I Finally Earned Private Pilot Certificate!

IMG_2666On September 22 2013, I took my Private Pilot Checkride. I practiced maneuvers on my own in the practice area, including, turns around a point, steep turns, power on, and power off stalls. I spent the entire day – the day before my checkride with my instructor practicing all of the flying and oral exam material. We had 2 sessions of flying, one in the morning, then we planned the cross country that was to be used for my checkride, and we flew again in the afternoon.

The examiner gave me a scenario for planning the cross country that included taking off from a high altitude airport, overloaded with people, fuel and luggage. So he wanted to make sure that I found out that I caught that the weight and balance numbers wouldn’t work and that I correctly computed density altitude.

Aircraft Maintenance Records
I had to prepare several days ahead of time, by obtaining the maintenance logs for the specific aircraft in which I was doing my checkride.

The oral exam part of the checkride was about 2.5 hours in length. I prepared for that by watching the Flight Training Apps Private Pilot Ground Portion App.

Here is a brain dump of the questions that I remember that the examiner asked me during my oral exam:

Oral brain dump

Max Airspeed below 10000 ft
Max airspeed below bravo
Max airspeed in outer class C

Altitudes and dimensions of class b, c , and g airspace on the chart.

At altitude, with a given temperature is your temp above or below standard temp for that altitude and how much.

Hypoxia, how does it happen? The faa says that it can happen above a certain altitude. What altitude is that, can it occur below that altitude? What is the major factor in causing hypoxia? -> it is the TIME spent at high altitude.

Carbon monoxide: how can you recognize it besides the indicator that you buy? Answer exhaust fumes. What do you do when you smell exhaust, what do you do?

One of two fuel gauges shows empty even though your fuel is full. Can you fly?

What are minimum lights required for night flight?

What happens to the class delta airspace after the tower closes? What airspace is it, and what are the cloud clearances?

Can you fly into a moa? Can you fly into a warning area.

At x altitude, can I fly into this moa? Does the moa even include that airspace at that altitude?

What do you need to fly into class bravo, what do you need to fly into class c and class d?

Do you need a mode c transponder to fly OVER the top of class c airspace?

What should you bring with you if you were flying over the desert at night to vegas?

What do I need to fly to Mexico? Equipment? Flight plan? Special insurance? Radio permit?

What lights surround a taxiway?
What lights surround the runway?
What lights do you see from the air at the beginning of the runway?

What lights do you see at the end if the runway?

If you see the beacon at the airport on during the day, what does that mean?

What clouds/ceilings would there need to be for it to be VFR?

What does special vfr do?

If you leave class d with svfr, does it do anything after that?

Flying Over San Diego just after My Private Pilot Checkride

Flight Portion
What didn’t go well:

Small things:
The examiner tuned the air to air frequency and made position reports before I did, setting an example, and demonstrating what I should have already done as Pilot in Command.

We departed KMYF flew up the coast towards KCRQ, and diverted before we reached KCRQ. He told me to tell him the heading to head for Lake Wohlford, and I guesstimated the heading incorrectly, using the chart and my hand. Instead he told me to use a straight edge, or just use the reciprocal runway number at KCRQ, which would have been 060.

Bigger things:
Simulated Engine Out – this didn’t go well, because – while I pitched for correct airspeed/best glide, I misjudged the altitude it would take to make the base/final, and ended up very high on final. I did a kind of S turn to compensate, after the examiner complained about that.

Steep turns – ok, but almost busted altitude because it was bumpy and we were over some mountainous terrain with some clouds above us.

After the messy engine out episode, the examiner told me to “Head for Ramona” so I did. I was unclear that we were going to land at Ramona, and the examiner complained that I might bust the Ramona Class D airspace. I told him that that was not a risk, because I choose to circle and establish communication prior to entering the Ramona Class D. Later I clarified that I was confused whether he wanted me to actually enter the airspace or fly over it because of our communication. – I was pretty freaked that my checkride was maybe busted at this point, and started to get pretty demoralized.

While in the pattern at Ramona, we did some stop and goes – no flap landings – etc. Still rattled from some of the previous nervousness, my no flap approach was really high – and we had to do a go-around. At this point, I was trying to reset mentally and not allow my previous flubs affect my current or future performance. I did a pretty good job at resetting once I realized what was going on with my attitude.

What went well:
I passed the checkride in spite of myself.

Posted in Flight Instructors, General Aviation, Learn to Fly, My Private Pilot Training, Private Pilot | Leave a comment

Long Solo Cross Country – Almost a Private Pilot

Here is the story about how I flew N49922D on my long cross country from KMYF – Montgomery Field in San Diego to Redlands KREI via Hemet, KHMT. I snapped a quick photo while I was doing my pre-flight. The skies were clear with just a little wind.
N4922D is a great looking plane and it is very well maintained. The owner is out taking care of it and detailing it just about every day. It is a real treat to fly.
Here I am inflight abeam Fallbrook airport on the way to overfly French Valley F70. Straight & level. I then landed at Hemet KHMT, and did a couple laps in the traffic pattern there.

I arrived in Redlands and decided to stop and take a bathroom break quickly, so I parked at transient parking there.

After my pit stop I walked out in front of the airport office and saw THIS:
IMG_2642 That is the famous Hangar 19 Brewery that you have probably heard of if you have sampled their beers at events or restaurants in Orange County or elsewhere in Southern California.

Then I quickly recalculated my weight & balance and determined as Pilot in Command, that I could take cargo weighing equal to a case of beer. – None was consumed until well after I returned home and was done flying for the day.

Here is the loading sequence – this reminds me of that “Survivorman” show with Les Stroud – the guy who has to set up cameras of himself surviving in the wilderness, but I digress.
IMG_2645 IMG_2647 IMG_2648 IMG_2649
My navigation log for the flight home has me coming back over French Valley Airport (Temecula) and back over the coast.

I ended up logging 3.3 on the hobbs for this flight and made it a really good day. This flight gave me a ton of confidence in navigation, and the responsibility of being the Pilot in Command. – Next Stop – Private Pilot checkride!

Posted in Cross Country, KHMT, KREI - Redlands, Learn to Fly | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Response

My First Solo Cross Country

After suffering through more than a year off of flying (thanks to the economy) I am now back at it, and I have seriously rebooted my Private Pilot Flight Training thanks to Plus One Flyers Flying Club and my Instructor, Ant.

Cessna 172 Preflight San Diego

Having planned the flight from Montgomery Field in San Diego to Hemet-Ryan Airport, I first flew this cross country with my instructor, a few days prior.  Today was the day that I got to fly this flight on my own.


My wife photographed me just after I was done with my preflight and right before I climbed in to fire up the engine.  Then she promptly left for Casa Machado Restaurant, to snap a photo of my takeoff.


After taxiing down to Runway 25L, I had a nice relaxed run-up where I double and triple checked my checklist items before calling the tower for takeoff clearance.

Takeoff for First Solo Cross County

Takeoff for First Solo Cross County

I wouldn’t say that I was nervous, but I was pretty “aware”. So because of that I didn’t bother taking any snapshots on the way to Hemet airport.

Enroute, I flew north up over the coast of San Diego, and passed over Carlsbad at 6500 feet.  I then turned straight north towards French Valley Airport (Temecula) which was my next checkpoint, and also the point at which I could begin my descent.

Winds in Hemet were a bit gusty, but I had to do at least one touch and go to make sure that my cross country would last at least 3 hours.

I landed at Hemet, taxiied back, and did one lap around the pattern, then a touch and go, and departed.  On departure, I contacted March Airforce base control who handles the ATC radar duties for that area, and I asked them for a flight following.

They cleared me and and handed me off to SoCal Approach after 5 minutes or so.

On the way back down south, my altitude was 4500 restricted by ATC.  I snapped these shots at that phase of my flight south over inland North County San Diego.

Flying over North County San Diego

Flying over North County San Diego

When I finally returned back to Montgomery Field, I had exactly 2 hours of Solo Cross Country Flight Time! This has been the biggest accomplishment of my flying career so far.

Lake Wolford San Diego

Lake Wolford San Diego


Posted in Cross Country, Flying Solo, KMYF - Montgomery Field, Learn to Fly | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses

Back in the Cockpit

imageBack to finish my Private Certificate, I now am around 50+ hours, and I have relocated to San Diego since flying last at KSNA – John Wayne in Orange County.  Now  I am flying at Montgomery Field – KMYF in San Diego. This is the airport that fellow pilots may recognize as the background from the prolific “John and Martha King” pilot training videos.

Montgomery field has a thriving General Aviation community including several flying clubs and a few hundred or so instructors.  Finding an instructor and available aircraft here is really straightforward.

So for my first flight back, I flew a Cessna 172, N737HY which is a plane that is managed by the Golden Wings flying club. Some of my preflight skills were a bit rusty, and I was doing some things out of order after I noticed that I missed a couple of items.

I called Montgomery Ground and they told us to taxi to runway 28R.  During our run-up, I was doing the mag check and when I switched to the left magneto the engine really heaved, we lost about 300-400 RPMs and the engine sounded like it was running rough.  I thought that we might have to taxi back and park the plane and call it a day.  The instructor leaned the engine a bit and we waited a few minutes while the engine roughness recovered.  I repeated the mag check and everything was fine.  We had a dirty spark plug. This was something I read in the checklist a bunch of times, but I have never gotten to diagnose and respond to it.  That was great experience.

After we completed run up we took a straight out departure just north of Mt. Soledad, and then we turned north and followed the coast past La Jolla.  We passed a few hot air balloons at about ‘1500 feet who were to the east of Del Mar racetrack.  We passed under the Class B of Miramar on the way North staying at just 1500 ft. It was a great altitude for sightseeing.

After we passed the northern border of the Miramar Class Bravo airspace, somewhere over about Encinitas, we turned back east and headed into the practice area to do some maneuvers.  We did some steep turns, and some slow flight.

We then headed back south and the instructor called Miramar tower on the radio and requested the class B transition over Miramar which was cool. I was able to fly my Cessna over some parked F-18’s and helos.  I also saw the special runway markings that I gather that they use to simulate carrier landings, but – maybe not.

Since the Miramar Class B ends abruptly, we were already basically perpendicular and right at where we needed to enter our downwind leg at Montgomery.  I pulled the power back and started a somewhat steep descent into the traffic pattern. I slowed down, added flaps, turned base, leveled wings, added more flaps, and landed.  We were doing touch and goes so I pushed in the carb heat, power, and raised the flaps.

After a couple of more times around the circuit, including an engine out and 1 go-around, we were done.  I landed full stop and taxied back to park.

All in all it was a great flight to break back into my logbook and get back into the rhythm and muscle memory of flying, and landing again.

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Retired FedEx 727 Lands at a Municipal Airport

FedEx 727 on Low Flyby preparing to land.

The University of Alaska successfully brokered a deal that resulted in FedEx donating the first of two retired 727 freighters to their aviation technology department. The first 727 landed at Merril field in Anchorage, and the second one will head to Fairbanks.

For more photos and more on the story click here.

Posted in 727, Boeing, Learn to Fly | Leave a comment

Private Pilot Strategy Pivot

I have had a fantastic time doing my Private Pilot training at John Wayne Airport. I have to thank my instructors at OCFC and at Royal Aviation. I’m looking forward to getting back into the air again. My primary motivation now is to finish the rest of my training as cheaply as possible. This means that I am changing airports, airplanes, instructors, and now I am headed toward finishing with the Pacific Coast Flyers flying club at KCRQ – Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, CA.

Before I show up, I am going to have to start to memorize the V-speeds and operating limitations of my next training aircraft. I anticipate being able to fly their Cessna 150, which means that I’m going to head on over to PilotMall.com and order Cessna 150 Aircraft Information Manual for the 1970 Cessna 150-K. I’m glad I found their manuals there because under my new flying ACAP (as cheaply as possible), policy – their price is definitely more affordable for these manuals. I spent nearly $50 for the 172 K version of the manual at some other aviation website.

I am thrilled that I was able to get so much experience flying out of John Wayne. Landing next to commercial airlines, and avoiding wake turbulence are valuable skills. The John Wayne traffic pattern has specialized operating procedures. The downside to flying there is that just about everything is more expensive. Fuel, for example can be more than $1 per gallon more than at the nearby Riverside airport.

I’m looking forward to joining a flying club, and possibly also participating in the civil air patrol chapter of Orange County. The flying club offers a ton of opportunities to go on trips with other pilots and fly a wide variety of aircraft.

Posted in Learn to Fly | 2 Responses

Crashed WWII P-40 Discovered in the Desert

This is an amazing story about an undiscovered (until recently) WWII fighter plane…

Crashed WWII P-40 Discovered in the Desert

Crashed WWII P-40 Discovered in the Desert

Preserved P-40 discovered in the Egyptian desert 200 miles from nowhere. A WWII airman apparently, while flying in Egypt fighting against Rommel ditched in the desert, survived, and tragically perished while trying to hike out of the sands with no rescue and no destination. There are plans to recover the aircraft and display it as a memorial in honor of the pilot.

Read the article on the British Newspaper Website ->

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Awesome Video: 747 Freighter passes up an MD-11 Freighter

Somewhere over the North Atlantic, faced with several potential hours of boredom and tedium, a 747 FO just so happened to have a camera has he passed under this MD-11 rig in his own, going at a slightly faster clip.

Posted in 747, Aviation Videos, Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, MD-11 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bay Area Man Builds Wicked 737 Flight Simulator in his Garage

An air traffic controller in the bay area has an extremely detailed homebuilt 737 simulator in his garage. It includes a cockpit reclaimed from a Lufthansa 737. He said that 90% of the 737 systems in his simulator are operational, and he has invested over $300k over the years in making the simulator as realistic as possible. This puts my Microsoft Flight Simulator rig to shame.

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My First Solo Flight by the Numbers

Solo Photo March 13, 2012

My first solo started as a normal flight, where my instructor and I first went around the pattern 3 times. My instructor had me then drop him off at taxiway Juliet between 19L and the taxi way Charlie. The tower approved that, and he sat, awkwardly in the grass among the jets pushing back from the John Wayne B Concourse, and the General Aviation traffic taxiing past on Charlie.

Unlike some, my solo flight was no surprise. I first completed several prerequisite steps including taking a presolo written test, and doing something around 70 touch and goes with this instructor at this airport. We planned this being my solo flight before I started the engine that day. I have heard stories of the “surprise solo” but this was not one of those, and I am not even sure that such a thing happens anymore.

Posted in Airports, Flying Solo, KSNA - John Wayne - Santa Ana, Learn to Fly | Tagged | 2 Responses

Girl Blown Away by Jet in St. Maarten

This can just ruin your day. Watch out for spooling jet engines, folks.

Girl blown by jet

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Flying photographer doesn’t ‘work’ for living

What’s a better job than aerial photography? I can’t think of many, especially here in Southern California. I know that when I get my commercial license, that aerial photography will be pretty high on my to do list, especially if I can recruit someone to take the photos while I do the flying.

Pilots have their own language. When all heck breaks out, they say, “Now, it’s interesting.”
On this day, flying with Air Force veteran and commercial aerial photographer Fred Emmert, the worst it gets is “ugly.”
With Ron Smeets as pilot, the single-engine Cessna drops down and banks sharply. Its red and white fuselage is at such an angle that when I look out my side window there is only ground – and the feeling of spinning straight down.

Read the whole story by David Whiting at the OC Register ->

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Snake on a plane diverts solo cargo flight

Of course this happened in Australia, a place where the wildlife lurks behind every bush waiting to destroy humanity…

CANBERRA, Australia—An Australian pilot said he was forced to make a harrowing landing reminiscent of a Hollywood thriller after a snake popped out from behind his dashboard and slithered across his leg during a solo cargo flight.
Braden Blennerhassett—unsure whether the snake was venomous—said Thursday that his heart raced as he tried to keep his hands still while maneuvering the plane back to the northern city of Darwin. The snake popped its head out from behind the instrument panel several times, Blennerhassett said, and then the ordeal worsened when the animal crawled across his leg during the approach to the airport.

Read more: Pilot turns back after snake pops out of dashboard – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/watercooler/ci_20330612/pilot-turns-back-after-snake-pops-out-dashboard#ixzz1rB0eTUr9
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

Posted in Funny Flying Stories | Leave a comment

Complex Time with a Retractable Gear 172

A complex aircraft has flaps, retractable landing gear, and an adjustable pitch propeller. Believe it or not, I have used a Groupon more than once to get a flying lesson at a flying school that I would not otherwise have visited. As a result, I have had the opportunity to fly a complex Cessna 172 as well as a Garmin G1000 Glass Cockpit equipped Cessna 172. When I came home from a demo flight with Orange County Flight Center, I explained to my wife that I had just flown a plane with retractable landing gear, but she was astonished after she asked “Don’t they all have those?” Good stuff. Since I have done all of my primary training in either a C-152 or some flavor of a C-172, everything I have flown has had flaps. The only complexity that adds is remembering to extend flaps at the appropriate speed, and remembering to retract flaps for touch and goes and go-arounds for a landing.

With the 172RG, I get an introduction to the awesome GUMPS mnemonic checklist as follows:

G – Gas  – (Not Gear as you may think) – Have the tank selector on Both or the fullest tank

U – Undercarriage – This refers to gear – down and locked

M – Mixture – Set for landing

P – Prop – High RPM

S – Seatbelts – Fastened

Although I have been using the King Schools Private Pilot video course to supplement all of the reading I did with both the Airplane Flying Handbook and The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, after my flight at Orange County Flight Center, the instructor told me about the Cessna Pilot Training which is an updated private pilot course specific to newer Cessna 162 and 172 aircraft and it also covers the Garmin G300 Glass Panel as well as the G1000. I’ll be headed up again soon, but for now I am going to stay away from complex aircraft so I can just focus on finishing my Private Pilot with the simplest requirements possible.

Posted in Complex Aircraft, Learn to Fly, My Private Pilot Training, Private Pilot | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment