Monday, December 11, 2006

First X-country flight!

Yes it's true. I got to experience a cross country flight on friday. I wasn't PIC (Pilot in Command), Franky was (pictured here). He's a Chinese student here and a very good pilot. We flew Three Hills - Wetaskiwin - Stettler - Three Hills. Apart from a crusty gyrocopter pilot at Wetaskiwin and a huge snow drift on the runway at Stettler, the flight was uneventful. When flying, we're actually going for uneventful. 'Events' usually are more negative than positive when they happen in the air. I have a video of the gyrocopter pilot that I might post. It doesn't show him being crusty, just doing a touch and go. He was crusty because he thought we didn't know which direction the circuits were going at the Wetaskiwin airport, which of course we did.

I'm currently planning my first cross country as PIC. It will likely be Three Hills - Sundre - Red Deer - Three Hills. I'll keep you posted on that as it develops.

I'm also hoping to get a 'Current Flight Hours' box somewhere on this blog so you can quickly see how much time I've spent with my head in the clouds to date.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Red sky in the morning...

...pilots take warning. A chinook is a comin'

This helocopter's been parking overnight at the airport for the last few nights. He works for the oil companies doing survey work or some such task. It has been the focus of much interest around the airport. Not to mention providing some inspiration for some of the students, especially when the pilot jumped out and we realized he wasn't much over 30.

I flew again today. This time I was working on my soft and rough field technique. In a tail dragger there is not much different about the take-off because they were originally designed for such conditions. Landing techniqe is similar too, only slower. I basic idea is not to stop on the runway while turning for take-off and come in as slow as possible on landing.

As I get more sophisticated I'd like to post pictures and diagrams of the lessons I'm currently working on; for you, who are interested, to keep up with.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Life at the airport.

Prairie School of Mission Aviation (PSMA) has a policy that all aviation students should be present at the airport every day during the flight training portion of the aviation program. This includes bad weather days, days when you're not necessarily booked to fly and any other days in between. The expectation is that you will learn by absorbtion from the general aviation atmosphere. It's a good policy and beyond just keeping us all aviation focused, it results in a tight family attitude among the students.

Needless to say, though, that when the weather is consistenly foul for several days at a time or planes are grounded for scheduled maintenance, the cabin fever-like restlessness is palpable. I've noticed that necessity is really the mother of invention when it comes to passing time. Some methods for easing the tension include; jumping on a GT behind a pickup while tearing down the local side road, watching all the latest funny or perhaps disturbing video content on YouTube or more recently, building the ultimate Line Rider line.

The maintenance guys, Dan and Nathan, recently did their part to keep us busy by arranging a game of 'Can you spot the aviation hazard?' with two of the planes. We were all called down to the hangar, on a particularily grey day last week, and given our task. The premise was that two planes had just come out of their 100 hour maintenace checks but the mechanics had missed one or two things. We were asked to do our regular pre-flight checks and snag as many possible flight safety risks as possible. Some of the hazards included a screwdriver left on the battery, loose bolts on the dash, missing emergency kits, flat tires, missing undercarriage panels, empty fire extinguishers, missing screws and my favourite boxers in the engine compartment.
It was a great exercise because some of the more subtle issues would be missed if it weren't for the fact that we were trying to find things wrong with the planes. Nobody got 100% of the snags, which would be cause for concern if it weren't for our outstanding mechanics. Dan and Nathan are in a league of their own and keep the aircraft in top form. Recently PSMA sold an older Cessna 172 to another organization and the comment from their mechanic was that he had never seen a 172 of the same year in such beautiful condition. Most newer planes he'd seen weren't even as good.

That says a lot for this school, for the program and for the confidence we have when we strap ourselves in at the beginning of a flight. That, and the fact that should something go wrong up there, the prairies are basically one big landing strip.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


It's -30°C and -40°C with the wind chill. There has been no flying for the last few days.

We're fine. Finally getting a taste of prairie winters (last year we had it easy). Our car is getting it's first taste of -30° weather too. Don't think it likes it too much.

Just studying ground school stuff.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Video Discrepancies

So I've heard, by way of various different souces, that some of those who watched the video of my solo flight were questioning the integrity of its timeline. It's been put forth that the takeoff, flight, landing and taxi shown in that short 4 minutes of video, actually came from several different flights. Frankly, I'm impressed with the accusation. At the same time, I don't see a problem with showing any part of any flight that happened that day where I was in full control of the aircraft.
In order to put the critics at ease, and in the name of honesty, here's a link to the other landing. This is the only other one that was caught on tape that day. Narrated by my wife, for your enjoyment.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bad Weather Day

I was supposed to go for a second solo today but the weather has closed in. It's bitterly cold and there's snow everywhere. The weather charts today were particularily hard to read. Here's an example of what's going on up in the sky.

Solo Flight Video

Here's a pieced together video that Merilee shot of my first solo flight. I purposely left out the distrubing scenes of fire, explosions and bailing out. The movie is about 8 MB so you may need some patience. Enjoy.
Click here for the video.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Solo Day

The day finally came when all the factors lined up and I was able to go for my first solo flight.

Merilee came out to the airport to watch. I think I scared her with my first landing. Who am I kidding, I scared myself.

I accounted for the cross-wind all the way down my approach, until I touched down. That's when it really mattered. I let the controls go, the wind picked up my wing and very nearly wrecked a sweet first solo flight! The second one was much better.

Thanks for the prayer and support that you've all offered sofar.

I'll post the video as soon as I figure out how.

I'll say more when I get a chance tomorrow.