Thursday, September 9, 2010

Learning to Fly

Alongside everything I'm a part of (family, work, trainingAstronauts4Hire), I've started taking flying lessons towards a Private Pilot license (FAA Part 141). As you can read in the post about my first lesson, this has been rolling around the back of my head for a while, and I finally decided to actually do it.

It's as exciting for me as starting to run last December, being so much out of character if you look at my first 36 years of life. But I guess so was starting to write this blog... In some ways, this is a step in building my skills and capabilities towards fulfilling my goals at Astronauts4Hire, though I will admit it - it is also an amazing, challenging and fun experience.

Being the engineer at heart that I am, a glutton for numbers, documentation and recording of data, I am using my Garmin 310XT GPS Watch (which I nicknamed Dream Catcher back in December) to record the flight paths and my heart rate during the lessons. Pretty mundane and insignificant data for other people, you may say, but it is a part of teaching this old dog new tricks, so I hope that at least for some of you this experience and data will become a catalyst, a boost of confidence that you can do rather than only imagine.


9/3/2010 - 30 minutes of basic maneuvers on a 160HP Cessna 172 (N5247D) An exhilarating first experience as you can read here.

9/7/2010 - an hour of more maneuvers, a deliberate stall and experiencing 2G Felt nauseated at the end. Read about it here.

9/10/2010 - 45 minutes flight on the 180HP Cessna 172 (N5091E) with some stall training and maneuvers I made a mental note today to look more outside and figure out my pitch and rotation using that more than the instruments. It was the most bumpy flight so far. Compounded with my off-feeling this morning it made me pretty nauseated, so Nevin took complete control for landing.

9/15/2010 - A great 1 hour lesson A great flight! Nearly no turbulence and handling the plane felt and was much better. I even did some of the landing which was really exciting. Communication with ground control and the tower is very important but there's a lot to remember. Overall I have to think a lot about everything while doing it. Looking forward to when it will all become a second nature.

9/24/2010 - The best lesson so far by a huge margin Parts of the #3 and #4 lessons from the FAA curriculum. I wore Foggles for a little IFR action and practiced procedures in case of an in-flight engine shutoff. Weather was perfect, and I found out I am more comfortable flying without my sunglasses. More on this lesson here.

10/1/2010 - FAA curriculum lesson 5 - Rectangle, round and S flight patterns Felt great. Flying low for the flight patterns (5800ft, about 600ft or 200m above ground) was amazing. My door was open for most of the flight - oops! Every pattern starts with the tail towards the wind, which today was Northern. It was brilliant!

10/6/2010 - Preflight - check, taxi to runway - check. Engine RPM fluctuated, so flight was a no-go, and the plane went for a checkup

10/13/2010 - A lesson about landings I felt more comfortable with the radio as I finished yesterday an AOPA communication course. It was cool to learn about everything that needs to happen on a landing - it's all very systematic. It was a big pile of fun and felt really short. Time really flies when you're having fun...

10/15/2010 - Practice of the rectangle, round (around a point) and S turn flight patterns I also went on a ride with someone who's training towards a commercial pilot license on the bigger Cessna 182RG (235hp) to observe how he flies and goes through the checklists and maneuvers like Chandelles, Lazy Eights and Steep Spirals (a handy maneuver list can be found here) . More than usual flying in one day and with bumpy weather and I felt very good - a definite improvement over a few weeks ago!

11/8/2010 - Hard to believe, but due to two trips to Seattle WA and uncooperative weather I haven't flown for three weeks! This lesson was for practicing landings again (no complaints, I really need the practice!) It went by really fast but I think I remember better what to do and when. Cross wind made it more interesting as take-offs were with the yoke pointing to the right (into the wind) and landings required left rudder to land straight rather than pointing to the right.

11/12/2010 - A lesson on a plane I usually don't fly, N739ZC, a 1977 Cessna 172 with 160HP, with Lou, one of the more senior instructors at WAFA, who's a retired airline pilot It was an amazing lesson about coordinated turns (use the rudder to point the nose, and the ailerons to turn the wings), uncoordinated turns (side-slips - flying sideways with rudder pedal opposite to the ailerons and forward slips - similar but in descent), stalls and professional tricks like how the plane turns left when adding power. So much in one lesson got the best of me (I got nauseated though I didn't want to stop!). The coolest was to practice making a square figure 8 with the nose - pitch up, left rudder pedal with yoke turned to the right, pitch down, right rudder pedal with yoke turned to the left, and so on. It was an eye opener kind of lesson.

1/3/2011 - Pilot lessons paused due to a move to the Seattle WA area.

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