6 entries from November, 2010

Stick it Out

One of the biggest reasons there are so few pilots is for the simple reason that most people who start out to get a pilot license quit before finishing their training.  I understand this as I was almost one of them myself.  Had it not been for a phone call from my instructor, I might not be a pilot today.

During my training a series of events conspired against me to push me away from flying.  The biggest was the weather.  For a couple of weeks every time I scheduled an appointment to fly, bad weather forced the flight to be canceled.

Once weather had me grounded, a change in departments and hours at work cost me another week while I adapted to new work and sleep habits.  Throw in the fact that it was now the middle of summer, and I had a very busy schedule with family reunions, weddings, etc, and the next thing I knew it had been a month and half without a flight.

Doubt Sets In
By that time I was getting nervous about getting in an airplane again.  How much had I forgotten?  How rusty had my skills become?  If I am this busy, perhaps I just don’t have time to be a pilot.  Perhaps I should just hang up the wings, afterall I already have piloted more than most people ever will.

The biggest doubt facing me though was that looming checkride.  How would I ever be able to pass it?  I felt that since I had missed a month and half, I had forgotten everything.  I would have to start over in order to be able to master flight enough to actually pass that checkride and earn my certificate.

These questions and thoughts kept racing through my mind, and I actually managed to convince myself that I just wasn’t cut out to be a pilot.  For if I was meant to be a pilot, surely I would have found time to fly within the past month and a half.  At that time I was letting my doubts overwhelm me.  They were weighing so heavily on me that they made me forget about all of the joys flying had brought me.

My Life Line
All of those doubts were instantly wiped away with one phone call.  My flight instructor called my house, and fortunately I answered the phone.  My instructor said that he hadn’t seen me at the airport for a while, and that I needed to schedule some flight time.

I tried to explain to him that I was just too busy, and that I was having doubts I would be a pilot.  Besides the weather wasn’t looking good, so I didn’t know when to schedule a flight.  My instructor wasn’t having any of it though.

He told me I couldn’t count on the weather.  I should just schedule some time, and if the weather is bad, reschedule.  By waiting to schedule until there was good weather, I was letting my schedule fill up will other activities, which then made me unavailable when good weather did come.

When I reminded him about my other apprehensions, he told me I was just nervous, and the only cure for that was to get back into the airplane.  Since he wasn’t taking no for an answer, I scheduled an appointment.

Luckily the weather cooperated, and my instructor put me through the paces knocking the rust off.  After that one flight, the worries of the past month and a half melted away.  I was able to once again focus on becoming a pilot, and a couple of months later I passed that “impossible” checkride.

Dream Attained
So don’t let apprehensions and doubt derail you from your dreams.  If you, like I was, are hesitant to keep training because you doubt you can pass the checkride, overcome your fears.  With proper training it isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

Besides, so what if you don’t pass the checkride?  Use that checkride as another learning experience and try taking it again.  Even if you are never able to pass that checkride, which I’m sure you will, at least you will have logged more flight time as a student pilot, and that is better than not flying at all.

I was lucky that I had a flight instructor that wanted to see people become pilots and keep flying afterwards.  Had he not made that phone call, I seriously doubt that I would be flying airplanes today.

What about you?  Was there a point in your training where you thought about hanging up the wings?

United States Airspace – Class G

*** This series is meant as a general guide, and is not guaranteed to be comprehensive or even 100% accurate. You should always consult the FAR’s rather than trusting this blog to have the final say.

Prior in Series: Airspace Intro
Next in Series: Class E Airspace

The child
When comparing airspace to the human life cycle, I called Class G airspace the young child because the rules are pretty lax, and we can get away with just about anything. So while Class G airspace might be the child in the airspace classification family, we as pilots need to act as the parents while flying within it.

As anyone that has children already knows, there aren’t too many rules placed on young children, but when a child chooses to ignore one of them, that child’s life is often at risk.

Young children perform many actions that make parents wonder if their child is suicidal. Attempting to run into the middle of a busy road while chasing a ball is just one example.

Since children don’t have many rules, and since many of their actions lead them into danger, there is only one thing keeping them safe, and that is their parents’ due diligence.

The difference with Class G airspace and children is that the lax rules won’t kill the airspace; however, it can kill the pilot that doesn’t act like a parent and use due diligence.

Just like a parent placing rules on children to keep them safe, the FAR’s exist to keep pilots safe. Since there aren’t many rules in Class G airspace, there is more responsibility placed on the shoulders of the pilot to keep the flight safe.

Definition and rules
Before discussing Class G airspace any further, lets define what it is and what rules exist while flying within it.

Typically class G airspace extends from the surface up to 1200′ AGL, although there are some cases where it only extends to 700′ AGL. Likewise there are some cases, normally over the mountainous west, where class G airspace extends higher.

Class G airspace is uncontrolled airspace, so it is solely up to each pilot to see and avoid other aircraft.

VFR Visibility Requirements
Day Below 10,000′ MSL 1 Miles
Night Below 10,000′ MSL 3 Miles
Day or Night Above 10,000′ MSL 5 Miles

VFR Cloud Clearance Requirements
Day Below 1,200′ AGL clear of clouds
Day or Night Below 10,000′ MSL 500′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 2,000′ Horizontal
Day or Night 10,000′ MSL and Above 1,000′ Below, 1,000′ Above, 1 Mile Horizontal

The safety
During the day below 1,200′ AGL, which is where most class G airspace is located, you only need 1 mile of visibility and are simply required to remain free of clouds.

This doesn’t mean you should just take off and fly VFR if your airport has only 1 mile of visibility and a low ceiling.

A child isn’t in danger the moment they run onto the road. In actuality the closer they get to the road, the more the danger increases. The same goes for the pilot that pushes closer and closer to the visibility and cloud clearance limits.

To keep their children safe, parents start warning the child as the child approaches the road. To keep you safe in class G airspace, you need to be your own parent that warns you as you approach the limits.

Eventually children will set their own limits a certain distance from the road so as to avoid getting into trouble. Likewise, a wise pilot will set their own limits to keep themselves out of trouble.

Visit Your Local Airport

If you are interested in cars, you can go to a car show. While there you will see some great cars, and you often also get a chance to talk to the owners about the cars and their experiences restoring them.

If you are interested in flying or airplanes, you can get that same experience by going to an airport. If you have ever dreamed about becoming a pilot or flying in an airplane, I urge you to go to your local GA airport.

There are many small general aviation airports that you can go to and learn a lot of information about airplanes and flying while talking to pilots themselves. Some airports are better than others, but every airport I have been to has pilots that love to talk about airplanes and flying.

Many people think of pilots as the stuck-up rich. I challenge you to go to an airport and see for yourself that the aforementioned stereotype is simply not true. Pilots are some of the friendliest people you will meet, and most can’t wait to find someone to talk to about flying.

Who knows, you might even run into someone willing to take you for a free flight. I know it is possible because I used to do it when I owned an airplane. Most pilots not only enjoy talking about flying, but also enjoy sharing flight with others.

If you don’t want to just drop in at an airport (which is what I did when I wanted to learn to fly), call the airport and ask to talk to an instructor. Let the instructor know that you have always dreamed of flying, and see if he/she will show you the airplane.

Most instructors will be more than happy to show you the airplane, let you sit in it, and explain what everything in the airplane is and what it does. You are likely to get that same experience just dropping in at the airport and talking with people there, but calling ahead and asking for the instructor is easier for some people.

General aviation airports are some of the most misunderstood and most overlooked properties a city or county can have. Even if you aren’t looking to become a pilot, but you are interested in airplanes and flying, or even just wanting to know what the heck goes on at the local airport, pay it a visit.

Most general aviation airports are paid for by money from the taxpayers. So go check out what your tax money is being spent on. Go see how the airport is working for your local economy. Go see how “General Aviation Serves America”.

United States Airspace – The series

*** This series is meant as a general guide, and is not guaranteed to be comprehensive or even 100% accurate. You should always consult the FAR’s rather than trusting this blog to have the final say.

Next in Series: Class G Airspace

Before getting too far into their training all student pilots must learn about airspace. Since I live in the United States of America, I will cover our airspace. The U.S. uses a slightly modified version of the ICAO system, so other countries will be similar, but there are differences.

The air space that we will cover in this series:

Instead of covering the airspaces in the order listed above, I will cover them in relation to the human life cycle. Confused? Let me explain.

As a young child, the rules are pretty lax, and we can get away with just about anything. That is Class G airspace.

Class E airspace is like entering school. The rules are slightly more strict, but you can still do pretty much whatever you want.

College life brings about more responsibility as we start to be burdened with a touch of what life has to offer. That is Class D airspace.

After college, we get our first real jobs. These jobs give us a lot more responsibility, but since we are still new, our responsibilities aren’t normally as great as someone that is more experienced. Class C airspace is like this.

After we are in our careers a while, we start taking on a lot of responsibility. We start having to juggle careers with families, and things can be pretty busy. Class B airspace is a more responsible, grown up version of Class C airspace.

Late in life, we are retired, and placed in a senior living home. Life is completely different than anything we have previously experienced. We do not have as much control over our lives, and are often told where and when to go. This is Class A airspace.

Anytime throughout your life, hurdles are placed in your way. Sometimes the hurdles are so big or dangerous, we take a detour. Other times with due diligence we are able to overcome them or even bust right through them. Each hurdle is different, but most can be classified into different types. This is Special use airspace.

Why You Should Listen To Me

Now that I have told you why you should not listen to me, I thought I’d try giving you some reasons that you should listen to me.

I am a private pilot that flies solely for the joy of flight. It is a hobby of mine, and I am very passionate about it. Hopefully some of that passion and enthusiasm comes out in my writing.

I know a couple of people that have been killed in airplanes, so I know the dangers that exist. I also know that both died in stupid, 100% preventable accidents, so I also know that most of the dangers can be managed.

I have taken a prospective pilot under my wing, and helped him through his flight training from student pilot to private pilot. Through this experience and my own flight training experience, I know that having a support network in place will help you to be successful.

My hope is that you find this blog entertaining, and the enjoyment you get from reading it will keep you wanting to come back for more. If you happen to learn something along the way, that is ok too.

I do try to get my facts straight, and anything I put on here that isn’t a fact is either my own opinion or the opinion of the author. My opinion will not be swayed by companies offering me freebies or paying me. I am genuine, and I hope that you will come to realize that as well.

Why You Should Not Listen To Me

One thing that I want to make abundantly clear is that I am not a CFI. Since I am not an instructor, you should know that any training advice I give is just my opinion. You need to do your own research rather than blindly following what I say.

Not only am I not a CFI, I’m not even a commercially rated pilot. As a result everything I know about flying commercially I have learned from reading up on it and from talking to other pilots. So you should know when I talk about pilot jobs, you are getting second hand information.

I’m also not instrument rated, I have never flown a taildragger or landed on anything other than wheels. As you can see my experience is not nearly as varied as many other pilot bloggers.

Now having said all of that, I do my best to research any topics that I discuss here, so hopefully you will come to trust me. I just want to make sure I earn your trust, and you don’t think that just because I have a blog I know what I am talking about.

Welcome To AirplaneFlyingPilot.com

Welcome to AirplaneFlyingPilot.com. I’m starting this blog to hopefully share my enthusiasm for flying. Like many pilots, I have dreamed of flying since I was a little kid. If I had a dollar for every time I ran around with my arms out to my sides pretending to be flying, I probably wouldn’t have to work today.

Even today in my 30′s if I hear an airplane, I stop what I’m doing and scour the sky trying to find it. I’ve been known to run out of the house in search of the helicopter passing overhead. I simply love aircraft and flying.

Right now I’m at a point in my life where I don’t get to fly very much. My wife and I have been working on getting our family started so flying has taken a back seat. I recently went through a stretch of 4 years without flying at all.

During those 4 years that I couldn’t fly, I did everything I could to avoid aviation. I kept my membership to AOPA, but I didn’t read the magazine. I didn’t renew my membership to EAA. I tried to avoid driving past airports. When someone asked me about flying, I would change the subject as quickly as possible.

I do not want to live another year without flying, so I’m starting this blog to keep myself from being able to avoid aviation. I figure if I have to work with this blog a few times a week, I won’t be able to push flying aside. Instead I’ll keep being reminded of it, and work even harder to find a way to get back in the air.

Thus far my reasons for starting this blog have been completely selfish, but that isn’t the only reason I am starting this blog. In addition to simply trying to get myself to fly more, I also hope to inspire others to either start flying or fly more as well. Prior to this blog, I had only inspired one person to get a pilot license. Hopefully through this blog, I will be able to increase that number.

This blog will be geared towards the prospective pilot, student pilot, sport pilot, and private pilot. The focus will be on VFR operations since I am not IFR rated. While there may be occasional articles on this blog that will be geared towards commercial pilots, that will not be the focus. This is more about sharing my love, joy, and passion for flying, and hopefully inspiring others to either become a pilot or fly more if you already are a pilot.

Hopefully through this blog I will learn more about flying, and meet some wonderful people. I’ve already met some great people since becoming a pilot and hanging out at the airport. Now that I’m married, I don’t get to spend as much time at the airport as I’d like, so hopefully I’ll meet more people here.