All posts by Charley Cunningham

Lesson 54: Dual Crosswinds || 12/10/16

Again the weather didn’t comply with our hopes of getting the third solo in so we took advantage of the adverse conditions and practiced crosswinds.   An added challenge was that the attitude indicator was broken so I had to fly only with visual queues.   We got 5 landings in and they were pretty turbulent but I pulled them off nicely.   As I get more experience landing in all kinds of conditions my confidence in both landings and regular flight is increasing and I’m sure by the time I take my test I’ll be able to land in almost any conditions (although I will still have much to learn).

Lesson 53: IFR Holds || 12/4/16

For this lesson my third solo flight was delayed again because the weather was too rough.   It turned OK though because I ended up getting some valuable IFR experience (which is important as I plan to get my IFR rating this summer shortly after I pass my VFR practical.   We flew to the Sparta VOR and practiced holds around the VOR using the clock.   I got some valuable VOR practice and I got pretty good at intercepting a radial on a turn which will undoubtedly help me when tracking VORs in cross country flight.   We got 0.6 hours of simulated instrument training in and then flew back to Caldwell to end the lesson.

Lesson 52: Night Flying || 11/18/16

My second time flying at night was a lot more smooth than my first (which happened about a year ago).   I felt a lot more confident (especially on landings) which is probably because of the experience and knowledge I’ve gained throughout this year.   My younger cousin  (who wants to become a pilot when he grows up) was sitting in the back seat for this flight as well so it was an exciting flight.   We aimed to get around 3/4 of the night landing requirement done (10 full stop takeoffs and landings) however there was only one controller at Caldwell and he didn’t let us do any work in the pattern so we had to fly to Morristown and our goal seemed like a stretch.   We banged out 5 landings there however, including one with a simulated electrical failure, and they were pretty comfortable.   One thing I realized during the flight was I definitely need a much more powerful headlamp because when bob simulated the electrical failure I could barely see the instruments.   When we returned to Caldwell there was a friendly controller there who let us do one more landing so we got 7 in total (which eats into a good chunk of the requirement).   Soon I’ll be doing my night cross country and once I finish my solo and IFR requirements I’ll be done with all the hour requirements to get my private pilot’s licence.

Lesson 51: Waterbury Oxford and Sky Acres || 11/4/16

Even though I have already surpassed the hour requirement for dual cross country flight time I am going to be doing my solo cross country soon so Bob and I practiced a flight that will probably be the same route as one of my solo cross countries.   We started off at Caldwell and I put all the wind data into my flight plan.   I called for a weather briefing and to file a flight plan and then we pre flighted and took off.   Our route was Caldwell to Carmel VOR to Waterbury-Oxford Airport to Pawling VOR to Sky Acres airport to Kingston VOR to Greenwood lake to Caldwell.   We got flight following from NY Approach/Departure and flew into  the NY Class B airspace on our first leg (my first time doing that) and also contacted them on our return leg.   The flight took much longer than expected and more fuel, partly because it is an older plane than when it was being tested for the fuel flow and speed numbers and partly because I probably had the throttle too far back.   Regardless it was a pretty smooth flight and I learned a lot.   We contacted 122.2 (flight service) after departing sky acres to open our flight plan home, another experience which I’d never done before.   With every flight I take I’m starting to feel more confident as a pilot and I’m starting to feel ready to take my practical test this summer (when I turn 17) after I have reached the hour requirements in night hours, simulated IFR, and solo hours.

Lesson 50: A Busy Pattern | 10/15/16

Today was perfect weather for a solo but since 811JD’s NAV panel is out of service  Bob didn’t want to send me out of the pattern yet.   He did say we might be able to get in a solo in the pattern, however, so we headed out to preflight with soloing as the goal.   We got up in the air and the weather was good but as time progressed more and more planes started to enter the pattern.   It got to the point where we were pushed to a four and a half mile final behind multiple other planes so Bob decided to ditch the solo plan and just practice landings.   My landings were ok, however I tended to sink much more than usual.   Over all it was a pretty standard lesson.   I might be switching over to a glass cockpit (G1000 Avionics) in the future so there’s plenty of action left in store before I take my flight test.

Lesson 49: First Solo (Or was it my second?) | 10/11/16

I soloed for the second time today and I felt even better about it than the first.   My radio calls were on point, my landings were smooth, safe, and short with no screeching on the tires, and I generally felt more confident as pilot in command.   It was pretty similar to my first solo however (hence the title) as I did the exact same thing (3 takeoffs and landings) and in the same amount of time (0.7 hours).   We began the lesson similar to how we had on my first solo, flying northbound.   We practiced holding headings, picking out landmarks, and theorizing about emergency landings spots.   We then turned to the southwest and reentered Caldwell’s airspace from the west instead of the north as we usually do.   After doing a few touch and goes on runway 4 Bob asked for a short approach on runway 10 (I had never landed on runway 10 before)  and we taxiied back to the ramp.   Bob got out of the plane and wished me luck again.   My first landing was pretty normal but as time progressed the pattern started to get more and more busy until it got to the point where on my second downwind I was pushed all the way to a 4 mile base leg behind 4 other planes (one of which was flying the opposite pattern).   I landed fine however and by the time I took off for my final go around the traffic pattern it had quieted down a bit.   My Mom was there watching and she took a bunch of photos so I’ll upload those once I get my hands on them.   I also am going to bring a shirt to my next lesson because Tom told me he would cut the shirt tail off and draw 1JD on it to commemorate my first solo.

Lesson 48: Bad Weather | 10/08/16

On this lesson I was hoping to complete my second solo flight however the weather was disinclined to grant my wish.   The clouds were barely VFR, the visibility was very low, and, although the winds weren’t too bad, the temperature dewpoint spread was only a few degrees indicating the looming possibility of rain.   So instead of soloing I went with Bob to Lincoln Park airport (close enough to Caldwell to be able to get back in a hurry if the weather were to close in on us) and we practiced short fields.   It was pretty eerie to see how fast visibility dropped once we got close to the clouds (which we did on a few occassions).   We stayed at Lincoln Park for 2 landings and 1 go around (I felt I was too high so I went around on my second approach).   We then returned to Caldwell and landed full stop.   Besides the weather it was a pretty unremarkeable flight when compared to my previous flight (My first solo) but I gained some invaluable experience with weather observation and avoidance.

Lesson 47: First Solo | 09/25/16

I came back the day after Lesson 45 to give the soloing thing another try.   This time I made sure to bring all the required documents and I was fully legal.   The weather was still great and although it was a little more busy than the day before I was more in practice because I had just flown so ultimately it was probably for the best that my solo was delayed a day.   I took off with Bob and we flew to Lincoln Park.   We did one landing and then returned to Caldwell where we did 3 touch and goes.   On the last one Bob requested a short approach and told me to pull the power.   I got down safely so he told me to pull off of the runway instead of complete the touch and go.   We taxiied back to Fischer and I started to realize the time had finally come: I was about to solo for the first time.   He signed the last endorsement necessary in my logbook, shook my hand, wished me luck, and stepped out of the cockpit.   I have to say, I was a little nervous at first.   My first radio call was a little oddly ordered and taxiing down the runway I did feel a little nervousness.   I did my run-up, called for clearance and taxied onto the runway.   I ran my eyes over the panel one more time to make sure I was 100% ready; the mixture was full rich, carb heat off, flaps up, transponder alt and 1200, primer in and locked, fuel selector both, lights on, and doors and windows closed and locked.   I slowly advanced the throttle to full with my feet on the brakes, listened to the engine for any odd noises, checked the engine instruments for any last signs of danger, and watched the rpms peak.   I finally knew I was ready and released the brakes.   The plane slowly pulled itself forward and I watched the airspeed indicator waiver for a second and start steadily climbing.   I waited for 50 knots and then slowly pressured the yoke back and the airplane lifted smoothly off the runway surface.   All the nervousness I had felt on the taxiway was quickly washed away by the feeling of flight.   After years of dreaming of becoming a pilot I was finally a pilot in command for the first time.   The feeling was unforgettable.   I waited for the airspeed indicator to reach 74kts and then held that speed as I climbed towards pattern altitude.   I felt my confidence increasing with every minute I flew, realizing that this flight was just like every other of the 224 times I had done exactly what I was doing at that moment in the pattern.   My landings were pretty good and all of the three landings I did I was able to pull off on taxiway Delta (The first taxiway that you can realistically turn off on).   When I was done I taxied back to Fischer and shut down the plane.   I had finally completed my first solo.

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Lesson 46: So Close | 09/24/16

Before the flight I discussed the solo cross country flight plans that he had told me to make with Bob and we reviewed the weather for the flight.   The conditions couldn’t have been better.   The traffic pattern was empty, the wind was dead calm, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the air was cool and not dry (good for aircraft performance).   You couldn’t have designed a better day to go flying.   Bob told me to go preflight the airplane and asked for my logbook to fill out a few things saying we would first fly to Lincoln park and, if everything went well, I would be able to solo for the first time.   I went out to preflight and just as I got in the plane I realized I had forgotten my wallet at home (which had my drivers license and student pilot certificate) – the first time I had forgotten it and only time I needed it.   I told Bob and the solo idea was ditched.   It was OK, though, because I got some quality practice anyways as we went to Somerset again through Morristown.   I worked on my radio coms and short field landings  which was valuable.   We flew back to Calwell without a solo, but I have plenty of time on my hands until I get my license (next summer is when I turn 17) so I wasn’t upset.   Besides, I was excited that my first solo was within reach.

Lesson 45: Introduction to Somerset | 09/13/16

On this flight we decided to venture to the southwest to an airport that I’ve never been to and that is usually used on the flight test; Somerset.   I made no flight plan for this flight (too short to be a cross country) so I had to wing it but it was fairly easy as the Solberg VOR’s 240 degree radial passes directly between Caldwell and Somerset.   We took off from Calwell and transitioned southwest through Morristown’s airspace and tracked Solberg southwest bound until we reached Somerset.   At Somerset we did a few landings (a good learning experience as the airport is a short field and has an odd inclination in the middle of the runway).   Once done there we flew back to Caldwell via Solberg and a Morristown airspace transition and I learned just how close Caldwell is to the lateral limits of the Class B airspace (where it goes down all the way to 1800′), not just the vertical limits (2500′ base above CDW).