I’m combining a few flights because we literally just worked on autos and run ons. While it was very interesting to me, it likely won’t be interesting to you.
I’m starting this group of flights with 46.8 hours and leaving it with 52. For those 5.2 hours of hours Grant and I solely worked on autos. Straight-ins, 180s and hover autos.
We broke up the time a little bit with a confined or two but really we spent much of our just getting autos nailed down in different types of wind conditions. For some time 180 autos gave me a bit of trouble. I would try to do everything at the same time. The spot would pass over my shoulder, I’d drop collective and throw in some aft cyclic and left pedal as I turned, as soon as I was nearly done with the turn I would roll off the throttle, pull collective to fight the high rotors because of our tight turn – it would get as messy as that run on sentence…
After watching me struggle with a few Grant suggested I do one thing at a time.
Put collective down.
Put collective down.
Land like a boss.
It’s as easy as that… wait… that sounds terrible.
It’s not really that bad as all that but it does take some practice.
The trouble is practice is sometimes few and far in between. Imagine being a toddler that only gets to try to walk 3 times a month, that toddler might take a while to learn. I am a toddler. In a helicopter.
The good news is everything really started clicking and I felt more and more comfortable. I guess the one take away is that at 20 or 30 hours a new helicopter pilot can go through the motions of an auto but at 50 hours you might also have a better understanding as to how to tweak a tiny control input to get the desired effect. You’ll also have a better understanding of what outside forces are acting on your aircraft and what they are doing to your auto. The first time I did a 180 in winds greater than 10 knots I ended up in a much different spot than I thought I would. Understanding what DA will do to your aircraft on a hot day will also change how you manage your aircraft.
It all takes time and understanding. I wonder where I’ll be at 100 or 200 hours.
I flew yesterday so today should have been awesome but it was not. I seemed to have forgotten how to do anything but sit in the helicopter. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was a bad night sleep or maybe I’m thinking about work to much but I’m starting with 45.7 and for the next 1.1 hours nothing really good happens.
Well, one good thing happens… I flew one of the new G2s with Aspen glass in it. It’s right under the EPM, you can make it out but I’ll get close shots of it next time I’m in that helicopter. Basically the Aspen has everything you need all in one tiny little package. Since I don’t want to talk about regression and how crappy my flight was I’ll mention what the Aspen has in it:
• Airspeed, attitude, altitude, turn rate, slip/skid, magnetic direction and vertical speed
• Horizontal situation indicator (HSI)
• DG and HSI pilot configurable for either 360 degree or 100 degree arc views
• HSI version provides full interface with navigation receivers
To be honest the flight wasn’t that terrible but I was making rookie mistakes and watching the video is painful so I’ll spare you the pain of watching it as well. Grant and a few other pilots I spoke to said a little regression here and there is normal just make sure you turn it into a learning experience. Here’s the learning experience. Don’t fly like a newb and when you’re having a bad day just shake it off…
1.1 hours go in the books that I wish I could (mostly) forget.
It’s been 2 weeks but I finally found some time to head up. I’m at 44.6 hours and the weather is perfect.
Between storms and work there hasn’t been much time but I Grand had a window for a quick flight. I’m rusty and want to work on autos and settling with power again.
To kick it into settling power we do a few laps to make sure we have a nice place to ditch if it comes to that then we climb to around 2000 feet.
We slow the heli to about 0 IAS then drop at a rate greater than 300 feet per minute. It’s an uneasy feeling and I don’t like it, the controls are mush and when you pull power, nothing happens. Ugh. Not awesome.
When we’re in it and Grant has proved his point we nose foward, lower collective, gain some speed and fly out of it.
For the rest of the flight we worked on autos. Nothing new there, just shaking off the rust. We called it after 1.1 hours which puts me at 45.7.
I passed the damn written on the second try. For the past 3 weeks I traveled relentlessly for work and while sitting in every airport, I studied. At home after the kids were down for the night, I studied. Weekends, I studied. I bugged Grant for help with VOR + weight and balance advice then, I studied. I also watched every terrible youtube out there. I was averaging 85% on my practice tests and decided it was time I gave it a shot again. Work is going super busy in about a week so might as well…
I took about 45 minutes to get through the exam then went though it again to make sure. I knew I passed it but I also knew I missed some… The questions I missed were not easy ones and there were answers that could be considered “more” correct than others. Anyway, it’s over and I passed and I got a decent enough grade. I know I need to keep studying for my oral and practical but that seems like a million miles away.
Here’s the thing, getting your helicopter PPL is 70% ground and studying. Flying is only about 30%. Obviously flying is the fun part but you can’t really have one without the other. I’m glad for all the studying lately. Makes me feel like I’m becoming less of an idiot up there. Things are slowly starting to click.
On to the flight.
It’s been almost a month since I’ve flown a helicopter. I’m at 43.5 hours and like I mentioned work has been getting the better part of me lately. I’ll be rusty. Poor Grant.
Weather is good and I’m looking forward to an hour in the air. I pull out the Mike Hotel and run through the pre-flight. I fire it up and we’re off.
Today we’re going to work on run-ons and autos.
My autos are still a little chunky and my run-ons feel pretty mechanical. Not a lot of smooth flying going on but I’m grateful for the time up in the after cracking the books for a few weeks.
As stated in other posts, a good (practice) auto starts when 15 seconds before you dump the collective. Get setup, set that airspeed, make sure you’re in trim, make sure you know where the winds are coming from, make sure you’re at the right altitude, be aware of what’s happening at the tower and with the other aircraft around you… Generally on the last few seconds of my downwind I check the outside of the helicopter, usually the towered has cleared me for the option so I look at my spot, look outside the helicopter then I look inside. Check that all the lights are off, gauges are in the green and we have good fuel. Then we’ll turn base and I can set my speed and altitude. Then I turn final and if I haven’t screwed it all up, we’ll enter depending on where Grant tells me to land it and the wind. If the wind is gusty or variable we might do a little S-turn to put it where we need to. Again, they are chunky but coming along.
Run-ons are a little different. We run a normal pattern, but on base to final we’re loosing a little bit of altitude. We make a shallow approach and as we get closer and closer to where we’re going to put the skids we’re trying to keep the helicopter on the good side of ETL. ETL is Effective Translational Lift, basically what that means is we have nice clean air coming through the rotor which give us some good lift. Why would we need to do this? We’ll maybe the DA changed from the airport we took off from or we’ve got a rough running engine or we’re heavy, either way we can’t sustain a hover so we need to run on.
It feels a little wrong to be coming in at 20-30 knots knowing you’ve got metal skids under you and you’re going to grind the crap out of them but… you deal with it. I tend to come in a little ass low. I’m not sure why but it’s common as I watch other students. Level is just a bit further forward then I think. You also have way more pedal power than you think you do so keeping on the pedals keeps the nose nice and straight.
1.1 more hours and I’m at 44.6. It’s going to be 2 more weeks at least before I can get up again but even that short 1.1 hours did me good.
… “on your second try” would be a more accurate title for this post.
I’ve been at this now for about 7 months. I walked into the classroom with no real practical experience in aviation. I knew which end of the helicopter was up but little else.
The ground school I attended was great, lots of important topics were covered and lots of help from the instructors and other students was available. Sadly I did not take anyone up on their offers, well, that’s not completely true. Grant and I went through weight and balance, airspace, weather, and a few other odds and ends. We met outside of class 5 or 6 times to make up the classes I missed. He was generous with his time but my day job kept me from really getting as involved as I should have. I was working about 60-70 hours a week and traveling nonstop. I’m not sure how many commercial flights I’ve been on this year but it’s well over 60.
I did try to study after the ground school was over but it was tough to carve out some time between the fam and work. It was easy to ignore and I was happy to ignore it. Every concept was so difficult. I still struggle with airspace…
This isn’t all bad news though, here is what helped me pass with a decent score which I’ll go more into in another post.
Trying to get through the FAR AIM alone is impossible so keep that as reference only. There is a decent iPhone app that helps you with search and the $9.99 is worth it. But if you’re trying to use it for your ground, it’s fine for a few things but it’s more help when you’re working on your oral.
The ASA test prep is COMPLETELY worth it. The questions are nearly identical to what you’ll see on the tests. The FAA supplement is EXACTLY what they give you in the test so it’s best to familiarize yourself with that. I thought it was going to be “similar” but nope, it’s exactly the same, try to learn what most pages are asking you, drill on those sectionals over and over and over. Same with the VOR questions, that’s what did me in. I wish I had paid more attention to it and familiarized myself with each and every page. There are a few things in there that we never covered in class like a cross wind component but it’s easy enough to get through with a couple youtube videos.
I also purchased a plotter, wiz wheel, and a CX-2 calculator. The calculator is important, you should obviously need to be able to plot a course, figure out wind, fuel burn… all of that by hand but a calculator makes it a bit easier. Some of the questions they ask have answers that are just a couple degrees off so if you have your whiz wheel set a little off, you could be wrong.
The ASA iPhone / iPad app was a pretty big help too. The dauntless iPhone / iPad app was less helpful.
You’re not supposed to talk about specific questions that are on the test so I won’t do that but the ones that got me on this first go round were VOR questions, I missed most of them. It seemed like the test was only made of VOR questions… I also missed some about carb heat, I later asked some pilots, instructors and other folks and, well, some got it right and some got it wrong.
Here’s why I failed the first time.
I didn’t study enough. I decided that VOR was beyond me and ignored it. I focused on learning how to navigate off the plotter, weight and balance, and the other million topics but thought I’d still pass without VOR. NOPE. $150 bucks down the drain. I failed by 1 question. Great. Now I have to tell my wife, instructor, and you all that I’m dumb.
I’m obviously writing this after my 2nd retake… which, you can probably guess how it went but still, a terrible feeling leaving that place with a big FAIL in red. Ugh.
Last thought, when preparing for your PPL, flying is 30% of the time you’ll spend working on your ticket, maybe less. If you spend 50 hours in the air, you should spend 150 hours learning all the basics, not memorizing them. It’s beyond important to know how to control the aircraft but it’s also important to understand pressure density, weight and balance, navigation and general aeronautical knowledge. Don’t expect for them to give you a license because you can nail your spot on autos.
I’m at 42 hours and today I get to do something new. Winds are around 10 knts from the SW, clouds are broken and it’s around 85. Not a bad day to head out.
I’ve spent the last few weeks flying solo patterns but today we’re going to go try something different. We’ll purposely put the helicopter into settling with power and then we’ll work on recovering. We’ll also work on some confined landings.
I run a preflight, call for fuel and we’re up in no time. We’re headed North, a change of scenery is welcome. We get to a nice big open area with zero power lines and lots of options if things don’t go as planned. Grant and I talk about what settling with power is and how you recover from it. I have a pretty good idea what it is since we’ve talked about it for months and I’ve watched a ton of videos about it. We talk about how we’re going to enter into it and steps to get out. What I wasn’t expecting was how it… felt. It feels like someone kicks the chair out from under you. The setup feels terrible. You bring the helicopter to a hover, you start a decent rate at greater than 300fpm and then, damn, nothing works right. I followed on controls LIGHTLY but it’s pretty obvious you have mushy pedals, the collective doesn’t do anything and nothing feels right. The nose pitches from right to left and you have the distinct feeling nothing is going as planned. After what feels like 10 minutes you drop some collective, pitch forward a bit and a couple hundred feet lower the world is good again.
My turn. As I set up it took a little more time to get us to just a hover… in space… It didn’t feel right. I couldn’t reduce airspeed for some reason. I know there is inertia stored in the rotor but bringing the helicopter to zero IAS that high AGL seems wrong. Then throwing it in a decent rate seems like the worst idea ever. Finally after fiddling around with the controls, we’re in it. Settling with power feels wrong. The helicopter is bucking around, there is a weird vib and your controls aren’t doing what you want them to do. You lower collective, push forward and all of a sudden when you get just a bit of airspeed back and you’re out of the downwash everything is perfect. I ask Grant if we can do another.
Next up is confined landings.
Generally the name of the game is to follow some pretty simple rules. You fly a high reconnaissance(1000’AGL), you check the wind (trees, water, weeds, smoke, whatever is moving take note), look at overall suitability, make sure your power is fine. You also want to understand places to ditch if something unexpected were to happen, I look for a way out when if I get into a low recon and don’t like it. For the most part you don’t take your eyes off the prize but keep an eye out for power lines or more importantly transmission towers since power lines are pretty much invisible. If you feel the place will work you go in VERY cautiously for a low recon(500′ AGL). While you’re taking laps run through the 5 S’s. Size, Shape, Slope, Surface, Surroundings. If everything fits you might want to take a run at it knowing you can bail and you don’t have to commit.
Not a bad way to spend a day and it’s a lot more interesting than making right turns for an hour.
We head home after an hour and call it a day. 1.5 more hours puts me at 43.5.
I’m taking the test in a few days… so notes on that coming soon.
I have 41 hours and this flight wasn’t that interesting so I’ll write about studying for the test a little bit too. I’ve registered to take the test in 1 week. Yikes.
On to the flight. I ran through the preflight, Grant in, I made 15 or so approaches. I landed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Takeaways? Not too many on this one. I need to get through 10 hours of solo time and this is the last of it. I will miss being up in the helicopter alone but I’m looking forward to learning new things. Those new things are awesome… settling with power and confined landings.
OK. The written. You sign something when you register to take the test that specifically states you will not talk about the test and what’s on the test so I WILL NOT do that. I’ll talk about how I approached studying for the test which was to buy a few apps, the Far AIM and the 2016 ASA TEST PREP. I also bought the AIRMAN KNOWLEDGE TESTING SUPPLEMENT FOR SPORT PILOT, RECREATIONAL PILOT, AND PRIVATE PILOT FAA-CT-8080-2F.
The apps I bought were the Dauntless GroundSchool and the ASA PrepWare Private Pilot.
I bought an EB6 and a CX2 calculator.
I learned how to chart with the EB6 and do my fuel calcs with both the EB6 and the CX2. I also learned how to do my weight and balance by hand and in the calc.
I started really buckling down about a month ago. I took the practice tests, made flash cards and watched videos on YouTube.
When you start studying everything is new, completely confusing and horrible. YouTube only helps so much. Talking to other pilots or student pilots is EXTREMELY helpful. The trouble is that I am traveling nonstop so… I rarely have the option to hang out at the school. My iPad and books are about the only interactions I get with anything related to aviation so do yourself a favor and stick around the school as much as you can… if you can’t do that find other (student) pilots to talk to. As much time as I spend in airports it’s hard not to go up to the commercial pilots and start asking them questions…
The Dauntless app is ok but you see the same questions over and over again, you begin to memorize the answers by repetition which is NOT what I wanted. I wanted to actually learn the formulas and why clouds form at this altitude in these conditions. I did not want to regurgitate. I think I’m giving up on the Dauntless app and moving on to the 2016 ASA TEST PREP book. It has all the same questions as the Dauntless app but it has more of an explanation that lead into the questions. I’m also watching more and more videos on YouTube.
Specifically this video:
I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to Cindy talk about airspace. I hope I run into her one day… I’m going to buy her a beer.
I’m getting 70% – 80% on my practice tests. I still don’t understand parts of VOR and airspace but I’ll meet with Grant this next week and knock out as much as I can.
Anyway, I’m reading, reading, and reading some more. I study about 2 hours a night and I’ve been doing so for about a month. I’m working about 60-70 hours a week so I know I’m not retaining everything but at least my flying skills are sharp! I really to spend more time studying but between the kids, work, the house and flying it’s a lot. 1st world problems.
I have 39 hours and it’s been 10 days since that long XC solo. I thought about that flight for a long time in the past week and a half. It wasn’t a bad flight but it wasn’t the easiest either. I’m hoping to work approaches and landings. I need to tighten up my approaches…
The weather is perfect, light winds from the east and not a ton of traffic in the pattern.
I went through the pre-flight, called the fuel truck, and fired up Mike-Hotel. Grant jumped in and we went over to the ideal ramp. He hoped out and I made my call to the tower. I ran a few laps paying as much attention as humanly possible to putting the helicopter exactly where I wanted it on the 1000′ markers. I made sure I cruised at 80%, I made sure I was in trim, I checked my spot when I was abeam… I cleared the outside of my helicopter as soon as the tower cleared me for the option. I checked my lights, gauges, checked my fuel. It felt good to be in the pattern again.
About halfway through one of my downwinds I noticed a Delta 767 taxiing. Huh. That’s a big jet… later I found out that the St. Louis Cardinals fly out of KCPS. Anyway, as I turned final he was on the move… I stayed a little higher than normal so as not to get in his wash. I also noticed a blackhawk had just landed at Hanger 12’s ramp. Awesome. Those things are massive.
I stuck around in the pattern for about 2 hours just drilling making my approaches as perfect as possible. I wanted everything to be repeatable. I focused on keeping the nose as straight as possible, my climb outs at 50kts, my turns in trim. I may have been making left hand turns for 2 hours but it helped me in more ways than I can count.
I called it quits with about 5 gallons of fuel and went and landed. Grant met me out at the ramp and he let fly to the hanger to work on my confined skills.
I have 37 hours and I’ll add to that by 2 more hours today. The weather is perfect. Light winds and just a few clouds. It’s also not super hot and stormy like it’s been for the past week.
Grant and I had flown this route a week ago. It’s a long flight but to some fairly remote airports. With any luck they’d be free of any traffic jams. The wind was pretty calm and coming from the south west.
The night before I looked over the sectionals, looked for obstacles and easily identifiable landmarks. I built the flight plan in ForeFlight but wanted to have it on paper as well. I wrote down the frequencies I’d be on and finally hit the sack. I thought I’d plugged in my iPad but when I woke up… oops, 8% power. Damn.
I plugged in the iPad, grabbed a quick shower and took off to the airport. When I arrived I noticed a lot of traffic and the iPad had only charged to around 15%. Oh well, I’ll be stuck with all my hand written notes and the extremely expensive Garmin guiding my way – but what’s with all the traffic in the pattern.
I talked the flight plan over with Grant and did a pre-flight on the Guimbal. I would be flying Mike-Hotel which has a spot for your iPad and it should have a charger but as I’d find out later in the flight, it didn’t work.
We fired up the helicopter and since I’m not able to do confines yet we went over to the Ideal Aviation ramp. There we were greeted by two gentleman. The where interested in the Guimbal and walked over to chat. We talked about the helicopter a bit then they let us know a group of pilots were at the airport giving kids rides around the pattern. Most of the guys were from an uncontrolled airport out in western MO. Knowing how busy the airspace is just on a regular day I was thinking about my friends in the tower. They will have their hands full.
Grant and I spoke for a little bit longer then I hopped in, spun up the helicopter, listened to my ATIS and got into a hover. I listened to all the traffic calling the tower. Whoa. It’s busy. Lots of people talking and someone just reported fuel coming out of their wing? hmmmm. Today is going to be a day. Grant was probably curious why I was sitting in a hover for so long but I was waiting my turn to talk to the tower. Finally there was a break, I called and got a pretty large amount of commands from the tower. I got the approval to head out which I did with a quickness but not before a student came on the radio that was on a 3 mile final. He wanted to know if I’d be out in time. Very valid question. I had cleared the outside of the helicopter – meaning: tower had cleared me and I had checked for traffic. I just finished clearing the inside of the helicopter – meaning: lights were out and gauges were in the green, good fuel when he asked his question. Tower responded while I was getting on the move so it all seemed to work out but as I was departing the airport and over some trees they were still talking… did I just cut someone off? He cleared me. I looked for traffic did I miss him? He was 3 miles out. Where is he now?
I was maybe 400 AGL and moving out of the space and worried I had done something wrong. A few minute later I was a few miles from the airport and heard him talking to the tower / ground so we did have a good distance between us but man… The thought that I made a mistake lingered for a while.
I thought back to ADM and thought about the situation. I was not impulsive nor being macho – I was following the commands the tower gave me and very aware of who and what was around me. Well, if I had stepped on anyone’s toes I’d hear about it when I got back but right now I need to concentrate on the ship and my flight. I settled down and punched in my route down to KFAM on the GPS. I also opened ForeFlight and looked at the flight plan there. Oh awesome, the iPad is at 12% still, the charger doesn’t work. Guess I’ll use the GPS and my notes.
ForeFlight is really easy and what I wanted to use. When you’re a mile out it gives you nice HUGE view of the airport so you know patterns and frequencies. No biggie. I have everything memorized and written down and in the GPS.
I passed near KFES where I flew my first cross country and making my calls, everything is good no problems… wait, what is that line of clouds and why are they so low? Shoot.
I drop down a bit to get a better gauge of their altitude and what looked like a wall of clouds is only some scattered and broken clouds. They are really small and burning off pretty quick so I don’t think I have to do anything or bail on the flight. I keep my distance and start thinking about my approach to KFAM.
I switch my frequency over and am welcomed by 3 or 4 people in the pattern. Well… guess I’ll start talking to them sooner rather than later. I make my call on my 10 mile. I get 3 responses of people letting me know they are with me on the pattern. Make another call at 5, 4 and 3 miles. Each call is answered with other pilots in the area telling me what they are doing. I make sure to let everyone know I’m a student pilot and they can likely tell I’m nervous. I call again at 2 miles then at 1 and slip in behind someone. To be honest I probably wasn’t being as brief on the radio as I should have been but it seems crowded and I’d -maybe- already been close to someone on my take off.
The guy that is in front of me calls and lets everyone know he’s off the runway. I setup and come in much faster than I should. I should be making my approach at 50 knots but I’m a little faster. I buzz the runway and then make my left crosswind. I let everyone know I’m departing north and get out of there.
I make my calls departing the airspace and punch in KFES. Cool. I know this runway well and it’s pretty uncrowded. Wait, why are those clouds back. Ugh. I see another line of broken clouds but determine I can stay away pretty easily. No problem.
As I’m making my way to KFES I hear a lot of chatter on the radio, then the most annoying feedback loop I’ve heard. Loud enough and long enough that I have to turn down the radio a but. After 5 minutes of that noise if finally goes away and I’m approaching KFES. I make my calls and don’t get anything back in return. Awesome. The sky diving company must not be working today. One less thing to worry about!
As I’m on my final I notice something on the runway. What is that? Oh, it’s a mower. Well, I’ll fly around him. I make my approach and then depart north.
I tune in my ATIS to listen to KCPS weather and then punch in the radio. Oh good it’s busy there too. I make my calls and the tower tells me to call back at 2 miles which I do. I’m cleared for the runway I want. I’ve made this approach a bunch of times, wait did that dude just turn into my flight path? That’s a little odd. He’s a couple hundred feet above me and a mile away but I’m not entirely sure he was cleared to do that. I went back and listened to the audio of the tower and its unclear if he was given permission but we have more than enough separation so no harm no foul, just not what I was expecting.
I drop a bit of altitude just to stay clear of him. I’m still set up perfectly for a shallow landing. Tower tells me to hold on the numbers which I do. I get permission to go land and that’s it. My longest flight solo is in the books.
So, did I cut that guy off? I go and find the instructors that were up in the air with me and ask Grant if he heard anything. I’m happy to say that I did not cut anyone off.
Again, not the most perfect of flights but nothing to complain about.
Takeaways? For this flight there are a ton.
Make sure you hear and understand the commands given to you by the tower.
Make sure you hear and understand the talk on the radio. KFAM was really busy and it was nerve racking but I relied on training and even with my sub par radio skills I got through it. (Announcing myself over and over probably helped)
The clouds gave me a little concern but I followed the rules of the airspace.
Make sure you charge your iPad, make sure you have an alternative flight plan with everything you need if your iPad doesn’t charge or work.
Today will be awesome, I’m 35 hours in, and I get to fly over some cool parts of Missouri. It will also be the longest flight across the most varied terrain I’ve flown over. (That’s not saying much though)
The weather is perfect. We’re setting this flight up so I can get a feel for the terrain and the airports for my long solo XC.
We’re leaving from KCPS and heading down to KFAM, then up to KFES and finally back to KCPS. Round trip it should be over 100NM. I know this area well, I’ve camped and ridden down here all my life and it will be cool to see it from above. I’ve ridden dirt bikes through much of this area, mainly on powerline service trails and through parks. There is a bunch of elevation change and lots of bluffs.
Planning was simple. I entered airports into ForeFlight and… well, that’s it. ForeFlight takes the fun out of planning so I pulled out paper and pencil. Maybe it’s overkill to do it on paper but I was traveling non-stop for work and missed so many ground school classes that I need to reinforce the maths and algorithms used to actually plan a flight.
Learning weight and balance was painful and took me too long to get it right. It’s incredibly simple now that I look back but when I first looked at the ARM, MOM and the graphing it made ZERO sense. I forced myself through it several times with no success. Grant took me through it a few times over lunch but I still didn’t get it, I just nodded along hoping not to seem like an idiot. It’s not his fault, he’s a great instructor but I just don’t absorb things in class – I need to do them by hand several times. There is some weird misfire in my brain and learning new algorithms takes a bit longer with me. It does, however, explain much of my academic career… and very likely caused my parents to want to pull out their hair. I’ll be watching my kids for the same issues, I can already see it in my boy. I digress… Anyway, if you are having trouble email me. I’ll tell you what is working for me since so many things didn’t.
Back to the flight planning, so, ForeFlight sucks all the joy out of planning your flight so I went out and spent $11.00 on the paper sectionals and looked over it, drew on it, then I taped it up in my office. I highlighted the obstacles and memorized the airports, airspaces, and their frequencies. All of this planning didn’t help. As soon as we were in the air I hugged a bluff and got way off course but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I met Grant at the hanger and checked the weather. We were going to get lucky! (The weather has been terrible for a couple weeks.) I did another weight and balance and we called the fuel truck. We added 18 gallons which put us close to the limit. Still very safely inside the margins but close. We were flying in 969MH so we’d get to have an iPad on the counsel with us. Guimbal made this cool flip out holder which (supposedly) powers the iPad which means we can use ForeFlight and the stratux ADS-B I built. Sweet. In-flight weather and we get to see the traffic around us. Anyway, I did an extended preflight and got ready.
Getting out of KCPS was rough, there was a TON of traffic. We sat in a really long hover and when we did finally get out we were uncomfortably close to traffic. I was glad to have Grant there, I would have not been able to remain as calm if I was solo. [foreshadowing for my long solo xc] KCPS is a busy airspace, it certainly teaches you to be on the ball. I should note: even with all the stress of a busy airport I’d rather learn how to enter a pattern in a controlled space than in some untowered space. [more foreshadowing for my long solo xc] Anyway, we got out and headed south.
I had planned this flight really well or thought I did but somehow I managed to not follow my plan whatsoever. I punched in the airport in the GPS, did the same in ForeFlight and I had my paper plan with obstacles and markers to look for with me. For some reason I started tracking this bluff and just followed it. I have zero idea why I did that but instead of checking any of the 3 navigational aids I had in front of me I just followed the landscape for way too long. Grant kept trying to get me to follow my plan but for some reason I just tracked that bluff while he asked me questions about settling with power and landing in confined spaces. Finally he had enough of me flying to the south east and slapped my wrist. We turned more westerly and headed in to KFAM. On the way down there we saw a Bell doing some ag work, we adjusted our course and watched him work the fields for a bit, he was low, super fast and doing amazing things. That’d be a cool job. Goals.
I made the appropriate calls as we passed other airports and we slid into KFAM without seeing any other traffic. We turned out of the airport and headed north to KFES. The wind was light and variable and as I made my approach it changed 180, we were effectively coming in with a very slight tailwind at the very last second. It literally changed as we passed the tetrahedral. Weird. We turned northly and headed back to KCPS.
I tuned in KCPS and the approach was uneventful. We set down with little effort. Man that was cool.
All in all it was an awesome flight. Just under 2 hours of flight time brings me to 37 total and I felt comfortable to fly it by myself.
Here are takeaways…
I’m downplaying getting out of KCPS a bit. By busy I mean it was BUSY. KCPS has news helicopters based there, medical helicopters, regional jets(I’ve seen a larger Delta jet take off from 30R), military traffic, tourist flights and a large university’s flight school all in this little old class D. The controllers had their hands full that day. It’s important to be brief on the radio. Know what you are asking for and be ready to respond when they get back to you. Also keep your eyes out for traffic. Again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Learning at some tiny airport where you were never be around traffic would be a HUGE disadvantage and scare the crap out of me when you finally get around an airspace that is busy. I’m not saying you should go learn at LGA but if your intent is to be a professional pilot you need to understand what it’s like to be in an airspace that has a reasonable amount of traffic.
Planning a flight is important. I’m writing this after I’ve flown my long solo XC and something I depended on didn’t work out as planned. Redundancy is important. Plan, plan then plan some more. Don’t depend on ForeFlight or a GPS as your entire flight plan. Know how to use the instruments in the aircraft you intend to fly.
We as humans tend to follow natural landmarks or highways. Don’t do that. Follow your GPS track or maps.
Lastly – hindsight is 20/20… flying is cool, ground school is boring and painful… keep up with your ground school and when you can, tie them into your helicopter time. Look at the instruments, see that VOR, it isn’t there just to look weird and not do anything. It’s going to be on your written and might be on your oral and you WILL have to know how to use it. Have your instructor dial in a radial and explain how that works when you are in the air so PRACTICAL EXPERIENCES MATCH THE BOOK LEARNING. I promise a VOR will make far far far more sense if you see one in use and then your instructor explains what it actually does. I hate VORs.