Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp, Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ. The aircraft were fastened to tiedowns with care, in hopes that come morning, they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots, with gusts from two-forty at 39 knots. I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up, and settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter, I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter. A voice clearly heard over static and snow, Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick, I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick"; I ran to the panel to turn up the lights, the better to welcome this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial, "St. Nicholas One, turning left onto final." And what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came, as he passed all fixes, he called them by name: "Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun! On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he taking?

While controllers were sitting, and scratching their head, they phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread, the message they left was both urgent and dour: "When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking, then I heard "Left at Charlie," and "Taxi to parking." He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh and stopped on the ramp with a "Ho, ho-ho- ho..."

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk, I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks. His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost and his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale, and he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale. His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly, His boots were as black as a crop duster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red, and he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low- lead." He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump, I knew he was anxious for draining the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work, and I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk. He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief, then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log, these reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog. He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear, then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk, He called up the tower for clearance and squawk. "Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction, Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion."

He sped down the runway, the best of the best, "Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west." Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night, "Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fabulous Flying Weather

Got back in the left seat again today, with Charlotte on my right.  The weather was perfect for flying, if a little hot.  My brain was feeling sluggish at first, not wanting to remember all the pre checks but we kicked it into gear and had a good lesson.

Still hanging out in the circuit, which is obviously something I need to do until my landings are down.  Today felt a lot closer than last week's mash up.  I actually did 4 or 5 passable landings in the 0.7 hrs we flew.  On a couple of them, Charlotte didn't say anything, so I know it was actually me and my decision making getting us down.

Flying's meant to be a fun hobby for me, not something to stress over or feel bad about.  Luckily, my navigation exam has been put off until the New Year and today I knew all I had to do was better than last week so I've come out feeling in a much better head space about flying than I did after my last lesson.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lesson 17

I wonder how I've gotten to lesson 17 in my flight training.  Although it's been months since I started on the lessons toward my PPL, 17 seems like a big number.  And that 17 doesn't include the return trip I did to Raglan with my husband.

You hear people say, "Oh, to be 17 again."  Well, here I am hanging on to the number 17 in a way and feeling much the same as I did when I was 17...a bit awkward, lacking in control, and having little self confidence. 

So, lesson 17, not a great one really.  A 2 month hiatus has not helped my flying.  I knew it wouldn't.

The good thing about today's lesson was flying with the new junior instructor, Charlotte.  She's very nice and very tolerant.  I look forward to flying with her again....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Going Somewhere

As I mentioned in my last post, I was doing a flight plan.  I even used that flight plan and flew to Raglan and back.  How exciting to say that I've now used my own pilot skills to fly myself somewhere for a little mini holiday!

Now, I didn't go all by myself of course.  My husband is an instructor in the microlight class, so he took the title of Pilot in Command while I did all the work. 

We packed up one of the "microlight" aircraft the flying school has on offer, a Tecnam P92 Echo Super.  Now, some of you may be thinking I'm talking about a low performance, open cockpit, fabric construction plane when I say microlight but instead I mean one of these:

You may also remember my post on aviator chic "Flying in Style" in which I kinda promised an outfit shot when I thought I was doing all right looking "casually glamorous" when heading off for a lesson and this is about as close as we're going to get.  It was a warm day out so I went with black trouser style shorts, belted with a brown leather belt, topped with a light weight leopard print cardi worn as a blouse and little brown ballet flats.  Not exactly an Amelia Earhart look but better than my usual!

And before I get side-tracked onto a style post, onward to an in flight photo (where, incidentally, you can see my rhinestone headset doing it's job...)


And here's my husband, moving the plane to a suitable spot to tie it down overnight.  The wide expanse of grass to the left in the photo is where I landed the plane.  It was my first grass landing, and a bit tricky as there is no "runway" to aim for - just a big ol' paddock.

That night in Raglan, we stayed at a nice little bach and had a night out to see the One Man Ska Band, Chris Murray (all the way from LA), and supporting act from Auckland Atsushi and the Moisties.  A great night of ska and many impressed people around when they found out we flew down for the show :)  Just one photo of Chris Murray jamming with this guy Nate who played the was awesome!

In the morning, we were happy to find the plane still tied down, exactly where we left it...

On the way home, my husband was so relaxed, he spent most of his time taking photos of the rugged west coast as we flew along.

I must say, there is something quite satisfying about having completed a successful cross-country flight...and not just any cross-country but one that took me somewhere I needed to go for a specific event.  This little jaunt was quite possibly just what I needed to get back to my PPL lessons.  Looking in my logbook, it's sad to note that my last PPL lesson was on 10 Oct - over a month ago.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Navigation and Flight Planning

Even Spock had to use an E6B Flight Computer once in a while

Today I had my first "lesson" in navigation and flight planning.  My darling husband, who scored excellently on his PPL Navigation exam, and who is a microlight instructor went through a basic flight plan with me today.  

There is some pleasure in this business.  Yes, I have to learn how to do flight planning, and use an E6B Flight Computer, but in this case the flight plan is for a trip to Raglan that we will be doing tomorrow afternoon.  It has been some time since I flew anywhere besides in the circuit so this should be fun.  

The flight computer is a simple, yet complex little tool that I need a lot more practice on.  Today I worked on the basics and I will go again tomorrow with the new weather data for the day.  Hopefully, one day I'll be as much of a master on the E6B as Spock...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Gap in Flying Despite Good Weather

You may, or may not, be wondering where I've been.  The weather has been good and there have been plenty of flying opportunities, yet my blog remains inactive for a couple weeks.

The main reason is that my mother was visiting from overseas and I didn't want to waste any of the short time I would have with her off flying or on the computer.  We enjoyed all of the great weather we had and I even got her to go up with my husband for a flight to Pauanui where they had a nice lunch.

I'll be back to flying soon, got to go and get my medical and T-up my next exam.  I passed the Law exam I took, no worries...funny story, my husband and I got the same mark on that one! 

Hope everyone else is enjoying the spring weather!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Silver Wings - New Zealand Women in Aviation

A little while ago, I got my hands on a copy of Silver Wings - New Zealand Women in Aviation.  I managed to get it for a bargain price but would fully recommend it at the full retail price as well.  It's a beautiful little soft cover book, with 288 pages and as many photographs.

The book chronicles the women flying in New Zealand from Gladys Sanford receiving her pilots license in Dec 1925 up to modern women flying any and every type of aircraft you can imagine at all levels.

My favourite photos were those of the women in the 1960's and 1970's - many of them recreational pilots - dressed in some of the most fashionable items of the times with hair to match and ready to fly!  As I said in in my post Flying in Style, the best clothes for flying aren't necessarily the most fashionable or stylish, so these women are yet another source of Aviator Chic inspiration.

The easiest way to get your hands on a copy of this great book is to order it from NZAWA via this order form.  Alternately, you can borrow it from your local library (if they have it) or scour Trademe and used book stores to find a more modestly priced copy if you really want to own it but can't afford the $50 price tag.

Here's a little sneak peek of photos found in the book.  (Please note, I took these from the NZAWA order form as I didn't think it fair of me to scan and redistribute the images from the book without permission.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Aviation Law Exam

I couldn't think of a witty or exciting title for this blog...possibly because there's nothing witty or exciting about studying aviation law.

Tomorrow I have to sit my Law exam.  The reading for this exam has been particularly brutal - even less interesting than Aircraft Tech.  All I can do is read it through and hope to memorise enough information (there really is no comprehension needed to pass this exam) to pass the exam.

It's been a short turn around since the last exam, only two weeks.  That's good though, it means I've had less time to agonize about getting through the book and that I've just had to push myself (and my husband) to read the chapters and do the reviews.

My next exams will be Meteorology and Navigation - both of which will require a concerted effort in studying, and perhaps some tuition from one of the instructors to help get me through.  Hopefully I'll catch on quickly and actually enjoy the subjects!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday morning was sunny and relatively calm.  Not an exceptionally warm day,  but warm enough that I went for my flying lesson in a tshirt dress, no jacket.  By last evening, the temperature had dropped and the wind started to pick up.  During the night, I woke up to the sounds of screaming wind and driving rain - had the thought that the planes had all better be tied down well.  This morning, just 24 hours from yesterday's lesson, the wind continues to howl and little bursts of rain come and go - it's amazing how much the weather can change in just one day.

Yesterday's lesson was definite preparation for me going solo.  We revisited engine failure after take off and glide approaches.  We went around and around.  And around.  For 1.2 hours.  The last landing I did was mint, but there were a number of marginal ones before it.  I'm finding it really hard to judge my own progress at this stage...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On The Verge

After a flight today with our female senior instructor, we were discussing my progress.  "You are on the verge, lady" she said to me.  I replied, "So, best get that medical then?"  "Oh, yes," she replied, "we don't want you stuck going round and round much longer."

So, a glimmer of hope for solo before 15 hours.  I have flown 13 hours including today's 1.1.  The weather today was almost perfect...just could have used a bit of head wind to slow our progress on final. 

Once we hopped out of the plane, we had fish and chips lunch with the boys at the field and I crossed the car park for home.  On my facebook, I found some wonderful photos my husband took of my "on the verge" of being 1 year old daughter watching me fly the plane...

Love it!  Hope everyone else is loving something as well :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A mint day for flying...

Today was one of those days that everyone thinks is mint for flying.  Warm and sunny with great visibility and almost nil wind.  Truth is, it's actually not that mint because when the air is warmer, it's less dense and the aircraft can't make as much power and when there's no headwind, you need more runway to take off and land.

In any event, I went flying today.  And I did it in a dress (I am wearing a dress everyday in October to help raise ovarian cancer awareness in conjunction with Frocktober). 

The lesson was just plain circuits and was much needed after 3 weeks out of the left seat.  Before we got off the ground, I had already made two blunders...starting the aircraft with the mixture lean instead of full rich and doing a dead-cut check instead of a plain magnetos check...nothing terrible but "d'oh" moments to say the least. 

The other thing that challenged me today was flying the opposite circuit to what I'm used to.  I was taking off and landing on 07 today instead of 25...I only muddled the radio calls once.  The good thing about 07 is that you're coming into land over a nice flat stretch and you have a lot more time to line up with the centre of the runway.  My first approach was a go-around, but after that I did several decent landings.  I was conscious of flying the plane to the ground rather than flaring and waiting for it to land itself (it never does so gracefully).  None of the landings today were coincidences, they were all me - my husband, who was watching, asked if I had done the landings because they looked really good.  Excellent.

Well, best get back outside and finish soaking up another beautiful day...

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Onset of Summer

This past Sunday, New Zealand turned it's clocks ahead to Daylight Savings Time in preparation for summer.  And I must say, it worked!  After weeks of wild rainy and windy weather, yesterday and today have been beautiful clear "summer" days.  In fact, we don't really start summer until Labour Weekend (25 Oct) but the weather is good enough right now to really amp up the anticipation.

Over the past few days, the props have been turning and students have been enjoying their lessons...except me!  I usually take the 'left-over' spaces available when there is an instructor out here at the field already.  These past few days, with the weather being so good means that all the spots have been filled!  Everyone has been hanging out for some great flying weather, not just me.  I'm all right with that, I probably need a bit of distance from the frustration I was feeling over my poor landings so that I can get in a positive head space about learning to fly again.  

I'll let you all know when I'm in the air again - probably this Friday! 

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Yesterday I sat my 3rd theory exam - Flight Radio Telephony Operator.  I feel very positive about the exam - if there's one thing I know how to do, it's talk.  And using the radio is all about talking.  Although there are some confusing rules, the overall thing is to be clear, concise, and accurate and to use the proper terms associated with radio communications.

As a student, you start using the radio early on to make basic calls and as you progress with your flying skills, you begin to make more and more of your radio calls yourself.  You get a good idea of what calls need to be made and what to say by listening to your instructor making calls for you when you're too busy learning to fly the plane.

For me, I think the fact that I've been using the radio and hearing other people's radio calls for some time now helped  me with the written exam.  I think it must be much harder to pass the written exam with no practical learning behind you in this case.  While I was studying for and doing the exam, I would imagine in my head that it was a real person making a radio call - what they sounded like, what the pace of their speech was and how I would respond (including my tone of voice and pace).  Imagining voices in my head seems a bit weird, but whatever works, right?

Other than studying for my exam, I have not been doing anything towards my flying.  There was a weather system approximately the size of Australia moving over our little country and it took it's time.  We had gale force winds, thunder, lightning, and hale - certainly not conditions to be out flying!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flying in Style

Harriet Quimby, the first woman in the US to receive her pilot's license once said, "If a woman wants to fly, first of all she must, of course, abandon skirts and don a knickerbocker uniform."  While I wouldn't go quite that far, I do believe that there are certain considerations to be taken when dressing for a flight - you must dress so that you will be comfortable and unrestricted.

My usual flying outfit leaves a lot to be desired in the style department, but fits the comfort and ease of movement conditions to a t.  Generally I fly in a t shirt and jeans with a pair of well fitting flat slip on shoes on my feet and a I wear a light weight wind breaker jacket while I'm outside checking over the plane.  While I'm perfectly happy with this, I do think I could easily dress far more stylishly and glamorously and STILL be comfortable and able to move.

You may wonder what has prompted me to reflect on what I wear while flying.  It's simple, I got an email the other day from BurdaStyle encouraging me to try a new look...that look is Aviator Chic.  I suppose the fact that I'm a real live aviator made me take notice of this, and the fact that I don't really bother with chic at all when I fly.  They cite Amelia Earhart, the "First Lady of Flight", as their inspiration for donning such classic pieces as bomber jackets, wide leg trousers, and button up blouses or being a bit more daring in khaki jumpsuits.  Amelia was also known for wearing slim leg jodhpurs tucked into her boots and scarves, knotted expertly around her neck.

I trolled around and found a few of my favourite images of Amelia Earhart and actresses playing Amelia to share here for your inspiration and my own.

While I probably wouldn't go for the khaki jumpsuit, the wide leg pants, blouses, and light scarves would be easy and comfortable to wear and I already have 2 bomber jackets (one black light weight "fashion" jacket and one real army green flight jacket).  So, I will keep the idea of dressing well for flying in the back of my mind for future promises, but you may get a photo of me one day as I'm heading off to a lesson and looking as casually glamorous as today's style icon, Amelia Earhart.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Starting the second page of my log book...

So, today I made the first entry on the second page of my log book.  I have been double spacing, but it still seems like quite a lot of flying...9.8 hours brought forward and 0.8 hours logged today.  I've cracked 10 hours, so I guess that's something.

Today's flying was okay.  Well, actually, the flying was good but the landings are still tripping me up.  It's annoying to have everything down to those last few feet above the ground.

I think that's all I have to say about that today...

Friday's Flight

I had a flying lesson on Friday.  Yes, it's now Monday and I'm just finding the time now to say anything about it.  That's what preparing for children's birthday parties does...I had to spend the rest of Friday and Saturday baking for the 16 kids we had around yesterday...not to mention parents!  Good thing I like cupcakes and cookies about as much as I like flying...

My lesson on Friday, while yet another lesson in the circuit, was different to any lesson I've had so far.  I was flying with a female instructor.  The dynamics of the lesson seemed somewhat different flying with a female instructor.  I'm not sure what it was but it was nice to have a different perspective on flying anyways.
As I said it was another lesson in the circuit...actually, another lesson on emergency procedures in the circuit - glide approach to landing.  As usual, all of the in the air stuff was good and I found myself setting up the glide approach with relative ease.  As usual, putting the plane on the ground was the difficulty.  For once, there wasn't a crosswind, but my landing technique is only good in a crosswind...side slipping and S bends aren't very nice on a calm day. 

While I can consider glide approach to landing learned, I have yet to perfect my landing techniques and can't really go on to the next lesson, flapless landings without getting regular landings down pat.  My goal for the next lesson is to pick a nice calm day and hammer the circuit with a real emphasis on a nice smooth landing without a crosswind!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Quest for the Perfect Crosswind Landing

Today was a funny day.  The weather was so up and down that we cancelled my lesson at one point and then decided it was back on.  That's not to say that the weather cleared right up and we had perfect conditions...

In fact, today's conditions were rather challenging.  There were good physical demonstrations of the effects of wind shear, head winds, tail winds, and crosswinds. 

The main goal of today's lesson was to get that crosswind landing technique down.  Crosswind landing technique is hard to describe but to do a good one, you want to land on one of the rear wheels, let down until the second rear wheel is on the ground and then gently let down the nose wheel.  You have to physically 'dip' the wing into the wind and then oppose that action using opposite rudder to keep you straight.  I had a good number of tries today and did relatively well.  Did I get the technique down pat?  Well, my instructor did say one of my landings showed "perfect crosswind technique" and was "sweet as" and on the last landing when I had a momentary doubt and asked him to take control, he chided me saying that I had that one and he was perfectly confident that I could have handled it. 

We also simulated a few engine failures after take off and I was able to handle them without any stress...even when the simulation came late on the crosswind leg and I wasn't expecting it.  The instructor was impressed that I didn't get confused by difference as engine failure can happen at any time.

With such positive feedback today, I feel like I'm really on track to going solo in the next couple of hours.  Hard to believe I've done 8.8 hours of flying already! 

One other thing...I found this quote today and I thought it was awesome:  Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings.  ~C.D. Jackson

Monday, August 30, 2010

Exam News and Crosswind Circuits

I finally found out the results from my Aircraft Tech exam this morning.  Happily, I passed.  And I even did better than "just pass", I had a good margin between me and being a failure. 

The uncertainty surrounding the results is one of those things that reminds me I don't know everything and this whole learning to fly thing is actually a challenge.  I don't know everything...far from it.  My excellent memory is used up with all sorts of information not related to flying - my husband and children's birthdays, the recipe for a delicious lamb soup, and my mother's phone number...all very important, but totally unrelated.  Time to start those neurons firing again and making room for more, flying related, memories!

Speaking of flying.  I went for a very short lesson yesterday.  Just 0.4 hours (24 minutes).  We stopped because of the unpredictable gusty crosswind.  I did the first circuit all myself, but let's just say my execution of the crosswind technique the instructor was walking me through left a bit to be desired...or so I thought!  On the next circuit, I got everything all set up and let the instructor demonstrate a crosswind landing that was similar to the one I just did.  We did a full stop and decided to give it a rest as, truth be told, it was out of my league at this point in time (I believed the instructor when he told me he really had to work at the landing).

I may or may not get airborne today.  The plane and instructor are off on a cross country lesson.  They left a bit later than planned and the sky is much greyer than it was when they took off.  Sometimes the only thing to do with flying is wait and see.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Week of Illness and Impatience 23/8-27/8

So I really must have over-extended myself on Saturday and then on Sunday I just went about my normal life without a thought to taking it easy or recovering.  Come Monday, I started to pay the price.  Whatever illness I thought I was over left me vulnerable and I caught something new and nastier.  I don't think I've ever had such blocked sinuses before - it hurt to touch my forehead on Wednesday! 

So between being sick myself, and taking care of a baby who is also not feeling flash, I didn't get out of the house much or do much.  This left me with a lot of time to think.  To think about my exam and become impatient about finding out my results so I can move on.  Yes, mostly I am anxious to move on from Aircraft Technical Knowledge for the time being (pass or fail). 

If I've passed, I won't have to give it much more thought.  I mean, I will have to go over the missed questions with our B Cat sometime before I'm granted my PPL but that's a long way away.  If I've failed (shock, horror, gasp!) I'm still going to move on from the subject for now and focus on the Radio Operator exam next; I will have to bite the bullet and revisit Aircraft Tech later on when I've gotten over my humiliation.

The testing agency tells you it will take them 7 days to mark your exam.  I'm not sure why this is as it's simply 20 multiple choice questions.  It's been 6 days since the exam and I was hoping the results would have been posted now.  They're not.  Another weekend of impatient waiting, I guess...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Exam 2 & Lesson 09

On Saturday, I sat my Aircraft Technical Knowledge exam and had a flying lesson.  A bit crazy looking back on it as I was absolutely exhausted afterwards.

The exam was difficult.  I won't lie, the internal workings of in line and radial piston engines don't hold much interest for me so studying was probably  a bit sparse considering my learning curve.  I will just wait and see the results when they're posted next week and be happy with a passing mark.

After the exam, despite feeling a bit brain dead, I went up for a lesson in the circuit.  The lesson was Engine Failure After Take Off - you know what to do if for some reason the engine cuts out when you're a mere few hundred feet off the ground.  So, how do you practice that?  Well, you begin your circuit with a nice take off and at some point on the climb out the instructor pulls back the throttle, now you have to recover and get the plane flying toward a suitable landing site without power.  Right.  The first time we did it, I was a bit blonde and recovered by putting the throttle back in (right answer when doing a go around which feels similar in that you have no power on but you want to fly again, but wrong answer if there is no power available like on an EFATO).  It took me a couple tries with the instructor feeding me my "lines" to get it right and not reach for the power.  Next lesson we are going to have to do a few more of these and then add in the bit about glide approach to landing...

Good news is, my landing set up is getting a lot better and I was actually lining up the runway well despite a cross-wind.  The cross-wind was making getting the plane onto the ground a lot different and I'm sure I'll appreciate learning the cross-wind technique once we get to it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pilot Gear Makeovers - Headset Bling!

Well, I don't think I'll have to worry about anyone mistakenly walking off with my headset any more.  I had a plan to give my headset a girly makeover and I think I've succeeded.  I picked out some red and white stick on rhinestones and decided on a pattern - checker board...  I feel that checker board is in keeping with aviation (there are lots of planes painted in this pattern) and it ties into my favourite type of music, ska!

It was hard to decide just how to photograph the makeover as I wasn't feeling model-ready (no, that cute girl in the banner up top isn't me).  My 10 month old baby had a go and looked really cute but you couldn't see the pattern on the outside of the ear cups...
So I tried again, this time with a doorknob as my model to get a side-on shot of the red & white checkers. 

Okay, I'm no photographer, but I hope you get the idea!  Maybe my next goal after learning to fly should be learning to properly drive a camera :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lesson 8 - Progressing in the Circuit

Yet another lesson in the circuit.  Circuits will be a common theme on this blog for a while so I hope I don't bore you too much.

After last lesson's heady pace, I talked to the instructor I was flying with today and let him know I'd like to do full stops between the first few circuits.  Doing a full stop means that you land the plane fully and have a bit of time on the ground to regroup and discuss the set up and landing before going again.  I'm glad I spoke up today because the breaks in between helped me to relax somewhat over the full on touch and goes that I did last time.

Going well:  take off, climb to 200' and lowering flaps, turn onto crosswind leg at 500', radio call on downwind leg, downwind checks, initial set up.

Needs work:  judging when to turn base, lining up the runway, maintaining 65 knots, flaring, and touching down softly.

You may remember that I was having trouble with taxiing...  Having driven a car for so many years, the nerves associated with taxiing an aircraft took me by surprise but now I realise is that it's so different from driving a car that I shouldn't compare the two.  Anyway, taxiing is becoming more and more controlled; I have adjusted my sitting position so I can adequately control the rudder and brakes and be comfortable.  I think within the next few lessons it will start to become second nature. 

On a different note, I bought some red and white rhinestones to bling my headset!  Exciting :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Theory Studies - Aircraft Tech

So I'm locked in, committed, to taking the Aircraft Technical Knowledge PPL exam on Saturday 21 Aug.

How did that happen?  I opened the book and started reading about different types of piston engines, closed the book, and said I didn't think I'd be ready for that one any time soon. 

When the time came to submit the applications for the exam, I told my husband to put me down for aircraft tech, with the assurance from him that he'd help me study.  This assurance seemed perfect - my husband is a bit of a gear head and also doing his PPL exams; I assumed we'd be studying together for the same exam (I found out later that he has signed up to do Meteorology).

So with a tiny ember of glowing hope, I've devised a study strategy.  It goes like this:  skim the information in the chapter, answer the comprehensive list of questions at the end of each chapter from memory or by re-reading, get quizzed on the study questions, sit the two practice exams included in the book, sit the actual exam in 6 days time.  Hopefully, my husband's not too busy with work and his own studies to help me a bit and hopefully I can motivate myself to find the time to study instead of working on the website, facebooking, tweeting, etc.

Wish me luck...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lesson 7 - Stuck into Circuits

So today was my first lesson doing nothing but circuits.

"What is a circuit?" you non-aviation types may be asking yourselves...well, it's basically a big roundabout.  It's the pattern you keep to when you're doing take-offs and landings so that people can predict where you're going to be and what height you'll be flying at based on your radio calls so you don't bump into each other.

Today was better than yesterday in some ways, much the same in others.  I was doing better with my "downwind" checks and set up, but still tending to come in high on "final".  I was still tense about it all, maybe more so than yesterday because I didn't get the release of laughing at myself for being a knob/noob.  It is somewhat hard to judge your own progress and I was flying with a different instructor today so there wasn't any feedback on progress from him, unfortunately.

My lesson lasted 0.8 hours or 48 minutes.  It seems at once to be a very short and long period of time.  I'm not sure I've been quite as challenged and exhausted by 48 minutes of non-physical activity in years.  It's the good kind of challenge and exhaustion - the kind that makes you feel like your brain is working, even if for only 48 minutes a day!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lesson 6 - Revision, Circuits, and Really Bad Taxiing

There are days when you just have to laugh at yourself.  Today was one of those days.

Perhaps it's the edges of this cold hanging on or the 2 week gap since my last flight, but I was having an "off" flying day.  Feeling a bit fuzzy around the edges and not altogether awesome.  That said, I did do a spectacularly perfect level medium turn...

Circuits are the bane of most student pilot's existence for some time and I can see why.  You're doing the same loop over and over and over again.  Doug, my instructor, said circuits made him lose the will to live (figuratively, obviously). I am not at this point yet - circuits still seem reasonable and I was happy with my progress in the circuit today...

The bane of my existence is taxiing.  And the highlight (or lowlight, depending on how you look at things) of today's lesson  was a taxiing incident.  An incident that was not dramatic or scary, but just embarrassing.  Today I taxied off the side of the runway into the soft, wet grass.  I had to shut down the plane, at approximately the midpoint of the runway, and get out and push it back onto the seal.  Not only did I push, Doug pushed, and two of the engineers from a nearby hangar came out to help us too...I wasn't so stuck that I needed all of us, but I guess it's good to know the help is there if I ever am.  

As we got back into the plane and started everything back up as quickly as possible so as to remove ourselves from smack-dab in the middle of the runway, Doug and I were laughing.  There wasn't really anything else to do - no one was hurt, the plane wasn't broken, and there were no impending landings.  I suppressed a giggle as I made my radio call and proceeded to taxi in a perfectly straight line down to the turning bay...

So today I made a mistake.  I took responsibility for it and tried to learn from it.  And I laughed...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pilot Gear Makeovers

Yesterday I was feeling ultimately sorry for myself.  I had good reason to; blocked sinuses, massive headache, chesty cough, and aching muscles.  I could have cared less what the flying was like yesterday.

Today I feel a lot better but still haven't gotten over the blocked sinuses and sore back.  So, although it's the first good flying day since I started this blog, I'm on the couch...

On the couch plotting makeovers for my headset and pilot log book.  I'm a bit of a crafty person so I feel it only fitting that I embellish my pilot gear in some way.  I'm thinking a fabric slip cover for my log book (I've seen some cute prints online) and rhinestones all over my headset.

Here before photos of my headset and log book from the websites that sell them (unfortunate photos really, both items are actually more attractive in person although still not my style).
Stay tuned for the "AFTER" photos!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My First Five Lessons

This blog is meant to be journal of my efforts towards getting my Private Pilot's License.  I've already got 5 lessons under my belt; since I'm not flying today, I thought I'd reminisce about those...

My first flying lesson was on 29 June and I flew for 0.8 hours.  No, my recall is not that awesome - every flight must be logged in a CAA approved Pilot's Logbook.  This lesson is meant to be your first taste of what happens when you step on the rudder or move the control yoke and it leads directly to the second lesson about the secondary effects of the controls. 

My first two official lessons (and for that matter, my third and forth as well) were somewhat a review of things Simon had shown me on our flights here and there.  I whizzed through them as well as "straight and level" (lesson 3) and "medium turns" (lesson 4).  I mastered the basics of controlling an airplane to an acceptable level in flight. 

On my third lesson, I did my first successful take off.  I'm a bit less confident in the planes when they're on the ground (I find taxiing very difficult) so it felt great to be able to get it up myself.

The fifth lesson was "basic stalling" and something that I had heard of, but never done.  It was a bumpy day in the air as well.  Thankfully, I took it in stride and lived up to the challenge of something new on a day that wasn't pristine.  I also almost did the whole landing myself...the instructor helped me with the flare but said I was very good on everything else (lining up, controlling the airspeed, and bringing her down nice and evenly).

My next lesson is "revision" and beginning "circuits".  The revision of all my skills up to now will help me to bring them all together and fly the standard circuit at the airfield so I can practice my take-offs and landings. 

4 hours down, 46 to go...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What does an aspiring pilot do on rainy days?

This past week has been a bit lacking in the good flying weather department.  I've ended up with two lessons cancelled.  Pity, I am keen to get into flying the circuit and *hopefully* surprising everyone (including myself) by going solo in a relatively low number of hours.

As an aspiring pilot, I should be spending these bleak days immersing myself in the theoretical side of flying.  I do have another exam coming up in 17 days and my Aircraft Technical Knowledge manual sits beckoning...  I've never been much of a studier - I prefer to procrastinate although my procrastination these days isn't quite as unproductive as it used to be. 

I've been busy working on a new flying school website for our business and brainstorming/running numbers with my husband.  Working on this stuff, although not directly study related, has been expanding my knowledge of the aviation industry and challenging me to think more about airplanes than your average female. 

So, there you have it...  When it rains, I stay inside reading books, working at the computer, and thrashing out ideas with my husband.  Sounds a lot like what I used to do on nice days before I started flying...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Inaugural Blog Post

For most women, flying a spoonful of rice cereal into their baby's mouth is the closest they will ever get to piloting a plane.  Well, I guess I'm not most women.

I married into a family of pilots.  My husband's eldest brother holds a Commercial Pilot's License (CPL) and a helicopter license, his middle brother is a Licensed Aircraft Mechanical Engineer and holds a Private Pilot's License (PPL), and his dad is an ex-PPL who now holds a Microlight License with an "ATO" status instructor rating.  My husband also holds a Microlight License with an instructor rating and he's a current PPL student.

At some early point in our relationship, I went flying with my husband and thought it didn't seem that difficult.  Perhaps it was then that I made up my mind about someday holding my own pilot's license despite knowing that none of the other women in the family had one.  Now a couple of years on from that first flight, I'm finally motivated towards getting my PPL. 

I intend for this blog to be a loose representation of my journey from normal mum to Angelina Jolie status (she's a PPL if you didn't know).  I hope you'll read along and comment...encouragement, criticism, links to your own woman in aviation blogs or websites; it's all welcome here!

PS - If you really want it, that choice airplane spoon and matching runway bib with LED landing lights is available here.