Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Year in the Life of a Student Pilot

Shown below is my newest video entitled “A Year in the Life of a Student Pilot.” Bits and pieces from all of my aviation experiences over the past year have been included. (if reading this from an email, click on this link to watch on YouTube: Click Here

The year has come and gone so fast! Exactly one year ago today, I took off on my first flight lesson, a bit apprehensive, but very excited. I remember having the controls handed off to me for the first time, I was scared and a little intimidated. My instructor asked me to do some S shaped turns, so I could get a feel for the plane. Being timid as I was at first, my turns were probably a 10 degree bank. The instructor laughed a little and showed me how it was done, putting the plane into some 65 degree steep turns on the spot. After that moment, I began to realize that the plane I was flying was a strong machine, and could handle some pressure. 

Just one year later, I feel like I’ve come so far. I look forward to every flight with just as much excitement as I did with those first few lessons, but am definitely less intimidated! Below is a list of some highlights from the year. I was fortunate to experience some things that I never dreamed I’d be doing within the year, it’s been really amazing. The year was filled with so many “firsts” for myself; I’m so thankful that my family has supported me through it all. 

  • First Solo Flight (week of my 16th birthday) 
  • Flying with Colin Summers over Los Angeles, Malibu, and Hollywood 
  • Flying in for a “$100 hamburger” at Jamestown Airport with some friends 
  • First Solo Cross Country Flight 
  • Flight over Gulf Shores with Rod Kellogg 
  • Flyby for my family reunion 
  • First helicopter flight, over the Grand Canyon 
  • First glider flight lesson, over Lake Tahoe 
  • Hitting 108,000 views on my YouTube video: “Inspiration for Pilots, What if money was no object?” 
  • Landing at my “home airport,” Richmond International Airport 
  • Flying into First Flight Airport, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina 
  • Visiting Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona  
  • Hitting 100,000 views on this blog! (from over 174 countries!!!) 

This has been one of the busiest years I can remember. With over 116 articles written on this blog, you can read a little about nearly everything memorable that I had the chance to do. With my Junior Year of High School in full swing, it’s been chaotic, but so rewarding at the same time.  I can’t wait to see how things will go in the coming year. 

I’m due to get my pilot’s license in about 2 months (at the minimum age), and am nearly ready to take my FAA PPL Written Exam. I can't wait for the moment that I pass that final exam... So what am I most excited for? ... Being able to finally be the pilot in command with friends and family onboard, showing off the skills I’ve been training so hard to gain over the past year. I can’t wait for the chance to show off our city to friends and family, from the air, to give them an entirely new perspective on where they’ve lived for so many years. 

The past year has been great, and there is so much to look forward to in the new year. A world of opportunities have opened up for me because of my involvement in aviation, I can’t wait to take advantage of some of the diversity that aviation offers. 

Thanks for reading and watching, Have a great New Year! Stay tuned for a new article about the coming year, with a big announcement! 
-Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and is able to spend some good time with friends and family. For my flight crew friends out there who might be traveling away from home, I hope you have a safe flight, and that your Christmas is full of smooth flying.

This is a video from WestJet, the "WestJet Christmas Miracle," that went viral a few weeks ago. The video has over 32 million views... for a really good reason! Talk about some great advertising and PR work! If you haven't seen the video, click play below:

Here's another great aviation Christmas themed video below, Santa's Checkride:

Pilots and flight crews all around the world often have to sacrifice their holidays to keep the world moving, something that we should all be grateful for. I just hope they end up better than Santa did last night! 

Have a great Christmas Day, make sure to check back soon for a recap of this year! There is also a big announcement coming for 2014!,
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Monday, December 23, 2013

First Night Training Flight

Requirements I have left to do for my Private Pilot's License are becoming slimmer by the week. In general, these are the four things I have left to do for my PPL, that I'll hopefully get in February (when I turn the minimum age of 17): 

  • 1 more hour of night flying (2 more landings) 
  • 2.3 more hours of simulated instrument flying
  • 3 hours of solo cross country time (including the "long" solo xc) 
  • Pass my FAA Written Exam 

A week ago, before I really had to buckle down for final exams in school, I took my first ever night training flight with my instructor. We planned on a flight from Hanover KOFP to Charlottesville KCHO, returning to KOFP. 

I arrived at the airport around 5:20pm, right after the sun had set. After a pre-flight and quick flight plan, we took off towards Charlottesville. We decided to practice tracking a VOR along the way, the Gordonsville VOR. Since KCHO is a Class D, Towered Field, I began by my communications with Potomac Approach, with the following transmissions: 

"Potomac Approach, 16 Hotel Victor" ("knocking on their door" vs dumping all of the information at once)
--"16 Hotel Victor, Potomac Approach" 

"We are a Tecnam Light Sport passing over the Gordonsville VOR at 4500 feet, requesting a touch and go at Charlottesville with information Victor, 16 Hotel Victor" 
--"16 Hotel Victor roger, Squak 4423, proceed VFR on course to Charlottesville at 4500 feet, Charlottesville alitmeter 30.01" 

..... etc. 

Below is an example video of mine, that includes transmissions when contacting approach control, and landing at a towered field (Richmond RIC, in this case): 

So we were cleared into Charlottesville's airspace and switched over to their tower frequency. It's always fun to fly into KCHO because even though it's a commercial airport, it only has one runway, and isn't ever extremely busy, so it's not too confusing. We were actually cleared to land and fly left traffic for runway 21 immediately once contacting the tower. 

Flying at night is really enjoyable, as you can see things from much farther out compared to during the day. You can clearly see all the airports around you, from their green and white beacons. Flying in the pattern took a little getting used to, as student pilots always have a tendency to stay high at first when flying at night.

The videos below are of night landings at Buenos Aires and Los Angeles. You can see how unique cities look when flying above them at night. Make sure to turn the videos to HD: 

Below is one of my favorite night flying videos, it really shows how cool it is from the cockpit of a small plane. (This video is from Lufthansa Flight Training Cadets, due to copyright issues, I can't embed it on this website. Click the "watch on YouTube" button after clicking play on the video below. Alternatively, click on this URL: Click Here)

Approaching too high happened to me on final into Charlottesville, I wanted to level off because the optical illusion of night flying makes you think that you're flying too low. My instructor quickly corrected me on this, and told me to aim for the very end of the runway. That ended up working out really well, and we had a smooth landing. 

Here are some night flying tips from Sporty's: 

We decided to head back to Hanover to do 7 more landings and takeoffs, contributing towards the 10 total landings and takeoffs at night required by the PPL. The coolest moment for me that night was the fact that I was the one adjusting and turning on/off the airport runway and taxiway lights. You just tune to the UNICOM frequency and click 7 times for full brightness, 5 times for medium, or 3 times for dim. I thought it was really cool to be 18 miles away, click the mic, and suddenly see the airport light up before me. 

After 7 landings and takeoffs at Hanover, we packed the plane back into the hangar for the night. We only did 8 out of the required 10 landings and takeoffs, so that we could save the last 2 for the 1 hour of night training that I had left to do. 

Flying at night was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed being able to learn which types of landmarks one could use for night cross-countries (very bright lights!). 

Thanks for reading,
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Flight Report: Delta 757-200 Economy Comfort (Orlando MCO to ATL)

After a great visit to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, we began our flights back home to Richmond. I was excited for the MCO-ATL flight in particular because we were seated in a Delta Economy Comfort row, a row before the engine. I hadn't ever flown in Economy Comfort, so was excited to see what it'd be like. 

Delta Flight 1618 Information:
  • Flight: Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)
  • Flight Time: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
  • Aircraft: Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200 (N6708D)
  • Seat: 21F (economy comfort, window) 

Delta Economy Comfort is a travel class that can be purchased for a small fee, one tier above Economy. Benefits for traveling in EC include: priority boarding, prime seat location, and extra legroom. I was skeptical about how much the extra legroom would really affect the comfort of the flight. When sitting down, you notice the difference right away; there was plenty of room for my backpack under the seat in front of me, in addition to room to stretch out a little. For the small fee that can be from $9-$30, Economy Comfort is totally worth it. 

Here is the Delta Air Lines video for their International Economy Comfort Class:

We were fortunate to be placed on an ex-Song 757-200 (N6708D) for our short flight to Atlanta. All of the ex-Song fleet have PTVs installed in the seat-backs for all travel classes. Our row, 21, has two windows, both of which are easy to look out of. Here are some photos from our seat, and of the surrounding cabin: 

The window view from row 21 is pretty great. The engine is just slightly behind the row, so there's very little blocked view of the ground. This is photo pre-pushback out of Orlando MCO: 

Here is the video of our takeoff from Orlando MCO: (more videos like this can be found on my Youtube Channel, MartinsAviation1)

Being only 1 and a half hours, this was a pretty quick flight. We flew Northeast, along the coast of Florida, before turning Northwest towards Atlanta. We flew past Daytona Beach and Embry-Riddle, the college I had visited just one day before. The following are photos mid-flight, on our way to Atlanta: 

If you're lucky enough to sit in the right spot on a Delta 737, 757, or 767, you can get a pretty cool mirror view of yourself in the engine. Delta has its engines painted a dark blue. When look at them, this allows the paint to act as a mirror that reflects your image. From my vantage point, you could see the plane's wheels retract and be lowered before/after landing and takeoff. In the landing video below, you can see the smoke when the wheels make contact with the runway, because of a view like this. In the photo below, you can see what our reflection looked like: 

In the video below of our landing in Atlanta, make sure to check out the points when you can see the wheels being lowered, and the wheels making contact with the runway. This isn't a view you get very often! 

Overall, I really enjoyed my first ever flight seated in Delta's Economy Comfort Cabin. For what you get, I think it's totally worth paying the small extra fee. Upon arrival in Atlanta, we parked at Terminal E, the International Terminal. The 757 we had just flown on was up for a trip to Mexico City in just a few minutes time. 

Thanks for reading and watching!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Sunday, December 15, 2013

100,000 Views! (From Over 174 Countries!)

A huge milestone and personal goal of mine was just reached... the 100,000th view to this site! It has been a little under 1 year since I created this blog to document my flight training, showing what inspires me in aviation from the people I've met to the experiences I've had in aviation around the nation and world. 

Readers on "From Private to Professional Pilot" visit from over 174 countries, including every permanently habited continent on Earth. With visitors hailing anywhere from Uganda, to Mayotte, to Uzbekistan, I can never guess where the next reader might come from! To see some information about visitors to this blog, check out the following links for interactive maps and charts: 

Specific visitor details: Flag Counter

Below are images that show dots in varying size, each of which represent anywhere from 10-1,000+ visitors: 

It's such a gift to wake up in the morning to new emails from various corners of the earth, with inquiries about flight training, writing, and for some advice. I feel so new to aviation; it's humbling to have people reach out to ME of all people for advice! 

I've also been fortunate to connect directly with over 2,000 people on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Here are some ways you can connect directly with me:

Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1
LinkedIn: Swayne Martin

Thanks to all of my readers both inside and outside of the United States!
-Swayne Martin

Friday, December 13, 2013

Learning Skills on Land, Sea, and Air

I'm the kind of person who really believes in learning skill-sets, because having the ability to pick up something at a moment's notice, and know what do, is an amazing thing. I've just begun to realize that I'm currently learning skills on land, sea, and air, that, until this year, I had no knowledge of. 

Land: I got my driver's license this year, allowing me to drive solo, after having the ability for 3+ months to FLY solo. Does that make any sense?! 

Sea: I was a member of the Varsity Sailing Team for my school this year, and had an amazing time learning to sail for my team. We sailed every Saturday this fall in full-day, regatta races. We race frequently near Virginia Beach, requiring an early wakeup on Saturdays (5:30am), and a nearly 2 hour drive. And just if you thought sailing was enough for "sea," I will soon be getting my Virginia boating license (mainly for powered boating). 

Air: Learning how to fly has been an incredible growing experience for myself. It's shaping me into the person I am, and showing me what I'm really passionate about. In about 2 months, I will be legal to get my Private Pilot's License!

So with 3 licenses down, or almost complete, what's next? I can't wait one day to expand on my Pilot's license, and try out helicopter and more glider flying. Some other skills I'd love to learn are: scuba diving, motorcycle driving, skydiving, etc.... I think I might be starting to scare my mom a little now, so I'll just leave it at that! 

For all of you student pilots out there, think about going out of the box with your training every now and then, to change things up. I'm soon going to take a multi-engine flight in my school's Tecnam P2006, not for any reason in particular, but just to experience something a little different. Aviation is incredibly diverse, take the chance to experience what it offers!  

Thanks for reading!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

PS... My first night training flight is tonight. I'll be flying from KOFP Hanover to KCHO Charlottesville to do my 10 night landings and takeoffs! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Ace Abbott's Aviation Affair" Radio Interview with Swayne Martin

A few days ago, I had the privilege of being interview by Ace Abbott, a retired military, corporate, and airline pilot, for his radio talk show, "Ace Abbott's Aviation Affair." Ace was the second pilot to write in for the "Share Your Story" section of this blog and is the author of the book "The Rogue Aviator," an excellent read for any pilot. Check out his story and book here: Share Your Story: Ace Abbott. 

In topics ranging from flight training, to biofuels, to the future of the aviation industry, we had an excellent conversation about the aviation industry from the perspective of an aspiring professional pilot, myself, and someone who has "been there and done that." To listen to our radio interview, click on this link: Exuberance of an Aspiring Pilot, or click the play button below: 

I'd like to say a special thanks to Ace for reaching out to me for this radio opportunity. It was an excellent experience for me, something I'll be happy to listen to for many years to come. 

Thanks again,
-Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Embry-Riddle Flight Training, Aircraft Fleet, and Observation Flight

As you read in my previous article, College Decisions for a Student Pilot, there are so many ways to the "top of the mountain," in my case, a professional pilot career. One option is not necessarily better than the next. In this, I'm in no way trying to "push you" towards Embry-Riddle, just showing you one path, and some of the things I learned from my visit. 

I took the opportunity this fall to visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida. My two day visit is broken into three separate articles: Day One (College of Business and Campus Tour), Day Two (College of Aviation), and Observation Flight/Flight Programs. In each article, I will try to summarize the programs and degrees I learned about, in addition to some things I found surprising about the school. 

Embry-Riddle introduction video (*note, this is for the Prescott Campus):

The following video is a summary of my experience at Embry-Riddle, including video clips and photos from around campus, on the flight line, and in the air: 


Embry-Riddle is known for its world class flight degree programs and training. For better or worse, ERAU Daytona is all aviation all the time. Situated directly on the Daytona Beach International Airport, planes are constantly flying over the college campus. To some, that'd be unbearable, but for us pilots, we always end up looking frantically around to see where the overflying jet is. There are many observation decks around campus available to students who want to check out the airport. 

Embry-Riddle's fleet in Daytona is comprised of 88 aircraft. The following aircraft types make up their fleet: 

Cessna 172

American Champion Decathalon

Piper PA28 Arrow

DiamondStar Twin DA42

ERAU Cessna 172 Glass Cockpit

In addition to the aircraft above, the university recently announced a fleet renewal which will take place over the next 2 years. The new Cessna 172s (44 of them) and Piper Arrows will come with a new liveries, wireless data transfer systems, and all glass cockpits. According to the school, all of these new planes will be in the fleet by 2015. The colors will be exactly like the Cessna below: 


One very appealing aspect of ERAU to prospective students is the airline gateway programs the college offers. Here is what is said about the programs on the Embry-Riddle website:

"Over the years, Embry-Riddle has had in place one or more new-hire programs with commercial airlines. The programs were implemented and designed to provide exceptional opportunities for Embry-Riddle graduates with Aeronautical Science degrees to become, upon graduation, new-hire pilots with airlines. These relationships depend on airline pilot hiring opportunities which are currently on hold at most airlines."

A variety of gateway programs are available directly through the school. In many cases, students are interviewed their sophomore year by the airline, and if chosen, follow their requirements from that point to be hired. It was described to me by the College of Aviation leaders that the students "wear the tee-shirt" of their airline from the day that they get the job. These programs normally require the student to be an instructor at the school, something that school offers every flight student (after a rigorous interview process). Each person is still a full-time student at ERAU, but already has something set up for when they graduate. The programs offered are listed below (for more information on these programs, click here): 
  • SkyWest Airlines 
  • ExpressJet / Delta Air Lines
  • American Eagle 
  • Cape Air / JetBlue 
  • Proctor and Gamble (Corporate Aviation) 

Example Gateway Program (Cape Air and JetBlue): 


While I was visiting the campus, I was offered the opportunity to take an observation flight in one of their Cessna 172s. There was an instructor and student up front, with me observing from the second row. The flight time was scheduled from 5:50pm-8pm (takeoff around sunset and some night flying). The student planning to do some holding pattern work around the Daytona/Flagler area. You can see video clips from our flight at the top or bottom of this article.

We took off from Runway 16 at KDAB and had a great view of the ERAU Campus as we turned East and then North towards one of the practice areas. The second you take off and get a view above the trees, the ocean is in sight and only a few seconds away: 

Flying at sunset and into early nighttime was a great experience as well. The bright, orange sunset lit up the entire aircraft, a great chance for some photos!

The flight program at ERAU was very impressive to me, as it is to many pilots around the world. I can't wait for my next visit down to Daytona Beach to be on campus again. And who knows? ... Maybe this will be my home in a few years. 

Thanks for following along with my Embry-Riddle experience. If you missed one of my three articles about my visit, check out the "College for Student Pilots" tab at the top of this site.

Enjoy the fly life everyone!,
-Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation