Flight Lesson 38: Freezing Cold!

It’s been a month and a half since my last flight (which was my first solo).  Therefore, today’s lesson was a review/refresher flight in which Tom and I flew to the northern training grounds and went over slow flight, power on/off stalls, and steep turns.  We then returned back to Caldwell.  All things considered, I think I did pretty well on the maneuvers, although my first shot at slow flight was sloppy.

It was a very cold day with temperature in the 20′s.  Today was also the first time that Tom and I together used the propane powered preheater to warm up a cold engine in below freezing conditions.  This is done to prevent damage to the engine due to excessive wear inherent in cold startup conditions.

During run up, we also ran the engine at a higher than normal RPM for a minute or so in order to get the engine up to operating temperature faster than normal.  When I taxied onto the active runway for departure, we executed a short field takeoff (without added flaps) to verify proper engine operation before takeoff.

Logbook Entry N5253R (C172)

Flight Details




Flight Lesson 37: Soloed!



All the stars have aligned and I finally soloed.  The first part of the lesson Tom and I practiced one touch and go, one go around, and a full stop landing.  At the end of the full stop, Tom asked me if I felt ready.  I said yes and I let Tom off at the Tango ramp.  He instructed me to fly the pattern and make as many as 3 full stop landings.  At the end of each landing, while taxiing back to the active runway, Tom would signal whether to proceed or to come in back to the ramp in case I was doing something unsafe.  I didn’t get stopped by Tom and was able to do all 3 full stop landings.

My solo impressions:

1.  The aircraft takes off easier and is harder to put down without the weight of an extra person.

2.  I wasn’t nervous at all.  It is a testament to how well Tom prepared me.  The first time around the pattern did have a surreal feeling to it.  I was flying a plane by myself!

3.  My first landing was good, my second was okay (landing slightly short of the numbers), and the third was my best (greased it).

It is a big milestone and I’m looking forward to beginning the next phase of my flight training.

Logbook Entry N5253R (C172)

Flight Details




Flight Lesson 36: Night Flying

The days are getting really short, which meant my 4-6 PM scheduled lesson would mostly occur during evening civil twilight.  Something came up and Tom wasn’t available so we decided that I would do some cross wind pattern work with Fischer Aviation’s newest instructor, Peter Book.

Today was actually the first time I’ve flown at night and the first time in 3 months I flew the pattern at CDW.  Combining both factors, it seemed to be a challenging training environment.  However, I was extremely satisfied with my flight skills.

My night flying impressions:

1.  It is difficult to distinguish the field from the rest of the surrounding areas, especially when making the turn from downwind to base and base to final.  Somehow, I pictured it to be lit up like a Christmas tree like in the movies but it never seemed that way.

2.  It’s difficult to judge heights because there are less landmarks visible compared to the day.

I enjoyed my time with Peter and the different perspective that another instructor brings.  At the end of today’s lesson, I had no doubt that I’m ready to solo.

Logbook Entry N5253R (C172)

Flight Details




Flight Lesson 35: The Fates Have Conspired Against Me

I woke up this morning and immediately checked the METAR for CDW in anticipation for my late morning flight:

KCDW 091353Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 08/01 A2998

Finally, this looks like the day I will solo!  I got to the airport, the weather looked like this:

KCDW 091453Z AUTO 25003KT 10SM CLR 11/01 A2997

Still looking good.  However, on my way out to the ramp to preflight the plane, the winds picked up.  After calling CDW Ground for taxi clearance, we were given the updated winds (290 at 10 knots, with gusts I can’t remember but were significant) which made both Tom and me groan.  Unfortunately, the crosswind component would be too strong for me to use runway 22 which made it impossible for me to solo today.

Tom and I then made a game time decision to do something else and we proceeded with the curriculum.  Today, we would practice flying the victor airways.  Using VOR, we headed towards the Sparta station, intercepted a highway that heads towards Huguenot station, flew to Huguenot, then tuned to the radial that connected Huguenot with CDW and used that to aid us back to CDW.  At CDW we did a touch and go and full stop on 28 which gave me the confidence to know I’m ready to solo.

The only question is, when will the weather gods have pity on me and allow me to solo?

Logbook Entry N5253R (C172)

Flight Details




Flight Lessons 29-34: I’m Back!


It’s been more than 2.5 months since my last post.  A lot has happened since then.  I’ve moved from NJ to NYC for a new career opportunity.  Although I’ve been flying during this transition, it has been a lot less often and I no longer can fly during the weekdays.  I’m now one of Tom’s weekend students and getting on his schedule takes at least two weeks of planning ahead.

Due to new time constraints, I have decided to take this blog in a new direction.  I don’t have the time to provide in depth analysis of each flight lesson anymore.  What I’ll do is use this more as an electronic logbook.  However, if something happens that is interesting enough to warrant a retelling, I’ll do it.

I still haven’t soloed due to the weather.  Hopefully one of these days it’ll cooperate and I’ll get that milestone finally completed.


Date: 8/23/14
Remark: Crosswind Takeoffs and Landings
Dual Received: 1.1

Date: 9/20/14
Remark: Slow flight, Power on/off stalls, pilotage, crosswind takeoffs and landings
Dual Received: 1.2

Date: 10/4/14
Remark: Pilotage and Diversions. Take off and landings at CDW, 4N1, MGJ
Dual Received: 1.6

Date: 10/18/14
Remark: Pilotage and Diversions
Dual Received: 1.4

Date: 10/19/14
Remark: Pilotage and Diversions
Dual Received: 1.3

Date: 10/26/14
Remark: Pilotage, Diversions, crosswind takeoff and landing
Dual Received: 1.3

Flight Lesson 28: Once more unto the pattern, dear friends, once more

Today’s lesson was spent flying in the pattern at CDW.  The objective was to demonstrate consistency in the takeoffs, rectangular course, and landings so that I can get closer to soloing.  The pattern being flow was right traffic for runway 22.

The conditions were a little tricky.  There was a bit of what seemed like wind shear in the departure and final legs along with a bit of a crosswind.  In addition, when crossing over the trees near the threshold to runway 22, there is a tricky change in wind that has to be contended with.  Tom admitted that it wasn’t the easiest of days to fly the pattern.  I limited flaps to 20 degrees.

There is not much to say other than I still lack consistency.  Often times I would be too high or too low on base/final but then grease the landing.  Other times my glide slope would be great but I would slam the plane on the ground during flare or impose a side load on the main landing gear.  One of the positives is that my rectangular course was much cleaner than last lesson.  Also, when Tom asked me to do a go around on a botched approach, I did it calmly in a methodical manner which also didn’t happen last lesson.

I’m going to try to immerse myself in YouTube videos that demonstrate Cessna 172 landings and hope something starts to “click”.  Hopefully, the weather conditions will be easier for my next lesson so I can demonstrate some consistency.

Flight Lesson 27: Pattern and Landing Practice

The objective of today’s lesson is to improve upon my pattern flying skills (rectangular course) and landings.

The pattern being flown was right traffic for runway 22.  When we were ready to depart using runway 22, I noticed that the wind was blowing directly down the runway.  I asked Tom why the departing runway is 22 instead of 4 which would have been a more logical choice.  He said that CDW does not set the trends as far as what runways are in use and that they have to follow the lead of other airports in the area.

We did a total of 9 touch and go’s, 1 go around, and and 1 full stop landing.  Some of my approaches were okay, but the majority of them were high.

According to Tom, what caused some of these high approaches was me not flying a proper base leg due to me creeping in close to the runway during my downwind.  Therefore, I had less time and distance to lose altitude during the descent.  In addition, I had a tendency to let the nose drop during the turns which increased my airspeed and consequently made my descent shallower and ground speed faster.

During one of the touch and go’s, we were on short final when ATC cleared traffic to depart on runway 28.  This wasn’t that great of a judgment call with us being so close to the field and unable to see the plane on runway 28 due to trees blocking our view.  I was immediately thinking about doing a go around.  Only when the aircraft crossed 22 on it’s way down 28 did we see it.  By then Tom told me to go around and I made the mistake of trying to apply full power, turn off the carb heat, and reduce flaps to 20 degree all at once.  My skittishness reared it’s ugly head.  I need to be calm and collected and do things like this one at a time.  There was plenty of time and no need to rush.  Rushing is what compounds mistakes.  Also, Tom said that calling a go around over the radio should be the last thing on my mind to do.

After the full stop and securing the airplane, Tom and I had a post flight chat:

  • The key to flying a rectangular track is to spot a ground feature off the wing and then turn towards it.  I need to keep my eyes forward during the turn and then roll out to the object
  • Keeping my eyes forward during turns has the added benefit of allowing me to control my pitch and therefore airspeed and rate of descent.  Four fingers from the dash to the horizon is what I should be aiming for
  • When I was high on final approach, I had a tendency to pitch toward the numbers.  I need to pitch for airspeed and use power to control my descent.  It’s disappointing to be making that sort of mistake this late into my flight training
  • I need to keep my descent rates consistent.  Aim for 500 fpm
  • When adding flaps during the landing sequence, I need to keep the nose from pitching up which interrupts the constant descent rate

Logbook Entry N5253R (C172)

Flight Details




Flight Lesson 26: Pre-solo Checkride

Today I flew with Tomoharu for my pre-solo checkride.  Upon entering the school, I said hi to Tomoharu and proceeded to check the weather.  The following was the METAR, which indicated a crosswind condition if runway 4/22 is in use:

KCDW 151753Z 31007KT 290V360 10SM OVC050 21/09 A2994

Tomoharu asked if I was comfortable flying under those conditions, and I said, “Sure, my landings may not be the prettiest, but I’ll get us on the ground”

We then proceeded to do a weight and balance (believe it or not, the first one I’ve performed up to this point) together.  We were within limits and then proceeded to the plane for preflight.  I preflighted the plane and then Tomoharu asked me what documents do we need in order to fly?  I replied, “Student pilot certificate, registration, airworthiness certificate and operator’s manual”.  Tomoharu corrected me by saying I needed:  registration, airworthiness certificate, original copy from the factory of the operating limitations of the aircraft, and a weight/balance calculation.

A TFR was in place over Greenwood Lake due to the airshow so we planned to fly west instead.  We then departed using runway 28 due west.  I kept the plane below pattern altitude over Square Lake and below 2000 feet due to ILS approaches being in use for Morristown.  En route, Tomoharu pulled the power to idle and said the engine is out.  I went through the emergency procedure and identified a golf course as our landing spot.  We then resumed our travel to the west and once clear of the Class Bravo shelf, went up to 3500 feet.

We proceeded through the maneuvers (slow flight, power off stall, power on stall, and steep turns) all of which were done to Tom’s satisfaction.

We then headed back to CDW for some touch and go’s.  We flew back down to 2500 feet to clear the Class Bravo.  Once past Morristown approach, I started to descend and Tom said I should wait until we get over Boonton Reservoir to descend and contact ATC.  Descending too early gives you less options in case an emergency occurs and you need the altitude to reach a safe landing spot.

We then did a couple of touch and go’s.  I also performed a go around.  Not my best landings either although I did get us on the ground safely as I promised.

Afterwards, Tomoharu and I debriefed while Tom Fischer listened in.

Tomoharu’s Talking Points:

  • My ground track around the pattern was sloppy due to the crosswinds and my lack of applying compensation.
  • The landings were “survivable”
  • ATC in Class Delta only have separation responsibility on the ground (i.e. takeoffs and landings).  Don’t let them dictate how to fly a plane, unless they give specific instructions.
  • I should start the pre-landing checklist earlier on the downwind instead of abeam the numbers so I don’t get behind the curve and fly to far down before completing the list and making the turn to base too late.
  • I need to watch the bank angle when turning from base to final.  This is the most dangerous part of the flight since the additional aircraft loading inherent with turns will increase the stall speed.  I often had to make steeper then sensible turns when going from base to final because I waited too long to turn and also because of the crosswind pushing me.
  • Although my airspeed management during my approach was generally okay, my last approach of the day I was going too slow.

It looks like I “passed” with the caveat that I clean up my landings and pattern work more before I solo.  I’m looking forward to addressing this shortcoming and hopefully soloing soon.

Flight Lesson 25: TFRs, Pilotage, Manuevers, VORs, and Touch and Go’s

Today was another action packed 4 hour lesson.  The Greenwood Lake airshow was going on so there was a TFR from the surface up to 3000 ft.  We decided to go around it on our way to the training grounds in the north and Tom gave me the latitude to plan the detour.  I took out the sectional map and picked Splitrock Reservoir as the first way point.  Then, I picked Green Pond.  From Green Pond, I drew a straight line that cleared us well to the west of the TFR.  I then extrapolated the magnetic heading of the straight line using the radial from one of the nearby VORs.  I executed the flight plan and when we flew just east of Sussex County Airport, Tom directed me to head due west.

We quickly went through the standard maneuvers (stalls, slow flight, etc.) and did them to Tom’s satisfaction.  We continued to fly west and around Orange County Airport, Tom pulled the power for an simulated engine out.  I ran through the emergency procedure and entered the right downwind for runway 26.  In order to dissipate the excess altitude we had and enter the pattern altitude, we flew a left 360 degree turn.  We then made a short approach and landed on the runway.

We then proceeded to do a couple of touch and go’s at Orange County.  My radio communication and reporting skills at the uncontrolled airports is getting better.  Tom then told me to fly to Newton, NJ.  I identified Newton on the map and used landmarks to find my way there.  I increased my altitude to 4500 feet to help with the identification.  I spotted Andover Airport which is really close to Newton and from there finding Newton was easy.

Tom then asked me how else could I be sure I was at Newton.  I answered I can use VOR to triangulate my position.  He told me to do it and I entered a trimmed right standard turn, identified two VOR stations at approximate right angles to my position (Sparta and Huguenot), tuned in to both to confirm they were the right stations, and turned the OBS until the needle was centered in the FROM indication for both stations.  That gave me magnetic headings which I drew off each respective VOR radial and the lines intersected close to Newton which confirmed my position.

We then headed back to CDW for some more touch and go’s and finally landed and secured the plane.

Next stop is my pre-solo checkride!

Logbook Entry N5253R (C172)

Flight Details




Flight Lesson 24: Crosswind Landing Practice

It initially looked like today’s lesson would be canceled due to the cloud cover being below the minimums.  However, things cleared up reasonably well for us to do some pattern work thus avoiding the thunderstorm cells to the north.

Runway 4 was in use using left traffic and a left crosswind was blowing across the runway at 10 knots steady, with gusts up to 15.  Due to the wind, I used a maximum of 20 degrees of flaps to avoid us being pushed around by gusts.  This meant higher approach speeds and I found it more difficult to get the plane on the ground after leveling off over the runway.  I need to remember to be patient and let airspeed bleed off before flaring.  The majority of landings were performed using crabbing for crosswind correction.  I did attempt to use the sideslip method once.

My ground track was sloppy as I didn’t do the best job trying to correct for the crosswind.  The method for keeping the ground track straight is to bank into the wind along with rudder to keep it coordinated.

One interesting occurrence of note was a helicopter that flew straight in for runway 4 from outside the pattern while we were making the turn from base to final.  The helicopter failed to report a 2 mile final yet ATC still gave them permission to land.  We were getting to close to the chopper so Tom told me to perform a go around.

During one of the circuits, around the pattern, ATC instructed us to come to a full stop landing since they were changing traffic from Runway 4 to 22.  We then departed using runway 22.

During the lesson debrief, Tom mentioned the return of my death grip on the yoke.  Soft and smooth movements are what I need to be doing.