Lesson 1 – Intro Flight

The sky was a clear blue when I left for the airport this morning but the temperature was a brutal 8 degrees with a wind chill below zero. The calendar may say that this is the first day of winter but it started weeks ago here. Cold as it was, today was actually the warmest day of the last week or so. Warrior N8447L had spent the night in a warm hanger so the cold wasn’t that big a problem, although later we would find that the windows kept fogging up.

Tim, my CFI, pulled the airplane up in front of the office and then came it to check my passport and make the required entry in my log book to satisfy the TSA. By the way, I am using the same log I used for the few hours I got back in 1989. To avoid confusion, when I refer to numbers of hours they are only for my current training. My log book actually shows 5 hours more than that.

We went out to the airplane and did a complete but quick preflight in the cold. Once in the much warmer cabin, we took our time going over the pre-start checklist and I started getting familiar with the switches and gauges. It’s going to take awhile before I can find them without thinking about it.

Thanks to that warm hanger, the engine started right up and I made my first attempt at taxiing in 15 years. I wasn’t very good at it then and I certainly haven’t improved in the mean time. As we weaved our way toward runway 27, I realized that my hands just naturally want to turn the yoke. How long will it take to train my feet to do what my hands are so sure is their job? Keeping my hand completely off the yoke helped straighten us out somewhat. No doubt I’ll get better with practice. Braking was also a problem. For some reason I was pushing harder with the left foot than the right so that we veered left every time I stopped. Still we did manage to get to the runway and did the run up and pre-takeoff checks. Tim made the radio call and then it was onto 27 for takeoff.

We accelerated down the pavement with only moderate S-turns (I’m not sure how much CFI help I had), I eased back on the yoke when the airspeed reached 60 and up we went. As we climbed, it quickly became obvious that the clear sky was not so clear any more. The visibility was going down rapidly so we decided to stay close to the airport. I did turns in both directions while trying to maintain altitude and airspeed – just getting a feel for the airplane. I also tried yawing the nose left and right to get a clear picture of what the rudder does.

After too short a time, there wasn’t much of a horizon to reference anymore so Tim took over and got us pointed back toward Campbell. We ended up headed straight in for the runway. I kept us lined up the best I could while Tim guided me through power reductions and flap settings. He let me fly us to the end of the runway before he took over and landed. As we pulled off the runway, Tim complimented me on how well I had flown the approach and asked if I wanted to try another landing. I told him I was game so I subjected him to another session of zigging and zagging back to the runway. This time, after I took off, he talked me through the whole pattern and almost to touchdown. As it turned out, I probably should have quit with the first approach since this one didn’t go as well. I think I was trying too hard the second time and was overcompensating. We decided to end the session there with .9 hours in the book.

Back in the warm office, we went into the classroom to debrief. I thought I was sloppy but Tim kept telling me I did great after such a long layoff. All in all, I think we were both satisfied with our first lesson together. I got back in the air and found that I hadn’t forgotten everything. I got a chance the see how Tim instructs and I like his style. He is hands off enough to let me make mistakes but doesn’t let me go far enough to get us into trouble. I realize that it isn’t easy to maintain that fine balance but he does it very well. Thanks for a great first lesson Tim.

This post got pretty long. I will try to keep most of them shorter than this. Next lesson is scheduled for Friday morning so stay tuned.

It’s Official!

The couple of you actually reading these posts probably realize that I have been deceiving you. The top banner says this is “the rambling journal of a middle-aged student pilot” but, that wasn’t technically true – at least until today. This afternoon I passed my third class medical so, now I can honestly say that I am a student pilot.

After several weeks of research, doctor visits and testing, the actual exam was pretty anticlimactic. I had my regular doctor’s report in hand and that probably is what made this visit so easy. The AME told me that having all the tests done ahead of time was defenitly a good idea. I suspect that the exam would have been more complete if he hadn’t had a detailed report of a recent physical to review. As it was, I didn’t spend more than 5 minutes with him. Pee in the cup, eye test, touch my finger to my nose, walk a straight line, follow his finger with my eyes and that was about it. Well, except for my blood pressure.

Hypertension was the whole reason that I had gone through the blood tests, EKG and doctor visits. Even though my blood pressure has been under good control, it was high when the nurse first took it today. The doctor wasn’t concerned. He just had me sit quietly for a few minutes then took it again. The second time it was within limits. I know that my BP always goes up when I go to the doctor and this one confirmed that he sees the problem all the time. But, it all worked out in the end and I how have a student pilot certificate in my possession.

Next up is lesson number one scheduled for 10 AM Wednesday. Stay tuned for a report of how it goes.

The New Guys

Just waiting for the medical coming up on Monday. I’m pretty confident that I have everything in order and will pass so; I decided to go ahead and schedule my first lesson for next week. I called the airport a couple days ago to see what they had available. It turns out, the instructor I talked to before Thanksgiving left for a job with a small airline. That, and some instructors taking time off around the holidays, meant that the school was shorthanded. The owner said he would check with some of his part time CFIs and get back to me. Since the airport is between my work and home, I told him I would stop in to see what we could work out.

When I got to Campbell, I found out that the school had just signed on a new instructor to replace the one who left. He was up getting checked out in one of the Warriors but, if I could wait a half hour, I could probably schedule some time with him. I could wait.

The Warrior taxied up to the office just a few minutes later and, after he had talked to the chief instructor, I was introduced to Tim – the new CFI. We only talked for a short time but, so far, I like him. We scheduled lesson number one for 10 AM on Wednesday the 21st. We will be two new guys flying together. I’m looking forward to it.

Personal Aviation

I took the “What Airplane Are You” quiz and here are the results.

You are a DEHAVILLAND BEAVER. You love
adventure. You are a person of the outdoors,
very in-tune with nature and your surroundings.
You enjoy communication between people, and
also your alone time. You are not afraid to
take risks. You aren’t afraid of sucking up
some of the pleasures that life can offer. You
are a well-rounded individual, who puts your
passion in to almost all you do.

What Airplane Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Just by looking at the list of possible airplanes, I would have said I was most like the bush plane – even without the quiz. That got me thinking about why and how I want to fly. It’s pretty obvious that I am never going to have a career as an airline pilot so, what are my goals? I like the term “personal aviation” to describe what we non-professionals are doing. The personal part implies that we are each free to pursue our own interests without worrying about what experience potential employers are looking for. For me, personal aviation means travel and just plain fun flying.

Travel by GA aircraft can make the journey as much an enjoyable part of the trip as the destination. In fact, some of the trips I would like to make are all about the journey. I would like to fly the length of the Mississippi, follow Highway 1 from Maine to Florida, and make a figure 8 around Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. To make travel by light aircraft more practical, I plan to start working on my instrument rating soon after getting my private certificate.

For fun, I want to get a glider rating and try flying ultralights. I don’t have much interest in doing serious aerobatics but I would like to take an introductory course. A sea plane rating is another possibility. Other fun aviation related activities I would like to try are hang gliding, paragliding and skydiving.

It seems to me that personal aviation can be fully as challenging as professional flying. There will always be something new to learn and learning new things is what keeps us young. I have much to look forward to.

Medical Scheduled

The EKG and lab results came back and everything is normal.  I just need one more blood pressure reading in my doctor’s office and I’ll be good to go.  I called one of the local AMEs and scheduled my exam for December 19th.

I got my Sporty’s Private Pilot DVD course in the mail and watched the first section last night.  From what I’ve seen so far, it looks like it will be helpful all through my training and not just for the written.

Poked and Prodded

I don’t have a lot to report but thought I would give an update on the status of my medical. I visited my optometrist on December 1st. He found that my eyes are still very healthy and my prescription has only changed a little. I shouldn’t have any problem at all with the vision test. Since my glasses are about 6 years old, I ordered a new pair.

I had an office visit with my regular doctor on December 5th and got my EKG and lab tests done yesterday. I hope to get the results today. I still need two more blood pressure readings in my doc’s office to complete the hypertension evaluation. If the lab results are acceptable, I will call my local AME to set up an appointment for the 3rd class medical.

I recently learned that Illinois requires all pilots to register with the state and pay a $10 fee every 2 years. Guess I will have to take care of that before I solo. Just one more thing to add to my to-do list.

Setting the Wheels in Motion

I visited Campbell airport and was impressed with the friendly people I met. The CFI I spoke to suggested I get my medical out of the way before taking any lessons. Since I am 55, and taking medication for high blood pressure, passing that physical is not a given. He could have given me a hard sell and signed me up for lessons right then so that the school would make some money even if I couldn’t pass the medical, but he didn’t. He filled me in on how scheduling works, a little about his philosophy of instruction and what would be covered. He suggested I start reading the FAAs Airplane Flying Handbook while waiting for the medical and also recommended the Sporty’s Private Pilot Flight Training DVD course. I like that he seemed to be more interested in me getting off to the right start than in getting as much money out of me as possible. Others might be looking for something more formal but, for me, the laid back homey atmosphere made me comfortable with my decision to choose Campbell.

Research on the AOPA web site got me the information I need to prepare for the medical exam. I highly recommend the AOPA site’s medical section to anyone who has any questions at all about the FAA medical.  I went to see my optometrist yesterday to make sure I won’t have any problem with the vision test. I also have an appointment with my regular doctor scheduled for Monday to start the testing required to complete the Hypertension Evaluation Worksheet that is available on the AOPA web site.  Stay tuned for the results.

Late Bloomer

So, why does someone decide to start flight training at age 55? For me, it is something I have wanted to do for almost as long as I can remember. I actually did make a start about sixteen years ago. I got in 5 hours before life intruded and I just never got back to it. Over time, I came to accept that the chance had passed me by. Recently though, I began noticing those “Be a Pilot” spots on TV. Maybe it wasn’t too late for me after all. I did some online research and found that a great many people my age and older have successfully learned to fly. If they could do it then maybe there was still a chance for me. I made up my mind to give it another try.

I thought that choosing a flight school would be a problem since there are so many to pick from here in the Chicagoland area. In fact though, the decision turned out to be an easy one. Campbell Airport is just 10 minutes from my home and about 15 from work so it was a logical choice for me. My only concern was that I didn’t know anything about the quality of instruction there. I turned to the Internet for help once again. Comments from past students were favorable and everyone who commented agreed that being so close to the airport would be a big advantage since I could fly more often. I especially want to acknowledge two very special people for their help and inspiration. So, thank you Oblivion for answering all my questions and for that special podcast. Also, thank you Lindy500 for posting those superb descriptions of your training flights on iPilot. I read every one of them and learned a lot.

Although I have never been able to keep a journal, I have decided to keep this blog of my training experience. Even if no one else ever reads it, it will be a record of my progress that I can refer to later. Still, I really do hope that others will read it. If just one person finds just one post helpful, I will feel blogging is worthwhile. If it encourages someone to pursue their own once set aside dream, then I will truly be overjoyed.

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