Private Pilot Lessons 8-14

Lesson # Date Plane Tail Solo Total
8 1/11/2001 Cessna-172 N733UC 0 1.2
Forward slip; emergency descent; crosswind landing; MYF traffic pattern; collision avoidance
In this lesson we headed east once again for two new things – forward slips and emergency descents. Once again I handled all the radios for ground control and taxiing. Our take off was a little wayward again, as well as during our long climb out; I need to get on that right rudder more.

Once over the practice area we did emergency descents which are a way to descend very quickly but at a reasonably slow airspeed. The feeling is very strange, the nose of the airplane points pretty much straight towards the earth and yet (because of the flaps) the airspeed is only 80 knots. I am sure my future passengers will be pleased to know I can get them on the ground quickly if they suffer some attack in the plane! [Ed: lets hope there is somewhere to land when you get to the ground!]

Forward slips are another way of losing altitude without increasing airspeed, usually used when you are too high for a landing. The feeling is odd since, somewhat like a stall, the nose pitches forward fairly strongly. But it seemed to go ok and I know there will be many more of them to do during the training.

We eneded the lesson with 4 loops around MYF airport doing touch-and-goes in between. I was making
(what I think) were very good approaches to landing each time, getting the descent just right and being lined up straight down the runway. Unfortunately the final seconds of each landing didn’t go so well each time and we got to enjoy some bounce landings and some hard landings. Knowing when to flare before landing will take me some time to get, it seems.

$1333.00 10.5 hrs
Lesson # Date Plane Tail Solo Total
9 9/11/2001 Cessna-172 N733UC 0 1.8
Power off stall; steep turns; turns around a point; emergency descent & engine failure; instrument turns, climbs and descents
After a week of low cloud at MYF, we set off towards Ramona to review as many of the maneuvers as we could. I hadn’t done many of them in since the second lesson so I knew I would be rusty. The cloud seemed to be enveloping us from behind and soon we could see nothing behind as the sun glared off the clouds; an instrument approach back to MYF would be very likely.

First up were steep turns. I had found these difficult before, especially to the left, and the first one did not go too well. Kimberly demonstrated it to me and talked me through one that was much better. Again, the one to the right went a lot better than any to the left.

Slow flight was next, something I enjoy being in, it seems like floating slowly in the air. Once I got used to making small adjustments rather than being too strong in the controls it seemed to go very well.

Power-off stall was next, something I had been worried about at the beginning of training but the lesson with Larry had removed my fear. The first one I did turned slightly to the left during the stall and scared me good and proper! After a demo from Kimberly, my second one was a lot better. Perhaps stalls are something to keep a good healthy respect for and make sure I never get in one other than for practice?

Emergency descents were fresh in my mind from the last lesson, there is still something very cool about losing altitude so quickly, yet so slowly. We hurtled towards the ground to lose some altitude for turns around a point.

There wasn’t much to focus on for a point so I chose a pile of rocks. This maneuver tests your ability to look at several things at once, you have to look at the point you are turning around, outside the plane for traffic, the instruments to make sure you aren’t ascending/descending. Whilst I still didn’t get it perfectly I had a better feeling for it this time than previously.

Other than the glide speed, I had pretty much forgotten the engine failure procedure, I didn’t even remember that one of the things to do is to select a landing site – oops!

This lesson was quite a workout since next I had to go under the hood to do some instrument work. Kimberly had me fly straight and level, make some turns. Again I soon settled into making small adjustments rather than large over-corrections. The mist was truly over the home airport so Kimberly requested an instrument approach back to MYF. Keeping the hood on, I flew the approach whilst Kimberly talked to SoCal approach. It was pretty neat being directed around the sky with no idea where I was (since I couldn’t see anything but the instruments). Once we were in touch with MYF tower I was freed from the device and visually flew the (instrument) approach towards the field. About 1500 feet over the airport we descended through a layer of cloud, it was very cool to see the runway appear beneath it – just like the real airplanes!

A crosswind awaited us but I was able to keep us perfectly lined up with the runway right until touchdown. Unfortuantely I flared just too early so we hit the ground fairly hard and fast. I knew I had done it too early straightaway but couldn’t correct it quickly enough. But I was very pleased with my approach work again, I seem to have that figured out pretty good.

$1532.00 12.3 hrs
10 10/11/2001 Cessna-172 N733UC 0 2.1
Touch and goes; forward slips; go-arounds; traffic pattern
The clouds were low and so Kimberly had to file an instrument departure through the clouds out of MYF. Once again I had the pleasure of following the tower’s instructions through the clouds, an eerie feeling given that you have no visible reference of what attitude the plane is in: all you can see is the instruments. Popping out above the clouds was a magic feeling. We flew above them and until they came to an abrupt end near Mount Woodson and Ramona airport.

The order of the day was touch-and-goes, several trips around the pattern for more practice at landings. My approaches continue to go very well but I am disappointed at most of the landings, they feel hard and abrupt but Kimberly says they are fine, that most people don’t really figure out the ‘perfect’ landing until just before the checkride.

New today was the go-around. In the event of any unhappiness with the landing, you should make a go-around by applying full power and getting the hell out there before you get into too much trouble. The odd thing here is that you expect (ok, I expected) to have to pull back on the yoke to climb but, because of the low speed, you need to push forward on the yoke to lower the nose so you can accelerate before climbing. Guess its obvious when yout think about it.

Before leaving we practiced the forward slip from an approach that is way too high, it really is an odd feeling as you ‘skid’ down towards the ground.

The ATIS suggested that we would need an instrument approach to MYF so Kimberly got on the radio and talked to SoCal Approach whilst I tried to put the plane where they wanted it. I have to admit that instrument flying is kinda fun – I hope I get to do my instrument rating some day (soon).

2.1 hours is a long time for a lesson, it would be preferable for them to be shorter. First, there is the cost factor and, (vainly) second, the longer the lessons are the higher the number will be when people ask how many hours you took before your checkride.

$1544.00 14.4 hrs
Lesson # Date Plane Tail Solo Total
11 13/11/2001 Cessna-172 N733UC 0 1.8
Touch and goes; go-arounds; radio communications
Today was an exciting day – off to a brand new airport! We were going to head to Brown Field (SDM) which is on the border with Mexico, just south of San Diego. The weather was superbly clear, great views out to the Pacific, downtown San Diego and Coronado; exactly what flying is about?

The trip to Brown took to the side of Mt Miguel and over Lake Otay where we contacted the Tower to tell them we were coming in for touch-and-goes. Brown has two runways, the right hand one is huge at 8000 feet long but it does not have any glideslope lights to help with the approach. But, even so, my approaches continued to go very well, my landings still seemed hard although I did manage one which seemed just perfect. During one of the approaches we were told to do a 360 turn to delay our landing so we instead opted for the left hand runway and did touch-and-goes on that one instead, including a go-around which went well now that I know to lower the nose. After 8 landings it was time to head back to MYF.

Heading back to MYF I was feeling very pleased with myself, I had done great approaches, fine landings and handled the radios pretty well. We flew over Mt Helix and announced our intent to land at our home base and were cleared for a straight-in landing to the left runway. Everything looked good as we came in, but at the last minute it was clear we were too high and too slow and we hit the runway with a hard bounce. I instinctively tried to fix it but Kimberly said to go around so I added power and we made a good go-around. We came back around for a second try, we were too high again and this time we hit hard and started to porpoise – a very bad thing since when the nose points down it is possible for the propeller to strike the ground and do a lot of damage. Kimberly took over and landed the plane before we ran out of runway.

I think that I had become so used to the ‘picture’ of the approach and landing at Brown that I did not take note of the new visual clues as we came in to land. Our height was wrong and so was our speed. Kimberly said she was pleased to have those two mistakes since without getting into trouble, it is impossible to learn how to get out of it (hint: always go-around!). Certainly I would rather have it with her in the cockpit with me than on my own!

I had been feeling very confident of my abilities, I had been feeling that soloing was coming real fast, but those two bad landings have left me a little unsure of myself. Hopefully the next lesson will remind me that I can do it safely and have me eager again for that magical first solo.

On the way back from Brown we saw the BA 777 flight from London to San Diego pass ‘in front’ of us. It was an awesome sight to see it drift in front of our eyes, one of the many great views we had out of the cockpit window.

$1728.00 16.2 hrs
12 16/11/2001 Cessna-172 N733UC 0.6 2.1
First solo; go-arounds; traffic pattern
Solo day!!! Today I attained the ‘unattainable’, I did three takeoffs and landings with no one in the plane except me. Its been a long time since I did my very first ‘solo drive’, and I don’t think my first uneventful snowboard ride compares either, but the feeling as I taxiied out to the runway and held short for a jet to take off in front of me was like nothing I’ve felt in a long time. How often do we have long-held dreams that get fulfilled?

I was cleared by the tower to taxi to taxiway Charlie for takeoff. Runway 26R has several intersecting taxiways which allow smaller planes to start the take off in the middle of the runway. Kimberly does not allow her students to make intersection takeoffs so I had to call the tower and ask for ‘the full length’ of the runway. I was cleared to taxi to the beginning, behind a huge jet.

I sat watching the jet pull-off the runway and looked around the cockpit. I checked and double-checked the mixture, flaps and anything else I could think of. For a while I sat and just took it all in – I was about to fly a plane, something I had dreamt about for many years. I was then aware that I needed to tell the tower I was ready to go – that there might be people behind me wanting to take off, though I am sure had they been aware of the circumstance they would have understood. I radioed the tower and was cleared for immeadiate takeoff, with the warning to avoid wake turblence from the jet (something uppermost in everyone’s mind given the tragedy of AA587 this week). I moved out onto the runway, throttle in and started down the runway. All my nerves had disappeared and as I took off I looked out of the window and somehow the view was different – now I was on my own, in command of, and with total responsability for, the plane.

As I turned from crosswind to downwind I was told I was second for landing and I looked around for the other traffic. As I approached the time to turn to base I still hadn’t seen it and asked the tower where it was: it was already on the ground and I saw it taxi off the runway as I started the turn to final. The approach looked good, I was coming in at a perfect speed, a little too high but nothing that had me worried. I reached my touchdown point, flared and made the second best landing of the day. I’d done it – taken off, flown a pattern and landed safely. The question now was could I do it again? I was pretty sure I could.

The airport was deadly quiet for my second circuit, no traffic around and nothing on the radio. The mist was coming in and every time I looked at the runway it was geting more hazy, not yet difficult to see but always slightly more obscured than the previous view. I turned my base leg too far and was almost lined up with the left hand runway when I turned to final. I considered asking for the left hand runway, as I had done earlier with Kimberly, but there was noone else around to inconvenience so I made an extra turn to put me back on 26R. I started to wish I had been using the ‘student pilot’ radio call, which alerts the tower that you are a student and therefore to take ‘special’ care of you. But I had decided not to, somehow I thought it would make the event less realistic if everyone was kept out of my way. When finally lined up I was at what seemed like a pretty good height but when I reached a few feet off the ground my speed had dropped too much so I had to add a little power to prevent a hard landing. I avoided the hard landing but there was still a slight bump as the wheels came down.

For the third trip around I let myself take in all that was going on around me. I could still see Tijuana airport, the lights of the prison, and out to Otay Lake. I took the crosswind leg out a little more this time so I would have a better chance of being lined up on final. I got away with the poor turn on the previous run because there was no one else around, that would not work in a busy airport with traffic landing at the same time. My turn to final was not quite enough this time but that is much easier to correct than too far. My approach was just right, I descended gently down to the runway in what seemed like a gentle glide. For the first time it seemed like the glide was totally effortless, I even had time to look out the side windows as I came down, the glide was so gentle. I tried holding the plane off the runway for a while before the flare but ran out of speed a little earlier than hoped and so it was another slightly bumpy landing. There was no bounce so I guess that is as good as I am looking for right now. I taxiied over to where Kimberly was waiting and my first 0.6 hours as a Pilot were over.

Leading up to the solo flight, Kimberly had me ‘fly her to Brown’ with her being mostly quiet while I did as much as I could remember of the route and radio to get us there. We did 3 or 4 practice landings and a touch-and-go. When we first got there, there was a lot of jet traffic in the area, presumably people coming back from Mexico since they all wanted to go to Customs. At one point we were number 2 to land behind a jet with another one coming in behind us. I underturned the turn to final and asked to land on 26L instead of the right runway, so we made some touch-and-goes on that one too. When Kimberly told me to taxi to the EAA hangar I knew my solo time had come. Everything had gone so well up to this point that I knew there was no chance of me saying I didn’t want to, though there was a healthy fear in my stomach as she wrote her endorsement in my logbook.

On the way back, it was pretty much dark already and the mist over MYF was even worse than that at Brown. We flew over Mt Helix and reported inbound for landing. On the way we heard SoCal Approach tell an American Airlines MD80 that they had traffic in sight – it was us!! We were cleared into what was sounding like a very busy Montgomery Field but, after receiving a very complex instruction, got told to land on the left runway. As we started to line up with 28L we heard an incoming Piper be told to make an immeadiate right turn as it was coming right for us – we saw it turn away.

28L has no runway lights on it, other than two flashing lights at the very beginning, one on either side. Between the lack of lights and the worsening mist I was not looking forward to the landing and I was very happy to let Kimberly take over when she offered. Of course she brought us down very nicely and my milestone lessn was over. From here it is more solo time and then learning how to get from A to B cross-country.

Four lessons ago I would never have thought I could solo so quickly and I need to acknowledge the excellent instruction from my CFI, Kimberly Bradshaw at Fly California! with whom I am making great progress. Thanks Kimberly!

Here is a screenshot of the web page announcing my solo on Kimberly’s site.

$1945.00 18.3 hrs
Lesson # Date Plane Tail Solo Total
13 20/11/2001 Cessna-172 N733UC 0.5 2.0
Second solo – touch and goes; go-arounds; short-field takeoffs
Back to Ramona today to get my solo endorsement for Ramona. Similar to the last lesson, we headed
over to Ramona and did some touch and goes at the air field. Ramona is uncontrolled and so everyone
announces where they are, what they are doing and the idea is that everyone watches out so that
there are no accidents. It was pretty busy when we arrived but thinned out after our first landing –
not sure if it was something we said or did!

A new manuever was introduced today: short-field takeoffs. This is pretty obvious, the idea is to
get the airplane off the ground in a short enough distance that you don’t run out of runway when it is
short. The principle is very much like a jet take-off, you hold the airplane with the brakes and apply
full power, releasing the brakes when full power is reached. The addition of flaps makes the airplane
take off at a much slower speed and climbs much more quickly. It was amazing to see how much runway we
had left when we were airborne

A variation on this is the short-field take-off over a 50ft obstacle. The technique is similar but
you climb at a much slower speed and dramatically steeper attitude until you are over the ‘invisible’
obstruction. I’m not sure I was too happy with the attitude of the climb, it felt like straight up
rather than the climb I am used to, not a little unnerving. Guess I will have to get used to it.

After 4 or 5 landings and a go-around, Kimberly had me drop her off at the parking ramp and told me go
do 3 landings by myself. The addition of the uncontrolled space adds a little extra pressure and the
increasing wind was making the take-offs a little spooky. At about 1700 feet the plane would be
tilted by the wind and I would have to correct it a few times. Kimberly said this is was all good
experience. The wind was a little gusty on final approach, on at least one landing I was blown a little
off course just before the end but corrected it. The landings were fine, not the perfect greasers like
I want but good enough. I think I am relaxing my standards in that regard. I was a lot more
comfortable with the radio today which was good.

After three landings I picked Kimberly up and we headed back to Montgomery. We were cleared straight
in for the left runway and made a tiny bounce landing as we came in too fast. The person who was
having the plane after us congratulated me on a nice ‘no flaps’ landing. That might explain the speed
being so high but both Kimberly and I are sure we had the flaps down. The lever was moving about a bit
in the cockpit so perhaps it jumped back to 0 degrees? I guess we’ll never know. Whatever happened,
we got down safely and in control and that seems to be the most important thing. I’ll grease those
landings in a dozen lessons time…

$2160.00 20.3 hrs
14 21/11/2001 Cessna-172 N4625G 0.5 1.3
Third solo – touch and goes
The aim of today’s lesson was to have me solo the traffic pattern at MYF so that in future I
can fly solo from MYF to Brown or Ramona for practice. Recall that the previous two lessons
gave me the ability to solo at Brown and Ramona but without being able to solo at MYF I was
forbidden to fly there.

The lesson had a different start to it as this was my first time in N4625G, our usual plane being
out on an extended trip. Its not as fast as the other one and, today at least, had some very funky,
old-looking radios inside. Other than a few cosmetic differences there was nothing new to get the
hang of, indeed it was very much like the planes I had flown in the Plus One flying club.

We taxied to the right runway and were not made to wait very long before we could take-off. The
airport was fairly quiet and we did our touch-and-goes without any trouble from the tower, only once
were we told to extend our downwind leg to allow more spacing for other traffic to land or takeoff.

There was a little crosswind that kept switching sides of the runway which made for some small
entertainment just above the runway but I did a fair job of landing facing the right way. It must have
been good enough since after 5 goes around the field, Kimberly had me drop her off at the transient
parking area and told me to go do 3 more landings on my own.

I had been fairly nervous about soloing here since it is always so busy but the lack of traffic and
the security I felt from the Total landings had pretty much erased those fears. My three circuits of
the field were pretty uneventful, no landing being that great – I still think I am too fast – but
none would have made my passengers scream for their lives. The last landing was definitely too fast,
I couldn’t get off of the runway at Taxiway Golf where most other people leave, instead I had to
take the next exit. I guess that will (have to) get better before the checkride, and certainly before
we do short-field landings.

Since I was on my own I had to handle the fuel all by myself for the first time. Leonard, who is
very often the pump attendent, helped me pull the airplane forward to the line before he topped
up the tanks. Then it was back to the parking area where Kimberly was waiting for me to help tie
down the plane. After that she put the all-important endorsement in my logbook – I can now fly
to Brown or Ramona on my own whenever I want (subject to some weather conditions) and without her
needing to be present. How cool is that?

$2311.00 21.6 hrs