Aviation Medical (June 30, 2009)

As you probably know all pilots need to meet certain medical criteria, so before I can get my license or go solo I have to prove I can meet those criteria. They’re not difficult for general aviation, trickier for commercial pilots.

So June 30th I had my Aviation Medical done here in Toronto. It was a simple half hour appointment where they take height, weight, a medical history and the usual please deposit in this cup test. All in all a simple procedure.

I had the Class III medical done, which is what is needed for a private pilot. I spoke to the doctor about the Class I medical, and he told me that since I didn’t want to do this for a living he’d check me over and let me know if I would pass that at the same time, but without the fees and greater difficulty of maintaining a Class I. So he did most of the other checks except for the ECG that is required for the Class I. Apparently I’d be fine.

So a couple of weeks later I got my medical certificate through the post. Felt strange looking at it as this was the first piece of paper I had on my goal to getting my license. Then I notice the name, Benjaman. Not how you spell my name, Benjamin. Then I notice the date of birth; the year is wrong.

So next day, I speak with the nice people in licensing at Transport Canada and end up faxing a copy of the certificate along with ID through to them. Amazingly only three days later I get my corrected replacement certificate through the post. Who says Canadian bureaucracy is slow.

Cost: $125.

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Grounded Again (June 2009)

Unfortunately early in June I had reason to stop with my flying lessons. It was a situation that couldn’t be helped. My wife lost her job of that time, and as a result I couldn’t justify the expenditure. We had the money for the lessons, but with not knowing how long we’d be without two incomes it was decided that paying out all this money once or twice a week just wasn’t a good idea.

So I stopped flying.

I didn’t stop the rest of the training though. I still read the books, still prepared for my PSTAR exam (the written exam I must take before going solo) and the medicals. It’s a temporary setback that took just over three months to be overcome before I returned.

Ground school – Human Factors (11 June, 2009)

Human factors. At the end of the day the most important component in the plane is the pilot. Without a trained pilot making good decisions the flight runs a high risk of ending badly. However even highly trained pilots can make bad decisions and can be negatively influenced. This lesson was all about the human component in the flight.

Taught by my actual flight instructor, we went into the affects of alcohol on the body, illness, altitude and stress. All factors in accidents. Tiredness is a killer as is going too high without oxygen. There are regulations and guidelines to cover many of these.

Scuba diving is an issue. If you have to make depressurization stops on the way up, you cannot fly for some time afterwards. Dentistry is another issue some don’t think about. Extensive dental work can cause problems if you fly too soon afterwards. Similarly you cannot be in charge of an aircraft after giving blood.

First Solo (10 January, 2010)

Okay, this is out of the order for the rest of the blog. While the lessons to this point have been historical, as I go through and try to bring everything up to date, I just couldn’t help but post this one.

Today I did my first solo flight. Just me in charge of a multi hundred thousand dollar airplane. Oddly enough it wasn’t even frightening. We’d come to the end of a load of circuits (more on circuits at a later point), done several engine failure scenarios, then the “Okay we’ll land, then how do you feel about doing your first solo today?”

So we land and taxi to the apron. My instructor gives me a short briefing, and then gets out. Now I’m on my own. Get clearance, taxi to the active runway (runway 26 today) and takeoff. Now I’m flying, on my own. It’s a little surreal, but for the most part it doesn’t seem any different. I climb and work round the circuit, make the plane adjustments on the downwind and inform the tower I’m turning base for a full stop on runway 26. Come round, slow down and start my descent. Final approach, just need to add a touch of power before taking it off again to be sure I’ll comfortably make the runway. I balloon slightly on the landing but easily correct and touch down relatively smoothly. Taxi off and head to the tiedowns. A congratulations on your first solo flight from the ATC ground controller and I shut the plane down.

Greeted on the ground by my instructor with a “congratulations, you’re alive and the plane in one piece!”

So that’s it. Something I’ve been working towards for a while done after 22.8 hours. A solo flight. Still seems very strange.

Well next lesson it’s back to it. I have a lot of solo time to gain before the flight test, but also a lot of cross-country flying, different airports and a lot more practice.

Ground School – Navigation (9 June, 2009)

Navigation, the second most important ground school. Why do I say second this time? Well my instructor keeps telling me to do things in order. Aviate. Navigate. Communicate. Make sure you fly the airplane, then figure out you’re headed the right direction and are keeping safe, then speak to ATC if needed.

So, navigation. New ground school instructor for this one. Younger instructor than the rest but with a scary level of experience. Thousands of hours, airline rated, can fly an Airbus, has every add on rating you can think of; night, float, instrument, multi-engine and the rest. But he’s so young, early 20s. Still he has information I need, so lets go with it. Turns out he’s very good at his job, a great instructor, clear and good at explaining everything so no complaints.

Navigation ends up as three lessons of charts and plots, determining distances and direction. Just determining what direction to fly is trickier than it may seem. We’re in light aircraft, if we just point in a straight line towards our target then it’s fine if there is no wind or the wind is right along our path, however if it’s off then we’re not going to be over our destination when we get there. As a result we have to fly into the wind. This results in us having two headings; the aircraft heading and the track heading. The way we’re pointing and the way we’re actually travelling. Obviously this adds a level of complication.

We also learn how to use our E6B computers (which I showed before.) These are used to make our in air, and pre-flight, calculations. Wonderful pieces of card (or metal if you have a higher class one) that can tell you how much fuel you’re burning, speeds and distances, atmospheric densities, pressure readings and timings. I think there’s an option to work out how to travel back in time, but I could have been using it wrong.

Also information on flight plans; when to fill them out, how to fill them out, how to alter them and everything else related to long distance flying.

Three very involved lessons, but absolutely fascinating.

Up up and away – Flying (6 June, 2009)

So I’m in the air again, flying and practising what we did in ground briefing last time when the weather was against us. Range and endurance.

Now, like most things in flying, what seems a simple enough matter in the classroom, becomes much trickier once your in the air. In the classroom you can concentrate on the one thing you’re doing. However in the air you’re trying to set the plane up for a certain configuration, looking around you, checking other instruments and trying to maintain straight and level flight.

Best range configuration isn’t so bad, set for power levels and lean the mixture back. Easy enough.

Best endurance on the other hand is slightly trickier. Remember we’re pulling back power, retrimming, and start looking for that drop in our VSI indicator. Seems simple enough, and in perfectly smooth air it probably is. However when it’s slightly turbulent the VSI indicator is twitching constantly anyway. Trying to see when it drops down consistent with the fact we’re now losing lift is much harder that it initially seemed in the classroom. So we practice it, and play with it a bit. It’s really not that easy, but I get the general idea of it.

So theory, sound. Practical applications, needs a bit more work but I know what it is I’m doing. Due to turbulence and increasing winds we decide to cut the flight shorter than normal.

Costs: Airplane rental, 0.9 hours, cost $137.36. Instructor time, 1.1 hours, $66. Total cost including GST, $213.53.

Ground School – Flight Operations (4 June, 2009)

Flight operations, most important etc etc. You know, I can’t honestly remember what this one was specifically about. All my ground schooling was completed over six months ago at the time I’m writing this, and since then I’ve sat examinations, read a lot and studied what I can. As a result I cannot remember the specifics about what was taught in this lesson.

I remember what I was taught in ground school, but which bits exactly where taught in this particular session, I’m drawing a blank. I’ll come back to you if I can remember.