Category Archives: Lessons

Stage I Check Ride(s)

If you’ve worked on getting your private pilot license, you know all about those check rides. Well, I had one – two, actually. Stage I check rides.

I had soloed, and the next lesson was to be a stage check with another instructor. Choosing Dave Willig – another seasoned pilot – I took to the skies. Nervous. Me. Very nervous. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t know Dave at all, because it was a check ride, or because the winds were a bit squirrelly, but I was a bit out of sorts. Take offs are always good with me, but having Dave correct my radio announcements (his methods were different than my instructor’s) made me even more skittish. Yes. Me skittish.

Up in the sky and going through maneuvers. Power on and power off stalls. As many times as I went through them in my head and wrote down the procedure, as soon as we got up there I needed reminders. Not going well.

Then, as the wind was blowing us around, and it was time to do steep turns, I got extremely dizzy and even more out of sorts. This check ride was NOT going well. I let Dave know that I wasn’t feeling well, and asked if we could head back to the airport, and finish the second half of the check ride in another lesson.

Heading back to the airport, there’s a strong crosswind and I’m feeling incompetent and miserably nauseated. Great. Brought the plane in, but just felt like crap about the entire check. So … it’s back to Steve for another lesson before I do another check ride. Up and out in the practice area doing stalls, and then lots of landings. Feeling better about everything. Much better.

Scheduled another check ride with Dave and then took the time to find and review power-on and power-off stall videos on YouTube. Found the perfect videos and watched them over and over and over again. Thanks, I needed that! I went through those maneuvers in my sleep too – like an athlete. When I felt it in my imagination, I knew I had them down.

The next check ride with Dave went perfectly, and I felt comfortable throughout the maneuvers as well as the takeoffs and landings. It’s going to take a lot of visualizations throughout the rest of my training to get me through these stage checks. But they work. Thanks to ExpertVillage for hosting those videos! Huge help.

Stage II, here I come!

Happy landings!

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First Solo Flight in the N55422

In the words of Captain Glickman, “A year ago she came to me and said, “I’m afraid of flying”, and look at her now!”

Those very words caught on video, as he approached the N55422 on Friday afternoon, June 10th, alongside my instructor, Captain Davies. Where was I? In the plane. By myself.

Yes. I soloed!

I’m finding it hard to find the right words to express the experience. Part of me doesn’t want to find the words. Part of me doesn’t want to share this.

All day on Thursday, I was checking the TAFs, and the weather was looking good. First thing Friday morning, I checked Aeroweather on my phone, and rejoiced. Winds and cloud cover looked good. The skies weren’t clear, but I kept peeking at the radar and it looked like things were going to clear up.

Me and my instructor, Captain Davies

As the day progressed, the skies cleared. As I was driving to the airport, I checked the AWOS and where was that 5 knot wind heading? Right down the runway. Yes. Perfect conditions. Well, this might be it, I thought.

As I arrived at SCH, I saw the N7292J taxiing to the FBO. Here was Captain Glickman to watch and listen, just in case today was the day. Lovely to have you here, sir!

He joined me as I headed out to preflight the N55422. Lucky he was with me, as he noticed first the bright green tape over the engine compartment (where I’d need to get in and check the oil). Great. What was this? He got assistance from the ground crew, who came out and tried to screw the hatch closed without success, and they ended up removing the cowl cover completely. This was

A delay turns into a lesson

actually very cool, and as we were waiting, my instructor gave me a tour of the powerplant. All this time I’m thinking, “yeah, it figures I want to get out there and solo and something is standing in the way”. Crap.

Hallelujah in my head when the guys come back out with the cowl cover and attach it back to the plane. Yes, the oil was checked, and the sump drained. And then it was time to go. Yes, there’s still enough time in the day to solo. I hope …

At least two other aircraft in the pattern as we go up and we are sent RIGHT to avoid the traffic. No! Not right! I want to go left! Coming in for the landing, I’ve got the controls. Trying to get over that center line (I tend to drift to the left of center), and we’re down and back up again. Captain Davies getting me to aim to the right of the center line so that I might just land on the center line. Yes. Brilliant!

5 takeoffs and landings and somewhere in there, Captain Davies has me exit the active runway and go around via the taxiway. Explaining to me that if/when I solo, I’ll need to exit the active runway and use the taxiway to go back. Well, after those 5 takeoffs and landings, Captain Davies requests clearance to taxi to base of the tower. Oh, dear. We’ve never done that before.

Once we’re there, he says “you don’t need me anymore” or something along those lines, and opens the door – giving me minimal instruction regarding how many times I should be landing, and what to do if I bounce more than once.  If the second bounce is worse than the first, do a go-around. And if I need him, he’ll be in the tower. “What if I have questions?”, I ask. “You can ask them when you get back”, he says. Suddenly my endorsement is on my paperwork, he has my log book in hand, and he’s heading out the door. “No need to do another runup”, were the last words I heard. Door closed and latched.

Taking off in the N55422 from SCH

“Schenectady Ground, this is N55422 at the base of the Tower, ready to taxi”. There wasn’t a bit of nervousness. It was just me and the plane. Taxied out there with confidence, held at the hold short line, switched over to the Tower frequency. “Schenectady Tower, this is 55422 ready for takeoff”. Handled the radio perfectly, turned on to runway 4 and gave her full power. Yes, she lifted sooner without my instructor in the right seat. Yes, I laughed out loud. Yes, it was thrilling. I was in complete control, and felt so comfortable in every way. Everything felt right, and I was right where I was meant to be.

Climbed very quickly and turned a bit too soon (before the end of the runway), but found my place in the pattern just fine. Every step of the way, every move was just natural. Every checklist just going through my head like it was supposed to.

First attempt at landing: Approach was perfect, but I bounced once, and then the second bounce was bigger than the next, so full power immediately, 10 degrees of flaps up, carb heat in, and level flight until the speed is there and then climb and do it again. Not a good start, but that didn’t bother me at all. I knew I could do this. Just keep going and feel it more next time.

First landing: Approach was good – a bit to the left of center as usual, but the landing was perfect. I didn’t think too much, I just felt it. Found the right moment to change my focus from where I was landing to down the runway. And it felt so magnificently beautiful to land that plane for the first time on my own. Made my heart sing.

Pilots talk about how they are one with their aircraft. I know what they mean now. I felt it.

Second landing: At this point, I was just so happy. I know I was laughing out loud, and feeling the joy of the moment – all the time paying careful attention to my duties as PIC. It was my plane and I was flying and I was happy and it was glorious. Approach was good – getting closer to the center line, but then came the bounce. Let her settle and keep calm, and she just settled down on the runway and we were good. We. Yes, I felt it.

Climbing into the pattern at SCH

At some point there was another aircraft in the pattern, and I alerted the tower when I had the other traffic in sight. Took great care to leave enough space between us.

Third landing: All I could think was that if I nail this one, I’ll have to

taxi back over to the tower and call it a day. Oh, I didn’t want it to end! Coming in on final and everything looking good. Setting up for a good landing and yes, it was perfect. Even closer to the center line. Slow on the brakes and exit the active runway and hold for instructions. Clear to taxi back to the parking area. My work was done.

Post-solo portrait with the N55422

Brought the N55422 back to her parking spot and was greeted by Captains Glickman and Davies, who filmed a little post-solo video (watch the video). Watching it now, it seems that I wasn’t that excited – a quiet thrill, perhaps.

It didn’t really hit me until a bit later that evening. Worth springing for a damn good bottle of champagne. The chance to celebrate with friends and family. A gorgeous flower arrangement from Captain Glickman.

All weekend I’ve held on to these feelings. Going through different stages. Even after all of these words, I don’t feel like I have the right words.

This is just one part of this journey. I feel like yes, I can be a pilot. And, I can make this dream come true.

Thank you to everyone who has wished me well along my way, and who gets as excited as I do about my achievements on my journey to become a pilot.

Special thanks to my co-pilot Captain Glickman, my instructor Captain Davies, my EAA602 boys (especially Captains Sterling, Devine and Cowper), my 99s women, Captains Haddad, Taber, Cusack, Powell, Amedan, Hamilton, and every other pilot who has inspired me!

Most special thanks to my sister. She was the start of all of this. And her shirt was the one they cut for my wings.

Happy landings!

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10 Takeoffs, 10 Landings

Yes, it’s always good when the number of takeoffs equal the number of landings.

On Tuesday, June 7th, I logged 1.1 hours and 10 takeoffs and landings. Over and over again. In the pattern, getting used to every checklist, every maneuver, and trying to manage the crosswind. I was extremely nervous that Tuesday was going to be the big day (that solo was right around the corner), and the wind just wasn’t in my favor.

I was grateful for that wind. I needed the lesson to land over and over and over again. Needed to learn to handle everything at once – heading, altitude, airspeed, other traffic, radio, pitch, carb heat, flaps, descent rate. After 10 times I felt like maybe I was ready to solo now.

As I was heading out to my car after that lesson, I phoned Captain Glickman to let him know how the lesson was. Unbeknownst to me, he was at the airport watching the entire time! Thinking that it might have been the big day, he showed up and tucked the Little Plane off to the side so I wouldn’t know he was there. Surprising me by my car after my lesson, he let me know that he had watched everything, and listened in on his hand-held radio. It was so nice to know that he was as excited about the possibility as I was, and that he was there to support me.

From that moment on, every dream I had I was flying by myself in the N55422. Taking off and flying to wherever I wanted to go. Every leg of the pattern was replayed over, and over again in my dreams. Every setting, everything. It’s like I had the plane right there with me every night.

I know that athletes play their sports in their dreams and hone their skills. I was honing mine for sure!

Happy landings!

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Requesting the Option: SCH

The N55422 on the ground at SCH

On Friday, June 3rd, I took to the sky with Captain Davies out of SCH to practice takeoffs and landings. Winds gusting to 23 knots or so, I was still going up and getting instruction and landing, landing, landing!

It was a beautiful day, although windy, and I completed my pre-flight, got the plane fueled up, and got into my baby with a little bit of confidence. Yes. Back in the left seat. A good day.

Taxied her out and did the runup, and was feeling good. Lined up on the runway (after holding for two planes coming in), and ready to go. Still a bit uncomfortable on the radio, but I’m getting better.

Nice takeoff, and right (well, left actually) into the pattern. Around and land, around and land, around and land. Yeah. Very gusty, and Captain Davies helped me out a few times setting up for a few good slips into landing. Getting a feel for the right speeds, the right pitch, the right time to flare on the landing.

N55422 on final requesting the option. Taking the option and taking to the skies again! At one point we switched runways (the wind was variable) and came in right pattern to runway 4. At that point, my tummy was doing too many flips from being bounced around – a bit of wind shear – and I called it a day. 7 takeoffs and 7 landings.

Using MyFightBook on my iPhone, I managed to track my flight and upload it here. Something funky happened and it didn’t capture all 7 landings, but I could see my pattern work (and laugh at how off I was).

As we were going over the flight back in the office, Captain Davies noted that we had successfully completed the “aviation decision making” check box, as we made the decision not to solo on a day that was that windy. WHAT? I was going to SOLO? Are you kidding me?

Apparently it is time. I don’t know when exactly, but sometime soon is my guess. I completed the pre-solo written exam last month, so I suppose it’s inevitable, right?

I’m not sure I’m ready. Worried about the radio more than anything else. But I think I can bring that bird back down to the ground safely. I think I can.

Captain Davies told me to bring that shirt with me from now on. You know what that means …

Happy landings!

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SCH:NY0:SCH

Well, it had been over one month (last logged lesson was April 11) since I had sat in the left seat of a C-172 for training due to travel and too many lessons canceled due to weather. On Monday, May 30th, I took to the sky for a full review of everything I’d learned so far. As it was Memorial Day, I scheduled two lessons back to back, and headed to SCH for that review.

Yes, I had way too much time away from that plane. And too much time NOT in the sky. I felt awkward, and it took quite a while before things came back to me. Takeoffs were still OK, but remembering emergency procedures, power on stalls, and getting the feel for landing again. Man. It was work. A lot of work. It was too long away and I didn’t feel like a pilot – student or otherwise.

Exhausting but worth it. Was back in the sky, and I had to start again somewhere. Right? Right.

We took off out of SCH, and had two simulated engine failures. First one, I landed us at NY0 (funny how that simulated engine out was right near the airport!). We pulled in to check out the bakery, but it was closed, so we sat and watched some aerobatic flight practice for a few minutes and then headed back into the sky. Next simulated engine out was over a grass strip, and I went a bit too long on my final approach to land. If it had been a real emergency, Captain Davies said I may have gone into the trees, but I would have walked away.

Heading back to SCH, I began to feel a bit more confident – a bit more like a student pilot. Some instrument flying, some slow flight, some turns around a point, and some S turns. Good to be back in the sky. Good to be back in the left seat.

Three hours of instruction left me thinking about what I needed to have etched into my brain. What I needed to read, write down, take note of. What I missed the most – just being up there.

Happy landings!

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Emergency Landing: 5B2

After an entire month away from flight lessons, I finally made it back to class today, March 16th, for a lesson in the N64281 with Steve Davies out of SCH. I had been stressing about today’s lesson because it has just been too long since I’ve been up in that plane, and up with my CFI. Well, as it turned out, there was no need for that stress!

The weather wasn’t looking favorable, but it cleared up just in time for my lesson. The C172 was in the hangar, so he came out nice and warm, and the sun was shining and it was above 5 degrees (I could pre-flight without my hands freezing!), and I went through the checklist with ease, and even borrowed a step ladder so that I could check the gas myself! So far, so good!

Got in and made sure all was where I had left it. Steve joined me and then it was time. OK. Radio. Let me? Yep! I did it. Schenectady Ground, this is Skyhawk 64281 on the ramp at Richmor ready to taxi. And they talked back to me! Yes! Got clearance to taxi to runway 4, via B, 1, A. And I knew what that meant. AND, I got us there. All me! Did the runup, called in and got clearance to takeoff, and did. All me! Perfectly.

Watched us on the GPS (and looked out the window) as we flew directly over the runway. I’m proud that I’ve never heard my CFI say “more right rudder”. It really was a perfect takeoff. And I called the tower and asked if I could turn left (for my North heading) and everything. Everything just went so well!

Today’s lesson included a bit of instrument work, along with some steep turns. Foggle play and keeping the plane level in those steep turns made me a little dizzy (and I’m still a little dizzy sitting here typing!).

Steve had the opportunity to see how I can be either very smart or very stupid. Had some issues remembering which technology ran which instruments. Vacuum, electrical, static, gyro. Yes, I have read that chapter 4 times. Yes, I still forgot everything. Thank you, CFI, for understanding that I have no room in my brain sometimes and I have to touch things to remember them.

The majority of our lesson focused on emergency procedures. What to do if there’s a fire in the cockpit. What to do if there’s a fire on the wing. What to do if the engine fails. And that’s what we did. Pretended the engine failed! Steve went through the steps with me as I called out the checklist items. Find the best glide speed, find a place to land, go through the checklist!

Thanks to Captain Glickman for teaching me early on to always be on the lookout for a place to land. Always. Steve said “you’re cheating” when I started looking out the window. I replied, “I’m always looking for a place to land!”. Good!

Steve handled the first landing, where we selected a private airstrip and went in (and then miraculously our engine came to life and we did a go-around). We resumed altitude and then it was my turn. You have the controls. I have the controls.

We were close enough to 5B2 (on purpose) so as soon as the engine failure started, I got us to our best glide speed and then found my best approach to 5B2 as Steve went through the checklists. With the engine out (simulated), I had to land, so … I did. Me. I did. I landed the N64281 on runway 32 at Saratoga! It was a glorious landing! Steve took the controls once we were on the ground and then said, “wait, you can do this, you take it back!”, which made me feel great! So I brought us to a stop and we went over to runway 5 and took off back up into the sky. And yes, it was another perfect takeoff! Made me feel SO good to have that down. Really nice. Really happy feeling inside.

Once we were done there, we headed back to SCH. Steve handled the communications on our way back in, but let me fly the N64281 to the ground. He helped out a bit on landing at SCH (just a little bit), and I taxied us back over to secure my baby down for the night!

What a glorious day of flight (in the air AND on the ground!). So good to be landing a plane once again! So grateful to everyone for helping me on my way and for believing that I do fly like a starfruit.

I love it up there!

Happy landings!

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Stalling … again!

The last time I had a lesson was 2/15. That was a very long time ago. Yeah.

Well, on the 15th of February I went up in the N64281 with Steve Davies out of SCH, for an early evening lesson on stalling. I’ve been through the stalls before, so nothing was shocking and I think I recovered very well. Along with the stall lesson, I got to have my very first instrument-only lesson while wearing foggles.

I love foggles. It makes it much easier to concentrate on the instruments, which I just concentrate on a bit too much anyway. I’d like to think that I did a great job that day. I know I did.

There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground, and I do remember NOT taxiing, although I did take off. Makes me happy when Steve says “seems like you’ve done this before”, because of course, he knows, I’ve done this before.

Had a great lesson that day. Felt really good about the way Steve was instructing. Very different. Very methodical. Exactly what I needed.

Still had some unfamiliarity with the N64281, but seemed like he likes me (the plane), and I remember it being so very cold and windy that day and just not being happy doing that pre-flight in the wind and cold. But, nothing stands out in my mind as “off”, so it must have been a good lesson. I do remember that the winds were too strong for me to take the landing. But that’s OK. There’s more to come!

Happy landings!

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