Friday, May 30, 2014

Share Your Story: Chris Horak, Future Air Force Pilot

Welcome to the 34th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show students the diverse range of experiences/careers available to them in aviation. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

Hey everyone, my name is Chris Horak and I am a 21 year old upper gulf coast native. I began taking flying lessons in October of 2012 with Rod Kellogg as my instructor. I trained in the good ole PA-28 Warrior N8410C out of Jack Edwards Airport. My training was stretched out over a year and a few months due to me trying to juggle flying along with being a full time college student. I took my check ride on 16 Feb 2014 up in Jasper, Alabama at Walker County Airport with Joey "Gordo" Sanders. Gordo is a retired Colonel, U.S. Air Force F-4 Fantom pilot and currently flies for Fedex. He does examining on the side. I had around 60 hours when I took my check ride.

One of my main goals from the beginning of my flight training, was to eventually get my tail wheel endorsement. I have always had it drilled in my head that "you aren't a real pilot until you can fly a tail wheel airplane." So I went to Ferguson Airport (82J) and took lessons in the good ole Piper Legend Cub, AL-3C-100, N155WB. My instructor was the wild Capt Jimbo Wilson, former U.S. Marine Corps A-4 Skyhawk pilot. Jimbo has been a family friend of mine my whole life and used to skydive with my father. I also received some valuable instruction from former NFO John Jenista. After 7.6 hours and 79 landings, I received my tail wheel endorsement on 19 April 2014. I am completely hooked on tail wheel flying now. If you haven't experienced it yet, get trained and you will find out exactly what I am talking about.

The next fun/educational thing I got myself into was Capt Jimbo's Super Decathlon Spin Recovery/Intro to Aerobatic Manuever training. I learned how to perform and was evaluated on aileron rolls, loops, falling leafs, immelmanns, 1/2 Cuban 8s, approach turn stalls, spin recovery, inverted flight, the Marine Corps way of dropping a nuclear bomb from an A-4 Skyhawk (simulated obviously), and of course Capt Jimbo's way of losing a Mig that's on your tail. That was the coolest experience that I have ever had flying. I am continuing to get aerobatic training from a CFII friend of mine, Dewitt, in a Starduster SA300. That is one heck of an airplane!!

The next step for me is Air Force pilot training. I graduated from the University of West Florida on 3 May 2014 with a degree in mathematics, and received my commission through the ROTC program, as a 2d Lieutenant on 2 May. I am currently awaiting orders for flight school but am super excited to see what God has in store for me.

I have always been around aviation my whole life. My grandfather flew, my dad flew, and they both were skydivers as well. Being in the sky never was an issue for me growing up. I remember countless family trips taken by air with my dad being PIC. I even have a tandem skydive under my belt. Needless to say, the thought of being a pilot has always stood in the back of my mind but I never took action to it until halfway through college. I know that this is what I am meant to do with my life and I look forward to serving my country while at the same time, doing what I love to do the most! 

Blue Skies Everyone,

-Chris Horak 


Thanks so much Chris for writing in and sharing your story! It's awesome to be hearing more from Rod's students down on the Gulf. It looks like you're just about to get started on an exciting path with the Air Force, which is amazing. I wish you the best of luck and can't wait to hear how it goes! 

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

After School Cross-Country Flight

One of the hardest parts of being a Private Pilot has been wanting to fly, but being stuck on the ground. With my Junior Year of high school ending quickly, things have been incredibly busy. Finding the time to get into the air has been difficult, but all the more rewarding when it finally works out. 

About two weeks ago, I saw a great weather forecast for a Tuesday afternoon. I don't normally have the time after school to fly, but really wanted to make it work! I called up the airport, and sure enough, they had my old plane, Tecnam P92 N16HV, open that afternoon! (I'm trying to build experience in the Cessna, so have been staying away from the Tecnam recently) Throughout the day, I checked on the weather forecast, which was marginal up until my flight. Luckily, it cleared up! 

Amazingly, since getting my PPL, I hadn't taken a fully solo cross-country flight (with a destination 50+ nautical miles away from my point of departure). I decided on the route shown below: KOFP-KFCI-KFVX-KOFP: 

Throughout the flight, I logged the flight using CloudAhoy, my iPad, and an external GPS (XGPS160). It was my first cross-country using Foreflight on the iPad, so I was excited to try it out! The amount of technology in that tiny Tecnam was incredible: external GPS, iPad (with Foreflight), iPhone (with Foreflight), internal GPS, Garmin 496, and a multi-function display! 

Enroute from Hanover to Chesterfield, I made a quick diversion, doing a few turns over my school for friends who were at afternoon practice: 

With the winds being so calm all day, it was a great flight and not turbulent at all! After checking the ATIS, I set up on a 5 mile final for Runway 15 at Chesterfield KFCI. I don't normally do long final approaches, but with my track, and with the winds being light and variable, it made sense. 

After a smooth landing at Chesterfield, I took off and turned West towards Farmville KFVX. Once again, it was a smooth and uneventful flight. I got a little bored and listened to Potomac Approach, with lots of commercial traffic arriving into Richmond International. I ended up doing 2 touch and go landings at Farmville because the weather was so good. I thought about shutting down to get a passport stamp but didn't have the time. (someone had the plane right after myself)

Once I was finished with Farmville, I headed back towards Hanover at 3,500 feet. Earlier, it had rained, so you can see how green Farmville was as I departed: 

Flying back over the James River and towards Hanover, I was happy that the flight had gone so well. With summertime weather arriving, it's rare to find a completely smooth day for flying. 

This was one of those lucky days. 

Thanks for reading! 
-Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TEDx Youth Speech: What If You Could Do Anything?

As you read earlier, I recently gave a TED Talk at my school's conference. The video below has the speech in addition to the introduction video. (The speech begins at 2:40):

For all of the pilots out there, remember that if there were no bad flying days ... there wouldn't be any good days. 

Thanks for watching!
-Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Sorry there haven't been many updates recently! With Junior Year finishing up, I've had a full workload between final exams and standardized testing. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Share Your Story: Haley Howard, 19 Year Old CFI

Welcome to the 33rd "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show students the diverse range of experiences/careers available to them in aviation. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

I started flying last year. On February 28th, 2013 I had my first lesson. July 3rd, 2013 I received my Private Pilots license. I then started working towards my Instrument rating doing a lot of cross countries and hood time. I got my Instrument rating November 11th, 2013. After that I took off to the west (Spanish Fork, UT) where I did some mountain training, back-country flying and received my Commercial Pilots License January 22nd, 2014. I stayed out there until the end of February 2014 while I did a CFI ground school course. I came back to Alabama and finished up my CFI with Rod (Kellogg) and took my checkride, (twice) (I'll explain later) April 23rd, 2014. 

I wish I could say I grew up around it but I really have no flying background at all. Nobody in my family ever ventured into the aviation world. I am the youngest of 6. Me and my siblings have totally different interest. One works offshore, one served in the army, One is a horse trainer and works in Hollywood western films, one is a police officer and one is a soon to be English teacher, Me... I'm just a pilot. I guess my love for traveling is what really got me into flying. From age 11 to 17 I wanted to be a professional surfer. I traveled all over and spent the majority of my time in the water. I competed in surf contest locally and on the East Coast. When I finally picked up a small sponsor I thought that was it... that's what I was gonna do the rest of my life. After a month in a half in the southern jungles of Costa Rica when I was 17 I realized I loved surfing but lost my interest in the competitive side of it. I just wanted to travel! It didn't matter where I was going or why I was going It only mattered THAT i was going. I have a few more stories in between all that and the time I started flying one which involved buying an RV and trekking across America in it for a few months but lets skip to what matters.. Flying!

I started flying in Gulf Shores, AL out of Jack Edwards with my first flight instructor, Nate Coleman. I flew a C-152 with him up until I got my Private License. I really enjoyed those first few months learning something completely new to me. I was fortunate to have a really good Instructor too. I had my first solo April 10th, 2013. Scary stuff!! I did the usual 3 landings and bring it in thing. I'm sure it's the same for every pilot but I'll never forget that day. I just couldn't believe someone trusted me enough to let me fly a machine into the air by myself... well maybe they didn't trust me but that's what insurance is for right? I think I was hooked to flying the first day I stepped in the plane but the hook was definitely set on that day. 

I was working a full time summer job (7 days a week on the beach at a Parasail and water-sport company) while I was a student pilot. Nate was cool enough to get out there early before I worked most mornings to fly with me (I owe him big time!) After about 52 hours in the logbook I took my PPL Checkride with a really cool examiner named Chip. It was a success! "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be." Of course that was just my "License to Learn". Well that won't suffice... Time for the next thing.

I continued my training with Nate this time in the PA-28 (Cherokee Warrior) and after many practice ILS's, LOC's, VOR's, holds (sorry Nate for frustrating you during these), radio chatter and long cross-countries I took my Instrument Checkride with another great DPE, Mal. Again, "It wasn't as bad as I thought." That was a really rewarding rating to get and probably some of the most important training for any pilot.

After a bout 100 hours of time building I went over to Utah to learn how to fly around the mountains. That was some really fun flying and I met some good friends I still talk to. I flew the Piper Arrow for the 10 complex hour commercial requirement with another good instructor, Rob Machado. He taught me a lot about mountain and canyon flying which was great! This training was fun because after a lot of stressful instrument and precision flying I got a chance to stick my head back out the window. I took the CSEL Checkride with, yes, another great examiner, Lynn French. I think he enjoyed making it a little difficult by lots of distractions and talking during the checkride but it was a good day! "It wasn't as bad as I thought." Now I can get paid to fly!

I started the CFI ground school the following evening. This is where I met Scott Pettis. He's a 15,000 hour pilot and is the captain of a PC-12 (Pilatus). His boss, who owns the PC-12 wanted him to get his CFI so he could start logging time while Scott flew him all around the country so he was 1 of 4 students in the class with me. We helped each other with CFI lessons and flew around in the DA-40 and the Cessna Corvalis together taking turns being the student and the instructor. I got a chance to fly the Pilatus with him back from Sacramento. I also got a couple turns at flying a helicopter with him, an R-44. He's a really good pilot and I learned a lot from him.

Well I eventually got tired of being land-locked in snowy Utah and had to go back to the beach. I got back to Alabama February 26th 2014. Rod was kind enough to help me out with some more CFI practice flying and getting my checkride scheduled (I owe him big time too). Rods another awesome pilot, anybody can learn a lot just flying with this guy for a few minutes. 

Another requirement for the Initial CFI is Spin training. I did some spin training back in the summer with Nate after I got my PPL but the FAA was looking for something more recent so I got to go to Pensacola and do a Spin course and Intro to Aerobatics with this Genius of a Pilot Jimbo aka Capt. Cuervo. Fun Stuff!!!

Meanwhile during all the craziness of studying and preparing for the checkride I got the opportunity to run a few scenic flights out of Gulf Air Center at KJKA, and do a little bit of banner towing with a local pilot, Bancroft or "Banc". I also got to go along on cross countries with Rod in the Cirrus, Cherokee 6, Comanche, and King Air. It has been great flying different planes and getting the feel for each of their own flight characteristics. 

After all the fun it was time to take the checkride. It was scheduled for April 21st, and got pushed back to the 22nd for weather and aircraft maintenance problems. For the CFI initial checkride the FAA local FSDO inspector has first choice of giving you the ride and I got assigned a lady from the Birmingham FSDO, Nina. the checkride went good that day I made it through the famous CFI Oral portion. That was the part I was dreading. We made it into the Warrior to knock out the required maneuvers and i was going to finish the ride in the Comanche to demonstrate Power-off 180s and Complex proficiency. Got about an hour into the flight when the ceilings started dropping quick on us forcing us to land. I got a LOA (Letter of Discontinuance) due to weather. I wasn't able to finish the ride with Nina but fortunately I was able to go up to Jasper, AL. the next day and finish the maneuvers in the Comanche with another great Pilot and DPE, Gordo. Again, "it wasn't as bad as I thought." The checkride went great despite the plane trouble me and Carl (local pilot and CFI) experienced on the way up there that morning. Basically ending in a dead-stick landing at a remote airstrip in north Alabama. After returning to KJKA and receiving some "pit-stop" maintenance we went for a second go up to Jasper where I finally became a CFI. More power trouble on the way back that night but we were able to land safely home.

My career goals aren't set in stone yet but I turn 20 this October and plan to have my Multi Engine and Seaplane ratings before then. I like to think that one day I'll be running a Seaplane Island Hopping/Exploring/treasure hunting company down in the Caribbean or on some island in the south Pacific one day, whether or not that will work out is left to the choices I make down the road and the Pilot Gods :)

I have a few more flying stories I'd love to share but I will be up all night if I keep writing so I'll wrap it up. I can say that I am very lucky to have such amazing pilots and instructors to look up to. Nate, Rod, Rob, Scott and many others have each taught me different things about flying that you can't really put a price on. I hope to do the same for my future students. At only 400 hours total time, flying has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I've ever done and I have much more to learn and experience from it. Any aspiring pilot that reads Swayne's Blog for advice and has lasted all the way through my long post, The only thing I can say is study, fly, study again, fly, and study some more. You'll learn something new every time you crack open that book or read that article. If anything, besides my talented instructors, has gotten me this far in aviation it's because I read everything I could and watched every video I could about flying. Stay persistent, respect the weather and keep flying!



Thanks so much Haley for writing in and sharing your story! The fact that you're a CFI and only 19 years old, two years older than myself, is so cool! I have a feeling you're going to have an awesome and exciting career. You've already done so much! 

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Share Your Story: Briggs Christie, Flying in Hawaii

Welcome to the 32nd "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show students the diverse range of experiences/careers available to them in aviation. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

Aloha from paradise, Swayne, and well done on the blog. I found it searching for some PP training talk and it's going to be a regular read. I'm looking forward to rewinding to the beginning to get caught up (and probably find both how different and similar the learning experience can be for all of us).

I would have to think that I'm approaching my flight education from a fairly unique perspective, being a bit further on in years than most of the students I've encountered (we'll call it "over 50" and leave it there, young lad). Add to that over 2,500 hours of airtime as a professional hang glider pilot, so the air is already one of my favorite playgrounds, and I figured that this whole pilot's license thing would be a breeze.


I'll save the gory details for another day, but having to UNLEARN those countless hours of instinct and reflex was amazingly humbling. Flying is flying, but landing with flaps and power and wheels instead of none-of-the-above is different story. 

The story I wanted to pass on has everything to do with WHERE you learn to fly and the people whose job it is to help you do it safely. If you live on an island in the middle of the ocean, the airports with education are few. On Oahu, with the exception of one flight school on a small strip that's impossible to drive to if you have a job in Honolulu, HNL is all you get. That would be HNL, Class B airspace utilized by every flying machine imaginable. An Airbus 330 looks really, really big when it's landing underneath you as you cross over its runway at 800'. So does an F-22, a helicopter, etc. You get force-fed a lot of radio work in a hurry. I soloed this past Monday, which is done by getting the heck out of there and hopping to JRF in Kapolei, twin strips refereed by the National Guard and not quite as crazy. Drop off the CFI and jump into the pattern with your friends (only four others this day, not so bad). All went smoothly and the sign-off was done back at the hangar.

Of course, the next step in the training here is to to solo out of the Class B airspace. To make this leap, I had to prove to the CFI that I've got the chops for it, so up we went on Wednesday. His hands and feet are away from the controls, he says nothing on the radio (even if I screw up...gotta work it out) and he's the invisible man. Outbound went smooth as silk; Clearance, Ground, Tower, Departure, I don't think they even knew I was a student. (Of course, starting at the far hangar in a C150 might have given them a clue, but I'm sticking to my story.) A quick trip to JRF to get some practice in and back we went, the CFI once again magically disappearing.

HNL has four runways, one which has been shortened but usable for several months due to repairs. Today? Closed since this morning. That's a 25% reduction in the "places to land" department and I'm showing up in the early evening when the inter-island flights are clumped together at the end of the business day, UPS and FedEx are heading out, you get the picture. Once I got the ATIS information, I switched to Departure and the chatter was constant.

I waited for a gap and chimed in with my "Cessna XXXX is with you at the Sugar Mill with information X-Ray" all official-like and...? Nothin'. Conversations with other planes kept right on. I gave it a minute and tried it again. Same result. I glanced over at the CFI and got a not-so-invisible shrug and, "beats me...try it again". The third time was indeed a charm, but instead of clearance I was given a transponder frequency and told to turn around and climb up to 2,500' and wait at the interchange (a major landmark just out the Class B). As I was doing this, I heard another Cessna chime in and receive the same instructions for 2,000' and we both acknowledged we had each other in sight. Immediately after that, a Piper...and he's sent beneath us at 1,500'. There's another Cessna just inside the Class B at 1,500' working his way into the pattern, a tour helicopter directly below us at 500' and a bonus prize: an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter (the one with two blenders instead of just one) crossing next to the whole stack on his way out. Inbound over the ocean west of us? Two B717's from Hawaiian and a B767 from Air Canada. 

We're all making circles crossing from sunshine (air sinking at about 300 FPM) into an area under a dark, drizzling cloud (air going up at 300 FPM), trying to stay rigidly at our assigned altitudes and not make any sudden moves and TWO MORE VFR Cessna's chime in and request clearance. I looked over at the CFI again and he smiled and said, "No I've never done this either". That got a laugh from both of us. What else can you do but laugh?

Somehow, I ended up second in line and headed into the approach (not having to be urged to "speed it up a bit" like the Cessna that was ahead of me, I was just fine with beating feet to get in and get down). Not surprisingly, my downwind was extended and the Tower called my base for a long final with the Air Canada flight right below me just touching down and something really big taking off out in front of me quartering to the right and away. The moment my wheels made a mercifully gentle squeak, the Tower cleared a Turboprop (who came from I-know-not-where) to land. On the runway I was currently occupying. Great.

The normal (as in EVERY other time I've landed at HNL) routine is to exit to the right on Echo or Foxtrot and work your way to the hangars via Charlie, being handed off from the Tower to Ground at some point during the process and making only one right turn to be clear of everything. Not today. Immediately after clearing the Turboprop, I got "Cessna XXXX turn left...I REPEAT, LEFT...on Echo to Delta to Bravo, hold short on Bravo". Two things: first, left is into the plaid-looking maze of taxiways BETWEEN two runways and second, I've never heard that phraseology from a Tower or anybody else. "I repeat?" Apparently he wanted to sure I got it.

We sat for a few minutes on Bravo taxiway feeling very small as a lot of aluminum went by on both sides and were finally given instructions to take Delta to Foxtrot to Charlie (at some point, you'd figure they'd run out of alphabet, wouldn't you?) and made our way to the gas pump behind the hangar to shut down and refuel. I turned to my instructor and asked, "So...NOW can I solo out of here?".

This time the laugh didn't have that nervous tinge to it.

What a circus and education. I'd love to say that I was just an epic pilot and all that, but the reality is that all the work was done by the folks on the other end of the radio. My job was to just relax, fly the plane, listen to what to do, confirm what to do and do it. The calm and business-like voices kept me just as calm and business-like (well...mostly), the hand-offs from one to the other to the other were well defined and I drove home with the confidence that I could indeed deal with this craziness and an important lesson about the people whose job it is to keep me from doing something wrong and/or stupid. I had always been impressed with the skill it takes to be an ATC, but the appreciation for their role in my LIFE grew 1000%, something that will stick with me.

Wheels up on my own on Monday. I ain't scared.

Fly safe!
Briggs Christie, Kailua, HI

Thanks Briggs for writing in and sharing your story. It's awesome to hear about your flight training experiences in Hawaii. This summer, I'm headed out to the islands and hope to try flying there, myself. It should be a lot of fun!

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1