August 16th, 2016

Ok so I’ve been slowly posting Catch-Up Posts to cover the time period from the beginning of my journey until today. I will continue to do this and hopefully limit the catching up posts to say 6 more. I will title these posts as I have before “Catch-Up Post # X”.

However, so I don’t fall too far behind and loose track of the associated pictures, and while its fresh in my mind, I’m going to try and make a weekly post covering my progress at the current time. That way in a week or so we will be all caught up and I’ll only post a weekly recap from there on out. Hopefully this doesn’t get too confusing and you stick with me. The moral support is greatly appreciated!

Last week I had a 2 hour classroom review and instruction from my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) on how to research and plan a basic direct 60 nautical mile cross-country trip. Anything over 50 nm where you land at another location is considered a cross-country (XC) trip. During ground school we had learned the book way of executing the process as well as all the formulas to use to calculate airspeeds, ground speed, and compass headings to account for the affects of wind pushing the aircraft off course. However just as in college there is the textbook and there is real life. So this lesson was textbook applied to real life with a little bit of this is how we do it in the real world mixed in.

Keep in mind now days with computerized cockpits “glass cockpits” and automated GPS/Autopilot systems hours worth of data gathering, calculations, application of wind/weather data to intended flight path, etc, etc is all done with the push of a few buttons and selecting options from menus. Calculations are automatically made based on realtime data and continuously updated to account for altitude, temperature, weather, wind, radar, EVERYTHING and your flight path and flight plan are updated in real time. The pilot can either have the autopilot fly the plane once at cruising altitude or the pilot can manually be at the controls. But the pilot must understand what the computers are doing in order to properly monitor them; therefore you have to learn the slow and painful way first. Then move onto the fancy gadgets.

In the beginning of your training you must learn the way it was done prior to computers and automation. That way if those gadgets fail or you are flying a plane equipped with only basic static dial avionics/gauges you will be able to safely fly the plane. Many small aircraft such as a Cessna 172 Skyhawk do not have the newer automated cockpits/GPS avionics. Also during your final FAA Pilot Examiner check ride you will have to show the examiner that you can fly and navigate without any of the new automation.

So that brings us to this weeks lessons.

Lesson 1 was the classroom instruction that ended with a take home assignment to plan a 60 nm cross-country trip with all associated paperwork.

Lesson 2 was the next afternoon where we would go over my flight plan and then actually fly it. We went over my plan and I struggled to pull it all together and apply all the right formulas in the right blocks on the right forms but finally managed to get it together. However actually flying the plan didn’t happen because we have had extremely hot/humid weather which resulted in thunderstorms approaching the destination airport. The weather was to dangerous for small aircraft and a student pilot. So instead my CFI threw a bunch of new stuff at me: Specialty Take-Offs and Landings. How to take-off and land on a short runway or a soft grass runway. I can’t describe how difficult this lesson was; my head was spinning all over again. It had taken me months to learn how to land on a normal runway and with crosswinds. Now everything was all jumbled up again!!!!!!!! However, I must demonstrate proficiency on these tasks to obtain my permanent pilot certificate so I push on.

Lesson 3 was August 16th where we would once again attempt to fly my plan. This involved me getting up at 5:30 a.m. and redoing my flight planning to account for current winds and temps. These figures affect EVERYTHING including your airspeed and ground speed thus affecting how long it takes you to get from one point to another and how much fuel you use doing it. In flying fuel is time is life, your life, so you have to get it right. All that done I head to the airport 5 minutes way. However I am not hopeful. While gathering the weather I see that the heavy rains last night along with the warm ground and a temperature inversion (warm air at ground up to a few hundred feet with cool air above) has resulted in heavy fog and low clouds. My CFI and I sit in the briefing room checking my plan and watching the morning sun come up, hoping the clouds lift. However by 9:00 am we have to make the call to cancel the trip once again. Instead there is just enough ceiling (visibility from ground to clouds) to practice the specialty take-offs and landings. So we circle the airport practicing each for an 1 1/2 hours.

All in all this weeks lessons were good, they put me under academic stress and forced me to apply ground school lessons and I started to learn yet another required skill in the specialty landings. By redoing the flight plan three times I now am getting the process down and speed will follow.

Next week my 1st lesson is with the schools owner and chief flight instructor. I will once again redo my flight planning the morning of the lesson and hopefully we will be able to actually fly the trip….

Until next week.

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