Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ALERTS - Engine Failure Checklist

Due to my traveling for work and conflicting schedules with my instructor, I'm not going to be flying again until Sunday and the only way for me to stay somewhat proficient is to chair "fly". I'm sure every student does it... But I do it to the extreme! My budget is tight so I've logged more hours in a chair cockpit than in an actual airplane.

What I wanted to review on today's "flight" was my emergency engine out procedure. The first time I did this in the air... I chose a horrible place to land and couldn't handle the multi-tasking required. Not only do you have to find a place to land, but you have to maintain 65knots, troubleshoot your engine, change the radio, and change the transponder to 7700.

Luckily some genius thought of another tool to easily remember the larger amounts of information. Never have I had to remember so many mnemonic devices. As the title says.. Today's is ALERTS. I've covered this in one of my previous posts, but for my own sake, and hopefully the sake of another pre-solo student, I'm writing this. It helps when I can put my thoughts into a post like this. It helps me organize and remember my thoughts.

A - Airspeed - Maintain best glide speed. In my Cessna 172N it's 65 knots.
L - Landing site - Find one. Preferably a road without power lines or the vegetation of a farm
E - Engine troubleshoot - Pull the checklist and run through it. Once you memorize, use a flow
R - Radio - If your engine doesn't restart, tube to 121.5 and broadcast Mayday
T - Transponder - Set to 7700 to indicate an emergency
S - Seatbelts - Ensure they are secure

Like I said... The first time my instructor pulled my power, I lost 1500ft before I was able to troubleshoot my engine and I would have crashed due to a poor landing site selection. Now, after a couple tries, I'm choosing better landing spots and completing my checklist in far less an altitude loss. This is all due to chair "flying" and memorizing the important ALERTS mnemonic device. Thank you to whoever thinks up these tools to remember!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pre-Solo Stage Check

Today I went up with another instructor for my pre-solo stage check. Although not required ny the FAA at a Part 61 school, it's something that my school requires.

From what this instructor told me, it serves two purposes. One is to make sure my normal instructor hasn't forgotten anything and two, to get a second set of eyes on my flying skills. Maybe something explained to me 20 times by my regular instructor hasn't made it's point, but phrased a little differently by a new instructor... it suddenly clicks.

I can't say that there was anything dramatic taught to me today that I didn't already know, but it was a very valuable experience, and if nothing else gave me a whole lot more confidence flying out of the airport environment, to the practice area, and back again. I'm very confident that I can do that again while soloing.

With all that being said... the recommendation from this instructor is for me to do 1 or 2 more flights strictly in the pattern to get my landings more consistent. The first landing today was a disaster and the instructor beat me to a a go around. The next two were ok, but not great.

Can I land the plane if I had to? Yes. Will it be pretty? Not necessarily. I'll get there. I'm scheduled for Thursday and if everything goes well, a flight and solo on Sunday of next week.

Full Pre-Solo Stage Check Flight
Today's Flight: 1.2
Total Time: 31.8


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cleared for Pre-solo Stage Check

I went up for my 12th flight with Kevin yesterday and felt very confident. Before yesterday's flight the thought of soloing really had me spooked. If I can perform like I did yesterday when I'm in the airplane by myself, I'm positive I'll make it back just fine. :)

As the title says, I've been cleared by my instructor to have my pre-solo check out with the chief flight instructor at my flight school. I'm nervous, but more excited because I've been waiting a long time to get in the air by myself. I know what I need to know to be safe by myself in the practice area, now it's all about perfecting everything.

Recap of yesterday's flight:

I taxied to 22R, did my run-up and we were up in no time. Luckily it has been in the upper 90's here rather than the 100's so we climbed out pretty well. The goal was to run through each maneuver once, make sure I could still do them and come back for some touch and go's.

First Maneuver - Steep Turn:

After some clearing turns I did a steep turn to the left and one back to the right. I was able to keep my altitude steady on both turns but didn't keep enough bank when turning to the right. With that being said, this was one of my better steep turns. For some reason I normally have trouble going to the left and nail the right... this time.. I did above average on both sides. You can see how well I maintained my altitude in the picture below.

Steep Turns

2nd+3rd Maneuver - Slow Flight and Power Off Stall:

I've always been good at slow flight. I understand the pitch for airspeed and power for altitude pretty well. For some reason this time, I let myself climb too much and busted the PTS allowances for altitude which are +/- 100 ft. I'll get it next time.. no problem. Plus... I have plenty of time to practice. Turning in slow flight comes naturally to me. Just a push of the rudder pedal and you're turning. Piece of cake.

From slow flight it's very easy to transition to a power off stall, which is exactly what I did. Push the nose down, power to 1500rpm, and establish a descent. Once the descent is established, power to idle and add back pressure until the stall. Once you get the stall... Full power, nose to the horizon.

3rd maneuver - Power On Stall:

For some reason this maneuver has been difficult for me. In preparation for yesterday's flight I did a significant amount of "chair flying" and got the procedure down and performed the power on stall very well. Power to 1500, slow to 60knots, full power, apply back pressure, stall, recover. Bam.. Easy stuff.

Emergency Engine Failure Procedure:

After some clearing turns Kevin pulled my power and I started my Emergency Landing Procedure. ALERTS - Airspeed: 65knots - Landing site: find one - Engine Troubleshoot: do it - Radio: Tune to 121.5 and broadcast mayday - Transponder: Set to 7700 - Seat belts: secure. Turns out I selected a great landing area and compared to previous flights, I would have survived. Yay me. :)

All of my maneuvers including emergency landing
After all my maneuvers were out of the way Kevin told me to head home and I knew exactly where to go. This is something that has stressed me in the past because I'm horrible with directions. After flying in this area so many times, I know the landmarks and I'm confident I can always make it back to Chandler.

I made my call and we were cleared into the pattern setup to land on 22R. I was already aligned with the downwind leg so that's how I entered. I ended up being too close to the runway on downwind, so I didn't get much of a base leg. It was more of a continuous turn from downwind. From now on I'll set myself up further away by extending my crosswind a little bit.

Up to this point, all of my landing have sucked. Kevin thinks I've been doing ok, but I've disagreed on every landing. The 3 landings I did yesterday felt amazing. They weren't perfect, but they were 100% better than anything previous. It probably had a lot to do with the lack of heat and wind, but they were great. I was very happy with all of them. If I can get the same conditions for my stage check and solo.. I'll be a happy camper.

After securing the plane we went into the office and I took my pre-solo written. I think it took me about 40 minutes and I nailed it. I passed the test with flying colors and I'm now ready to go up with another instructor for my stage check. I'm feeling pretty good about what's to come. I could be soloing an airplane within a week if everything goes ok. Of course.. my wallet has to hold up as well. So far it's been good. My wife has been super supportive and eating leftovers has never tasted so good.

Thanks for reading!


Today's flight: .9
Total flight time: 30.6

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm Officially a Student Pilot!!!

As you can see it's been a while since I posted here. I haven't flown since 2009 and I'm back! I've got 17.2 hours spread out over the years starting in 2003. I've just never had the money to keep going. This time... I think I'm good to go!

Two weeks ago I went to Chandler Air Service at my local airport to inquire about starting up my flying again. The instructor that I talked to was very nice and told me that I would probably have to start fresh since my flying time is so spread out. This information wasn't a surprise to me. He did advise me to go get my 3rd class medical which I haven't ever done.

I passed my medical with flying colors, which wasn't really an accomplishment to be honest. The doctor checked that I could see, hear and breath, and I was out the door with my medical and my brand new student pilot certificate! For some reason that tiny piece of paper saying I'm a student pilot makes it feel a little more real this time around.

It's been almost two weeks since I've been to the airport to talk to the instructor and I still haven't been contacted. He said that they have meetings to assign instructors to students on Tuesdays and today is the 2nd Tuesday since we've talked. I'm getting a little frustrated by the lack of communication and have started looking elsewhere for instruction. If the communication is this bad just trying to get some instruction... what am I to expect when I actually start?

No matter where I end up getting my instruction, I'm very excited to get started! This time I'm going all the way!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


It's nice having friends that fly. That way when you are in a money slump like me.. you can still get up there... on their dime! :) That's what I got to do today. Granted I was in the back of the aircraft with no control, it is still really nice to get in the air and experience flight. There is nothing else like it. Steve had to log another 1.8 with his instructor before he could be signed off for the commercial check-ride, which he hopes to schedule this week. If you ask me.... he's ready, but who am I to tell. Steve is a great pilot, and I enjoy flying with him very much. Besides, the closer he gets to his CFI, the closer I get to having some free instruction. Well, I might have to buy a case of beer every once in a while... but hey... that is still cheap! lol. Anyway, just wanted to report back here in case someone is still reading. I don't know if anybody checks on this unless I post on the aviation boards. If you are still checking in for updates, I would love to hear from you. What do you do when you can't fly? Just leave a comment. I think it is easy to do. Talk to you later!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Real Life

I am changing jobs and it is a good thing. I will be making more money and have potential for higher bonuses, which means more flying. Unfortunately they pay bi-weekly and all my bills are set up for weekly pay. Things will be tight for a month or so until we adjust, so flying is on hold for now. It really sucks because I am so close to solo, but during this break I am going to try and get my medical out of the way. That should only be like 50 bucks or so, so that should be no big deal. I will update you all when I start flying again. Thanks for reading!

I just recently found out that I have some readers at work too! That was very exciting news for me. I hope to bring you all some exciting new adventures soon!


Saturday, June 20, 2009


So I am a little late posting about this, but I didn't want to leave it out of the blog. Last week I had a chance to meet up with a friend from the forums. His name is Ken and he owns a Senecca III. You can look at it here http://www.klrdmd.com/Home/Seneca.html That plane is so awesome. And guess what... I got to log my time in it because he is a CFI. So me... a student with only about 15 hours has 1.4 in a multi-engine aircraft. Kinda fricken cool.

So Ken emailed me on Wednesday night to see if I wanted to go grab some breakfast the following morning. Of course my response was nothing short of YES!!!! How could I possibly say no to that? I got to the airport around 730 and wasn't expecting him til 8. I sat in the truck and listened to the scanner waiting for his call sign. Sure enough at 745 I hear "Chandler tower, Senecca 8377X 15 miles south with Kilo, request full stop" Woot.. I jumped out of my truck and headed for the terminal. I listened to the radio and followed him on the frequency until he pulled up to the terminal. I walked out the plane to meet him. What a beautiful plane.

Ken is a great guy. He is a dental anaesthesiologist and I guess more of a teacher now. He travels the country giving lectures and whatnot. Not a bad gig. Sounds like fun. I would rather be traveling talking about planes.. but I'm not a dentist so I wouldn't have much to talk about. Anyway...

As I approach the plane Ken motions me inside to the left seat. I must have looked thoroughly confused because he explained that he could ride right seat because he is a CFI and MEI so I could actually fly the plane. OMG! I jumped in got situated and looked at the panel. Now you have to understand this situation to fully appreciate it. Up to this point I have flown a 1 engine Cessna 172. About as basic as it gets. Now I get in the left seat of this thing and it might as well have been an airliner. Well that is a little extreme but you know what I mean. It turns out it wasn't that difficult. This plane has two engines so instead of doing everything once... you do it twice. You start the left engine, then the right. Check instruments for both of them and you are ready to go. I let Ken handle the radios so I could concentrate on not crashing his 120,000$ plane into anything. We picked up ATIS and taxi'd out to runway 4L.

This is where it really gets fun. After being cleared to takeoff I positioned us on the numbers. Once all lined up he told me to hold the breaks and throttle both engines up to 36 inches of manifold pressure. (if I knew completely what that meant I would take time to explain it to you... I need to do some reading and maybe I will put it in my next post. But for the purpose of this entry... We put the needles on the 36 mark on the instrument displaying inches of manifold pressure.) Ok so here we are... breaks held on the numbers... engines cranking away just waiting to lurch forward.. Once I got both engines equal.. let go of the breaks and WOOOOOOOOW! ZOOOOOOM! (I have other way to describe the feeling sorry) Every other plane I have flown in you slowly increase throttle and go down the runway. This thing went screamin' after you released the breaks. Rotate at 79 and away you go. I barely had to give any rudder pressure with this plane. Ken explained that it doesn't have all the normal left turning tendencies of other planes because the engines rotate opposite of each other counteracting torque. (Did I explain that right?) So we get cleared to turn away from the airport and we are on our way. Basically Ken did what Dan did. He pointed to a mountain and said fly there. The whole time Ken was naming mountain peaks and airports in the distance. I guess he flies this route quite a bit, so he knows it by heart. We saw an aerobatic plane doing it's thing around a mountain. That was pretty cool. You see them do the shows at airshows, but it is a totally different view when you are flying over them. I leveled us off at 5,500 ft and we just cruised. It was much easier to maintain altitude and heading in this plane. I'm not sure why, but it just flies smoother than the Cessna.

As we got close to AVQ-Merana Regional, we announced our intentions to land and Ken put it down. I got us on the approach and ken took over a couple hundred feet above the runway. He says it's because it lands differently than the Cessna I fly, which I'm sure it does, but I'm pretty sure it was because he didn't want a student pilot with 15 hours pounding his nice Senecca into the pavement. Somehow... I understand. :)

I taxi'd us to the parking and flipped it around. Ran through the shutdown checklist and secured the aircraft. Time for breakfast! Breakfast was good! I had a Western Omelet... yum. We sat and talked about a lot of things. He has owned I think 7 aircraft now. The Mooney was his favorite, and that is probably what he will go back to after this one. What a life. I would love to own an aircraft like this. I would do the same thing. I would find young people who love to fly and let them. Why not? He did get breakfast out of it. Granted he said that a full tank of gas costs about $1,000, so I think I ended up spending less money. He wouldn't accept money for fuel, what a great guy.

After breakfast we came back out and started it up. Wind was favoring 30 so that's where we taxi'd to. As we get up to takeoff there was a Cessna doing touch and goes opposite of our runway. That is the joy of an uncontrolled airport. You can do whatever you want. If you want to takeoff and land with the wind... you can. Not that you should but he did. Oh well, when he took off again and was crossing us on the runway we took the runway and blasted outta there before he knew what was going on. I think before he even turned crosswind we were above pattern altitude cruising on out. Fun stuff.

This time once we got to cruise altitude he let me try out the autopilot. LOL how cool. Push a couple buttons and the plane flies itself. That was cool and all... but I kinda wanted to fly. (Now I know I don't want to be an airline pilot.) I popped the autopilot off and hand flew the rest of the way home. I handled radios this time. Got the ATIS, contacted tower at 15 miles out. This is one little mishap that I did. I called the wrong tower frequency. At chandler there are two frequencies. 133.1 if you are coming from the South or the East and 126.1 if you are coming from the North or East. Now we were coming up from Tuscon area so I should have contacted 133.1 which I KNEW. Anyway.. I called the wrong tower .. they told me I was stupid and I made the same call on the right frequency. Before I knew it we were on the ground and it was all over.

It made for a great morning. It was beautiful outside as always. Couldn't ask for more. So for 20 bucks I got 1.4 of multi-engine cross country time. What a smokin deal. Thank you Ken! I appreciate it so much. Another entry in the logbook that I will never forget!