My 1979 Cessna 172N

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spreading my wings - Cross Country Flight

I haven’t posted in some time so it’s time to catch up.  There has not been a lack of activity, quite the contrary.  I have just been busy with family, work, church, flying and life.  My wife will tell you that flying is my life but then that is nothing new really.  If it wasn’t a full scale Cessna 172 it was radio control and flight simming with Delta Virtual Airlines  so I must concede to the wiser of our partnership and agree with her… flying is my life.  But I still love you honey and I’d rather be with you on a warm sandy beach than flying any day.  We could fly to that beach!  Yeah… that’s the ticket!

Since my first solo flight I have enjoyed another 15 hours in N9478E.  I have flown mostly in the local area between Provo and Spanish Fork airports and even got brave and ventured out a bit.  On November 22nd I passed my FAA written Private Pilots knowledge exam (93% wooo hooo!) and then celebrated with an excursion from Provo Airport, across Utah Lake, around Saratoga Springs and return.  Lonnie came out and waved while I circled the house twice.  It was my first time away from the confines and comforts of an airport environment.

Recently, I have enjoyed flying cross country (what pilots call flight of longer than local distance between airports) flights of distances of up to 500 miles.  On December 10th, a day that will not live in infamy, CFI Bob, my father and I flew from Provo to Delta, Milford, St. George and then landed at Bryce Canyon Airport.  Ruby’s Inn Café at Bryce Canyon sent a car out (at our request) and picked us up for a fantastic lunch.  I cannot describe the view and the beauty of Zion National Park as we flew over enroute from St. George to Bryce.  FANTASTIC!  This was the first time in a long time that my father has been flying and we had a great time together. 

After lunch we filed our flight plan and took to the skies again, flying from Bryce to Richfield where we bought fuel at $4.39 a gallon.  This is a big deal as aviation fuel can be as high as $7 a gallon at select special places.  Most pilots I know choose to not purchase fuel at those select special places if it can be helped.  St. George… are you listening???  We don’t like your $6 a gallon fuel!!!

I met a mechanic (Mavin Jones) at Richfield Airport who I think I will use going forward when I can.  He spent some time with us and repaired a heater duct which was causing us some issues and did fast fantastic work.  I have already scheduled with him to do some work that latter part of January while Lonnie and I take a little vacation.

The flight from Richfield to Provo was great with no issues and the weather was perfect over the entire route.  All in all it was an awesome day and another 5 hours in the logbook.  I’m now ready for a solo cross country flight.

Jump to now… I was ready and I did it.  Yesterday, December 23rd  (had this planned for December 20th but mother nature decided to show us who is boss with some poor weather), I flew my first solo cross country flight from Provo to St. George and return.  I landed in St. George and had lunch with my son Taylor.  Thanks for the great company Taylor!  It was good to see you and catch up.  Taylor is studying Pre-Med at Southern Utah University, in Cedar City.

Flying 450 miles alone with no one else to tell you what to do is at first a bit unsettling but I have confidence in my aircraft and the training that CFI Bob has provided.  Bob by the way has been a great teacher and mentor in this entire adventure.  I love flying with him and hope to get to fly in his new Mooney very soon.  More on that later.  It was a fantastic flight with a nice tailwind of 41 knots on the way down and a slow return with a 41 knot headwind on the way back.   Bob was flying with another student at Provo when I returned and was unbeknownst to me right behind me in the traffic pattern when I returned to land.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was keeping an eye on me.  You’re always there with me anyway Bob.  I can always hear your voice in different critical phases of the flight; don’t forget that carb heat, maintain traffic pattern altitude and fly the airplane all the way to the hangar and shutdown. 

I now have 22.1 hours and I’m well on my way to the 40 hour requirement.  I’ll take my check ride when I’m ready and qualified and not just at some magical 40 hour mark but it sure does feel like we are getting there now. 

Merry Christmas!  I’m loving this adventure and I’m thankful for the life that God has given me and for the great gift of the birth of Jesus Christ, my King and Savior.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How low can you go... SOLO!

October might have been a depressing month with summer definitely behind us and hints of cold weather and post Kauai (we just got back from two weeks on our favorite island) withdrawals making me gloomy, but it ended up being a life changing month for me.  From this time forward, I will always remember Oct 12th, a day that I have thought about and even dreamed about since my childhood. My flying experienced today changed my life.  CFI Bob got tired of sitting next to me (hmmm… did I forget to shower?) and during a training flight he told me to land and pull off on the taxiway. He then got out and said be off with you! OK, it wasn’t quite that dramatic but he did get out and I did suffer some separation anxiety as Bob pushed me forward and determined it was time to fly alone... to solo.

 It is impossible to explain to the non-flying person what it is like to cut those apron strings and take the airplane up by yourself. I can’t actually believe I did it but I did and it was fantastic. I feel a great sense of accomplishment recognizing however that this is just the beginning and that there is yet much to learn. It is important that I not become over confident but I think I should feel good about this momentous event. Bob has been a fantastic teacher and I owe him a lot for getting me to this point.

 My first solo flight, which consisted of three landings (two touch and goes and one full stop) was done at Spanish Fork, Utah airport and the second solo flight at Provo airport. This was necessary so that I could include in my solo endorsement in my logbook, the specific permissions to operate into and out of both airports. The second flight was done on Oct 13th by the way. Both days were beautiful and perfect for flying.

 I have posted links to some flight video so please take a look at maybe you can get an idea of how much fun I am having. I have wanted to do this for so long… it is absolutely fantastic! Thanks Dad for instilling in me this crazy bug for flying and for being there to watch the Provo portion of my solo. I feel I was made to do this and you have been a huge influence in my life and this adventure.

 The training continues and cross country flight is next. I really look forward to stretching my flying legs a bit and visiting some more airports out there. N9478E is performing beautifully and has not let me down.

More Oct 11th pre solo video

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Progress; both flying and my hangar pass!

I haven't posted for over three weeks now.  My beautiful wife took me to Kauai for my birthday the last two weeks in September and it was stormy here most of last week so... no flying for a few weeks.  All is not lost however... I finally got word from Provo city that my hangar access pass is ready and last week I paid them a visit.  I now have gate access to the hangar area.  This makes life much more enjoyable and simplifies the task of getting me and my flight bag/junk to my hangar. 

I have installed several HD video cameras in my plane so that I can see what is causing that hysterical laughter on the tower frequency when I land.  I guess they are seeing my attempts to fly and land from a very entertaining view point that I was just not seeing.  My first attempt at taking video was somewhat of a disaster but it seems to have paid dividends.  If you visit my youtube channel you'll see that I had the camera orientation all wrong and got no audio.  This goofy but valuable video from Sept 15th helped me see however what I was doing wrong on my landings and has improved my landing performance.  I'm sure the guys in the Provo tower will be depressed that their prime source of entertainment has been (for now anyway) take away. 

Huge kudos to CFI Bob for both sticking with me and for coaching me to better my performance in all aspects of flight so far and specifically the progress made with my landings.  Made 7 good landings today.

Link to today's flight video  Oct 11 Landing Practice

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mornings Were Made for Flying!

It was another fine morning for flying as CFI Bob and I took to the skies around Provo and Spanish Fork once again to practice that all too critical phase of the flight called the landing. It is beyond me how these instructors remain so calm while student pilots put them in situations that put their lives at risk but they do… Bob sure does. Bob is an extraordinary CFI and I trust him explicitly. He has given me freedom where needed and has allowed me to learn by making and realizing my mistakes.

 We flew the pattern at Spanish Fork most of the morning doing more touch and goes for a total of 6 landings. The time we spend flying in the mornings is short because of the later sunrise and my need to get back to work before things heat up and meetings start. These mornings have become something I really look forward to and even though there is added pressure to learn and improve, I’m really enjoying the experience.

 Provo Tower was asleep when I contacted them this morning on the way back from Spanish Fork. Spanish Fork is out of the class D airspace so I couldn’t enter that magic 5 mile ring and join the pattern for landing until ATC woke up and granted me permission. The G500 (I really love this new gear) allowed me to know exactly where the D airspace started and I circled until Provo got out from his potty break.

 We took video of the flight this morning but I misconfigured the camera and it was rotated 90 degrees to the right making it a bit hard to watch. Need to spend some more time with these cameras and get some good footage of my comical landings. They are actually improving but I’d like to be able to show those of you who follow my blog just how fun this all is. We’ll get it all together soon!

No flying for a few weeks… Lonnie and I are off to Kauai for two weeks. This may be about the only other thing that holds a candle to flying; time with my gorgeous wife on my favorite island. Aloha!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Fine Morning for Flying!

CFI Bob and I took to the skies again this morning and a fine morning it was.  First... a little rant about some stuff that has just really frustrated me. 

My dad (love you Dad!) has been gracious enough to help with two issues that have been a thorn in my side since basing my plane at Provo (KPVU); access to the gated hangar area and opening the doors of the hangar I'm renting.  Dad met me at the hangar access gate at 0630 this morning because I still do not have an access badge.  I took possession of N9478E on 31 June and still do not have an access badge.  It took me a few weeks to get the paper work back to the airport office but one would think they'd have it done by now.  Security, rightfully so, needed to be upgraded because of the Frontier Airlines presence with a daily flight from Provo to Denver and the process to get an access badge became more complex.  After waiting three weeks after my original submission it was decided my paperwork had been lost.  Numerous calls to the Airport Manager's office resulted in negative contact and still no access badge.  Dad even paid numerous visits to the airport manager's office to try and straighten this all out but it has just gone so painfully slow with no returned calls and no action.  This, combined with the fact that the left door of the hangar I'm renting is impossible for one person to open and close has injected a high level of frustration in the whole experience.  I'm on the list to get a different hanger when one becomes available.

PROGRESS! I just now called the Airport Manager and he today states that my paperwork is ready and will be at Provo City where I can pay my $15 dollars, get a photo and get my badge.  I'll have faith that this is indeed true but will not report success until I have badge in hand. 

Enough of the frustration and bureaucracy of the airport... it was a great morning for flying!  CFI Bob decided (at risk to his life) that I needed more pattern and landing work.  He's right of course as landings are to date my weakest skill.  Just in case you are reading this and not totally familiar with flying, landings are pretty dang important.

We took off from PVU at about 0715 and flew direct Spanish Fork Airport which is only about 6 or 7 miles to the Southeast of PVU.  It was much cooler this morning than previous summer flights and climb out performance was awesome!  This 180 hp engine does very well even when it's warm and density altitudes are higher but in cooler air it climbs like a home sick angel.

We flew to Spanish Fork and practiced touch and goes completing 5 landings before coming back to PVU.  I'm getting the hang of the process but still want to start that flare way too early.  There is a lot going on that I just need to build coordination and muscle memory for and it will just take practice.  My landing at PVU when we returned from Spanish Fork was my best landing of the morning so there was some progress made but... still needs work.

Notes for this flight:  Remember to close the window before rolling for takeoff and those cameras you bought for recording your flights don't work worth a dang if you don't turn them on.  I need to relax a little more and concentrate on the task(s) at hand. 

The newly updated panel continues to give me what I had hoped it would (increased situational awareness) and I love it!

All in all an awesome morning with good weather and a fine running aircraft but then again flying is just that.... AWESOME!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Today's Flight

Bob and I took 9478E up today, the first flight since the panel upgrade.  I received my newly updated airplane back from Flight-Deck Avionics Wednesday morning, August 31st but have not been able to fly until today.  One word... WOW!  This new panel is fantastic and well worth the wait.  The work took a bit longer than originally planned (about 4 weeks) but I'm very satisfied with the end result.  Situational awareness has increased considerably and I have already noticed I'm able to scan for needed information much quicker.

We practiced slow flight, S-turns, rectangular patterns and tight turns all of which went very well.  I have a very good feel for my airplane now and instructor Bob was happy.  Best of all... I am home safe and sound back with my beautiful wife AND... without giving Provo Tower cause to laugh.  My landing was much better this time but still not good.  Must practice landings!

Below is a picture of the completed updated panel; Garmin G500 primary flight display and multi-function display (left side), GNS 430W GPS, GTX 330 Transponder with traffic, SL-40 COM Radio, GMA 340 Audio Panel and then of course analog instruments from the old panel as backups.  AWESOME!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why haven't I been flying???

My flight training plans have gone a little slower than expected this summer but all for good reasons. My 172 has been in the shop since the last week of July undergoing the avionics and panel upgrade and won’t be finished until August 26th. The upgrade has gone a little longer than anticipated but knowing the work involved and the professionalism of the technicians at Flight Desk Avionics, I’m not complaining… a little frustrated at missing a lot of good flying opportunities but excited about the upgrade and added capability.

We’ve also had visits from some very good Danish friends this summer and had an awesome time showing them a small piece of our little US of A. Søren, Mette, Ramus, Kurt and Casper, it was great to see you all again and we look forward to future visits. Vi ses!

I have three hours scheduled with my instructor Bob on August 27th (N9478E should be back at PVU on August 26th) to shake out the newly upgraded panel and find our way around all the new avionics; Garmin PFD, MFD, GPS, TIS, COM and… maybe even a cockpit camera! Hopefully I’ll have some video to show of the next flight.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

We don't need no stinkin' new airplane!

During my search for an airplane to purchase, it became very clear to me that a newer airplane far exceeded my budget.   My attraction to newer airplanes revolves around the advanced technology incorporated into the instrumentation and avionics.  Today's aircraft utilize modern digital LCD flat panels and present information in an easy (read quick) to absorb format resulting in an increase in situational awareness.  It takes less time to scan and assimilate data that is presented in a digital and very visual format as opposed to scanning the "6 pack" of "steam gauges" which have in years past faithfully presented; attitude, airspeed, altitude, vertical speed and bank rate analog data.  And... this new technology just looks plain (pun intended) cool not to mention you can incorporate high tech GPS, charting, weather and moving map displays into the panel!

Solution: There was only one thing to do... buy a reliable older aircraft of proven airworthiness and upgrade the panel to new technology.  N9478E is now in the hands of Flight Deck Avionics at SLC undergoing a panel face lift.  I visited my new friends at FDA today and spent time designing the layout of the new panel as well as making cosmetic decisions such as color and circuit break/switch placement.  I'm really pumped about this upgrade as it will put this 1979 airframe and engine on par with a 2011 model.  Can't wait to fly her when finished!

Panel before upgrade...

Panel during upgrade...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Flight Training - Second Lesson

Bob and I took to the skies again Saturday, July 9th in the afternoon.  We were concerned that the thunder storms would develop again as they have done most of the week but we were blessed with some beautiful weather for the hour flight. 

I had the aircraft all pre-flighted before Bob arrived and we taxied out to rwy 13 for a south departure to practice area D.  From today on I work the radios.  This turned out to be a non stressful task as I've had some experience flying VATSIM (http://www.vatsim.net/) with Delta Virtual Airlines and knew the jargon and what was expected.  Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flying uses a little different communication phrases and the Cessna 172 is a lot different than the turbojet aircraft I'm used to in a simulator but communications are communications and it has been good practice.

We practiced ascending and descending turns as well as controlling airspeed with pitch and altitude with power.  This is not immediately intuitive and takes some getting used to but I think I'll be fine.  Again the aircraft performed well (except for my COMs... a lot of static at high RPM) and there were no problems or concerns.  I'm having Flight-Deck Avionics do some panel modernization work and I'll have them look at the radios when they pull the panel out next week.

My landing today... not good.  I flared far to high and the landing turned into a mess even though it was salvaged a bit down the runway.  I'm sure the controller in the tower got a good laugh out of that one.  I need to learn to not be too eager to flare that soon, a habit I'm sure I picked up from landings in large turbojet aircraft (simulated of course).

All in all it was a great afternoon.  They say you gain back those minutes you spend piloting an aircraft... I plan to cash in and live forever.

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Flight Instruction

Well, I've been preparing to do it for over 30 years and today I received my first official flight instruction with my instructor.  I don't know that my instructor would want his name plastered all over my blog so I'll just use his first name... Bob.  Bob is a man of patience and I can tell I'm going to enjoy training with him.  He spent 1.5 hours with me starting at 0630 this morning and it was fantastic.  We went over preflight and then spent an hour practicing basic flight maneuvers.  It was not a perfect landing but I'm proud to say I at least landed the airplane today as well.  Bob is also either a very trusting guy or totally insane for letting me land.

This day was made even more exciting by the fact that I just yesterday took delivery of my own Cessna 172N, a 1979 vintage Skyhawk with a 180 HP conversion.  Fantastic airplane located with the help of Hanger Aviation out of Charleston, SC.  Cole, Clark and Kris at Hanger Aviation have been awesome and with their help I'm now the proud owner of N9478E.  She runs well and flies great.  Needless to say, I'm pretty happy with the situation.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

My quest to fly...

I have since a boy, been interested (maybe obcessed is the correct word) in aviation and have explored that interest in many ways over the years. I am a huge Radio Control aircraft enthusiast and have a hanger full of great flying aircarft. I have logged many hours flying with my father as a youth, hours full of adventure and memories.
Over the past 4 years I have enjoyed flight simulation and have been deeply involved in the greatest virtual airline out there, Delta Virtual Airlines. This airline is not associated with the real world Delta Airlines but it does replicate a commercial operation with pilots of all skill levels, type ratings and experience flying global routes in a virtual simulation environment. If you are interested in flight simulation and would like to belong to a great community give Delta Virtual a try. www.deltava.org

My love for flying has come to somewhat of a head this year. I have finally decided to put my head into the books and get my Private Pilot's certificate with the goal of owning and flying my own single engine private aircraft. I hope to dedicate a major portion of this blog to this endeavor and adventure and hope those interested might gain some insight into what this process entails and how it affects my life.

I'll post photos and possibly some video and try to capture in words, my experiences; good and not so good, funny and scary but hopefully in the end... successful.  From all I can see, this is not going to be a simple slam dunk for me.  There is a lot involved and it will require a lot of time and effort but something tells me it will be worth it.  I hope you enjoy the ride along with me as I attempt to "slip the surly bonds of earth".

Thank you my dear Lonnie for allowing me to realize my dream as I "put out my hand and touch the face of God."