Monday, December 26, 2016

12 Tips for Student Pilots!

     Having recently earned my Private Pilot License this year, I thought I would reflect on my flight training experience and share a few tips for Student Pilots. My hope is that by following these tips you will not only become a better pilot, but also save money while doing so. As we all know, flying is not a cheap hobby; nor is cheap to begin a career in aviation. But, going about your flight training the right way can make it as affordable as possible!

#1: Come Prepared
     Learning is free at home, so you should capitalize on it! Before each flight lesson, prepare yourself for the topics that will be covered with your instructor. After each lesson, be sure to ask what to expect next time. This way, you will know what knowledge to brush up on or even what maneuvers to familiarize yourself with. This maximizes your learning in the cockpit and can save you a lot of money by not having to waste time in the airplane!
#2: Fly Consistently
     This tip is dear to my heart. I started flying at age 13, but I was very inconsistent in my training; often taking months off at a time without flying or studying. I highly recommend sticking to a schedule and flying as consistently and as often as your budget allows. It is very costly to take 2 steps forward each lesson and 1 step back by waiting too long between lessons and getting rusty!
#3: Never Stop Flying the Airplane

     Student Pilots often forget that to the fly airplane from engine start to engine shutdown. Flight controls should always be paid attention to not only in the air, but also while taxiing the aircraft! A nasty gust of wind is all it takes to flip an airplane and cause damage to both the airplane and your wallet.
#4: Get a Weather Briefing
     As a pilot, you should prepare yourself as much as possible before each flight. This includes being informed about the current weather, weather forecasts, and any inclement weather in the area. Your instructor will be impressed, and it is a great habit to acquire. A briefing may even cause you to cancel your flight for the sake of safety!
#5: Ask Questions
     Your flight instructor is truly your best friend in the process of flight training. If you come across a topic in a book, ground school, or even in flight that you do not understand, ask! Get your question cleared up before you are off on your own flying solo or come across it during an exam.
#6: Know Your Checklists

     Take no shame in practicing your flying at home. It is broadly recommended that you sit down in a chair and practice going through your checklists and commit it to muscle memory. This will allow you to learn the flow of each checklist while actually in the cockpit and be able to allocate more attention to flying the airplane.
#7: Pre-Flight Your Airplane Thoroughly

     Never assume the airplane you are about to fly is airworthy. As the PIC, it is your responsibility to make sure the aircraft is ready to fly. This includes checking maintenance records and the airworthiness certificate in the airplane. Follow a checklist when preflighting the aircraft or even develop your own routine!
#8: Learn the Fundamentals Before Implementing Technology
     It is the 21st century and an abundance of technology is available for aviation, and that is an exciting thing! However, technology should not be too relied upon, for there is always the chance it can fail. Learn the fundamentals like using a manual E6B before moving onto "iPad flying".
#9: Immerse Yourself in Aviation

     You will find that you will learn much easier and quickly if you spend as much time as possible immersed in the world of aviation. Spend some time around your local airport and meet fellow pilots, and I promise you will be surprised on how much knowledge you acquire in such a casual and fun setting.
#10: Fly a Taildragger
     I was lucky to begin my flight training in a Piper Cub, and I believe it has contributed greatly to my flying skills. Flying in a basic taildragger like the Cub without distractions of complex instruments and focusing on stick and rudder skills will pay dividends in the long run. Your flying will be smoother and your turns will undoubtedly become more coordinated after some time in a taildragger.
#11: Know When to Cancel Your Flight

     As it goes, "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but are no old, bold pilots," (Harry Copland). Aeronautical Decision Making is perhaps the most important skill to develop as a Student Pilot. If the weather is poor, the aircraft is not suitable for flight, or you yourself are not in shape to fly, do not fly. No experienced pilot is impressed by risky flying, so please err on the side of caution.
#12: Use the Internet
     I am thrilled that you found this site, and I hope that these tips have been helpful! The internet is full of tools to help your flight training process go as smoothly as possible. My favorite resource was YouTube in order to familiarize myself with flight maneuvers and complex topics. There are also a number of resources available to help you prepare for the written, oral, and practical flight examinations.

     Learning to fly is an incredible experience, but it does not come without its challenges. My hope is that these tips will make a tangible difference in the outcome of your flight training. Enjoy your time in the skies and never stop learning!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Switching FBO's and a New Airplane!

     Flash back to 2010, and I was a 13-year-old boy who was absolutely in love with aviation. I was heavily involved in flight simulators and the online community that surrounded it. My parents recognized this deep interest in aviation, so they brought me to a local grass strip for an airplane ride. As if I did not already have a passion for flying, my interest spiked further. Following this first ride in Piper Cub, I went on to solo on my 16th birthday and eventually earn my Private Pilot License in a C172H. Those years of training and countless hours of flying took place at Red Stewart Airfield(40I) in Waynesville, OH and I absolutely loved it.

     Despite the genuine, good-natured, and friendly people at the airport...Despite the knowledge, passion, and community I saw there...there was always one thing that made me feel some level of discomfort. By lack of surprise, it was the airplanes Red Stewart had to offer. The following is the current fleet of the flight school and associated prices.

  • N77500 - 1946 Piper J-3 Cub 65hp
  • N98286 - 1946 Piper J-3 Cub 85hp
  • N1798E - 1946 Aeronca Champ 7BCM
  • C150
  • C150
  • N2814L - 1967 Cessna 172H
  • N9080L - 1970 Citabria 7KCAB
  • N3701T - 1967 Piper Arrow PA-28R
  • N510N - 1941 Boeing Stearman PT-17
  • Taylorcraft
     From that list, I certainly find it troubling that the airport does not own a single airplane newer than 1970. A fleet that consists of nothing less than 46 years old is not a solid basis to build a reputable business off of. Despite this, in my head I always had faith in the airport's mechanics and therefore the condition of the their aircraft. Perhaps it was my young age and sense of invulnerability associated with that, but in retrospect I am troubled by the thought of flying some of Red Stewart's aircraft confidently. I can clearly remember that almost every flight there was always some type of issue with the airplane of choice that day. The transponder, the brakes, the radios, the push-to-talk, the battery, the starter, the fuel gauge... there was always something wrong and often it was glossed over. 

     After flying at Red Stewart Airfield for over 6 years, I finally had a moment of exigence. After returning home from a 6-week trip to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Czech Republic, I was extremely eager to fly. When doing the run-up in N77500, a 1946 Piper Cub, the engine actually quit when checking the magnetos. Perhaps I had simply counted the clicks wrong and switched the ignition to off? However, I was 99% sure I had the right magneto selected before quickly switching back to both in an attempt to save the engine. I got another prop, the engine started fairly rough, and I further analyzed the situation with an instructor onboard for good measure. Both magnetos performed fine this time, but I was told this was a known issue, but the airplane was still being flown by others. 

     Please do not misconstrue my message, but allow me to explain why I felt this was the best time to switch to a new, reputable FBO. I am well aware that Red Stewart is proud of its history as a grass roots aviation establishment. They love classic aircraft and enjoy keeping alive the tradition of taildraggers and stick and rudder skills that accompany them. However, there is a fundamental issue when maintenance can be so easily called into question and business practices ignore them. If your business cannot afford or is not willing to keep your fleet well-maintained, reliable, safe, and relatively adjusted with the current times, your business needs to change. I love the people at Red Stewart, especially my instructor, but I am simply not comfortable in their airplanes. When it comes to Aeronautical Decision Making, the pilot in command should have full faith in the reliability and safety of an airplane before ever flying it, and I will not make the irresponsible decision of putting my life or the lives of passengers at risk against my better judgment. 

     In conclusion, I have decided to relocate my future flying to Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport(MGY). More specifically, I will be renting and continuing any future flight training with Aviation Sales Inc. in their fleet of Cessna 172's that range from 1979 to 2001 C172 Ns, RGs, and SPs. I have completed my check-out there and am strongly looking forward to their modern display of professionalism, structure, and attention to aircraft maintenance. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Private Pilot License and My First Passenger

     Since my last update, I have finally achieved my goal of earning my Private Pilot License. On February 7th I flew down to Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport(KLUK) in N2814L, a 1967 Cessna 172H, to take my check ride. I flew with he esteemed and famous FAA examiner Martha Lunken and successfully passed with ease. She was fantastic and made the experience feel more like a normal flight lesson than a strict exam. After a hug and congratulations, I headed back to Red Stewart Airfield in the ol' 172.

     I attend the University of Dayton, so it is difficult to find time to fly during the year. So, I had to wait until the summer to go flying again. On May 22nd I went up with my instructor Joe in N98286, an 85hp 1946 Piper Cub, in order to officially get my tailwheel endorsement and get checked out in the airplane. We did a few stalls and eventually flew back to Red Stewart to do a few landings. With a slight crosswind and a hangar party full of people watching me, we went around the pattern six times before calling it a day. Although my landings were on par, those darn bumps in the grass runway did not do much to complement them--making for a few bounces on rollout.

     After getting signed off and logging some solo time, I was ready to take my first passenger up flying since earning my license. My dad and I had always looked forward to going flying together, so who better than him! On June 12th we drove to Red Stewart and rented the Cub. We borrowed a headset for him, signed out the portable intercom, and went out to the hangar. He helped me pull the plane out, and I showed him how a preflight is done and took him along as I walked around the aircraft. All was well, and after filling up on fuel, we were ready to take to the skies.

     There was a light breeze out of the northwest, so I chose to depart on runway 26. Before pulling onto the runway I was excited to have my first passenger with me, but I did feel the responsibility I had. With a little right aileron into the wind I advanced the throttle and we were airborne by 7:00pm in the evening. Once airborne my dad looked back with a smile on his face a thumbs up! After a left downwind departure, were stayed at 2,000ft MSL and took a loop around Caesar's Creek, a popular lake nearby where we used to take our boat very often. We checked out the lake from an aerial perspective and then headed towards our house. Without going into tremendous detail, I took us west to I-71 and headed south before breaking off further westbound. After two turns around a point around our home, we decided to head back up to Caesar's creek for another look. Along the way my dad pointed out familiar places that he spotted, and it really was a fun experience.

     During my flight training, my father was always so interested by the various maneuvers I would tell him about. Stalls, steep turns, steep spirals and the like all sounded exciting to him, so he asked if we could do some--a brave passenger! After climbing to 3,500ft MSL, I talked him through exactly what I was going to do to avoid any surprises. As a warm up, we did a steep turn to the left and right. Thankfully he was not scared off, so next I prepared to do some power-off stalls. Again, I made sure he knew exactly what I was going to do and what is happening during a stall. After cutting the throttle I slowly pulled back the stick until stalling right as the stick reached the stop. Slowly I eased the pressure off and the airplane began to fly again. He loved it! After a few more, we headed back to Red Stewart airfield before making a nice landing with a little crosswind from the right on 26.

     All in all, my dad thoroughly enjoyed the flight. Despite being 6'3'', he was a champ and squeezed in the tiny front seat of the Cub without a single complaint. Since it was a nice summer night, we flew the whole flight with the window and door open. He was surprised how smooth the old World War II era airplane was and how calm the air was. After landing my dad said to me, "I have a whole new respect for what you do, and was never nervous about flying with you." I really appreciated this, and am looking forward to taking my next passenger. Next time, I think a destination with a good airport restaurant is in order. Lunken?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

An Update on My Training - Flying to Miami

     I hate to admit it, but it has been close to two years since my last post. Since then, I have not only passed by Private Pilot Knowledge Test but have also been signed off for my Check Ride. College applications, graduating high school, and beginning my first year at the University of Dayton has proved to be both exciting and immensely busy. This has really made it hard to find time to get back home to fly and prepare for my Check Ride. However, I have really made an effort to fly while Christmas Break.

     Over the past few weeks, between spending time with friends and family, I have found time to get back into flying. I received another solo checkout which is good for 90 days, and I have begun preparation for the the Check Ride.

     My most recent flight took place on Thursday, January 7th with Joe in the N2814L, a C172H. After arriving at the airport at 8:45am on a very frosty 25F morning, I had to preheat the aircraft in order for it to start. I got the Cub Cadet out of the hangar, and attached its propane blower in the engine cowling in order to warm it up a bit. After talking to Joe inside the airport for a bit, we went outside to start it. The battery seemed to struggle in the cold, but eventually the prop turned over and roared to life. We taxied over to fuel ramp to fill up and planned out a route to Miami University Airport(KOXD) that would keep us clear of the Cincinnati Class B Airspace. The air was incredibly smooth and this flight was relatively uneventful. However, the campus was beautiful and the fun started on the way back. 

     After climbing to 5,500ft for the flight back east, we were about 10-12 miles from Middletown Regional Airport/Hook Field(KMWO). Once I was nice and relaxed, Joe pulled out the throttle and said, "Whoops, your engine failed!". I quickly began the checklist: Fuel-Both, Mixture-Rich, Carb Heat-On, Mags-Both, Primer-Locked...but where should we land? I told Joe we couldn't make Middletown and although he appreciated the safe decision to land elsewhere, he asked me to try to land there and remember the sight picture I had when the engine "quit". I did not believe we could make it, so I was quite surprised to find myself very high when on a base leg for runway 5. I put in flaps and switched to the grass runway 08 and finally made a safe landing. I couldn't believe the C172 could glide so easily, so this proved to be very productive.

     We then taxied over to runway 23 and departed back to Red Stewart Airfield. Enroute, I performed a number of required maneuvers for the Check Ride like stalls, departure stalls, and steep turns. I then did a soft field landing and taxied back. At this point, I am required to do one more hour of dual time with Joe before taking the Check Ride. After that and a solo practice flight, I should be all set to get my license!