Mains First

I am now a solid 4 weeks into my training and things are finally starting to come together. I’ve averaged 2 flights per week, with some being early mornings and some being evenings.  And with the days getting longer and warmer, I should have no problem staying consistent.

I’m currently sitting just north of 11 hours in the logbook, but I feel like I’ve spent 100s of hours getting those 11 hours. Something I have discovered is that I really have respect for those pilots out there, especially in general aviation, who have 1000s of flight hours. For an hour of flight, there is quite a lot of time and effort in the background before you can start your engine and start logging flight time. And just because you’ve landed safely doesn’t mean you’re done. Taking your time and making sure the plane is stored properly and ready for the next outing also takes time.

At this point in the training, I’m still as fresh as a fish filet at McDonald’s. I’ve gotten to the point where I can takeoff and land without assistance (in most cases), radio calls are fairly natural (still haven’t hit controlled airspace yet), and general control of the airplane is getting better. We’ve done slow flight, emergency procedures, power-on and power-off stalls, ground reference maneuvers, night flying, and lot and lots of landings. And I still need so many more landings.

One of the many unique aspects about our airport (which also will get its’ own post) is the runway. Our 33′, <3,000′ runway is about as small as they come, especially in the paved category. Our wing span is exactly the width of the runway. Where at other airports, the painted center-line may actually be closer to the width of our entire runway. What does this mean for us? Well, learning here will keep our landings sharp and prepare us for any runways we might face in the future. Having recently landed at an airport more than double the width of ours, I can say that I felt very relaxed with all the “extra” space I had to work with.

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Just this past Sunday was one our best days yet. With weather in the upper 60s, winds calm, and the skies clear for the entire day, we wasted no time in making a day of it. My primary instructor, Stanley, was out of town. However, our friend / CFI, Curt, was happy to help out. I asked Curt if we could do over an hour of nothing but landings, with a takeoff sprinkled in here and there. With just a small amount of crosswind, this ended up being great practice. After managing 8 landings and only needing to change my pants once, I gained a lot of confidence hitting the center-line. My biggest issue to overcome, and something that Stan has been hammering me on, is not landing on the nose-gear. Always making sure the back mains land first and holding up the nose is key to not only a smooth landing, but a functioning front tire for the next takeoff. Still some work left to go, but progress is being made! Check out the video at the end of this post.

After my flight, David got in some valuable flight time with Curt as well. We then took advantage of the beautiful Spring Winter day. This was the first day we had gotten to do some work around the plane. We may even have a new tie-down spot in prime location near a power outlet! More on that later. After David left, Curt offered to take me and my friend, Annie, up for a sunset cruise. Annie go to ride left-stick for the first time, and wow what a view. Check out some of these sunsets from Curt’s beautiful Cherokee 180. On a side note, many of the images used in this post are from Annie, so thank you for your photography expertise!

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One notable event was passing the FAA written examination. I knocked that out early February and somehow managed a score of 95%. There will be a whole post dedicated to that process and what tools I used. As much as I am glad that I knocked it out early, I also must stay diligent for the rest of the training process with the book material. Come check ride, much of the material on the written test will be discussed in an oral exam, where I have to be able to recite a lot of information that I do not necessarily use on a daily basis in flight training.

The next few days are looking good and I’ll be getting at least 2 days of flying in the next 3 days. With my current progress in the pattern and a lot of solid landings under my belt, I may soon be looking to fly the pattern solo, one of the biggest steps in getting a license!

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