Mark E.  
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Student Pilot Journal

Learning to Fly
My New 1950 Cessna 170

The following journal details how I became a private pilot and received my tailwheel endorsement - at the same time!

September 17, 2005 - Possibility of Flight Enters My Life:

Last month my father and I decided to make a trade. I had a custom 1981 Harley-Davidson FLH that I had purchased over fifteen years ago. Although I really enjoyed the bike, I didn't ride it that often. At the same time, my father had a 1950 Cessna 170A he had owned for around twenty years. As with my Harley, dad didn't fly as much as he had in the past. So� we decided to trade (along with some cash to even things out). We have each spent many years fixing up our motorcycle/plane so it is a blessing to be able to keep both in the family. That is how I ended up with a 1950 taildragger as a trainer. I realize a C-170 is not an ideal trainer but that is what God has given me.

I have flown the 170 from five to ten times over the past eighteen years. Before getting the 170 dad had a 150 that I flew a handful of times and actually landed once - after quite a few tries. Although I don't really have much experience, I know I enjoy flying.

I have a CPA practice located in Beaverton, Oregon. Most of our fees come from businesses with year ends from September through December. Therefore, I don't have time for lessons until after tax season - April 15th. My plan is to research as much as I can about flying and owning an airplane between now and the end of tax season. Then after April 15th, dad will fly the plane down from Spokane and I will start taking lessons.

October 2, 2005 - Sooner Rather Than Later:

God's plan for my life is not always my plan - or maybe I'm not as patient as I used to be. Last week I sent an email to a flight instructor to see what I should be doing between now and the end of tax season. He suggested I start my lessons now. His thought was although I will forget some during tax season, I can also take a lesson now and then to relieve stress. To my surprise, my wife agreed with the instructor. My wife's response prompted me to send my dad an email asking his thought. He said he had been thinking about it and he really thought I should start now as well. The following day we made plans for my father to fly the plane down next week! It is hard to believe in one week I will have a plane sitting out at the airport.

October 9, 2005 - The 1950 Cessna 170A Arrives:

Dad flew the C-170A down Thursday and returned to Spokane Saturday via a commercial airline. He said it was the first time he had flown commercially since the 1980s. Although dad says he is glad to be getting rid of the 170, it was kind of sad watching him bring the plane in for the last time.

Ron and Dad checking out airplane It is really strange knowing I have an airplane out at the airport. Saturday my instructor (Ron Magnus) did a few touch-and-gos with my father to get a feel for the airplane. I hope to start flying with Ron sometime within the next week. I still can't believe I have an airplane parked out at the airport. I don't know why God blesses me so.

October 20, 2005 - Lessons Begin:

I was pretty excited for my first lesson. I didn't fly with dad when he brought the plane down due to weather and time. However, it had been less than a year since my last flight in the 170 so I thought I knew what to expect. It was a cool overcast day. It felt a little strange sitting in the left seat although I had not flown that many hours in the right seat so it didn't feel as strange as I thought it would. As we accelerated down the runway and lifted off my stomach felt as if it had stayed on the ground. We quickly climbed and made a turn to the left (for noise abatement) as the ground and trees dropped below us. As we continued to climb and bounce around due to slight turbulence I began to wonder what I had done. This was not as much fun as I remembered it being with my dad. In fact, it was kind of scary! I had traded a perfectly good Harley for this airplane that was making me feel sick and a little worried� Had I made a mistake? Luckily within a minute or so all those strange feelings went away.

Later today I will have my third flying lesson and then later this evening I will attend my fourth ground school class. I'm hoping to fly twice per week during the work day to avoid taking time away from my family. Unfortunately, ground school runs Tuesday and Thursday evenings requiring me to be away from home.

Haven flown many times before, I'm not quite as excited about flying as other new student pilots. However, I'm extremely excited about what I have been learning. My first lesson consisted of practicing left and right turns. This should have been easy since I have made many turns in the past, however, I was frustrated when I struggled with my left turns. My second lesson consisted of more turns along with practice taxiing the airplane. During the second lesson I realized my left turn problem resulted from my paying too much attention to the insterments and not really looking out the window - I was also not use to sitting in the left seat.

Ron Magnus, my instructor, is a real blessing. I feel really good about how he flies and lands the 170 and our personalities work well together. I don't think I could have found a better instructor. I wish he was a little harder on me but I'm sure that will come as we progress.

Ground school on the other hand has been kind of boring. I have learned some terms and a few concepts but so far it is mostly review. Eldon, my instructor, is a great teacher and makes the class interesting so I'm sure I will enjoy the class once we get into areas I have not previously studied. My biggest surprise is I have forgotten how to read test questions! I find myself missing questions on self-tests due to quickly reading the question/answers and not fully understanding what they are getting at.

October's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
10/12/05 - Wed1.2Getting acquainted with the plane
10/18/05 - Tue1.2Climbs and turns
10/21/05 - Fri1.1Climbs, turns and taxi practice (KMMV)
10/24/05 - Mon1.2Taxi practice (KMMV)
4.7Total hours for October
4.7Total hours overall

November 11, 2005 - Down Time, Taxi and Ground School:

This month I'm learning one of the negatives of owning your own plane: down time during the annual. I scheduled the annual during a stretch of bad weather so although I have not flown for over two weeks, I have not missed that much flying.

In addition to practicing turns and starting radio communications, my prior two lessons consisted of a lot of taxi practice. During my last lesson we started taxiing fast enough to get the tail into the air. It is interesting how steamily easy steering with the rudder is until things get out of balance. Once the tail starts to oscillate, it takes quite a bit of dancing on the pedals to get everything back under control. It is very easy to overcorrect and make things worse. Surprisingly, taxi practice has been even more fun than flying.

Ground school has also become much more interesting. The first few weeks consisted of learning the basics of flight, how engines and carburetors work, and other general background information. Since I love mechanics (I have rebuilt many engines over the years) and have always been interested in flight, most of the information was review. Once we got past the basics and started studying regulations, weather, procedures, and other areas, the class became interesting and fun.

I'm looking forward to getting back into the air.

November's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
0.0Total hours for November
4.7Total hours overall

December's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
0.0Total hours for December
4.7Total hours overall

January 2, 2006 - Repairs:

New Rudder

As I mentioned last month, owning a plane does have its draw backs. The annual inspection and related repairs ended up taking two months as opposed to a week as I had originally hoped. The additional time was mainly due to a slight buckle and crack in the upper rudder and the rudder horn needing to be replaced. As the weeks rolled by, I was starting to get a little worried about both the repair bill and what was happening to my new 170. To my pleasant surprise, the repair bill was not at all bad and as you can see from the picture, the finished product was well worth the wait. I hope to resume flying within a week or so depending on my work load and the weather.

You might also notice from the picture that the plane is parked in a hangar. When dad delivered the 170 all of the hangars were taken so I settled for tie-down parking. I placed my name on the waiting list thinking it would be six months or more before a hangar would become available. Then a week or so later, the owner of the airport surprised me by placing the 170 in a hangar without even informing me that I was going to get one. When I arrived at the airport to find a patch of grass where my new plane had been parked several days before, you can imagine my surprise. As soon as I saw the smile on the airport owner's face, I realized what had happened. I can see I'm going to enjoy keeping my plane at a small family run airpark.

January 16, 2006 - Taxi and Takeoff:

The rain that has been non-stop for about a month or so, finally let up so we could go flying Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's lesson was my first in over two and a half months! My lack of practice really showed. I was nervous before the flight and had a tough time taxiing out to the runway. We flew around a little before heading over to McMinnville for taxi practice. Due to a crosswind and being out of practice, I felt like I spent the whole lesson fighting the airplane.

Sunday's lesson on the other hand was pure joy. Taxiing out to the runway felt natural and I didn't feel nervous as I had the day before. We practiced crosswind S-turns along with circling an object in a crosswind. Both maneuvers were much more fun than I had imagined.

The highlight of my weekend however was taking off Sunday. For the first time I was able to take the plane off without Ron's assistance. (I could feel him following my rudder inputs but he didn't take over as usual.) I kept waiting for him to take over when he told me to lower the nose to get the tail up. When he didn't, I realized he was only going to take over if things got out of control. The next think I knew, we were flying! For someone learning on a tricycle gear airplane this may not sounds like much of an accomplishment - tricycle gear students get to take the plane off on their first lesson. For me in my taildragger however, this was a huge accomplishment. I'm really looking forward to my next lesson.

January's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
1/14/06 - Sat1.3Turns and x-wind taxi practice (KMMV)
1/15/06 - Sun0.9S turns and turning around a point
1/23/06 - Mon1.1Taxi practice with tail up (KMMV)
1/24/06 - Tue0.2Takeoff and land
3.5Total hours for January
8.2Total hours overall

February 22, 2006 - Landings Start:

I've had four more lessons although one of the four only lasted 0.2 hours. Weather and scheduling have kept me from flying as often as I would like. I now have a total of 10.5 hours of flight instruction in the four and a half months that I have owned the plane. That averages out to a little over two hours per month. Not good considering I have unlimited access to an airplane.

My first of the last four lessons consisted of more taxi practice. I think my instructor is getting tired of taxi practice although I really enjoy it. During the run-up of the next lesson, which started in the sunshine, we realized a layer of fog was about to roll in. We took off, circled the pattern, and landed. About thirty minutes later a layer of fog covered the airport. Although I didn't get much time in, it was a valuable lesson.

My next two lessons were the most fun as we started practicing landings. I was surprised how much there is to think about during the landing process. It seems easy sitting here at my desk thinking about it but while it is happening, it is easy to loose track of one of the many details. I can see things will improve as on my second day of practicing I found it easer to keep track of what was happening. I'm really looking forward to my next lesson.

February 27, 2006 - Airman Knowledge Test:

I passed my Airman Knowledge Test with a score of 90%. I credit my success to Eldon Fitzgerald who tought the ground school I attended and where I took practice tests.

February's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
2/15/06 - Wed1.1Taxi practice, takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
2/22/06 - Wed1.2S turns, takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
2/25/06 - Sat1.3Takeoffs and landings (4S9)
3.6Total hours for February
11.8Total hours overall

March 27, 2006 - Down Time:

Due to tax season, I have not flown in over a month. I hope to fly later this week but it will depend on the weather and my work load. To take advantage of the down time, I decided to update the panel with a new attitude gyro. The directional gyeo, suction gauge, and vacuum system were upgraded as well.
New gyros

March's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
0.0Total hours for March
11.8Total hours overall

April 25, 2006 - Tax Season's Over:

Now that tax season is over, I hope to start flying on a regular basis. My plan is to try and fly at least three times per week.

Last Wednesday we went flying for the first time in several months. It ended up being my worst day of flying so far. The radio, airspeed indicator and vertical airspeed indicator were not working properly, I had not flown in two months, and, I was still tired from tax season. I had troubles landing, turning, taxiing� it was a frustrating day of flying. However, it was still a lot of fun!

Yesterday was my second lesson after tax season and it was much more enjoyable - probably my most enjoyable to date. The airspeed indicator was still giving us fits but everything else was working - including me. We practiced landing at a grass strip for the first time. I'm not sure why but it was much more enjoyable on the grass than landing on pavement. I'm looking forward to more grass landings. I'm still making a lot of mistakes but at least I can recognize them.

I'm still really pleased in choosing Ron Magnus as my flight instructor. He makes everything look so easy - including recovering from my near ground loops! Yesterday while returning to Twin Oaks, just after touching down, a small gust of wind got under a wing and turned us off towards the hangars. Once Ron could see I had lost control, he calmly asked if he could have the throttle. He then gave it full throttle, regained control of the rudder, and brought us back onto the runway. He is a real blessing.

April's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
4/19/06 - Wed1.3Takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
4/24/06 - Mon1.4Takeoffs and landings on grass (7S9)
2.7Total hours for April
14.5Total hours overall

May 16, 2006 - Landings:

I feel like I'm making real progress now that tax season is over. I've been flying twice per week although my goal is three or more times per week. The increase from twice per month to twice per week had made a real difference. As apposed to relearning or practicing the same thing over and over I seem to be learning something new each lesson. We are working on landings and I feel like I just about have everything pulled together. I'm still all over the place but I'm slowly developing a feel for whole landing process.

Upon returning to the hangar yesterday we discovered the tail wheel was flat. All those abrupt landings apparently wore a one inch hold in the middle of the tire. The A&P said he will have it repaired in time for my lesson tomorrow.

My main problem seems to be overcorrecting or waiting for the plane to get out of shape before making corrections.

May 18, 2006 - First Good Landing:

Yesterday for the first time, I was able to land without any assistance/input from my instructor! It probably helped that it was my first lesson without a crosswind in a long time. I'm really looking forward to my next lesson. I was also able to make much smother landings - which is partly why I didn't need help. Now that I know what it feels like to land and keep the plane going straight down the runway, I can't wait to do it again.

May 30, 2006 - Getting Close:

I have finally learned how to land without skidding all over the runway. My past two lessons consisted mainly of landing practice on both grass and asphalt. I made seven landings yesterday and six earlier today. Once I learned how to keep the plane tracking straight down the runway, my landings really improved. From time to time I still seem to have a tendency to let the plane drift from right to left on final approach which almost always causes me to be a little cross or off center on landing. I suppose I just need to concentrate a little harder. I feel like I'm getting close to soloing! Unfortunately, we have rain forecast for the next few days.

May's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayHoursDescription
5/01/06 - Mon1.2 X-wind takeoffs and landings at controlled airport (KHIO)
5/05/06 - Fri1.1 Takeoffs and landings at controlled airport (KHIO)
5/12/06 - Fri1.3 X-wind takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
5/15/06 - Mon1.3 X-wind takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
5/17/06 - Wed1.2 Takeoffs and landings on grass (7S9)
5/29/06 - Mon1.3 Takeoffs and landings on grass and asphalt (KMMV)
5/30/06 - Tue1.2 Takeoffs and landings on grass and asphalt (KMMV)
8.6 Total hours for May
23.1 Total hours overall

June 8, 2006 - First Solo:
--- SOLO ---

Solo at last - yesterday!!! I was really surprised when it was not nearly as stressful as I thought it would be. I suppose I was too occupied with flying the airplane to become stressed. I have also made enough landings to feel confident with my ability to land without destroying the airplane. I was expecting to solo sometime soon and was actually hoping it would be that day. However, when Ron (my instructor) told me we would be going to Lenhardt Airpark my hart sank - I was sure we would solo at McMinnville in the grass. Upon arriving at Lenhardt, we realized the wind was favoring landings on runway 20. In the past we've always used runway 02. I knew at that point I was not going to solo - not at a small airstrip in a direction I was unfamiliar with. However, after two landings Ron said he was ready for me to solo. Ron exited the plane and said the object was to make sure he had a plane to fly home in.

I taxied to the end of the runway, checked my radio frequency about three times, checked the trim, made my radio announcement, checked the carb heat, trim, radio, mixture and gave it full throttle. The plane accelerated. As the tale started to come up I helped it a little and then as the plane started to feel light, I lifted off. As expected the plane climbed nicely. I made my crosswind turn and announced I was on the cross wind for 02. As I released the PPT I realized I had just announced 02 as apposed to 20. At that point I was ready to turn downwind so I made another announcement that I was on the downwind for 20 in the grass. As I flew the downwind leg I noticed I was not really able to enjoy flying alone for the first time because I was too busy flying - it was strange seeing an empty seat next to me though. Everything went as planned on my approach and my touchdown was so smooth I didn't even feel it - I just all of a sudden heard the sound of wheels rolling on grass. The plane veered a little to one direction as I was slowing down to taxi speed, which I quickly corrected, but other than that, my first solo landing was perfect.

As I was taxiing back on the grass I noticed another plane had just landed at the far end of the strip and was coming towards me. I pulled off to the side to let him pass and was wondering how I had missed his radio announcement. I rechecked the radio frequency wondering if I was so caught up with my landing that I just failed to hear his radio announcement. I later learned the plane did not have a working radio. After he passed, I taxied down to the end of the runway, went through my checklist, noticing the strobe was off, and departed. As I was on my downwind leg, I began wondering how many solo landings I had made. Was this two or three? I was having so much fun I didn't want it to end. I finally decided it must be three because surly I would remember if I had only made two. (I'm a CPA so I should be able to count to three!) The landing was OK although I flared a bit too much causing the plane to float and land with a small bounce. I taxied over towards Ron and he signaled that I was on my second landings and had one more to go - which made me very happy!

View of runway 20 - Google Earth After turning base on my third approach I realized I was high. I put the plane into a slip but was unable to make it down to the runway. I figured even if I did make it, Ron would tell me I should have gone around. So, I executed a go-around. After turning final on my second approach I once again realized I was high - although not as high as before. On this pass I noticed a tan patch of earth under me on final that was probably heating up and causing an updraft. Ron had commented earlier in the day that there is usually a sinker (that was not there that day) shortly before the end of the runway. At that point I guessed the tan patch was cooler (therefore not a factor) on my earlier overpasses and I needed to quickly lose some altitude and expect the sinker. I put the plane into another slip but this time I made it to the runway. The image to you right is from Google Earth probably taken later in the season when things are much drier - you can see the edge of tan earth at the bottom of the photo. I didn't float as much on my last solo landing but I did bounce a little. I wanted to go again and again but taxied back to pickup Ron.

I made the biggest mistake of the day as Ron and I were departing Lenhardt. After soloing I had opened my side window to get some air into the plane and forgot to close it. As soon as I pushed in the throttle, I realized the window was open. We were just starting to accelerate so I figured I would reach over and close it. I have spent enough time taxiing a taildragger to know better than to look away while maneuvering. The second I looked away the plane started veering off the runway. Within a second or two after some excitement the plane was back on track but it was a really stupid mistake. It amazes me I can use such poor judgment so quickly after soloing. I think that was the real lesson for the day.

June 14, 2006 - Twin Oaks Solo:

Solo Ron and I went up again on Sunday and as you can imagine, I was still excited after soloing on Wednesday. My excitement was short lived when I made a poor takeoff, uncoordinated turns around the pattern, and over flared on landing causing a bounce. My second set of takeoffs and landings were not much better. Ron then told me it was time for me to do some on my own - I asked if he was sure; he said I would do fine and exited the plane. My first was OK considering how poor my prior two were and my second was perfect. However my third was a disaster. I was flying the pattern behind a Cub. I knew I was faster and flew much slower than usual, extended my pattern, but still caught him on landing - he had not taxied off the runway when I set down. In the process I made a terrible landing. I learned a lesson: next time there is any question I will go around. Due to the third landing turning out so poor Ron suggested I make another. The next one was better but not that great so I made one more that was also not up to par. At the end of my lesson I was tired, sweaty and wondering why things were so much worse from my prior day of soloing.

fgj Monday was another day of touch and goes at Twin Oaks but it was almost boring. I once again made two landings with Ron and then he set me free. This time I was able to make four more landings without any stress or problems. I was actually wishing Ron was back in the plane so I would have someone to talk with as I went around the pattern.

I was hoping to go up for the first time "all by myself" Wednesday morning but the weather didn't corporate. Wednesday morning Twin Oaks saw 5+ knot winds with 15+ knot gusts. Although I've landed in similar winds, I don't feel comfortable doing it alone - not on my first venture out. It looks like the weather may improve this weekend.

June 30, 2006 - First Flight Without Instructor Present:

I got up at 5:00AM this morning, went to work, checked my email and the weather, and headed out to the airpark. I arrived at Twin Oaks around 6:40AM, preflighted the 170, and was ready to start the engine at 7:02AM. It felt strange to be doing this without my instructor but it was not as stressful as I had anticipated. It had been eighteen days since my last flight so I was a little worried about being rusty.

After starting the engine I noticed it was not running as smoothly as it usually does. It sounded as if some of the spark plugs were not filing at 100%. I wondered if something was wrong or was I being overly cautious on my first solo outing. Then I realized it was 7:00AM in the morning and the engine had just started. It probably just needed to warm up. Sure enough, by the time I had taxied over to the run-up area everything sounded perfect. I then went through my preflight checklist and departed the airport.

My flight to McMinnville was uneventful aside from it taking longer than I had expected to spot the airport. I flew directly to it just as I had with my instructor, I just didn't see the runway as soon as expected. Once there, I entered the pattern at a 45 to the downwind and made my first landing in the grass. I failed to hold the tale down which resulted in a number of bounces until I realized my mistake. While bouncing I also managed to get a little sideways which I quickly corrected without using the breaks. Luckily this was my worst landing of the day. I made three more in the grass before switching to the hard surface.

My first landing on the runway was almost as bad as my first in the grass. I flared a bit too much and got a little sideways on touchdown. While on the downwind leg of my second landing someone announced they were flying a straight in low instrument approach and they were five miles out. Shortly thereafter they announced they were four miles out. I decided they must be flying pretty fast so I slowed down and decided to extend my downwind leg. I made an announcement that I would be extending my downwind to follow the low approach. After extending far beyond the pattern and not seeing the low approach I decided to exit the pattern and reenter the downwind at mid-filed. I never saw the low approach. However, some poor fellow had been holding for takeoff this whole time. As most of my approaches have been a bit long and low on final I decided to shorten this one up. I was still a bit low but due to all the distractions I made another poor landing. My third (on the hard runway, seventh for the day) was OK but nothing to be proud about. I had been flying for just over one hour and fifteen minutes so I decided it was time to return to Twin Oaks.

I flew directly to Twin Oaks and spotted it sooner than expected which boosted my confidence. My landings at Twin Oaks are often my worse so I was a little worried after all the poor landings at McMinnville. For a change, my pattern and final approach seemed near perfect. As usual, I flared a bit too much and bounced. Considering how my earlier landings had gone and how I usually land at Twin Oaks I felt pretty good about my eight and final landing for the day.

As I type this it is hard to believe I drove out to the airport, went flying, and returned to work this morning. On one hand it seems unbelievable but on the other it feels like an ordinary day. It is hard to believe�.

June's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
6/06/06 - Mon1.3   Takeoffs and landings on grass and asphalt (7S9,2S6)
6/07/06 - Tues1.3 0.5 SOLO (7S9)
6/11/06 - Sun0.7 0.7 Takeoffs and landings (7S3)
6/12/06 - Mon0.6 0.5 Takeoffs and landings (7S3)
6/30/06 - Fri   1.5 Takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
3.9 3.2 Total hours for June
27.0 3.2 Total hours overall

July 4, 2006 - More Landing Practice:

Once again I flew over to McMinnville to practice landings and takeoffs. I made four landings in the grass and two on the pavement before returning to Twin Oaks. My landings were improved over my last outing but I'm still struggling with the flair. It is frustrating because I don't feel like I'm progressing. I've improved quite a bit in keeping the plane straight with the rudder on takeoff and before and after touchdown. My final approaches are also much more consistent, straight and smooth. However, I still seem to struggle with the flair. Maybe next time�.

I got up early on Independence Day to practice landings in the calm morning air. As usual, I flew over to McMinnville. I made three landings on the grass and five on the pavement before returning to Twin Oaks. Today's landings were much improved - not perfect but better. As I practiced, I could see a small thunder storm off to the South-East. It appeared to be making its way North, moving slowly towards the airport. I kept a close eye on the windsock fearing the wind would pickup as it got closer. A Pawnee was towing gliders while I practiced and I heard the Pawnee pilot tell a glider pilot that the storm was not close enough to cause any problems - yet. After my eighth landing I decided the storm was close enough for me so I headed home. As usual, my Twin Oaks landing was my worst of the day. I flared too soon and dropped the 170 onto the runway. Had I added just a small burst of power it would have been an OK landing - I didn't realize my error in time. I think the up-sloping runway may cause my perception to be off. Next time out I will have to think about that as I plan my flair.

July 13, 2006 - Discovered Flare/Landing Problem:

I went for a quick flight this morning and everything felt normal. I was not stressed as I took off or while landing, I didn't notice the ball coming out of the center, and my turns felt smooth. For the first time I felt like the pilot-in-command.

Last night's forecast for this morning was for broken clouds at 2,500 and overcast at 4,000. We've had overcast clouds at or below 2,000 in the morning all week so I was looking forward to a chance to fly. I checked the weather again before driving out to the airport this morning and the weather service was reporting FEW013 SCT029 OVC050 over Hillsboro and FEW007 BKN038 OVC050 over McMinnville. I decided to fly knowing I could always make it a short flight if I got up and it looked too cloudy. I climbed to 2,000 feet while heading East and it looked pretty good towards Lendhardt - to the South-East. However, towards McMinnville and to the West of Twin Oaks the clouds seemed a bit heavy between 700 and 1,500 feet. So, I decided to play it safe and cut my flight short. There was a clear stretch without clouds between the Newberg VOR and KMMV but the idea of coming back to Twin Oaks to find it covered by BKN007 (clouds broken at 700 feet) didn't sound all that exciding.

My landing at Twin Oaks was near perfect. I flared and started holding the plane off when the mains touched down. I then lowered the tale slightly to get it to touch and rolled out staying on the center line. I think that was my first good landing at Twin Oaks without Ron watching.

My flight last Saturday (on the eighth) was much like my prior solo flights with inconsistent flares. I continued to over flair causing a balloon. It was frustrating because while flying with Ron I made both good and bad landings. Now while flying alone all of my landings were poor. After making a number of landings at McMinnville the traffic started to pick up so I decided to see if I could find another airport. I knew Lendhardt, where I soloed, was to the East so I decided to see if I could find it. This would be my first attempt to find another airport without my instructor's help. We hadn't flown from McMinnville to Lendhardt so I was also flying a rout I had not taken before. The airport is next to a small lake and has a lot of grass so I figured it would not be too hard to spot. As I got close I noticed a number of small lakes with nearby grass. Luckily the airport appeared below me and I was able to make one landing before heading home.

The following day I was able to fly with Ron, my instructor. I was really looking forward to the lesson because it had been almost four weeks since my prior lesson. I was hoping he could help me with my flair. Sure enough, I had learned a bad habit while flying alone. Instead of flaring and then holding the plane off until it lands, I was flaring to get the plane into a landing attitude and then flaring again to bring it to the runway. That meant I was ballooning or dropping. As soon as he told me to "hold it off" I realized I had replaced that step with my second flair by mistake. I'm sure following Ron's instruction and "holding it off" this morning is what allowed me to make my first comfortable solo landing at Twin Oaks. I'm looking forward to more practice.

July 22, 2006 - X-Wind Landings:

Now that I have discovered why I was struggling with my flair, my landings are much improved. I'm still not as consistent as I would like to be but I'm getting much better. This morning I flew over to McMinnville and made seven landings on the hard surface - one to a full stop and the rest touch-and-goes. I then flew over to Lenhardt Airpark and made two landings on the hard serface.

My plan was to work on descending quicker to the runway, getting the stall warning to sound while landing, and relaxing. I've developed a habit of flying a pattern that makes me a little low on final. I started doing this because it is easier to hold altitude on final than it is to loose it. I also tend to think I'm high when I'm not. It was fun flying the tighter pattern. I also enjoyed slipping the plane when I actually was a little high. I've also developed a habit of landing without setting off the stall warning - or just barely setting it off. I tend to float the mains down and then lower the tale. This morning I worked on flaring the plane to the point where it stalls and touches all three at the same time. I also worked on trying to stay calm which you will understand after reading about my cross-wind landings.

Before soloing much of my early landing instruction happened in crosswind conditions. However, the weather was near perfect (no wind) for several weeks leading up to my solo. After soloing, my instructor instructed me not to fly in the wind until we had a chance to practice crosswind landings again. I did just that and for the first month after my solo I only flew when the wind was less than 3mph. After trying to avoid the wind for a month I didn't feel much like trying it again without my instructor. So, on Monday the 17th when Ron was free in the early evening we went for a quick flight to practice x-wind landings.

Flying the plane while landing in a x-wind was actually easier than I had remembered. We had steady 6-9mph winds gusting to 12mph blowing almost directly across the runway - perfect for practicing. The takeoff roll was started with full aileron deflection. This felt much more natural than I had imagined. What surprised me was how much we had to drop the upwind wing during liftoff in order to keep rolling straight down the runway. Once off we would crab which made things feel natural again. I was also surprised how much stronger the wind blows 10-20 feel off the ground. Surprisingly, landings were almost easier than taking off. We flew a crab until near the end of the runway where we would lower the upwind wing and keep the plane going straight with the rudder. I enjoy slips so this actually felt natural. We then flew the plane down to the runway. Shortly before the upwind wheel would touch we flared and kind of flew the plane down the runway until it was almost stopped. I had expected to feel out of control during the flare and to be blown across the runway. But due to continuing to fly the plane even once it was on all three wheels, I didn't really feel out of control.

The fact that the x-wind landings were easier than I had expected does not mean I was good at them. They just were not as hard as I had expected. For some reason I was extremely stressed during my x-wind lesson. Had I not been so stressed I would probably have made some pretty good landings. The real lesson of the day is to stay calm. Later in the week I went out alone in a 3-5mph crosswind and made some pretty good landings. It was actually fun. I'm looking forward to practicing in 3-7mph winds as soon as we get some.

July's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
7/03/06 - Mon   1.2 Takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
7/04/06 - Tue   1.4 Takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
7/08/06 - Sat   1.3 Takeoffs and landings (KMMV,7S9)
7/09/06 - Sun1.5   Takeoffs, Landings and slow flight (7S9,UAO)
7/13/06 - Thu   0.4 Takeoff and land (7S3)
7/16/06 - Sun   1.2 Takeoffs and landings (KMMV)
7/17/06 - Mon 0.7  X-wind landings, 6-12mph (7S3)
7/20/06 - Thu   1.1 X-wind landings, 3-5mph (KMMV)
7/22/06 - Sat   1.5 Landings (KMMV,7S9)
7/23/06 - Sun   1.3 Landings (KMMV)
7/28/06 - Fri 1.2   Tower operations (KHIO)
7/29/06 - Sat   0.8 First solo landings at towered airport (KHIO)
3.4 10.2 Total hours for July
30.4 13.4 Total hours overall (43.8)

August 4, 2006 - Cross-country:

I flew my first cross-country with my instructor earlier in the week. We flew from Twin Oaks (7S3), down to Corvallis (CV0), over to Lenhardt (7S9), and then back to Twin Oaks. The total trip was just less than 150 miles. While flying with my dad in the past he would sometimes ask me to find our position on the chart and it was not as easy as I thought it might be. However, navigating to Corvallis and back was much easier that I had expected - probably because I was expecting it to be much more difficult than it was. For the first ten or fifteen minutes of the flight I felt a bit unsure of my exact location on the chart. However, once we got down to Salem I was picking out landmarks and felt quite confident of our location. After gaining a little confidence, the rest of the flight preceded without much trouble. We had 15mph winds at Corvallis and 10mph winds at Lenhardt although they were blowing pretty much straight down the runway so I didn't get to practice x-wind landings.

After the cross-country flight my instructor suggested I plan a solo cross-country. One of my goals as far as flying has been to fly to my uncle's who lives on the Cougar Mountain airstrip (49WA) up near Olympia. I have flown to Cougar Mountain with my dad once and have ridden my motorcycle there many times. But flying there in my own plane has always been a dream. The airstrip is a private grass strip with a number of homes located around it. I will actually be able to park my plane in my uncle's front yard! I was hoping to leave this morning at 7:30AM but due to low ceilings in Olympia, I'm waiting for things to clear. It looks like I may go around noon.

August 4, 2006 - Solo Cross-country:

I completed my first solo cross-country this afternoon. As I mentioned in my prior entry I was not able to leave as early as I would have liked. I ended up leaving Twin Oaks at 12:22PM. I climbed to about 2,500 feet and opened my flight plan with the McMinnville FSS. I continued climbing to my cruise altitude of 4,500 feet. As I was climbing through 3,200 feet I started looking for the Hillsboro airport which was my first landmark. Everything looked quite different from this altitude. I was use to flying no higher than 2,000 and it was a little hazy out. I knew where the airport should be but could not spot it. I then began to question my decision to make such a long first solo cross-country. If I could not spot something so easy to find and close to home how was I going to spot my other checkpoints? I could cancel my flight plan and head back to the airport! That is when I saw the airport. I was having trouble spotting it because I was looking for something much larger. There it was right where it should be and the size it should be at this altitude. I decided to continue - my next landmark was the Scappoose airport. I could see I was being blown a little off course as I approached it so I adjusted my heading. The rest of the trip went as planned aside from my groundspeed being a bit slower than calculated.

I don't know why I was surprised when I say the Cougar Mountain Airfield exactly where I expected it to be but I was. I entered the pattern at a forty-five to the downwind and proceeded to make a terrible landing. My first mistake was extending my base leg and needing to swerve back on final. I surprised myself when my flair seemed perfect. I was above the runway holding the plane off on my way to making a perfect landing. That is when the plane drifted off to the left and I started scooting across the grass. I brought it back but my landing was not the perfect one I was hoping for. In fact, it was probably one of my worst landings. Luckily my uncle caught it on video. My uncle is responsible for repairing broken landing lights and I have a feeling I was concentrating on those lights instead of looking straight down the runway. Lesson learned: Stay focused.

In my surprise to fine the airport I forgot to close my flight plan while in the air. So, after landing I used my uncle's telephone to close my plan. We then spent about an hour talking before it was time for me to head back to Portland. My flight home was uneventful. I turned on the GPS just to see how it worked but didn't use it. My instructor OKed the trip assuming surface winds were below 10 knots. We have been having pretty consistent afternoon winds of 12-15 knots for the past few weeks. Today's forecast started with 7 knot afternoon winds and was modified to 10 knots when I left. While flying home the Hillsboro ATIS was reporting 12 knot winds blowing about 80 degrees to the Twin Oaks runway. I have landed in stronger winds with my instructor but have never done it along. While on the downwind let I was surprised how much of a crab I needed to fly to keep from encroaching on the runway. I then turned base and then quickly final due to the wind. My landing ended up being one of my better Twin Oaks landings! Don't ask me how.

August 25, 2006 - Cross-country/Hood Work:

I flew my second cross-country flight this morning. It was a repeat of my prior cross-country flight. My dad decided to ride his Harley over to my uncles for a long weekend. We thought it would be fun if I could make another flight so my dad could watch his old plane with its new pilot. My instructor OKed the flight and the weather was perfect. Everything went as planned aside from my small bounce while landing at Cougar Mountain. I made the mistake of touching the mains down first which resulted in a bounce that directed me towards the left edge of the runway once again. I recovered quickly but felt silly knowing I was being watched. I stayed for an hour and a half and then headed home. My landing at Twin Oaks once again was a good one. While on final I saw the windsock standing out across and down the runway. Then shortly before touchdown it went limp and then out again as I was flaring. Although it was only a slight breeze, it felt good to make the landing without getting stressed.

Second solo x-country at 5,500ft

Earlier in the week Ron and I went up for some instrument flying for the first time. I had expected to easily become disoriented but it was actually rather. I suppose next time Ron puts me under the hood he will make things a bit more complicated.

August's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
8/02/06 - Wed1.6   Cross-country (SVO,7S9,7S3)
8/04/06 - Fri   2.4Solo Cross-country (7S3, 49WA)
8/09/06 - Wed   0.5Up and back due to low clouds (7S3)
8/18/06 - Fri   0.9Three wheel landings (KMMV)
8/23/06 - Wed 1.2   Instrument flying and stalls (7S3)
8/25/06 - Fri   2.3Second solo cross-country (7S3, 49WA)
8/26/06 - Sat   1.1Wheel landings (KMMV)
8/27/06 - Sun   1.2Three-point landings (KMMV)
2.8 8.4Total hours for August
33.2 21.8 Total hours overall (55.0)

September 18, 2006 - Get Serious about Learning:

I have not flown for a while due to an illness that I hope to be over later this week. I miss flying more than I thought I would.

I've decided to focus on my three-point landings until they become more comfortable. Most of my landings are OK but I feel like my good landings result from luck more than skill. One bad habit I have learned is cutting the power as I fly over the fence and then floating down to the runway. Physics tells me I can land under power if I just pull the nose up a little more at the point I have been cutting the power. This would slow the plane down and I could land at the same speed but under power. Although this made since, whenever I tried it I would just float down the runway until I brought the engine to idle. I understood my problem was I was not getting the nose high enough. This felt a bit uncomfortable the first few attempts but with a little practice it started to feel natural. I eventually learned to leave some power on but slowly pulling the nose up a little more than I had been and then killing the engine as I was touching down. Using this technique I felt much more in control and like luck was playing a smaller role in my good landings.

I've decided I need to get a bit more serious about getting my license. I've been flying when I can find the time and have been enjoying myself more than anything else. Although that is good, I have fifty-seven hours of flight time and still have a ways to go before I'm ready for my checkride. As soon as I'm feeling better I'm going to try and fly as often as I can and focus on learning a specific skill during each flight. Although I don't think I will be able to make it, I would like to get my license within a year of when I started - late October

September's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
9/02/06 - Sat   1.4X-wind landings, 3-5mph (KMMV)
9/03/06 - Sun   1.4Three-point landings (KMMV)
  2.8Total hours for August
33.2 24.6 Total hours overall (57.8)

October 6, 2006 - Solo Renewed:

I ended up missing a month of flying due to being sick. In the process my Solo expired - it is only valid for 90 days. Back when I first soloed I would not have imagined that 90 days later I would still be taking lessons. As I mentioned in my last entry, I really need to focus on flying more often so I can finish.

Last Sunday Ron and I found a mutual hole in our schedules early Sunday evening and went up for a quick lesson. It had been a month since my last flight and well over a month since my previous lesson. I was pleasantly surprised when aside from being a little rusty, everything seemed to come back. Ron made the last landing of the day, his first in the plane in well over two months, demonstrating it is possible to make a good landing without practice.

Last night after work I went out to Twin Oaks and made three landings before going home. They do not allow touch-and-goes at Twin Oaks. I took that to mean we should not practice landings at Twin Oaks. However, it means just what it sounds like it means - all landings must be to a full stop. Had I realized this earlier I would have been more apt to practice landings after work. Anyway, I made three x-wind landings last night before it got dark. For the first time I actually enjoyed making x-wind landings! My third landing ended up being the learning experience. On that landing as I approached the runway I watched the windsock as usual - the wind was a bit gusty. As I flew over the fence I noticed the windsock went from being full of wind to being totally limp. My first thought was I would not have to worry about making a x-wind landing. A moment later I started my flair and instantly heard the stall warning start to chirp. I felt myself dropping to the runway as I pulled back further on the yoke and the stall warning continued to chirp. I didn't land hard but I did learn a valuable lesson about x-wind landings: Be sure to add a little extra speed just in case the wind stops and the plane stalls. It would also have helped if I had added a little power as with a large bounce.

October 18, 2006 - Solo Cross-Country:

I flew my three leg solo cross-country a week and a half ago. It didn't go quite as planned but it was by far my funest flight to date. This was actually my third solo cross-country but my first to totally unknown airports. You can read the full story at the following link:

Three Leg Solo Cross-Country - Click link for additional pictures and the full story

October's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
10/01/06 - Sun 0.7   Landings, stalls, slow flight (7S3)
10/05/06 - Thu  0.5X-wind landings (7S3)
10/08/06 - Sun   4.0Solo Cross-Country (7S3,S21,DLS)
10/22/06 - Sun   0.7Landings (7S3)
10/26/06 - Thu   1.1Wheel landings (KMMV)
10/28/06 - Sat   0.7Joy ride (7S3)
0.7 7.0Total hours for October
33.9 31.6 Total hours overall (65.5)

November's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
11/29/06 - Wed   0.9Landings (7S3)
0.0 0.9Total hours for November
33.9 32.5 Total hours overall (66.4)

December 2, 2006 - Cross-Wind Landings:

As you can see from my flight log, I have not flown much over the past few months. We've had nonstop rain/low clouds thought the month of November with only two or three clear flying days. When I did make it out at the end of the month, I was a little worried about how I would due since I had flown so little over the prior three months. So, I decided to fly over to McMinnville to brush up on my landings. Once I reached 2,000 feet I decided to stay close to Twin Oaks as there was a low cloud layer headed for the airport. I didn't really like the idea of brushing up on my landings at Twin Oaks because I seem to struggle at Twin Oaks. As it turns out, I was worried for nothing - I made five of my best landings to date.

This morning once again we had clear skies. According to the forecast we were to have morning mist followed by 7 to 12 knot winds developing into 14 knot winds with 20 knot gusts later this evening. Hillsboro was reporting calm winds while McMinnville was reporting 6mph winds. Most of my solo cross-wind practice has been in winds around 5mph. I have been hoping for 7mph winds but whenever the wind exceeds 5mph it seems to jump to 10-12mph. Although I was sure I could handle 10mph crosswinds, I was not real excited about heading out to practice in them without more experience. Taking everything into account, today sounded perfect as long as I didn't stay out to long.

When I departed Twin Oaks the winds were calm. I decided to fly over to McMinnville and see how busy it was. I was surprised to find only one Helicopter in the pattern using the non-active runway. I flew a normal pattern and as I came down on final I noticed I needed to hold the right wind down quite a bit to stay on the centerline. I could see the windsock and the wind appeared to be a quartering tailwind from the right. I have landed with similar 5mph winds at McMinnville but didn't need to lower my wing as low as I was. As I touched down I began to wonder if something was wrong because I could not believe it was windy enough to cause me to lower a wing that much. As soon as I was down I gave it full power to get back into the air. I then decided to depart the pattern and head back towards Twin Oaks. As I climbed away I heard a landing pilot announce to his friend in another plane that he could not believe how strong the crosswind was. That made me feel a bit better. I then decided to head over to Hillsboro to get some crosswind and tower practice.

When I got close to the Hillsboro airport I watched several planes enter the pattern so I could refresh my memory as how to enter the pattern. I then made my call to the tower not realizing I was on Twin Oaks's frequency. (I had just checked the traffic at Twin Oaks as I was flying close to the airport and forgot I had changed the channel.) I quickly realized my mistake and made another announcement on the correct frequency. By this time I must have been a bit flustered because my request to the tower sounded like one of the clumbisest announcements I have ever made. Luckily the controller was kind to me. I made four landings at Hillsboro all with a strong forward quartering crosswind. Although the wind was blowing at 10-12mph, I was able to hold the centerline and only drifted a little on two of my liftoffs. I was surprised how much the other planes had to crab as they departed. It felt good to know I could land in a true crosswind without any trouble. When I returned to Twin Oaks, it was once again calm.

December's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
12/02/06 - Sat   1.3X-wind landings (KMMV,KHIO)
12/07/06 - Thu   1.0Landings (KMMV,7S3)
0.0 2.3Total hours for December
33.9 34.8 Total hours overall (68.7)

January 25, 2007 - Annual Time:

Once again it is annual time. I was hoping to have the annual completed last month but when the shop didn't get around to it I didn't complain as I'm usually short of cash this time of year. Like last year, I'm having some repairs done at the same time. I'm hoping the 170 will be ready to fly sometime next week.

One reason for the repairs is I would like to take my check-ride within my next ten or so hours of flying. I need to finish up my instrument and night flying training but other than that I think I'm ready. Of course I will need to practice quite a bit as I have only flown about five hours over the past three months. Tax season is also underway which could make it after April 15th before I'm able to really prepare for my check-ride.

I'm amazed how little I have flown during this past year. From looking at my logbook one would think I don't really have a passion for flying. I do! During the past year and a half I have read countless books on flying - I'm in the middle of three now. I have several aviation web sites that I check every morning. And, I find myself making excuses to go out to the airport when I'm unable to fly just to see airplanes. Considering how much I enjoy the idea of flying I'm amazed I don't get up more often.

January's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
0.0 0.0Total hours for January
33.9 34.8 Total hours overall (68.7)

February's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
0.0 0.0Total hours for February
33.9 34.8 Total hours overall (68.7)

March 12, 2007 - Tax Time:

Box of replaced parts The 170 was not ready to fly until the end of February due to unexpected repairs. The good news is the A&P expects this to be the last year of extended repairs and, the 170 is starting to look like a new airplane! To the right you can see the box of replaced parts. I'm really looking forward to flying again.

As much as I would like to fly, it may be a little over a month before I get up again. My solo endorsement has expired so until I find time to go out with my instructor I'm grounded. Due to tax season and spring weather, I'm doubtful I will be able to schedule a lesson until after April 15th.

March 29, 2007 - Reminder Flights:

Minutes after posting my last entry my instructor, Ron, called to see if I wanted to go flying. We scheduled a time several days later and went up. I was both surprised how rusty I was and how natural it felt. I made a few mistakes and was not too smooth but everything went OK.

During tax season I usually work at least until 8:00 in the evening. However, last night at 6:15pm the weather was perfect and sunset was not until 7:30pm - I decided to play hooky and go flying. I was able to make three trips around the pattern before sunset. To my surprise all three landings were good and two were near perfect. Of course it was late in the day and the air was still. I don't expect to be able to get out again until sometime around April 15th.

March's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
3/15/07 - Thu 1.0  Landings and turns (KHIO,7S3)
3/28/07 - Wed   0.5 Three landings (7S3)
1.0 0.5Total hours for March
34.9 35.3 Total hours overall (70.2)

April 24, 2007 - Stalls, Short and Soft Field Landings:

I went flying last night after work and don't think I could have had a more enjoyable flight. After takeoff I climbed to 4,000 feet and practiced slow flight and then stalls. This was my first time practicing stalls when solo. It was a little scary as I slowed for my first stall but after that it was kind of fun. I then flew over to McMinnville to practice soft field and short field landings - with a steady 8mph crosswind. I then flew back to Twin Oaks and made two more landings before calling it a day. It was one of those evenings when everything seemed perfect.

I'm setting a goal for myself of getting my license before the end of next month. My wife said she will not fly with me so I have not had much incentive to finish up once I soloed. However, I have a handful of friends who would like to go up and I would also like to be able to visit relatives who live out of state.

April's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
4/05/07 - Thu   0.5 Three 8mph x-wind landings (7S3)
4/20/07 - Fri   0.2 One landing (7S3)
4/24/07 - Mon   1.1 Stalls, short and soft field landings (KMMV)
4/30/07 - Mon   1.1 12+mph x-wind landings (KMMV)
0.0 2.9Total hours for April
34.9 38.2 Total hours overall (73.1)

May 12, 2007 - Night Cross-Country:

Last night I flew my first x-country night flight - which was also my first night flight. We left Twin Oaks around nine, flew down to Eugene, made two landings and returned to Twin Oaks around eleven. As a bonus, I was able to practice my x-wind landings - Hillsboro reported 10mph winds as I was landing at Twin Oaks.

I was surprised how easy it was to tell where I was and where I was headed. I was also surprised how easy it was to judge winds both during the flight and on final. At the same time I was surprised how hard it was to judge my altitude - I felt lower than I was. I found myself relying on my instruments much more than usual. Not only to hold altitude but also to keep the plane level. I was also surprised how hard it was to see hills and mountains. I knew where they were but could not see them. The ground looked pretty much flat with the exception of hills totally covered in lights. Although it was easier than I thought it would be I can see how it would be easy to become totally disoriented.

May's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
5/10/07 - Thu   1.0 Landings (KMMV)
5/11/07 - Fri 2.1   Night x-country (KEUG)
5/22/07 - Tue   0.5 Landings (7S3)
5/25/07 - Fri   0.8 10mph x-wind landings (KMMV)
5/26/07 - Sat   0.8 Landings (KMMV)
2.1 3.1Total hours for May
37.0 41.3 Total hours overall (78.3)

June 9, 2007 - Full Flap Finals:

I've been trying to get out to the airport as often as possible in order to finish up my training. I've got all of my night flying done and only need about one and a half hours of instrument in order to qualify for the check ride. I'm hoping to get my ticket by the end of the month. I had hoped to take my check-ride in two weeks but my wife planed a last minute vacation for that week so I'm now hoping for the last week in June.

The Cessna 1950 170A has basic hinged flaps. In 1952 Cessna came out with the 170B with semi-Fowler flaps which are much more efficient. My hinged flaps have four settings. Since they are much less efficient than those found on newer planes, my instructor didn't push me to use full flaps. I was taught to land with flaps set on the second setting and that is what I use 80% of the time. When I do add more flaps it is only to land at lower speeds and I don't usually apply them until just before going over the fence. Anyway, the other night while practicing night landings I could tell I was going to be high and asked Ron if I should do a slip. He said just to add full flaps. I was pretty sure we were only going to make the runway with a slip but followed his advice. Sure enough, we started to drop as if coming down in an elevator - we also had a headwind. When I told Ron I rarely use full flaps he suggested practicing as I will be expected to use full flaps on my check ride.

So, last night I went out to practice full flap landings. I flew my normal pattern but after turning base I applied the extra two notches to extend full flaps. I was surprised how easy it was to maintain my glide slope. With two notches of flaps I can keep my speed within about five mph of my target and maintain a steady decent towards the numbers. To my surprise however with full flaps I was able to maintain a speed of within about two mph of my target and stay on a steady decent. Through regulating throttle and elevator I felt like I had much more control over my glide. It was a great feeling to have the extra control.

Although my final approach was much improved, my flair was not. Now that I was coming down at a steeper angel my visual picture was changed and I kept flaring too soon. I was also coming in at 70mph (70-75mph is what I have always used) as opposed to 65mph which is correct for full flap landings. The extra speed and early flair caused float which resulted in my missing the first turnout on each of my practice landings. I'm really looking forward to getting out again to try it at the correct full flap approach speed

June's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
6/04/07 - Mon 1.0   Instrument/Emergency (7S3)
6/06/07 - Wed 1.1   Instrument/Navigation (7S3)
6/07/07 - Thu 1.1   Night landings (KHIO)
6/08/07 - Fri   0.7 Full flap landings (7S3)
6/10/07 - Sun   0.7 8mph x-wind tower landings (KHIO)
6/12/07 - Tue 1.1   Short/soft field landings (7S9)
6/12/07 - Tue   0.7 Landings (KHIO)
3.2 2.1Total hours for June
41.3 43.4 Total hours overall (84.7)

July 16, 2007 - PASS CHECK-RIDE:

I passed my check ride today! I will tell you all about it when I have time to tell the complete story.

July 18, 2007 - My Check-Ride:

As mentioned in earlier posts, about a month ago I decided to make flying a priority so I could finish my instruction and get my ticket. In preparation for my check-ride, I had purchased some study materials, about six months ago, but had not really started using them until about two weeks ago. I also have a client who is a helicopter check-ride examiner who, about three weeks ago, spent an evening quizzing me and letting me know what to expect. In addition, last Friday I studied with a friend who is an instructor at Hillsboro Aviation. I also studied the FFA's practical test standards book. At the time of the check ride I felt prepared although I was still lacking in a few areas such as weather.

I had hoped to spend the weekend before my check-ride studying, but due to a long series of interruptions, I was only able to get in a few hours of study that weekend. I still had Monday morning so I was not too worried. Monday morning I went to work to print off my weather, enter my winds aloft data into my flight plan, and study. Unfortunately, after printing off the weather and updating my flight plan I had a series of interruptions including having an employee throw up all over the office. Shortly before noon I headed out to the airport to pickup my signed Form 8710 and fly over to McMinnville to meet the examiner at 1:00pm. Upon arriving at the airport everything was ready but I could not find the signed 8710 that my instructor said he would leave in my plane. His hangar is across from mine and I could tell he was up flying with a student. I was not sure when he would return but hoped it would be soon. He had called several hours before to tell me that the examiner might be a bit late. At this point I was hoping the examiner would be a lot late.

My instructor showed up fifteen minutes after I was to start my check-ride. He signed the 8710 and called the examiner to let him know why I was running late - I didn't have the examiner's number. I then departed Twin Oaks for McMinnville - this was not how I had wanted to spend the morning before my check-ride. I arrived at McMinnville about forty-five minutes late and quickly found the examiner. As we sat down the examiner informed me that a representative of the FAA would be sitting in on my examination to review the examiner's examination. Great I thought, I'm late, I have not really studied much in the prior three days and I have the FAA reviewing me and my examiner. I still felt ready and not nervous although I was a bit anxious.

The oral exam started by the examiner reviewing my paperwork and asking questions relating to required documentation and currency. Weather has always been my weakest area and of course that was the first major section covered by the examiner. I felt relived when I was able to answer all of his weather related questions. As the oral continued I was able to answer all of his questions with the exception of two. The first was what seasonal event might cause a TFR. When I said forest fires he said to name another and I could not think of anything. "Football games" was what he was looking for. The second question I missed was what are the square white borders around the Seattle and Portland airspace for? I had no idea although when he told me they tell the reader there is an expanded chart available I instantly knew what he was looking for - I had even printed one off and had it in my folder. Other than those two minor items, I knew the answer to all of his questions. I felt like we had just gotten started when he said to take a ten minute break and then we would continue in the plane. After the check-ride the examiner said both he and the FAA reviewer felt I was one of the best prepared applicants they had ever seen - I guess I studied a bit too much.

As we taxied out towards the runway he said we would do some short and soft field landings and takeoffs and then go on to the x-country. While taxiing out for takeoff he asked how short and soft field takeoffs differed in my plane. After explaining the difference he said to do a soft field takeoff. My takeoff was not perfect but it was OK. I then made an OK soft field landing. As we took off for the second time the examiner said to go ahead and start the x-country. My first checkpoint was reaching cruse altitude which was above the current lawyer of clouds. So, we leveled off about 2,000 feet lower than planed. As we approached my second checkpoint, he diverted me to another nearby airport. I was able to estimate the distance, barring and time in my head as it was an airport I had visited in the past.

We then did some steep turns followed by an approach stall and a departure stall. He then had me put on the hood for a little instrument flying. As I recall we made some turns and then descended about 500 feet. He then ran me through two unusual attitudes before letting me remove the hood.

After removing the hood he informed me we had just lost the engine. I put the plane into a glide and started looking for a place to land. I vacillated between two fields before finally selecting one about 2,000 feet above the ground. The instructor said I did a good job although he would have selected the dirt airstrip between the two fields. Needless to say, that made me feel a bit silly although the dirt strip was hard to see.

Next he had me select a point to turn around for my ground reference maneuvers. My ground track was not great but it must have been OK because after one turn he said to head back to McMinnville. He then told me to do a slip to a landing with no flaps. I had only made one no flap landing before and that was about one year prior by mistake. I enjoy slips along with landing with minimal flaps so I was not too stressed and actually felt pretty good coming down on final. Due to not having flaps I had some extra speed and touch the mains first. As they touched the examiner said I could turn the landing into a wheel landing if I was to push forward on the controls. My wheel landings are hit and miss but I felt good about everything up to that point so I eased forward on the controls and made a nice wheel landing. After setting the tail down he said to taxi back to the FBO and at that point I knew I had passed.

It took about a half hour to fill out the paperwork and I then flew back to Twin Oaks. My landing at Twin Oaks was a terrible one requiring full rudder and a little break to keep the plane from running off the runway - it just figures.

The check-ride was much easier than I had expected. I think reviewing with friends and spending time studying the practical test standards made all the difference on the oral. My dad is convinced the flying portion was easy because once the examiner saw I could handle a talewheel airplane he knew I could fly. That might be part of it but having 40+ hours of solo time must also make a difference.

As far as advice to other applicants I would recommend knowing your airspace, light-gun signals, and charts like the back of your hand and then reading through the practical test standards at least two or three times. As far as the flying portion just relax and do what you have been doing. It is easier than everyone makes it out to be - I actually had fun.

July's Flight Calendar:
Date - DayDualSoloDescription
7/04/07 - Wed 1.2   Instrument/short/soft (7S9)
7/05/07 - Thu 1.1   Instrument/short/soft/wheel/emergency (KMMV)
7/06/07 - Fri 1.1   Instrument/short/soft/emergency (KUAO)
7/08/07 - Sun   1.0 Full flap landings (KMMV)
7/11/07 - Wed 1.0   Short field/tower operations (4S4,KMMV)
7/11/07 - Wed   0.9 X-wind landings and go-around (KMMV)
7/12/07 - Thu   0.7 To Hillsboro to certify transponder (KHIO)
7/14/07 - Sat 1.1   Soft field/steep turns/stalls (2S6)
7/15/07 - Sun 1.3   Soft & short field/emergency/instrument (2S6)
6.8 2.6Total hours for July
48.1 46.0 Total hours overall (94.1)

July 18, 2007 - Advice for Future Pilots:

What advice would I give someone who is just starting out?

It took me over a year and a half to get my pilot's license. I had 48 hours of instruction and 46 hours of solo flight when I took my check-ride. There is no question I could have done it sooner. The main reason it took so long was scheduling. I had my first lesson in October of 2005. After four hours of instruction I took several months off due to weather and the annual inspection. I then flew seven more hours before taking time off for tax season. After tax season I started up again and flew thirteen more hours before soloing. Once I soloed I could fly whenever I wanted so I was not so concerned about scheduling lessons with my instructor. For the first month or so I only flew when the winds were calm which limited who often I could fly. I knew I needed practice landing so that is what I did. As a result I didn't fly that much with my instructor during the summer of 2006 when the weather was nice and my workload was lighter. In the fall of 2006 we decided to start trying to finish things up. At that point I had had no night flying so that was made a priority. Unfortunately due to weather and scheduling we were not able to get any in until we started up again after tax season in 2007. At the beginning of June I decided I was going to make flying a priority in order to finish things up. From that point on I flew every time my instructor was free. My wife scheduled a vacation in the second half of June and we had some problems at work so I was not able to fly as much as I had planed but my flying went from flying once per week to several times per week. Had I placed flying as a top priority from the beginning I think it still would have taken me from 50 to 70 hours to get my ticket.

Knowing all of that, I would recommend someone interested learning to fly set a goal:

If you want to get your ticket as soon as possible, plan on flying at least twice per week and probably three times or more once you solo. Once you do solo, continue to fly as often as possible with your instructor. This should allow you to finish in three to six months.

If you can't afford to fly that often due to time or finances, take your time and enjoy yourself. Most of the students I meet out at the airport are taking the slow approach. So don't feel bad if it takes a year or two and over 100 hours. It will take longer before you can take your friends up but you will also receive more instruction.

Regardless of which method you choose, I would set goals and let your instructor know what they are - and help you adjust them as you progress. I would also recommend finding some friends who fly (or are learning to fly) who can help you study and encourage you. I wouldn't say becoming a pilot was the greatest day of my life but it does feel good.