My second day flying

After getting past the strange feeling of flying alone, I figured my next milestone is to do a cross-country. I had asked my instructor a couple of weeks ago where he sends his students for their solo cross-country. He said he sends them to Modesto (KMOD) and Columbia (KO22). So that is where I went today. Considering it was a 100 degrees today, it felt nice to get some altitude. Nothing complex about today’s flight. A simple stop and go in KMOD and a full stop and taxi back in KO22 then home. Plenty of surface heating to contend with on flare.

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Soloing for the second time

Sunday July 3, 2011 was what I considered the second time I soloed. Of course I had flown solo 12 years ago. This past Sunday was the first time after my BFR. When my instructor signed me off, I wondered if he would symbolically have me fly the plane around the pattern a few times. No, there was nothing more than a handshake. I don’t want to sound disappointed. For me personally, flying by myself was a big deal.

So what did I do for my first flight? I went about 20 miles southeast of the airport, practiced some navigation and turns and then returned for three landings.

Just a quick confidence boost to re-affirm I am Pilot in command.

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I’m current

This evening I flew with my instructor and at the end of the flight, he signed off my BFR. I am now VFR daytime current. I’ll tackle night flight when we aren’t so close to the longest day of the year.

Tonight’s flight was a trip from KPVF to KSAC to KSMF (Sacramento International, Class C) and landing back at KPVF.  I thought the leg to KSAC would be easy since I have been there before. I looked and looked for the airport and thought I was on track. Then my instructor asked me to ask for vectors to the airport. It turned out it was out my right window. I won’t even explain that one. It offered a lot of teachable moments. I was not using the GPS, in part because while I had used it the past, it’s a weird VFR only GPS. I read the manul a couple nights ago. I just figured, I should be able to find the airport with the VOR instruments I had and old fashioned VFR flying.  I’m going to work on finding airports for a bit. Yes, I would have found it just fine, eventually. This was just bone headed. Two miles before asking for vectors, I could have sworn I was scanning where I should have been looking but wasn’t close enough to ID it.

The rest of the flight was fine. I still need to fine tune my process (thought and physical processes). More practice. It will just be a little cheaper without hauling around the intstructor.

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You’re close

“You’re close”. Those were the words my instructor said to me when I asked (for budgeting reasons) where I was in the process of getting signed off. I’ll get back to that in a bit. Let me recap the last couple of days.

I flew last night and I flew tonight.  Last nights flight was … how should I say … a challenge I overcame. The past two days were hot (100 degrees or more). The purpose of last nights flight was to demonstrate I could navigate, manage multiple radio frequency changes, deal with tower controlled airports, and manage flying within Class C airspace.  A week ago I knew that we would be doing a round robin of at least four airports and I had an idea of what those may be. However, I did not know the number of airports or the order in which to fly them until the day before.

Here’s the route:
PVF – Placerville
MHR – Mather
L36 – Rio Linda
LHM – Lincoln
AUN – Auburn
PVF – Placerville

The route is roughly an hour maybe a little more. I ended up putting 1.7 hours on the airplane. The landings were stop and go, or taxi backs.

It was a lot of work. More details another day. No normal flight would involve the amount of airports in the short span of time and distance. It was good to challenge myself and while I forgot some things and made some mistakes, the instructor gave me a good debrief. It was after this flight that I asked where I was in the training process. I mentioned to my instructor that I heard it may be between 10 and 15 hours to get current again. His response: “Oh it won’t be that long”. I didn’t know if he was saying it would be as much as 15 hours or could he possibly mean it wouldn’t be as many as 10 hours. After calculating that with the round robin flight I was at 6.5 hours I concluded that I would probably be at the 10 hour point. I was a little surprised that I was that close.

Highlights from the 6/21 flight:

  • The flight went better than expected.
  • Lesson learned, establish flight following early and tell them it will be a round robin and name the airports. It made the trip less stressful
  • My 12 year old son came along for the flight – and enjoyed it
  •  On the last landing at PVF, I had just started braking when a buck ran across the runway about 40 feet in front of me. I was slow enough that it wasn’t a factor. I had been cautioned about deer on the runway at PVF. The funny thing is, AWOS doesn’t mention the hazard yet the AWOS at AUN mentions deer on and around the runway.

Tonight’s’ flight (6/22)

We did about a half hour of work under the foggles. We did a few unusual attitude recovery’s. As well as I can quote on the ground the order in which you recover, I got the sequence wrong in the air. Thank you engineers for the forgiving Cessna 172. After taking off the foggles, the instructor asked me where I was. I got the general idea. I did not use the GPS. I wanted to know I good do things the old fashion way. In fact the VFR GPS in the airplane was inop two weeks ago. Once I established where I was, the instructor told me to land at Cameron Park (O61). I found it, landed, taxied back and returned to PVF. I forgot to get AWOS for PVF, my instructor simulated an engine failure at the left crosswind leg for 23 (or right base for 05). I didn’t lose altitude fast enough so we did a missed approach. Next time do some S turns and or forward slips.

At the end of this lesson my instruction had positive comments for me. Maybe I’ll get more detailed about the flight later. The bottom line: the instructor said next time we’ll do a trip to Sacramento Executive (SAC) and Sacramento International (SMF) and back to PVF and I’ll be done. I’ll be done with my BFR???!!!  That’s the plan. I’ll write about my post BFR thoughts and plans later. My BFR flight log has been updated to reflect these past two flights.

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Stayed close to home base tonight

Eleven takeoffs and landings. The first time around was a little rough. Tonight was the first time we had a crosswind to deal with. Not much wind but enough to feel it and need to manage it. The second trip around, my instructor did the whole loop. That helped. I observed the sight picture, rpm, airspeed, etc more and then mimic’d the pattern the next few times. There were a few times when the instructor pulled the power after take off and abeam the numbers. We did a no flap landing. I had some nice landings. The worst were when something was thrown in that was out of the norm. That tells me I still need to work on adjusting my plans and patterns when something is different than textbook situations. I made successful landings even with a change to the norm.


* Remember the normal flow of events. Study the adjustments to be made given a change to the norm (airspeed indicator out, flaps inop, engine out)

* On final, extend the center line to my position and stay on top of it even it it seems I’m a bit to the right. I tend to land left of the center line.

* Once on final, establish the airspeed (65 kts) and then adjust power to manage the altitude.

Next flight

The plan is to go to two or three other airports. I’ll get the airports a day or two before the lesson to plan the route. Need a good method to write out my flight plan (not the one I would file for a long cross country) and get used to where information is located on my paper. Also, I should have a good system in place in case the instructor throws in a change in plans. Something like enroute to airport C, the airport closed due to a problem with another plane or weather.

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My first passenger and a change in plans

The original intent was to fly to the nearest Class D airport, maybe do a few landings, return to our home field and on the way practice a few other maneuvers completing with a few rounds in the pattern.  Another instructor needed a ride to Sac Executive to pick up a plane. My instructor asked me a couple of times if  I was alright with the change in plans. I’m not sure if he wanted to make sure if I was comfortable with the extra distance, the fact that we weren’t flying the original plan or the fact that on my dime I was serving as a free air taxi. I was fine with all of the reasons and actually looked forward to landing at Sac Exec (KSAC). It has three runways which leads to many taxiways and the possibility of a complex taxi assignment. I knew before my instructor of the possibility of flying to KSAC . Prior to my instructor showing up I pulled out the sectional and examined the many possibilities of getting there from KPVF. There was the Mather Class D airspace right next to the KSAC Class D which was south of the Sacramento International (KSMF) Class C. Once it was agreed we would make the trip to KSAC, my instructor and I reviewed the various options of going as direct as possible and talking to many people or to go the long way around Mather to the south and just talk to KSAC tower. The final plan was to go direct, obtain KSAC ATIS after taking off from KPVF and then calling Norcal approach for flight following to KSAC. Things went as good as could be planned. My instructor thought KSAC would land us on runway 20 (the preferred runway when winds are calm which they were trneding that way) but during our briefing I mentioned that due to the winds, we may get rwy 30. We planned for both and in the end, the winds did not calm so we ended up with plan B being given a right base to rwy 30. That required us to taxi off 30 , then cross 20 and then direct to transient parking.  Prior to landing, ATIS was updated to Romeo. So a good bit of radio work with multiple frequencies.

The flight back was a good learning experience. I forgot to request flight following on the ground. No problem. It provided me the opportunity to request a frequency change from KSAC to Mather tower (I forge the code) to request clearance to transition through Mathers Class D. Mather tower released me and mentioned Norcal departure. I didn’t have to call Norcal, Mather tower just gave me the frequency and I assumed I had to call them. I was fine to continue squawking VFR all the way to KPVF. More practice and a mistake to learn from. We just did a single landing at KPVF.

I forgot to mention that the Directional Gyro was out.  We knew that before we started the plane.  I worked off the compass for much of the flight. The instructor also had the GPS fired up. The GPS in this airplane is essentially the same as what I used before. For a short trip it was more information than I needed but I picked up some nuggets of knowledge.

Takeaways from this lesson

 • I’m still developing my sense of flow to keep flying the aircraft while doing other tasks
• While my instructor said I did well on the radio, I still feel a sense of rushing. Not quite calm on the radio yet.
• I want to transcribe what I can remember of the various transmissions to study later
• The first landing was good. I had the other pilot in the aircraft behind me returning to KPVF. I think I let that get to me a bit because I was a little squirrely.
• Both landings had me a little high on final. I’ll take that over lower than desired.
• I feel I’m lucky the winds have generally been calm during my lessons. I don’t feel I’m managing final very well.  I can get stabilized but don’t keep it there.

The instructor said. Tomorrow we’ll focus on landings.  Preparing for tomorrow I’ll:

 • Mentally walk through the pattern process, power settings, airspeeds
• The DG may still be broken, what will the compass readings be for the different legs and how will the banking and descending affect the compass
• What do I remember of the sight picture for the different legs?
• What is the sight picture for short final?

portion of sectional for Sacramento

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Twelve years to the day

My log book shows my last fight before my big break was June 7, 1999. The entry after that is June 7, 2011. I started flying again twelve years to the day after my last flight. Is that significant? In the grand scheme, no. Personally, maybe it’s fate telling me to carry on where I left off. Well, enough analyzing. My objective is to document the path I take to getting current.

I have flown twice now (yesterday evening and this evening)

June 7, 2011


I had about an hour of ground instruction. The aircraft was a 1976 Cessna 172M. I had 1 hour of flight time and three landings.

The instructor did the walk around with me and we talked about each component in the cockpit. Most everything was familiar. The biggest difference was this model does not have flap detents. You move the flap handle down for about 3 seconds for 10 degrees of flaps then release the handle.
My taxiing was fine. A little zig zaggy but not too bad. I was still trying to steer with the yoke. I claimed I was correcting for the wind but the instructor caught me and said there was no wind, I was turning the yoke the wrong way and I always turned the yoke tin the direction I wanted to turn the airplane.

The takeoff wasn’t to bad. A little rushed as I aligned with the centerline before giving full power. Just after takeoff I did have thoughts that this would require more than I’m ready to commit myself too. I guess the good thing is, I became too busy for that thought impact me. Overall, the flight was not overwhelming but I was busy. I didn’t reach a comfort level enough to just trim the plane take my hand off. My turns were pretty good. We didn’t do anymore than about 30 degrees of bank. We did a few stalls. Power on stalls were pretty hard and I only got a bit of stall. My coordinated turn ball was all over the place and a wagged the tail the whole flight. One know for one of my landings, the instructor said it was all me. I belive that was true for all three landings.

In the end, it was a positive experience. I did feel like it was a lot of work but was pleased with myself. I told a few people about my flight the next day and was glad to talk about it.

June 8, 2011


Did steep bank turns, slow flight, a few stalls (power on and off), flew to an airport about 20 miles away (uncontrolled), and I navigated back to the home airport. This is my first time flying in this area. The only time I have seen this area from the air is in an airliner and it is much higher at that point. The aircraft I’m flying has a VOR but no DME and the GPS is out. Three landings (full stop and touch) and go at Rancho Murieta and one full stop at Placerville.

Today was exponentially better. I concluded between flights that I get the mechanics of what I need to do. I just need to get my sense of timing sequencing of events down. I easily flew hands off today. Well, much better than last night. I didn’t feel as rushed or stated better, I was ahead of the airplane better. Not where I should be but better. I’m taking a more aggressive approach to doing everything myself (not having the instructor make as many radio calls). The point is need to show I’m looking for a crutch. My landings are mostly me I think there was a slight bit of input but not much. Landings still need a lot of work. Frankly, that has always been the case for me. For a second flight, I am doing more than a new student would be doing. I had a feeling that I am committed to seeing this goal through.

I booked a plane for two times next week. I have to work on memorizing my procedures between now and then. After that it’s just practice to maintain better control of the airplane. I’ve always found flight instruction challenging. I have this guy chattering next to me about stuff I really need to pay attention to while I’m flying. Compared with just taking a trip, instruction is stressful. That has nothing to do with my instructor (every instructor I’ve had stressed me out a bit). It’s just part of the instruction process.

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