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.