Sunday, February 24, 2013

Montego Bay's Airport --Like St. Maarten

Over spring break 2012, my family travelled to Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had a great time and of course did something aviation along the way!

As many people have done before, we walked around the downed fence at the end of the runway. (from the beach). This allowed us to get just feet from the runway for the takeoffs and landings at MBJ. It was so much fun!

We stood there, very similarly to SXM airport in St. Maarten, with planes flying just 20-30 feet over our heads. It was crazy! 

American 737 Takeoff: sorry for the shaking and noise it was really windy

Mom filming: me and my brother under a United 737 Landing

All of the pilots taking off waved to us as they were getting to the runway for their rollout... except one. Sadly for us, we think he turned us in. Shortly after his takeoff, the airport police came up and asked us (nicely) to leave. 

Air Canada 767-300 from Toronto

Oh well, we weren't there too long. It was definitely fun while it lasted! Once again, little excursions like this all contributed to my growing passion for aviation. I'm sure pilots enjoy having a layover here!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

First Solo Flight

Video highlighting my first solo flight today: 

The significance of a first solo flight: 

Finally, after two failed attempts due to poor weather, I woke up this morning excited and ready to go. With perfect, cloudless, blue skies and pretty low wind I finally had the chance to do my first solo flight. Needless to say... I was pretty excited! With only 4.4 hours under my belt going into today, I soloed pretty early. I'm glad my instructor had confidence in me to do everything safely!

We headed out to the airport at about 8:30am for the scheduled flight time. I was lucky and found a time in which my whole family, even my grandfather, could be there. For years I had only dreamed of getting ready to go out and fly by myself, but today was the day, and I was ready. For the first time, I saw a jet come into the airport. Apparently they come in a lot on the weekdays, so I hadn't seen one until today. Maybe one day I'll be in the cockpit of a plane like that!

I pre-flighted the plane and got ready for the first part of my lesson. My instructor and I went up to do 4 takeoffs and landings before I would solo, just to make sure I was 100% ready to go. We went through some last minute information, reviewed more about the pattern, made sure I was good on radio calls, and tested out the growing crosswinds. After a good 4th landing, I taxied back to the ramp area to let my instructor out of the plane. When he got out it was a pretty weird feeling, a mix of excitement and worrying I would do something wrong. I knew that he wouldn't let me solo unless he was 100% sure I was totally ready to go.

By the time I began taxiing to runway 34, the winds were at about 6 knots, blowing perpendicular to the runway. I was second in line for departure, behind N16HV (another Tecnam aircraft). After he turned to his crosswind, I decided to go ahead. If you've never flown solo, it feels pretty different. I noticed on rollout how light the plane felt and how it quickly jumped off the ground.

When I took off I laughed to myself because I thought: "Wow, I'm up here flying this plane before I can even drive solo." It was a pretty cool feeling!

I looked over my shoulder down to the ramp area and saw my family with cameras waving and really loving it. That made me feel pretty good. I was glad that I was able to solo today for them. Flying in the pattern was fun. I really noticed how quiet it is. You're all alone in the plane with the occasional radio call... so it was pretty relaxing and really enjoyable. That is one of my favorite parts of flying. When you go up, all you have time to think about is flying that plane. You don't have time to worry about what is happening on the ground with life, people, school work, etc. That is something I know I will always love about flying.

As planned, I did 3 takeoffs and 3 full-stop landings. When I landed, I exited the runway, did a full post-landing checklist, and taxied back up to the run-up area. On the first landing, I looked over to my mom who was jumping up and down, more excited than I was!

The other landings and takeoffs went well. My first landing was by far the best, 2nd was the worst, and 3rd was second best. It was pretty windy on final, so I got thrown around a bit, but it all turned out ok in the end.

After the last landing, I taxied back to the ramp area, shut the plane down, and was greeted by my super excited family. Tons of photos later we were inside getting my endorsements down and had my shirt tail cut off. They explained to me the story behind why your shirt tail gets cut off after your first solo flight which was pretty interesting: First Solo Flight: Traditions

Thanks to everyone who has supported my with this goal of mine; I couldn't do it without you guys! 

-Swayne Martin: From Private to Professional Pilot

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Planning My First Solo

On Wednesday I became eligible for solo flight because I turned 16. Last weekend, as I wrote about in my last post, I had a good lesson and learned a whole lot. There was a scheduled plan for me to solo on my 16th birthday, but mother nature had some other plans. Even though I am pretty much ready to solo, and my instructor is confident, we have to wait to get the right weather (at least 1,500 foot ceilings, low winds, and 3sm visibility). In addition, my instructor will be going up with me right before I fly to make sure I'm all good to go. I might need another lesson on two before I solo, which I understand. 

Weather forecast when I had a flight planned for Wednesday afternoon... not good!

As of now, I have 4.4 hours under my belt, which isn't many at all for a first solo. I'm glad my instructor thinks I'm up to it and thinks I'm ready (or very close) to soloing. 

Soloing on my 16th Birthday would have been nice, but sadly I can't control the weather, so I had to reschedule. On Wednesday, I ended up rescheduling for this morning between 9-11am. I had the worst feeling when I woke up this morning and saw snow from my window. I think today was the first time in my life that I've seen snow and responded negatively! I was excited for today because the forecast was looking great. When I checked yesterday, there was a prediction for 3,100 - 6,500 foot ceilings with visibility over 6 miles (perfect for my low flying solo). I've now really come to see how poor weather predictions can be sometimes. By the time the scheduled time rolled around there was an overcast ceiling at 800 feet with snow and rain. What you do as a pilot is often dictated by the weather, so I'm really learning how to be patient and wait for the right day. 

Snow precipitation today shown on the bottom

So now, two times, my plan to solo has been cancelled due to weather, oh well... I have now rescheduled the time slot for Monday morning from 9-11am. As of now, the forecast looks excellent (0% chance of precipitation, over 12,000 foot ceilings, and low winds). I have definitely learned that I shouldn't get my hopes up for the weather, so I am approaching Monday with some skepticism.  

If I get the chance to solo on Monday I'm going to try to use my GoPro Hero 3 camera to record the flight if everything works out! 

Good Forecast for Monday... Crossing my Fingers!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pre-Solo (5th) Flight Lesson

Took another lesson today and really enjoyed it. Learned a whole lot... We flew today in N14HV (Tecnam Sierra) and did: 
  • Turns around a point
  • S-turns 
  • More steep-turns
  • In pattern engine out situations 
  • Forward slips into landings 
  • Go arounds
  • Radio calls

Did a total of 6 takeoffs and 5 landings (maybe more for both... not sure). I got used to making radio calls into the traffic frequency for each leg of the pattern which was good. Reviewing for today helped a lot; I made sure to study up on the new material before I got to the airport, which makes the flying a lot easier. 

The instructor did a few "real-life" situations with me which was great practice and helped developed some improved decision making. On one occasion, he (the instructor) pulled the power back to idle when we were at cruising altitude. He got me to verbally explain each step to take in case of an engine failure. On another occasion, on the downwind of the pattern, he did the same thing, pulling back the power to idle. At first, I wasn't sure the plane could make the runway if an engine failure were to occur... but he quickly corrected me. We turned perpendicular to the runway, entering at about halfway down the runway and made a quick landing. That sort of real life situational experience is something that should really help prepare me for my solo. 

Forward slips into landing were interesting and felt pretty strange. I didn't have any issues with it other than making sure to really push that right rudder all the way in (I was hesitant at first to really go for it). Landing off of a forward slip was a cool experience and felt totally different! 

Overall, today went nicely. I went ahead and bought the flight manual for the P2002 Sierra so I could make sure to review more about the aircraft while at home. 

And good news! This Wednesday, I turn 16 which makes me eligible to solo! I have reserved a slot Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 for (hopefully) my first solo (if the medical and weather works out). The instructor today said that "if given the opportunity, I would just have you go out and solo right now, you're perfectly ready." So that is good news, it's all going by so quickly. Right now, I'm only at 4.4 hours. I'm glad my instructors have some confidence in my ability! The weather isn't looking great for Wednesday, and no guarantee that it will be the right time for me to solo (need to make sure there aren't any last minute kinks). I will make sure to write something good for the blog about it, hopefully I'll be able to use my GoPro camera!

Have a great week!
Swayne Martin 

Cockpit on the Tecnam Eaglet (virtually the same as the Sierra)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Motivation - What if You Could Do Anything

If you are an aspiring pilot (or an aspiring anything else), watch this video. It has become a central theme for how I want to live my life, I'm sure many of you will feel the same way: 

There will always be reasons not to do something in life. As I wrote about in my post here: Don't Let Others Dissuade You, there are plenty of people who will get you down in life. At the same time, make an effort to surround yourself with people who will do the exact opposite. 

"When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it into something great; you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much. Somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others that will be too. But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track...

What do you desire?" 

There are so things I could go out and do. I could become a doctor, businessman, lawyer, etc (all noble professions) Many of the people I know at my school do just that. For me, that is not what I desire out of life. I want to spend my life exploring, moving, meeting new people, seeing new things everyday, and, most of all, flying! 

^ I know what I desire. What about you?