Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lesson 1: How Airplanes Fly & Preflight

Showed up at the Flying Club for my first lesson. This was the first time I got there when it wasn't an "open house". The gate was closed and I realized though I was a member, no one actually told me how to get in. The keypad had a button for "Call Club", hit that. No answer. Fretted for another minute then tried again. This time my instructor answered and gave me the pass code. I feel like a somebody now! My own code to get through the airport gate -- woot!

Once inside I met my instructor, Betsy. The first thing we did was important: she showed where to get snacks and sodas and such. These are all in open cases; just drop 50 cents into a tin and take what you want. Nice. Of course, I didn't have 50 cents so I wound up dropping in a $20 and taking $19.50 in change.

We then spent about an hour and a half discussing the fundamentals of flight. The four forces: thrust, drag, weight, and lift. What causes each and they are controlled. We talked about the four fundamental maneuvers: straight & level, climbs, descents, and turns and how to accomplish each. I've worked with Microsoft Flight Simulator for the last 20 years so these basics I had down pretty pat. I was anxious to put them to work in the real world. It was time to head out and fly! Right? Sadly... no...

Another half hour spent learning how to check out the key for the airplane we'd reserved. How to fill out the required paperwork. How to check the "Squak Book" to see if there's any unrepaired or recently repaired items on the plane. I then learned about the things that would make the plane non-airworthy if they were broken. TOMATO FLAMES (Tachometer, Oil pressure gauge, Manifold pressure gauge, Airspeed indicator,Temperature gauge, Oil temperature gauge, Fuel level gauge, Landing gear position indicator, Altimeter, Magnetic heading indicator, Emergency locator transmitter (ELT), Seat belts). Personally, I think this needs a better mnemonic as I'm having trouble associating all this equipment with this one.

Alright, with key and paperwork in hand we go out to fly the airplane. At last! I knew the first thing we would do is a thorough preflight inspection of the aircraft. That will take about 10 minutes and then we'll be off...

...45 minutes later we were done checking the last item on our preflight checklist. We went over each item carefully and in great detail. What to look for, what conditions can arise. The difference between "cosmetic" damage and something that might affect airworthiness. This old bird certainly had a number of dents, scratches, loose screws, missing pieces of plastic or fiberglass, etc. All I'm told are "cosmetic". Noted.

We then toured the ramp area a bit. I learned how to look for approaching traffic and pedestrians and we thought about what sort of situations could come up on the ramp that would need special attention. We then stepped back and gave the airplane one more look to make sure everything was ready for flight. As Betsy says, "We have three tires, two wings, nothing's tied down, no snow or ice, ramp's clear, we're ready to go...

And it looks like our time is now up. Maybe we'll go flying next time. In the meantime, I have a Pilot's Owner Manual for the Piper Warrior II I'll be flying and Jeppesen's Flight Maneuver's manual to read.

On the drive home I realized it's good that we didn't try to squeeze in any flying. My brain was beginning to pound from all the new knowledge. We'll take a week to review all this.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I joined the Wings of Carolina Flying Club last Saturday. My first flight lesson is scheduled for next Saturday. I'm very excited about this.

I've wanted to take up flying for many years. For a few years, during my teen years, my dad took up the hobby and got his private pilot's license. I guess I'm following in his footsteps.

I've enjoyed flight simming for many years. Recently I've discovered and that has rekindled my interest. I decided I'll have my midlife crisis now and take up an expensive hobby for awhile. I need a new challenge. I feel confident I can do this and be good at it. And it seems like it will be a lot of fun.

Well, I plan to use this blog as a place to keep a history of my training flights. Post some pics. Maybe even get some feedback from other folks on how I'm doing.