29R - Nothing but blue skies...

Weather: KBJC 272045Z 09007KT 50SM FEW080 23/M03 A3023

When people say that, how long do they mean? Today I was scheduled for my pre-solo. It was at 4 pm. It's now 4.50 pm. You're thinking I should be in the air flying right now and you're right. The plane I was scheduled in today, 5222D is overdue for some engine oil additive and because it doesn't have it, is non-complaint with some FAA Airworthiness Directive for Cessna 172N models. Other planes are out flying. I waited around for another plane that was scheduled to come back at 4.30, but it was still out when I left the airport. On top of that, the chief flight instructor's wife is very late term in a slightly at risk pregnancy and she had called minutes before saying something might happen with that. So he either had to leave at any second when the phone rang, or get in the air so he could come home as soon as he could. All signs basically telling me to wait for it. I'll keep you posted.

Weather: KBJC 182250Z 00000KT 30SM SCT070 25/M04 A3004

So this is just making me tired now. Another pre-solo down (kind of) and no closer to any a completion. Keep in mind I have really only flown in a slight crosswind once. Not that I haven’t been trying to schedule a flight when I would get one, but it just hasn’t worked out yet. I was scheduled again for yesterday at 5. Check the weather, things look good. Wind at 7 KTS but it’s straight down the runway. That works. Check ATIS before we start to taxi and the winds are calm. Even better. Get in the air, fly the pattern, kind of nervous but things are good. Flying final I feel a bit of a crosswind so I have to crab a bit but not much. Straighten back out with a few hundred yards to go. Right as cross over the top of the numbers, crosswind gust, I set the pane down and side load it pretty good. Crap. Not good.

We takeoff again and right as we do the tower comes on frequency and announces the latest weather. Of course the winds are now out of student range. So basically, we just practiced a few times in the pattern and some crosswind landings. The pre-solo part was basically instantly over. It was really good practice and I’m glad I finally got to fly in those conditions. But seriously, I need to get past this pre-solo. Basically right after I’m done I have the Stage 1 check. I know I can’t control the weather, but if I can get a flight scheduled in the morning when the winds are usually calm, I would be just fine. So you may not hear much until I pass this damn pre-solo. Could be months. I’ll let you know.

Wait for it

Weather: KBJC 172316Z 26014G20 60SM BKN060 BKN110 22/10 A2992

Basically the weather line above just says "no flying for Pete." If you calculate out the crosswind component for runway 29R/L, you get about a 7 KTS crosswind. 5 KTS is the most I can fly in. So no flight last night. I got a call from the chief flight instructor on my way to the airport. We rescheduled for today at 5 again. The winds are still a bit crazy this morning and they are expected to change by this afternoon, but are supposed to be a bit unpredictable. So we'll see.


Weather: KBJC 171654Z VRB05KT 15SM FEW030 BKN070 BKN100 15/12 A3000

So I don’t know if this is a sign of anything other than an awesome cake, but here it is.
This cake is amazing. It even has the tail number of the plane I usually fly. As a huge fan of most everything airplanes, this is great. A coworker made this for me. She is notorious for baking a lot. Recently there has been cookies or cake once a week for the past month or so. Everyone gets something on there birthday. This is a going away cake for me. I’m making a transfer within the company to become a project manager. Read: making a transfer to a hopefully temporary job before I get to start flying full time. Not that I’m not excited about this new job. I am. It’s just my real goal is to fly full time. It kind of reminds me of the Food Network show “Ace of Cakes”. Funny show if you haven’t seen it. Anyhow, awesome cake!

Weather: KBJC 171654Z VRB05KT 15SM FEW030 BKN070 BKN100 15/12 A3000

Have I mentioned that I’ve been doing a lot of landings lately? Yeah. I like landings. I actually like just flying the pattern. I’m flying, practicing, having fun. It’s good. I still want to progress though. So that brings me to last Friday. I’ve got a pre-solo scheduled for 5pm. I’ve also got a practice flight scheduled from 3-5. We do some touch and goes to get the feeling. The biggest thing the chief flight instructor is looking for is keeping the plane at 65 KTS and on the glide path on final. I can nail the 65 when I’m flying well. No problem. I can fly a great final approach too. The only thing I hate is the landing lights. On runway 29L/11R there are only two landing lights. Let me quickly explain.

There are two lights side by side. When your plane is on the glide path, the left light is white and the right one is red. When your plane is too high, you get two whites. Too low, two reds. The thing about these lights, is getting one white and one red is nearly impossible. You basically have to be within about plus or minus 5 feet of the exact glide path. So back to the pre-solo.

The chief instructor doesn’t care too much about your actual approach if the lights look good. I say it’s harder to land without the lights because you have to judge the right flight path on your own. If you can land it well, who cares what the lights say. But he wants you to fight for that glide path until you land it. So for me that means instead of landing just slightly low or high of the glide path, but landing really well, I have to fight hard to stay on the glide path. He wants immediate corrective action to get back on the path. So if I get too far off the glide path from the beginning, it’s a constant struggle to land it within his standards.

My landings can be great, and can still kind of suck. My only problem is constancy. I’m hoping that will come soon. I’m kind of getting tired of being so erratic. Not that I’m not having fun, I just don’t want to screw up another pre-solo. So it’s Friday afternoon at 3. We’ve got variable winds at about 3 knots. This is actually good. I’ll get some practice in some crosswinds finally. Touch and goes. Things look good. Not landing anything great, but due to the winds I still feel pretty good. So we get down at about 4.30. Tie down the plane, get back inside and it’s 4.45. The winds are picking up a bit and I’m getting a bit uncomfortable. I’m only allowed to fly in a 5 knot direct crosswind as a student at my stage. Since my only major crosswind experience was about 1 hour ago and we only got about a 5 knot gust, I’m hoping things don’t get worse.

I check the weather. Things are getting worse. Now I’m really worried. I’m hoping things get really worse. Fast please. So it’s time to go. Check the weather. Things are worse. The winds are right on the threshold of what I can fly. 9 knot winds out of 330. 5 knot direct crosswind. Things are expect to only get worse after that. I get to make the call whether or not we go. I pretend to be more disappointed than I really am, but I cancel. Inside I’m a bit relieved. I’m disappointed too though. Still one flight away from my solo.

So I’m still a bit nervous, which brings me to today. My pre-solo is now scheduled for this afternoon. 5 hours and 16 minutes to be exact. I really want to pass this thing and get it over with. It’s time to move on. I’m even apprehensive writing this now as I don’t want to follow up this post with another one saying I busted again. I know I can do it. It’s just getting it right for this guy. As long as I fly like I have been recently, I’ll be fine. I hope I can do that today. On the down side, it’s raining right now and the weather conditions by the time I fly are supposed to be below standard, so it still may not happen.

Regardless, I’ll keep trying. Weather or my own performance, I’ll keep trying.


Weather: KBJC 102245Z 21008KT 12SM SCT030 16/08 A3037

So I’ve been slacking lately. I haven’t been writing much (obviously), I haven’t been flying as much (a few busy weekends), and I have been a bit discouraged. So I’ll step back for a minute and take it from the top. This is going to be a long one so you may want to refill that coffee cup now. I’ll wait for you… Ok?

Landings, landings, landings

Lately, it seems like all I’ve been doing is landings. Really, that’s all I have been doing. Not that it’s bad. I really enjoy the landings. I’m ready for something new though, which is tough, because I’ve got to get my landings down before I can move on. So finally, 2 weeks ago, I got the signoff from my instructor to go on my pre-solo check. I’ll fly with a lead flight instructor after about an hour of testing on the ground. Then we’ll just go up, do some touch and goes, a go around or two and then a full stop. As long as I don’t screw it up too badly, I’ll be flying my solo next time.

Fast forward a few days. It took a while to get my pre-solo flight scheduled. Once the day came to fly, someone had flown my plane to New Mexico the night before, got stuck there due to weather, and I didn’t have a plane. Unfortunately, the lead flight instructor found a plane for me to fly. It’s unfortunate because it was a slightly different model plane than I am used to. I fly a Cessna 172 N or P model. This was a R model. One later than P, shouldn’t be a big deal right? Probably not. There are a few bigger differences. The R is fuel injected, doesn’t matter much once you are flying. Otherwise not so different. But every plane is a bit different regardless, and I probably shouldn’t have gotten into a completely new plane when I’m a bit nervous already and I have to show that I’m completely proficient. First mistake. Now any pilot out there with some experience is going to say that they are really the same plane. Anyone with a decent bit of experience really isn’t going to notice a difference in that plane. When you are only flying with about 12 hours of experience, it does end up making enough difference to throw you off your game a bit.

So then I just didn’t fly well. I was thrown off a bit from the beginning, but also the first thing I do when I start to fly my pattern is pull the carb heat on. Ok, looking for the carb heat, looking, can’t find it. Oh yeah. Fuel injected, no carb heat. Ok. Now I’m a few seconds behind on flying my pattern. Have to make a call to ATC. Wait a few seconds for other traffic to clear the radio. Wait for it. Wait. 20 seconds later. Ok finally my turn, “Metro tower, Cessna 2ES midfield… wait, no, abeam the numbers for 29L touch and goes.” Now I’m about 15 seconds behind. Anyhow, I’ll spare you the details. Really I just don’t want to rehash it all. But it was a bad day. Don’t get me started on my feelings about the lead flight instructor. I just don’t like that guy. Anyhow. Busted the pre-solo.

The pre-solo experience on the whole was pretty discouraging. I had a flight that night that I was supposed to be soloing on and I just didn’t want to go fly. It was the first time that I had no interest in flying. It was pretty depressing. It was a mixture of disappointment, being mad at myself for flying the new plane in the first place, then just flying poorly, and anger at the lead flight instructor. All that rolled into one was just a bad mix. It got me down for a few days.

So now I’m back doing more landings. Just have to get the landings right. So I’ll go up for a lesson, do about 7-12 touch and goes and then a full stop landing. And that’s a day. 3 lessons like that and now I’m really getting ready to try something new.

Yesterday evening I went up to brush up on my maneuvers because it’s been so long. So I did some power on turning stalls, some slow flight, a power off stall, a simulated engine failure, 1 stop and go, 1 touch and go, a power off 180 touch and go, and then called it a night. I started flying at about 6.15 or so. The sun was starting to set, and by the time we were flying back from the practice area the sun had set completely. It was an absolutely beautiful Colorado evening at the base of the Rockies and the view from 7,500 ft (2,000 ft MSL) was amazing. Since traffic was light at the airport we requested a few touch and goes. By the time I was flying my last 2 landings, it was getting dark and the runway lights were on. With the silhouette of the mountains in the background, the runway lights and the sunset, it was one of the best times to fly. I wish I could describe it to you in more detail, but I can’t. Instead, drop me note and I’ll take anyone interested up to see it first hand.

Alright. I’m going to end this post right here. Thanks for staying with me. Probably time to refill that coffee again.


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