Monday, December 12, 2011

Instrument win!

Passed my instrument checkride today! The writeup is going to be way shorter than the one for private, mainly because this checkride was easier.

YES, IT IS POSSIBLE. Instrument can be easier than private. I'm not sure how, but it was.

I've noticed a few trends in my checkride-taking.

1. The weather will be terrible on the first scheduled day. This day will be followed by perfect weather.
2. Someone somewhere is going to write on my paperwork that I am a guy.
3. I need a checkride hug from someone I've flown with.
4. There must be a stuffed animal in my flight bag, named after either an instructor or an airplane.

So, first, I had to scare Eric by jumping at him for my hug because I was freaking out so much. He was in a meeting and left for a bit to come make sure I hadn't hyperventilated into a coma. I felt very much like a lost puppy. "It's okay! You're okay! You can do it! You'll be fine!" "MYERRRRRR."

My checkride examiner was Mike Rogan. He's really laid back and treats everything more like a conversation than a question-and-answer thing. I've heard this is fairly true of most instrument checkrides; it's about scenario-based stuff and not as much have-you-memorized-all-the-things (memorizing all the things is so you can pull them out of your brain when you need them). He had me plan a one-way cross country to Wenatchee. It has some interestingly awkward approaches. We talked about why I picked the one I did (VOR/DME-C because the ILS is hard to plan and not really for us anyway), what altitude to use, why we never get to have Auburn's departure procedure, and some things on the approach plates. He had Jeppesen charts and plates, so when he was asking me about a few things like what did each missed approach point correspond to, I just looked at him funny until he showed me that what he was talking about was only on his charts.

The oral took about an hour, and most of that was going over paperwork and talking about planes and telling stories. "I don't know what to say; you know all the answers." "Oh geez I wouldn't say that." I learned some cool side notes like how CFIIs stay current and how many magnets are in the compass (four). He definitely likes old school instrument flying more than the new GPS stuff.

For the flight, we did the ILS, same approach as a localizer, and GPS, all runway 17 at Tacoma Narrows. The ILS was fine except when they threw me for a loop by telling me to fly the Narrows One Departure for the missed procedure. I didn't have it handy and I don't have it memorized, but the examiner was nice about it and found the one in his approach plates and just read it off to me. Did that, went back to hold at SCENN to get ready for the localizer. They were really busy, so I figured sitting in a holding pattern for a bit would make someone's life easier. It helped. I did partial panel holding for maybe one turn around the pattern, then he gave me the instruments back for the approach. I asked for the published missed out of habit, then I had to go and fly it wrong. I missed the part that said to fly a 290 heading until intercepting the radial off of Seattle, but he didn't fail me for it, just asked where we were going and mentioned it again on the ground.

(If you're following this really closely, you're going to want to open this in a new tab: )

The GPS was where some stuff almost happened. The controller asked if I wanted to start off of JUYCU or FAVDA; I requested JUYCU, but he ended up giving us FAVDA. Problem is, FAVDA is only an intermediate fix, and I couldn't make the GPS sequence from there because it's not an IAF and I'm not magical when it comes to working this thing. You'd think that with all my computer skills I would be a wizard at the GPS, but I spend most of my time arguing with it about why I'm right and it needs to stop being derpy. So the controller told me to go direct FAVDA and start the approach from there. I could get the GPS to either activate the approach - which would have taken us back to JUYCU - or go to FAVDA, which required discontinuing the approach. I switched it back and forth two or three times, then I remembered I could make it do vectors-to-final and fixed all my problems. Well, that's life. No checkride is perfect. We circled to land, did a decent touch-and-go, and ran away back to Auburn. We did unusual attitudes on the way home. Nothing major.

All in all, it was pretty chill. I highly recommend Mike as an examiner. I called Ross and told him how I did. He sounded tired. I think his new job is already zapping the life out of him. Silly instructors. Don't you know that if you stick around and just fly with me, you don't have to do stuff like that?

I got a stuffed sea lion at the zoo the day before yesterday and named it Ross. I sent actual Ross a picture and he was very happy. He was also texting me while he was in class. This must be difficult to do when there are only three people in the class.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stage 3/End of Course.

I was under the impression that we couldn't take the stage 3 and end of course flights simultaneously anymore because too many people were doing that and then failing their checkrides. Ross texted me today telling me that my stage 3/eoc flight is on Wednesday. I freaked out for a moment or twelve, but I'm actually really glad they've been combined. It means I might be able to take my checkride before I go home for my birthday. This is an exciting thought.

We had a great last flight together today. It was really windy and made NDB holding terrible as a result, but we made it back alive and I got two high fives out of it. Adding up my logbook was difficult as usual, but Ross made it entertaining by being nearby and doing ground stuff with someone. I am going to miss him so much.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Number Five.

Brian, Bryce, Jon, Jesse, and now Ross. Five primary instructors who have gotten new jobs in three months or less of flying with me.

Ross is going to Florida. His last day is the 26th, so even though we're all done with the flying and the syllabus and basically all the ground, he won't be here for my checkride. I know I don't technically NEED him there, but it feels almost as bad as if your instructor isn't there for your first solo or your first solo cross-country. How am I supposed to hug him after the flight if he isn't there to hug? It's just nice to know someone's back there waiting for you and being confident that you're going to be awesome. Blah.

I am going to pass this checkride on my first try because I am awesome and I have learned from two amazing flight instructors who would not have signed me off before now if they did not think I could do it. I just need to study some more so that when we do ground I don't feel like I'm being verbally punched in the brain.

Still, though.


We went and brushed up on the maneuvers today. He had me do slightly turning stalls, which freaked me out a little, never having done them before. I still have issues with steep turns, but I know I can do them, I just have to watch very carefully. Slow flight is lovely, power-off stalls are great, power-ons are much less great but still okay, and unusual attitudes are fine. Weirdly enough, the hardest part of the whole flight was coming back to Auburn and not hitting any of the 200 people that seemed to be out and about. It was fun, and I don't know if it just felt like we were hanging out because it's a lot more laid back than doing approaches or if it's because I was suddenly feeling all "HE'S GOING TO LEAVE, NOW WE HAVE TO HAVE FUN ALL THE TIEMZ ;A;". I told him I'll miss him. He told me I'm moving on to bigger and better things and it was all happy and gooey and friendshipy and I love flight instructors so much.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

To Plane or Not to Plane?

EDIT: Thanks, Blogger, for making all the things invisible. I fix now.

So today's story is about flying (as usual), but first I'd like to open with a story about not flying.

I have a friend from way back in middle school who just started college at the University of Oregon, which is in Eugene. I hadn't seen her since New Year's Eve, and now having both a license to fly and access to a plane, I decided an adventure was in order. I asked about taking the plane overnight and tentatively scheduled it for last Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening. I checked the weather at least five times a day. The forecast was lame, then improved, then went lame again. The morning I was supposed to leave, I checked again. It was supposed to be beautiful most of the day, but Sunday was supposed to be cold, cloudy, and crappy (see also: Washington in November).

So, even though it made me sad, I couldn't comfortably say the flight would go off without a hitch, and I canceled it and drove instead. Road trips are always an adventure in themselves because I hate driving and especially by myself. I made it, though, and we had fun (and ate some of the most amazing hamburgers and garlic fries that have ever graced my presence), and then I went home the next day. While I was driving home, all through Eugene, Albany, Portland, and Kelso I could see that the weather was as craptastic as forecasted. There were many times that I thought to myself, "I am really glad I am not in a plane right now, because this is the part where I would be begging Portland Approach to give me an ILS clearance so I wouldn't die. Then there would be paperwork."

Skip to today: Ross and I were scheduled to fly to Hoquiam, commonly referred to by me as the milkshake airport because they have the best milkshakes in the known airport universe. We deliberately didn't eat beforehand because we were going to get food there. It was nice when we left.

The forecast called for winds of about 30 knots at altitude. It was supposed to be nice until we got to Hoquiam, but we should have already landed before it got bad, and then since we were going IFR we could still depart in the 4 miles visibility and 2,000-foot ceiling. The thing I didn't pay as much attention to was the wind. Hoquiam, being a coastal airport, is prone to the same winds day after day: 24 is favored during the day, 06 at night (or either if it's calm). Today, it was a fantastic crosswind of 150 at 21 gusting 29. Ross pointed out that that was far outside our plane's crosswind component of 17, and I kind of knew it, but I didn't want to believe it. I don't know why. This story is about me learning things, not knowing them beforehand.

So we kept going. The turbulence started out pretty mild. I used to be terrified of turbulence, but one day I got over it. I thought I would be over it permanently until we were climbing at 79 indicated and 44 groundspeed. During the approach, the wind decided it would be fun to play with us. We were tossed around so badly that I started getting scared. We would sink fifty feet, then I would put the plane in a climbing attitude and we would sink even more or the nose would be pushed up so far that I had to force it down and shove in the power to keep the thing from stalling. It was like unusual attitudes practice except I was watching it happen.

Sometimes it didn't seem to make much sense. I watched the instruments indicate a climb, but the engine suddenly sped up and I pulled the power back, scared that we were going to be caught in a completely unreasonable updraft and overstress the plane. I don't like when the engine makes noises I'm not expecting. I know when it's supposed to get louder and quieter, speed up and slow down. I may not be an expert yet, but these changes were drastic enough to worry me. It started getting so bad that I could barely make any turns. Forget standard rate. I think we were turning at about a degree per three seconds.

Then there was some disagreement between the GPS and the VORs about our location, so Ross flipped it over to the nice moving map page so I could stop worrying about the specifics of the approach and make sure I didn't run us into the conveniently placed hills that the arc is supposed to help us avoid. I glanced outside briefly and saw them even though seconds earlier it had been raining so hard that the visibility turned everything into IFR even though the ceiling wasn't that low. This was one of those days that I was legitimately afraid.

When we went home, it took me absolutely ages to climb us up to 5,000 feet. My hand actually hurt from hauling on the yoke to keep it in place and not let the nose go too high and stall or too low and stop climbing. I thought we weren't going to make it through 4,900 for a minute. When I finally leveled us off, Ross asked if I wanted him to take the plane for a bit so I could collect myself. It took a few minutes and a few glances outside to see how fast we were outrunning the approaching front (at 144 knots groundspeed, I'd say we were making some pretty good progress), but I did get myself back together. I took over most of the radio calls (which I kindly delegated to Ross by freezing up once the approach started turning to crap) and set us up to go home.

The GPS did something weird when we went back to Auburn. The procedure turn it gives us is supposed to be five miles, but we decided it would take too long (groundspeed 74 on the outbound leg) and shortened it to three. When we crossed the fix, it acted like we hadn't done the turn and wanted us to repeat it. Ross did some stuff to fix it, but then it said "invalid FPL modification" and "approach not active," yet it was giving us the same guidance it always did. Ross had had the airport in sight for a while, so we weren't in any real danger, but still. It was weird. Like arguing with a PC ("Are you sure you want to discontinue the current approach?" = "Are you sure you want to close the program?")

At least my landing was okay. Any landing after Auburn's approach is a good one because you have to pretending you're doing a short field configuration the whole way down since the minima are so high. I still owe him two non-sucky landings from our Friday Harbor adventure.

Lessons learned today include: weather is not to be trifled with; turbulence sucks; and Ross is a wonderful flight instructor.

I finally had to tell him and another instructor that I'm planning on leaving in December. I'm moving to Prescott, Arizona to go to Embry-Riddle and learn to be an air traffic controller. He was kind of sad. I was really sad. I will have to bring cookies again at least one more time and remember to give him his present. I make presents for all my instructors because I love them and I love giving presents to people.

I'm going to miss them all so much. :(

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stage 2!

I passed my second stage check. Given the number of technically stupid things I did (procedure turn instead of parallel entry, forgetting to start the time on the two approaches that needed it, ending up far, far away from the airport on the NDB approach), I'm a bit surprised, but the instructor could tell I knew what had gone wrong and, as he later pointed out, he didn't have to fix it. Still. I feel like I should be better at some of this by now. THAT'S OKAY THOUGH. I'm happy panda.

We did a bunch of approaches at Tacoma Narrows along with another two or three people. The approach controller finally told a guy he couldn't depart IFR out of Spanaway because he had too much traffic to deal with. Even though we were only ten or fifteen minutes away from the airport, it took him a while to get us our clearance. We went through the holding pattern somewhat legitimately for a few minutes waiting to get cleared for the second approach, thinking it was going to take at least five minutes or so, but then he told us if we could be ready for it he could give us the approach right then. So off we went. Whee.

I guess all in all I didn't do that badly, but I know I can do better. Oh well. On to cross countries.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stage 2?

"Whenever someone's giving you crap about being young or a girl, just tell them this: 'I'm going to be a flight instructor before you even started flying.'" Jesse says the greatest things.

I think I've finally gotten used to my new instructor. We're going to do ground today, then one flight tomorrow and hopefully I'll be signed off for my stage two check. Then after that it's a few cross countries and suddenly checkride.

Honestly, until now, instrument has been a serious rollercoaster. It went from being awesomely fun to mildly frustrating to intensely frustrating to slightly improving to explode. It stayed on explode for a while and only just recently started getting massively better. When things go right, it's fun. When something goes wrong, at least for a while, it was much less fun because I didn't - and mostly still don't - know how to handle it.

Still, currently I'm a lot more comfortable with the flying than the ground stuff, and I've been studying like mad for weeks now. I took instrument ground back in January, so unfortunately I've forgotten a lot of stuff, but some of it's coming back. I've only just started to get re-motivated since Jesse left. I am getting superstitiously concerned because it's been two and a half months since I started flying with Ross, which is approaching the end of the three-month period of how often I manage to point instructors/people toward new jobs. I guess we'll see if I'm right for the eighth or ninth time.

In almost entirely unrelated news, my friend Emily Biss passed her 787 checkride! She's now allowed to fly my other favorite plane. She's been helping me study some instrument stuff. Speaking of which, I need to get back to that before I go to the airport. Yay.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Instrument and Life

Today I had an amazingly good flight. Now, this means nothing without context, but basically my past several flights have been kind of terrible. I've barely flown in the past three weeks. My approaches haven't improved at all. I started to talk on the radios, but then I backed out of it. Basically, crap.

On Sunday I did one of my worst DME arcs ever, and they were one of the few approaches I thought I had nailed (I previously got a + on one, which is like a gold star for kindergartners). I forget to tune/ID the VORs until way late, I didn't set the courses right, and I flew right through the inbound course. "There it is! ...and there it goes." This was not helped by the fact that Approach took a good solid 20 minutes to get us our clearance, and that was only after my instructor asked them in a very aggravated tone. They were taking VFR flight following requests over our filed IFR flight plan. It was awkward and made for two unhappy pilots.

Things got better when I had the distinct pleasure of landing behind this guy.

It departed out of Paine Field as we were lined up on downwind. I forgot how to say words once I realized it was a Dreamliner. I was so worried about its wake turbulence that I had a really crap landing, but then I got to stop on the runway and wait for that to dissipate and then take off again, and I felt so special. We did a fun transition over Seatac to go back home, and then I had one of the greatest landings I've ever done. Even so, I was not happy with how the important part of the flight had gone, and I let pretty much everyone around me know it.

Last night I took out my kneeboard and my approach plate and drew out where each radio frequency should be set, what the nav instruments should look like as far as set courses, the missed approach, all that good stuff. I didn't really end up using it today - just a quick glance - but it helped so immensely that flying this 15.3 DME arc for a good 90 degrees of a circle or so seemed like it was actually too much time, a problem I never thought I would have.

What changed in those two days?

Well, I emailed my mom-away-from-home, Karlene Petitt.

"I'm thinking the only thing stopping you from your instrument is your distracted mind. Distraction is the number one cause of accidents, so... you need to focus. Emotional and flying don't go together. And if you can't fly with focus then you shouldn't be flying. Can you get over the emotional aspect of what's happening? I know you can. Just park it on a shelf.

Christine, there is only one thing that you have control in your life, and that is your attitude. Your attitude of how you're going to deal with situations that come up in life. Deal with today. Make a choice to be proactive and deal with it and finish your license.

Don't be emotional. You have to stop taking emotion into the plane. You need to learn how to compartmentalize and set it aside. The, and in the future.... is not someplace to be worrying about Jesse, or finances, or anything else. You need to learn to focus on the task. If you can do that, then fly. If you can't, then you're going to be a danger to yourself. "

A lot of crap has happened in the past few months. My best friend and favorite flight instructor left the school, and until today I haven't really done as well with my new instructor. I've run into financial problems and might just barely be able to finish instrument before I have to find another way to pay for all this fun. School is eating my life again and I'm trying to plan something that will probably change everything I've adapted to for the past two years.

But today, all I heard was Karlene's voice saying "Compartmentalize it. Set it aside. You're flying a plane, so fly the plane. Don't let it fly you."

Best therapy ever.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New website!

Don't worry, I'm not leaving blogger.

I made a new website (click here) for my editing business. If you've written a book and you're trying to get published, see if you think I can help you. I'll also go over short stories or essays/term papers for pretty cheap. Tell your friends.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Instrument fun times.

I've been doing instrument stuff for a little under three weeks now. Jesse and I have been flying pretty much every day and getting a lot done, but I do wish I could get the hang of using VORs better. For some reason, NDBs weren't too bad, but intercepting radials and doing time/speed/distance calculations are my weaknesses. Disregarding the fact that doing math in my head while in airplanes is ridiculous enough, it's been plenty windy lately, which makes things even more exciting. I made a bunch of checklist-type things that show step-by-step how to do it, but yesterday Jesse was asking me stuff like "How do you find out how long it takes to get to the station?" and I couldn't remember anything past figuring out what radial we're on, so we're going to practice them some more today. I like when I can get something right away. I know it's probably better in the long run to have to work on it a lot more before it clicks, but still.

He's still getting settled in at his new job (teaching maintenance for Boeing), but after a bit he said I can follow him to work and be all WOW LOOK AT THAT.

I brought Amanda and Lindsey along for the flight yesterday. We found out Lindsey went on an intro flight with Jesse last year, which cracks me up. 'It's a small world after all...'

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Helicopter? What?

This is Amanda Sargent. She let me fly an R44 yesterday. It was awesome.

Jesse was disappointed with me, though. He said apparently I'm too cool to hang out at Auburn anymore. Awww. I told him I wasn't going to switch over completely just yet, and he said I should wait until he gets his helicopter CFI because apparently whenever he gets bored he gets a new rating. I guess we can finish fixed-wing together first, then.

I won't go over to the dark side just yet.

I do understand constant-speed props much better, though. Hooray!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The checkride itself.

Super long post. Your warning has been issued.
So now to go a little more in depth about how my checkride actually went.

My flight instructor actually brought the examiner and me lunch, so I got to attempt to eat for a while. My advice is to eat a decent breakfast without overloading yourself, and then maybe have a snack just before you go in case you're still partially hungry. The last thing you want to be thinking about on short final is cheeseburgers.

I flew with Summer Martell. I heard a lot of great things about her before we went, and I realized I had actually met her once before when she was doing an instrument checkride with another student at my school a few weeks ago or so. I got to the airport about two hours early because I worry that I'm always going to be late, and I probably would have been fine showing up later, but in the end my first flight instructor showed up unexpectedly and I got to give him a hug, so that made me feel a lot less nervous about everything. :)

Anyway, I went over the maintenance logs and kept a checklist for each thing I looked through, but in the end she went through them herself and didn't ask me about anything inside the books. Jesse went over them quite thoroughly with me, though, so it's good to know where to find things just in case you do get asked about them.

Before we started the oral, she went over how everything was going to work. She explained her fees and what would happen if I ended up having to do a retest, as well as what would lead to that. She told me a few reasons why most people end up failing a checkride, usually lack of checklist use and failing to keep watch for traffic. First we were going to go through the oral portion, which was not just a bunch of random things she was going to pull out of the air; she had her own PTS book plus a few pages of notes just so she would't forget what she wanted to ask me about, and she said I could look at them if I wanted to. They were covered in drawings of horses, which made my entire day. Then she said that assuming I passed the oral, I would have however much time I needed to get the plane ready (someone had used it just before me, so I couldn't preflight or get the weather and do my weight and balance before the whole thing, but if you can at least do the preflight and weight and balance and get a forecast, then just update the information just before you go, you can save some time) and we would fly. "There are no do-overs on the maneuvers except if we have to cut something short because of traffic or other extenuating circumstances." I definitely remembered that.

The oral was a lot easier than I was expecting. Not because she asked easy questions, but because she could tell right away if I knew something as far in depth as she needed me to know it, and we would move on to the next thing without spending an hour on it. She definitely wanted me to pass, and she was totally cool about taking short breaks so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. Whenever I asked her to rephrase a question, she could tell that I had just learned something from a different angle than she was asking it, but she was really accommodating and helped me out. She said she didn't expect me to know everything because it's all so in-depth.

When I was planning the cross-country she gave me beforehand from Auburn to Spokane, I planned it so it wouldn't go over the mountains, and it ended up being a 435-mile trip spread across 4 pages of navigation logs. She thought it was actually interesting and different because most people take I-90, so even though I took a much less direct route, I was able to explain that I chose it because there are more airports that way and a lot of good visual checkpoints, so I was more comfortable doing that than flying over the mountains in the summer. I also called to ask her whether I needed to figure out the most up-to-date winds for the entire trip with it being so long, and she said I could just do it all the day before and then update the first checkpoint or two with that day's winds because those were the only ones we would actually be flying. I would definitely make sure you clear that with your examiner, because they're not all the same about things like that.

The oral went really fast, and she said it went really fast because I studied. And I did. A lot. I was not born knowing any of the information; I studied it in pieces over weeks and weeks and tried to use as much of it in the plane as I could so I would understand it better. You can't cram it all into your brain in one night, so don't try. Just brush up on the things you know you don't know so well - for me it was basic aerodynamics, sadly enough, as I learned on my final stage check - and bring your books in case you want to look something up. We ended up having to check something in the FAR/AIM because she forgot whether it was 2500, 1500, or 1200 feet. I said it was 1200 and I ended up being right, so I guess the moral there is don't be afraid to defend your answers when you know they're correct. Just be absolutely sure of it, though, because if you're wrong then...well, you're wrong, but at least you're confident, right? :P

We took a break to let me deal with the plane, and I was nervous enough that I tried to put my jacket on upside down, but I calmed down once we were in the plane. Definitely use your checklists; they're not just there to impress the examiner, they're there to lighten your workload so you don't have to memorize four hundred steps. She offered to hold anything for me that I needed, but I had everything organized enough that it wasn't necessary. She told me we'd be diverting pretty quickly, so I was ready for that. I had my plotter, E6-B with the current wind dot marked on it, A/FD, and sectional in the side pocket next to me, and my kneeboard (from bottom to top) was notepad, terminal chart, checklist, and passenger safety briefing list, with two pencils clipped on the side. I am not an organized person by trade; my mom can attest to that. So if you're like me, make it a priority to give yourself enough time to get sorted before the flight. I didn't learn it overnight; I had to fly a few trips with everything shifting all over my lap before I figured it out.

I did ask Summer if we could work on our soft field stuff at Tacoma because I wasn't comfortable doing normal and soft landings at Auburn. Our runway is 2200 feet instead of the usual 3400 because they're working on the lights, so it's a bit shorter than I'm used to. She was totally fine with it because she just wanted me to be comfortable with the flight. She diverted me to Tacoma after my first checkpoint, and just after I called them up and said we were ready to land, she told me to get my Foggles because it was unusual-attitudes-under-the-hood time. We did two of those, then I did some turning climbs and descents under the hood, then she told me I could take it off and pointed me over to Tacoma. She pulled my engine abeam the numbers and had me do a go-around just before landing in an effort to combine as many things as possible and save on flight time. The second time around, she had me do a slip on final and a soft field stop-and-go (and it actually turned out to be a touch-and-go but she told me to do it so it was okay). We left Tacoma and headed for Vashon Island.

She intentionally put me under the 3,000-foot shelf there so I would be more careful about not breaking it, but she did remind me it was there more than once. She wanted me to be aware of it but not afraid of it. I did steep turns first, and she had me specifically do them in a figure eight shape, one right after the other, and let me choose the first direction of the turn. Jesse told me that's what they have you do, but another instructor said that's only in commercial, but either way I was ready for it. It went fine. Remember to be looking outside, and when you hear someone nearby report their position and you don't see them right away, it's okay to ask if they see the traffic. The point is to be safe and use the resources available to you, not prove that you absolutely have to do everything yourself and let your passengers be useless.

We did slow flight, which started to get interesting because it was a little windy, but she didn't hold it against me. Power-off and power-on stalls were fine, and I was really happy with my power-on stall because it was the one maneuver giving me a ton of trouble up to that point. The ground reference ones were a little rushed in the interest of time; she picked a road and told me where the wind was coming from and then said I could go ahead and start turning at that moment. It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough, and she was asking me what I would do if I wanted to go closer to or further away from the road. We did turns around a point next, and for that one she let me set it up however I wanted, so I took my time doing the entry and everything. I ended up being too close to it, and she asked at one point if we had flown over it, but we hadn't, it was just hiding under the wing.

So we headed back to Auburn. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Throughout the whole flight, if there was ever some lag time (like when Tacoma made me do a 360 for spacing or on our way back to Dash Point), I got to just talk to her like she was just a passenger. She was really cool and I was completely comfortable flying with her. I ended up doing a go-around on my first landing back at Auburn, and she just looked at me and said, "What was that about?" I said I just didn't feel good about touching down late with the short runway and I hadn't done my crosswind correction well enough, and she said the important thing was that I was confident about my landing, so it was a good choice. Jesse told me if you ever get to the point where you THINK you need to go around, you do.

The next one was fine, and she reminded me to step on the brakes a little more firmly, but we didn't have to backtaxi or anything, and then we went over and parked. My flight time was only 1.2, and she told me I passed as soon as we got our headsets off. She headed inside to finish some paperwork while I cleaned up the guts of my flight bag from the inside of the plane, and Jesse came outside, followed by both of my parents. I guess the line guy waiting to fuel up the plane was actually the first one to learn that I passed my checkride, but hey, he's cool.

Summer is going on vacation and won't be back until the beginning of June, so she's not free for checkrides for a while, but if you ever get the chance to fly with her, I highly recommend it. I would definitely like to go with her again.
Yesterday, Jesse had me help another student figure out performance numbers, density altitude, etc. Jesse told him it's really important to get it right because the examiner looks at the weight and balance sheet very closely, and I said, "I guess I won't mention that mine didn't do that, then," and he rolled his eyes and said "You didn't give her a reason to. If you're smart, they leave you alone. If you give them a reason to dig, they will dig." True statement.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Checkride success!

I passed my private pilot checkride yesterday. I can hardly believe it. It feels like it took so long for me to get to this point. The exam itself was actually fairly easy. I definitely had a more difficult stage three check than I did on the checkride. We blazed through the oral really fast. It pays to study everything gradually ahead of time for sure. It seems like the more you know about a subject (or the more you talk like you know about it), the less they'll ask you. It's more about having overall good decision-making skills, being able to positively control the aircraft, and just generally keeping track of what's going on around you. If you miss a question or two, it's not the end of the world. I didn't know everything, but they don't expect you to. As long as you get the important stuff like what to do when the engine catches fire and how to read a basic weather report, you'll be good. :)

I did get a hug out of this guy. He says he doesn't like hugs, but I made him give me one because we've both worked really hard to get me to this point. Silly Jesse.

Also, last Saturday I went to a flying event in Renton, hosted by Karlene. I got to fly a Cirrus and do some aerobatics in a Citabria. So much fun, and I didn't even get sick. I think it's important to learn what a spin looks like because even though you probably can't spin your trainer aircraft and the recovery procedure might be slightly different, you should know what kind of picture you see outside the window when you're going into a spin so you don't get too disoriented to save yourself.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rotten luck.

Happy finals week to me. This was also supposed to be the week of my checkride. Unfortunately, just after I finished planning my super epic cross-country to Spokane, I got a call saying that my examiner is sick and wanted to reschedule for next week. I don't really need the extra time to study or anything, but I guess it means I'll be able to get over my own stupid cold and at least not be in the middle of finals week trying to take a checkride.

Anyway, Bryce ran off to Alaska. He's flying Caravans and laughing at moose and having fun. I'm quite happy for him.

However, in the same vein, I was informed today that Jesse has gotten a job at Boeing.

According to my friend, who's another of Jesse's students, Jesse is going to go down to working part time at least at first to see how it works out with flying, but beyond that, we don't know. I don't have the mental capacity to be upset about it yet, but trust me, it'll come soon enough. I'm hoping he only just found out today and wasn't keeping it from me just for the sake of not wanting me to panic just before a checkride. I just talked to him about this yesterday, how when Jon left, I thought I must have been cursed to be able to run off a ground instructor and two flight instructors inside of five months. Now I guess we can add at least one and possibly two to that list. I don't know. I haven't heard anything straight from him yet, and I'll feel better (or worse) once I do. At least I'll know what's going on. I don't want to ask him, though. I'd rather let him tell me when he wants me to know. At least I'll be prepared, I guess. Aaaaaahh. Still going to go be sad, though. He's certainly grown on me, and I've learned a lot from him. Sigh.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stage check successful.

I passed my third and final stage check with Eric yesterday. We're trying to schedule my checkride for Thursday or Friday. I was a little nervous at first, but as soon as we started talking, I was fine. The flight was alright. I've definitely done better at all the pieces of it before, but apart from forgetting to look at the airport over my left shoulder during the engine failure (while I was planning to land in some water) and asking to redo the power-on stall, I did well enough to pass. My short field landing was much better than I expected. I didn't realize we'd landed until I heard the wheels going. It was cool.

I do need to reread basic aerodynamics, though. "How do airplanes fly?" "Magic."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Seatac and books about airplanes.

So I've landed at Seatac twice in a row this week. Haha. Jesse's started calling me Seatac Girl. I like Sherlock more.

The whole airport lights up like a Christmas tree.


I'm editing a book. For this lovely lady.

It's a dark thriller about airplanes and conspiracies and craziness and pilots. What's not to love?

The funny thing is that I started going to college to become a book editor. Halfway through this year, I decided I didn't like overloading on English literature classes and switched my major to computer science. I never would have met her if I hadn't started flying, and I never would have gotten the chance to edit her book, which I am almost finished reading at the moment. She also just gave me Easter candy and a t-shirt that says "Today is my day to fly!" because it is. She's so inspiring and amazing. I hope we can both be small plane instructors one day. :)

I love editing. I have a mental map of the book, and boy, is this one ever a labyrinth. Think three-dimensional Midwestern corn maze. It's quite a wild ride. A lot of it scares me, but it reveals a lot about the current state of the commercial aviation industry, stuff that most people don't even think about or can imagine happening. I imagine a lot of it is scarier to me as a student pilot because not only do I fly ten miles south of the airport where it takes place, but also because this was initially why I wanted to learn to fly. I still want to pilot a 787 someday. I don't want to say I'm rethinking it because of her novel, but it is helping me put things into perspective. Commercial flying isn't red carpets and piano lounges anymore.

However you look at it, it's a great book. You need to buy it and help us make enough money so I can edit the movie script too. Also Karlene and I need to buy a purple Warrior to practice in. Just saying.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another one leaving.

Flashback to January.

Me: Yeah, Jon's my instructor now.
Ross: You know he's leaving, right?
Ross: He's going into the military.
Me: Next thing you're going to tell me Bryce is moving to Alaska!

Except now he actually IS moving to Alaska. He got a job with Million Air. Be right back, tears.

I love Bryce. I know he's going to have tons of fun because he's also going to learn to fly helicopters (you helicopter pilots have stolen another one from me! :( stop it), but still. He's one of my most favorite people ever and a super amazing pilot. He'd better come back to visit.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dr. Seuss + Airplanes

"You've got a mind that is one of a kind so why hide it away?
It's time to open the locks and think out of the box and today is your day!
Bounce on the brink of whatever you think and oh, what could be better than that?"

Seussical the Musical. A compilation of Dr. Seuss books, ridiculous music, and surprisingly inspirational lyrics.

This almost has something to do with airplanes, probably. OH. RIGHT.

I won the 99s' flight training scholarship! This is so wonderful, I can barely even come up with sentences. It's so great to know I won't have to worry about having the money to finish getting my private pilot certificate. Even though it's only one checkride, it's the one you need to get before anything else. I've been trying to study like mad to weed out all my weird questions that pop up, but it seems like I keep thinking of more. Oh well. Hopefully I'll do alright.

"Why decry a cloudy sky
An empty purse
A crazy universe?
My philosophy is simply
Things could be worse!"


Sunday, April 3, 2011


Successful long cross-country. Even though it was more of a condensed cross-country. Basically it was my last cross-country plus three landings at Tacoma. Quote from the instructor who signed off my dispatch form:

"My only concern is that the winds at Seattle are outside your crosswind component limitation, but since we're not at Seattle you should be okay. And you managed to get on the ground safely after that last flight when it was really gnarly out."

Yeah, apparently when I was coming back on the really windy day, a lot of the instructors were standing by the window watching me and hoping I wouldn't die. I didn't find out until yesterday. Somewhat embarrassing.

But still. Gnarly landing. Ahaha.

Also this was sitting next to me in the run-up area.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weather :(

This week has been almost entirely without airplanes. My instructor and I tried to go flying Monday night, but the plane's vacuum pump was dead, so that didn't work. And ever since then it's been gray and foggy and cloudy and raining and depressing. It's supposed to be slightly better this afternoon when I will possibly be flying, but who knows.

I've also had to write a letter to my school asking for an extension on my flight training because I'm kind of behind on all their deadlines. It's not my fault there's so much weather here. Or that my instructors keep leaving. I hope they decide I can finish. I'm so close. I just have to do my long cross-country and a mock checkride or two.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adventure ti- oh my goodness.

I went on another cross-country yesterday. Everything was great on the way there. On the way back, though, there were suddenly clouds, so I had to change my whole plan and try not to get lost and meanwhile there was lots of wind. Lots and lots of wind. As in, unless you were out at Auburn airport yesterday, I don't think you understand the magnitude of the wind. It wasn't gusting 50 or anything, but was coming at a 90-degree angle to the runway, and it was between 10 and 15 knots, which is between double and triple my limitation. Oops.

So the first time I tried to land, I didn't get anywhere near the runway before I decided to go around and try again. I wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it was, that's for sure. Somebody behind me landed okay. Then I came back for a second attempt. When I turned base, my airspeed absolutely died. It went from 85 to 55 (should be 75). I almost couldn't get the nose down. When I finally did get facing the runway, I tried to do crosswind correction, only it seems like every time I do that myself it goes horribly wrong, so I reverted to what I usually do: drift sideways down the runway.

The plane floated for forever before going crunch halfway down the runway. I think I was entirely on the left wheel at one point, then I slammed the right one down and skidded sideways. The brakes actually made noises. Bad noises. And they felt weird. I was (am) probably overreacting, it probably wasn't actually that horrible and it might just be that by that point I wanted to be on the ground more than anything in my whole life, but I really thought the gear was going to just collapse. When I finally made my "clear of the runway" radio call, I was having trouble breathing, and I didn't stop shaking until several hours later. My instructor came on the radio and said good job, but I later found out he hadn't seen the landing, so...yay? Another one did, though, and she jokingly complimented me on it later. :P We agreed that since the plane is still usable (more or less) then it was good.

"A good landing is any landing you can walk away from. A great landing is one where they can reuse the plane."


The guy who landed behind me came by later and asked who I was flying with. I said nobody and he responded "We were hoping nobody was soloing up there." Oops.

Aaaaaaaaaaaa planes. I love you so much, why can't we just get along.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hoquiam. Just kidding.

I tried to go to Hoquiam today. It was supposed to be nice, nice being scattered at 3,000 feet. Well, I couldn't even get up to 2,000, because at 1,700 I was practically level with clouds. The flight following person told me another person tried to go VFR out to the coast earlier and didn't make it. Five minutes after that I decided LOL I'm going home.

However, I saw another person from my school practicing instrument stuff at Tacoma Narrows, and a Chinook flew circles around me, so I tried to wave my wings at him to say hi, as he was much closer than I thought he was. Not sure if that was a success. Oh well. It was still pretty fun, as it was actually fairly nice everywhere else. Hooray airplanes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Adventure time!

I actually got to go up north to Skagit today. First solo cross-country was reasonably successful. I mean, sure I didn't get to open my flight plan on the way up, and I accidentally set my transponder to 7200 and then standby and confused the air traffic controller, and got pretty lost going up there, and it was really super windy and I probably should have landed somewhere else, and the wind was taking the controls out of my hands as I was sitting on the ground, and I got lost on the way back, and flew low over some hills, and had to use the GPS, and people at Auburn were debating which runway to use as one guy called final landing north just as another guy took off going south and they both had to do circles, but you know. That's life.

I heard an Australian guy talking to Seattle Approach. That made my entire day.

The flight following person reminded me I should listen to Arlington's advisory frequency as I overflew it because there were planes. I felt like a child being told not to eat cookies before dinner. They were hugely helpful, though. More than once I had people flying directly at me. There was some confusion regarding my flight plans, as the first one never got opened up, and on the way back apparently they opened both at the same time, so once I landed they had already called me and my school looking for me. Oh goodness.

But yeah. I guess it went okay. It was really stressful though. Trying to go on another short trip tomorrow even though my instructor wants me to go on a longer one. I don't think that's such a great idea.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WIND Part II, aka Sherlock needs to learn faster.

No adventures today, so I thought I would go out to the practice area and work on maneuvers, then come back and do more soft field landings. Hahaha, ha, that's funny.

I don't know what the winds aloft were exactly, but I'm going to guess around 20-something at least. At first, it was really cool; there are mountains over by our practice area, and I got kind of nerdtastically excited when I recognized the cap and roll clouds associated with mountain wave turbulence. This quickly grew less exciting as they started to move towards me. After doing one stall and about half a minute of slow flight, it started getting more cloudy and more windy, so I decided to go back to the airport. On the way I almost hit some birds. Fun times.

My landings were an exercise in bad decision-making.

On the first landing, I bounced twice and decided to go around before I broke something. The next few involved wing tips coming uncomfortably close to the runway. The wind observing thing on the radio said it was only about 5-7 knots, but as soon as I got up to about 200 feet the plane would start going sideways and bouncing all over the place, so I don't believe that for a second. The last time I took off, the wind was variable from 140 to 220 at 8. (Taking off runway 16, that was...yeah.) I probably shouldn't have done it, but I took off anyway. And then I landed. And then I parked and sat there for a second to see whether I was actually still alive. Note to self: don't do that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


After seeing thunderstorms predicted in the forecast today, I decided to do a local flight instead of attempting to dodge them while on adventures. This went okay. I need to work on soft field takeoffs and landings like there's no tomorrow, so that's what I tried to do.

Everything was going okay until my fifth takeoff. The radio said the wind was 5 knots, which is okay, but as soon as I got up to about 500 feet, the plane decided HELLO I THINK I'LL TURN RIGHT NOW. I kept listening to the winds as I got to each leg of the traffic pattern. By the time I was on final, it was 9 gusting 14. I'm pretty sure the clouds were dropping too, or at least the visibility was, because it started raining like crazy. I think I made six or seven mini landings, because I was trying to do a soft field landing, but instead it went bounce-bounce-bounce-hover-bounce-crunch.

At least I didn't break anything.

Although when I was parking I turned everything off and then a 16-knot gust blew the plane backwards about three feet.

I'm now nicknaming this plane Jinx. Because it's cursed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The weather continues.

It's supposed to be gross tomorrow. Again. I was somehow not scheduled to fly today, and even though I saw sunlight, it was also kind of windy, so maybe that was a good thing. There's been this endless stream of cold fronts for I don't even know how long now, and it's getting pretty old. I know Washington isn't famed for its mild winters, but still, it's March and I want to go on adventures in small planes.

I might study for instrument stuff or something in a minute. For now I'm making a cake. Cake is good. I would decorate it, but I'm in college. Trying to scrape together enough stuff to make it in the first place was enough of a challenge. It's funfetti. Should be delicious.

Maybe I can at least work on landings tomorrow.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Greetings, world.

This is the obligatory getting-to-know-me post. It'll be a long one, but if you're patient or impatient enough, there are pictures. Hooray!

So, looking back, I probably should've started this back when I actually started flight training, because then it would be way more exciting when I say I've soloed and I'm trying to go on cross-countries by myself, but I didn't think about it until now, so there.

Anyway. Hi, I'm Christine. My friends call me Sherlock. I'm going to Northwest Aviation College. I'm also a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound. But hopefully soon University of Washington instead.

I've been flying since the beginning of October. Since then, my first flight instructor (super fantastic awesome person named Brian) has been hired by Horizon, and my second instructor (super fantastic awesome person named Jon) decided to go fly helicopters for the military. I've also gone flying with another super fantastic awesome instructor named Bryce. We landed at Seatac on my third flight, which was hugely exciting and made up for the fact that we had done stalls for the first time earlier. My latest instructor is a superfantasticawesomeperson named Jesse. He's been to Antarctica. Have you been to Antarctica? I didn't think so.

This is Brian.

As you can see, he's having fun.

And this is my plane. (Sort of.)

He's one of six. I mostly like them all, but this one I soloed in, so it's kind of special.

Here's my shirt.

Yes, those are Angry Birds. Brian showed me the game, so then I had to try to defeat him at it. This rivalry remains unresolved, as Brian got a new phone and lost all of his high scores. Not my fault.

So back to the airplanes.

I've been signed off to do solo cross-countries for a week now, but the weather has been acting all Washington-in-March-y. Jesse said he wants me to be ready for my checkride in a week because I have a March 26th deadline when my school's winter quarter ends and I've heard everything from "nothing will happen, don't worry about it" to "training will completely stop so you'd better be flying five times a day." What can I do? I have so many restrictions that if it's remotely questionable outside, it's stay in the pattern or don't do anything. Lately it's been trending toward not doing anything. Blah. I've already finished private ground school (and passed my written) and I'm just about done with instrument ground. I'm going to do commercial ground next.

Puppy break!

Helicopters are cool too. I have lots of friends who fly them. Even though you KIDNAPPED MY FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR, I guess I can forgive you. You're pretty cool.

That's all I can think of for now. Updates on either flight school or college in the future. I'll try to keep the I-wish-I-was-only-a-pilot-and-not-in-college rants to a minimum.