying and rockets for the rest of the weekend. So I am proud to wear my pink shirt... especially the one that says "No, It's not my husband's airplane. Women Fly"!

After the picture, I met back up with Husband, who was securing our much-sought canisters of propane. We went to a few airplane booths (including the Eclipse, the Icon A, and the new roadable car). We also explored a few more exhibit halls. I found a headset that I eventually bought-- the Clarity Aloft lightweight headset. It has little foam pieces that go in your ears. So far, I like it a lot-- it doesn't make my ears sore like my Bose headset has. Of course, I looked at a few other headsets, including the Lightspeed (that's what I originally thought I would buy...).

After we'd had our fill of exhibits, we found some food and watched the beginning of the air show. About an hour into the show, we headed back to camp and sat out in our chairs to watch the airshow and listen to the airboss coordinate the show on our hand held radio. Very cool. Later, we made dinner (yum, fajitas!) and enjoyed another beautiful sunset.

That evening, we took a series of buses over to the fly-in movie. John Travolta introduced his movie "Broken Arrow" before departing in his 707 painted in Quantas livery. We were late getting there-- we ended up having to take 3 separate buses to get there. The movie was fun- and made infinitely more pleasurable by the fact that EAA had kindly provided bug spray (which we didn't think to bring to the movie). Getting home was a bit of an adventure. I'm not sure why EAA didn't anticipate the need for people to get back to the North 40 after the movie. Everything else has been so well thought out and planned. We ended getting a tour of Camp Scholler (where the fly in movies are held) before getting dropped and picked back up (by the same bus!) at the bus park. Then we were dropped and picked back up by that bus two more times before making it onto a North 40 bus for the final ride to our campsite. We were all grumbling a bit by the end. After a quick shower (how strange to dry my hair outside the shower trailer, standing just inside a fence with cars whizzing by at 12am).

And a second day at Oshkosh comes to an end.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oshkosh: Getting the Lay of the Land

Warning: If you want a detailed version of our trip to Oshkosh-- this is for you! I'm writing this both to share our experiences with others, and to serve as a reminder to ourselves next year as to what to expect! I'll cover each of our three days at the show, and then do a wrap-up post that includes a complete inventory of what we took to osh-- and what we wished had taken.

After we pushed the plane back into the parking spot, we set up our campsite. Then we headed off to register and explore the show. To do both, we hopped on one of the many "North 40" buses that took us to one of the entrance gates. Here, we exchanged our pre-purchased paper tickets for wristbands, and registered our plane to get a permit for our windscreen. They also told us about the free shuttle that runs between the North 40 and a local strip mall that has a Target and a Pick n Save. Good info for later.

Once the administrative tasks were finished, we grabbed a tram and headed into the main part of the show. As tempting as all the planes and exhibits were, eating was the first priority. We hadn't had anything since early that morning, and it was now close to 2pm. We ate at one of the first places we came upon-- though we later realized there were a ton of food places just around the corner that had better food.

After eating-- and consuming about 3 bottles of water each (note to self: have a snack before attempting the landing procedure at OSH!)-- we wandered around a little and tried to orient ourselves. We had planned to just keep walking around and looking at exhibits... but weariness overcame us much sooner than anticipated. So we found a nice spot on the grass, not far from airshow center, and sat down (ok, laid down!) to watch the airshow.

I had not been very excited about the airshow-- I often find that I get bored of watching them well before Husband does. But this was incredible. The acts were all quite good-- and they were pretty varied as well. We saw the Red Bull Helicopter (amazing, who knew a rotorcraft could do such things!), the F-22 Raptor (loud, powerful, fast, and also incredibly delicate when in slow flight), Julie Clark, the Jelly Belly plane, Matt Younkin in a twin beech (we saw him in his first major airshow at Sun'n'Fun-- and were awed by his act then. I especially remember the music!), and several others. One thing that made this more fun is that I was actually able to start noticing the differences between acts. I don't know if this is how they are judged, but I could tell that the Iron Eagles (I think it was them-- it was a two plane act) had beautiful arching lines, and were graceful and elegant. And after them, a single plane (I don't remember who) was much less fluid-- more sharp and jerky. I appreciated the beauty of the warbirds-- flying in an amazing formation more than 50 years after their first flights. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this part of Oshkosh (Husband was ecstatic that I did!).

After the show, we made our way out of the show site, picked up some ice at the North 40 bus stop, and headed back to our campsite to drop off the ice. After depositing our three bags of ice, we walked over to the Hilton Gardens parking lot to catch the free shuttle. This was very convenient as we were only a few rows over. The shuttle took us right to the door of the grocery store and Target (and maybe other places, too-- we got off there). I was happily surprised to find that the Pick n Save was a pretty decent grocery store. The produce was fresh, the facility clean and bright, and they were well stocked for EAA campers. I had planned for three breakfasts (eggs and bacon for two, cereal and yogurt for one) and three dinners (chicken kabobs, brats, and fajitas), and was able to find everything I needed. I ignored my conscience and just bought paper products (who wants to wash dishes while at Oshkosh?!). Our only hitch was that Target was out of propane. According to Husband, they were pretty much out of all camping supplies. You'd think they would catch on to overstock camping supplies for these two weeks in July... but apparently they haven't gotten clued in to that. So... we quickly found some prepared food to have for dinner, and paid for our groceries. Along with all the food, we bought a case of water (and we used all of it) as we had discovered water was $3 a bottle at the concession stands in the convention.

We loaded up our backpacks with all our purchases, and hopped the shuttle back. As we settled into the campsite for the evening, we watched all the activity above and around us. At about 8pm, when the airport closed, things quieted down... except for the karaoke club across from us. That heated up. We watched the sun set, ate, found the showers (very clean!), and got ready for a well-deserved rest.

And so ended our first day at Oshkosh.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Getting There is Half the Fun!

Husband and I left for Oshkosh on a Wednesday. We originally planned to leave on Thursday, but decided getting out here earlier would ensure we made it to there before the airport closed for the airshow. Unfortunately, large storm cells rolled through the area that afternoon, so we weren't able to get out very early. The good news, though, was that the storms were fast-moving, so after watching them for a bit, we were able to go ahead and leave.

Once off the ground, the air was reasonably smooth, and not too hazy. There were still some large buildups hanging around, but we were able to see them both on the Nexrad and in real life and though we had to do a bit of maneuvering, we maintained a safe distance from the storm cells. Combined with a really stiff headwind, we weren't able to get very far before the sun set. Given that neither of us were night current, we decided to land just west of Pittsburgh in Wheeling, WV (HLG). We thought it looked like a pretty big airport (it was towered, with multiple runways, etc.) and that it would be easy to get fuel and arrange for a place to stay. Boy were we wrong! It was empty! We were able to call a cab-- which took over 30 minutes to arrive, and then had a 15 mile drive into town for a hotel. So much for a quick stopover! But, we were able to find a room at the local Hampton Inn and settled in for a good dinner at a local place with a sports theme. I studied the arrival procedures while Husband read the paper.

The weather the next morning (Thur) was much better than expected, and we were able to depart around 8am. This was my leg to fly, and we had great weather. We alternated between 4500 and 6500 for most of the way. Given that we had stopped much sooner on Wed evening than anticipated, we did not have a planned fuel stop. So Husband did some calculations as we flew and pinpointed an area just before Lake Michigan that looked good for fuel stops. He picked out an airport (don't remember which one) that seemed a good choice and was right along our route and we amended our flight following destination. We didn't get a response when we tried contacting Unicom for an airport advisory, so we decided that we should overfly the field and check things out (there was no weather reporting for this field). Good thing that was our plan-- the field was closed! Not only were there large x's on the ends of the runways, but there was a large truck parked in the middle of the hard surface runway. Time for plan B! Luckily there was another airport (Ottawa Executive) a short distance away-- still on our route of flight. So we headed there and had more success this time around.

After fueling up, we took off again and I initiated a pretty steep climb to get as high as possible before going feet wet over Lake Michigan. After much discussion, and seeing how clear the weather was (so we could go high) we had decided to go the "water route" over the lake to save time. At 8500 feet, we had a shore in sight the entire time. We had thought we'd be within gliding distance the whole time as well, but I suspect there was a short amount of time when we weren't. We amused ourselves while overflying the lake by calculating the point at which it would make sense to glide toward the shore in front of us instead of going back to the one from which we came. We also reviewed the procedures for a water landing-- or ditching. I suppose non-pilots would think it a bit morbid to talk about such procedures, but it seems a natural conversation given the circumstance, though I really prayed we wouldn't have to test our knowledge! A little more than halfway across, Muskegan ATC cancelled our flight following and told us to monitor Milwaukee-- but only to call them in case of a real emergency.

About this time we started trying to monitor the Oshkosh ATIS. Bad news. The airport was closed-- and would be for at least another 60 minutes when another update would be given. Of course we continued on across the lake, but we started pondering what to do-- and tried not to think about why the airport had been closed. It could only be bad news. Listening to the approach frequency, we discovered that the holds were filling up and pilots were told to begin impromptu holds prior to arriving at RIPON. Once across the lake, I decided to do a few circles on the edge of the lake so that we wouldn't fly into the inevitable chaos near the airport.

After a few circuits, Husband convinced me that we should start heading toward the arrival point. About this time, we heard on the approach frequency that the airport was open again and they were starting to position arrivals to begin the landing procedure. Interestingly, the ATIS wasn't updated with this information for at least another 30 minutes. We saw a lot of aircraft as we approached RIPON, the beginning of the procedure. They must not have been listening to approach, though, as many seemed to be continuing to hold. We were able to slot into the sequence pretty easily (in fact there wasn't really anyone right in front of us) and started flying up the railroad tracks. Husband and I had discussed our procedures before we got there, and had decided that I should use the autopilot instead of hand flying to avoid inadvertent altitude changes that close to the ground. This meant that I was using the heading bug to control the left right tracking of the plane, which was not the easiest thing given how much I was trying to keep my eyes outside the plane. Somewhere around FISK, about the time ATC recognized us and I waggled our wings, we lost the railroad we were supposed to be tracking. Within a few seconds, we felt lost. We made the safe decision and decided to turn left out of line and head back to RIPON. It took a few minutes, but made sense given the large number of aircraft in the area. We wanted to make sure we were not one of the idiots you read about who fly in oblivious to everyone and therefore cause huge amounts of trouble.

So, try two. We sequenced back in-- this time in with several other planes. This was good as we could play follow-the-leader. I also was hand flying this time which made things much simpler. Unfortunately, about the time that the tower acknowledged us, the plane in front of us seemed to levitate. I've never seen a plane go so slowly! After watching it get bigger and bigger, and feeling the controls get mushier and mushier, I decided I'd had enough and we got out of line again. This time, on our trip back to the beginning, we discussed what our SOP would be. Instead of waiting for the airspeed to drop so much, we'd start putting the flaps in as soon as the airspeed dropped below 85-- and we'd try to get a bigger gap between us and the plane in front of us.

Try three. We made the now familiar turn past the windmills and over the railroad tracks at RIPON. We got in line behind what I think was a Mooney. Again we were acknowledged. This time we were told to head to runway 36 (try two was to 27 and try one was to 36). The controller nicely held our turn to base to give us a little more spacing (those controllers really know what they're doing!). We followed the Mooney on in, waiting to see if we'd be directed to 36L or 36R. We thought they'd send the Mooney to one and us to the other, but we both ended up being cleared to land on 36L.

By this point, I of course full flaps, and had slowed as much as I could. We kept waiting and watching to see what would happen with the Mooney-- would it get off the runway? My mind was trying to grab onto my training-- what was the rule here? I knew I wasn't supposed to land if there was another plane on the runway-- but would the controller tell me it was time to go around? Or should I keep descending? I knew there was a waiver for Oshkosh so that planes could be closer together than normal, was there one for the runway as well? Just as I was getting close to flaring, and therefore getting close to the point of no return, the controller blared into our ears with a very rushed "White High-Wing Cessna-- hold off till the green dot. Land on or past the green dot!" Oh... okay! So then I shoved in some power (too much, to be honest. It made Husband yelp at our high angle of attack). I was able to get things mostly under control, and somehow, miraculously, we flew at about 15 feet off the ground until the green dot. I think I landed about an inch behind it. It wasn't my most graceful landing, but I did get a "Atta-boy, Good Job, Sir!" from the controller (and I forgave him for not realizing that it was a woman flying the plane.

Knees shaking, palms sweating, and heart racing (and with a huge grin!), I taxied off the runway at the controller's instruction. After cleaning up, I high-fived husband and let out a big "woo-hoo! Welcome to Oshkosh!" Then began the longest taxi of my life. We were marshaled along in a long line of planes. Every hundred feet or so, there was another flagman waving us along. We snaked in and out of planes and parking spots and runways. Finally, we were marshaled into a row and brought to a stop. As we opened the doors and hopped out, we got a (somewhat subdued), "Welcome to Oshkosh". I had been waiting a long time to hear those words.

Note: We later learned that the airport was closed for a crash. A Lancair crashed just off the end of 27 and both the pilot and passenger died. Turns out, they were from Washington, PA (a town just a little east of Wheeling where we spent the night). They had taken off for Oshkosh just 8 minutes before we departed Wheeling, so we likely shared airspace with them in the first few minutes of our flights. (They were in a much faster plane and probably didn't need the fuel stop that we took, so arrived in the area two hours before we did.) So sad.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Flying News...

I'm still getting to those Oshkosh posts... but in the meantime, I thought I'd share my flying news that I mentioned a few weeks back! The paperwork is now all signed, so I can say it out loud. Drumroll, please!

I'm officially going to part-time in my current job so that I can have more time to pursue aviation interests! I'm really excited about this-- and am planning to obtain (hopefully quickly) my Commercial and CFI ratings. Of course, Husband and I are still working on our instrument rating together-- so I'm still working out how I'll do some of this in parallel. It was great to walk around Oshkosh and know that I'm doing something to get more into this world.

I'm still formulating my overall plan-- which is why this arrangement is so great. I still have the structure and benefits (and paycheck) from my current job, but I'm able to start making more connections within aviation. I'm not sure where it will lead in the end... I know that my goal is not to be an airline pilot... but other than that, I'm not sure where this will take me. It is a great adventure!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Oshkosh was... AWESOME!

We're back! I'll be putting together a series of posts describing our adventures... but for now, we are home; we had an incredible time; and we are already planning for next year!

I have a few pictures, but Blogger is acting up, so I'll post them with some of my future posts.

Fly Safe...