I’ve finally settled in with a new CFI here in Tampa and we’ve picked up my flight training after a bit of a layoff thanks to the move, the hurricane, and my first CFI here getting a job flying jets. I only have cross countries, night work, and check ride prep to complete before trying for my ticket, so I’m eager to get things moving again.
Yesterday we flew from Albert Whitted to Venice and back. It was a lovely day and perfect flying weather. The only wrinkle in the plan was Tampa Approach / Departure not being willing to give us flight following. They didn’t even respond to my radio calls, in fact, and apparently they’ve been reticent to responded to any GA traffic asking for advisories for the past while now. This meant we flew lower than I would have preferred, and that we skirted the Sarasota Charlie airspace, but so it goes. Here’s a link to the flight track on Cloud Ahoy.
And here’s a very brief clip I shot along the way. I also simulated the flight two days ago and ran the GoPro while doing so, and will post that video soon. Next flight is a cross country up to Ocala and back, and I’m looking forward to it.
That’s what I did today – finally went flying, settling in to a new CFI, new airspace, and new aircraft. Here’s the new bird, a Piper Archer II:
More horsepower, and I could tell. Also slightly different avionics and a Garmin 430 GPS, which is new to me as well. Today was a get-to-know you ride, and once in the air I wasn’t as rusty as I had feared with the exception of steep turns and ground reference maneuvers, but the landing was very comfortable. The new CFI is a stickler, which I like, and I learned a few things along the way as well.
Perhaps most exciting is the airspace:
KSPG Albert Whitted is a radar-equipped Class Delta, so I’m talking to ground and tower. It sits under the Tampa Bravo, and is close to the MacDill AFB and St. Petersburg-Clearwater Deltas as well. Lots of traffic in the area, including the occasional Airbus or C-17 passing through. Combine that with the field being directly next to the St. Pete skyline and the bay / gulf overwater flying, and it’s a whole new type of flying altogether. And I really enjoyed it, including keeping visual contact with the Army UH-60 Blackhawk departing KSPG as I was on downwind. Overall it was a really cool flight, and I can’t wait to get re-soloed and continue my real world training.
The next step is to get a solid Archer II profile running in the sim. That will be tonight’s project, time permitting.
I ran the camera during yesterday’s flight. I’ve simulated these maneuver hops several times in the sim, and from a procedure standpoint it’s been helpful. The hardest thing to simulate, at least for me, has been turns around a point. The visibility in the sim just isn’t as good as the real thing.
Readers have requested that I film some real-world flights, but I don’t intend to video in the real airplane often as I don’t want the distraction. But today I went up to practice some solo pattern work, and I plugged in the GoPro with the LEDs turned off and just let it run. Here are a few laps from the flight, and as always, thanks for watching.
I had a flight lesson today and it was the first time up since December 6th. I was home for much of December, and had visions of completing the next several flights from the curriculum, but weather intervened. It was just not good flying weather for several weeks in these parts. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been on the road quite a bit, so I was excited today to finally get back to the field and go up. Ceilings were too low for maneuvers, and that was just as well because it’s pattern work that I wanted to do to knock the rust off.
And there was some rust, as the below flight track shows. My takeoffs and landings were actually very solid, but the pattern itself was shaky at first. Those first two legs that are way out off track from the others were the first two laps, and after that I settled in. I flew an extended downwind, a turn-to-final, and a power-off landing in three of final four laps, which is why the base legs vary a bit.
So I feel back in the groove, and it’s amazing how relaxed I am after being up. Flying an airplane requires real focus, but it’s a focus that relaxes me, and I love it. Next flight will be a long cross country with my CFI: Brandywine to Harrisburg to Wilmington to Brandywine. We probably won’t get that on the books for a week or so, and I look forward to planning, simulating, and then making that flight.
The weather in my neck of the woods has been consistently bad, or at least bad enough, that night take offs and landings (which is my next real-world lesson) have been off the books from a safety perspective whenever we’ve tried to go up. It’s been about three weeks since my last flight, and I realized today that I should be working a bit harder to keep to my aviation studies. So I decided to load up the sim and fly the PilotEdgeI-1 rating, which is the ILS 20R arrival into John Wayne / KSNA. I’ve already completed this training, but it was a while ago, and I thought some instrument practice today would be good for the brain.
Weather at KSN was VFR with broken clouds around 3,000, so I resolved to take off and then look only at the instruments until I was at 300 feet on final approach (the real-world minimum is 255). Things went fine, I showed up in front of the runway where I was supposed to be, and it felt remarkably like real-world hood work minus the G-forces. So this was good, it felt like practice, and I think I’ll start to pursue the PilotEdge I ratings in earnest as a way of keeping my head in the game until the weather improves. Next up is a short IFR flight from KSNA to KCRQ. Here’s the KSNA 20R ILS procedure for those who are curious.
That was the point of yesterday’s real world lesson. In ground reference maneuvers you learn to fly a consistent shape over the ground – circles, s-turns across a road, rectangles – as practice for keeping the airplane on a consistent ground track when flying the traffic pattern. We actually tackled this earlier in my training, but we didn’t really spend a lot of time on it so we used yesterday’s consistent easterly winds as a reason for a brush up. Which is good, because the last time I did these I was not so good at them.
The trick in these maneuvers is to vary your bank angle and heading in the air so you fly a consistent pattern over the ground. Think of it: if you fly in a circle with a steady wind from one direction, you will actually fly a spiral pattern as the wind blows you over the ground. So the key to flying a steady ground track is to bank steeply when you are with the wind and not as steeply when you are into it.
Here’s the track for part of yesterday’s flight, most of which was spent on a ground maneuver not surprisingly called “turns around a point.” There are a few “s-turns across a road” in there as well, as are the wind vectors (the thin yellow lines) which show the easterly wind. I did much better yesterday than a few months back. If you want to review the flight, follow this link.
I was back in the real airplane today for the first time since November 14, thanks to a pattern of high winds that led to three cancelled flight lessons. But today was great for learning, with slight turbulence and crosswinds of about seven knots. The curriculum for today was to take off, climb to 2,500 feet, and then track the Modena VOR 350 radial like we were going somewhere. Then it was time for “hood work,” which means flying wearing Foggles, which are glasses that make it so you can only see the instruments and not outside the airplane (also called working “under the hood”). The plan was to practice some turns and climbs, slow flight, and a power-off stall under the hood, and then practice unusual attitude recoveries. To do the latter the CFI had me fly with my eyes closed until the plane was too far nose up, nose down, or banked, at which point he’d tell me to open my eyes, look at the instruments, and correct. Then we did more extreme attitude recoveries, in which the CFI took the controls and had me close my eyes and put my head down, at which point he got us into extreme banks, always with either a nose-up or nose-down attitude, at which point he’d tell me to open my eyes, look at the instruments, and correct.
Then we simulated what I’d do if I’d flown into instrument conditions as a low-hour pilot (and while still under the hood). First step was to call ATC to ask for advisories and vectors back to the field (and out of the imagined clouds). The instructor played ATC in this case, with me making the calls and him giving the directions. We managed to get back to the Modena VOR, which is about five miles from the home field, but not before I made the mistake of “reverse sensing,” meaning I was tracking the needle “OUT” rather than “IN,” which meant I kept flying away from rather than to the desired radial. This made the instructor very happy, as he did not need to artificially explain this navigation mistake. I was happy to have helped him out. Once we were at Modena I took off the Foggles and we entered the pattern for a crosswind landing (which went very well).
All in all it was excellent practice. The air was a bit turbulent, with up and down drafts testing my ability to keep a level altitude under the hood. I felt like I was working and learning the entire time, and I could tell it had been a while since the last lesson, but all the stuff that is supposed to be comfortable by this point (takeoff, slow flight, stall recovery, flying the pattern, radio work) was, and the crosswind landing was very solid. I was pleased, and I’m eager for the next lesson (set for next week, but with possible weather intervening).