Monday, January 26, 2009

Irony and ADM

Where does irony meet ADM (aeronautical decision-making)? For me, it's when you're getting a rating designed to make you capable of flying in clouds, but the weather is still too low to get off the ground.

All kidding aside, today was a nasty day in Waco (and most of north-central Texas, from what the METARs are reporting). Parker (the guy I'm going to CFI for) and I had breakfast this morning. He was itching for some actual, and I was more than willing to go along for the ride. We kept watching the METARs and most of the area was reporting OVC0010 and 1SM (overcast at 100 feet and 1 statute mile visibility for you non-pilot types).

Couple of hours later, we got some reports of overcast at 400 and 3 miles visibility. This put us well within minimums for PWG's VOR 17 and even more within minimums for ACT's ILS 19 approach (ILS approaches incorporate a glideslope for you to fly, so they almost always have lower minimums, close to 200 feet off the deck).

Off we race to the airport. We get 50G out of the hangar and preflighted. By the time we get into the cockpit, we can't even see the runway sign for 4-22, about 1/2 mile away. ASOS is calling about 1 mile and 100 ft, but this stuff has been moving around all day. We taxi out to 35 (nearest calm wind runway) and can't even see the 1000 foot hatchmarks. Being the self-preserving living creatures that we are, we scrubbed and took it back to the FBO.

Needless to say, my instruction flight for tonight also got scrubbed, and tomorrow morning isn't looking good either (freezing rain possible). So, I'm on the ground till Thursday, probably. Oh well, good excuse to work on ground school stuff and maybe actually pay a little bit of attention to grad school stuff.

Not flying sucks, but I won't lament the weather. I'll just say that irony and good ADM won the day.

"It's better to be down here wishing you were up there, than up there wishing you were down here." ---Anonymous

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another day, another dose of actual IMC

Clouds were even lower this morning---bases around 1800 feet. Made for a really good morning of training. We did another round-robin, which allowed me to practice around 6 different VOR radial intercepts. The flying the airplane part is going great---straight and level, turns, climbs, descents, and even partial-panel timed turns using the compass are really no problem at all.

My VOR tracking still needs work. Which, I guess is okay since I just did ride number 4. I need to work on fine-tuning my correction angles, which is the goal for tomorrow. Can't be doing S-turns all over Victor airways :). The good news is that when we did the VOR 17 at McGregor again, once we crossed the ACT VOR and actually intiated the approach, my tracking was pretty good. I don't think I was more than 1 dot off centerline at that point.

Anyway, this is the good thing about flying every day or every other day. I still have stuff I'm frustrated with, but a) the frustration doesn't get to brew for a week between flights and b) I can see a lot more quantifiable progress this way.

Next ride is tomorrow evening. Forecast for this week is calling for a whole lot of cloudy days. Bring it on!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Head in the clouds

Tim and I made up Thursday's flight today. The AI in 50G was fixed and works flawlessly. I was a little worried about whether or not we'd end up flying today---when my alarm went off at 6 the winds were 330 at 20, gusting 25. Got to the airport and they had slowed down a bit (just a bit)...Flight Service was calling the cloud bases at about 3500, and the freezing line was about an hour west of us, so we were a go.

Tim had designed a little round-robin course for us. I'd turn 270 climbing out of McGregor and then intercept the Waco VOR outbound, pick up the Temple VOR at the Moody intersection, overfly Temple and turn outbound for the Bosel intersection, track back to the Waco VOR station and then fly the full procedure for the VOR 17 approach into McGregor.

We got to about 3500, and sure enough, I could see the glare change outside from under my foggles (I promise I wasn't cheating!) and could see that we'd entered the clouds. Awesome! It's one thing to work on your instrument scan in clear air, but to get in the clouds and know "it's all me" is a really neat feeling. I feel like I did really well. Even made a really nice landing in gusty winds once I got out from under the foggles.

This instrument thing isn't going to be bad. Not as much fun as tailwheels on grass strips, but I do think I'm going to have fun with it.

Next flight is tomorow morning at 0800...we're going to get a little ahead on the timeline this weekend, which is no problem by me. I know I keep saying it, but leaving my old job was the best thing that's ever happened to me.

Blue skies!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tumbling gyro

Well, no flight this morning. We cranked old 50G up on time today, around 7am, only to find that the AI (Attitude Indicator) was tumbling like a drunk sorority girl. We taxied all the way out to Runway 17 (which is a relatively long taxi by PWG standards), but the oscillations just got worse.
Since this was supposed to be my first flight to track two seperate VORs outbound then back inbound and transition into a VOR approach, we decided that adding partial panel to the mix as well might have been a bit much. So we made what I think was a wise decision to scrub. Hopefully we can pick up some time Sunday once this cold front blows through.

But, hey---I started my day at an airport behind a spinning propeller (if only for a few minutes). And that beats any day I can think of in my previous life.

On a related note: talk about motivation. While I was tying the 172 back down, I watched a friend (who, incidentally I recruited to Baylor's aviation program back when I was in admissions. Yeah, you guessed it, he had 0 time like 2 years ago and is now has a Commercial.) climb into a Cessna 340 with our local DE (Designated Examiner) for some free right seat time. Don't tell me that hanging around the airport and making a name for yourself can't be a constructive use of time!?

Keeping the greasy side down....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Here we go...

The path of least resistance...

So, how did all this begin? Four years ago, I took a job at my alma mater in the admissions office. It was the path of least resistance, keeping Alisa and I in Waco where the cost of living is cheap and where she was already established in a job. I enrolled a couple of years later in a Master of Science in Education program (which I finish this May, and will still be useful), and life was okay. Except I was hardly getting to fly at all. We're talking lucky-if-I-get-15-hours-a-year hardly.

The work environment turned sour; promotions were promised and evaporated. It began to take a toll on my health, and our marriage wasn't suffering, but it was definitely stressed. It was time for a change.

A change is brewing...

In October, I went with Alisa to Florida and did my Single-Engine Sea add on while she attended a conference. For the record, I highly recommend Jack Brown's Seaplane Base. My instructor Erik Von Kaenel is a real pro and one of the best guys I've ever flown with. The fire was officially relit, and I began thinking that there was more to life than preflighting a desk every morning.

With one semester left in graduate school, we agreed together it was time to "get out" and reassess my options. So, just before Christmas, I pulled the handle and punched out.

A dream gets back on track after almost 10 years...

One of the first ideas we tossed around was that of me getting back into aviation, a passion which I had looked back upon lustfully during my days of flying a desk. During those days, though, I'd always thought my job was too stable and "I can't take the pay cut." But, stories like that of my friend Jerome (, who is "living the dream" with a regional carrier, had always tempted me.

Nothing was holding me back now, so I decided that, no matter what happened this spring, I would use some money we'd saved up and at least add an Instrument rating to my Private Pilot License. Word got around, and good things started to happen.

By early January, I had confirmation that I'd be co-teaching an Aviation History class at my alma mater. I'm having a blast, so far.

A couple weeks later, even better news. A business-savvy friend (who is also a fellow aviation nut) invites me to breakfast. How would I, he asks, like the idea of instructing for him if he opened a small, low-key flight school? I couldn't get the "heck yeah" out fast enough, and soon I found myself plotting to earn my CFI this spring.

So, I've embarked on the overwhelming task of finishing grad school and earning my Instrument, Commercial, and CFI/CFII ratings in the course of one semester. How am I doing it? Flying no less than 3 days a week, and preferably 4-5.

Tomorrow morning, my friend and CFI Tim and I take off on my 3rd Instrument ride. It's amazing how a rating that seemed so intimidating at 20 is so much fun at 28. Maybe I'm a better student now. All I know is I've flown more in the past week than I have in some years, and life could not be better.

Follow me on this journey. I don't know where it will end up. Odds are, the CFI gig will be relatively long term (I actually want to teach, and with the economy where it is, the airlines won't be beating down my door anytime soon). I do know one thing: it will be a fun ride.