5/20/07 Discovery Flight

Last Thursday after work, I went to Sunquest Aviation to discuss flying lessons. I had decided to take my lessons there, since they were at the closest airport to my house (North County, F45), and their rates were reasonable. While I was there, they mentioned that the airport was having an open house on Sunday (today), so I decided to do my "Discovery Flight" then.

A Discovery Flight is basically a brief introduction to flying, usually lasting around a half hour. They are not required, but they are usually recommended. Plus, it is about the cheapest flying lesson you can get, at $59.

I showed up at the airport around 11:00, and wondered around looking at the airplanes, etc. that was on display. Then I went up to the flight school, where I had to wait about 20 minutes for someone to be available to take me on my flight. It was very busy there, and I wasn't in any hurry.

Eventually, Joe was available to take me on a flight. Later, I learned that Joe was the owner of the flight school, so that probably was a good person to meet. He was very nice and personable.

Joe let me steer the plane on the taxiway. It was difficult to get the plane to go straight, since you have to apply the brake on only one wheel to get it to change direction. We had to wait on the taxiway for a little traffic to come and go, since the airport was very busy that day.

Then we took off, and Joe had me take the controls for the climb and fly the plane a little. When we first took off, I was surprised by how nervous I became. It was a little rough, but I was a little freaked out at first. At first, I thought, "How am I going to do this?!" In retrospect, I think a lot of my nervousness came from a few things. One, I hadn't been in a small plane it about ten years, and they are completely different from big jets (which I fly quite regularly for work).

Two, there was a lot going on in the plane. For example, Joe would tell me to point the nose of the plane up until the airspeed was 70 knots. No problem, except I couldn't find the airspeed indicator! Eventually, I figured out which dial that was. Also, he had the radios tuned to the North County Airport frequency and to the Palm Beach International Airport frequency, since we had to go into their airspace. The amount of radio chatter was overwhelming, especially since I couldn't understand any of it!

He also showed me how to trim the plane to take the pressure off the controls. Then we flew over my office and the house, and then back to the airport. As we were returning to the airport, I realized that I wasn't nervous anymore and was actually quite relaxed. Joe landed the plane with a perfect landing (you could hardly feel the plane touch the runway), and we taxied back to the tie down location.

All in all, it was a good time and I feel quite ready to start learning how to do all of this stuff. I just have a few details to get in place and then I can start taking lessons!

6/3/07 First Lesson
0.7 hours today / 0.7 hours total

My first "true" flying lesson! I was very excited to get started. I have been researching and reading about flying, lessons, and airplanes for over two months now (since I started to seriously think about learning to fly). I was tired of reading about flying and ready to start "doing".

I met my instructor for the first time today. Mike is a newly minted CFI (Certified Flight Instructor), and although I am not his first student, I think I am the first one he started with from scratch (more on that later).

We first met in the briefing room and discussed a few things about the airplane, the flight pattern, and flying in general. Then we went out to pre-flight the plane. We spent about a half hour going over everything that needed to be checked. This should get faster as I get more familiar with what needs to be done. I am going to be taking my lessons in a Cessna 152. Here is a picture of the plane:

And here is a picture of the panel. Basic, but well equipped.

Then it was time to go fly (finally!). Mike had me taxi the plane to the end of the runway. This takes a certain amount of coordination, since this is done completely with the rudder pedals and the brakes. I wandered around the taxiway quite a bit before we made it to the end of the runway.

We stopped at the end of the runway to do the "run up", where we make sure the engine is working properly before we take off. That took a few minutes, since Mike had to explain everything to me. Then we taxied to the end of the runway and took off.

I was surprised at how relaxed I was this time, since on the Discovery Flight I was surprised by how nervous I was. Once we got up to about 1000 feet, Mike had me take over the controls and practice doing some turns. I had a little trouble coordinating the rudder with the turns. I would either do too much or too little. That is definitely something I need to work on.

Finally, we ended up back at the airport, where we entered the pattern and then Mike took over and landed the plane. We taxied back to the tie-down and then went back to the office so he could enter the flight in my logbook (first new entry in 24 years). Total flight time was 0.7 hour. All in all, it was very fun and I can't wait until my next lesson.

The only concern I have is my flight instructor. He seemed ill-prepared for my lesson. I don't think he realized that this was going to be my very first flying lesson (he should have known, in my opinion). During the pre-flight briefing, he was confused on some very basic pieces of information. He corrected himself, but that does not instill confidence.

While we were in the air, he was fine. He didn't give me as many hints as we went along as Joe did during my Discovery Flight, but overall the flying part was satisfactory.

When we got back to the office, he said several things that brought up doubt in my mind. First, we looked over the syllabus, and he acted like this was the first time he has ever seen it. It is on the flight school's website (Sunquest Aviation), and I had already read through it as part on my research. Why he has not, as an employee, is beyond me.

Also, when I was buying the textbook for the training (Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook), he mentioned that he had never read it before. He also said he should buy it and make sure he has read ahead of me. That does not instill confidence!

Now, I am not going to drop him after one lesson. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it is possible that he didn't realize this was my first lesson, and had to wing it. Hopefully, he was embarrassed by the situation, and is spending his free time this week preparing for my next lesson.

On the other hand, these lessons cost be a little over $100 each, and I am not going to spend my money "teaching" him how to teach. I have decided to give him one more chance, since the lesson was not a total bust, and he will have plenty of time to prepare for the next one. Actually, he is going to get two more chances, since my next lesson is Friday after work, and the following lesson is noon on Saturday. I won't have time to get a new instructor until after Saturday. We shall see.

6/8/07 Aborted Lesson
0 hours today / 0.7 hours total

I should have expected not to fly today based on the weather this afternoon. Right after lunch, the clouds moved in and it started to rain. My lesson was scheduled for after work at 6pm. It finally stopped raining around 4pm, so I thought it might clear up in time for my lesson.

When I got out to the airport, it looked a lot better, but since I am new to this I wasn't sure if the clouds were high enough. When I got to the office, Mike was there and said it look OK to him, but we will check the weather.

We check the weather using the DUATS website. Mike went through how to read METARs, TAFs, and the like. Aviation really has it's own way of doing things! Everything is basically in code (abbreviated), and you have to learn how to read it. You can see a sample of it here.

Then we spent some time talking about what we were going to do in the lesson today, by reading through the syllabus of today's lessons. We spent about 45 minutes going over this stuff.

Then we went out to go fly. When we got out to the tarmac, the plane wasn't there! So we had to go back inside to see where it was. It turns out another student and instructor had taken it up, even though I had signed up for it. Apparently, they had signed up for a different plane, but accidentally took this one instead. A call was made to them that they had the wrong plane, and they came back. By now, it was a few minutes after 7pm. Sunset was at 8:30pm, so I was getting worried that we would run out of daylight.

Then we went out to preflight the plane. This is still taking a long time. I am hoping that it will get faster. Tonight, it took about 1/2 hour to complete. Then we got in the plane to start it up. Mike had be pump the throttle to prime the engine. We didn't need to do a normal prime, since the plane was just flown.

Then I turned the starter, and the engine started cranking over. As I was doing this, Mike said, "Stop! Turn everything off!". He had seen some flames coming from the front of the plane and was afraid to catch something on fire. I thought maybe it was coming out of the exhaust, but Mike wasn't sure. he decided not to risk it, since something might be wrong with the plane. I thought that it might have just me a backfire or something from the engine starting, but Mike didn't think so. I also asked him if maybe it did it all the time, but he never noticed since most lessons are in bright sunlight, not at dusk like we were. He didn't think that was the case. Hey, what do I know?

We secured the plane and went back to the office. He called the owner, Joe, to let him know what happened. Joe asked Mike what we did and after they talked about it for a few minutes, they determined that we shouldn't have pump the throttle until after we started turning over the engine over. What we had done was basically dump raw fuel into the engine and then try and start it. That was why he saw flames coming out of the exhaust. Mike said he had been starting these planes like that for five years and never knew he shouldn't.

Well, no harm done, but it was 8:15pm by then, so no flying today. My next lesson is tomorrow at noon, so at least I don't have to wait long.

6/9/07 Lesson Two
1.2 hours today / 3.1 hours total

Things went a little better today than yesterday. On my way out the flight school I was sure that this would be the last lesson I have with Mike. I pretty much blame him for the problems with the lesson yesterday. That may not me entirely fair, but each lesson costs me time as well as money. Even though I didn't have to pay for the plane rental yesterday, I still spent two hours out there and didn't even get to fly.

When I got to the airport, everyone was pretty apologetic about the problems last night. Since we went over everything last night, we were ready to head out to the plane. That was fine by me, since I was anxious to fly. Mike asked me if I felt comfortable enough to do the pre-flight by myself. I did, so that went much faster than the last time.

Next, we started up the engine. No flames or otherwise odd behavior this time. In fact, the engine started up much quicker, which points to us flooding the engine the last few times. OK, engine started, time to taxi out to the runway. The last time I bounced back and forth along the taxiway, but this time I managed to keep it pretty straight. The only place I am having problems now is the sharp turns. I don't quite have that straight in my brain yet. But good progress, and I think I will master it in a few more trys.

When we got to the end of the runway, Mike asked me if I wanted to do the takeoff. Of course I did, so he told me to make sure I use the rudder to keep it pointed down the runway. I pushed the throttle in, and we were off. As we were heading down the runway, Mike asked me what the rotation speed was, and I could not remember. Mike reminded me, I rotated, and off we went.

Then Mike showed me how to get to the practice area. It is west of the airport over the sugar cane fields. Once we got to the practice area, Mike showed me how to do clearing turns (to check for airplanes in the area before doing any maneuvers. Then we practiced turns, climbing turns, and descending turns. My climbing and descending turns need some work. Everything else went pretty good, for my first time doing it.

Then Mike had me put on some "Foggles". They look like safety glasses, except everything but the bottom front of the glasses is frosted. This is to simulate bad weather or flying in clouds. I will not be allowed to fly into clouds with this rating (I would need an instrument rating for that), but I will still need three hours of "hood" work to get my Private Pilot. Usually, this is done later in the training, but Mike thought it would be a good idea to try it.

I actually liked it, as it gave me a reason to only look at the instruments, instead of splitting my attention between outside and the instruments. I could concentrate only on the instruments and what the markings meant and how the operated. Of course, I was horribly bad at it. But that is OK, I have a lot of time to practice and we only did it for 0.2 of an hour (12 minutes). It was a good introduction to instrument flying. I can definitely see how people can put the plane into the ground if you inadvertently fly into bad weather.

Then we headed back to the airport and entered the traffic pattern. On the landing, Mike had me handle the rudder pedals. All I had to do was keep the plane pointed down the runway. Mike did everything else. So I had half a landing (OK, maybe 25%).

Then I taxied back to the tie down area, and we shut down the plane. I do like the way Mike instructs in the plane. His ground teaching needs a lot of work, but he is pretty good in the plane. So, surprisingly enough, I decided to keep using him.

Things I need to work on:

  • Sharp turns while taxiing.

  • Climbing and descending turns.

  • Straight and level flight.

  • I need to memorize the airport layout.

6/13/07 Power Off Stalls
1.2 hours today / 4.1 hours total

Today's lesson was very good. When I arrived after work (6pm), Mike was the most prepared I have seen him yet. He had reviewed the reading assignment for the lesson and had prepared a lesson plan! His plan included what we needed to talk about before going up, and what we would be doing in the air. This was a big improvement from what I have seen so far, and I was very happy about that.

Mike had a sectional chart for me, so he gave that to me and we reviewed the airspace around the North County Airport, including the practice area. I also got a layout of the runways, so I can review that with the weather reports before I go to the airport. Then we talked about what we would be doing in the air today. The briefing lasted about 45 minutes. It was a little longer than I would like, but there are things I can do to speed that up.

Then we went out to the plane to do the pre-flight. Just as we were starting, the fuel truck pulled up and asked us if we needed fuel. Mike had me jump up to the fuel tank to check the level. The level is checked by using a calibrated "straw". You put the straw in the tank, and put your finger over the end, and then pull it out and read how much fuel is in there.

Somehow I messed that up and thought the tanks were empty, so the fuel guy started to put gas in the tank. It didn't take long until the fuel spilled out of the tank! The tanks were actually only down about three gallons. Whoops! I will have to pay closer attention next time.

We went through all of the checklists, which seemed to take forever. Mike suggested that I try to memorize the important ones so that we can get through them faster. I waste a lot of money reading checklists on the ground! By being more familiar with the checklists, I can get through them quicker. Sunquest has them on their website, so I am going to print them out in a convenient size (8-1/2 x 11 is too big to be practical in an airplane), highlight the important sections, and possibly laminate them.

Since my last lesson, I received a headset I had ordered from Quiet Technologies. It is a little different from a standard headset, since it goes in the ears (like earplugs), instead of over the ear like traditional headsets. The internet is full of good reviews on this set, including people selling off their $1,000 Bose headsets for these. Besides being a pretty good headset, one reason I like them is that they are cooler than a regular headset. That is important when flying in the summer in Florida! I had to spend a little time getting it set up in the plane, since I had never used it before. I got the speaker volume set well, but I think I need to work on the microphone setting on the radio, I will download the manual for the radio from the Garmin site, so that I am more familiar with the adjustments for my next lesson.

OK, finally we were ready to go. Once again, Mike had me do the take-off. It went pretty smooth, except I had a little trouble steering the plane down the runway, so we wandered a little as we accelerated. Once we got off the ground, that didn't matter anymore!

Next, we flew out to the the practice area. The air today was smoooooooth. I couldn't believe it. I don't think we went though one thermal the entire time we were up there. Very unusual in the summer in Florida. I was very nice to see how the controls worked without being bumped around.

Once we got to the practice area, we reviewed the stuff we did on the last lesson. Then it was time to to a "power off" stall. Mike demonstrated it for me first, and then I tried it. I was expecting a stall more like I remember 24 years ago when I took my last lessons. In retrospect, I think those were actually "power on" stalls, which are more abrupt and the nose will drop for those.

A power off stall is basically what you do when you land the plane. You slow the plane down, put down the flaps, and then pull out all the power (idle the engine). Eventually, you lose all of your lift and the plane sinks. What surprised me was that the attitude of the plane doesn't really change, and you just start to sink down. It make sense when you think about it, but all I could think of was the stalls I did when I was 13 years old. Power on stalls are coming up in a few lessons, so I still have that to look forward to.

After Mike demonstrated that, he had me do one, while he walked me through the steps. It wasn't bad, once you know what to expect. We also did slow flight turns. Then it was getting late, and we still had some pattern work to do, so we heading back to the airport

When we got back to the airport, we flew the traffic pattern, slowed the plane down, and prepared for landing. But instead of actually landing, we flew down the runway at about 50 feet off the ground. This was so I could practice using the rudder to keep us pointed down the runway. Then we put full power in, climbed back up to 1,000 feet, and did it again.

This time, I did everything, instead of just the rudder. We flew over the runway again, and climbed out again. Now it was starting to get dark, so we decided to land the next time.

As we went around the pattern, I flew the plane almost all the way to the runway. Then, as we got over the runway, Mike took over and landed the plane. It was a little hard, as we were about a foot off the runway when we finally dropped, but not bad. So I am this close to actually landing the plane. Maybe in the next lesson, or maybe the one after that, I should be doing my first landing! Exciting!

Then we taxied back to the ramp. My taxiing skills still need some work, but they are getting better as I get more familiar with the controls. We tied the plane down right before sunset.

We went back to the office to turn the keys back in and fill out the paperwork. Mike said he was very pleased with my performance, and I was progressing really well. He also wants me to do a ground school of some sort. The local community college has one, but I don't want to take evenings when I could be flying to sit in a classroom. There are also computer-based training you can do at home. I will look into those.

He also suggested that I get Microsoft Flight Simulator, since that will help me work through all of the checklists, and help me get more proficient with them. I don't think it is a great way to learn how to fly, but I agree that working the checklists for takeoff, landing, etc. would be very helpful. Unfortunately, my computer at home is too old to run it. But that might change soon, since my computer decided to quit working this week, and I am having problems fixing it. I am writing this from work, since I don't know when my computer will be back up and running.

Next lesson is Saturday morning.

6/16/07 Power On Stalls
1.0 hours today / 4.1 hours total

My lesson today started at 9:00 am. I am scheduling some of my lessons in the evening and some in the morning. Weekend lessons are the ones in the morning, since I have to work during the week. I am trying to hedge my bets on the weather during the summer here in Florida. I am afraid if I schedule all of my lessons in the evening or afternoon, most of them will be canceled due to the daily afternoon rains. So far, I haven't had to cancel any lessons because of rain.

On Mike's suggestion at the last lesson, I downloaded the Word document of the checklist from SunQuest's web site, formatted it, and highlighted the different sections to make them easier to find. Then I had them laminated, and punched a couple of holes in them. I put some rings in the holes to hold it all together. Then I bought a small clipboard to hold the sectional and the checklist. Mike was impressed, and it seemed to work pretty good. I may make a smaller version that will fit a little better on the clipboard, but I will use this one for a while before I change anything.

Also, on Mike's suggestion, I investigated various ground school training systems. I checked with Palm Beach Community College, since they offer a private pilot ground school. Unfortunately, they don't have one this summer, and the next one starts in August and ends in December. I plan on taking my written exam before December, so that is out. By the way, I am planning on taking the written exam sometime after I solo, but well before my checkride.

I also looked at the video courses available. The most popular is the ones from John and Martha King. They claim to have taught half of all private pilots with their course. I wasn't really keen on their's, based on what I read online. Most people seemed to get it because everyone else did. This weekend in the mail, I received a sample of their system, and I was pretty impressed. The only thing I don't like about it, is that you can only run it on a computer.

I have also looked at the set from Sporty's. Sporty's set includes everything from written test prep, oral exam prep, and checkride prep. The last two are an extra $200 from King. That makes the Sporty's system half the price of the King system. The only complaint I have heard on this one is that it is more boring than the King one. The advantage of it, is that it is cheaper, and it will play in a standard DVD player, where the King one only works on a computer.

The last option is to just study the books I already have and just buy something with practice test questions. I am sure that I can learn enough from the books and practice questions to pass the test, but I think I will get more information from the videos that will help with learning how to fly the plane. I am still thinking about this. I'll let you know what I decide. OK, enough of that, on to the lesson.

Mike reviewed the sectional chart with me before we went out to the plane. It was very educational, but he kept asking me what the symbols meant on the chart. The way the syllabus is written, I won't be reading the chapter on the maps for a couple more weeks. The reading assignments jump all over the book. At first, I thought it was because someone decided that information was the most important, but now I am not so sure. I may just start reading the book from front to back. That is how the author wrote it to be read, and he often refers to things in the earlier chapters that I haven't read. I also lose a lot of continuity jumping back and forth in the book.

Anyway, after we completed reviewing the chart, Mike sent me out to preflight the plane by myself. I can work a lot quicker without him standing there asking me questions. Not that I don't appreciate it, but I am still trying to get familiar with these checklists, and I can do it quicker by myself.

As I completed it, Mike came out and we started the plane, and taxiied out to runway 8R. My taxiing is getting better, but it will take a few more lessons until I have it down. There is also a certain configuration (in relation to the wind) to keep the ailerons and rudder when taxiing. That still confuses me too, but I am getting better at it.

My takeoff was better than last time. I didn't weave all over the runway as we accelerated, although I think I waited a little long to rotate up. No big deal, but something I will have to pay attention to next time.

This morning, there were lots of scattered clouds in the sky. When I called the automated weather system at the airport, it said the clouds were at 2500 feet. Since I haven't flown above 2000 ft yet, I figured we would be OK.

We flew out to the practice area, and since we were doing stalls, Mike wanted to be above 2000 feet AGL (above ground level). The problem was the cloud bottoms were right about 2000 feet. Since they were scattered, Mike had me weave my way through them, trying to get to above the clouds. Unfortunately, the cloud tops were higher than that, so we just found a large open space between the clouds to do the maneuvers. It made it a little more interesting, since I was avoiding the clouds at the same time I was doing everything else.

First we did power off stalls. I had forgotten much of the procedure from last time, but Mike reminded me. That and slow flight are pretty easy, and I enjoy it. Then we did some steep turns. They were 45 degree turns. That was the farthest over so far. They are fast and exciting, since when you look out the side window, you are looking at the ground.

Then we did a power on stall. These are the stalls I remember from that last time I took lessons (24 years ago, when I was 13 years old).  What happens is the plane is pitched up until you lose lift on the wings, and then the nose suddenly drops and you are looking at the ground. Recovery is pretty easy, but the sudden drop of the nose really gets me. I will need to practice these to get more comfortable with them. There is a warning when the drop is going to happen, but I will need to do more to learn when that is so that it is not a surprise.

After that, we headed back to the airport. Mike had another student after me, so no pretend landings today. I flew the pattern and then he took over on final and landed the plane. No matter, I am staring to figure out what I am supposed to look for when landing (because Mike points it out to me), and it was another opportunity to observe that.

I now have the same number of hours flying that I did in 1983. That means pretty much everything from here on out is new to me. Not that I remembered in detail what I learned when I was 13 years old. Next lesson is in two days.

6/20/07 First Landing
1.0 hours today / 5.1 hours total

Monday's lesson got rained out, so I had to wait two more days for my next lesson. Since my last lesson, I received a copy of the King School demo ground school in the mail. I didn't request this, so I suppose my name is out on some mailing lists now. Since I was curious about their videos anyway, I loaded it up on my laptop (since my computer is still down), and tried it out.

I was pretty impressed by it. The information was presented in a clear, memorable method. It was definitely better than I expected, and made me give a second thought to the video ground schools. I decided I needed to make an informed decision, so I ordered the first DVD from Sporty's, also. It was free, except for $3.95 "shipping and handling". It should be here in a few days.

Another thing I found since my last lesson was the FAA book, "Airplane Flying Handbook". I needed something that described "how to fly a plane". The textbook I have and other things I have read describe everything but how to perform the maneuvers. Not only does this book describe how to fly them, but also lists common mistakes. It is also available for free on the FAA website, but I decided to buy it anyway, since it was only $16, and I can read it during the commercials in front of the TV.

When I showed up for my lesson, Mike said I should call up the Flight Service Station (FSS), also known by it's phone number 1-800-WXBRIEF. Unlike the last time we got a weather brief (on the internet), this time I had to call FSS and speak to an actual person! Lucky for me, SunQuest has a small script by the phone that I could follow. I spoke with a very nice man, who gave me all sorts of acronyms, abbreviations, and information I didn't understand. That was OK, though, since all I was really looking for was visibility and cloud elevation. I managed to figure out those when he told me. I could have slowed him down and asked him to explain everything to me, but this call was really just to get familiar with what a weather briefing from FSS is like. The FSS has been much maligned as of late, but I got through quickly and without problem. The briefer's computer did lock up on him, though, and he had to reboot. He covered it well, but I knew what happened.

After I got off the phone with FSS, we computed the weight and balance on the plane, and discussed the maneuvers we were going to do today. Mike had ground reference maneuvers planned for today, and a couple of landings! Once we discussed what we were going to do, I went out to preflight the plane. That is getting smoother and quicker.

We started up the plane, did the run up, and I took off. Today we used a different runway than I have so far. That took a little getting used to, since these were parts of the airport I hadn't spent any time on yet. Takeoff went fine, although it is still a little unsteady as I leave the ground.

The first maneuver we did was S-turns across a road. What you do is try and make perfect half circles across a roadway. What makes this difficult is you have to correct for wind. I didn't do real well, but they were fun, since they are done at a fairly low elevation (800 feet above ground level), and you are "doing something", instead of just flying in random parts of the sky, looking at clouds. Mike says the real purpose of these maneuvers is to learn to divide your attention among the various tasks that have to take place at the same time while doing this. These are things like looking for other traffic, watching the ground track, watching your elevation, and paying attention to the wind.

The wind should be across the road, but since the practice area is over sugar cane fields, all the roads are north-south or east-west. The light wind was coming from the southeast, so it wasn't the ideal setup. We did S-turns for a while and then we did the same thing in a rectangular pattern. Then we headed back to the airport to make sure we had enough time to do a couple landings.

My first short confusion is where the pattern was in relation to the runway we were using. At this airport, some of the runways have a left (normal) pattern, and some have a right pattern. I am still not clear on which is which, but I think I am figuring it out. It helps to be in the air to visualize these things. It looks like in order to keep the noise down, all the patterns are flown over the south side of the runways. That is what makes some of the patterns left and some right.

Anyway, after figuring out where I needed to go, we entered the downwind leg, and started to prepare for landing. Since this is the same as power off stalls, I did OK. I am starting to remember all of the setups. I still forget somethings, but the more I do it, the better I get at it. We turned to the base leg, and then to the final approach. I had some trouble getting lined up with the runway, but was close enough once we got over the runway. Then I idled the engine, and began the actual landing. I had a real hard time judging when to do the flare. I kept trying to flare too high, so Mike had to prevent the yoke from coming back until we were low enough. Eventually, we were low enough, and Mike let me pull the yoke back. The landing was a little hard, but we were down!

Then we pushed the throttle in all the way, and took off again. Another time around the pattern and down again. This time was pretty much the same as last, but it was a landing. It was getting dark, so that was it for the lesson. I taxiied back to the parking spot. My taxiing is getting smoother, but still needs a little more work.

Once we had the plane parked, I took a few minutes to play with my headset. For some reason, the microphone works fine on the intercom, but won't transmit over the radio. This is going to be an obvious problem. I need to call the company to see if they know what could be causing it.

After playing with the radio for about fifteen minutes, I went inside to talk to Mike about the lesson. We mostly talked about the landings and what I was doing wrong. A few lessons ago, Mike had me control the rudders as he brought it in for a landing. He had me run the rudders during the whose final approach. That was the same thing I did tonight. Mike realized that, and told me I should fly the plane normally until we were over the runway, then use the rudder to line the plane up. I definitely was starting using rudders only too early.

After talking about the landings, Mike decided to deviate from the syllabus a little on the next lesson, and just practice landings. I think that is a good idea. A good hour of touch and goes should get me a lot closer to making good landings. Since this is one of the skills, if not the main skill, I am required to master before I can solo, I think a concentrated session of practice is a good idea. Until then, I am going to read the FAA book on landings and make sure I am clear in my mind on when to do what.

6/24/07 Lesson Canceled
0 hours today / 5.1 hours total

Another canceled lesson. This time they had something wrong with the plane. Mike called me Saturday afternoon to tell me. Since they had to take it down to fix it, they were going to do the 100 hour service. The plane will be ready to fly again on Monday. Unfortunately for me, the plane is booked every evening this week. The next time I could get the plane was next Saturday morning. That will be a week and a half since I last flew. Maybe someone will cancel and I can get an extra flight in this week. I am going to have to start scheduling three lessons a week in order to average two a week.

A few other things are going on, though. I spoke to Quiet Technologies about my headset problems last week. Apparently, Garmin audio panels are very inconsistent with the amount of impedence required to break the squelch to the radios. They were quite familiar with the problem. They had recently changed the microphone to make it more compatible with the Garmins, but mine had the latest microphone. I sent the headset back to them so they could see if they could find any problems with it. If they find a problem with it, they will fix it. If they can't find any problems with it, then they will refund my money. I may have to start looking for another headset.

I received my sample flight school DVD from Sporty's. I just started watching it, so no comparison to the King School one yet. I'll have plenty of time to review it this week.

Finally, I decided to read the Machado book from front to back, instead of jumping around like the syllabus suggests. I find it much easier to read that way. There is a better flow this way, and it is easier to read.

6/30/07 Landings
1 hour today / 6.1 hours total

Finally, had another lesson, after a week and a half. The last lesson was canceled, and the plane was booked until this morning. When I showed up today, Mike said, "No need to talk about anything, let's get up there and do it." I agreed, since it would mean more time to practice landings.

I went out and pre-flighted the plane, and soon we were taxiing out to the end of the runway. I haven't heard back from the headset company yet, so I had to rent one from Sunquest. The good news is that at least I got to do more radio work today. Talking on the radio is getting easier as I have heard more of what is going on. I find that I can now understand what is being said, even if I am not quite sure what to say yet.

Taxiing is starting to get smoother, even the tight turns are starting to come along. It's not perfect yet, but I do feel more in control of the plane now while we are taxiing.

We made our way to the runway, and I did the run-up. That is starting to get quicker, too. That's good, because I am paying for the plane every time the engine is running, and I would rather spend more of it in the air than on the ground.

When I first took off, I could feel the time since my last lesson. It is amazing how quickly these things become unfamiliar. It only took about halfway around the pattern for it all to come back, but I was a little rusty at first. The humidity was very high this morning (around 90%), and the little 152 was really feeling it. It seemed to take forever to get up to the pattern altitude (1000' AGL). We made our way around the pattern, and it was time to land the plane.

The first landing was a little shaky, but I got us to the end of the runway pretty well. It helped to know (from the last lesson) that I need to fly the plane normally down to the numbers, and then align the plane with the runway and flare. Then we put the throttle in, put up the flaps, and took off again.

The pattern was mercifully empty this morning, so it enabled me to make it around six times. None of the landings were great, but I did manage to get the plane down every time. There was only one big mistake (although there were lots of little ones). On one landing, after we landed and began to take off, Mike tells me to put more rudder in, and I push the rudder hard. That caused the plane to veer sharply to the side of the runway, so I pushed hard on the other pedal, and we veered sharply the other way. We careened down the runway like that until we had enough speed to get off the ground. I think I scared Mike that time.

After the lesson, we talked about that, and I think I do not have a good feel for how the rudder pedals work. Especially how hard you need to press on them at any one time. In general, I find myself either under-correcting or over-correcting. I just don't think I have developed the skill yet on them. Mike told me to just try and be smooth with them all the time, and I should be able to figure it out over time. I think he is right, and I am just going to pay special attention to it over the next few lessons. So far in my lessons, I find that just focusing on one area that seems to give me trouble will let me figure it out over a couple more lessons.

The other rudder-related issue is using the rudder as I get to the runway. In my reading, I was under the (mis)understanding that I would only be applying right rudder as I began to flare. I thought this because I thought there would be more p-factor as we slowed down over the runway. So I was mostly ignoring the left pedal as we came to the flare, thinking I would only be on the right in a second anyway. As it turns out, I was totally wrong. According to Mike, there really is no hard and fast rule about the rudder pedals as you come in to land, since it will depend on the wind direction and strength, where you are in the flare, and many other variables. He says just use whatever you need to point the plane down the runway. Lesson learned on that one.

Overall, though, it was a good lesson, and if my landings didn't improve, at least my pattern work did. And I think my landings were probably better than I think they are, it is just that I am focusing on what needs improvement instead of what is good.

In other news, I received my new computer. Since now I have a computer that can run it, I bought Flight Simulator X. I have only played it a couple of times, but I will say that it is more accurate than I expected. I am not planning on using it to teach me how to fly, but rather a way to practice all of the checklists during different parts of the flight. So far I have only flown around the pattern, but I can tell already that it has helped me remember what to do at each part. My home airport is in there, and one of the cool things is that it will check online for the current weather, and put it in the simulation. Neat.

I also bought the Saitek Aviator Joystick to use with it, and it works pretty well. You can also buy a full yoke and rudder pedals, but they are over $200 for the set, and what I read online says that they don't really improve the experience any. You can read a good review on the joystick here.

Next lesson is scheduled for July 4th. Hopefully we don't get any fireworks shot at us!