Private Pilot Lessons 1-7

Lesson # Date Plane Tail Solo Total
1 12/8/2001 Cessna-172 N738QA 0 0.8
Preflight inspection; documents; checklists; straight & level; climbs; turns; descents
My first lesson, I arrived at Montgomery Airport (MYF) a little early to get used to the idea of going flying. Larry, my instructor, was already there and he met me outside and showed me to the plane. Although the inside was more basic than I had expected it was roomier than I was expecting, with room inside without being sat on each other.

We spent a good chunk of time pre-flighting the plane, going over the long checklist of items that give confidence that the plane will not fall apart in the sky. Inside the cockpit we went over the documentation that must be legally present. Again, more checklists for inside the plane.

Larry had me taxi to the runway which took some getting used to especially as I was reluctant to use the throttle to go slowly to make up for my wayward turns.

We eventually made it to the runway and Larry told me to push the throttle all the way in, keep it straight and pull back on the yoke when we hit 55 – I was going to do the takeoff! It was pretty exciting to pull back and feel us leave the ground.

Once in the air we headed to the east of the airport and he showed me how to make turns, do some climbs and descents but I have to admit that a lot of it washed over me as I was too busy taking it all in. I was aware though of the demo stall that he showed me. In a stall, the wings are no longer able to provide lift to the aircraft and so the nose lunges forward and you begin a dive; left to its own devices the plane will right itself. I knew all this from my prior reading but the sensation of going from steep climb to instant steep dive was a little unsettling. Sadly this is something I will be doing a lot of in the future. After some basic maneuvers Larry took the controls and flew us back to base.

$134.00 0.8 hrs
Lesson # Date Plane Tail Solo Total
2 17/8/2001 Cessna-172 N739ZV 0 1.3
Straight & level; climbs; turns; descents; turns to a heading; altitude holding; maintain constant altitude with turns; speed changes; landing setup
We began this lesson by my pre-flighting the aircraft with Larry nearby to answer questions on things I had forgotten. It seemed to take quite a long time as I was keen not to miss anything; it is inconvenient to have to fix something in mid-air! Once again I taxied to the runway and took off.

Once in the air we turned 180o and headed east over the mountains. This time it was much more of a lesson as I was told how to use the different controls to climb, descend and make turns. We also did some slow flight, using flaps to enable the plane to go very slowly. From there we went over how you configure the plane for landing, which is essentially the same as slow flight.

This flight was a bit disconcerting as the air over the hills was quite turbulent (Larry described it as mild since we weren’t being thrown around the cabin) and the plane was being moved about abruptly. This made it quite hard to maintain heading and altitude for a novice like myself.

I was quite glad when Larry said it was time to return as I had gotten a white-knuckle grip on the controls which was wearing me out. Larry said I would relax more as I got more comfortable.

$299.50 2.1 hrs
Lesson # Date Plane Tail Solo Total
3 18/8/2001 Cessna-172 N61960 0 1.3
Ground reference manuevers; turns around a point; square patterns; s-turns across a road
This lesson again began with me pre-flighting the airplane, this still seemed to take a long time and I hope to do it much more quickly soon and waste less time (and money). This plane was the oldest one yet and had mph on the dial rather than knots. There wa a moment of worry when the plane did not pass the magento pre-flight before takeoff but Larry had some tricks up his sleeve to blow the dust off them. Takeoff was my worse yet as we veered leftward down the runway, I’ve got to fix that.

This time we headed to the coast to give me my first go of ground reference maneuvers. Unfortunately the clouds were quite low and a little in from the coast so Larry’s usual choice of ground references were obscured.

First we found a large trailer on the ground around which we did continuous left turns at a 45o bank. They didn’t go too badly though I didn’t keep my altitude too well. After that we found a stretch of the I-5 that would do for S-turns across a road; I did pretty poorly at those, not keeping the right amount of turn at all. After that we headed over Rancho Bernardo and found a roughly rectangular housing estate to do square patterns around. I made one decent turn out of many, some of which had quite dramatic dives and climbs as I struggled to keep altitude; one in particular left me a little nauseous.

After a few practices we headed for Mt Soledad and the traffic pattern for landing. I was reminded how to prep the plane for the approach to the airport and we did our first go around the pattern. I made all the turns to final but was doing a lousy job of lining up with the runway when Larry took the plane and landed.

$465.00 3.4 hrs
4 27/8/2001 Cessna-172 N61960 0 1.7
Maintain constant heading; steep turns; power-on stalls and recovery; power-off stalls and recovery
Due to a mixup we ended up with the same plane as before but I don’t like it since the IAS is in mph (rather than knots) and the flaps control is a toggle. This time I did the full pre-flight myself and we headed off to the runway. I did my best takeoff yet and we headed East for more maneuvers. The skies were very busy and we kept having to change positions to avoid potentially conflicting traffic. We did a series of shallow turns, climbs and descents which I managed to do almost all of them ‘perfectly’ and without reminder. We practiced some steep turns with better success than last time though still far from perfect. We then did the ‘dreaded’ stalls and they really weren’t too bad, I recovered pretty well from each and was not terrified like I had expected. When it was time to go back I, with Larry’s help, got the plane close to the runway but we were too high and fast so he took over for the landing. Perhaps if we had been better positioned I would have gotten to do it – soon, though I will. A great lesson.
$652.00 5.1 hrs
5 4/9/2001 Cessna-172 N733XL 0 1.3
Emergency engine out procedures; general engine out operations; steep turns; maintain constant altitude review; instrument rating – straight & level, climbs, turns, descents.
Nicest plane so far, very well looked after and lots of power. One of my best takeoffs yet and we headed east to the practice area. We had started the lesson on the ground with some instruction on what to do in an emergency engine-out. Up in the air, Larry pulled the throttle to idle and made me go through the procedure (which include choosing a landing site). After that I went under the hood for the first time – you put on a device which restricts your view to just the instruments and have to follow the usual instructions with reference only to the panel. It was surprisingly tricky but I did ok for a first time. The plane is getting more intuitive to fly and I feel like I am making good progress.
$815.00 6.4 hrs
6 5/9/2001 Cessna-172 N739ZV 0 1.5
Traffic patterns; takeoff and landings; touch and goes
Today was the big day – my first go at landings. After a lengthy introduction to how you fly the trafric pattern round the airport for landing we set off for Romana airport, (RNM) the first time I have been anywhere but Montgomery Field. Once there we did (an estimated) 6 landings of which one was to a full stop and the others ‘touch and goes’. Each approach I made was too high and too fast and it all seemed very difficult. I eventually said I had had enough and we went back to MYF. Although it felt bad, Larry said I had done fine and it would all come together the more often we did it. The next few lessons will be nothing but traffic pattern and landings with the added problem of handling the radios as well. A very frustrating lesson but I am sure practice will make perfect?
$1010.00 7.9 hrs
7 23/10/2001 Cessna-172 N733UC 0 1.4
Slow flight; turns; landings; collision avoidance
The events of September 11th had a dramatic effect on General Aviation in the US with most flying grounded for several weeks. During this time I was obviously unable to train and further, because of the economic impact on the industry, Larry decided to quit instructing.

So…. I have a new instructor – Kimberly Bradshaw who will hopefully see through me through this part of my flight training.

Right from the start, Kimberly had me on the radio, contacting Ground Control for permission to taxi to the runway. I had been worried about this but, once I had gotten in mind exactly what I wanted to say, I found myself sounding incredibly professional in my headset (even though I say so myself!). Requesting what you want seems easy, knowing how to respond if you don’t get what you were expecing is another thing. No doubt this will improve the more I listen and talk.

We took off and headed East and towards Ramona for a return to the touch and goes of the last lesson. My take off was so-so, I need to work harder at keeping the plane straight down the runway rather than making a ‘short cut’ to the left of the runway. The same happened at Ramona in the touch and goes; this was one thing I did forget from the last lesson. I had much better success when I picked a point on the horizon and aimed for that rather than try to keep the runway centre-line under the nose. Must remember next time…

Kimberly has a slightly different set of numbers for the pattern work making the whole thing a little slower than Larry had it. Kimberly made the first landing to remind me what the picture looked like. Next one was my turn….. and to my deep joy I got the plane down on the runway without any physical help, just Kimberly giving advice. Definitely the greatest feeling so far in my training, I felt like a major hurdle had been lifted – it was possible to do my own landings! The next one went even better, this time anticipating some of Kimberly’s instructions before she made them and we landed in even better fashion.

We were out of time and had to head back to MYF, there was a crosswind for the landing and Kimberly expected to have to take over for the landing. I brought us in and put us on the ground, but not without that crosswind messing with me at the last minute, making us land slightly at an angle – ouch! Not the best landing: crosswind landings are for another time.

Definitely a great lesson with my first landings, it feels like I made a big leap forward. Hopefully the next one will continue to build on this one.

$1187.00 9.3 hrs