3 November First solo and more
Alright. Time for a long overdue update of what has been going here in El Cajon. By now I have completed my first solo flight and also my second solo fight has been made. The landings took a little longer to perfect so I didn't solo until my 29th hour of training. The next step is to go on the cross country flights.
These are flights made with a navigation log along several waypoints and landing at airports that are unfamiliar. First you plan a route yourself and fly it with your instructor. Afterwards you make the same flight but then on your own. There is a short cross country flight, about 1.5 hours in total and there is a long one, 3 hours in total. At the airport of your destination(s) you have to get a signature from a flight instructor at that airfield as proof of your landing there.
Ok in my previous post I left off with the invitation to the Miramar airshow. I have been there and it was great! I think they had more military gear at that one airforce base then the entire military force in Holland! There were also demonstrations of single prop acrobatic aircraft. The best demo's were from the military jets. I saw a show from The Harrier Jet, The F18 hornet and the F22 raptor. They can do crazy stuff! A vertical climb for about a minute before gravity becomes greater then the thrust from the engine and causes the aircraft to slowly come to a stop at the top of the vertical climb and slowly fall down to earth increasing momentum until the thing levels out again and does more crazy tricks! The pictures don't need much more emphasis I believe. The sound was also incredible, you see the aircraft come by, you hear a sassing sound, a few seconds later it goes like GRRREEEWWWWWWW!!! Amazing! The blue angels were also doing their thing; I think that doesn't need any more explanation!
A few days later me and some friends met at the flight school and went to downtown San Diego to check it out and also to visit the USS Midway. A retired aircraft carrier from US. A HUGE ship totally restored by volunteers. Also on the flight deck there are many new and old aircraft that have actually landed on the USS Midway back in the days. We spend about 3 hours on the ship and it was great. It is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are in flight training! After the visit we went to the Gaslamp district. It is a 3 street block where it is all about entertainment. Restaurants, little shops and casino's can be found there. Balboa park was also on the list but we had no time to visit that this time so we'll do that another time.
A week later me and some new people from the flight school went off to see the beach. I was already there one time at night for a short time but I have never seen it by day. The weather was gorgeous and we took the trolley and the bus to get to the beach. We walked down the beach only to find out that the beach I went to before was all the way on the other end, so we walked back and found "the right beach" Lots of bikes and people laying on the beach. There were surfers in the water and a little further off the coast there were some surfers with a huge kite to pull them through the water. Another must see location when you're in SD and also a good place to relax. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to the beach.
I also "solved" the problem for the vegetables here. They are pretty hard to get from the supermarket close by. There is a walmart superstore about half an hour by bus away @ East County Square. Bus 864 stops right in front of the housing complex and stops again right in front of the walmart. They got lots of stuff there. Fresh veggies and frozen foods as well as cold cuts for on the bread. Pretty basic things but they don't have them at the walmart @ westfield a 10 minute walk from here. Sprouts farmer's market is a 15 minute walk, it has a lot but also against higher prices.
On a regular Thursday night we went out to see an American football match in Quallcom stadium. I have wanted to go to such an event for a few years now but it never came to it. I got an invite from someone who found tickets. I looked it up and found the website www.ticketzoom.com They had cheap tickets (25 USD/ticket) for the game. In the end we got 6 tickets and went the day after. The atmosphere was awesome and totally different then soccer. The stadium was huge! Capacity is 70.000 people, 55.000 people where there that night and the parking lot has 19500 places, and was totally full when we got there. After half an hour in a traffic jam to the stadium we parked somewhere on a hill and walked down. The hill was super steep so the way down was no problem but the way back was hell!
Last weekend we also saw the movie "flight" with Denzel Washington. It's a movie about a plane crash where the pilot makes an impossible maneuver which saved almost all passengers from death. The movie is mostly about the aftermath of the crash because the pilot was high and under the influence of alcohol. The movie wasn't that great. The first part about the crash was fun and at the end when they come to the verdict was fun to. The part in the middle was a bit long and monotone. Next week we'll go to the new James bond movie!
So now a little about the process of getting the pilot license. During the lessons with the instructor we spend some time on getting to know how to execute certain maneuvers, steep turns, stalls recoveries (a situation where the wings do not produce enough lift to keep the aircraft flying and it falls out of the sky), slow flight, s turns. The maneuvers are not too difficult. The landings are a different story. A normal landing is a set of standard actions which will lead to a landing. The circuit, the pattern around the airfield that all aircraft follow to line up with the runway, was not really a problem. The straight and level flight I practice with my instructor so I apply that in the circuits as well. The flare is the part of the landing that is most difficult to teach and which takes the most time to master. It is the last part of the landing where the aircraft is about 1 meter above the runway where it transitions from a descending nose down attitude to a straight flight above the runway with a nose up attitude which slows the aircraft down which deceases lift until it gently "drops" onto the runway with the main (rear) wheels first followed by the nose wheel. It takes many tries to get it right.
As soon as the instructor is convinced that you are able to make safe landings on your own he sends you off on your first solo flight. This is where the instructor gets out the aircraft and you taxi to the runway, take off, fly the circuit, land and taxi to the flight school again all by yourself. With this also comes all the radio contact with tower and ground. One day me and my instructor made 9 landings together and then he asked me to request a full stop landing. We were going back. We are back at the school, I shut down the aircraft and a little unexpectedly he asks me if I was okay to do a circuit on my own. OFCOURSE I was. I turn the aircraft around, walk through the checklist, get taxi clearance, perform the run up checks, get a take of clearance and I'm away! I got to admit I was a little nervous but all the landings before went well, why not this one then!?!?! The first thing I notice was that I climb much quicker than normal. It's because that extra weight in the form of an instructor is missing in the seat next to me! I lined up for the runway and around 4.30 pm the winds usually pick up around the airfield but when I landed solo for the first time it seemed as if the wind completely died off all of a sudden and I just made my first landing ever. I taxi back to the school and my instructor comes up to the aircraft to congratulate me and helps me park the plane. He tells me why they throw water over you and cut a piece of you cloths after your first solo. The cloth cutting I didn't want but it was from the old days where there was no radio when the instructor pulled on the back of your cloths to get your attention. After your first solo that pulling piece wasn't necessary anymore so it can be cut off! The water throwing was customary at the school to do so I also had to get wet. It's from the navy, when a pilot first lands he gets baptized. I walk to the school where a line of 4-5 garbage cans are filled with water. I get off my shoes and valuables, turned the other way and I got water thrown over me! And that was it! First solo done!
In the next few days I'd have to do a few more solo flights to practice landings. Now I'm writing this I have 2 hours solo in 3 different flights.
Lastly some more info about the flight school. The school is just that, a place where instructors and student meet and rent the aircraft from the school. The instructors are usually hired by the flight school but some of them are also freelancers. The instructors get assigned students and the instructor schedules the students. It is very important to keep track of your progress yourself. If you feel that you need more classes you need to talk to your instructor and talk about this. Numbers don't lie! If you have to fly 30 hours in 2 weeks, it's impossible! Ask for an additional instructor who might have time for you, let your instructor plan a week in advance to ensure that you have an aircraft. Weather issues will happen especially during the winter. The mornings are usually clear but if clouds are there they will be there until about 10 am if they aren't too thick. I prefer flying in the morning because it's not that busy, the temperature is still manageable and the winds are calm. It comes with a risk of course. Flying from 4 till 6 is also okay, airspace isn't that busy, winds die off around 5, so you fly the first part with wind and the last part without.
The school is a little unorganized. The driver isn't on time to pick you up, the 50 and 100 hour checks sometimes are a "surprise" while these are very planable. Instructors are sometimes overbooked which causes that you don't fly as much in order to get your PPL in 4 weeks. 4 weeks for a PPL is very short, you need to fly like 2 hours a day and instructors usually doesn't have that much time as they have 3 or 4 students. I'd plan for 5 weeks. You still need to make sure your instructor has enough time to make that happen. The office staff is very friendly, they do their best to help you but sometimes you need to take charge yourself and figure out a solution. There are many people doing different things at the school and it's not always clear who can get what done etc. These are all my opinions and I'm a guy who think that planning is essential for a smooth running operation. Customer friendly is very important and I value honesty. Sometimes I miss those qualities in the school. The instructors are a different story, they are there for you and really want you to succeed, at least mine does and I heard similar stories from other student's instructors.
Right now I'll go back to study my navigation exam. I waited with that until I had some ground school at the school which helped me a lot with this subject. I was definitely worth the 5 hours of instruction. The ground instructor is a former airline pilot with a lot of experience and patients. That's it for now. See you later