Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Just Showing Off

"Anything above 70% is just showing off," says a pilot on a forum to a student pilot who is trying to better his scores on practice tests to something above 85% consistently.

On one hand, I can see trying to ease the student's mind that he/she will pass with the scores the way they are. I totally understand there are people who just do not do well on tests, even when they do know the subject matter. Students need all of the encouragement and support they can get. A student pilot doesn't need to stress for a 100% on their written test, an 85% is fine. If they want to do even better, that's great in my opinion!

On the other hand, it irks me to no end when people denigrate the sincere efforts of others who are trying to excel.  Just showing off?! It's showing off to get more than 7 out of 10 correct on a test that is trying to gauge your knowledge of the things that you need to know in order to safely fly?

Who do you want to teach you how to fly? someone who goes for 70% on the written and accepts doing just enough to check the box as good enough? or do you want someone who takes the time to demonstrate they have the required knowledge of learning and the subject matter knowledge to teach.  Lets say you learn from that 70% CFI. The questions he missed on his knowledge test are likely to be the ones that he won't teach you, or won't teach you correctly.

It is true, whenever you miss any questions on the written tests, your CFI has to review the "areas of deficiency" with you and make sure you've learned what you missed. However, I believe the guy that is totally ok with a 70% score isn't too concerned about learning what he missed. The student pilot who is striving for better than 85%. He's a different story. I am pretty sure he will learn from his mistakes on the written and be a better pilot as a result.

[Sidebar: To be completely honest, it surprises me the FAA doesn't have a tighter standard on the written tests for CFIs than private, commercial and instrument pilots. How can we teach what we don't know? Aren't we the ones responsible to create those safe pilots the flying and non-flying public need?]

It was ironic seeing this exchange just days after I finally completed my first pass (of three) going through one of the study books for the CFI written test. After completing the first pass I know I could easily pass the written with a score better than 70%. However, that first pass also exposed some areas of knowledge I'm weak in. If I were that 70% pilot I'd go, take the test and merrily walk away with those knowledge areas left weak.

I'm not a 70% pilot and definitely will not be a 70% CFI. I am going to fill those knowledge gaps and get a much better than 70% score. It will take extra work, and it means that I won't be taking the written before then end of the year like I wanted. That's OK. I like showing off!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

California Greening

NorCal turns Green
Today's flight took me south of the home airport for the first time since the rains started and what I saw delighted me. Northern California is turning green again! The land that was brown a month ago is now a brilliant green and more and more green is coming. 

I love the way our hills and valleys turn green when the rest of the country turns brown or white with winter. Growing up in the desert this particular shade of green was just unknown to me until moving here. Green carpets all of the land not already carpeted with trees. 

Practice Makes Better

In addition to the green I had a fun flight today. I'm working on commercial maneuvers from the right seat now. Some are easier than others. Today my plan was to do 8's on Pylons, Chandelles, Emergency Descents and Lazy 8s. 

The 8s on Pylons didn't happen. I found flock after flock of birds right at the altitude I needed to use to execute the maneuver correctly. So I switched to Chandelle's quickly with Emergency Descents to go back down once I climbed high enough. I didn't have much success on the Chandelles. I got to the point I was doing the correct bank and turn rate but I ended up 10 MPH off the desired indicated airspeed every time. Just not pitching up high enough I think. Once I found I wasn't changing my results I stopped that maneuver. 

Next was Lazy 8's. I haven't practiced Lazy 8's extensively since my commercial check ride. I had a blast. I "lazy-eighted", as I like to say, my way from north of San Martin to almost Hollister. In the process I found different ways to improve the performance of the 8. I still have a bit to go to where I want them to be. Most were within commercial spec, but I know it is within my ability to fly these very close to perfect and that's what I want to do. 

Look, Ma, No Hands!

After almost an hour of flying I decided to take some pictures of the beautiful views I was seeing. I had the plane trimmed for hands off flying, so I did while I took pictures. It was much easier than trying to take pics one handed. Then I thought I'd try some rudder exercises. Instead of using any ailerons to turn, I make a lazy turn down the valley with rudder only. I turned the other direction with the opposite rudder and relaxed, observing how the plane behaved when only rudder was used to roll the plane from left to right and back again. It was a relaxing and enlightening experience.

On return to the airport I landed the plane well. I taxied back to the ramp and sat in the plane for a while. I was happy and content. It is great to have flying days like today... even better if everything was perfect, but I'm OK with how I did. Where I'm at is not where I will be tomorrow. I'm learning so much more about flying than I could have ever guessed there is to learn now. I'm noticing more than I ever did and gaining a greater understanding with every day, sometimes with every moment I think, study, observe, listen and fly. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Instrument Practice Adventure

Yesterday my husband and I went out to do some practice approaches so I could improve my instrument proficiency before a potential instrument flight to Willows next weekend. I was going to do a modified "milk run" three approaches at the same airports (Tracy, Stockton and Livermore) I used for my instrument check ride and preparing for the ride. As seems to happen in aviation, when one expects a routine flight, one gets an adventure.

First approach was into Tracy airport, KTCY. I got cleared for the GPS 12 into Tracy. Did the procedure turn at OYOSO and was inbound on the approach when the GPS failed. Not the first time its failed on me in the middle of a GPS approach in this particular plane. It came back eventually and started working again.

GPS 29R into Stockton was uneventful, aside from the actual level of visibility. It was so hazy at ground level I got to log a little actual on that approach. The GPS worked just fine.

The transition to Livermore was rough. The sun angle from SCK at that time must have been right between 220 and 230. On climb out the switched me to 220, and then cleared my direct to TRACY (roughly 230) to intercept the localizer. The sun was exactly in my face and the glare made the top three instruments practically unreadable, I had to shield my eyes to see the whisky compass to reset the heading indicator.

Not like I hadn't flown to the initial approach fix for the ILS to Livermore with the sun in my eyes dozens of times before when working on my instrument rating, but I had a perfect storm this time. I overshot my target altitude by 200', so I was pitching down to return to 4000'. At the same time the first real turbulence of the trip kicked up so the turn coordinator was flopping around and the bonanza boogie got going. To top it off, the turn coordinator in that plane shows wings level when actually in a slight left turn, the AI is accurate, but I couldn't see it. All of that at once got me the most dizzy I'd ever been in real or simulated instrument.

I realized what was happening, and told myself repeatedly to slow it down. My husband says I said that out loud a couple times. I stopped the boogie, slowed down my scan, and used the heading indicator to tell if wings were level and the vertical speed indicator to ensure I wasn't climbing or descending anymore. Once I got the wings level and plane stabilized the dizziness stopped. Then I got the plane back on altitude and dialed in for the rest of the flight to the IAF for the ILS 25R into Livermore.

Once I turned onto the localizer the sun was enough out of my eyes I could actually use all of my instruments again. The actual approach was good. Nice how no flaps, 15" MP and gear down gives a perfect 3 degree glide slope descent in a Bonanza.

Never know what I'm going to get when I go flying. My trip up to Willows next weekend for the 25 hour race may be IFR. Fortunately there's a VOR approach there as well as the GPS approach. This little practice adventure was good preparation for that one I think.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Starting to Put the Flight into Flight Instructor

A new experience for me today. I got to see if my 'talking' was reporting, narrating or actually teaching as I flew. I also got to see why yesterday was so easy. It was too good to be true. It was so easy because I wasn't doing the maneuver right! Mystery solved. That's OK though. I think I learned more in this one flight than I have in months in the air. Of course, learning isn't learning until behavior is changed, so we shall see.

First I got to demonstrate a steep turn to my CFI while talking through it as well. As I would if teaching someone. Turns out my 'talking' was OK. He said I was actually teaching instead of narrating or reporting. Then he said I wasn't doing the turns right. I thought I was doing 45 degree bank. I was doing 30 degree. You may wonder how I could get that wrong. It's easier than it should be. From where I sit on the right side, with the seat as far forward as I need it, I can't see the top of the attitude indicator, which is where the markings are that I used to confirm bank angle in steep turns. He showed me another reference I can use to ensure I'm doing a turn at the correct bank. I re-did it and did better. He explained how to keep talking in the turns.

Then he introduced me to in-flight critique. Oh, that was fun! I immediately stuck my foot in my mouth and gave exactly the wrong feedback. My CFI gladly did exactly what I told him to do, and I finally had to stop everything and say what the heck is going on? Then I figured it out and we both had a great laugh. He told me when to be providing feedback and when to not. What to do while the student is doing it wrong. Just the start of the world of what I'll be learning over the next couple months.

Today was just a glimpse into the art of being an actual flight instructor. I have much to do and much, much to learn.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Talking and Flying

Back on the CFI training track, not that I've been off per se ... but I haven't flown for training in a while because one of our Arrows had an engine problem and the other Arrow with brakes for the right seat was finishing in the shop. Finally 55X, my favorite Arrow from my commercial training is ready to go and I'm back in the skies!

My day started well. I took the FAA Fundamentals of Instruction test this morning and passed with a 96%. Then I did my normal work day and took to the skies for a quick flight sitting in the right seat. My assignment was to practice a maneuver and talk through it. A preview of what I'll be doing all of the time as a flight instructor. Considering how little I talk in the first place and how hard it was to get me to talk for my commercial rating, I expected talking and flying to be hard.

After a long wait in the run-up I was cleared for takeoff downwind. The plane climbed strongly and I quickly overtook the Cessna that departed before me. It was fun to be in another fast plane. After passing the Cessna I turned towards the practice area. Then I sighed. I have to talk. This is going to be weird. 

I decided to pretend to be training someone named Renee. First I told her how we would slow down the plane, pointing out that I had to pitch up slowly and re-trim the plane to make it easy to maintain level flight as the airspeed slowed. Then I figured I should start her with some gentle clearing turns, explaining why we do them and emphasizing keeping the plane level by looking off the nose of the plane and visualizing shooting bullets to the horizon.

I got into the flow and talked through the desired airspeed for a steep turn and what qualifies as steep, how to set up for one with a good visual reference point, etc. Then as I did the turn I explained what I was going to do before doing it, talking about having to add back pressure to maintain altitude and some opposite aileron to counteract over banking. When to start looking for the reference point, how to roll out and go into a turn the opposite direction.

It was weird. Once I started talking I was flying smoothly. And, unexpectedly, I did all of the steep turns after the first one to commercial spec, from the right seat. I was told not to worry about doing it to spec, just to focus on the talking. I think maybe the talking helped me maintain the flying to spec? I am not sure if the talking I was doing was teaching, narrating or reporting. But the fact that I was able to open my mouth and talk and fly was just amazing to me.

After a while I got tired of the turns and the talking. I wasn't learning anything anymore I felt. I decided to head back to RHV, stop talking and just fly. On the return to RHV I mistakenly tried to identify the plane I was in as a Bonanza and laughed. Then I got behind the plane on the approach and ended up quite high. Dump the flaps, cut the power and an aggressive slip and I was back on glide slope over the mall for an OK landing. Proving I can still get behind the plane, especially right seat flying. It still takes conscious thought to translate the motions and process of landing that are now second nature from the left seat into conscious moves from the right seat.

I'll go back up and do the same thing tomorrow. If things go normally my second flight will be worse and then the third will be better. Fortunately the third will be with my CFI. On that flight I'll find out if my talking is the right kind of talking, with the right content, at the right time - and - if I can talk in front of a person!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Smells and Sounds

I am fortunate to live an active and varied lifestyle from the office to flying, marathon running and auto racing. I've often found myself reflecting on the unique sounds and smells in each of these environments.

The Office

The occasional smell of burnt coffee, toasted bagel and sometimes pungent smell of colleagues heating their lunches. The sudden chorus of beep, chirps and bings at 15 and 10 minutes before the top and bottom of the hour. Phone ring, pause, people stating their name as the join a conference call. The sudden change in volume and tone when people want to share privileged information but don't want to announce it to the entire cube farm. Occasional laughter as people share a joke. Many, many languages spoken as my colleagues switch to their native languages on occasion when its easier to communicate with another speaker of their native tongue.

Auto Racing

Many unique smells here... the smell of oil burning in gasoline in a rotary engine. Burnt tire rubber. Hot oil and gasoline. Hot clutch, hot brakes, hot, hot metal. Hot summer pavement. Auto racing is all about heat. Hot metal, hot laps, hot women in the podium photos.  There's the obvious sounds that everyone thinks about, engines at or near redline as the cars tear down the front straight. Backfires as the driver downshifts, squealing tires of course. There are other sounds too... the rattle and clank of tools, drills firing, whistles blowing the count down to taking the track, the god-awful clattering of gear boxes not tuned for moving slowly, generators running in the paddock at night.

Marathon Running

I don't recall too many marathon smells, perhaps that is good. There is the smell of heaven on earth, the smell of an orange slice at mile 20. But some smells are best left un-smelled! Twenty six point two miles of sweat, the pungent smell of port-o-lets. Speaking of port-o-lets, they make sounds too. A creak and click/slam as their doors open and close. Sometimes tens of them are lined up in an area with hundreds of runners carb-unloading before a race. There's also a slap-shuffle sound of the runners feet on the streets. Deep breathing at first, then huffing and puffing as the end of the race approaches. Gasps after crossing the finish line having spent my last iota of energy in a final sprint.


There are some standard smells in aviation. Avgas is one, hot oil and hot engines is another. I've found different planes have different smells. The little 172 I learned to fly in - she smells like sunshine. The Bonanza has a particular oily smell when I open the door to the cockpit. I have yet to place the smell of an Arrow, but Arrows have a wonderful sound. They have a whistle when the gear is down. It can be heard from the cockpit when the throttle is pulled back to idle or from the ground when an Arrow is on approach to land. 172 propellers make a pleasing snick-snick-snick sound cutting through the air when the power is pulled and the other racket of flying a 172 is ceased. Last night I was flying the Bonanza and enjoyed the smooth, reassuring rumble of power from its engine with the prop knifing through the nighttime air. Of course, there is one sound that all pilots of small planes love. The light scrch scrch of tires kissing the runway when you land a plane just right.


Experience is far beyond just what we see and touch. Smells and sounds are all part of what we become as we live and learn from our experiences. Next time you are fully in the moment, in a moment you enjoy, stretch out your senses and see if you can identify the unique smells and sounds of your experience in addition to the sight and touch. Treasure the entirety of the experience, make it yours forever.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Flying from the Right Seat

We pull the plane out from its parking spot and then stand and look at each other. I realized he's waiting for me to get into the plane. I smile, gesture to the open door and hand him the plane's keys.

"You have to get in first," I say.
"Oh yeah," he says. "This happens a lot when I train CFIs."

He climbs in the plane and I'm in the unusual position of waiting for my CFI to strap into the left seat of the Arrow before I climb into the right seat. This is a position I'll be getting much more accustomed to as I do my training to become a CFI myself.

My CFI suggested we go ahead and get me flying from the right seat a bit earlier than he would normally. Mostly, he said, because I do so much flying in general that I may as well use that flight time to get extra practice flying from the right seat on my own as we continue to work on ground lessons. That works for me, I love flying from any seat and having some purpose to practice makes it even better.

When he first suggested this idea I figured I would take to it rather quickly because I have right seat time flying with my husband and flying as safety pilot for various people. Not to mention my first three flights where I had the controls were all from the right seat. I knew the view of the instruments would be different so I decided to do as much of the flying relying on outside queues as possible. I knew the centerline would be in a different place, my CFI and I discussed this extensively. What I failed to take into consideration was the strangeness of using my right hand on the control yoke, left hand on the throttle, prop, mixture, gear, flaps, trim, etc. and coordinating my right hand with my feet on the rudders.

We got in the plane and I looked at my CFI, "Aren't you going to start it?" "Nope, I'm just here to keep you from killing yourself. More important, keep you from killing me." He was serious about me doing all of the flying. I went through the startup checklists, feeling weird as my left had did the job my right normally does. I did my radio calls. My left hand had to be involved in that too as the PTT was on the left "thumb" of the right yoke. As I taxied out we worked on me learning the correct placement of the centerline from the right seat. It is very different than the left.

I had my CFI do the takeoff so I could just observe the correct sight picture from the right seat. He handed me the controls and I had to get used to coordinated flight without being able to use the "ball" in the turn coordinator. I hadn't realized how much I relied on that little ball to keep myself coordinated. It was good to not have the ball, I had to fine tune my feel of the plane. We got out of RHV airspace and did some steep turns. Turns to the right I kept altitude nailed but my bank angle was between 30 and 60 degrees. Going left I climbed like crazy. It took a bit of work to get that going well.

Next up, power on and power off stalls. Once again, my crutches, the ASI and turn coordinator were out of reach so I had to keep coordinated by feel, keep wings level by looking outside and just pitch up until I could feel the stall on the edge of a break. We did power on first, then power off. No problem. Strange thing was, I didn't feel nervous or anxious at all doing them. Maybe I was too busy to be nervous? I don't know but it was a nice thing to not have that anxiousness. We did an emergency descent to get down to pattern altitude at South County. Time to do some landings!

I had him demonstrate a landing first, he did OK ;) then I did a take off, weaving all over the runway it seemed as I tried to coordinate my feet trying to line up the centerline with the left seat occupant instead of myself. I finally took off and we both laughed about how I was on the centerline at least once, maybe twice, on that take off roll. I struggled with the radio calls as I was thinking so hard about what my left hand needed to do. Finally before turning base I asked my CFI to take over on the radio so I could concentrate on landing the plane.

The plane was flailing left to right and back again as my right hand over controlled and my feet didn't quite match my hand's movements. In spite of that I landed safely and directionally aligned if not on the centerline. He suggested next time don't try to line him up on the centerline, just line things up visually like I would normally. That way I could focus a bit more on flying and less on the abnormal centerline view. That worked better for me and each additional time around the pattern I got better in all phases. My second time around I was even able to do all of the radio work.

We did 5 landings in South County and he asked me after the fifth how I felt. The familiar question ... Did I think I would kill myself flying from the right seat. I said No. I was struggling with putting the plane exactly where I wanted it but I was able to do everything else I needed to do in spite of the strangeness. I suggested we do one more flight together and then I'd be comfortable practicing this on my own.

The flight back to RHV was uneventful. I did a not a great landing but not too bad considering. The debrief was very positive. He said all things considered I did rather well. He didn't have to take the controls once, or even say a word so I could fly and land safely from the right seat. That was nice to hear.  Next flight I will work on airplane control first. Getting my right hand and feet working as one just like my left hand and feet do.  Once I get precise control of the plane (again!) I will work on getting used to lining up the plane on the centerline differently.

In the mean time I'm starting to study for the first of the three written tests and keep working on my lesson plans and syllabi. I am targeting passing the written tests by the end of the year. That will keep me plenty busy! :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It IS a Fast Plane

This weekend I took my first passengers, Craig, Kim and Alexis, for a flight in the Bonanza. A "quick" flight to Harris Ranch and back for a late lunch/early dinner. Quick because it was 2.0 hours from key on at RHV to key off at RHV. On the way there we were doing 175 knots ground speed. On the return it was closer to 145 knots, not bad with a head wind.

Alexis was funny. Shortly after take off she informed all of us this plane is different. "It's gear goes up into its belly", she said. I wondered how a 3 or 4 year old knows this, it wasn't like I told her where they gear was going. What an observant girl! She loves flying airplanes. We had a great dinner and a lot of fun together as usual.

One event drove home how fast this plane is. We were approaching RHV with me carefully managing the airspeed and manifold pressure to set up for a nice landing. I was practicing lining up on the centerline from 10 miles out too.  I called in over UTC and then when we were over the ridge line just south of RHV (about 8 miles out) we were cleared to land behind a plane in the pattern. I read back the clearance and didn't think too much of it. Any plane in the pattern cleared to land before me would be on the ground long before I got there, I thought. I was wrong.

About 5 miles out the tower calls me to let me know my traffic to follow was turning base to final. That woke me up to how fast I was approaching and catching up to this traffic. I was coming in at about 160 MPH with the gear down. I was descending at the rate I wanted but probably 70 knots faster than the plane I was to follow! I quickly leveled off to slow down, a bit higher than I wanted but I needed to get the plane slow enough to get the flaps in. Once I got below flap extend speed I dumped full flaps and held level to quickly get down to 100 MPH. I was high briefly but an inch less manifold pressure and I was back on glide slope. The plane we were following landed and cleared the runway. Then we landed shortly thereafter with no problem, on the centerline.

I was pleased it didn't take a lot of thinking to do the right thing. I knew instantly what to do and what would happen as a result. I love that feeling of being in command of a plane like that. I just have to remember this is a much faster plane than I'm used to!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flying the Beech Bonanza

Me after my first solo flight in 9777Y. 
At long last, I'm finally flying a V-Tail Bonanza. The same one my husband and I flew to Colorado many years ago before I got my private license.

I won't go into all of the things that made it take so long before I would take the left seat of this plane. Let it suffice to say, I was starting to wonder if maybe the plane didn't want me to fly it with so many weird delays and circumstances keeping me from flying it. However, eventually the plane relented and I got to do the required dual time and 25 take offs and landings to meet our club's insurance requirements.

What's it like to fly? Easier than I thought it would be. Maybe due to my many many hours in complex planes and many hours in high performance planes, the combination of high performance and complex that is a Bonanza didn't throw me. I'm also rather familiar with the plane in spite of not flying it left seat. I've probably logged over 30 hours of right seat time in the plane flying with my husband doing everything but taking off and landing. I can even say the plane's tail number easily, which is harder than most ... niner seven seven seven yankee.

By the Numbers

This plane cruises at about 160-150 MPH at about 65% power at the low altitudes that we fly in the Bay Area proper. 40 gallon tanks in each wing (37 gallons usable). It can cruise over 500NM with 45 minutes reserve. No, not the fastest plane, not even the fastest Bonanza, but fast enough for me, for now :) It climbs very strong, over 1200 fpm on a hot day at sea level. In an emergency descent it can go 4000 fpm down safely.

Its slippery in the air, a 5 degree nose down pitch without reducing power and you're easily in the yellow arc, going for red. This plane is the first I've flown where the saying "you can't go down and slow down" is real. Bonanzas, you have to watch that pitch. A quick pitch down to avoid traffic, for instance, if left unadjusted, will quickly push up the airspeed and you'd never know the difference. If you pitch down without pulling power you'll never get slow enough to get the gear down. So you have to plan way ahead of the plane, reduce power first slow the plane down. Reduce power more and maintain a 500fpm descent rate and the plane will pick up a lot of speed (but stay in the green). Then when its time to put down the gear, if you're at 17" manifold pressure, just pitch straight and level, you're at gear extend speed in a couple seconds. Gear down, and you feel like someone threw a boat anchor out the back of the plane... you can hear and feel that gear.

No More Numbers

On one hand its all about flying the numbers... the manifold pressure and RPM you want for what you're doing, the flap settings, etc. On the other hand, the plane gets really fun when you have to throw the numbers out the window. A power off 180 in the plane is a blast. Pull the propeller all the way back and you feel like someone is shoving you forward. Push in the prop and its easy to bleed off airspeed, altitude or both. The drag weapons are impressive and if you need more speed, just tip the nose down a bit and there you go!

In any case, I'm very happy to finally be able to add this very capable plane to my "list". I am looking forward to flying it to all kinds of far away places a lot quicker than I can go in an Arrow or 182 or 172. The only problem is, it's my husband's favorite plane. We will have to arm wrestle to decide who gets to fly it when we fly together :) That's a good problem to have!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Because We Can - 12 Airports in One Day

Sunset Over the Bay
It amazes me how flying has become somewhat routine, yet still magical. That's probably one of the things I love most about it. One can reliably transport oneself from point to point with freedom, speed, and relative comfort in the air of all places. And I'm one of the ones that can do it. I cannot and do not want to escape that feeling of awe and gratitude that I can do it at all.  Annnyyyyway... that's not what I'm writing about, I'm writing to share a story of a really neat flight or two.

It's Labor Day weekend and I was going to be up in Willows, CA for another NASA auto racing  event. Given it was Labor Day weekend, driving to Willows was out of the question. So I flew! The flight up to Willows was one of the more beautiful flights I've flown with slanting sunlight, clouds and haze making the sky merge into the ground in one amazing painting. I'll share some of the photos here.

My friends Craig, Kim and little Alexis were flying that weekend too. They went up to a fly-in at Trinity Lake near Mt. Shasta and then met me in Willows so we could all fly somewhere, anywhere, together on Labor Day. This was a rare day that we were all free from work and other obligations on the same day.

While the family had a great experience at Trinity Lake, little Alexis was congested and she was not a happy child on descent into Trinity or even a very gentle descent into Willows. Her parents purchased some medicine from the nearby Walmart but we weren't sure the medicine would relieve her congestion enough for her to not be in pain during climbs or descents on Labor Day.

The Plan

We had toyed with the idea of visiting Shelter Cove because I'd never flown there before, but to get there we would want to climb high and we weren't sure Alexis' ears could handle it. So that sent us to the other plan. Both Craig and I learned to fly from the same CFI. That CFI had flown to 35 airports in one day with his brother over a decade ago. The thought of doing a trip like that had drifted through my mind several times over the last few years. I knew Craig liked airport hopping on his trips, so I suggested landing at 10 airports neither of us had been to before as a fun flight we could all do together. We agreed that was the thing to do, hoping staying low between airports would result in no discomfort for Alexis' ears.

Craig and I sat down at the bar in the best Mexican Restaurant in town and spread out a sectional to plan our our flight. I had spent the last two days thinking about it so I had a pretty good idea of what I thought would be good. After some discussion we agreed on 10 airports between Willows and RHV to land at. Two of them I had been to before but Craig had not so I figured that was good enough. 

Our Route
We would start at Willows and then fly north to Haigh field in Orland, CA, east to Chico Muni, south to Oroville Muni, duck under the Beale Class Charlie to visit Marysville (or Sutter County), south east to Lincoln, south to Mather AFB, then to Rancho Murietta. We would stop in Rancho Murietta for lunch and then continue on. Next stop was Sacramento Executive, then Franklin, Byron and finally finish at Reid-Hillview. 

The total straight line distance 210.8NM and flight time, if we never stopped, of a little over 2 hours. We would land and taxi back at each airport since Craig wasn't in the habit of doing touch n' goes in the 172 he was flying. To reduce any stress about "staying together" in two planes when we weren't going to fly in formation we agreed to wait for each other at Oroville and Rancho Murietta. I expected to be much quicker than they were in the air because I was flying a faster plane. What I didn't realize was, while I was taking it easy flying at 65% power on the short legs between the airports, Craig would be flying at "full rental power" in the 180HP 172 so he kept up with me just fine. 

More Planning

After agreeing on our route and spending more time hanging out we retired to our various hotel rooms to do the rest of our planning. Remember, pilots are required to have "all available information" pertaining to the flight. Well, that's a lot of information when talking about 10 new airports in addition to RHV. The first thing I did was get online and check for NOTAMs at each airport and for TFRs. Then I looked up key information for each airport. Runway orientation, length, field elevation (FE), traffic pattern altitude (TPA), pattern direction, any approach notes for the class Delta airports, potential hazards (deer for instance), etc. I didn't have my knee board with me so I scrounged around my hotel room for something to write on. Below you see the result. 

I'm not a CFI yet.. but I did stay at a HI Express last night!
I had 10 little sheets of paper with everything I needed, including approach and departure plan, for each airport with the exception of Willows and RHV of course. Those airports I already had covered. 

I remember my first cross country flight plan took over an hour for one airport. This time I planned for 10 airports in an hour! What a difference a couple years of practice makes :) 

I did one more check of the weather forecast - relatively calm winds, hot, with some smoke aloft - then I went to bed. Happy to be sleeping in until 7 am the next day. 

Pre Flight

We agreed to meet at Nancy's Airport Cafe for breakfast at 8 the next day so we could leave at 9. I woke up at 6AM anyway so I used the extra time to get a weather briefing. The forecast winds were changed from the night before. Now the forecast was for gusty winds north of our location, especially after 10AM. No other big changes there. I got ready and walked out to the plane early to add some oil and get her ready to go. 

We met up for breakfast and I showed Craig and Kim my stack of notes. It turns out Craig did the same thing but he had his kneeboard so he was able to keep it a bit more neat. He added little airport diagrams to his planning materials while we ate. After fueling our bodies with food I had to fuel my plane with 100LL.

When we walked outside the wind was gusting and I could see smoke or dust blowing across the ground. This was not as forecast, but not the strongest I've experienced at Willows by any means. Definitely time to go.

Time to Go

Willows Ramp
There were six or seven planes on the small ramp at Willows (three taking off including us) and two or three more planes in the pattern when we left. All of the sudden this sleepy airport became as busy as our home class Delta, without the benefit of a tower. Craig was ready to go first so I told them to go ahead, then I was stuck behind a twin that departed towards the runway without talking. So I decided I would do my run up in a corner of the ramp near the fuel tank. A Cherokee on the ramp decided it needed fuel. I didn't want to blast them as they fueled up. I would wait in line at the runway end to do a run up there. I started taxiing towards the far end of runway 34. Just then a Bonanza lands and exits the runway on the one taxi way between me and the end of the runway. He realized he was blocking the taxiway and crossed to the other side of the taxiway to give me room. After all of that excitement we were finally able to take off.

The twin Apache took the runway and announced he would do a pattern and touch and go before heading north. Craig took off after the touch and go was done. I programmed the full flight with all of our stops into the GPS to give Craig time to get well ahead of me so there'd be no chance of us meeting in the air with the unexpectedly limited visibility. All of the airports I checked reported at least 10SM visibility but the haze and smoke was much worse than we'd expected.

Airport Hopping

I flew to our first stop, Haigh, and was approaching as Craig was on downwind. Craig reported rather strong headwinds on final. The winds were strong but straight down the runway. Craig landed on the numbers and taxied clear of the airport. Craig waited for me and let me taxi ahead to lead the way east to Chico.

Chico Muni is a class Delta airport with a strange runway setup. One runway was roughly 6000', the other 3000'. The 3000' runway was wasn't a separate paved area like we're used to. It was just part of a large asphalt pad. The pattern was strange two, both runways had pattern entries from the same direction, one inside the other. I requested a stop and go from Chico's tower and was cleared for downwind for the larger runway. A normal pattern for the larger runway would be right over the smaller one. I asked the tower if there was anyone using the smaller runway and they said no. Alright. I flew a normal pattern, did a touch and go and headed south to the next stop, Oroville. On climb out I had to switch my little pieces of paper around on my kneeboard. That was more difficult to do on a touch and go than a stop and go.

I would climb only to 2500 feet between these initial airports because there was so little time between them. Oroville had a more complex runway configuration but was simple to fly and land. If I recall correctly, it also had a dip in the middle of the runway that made for an interesting optical illusion. I waited there for Craig and family only for a few minutes before they arrived. Off to the next stop - Marysville.

Marysville was more interesting. Marysville was situated just east of another small airport, Sutter County. Both airports sat under the Beale AFB Class Charlie airspace that started at 1600 ft. I flew at 1300 feet to Marysville, looking for it in the haze and smoke. I figured I would see Sutter County first, it was slightly further north, then Marysville to the left of Sutter County. Craig called me on the air-to-air frequency we used to check my groundspeed and altitude. It seems I was cruising at the same speed as he was. He could see me on the GPS display in his plane via ADS-B and he didn't want to catch me in the haze.

I saw Sutter County and swung east of that airport to set up for the approach to Marysville. I still couldn't see Marysville. As I passed Sutter County I realized the airport had two runways instead of one and they were marked with the same runway numbers as Marysville. That was Marysville. I was on the wrong side of it to enter the pattern correctly so I announced I was crossing midfield from east to west (to let Craig know what I'm doing) to do a tear drop down to the 45 for my desired runway in Marysville. I flew right over the real Sutter County airport to enter the pattern for the correct airport and landed.

Craig landed shortly after me and asked if I wanted to land at Sutter County. I said no because I already "visited" it. Kim asked if I didn't want to go there because it would be airport number 13. I said, "that too!". Next stop Lincoln. I stayed low under the Class Charlie shelf and altered my course away from a completely direct route to get out from under the shelf quicker. There was a helicopter doing pattern work at Lincoln. He was a friendly pilot and landed on the parallel taxiway to give me room to land on the runway. It was odd to be landing parallel to a helicopter. Craig landed shortly after.

Next stop Mather AFB to the south. I'd been there before and researched how they would set us up for entry. When they told me to make a right base for 22R (only 6000' long) I was well positioned for the approach. This time Craig was further behind and he was doing his initial call when I was already on final. I requested and got permission for a touch and go on the "little" runway and, with more note juggling on climb out, headed east to Rancho Murietta. The Mather tower controller was very helpful keeping an eye on traffic nearby.

My note for Rancho said "Deer!" This airport was known for deer, especially at night according to the AF/D. I didn't want to encounter any deer this time. As I monitored CTAF there I heard a couple planes in the pattern one landing after another. I was midfield downwind and one plane took off, then when I was abeam the numbers a second announced it was taking the runway to take off. I hoped any deer would be scared away by them. I extended my downwind and looked for deer when I was on final. I had a deer free landing, taxied over to transient and shut down. Time for lunch!


An Arrow, shutdown on a ramp in the summer, is an instant sauna. I popped open the door and window and used my sectional a sunshade to try to keep the plane cool. Craig and family taxied up and shut down next to me. Craig immediately got out and said something about needing an airplane with air conditioning. I pointed out the fact that at least he was flying a Cessna with built in shade.

We were all too hot to feel hungry but we walked to a nearby pizza place to get something to drink, some food and some air-conditioning. We found our appetites after we cooled down and enjoyed the food and company. Alexis was doing great with no problems for her ears and we were all having a great time.

We both pushed our planes over to the fuel island to top off the tanks before our last few legs. We weren't sure we needed fuel, but we weren't sure we didn't. So we erred on the side of caution.

Four More to Go

Next stop, Sacramento Executive, another class Delta. I closed the door on the Arrow and was immediately covered in sweat. It was hot, hot, hot! I couldn't wait to get up in the air to cool down but this time I didn't want to juggle my little sheets on climb out after the touch and go at the next stop so I took the time to set up the sheets for my next two stops ahead of time.

I was finally ready to go and took off for Sac Exec, this was another airport I'd been to before but never from that direction and it had three runways. I was expecting to get runway 20 so I did my approach planning based on that. I contacted Sac Exec and was cleared for a touch and go on 20. On departure from there I requested climb out to the south to head towards Franklin. This time I only hear Craig call in as I left Sac Exec's airspace.

Franklin I was curious about. It was a waypoint on my long solo cross country but I never saw it on that flight. Franklin had two runways and no weather reporting. I used Sac Exec's winds to plan my approach and flew the approach to runway 18, right over a pen full of cows. There was a definite crosswind on final which I wasn't expecting, I was floating down the runway too and decided to go around and do that one again. I announced my go around as Craig started to approach the runway. He asked what happened and I told him I was going to come around again for 18 instead of the runway better aligned with the wind. I wanted the crosswind landing. Next time around I landed just fine and taxied clear, letting Craig know there was a definite right crosswind. After I taxied clear of the runway I finally found the windsock, showing a good direct crosswind. Craig handled it well. We took off on the runway better aligned with the wind (also better aligned with where we wanted to go). Next stop Byron.

We had 30 miles to cruise this time so I climbed up to 3500' I could see the top of the haze layer from this altitude the air was pretty smooth and time seemed to fly by as I peered through the haze, looking for Mt. Diablo and the lake situated in front of Byron. Finally found the airport and came in to land with another crosswind. Not a problem. This airport was pretty busy but we were all using the same runway. I didn't have long to wait before Craig and family landed behind me. The next and last stop would be Reid Hillview.

I took the runway to leave Byron and realized I was getting tired. I was glad my last stop was coming. I climbed out and headed towards the busy Livermore/Calaveras corridor. I monitored NorCal approach to get some hints on any traffic issues they saw but didn't get flight following. As I approached Calaveras I started scanning up towards the hills where planes tend to drop down into the area and head towards the Sunol grade. I was glad I did. I saw a Cessna on a converging course with me that didn't appear to see me. I turned behind him and watched as he continued on over Sunol, blissfully unaware of my presence. I wondered how often I was that other plane, oblivious to traffic nearby.

I got the ATIS for RHV and called in for landing over Calveras. I was cleared for 31R and flew my normal approach. Craig called in shortly behind me. So close, in fact, that the tower had him ident to make sure they knew who was who. They told him to follow me in to land. I flew my best approach of the day into my home airport and landed nicely. I taxied clear of the runway and was switched over to ground before Craig landed behind me.

Back Home

We shut down, got our hobbs time and put away the planes. Both Craig and I were eager to figure out the total time and record the 12 airports in our log books. I had 3.8 hours, Craig had 4.0. I was amazed at how easy the whole thing was. I imagined it would be much harder to fly to 11 different airports in one day, but I was wrong. The trip was 12 airports counting Willows. Planning ahead definitely helped. Having my little pieces of paper made all the difference in the world as I managed the flight solo. The speed at which the airports came helped also. While we spent quite a bit of time in the air, it felt like it went by very quickly. It kept me too busy to feel tired.

We all had a great time, even little Alexis did. She always loves flying in airplanes. It was definitely worth the time and effort to do. Craig and I are already talking about trying to beat the Squadron 2 "record" of 35 airports in one day set by our CFI. We will definitely wait until the weather cools and do it in one plane so we can leverage the brains of two pilots and split responsibilities. Hopefully we can do that this fall or winter.  It's funny though, when my husband told some co-workers in the UK about my adventure they kept struggling with one question... "Why?" All I can say is, "Because we can!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Wing, Gold and Shadow
I'm what they call in HR terms a "self motivated" person, an "achiever". Driven by an inner fire and restlessness that never lets me rest for long. To me staying in bed all day is an uncomfortable feeling of illness, not relaxation. When I reach a goal I must always push on to the next. No performance is good enough, no peak is high enough, no distance far enough, no challenge extreme enough... not until I found flight.

The more time I spend in the air in a day, the more ... full ...  I am. When I fly for an hour I'm fully engaged. Fly for two and the rhythm takes over my thoughts. Fly for three or four hours in a day and my restlessness is purged, at least for a while. I lay in bed. Reflecting on the day, the views, the challenges, the things I did well, the areas I wish to improve, the particular characteristics of the plane (or planes) I flew, the texture of the air, the other pilots who's paths I crossed, the controllers I talked to, the people and places I observed from above.

I reflect and feel a sense of calm, content, and quiet joy that I've not felt before outside of thinking of the people I love. I have finally found my place in the world, my proper home, in the ever changing, challenging, exhilarating, sometimes routine, sometimes frightening experience that is flying. The more time I spend at my home in the sky the more content, the more in love, I am.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Aviator's Guild

As a teen I read countless science fiction and fantasy books. Some of my favorites were set in worlds where guilds, masters and apprentices were common. In these worlds, an apprentice would be assigned to, or choose a guild, or school. From there they would be assigned to journeymen and a master to learn their craft. From musicians, to clothiers, to smiths, to bakers, to technicians, to fighters and thieves. Some apprentices compete to be apprenticed to well regarded masters. Other apprentices seek out masters who are easy or more lenient. The apprentice, when fully accepted into the guild becomes a journeyman and they become part of the lineage of their master and their master's master, and their master's master's master.

I see a bit of that world in the world of aviation. We don't have a guild per se but we do have apprentices (student pilots), journeymen (CFIs), masters (Gold Seal and Master CFIs and DPEs), etc, etc. Each student is very much the product of their CFIs and of their CFI's CFI and so on. A lineage going back as far as aviation itself. We don't formally track a lineage but it is there. You can tell who was trained by whom from the way they do their radio calls, how they start and shut down an engine, how the pull into the run-up or perform a normal landing. Yes, we all evolve what we were originally taught, based on our experience and learning from the experience of others. However, at our core, we reflect the lineage of those who taught us and continue to teach us. We are all representatives of the Aviator's Guild.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pretty Pleased

I'm pretty pleased today and feeling good. No spectacular thing to report... just got back in the air for the first time in over two weeks after a nice, long, vacation. We'd been back for almost a week but today was the first opportunity for me to hop behind the controls of a plane and fly.

I flew one of the club's Arrows. Every plane has its own personality and our Arrows are no different. We have two Arrow IIs and one Arrow. I did my checkride in one of the Arrow II's. I've been flying the older Arrow more recently just to see how the smaller "hershey bar" wing feels. So today I went up in the other Arrow II. This one has a three blade propeller and some speed modifications like gap seals, cowl flaps, etc that are not on the other Arrows. Of course, it glides differently and flies differently. But that's the fun of it.

I just had time to go up in the pattern before heading into the office.... a light rain just passed through the area and it was cloudy and cool. Not another soul in the pattern. I did 6 takes offs and landings, getting used to the way this particular Arrow flies. I also did a couple Power Off 180s. I was pleased that I could do them in this "new" plane. Not quite with the precision I did on my check ride in April but it was good nonetheless. It just felt good to go up and fly. Just me, the plane, the controllers and a flock of geese sitting by the runway watching me fly.

I'm also excited about the progress I'm making in learning how to teach. I'm starting to enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to weave together the information or procedures or knowledge I need to communicate in an understandable and meaningful way. In a way that learning can occur. Instead of trying to show my CFI how smart I am, I'm using this time to brainstorm with him. We are working together to figure out the best way to combine my unique perspective and talents with his great experience, knowledge and practice training CFIs and pilots to develop a training program, lesson plan by lesson plan. A training program that I think will be effective for my future students. I expect to continuously adjust my lesson plans as I learn more and especially when I start to teach.  This is, I think, one of the coolest things about becoming a CFI. If things continue as they are, I will never stop learning!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My First Student

I'd like to introduce you all to Ren. Ren is our family's little black kitty. Her name, Ren, is short for Serenity because she's always been a very mellow and friendly cat. Unfortunately for her, she is also my first flight training student!

My CFI suggested I might benefit from practicing delivering my lessons out loud to a plant, a board, a cat, or whatever. "Get the words out of your head and into the air to hear what you're saying," he said.

Today I introduced Ren to the traffic pattern and how to land a plane. She was reasonably attentive when the plane was moving but seemed uninterested in the finer points of wind drift correction.  It was difficult to establish a common language up front and the only understanding I think she developed was that model planes make good cat scratchers.

I doubt she will make it to her first solo, but at least she is a being I can talk to and hear my own voice without feeling totally ridiculous. And going through that process a couple times today is helping me refine my thinking and my message.... so who knows. This may be a good way to do it. 

The lengths I am willing to go to in pursuit of my dream!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It would sound like music...

This is one of my favorite songs. Six String Orchestra by Harry Chapin. You can tell he loves to tell stories with his songs. The same way I love to tell stories in my blog. Today, for some reason, the song came on the radio and reminded me of me as I try to learn how to teach how to fly. So I thought I would share it with you all...

My favorite line: "It would sound like music and the music would sound good." 

Enjoy :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Learning to Teach

I'm having some trouble adjusting to my new world of "flight training" now. I'm about a month in to training to be a CFI and, as one should guess by now, CFIs not only have to know how to fly. They have to know how to teach. In this phase of my CFI training I've developed a private pilot syllabus and am developing lesson plans according to my syllabus. For each of my lessons, I am "teaching" my CFI according to my lesson plan.

What I'm struggling with isn't necessarily the teaching, its the context switching between teaching and learning. Obviously, I don't, at this point (nor will I ever), know everything there is to know about teaching someone how to fly or how to operate safely as a private or commercial pilot in our National Airspace System. Also, I'm not an expert teacher/educator. So, with each of my lessons, my CFI has the opportunity to teach me. Sometimes its facts or a deeper level of understanding of the finer points of flying. Sometimes its interpretation of the FARs and sometimes its teaching techniques or concepts about the process of adult learning. All good stuff. All stuff I want to learn and am very interested in.

But I struggle. When I'm in teaching mode it is hard for me to switch over to learning mode when my CFI has something to teach me. I argue with him or get frustrated. Some days are worse than others. The bad days aren't very good for my confidence. Some days are good. I've already had days where I both learned and taught well. Those good days I remember I'm there to learn even more than I am to "teach". My last lesson was a bad day.

My CFI says this process will get easier.  I sure hope he's right. He usually is. This is something he specializes in, training very good CFIs ... that's why I'm having him teach me how to teach how to fly. I have to remind myself, I'm here to learn - to learn more about flying and about teaching.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Queen of All I Survey

I went for a long solo cross country flight today. Just me and the plane to a place I'd never flown before. It was the type of flight I haven't done in a very long time. I had a good enough excuse to go, a friend wanted to meet me for lunch and show me the planes he works on at Camarillo Airport down in Southern California. It was my first trip into LA airspace VFR. The flight was mostly smooth and I flew high to enjoy low fuel burn and high air speeds.

The visit in Camarillo was great. Great food at Waypoint Cafe. Great company there and a whirlwind tour of a very busy airport with many unique planes. After visiting I hopped back in the plane and flew back to home base. And this is where I felt it again.

A two hour return flight, just me and the plane. Scanning the instruments, maintaining heading and altitude. Watching the ground slide beneath my wings. Scanning for traffic. Looking left to the ocean and right to the Sierras. Feeling a bit sad at how brown the hills and land have become. Looking for smoke from the fires I know will be happening in this drought year. Switching frequencies with air traffic control. That zen state of flying that I get sometimes when flying cross country alone. Totally in the moment.

As I approached my home airspace I recognized the distinct shapes of hills and valleys. I relished the memories of different flights I've taken up the familiar valleys and past familiar peaks. The fun flights and the not so fun flights. Ah yes, this is the area where I was caught in a 2000+ per minute downdraft. Here is where I passed my commercial check ride. Right there, in the dip between this hill top and that one, is where I performed accelerated stalls for the DPE. There is the airport that my most memorable flight lessons happened at. There is the valley with the really good steak house. Over there, that ridge, that's where you aim to cross the ridge line for an easy descent onto the 45 into Watsonville. In front of that observatory is a great place to practice maneuvers. There's an area to avoid, too many student pilots training there. There - where I flew between clouds and peaks to get back into the Santa Clara valley. The wonderful long trips that ended with descents starting above this airport.

I recognized the sweep of the land all the way from the sea to the mountains. I knew it intimately and it was mine. Not the land itself, land belongs to no man, but the view, the moment. The past, present and future in the moment. That was mine. I was queen of all I surveyed. What I surveyed was good.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sometimes Bad Things Happen To Good Pilots

I was PIC when my husband and I went flying to visit another friend of ours at an airpark some months ago for lunch. This airpark is known for having wildlife in the area because it is near one of the many National and State Parks in California. As we approached the airpark we heard another plane in the pattern as it called its position on downwind, final and then landed as we were approaching downwind for the runway in use. I made the standard radio calls as I turned downwind, base and final knowing my friend was monitoring CTAF to know when we arrived, all the while watching for animals on the runway. Another plane taxied to the run-up area when I was on short final. No animals on the runway, I was clear to land.

I landed smoothly in the first 200 feet of the runway, on the centerline and I was pleased. I always like gentle, commercial grade, on the centerline landings, especially with a witness in the plane. I was slowing the plane when my husband suddenly says, "Deer!" The urgency in his voice told me this wasn't a term of endearment. This was something else. I maintained control of the plane and looked around for what must be a deer.

Five deer ran into the runway in front of the plane, about 150 feet ahead. In a moment I evaluated my options, I was too slow to get airborne and above deer height before getting to where they were - risking damage to the landing gear, subsequent landing on damaged gear and potentially loss of control depending on how I might hit them. So I decided to slow the plane as much as possible while still under control and aim the plane between deer to reduce the amount of damage to the fuselage and potential for injury to the plane's human occupants.

Fly all the way to the crash flashed through my mind as I aimed towards a bigger space between the first two deer with my feet hard on the brakes. The power was already at idle. The first deer ran clear of the runway and the plane. The second deer froze. I had a chance, I thought, if the deer stayed put we would all walk away fine. Of course, the second deer didn't. He tried to run for it and disappeared under the front of the plane. I found out later the propeller sliced the deer into a couple pieces and threw his remains under the plane and into the right main gear. We felt a jolt and then the plane was continuing down the runway, still under control and with all parts apparently intact.

Not knowing what happened to the plane on the impact I was careful when I stepped on the brakes again. Good thing too, I suddenly had no right brakes. The deer must have taken out the brake line I figured quickly. Fortunately, the rudder steers down the runway just as well as brakes so I used rudders to maintain control and used the left brake to slow down the plane further. I taxied all the way to the end of the runway and took careful left turns to exit the runway. My husband got on the radio and warned any pilots planning on landing that we just hit a deer and the runway condition behind us was unknown.

The plane that was in the run-up, a Mooney, announced he would taxi out to the impact point and check the runway, which he did. I asked him if he could direct me to transient and he helpfully taxied to the taxiway and lead me to transient parking, allowing me to make all left turns or very wide right turns when I did so. By the time I was in transient a couple people who saw the event were already shoveling the deer's remains clear of the runway. The Mooney pilot said it looked like I had damage to the gear. Then he taxied out and took off on his flight.

I shut down the plane, careful to make myself go through the full after landing and shutdown checklists. We climbed out of the plane to inspect the damage. People were starting to gather. One said he saw the plane swerve to try to miss the deer and pieces of deer go flying into the air after impact. They were impressed with how well the situation was handled.

I was both happy and dismayed by what I saw. On one hand there was relatively little damage, just a dent in the prop with a scrap of deer hair, deer blood on the right wing but no dents on the leading edge of the wing. The right main gear door was bent and the right main brake line was pulled loose and dripping brake fluid. Deer gore was splattered on the underside of the wing and wedged into the gear. No one was hurt, the runway was already re-opened with planes taking off and landing, deer free, and the plane was sitting safely in transient out of the way. On the other hand, I was sad, I hurt the plane.

Over 500 hours of flying with a perfect record and now I damaged a plane. I tried to console myself. I knew my decision not to attempt a go-around and the way I handled the situation prevented worse damage and possibly injury. Still I was upset.

I've talked before about how I am very careful to fly within my and my plane's capabilities, my care in planning flights, preflight, flight to landing, etc. etc. I think I subconsciously thought, if I am careful, deliberate and precise in every aspect of my flying, nothing bad could happen to me. This event taught me, no matter how careful one is, bad things can happen to good, careful pilots. No matter how good a pilot you are, either through superior judgment, skill or both, there are no guarantees you won't face a situation that could result in damaged plane or worse when you fly.

The other thing this event taught me is, I have the right instincts, training, judgment, skill or combination of them all, to create the best possible outcome out of a bad situation. Our A&P got a flight permit, fixed the gear in the down position and swapped the prop and flew the plane back to our home airport. The plane is being repaired and will fly again. The plane's owner, whenever he sees me now, greets me with a grin and a "Hi, Dear." No hard feelings there. While my confidence is increased as a result of this experience, some of my innocence is lost. I am sad for that too.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Going Back and Moving Forward

Its been an odd couple of months since I earned my Commercial certificate in April. Sometime I may share some of the adventures and thoughts of those months, but for now I want to share today's fun.

I've started training again. This time for CFI. I've learned so much on my journey from Private to Instrument to Commercial and the many adventures along the way I may have something valuable to share with new pilots. This also gives me a chance to keep learning about flying, which, as some of you may have guessed, I really enjoy.

I am doing my CFI training under FAR Part 61 with the same flight instructor I've been working with for many years now. He's earned my respect and trust, has a stellar reputation, and I would love to be able to teach as well as he does. This means its going to take me quite a bit longer to earn CFI than a trip to an accelerated school. However, learning this way gives me the opportunity to develop my own syllabus and lesson plans and training style. I like the creative freedom I'll have even though it will be a harder road for me to travel.

In any case, my second homework assignment was to develop my first lesson plan for my Private Pilot course. The first lesson will cover the four forces of flight and the flight portion will be the four fundamental maneuvers. As I worked on the lesson plan for the last few days I found myself questioning my interpretation of what I've studied and learned. So, I figured if I want to validate my interpretation of how a plane flies, I should go up in an airplane and see for myself. After all, that's where my students will evaluate what I say and see how it matches reality.

Today I took to the air to see how a plane flies. I took off in 52492, the same plane I flew so many years ago on the day that inspired me to start this blog. The day I felt for the first time, like a bird in flight, an awkward bird, but a bird none-the-less. I took off in 52492 and headed out to the practice area. In a way it felt like a step back in time, I don't think I've flown in the practice area in a 172 since passing my Private Pilot check ride. It was like spending time with an old friend I hadn't seen in a long time. The plane has newer avionics than it did before and was re-upholstered but the engine ran just as smooth as I remembered it.

On the climb out I played with the pitch and observed the changes in the rate of climb as I never had before. When I leveled off I imagined how I would explain the change in control forces to a student. Would I have them level off or would I do it for them on that very first flight? I did some shallow turns and found it very difficult to force myself to fly uncoordinated as I wanted to feel what uncoordinated flight felt like (I imagine I'll be getting more familiar with that feeling flying with student pilots!).

I tested the stability of the plane pitching forward and feeling it descend, accelerate, climb, slow, descend, accelerate again until it settled back where it started. I did shallow, moderate and steep turns and observed what the plane did with and without the correct control inputs. In the turns I played with the rudder, paying close attention to the slightest feel of slip or skid. I did so many steep turns the Attitude Indicator got stuck in a strange attitude and I had to cover it to not distract me on my return to RHV. I hadn't done steep turns in a 172 since my private check ride either.

It was quite fun... going back to my 172 "roots" and observing for myself the truth of what I wrote in my lesson plan. Even more fun to feel one with the plane, with the air, to feel that yes, I can fly like a bird... with a bit more noise and not quite as maneuverable as a bird... but like a bird nonetheless. I feel like I've just scratched the surface of what flying is... I am excited to be on another journey of discovery. I can't wait to go back up and play again!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Flying the Boeing 737-800 Part II

"I'll bet you fly like a girl," the CFI said jokingly. "She flies like a professional," my friend corrected him. I laughed and told them both, "I fly like a professional girl, of course!" I was taking the captain's seat in a full sized Boeing 737-800 simulator at American Airlines training facility in Dallas, TX. My husband, some friend pilots and I were spending the weekend at ATOP, Airline Training Orientation Program. ATOP is a program that gives pilots of all stripes the chance to experience what it is like to train on and fly a real airline jet at a real airline training facility. This was my birthday present to myself and I was having the time of my life.

The characters 17C were illuminated in front of us on the empty runway as the sky lightened slightly on the horizon.
American 456, DFW Tower. Climb and maintain 3000. Maintain runway heading. Runway 17 Center. Cleared for take off. - broke the silence.
Climb and maintain 3000. Maintain runway heading. Runway 17 Center Cleared for take off. American 456. said First Officer Chris.

Me in the left seat of the B737 simulator
I looked at my First Officer and nodded with a grin. Time to go. I released the brakes and put my hand on the throttles, moving them forward. SET TAKE OFF THRUST. Chris put his hand over mine and advanced my hand and the throttles forward further until N-1 on both engines read 95% as I kept my gaze outside the aircraft. TAKE OFF THRUST SET.

Nothing seemed to happen at first, then we started to hear a rumble, the plane started the vibrate, the rumble became a roar as we felt ourselves pushed forward by the twin jet engines. Chris monitored the airspeeds and called out 80 KNOTS when we passed through 80 knots. 80 KNOT CROSS CHECK, I confirmed as I kept the plane on the center line and prepared myself to pitch up at rotate speed. Suddenly alarms started to sound and the master caution and fire lights illuminated in front of both of us.

I heard my own CFI's voice speaking calmly in my head from a multi-engine captain's briefing, "In event of fire, failure, or loss of control…" I thought, "Fire! 80 knots, not to V1 yet. Abort." I pulled the throttles to idle and said, "Abort!" as I stepped hard on the brakes to stop the plane. The plane stopped quicker than I thought it would. Once stopped my FO and I both started to move our hands towards the fire suppression systems.

"That's OK, I'll put the fire out," the CFI said. "Good job on that. Do you know it took 5 seconds for you to abort the take off after the alarms went off?" I didn't know if 5 seconds was considered fast or slow for an airline pilot. On one hand it seemed like those 5 seconds were more like 5 minutes, on the other hand, they went by in milliseconds. In any case, we handled the simulated emergency well.

The B737-800 simulator was reset to normal conditions and we took off normally on our next attempt. We reached our designated altitude and I level off. I was "hand flying" the plane using only auto-thrust and the flight director to guide, not fly, the plane. The trim wheels were spinning wildly as I set the electric trim to reduce control pressure needed to maintain level flight. ATC gave us another heading and airspeed. The FO set it in the flight director and I got used to using the magenta lines on the flight display to guide our flight. I had to adjust to not "leading" a turn in or turn out when getting close to lining up on the flight director. You have to lead your turns when using a traditional CDI in instrument flying but the flight director actually leads the turns for you so all you have to do is fly the magenta lines and you will turn precisely and smoothly onto the heading and at the altitude the FO sets. My FO and I quickly got into a rhythm of flying and working together and we were starting to relax.

"How would you like to experience what a total hydraulic failure feels like?" said the CFI. Before we could answer we heard a click of a keyboard and the hydraulic warning lights all came on. My FO started going through the checklist to attempt to resolve the problem while I suddenly had my hands full with 174,000 pounds of simulated jet and no "power steering". Unlike older jets, this plane has backups for the hydraulic systems. The plane, while difficult, was controllable and the electric trim still worked. The most difficult part was not exceeding a reasonable bank in turns without the hydraulic assist. After it was obvious I was getting the hang of it, the CFI had me hand the controls to my FO so he could see what its like. I gave him the controls and took over the radio work. Chris wrestled with the plane and kept it reasonably on course and on altitude.

We were turning towards the final approach course when the hydraulics healed themselves with another keyboard click. I took the controls and ATC cleared us for the approach. Chris read back the clearances, set our airspeeds and headings on the flight director and we were cleared for the approach. I "hand flew" the ILS 17C approach into Dallas Ft. Worth. The runway lights led us forward and I got to follow the bright fireball towards the runway in the dim light. Ever since my first night cross-country flight I've wanted to fly a night approach like this. The flight director made it much easier to fly a beautiful ILS approach than I expected for my first time at the controls of a Boeing 737-800. We cruised down the glide slope and the plane started to count down the altitude over the terrain… 500, 300, 200 … I turned off the auto-thrusters, I'm really flying now. 100, 50. The CFI told me to round out just as I slowly bring the nose up to what I guessed was a good landing attitude. 10, thunk, we felt a slight jolt as we touched down and rolled down the runway. I spared myself a half second to think, "Not bad", then I called for flaps and take off thrust. Yes! A touch and go in a 737!

The engines spooled up much quicker this time and we were at rotate speed and climbing again in no time it seems, POSITIVE CLIMB, GEAR UP. When we got to 500 feet we hear, "My airplane in 3, 2, 1." click The plane sat frozen in space and time on 3 mile final on the glide slope for the same ILS approach. "What would you like?" he asked. "How about low visibility and a storm?" I said. I wouldn't want to fly one in real life, but in a simulator this could be fun. We reconfigured the plane and turned on the auto-brake assist for this approach. This time we'd be landing.

click, click 

The sky outside became pitch black except for flashes of lightning and we're flying again. ATC cleared us for the approach. A voice in the back said "Oh look! There goes Dorothy!" Flying this approach seemed no more difficult than the one before. At 500 feet we could see the runway lights and the "rabbit" lined up perfectly. "Nice approach, nice approach" said the CFI quietly. We do the pre-landing checklist and the count down starts. …500, 300, 200, 100… click - oops I forgot to turn off auto thrust at 200, so I turned it off at 100. …50… I started to round out just before the CFI said to …10… gently I raised the nose and kept the plane over the center line. Don't let it land, I thought as I tried to keep it just off the runway with thrusters at idle. Scrrch... the tires made that lovely chirping noise as we touched down gently. I let the nose down smoothly and put on the reversers to slow the plane. We got below 80 knots and I stowed the reversers and put the plane back exactly on the center line as I had allowed it to drift slightly. "Show off," said the CFI. I smiled. "A professional is always on the center line," I think. "See if you can make this high speed taxiway." I added more brakes, steered for the taxiway and brought the plane to a stop at what I thought was all the way over the runway hold lines.


The lights come on in the cockpit and the simulation is over. "Nice work," said the CFI. My FO and I shook hands and our two friends congratulated us enthusiastically. "Not bad at all for someone who flies like a girl," I think. A professional girl.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Landing and A Hand Shake

I key the mike, "Paso Robles Traffic. Arrow 55X taking runway one niner. Remaining in the pattern. Paso" 

"Do you see anyone coming at us?" I ask my passenger as I check final, base and downwind for unannounced traffic. "Nope," he says as he checks for planes landing on runway 1 and runway 13/31. The winds are calm, pilots can be using any runway they want. I see a hawk circling near the approach end of runway 19. "Looks like a hawk on final," I'm trying to keep things light. "A common occurrence," my passenger says.

Green hills on the
way to Paso Robles
I taxi out to the runway center line and stop with my feet on the brakes. "Reds, blues, all greens, no reds," I say, verifying I have the fuel pump on, prop and mixture full, and all the gauges are in the green. Feet off the brakes, I advance the throttle to full smoothly with slight elevator back pressure, double checking the manifold pressure and RPM gauges for the right readings, and wait for the plane to tell me its ready to take off from the 6000' runway. My eyes watch the runway and the limp wind sock and my feet and hands keep the plane on the center line until the nose gear starts to bounce a bit and the plane takes off with just a slight bit more back pressure.

 I pitch for 100 MPH and verify we have a positive climb. I wait a bit longer until more of the runway disappears under our nose and bring up the gear. "Positive climb. Gear up." The gear motor whines quietly, the sound of the wind changes and I feel the plane accelerate when the gear locks into the up position. I extend my upwind a bit longer than I normally would to give myself more time to set up for this landing on downwind. I turn off the fuel pump and reduce manifold pressure and RPM to 25 squared.

"Paso Robles traffic, Arrow 55X left crosswind runway one niner. Paso" I turn crosswind and get ready to level off at pattern altitude. A plane passing through the area calls for advisories on turbulence. I think its strange for a plane that is not planning to land at an airport to ask for turbulence advisories at pattern altitude but I answer him. We were experiencing some very light chop. I level off at pattern altitude, pull the manifold pressure back to 17", the RPM back to 2350, turn downwind and then flip the fuel pump back on.

"Paso Robles traffic, Arrow 55X left downwind runway one niner. This will be a short approach. Paso" The other plane keeps talking and I keep trying to answer him. He sounded shaken for some reason. I line the plane up at an optimal distance from the runway and a thought flits through my head, "Why on earth am I talking to this guy when I should be focusing on what could be the most important landing of my flying career?" The conversation finished just before I was abeam my touch down point. In this case I was instructed that my aim point was the runway aim markers (wide white marks approximately 1000' down the runway and 150' long).

"Paso Robles traffic, Arrow 55X short approach runway one niner. Paso" This is for all the marbles. I pull power and hold the plane level as I reduce speed with the gear horn screaming in the background… I wait until it feels right and then put down the gear, turning slightly towards the runway as I look for my touchdown point to come into view again. I pull the prop back and the characteristic "Piper whistle" becomes apparent as we glide through the air. Air speed reduced to100 MPH I continue a shallow turn towards the runway, feeling for the sink of the plane and waiting for the moment to start bleeding off airspeed and adding flaps.

My "Stomping Grounds",
South County, Hollister, etc.
Once I know I have the runway made I start to pitch up slowly, reducing airspeed further, keeping my arc towards the touchdown point constant as I add the first 10 degrees of flaps and wait a bit more. Definitely have my touchdown point made, time to drag it up. I add the rest of the flaps, pitch for 85 MPH and start an easy forward slip that will land the plane right in the middle of the runway aim markers. I verbally go through a quick pre-landing checklist verifying each one, "Pump, Mix, Prop, Gear, Gas, Seat belts." I glance at my passenger, his seatbelt is still on. "This is going to be good," I think.

100' or maybe 200' over the runway the worst possible thing happens. The plane is lifted up what feels like a 100 feet or more in a sudden updraft. I can't believe it. No! Not on THIS landing! "OH, COME ON!" I exclaim out loud. I immediately put in full right rudder, full left aileron and keep the airspeed nailed at 85 MPH as I take precious seconds to see if that would be enough to get the plane back down fast enough to land within 200' of the 0' point. "Don't make me go slower!" I tell the plane in my head, "cause I can go for 75 MPH and get down even quicker if I have to." This was the last arrow in my quiver and I was willing to use it. It becomes apparent that I should still land within spec if everything else goes well so I keep the control inputs constant as the plane accelerates towards the runway. I have a brief mental image of a white, red and grey low wing airplane dropping like the proverbial rock towards the runway with one wing down, one wing up and the side of the plane into the wind. I wonder what anyone watching may be thinking. I wonder what my passenger is thinking.

I keep the motion of the plane aligned with the runway center line in the very aggressive slip and watch my airspeed carefully. At just the right moment, just over the runway, I neutralize the control inputs and raise the nose to bleed off the remaining airspeed. There is almost no float as I land firmly, but not hard, on the center line but I land just past the end of the 150' runway aim markers. I am pretty sure I touch down within 200' but what I think doesn't matter. My passenger has the final say. I maintain directional control of the plane as I slow down to taxi speed and head towards the Charlie taxiway. "Well," he says, "The good news is you landed within 200'." I wonder what the bad news is but say nothing as I taxi clear of the runway.

"Paso Robles Traffic, Arrow 55X clear one niner at Charlie. Paso." I stop the plane and go through my after-landing checklist. Pump off, transponder on standby, flaps up, trim for take off. "Paso Robles traffic. Arrow 55X taxing transient via Charlie. Paso." I taxi very carefully to the transient parking area, staying exactly on the centerline all the way. We chit chat a little about how hard power off 180s can be, especially when you get caught in an updraft like I did. Internally I'm wondering what the bad news is. All I know is I can still screw this up. I pull into parking, carefully shut down the engine and begin securing the plane.

The FAA Designated Pilot Examiner takes off his headset, notes the hobbs and tach time, and exits the plane. I also record the hobbs and tach time and almost reluctantly take off my headset and climb out of the plane. Time to face the music. All I know is I did my best. I jump down off the wing and look at his face. He is grinning broadly. "Congratulations!" he says as he shakes my hand. With that one landing and a hand shake I am a commercial pilot.

Paso Robles traffic, California has a new commercial pilot. Paso. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Flying the Boeing 737-800 Part I

There is a little known program called ATOP. ATOP stands for Airline Training Orientation Program. It is a unique opportunity for pilots of all stripes, from student pilot to professional, to sample what its like to train and fly an actual airline jet simulator at an actual major airline training facility. Both American Airlines and Jet Blue graciously support the program at their training facilities.

I heard about the program at an AOPA seminar on weather flying last year and decided it would be a great birthday present to myself to go and experience what its like to fly a jet. When I contacted the friendly folks at ATOP they said they were booked through June 2014. I expressed my disappointment at having to wait so long. So they offered an option. If I could find 6-8 pilots total, they could schedule another session for my group sometime in March. I put the word out to my flight club and my favorite online aviation forum, grabbed my husband and a couple pilot friends and we had 5 pilots in no time. ATOP provided the other three and we had ourselves a class! I selected training at the American Airlines facility in Dallas with the B737-800 because I thought that would be much more like flying than the fly-by-wire A320 at Jet Blue.

The "A Team" in front of the full motion simulator.
Me, Randy, Chris and Jeff
Our class had three people looking forward to flying careers, myself and two twenty-something young men, Tom and Dan, who were working towards their airline careers. We had one student pilot friend and co-worker, Emanuel, Jeff, my husband, Randy who has become one of my main flying buddies, Chris, from the Cessna 172 forum and David who is an executive at a hospital in Wyoming, multi-engine rated and a CFI. For the purposes of planning simulator time we were split into two groups of four. The "A-Team" and the "Number 1 Team". I picked Chris to be my co-pilot because I had never flown with him before. Chris turned out to be a great choice. Jeff and Randy rounded out the "A-Team".

Day 1 - Drinking from a Fire Hose

The first day was 10 hours of ground school lead by Captain Wayne. This is Wayne Phillips who lead the AOPA Seminar. The same Wayne Phillips who writes in AOPA's flight training magazine about airline careers after an extensive flying career of his own. They've trained over 4000 pilots since ATOP started operations and we were in good hands. Wayne made the torrent of information fun to absorb with a great sense of humor and all kinds of good stories. Since this was a rare occasion with a female in the class we were treated to many repetitions of "Lady and Gentlemen" and "Boys and Girl" as he took us through the basics. I was amused to be recognized in that way. During a break Wayne and I talked briefly about how few women come through the program or fly at all.

We were exposed to, at a high level, what every knob and switch on the B737's many control panels do. We learned about the plane's hydraulics, pneumatics, fuel system, the A/C and pressurization systems.  I found out B737's have three jet engines, not just two. The third engine is the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) that sits in the tail section of the plane. We went through the basic start up flows and safety checks. We learned a bit about the backup systems and how they operate, what happens if one engine fails or the other. How the B737 has mechanical backups to the hydraulics for the flight controls leaving the plane controllable in the case of a full hydraulic failure. We also got exposed to the high altitude decompression and emergency procedures since we all signed up for an optional high altitude endorsement.

That afternoon we sat down at a cockpit training device (I think its called) and walked through the take off, cruise and landing flows. This was basically a three dimensional panel (top panel, front panel and pedestal) with pictures of all of the buttons, knobs and controls where they are physically in the aircraft. We took turns acting as Captain, FO, ATC and Instructor/Observer and went through the motions, literally, of operating the aircraft through the profile we would fly the next day in the simulator.

Then we switched to an actual flight training device (FTD). This was similar to the cockpit training device but this one had touch screens for all of its surfaces. As we needed to move a lever or flip a switch, etc, we touched and moved the item on the screen. We used this device under Wayne's watchful eye to go through a simulated emergency descent from FL350 to FL180. This was the second part of the high altitude endorsement training. I found out a B737 will descend at approx 6000 fpm with the speed brakes deployed at a 300 knot dive.

I think it was 6PM before the day was done and we headed to a pizza joint near the hotel to eat and chat. I got to pick Wayne's brain a bit about career opportunities for me. He told me about a single pilot operation he had in Colorado flying vacationers to Aspen for breakfast. The pizza was fantastic. We went to bed with full bellies and brains and tried to sleep as the next day would start at very early.

Day 2 Simulator Time!

The next day dawned chilly and grey but we didn't care. We were going to fly jets today! Randy, David and I met up early and walked to Starbucks to ensure we had the required equipment for flight, aka coffee. When we were there Wayne came by and David and Wayne got to chat. If you want a chance to talk with an industry expert about flying careers one on one, in addition to the exposure to the training and simulators for an airline industry, this is a great way to get that time.

We were all very excited as Wayne led us through the maze of hallways towards the full motion simulators. The airline obviously has several, from the B737 approximately the size of a small room which we would be "flying" to a sleek looking B787 simulator sitting in a long open simulator bay with several other models. It was early but you could hear and see the simulators moving as sim techs took them through their paces and crews did training and testing.

We were escorted to a briefing room that had a small table, a wall chart of the B737 panels and a window into the simulator bay. The simulator we were scheduled for was in use. We saw it moving on its hydraulics and heard it let out a loud BANG when it bounced on the hydraulics to simulate a hard landing. We were able to get an idea of the large range of motion that simulator could do as we watched its gyrations.

After a quick briefing the "A-Team" headed for the sim. I had the bright idea of letting Jeff and Randy go first so we could see what it was like before diving in. I think Jeff had the opposite idea. Jeff managed to get Chris to go into the simulator first Captain Chris and FO Anissa were first to take the sim through its paces. Wayne was seated behind us at the simulator's control panel, ready to create mayhem at a moment's notice. Jeff and Randy got to observe us from inside the sim as well.

In the following section I'll describe this as flying a jet rather than a simulator. For all intents and purposes, that is what it looked, sounded, felt and smelled like doing. Wayne told us many actual B737 pilots say it is easier to fly the actual jet than the sim. I think part of that might be because you don't have engine failures, fires, flat tires and other various malfunctions thrown at you on a routine basis in the real jet.

Day 2 Flying the B737-800

Captain Chris sat in the left seat and I sat in the right. The seats are set so they move back and away from the center pedestal, making it easier to get into the seat, then they slide forward and in to lock into place with the rudder pedals under your toes. A four point harness is standard equipment in the front of a jet. Chris and I made sure to strap in good. Who knew what would happen on our flight?

Captain Chris and FO Anissa
in the full motion simulator
The plane sat on the end runway 17C at DFW airport ready for take off. It was a dark night with no stars but we could dimly see the horizon beyond the powerful takeoff/landing lights. ATC cleared us for takeoff and I read back the clearance. The captain said SET TAKEOFF POWER and moved the throttles forward about halfway while keeping his eyes outside the airplane. I moved his hand forward further until the N1 compressor gauge read 95% power when I said TAKEOFF POWER SET.

At first it seemed like nothing happened, then we started to hear and feel a low rumble. The rumble became a roar and the jet started to move down the runway, slowly at first and faster and faster and the noise of the engines became louder and we were pushed back into our seats. 80 KNOTS CROSS CHECK I said as we passed 80 knots. 80 KNOTS Chris confirmed. After this point the only thing that would cause an aborted landing would be a fire, engine failure or loss of control. 150 knots, V1, I said. Then immediately 152 knots, ROTATE. V1, ROTATE Chris responded and took his hand off the throttle to raise the nose of the jet to an 18 degree pitch for take off with both hands on the controls. We could hear exclamations of "woah!" "cool" from the observers seats behind us but we had to keep flying this jet.

POSITIVE CLIMB, GEAR UP, Chris said. GEAR UP, I replied and moved the large gear level to the UP position. The sound of the jet changed as the gear retracted. 1000 FT I said. 1000 FT he confirmed and pitched down for 12 degrees as we changed to cruise climb. AFTER TAKEOFF CHECKLIST was the next call out. I went through the checklist and moved the gear into the OFF position. CHECKLIST COMPLETE.

ATC started to pepper us with new headings and altitudes and I read them back and programmed the flight director as directed by our captain. The trim wheels were spinning madly as Chris adjusted the trim to make it easier for him to fly and follow the magenta lines of the flight director. The magic of the flight director, Wayne explained earlier, is all you have to do is keep the wings of the miniature plane on the PFD aligned with the horizontal magenta line and keep the vertical magenta line through the center of the miniature plane. If you did that you would be guided onto the altitude, heading and track programmed into the flight director. So even though we were "hand flying" without the autopilot, the plane was telling us what to do.

The flight was going smoothly as Chris and I got into the grove of flying the jet... too smoothly. The master caution light came on. I scanned the many panels to identify the source of the caution then extinguished the light. I watched for a second to see if a second caution would come on. It didn't. Chris kept flying as I looked up at the panel above my head and turned off the system that had the caution.  Problem resolved.

Chris was making it look easy as ATC had us slow down the jet and turn "base" to intercept the ILS for the final approach. With further speed reductions we were at a speed we could deploy the initial flaps. We were cleared for the approach and I started doing the pre-landing checklists and call outs, deploying more flaps, slowing our speed using the auto-throttles. I watched the MFD (similar to an HSI smaller planes) for the localizer bar to come alive. That would be our trigger to slow further and deploy the gear. GEAR DOWN I called out. GEAR DOWN the captain confirmed. I put the gear down. You could hear the air roar differently as the gear came down. All that remained was for Chris to fly the ILS and then at 200' AGL he would turn off the auto-throttles and bring her in to land.

Chris had the plane well aligned with the localizer and glide slope with the help of the flight director. The plane called out... 1000, 500, 400, 300, 200 click as the auto-throttles are disengaged 100, 50, 10. Wayne guided Chris through the round out to a firm landing.

We weren't done yet though, FLAPS 5 and we did a touch and go, in a jet! at 140 knots we rotated and leveled off at about 500'.  Then Wayne took the plane and reset it on 3 mile final for a second approach. This time with low clouds and low visability to make things a bit more interesting. We set the auto brake on to help us stop the jet after landing. 

Chris and I worked well together and brought the jet in smoothly for the last landing without issue. Once we got it on the runway Chris deployed the reversers to slow down the jet even further. At 80 knots the reversers were stowed and the brakes took over. It was very disorienting when we pulled clear of the runway for some reason, the movement of the simulator didn't quite match what we saw out the window and everyone felt the same disorientation. Chris taxied clear of the runway and we were done with a round of applause from our observers in the back of the simulator.