Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Commercial lessons, flying the Mooney, & solo actual

Well, we've officially embarked on the next step...the Commercial certificate. And that means I've got my hands on a new airplane...N19NS, the Mooney. This thing is a blast to fly. It's fast, the controls are tight, it's fast, it goes right where you want it to...and did I mention it's fast?

We finished lesson #2 today. I have a goal of wrapping this one up by mid-late April so I can make my CFI class the first week of May. I think we're on track so far. So far, we've done stalls, steep turns, slow flight (all to get used to this slicker airplane), and a power-off 180. The one thing I'm not really getting yet is getting the Mooney trimmed to hold altitude. It wants to climb in just about every phase of flight unless it's trimmed properly. I'll get used to it.

The written knowledge is pretty Private pilot stuff on a bit of a steroid trip. Really no huge worries there, and I should be able to knock that out in the next couple of weeks.

I got my first solo "actual" instrument flight today, by the way! Parker had to run N19NS out to Don Maxwell's shop in Longview to have the starter looked at, and I picked him up. It's almost like your first solo (okay, we all know that nothing really replaces that first solo feeling, but this is similar) when your reference to the ground starts to go away and everything around you is white. It really is "all you."

I've been meaning to talk about this, actually. Certain members of my family describe flying instruments as a "nightmare scenario." My grandfather, who logged plenty of instrument time flying Air Force transports during the Korean War, even told me to get "extra life insurance." To be sure, I grew up in a community of hard-core stick and rudder VFR pilots. That was my existence, too, for the first 10 years I was a pilot.

But I've come to find instrument flight just as much fun, in a different way, as flying low and slow on a pretty day in the Cub. Today, I got between two cloud layers. It wasn't really VFR on top, because the clear layer wasn't more than about 200 feet thick. The layer above me was thin, and you could look through it and see blue sky in some places and another high cloud layer in others. Everybody should get to see stuff like that. It was just as much of a "wow, I'm a real pilot" moment as the first time I took the Cub to a fly-in solo. I guess what I'm getting at is that IFR flight isn't dangerous, as long as it's properly planned and executed. And once you get over the idea that it's a "nightmare," it really opens up your horizons.

No more Mooney flying this week, but we hit it again on Monday. Maybe I'll get some more ground school knocked out this weekend.

Blue skies!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Mission: Help my boss and a friend retrieve a newly-purchased airplane (not ours, unfortunately!). We took N19NS down to Ellington, and I finally made good on my promise to carry a camera on the cockpit more often.

The airplane we picked up is a Symphony OMF-100-160. Built in Germany, it's one of only about 100 built before the company went under. It's basically the certified version of the Glas-Star/Sportsman, and it's a real sweet-flying little airplane. Still haven't figured out why this fuel-injected airplane has a carbuerator heat knob in the cockpit, and I think I'll be scratching my head about that for a while.

*Edit: The A&P discovered this morning that it's an 0-320 and isn't fuel-injected. We just didn't feel any mag drop when the carb heat was applied because of a loose cable. Go figure.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures!

Remember San Jacinto!

Minute-Maid Park. It's almost opening day! Hopefully the 'Stros have a better year this year.

Downtown Houston x 2.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Well, despite the weather conspiring against me last week, I was able to get a good, high-quality flight in on Saturday (more about that later) and a final checkride review with Aurora Aviation's chief CFI yesterday.

And this morning, came the moment of truth! So, today dawns with visibility at 1/4 mile or less at both Waco Regional and McGregor, and ceilings under 100 ft. This sucked, because it was a thin layer and you could look right up through it. I got up at about 0530 to get ready, and was driving to Waco Regional (I was going to fly N2105G over to McGregor for the checkride).

By 8:15, conditions were no better. Resigned to doing only the oral today (Felix, my DE, was on a tight schedule), I drove to McGregory. Felix shows up and wants the paperwork for the license to be on computer (IACRA for you pilot types). Of course ,that Tim and I had done it all on paper. So, we didn't get started on my 0900 checkride until 1130.

The oral went well---typical hiccups here and there like you see on any oral, but Felix is a good DE and prompts you as long as you're not missing the point too badly. We finally get in the airplane a little before 1300.

First approach out of the bag was a partial-panel VOR approach. I hate partial-panel work, period. Ironically, it was probably my best approach of the day. Next was an ILS, missed to a hold (got flustered momentarily going to the hold but got it back and flew, I think, a pretty hold), and then we went out north and I did some good unusual-attitude recoveries. To cap it all off, we proceeded back in and did the GPS 17 approach to McGregor with the autopilot. N2150G has kind of a flaky/picky autopilot, and that always makes things fun, but I got some grace there and the approach went well. All in all, the flight was 1.4. Nice to be done with this stage!

So this weekend, we had to go rescue N19NS from Wiley Post in Oklahoma City. I flew Parker up in N2150G (with Tim, since the weather was IMC), and got 3.3 hours out of it. Then, I got to fly the Mooney home! Not many people fly 1.3 hour of actual in their first Mooney flight, but that was a pretty neat first...first Mooney flight, and lots of actual instrument time in it. The first landing was.not.pretty. Pilot-induced oscillations are not cool and I don't want to do that again. You really have to have speed discipline in the Mooney. The second try was really, really nice. All that to say, I'm really looking forward to spending the next month doing the Commercial in it. I think Alisa is posting some pictures of the flight soon.

Onwards and upwards. Blue skies (or skies with applicable minimums for the published approach!).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

By popular demand...

Wow, it's been a while. So, I've been hearing that people actually read this thing and my absence has been noticed. That's kinda cool.

We're in the midst of some typical late winter/early spring weather here in Waco. In fact, I'm sitting in the Waco Flight Training office listening to an American Eagle ERJ-145 fly an ASR (Airport Surveillance Radar) approach into Waco. Not really sure why...(Jerome, do you Colgan guys ever do that?), but the weather is definitely not pretty and definitely just barely above ILS minimums.

Tim and I did my long instrument cross-country last week. Emphasis on long. It was supposed to be about a 2.5 hour trip, but the winds turned it into a 4.8 hour trip that got us home at about 0230. We flew the DUMPY 2 arrival into Addison and flew one of the more interesting ILS's I've ever shot...can you say low-level wind shear in a C-172? Then, we flew on to Tyler and Waco. Tyler to Waco was the long leg...with headwinds we were making about 60 knots over the ground. We were nice and wore out by the time we got in the neighborhood of Waco, where we were greeted with a nice low layer of clouds in which to fly the 14 DME arc and VOR 14 approach to get home and into bed. All in all, a good flight.

I'm just a couple of flights short now. We need to get 4 more hours of dual so I can qualify for my checkride, but the weather is holding us up. We were supposed to go today, but the weather is supposed to stay low and I have to go to Dallas to pick Parker up in a bit (he took the Mooney to Kansas City yesterday and is stuck in Oklahoma City, so is Southwesting it to Love). Tommorrow might work, and if not, I'll be looking at rescheduling my checkride. Ahh, Central Texas springtime.

Not to worry...the Commercial won't take that much and Tim and I are still confident that I'll be ready in time for my May CFI school date.

I just spent the past few days in Seattle at a conference for grad school. Didn't get to do any flying there (I'd hoped to get seaplane current at Kenmore Air), but I decided to make this a budget trip. Did have a lot of fun and eat a lot of seafood, but it was nice to get back home and get on schedule.

Think that's all for now...I'll blog more when I know what's going on with my checkride.

Blue (or at least ILS minimum) skies!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Formation mission

So, Parker and I decided we needed some really cool photos for the Waco Flight Training website (it goes live later today at check it out!). This called for an air-to-air mission, which we carried out this morning. If you've never tried a segment takeoff with a 172 and a Mooney, I highly recommend it. Really made me want that RV-8 I've always wanted to build, though!

Below are some of the results. I'm back into the instrument flying first thing tomorrow morning, and the checkride is about two weeks out. Almost there. And believe me, I can't wait to get my hands on the controls of that Mooney!

The fleet is in place!

Just a quick line today. Yesterday, I had the privelege of flying N2150G to its new home at Waco Regional Airport. Waco Flight Training is officially a reality! Nothing like seeing the "fleet" in place to motivate a person to push on towards that CFI!

More on this weekend later.