Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Arizona Trip

On November 24th, 2 planes with 5 students and 2 instructors left the familiarity of the Alberta prairies and flew south to the U.S. Our trip would see us go as far east as Liberal, Kansas and as far south as Tucson, Arizona. We planned for 8 days but needed 9 due to the combination of low clouds and high mountains and the effect that has on flight safety.

The three-fold purpose of the trip was to gain the experience of flying in the states, to visit various mission aviation organisation headquarters and to complete some of the school's required cross country hours. I was able to log 17 hours and complete my Transport Canada 300 nautical mile trip, along with both of my school required-650 dual and solo trips.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Design

After writing that previous post, I got carried away and by the end of my design binge, I had a new looking blog on my hands. I like this new look, it feels more together...if you know what I mean.

Four months with no new posts!

Terrible...I know.

For those few faithful hangers-on out there. I have to thank you for persevering. Some things that have happened in the last few months:
I became a Father

Kaitlyn Elise Henderson was born on August 9, 2007.
She's now almost 3 months old and is a very awesome kid. Here are some photos. Merilee is a wonderful mother and it shows through Kaitlyn's relaxed, calm and generally pleasant demeanor. We know to enjoy that while we can, because before we know it, she'll be in high school and it could all be different!

I broke the 100 hour mark

As you can imagine, I didn't get much flying done due to the fact that Kaitlyn is so cute. I did, however, manage to break the 100 hour mark! I'm now at about 112 hours and well on my way through the long stretch to get to 200 hours. At that point I'll be finished the commercial pilot's license (which you need in order to find a flying job). Right now we're tossing a few ideas around for what to do after training. Some interesting options are: instructing, working up north somewhere (likely Ontario), or we even have our eye on something further abroad. I know that talk of that will make grandmothers weep and grandfathers cringe. Worry not, we're taking our time with this decision, so you can pray that the right option is presented clearly to us.

By God's provision through friends, family and even complete strangers, we've made it this far and completely trust Him for the rest of the way. Though it won't get us all the way to the end, the recent increase in design jobs has helped considerably with the cost of flight training.

We visited Ontario

Merilee's best friend Becky, from UWO, got married on Oct 5th, so we made the trek home to support them in that.
The trip doubled as a chance to introduce Kaitlyn to her vast and varied family. It was a refreshing break from our apartment, great to see everyone and throw all the kids in the ring together. But it's always good to be back here in Three Hills. Dare we call it home? A lot of the time it feels like it, and we like that.

Hope you'll hang on for another four months...maybe this time I'll actually have something for you to read. Honestly, I'm honoured that you're even taking the time to check this blog. Thank

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Night flying, missionary passengers and other stuff.

Things have been busy since the last update. I have my night rating now, which means that I have no restrictions when it comes to being down before sunset. Not a big deal in the summer, but come winter, the days are so short that you have to be flying at night if you want to get any flying done at all. Night flying is very smooth and you can see other aircraft for miles around you. Most pilots choose to log most of their time at night as opposed to the day, if they have that option.

I also had the chance to fly my first missionary to her destination. Perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come? She was in Medicine Hat and needed to get to Three Hills. Her name was Lori Lawson and is an English teacher at Morrison Academy in Taiwan. We had lots to talk about seeing as Morrison is very similar to Rift Valley Academy in Kenya. There's some fantastic scenery to fly over between here and Med Hat. Here's a large lake that I flew over.

Other than that, Merilee is gradually showing more and is now entering her 8th month. She feels like it should be coming out any day now but there's technically still about two whole months to go. She's holding in there like a seasoned pro. She's awesome!

Oh, I bought a sweet stunt kite at a garage sale for 2 bucks. They didn't really know what they had on their hands. I'll do a post on that when I have some good photos and some decent wind.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A 'Paying' Passenger

On Tuesday, May 1, I had the opportunity to transport my first 'paying' customer to Swift Current, SK. The Prairie admissions office had someone they wanted to send to a conference in Swift Current (CYYN is approx. 420 KM away) and they were willing to help with the cost of the flight. As a private pilot, I'm not legally allowed to accept payment for my services but helping to cover costs is perfectly acceptable. This flight provided many learning opportunities such as planning for the weight of a passenger & baggage, fuel amounts for the trip with the purchase of fuel at CYYN for the trip back, a first time flyer for a passenger and to top it all off, there was an ominous low-pressure system moving into the area at about the time I was due to be back in Three Hills – possibly requiring me. The flight to CYYN was fairly uneventful except for some low cloud and rain that we had to descend to avoid. The wind at CYYN was strong, 15 knots (about 30 KMH), but it was straight down the runway which meant no cross wind. That was different than the forecast, so thanks to God we were able to land safely there. My passenger handled it like a pro, no need for the sick bags.

The flight back was intense. That low-pressure system had indeed moved in and was now passed Three Hills to the north. That was a positive. The turbulence that it left behind was something else. I had to be careful to keep my speed down to within the safe turbulence speed to prevent the risk of structural damage to the aircraft. I was doing everything possible to keep the plane at the right altitude and headed in the right direction. I'd packed a tupperware container with carrot sticks for the trip and similar to biting one's fingernails when in deep concentration (or nervousness) the carrots provided a ample distraction – until they ran out. Fortunately the turbulence didn't last the whole trip back and I was able to enjoy the last bit – not that I didn't enjoy the first bit, just in a different way.

All in all, the experience was a good one. Here's a picture of the route from Google Earth™

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Flying Into Calgary! Cue Dramatic Music.

On Friday (Apr 13) the time finally came to separate the men from the boys. Sorry ladies. One likely never forgets their first flight into controlled airspace, even if that memory is mostly one large blur, punctuated by sharp quick radio calls, and all overshadowed by a tone of rushed annoyance. Its not unlike a new driver's first trip into downtown Toronto, or perhaps getting caught in the mad rush down the Gardiner Express Way, following a Leafs game at the ACC. You're entirely not ready for it, no matter how prepared for it you may think you are.
The procedure for flying into controlled airspace is quite simple in theory. You talk to air traffic control and let them know what you want to do and they tell you every step to do, until you're there. In practice, however, it's not so simple, and if you feel rushed, it becomes even more intense. I learned that the first rule of talking to ATC is: Know what you're going to say, before you push the button to say it. For example, at one point I thought I heard ATC tell me to turn to a heading of 816, so naturally I repeated it saying that I would be turning to 816, as you're supposed to. As anyone who's been through junior high math knows, there are only 360 degrees in the compass so a heading of 816 doesn't actually exist! Fortunately my instructor quickly sorted that one out. Second rule of ATC communication: Don't offer any information they don't ask for. If they ask you if you can see the other plane in front of you, even if you had him in sight until just a few seconds ago, just tell them you can't see him. Don't say, 'Well...I had him in sight'. This wastes time, tells the ATC nothing of use and it's very hard to tell, on the radio, the difference between the words 'had' and 'have' – each with a significant difference in meaning. Less is more when dealing with ATC guys. Think of it this way, the less you say, the less there is for them to get upset at you for – and they do get upset with you.
Which leads me to the third rule of ATC communication: Keep it short. It may feel like you're the only guy they care about in the sky, and the warm fuzzy feeling you get when ATC actually says your call sign can be misleading. On average, they're in contact with about 20 or 30 other aircraft whose main engines could swallow your little airplane whole if they got the chance. Our little Cessnas are merely the gnats buzzing around the proverbial ear of the air traffic controller. So when you come on the radio with some long drawn out spiel about what you're doing or would like to do, they don't take to kindly to it. Most calls should be about 3 to 5 words. They don't usually even constitute full English sentences. Here I am, standing outside the ESSO building, where we shut down and occasionally fill up on overpriced fuel. Even if you don't get fuel, they still try to charge you $70 for stopping on their little patch of tarmac. Fortunately Erik played the 'poor little student on a training flight' card and we got out of it.
I noticed a very interesting phenomenon as I was landing. Usually, when landing at Three Hills, all of your concentration is on the approach, the flare and the landing, and you have very little concentration left over for things happening in your peripheral. I noticed that at Calgary, the increased congestion required some of my concentration, stealing it from what would normally go toward the landing. And here's the interesting part. When you have less active concentration to spare for the landing and approach, your training and instincts fill in for you. Not to say that you can switch your brain off, but rather, once you've learned something like landing and practiced it over and over, it becomes second nature, leaving you free to concentrate on other traffic, and the ATC instruction. You just want to be sure that you've been trained well. Turned out that I had a great landing in Calgary, and that's less of a comment on my skill and more of a sign of the excellent training by both my instructor and the Prairie Aviation program as a whole. By the way, this large grey Canadian Forces plane was taking off just behind me and climbed out over my head by about a 1000 feet. As if he needed to add to his intimidation factor, his call sign was Demon 1-4.

First Passengers

I finally got to take Merilee for a flight. She did great and actually said she could see herself getting used to it. Until now she had only flown on much larger aircraft. The take off and flight went well, nothing to report, but it was the landing that I was most concerned about. A good landing would instill the confidence in Merilee that would mean many more flights together. A bad landing could spell the end of our flying days. I should give her more credit than that though...she's very supportive. None-the-less, I was concerned with making it the best landing ever. I even warned her that in these small planes, you feel every bump and shimmy as you touch down, and not to be worried. With that said I lined up on final approach and brought it in by the book. I suppose it's a good sign when your passengers aren't certian when it was you touched down and just realize they're on the ground! Well, it wasn't that good, but it was pretty close. She brings the best out of me I guess.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Private Pilot!

It's official. On Thursday, March 22, Erik, my instructor, signed the back of my student pilot permit, effectively upgrading me to a private pilot. I'm pretty stoked. I have a flight booked later today with my first passengers. None other than Merilee, and Olive or Oliver (we should probably change that name to Zucchini soon due to the size of it). We'll take a flight this evening over to the Red Deer River gorge and back to the Three Hills town. The wind and turbulence calm down significantly around 6:00 pm and I want to make it as smooth a flight as possible. Sunset is already as late as 8:30 here.

The privileges that come with the private license include: the privilege of flying an airplane in Canada (as long as you're type rated on it), the privilege of carrying non-paying passengers and the freedom of being able to get to far off places in a relatively small amount of time. That last one is not always true. Aviation is fraught with many a delay or weather hinderance. I've heard it said around the airport, "Time to spare, go by air."

Prairie doesn't hand out wings when you become a pilot but they do give you epaulettes (shoulder straps). I'll get a picture of them.

So I'll continue to work toward my commercial license including night and instrument ratings over the next few months and the summer. Thanks for your interest in the journey so far. Why not come out here and I'll take you for a flight!?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"4D" Ultrasound

Here's our first look at our kid in 3D! The technology is great but the images didn't come out like the brochure showed. We didn't end up buying the $20 DVD but we took this video with our digital camera. The technician was having a hard time getting a good angle on our shy little guy (or girl) was hard enough to make out the head and arms, let alone any identifying features.

Private Flight Test!

The long space between posts can mean only one thing...I was working hard on getting to my private flight test. On Thursday the 8th of March, the day finally came.

The examiner flew her little 150 down from Red Deer where she works as an instructor the rest of the time. She's easy-going and reminds me a lot of our wedding photographer, for those of you who remember, always happy and trying to make you feel comfortable. The test is broken down into individual tasks and knowledge areas. Each is marked out of 4 points. 1 is a failure, 2 is a below-average but still a pass, 3 is standard knowledge and 4 is excellent or above average knowledge or skill.

She starts with about 20 minutes of oral questions which was the part I was dreading! If you get a 1 on anything on the ground, then the test is over and you don't go flying. I got a little confused as to where to locate some specific numbers relating to the weight of the aircraft with the aftermarket equipment installed. I got a 2 out of 4 on that. But the rest were 3's and 4's.

Anyway, the flight went great. Navigating, diverting to an alternate, stalls, slow flight, steep turns, instrument flight – all top marks, which was a relief. Here's a photo of the test result. All that matters is that I passed and that I have this piece of paper in my hand.

Next I just have to write the written part and I'll have my license! Anybody want to go for a flight!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Back at it.

As good as the Christmas break was – and it was extremely good – we were both quite ready to get back here and into the routines of our lives again. This new year brought with it a renewed focus and determination to, as a friend puts it, "get this monkey off my back." If you're's his way of saying get through this aviation training with as little delay as is humanly possible. When training for anything, the more you keep at it regularly, the easier it is. And with aviation training, if you can cut out the re-do's on lessons, you'll notice it at the bank later.

Incase some of you were wondering about the planes we fly, here's a photo of C-GAUT tied up and rearing to go. It's a Citabria Bellanca made by American Champion Aircraft and its rated for aerobatics. We practice the maneuvers that are easily entered by accident during normal flight, and that's enough for most people. You can get your aerobatic rating if you feel the need to place yourself further into harms way.