Quote of the Moment

"Beep Industries currently has no openings. This is a good thing. Any number of career paths are better than game development. Lots of jobs are more lucrative and far less work. We hear marketing and animal husbandry are filled with potential."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wake-Jumping at 4,000 Feet: More flights

The slow, drawn-out process of Spring is finally taking hold here, but the weather patterns involved have continued to make flight lessons a challenge. In the past couple of weeks, I've had two lessons canceled outright, and one that we ended prematurely after finding the ceilings too low at the practice area, and the air too turbulent at the airport for me to learn anything. There's a time and a place for learning crosswind landings, but my instructor isn't a big fan of the "throw you in the deep end and tell you to swim" approach. Considering he has to ride in the seat next to me, I don't blame him at all.

Still, Saturday managed to bring with it an unexpected heat wave, and some good flying weather. With my regular instructor on a vacation (not my fault, I swear) I went up with another instructor from the school, and committed aviation.

Actually, it was a flight with a lot of personal firsts for me: First time flying off the big runway at Boeing Field, first Vashon departure, first time my left-hand steep turns have approached adequate, and my first landing at a different airport. Oh, and my first time flying into an uncontrolled airport as well, plus my first attempt at a landing on a runway using PAPI lights rather than VASI.

I didn't do too badly, though it's still crystal clear that I need a lot more practice before my landings can be described with adjectives other than "jarring", "bumpy", or "tooth-rattling". With 8.9 hours in my logbook, that's to be expected.

I've got another flight scheduled for tomorrow, about which I'm guardedly optimistic of my chances for succesfully completing. The weather is back to its typical combination of rain and small sunbreaks, so we'll see.

Until next time,
For those with wings, Fly to your dreams.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Flight Lesson 4 – Takeoffs are optional, Landings are mandatory

I fear I’ve taken a bit longer than I should for this update [and that’s a change how, exactly? Ed.] but the weather and my schedule haven’t exactly been cooperating again, thus I’ve had one flight in the past couple of weeks, plus a ground-school lesson.

Ground school was somewhat illuminating as we mostly focused on airspace regulations, and map reading. It was a good reality check session for me, on the order of realizing how much I don’t know. Odds are I’ll be resorting to flash cards to memorize the subtle distinctions between Class B, C, D, and E airspace rules. At least maps have legends you can use to (mostly) figure out what things mean.

The real fun, however, was on my flight lesson. I finally got some good weather, a cool, clear, crisp Saturday morning with nothing but the light haze from a thermal inversion layer making The Mountain (Mt. Rainer for the non-local) a little less than picture perfect. Either because the weather North at Everett was less stellar, or because I’m still taking too long to do my pre-flight checks, we scrubbed the original plan to fly to Paine Field in Everett and learn landings there, instead staying in the Boeing Field pattern for an hour.

No complaints here either way. Takeoffs, especially when I get to do them, are still a rush that I don’t think I’ll ever completely tire of. If pushing the throttle full forward and getting pushed back into your seat by acceleration as your airplane lunges for the sky ever starts failing to bring a grin to my face, it’s time to check my pulse, because I’m probably dead. Plus, in an hour of pattern work, I finally started to feel like I can keep up with the airplane during these maneuvers.

Nobody was going to mistake my landings for those of a pro though. By the end of the hour, I’m pretty sure my instructor wasn’t adding a lot of extra control input to get us on the ground safely, but every single one of them was definitely of the “Hard Thud” variety. Still, it was definitely fun, especially as I started to get the reference points and important directions.

Weather.com and the Magic 8-Ball both agree that tomorrow should be a good flying day, so hopefully I’ll get Lesson #5 in. Saturday should be interesting as well, since I’m planning on taking The Boy with me to start getting him familiar with the airport and real airplanes. No flying (obviously) we’re just going for the point where jet noises don’t freak him out.

For those with wings, fly to your dreams.