Grounded

I haven’t been doing any flying lately and I probably won’t for quite a while. It’s not a medical problem … instead it’s all about money. Perhaps in another month or two we’ll be in a position to do more flying. But for now I’m grounded. In the meantime I’m paying attention to the fight over FAA funding. There’s no way to tell how this is going to turn out. But I’m worried that by next year flying will be out of my price range.

checkride passed

I passed the flight portion of my checkride this morning. It was a beautiful morning for flying, there’s high pressure in the area so practically no wind, only high cirrus clouds, and the obligitory haze.

Norm, the DPE, had me plan a flight from Addison (KADS) to Guthrie, OK (KGOK). We left Addison and flew over the first two checkpoints making my planned time within half a minute. Along the way we determined that the GPS was broken and so we turned it off. After the second checkpoint Norm had me tune in a VOR and identify our location, then we started following a radial while he asked me questions about VORs. At that point Norm asked me if he could look at my chart. I handed it over and he folded it up and stuck it up between the glareshield and the window. “Oh I’m a bad passenger, I opened the window and your only chart just flew out. Good thing we tuned in the Bonham VOR.”

LOL

Once we got to the VOR and the flag flipped over Norm asked me if I’ve ever been to the Bonham Municipal Airport (F00). I hadn’t so he suggested we go there and do a short field landing over a 50′ “tree”. He asked me a couple of times whether I thought the traffic pattern was right or left. I finally got the hint and dug out my AFD and confirmed that it was a left pattern. We then entered the pattern and I performed a short field landing. We got down and stopped within 1000′ which made Norm very happy (he said so). =;-)

We taxied back and then he had me do a short field takeoff. Next stop was Sherman Municipal (SWI) where I did a soft field landing and takeoff. Next Norm had me put on the hood and he led me on a tour of North Texas with me flying on instruments alone. We did quite a few heading changes and climbs and descents (with and without turns) until he tuned in another VOR and asked me to identify our position relative to it and then fly along a radial toward the VOR.

Once he was satisfied with my performance it was time for unusual attitudes. The first one was a real stomach churner and we ended up in a climbing turn. I leveled the wings, added some power and got us straight and level. The next one was much more subtle. I could hardly tell what Norm was doing but when he turned over the controls were were in a diving turn. So this time I leveled the wings and pulled the power until we were flying straight and level again.

Norm asked me to descend to 2500′ and pointed in a direction just off our nose … “we’re over Celina and that was is Prosper. Take us that way and we’ll go back to Addison.” So I did. I called up the Addison ATIS and got the info, then contacted regional approach (who was really busy today) to get cleared back to Addison. We were passed off to Addison Tower pretty quickly and then we hit a glitch. I had the tower and ground frequencies tuned into radio one and though the display showed I was transmitting I never heard a response. We both fiddled with the radio a bit before tuning in the tower on radio two. Now they are coming in loud and clear. There wasn’t too much traffic so hopefully we didn’t step on anyone’s toes. We were cleared for a straight in approach to runway 15.

This time Norm wanted a normal crosswind landing, and we actually did have a slight crosswind to deal. I managed to get on the glide path correctly this time (I’m usually too high on straight in approaches) though on short final I was too low and had aggressively add some power to get back on the path. Then I managed to do a half-decent crosswind landing with only a little bit of bounce. While turning off the runway and onto taxiway foxtrot Norm sticks out his hand and says “congratulations pilot”. I wish you could have seen the grin on my face!

I knew the hard part was over when I finished the oral exam but this flight really was not that hard at all. Not to say that Norm let me off easy, it’s more that I have the confidence to fly the way I’ve been taught and I know that I should pass because I’ve been taught well. This flight was a test, and I was nervous, but Norm completely put me at ease and let me perform at my own pace. In the end this checkride was just a darn pleasurable flight.

A couple of things Norm said really pleased me. First was that he doesn’t always get to take examinees into Bonham and Sherman airports because they have narrow 4000′ runways. Plus, Sherman’s runway is on a slope … and from our perspective today went downhill. Most of the examinees need more runway than that. He mentioned that at Bonham it might as well have been a 2000′ runway because that’s all I would have needed.

Then he also complimented me on my rudder skills. I’ve always thought I had a bit of a clubfoot when it came to the rudder pedals so I was surprised by this. But Norm said I made excellent use of the pedals and that sometimes he couldn’t even feel me giving the plane more rudder during turns and takeoffs. That really made me feel good!

So now what? I’ve got a Skyhawk at Monarch reserved for most of next Sunday. The wife and I are going to Llano, TX, I think, to get some of that excellent Cooper’s BBQ. But today I’m also contacting the North Texas Flying Club (based at KTKI) to sign up. So hopefully next Saturday I’ll be doing a checkout with them.

This flight: 1.7 hours (simulated instruments @ 0.4 hours)
Landings: 3
Total : 65.7 hours (started training in December 2004)

Found Pop’s Logbooks

When my parents divorced I accompanied my mom to East Texas to help her remove items from their lakehouse. We were mostly interested in getting two trunks of belongings that belonged to her father (Pop) and her grandfather.

I was not looking forward to doing this and just wanted to get it over with. We grabbed the trunks and made a cursory examination of the house but we didn’t take much else.

Once we left the house we knew that my father planned to sell it and, since he lived overseas and was unlikely to come back in time, and everything in it. Sure enough, that’s what happened. I suspect that the contents either ended up at Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

A few years later I started to develop an interest in learning to fly, like my father and Pop. And so I asked my mom if she had Pop’s old logbooks. Nope, they weren’t in the trunks. After much searching we never did locate them. I was devastated. I was sure that my bad attitude about cleaning out the lakehouse had led me to leave them behind. All that history, gone.

Now, ten years later, my wife and I are caretaking her parents’ home. Her mother passed away in April and now she and her sister are going through the house deciding what to keep and what to estate sale.Lately, most of the work has been concentrated on the garage. Yesterday they came across a box that had my name on it and G set it aside for me. Inside I found an old army jacket, some army caps, a box of old knicknacks that I cherised when I was a kid. Also there was a alligator-skinned zippered folio. And inside the folio were Pop’s logbooks, student pilot’s license and several sectional charts, circa 1951.

I felt like I had been kicked in the chest. All those years thinking I had thrown away my Pop’s flying history and here it was sitting in my own garage gathering dust! After picking myself up from the floor and wiping away the tears I started reading through documents.

There are two logbooks. The first contains Student Pilot Certificate S122676 for Sam James Hamm, issued on 14 August 1940 in Alamo, Texas. The backside shows his solo endorsement issued by FH Rodgers on 15 August 1940.

The first flight recorded is on 23 December 1939 for thirty minutes in an Aeronca Chief (NC21369). In the remarks section is written “1st lesson. Very pleasant.”

After four flights in the Chief he switched to a Piper Cub (NC26848) and made an additional nine flights before he soloed the Cub on 15 August. His total flight experience at that time as nine hours.All of the remaining flights in this logbook were in the Cub and were local flights except for one cross-country from Mission to Brownsville and back. Total flight time was 28 hours 34 minutes.

The second logbook picks up on 16 March 1950 at Whitefield Airport in Rotan, Texas. It looks like he started his training over again and he soloed a Taylorcraft on 30 April 1951.

He stayed a student pilot until 17 May 1955 when he passed his flight check and earned his private pilot ticket. At that point he had amassed 151 hours of experience, not counting his flights back in 1940.

The vast majority of the flights were local except for cross-countries to Sweetwater, Abilene, Big Springs, Midland, Snyder, San Angelo, Hamlin, Aspermont, Lake Thomas, and Portales, New Mexico. And most of the flights were very short in duration, usually about 30 minutes.

The last flight logged was 1 hour 45 minute local Rotan flight in Aeronca Chief N86342 on 21 October 1956. His total experience was 214 hours 30 minutes.

Aircraft flown:
Aeronca Chief NC21369
Piper J3 Cub NC26848
Luscombe 8A N45492
Taylorcraft N44174
Piper J3 Cub N42643
Super ? N07603H
Cessna 140 N76251
Aeronca Chief N86342

Solo Practice Flight #3

So my instructor, Y, told me to schedule 3 hours for our next flight so we could do a mock checkride. I did that and later he revised the schedule to book the plane for just 2 hours.

I was a little surprised but figured he had commitments and could only spare two hours. I showed up today and was dispatched the aircraft. By the time I finished the preflight Y was still not there so I called his cell phone. I got voicemail.

I tied up the airplane, locked it and went back inside. The guy behind the counter hadn’t heard from Y either so he tried giving him a call. And this time Y answered. Turns out, he meant to cancel the lesson altogether. And he thought he’d called me. So we decided to make the best of it and I would do another solo flight. Fine by me!

The weather, according to the briefer, was marginally unstable. There were thunderstorms popping up south of Dallas and Fort Worth but they were generally falling apart before they got too far north. The clouds were roughly at 5500′ and above so we agreed that I could go but I should monitor Addison’s ATIS in case things started to go bad.

The takeoff went fine and soon I was following Preston Road north out of Dallas. And it was bumpy! When I reached the practice area and was out from under the Class Bravo airspace I climbed to 3500′ thinking I’d escape some of the thermal activity. No!! It seemed worse. Holding my heading wasn’t hard, but holding altitude was really tough. I would often find myself in a 500-feet-per-minute climb even though the Skyhawk’s pitch hadn’t changed.

I started off with some steep turns. Um, let’s just say that they were hard … really hard to get right. I did four sets and by the end I was able to keep my altitude within the limits, but just barely.

After that I decided to descend and try some ground reference maneuvers. I picked out a good spot to do turns-around-a-point. I managed to get two good turns in before giving up. I had no problem picking my four points and maneuvering the Skyhawk over them but again the altitude holding was a problem.

Finally, I’d had enough so I climbed back up to 2500′ and turned toward Addison. I was given a course to fly so that I would parallel the runway centerline. This would allow an incoming Challenger Business Jet overtake me and land. I was cleared to follow him. But then I was asked to keep my speed up since there was a King Air turbo-prop coming in behind me. So I kept up my cruise speed almost all the way to the runway and then pulled the throttle to idle in order to slow down, descend and land.

It went great until I actually flared for landing. A gust pushed my left wing up and I got turned a little sideways and didn’t land aligned with the runway. Poor Skyhawk! The abuse those planes have to put up with!

This flight: 1.2 hours
Landings: 1
Total: 58.9 hours

Solo Practice Flight #2

I finished my tasks that I started with my last solo flight last week. This morning was perfect flying weather, though it was a little hazy.

KADS 251147Z 35004KT 13SM SKC 23/19 A3008

Which translates to: winds from the north at 4 knots (5 mph), clear skies, temperature 73-degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 66-degrees Fahrenheit, and the barometric pressure was 30.08 inches of mercury.

Sounds a little warm for 7am doesn’t it? Well, this is Texas!

During my preflight my instructor, Y, came out to tell me that there was an FAA inspector doing ramp checks. I assured him that I had all my paperwork in my bag and that I wasn’t planning on landing anywhere but Addison (only airwork for today’s flight!). He seemed happy with that so I continued with my preflight. I finished up and pulled the Skyhawk out to the line and hopped in. I never did see the inspector … which is too bad, because I’ve been curious about what a ramp check is like.

Anyway, I started up and finished my checklist, then called up ground control and got clearance to taxi to runway 33.

By the time I got out there the winds were coming right down the runway so the takeoff was easy. I elected to do a normal takeoff instead of a short or soft. Y told me that I should maximize my lessons by always practicing anything I could, but I wanted to concentrate on airwork today. Besides, maybe my normal takeoffs need practice!? lol

The air was smooth as silk today! I climbed out to 2000′ and headed north. Once under the last ring of the Class Bravo airspace I climbed to 3000′ and continued until I was over the eastern shore of Lake Ray Roberts. After doing some clearing turns I started off with some steep turns. First to the left, then to the right. The first set were ok, within the PTS standards. The next set I had to abort. I let the nose drop too much and I picked up a lot of speed and lost too much altitude. I climbed back to 3000′ and did some more clearing turns. The third set of steep turns went much much better. I easily held the nose on the horizon and kept my speed, altitude and headings within the limits.

Next came slow flight. I slowed to about 48 kias and held my altitude at 3000′. I made two 90-degree turns, like clearing turns and kept the speed and altitude within limits. Feeling pretty confident, and considering I had the flaps out I went straight into a power-off stall. The first one went ok, so I tried another. Uh oh … like when I flew with Y the last time I pushed the nose down and ended up in a dive. I quickly pulled the power to idle and recovered. I climbed back to 3000′ and tried again. Same result.

So I climbed to 3000′ and tried it again, ahhh much better this time. Just let the yoke in a little and let the nose drop, add full power and we’re flying again!

Next up was a power-on stall. This one went ok except I never really got into a full stall. Y makes it look so easy. He just puts the airplane into a 20-degree nose-up attitude and holds it until the speed bleeds off and it stalls. I do that and it just keeps climbing!

Eventually I got it on the edge of a stall, which was enough for me and so I recovered. I found that you can easily alternate the two types of stalls. Power-off with the flaps down and descending … recover, retract the flaps, climb back to 3000′ then slow down till 55 kias, add full power and climb until you stall … recover, start a descent, extend the flaps … do a power-off stall … rinse and repeat … lol

I think I ended up doing about five repetitions like this.

Next I needed to relax a little so I flew across the practice area and back just to relax. Once I returned to the Ray Roberts shore line I descended to 1600′ and picked out a road to do s-turns along. That was fun!! The wind was blowing pretty strongly at that altitude so it was a challenge to get them right. After about 20 s-turns I decided I’d had enough and climbed back to 2500′ to return to Addison.

At Addison I was cleared to land while still on the downwind and I ended up not paying enough attention to my pattern. I hardly did a base leg and nearly did a circle to land kind of approach. The controller was probably thinking … “this guy’s obviously a student”.

But the actual touchdown was on the centerline and main wheels first so I was happy!

Next up is a mock checkride with Y.

This flight: 1.7 hours
Landings: 1
Total: 57.7 hours

Solo Practice Flight #1

On Sunday I flew solo for the first time since my cross country flights. My lesson plan was to go to Denton (KDTO) and practice some short and soft takeoffs and landings. Then I was to go out to the practice area and practice a ground reference maneuver, slow flight, and steep turns. If I felt comfortable I could also try a stall or two.

So I met my instructor, Y, at Monarch and we checked the weather to make sure everything was OK. Then we discussed my flight plan and he gave me the necessary endorsements. Soon I was on my way. Departure from Addison was uneventful and within minutes I was arriving in the Denton pattern. There was only one other aircraft in the pattern.

I was cleared for touch and goes and I decided to start with some soft field landings and takeoffs. The third time around the pattern I asked for a full stop and taxi back so I could do a short field landing and takeoff. I was determined to make the first turnoff on runway 17.

The first attempt wasn’t any good at all. The trick with short field landings is controlling your speed on final approach. If you don’t nail the correct speed, in this case 62 kias, then you’ll end up floating down the runway right past the spot where you wanted to touch down. And that’s exactly what happened on my first attempt.

I taxied back to the end of 17 and got clearance to take off for another try. The short field takeoff was a success and so this time around the pattern I concentrated on managing my speed. This time I knew on short final that I had it nailed. Sure enough, I crossed the runway threshold at 62 kias and touched down nearly exactly where I wanted and I was able to make the first turn off without unduly use of the brakes!

I taxied back to 17 again and requested permission to depart to the Northeast. Time for some airwork. After I passed the north end of Lake Lewisville I climbed up to 3000′. Once in the practice area I made some clearing turns to make sure no one else was in the area. My first maneuver was steep turns.

Here the idea is to first make a 360-degree turn to the left with the airplane at a 45-degree angle, which feels like the plane is on its side. Once you come 360-degrees to your original heading you roll the plane into a right bank of 45-degrees and go around again. The trick (and the standards I have to meet) is to do all of this while keeping your altitude within plus or minus 100 feet … keep your speed withing plus or minus 10 knots (not to exceed the aircraft’s maneuvering speed) … keep your bank angle within plus or minus 5-degrees of a 45-degree bank … and turn out on your original heading plus or minus 10 degrees.

That sounds like a lot to pay attention to but its not really. It is hard to deal with the freak-out factor of being in such a steep bank but mostly what’s hard is maintaining the altitude. The nose of the airplane naturally wants to drop, and to hold it steady on the horizon you have to put increasing back pressure on the yoke. Or use the trim wheel to relieve some of that pressure.

If you can manage to keep the nose level and the altitude under control then all the rest will come naturally. My first time around was terrible. I was all over the place. So I did it again. The second time around was much better.

Next I did some more clearing turns to make sure I was still by myself and then I did some slow flight. This is pretty easy. Just pull back the power so the plane slows down and then put some power back in to maintain altitude. Then you just make some turns to various headings while keeping the airplane on the verge of a stall.

I felt so comfortable with this that I decided to try a stall. Which one? The one that makes me the most nervous, of course! The power-on kind. So first I did some more clearing turns and then pulled the power back to slow to 55 kias. When I reached that speed I pushed in full power and pulled the nose up so the airplane was climbing. All of sudden the power quit and the engine backfired twice, then the power came back to full. With my heart racing a little I levelled out and turned toward Addison.

The flight back to Addison was uneventful. The engine RPM remained constant and before too long I was back on the ground and taxiing to Monarch. I filled out a squawk sheet to let them know what had happened.

Later, Y told me that a mechanic checked out the airplane and didn’t find anything wrong. Oh well, I guess it was just one of those things. But on my next solo flight I think I’ll take a different Skyhawk.

This flight: 1.6 hours
Landings: 5
Total: 56 hours

Demonstrating air work for my instructor

I really thought I wouldn’t get to fly today. Last night thunderstorms rolled through North Texas and the forecast for this entire weekend is for thunderstorms. But as luck would have it, by the time 2:30 rolled around the clouds had moved East and the sky was mostly clear.

So I met my instructor, Y, at 2:30 and we agreed to go ahead and fly and check out my airwork … things like slow flight, stalls and ground-reference maneuvers.

I pre-flighted and everything looked good except some hangar rash on the vertical stabilizer and the rudder. I showed it to Y and he agreed that we should squawk it but it wouldn’t keep us on the ground. We taxied out and took off, turning out toward Denton to follow the first part of my Addison to Lubbock flight plan.

Once we were over Lake Lewisville, Y had me divert toward a large tower between Lake Lewisville and Lake Ray Hubbard. So I turned toward the general direction of the tower and reset our timer. Once I was straight and level again I found our location on my sectional chart and determined the distance to the tower, about 13 miles. Then I whipped out my e6b computer and determined how long it would take us to get there.

We ended up arriving about half a minute later than I calculated, that’s well within the PTS limits. PTS stands for Practical Test Standards, which is what I’ll be judged against during my checkride.

Once we passed the tower Y had me climb to 3000′ where we started some slow flight. That’s pretty easy. After some clearing turns, I pulled back the power to about 1500 RPM and let the airplane slow until we were at about 48 knots with full flaps. By that time you have to put starting power back in just to maintain altitude. That’s called flying behind the power curve … meaning that once you slow to a certain point it takes more and more power to maintain that slow, nose-high attitude. Once I was established at 48 knots and 3000′ Y had me turn to some specific headings. All the while the stall horn is blaring away.

Then we did some stalls. First were power-off stalls. These simulate a stall while coming in for a landing. At 3000′ you pull the power back and begin a typical landing approach descent and speed at full flaps. Then at a pre-determined altitude you pull the nose up until the wings stall. Immediately you let the nose fall and put in power to recover, then you climb back to 3000′. Once you have a positive rate of climb and a speed over 60 knots you pull the flaps back in. Those went pretty well.

Next were power-on stalls. These simulate a stall while climbing after take-off. At 3000′ you slow the 55 knots (which is a Skyhawk’s takeoff rotation speed). You push in full power and start climbing and you keep pulling the nose up until the wings stall. Immediately you let the nose drop so the wings start flying again. Then since you’re already at full power you just keep the power there and put the airplane in a slight ascent so your speed increases until you’re climbing back to 3000′ at 74 knots.

During my first stall we ended up in a dive. We recovered and Y asked me to demonstrate the stall again. This time he watched my hands and sure enough we ended up in a dive again. He said that instead of just release pressure on the yoke to let the nose fall off I was actually pushing the nose down which put us in the dive. So we did it two more times with me being very concious of not pushing the nose down. It went much better! Next we did a couple of engine-out emergency simulations.

Y pulled the power all the way to idle and asked me what I should do next. So I went through the steps .. trimmed to fly at 68 knots, looked for an appropriate field to land in and then ran through the steps to restart the engine. We did this a couple of times and then while down low Y had me pick a spot and do a turn-around-a-point. After one and half turns Y was satisfied that I could do this within the PTS standards.

So I climbed to 2500′ and flew us back into Addison. Probably the highlight of the trip was watching a B-17 land after us. Y was gracious enough to take the controls and taxi us while I watched.

I’m on the schedule for tomorrow so with a little more luck the weather will cooperate and I’ll be making a solo flight into the practice area.

This flight: 1.4 hours
Total: 54.4

First flight in 141 days!!

That’s right, today I flew for the first time since 21 January. I’ve been doing ground school the past few weeks with my new instructor, Y. We’ve finally finished all the material we need to cover and it was time to knock some of that rust off and get back in the air.

The plan was to follow a flight plan from Addison (KADS) to Lubbock (KLBB) and divert somewhere to do some practice takeoffs and landings. After a couple of delays kept us from getting off the ground when we wanted the plan changed to just going straight to Denton (KDTO) to do the practice takeoffs and landings.

The only time I get on the schedule was for 1 to 3 pm on a 100-degree Fahrenheit day so as you could imagine it was pretty bumpy up there. But despite the heat and bumpy air I managed to do OK. I felt pretty comfortable in the cockpit and remembered to use my checklists. I got the radio calls mostly right.

But the rust was definitely there. I had some trouble maintaining my altitude (though I could blame a little of that on the bumpiness) and my turns to final were consistently late and low. Despite that Y was pretty happy with my performance. He suggested that we do another flight to do the airwork .. ground reference maneuvers, slow flight, stalls, steep turns, etc … and then a mock checkride flight.

After that he’ll likely endorse me to do some solo flights before scheduling the real checkride. I’m almost there!!

This flight: 1.2 hours
Takeoffs and Landings: 5
Total: 53 hours