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.