Part 1

Introductory Flight to lesson 19

Part 2

Solo to Cross-Country

Part 3

Lesson 27 to Night Cross-Country

Part 4

Test Preparation to Checkride!

Flight Instruments

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  

7.5.2002 Lesson 27
When I walked in Jeff told me to plan a trip ton Lancaster, but to expect a diversion. He told me he had been having chest pains all day and he felt a medical problem coming on. He was smiling and I remembered a conversation we'd had up in the air about diversions. One of the reasons to land somewhere that you weren't expecting is to seek medical help for you or your passenger. I called the FSS briefer and got the weather, then pulled out my maps and books and worked-up a flight plan. We took off and I called Allentown and requested flight-following through their airspace to Lancaster. This was a repeat of our last trip so I was more comfortable with the workload. Over Allentown Jeff grabs his chest and says "I think we better land!" We discuss the situation and since we're right on top of the biggest airport in the area, it makes sense to divert there. I call up the controller and request a change of plan and permission to land at ABE. Actually we end up doing four touch & go landings there before heading back to Braden. Pretty fun stuff... Back at Braden we spend a good amount of time with Q&A's and I'm told that tomorrow's flight will be a cross-country to Williamsport, then Jeff will work on preparing me for my solo cross country. Then, he says, it's a stage check, the long cross-country, and preparing for the Private Pilot test with an FAA-designated examiner! Ughhh! I don't feel ready for that at all... (0.9 hours, 34.7 total)Return to contents

Here's a weird one: I was planning out today's flight to Williamsport when Jeff called me and asked me if anything seemed strange. "Do you smell smoke?" he asked. Well, yeah, actually I did when I came home and, sniff, yeah I do! I walk outside and see a sort of yellow-brown haze with the sun peeking through. Apparently there are some big wildfires up in Canada and the smoke is blowing over Pennsylvania today, reducing visibilities until 9PM tonight.
Today's lesson: cancelled due to Canadian smoke!

7.10.2002 Lesson 28
We don't have enough time to do the Williamsport cross-country flight today, but we'll start the trip as if we did. 9182-whiskey has it's tanks topped off and we depart Braden towards the North. I call Allentown and request flight following. That out of the way, I start working on the navigation to Williamsport. The wind is fairly strong out of the North so I get blown off-track, South of where I want to be. Jeff helps me match the map to the ground features and we join our intended route over Beltzville Lake. We get handed over to Wilkes-Barre as we are leaving Allentown's airspace and Jeff tells me to ask them for a change of plan, and I tell Wilkes-Barre that we'd like to stay local for training. Wilkes-Barre tells me to contact Allentown again, since I won't be transiting Wilkes-Barre's airspace after all. Allentown did not seem amused. Oh well... We practice tracking VOR's and do a lot of hood work. It's difficult flying the plane with only instruments, tuning in navigation radios, and drawing fixes on a map all at the same time! Then Jeff has me recover from unusual attitudes while wearing the foggles. He has me shut my eyes and then proceeds to try to disorient me by doing climbs, turns and banks. On his command I have to open my eyes (seeing only the panel because of the foggles) and recover to level flight. I'm still queasy hours later writing this. Jeff put me on a veritable roller coaster; up, down, negative g's... A lot of fun though. On the way back to the field he pulls the power and this time I reach the field and land: my first complete simulated engine-out landing! (1.6 hours, 37.3 total) Return to contents

7.17.2002 Lesson 29
OK, we finally have a 3 hour block with good weather. My flight plan has been prepared for a week or so, just need to update the winds aloft and calculate correction angles. Jeff is being a good sport cutting into his lunch hour. I don't feel nervous at all, I think I've got the ATC communication stuff down and I'm looking forward to flying to another airport. We take off in 9182W (my lucky plane!) and I pull out my map, checkpoints and timer and begin navigating. We'll only do a touch & go at Williamsport since we're tight on time so I don't call Flight Services to open my flight plan. I call up Allentown and begin a process of communicating with various controllers that will last the whole flight and require a good deal of concentration. On top of that I'm following the course on the sectional map, navigating by pilotage (looking out the window) and dead reckoning (using checkpoints and a timer to calculate ground speed). It's all very busy and every time I look down at the map for too long, when I look back up the plane is either diving or banking! And of course Jeff has to add a bit of distraction by asking me questions about various other things... It's quite hazy and Williamsport doesn't have radar (although they do have a controller). As we start our descent and contact the controller we hear another cherokee on approach. The controller tells me to report back to him when I'm over the mall. I tell him I'm not familiar with the area, but I'll look for the mall. Jeff just smiles. We spot the cherokee off to our three o'clock, about 3 miles at our altitude. He doesn't see us and the controller can't see either of us because of the haze. We're first and I fly over the mall and turn final for runway 27. The controller sounds embarrassed that he still can't see me and asks if I have my landing light on. "Affirmative" I say, and I even flash it for him a few times. "OK, I have you now, cleared to land". All that excitement behind me, I realize that I need to land this thing. Oh yeah, flaps! Ok I'm back on track. Pre-landing checklist, line-up on the runway, pull the power. Touch down, retract the flaps, carb heat off, full power, and we roll out and take off immediately. The tower clears me for a right downwind departure and we head home. The return is pretty much the same although I track the course much better and New York Center alerts us to some traffic at our 12 o'clock. It's a glider and we watch it land on a grass strip below us. It's a hot day and Beltzville lake is happening! Lots of boaters and swimmers. As we turn into Braden's pattern Jeff does his usual trick of pulling the power and announcing an engine failure. Geesh, after all I've been through the past two hours? Ok, Ok, I turn steeply and make a beeline for runway 36, one, then two notches of flaps and manage to put her down... A great flight today! Back in the office Jeff tells me to prepare for my solo cross-country next Wednesday. I'll be going to Lancaster all by myself!!!  (1.9 hours 39.2 total)Return to contents

7.31.2002 Solo Cross Country!
I'm ready and eager. I've done the planning, I've got good weather and my lucky plane (9182W). Jeff is kicking me out of the nest and Moyer Aviation is actually going to let me fly their plane to another airport 50 miles away all by myself! Jeff endorses my logbook and looks over my flight planning. Then I preflight the plane and take off. Right away I hit a snag: I can't raise Williamsport Flight Services on the radio to activate my flight plan. Jeff had warned me that I would probably need to have some altitude to reach them, but I'm already at 2000'. Could I have the wrong frequency? No, it's definitely 122.2Mhz. I'm climbing and flying in a big circle and I keep calling them. I actually consider scrapping the whole flight plan thing and continuing the mission, but finally I hear my call sign through the static. I can tell that they have heard me and I have to keep asking them to repeat because I can't understand what the briefer is saying. Finally at 2700' I get the flight plan activated and switch over to Allentown Approach. I start my timers as I overfly Braden, heading Southwest. I'm approved to continue on course, and Allentown gives me a few traffic advisories. I've got the VOR dialed in and I'm on course. Everything is going great. I even manage to hold altitude and heading better than when Jeff is here! I manage to find all my checkpoints, the radio work is going good as I get handed off to Reading, then Lancaster. The controller at Lancaster clears me for a straight-in approach, number two behind a small jet. I spot the jet off to my left and follow it in. It seems kinda close though, and the controller chimes in just as the jet lands and I'm on short final "Runway 31 is available, you might want to break left and fly a right base since you are sort of close behind the traffic". I agree and quickly abort the final, turn left and set up for the alternate runway. Nothing like throwing a stick in the wheel of the newbie! My improvised pattern to 31 has me quite high, but I chop the power and put the Cherokee down. There's plenty of runway at these big airports! The tower asks me where I'm going and gives me taxi instructions. Lancaster has a great pilot shop that was closed when Jeff and I flew here the first time. Today I'm gonna check it out! As I taxi down Alpha, I notice that the plane feels like it is leaning a bit. Hmmm, I landed nice and soft, I hope the strut is OK. I park it and a lineman comes out with wheel chocks. "Welcome to Lancaster". Cool, I almost feel like a plane owner! :) I go into the FBO and call FSS to close my flight plan and file one for the return, and then Braden to let them know I've arrived safely. A few minutes killed browsing the pilot shop, and I head back out to the ramp. As I do the walk-around, I see why it felt like I was leaning: the right strut's shock absorber is compressed much more than the left one. It's not totally collapsed and I try to push up on the wing to see if it will come back down. No dice. Hmmm, now what? I'm pretty sure it is safe, but why is it like that? Will I have a problem landing at Braden? I decide that it is OK and get into the plane to run through the checklists. Hmmmm, nagging thoughts in my head. I really don't want to be worrying about this on my way home. I walk back to the FBO and take a look in one of the hangars where I thought I saw a mechanic earlier. Cool, he's still there. "Mister, will you help me please?" (just kidding, I didn't say it like that!). The mechanic takes a look and says, "nahh, you're OK, just go over to the wing tip and shake it up and down while I see if I can free it". One wing shake later and the shock releases from the stiction and he explains that the dirt on the shock sometimes causes the seal to stick. Good, I did the right thing, played it safe and now I don't have to worry. The lineman has me wait while he parks a Gulfstream V, and then I contact Lancaster ground and inform them that I am ready to taxi. I proceed to the runway and Tower clears me for take-off and a right pattern departure. A few minutes later I say goodbye to Lancaster and pick up Reading, and the whole process begins again in reverse. It's a bit bumpy for the return and I don't do as well with my checkpoints and timings, but I know where I am and the VOR confirms that I'm tracking to Braden. I get Queen City airport confused with ABE for a second but otherwise everything is good. I spot Braden about 8 miles out and squeak-out a pretty good landing. This flying stuff is pretty cool! Jeff is up with a student so no debrief today. I'll catch-up with him tomorrow. Later, as I'm driving home, I get a chill down my spine as I realize I didn't close my flight plan!!! I quickly pull over and call from my cell phone. If I'm lucky, they don't have me as overdue yet and they won't have called Braden looking for me. Damn! How could I forget this. The briefer asks me where I am. I fib a bit and say "On the ground at Braden". "At N43?" he asks. "Ahh yes sir, that's correct". "Standby for a minute" and he puts me on hold. That's it, I'm busted. He gets back on the phone and I'm on pins and needles as he says "Well, we have you on the ground at Lancaster, and that's it". In a flash I realize I never activated my flight plan once I became airborne at Lancaster. All this for nothing. I apologize for wasting the briefer's time and he laughs it off. Yeah, I'll bet he's got lots of "stupid student-pilot stories"... 1.8 hours, 41.8 total.Return to contents.
Here are some pictures:


   Queen City Reading airport

One hour of solo work just to keep proficient. I did a couple of take-offs and landings, then headed over to the practice area to work on my maneuvers for the test.

8.9.2002 Lesson 30
I needed some more night flying to fulfill the requirements. When I got to Braden the sun was setting and the sky was full of Ultralights! They are the lawn chairs with the big propeller behind them and the parachute above. It was quite a sight and there were a few spectators pulled over on the side of the road. The Ultralights were staying in the pattern, practicing take-offs and landings, and I got to watch them a bit as I pre-flighted 9182W. I was hoping they'd stop before I got out there. We took off at around 8:45 and headed out to the practice area. The air was smooth as glass and the lights twinkled below. Beautiful! One disconcerting thing was that at night, you can really pick out airplane lights and it looked like the sky was full of other traffic hazards. It's just an illusion though, most of the lights were many miles away, but it sure keeps you on your toes! We did some turning stalls and Jeff had me put on the foggles and recover from unusual attitudes. It's pretty wild opening your eyes and figuring-out that your instructor has put you in a steep dive at night! I had no problems with any of the maneuvers though until we headed back to the field for the first landing. The approach to runway 18 at Braden has you fly right over a road before touch down, and there is a bank right across the street. At night I had difficulty seeing and judging how high I was. The urge is to pull-up and fly too high. Jeff had to actually push the yoke forward since I wasn't responding to his verbal suggestion that I was too high! We made it fine though, and did 2 more, which were much easier. On the last lap Jeff asked if I wanted to do a normal landing or a simulated emergency engine-out landing. Well, what do you think? Bring it on! Midfield on the downwind, Jeff pulls the throttle back to idle and I begin my turn to the field. I thought I was doing pretty good, although it was distracting hearing Jeff ask "are we going to make it?" I think he wanted to know I was still with him and in control. We touched down long, and as I got on the brakes Jeff commented that we might go off onto the grass at the end of the field. Ahh Jeff, you're such a worrier! We stopped with a few feet of runway to spare and taxiied back to the tie-down area. A great lesson! (1.2 hours, 44 total)Return to contents

Another hour of solo work to shake off the rust. I stayed in the pattern and practiced soft-field take-offs (1.0 hours, 45 total)

8.30.2002 Progress Check
As I near the end of my training, regulations call for an evaluation from the head instructor at Braden. His name is Rocky and he has tons of experience. The weather is poor with a ceiling of 2300 feet so I don't think I'll be flying today but I decide to head down and see if we can get any of the ground work done. It's a good thing too because it seems Rocky wants us to fly! He gives me a cross-country planning assignment (Robbinsville NJ, near Trenton) to see if I know how to prepare for a flight. No problem: I've been working on my last 2 upcoming cross-countries and in a few minutes we're in his office talking about it. He gives me some tips on calculating true airspeed and a few other things and then we go outside to preflight the plane. As I go through the procedure he quizzes me and shows me a couple of things about the Piper that I didn't know. Then we board and head down to the run-up area for final checks and departure. During the flight I try to verbalize what I'm doing and why, so that he knows what my thought process is. Rocky is pleasant enough, with good pointers, but it's still a bit intimidating being evaluated and graded. We manage to get up to 1700' before the clouds block us, and we won't be going to Robbinsville, but I'm still expected to fly the trip as if we were. So I explain how to open the flight plan, contact ATC for flight-following, get on course, etc. Then he hands me the foggles and has me fly around blind for awhile. He asks how I'd go about navigating under these conditions, if I had flown into low-visibility conditions for real. Not falling for the trap I tell him that if I had flown into these conditions I wouldn't try to navigate, I'd turn around and fly the hell out! "OK, show me how". I've been meaning to work on this; it is a standard procedure where you set a standard rate of turn using the turn coordinator, and time it. I goof though and tell him I'll fly a 2 minute turn (which is a 360 degree turn). After a minute I can see from the heading indicator that I've gone far enough. Ok, I mean a 1 minute turn! After flying around blind and doing turns, he has me remove my glasses and figure out where I am. I tune in a couple of VOR fixes and although it takes me a while, I figure out where I am and we return to Braden. Unfortunately, as he tells me later, I forget to ident the VOR stations by listening to their morse-code output. That's a mistake that I definitely don't want to make during the checkride!  "Have you ever done a no-flaps landing?" Ummm, yes, a while ago... "Great! show me!" Whoo-boy, Ok, I can do this. Actually Rocky helped me along and the approach went pretty good although the landing was a bit of a thud. "Good job" he says as we head back into the office. So now that's out of the way. He did show me that I don't have enough night experience to go for the test. I'll have to get with Jeff about that... Then I only need the long cross country to fulfill the training requirements to go for the Flight Test! (0.8 hours 45.8 total)Return to contents

9.3.2002 FAA Written Exam
Besides the flight training requirements (so many hours of different kinds of flight, so many landings, etc...) there are three exams that a student must pass before getting his license. I've been studying for the first one, the written. Out of a pool of 900 questions, the applicant is given 60, and 2 1/2 hours. A score of 70% or better is required to pass. The only materials allowed are 2 sheets of blank paper (given and then collected at the end by the proctor), pencil, e6b flight computer (slide rule) and a calculator. I've had Georgann help by quizzing me the last few days and on the practice tests I've been doing OK. Today was the big day and I went to Braden airpark to take the test. Jean was my proctor and helped get me set-up at the computer in the exam room, which she told me was under video surveillance!). It took me about 40 minutes to get through my 60 questions, and although I was confident with most, there were a few that had me unsure. I clicked "<are you sure?>", terminated the exam, and immediately got a "<fatal exception error>" on the screen. Oh no! there goes all my work! I went to fetch Jean who didn't seem worried. As she was typing in her secret codes to score and print out my results, she let out a little gasp. "What, what! What happened? Did you loose the test?" I asked. "No, I'm just bowled-over by your score" she said. Cool! I got a 100%. Glad that's out of the way... Return to contents

9.6.2002 Long Solo Cross-Country
            "See the man with the stage fright,
            Just standin' up there to give it all his might.
            He got caught in the spotlight,
            But when we get to the end
            He wants to start all over again".
  Robbie Robertson, The Band.

I awoke to severe-clear VFR weather and plugged in the wind data into my flight plan. Today I'm fulfilling one of the last requirements before my final exam, and that is a "solo cross-country flight of at least 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at a minimum of three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations". I'll be flying first to Williamsport, then Lancaster, then back to Braden. The nice thing is that I'm not nervous since I've already flown to these airports. I depart Braden at 11:45 after a lengthy briefing and sign-off in my logbook by my instructor, contact FSS and open my flightplan. I contact Allentown and all is well. They'll help me with flight-following and as I overfly Braden, I remember to start my timers. I steer a course Northwest towards Williamsport and plot my progress using my map and pre-determined checkpoints. Periodically ABE breaks in to alert me to traffic, but otherwise it is pretty quiet and I get time to snap a few pictures.

Severe Clear!

Berwick's Cooling Towers                                    This is what a VOR station looks like!

I get blown a bit South of my course and I get a bit confused by the terrain, but following the VOR signal gets me to where I want to be. Unfortunately, my radio has been a bit quiet, and after spotting traffic twice (one was pretty close) without warning from flight-following, I realize that perhaps they've forgotten about me. I call ATC but get no reply. I'm getting close to Williamsport now, and I'd like to be talking to them. Closing-in on an airport is no place to be flying blind, so I reluctantly leave the frequency (without permission) and switch over to Williamsport. I'm a bit rattled and my radio call is pitiful, but at least I'm talking to the control tower. I get set-up for my approach and ask him to repeat the runway instructions. "Straight-in for 2-7, you said you were coming in from the East, right?". "Ahh affirmative sir, just confirming". "Roger". Better safe than sorry. I come in high and land way past the numbers and off to the right of centerline. The controllers must be having a chuckle... Oh, well, I'm on the ground and taxiing to the ramp. As I turn off onto the taxiway I realize that I did not go over the airport diagram before landing. I have a general idea where I should go but when the controller breaks in with "43523, you are going to the West ramp, right?" I realize that I've missed my turn. Dohh! "Ah yes sir, I'll be stopping to make a phone call and then departing". "OK, roger". That's my cue that I messed-up! I turn at the next opportunity and make my way back to the ramp area. A call to FSS to close my flightplan, a call to Braden to tell them that I didn't crash their plane, and I'm back on my way to Lancaster. I have a few hiccups with ATC sending me from frequency to frequency. I mistakenly enter 124.65 instead of 126.45 and when no one answers me back I catch the error and make my call on the correct frequency. "43523, we've been waiting for you to check in, squawk 1224, advise when you have Lancaster in sight". I let the sarcasm slide as I tune my transponder. This is a new route for me and Jeff has warned me that LNS will look different approaching from the North, but I have no problem and thanks to the Warrior having two radios I've already listened to the ATIS from Lancaster and I'm ready to leave Harrisburg and talk to the control tower at Lancaster. They vector me in and again I come in way high. It must be something about these huge runways that I'm not used to! I throw the Warrior into a slip to bleed-off altitude, but still touch down way past the numbers. Laugh while you can, controllers, it won't always be this way! This time I taxi correctly and at the FBO I make my first fuel purchase! Braden's rules say that I need to have a two hour reserve of fuel when I come home, and although it's close, I top off the tanks. I so feel like a pilot! The trip back to Braden is uneventful. Reading and Allentown help me through the airspace and I spot Braden and discontinue flight-following, scoot in for the landing and park the plane. Wooo-hooo! I made it! (3.0 Hours, 49.5 total)Return to contents

9.7.2002 Lesson 31
I needed 5 more night landings and a 100-mile night flight to finish with my requirements, so Jeff and I planned a flight to Lancaster. During pre-flight on my beloved 9182W, I heard a scraping noise in the tail when I moved the elevator. I couldn't see anything, but there was definite mechanical contact with something in the tail and I asked Jeff to help me investigate. Actually Jeff and Vern Moyer both came out to the field and when Jeff climbed behind the rear seat to check it out, he saw the problem. The Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) had come out of it's bracket and the tail counter-weight was hitting the ELT's bracket. We unscrewed the ELT hatch, put everything back in its place, and soon we were off to LNS. An absolutely perfect night; calm clear air. This trip was uneventful, as I've done it a couple of times, and down at Lancaster I got in my landings. There was another student with his instructor doing the same thing and his instructor asked the controller to flash the light gun so that his student could see what it looked like. The light gun is a backup device in case a pilot's radio fails. The tower controller can flash sequences of three colors of lights to communicate his instructions to the plane. The controller was not too busy tonight so he was happy to oblige. He mentioned to the other instructor that "these things are pretty obsolete". The instructor agreed but said that since they were part of the private pilot curriculum, he wanted his student familiar with how they looked. The controller, with a chuckle, said that they were part of their curriculum as well, but used so rarely that they had put a little sticker on the back with all the sequences as a cheat sheet! He also agreed to show us the different runway light levels (5 in all). Cool stuff! On my last tour around the pattern Jeff gives me a simulated engine out compounded with a landing light failure. It turns out to be my best landing of the night as I glide back to the runway without lights! The trip back to Braden was beautiful, the big dipper bright in the sky, city lights ablaze below, and a shooting star to cap things off! (2.2 hours, 51.7 total)Return to contents

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