Sunday, September 07, 1997

The Red Baron (Non-Lesson Flight in Germany)

This was a surprise "bonus" flight during my business trip to Oberkochen, Germany, traveling with our German distributor's technical sales guy, Jörg. I saw low-flying Cessnas and other light planes from our hotel in Aalen-Waldhausen and found that there's a general aviation and gliding center at "Flugplatz Elchingen," about 15 minutes away. I had Jörg drive us over and found sightseeing flights for 40 DM a person (about $23 – he paid as I had no DM!). Jörg had never flown in a light plane (a French "Robin," low-wing 4 seat with great visibility), but he was a good sport and gave me the front seat.

The pilot was an even better sport – during a conversation in his broken English and our better French (and my non-German), I told him I was a 5 hour student pilot (BTW, I never would have guessed a few months ago that I'd be a "5 hour student pilot" this soon, so I should remember that this is cool and not be impatient if things take a little time). So he gave me the right seat and stick (after takeoff and initial climb out) and let me fly for about 20 minutes over the lovely German countryside! Very cool – we saw towns, a monastery, a quarry, the Zeiss factories in Oberkochen, etc. I mostly did shallow or moderate banks plus a bit of climbing and gliding (Jörg was a bit greenish in the back seat). I liked flying a stick – the plane was zippy (180 h.p.) and handled nicely, with great visibility from the big bubble windows (sliding canopy). I fancied myself the Red Baron in the clear blue skies over Germany, flying this bright red French "robin." I hope I can con Jörg into one more flight before I go back, maybe Friday, weather and time permitting (doubtful we would get the same cooperative pilot as Sunday – he was not supposed to let a passenger fly the plane on a sightseeing flight, obviously, so I really lucked out in that regard). It was supposed to be 20 minutes but I'm sure we ran long – we covered a lot of ground.

One thing that was notable was how comfortable and relaxed I felt on this fight – flying the plane in a very basic way, enjoying the scenery, turning to where the pilot pointed, it was quite easy. I was reasonably smooth and light-fingered on the stick (performing for Jörg, maybe, but not the "got to master this procedure" pressure I feel with Jason – I really need to work on this, as I think it's me more than Jason).

Time: 0.4 hours, not logged, non-lesson flight

Saturday, September 06, 1997

Lesson #3 - Partial Redemption

Partial "redemption" but still not a terrific flight. As I suspected from my sim experience, I am not exactly a natural when it comes to learning new eye/hand (and foot!) coordination skills. I still am holding the controls in a virtual death grip, leading Jason to demonstrate how well the C150 flies hands off (he thought it was bumpy air before this, but it was me overcontrolling!). I'm thinking "light touch," yadda-yadda-yadda, but the inner Bruce is holding on for dear life, it seems. Yet I don't really feel afraid, and overall this flight was more relaxed. I even spotted the airport while we were on the 45 degree pattern entry (I saw the power plant reference point from 7 miles – I still don't have good S.A. concerning my location, though I recognize major distant reference points and some local ones now).

We did more stalls – I still don't have smooth control and recovery, though watching the wingtip helps). We also reviewed slow flight, gliding and climbing turns, and we finally got to a ground reference maneuver – a rectangular course ½ mile from a runway-like mowed farm field. I did OK on this, and I flew the pattern as far as final. Jason also had some "fun" – going vertical in the C150 (not for long!), pitched up into a stall at probably 75-80 degrees – cool! Also when we had to get down to 1000' AGL for the rectangular course, he did some REALLY steep maneuvers as he spiraled down. Got a couple of plus G's on that, and a few moments of neggies. I love that stuff – borderline aerobatics that I thought were beyond the lowly C150 (of course it helps to be doing these things nose-low for that 1G assist.)

I'm typing this at Logan as I wait to board a Lufthansa flight for Frankfurt (1 week). No lessons this week, of course, but I hope I can squeeze in 2 lessons the week of 9/15 before another tough work schedule week. Jason says we will start to really work on landings next lesson too (his today was a bit "firm" – a high flare and he basically dropped it in – there was a bit of a crossswind too for runway 18).

Time: Dual 1.0 hrs, TT 5.1 hrs (C150 at 1B6)

Thursday, September 04, 1997

Lesson #2 - Not So Hot

This was NOT the greatest flight. Switching airplanes again was part of it, as was waiting 10 days between flights (the first lesson with Jason was just 2 days after I did 2 flights in LA). Also I think that 4 p.m. is not my "peak" time – I was at work at 0730 since I was leaving early, I was tired and tense. Excuses, excuses – I just didn't feel like I knew how to do anything, basically. My turns were sloppy, I didn't scan the instruments, I didn't know where I was, and I still couldn't find the damn airport. But on the "get back on the horse" theory, I scheduled another lesson for tomorrow at 0830, so I don't go to Germany Saturday on a sour note (I hope! I tried to do another lesson last Tuesday but it was too windy with limited visibility). Other points:

· C150 is a wee bit snug for two big guys (Jason is 215, I'm about 205 these days), but it's OK – flimsy little doors on that puppy. Cute l'il airplane, though.

· Starter was on the fritz – Jason finally hand-propped it from behind ("Hold those brakes like you never held them before" – Jason called tonight, tomorrow's lesson is cancelled while they replace the starter, rescheduled to Saturday 1130 just before I go to Germany!)

· Airspeed and altitude control were lousy – flopping all over the place. The C150 doesn't weigh much even with our 400+ lbs on board, and updrafts can really throw off your stability.

· Instrument fixation! (no black disks today)

· Too tense on the controls – overcontrolling, jerky: use pressure and smooth movements!

· Steep turns: sloppy, slippy! More back pressure! Need windshield reference point!

· Stalls: Get this damn procedure down! Control pitch after recovery! Don't push the nose down for recovery, just relax back pressure (I lost 150 feet on one stall)

· Coordination drill: Dutch rolls, crossed controls (bank left but use right rudder to keep the nose on Providence, then reverse turn, holding bank-side rudder briefly before transition to cross-controlling) – fun, but sloppy (surprise!)

· We were short on time since I was so thick on the stalls and steep turns, so at 1725, Jason said, "semi-aerobatic maneuver," and did a cool, really steep descending turn back toward 1B6, almost a wing-over (nope, that's a steep CLIMBING turn, this was more a nose-low slice).

· I do like those plus and minus G forces, slight as they are in this "bug smasher" (as the air force types call these little Cessnas and Pipers – hey, we can't all be fighter pilots, except on our PC's).

· Another minor distraction was my camera – I took it along and shot a few pictures near the airport to try to ID the landmarks (big powerplant southeast of the runway is the landmark for turning to base when 36 is the active, and this powerplant should be easy to spot, though I still don't see the airport until Jason has us in the downwind, ½ mile west of it)

· With all of this, I don't think I've hit any sort of "wall," and it IS pretty damn cool that I'm actually flying an airplane up there at 3000 feet (give or take a few hundred!)

Time: Dual 1.0 hrs, TT 4.1 hrs (C150 at 1B6)

Sunday, August 24, 1997

First Official Lesson (Hopedale)

This was also a good flight, and my first official (non-demo) lesson with Jason. Jason is not exactly Mr. Congeniality – he seemed a bit irritable at first, but I guess he's never one to be too chatty. It's a job, right? In flight is where it counts, of course, and he's very patient and appropriately educational. Today we again focused on the four fundamentals, and I think my over-controlling was a little better (different airplane too, C172 – I wanted to try the C150 but it was out later than expected, and I didn't want to wait again – it's a critical path when they only have one of the aircraft you are learning in, but it's a small, convenient flight school, so c'est la vie – C172 seemed HUGE after flying the 152). I have a couple of new problems (well, let's say more obvious): instrument fixation, and getting flustered on new stuff.

· Preflight seemed to take me a long time – Jason watched and helped when asked, but it was my job to run the checklist (I need to write out and memorize the pre-flight checklists so I can go more smoothly through them). Taxi was still awkward, but less so than before (need smaller inputs on the rudders). Weather looked suspicious but was fine except for a very dramatic looking rainstorm over Worcester (visibility must have been 15+ miles)

· Takeoff was runway 18, to the south, with a right turn (west) departure. I did OK on takeoff except I rotated a bit late (I need to write down and memorize the V-speeds for the C172 and C152, or better yet, get the POH for both). I wish all the planes had either knots or mph and not un peu de tout.

· Problem one: instrument fixation. After a couple of turns, Jason zapped this by plastering black rubber suction-cup disks over all but the tach! No airspeed, attitude, altimeter, or turn and slip! This forces you to look outside the airplane for your flight cues, which is a great idea. I think sims have made me an instrument junky (but everybody probably does this to some degree).

· Steep turns, 45 degree bank, 360 degree turns -- cool

· Stalls - procedure - got flustered, problem two ("don't go bonkers on me now") – stalled once in a turn – Jason thought I was nervous on the stalls (I don't think so, but maybe my switch from light touch to death grip on the yoke says more than I know!). I have to start memorizing some stuff – procedures, RPM's, V-speeds, etc.

· Fluster example: letting nose go down a lot in a turn after stall recovery, then adding lots of power and yanking back on the yoke – nice G-force, but bad form!

· MCA – mushing along indeed – swing the yoke all over for nil effect – cool.

· Altitude control in turns, often good, but inconsistent (inconsistency is probably my problem 3, but it takes practice – I'm only a 3 hour student pilot – Jason even gained 100' in his "blind" 360 degree demonstration turn)

· Fly back home (no joy on 1B6! see satellite pic above, needle in a haystack!) – 120 mph on downwind seemed fast, but Jason said no – 65 mph landing speed (seems fast in a Taurus but slow in an airplane you are riding onto the ground – maybe this is why I like knots, a different unit for the airplane)

· Landing – Jason's plane, but really following through on controls, and talking it down – "Flare-flare-flare-flare-flare-flare-flare-flare-flare!"

· The bottom line: $92.25 (I didn't get a receipt, oddly enough – paid cash)

· Next: more turns, MCA, stalls, starting pattern work, rectangular course (ground reference) – scheduled for September 4 before Germany trip.

Time: Dual 1.0 hrs, TT 3.1 hrs (C172 at 1B6)

Saturday, August 23, 1997

Thumbs Up (Intro Flight at EMT)

As Hades says in Disney's Hercules, "Two thumbs WAY, way up!" This was a great flight (it was with Valley Flight Center, 818/444-7739). I even did maybe 80% of the landing! The CFI was supposed to be "Brian," and maybe that's his nickname, but he's actually Sergio Guevara, Jr., and he has 1700+ hours, CFI/CFII, working on multi-engine with hopes for ATP and airline flying. Nice guy, and very instructional (kept quizzing me on various stuff on the preflight checks, e.g., FAA no longer requires that a radio license be in the aircraft with the air worthiness and registration, but the POH must still be there – I didn't know some things like "dorsal fin," the forward extension of the vertical stabilizer – gotta study harder I guess).

ANYWAY, we did a real thorough pre-flight (but no paper checklist for the outside walkaround – I would have to buy a handbook for that, and he knew it, as did I from this morning – we could have used the POH itself, but I would have gotten oil and gas on it like this morning at CCB). He even put water in a fuel sample to show me what that looks like (sinks to bottom, color is different, beads up on ground). We had to tighten screw on the right wing. Switch to bullets (as opposed to AMRAAMs?):

· I really like that little C152, and I may try to switch to C150 back home and save some money.

· I made the radio calls and did pretty well thanks to some recent practice with sound files I got from the web (ATIS and other radio samples in VOX format). Got ATIS, requested taxi clearance and takeoff, and even called the tower when we were at the West Covina Mall heading west for landing.

· I did the takeoff myself (wind was 190° at 14 kts, essentially straight down the runway, no crosswind), swerving a bit on the rudders, but not too bad (I made sure the door was securely latched this time!). Got fast on climbout (80 kts -- you want to gain altitude fast over the I-10 and other dense ground features, so cruise climb has to wait – 65 kts for best rate I believe – if I knew which plane I was flying back home now, I would have bought a handbook and checklists, because both Valley and F.A.S.T. down the street had these for C150, 152, 172, etc.).

· We had asked for a left downwind (north) departure to the Santa Fe Dam practice area, just a few minutes away. I tried to scan for traffic and I did not particularly notice any ground features other than the I-10 and I-605 freeways.

· We started with climbing to 3500' and then did some turns at various bank angles – as usual, I was overcorrecting. One problem I have is overcontrolling for the overbanking tendency in steep turns (30 and 45° today) – it only requires a slight touch of opposite aileron, and if you add too much, it shallows out the bank. I did this a lot but improved a little, and I did one really nice 45 degree bank (feels steeper than that – you can feel the 1.4G's)

· Speaking of G's, I couple of times I pulled a few more (maybe 2?) when I started to let the nose go down too much then added power and pulled up too abruptly. CFI didn't say anything. My altitude control in turns was so-so.

· There was one close airplane that I spotted at my 9 o'clock, turning away (west) from us on the way to the practice area. I think he was maybe 2000 feet away and only 300 feet below us when I saw him – some sort of Piper. I spotted and called clock positions on other traffic a few times, 5+ miles away, except for an escaped helium balloon that passed us at 2500 feet near the mall!

· We did both power-off and power-on stalls, with flaps (landing and takeoff configs) – cool, though I didn't really feel the pre-stall buffet (I heard the horn loud & clear though). The nose seems WAY, way high, but I know it's not. I lost over 200' on the second stall.

· After the stalls when I was straight and level again (at 3000 feet I think), he cut the throttle to idle and said "What if you lose your engine right now, what do you do?" I said, OK, establish best glide speed (he said good, 60 kts, do it), then I proceeded to put the nose DOWN and speed up to 90+ knots! DUH! So then I'm saying, look for an airport (nope, we don't have one), or a flat, open field to land on – there's a sports field just to the left, there's another one. He said "what about that big dirt field there to the right?" It looked like one of the quarries near Duarte to me! But on closer inspection there was one that looked like a huge parking lot under construction. I made a shallow bank that would have made the field, then he said add power and make for EMT. It was cool that he pulled this on the demo flight – he was really testing my knowledge and maybe even "coolness under pressure" (I know this was low key – any "coolness" I may have WILL be tested more in the future I'm sure). One funny thing is that I don't feel any sense of fear with this stuff – stalls, simulated engine failure, steep turns, etc. all seem OK to me. My nervousness is performance pressure – I want to show the CFI that I can do all this stuff.

· The CFI basically told me where to start my turns for most maneuvers, calling out headings (I got better at rolling out on heading, still a little sloppy, but close – I only forgot to lift my wing to check for traffic once or twice). This was true especially when we entered the pattern – I tried to note my position and altitude, but I missed a lot (I was pretty jazzed by the end of the hour and started overcontrolling more again after improving in mid-flight – thinking about tuning and getting ATIS and calling the tower for landing got me flustered as I was trying to follow the I-10 back to the airport – BTW, need to keep such ground reference features a bit further to my left so I can keep the freeway in sight – those freeways are great nav aids, though!).

· When he had me start the turn to final (he was making the radio calls after I called the downwind), I couldn't believe he wasn't taking the airplane! He was guiding me on adding flaps, reducing throttle, carb heat, adjusting lineup, but I did all of that myself! (He may have tweaked the controls a time or two.) When we got over the threshold, he had me pulling the yoke back, and I actually flared to a very slight bump and landing (he added a skosh of power at the flare I believe to slow the descent a bit). This was shocking, but actually quite cool! At Hopedale, the landings seem to go too fast, but in this case I was involved in it, and it seemed OK, or at least possible!

· One slight worry on the turn to final – I hesitated (checked traffic maybe?) and started the turn a tad late, so I had to steepen it to get aligned with the runway. I remember reading that this is a spot where accidents happen, when the pilot misjudges the timing or the wind, and you are fairly close to stall speed (not to mention the ground). This can be a problem especially because of the increased stall speed you have in a bank, though it probably was not more than 30° (you should not do more than 30°of bank in the pattern).

· I held back pressure to slow us then applied brakes and turned left at the center to go to the fuel pit – tower ignored my call for this, so we switched to ground anyway and got permission. My taxiing was still not smooth, but the best effort so far, even using differential braking. One thing is for sure – with all the visual and physical information, landing the real airplane is WAY easier than landing in FS95! I never mentioned flight sims to either CFI today – it just didn't seem especially relevent.

I guess the bottom line is that it is starting to feel a bit familiar and if not easy, at least "doable." Brian/Sergio said I did well on everything except that over-control thing – I really need to work on that part. It was really a fun flight – in a way he really threw me into the deep end of the pool and covered a lot of topics for a demo flight. In my log book, he noted "Demo flight, preflight, taxi, runup, takeoff, stalls power on/off" – an excellent lesson for my 60 bucks. And today I more than tripled my logged flight time (TT from 0.6 hours to 2.1 hours). I think I can solo this fall if I can just get those weekly flights in with Jason! Note: FLY WITH THE LEFT HAND! Have to keep the right free for throttle and radios and all, so get used to it. Also, TRIM and USE A LIGHT TOUCH ON THE CONTROLS.

Time: Dual 1.0 hrs, TT 2.1 hrs (C152 at EMT)

Door is ajar! (Intro Flight at Cable Airport )

This was another impulse thing, as I still have my 4 pm intro scheduled at EMT. The weather looked good (light smog but blue skies and reasonable visibility), so I drove out the I210 to Claremont, just like I used to drive home when we lived there. Just past Claremont is Upland, and they have an uncontrolled airport there with a single 3800' runway running SW (24/6). My CFI was Alan Runyen, a nice young guy with some 850 hours (working on CFII). I felt bad making him fly a C152 since he's about 6'5" and really has to squeeze in – hard to see how he can work the pedals with his knees so far up! But that's his job. Our combined weights and full fuel load put us at maximum gross weight, but it seemed to handle OK to me (we climbed at about 500 fpm, and he said the C172 would do 1100 with our weight, but no 172's were on the ramp, all on rentals). I signed for the ½ hour intro flight for $25 – not bad.

Alan handled the radio (Unicomm) and we had no headsets (the cabin noise was bearable once I got the door closed). GOT THE DOOR CLOSED?!? Yes, this was my first in-flight "emergency" of sorts. After takeoff I noticed that the door was vibrating, then I saw that it was open 2 inches! I guess I had not really checked that it was latched tight when we did the pre-takeoff checklist. I was handling the takeoff (mostly – I think he helped me a bit on the rudders), and we had just gotten to maybe 50' AGL when I noticed the door. I said "your airplane" and managed to get it closed. There was no actual danger, but it was a bit distracting. I immediately thought of my reading "if the door opens in flight – FLY THE AIRPLANE!"). Other points:

· He watched me do the preflight checks and pre-takeoff checks from the POH checklists.

· We took off to the SW then turned left a couple of times to head out east to a practice area close to the foothills.

· I did a few fairly steep turns - kinda fun, though of course I overcontrolled a lot and lost or gained altitude whenever I paid attention to something else besides the turn itself. I remembered to lift my wing and clear traffic before each turn.

· Control forces were rather light. I used trim a little (not enough).

· He let me fly the pattern right up to short final! I was rather sloppy, I'd say, and he had to goose the power a couple of times when I lost altitude. Airport is 1439' MSL, pattern altitude was 2300' MSL. I did pretty bad on the lineup for final, but Alan corrected it with a slip (I now realize!), using opposite rudder and aileron to line us up without banking. I did really notice how the left wing completely hides the runway on the turn to base and (partially) on turn to final.

· He used a number of ground references for the pattern, a flood control channel for the crosswind (crossing fairly close to the SW end of the runway), a school where he starts his base leg. We had to stay N of the 210 to avoid airspace limits (I see now that they cut a circular notch out of Ontario's Class C airspace to give CCB a little uncontrolled area for its pattern).

· I can't really feel the airplane slipping or skidding yet – even when grossly uncoordinated (ball 2/3 from center), it seems OK – gotta learn to sense this better without the instrument!

· There was a substantial fuel leak from the left fuel drain (?), but Alan said this would stop as the fuel level went down (I don't think it did – it's due to expansion from the heat – it must have been 90 F at 11 am).

All in all a short but enjoyable flight. Very much like Hopedale – you would hardly know you are in LA air space. El Monte is better in this respect (different experience), but who knows? It makes me think I should check out the C150 at HAS before I start the real lessons – it could be a big savings. Cableair's rates are especially cheap even without block or club plans (C152 $42, C172 $52-57 depending on equipment, CFI $21). And if the door comes open on takeoff, FLY THE AIRPLANE! It really can happen (and people have crashed by playing with the door when still low and slow). Good reason to have your seatbelt securely fastened!

Time: Dual 0.5 hrs, TT 1.1 hrs (C152 at CCB)

Thursday, August 21, 1997

Flight Log Supplemental (Pasadena)

I visited El Monte Airport the other day and bought a VFR Terminal Area Chart for Los Angeles – pretty cool – amazingly complex airspace! I also set up an intro lesson at Valley Flight Center in a C152 (C172 down for maintenance – a common problem for me back in Hopedale, though I'm not recording all the cancelations etc. here). This is $30 for ½ hour, $60 for 1 hour, so I'll go for the hour, Saturday afternoon, and also see what the C152 is like (smaller cockpit, flying near gross weight depending on CFI's weight and fuel load – I'll be interested to see a weight and balance check and density altitude calculation in this case, especially if it's hot!).

I noted on the web that Pro-Pilot and FU II are both delayed until "fall 97," rather than August. Haven't had much of a mood for sims recently anyway, but those will still be worth checking out when they ship.

Saturday, August 09, 1997

Flight log supplemental: Ground school etc.

I'm working on a plan to get started on lessons sooner rather than later... (financial and marital negotiation notes omitted, though these are certainly part of the process of learning to fly!)

I also sat in on a ground school session with Jason at HAS (Hopedale Air Service) last night. It was on METAR/TAF weather reports (new ICAO coding for weather and formats info). Jason was OK as a lecturer for the short part I sat in on – he then switched us to a King video on this stuff, which was fairly good (I think I can actually read those things now!). So I'm thinking that it will be worth it to do the ground school with them too rather than try to do only self-study – the discipline of weekly classes and readings and the chance to "show off" my knowledge in class will be good for me, I think. HAS also has a new CFI, and I do mean NEW, just out of flight school, and just off the boat from Germany. I forget his name – he's 23 and he's really green, with a strong German accent. I'll stick with Jason, thanks – but I better get going before he signs up too many students and dumps me on someone else!

I also began to read and study my new "Jepp" materials in earnest – chapter one on fundamentals of flight and stability, including the exercises. Pretty much review, though I need to get to the "second nature" point on some things like what the control surfaces do when you move the yoke (i.e., left yoke, left aileron goes UP, right goes DOWN). This was also covered in the demo video that came with the Jepp kit, and it will be lesson one of ground school, next Tuesday 6:30-9:30 pm (when I will be in LA). They will allow you to make up two lessons for free, or sit in on another class if they cover one you missed. I guess this is tied to their having to sign off in your log book for covering the required material before you take the written test.

Thursday, July 24, 1997

Introductory Flight at Hopedale (1B6)

It was cool and cloudy for July, and I would not have guessed it was VMC, but I called up HAS and it sure was (visibility was something like 20+ miles – I could see Boston and Providence from 3000' MSL – a lot of high clouds). Drove about 40 minutes from Framingham to 1B6 (new office will be much closer). Flew with Jason (don't these guys have last names?) in a Cessna 172. I liked him better than Kris or Kelly, and I liked the C172 better than the Cherokee, oddly enough. This was the most comfortable or relaxed of three intro flights, to the point that I felt more "there" and able to observe and react to what was going on and even enjoy the view a bit. Some miscellaneous points to maybe flesh out as time permits (while ideas are fresh).

· Turn to final hard to judge in FS95, "real airplane too!" (sez Jason)

· I did "OK" with typical new student tendency to over-correct on the controls – with emphasis on light touch (trim) and visual (look outside) orientation, I think Jason will teach good habits

· Cross wind landing, wind from NE, substantial crab angle, slip? Fair amount of bank correction in close (turbulent), judging sink rate, line up, position, getting awful close to those cars on the road at the S end of the runway – landing does NOT look easy, and of course it is not, so it's why you practice that stuff a zillion times before you solo

· Stratus clouds 12K+ (I have a lot to learn about weather!)

· Visibility about 20+ miles despite the look of very solid (high alt.) clouds and impending rain (even felt a few drops)

· Reference points for turns - landmark on left wing moves to nose for 90 dg, moves to right wing for 180° turn – gotta learn to pick out landmarks quickly for ground reference maneuvers – also rolling out on correct heading and not too early (shallowing out the bank) or too late (overshoot)

· Better ground SA from high wing – Jason starts from basics, I claimed little knowledge, asked about ground references, other questions

· Lift wing on turn side first to clear traffic, then turn (main concession to high wing) – I liked seeing the ground below to the left, and I liked how roomy the C172 felt (also liked having trim wheel in the panel rather than between the seats on floor)

· Taxi and radio– still weak, pedals and brakes not real distinct feel, just squishing around down there – keep hands off that wheel (except for wind compensation)

· Jason – easier to communicate with, patient but tells you stuff, says it takes a few hours to get the feel for even the basics of level flight and coord, generally comfortable feeling (important to feel relaxed in airplane)

· Preflight brief – he did one based on the 4 fundamentals, climb, glide, straight/level, turns – I thought he was setting up for an hour lesson, but he said since I flew before, may as well have a plan, and I liked this – no shame if he explains how an airplane turns, even if I know it pretty well. Back taxi 360° to visually check the pattern for aircraft to the west (left pattern for runway 36). Throttle seems backwards (in for full power – HOLD IT IN on takeoff, keep hand on throttle much of the time, especially when low).

· Visual attitude reference for level - top of compass on horizon

· For climb - dash on horizon? Glide - need a reference (two thumbs, 8° my guess) - need to pay attention to correct amount of right rudder against torque in full-power climb (leads to drifting off course if you hold too much or too little)

· Tried rule of thumb! 4° below horizon, etc

· Preflight trick – he sometimes tapes a coin on a flap or something to see if student is really inspecting everything in preflight (thorough, checklist based – Jeff must have told him my comments from Kris) – suck on the stall warning port to test it (has a reed like a clarinet)!

· Still no joy on finding airport despite spotting landmarks (including Boston for east) – though overall SA seemed better when he pointed out big picture landmarks like Boston (east), Providence, Woonsocket, Worcester (we could even see mountains of S NH beyond Worcester's buildings), all from 2500-3000 feet MSL

· Turn coord so-so

· Trim works! Fly with 3 fingers, light touch - let go of the wheel and see where the nose goes

· Got an actual pilot log book with one entry of 0.6 hours – cool enough!

· Power off stall – hard to enter, faint buzz of stall warning, gentle recovery (nose level, power full) – not the least bit scary

· Fly at least once a week - he's there maybe 8 am most mornings – general impression: an American "airport bum" (flew on his daddy's lap from a young age) – slightly reserved guy, a bit scruffy – I can relate better than to foreign CFI's trying to build time here in the cheaper American skies (unfair generalization based on 2 of 7 CFI's I've spoken with or met having strong foreign accents – guess I prefer American CFI's for whatever reason). His verbal patter (e.g. talking his steps on pattern/approach/landing) was smoother than Kris's

· Some say 70% out the window, Jason says 99% -- less reliance on instruments and airspeed and more on attitude/pitch (reference cage for attitude indicator kept slipping - vacuum problem)

· I want to start the real hour-long lessons soon.

Time: Dual 0.6 hrs, TT 0.6 hrs (C172)

Tuesday, June 24, 1997

Introductory Flight at El Monte (EMT) Airport

This was more or less an impulse thing – when I do take lessons, it might be cool to take a few in Los Angeles when I'm out here for business. So I called up Bartlett Aviation at El Monte Airport (just south of Arcadia) and made a 7 pm appointment with Kelly. She turns out to be a 500-hour CFII from Chicago who appears to be about 17 years old but is probably 20-something (thin, reddish hair, freckles, wire rim glasses). This was another $35 intro flight, and I did better in some ways, worse in others (or maybe she just commented or corrected more, and ended up taking the controls a bit more than Kris at Hopedale – when she said "get north of the 210 Freeway," she meant quickly – steeper turn , though I had kicked into an earlier turn quite fast and too steep, so I was "hedging" and gradually shallowing out my bank, probably slipping in the process, even as I tried to step on the ball). Airplane was a 1975 Cherokee 140. This is LA, and although we only saw 2 or 3 other airplanes, this is not the place to mess around!

Preflight was much like #1, though Kelly had a typed checklist, which was good. We checked oil but not fuel (checked level, didn't drain a sample as the plane had just been flown). The novel thing was setting 118.75 on the radio to get ATIS (Clear, Wind 230 at 9 kts, vis 8 nm, altimeter, active is 19 information QUEBEC). Then I got to call the tower for permission to taxi, "El Monte Ground, Cherokee 2120 X-ray, at Bartlett, request taxi to active," usually forgetting to confirm with "20 X-ray, roger" or whatever. Pretty awkward, but better than at Hopedale, and that was just Unicom! This is an LA-area controller, and Kelly said they expect crisp, quick calls, though they understand that students can be slow on this stuff.

Taxi was a little better than at Hopedale, though I gunned the throttle a lot at first and used the brakes too much (taxi at 900-1000 RPM is good). Runup was OK (don't fixate on instrument looking for that 2000 RPM, continue to look outside the airplane – fixating is not so good), and more radio calls were needed (I forget the wording already, but we got a clear to takeoff with a left departure). Kelly actually held the centerline on takeoff and I followed her cue on rotation and climbout. Heading south, we followed a "wash" (flood control?) because you are right over roads and the I-10, no good place to set down if your engine fails on takeoff. Had to hold substantial right rudder (a "boot full," as they say?) on climbout due to the high engine power and relatively low speed (90 on the instrument, but I think she said this was mph, not knots). I made a left turn to follow the I-10, then left again to follow the I-605 north. The freeways are great landmarks, easy to follow. We then flew above Arcadia for a while, toward and then parallel the foothills (pretty close at one point). We stayed below 3000' (airport elev is 296' but the San Gabriels rise up pretty fast N of Arcadia). It's best to stay N of the I-210 to stay out of El Monte's airspace. I recall the freeways clearly, as well as the big houses above Foothill Blvd and Vons. I saw the Santa Anita Mall, and I did a 30+ degree left bank directly over the race track and got a nice view. I overcorrected on my turns but got better – I certainly did not feel especially skillful or precise. I had trouble keeping the nose level until near the end (level was VERY low vs the horizon – the mountains and haze made it hard to judge the horizon, and I forgot to cross-check vs. the attitude indictor until Kelly reminded me). Kelly was very relaxed and flew very smoothly when she took over toward the end.

Haze was moderately annoying, and the low sun at 7:30 pm gave a lot of glare and NO visibility over the nose when flying W (scratches on windshield gave a LOT of scattering glare). Runway was not that easy to spot when we headed back south (I made the radio call to request a straight-in approach). We did not get a clear to land but rather an instruction to call when 2 miles NE of the airport (Kelly made that call I think – but how do you know that distance?). They called traffic on final, and we spotted a twin down low, so Kelly made several S-turns to slow our close rate. She finally radioed for permission for a 360 to give the landing plane time to clear the runway. I tried to follow the speed, flaps, attitude, control feel, etc on the short final, but it happened too fast for me. There was a crosswind from the right (from 230° on 190 degree runway heading, so maybe a 4 kt crosswind component?). It was enough that Kelly held noticeable right stick and compensating left rudder. Her landing was quite smooth, and she quickly taxied off the runway (I called for permission to taxi to the "fuel pit," where the student pays to top off the tanks, $7.75 for 3.8 gallons, my first AVGAS purchase – this gets subtracted from the $35 intro flight fee, but on normal flights, you pay three things, gas, instructor, and rental fee).

On the whole, Kelly was OK. I think I would prefer a slightly older CFI – she communicated and taught OK, but I couldn't quite "relate" to her somehow. Not likely I will fly much with her (if ever again). I may also check out Bracket Airport in Pomona next time I'm out here. The flight seemed more "routine", somehow, pretty much fun, but I still had some of that frustration of not doing everything at least a little better, like coming out of banks and observing my altitude and other instruments – short answer is that my time in CAP years ago is useless, and sim experience is at least partly negated by bad habits from yank-n-bank combat sims. Real airplanes have a "feel" (especially the rudder in the Piper – nose up/down yoke forces seem mild even without trimming them out). Still some feeling of "is this really happening," especially in banks where I can see the ground better.

A few firsts on this – first in LA, controlled air space, radio comms, real use of trim, fueling the plane – well, some of these are small thrills! I'm not actually taking lesssons, of course, so no log book for this or the last Intro flight! Meanwhile I broke down and bought FS95 on sale at CompUSA for $38 – Flight 2 and Pro Pilot are due later in summer, and 688I Hunter/Killer (sub sim) shipped today but probably won't make stores until this Friday (I planned to be sub-simming tonight if it was out). Bought a VFR Terminal Area Chart for San Francisco (they were out of sectionals and these charts for LA) – this is for "Flight 2" (it may come with one, but it's only $4.33, vs. $7.50 for the sectionals).

Time: 0.6 hours dual (unlogged).

Wednesday, June 11, 1997

Introductory Flight at Hopedale Airport

It was very clear and warming fast when I drove over to Hopedale for an intro flight with Hopedale Air Service (HAS). I watched a C150 do some practice landings from 8-9 am while I waited for Kristian to return from his lesson (Jason was the CFI for the C150 - the first landing was VERY rough, fast and with 2 big bounces, too fast, or he flared too early, perhaps). I spoke with Jeff (the owner), but he said he was too busy to take on new students now. He seemed like a nice enough guy.

After Kris arrived and debriefed his last lesson, we went out to the Cherokee 140 for the pre-flight inspection (he first found me a headset to borrow). We checked power off and keys on dash, then flaps, control surfaces, fuel (visual check on quantity, drain some for contamination check), landing gear, oil (he actually could not get the cap off, and we taxied out with the access door open!). Inside the plane we checked RROW (registration, radio license, operational limits [POH], weight/balance), making sure the paperwork was in the aircraft (we actually didn't check W&B per se with just the two front seats occupied and no baggage). We also double checked that tie-downs were removed (he told me of one C150 lesson he gave where the student forgot the rear tire-down and flew once around the pattern with a cement block dragging – this caused it to handle very strangely – I'll bet! -- way out of W&B limits so a wind gust could have been real bad news).

Next he showed me the startup procedure, which I don't remember in detail (cautionary note: there was no written checklist for any of this, other than the POH). He basically showed me the controls and let me do everything from this point until I entered the downwind for final approach, when he took the controls for landing and taxi back to ramp. There should be a checklist (for students or renters) because the order of operations for lights, amp check, fuel pump, carb heat, etc. was not obvious to me. We also checked all controls for free movement (with visual, except for rudder, which won't move anyway due to nosewheel steering linkage). Yell "Clear!" and start the engine (full rich mixture, throttle 1/8" or so, turn key full right and push).

Then I (or Kris?) removed the parking brake and I taxied to the edge of the ramp. It was hard to not try to steer with the "wheel", only with the feet, and the toe brakes were kinda weird too. We stopped and did the runup check (set brake, 2000 RPM, Magnetos both, right, both, left, both and watch for slight RPM drop, ditto with carb heat on/off). This is when Kris noticed the oil check door was open, so I stopped the engine and he opened the door and closed the hatch. All OK, so now I have to make a very newbie-sounding radio call, "Hopedale, Cherokee 3569 Foxtrot, blah-blah-blah for runway 36." This was very awkward (hope nobody was listening!) – gotta read those radio procedure web pages now! I had to do the departure call as well, and one or two others I forget (mostly for "traffic," warning any planes on approach that we are on the runway – typical uncontrolled airport stuff).

Checking again for traffic, I taxied very awkwardly to the south end of the single 3200' runway 36, experimenting a little with the toe brakes en route. Not very smooth! A little better when I finally put my hands in my lap. I did a U-turn near the end and found myself well left of center, but OK. Release brakes, full throttle, steer with feet to stay roughly lined up (a bit wobbly), and the end of the runway seemed to be getting close when Kris said "start to pull back," so I did, and we lifted off and began to climb.

At about 1000' (I think – Hopedale is 269' so this would be only 730' AGL), I began a turn to the left. Coordination was OK, a little slip when I peeked at the ball. I wasn't sure where he wanted me to turn, so I made several "partial" turns before I started asking him what headings he wanted to roll out on. The view was – not much! Rather hazy and all trees and quarries and a lake or two. My outside SA was minimal! We leveled off at about 2500' and set throttle for cruise (1800 rpm?). I never noted the I-495, which I assumed would be a major landmark. I held altitude fairly well in turns (climbing with too much back pressure on one, gained 100' to 2600), but I held airspeed (angle of attack!) less reliably, I think.

We made some more turns, and Kris pointed out that we were over Mendon, with Uxbridge off to the left. We turned back and he showed me a couple of landmarks for finding the Hopedale runway (one was an industrial building or tower, the other a water tower) – not an easy thing! It's just a 3200' strip of asphalt among a lot of trees. We turned to a heading of about 140° (S.E.) and got within about a mile of the runway before I spotted it at an angle to our flight path. He had me turn (right I guess!) to line up with the runway on the downwind leg (180°, south), then he took over the controls for the rest of the approach. He said to begin a turn to base when abeam of the numbers, but we overshot this (he had to extend further south because we were too close to the runway, a very narrow pattern).

Final went very fast and seemed steep to me. I was not very aware of the "sight picture" (though I had this TERM in mind) – looking for our aim point, the point that was not moving on the windscreen. The S end of the runway is very close to the road, and we seemed very low over a passing car. He touched down long (I think), not on the numbers, and I recall some last minute bank correction (there was a small but noticeable crosswind as the day was heating up – going to 95+ today, it was 86 at the start of the flight). He said "that was not such a good example of a landing!"

Kris is amiable enough, and his accent is not TOO hard to understand. He was very laid-back in the cockpit, didn't seem rushed or nervous, and he let me fly the plane the whole time, with barely any correction or criticism. This was an introductory flight, and I had taken pains to try to show I was somewhat savvy about all this flying stuff, so maybe he was holding back. I think I could train with him, but I wonder if I should "audition" Jason as well, just to compare them?

(That's a lot of writing for a 30 minute intro flight – no wonder people generate web pages on this stuff!).

Time: 0.5 hours (unlogged).