|Part 1||Introductory Flight to lesson 19|
Solo to Cross-Country
Lesson 27 to Night Cross-Country
Test Preparation to Checkride!
|Introductory Flight||Lesson 11||Lesson 22||FAA Written Exam|
|Lesson 1||Lesson 12||Lesson 23||Long Solo Cross-Country|
|Lesson 2||Lesson 13||Lesson 24||Night Cross-Country|
|Lesson 3||Lesson 14||Lesson 25||9-11|
|Lesson 4||Lesson 15||Lesson 26 Cross-Country||Lesson 31|
|Lesson 5||Lesson 16||Lesson 27||Lesson 32|
|Lesson 6||Lesson 17||Lesson 28||Lesson 33|
|Lesson 7||Lesson 18||Lesson 29 Cross-Country II||Checkride!!!! (part1)|
|Lesson 8||Lesson 19||Flight 35 Solo Cross-Country!||Checkride!!!! (part2)|
|Lesson 9||Flight 20 Solo!||Lesson 30 Night Flight|
|Lesson 10||Lesson 21||Progress Check|
5.20.2002 FIRST SOLO!!!!!!!
I knew that today would be the day. Winds were calm and although it would deteriorate later in the day, the ceiling was good. Jeff wasn't in yet so I checked the book to see what plane I was in (N9182W) and began pre-flighting. As I was finishing Jeff asked me into the briefing room, grabbed a styrofoam airplane model, and asked me to show him how to land an airplane. I kept a straight face as I demonstrated, all the while experiencing an out-of body moment as I watched myself get ready to fly with no one else in the plane. I felt good, not as nervous as I thought I would be. In past days and weeks I had thought a lot about how I would feel and act at this moment. I was sure my apprehension would be a factor but surprisingly today it was not...
But first Jeff had to check me out. I made it a point to verbalize the checklists, as I'll need to do that for the examiner one day, and we started up and taxied to runway 36. Jeff switched on the fuel pump and said "I think you missed that...". Dohhhh!! "Ok, I told myself, stay cool, it was a mistake, move on, stay focused". Down to the end of the field for the run-up tests. Taxi to the runway, announce myself on the radio, let's roll... And we're airborne. The Cadet handles a bit differently than the Warrior, and I'm used to it. It's the plane I had my first lesson in, and I smile. Ok, around the pattern, verbalizing all the while. There is a constant workload in the pattern but I feel like I'm developing muscle-memory or something. It's going good. I do three landings and Jeff says "You're ready" with emphasis and gusto. "Do you want to do a few by yourself?" Sure Jeff, get outta my plane! I taxi closer to the office, shut down, and get out my logbook and medical certificate for Jeff to endorse. "in case I get pulled over by the FAA up there?" I'm having another out-of-body moment where time slows down and I watch myself making small talk about FAA regulations while thinking about this moment and how I feel. It is difficult to explain, but very enjoyable. Jeff is very low-key about the whole thing, the only advice he gives me is to watch my speed on short final.
Ok. It's just me. I've latched the door and pull out the engine-start checklist. I know what to do: just pretend the instructor is still there! Brilliant! Taxi down to 36 and I'm not sure if I should do another run-up or not. Hmm, better play it safe. Ok, now taxi into position. I really look around and make sure I'm not forgetting anything. Fuel pump on, carb heat off, mixture full-rich, primer locked, etc. I can't find a reason to turn back so.... "Braden traffic, Cadet 82whiskey departing 3-6, Braden". Here we go: full power and we're rolling down the runway. The take-off is beautiful! I'm alone up here! Wow! I fly the pattern three times, the landings are good. Not perfect, but good. I make all the radio calls in my best pilot's sang-froid voice and everything clicks just right. I'm happy that I manage to land three times without having to go-around, and I discover that without Jeff there to fall back on, I actually focus more and perform better. It's all me.
As I taxi back to the pumps and shut down I see Jeff and Jean Moyer walking out to meet me. Jean's got a camera. It's a great moment for me, and I try to share some of the moment with Jeff. As a young instructor, I imagine he must feel some pride at these moments as well... "You did it Jeff, you trained me!". He smiles. Jean snaps a polaroid.
Back in the briefing room things get back to normal as we discuss the next steps (a checkride with a senior instructor, then cross-country stuff). There is a David Lynch moment as Jean comes back with the polaroid. There are about 15 first solo pictures on a bulletin board in the briefing room and mine is going up. But there is something wrong. Jean is agitated and can't figure out why it came out in black and white. We look at the picture and among all the others it looks like it is about a hundred years old. I should have brought my long white aviator scarf...
And that's it. The solo is behind me, and I've climbed another step up the ladder. Three months and 82 landings later... (0.9 hours, 0.5 as pilot in command, 20.5 total) Return to contents
5.28.2002 Lesson 21
After getting weathered-out last Sunday, I got to fly again today. I had a three hour block reserved instead of the usual two, which worked-out good as the next step for me was a progress check with a senior flight instructor. The FAR rules that govern my instruction (part 141) are pretty structured, and the syllabus is laid out with specific lessons and an order that must be followed. Before Jeff could forge ahead with my instruction I needed to get checked out. Actually the progress check is designed to check the instructor as much as the student. I would have flown with Bob last Sunday, an instructor I've never met, who teaches because he loves to fly. He is part-time, and was not working today. As I walked-in to Moyer Aviation today, Verne Moyer is standing behind the counter. He greets me warmly, shaking my hand and congratulating me on my solo last week. Jeff is there too, filling out a "First Solo" certificate for me to take home. It's a nice gesture and I run out to put it in my car so that it won't be damaged. Jeff asks Verne if he might have some time to check me out today. Wow, this is great, Verne Moyer has taught more people to fly than he can probably remember, and I'm lucky to have him fly with me. I preflight the Warrior and come back into the office. Verne takes me into the briefing room and we sit down to discuss the weather briefing and then he quizzes me on some basic stuff to get a feel for my level of knowledge. "Ok, let's go fly" he says...
It's a normal start-up, taxi and run-up. I follow the procedures, verbalizing as we go. I know I'm being evaluated, but I'm not too nervous. Verne has a way of making you relax. We take off, a bit shy on the right rudder; Verne critiques and offers advice. Off to the practice area where we do slow flight and stalls. Verne has me do several maneuvers and then we head back to Braden. We've done so many turns that I'm a bit lost and I tell Verne that I've managed to disorient myself. No problem, he calmly points out a landmark and suggests that I look at the compass. "Ahh, OK, I know where we are!" We head back to the airport where Verne has me do three landings and then he tells me to let him out and tells me to go ahead and do some solo flight. "Stay in the pattern and do a few landings, maybe two or three, or more if you want". It's 12 noon and I've got the plane until 1PM. "Ok, great" I say. After making sure I've got my credentials on board, Verne deplanes and now it's just me again.
COOL! Ok, taxi to the end of 18, do my runup, announce on the radio, and I am off on my 4th solo flight! I'm really enjoying this and it's all starting to click. I never did have my "bicycle moment", but I know how to fly and land this plane, and I use each landing to learn and improve. I do two, three, four landings, each one different, not one of them perfect, but by myself I can experiment and learn how to adjust and control for different situations. The fifth landing is actually two landings as I bounce a bit before settling down again. (too bad I can't log that as two landings in the logbook!). I'm tired, sweating from the heat in the cabin (no A.C!) but I've got time and I decide that "six solo flights" has a nice ring to it. The sixth landing is pretty good and I manage use the first runway turn-off...
Back in the office Jeff comments that he heard I did really good today, and we talk about the next few lessons. We'll be working on some special take-off and landing procedures, and then a "cross-country" which is a longer flight to a distant airport. Best of all, I'm signed-off to take out any of Moyer Aviation's Piper planes for solo flight! (1.8 hours, 0.8 as PIC, 22.3 total)Return to contents
5.29.2002 Lesson 22
Today we practiced short field and soft field take-offs and landings and then I did some more solo flight around the pattern. (1.5 hours, 0.7 as PIC, 23.8 total)Return to contents
6.03.2002 Lesson 23
I had a 3 hour block scheduled for today and Jeff decided that since the Weather was good, we'd skip right to the Dual Cross-Country today. I was a bit taken-aback, expecting to cover VOR tracking, but Jeff wants to take advantage of our three hour block and the weather. I'm all for it, and when I ask about the lesson, I'm told that it is a high-workload session, and that we'll just do it and see how it goes... The weather was great, we briefed and worked-out a flight plan to Lancaster from Braden. I was a bit taken-aback, not really prepared, but we worked through the pre-flight planning and took off in 9163Z towards Lancaster. I knew that we were short on time and would not be making the full trip, but I called out to Allentown ATC our request for Flight-Following to Lancaster. I was a bit nervous, but there was less communication required than our last trip into Class-C airspace, so it went OK... Jeff and I had worked-out a flight plan with checkpoints and everything, but true-to-prediction, the workload is overwhelming and we don't log the checkpoints... After taking-off from Braden, I need to call Allentown's approach and announce our intentions. The call is: "Allentown approach, Cherokee 9163zulu..." Allentown responds and I say "Allentown approach, Cherokee Niner-one-six-three-zulu is a student VFR flight departing BRaden airpark at 2000 feet, enroute to Lancaster at 3000 feet, request flight following". Allentown ATC responds and takes me under it's wing, steering me through it's airspace towards Lancaster. We don't have enough time to go to Lancaster so Jeff diverts me to Kutztown. All along the mission was to use landmarks and checkpoints, along with VOR navigation, to follow the pre-planned flight route. It quickly became apparent, however, that I don't yet possess the skill necessary to manage such a high workload. It was all I could do to maintain a heading, an altitude, and maybe try to pick out a few landmarks along the way. Jeff points out visual references along the way, showing me how pilotage is done. "There's the Lehigh Valley Mall, there's route 78, there's Bethlehem Steel, etc..." We did tune the VOR radio to Lancaster and followed along for a bit before diverting to Kutztown. The thing about Kutztown is that the runway is concave, and so you land in a bowl, it is kinda strange... We do two short-field landings, and then a soft-field landing on Kutztown's grass strip. Definitely cool. Since there is very little wind, Jeff calls for a takeoff back into the grass strip. It is really exciting doing this kind of new stuff. We depart Kutztown's grass runway and head back to Braden, with the requisite Class C ATA communications. Approach steers us quite a bit south of our route, to avoid ABE's traffic and then we turn north and turn into Braden's traffic pattern. (1.4 hours , 25.2 total)Return to contents
I had a 8 to 10AM block so I got to Braden at 7:40 to preflight and get the weather. The weather is just a formality as it is "severe VFR" (beautiful). Unfortunately there isn't an instructor around to sign me off to solo. Jean Moyer calls Jeff at home and after he and I discuss the forecast, he OKs me to solo. I start-up N43523 and go through my checklist but there's a problem, I'm not getting a light on the transponder. I shut down the engine and Cliff the lineman runs over. Cliff is a soft-spoken worker with what I suspect is tons of aviation experience. I'm always deferential and try to glean any information from him that I can. He goes and checks with a mechanic, then comes back and tells me that I should be OK, at altitude the transponder should respond to ATC inquiries and light up. There must be some weird weather phenomenon as I've always gotten a light on the ground... The transponder is not critical, so I fire back up and taxi down to 3-6. My plan today is to practice take-offs and landings, and also to get out to the practice area and do some ground reference maneuvers. That's exactly what I do. I'm pilot-in-command, and that is how I approach today's flight, I'm responsible for the safety of the airplane and myself, without an instructor to fall back on. This leads to a somewhat different mindset as I run through the checklists, make my radio calls, take-off and fly the mission, watching and listening for other traffic. It's so beautiful up here, flying alone, turning where I want to turn and going where I want to go. The radio frequency for Braden (123.00MHZ) also serves a half-dozen other local uncontrolled airports and today is pretty busy. There is helicopter traffic, various calls asking for advisories, lots of pattern calls, etc... My ear is tuned to listen for the word "Braden" which tells me that this is traffic that I care about...
I fly out to the practice area once, work on my ground reference maneuvers, return to the pattern, land, take-off again and fly out to the practice area. Then back to the airport and two or three landings. It's a good work-out.. (1.5 hours 26.7 total) Return to contents
6.11.2002 Lesson 24
With encouragement from my instructor, my sister Allisen came along today. I showed her the pre-flight procedures and even gave her a passenger briefing, turning the tables on her! It was hazy, hot & humid, and with the extra weight of a passenger the plane really felt different. Jeff had me do a short field takeoff and we still used up most of the runway. As soon as we were airborne Jeff had me put on the foggles and close my eyes. Then after several minutes of twists and turns, he gives me back the controls. With the foggles I can only see the instruments. The lesson today is VOR tracking. VORs are aviation radio stations that are located all over the country. When you tune them in on your navigation radio, you can steer towards or away from the station using an instrument on the panel. (see http://www.navfltsm.addr.com/vor-nav.htm for more information...) The task was to find our position by getting a fix from two different VORs. Jeff helped by flying the plane while I fumbled with the radios, VOR indicators and sectional map. After getting two fixes, I drew lines from each VOR station on my map and where the two lines intersected was where we were. I pointed to the map and showed Jeff where I thought we were. "Excellent!" he said, and as I removed the foggles he banked the plane to show me Blairstown, NJ. off to our left. Cool! "Let's use a VOR to track to East Stroudsburg". I'm glad we're actually going to fly somewhere rather than buzzing around the practice area. It's much more interesting for our passenger! We fly through the Gap and land at East Stroudsburg. Then on the way back to Braden Jeff asks me if it would be OK if we do some stalls. It's the only thing left on this lesson. I look back and ask Allisen if she's OK, then we do two power-off stalls and one power-on. I've done stalls before, but Jeff has me put on the foggles this time so I'm on instruments. I delay the recovery a bit on the first one so the nose drops a bit and Allisen tells me later that she didn't enjoy that one too much... The next two are fine and we head back. There's a gusty crosswind at Braden so the landing isn't pretty, but Allisen didn't seem to mind. (1.1 hours, 27.8 total, 0.6 simulated instrument) Return to contents
Solo practice today, 7 take-offs & landings. (1.7 Hours 29.5 total)
We've been in a weather pattern of hot days and afternoons full of thunderstorms, and this morning was quite hazy. The wind was out of 250 at 10 knots, so it was right at the edge of my personal limits, but I felt that practicing crosswind take-offs and landings would be good. Jeff was off so Rocky, the chief instructor, checked me out. He actually asked for my student license and checked my logbook! He told me to have fun, but to watch for the wind picking-up. I was a bit nervous but I know that I need to improve crosswind skills. The takeoffs went pretty good: aileron correction into the wind, watch the rudder, rotate at the correct speed and we're off. I did three turns around the pattern and each landing was ugly. The first one was a drop from about 4 feet (ouch!), on the second one I didn't kick out of the crab enough and landed with a side-load on the landing gear, next was a go-around and after the third one I decided not to punish the Piper anymore. I taxied back to the pumps and said to Cliff, the lineman, "well, that was a workout". He just laughed and said that it was picking up and getting gusty. I'm glad I called it a day... (0.8 hours, 30.3 total)Return to contents
6.28.2002 Lesson 25
I got a call from Jean Moyer that Jeff had had a cancellation and could do a cross-country with me if I could get down to Braden by 1:30. I was a bit tired and had a lot going on at work but I really wanted to get this part of the training done. (remember that last sentence, you'll see why later). I jumped in the car and headed down to the airport. This was planned as a cross-country to Lancaster (see lesson 23) and we were almost out the door to the plane when Jeff retrieved one last weather report and wouldn't ya know it: a significant difference from what was forecast. Allentown had lowered it's ceiling forecast to 2500' with cumulonimbus clouds. We've been in a pattern of afternoon thunderstorms but a cold front that was scheduled to push through the area was supposed to break that up. At least that is what Tom Clark said! We stood in front of the weather machine at Braden, looking at a few cells southwest of Lancaster and tried to decide what to do. It was a really tough call but in the end we decided to do a local lesson. Ok, no problem, we'll get there eventually, better safe than sorry!
I always look at the windsock and mentally prepare for take-off before getting in the plane. The big decision is which runway to use. Well, I read the windsock wrong and would have turned down to the wrong end of the runway if there hadn't been a plane in front of us taxiing. I was surprised when I saw it turn the "wrong" way! I kept my goof-up to myself and followed it down to 36. Jeff had me do a couple of laps around the pattern and on my first landing I knew things weren't going to go better. I again had the wind backward and overshot the base leg, had to do a big teardrop to get lined back up and then did a very ugly landing. I tried to relax and get my concentration back, but it never happened. We headed out to the practice area and did some ground reference maneuvers. Then back to the field where I got too slow on final and again uglied the landing. As we taxied Jeff asked " enough for today?" You bet.
The really big lesson today was how tangibly fatigue and lack of mental focus hampers performance in an aircraft. I was really surprised. (1.1 hours, 31.4 total)Return to contents
6.29.2002 (Happy birthday, Mom) Lesson
This time I'm well rested, the flight is expected, and the weather is superb! I say expected, but Jeff did call me and ask me to come an hour earlier. He wants to combine our cross country with a night flight. The plan is to fly down to Lancaster during daylight and back at night. I'm really excited about this flight! I've got all the navigation planned since we've had two previous attempts at this, and there isn't much weather to worry about. We talk a bit about the differences with night flying and I go preflight the plane. I'm happy to see N9182W on the ramp. This is the plane that I used for my first lesson and also my solo! It is a beautiful summer night and off to the south I see a balloon rise into the sky. No wait, two balloons! Then four more! What a gorgeous sight! The windsock hangs limply, and even though it is 6:30PM, Braden is very active as pilots prep their planes and take advantage of the best flying weather we've had in weeks.
We takeoff and I call Williamsport Flightwatch to open our flight plan. Then I switch frequencies and call-up Allentown to request radar following to Lancaster. The air is glass-smooth and the sun is low, catching reflections in a lake below. I get on heading, but Allentown has me turn to the south to facilitate incoming traffic. We get off course for a while so I need to compensate to get established back on track. It's going great and I dial-in the Lancaster VOR and I see the needle swing almost to center. This means we're heading pretty much straight to LNS. We get handed over to Reading and with Jeff's prompting, I make the required radio calls. Reading hands us off to Lancaster and says something that sounds like "8 miles from the airport". When I call Lancaster I tell them my position, 8 miles from the airport. There is some confusion as they approve me for runway 31, number two behind traffic at my twelve o'clock 2 miles ahead. We can't see any traffic. LNS has me make another turn and Jeff looks puzzled. He can see the airport (I can't yet, but that's not unusual, things are really tough to pick out if you're not experienced) and we're not heading towards it. Finally Lancaster comes back and says "cherokee niner-one-eight-two-whiskey I've got you now, you're 15 miles from the airport, turn to 210, cleared for runway 26. Ooops! We had both understood Reading meaning that we were 8 miles from Lancaster when we were 8 miles from Reading! Oh well. Runway 26 at LNS is 5398 feet long and 150 feet wide, with VASI lights to help glide you in. I could land there with my eyes closed! Well, OK, maybe not, and I'll keep them open, thank you very much. It is really fun burning up runway as I try to extend the flare and float as long as possible. The controller asks where we're going and she tells me to taxi left onto Hotel. I'm not even close to Golf yet so I putter down the runway some more. We turn onto Golf and I follow the yellow taxi lines, feeling ever so much like the 747 in from some faraway place! We park and go into the terminal for a coke while we wait for darkness and our night flight return.
At 9:30 we're ready. One really cool thing is the combination lock that secures the ramp area. As you walk into the terminal, there is a sign on the door telling you what the combination is to get back out. People inside the terminal can't see the sign, so only pilots know how to get through the door that leads out to the planes. There is also a few work areas and a telephone for pilots to call Flight Services, which is what I do to get a weather update. As I'm talking to the briefer I hear Jeff getting agitated and saying something about "flight plan". We never closed ours, and the briefer asks me if I'd like him to update it. Something in his voice (and Jeff carrying-on behind me) tells me that we've blundered again. I hang up and Jeff explains it to me. It never occurred to me to close it because I thought it was a round-trip flight plan that we'd close once we got back to Braden. Nope, Jeff has me call back to confirm that the briefer has indeed closed it for us. I call back, apologize, and find out that they had called Lancaster tower looking for us when we didn't check it. The briefer is cool about it, but it is embarrassing because we could have triggered a search & rescue mission! That is the whole purpose of the flight plan, you tell them where you're going and when you'll get there, and if they don't hear from you, they come looking! Ok, we re-group, discuss our mistakes, and head out to the plane. I check the plane with a flashlight and get on board. The idea with flying at night is to conserve your vision. It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to night, but only a few seconds for them to adjust back to bright light. The instrument panel has dimmers, and Jeff shows me how to cup my flashlight with my hand so that only a bit of light shines through. It takes longer to get prepped obviously, but finally I'm ready and we fire-up and call Lancaster ground for clearance to taxi. Again I follow the yellow lines, this time to runway 31. Using the landing light to see ahead, we roll down to the end of the runway and then call the tower for take-off. Jeff has prepped me to rely on my instruments after we lift off, in case I get disoriented by the lack of visual cues. No problem, this is great fun. As we climb-out over the city lights, I can see why pilots love to fly at night: it's breathtaking! We get on course for Braden and since we can't see the ground features that we used as navigational checkpoints for the trip down, we use the city lights of Reading and then Allentown to guide us. Flying in the dark takes some getting-used to, up until now everything was VFR (visual flight rules) and "see and avoid". The difference here is that, well, you can't see! At least not in the same way. Airplanes have lights that allow you to tell which way they're flying (red light on left wing, green on right, white on tail) and with the lights down below and perhaps a moon above, you get used to it. Things sound different at night. It seems that your ears try to compensate for your eyes and you start to hear noises that you didn't notice before. We pass over Dorney Park and I bank the plane for Jeff to see. It is all lit-up and I can see the roller coasters... Neat! What I can't see however is Braden. Our tiny airfield is tough to pick out. Jeff helps me out and we set up on downwind for 36. This is where I get nervous for the first time tonight. We get abeam the numbers and Jeff tells me to cut the engine back to 1500 RPM and begin our descent, just like in the daytime, a normalized approach and landing. The difference is that it is pitch black below. I'm not descending into that! Well actually, yes, yes I am... It's not like I'm blind, I can reference the field lights and I can sort of make out the horizon, so I know I'm not out of control. It's just that I can't see the ground below me. OK, trust your instruments. The altimeter tells me that I'm high enough. Turn final and the landing light illuminates the runway numbers. OK, I feel better now. Actually I'm instantly calmed. Not nervous at all. Jeff talks me down: "Ok, start your flare, watch it: not too low, Ok, hold it off, hold it off" Squeak! the tires chirp and we roll to a stop. The rotating beacon sweeps over us like some German POW camp in a Steve McQueen movie. Braden is dark and deserted as we park and tie-down the Piper. It is 11:00PM. Driving home on Rte 33 I watch Wind Gap's Independence day fireworks finale. What a great day... (1.9 hours, 32.3 total, 1.0 night)Return to contents
Hazy, hot and humid, with an 8 knot wind out of the West creating a perfect crosswind. The heat may cause thunderstorms later on, but it looks good for now. Jeff is up with a student so I ask Verne Moyer to sign me off. He quizzes me on the weather and we go take a look at the radar picture as well. Satisfied that I've actually taken the time to check conditions, he ok's me for local flight. I'm looking at the windsock and telling myself that if I see it stiffen-up anymore, I'll walk back into the FBO and cancel. With the June 27 flight still fresh in my mind I'm a bit nervous but I also realize that I need to practice this crosswind stuff if I hope to get better! Take-off is fine and I decide to head over to the practice area. If I decide to abort after a difficult landing, I might as well get some flying in beforehand! The nerves are still there as I climb out towards the practice area. The haze is really thick and I see that I won't be able to climb much above 2300'. I putter around for a few minutes, practicing slips and slow flight, but all the radio chatter from planes coming and going from Braden is making me uneasy since I can't see them. Turning around, I decide to head back. I carefully enter the pattern and land. The wind isn't so bad now, and I work up the courage to have another go at it. Long story short: I make 7 landings today, getting a bit more comfortable with the crosswind. (1.5 hours, 33.8 total)Return to contents