Monday, April 29, 2013

First Instrument Flight Lesson/Training

I had a flight lesson yesterday which was my first introduction to instrument flying. Normally, one does instrument flying along with their dual cross country flights to save time and money. Might as well fit hours for two requirements into one flight! Yesterday I didn't have enough time for a cross country flight, so we just practiced learning the basics of instrument flying. 

Instrument flying tips from Sporty's: 

Before the flight yesterday, my instructor and I had some ground school time where we went over the instrument systems for our specific aircraft, the Tecnam Sierra. He quizzed me on what would happen if the pitot tube were to get clogged or frozen due to ice, other failures, etc. We went over techniques for instrument flying, ie. how you want to scan all of the instrument vs. becoming focused on only one. 

Yesterday was really smooth flying which was nice. There was light rain, which was actually pretty fun to fly through. I had never flown through rain before, so that was another first. After we departed the airport and arrived in the practice area, my instructor took the controls and I put the hood on for the next .7 hours. 

Same type of hood I used

Here is what we practiced during instrument-only flight: 

  • straight and level 
  • climbs and descents
  • turns to a heading (maintaining altitude and standard rate turn)
  • unusual attitude recovery 
  • climbing turns
  • descending turns
  • steep turns (45degree bank, within 100ft. of altitude)
  • navigation while IFR (basically the same) 
  • ILS approach to runway 16 at KOFP Hanover

I actually really enjoyed flying with just instruments. It added a whole new level of thinking and wasn't even that challenging. If anything, I was actually maintaining altitude, attitude, and heading better than if I had been flying VFR. It was weird not being able to see anything outside of the plane, felt a little strange, but nothing too bad. One really interesting test for yourself is to close you eyes completely (with an instructor) and try to maintain straight and level flight. Some really strange things happen when you do this. You don't feel the true motions of the aircraft. It's turns, banks, climbs, etc. are extremely hard to notice. That is the real danger for someone not instrument trained in IFR conditions, they will tend to believe their body's feelings vs. the instruments. 

Flying IFR Example

It's definitely a mental challenge trying to monitor all of the appropriate instruments and make adjustments when needed to correct for errors to maintain a perfect flight. Luckily, because the air was smooth, flying went smoothly, and there was never a time (except during steep turns) that my altitude was off by more than 30-40 feet. 

I had no idea we were going to do an ILS approach, and it turned out to be pretty cool. After running the approach, at the minimums of 800ft, I took the hood off and the runways was right ahead of us... straight on course. It was the best feeling having shot the first ILS approach perfectly. That was another extremely rewarding moment, having flown to a runway, perfectly on course, without even looking outside. 

After a nice landing (the air was finally smooth yesterday), we de-briefed on what we had done during the flight. In all, I did .7 hours of hood time, contributing to the 3 hour requirement for a PPL. 

Thanks for reading,
Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Flight Report: Horizon Air Dash-8 Q400 Santa Rosa (STS) to LAX

After a great summer vacation in California, it was time to fly back to Virginia on American Airlines. During our vacation, we visited Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and San Francisco. We flew our first leg out of Santa Rosa (STS) Airport to Los Angeles International (LAX). It was an interesting choice to fly out of Santa Rosa on our part. We chose it because it created a cheaper route back, plus we wanted to drive North of San Francisco along the coast. 

Horizon Air (Alaska Airlines) Flight 2467 Information

  • Flight: Santa Rosa Airport (STS) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Flight Time: 1 Hour, 35 Minutes
  • Aircraft: Horizon Air Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 N412QX
  • Seat: 16D (window)

Our flight at Santa Rosa (STS) 

Flying out of Santa Rose was a unique experience. Not only was it the smallest commercial airport we'd ever been in, but it only has 1 to 2 flights per day. It was really interesting for the gate area to literally be picnic tables outside. 

Here is the video of our takeoff from my youtube channel: MartinsAviation1

Flying out of STS at sunrise, we flew over San Francisco which was covered in fog rolling in off the ocean. The plane wasn't full, so I switched between a few seats. In general, I like flying on Dash-8's. They are just big enough to be comfortable, with the cool factor of flying on a turbo-prop. 

 Window view, descending through the clouds into our own shadow

Seats on the Horizon Air Dash-8

 A short flight later, we arrived in LAX. It was strange to arrive at LAX in such a small plane. We didn't have a jetway, so we de-planed via the aircraft stairs. It was pretty cool to be walking across the tarmac at LAX underneath the much larger jets. 

Here is the video from our landing at LAX, as you can see, there was a Fedex DC-10 departing parallel to us: 

Thanks for reading and watching!

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Share Your Story: Kreg Anderson, 18, PPL - Minnesota

Welcome to the seventh "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in, to the blog, featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, etc. These posts showsfuture aviators the diverse range of careers available to them. More details + how to participate are here: Click Here and Get Involved

My name is Kreg Anderson, I’m 18 years old and I hail from Alexandria, Minnesota (KAXN). I’m not entirely sure as to how I got so intrigued to aviation, but I will say that living under the traffic pattern definitely played a role. As a young child I would always beg my parents to drive me out to the airport to watch the action, even in the dead of winter. As time progressed and I grew older I began riding my bike out to the airport several days a week. I started to meet the people of the airport, including pilots, mechanics, office staff, the airport manager and linemen. By the time I was 14 I was officially deemed “The Airport Bum” by a couple of airport employees. 

In the summer I was there on a daily basis and spent my time talking to all sorts of people and indulging in as much aeronautical knowledge as I could. It only seemed logical that I would start flight training as soon as possible, and sure enough I did. I began training in a Piper Tomahawk (N2495D) in 2009 at the age of 15. I continued into that fall and took a break that winter. In April of 2010 I turned 16 and I managed to solo and get my driver’s license on the same day, April 27, 2010. Also during that summer I was hired on as “the backup guy” at the local FBO Alexandria Aviation. 

The following summer, in 2011, I managed to grab a part-time lineman job when a position opened at Alex Aviation. Apart from working, I continued to progress towards my PPL and passed my checkride on Friday, September 2, 2011…just a few days before my junior year of high school began. During the summer of 2012 I was able to achieve my tailwheel endorsement while still being employed at Alex Aviation. My plans after graduating from high school this spring are to go up to the University of North Dakota where I will major in Aviation Management.

Apart from being employed by Alexandria Aviation, I am active in EAA Chapter 702 and serve as the “social committee chairman” where I plan group activities and fly-outs. In 2012 a fellow employee and I put together and hosted an airport fly-in/open house for the community. The first annual event drew over 1,000 people and 55 aircraft. We are planning for a 2nd annual fly-in on June 1, if anyone wants to attend!

Through my years of airport bumming I have found that the people involved with aviation have a great passion for what they do and are always willing to take someone in under their wing. Aviation wouldn’t be nearly what it is today if it wasn’t for those people who instill that passion in others. I am very grateful for everyone I have met through aviation and everyone associated with Chandler Field (KAXN) and what they have done for this airport. We have built a strong community here and I look forward to extending our friendship and passion for anyone who has ever dreamt skywards.
P.S. Come hang out with me at Oshkosh this summer!

Facebook: Kreg Anderson
Twitter: @mister_kreg

Thanks so much for sharing your story Kreg! It's awesome to see someone around the same age who has already done so much in aviation. I saw a whole lot of myself in you through your story. I used to beg my parents to go out to the airport, airshows, or just anything aviation when I was younger! Can't wait to see what you'll do in future years. I'm sure you'll love UND, make sure to stop by and write another story about your experiences there! 

Thanks again Kreg!
Swayne Martin

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

Sunday, April 21, 2013

First Dual Cross Country Flight (KOFP to KFVX)

Today was a big day for me, I flew my first "real" cross country flight! I've flown to other airports before, but not with the level of planning that goes along with a normal cross-country flight. Just to let some of you know that may not by familiar with the terminology, a cross country flight for a Private Pilot is usually defined as a flight between two points (airports in this case) using a variety of forms of navigation. 

The day started for me at home with a review of how to plan a flight, necessary flight calculations, learning about weight and balance, and checking more about the airport we were going to fly into. It was a little stressful for me the first time going over how to plan a flight, it's a lot of steps. I'm sure it will all become second nature with more practice. 

Our Tecnam Sierra in front of Dassault Falcon 2000 N850TC

Arriving at the airport, I knew I was in for a big learning day. My instructor and I went over how to plan out a VFR flight step by step. We started by mapping out a course in pencil on my sectional from KOFP Hanover, to the Flatrock (FAK) VOR Station, to KFVX Farmville Municipal Airport. Along the way, we chose some landmarks to use as checkpoints (they are shown in the image below). We calculated the weight and balance for the plane, which went fine. I had already had some experience with CG/weigh and balance calculations. Next, we calculated speed, flight times, and course between each of the way-points. Finally, one thing I found especially helpful after receiving the advice from my instructor, was to draw a sketch of the airport I was about to fly into. The quick drawing included the runway (with directions, length, and width), wind socks, and taxiways. 

After filling out the VFR flight plan, I called the 1-800-WX-BRIEF number for the first time to file a flight plan and get a standard weather briefing. I was more nervous about calling than I should have been. It really was easy. The man who I spoke with knew I was a student pilot and was fine walking me through the information, he took it slow, which I greatly appreciated. It's an amazing thing that we as pilots have the ability to call for a weather briefing specifically for our route of flight. 

After getting some water and finishing up the pre-flight checks, we were ready to go. The weather was much better today than my last lesson. It was still windy, but not nearly as turbulent. We flew from KOFP Hanover to KFVX Farmville today using the VOR Station FAK (Flatrock) for navigation on the way out. Using a combination of VOR, GPS, Pilotage, and Dead Reckoning, the flight went smoothly, and I learned a whole lot. There was a decent amount of turbulence, which was annoying, but nothing too bad. I was amazed at how accurate the flight planning was. Passing by each waypoint, we were only about 1 minute off... which is pretty good for a first run! 

10 Nautical Miles out from Farmville, we made a call on the CTAF Frequency 122.8 to announce our position. We checked the weather which read that winds were from about 050 at 8kts. Based on this, we chose runway 3 for landing. Beginning the legs of the 1,400ft pattern, we extended our downwind to allow a Baron Beechcraft to takeoff ahead of us. On final into Farmville, the crosswind came from our right. I was just hoping for a better landing than the last flight lesson! It turned out ok but not great, we landed slightly sideways, which is never good. Farmville airport is in a nice, rural spot. It has a golf course on one side and a large forest, with a view to the mountains, on the other. Unlike Hanover, it was nice and quiet. No traffic to deal with, basically just us out there.

After taxiing back around, I asked my instructor if I could have another go at a landing, to see if I could do any better. We flew around the pattern again, and this time... the landing was perfect! I was so happy that I was finally getting a better hang of crosswind landings. After our touch and go, we flew on a course of 050, towards the James River. We followed the River all the way back up to Richmond. We flew down Patterson Ave. and back into the Hanover area. By this time, the air was completely smooth, and was fun to fly in. It's the best feeling getting out of turbulence and into smooth air, much less stressful. 

Overall, I loved my first real cross country flight. Farmville has a nice airport, in a cool location. This was my longest continuous flight to date, nearly 1.8 hours! I can't wait to see where we will fly next! 

Have a great week and thanks for reading,
Swayne Martin 

Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flight Training Isn't All "Smooth Landings"

While flying is one of my favorite things to do, there are challenges I have to be honest about in learning how to fly. Not everything goes smoothly, as you're about to find out, but that's a good thing. It's all a learning experience which will make me a better pilot in the end. 

I was totally psyched for my lesson last Saturday. I had planned out a course which used my house and school as a waypoint for our flight up the James River. Flying over my house and school was a life changing experience for me. For my entire life I'd been a kid looking up the skies from the yard, dreaming of being one of those pilots flying over my house. It felt like a huge accomplishment to fly over and see where I had watched the sky for years, this time as the person flying the plane. 

My lesson that day is a perfect example of what learning to fly can be like. At one point I was enjoying my flight up the James River, with the canopy open, flying convertible style. The next moment, I realized something wasn't right with the way the plane was flying. I checked around the cockpit and realized the trim lighting bar (showing amount of trim) was off. I checked the electrical fuses and saw that my instructor had popped one out. Depending on the day, this is something completely normal to go through as a student. Your instructor will test you on real-life situations like that to test your awareness. It's a combination of challenging, frustrating, and rewarding experiences. 

A few minutes later, my instructor asked me to divert to Lake Anna airport with no GPS. I thought "ok, I can do this pretty easily." What I didn't know was that my instructor picked that airport specifically because it was North of the line which separates the sectional chart into two parts. I knew the general direction was North of where I was, but I miss-calculated the direction and distance a little, which resulted in me heading on a NW instead of NE course. Never having really navigated with a sectional chart before was interesting to try for the first time. In the Sierra, it's difficult to find room to hold the chart because it's a stick-flown aircraft. You don't have much room in your lap. 

After flying over Lake Anna, my instructor and I flew to the Louisa County airport. One thing I haven't gotten used to yet is being able to tell which runway to land on based upon the wind direction given by the automated weather, when you radio in. Luckily, I chose the correct runway in the end which was a relief for me. On the approach, I noticed how rough the air had become. The winds were blowing at about 6kts, gusting to 15kts. This made for a really rough landing (certainly the worst I've done so far). Because of the crosswind and gusts, I had some trouble settling the plane to the ground. It must've bounced 10 feet into the air before settling down with some side-loading. Not good at all, I wasn't happy with the way I had landed. That was the first time I'd really sucked at a landing. Granted, the conditions were way worse than ever before. Nonetheless, I was still disappointed. 

Always with surprises, my instructor asked if I wanted to do a soft-field takeoff on the grass at Louisa. I was excited but nervous after having had such a bad landing. We decided to try it out and taxied out to the grass adjacent to the runway. Honestly, except for the procedure for soft-field takeoffs, nothing felt that different. It was a little bumpy, but nothing bad! I was actually pretty happy when I completed my first grass (soft) field takeoff! Another first accomplished that day!

Flying back to Hanover KOFP, we radioed in to discover 4kt winds gusting to 16kts! For the light sport tecnam, it was sure to be a rough ride. My instructor asked if I was comfortable handling the landing to which I responded a hesitant yes. Our landing, once again, was rough. We ballooned back into the air after having made contact with the ground. I wasn't happy with myself at all. 


I was disappointed to have ended the flight on such a bad-note. Looking back on that lesson, I know that I learned more in that one flight than I probably have in all of my flight training so far. Things won't always come easily. Just like anything in life, there will be ups and downs, rough landings and smooth landings. It's all a part of the journey, and I'm glad I'm a part of it. Personally, I can't wait to get after it again and take another challenge on! 

Everyone has failures in training at some point or another. For me, after that lesson, I felt as if I had failed. Looking back, I see a different story. I see a flight student with only 6 hours behind the stick, who learned more in one day than in their entire training career thus far. 

Stick with it all of you PIC's in training, we'll all get there someday! 
Thanks for reading,
Swayne Martin 

Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Share Your Story: Doug Haddaway, Fedex Pilot, Author of Smuggler's Moon

Welcome to the sixth "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in, to the blog, featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, etc. These posts show future aviators the diverse range of careers available to them. More details are here: Click Here and Get Involved

My name is Doug Haddaway and I am a pilot.  Since I was 4 years old, I’ve only wanted to be a pilot. Growing up in a village on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I thought this to be an unobtainable goal.

At eighteen I took an introduction flight in Easton, Md. It changed my life. I shortly afterward joined the USN and was attached to an A-7 squadron out of N.A.S. Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fl. The next 4 years included a Mediterranean cruise and a north Atlantic cruise on aircraft carriers. The Navy was the best thing that I had ever done; it fueled my love of aviation.

After my enlistment was up, I was hired as a ramp agent for Piedmont Airlines at National Airport (DCA) and eventually transferred to Baltimore (BWI). In a little airfield near Bowie, MD is where I learned to fly at. Freeway Airport was 2200’ long by 30’ wide bordered by high tension wires. I soloed there and to this day remember screaming at the top of my lungs as the Cessna 152 leaped into the air, no longer burdened with my instructor.

Freeway Airport

My next transfer involved moving to Charlotte, N.C. I received my instrument and commercial licenses. The instrument rating brought up my skill level considerably and the commercial license made flying fun again.

By now I had made up my mind to become a professional pilot. Working for an airline had opened some doors, but I still needed the necessary hours to get hired. One of the ways I built time was to ferry airplanes all over North America. I learned how to operate in high-intensity ATC environments, severe weather and mechanical issues.

My first job was in the right-seat of a corporate King Air Be-200. Though it was only part-time, it taught me that flying the airplane is only half of the job. Good interpersonal skills are essential in aviation.

I flew cancelled checks in a Beechcraft Be-58 throughout the southeast and that helped me to land my current position with Mountain Air Cargo (Fedex Feeder). I fly a Cessna 208 Caravan mainly in the Florida, Bahamas and the southeast. I’ve been with Mountain Air Cargo for 12 years now, this is a great job.

What do I like the least about flying for a living? You’re gone from home a lot. I’ve missed numerous birthdays, school functions concerts etc. My family has grown accustomed to me being gone and there is a lot of time I’m on reserve waiting for the phone to ring. What do I like the most? The view from the office is great. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a pilot. Is this for everyone? No, you have to love it.

One of the things about being on the road is that you spend a lot of time in hotels. That’s how I started writing. I’ve written a book; Smuggler’s Moon-Underneath the Radar, which has done well (pictured above). I’ve also written numerous aviation-based newspaper and magazine articles.

Fedex Cessna 208 Caravan on Approach

Thanks so much for sharing your flying story Doug! I really enjoyed reading about how you got to where you are today, finally flying as a professional pilot. Your love for the career has inspired me, and I am sure it will for others. 

Thanks again Doug!
Swayne Martin

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