100 Hour Revival.

I know I haven’t updated this blog in quite a while. Lately, Share Aviation, Twitter and Facebook grab the lion’s share of my attention span when it comes to sharing my aviation adventures. I decided that I need to give some aviation love back to my blog, so here I am, reviving it. I have about 20 hours of video sitting on my hard drive awaiting editing; I’m hoping to get catch up on all of that over the next couple of weeks.

Last weekend I logged my 100th hour in my log book. I think this is rather impressive, considering that I earned my PPL at hour 66 in December and the Central New York winter wasn’t really hospitable to aviation adventures this year. In addition, I started a new job in June, and I was traveling all over the country for that new challenge for two weeks, so being able to still get in 34 hours in six months is good in my book when it comes to a being essentially a “weekend warrior” kind of pilot.

Contrary to my original plan of immediately getting ready for my instrument rating, the past 34 hours have been devoted to honing my skills, learning new things as a VFR pilot and most importantly, enjoying my love of aviation. I’ve buddied up with a couple of other newer pilots and we’ve taken turns riding safety pilot for each other practicing landings and approaches, maneuvers and getting in some foggles time. I’ve logged a few cross country trips since earning my ticket, which has been very enjoyable.

For my 100th hour, my friend Chuck and I up went up in the Cherokee 180 and flew from KRME to KSYR to shoot the ILS approaches at both airports. It was my first time shooting an ILS. I did it without foggles just as an “introductory experience” to doing this. It was also my first time flying into KSYR, or any Class C as PIC, which isn’t really different than flying into the Class D at KRME but it was a little bit of a big deal to me. I grew up in the Syracuse area and even as a small child I really loved watching all the airplanes go in and out of the airport. My grandparents lived closed to the airport and I can remember spending many summer afternoons playing in the back yard and watching all the air traffic overhead. Briefly I wondered if there was some young person down below watching us fly over just as I did so many years ago.

This week we are flying to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. We are leaving on Wednesday morning with plans on arriving during the allowed traffic window between airshows on Wednesday. We have hotel accommodations in Appleton but I might spend one night under the wing of the Cherokee 180. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello. If all goes according to plan we’ll be parked in VAC / Vintage Camping.

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Old Stomping Grounds.

With hints of spring finally in these parts, I’ve been lucky enough to get some time in the air in the club’s newest addition, the 1966 Piper Cherokee 180C. Tuesday night was an exceptionally great night to fly, so I planned some cross-country time from KRME to KART (Watertown, N.Y.).  I planned the trip to go by way of the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, flying directly over the house I grew up in, the little airfield my dad and grandfather called home and the (snow-covered) sandy beaches along the lake shore. I had always wanted to fly this route as a kid; I’d been in the air in that area of plenty of times as a passenger but I had never flown into KART nor had I flown up in that area as a private pilot.

The preflight of the 180C revealed that the landing light wasn’t working. Since I planned on getting night current while up at KART, not having a functioning landing light was a bit of an issue, so I scrubbed my cross-country flight plan. I decided to still fly up and over where I had grown up. I’d do an orbit over Sandy Pond and then head back home. That would get me back on the ground at sunset.

The air was fantastically smooth as glass. This was my first flight in the 180C completely solo. The airplane handled beautifully, my comm work was grand and I felt wonderful.

The MOAs (military areas) near Fort Drum were hot (active), so I stayed plenty clear of that area and flew right along the coast line of the eastern shore of Lake Ontario.  At about Sandy Pond, Syracuse Approach let me know that I was at the very top of their area, so I turned south and started the journey back home. I’d get home right at sunset.

I had a great big grin on my face as I flew over my grandfather’s old farm and the house my father built. I flew the pattern at the airstrip (1NY3) about a mile away. Wow, that 2200′ grass strip looks tiny when you’re used to nearly 12000′ of runway at KRME!

All in all it was a great experience and just another affirmation of why I became a private pilot: because flying is awesome!

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Cherokee 180C.

Our flying club recently bought a 1966 Piper Cherokee 180C. We are all very excited about this purchase. One of the best things about this purchase is that it’s the same year as our Cherokee 140. The controls are all basically in the same place and the speeds and feeds are about the same. It’s easy to transition between the two airplanes.

I was formally checked out in the 180C this week. It took me a little while to get used to the extra horsepower and the different sight picture, but after 2.1 hours, I felt comfortable in it and I was very excited to get flying. Even though I was checked out, I wanted to take one more flight in it with a safety pilot, mess around with the controls a little bit while we were out there, and get a feel for its cross-country legs.

My buddy Keith earned his PPL about a month after I did, so I asked him to come along as my safety pilot. We decided to do a round trip from KRME to KFZY Friday after normal business hours. It was a great night for a flight; the crosswind component at both airports was just enough to keep me on my toes but nothing crazy. Visibility seemed to be unlimited. Once we got up over 3000′ MSL, the air smoothed out wonderfully.

I’m finding that I tend to land to the right of the centerline in this airplane; I feel like I slide over a little bit in the flare. I think I need a tad more left rudder and/or left aileron. I’m going to do some pattern work and get out of that non-centerline habit as quickly as possible.

The sun had just gone down when we got back home to KRME. It wasn’t dark, but it was dark enough that the runway lights were on. Here’s a photo of my approach for a long landing on runway 15.

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I’m out of town this week for work and then on vacation later in the week. I’m looking forward to getting back up in the 180C when I get back. I love this time of year.

Photos.

Last night I spent several hours going through a year’s worth of flying photos that were sitting on iPhoto. I organized them and uploaded them to a Flickr account I had created but never seemed to use.

If you’d like to take a gander, you can find me at http://flickr.com/photos/flymachias. I’m going to try really hard to keep everything organized in albums and once I figure out the collections thing, I’ll probably organize my photos even more.

The Checkride.

So I thought I would take a moment to write up the notes from my PPL checkride, since others may be as apprehensive as I was when it came to showing the examiner that I could actually fly the airplane.  This is a slightly modified version with the notes I shared with the Flight School.

My checkride was originally scheduled for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The examiner is a charter pilot by trade and he travels a week at a time, Sunday to Saturday. He’s here a week, gone a week, etc.

We completed the oral exam as scheduled but found it was going to be too dark to complete the checkride in its entirety. Though I had the option to, I didn’t want to do part of my checkride and then go up and do the rest of it at a later date. He gave me a letter of discontinuance.

The weather and schedules were not cooperative for a couple of weeks, but we scheduled the ride for the 8th of December. The forecast was looking promising, though they were talking about some gusty conditions; wind coming directly out of the west. Since KRME has but one strip of pavement for runway purposes (15-33), this could make for some tricky crosswind conditions. The morning of the 8th arrived and I was feeling mostly confident and ready to go, despite the last ride I had done on the 6th with my instructor in where I couldn’t do anything right. I went to the airport early, thoroughly pre-flighted the airplane and then decided to warm the airplane up by doing one turn around the pattern. I wanted to get a feel for how the winds were behaving. The crosswind component was near my personal limit, around 8 knots or so as the wind was coming out of 110 at 12 knots. I could handle it but I knew it would be some work.

I landed on 15 after getting bounced a little around the pattern and just as I was getting ready to touch down on the 1000′ marker in an every so gentle manner, the wind shifted a little bit, caught me off guard and I ended up to the right of the centerline. It didn’t scare me, I was never unsafe but it jarred me enough to realize to make the decision to not fly that day. When the examiner arrived, I told him of my decision. We went over a few miscellaneous items from my oral exam (I had forgotten what hotspots look like on an airport diagram) and we covered the revised flight plan I had done for the checkride. My original flight plan was from KRME to KPWM (Portland, Me.) for the oral exam; since the checkride would be at a later date and I had proven that I could write up a sound flight plan, he had me plan from KRME to KGFL (Glens Falls, N.Y.) for the checkride.

With the flight called off I was bummed. The rest of that week turned out to be awful for flying. In fact, the next two weeks were solid Marginal VFR or IFR for the entire time. We finally got a break on 12/21. With a fresh flight plan to KGFL but a somewhat low ceiling, we decided to do the checkride at 3000′ since we wouldn’t really be going all the way to KGFL (after clarifying that I would have gone out there at 5500′).

Here’s the notes from the actual checkride on 12/21:

  1. My first two checkpoints were Route 12 and the Fairfield Windfarm. Both were 6-7 minutes apart and I went over them as planned and on time. He asked me what my ETA would be KGFL if we kept going and I told him. He was satisfied. There was a cloud directly in front of us so we had the perfect diversion scenario.
  2. To keep my head firmly grounded in the checklist, I verbally read the checklist and touched everything with my hand (door locks, etc). I used the checklists for everything, including the maneuvers checklist.
  3. I verbalized everything, even when I was creeping up or down in altitude a little bit and he appreciated that.
  4. For the diversion he had hinted at KART (Watertown) but I advised that Frankfort-Highland (6B4) was closer. I dialed it up on the VOR and started heading there. He told me we could do a short field landing at 6B4 but I declined, since 6B4 isn’t plowed in the winter and I wasn’t sure of the condition of the runway.
  5. He had me pinpoint my location using two VORs. I wasn’t high enough to receive Glens Falls, so I ended up using Syracuse. He helped me with pilot resource management by unfolding the sectional so I could look up the frequency for the Syracuse VOR.
  6. We did foggle work on the trip to Frankfort-Highland. I asked about clearing turns before putting on the foggles and he said he would do them. He was aggressive with the clearing turns while I had the foggles on. I did a couple of climbs, descents and straight and level and then we did a couple of unusual attitudes.
  7. After we flew over 6B4, we did air work. I started with clearing turns and then we did slow flight. Instead of recovering from slow flight he had me do a power off stall out of slow flight.
  8. Power off stall was followed by a power on stall. He talked to me during the maneuver, asking what I was looking for (coordinated, etc).  The power on stall was the maneuver I was least confident in but I was fine, despite my nerves.
  9. I did two steep turns, one in each direction after clearing turns. I didn’t have a really good visual point of reference so I just did them off the heading indicator. I was within PTS but they were not my best steep turns at all. He said I worked way too hard doing them.
  10. After the steep turns he told me his pants were on fire from the engine being on fire and we did an emergency descent.
  11. After the emergency descent we did S-turns along the Erie Canal. I did two of them, one in each direction.
  12. We headed back to KRME and we ended up on a really long, straight in on 33. He wanted a short field landing and I jimmied up the approach so I opted for a go around as I felt I would have come up short. He liked the decision to go around. I’m not a big fan of the long, straight in final approaches.
  13. Completed the short field landing and had me do a short field takeoff.
  14. Came around the pattern and did soft field landing and takeoff. He noted that I could use a little more right rudder on the soft field takeoff but I was well within PTS and safe.
  15. Came around and did a no-flaps, forward slip landing. I had never combined the two, though I had done plenty of each, so I ended up going around and doing it right the second time around.
  16. On the takeoff he pulled the power and asked where I would go. I pointed to a field off the end of the runway and went to best glide and started heading that direction. He put the power back in and told me to do a normal landing on the 1000′ marker, take him back to the hangar and I’d have myself a ticket.
  17. We made it back to the hangar without hitting anything and completed the paperwork.

The examiner did try to distract me a couple of times with extraneous conversation and I asked him to stop talking once so I could make a call to the tower to report midfield. I ended up reporting one midfield when I was abeam the numbers due to others on the radio and he was fine with that and asked what I would do if I couldn’t report midfield, I told him I’d extend my downwind until I was told I had landing clearance.

The examiner’s approach to the whole thing was very relaxing and helped ease my nerves a lot. He was encouraging and gave me pointers after I completed a required maneuver. My biggest takeaway, other than my ticket, was that it was a good learning experience for me.

Success!

So, I am a private pilot. I passed my checkride on Sunday 12/21. Had a thorough debriefing with the examiner, his primary recommendations being that I use a little more right rudder on take-off and that I don’t work so hard on my steep turns. Apparently I’m used to doing steep turns when winds aloft are 25-30 kts, not calm winds.

I’m writing up a dialog for the flight school since I was the first student to go with this particular examiner. I’ll share that here when it’s ready to go.

Now, let’s fly!

Decisions.

It’s been two months since I’ve written in this blog, mostly because I have been concentrating on wrapping up this whole student pilot experience and working on my ticket. A couple of weeks ago I met with the examiner for the oral part of my exam; we were too close to civil twilight to fit the actual checkride in. I did well on the oral and the examiner was complimentary.

Today I was suppose to take my checkride. I’ve been obsessing about this for a while, mostly because I have high expectations for my performance and I didn’t want to louse this up. I know I can get my ticket, but I want to have fun while I’m doing it.

I arrived at the airport 90 minutes before the exam time; did a thorough pre-flight and even went up for a turn in the pattern to get a feel for how the weather was doing. It appeared to be a great day; it was cold at 26ºF and AWOS showed the wind coming from 110º at 12 kts; runway 15 was in use at our airport. Not too bad of a crosswind, so I went up and flew the pattern.

The winds were a little more burbly than I expected. Gusts were up to 18 kts when I landed. I put it on my target spot, but it was squirrely getting to it. I actually touched down just to the right of the center line with a touch of side load from dancing on the rudders on the way down. The Cherokee was forgiving; the sideload really wasn’t much at all, but it didn’t meet my personal standards.

I taxied back to the hangar and met with the examiner. The wind was picking up as we spoke and I decided to call off the checkride. I could have handled it, but the extra amount of work necessary to do what I needed to do in the air, coupled with the stress I was feeling because of my checkride, was pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been stressed on a flight before and because I wasn’t enjoying myself, I made dumb mistakes. I promised myself I wasn’t going to go down that road again.

So I’m sitting on the ground typing a blog entry.

We have some hefty winter weather moving in for the next couple of days but the end of the week shows promise. I’ve asked the student that currently has the airplane scheduled if they could be flexible with their plans so I can do my checkride later this week.

Let’s hope the weather cooperates.

With the separation between my oral and my checkride and then today’s cancellation, putting together the flight plan for this trip should be a snap, since this will be my third time doing it.