Thursday, September 22, 2005

Latest Updates

So, after taking a break, here are the standings:

Mr. Confusion is leading the race handily now. Mrs. Confusion started actually studying. We have done about 15 hours of ground instruction of late, and I'm starting to think she is getting a grasp of the material now. She's making a few final leaps of knowledge that are letting her figure things out. Still a couple struggles there, but significant progress. Amazing what a little bit of knowledge does.

Joe is starting to bring it together. His main issue has been tension. If he gets the least bit tense during the flight, he starts doing everything badly. When he relaxes, he looks good. So we have to overcome that, so that he won't be nervous on the day of the checkride.

The most nervous student I ever had, managed to impress me on the checkride. Frankly, I'm amazed that he remembered his own name to tell the examiner. He sure didn't remember much else. So that checkride lasted about 10 minutes, but the retest went better. As much as I hate having any student fail a checkride, I wasn't able to calm him enough to do that one right. But sometimes that happens. Now, it is ancient history.

DC and I had been waiting to hear about the results of the crash investigation. The NTSB decided it was an instructional flight (as I figured they would). It was sort've instruction, and sort've just a pleasure flight. So we told them in the report that the designation of pilot in command was on them.

After a discussion with the head of the FAA Flight standards district office in Richmond, we were encouraged, believing that perhaps nothing much would be made of it. I figured, at worst, I would be directed to perform a 709 ride, to test me and see if I am competent. That would be no terribly big deal to me.

On Monday, DC called. He received a letter, directing him to take a 709. I have yet to receive any letter. I figured that chances were high that I would get one, but so far, nothing. His letter was issued on Sept. 14th, so I ought to be getting one soon, if at all. I just can't figure why they would have chosen him. They usually prefer hooking the bigger fish.

Pending that, we still have to prep him for his ride. We started flying again on Tuesday, in preparation. He was a little weak on most areas. I made a little bit of an intuitive leap, and covered up the entire instrument panel, and made sure he flew only visually. That seems to have been the difference. Suddenly, his steep turns were impressive. His second try, after covering the panel, he performed one, only losing 20 feet. I'm not sure I could do that routinely. The stalls got much better also.

Today, we had to wait for VFR weather, so we did a litlte ground work on weather. He knows weather theory well enough, but the retrieval and parsing of reports is troublesome to him. By the time we finished that, it was good enough visibility to fly. Not enough to work on the maneuvers, so we stayed in the pattern. I started him on the soft-field takeoff and landing, and he finally discovered in himself, the ability to feel what the plane is doing, rather than have to interpret it. Most of those landings would have passed a commercial checkride. So I upped the ante, and started giving him simulated engine failures, with a spot landing at the end. This is a commercial maneuver, but one of the most useful ones that ever gets taught. To my amazement, he nailed it on the first try. I don't recall ever having a student do that well on the first attempt. Then he continued to get it right on the spot, 4 of the next 5 tries. I was a bit stunned. I think he just turned the corner, and will only improve with time now.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Off the Radar

Sorry for the total lack of posting lately. Sometimes, you just want to stay low and just do what you need to do, so I skipped out on most anything non-mandatory all last week.

There also wasn't a lot to tell. I conducted ground instruction several days with Mrs. Lost & Confused. At first, I had a strong desire to impale myself, and be rid of such impressively near-total lack of comprehension. Along the way, I could tell she was finally studying, and a couple times, a light bulb came on inside her head.

We still have quite a bit of work to do there, but perhaps I see a ray of hope in it now. I think she is starting to see how much studying there is, and why it is important.

Mr. Confusion started back on lessons last night. We had not flown in three weeks. I figured it would be right back at the beginning, and was thankfully spared the frustration of that. Not that I wasn't frustrated, but at least he hasn't lost too much. I suspect it will still be a very long journey for him, and when he realizes that he's run out of his prepaid funds, he may start to evaluate why. I;ve been telling his this the whole time. We had a talk last flight, about why we will not be sight-seeing on every lesson. He always wants to go fly over his house, or take pictures of something, which always costs him 20 minutes in the process. So last night, he wanted to fly over his house. This, just after we had started in earnest on the maneuvers. It would have required descending, locating the house, flying around a couple times, and climbing back up. Not a major time expense, but I didn't let him. He's determined to waste the time, it seems, but I'm no longer going to let him.

His maneuvers were, as expected, very weak. I decided to start out on the simple stuff again- straight & level. This alone, took him 20 minutes to get some semblance of order to it. Steep turns, slow flight, power-on and power-off stalls. That's all we did for two hours.

By the end of it, I was still a little concerned that he wasn't getting it at all. Sometimes he managed to do them right, but I fear it was random chance more than any real grasp of the maneuvers.

His studying will be the biggest problem though. After our flight, I sat him down to discuss it. I had been giving him very specific reading assignments the whole time, but it appears he has only done about 10% of what I've given. I started digging, and found out he had gotten a hold of some King video tapes from 1992, and was viewing them. This isn't really a bad thing, but in the process, he has wasted a lot of time. He might get closer to finishing the written test, but in the process, he's skipping all the fundamentals that would let us progress on the flying.

Additionally, quite a few things have changed in the 13 years since those videos were produced. This could be part of his difficulties. What I don't understand, is why he would spend all his time devoted to studying things that I didn't mention, while ignoring what I specifically did tell him to study. I just can't seem to get through to the man.

Now, he is trying to make a deal. He wants to buy the new dvd's, and sell them to us, since I had mentioned we might do that, to rent them out to students. I'm all for this arrangement, except that he stated a price for us to buy it from him, higher than the regular purchase price. Meaning, we could buy it cheaper new. I really don't understand him. Whether his math is just that bad, or he really thinks he can pull a fast one on me though, is irrelevant. He isn't going to win that argument. Right from the beginning, it seemed he thought he could barter his way to getting everything for cheap.

Wait til I tell him about the rising gas prices, and how that will affect it all. We have managed to this point, to keep the prices down, but fuel has taken a big leap. Two weeks ago, fuel was $3.78 per gallon. Now it has jumped to $4.68. So thats an extra $4.50 in fuel every hour in that plane, which we are currently eating.

He also wants to have me fly him down to Calabash, NC (flying into Ocean Isle Airport), and make some kind of deal there. His first thought, was to have me pay for the 4-seat plane. I shot this down immediately. He has no sense of how little I earn. That would cost me nearly a full month's income to do that. Every time I shoot something down, he tries to find another way to get a couple bucks savings out of it all. I'm getting a little tired of it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

So, this week I was supposed to be planning another business trip. Scott had needed to conduct some work in Biloxi, Mississippi. For obvious reasons, that trip is no longer in the plans. So it looks like I'm back to standard instructing now.

This weekend really gave me a much-needed break. Sometimes, a bit of solo time in the plane is the best thing. No teaching someone else how to do it, no cringing as the student struggles to perform a simple task. Just nice simple flying.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bloomington Trip Summary

The map above shows my routing. WP1, WP2 & WP3 are detours given on my instrument flight out to Bloomington. I figured they would happen. It isn't often that a large airport like Cincinnati allows you to cross through their airspace directly above, especially during peak times. But I figured, rather than filing a flight plan with something different, I would just let them decide where to send me. Much easier, and at least it leaves the possibility of a direct route.

That flight was about as easy as if could be. Instrument flight, but hardly a puff of cloud to be seen, and only a little over 3 hours, including warmup, taxi and shutdown. The folks at BMG Aviation made sure I had a very relaxing time. I can't report on the helpfulness of the other FBO on the field, but these guys were great. I would highly recommend them.

Within 3 minutes of walking in the door, I was in my rental car and driving off to the wedding. They made sure it was a good trip, and if I am ever back in that area flying, I would fly out of my way to stay there again.

Having blown a tire on takeoff yesterday, I drove to Bloomfield, and flew the Remos G3 from Shawnee Field, and spent a couple hours talking to the dealer there. That was only the second sport plane I've flown, but it handled much more like a sport plane should, compared to the CT. And I got to add another grass strip to my list.

I managed to get myself up at 6 this morning, to get ready for the flight home. Yet again, I was looking to have near perfect weather. Instead of filing IFR for a nonstop back home, I opted for a little bit of airport-hopping. It doesn't really add much time to the total trip, and sometimes it is a lot more fun than just sitting in cruise flight the whole time.

This time, my tires managed to remain inflated for the entire takeoff, and I headed southeast toward Grissom Municipal Airport in Bedford, IN. It was still a quiet Indiana morning when I did the touch & go there, and turned east. Next stop was Madison, IN, 46 nautical miles away.

Normally when I do a bit of airport-hopping, I will try to cover as many as I can in that distance, but I was interested in keeping a relatively straight path, and not delay anything too long, since DC was back at home, waiting for me to report how it went. In good weather, there isn't a whole lot of challenge in many of these airports. Flat terrain with only the occasional obstacle, makes them easy to handle. Since most of my flying has been in the mountains, I do sometimes get a kick out of how flat it is.

Next airport was Fleming-Mason, in Flemingsburg, Kentucky. Here, and at my next stop in Ashland, KY, the terrain became a little hillier, and more wooded, but West Virginia is where it can always get interesting.

My first stop in WV was near the town of Milton, at Ona Airpark- a little strip just off the side of Interstate 64, and 10 miles east of Huntington. This one got interesting. Entering the pattern, I noticed how close the hills are to the runway. I was landing on runway 7, and that meant that on takeoff, I would have to quickly get airborne and hang a right turn, or I might only clear the hill by a couple hundred feet. Loaded down on a hot summer day, that would prove even more interesting. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of room, so I came in just over the trees, executed a touch & go, then gained altitude as quickly as possible before the terrain in front of me.

I still had plenty of fuel, but I wanted a little bit of a break to stretch, so I made my way another 30 miles to Charleston, WV (Charlie West, to the locals). This is a class C airport, which I knew would have fuel services even on a holiday. Any time I go into a C or B, I know to expect a little delay, but this time I was happily surprised. I was able to shoot straight over to a 3 mile final on runway 15, and taxi in with no delay at all. I had been there before a couple years ago, but only shooting an instrument approach. We never landed. And I had never had the perspective from final on 15, which takes you over some rough terrain, then a steep dropoff down to the interstate, and back uphill to the airport.

Only one more airport left before heading home, and I had chosen Summersville, WV. This one was perhaps the most scenic of all the airports I visited this weekend. I couldn't quite understand what the FBO operator said about the winds, so I entered a downwind for runway 4, and took a look. Basically calm, so I continued for that runway. The Google map doesn't show the airport. It is roughly center, just north of the lake. The photo on the map doesn't quite do it justice. The lake was a bit low today, so the terrain around seemed that much higher. Almost like fjords. Approach was right over the lake.

From there, it was a little under 100 miles back home. Up to this point, I'd had clear skies and a total lack of turbulence for the whole trip, but that changed. The last segment was nonstop moderate turbulence, with clouds slowly dropping lower, the farther east I flew. This, of course, was as terrain was rising. In some places, I had to drop to within 1,000 feet of the peaks. Much lower than that, and I would have filed for instruments.

Returning home was uneventful. The whole trip took 7.3 hours. It should have been more like 6.5, but with headwinds flying both directions, everything was slowed. I never once saw a tailwind. Headwinds were expected going west, but by the time I was coming back, the area of high pressure had settled in, and I was flying the south side of that. With a faster plane, I might have deviated a little north to catch the other side of that system, but in this case, it would only have added to the flight time.

At any rate, the roundtrip drive time would have been closer to 20 hours,and I get to add another new type of airplane to my list, and 8 new airports. So I'm happy.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

How Travel Ought To Be

Saturday morning, I headed off into clear skies for Bloomington, Indiana. I was filed for instrument flight even though there was hardly a cloud anywhere to be seen. That makes for better travel anyway, since air traffic controllers are helping look for other traffic.

I had headwinds the whole way, so the flight was just over 3 hours. Still, relaxing overall. Having a glass panel and a good autopilot makes a world of difference there.

A friend of mine was getting married, and I made it just in time to socialize a little before the wedding started, and help "decorate" his getaway vehicle.

DC had sent me up here to test fly a Remos G3, and discuss the CT's history in Europe with a guy from the U.K. As a bonus, I got to attend the wedding. He had also set me up with a rental car and lodging.

Around 10PM, I finally finished with the wedding stuff, and was able to head back and get some sleep. The lodging was in a double-wide trailer, located right on the field. This is how travel should be. Staying in a really nice facility, with a full kitchen, all the amenities I could possibly need, and only 100 yards from where the plane is parked. The amenities impressed me. Two bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, nice living room, cable tv, computer with high-speed internet (which I am using right now to post), and food and toiletries available.

Having a stocked pantry and refrigerator to come back to after a long day, really makes it relaxing. It feels nothing like a hotel. This could be home (except in this case, home is not nearly as nice).

I think Bloomington has just become my favorite of all the airports I've ever visited. And I wonder why nobody else ever seems to do what they've done. Back home, we often have pilots staying overnight, sometimes unexpected, and sometimes without access to a rental car. Having lodging for them right by the field would be a big help. I wonder how many other airports could profit from that, and never thought about it.

I was supposed to head over to Shawnee- a 2,150 foot grass field 20 miles southwest of here, to fly the Remos. That was supposed to be first thing this morning, followed by a departure for home. Instead, a couple delays had me not leaving until 12:30. As I rolled on takeoff, passing through about 25 knots, my left main tire blew out, causing me to swerve a bit. I held it on the runway, and brought the plane to a stop about 8 feet shy of the left side of the pavement.

I called the tower to explain what happened, and they managed to get the FBO out to help me. After another 20 minutes, we had a temporary time on, and I taxied back. Good thing they have another runway to use. I would hate to hold up all the traffic for too long.

It would only be an hour or two until they could get my plane running again, but I figured I was already late, so I went back and drove to Bloomfield.

I met with a nice young instructor from the U.K. who showed me all about the plane. I am fond of the Remos. It handles as you would expect a 600-pound plane to handle. Quick response to every input, and really in need of a subtle touch. But then, it weighs only half what a Cessna 150 weighs.

My only experience with a sport plane was the CT, which never put me at ease, so I didn't quite know what to expect from this one. We went out and did some maneuvering, and several landings, and I found I couldn't be happier.

I'll explain more about the plane in a later posting though.

After driving back to Bloomington, it was already after 5pm. Being on central time now, it would be at least 10pm before I could get home, so I succumbed to the desire to spend another night in the on-field housing.

As I started relaxing here, picking a movie from the selection by the tv, I started thinking about all the hassles involved with flying, and how many of them I could have eliminated over my 5 years of flying, if only a few more airports had this sort of setup. All the rental cars and frustrations with taxis, eliminated. Or the borrowing of courtesy cars to get some dinner.

But rather than dwell on that, I think I'll go fix some dinner, and watch a movie. This is how travel should be.

Friday, September 02, 2005


I feel like I just got back, but I'm heading out again. This time, I'm flying the DiamondStar to Bloomington, Indiana for a friend's wedding, then making the quick hop to Bloomfield about 20 minutes away, to test fly another airplane for DC.

Departure is first thing in the morning. Hopefully, a nice relaxing flight awaits.

Pitot-Static System

Hi again- I hope you're not thinking "Oh no, not her again!" I've got a question. What would the instruments (airpeed, altimeter)read if the pitot tube was blocked? If the static vent was blocked? I've had conflicting answers from Ben one of the instructor's at the aero club and something I read on the "net.


Good question. That's one that I've found a lot of people don't understand. And that's because the answer is: "it depends."

But I'll give you more than that. This is a good topic to address in the aviation glossary I'm working on, so I will post it there as soon as I can.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Heard a Symphony...

...It was a little difficult to hear though. Those things are rather quiet. I speak of the airplane, not the music. DC, in his continued search to find the right aircraft, had the dealer bring a plane here to let us get test flights. The dealership is located at Hagerstown Regional Airport, in Maryland.

First, DC wanted me to fly it, in order to give my opinion before he flew. Plus, I am a big guy, and if I can sit comfortably, then it means we have a reasonably roomy cockpit.

Having a good idea what DC wants in an airplane, I was able to put it through the paces in about an hour, and come away with a really good idea. I recommended it. This is an aircraft design that was well thought-out. Seating was very comfortable, handling was docile. The stalls are really a non-event.

DC and I were planning to fly to Indiana to check out another candidate plane this weekend, but we may decide to go with this one. Full review of the plane tomorrow.


That vacation was a much-needed break. Yesterday, I got my reintroduction to work by doing ground instruction with Mrs. Clueless. I knew it was going to be interesting.

Over the course of several instructors, she has been allowed to be lazy about the knowledge. Knowing that, I tried to push her to study before I really held her to any knowledge beyond what was necessary for whatever point we were at. Now, with no more flight requirements remaining, she's way behind. The former owner of the other school is still around, and doing some work with her, and he endorsed her cross-country flight last week.

I do want to see her finish, but not that way. There's so much left that she needs. My purpose yesterday was to go through most of the topics for the oral exam, and show her how much there is to study.

One thing that strikes me as similar between her and Mr. Confusion, is that despite my explaining the need, neither of them has placed much value on terminology. It sounds petty, but terminology forms the basis from which we can communicate.

And we are not talking the same language. We can't talk aerodynamics properly if she doesn't know what I mean when I say "angle of attack." Likewise, we can't talk about cross-country planning if she doesn't know about indicated, calibrated, true and ground speeds. We had been through all these things before, but she obviously didn't place any value on them.

So we have a long way to go. I don't know if I even see any value in flying with her at this point. No sense wasting time on the maneuvers if she doesn't have the basal knowledge needed.