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  


9.11.2002hand Image
                                                KIERAN DOHERTY/REUTERS

I really wanted to be in the air today, symbolically thumbing my nose at the noose that has been strangling the liberties and freedoms that we enjoyed before this date last year. TV sensationalizes the perceived threat from tiny airplanes while ignoring dangers from other vehicles like tankers and U-Haul trucks (can you say Alfred P. Murrah building?). I fear that very soon, when we celebrate the centenary of powered flight, we'll be seeing the decline of General Aviation as we know it today. Will our children, and theirs after, be able to take to the sky just for fun? Some are calling for the mandatory filing of flight plans for all flights. A public that says: "yeah, that sounds reasonable, what's wrong with that?" would never tolerate similar restrictions on the freedom of their automotive movement...
Unfortunately, it seemed that tropical storm Gustav would be interfering with my plan. Although calm when I awoke, the winds were forecast to really start whipping by 10 a.m. (20knots, gusting to 32). When I called the weather briefer he said: "well, either you'll be airsick or your instructor will!". I decided to hurry down to Braden and preflight the plane early, so that I would be ready to go at 8AM, when Jeff arrived. As I preflighted N43523 (the warrior), Cliff the lineman walked-by and said: "If you're goin', ya better go soon"! Luckily Jeff shared my enthusiasm for flight today, and we launched. The wind was starting to pick up just a tad as we taxied, and 50 feet off the ground the plane started dancing all over the place. "Let's stay in the pattern so we can keep an eye on this" Jeff said. So instead of a pre-test prep lesson, today was crosswind take-offs and landings. I still tipped my wings towards NYC at 8:45 a.m. If Jeff thought that it was anything besides turbulence, he didn't let on... (0.6 hours 52.3 total)Return to contents

Solo work (0.7 hours, 53 total)

Jeff is starting to prepare me for the checkride. I need 1/2 hour more of hood work so we head out to practice instruments. I also get in 5 landings (1.3 hours, 54.3 total)

More solo work, I head out to the practice area to work on slow flight, stalls and ground reference maneuvers. (1.1 hours 55.4 total)Return to contents

Still more solo work! (1.0 hours, 55.3 total)

It's been almost a month because of weather delays and a lot of personal stuff going on, but I'm back in the saddle again and Jeff is really encouraging me to "get it done"! This time we're a bit more formal in the exercise, trying to simulate the test with an FAA examiner. Jeff has had me plan a flight to Pittsburgh and we've gone over the navigation logs. I know we won't actually be going to Pittsburgh, but this is how the test goes. At some point I'll be asked to divert to an unknown airport and I'll have to figure out how to navigate there... I give Jeff the passenger briefing and really try to be complete with the preflight checklists. Jeff is up to his old tricks as he unlatches the door during the takeoff roll. This time he does it right around the point where I could abort if I cut power and stomped on the brakes immediately. It's a good trick for an instructor because if the student chooses to abort the takeoff (I didn't) and hesitates, there won't be enough runway to stop and the instructor would have to make sure that the plane got airborne. Anyway, I just looked over at him and gave him a dirty look as I went about my business. Later he told me that I did well, but that as pilot in command, I should have told the passenger (him) to stop fooling around with the plane.
Continuing with the mock checkride we transition through Allentown's airspace and Jeff asks me to divert to Queen City airport, just south of Allentown. I've never been there, but I do know that it is a very tricky airport because of the airspace constraints and a lot of training goes on there. We land there (behind a student doing his first solo!) and then head back to Braden. Again ATC contact with Allentown and Jeff has me don the foggles and he gives me headings to follow to get us back. (1.8 hours, 57.1 total)Return to contents

Did I mention that I'm preparing for the checkride? :-) Yes once again I'm up in the air with Jeff, polishing those last few items. Today we work on the maneuvers such as slow flight, steep turns, etc... He diverts me to Mt Pocono. Another airport I've not been to but I'm happy because it's my hometown airport. Aerial photo of KMPO (Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport)

These diversions are difficult because they test your ability to handle changes in plans, and there is a high workload associated with the navigation changes, setting up for communications, looking-up airport data, etc... I've got the advantage of knowing the terrain though, and I use Mt Airy Lodge as a landmark to confirm my position. We land and depart without problem and when I point out to Jeff that my house is "just over there" he suggests that we use it for some turns around the point practice. Cool! I find my house and I see that my wife's car is in the driveway. Oh she's gonna love this! 600' above the house I start turning around and around, watching and waiting for her to come outside and see who's buzzing her house. After a few turns we have to leave though, and she would later tell me she heard us, but didn't think it could be me so she never came out. She was bummed... (1.5 hours, 58.6 total)Return to contents

More solo work (1.4 hours, 60 total)

This should be my last lesson with Jeff before the big test! I've asked him to help me with the soft-field take-offs, which I've had problems with. The scenario is that you're on a muddy or grassy field, and you want to get off the field very quickly. You raise the nose as soon as possible and actually lift off before you have enough speed to fly. Because you're just off the ground the air below you gives you a "cushion" (called ground effect) and you can continue to gain speed until you can fly away. It's tricky lifting off and holding the plane a few feet off the ground. At least it is for me. I keep settling back onto the runway before lifting off for good. (1.8 hours, 61.8 total)Return to contents

11.08.2002        I'VE SCHEDULED THE CHECKRIDE FOR 11.14.2002!!!!!!!

I got a call from Verne Moyer last night, postponing the checkride. Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!! :-(
Still, I've got the plane so I might as well use it! I sit-out the first 1/2 hour waiting for the winds to die down a bit and say hello to the new instructor, Chris, when he comes into the back room. We've talked before, and he's a really nice guy. It'll be up to him to sign me off for solo today since Jeff is off. He's pretty cautious today, with the winds and all, and when he explains that he's never flown with me and doesn't know my skill level, I propose that he fly with me today. His student is soloing in the practice area and so he decides to skip lunch and earn a few instructor dollars with me instead. We do a pretty basic checkout-type lesson and he tries to give me pointers on my upcoming test. It's good to get one more person's perspective, and to see how other people fly. I really think that the school should institute some sort of ride-sharing for the students. Allowing them to fly as passengers in the back seat would be a great benefit to all involved... (0.9 Hours, 62.7 total)

I've been studying, working weight and balance problems, preparing my navigation logs and trying to memorize all the facts, figures and numbers that I've been exposed to in the last few months! It's grueling and my overall sense is that there is so much that I don't know. I realize that this is a normal reaction, but it's still nerve-wracking.
Anyway, today is the day. Well, not exactly. The Nor'Easter that blew up the coast the day before yesterday has created strong gusty winds. I won't be flying today... I head down to Braden Airfield anyway so that I can get the oral portion of the test out of the way. Jeff is there as I walk in and he looks nervous too! I'm his 5th or 6th student to be sent for the exam and a good performance on my part will reflect well on his training. We go to the shop hangar to retrieve 9182W's maintenance logs and I pull the operating book out of the plane. On my way back into the office I let Jean know that I've got the book and to not let anyone fly the plane without it (it's not legal to do so). She laughs and tells me not to worry, no one will be flying this morning! I guess she's right, the winds are really howling.
Verne Moyer will be my FAA-designated examiner, and we get down to business in his office. First the documents. I provide my medical, student license, photo ID, written test scores (he beams as he comments on my perfect score. "100 eh? that's pretty good!". "Nah, I just got the easy questions" I reply. "Hah, modest too!" ), course graduation certificate, FAA form 8710, a map with directions to my house (I'm not kidding, it's an FAA requirement for rural addresses!) and then we begin. Verne is pretty easygoing, but he knows his stuff. As we go through the exam, I realize that his years of experience give him an uncanny knack for sensing an applicant's level of knowledge. There are questions on pilot's privileges and legal requirements of the airplane, weather and stall-spin awareness and recovery. We go over the navigation for the trip to Hagerstown and discuss airspace and sectional map symbols. Then onto airport operations (complete with a flashcard quiz on the various runway markings) and loss of communication procedures. I fumble a bit on a few questions, but overall it goes pretty well and Verne allows me to ask him a few questions and seems happy to be a bit of a teacher, as well as examiner. Overall a great experience.
We stop after about two hours and he tells me that the oral exam will continue when we resume for the practical portion of the test. He likes to cover airplane systems and aeromedical questions while we fly. So it's back to the books for me as I await this Thursday when, weather permitting, I'll wrap this up!Return to contents

It's the eve of my flight test and my eyes are tired from studying.
I've been asked why I decided to learn to fly an airplane. I have no illusions of becoming a professional pilot, I don't have plans to buy my own plane, no real reason to do this. I've always been fascinated by planes, they're in my dreams constantly (really, it's weird), but there had to be a trigger, a catalyst, to set me down this road. I've been reflecting on this and I'll try to explain it, although I'm not sure I really can.
This much I know: it started after September 11. The libertarian in me was really upset at the chokehold that those events put on our freedoms  (see my essay of 9/12/01) and the outlook for general aviation in America was looking grim. The other reason was the fact that next year marks the centenary of the Wright brothers first powered flight at Kitty Hawk. To become a pilot during the first 100 years of flight has a certain appeal... But mostly it was the difficulty of the thing. As perverse as it sounds, there is some strong psychological reinforcement in pushing yourself very hard. Learning to become a safe pilot has without a doubt been the most difficult thing I've ever attempted. The numbers bear this out. Less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the population has a pilot's license, and there's a tremendous drop-out rate among those that start their training. It's just damn hard, but mighty satisfying! I recommend it to anyone. I'm really happy to be getting my ticket from Verne Moyer, a man who still flies to this day, managing his airport and running into aviation people who reminisce about getting their wings from him 30 years ago, a quiet man who has helped more people learn to fly than I can even imagine...
Well, off to bed. I'll want to be well rested for tomorrow. Wish me luck...Return to contents

Well, at 10:21 EST, I became America's newest certificated pilot! I took my test in 9182W, the same plane that I  used for my intro flight and my first solo! The weather was deteriorating fast, and there was no way we'd be completing the planned trip to Hagerstown, but we were able to get up in the air for the purposes of the exam. A few blunders (I didn't push the door latch hard enough to completely lock it, I didn't lock the primer, etc...) betrayed my anxiety. "Just slow it down!" was Verne's admonishment. Ok, relax, I can do this... A short-field takeoff and I go through the motions of beginning my flight plan. We skip the call to Flight Service, but I do get a hold of ABE to request flight-following. Just before we cross into their airspace Verne has me divert to Blairstown, NJ. I've never been there, but it wasn't much of a problem to get turned around and set a new course. "Where's your sectional?", Verne barked. "Right here, behind the seat". "Well get it out, it should be on your lap!" A few pilotage questions, some radio navigation with the foggles, and then we break off from our course to Blairstown and go through the maneuvers. Verne is a little peeved when I reduce throttle a bit before the steep turn, and a bit more peeved when I am a bit slow to recover from an unusual attitude. It's Ok, I know that everything he is telling me is spot-on, and I try to make this into a flight lesson as well as an exam. He hasn't stopped the test, so I know I haven't failed yet! We head back to Braden and after a few landings and a go around, it's over. Verne goes over a few things with me in the airplane and then he heads back into the office while I get my stuff packed-up. "hmm, he didn't actually say that I passed...". I'm not able to contain my anxiety and in the office I ask him if I passed the test. "Yeah, of course you passed" he says with a wink. Everyone shakes my hand and Jean types-up my Temporary Airman Certificate. I can't stop smiling and I announce to no one in particular that I'm going to go out for dinner tonight to celebrate. Cliff, the lineman, quips back: "yeah, you can afford to, the cost of flying just went down for you!", meaning that I don't have to rent an instructor to sit next to me anymore! Love that guy!
So that's it. 9 months, 19 days, 205 take-offs and landings, countless hours of study and thousands of dollars later, I've achieved what I set-out to do. I'm a pilot. (1.1 hours, 63.8 total)

PP-ASEL (Private Pilot, Airplane, Single-Engine, Land)Return to contents