Learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Month: May 2016

Actual Short and Soft Field Landings, Yay!

Two days in a row with good enough weather to fly!  What is the world coming to?

Today, I got a treat.  My surrogate flight instructor and I took a little trip south of TTA to visit a couple of new airfields for actual short and soft field landings.  Well, the airfields are new to me.

As we departed TTA, I donned the dog cone, (AKA Hood) and we flew south as I followed the Sand Hills VOR. Bumpier today, and there were some clouds around 2500, so I flew at 2000 msl.  It was pretty bumpy and kept me on my toes but hey, smooth air doesn’t help you get better.

My instructor said to me, “Go ahead and take that off.  There is a little airport over here that we’ll do a short field landing.”  The airport he was referring to was Carthage, BQ1.  Which has a BBQ place on the field that I hear is pretty good.  We didn’t have time to stop but I look forward to coming back at some point.  We pretty much turned around and took off again.  The trees came up pretty quickly to which I was a little nervous but we cleared them with no issues. It was a good experience to actually get to do it at a place where you have to do a short field.

I was instructed to turn south and we headed past SOP and landed at a small grass strip.  It was so cool… actual soft field experience as well.  Another treat was to checkout out a couple of airplanes, one of which my surrogate flight instructor flies for fun.

As we took off, we headed toward SOP which was not too far north.  Here I practices a soft field landing and soft field takeoff.  Those are my week points.  The landing was awesome. The takeoff, I lifted a bit out of the ground effect and settled it back in but it was not very smooth.  I can do better.

I put the dog cone back on and followed some vectors, holding altitude and airspeed.  It was really bumpy now, so it was a challenge.

The ride back was uneventful other than a couple of unusual attitude scenarios which I handled pretty well.

I landed back at TTA with another soft field.  It was ok, a little harder than should be but not too bad.

Today I felt like I was a part of the pilot community.  When we landed at the grass strip, there were quite a few guys hanging around the hangar swapping stories and what not.  I was welcomed into the group without hesitation.  It felt good…. and I got to fly.  How cool is that.

My little 152 amongst the bush planes

My little 152 amongst the bush planes

The home stretch, checkride in sight!

After my long solo cross country, I am now in check ride prep mode and the home stretch is in site.  I still have some simulated instrument time to take care of but we are handling that while sharpening my skills for the practical test.

I had a weeks worth of flights canceled due to some weather issues. Today, however, turned out to be a great day.  My primary instructor is away for a much needed vacation overseas, so I am utilizing some of our other amazing instructors to help me get ready.  Today I rode with one of my favorites, he helped me get the hang of stalls before my solo.  He has a ton of experience and I love just talking to the guy.

Since I need 2.2 hours of simulated instrument, today was all about the simulated instrument work. As soon as I took off from runway 21 at TTA and turned on course for the practice area, I put on the hood.  A hood is a little different from the foggles that I have used in the past, this thing looks like you strapped a dog cone to your forehead.  It is a little unwieldy but it did the job.

We started off with some simple turns as I ascended to 3000 ft msl.  Then I did some radial tracking off of the LIB VOR.  Next we moved on to a couple of stalls.  I have never done stalls under the hood.  Weird sensation.

Each time that I was asked to make a turn or perform a maneuver, I asked if I was cleared.  Tried to get in the habit of clearing turns or asking for clearance before each maneuver.  You can fail a check ride quickly by failing to do this.

After a few more turns, I hear “I have the flight controls, why  don’t you go ahead and close your eyes for a bit.”  I figured this was unusual attitudes.  I haven’t done these yet so it was a good experience.  I did a couple attempts where my instructor took the controls and had me close my eyes.  Next, I was asked to close my eyes and make some blind turns.

Next, my instructor asked me to perform some steep turns.  That was wild.  I am so used to site picture when performing a steep turn, so with just instruments, I could really feel the G forces in the turn.  Especially when I started to lose a little altitude and pulled back to regain. It was a really cool experience and I nailed it!  If you have been following my progress, you know that steep turns have been my Achilles heal.

After the maneuvers, we moved on to some turns and descents.  I realized pretty quickly that he was vectoring me to runway.  After a few turns and a few altitude step downs, he said “Ok, take off the hood and land”.  I was setup perfectly on Base for runway 22 at Siler City.  He asked me to perform a slip to landing and I nailed it with a sweet touch down.

As soon as we departed runway 22, once again I was asked to put on the hood as we ascended through 500 ft.  Once I turned on course, he said “Vacuum failure” and put a piece of paper over the attitude indicator and directional gyro.  I was now using the wing leveler (which runs on electricity so you have the backup for a vacuum failure), and the compass.  This is the first time I have had to deal with losing instruments but I think I handled it well.

I could tell that we were headed back towards TTA when my instructor went searching through his pockets, “I’ve got this toy here somewhere”.  After a few minutes it was revealed as he slapped a black circle over top of my airspeed indicator.  Now I was running on a compass, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, and wing leveler.  As it turned out, it wasn’t too big of a deal.  I knew the engine rpms for cruise, decent, etc.

While performing a few more turns then I hear, “go ahead and take off the hood and land”.  We were setup about 3 miles west of the airfield (TTA) at 2000 ft MSL.  I proceeded to fly over the airfield and descend turn into downwind for runway 21 at TTA.  I preformed another slip to landing since I was a little high. It was a weird experience flying and landing with no airspeed indicator but was great practice for if/when that situation arrives.

All in all, I think I did quite well considering it has been, literally, months since I have worked on just maneuvers. And oh yeah, I nailed both landings, greasy!  I had a lot of fun and got to fly!  What could be better?


Long Solo Cross Country flight? Yes Please!

Today, the weather worked out and allowed me to complete some of my final requirements, including the long solo cross country flight.

As of this morning I needed:

  • Solo Cross Country total distance greater than 150nm with at least 3 stops and one leg greater than 50nm.
  • 3 solo landings at a towered airport
  • 2.2 hrs of hood time (Instrument training)

Today I was able to knock out two the remaining items.

My flight today took me from Raleigh Executive (TTA) -> Davidson County (EXX) -> Stanley County (VUJ) -> Richmond County (RCZ) -> then back to Raleigh Executive.

I performed my calculations, filed a flight plan and headed to the airfield to have one of the instructors review my numbers and sign me off for the flight.  Today was my normal instructors day off, I was able to get one of our other club instructors to fill in.  We have an amazing group of instructors and members in our club.  It is a very supportive community.

We discussed the possibility of para jumpers around VUJ and what I should do if that happens.  It turns out that this was a very relevant conversation.

I headed out to the airplane, like I was a real pilot and performed preflight and run up.  Made the radio calls and away I go.  I have been to all of these airports before so I was familiar with the routes.  The flight to EXX was uneventful.  Except Raleigh Approach terminated my flight following instead of handing me off to Greensboro approach… which was weird.  No big deal, I just requested a new following from Greensboro.

I made a pretty nice landing, if I do say so myself, at EXX and taxi’d up to the fuel pumps. Again, acting like a total pro, filled the tanks, sent a text to my surrogate instructor then I gave VUJ tower a call to see about those para jumpers.

The tower indicated that there were some jumpers scheduled but she thought I could squeeze in before.  As it turns out… not so much.  As I approached, VUJ, I dialed up the tower and was told that I needed to hold outside of the airspace.  The conversation that I had earlier about this helped me not freak out.  So I circled over a lake, taking in the views.


Once the jumpers completed their jumps, I was routed into VUJ and told to report right base 22L.  I complied and made a nice landing.  I still needed two more solo landings at a towered airport, so I requested to takeoff and remain in the pattern.  Upon the next landing I did the same.

After I had completed my requisite landings, I asked ground to route me to the fuel.  I didn’t originally plan to refuel at VUJ but with the hold and the extra landings, I figured better to be safe than sorry.

The rest of the trip went pretty well.  I flew from VUJ to RCZ, then it was just a hop through the Sandhills VOR (SDZ) back home to Raleigh Executive.

All in all it was a good day.  I am a little tired afterwards but totally worth it.

Today I got to fly and airplane… by myself … long distance.  I felt like a pilot.

Quick Night Flight Dream Comes True

If you read the previous post, you understand that this was a long time coming. And even up to the last minute, we were nearly thwarted. This quick night flight has been a long time in the making.

We go through the start up sequence, perform the engine run up, set the radios, and depart runway 3 with a destination of Stanley County Airport, VUJ.

Since this was a night cross country, the typical landmarks would be nearly useless so instead I picked out things like major highways, bigger cities that would have bright lights.  Airports, tracking their green/white alternating flashes.  Also for each one of these, I had two radials one from LIB to the north and one from SDZ to the south which would help me stay on track.

Once on course, I dialed in the first radial and then called up flight services to open my flight plan.

Me: “Raleigh Radio, Raleigh Radio, Cessna 89433 on 122.45.”

FltSvc: “89433, Raleigh Radio, go ahead”

Me: “89433 would like to open flight plan”

FltSvc: “89433, confirming round robin to Stanley county. For in route information……..”

Flight plan now open, I dial up a flight following.

Me: “Raleigh Approach, Cessna 89433”

Ral App: “Cesnna 89433, Raleigh Approach say request”

Me: “Approach, Cessna 89433 is type 152 slant uniform off of Tango Tango Alpha enroute to Victor Uniform Juliet climbing through three thousand five hundred to four thousand five hundred, request flight following”

Ral App: “89433 squawk 0216 and ident”

Me: “0216 and ident, 89433”

Ral App: “89433, we have you 10 miles west of Sanford at four thousand one hundred, once at altitude report any changes, altimeter 29.61”

Me: “Roger, will report”

With the housekeeping out of the way, we are on our way.  It was quite pleasant since the cool air was smooth.  Once trimmed in cruise flight, I just made small corrections depending on how my waypoints were turning out.

Once released from flight following, we got the AWOS from VUJ and I made my first call to a tower at an airport.

Me: “Stanley Tower, 89433”

Tower: “89433, say request”

Me: “89433 is Cessna 152 inbound to land”

Tower: “89433 fly base runway 22L report when entering airspace”

Me: “Wilco, 89433”

Once we enter airspace

Me: “Tower, 89433 has entered airspace”

Tower: “89433, there is no traffic in front of you, report when entering base”

Me: “Will report, 89433”

I slow the aircraft and drop a notch of flaps setting up for the base leg.  Once I am at 1600 feet, pattern altitude, I make the call.

Me: “Tower, 89433 is base runway 22L”

Tower: “89433, you are cleared for the option runway 22L, winds are calm, altimeter 29.65”

Me: “Cleared for the option 22L, 89433”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the communication but once we landed I was instructed to contact ground where I requested immediate taxi for departure.

Once we cleared airspace, Stanley tower wished us a good night and we got back on flight following for the trip back.  It was an uneventful trip back and overall a very pleasant flight.  It was a long time coming, nearly a month and a half of trying.

Now, I am trying to the the long cross country out of the way and start my check ride prep.

I could have done without all of the drama but it was good to get back in the air.

Flight Training Perseverance Finally Pays Off.. or Does it?

I haven’t been neglecting the blog, actually I have not been flying.  I am at a point in my flight training where I need to complete the last few things in a certain order.  The domino that was blocking my path was the night cross country.

I only have a few items to check off before I can start check-ride prep.

  • Night Cross Country
  • 3 Takeoff/landings at towered airport
  • 2 more night takeoff and landings
  • 2 more hours of solo cross country work
  • 2 hours of hood work.
  • Long solo cross country

Other than the hood work, my instructor wanted me to complete these in a specific order.  I’ll explain….

In order to complete my long solo cross country, which fulfills ,the Tower takeoff and landings and rest of my solo cross country time, I needed to first visit a towered airport with my instructor.  In her curriculum, this first towered experience comes during the night cross country.  Also the night cross country would fulfill the final two night take off and landings that I need.  So in short, the night cross country is the first domino to fall.  Then I can complete my long solo cross country and the only thing that I have left are two hours of hood time.  Which most will occur during my check ride prep.

So I know what you’re asking.  Why did it take so long?

Well, the weather has been horrible.  I started booking several nights a week starting mid March.  On the 19th attempt, May 4th, the weather finally cooperated.

After many, many, many, many,  yes…. many attempts. (You read 19 above, right?)  I get a text from my instructor, “Based on new tafs, tonight is a go!”

Now I was pretty shocked because it had been cancelled so many times due to cloud heights, wind, dew points, etc., that I wasn’t really even paying attention to the tafs.  At least not sitting here waiting for the updates.

As it gets closer to time, I get another text… “Check clouds wind before drive to tta today”.  I immediately started looking at the surrounding area.  Crap… winds are still high in spots. 10 in some places with 8 crosswind component.  However, the predictions say that the winds will die down.  I go to the airfield anyway even though things are sketchy.  Hell, I just wanted to be around airplanes if nothing else.

So I get to the airfield and talk with my instructor before she goes out for some hood work with another student. She says,”I’m confident tonight will happen, go ahead and cancel the rest of the night flights and reschedule for your long cross country”.  Yay!!!

She heads out with her student and I sit around, consuming a cup o noodle for my dinner and continue to hawk the weather.  Things are starting to look better, winds dying down as predicted, clouds staying above 6000 ft.

Once my instructor returns, I get busy on final calculations for the trip. While she is going over my work, I call for a weather brief.  This is where things go sideways.  As we get to the notams, the briefer says “Looks like there is military lights out training at your destination tonight.  You have to stay above 3,100 ft in the area. Since they are using night vision goggles, there are no lights in and around the airfield.”  I have him repeat this with my instructor listening, hoping I was misinterpreting what he was saying.  Nope, it was exactly what he said it was.  At this point, I am pretty disappointed.  I know the weather for the next week is not good.

My instructor says, “Well, it is what it is I guess”.   After a minute of mulling, she then says “Give the tower a call and see what they say.  Tell them that we are just flying in then quickly turning around and taking off.”  I do as she asks and I hear the best news ever… well maybe not ever but in recent history. “The c-130’s are not operating tonight, so you can come on.”  Yay!!

My instructor grabs her headset and as she walks toward the door to the flight line says, “Let’s get the hell out of dodge before something else happens”.  I couldn’t agree more.  I grab my stuff and then remember that I never actually filed the flight plan because of the news the briefer gave us.  I quickly call up and file our flight plan then sprint to the plane.

I will write another post with the details of the night flight but spoilers… It happened!  Finally.



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