Archive for August, 2008

AIF, 42.8 hours (1.1 hours last flight)

Last Friday was a big day for us. It was the first time I took up the family in the Cessna 172! I had James sit right seat so that Mama & Garrett could enjoy the back together. Garrett LOVED it. We were worried he would scream at the plane, but after being a little tentative, he walked right up to the plane and hopped into the backseat.

We just stayed local as we didn’t have a ton of time. We flew out to Lake Bridgeport and then came on back. James wanted to do a landing on the big runway at Alliance, but there was too much traffic, so we just did a touch & go on 16R.

Then we got our turn out over Texas Motor Speedway and headed back to the field. The only bummer thing is that the audio in the back seat was not working properly, and they could not hear us. We could hear them though. Mama got bored I think and Garrett almost fell asleep.

I’m going to be checking with my instructor sometime in the next couple of weeks so I can get some time to have him demonstrate spins in the 172, and then do a couple of actual soft field landing/takeoffs. 52F has grass, so hopefully I can do it there.

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AIF, 41.7 hours (0.6 today)

Well, did a quick little flight in the Sport Star this AM with Dad. I wanted Chris to be the first one I took up, but our schedules did not work with me leaving for Australia today. So Dad & I went for a spin.

We had some low level clouds around the airport when we arrived, so I just did the normal preflight in anticipation of waiting around a bit. Turns out, the weather cleared for a bit, so we got gas and went! Course, we got off the runway and quickly noticed another low level bank about 20 miles to the north west that was moving our direction. We flew over to Denton, but by the time we got there (3-4 minutes) we noticed that bank getting closer.

I didn’t want to get stuck today.

So I turned around and called Flight Watch and asked for a weather update. That layer of clouds was coming our way! So I decided to run back south and this would just be a very quick (but safe flight). So we flew over Alliance so Dad could get a picture, and then entered the pattern to land. On final, I noticed that cloud bank had stalled a bit, so I decided to do a touch & go.

On our way back around, the clouds that were to the south were coming back up to the north, so I decided to make this our last one. We landed and taxied back.

Now I’m preparing for Australia!

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The QPT Wrap, Lesson's Learned & Recap

Greetings everyone. From now on, you will see my flight adventures still categorized as Flight, but will be called AIF (Adventures in Flight) with the number of hours. I’ll likely continue my training into new areas (such as instrument training), so I will label those appropriately.

I’ve had some people ask me about costs. I wanted to outline some of the costs you can expect if you are considering a private pilot license. Incidentally, there is a recreational pilot license that was set up a few years ago, and that is cheaper to get. Based on FAR 61.99, you can do it with less than half of the minimum flight time. There are limitations though. For example, it is daytime VFR only, limits to the number of passengers, types of planes, domestic only flights, etc. It’s a good place to start if you want to get up in the air on a budget, but just remember that you are limited.

If you decide to go the private pilot route, you will have much more flexibility and it does not cost too much more. Here are some of the minimum requirements of a private pilot (I’m going to stick with single engine fixed-wing aircraft here) under FAR 61.109 are:

  • 40 hours of total flight time (at least 20 instruction and 10 solo)
  • 3 hours of cross-country flight training (dual)
  • 3 hours of night flight training (dual with 1 cross country and 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop at a towered airport)
  • 3 hours of flight training on maneuvers (dual)
  • 3 hours of practical test flight training
  • 10 hours of solo flight training (at least 5 cross country)
  • 1 solo cross country flight with three stops
  • 3 take offs and landings to a full stop at a towered airport
  • Ground instruction

So here’s how you should figure out cost. The numbers I am using here are valid for an average Cessna 172 at a flight school. They are pretty close to what I paid at my flight school. One thing to note is whether your rates are wet or dry. Wet rates mean fuel is included. The last time I filled up at 52F, AVGas (100LL) is running $4.76/gal, and the 172’s burn about 10 gallons/hour.

  • 45 hours of flight time, this rate is a wet rate so fuel is included (45 hours @ $106/hr = $4,770)
  • ROUGHLY 45 hours of instruction time, though this really seems to vary (45 hours @ $35/hr = $1,575)
  • Charts, you need a current sectional from where you fly (they expire every six months and cost $10), and an optional Terminal Area Chart if you are flying in a highly congested area ($5)
  • An Airport/Facility Directory is something you should have in your bag as well as it contains information about all the airports in the covered area (they expire every 56 days and cost $5)
  • Speaking of bags, you will need a flight bag with the appropriate instructional materials, E6B, plotter, and headset. Most pilot shops have a kit for this, and it will run you about $400 for everything, though you can go higher with an electronic E6B (HIGHLY recommended) and a better headset
  • Red flashlight for night flights ($10 headlamp from Home Depot)

So, if you total all of that up, we’re looking at around $6500-$7000. Fuel makes a big difference here, but it is what it is. I ended up paying less than this because I had some dry rates in the beginning, and I also completed it in much less time.

Some optional equipment to consider…

  • GPS. You cannot use this for your navigation, but it is a really nice backup. Prices vary
  • Kneeboards are excellent for using your VFR flight plans and navigation logs with. They are also very handy in storage of additional things (such as light gun signals), and a nice hard surface for writing down the fast list of instructions that ATC may give you. These range from $20-$50
  • Upgraded flight bag. The one that you get is nice and sturdy, but mine lacked enough pockets and zipped areas to keep things organized. I ended up upgrading to a bag that has the flexibility to store my headset. Range from $70 to $150 and up on the high end

So how about some lessons learned?

  • Do your medical early. It’s not convenient, but really easy to get done.
  • Memorize the written test and take it early. It’s not too hard, but the question bank is pretty large. Read the book, go through the lessons, and do the questions. Memorize if you do not understand, and you will understand later on, I promise.
  • Shop flight schools. Make sure you get a seasoned instructor or at least one you are comfortable with.
  • DO NOT just pull handles in an aircraft. Make sure that if you are trying to pull carb heat out for landing that you don’t accidentally lean the mixture all the way. If you do, don’t panic, just put it back in quickly.
  • When I fly, I usually fly the GPS path I entered from my sectional, and validate it is correct by checking visual references and using instruments such as a VOR or ADF. Never trust any one instrument or method, always double or triple check your position.
  • Better yet, USE ATC! They have one of those thankless jobs, but they are there to help you. Flight following, Flight Watch, Flight Services, and other resources are there to help you.
  • Make sure you have all the correct endorsements you need in your log book before taking your FAA Written, Solo, Cross Country, Class B operations, Night operations, or landing at another airport within 50nm of your home airport.
  • File and activate a flight plan! That way if you get lost, someone will come looking for you.
  • CLOSE your flight plan when you have the airport in sight (or after landing) so you don’t have the search and rescue squad sent when you are safe.
  • Get renter’s insurance, and get enough coverage. AOPA has good deals.
  • Over plan your cross-country trips. And be sure to get weather briefings! It will go a long way to building the habit and being a safe pilot.
  • Over prepare for your written and your final check ride. It will make it seem much easier when you do it.
  • You will blow some landings. At the worst times (like when an FAA examiner is sitting in the right seat). Just don’t quit the day until you get a nice one.
  • If you get airsick, Bonine is your friend. Even if you normally don’t (I normally don’t), hot summers or the Unusual Attitudes (google this. Essentially it’s where you can’t see out the window and the examiner pulls and pushes all kinds of levers, and then makes you recover using only instruments) can make you airsick.
  • And finally, FLY EVERY DAY YOU CAN. I can’t stress this enough. If you want to do it in 40 hours, you should fly as often as you can. I started on July 7, and did my checkride on August 10. That’s 33 days. In that date range, I did not fly on 7 days due to travel and family commitments. It’s imperative that you keep your skills up (long term as well, but very important in the beginning).

Thanks to all of you guys (and gals) who kept me encouraged during this quest! Your encouragement as well as a blog to keep me honest made this a very rewarding experience! Time to go flying for real now!

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QPT, COMPLETE (41.1 hours)

The quest has officially come to an end! I’m a private pilot!

I did my check ride this afternoon, and it was pretty good all around! The oral exam was about 1.5-2 hours (I lost track of time), and I logged 1.1 hours of flight time. I have my temporary license and am ready to go!

Now I am going to take a break from all things aviation and grab a beer.


QPT, 40 hours (15 solo)

Made it to 40! Showed up early today for my checkride and had to get .7 more hours. Went up in 5915A and got my .7 hours. Was unsure if it was going to start this AM, battery seemed a little sluggish. This was confirmed when I tried to start it after fueling it. NOPE.

No worries.

But then I had to go run back to the house to get some paperwork and hit an ATM because we could not submit the FAA stuff online.

Next is the checkride!

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QPT, 39.3 hours (14.3 solo)

ALMOST THERE! So much so that I’m scheduled to do my checkride TOMORROW! WOH!

So I did my oral prep, and now have my study materials to do this thing tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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QPT, 38.2 hours (13.2 solo)

Checked out on the Sport Star! Now all I need is to do the checkride.

Today was pretty light, just flew up to Denton and hung around that airport for a while. I also finished my instrument requirements, so that is now out of the way. We did a little porpoise like maneuver that put us weightless for a few seconds. Fun, but a mess for the gear in the back.

I’m traveling today, but will be back in the left seat on Saturday for my check ride prep!

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QPT, 36.8 hours (12.9 solo)

Just got back at my desk from a quick trip out to San Francisco and I realized, I FORGOT to tell you about my flight yesterday AM! I took out the same plane I did my night flight in (N80508) and went over to Alliance to do more touch & gos. Why do we continue to practice this? Well, take off and landing are the most dangerous parts of flight. It’s important to keep up the practice with this critical maneuver.

So I threw down just short of a dozen, then headed back to 52F. One thing I did get to see was several helicopters taking off from Alliance. The tower has them hover taxi over to the main taxi way (Alpha) and then clears them for takeoff. Kinda weird to watch while you are in the pattern and using the main runway.

Tomorrow morning I fly the Sport Star again so I can get my five hours of dual instruction. Then I can take it when I want (after I finish).

Just 3.2 hours to go!

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QPT, 35.4 hours (11.5 solo)

Getting close now! I just finished my night cross country! It was AWESOME! I think navigating at night is actually easier if you are familiar with landmarks or study the map. I did have the GPS backing me up (I would not have done it solo if I didn’t), but I saw the destination airport easily when I was about twenty miles out. On the way back, I saw the Texas Motor Speedway before I saw my airport.

I had ATC following me the whole way, and I do want to say that those guys do an incredible job. I could not imagine working in that career especially after doing my flight tonight and listening to the workload they manage. Those guys do not get enough credit, and I thank them for the job they do! It’s so comforting to have a safety net helping you out.

At any rate, I am less than 5 hours from being able to qualify! Provided the weather holds out, I will be doing my check ride on Monday!

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QPT, 33.3 hours (11.5 solo)

More hood work today! Not as exciting as yesterday, but we did fly direct to the Bowie VOR so I could practice flying on a radial and see the gauge flip from TO to FROM over the top. I could also see it from the air (and saw it before my instructor did, but only because I knew exactly what I was looking for, and I cheated by lifting my head up so I could see out the window).

I need .4 more hours of simulated hood time. We’ll do that on my checkride prep which will probably be this Saturday morning. I just filled out my second page in the logbook, so I thought I’d list my stats to date.

  • Total Hours: 33.3
  • Solo (PIC) Hours: 11.5
  • Dual Hours: 21.8
  • Cross Country Hours: 9.4
  • Night Hours: 1.3
  • Hood (Simulated IFR) Hours: 2.6
  • Total Landing/Take Off: 133

Tonight I am doing my night cross country in N80508. If you are in the Dallas area and want to try and follow me, you can start by tuning to 135.15 (Alliance Tower) in your trusty scanner until you hear the instruction to contact departure, and switch to 118.1. They will keep up with me as I do my trip. You will need to listen for my call sign and catch any frequency changes they call out or you will quickly lose me.

Will write some time tomorrow on my experience!

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