29R - Nothing but blue skies...

Weather: KBJC 242147Z 18008KT 60SM SKC 07/M13 A2997

There is a special joy you get when flying someone around. It may be the fun in sharing this amazing experience of flying. It may be the fun in exhibiting your newfound piloting skill. Whatever it is, it was great to get to take my parents up for a flight. They are the first family/friends I have had a chance to take in the sky. They came down from Seattle to visit for Thanksgiving weekend and we finally got the weather to cooperate on Saturday for a flight around the Boulder area.

Since the weather was bad on Friday, my usual instructor set me up with another instructor who was free and we flew out of BJC. We flew in 734QD which is a 180hp plane, but sadly doesn't have plugs for headsets in the back seat; so that made communications a bit more difficult and they didn't get to hear all the tower chatter and fun like that. Fortunately they were both good sports about it and didn't seem to mind.

Our flight took us north to the practice area for some steep turns. After we completed those, we did what most people seem to refer as the floating pencil trick. I don't know if there is a name for this move, but I described it in a previous post as being like the "vomit comet". We did 3-4 of these moves and I think my dad liked it, and I knew my mom probably wouldn't. I checked with her each time before we did the move, but I had a feeling she would have rather told me to stop.

After these moves, we headed to the Boulder airport to show my parents where I have been flying lately. We diverted to the west around the Longmont airport being that it was the weekend and there is heavy skydiving activity there. As we passed to the west, we heard them call on the radio that they were dropping some jumpers as we were passing by.

One stop and go at Boulder and we were on our way back to BJC. Outside of making my mom sick, which she told me after we were on the ground, I think they both really enjoyed the flight. I couldn't have been happier to take them up. I can't wait to do it again once I have my license.

Thanks for the flight Mom and Dad!

Solo #3

Weather: KBJC 152045Z VRB03KT 40SM SCT120 BKN200 14/M08 A3005

The feeling of flying with just me in the plane has yet to get old. Not even close. At certain moments during the flight I remember it's just me up there and get a quick swell of excitement. It is additionally satisfying to think for a second that you are the only one in the plane, have a brief moment of concern thinking that you don't have your instructor there to help you out, and then realize that you know what to do in most situations if something catches you by surprise. The feeling of (semi) self sufficiency is very satisfying.

I flew out of Metro this time since I was sneaking out of work in the afternoon to get a flight in, and BJC is only about 5 minutes from my work. The lack of sunlight these days makes it much more difficult to fly during the week. I was practicing maneuvers on this flight, so my plan was to practice some steep turns, power-off stalls and slow flight. I got up the practice area and started with some steep turns. Those went well for not having worked on them in a little bit and I don't think I busted PTS so that was good. PTS stands for Practical Test Standards and those standards are what you have to meet to pass the FAA check ride. My power off stalls left a bit to be desired. They weren't terrible and I think they were passing, but they weren't very crisp. Even though I wasn't planning on it, I did a power-on stall as well before working into some slow flight. My slow flight went really well getting into the dirty configuration and then I recovered well too.

I had about 20 extra minutes when I was done and had planned on landing at Boulder if I had a chance. So I headed back to BDU for one touch and go before going back to BJC. The pattern was quiet as I approached the airport, and after I made my first call I heard my instructor make a call that she was landing as well. She met me at BJC before I started my flight, but was returning a plane from maintenance and was flying back to BDU with the plane just as I was coming in. She landed right before I did which was slightly unfortunate because she got to watch me slightly bounce my landing as I came in for my touch and go. It was an otherwise good landing and I departed straight to the east and headed back to Metro. My landing at Metro was a bit better and of course it felt great to finish another solo flight.

When you are in the air, you know you can fly the plane, but no flight is complete without a successful landing. It's a great feeling to get the plane back on the ground in one piece so you can tell everyone about about your solo flight. It was then back to work to check my email and wrap up the day before heading home.

I have one night flight, and one more flight to practice my navigation before the first cross-country flight. I can't wait.

Solo #2

Weather: KBJC 151947Z 00000KT 60SM FEW150 BKN220 12/M08 A3007

Any nervousness that was present the first time I soloed, is completely gone now. I have two scheduled solos before beginning my cross-country work. The first is to accomplish two things, practicing flying by myself and getting in the required three solo takeoff and landings at a tower controlled airport. Before getting a private pilots license, FAR part 61.109 states that a pilot must have three solo takeoffs and landings at a tower controlled airport. The second is to practice some maneuvers before starting cross-country flying.

Flying out of Boulder is perfect for this solo flight. My plan was to fly from Boulder-BDU to Metro-BJC, make my three landings and return to Boulder. I got to practice my pattern work at Boulder, fly into class D airspace, and request my landings. When I flew into Metro, I requested stop and goes and was sent to land on 29R. The wind was variable and someone requested a wind check right as I was coming in for landing. It was 170 at 06KT was perfect for practicing my crosswind landings. I was exceptionally proud of my self after that landing because I executed the best crosswind landing I have yet flown, and on my solo none the less. After I departed my first stop, I was switched over to 29L for the other two stop and goes. My landings were overall pretty good, but on my 2nd landing my airspeed got way to low and that was by far my worst landing. After my third landing I requested one touch and go to make up for my bad second landing.

I departed back to the north into some heavy traffic. It was a great day to fly and people were out enjoying the weather. It was good practice scanning for traffic and ended up avoiding a few planes in the short flight back. My arrival back at Boulder was perfectly timed and I entered downwind in the pattern right behind a full stop landing and in front of a guy doing touch and goes. The flight went really well over all. I couldn't ask for a whole lot more on my second solo. I just need to make sure I'm vigilant watching my airspeed when I come in for landings.

I'm looking forward to my next solo to practice maneuvers. I think I'll work on steep turns, power off stalls and probably some slow flight. I'll keep you posted.

Weather: KBJC 082346Z 28012KT 60SM FEW080 FEW200 18/M12 A3008

My last flight was to review navigation strategies as I prepare for some cross country flights. Temporarily forgetting how early the sun sets now that we are back on Standard time, I scheduled the flight for late afternoon, which is now early evening. When I took off, the sun had already dipped behind the mountains. Flying out of Boulder, being so much closer to the mountains, the sun was already well below the horizon. I took off of runway 26 which can be a rarity for Boulder because the prevailing runway is 8, even with a moderate tailwind.

I departed north over the practice area heading towards Cheyenne and Fort Collins. I tuned their frequencies into the two VORs to practice some navigation. VOR stands for VHF Omnidirectional Range. What you need to know about VOR is that it's used to find direction based on the position of a VOR checkpoint on the ground. That's not even a good basic explanation but... I used the Fort Collins VOR and tuned in the DME (very similar to a VOR) to Greeley. Using the 2 signals, you can calculate your position on a map. So I practiced working with navigation and flew around a bit. Then turned back to the south and practiced some unusual attitude flight recovery.

This is to simulate what happens if you accidentally fly into a situation where you lose visual flight reference (clouds, etc.). So I put the foggles on and closed my eyes as my instructor flew the plane and tried to disorient me. The idea being to put the plane into unusual attitudes and then have me safely recover the plane to straight and level flight. It worked because my body felt like the plane was in a turn and diving, but the instruments showed us in a climbing turn. A nice lesson to always trust your instruments. We repeated with two other scenarios and then I tried to orient the plane to the best of my ability to fly us back to Boulder using the navs.

I did a good job getting us close to the airport and then took the foggles off for the last section of the flight. This is when I got to have a little fun with the plane. If you haven't heard of the Vomit Comet look it up. That experience can be slightly replicated in Cessna over the course of a few seconds. The second time we tried it, my flight bag floated up out of the back seat and hit me in the head. We put a pen on the top of the dashboard of the airplane and watched as it floated in the air for a few seconds. It is a really fun experience to get to feel like you are floating for a second, even if you're being held in the seat by the seatbelts.

By this time it had been completely dark for the past 30 minutes. I spotted the Boulder airport beacon and clicked the radio a few times to turn on the runway lights. It was fun playing with the runway lights for a bit, just changing their intensity from medium to high, back to medium, using the radio. It was the first time I had truly flown at night and never had done it at an uncontrolled airport.

This landing was a bit different because we entered final at a 45 degree angle about 3 miles out. If you don't fly the approach pattern normally, it is much more difficult to judge altitude and when to add flaps. I kept the plane nicely on the glide path and flew it straight in for landing. It was only until we nearly crossed the runway threshold that the landing light provided any help with identifying the runway. I don't really know what happened next because it was difficult to see being so dark out, but somehow I managed to completely grease the landing. It was really amazing. Especially for my first night landing. It was a good flight.

Next: Solo flight #2 from BDU to BJC. 3 Stop and goes at BJC and then return to BDU. I'm looking forward to it.


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