Sunday, May 27, 2007

My first flight as a pilot

My schedule has been crazy the last couple of weeks, and it's not going to get much better anytime soon.

I booked Fern for a nice local site seeing flight with my three oldest kids as my first passenegers. We arived at the airport on time and Fern was ready to go (full fuel and oil).... nice! I got my two youngest kids situated in the back with their seatbelts and headsets, then my oldest daughter and I hopped in. A couple of minutes later with some fiddling with the radio we were off.

The winds were basically calm so I choose the nearest runway and we took off into the clear blue sky. We flew to the north shore then switched to 126.7 to touch base with some local traffic, then I swapped back over to Ch'town. We followed the island's north shore west for twenty miles or so then I decided to do a touch and go in Summerside.

The local unicom was deserted but I still broadcasted my intentions and position anyway. My touchdown was fine but the front wheel dampener certainly needs some attention. We took off again and this time followed the south shore back to Ch'town, the kids got a great view of the Confederation Bridge.

I had my oldest daughter Brittaney take the controls for a few seconds, she was not enthustiastic about it, I suspect she was a bit nervous although she'd never admit it. The two youngest kids were ready for some aerobatics but the newly licenced pilot (aka me) vetoed that request, I did give them a couple of minor rollercoasters, which they loved.

We turned towards the airport over Ch'town harbour and my straight in for runway 03 was nice, I was a tad high but we still touched down on the thousand foot markers. The front wheel made its presence known again as soon as I released the elevators. A short backtrack to taxiway Charlie and a few minutes later we were on the apron.

My first flight as a licenced pilot was in the books with 1.1 hours on the hobbs. What a great day for flying, my kids loved it.

Life is good!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Flight Test Complete

After Saturday's weather related cancellation, Wedsnesday afternoon turned out to be absolutely beautiful. My Flight test was booked for 12:30.

I arrived at the airport about 10 AM and spent a few minutes going over a few things with Dave. It seemed that the new instructure that Dave was going to send with me called in sick so Dave would be flying over with me to Debert after all. I printed up all the weather info that I needed and then finished my cross country calculations for the mock cross country that I would fly during my test.

I then went out and filled the tanks on Fern and preflighted her. Dave showed up and we lifted off albeit 15 minutes late. The trip to Debert (a former military airbase) took about 45 minutes, we were cruising at 4,500 ft which made it easy to spot from about 25 miles out. Dave had his non aviation GPS with him and I looked it over while we were enroute. It gave all the basic info one would expect, ground speed, time and distance to destination and our location on the track. He said that I can pick one up (non aviation) fairly cheap and simply type in the airport locations using longitude and latitude. He also went over some of the additional features that other purpose built aviation GPS have and then reminded me that a portable GPS was something that was nice to have, but only in addition to a proper cross country plan and maps etc. (I actually had my map out and I was tracking our progress the old fashion way). Ten minutes later I made a crappy landing on runway 27, I chalked it up to being rusty. I followed Dave's directions and taxied us over to the local flight school.

Once inside Dave introduced me to the examiner and we all chatted for a few minutes. I gathered everything up that I needed then Stu and I went into the class room and closed the door while Dave chatted with some of the locals. I have to say that Stu's laid back attitude was certainly a huge relief, I could tell within the first minute or so that we'd get along well. We went over my paperwork, student licence, medical, registration and insurance etc. He then explained how the flight test was structured and asked me if I had any questions, I didn't.

We began the flight test with a question and answer session. I was asked a bunch of questions to which I knew most of the answers, but for some I had to refer to journey log and POH. Then he gave me a scenario and then asked if I could land at a particular airport in our 172. I had to refer to the CFS (Canadian Flight Suppliment) for the airport runway info and since I had somehow had forgotten my nice laminated crosswind chart, I had to use the one that was in the CFS. Next he looked over my map and cross country sheets then asked me some more questions.

Stu seemed happy with all my responses so we packed our stuff up and went out to pre-flight the aircraft, then we hopped in and I did the pax brief. Stu gave me directions to the run-up area where I finished the run-up portion of the preflight. On the runway I completed my pax brief with the, "In the event of" speech prior to takeoff. A couple of minutes later we were climbing to cruise altitude. We called leaving the circuit and then contacted Halifax terminal to let them know that we were entering their class "D" airspace.

I thought to myself that this was going pretty good so far... then asked myself what I had forgetten..... ahh yes, the cruise checklist. I told Stu what I was doing and he replied good. Then he asked me where my set heading point was and I pointed it out with my finger, it was still a few minutes away. Once over my SHP point I wrote down the time then changed course slightly, computed my numbers and did my cruise checklist. Stu asked me a few questions and seemed happy that I actually knew how to get from point A to point B, then he asked me to turn North which I did, then he handed me a set of foggles.

Next up was some instrument work, straight and level, some turns and finally some recoveries from unusual attitudes. I took the foggles off and then we did some slow flight, power off and on stalls, then a climbing stall in a turn, we followed this up with some steep turns to such and such heading. He then took control and made some steep turns to the left and right, then asked me to scan to the left for traffic, which I did. A few seconds later we were in a steep spiral dive to our right as he handed the controls back to me. My recovery was quick and correct, I didn't forget to use the rudder this time! After each manoeuver he made a mark on my score sheet.

Stu then announced that there was something wrong with the airport at Debert and that we needed to divert to another airport, which he specified. What do I do now? I showed him where we were on the map, and then pointed out some of the geographical features that I would follow to get me to the diversion airport. I quickly calculated the distance, flying time, ETA along with the fuel requirements and provided Stu with my results verbally, to which he replied with a simple "good" and then said, "lets go there". After a few minutes of looking outside and enjoying the scenary he unexpectly pulled the throttle back to idle and said, "engine failure".

I pulled the carb heat on and looked at my altitude and said out loud "5 minutes" (glide time from 2,700 ft). I trimmed for 80 mph while scanning for a safe place to land. I did my simulated pax briefing and mayday calls, then jumped into problem solving and simulated restart procedure while zigzaggin my way to my selected touchdown point (sod farm). I went to forty degrees of flaps once I was positive we'd make the field. Stu asked me to over shoot at three hundred feet. I was pretty happy with my performance, failing to make the field during the simulated engine failure is an automatic and immediate fail.

We then climbed back up and I turned south again per Stu's directions, a couple of minutes later he mentioned that clouds were coming down and a safe return to the airport is not possible, what do I do now? I replied that his scenario had 'precautionary landing" written all over it. I said that I was going to return to the sod farm which I selected for my forced approach. We arrived back a few minutes later and I did a high pass, talking my way through the "GLOWS" checklist out loud, then I did a low pass and climbed back up to circuit height to run the circuit and land. Stu then asked me what I do different during the precautionary if my engine was going bad on me, I responded with what I've been taught, to which he replied "good" and then asked me to head back to the airport.

We joined straight in on downwind for 27, Stu requested a soft field landing using the intersection of the crossing runways as my touchdown target. My landing wasn't great but it wasn't bad either, I touched down exactly where he wanted. Next he requested a short field takeoff, which is what I did. On downwind he asked me to do a normal landing and said that this would be a full stop. My normal landing went very well, practically a greaser. (Finally started getting the rust out).

We taxied back to the apron and I pulled out the checklist and shut Fern down. I thought that we were done so I started to open my door but Stu asked me to hold up a second as he still had some questions for me regarding emergency checklists. He asked a few what-ifs and I rattled off the memorized answers, which caused him to make some more marks on my score sheet.

He then asked me if I had completed my written test yet, I replied that I had. Then he held out his hand and said, "Well congratulations, you've passed your flight test... and now your a Pilot!". I shook his hand and thanked him with a huge smile.

We went inside, Dave was standing on the other side of the lobby about 15 feet away looking at me to see how I did, his expression reminded me that of a concerned parent. If I didn't know better, I'd say waiting for us to return had stressed him out a bit. For my part I kept my expression completely neutral and looked at the floor while I followed Stu over to the counter. Then I said in a voice loud enough for Dave to hear, "Well Stu... all I can say is that I blame my poor test results completely on my flight instructor", Stu replied, "I'd have to agree with you on that". Poor Dave couldn't take it anymore and finally asked me straight out how I did, I waited a few seconds then finally replied with a thumbs up and a big smile.

I paid my flight test fee and then the three of us went back to the same classroom as before and went over my test results. I got a copy of my score sheet and we chatted for a few more minutes then Dave and I thanked Stu again and we headed for home.

And that kiddos was Rob's flight test.

For those of you that are bound to ask the classic question of "How many hours did my PPL take?".

Dual 35.1
Solo 12.7
T & L 108

I'm now what I always wanted to be... a pilot.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Flight Test Complete

Details to follow soon...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Flight test rescheduled

The weather forced my flight test to be cancelled this morning. The earliest I can get another booking is for next Wednesday afternoon.

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