Diary of a Student Pilot

By Jack Welsch


This is little more than a series of ramblings taken from a more detailed diary which I started keeping after my first lesson. I'm not exactly sure why I started it but I'm glad I did and strongly recommend it. During particularly difficult periods, I was able to look back at earlier frustrations. Seeing how difficult a simple maneuver seemed earlier puts the present situation into perspective! The bottom line is that the diary was written for me. Reading it over, I realize that it reads like the diary of a manic depressive; my spirits appear to have gone up and down at least as often as the plane!

After getting so much help from others on the internet, however, and at the specific urging of Jerry Kaidor, I decided to share my thoughts and experiences. Maybe someone can learn from my mistakes! I want to thank all the folks in the rec.aviation.student newsgroup and especially to Gene Whitt for their inspiration and help.

Thanks above all to the two CFI's who I spent LOTS of time with, Greg Schwartzendrubber and Clido Cataluffi. The two couldn't be more different but both were great, each in his own way.

The Dream

I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes. The funny thing is, it never occurred to me that my fascination was anything out of the ordinary. Only as an adult did I discover that not everyone shared my enthusiasm.

In any case, it never really occurred to me that I could fly. It always seemed a rich man's pastime and I'm certainly not one! If it weren’t for my friend Jim Richardson, flying would have remained for me only a dream. On a sunny Monday in May of 1995, Jim and I spent some free time visiting the Art Institute of Chicago and, later, sitting in a bar in the Loop. Jim was talking at length about his new Arrow and trying to convince me that I owed it to myself to learn to fly. I patiently explained that I’d love to but was certain it was out of my economic reach. In response to a comment as to how my wife would react to my spending the money, Jim said, "Jack, she'll thank you for it. When you come home from flying, she'll think it's a new man! There'll be a spring in your step that she's never seen before." By the time he dropped me off at my hotel, I'd agreed to give it serious thought.

In the weeks that followed, we talked many times by phone and I eventually agreed that I'd talk to some people and take a ride. The summer passed and I didn't do it but I promised to do it in the fall.

The Search

Having decided to at least try flying, the task was to choose a flight school. I asked Jim for advice on what to look for. He armed me with questions and advised that I look at the little things that indicated the mindset about maintenance. Things like cleanliness, whether there was junk in the back seat, etc.

September 29, 1995 was the day I took the plunge! It was a nice day and figured if I didn't do it now, I might procrastinate forever. I looked in the yellow pages and tried to call Tech Aviation at AVP, the “big” airport but there was no one there from the flight school. The next place I called was Moyer Aviation, located at Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport (MPO). I'd thought a lot about Moyer since I'd driven by it a zillion times over the years. When I called, I talked to Vern Moyer and he said to come out around 2:30. Vern sat me down and explained what was involved and what it would cost. Took a 1/2 hr. ride with Vern in a C-172. I hadn't known that I'd be riding in the left seat or that I'd actually be flying so I was a little shocked but delighted. I’d like to say I was hooked immediately but, in truth, my reaction was mixed. It was exciting but intimidating at the same time. I wasn't sure I wanted to go further.

A few days later (Oct. 6), on a beautiful fall day I went to Kingston at lunch time to pick up my laundry. It was so nice, I decided to play hooky for a few minutes and visit what’s popularly called the Forty Fort airport (actually, Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley or WBW). I knew from the yellow pages that there were two outfits there who gave lessons, Columbia Aviation and Wyoming Valley Aviation. I parked the car in the lot and, as I was figuring out where to go, a guy came out of a small building (which I'd latter learn was the Wyoming Valley Pilot's Club). His name is Dave Williams, a guy who's path I'd cross again. Learning that he was a pilot, I told him I wanted to learn to fly and asked where I should look. He recommended Columbia. He walked me over to their office and it was locked up. He had a key so he let us in and called the owner's home so I could talk to him. The owner wasn't home but I spoke to his wife, Pat. She was very pleasant and gave me the info I needed. They have a Warrior at $49 wet and an Arrow at $60!! Instruction is $15. Dave pointed out the planes on the flight line and said I was free to look them over but that he had to go.

As I was walking back to the car, a guy came out of WVA and asked if I needed anything.. He had a C172 @ $48 and a 150 @ $38. Instruction at $16 for air and $12 for ground. He has three instructors, each with lots of hours and the place looked OK. It was probably me but the chemistry wasn’t right..

Tech Aviation is FBO at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Int'l Airport (AVP). This is the only one in the area at a controlled field. I really had to chase them down for these calls; they weren't terribly inclined to return calls. By this time, winter was coming and I didn't want to get started 'til spring so my flying plans went into hibernation.

As early spring approached, I started to look and ask around again. I called Tech and scheduled a visit. VERY nice facilities and the planes are kept in a heated hanger. Their prices were high and, again, the chemistry was wrong for me.

Visited Cherry Ridge Airport (N30) in Honesdale on Saturday, February 24, 1996 and was very happy with them. Just a small operation out in the "sticks" about 25 miles (35 minutes) from home. Nice folks and very helpful. Had a C150 @ $40 and a 172 @ $55. Instruction was $20. Ground School was fixed cost of $125. There's a cute little restaurant on the field, too, and there was a student and his CFI sitting at the counter planning a cross-country. Here, the chemistry was good. I’ve lived long enough to believe my gut on most things. I was ready to sign up but figured I'd sleep on it.

The next day, Sunday, was a nice day so my wife, Linda, and I drove out to Seaman's Airport (9N3) in Factoryville, PA, an airport I "knew" was too far away. Turned out it was the same distance and time as Cherry Ridge. For a field in the middle of nowhere, it's pretty substantial. About 70 planes are based there and the shop has 26 mechanics. For training, they have (2) 152's @ $40, (2)172's @ $50 and a 182 RG @$60. Instruction @ $18 for air, $10 for ground. Very good vibes. Slept on it again and woke up certain that Seaman’s was my place. My first CFI, Jamie Haas, had ~1400 hrs. and has been instructing 3 years.

First Flight - 2/26/96 (The heck with Orville & Wilber, this was MINE)

9N3Having decided to do it and where to do it, the remaining decision was when to do it! By Sunday night, I was determined to start as soon as possible; perhaps next weekend! Slept fitfully with visions of airplanes dancing in my head. Monday was a beautiful and calm day. TV weather report said weather would go downhill in the next few days. Nothing about the weekend. What if I can't!... Ugh!! Certainly, I can't go today, have to go to work. For some reason, along with my briefcase, I carried a jacket out to the car and put it in the trunk "just in case..."

Mid-morning, I called Jamie, my soon-to-be CFI. Can we book a time on Saturday? But wait, (said I, looking out at the blue sky) maybe late this afternoon? Well, bottom line was the plane was reserved at 4:00 so I had to be there by 2:30. Subtract driving time.... The heck with it. I can spare a half day of vacation time! Told Jamie, skip the "familiarization ride", lets go to lesson #1.

N4876FThe first pleasant surprise was the drive. Only 37 miles and less than 45 minutes from the office. Got there at 1:30, a full 1/2 hour ahead of schedule. No problem, Jamie was ready to go, as was the plane, a Cessna 172 (N4876F). Jamie asked if Moyer had shown me how to pre-flight. To my "yes", he asked whether I wanted to just do it with him watching. Not having paid that much attention 4 months ago, I thought I'd mess it up but it went relatively well with Jamie filling in a few holes in my understanding.

The bad news was that the wind had come up and was blowing about 13 knots directly across the only runway. I taxied out which was a treat. I hadn’t steered with my feet since, as a kid, I had a little “car" that would coast down hills. And the steering on that was opposite the plane! Especially interesting is the pond into which one would drop if one didn't turn properly where the taxiway curves to meet the runway (upper left in the photo).

Jamie had me rest my hands and feet on the controls while he took off. At about 2500 ft, he told me to hold a northerly heading and take it to 4500 ft. From there, it was just turns, climbs and descents ‘til we were back to 9N3. Jamie took it from there and landed the plane with me just looking on. More taxiing for me and that was that! Exactly 1.0 on the Hobbs meter. What a kick! My earlier doubts had evaporated, I was well and truly hooked!

Flight 2

Lesson two was scheduled for 10:00 on Saturday, March 2. While the weather was good for most of the week, Saturday promised snow! Unable to sleep, I woke up at 7:00 and checked the weather. The sky was overcast but the clouds were high (don't know how to estimate how high yet.) At about 8:30 I called Jamie to see if we were going. He said the FSS had just told him the ceiling was dropping. I suggested I come up before it got worse. He said OK as long as I didn't mind sitting in the cockpit with a guy with headache and sore throat. (Small disadvantage when you really want to fly!) While the ceiling was high at our house, it was much lower at the airport. Got to the airport a little after 9. I asked Jamie whether he thought the weather was going to get better or worse; he said the FSS said worse so I said "Let's go now, then."

The plane was still in the hanger. Pre-flighted it myself while Jamie hooked up the headsets. Taxied to 22. Taxiing is getting a little easier but I'm still over-controlling. Jamie took off while I followed on controls. Still climbing, he gave me the plane. The ceiling was pretty low so we were unable to go higher than 3000 ft MSL.. Spent very little time there 'cause we were awfully close to the ceiling. Spent most of the time at 2500 and 2000. Wow, what you can loose in 5 days! Had a hell of a time in the turns. No way I could hold altitude and bank angle and stay coordinated. Two out of three, maybe, but all three, forget it! Then, as often as not, I didn't anticipate the heading and roll out in time. How Jamie can keep his cool with some guy flying all over the place is amazing! Jamie excused at least part of my fumbling because the horizon was indistinct in the clouds. After lots of standard-rate and 30° turns, I had it, at least to a degree. Then we started turns around a point. Altitude was 2000 ft. MSL and he picked a silo of a farm on a hill so it looked like you could touch it! Must have done 6 turns or so. Held altitude very well but distance to the point wasn't so hot.

Rolled out of that and Jamie said "Do you know where we are?" With all the turns, of course I didn't have a clue! He said "There's a town, what do you think it is?" I said "Factoryville." He said, can you find the airport from Factoryville?" and I said "Yes." He said, "Go find it, then." I did and he landed it, again with me following the controls. Taxied to the hanger and put the plane away.

As I headed East, I drove out from under the low clouds. By the time I got home, the weather was great. I was to learn that low ceiling are to airports what tornadoes are to trailer parks!

Later in the afternoon, my son, Eric, and I went to the movies and the sky was absolutely beautiful. Took a lot not to go for another spin! (oops - bad word!!!)

Flight 3

My appointment was for 10:00 on Saturday, March 9. Friday night, the weather forecast was for heavy wind so I had the distinct feeling I'd be grounded. Sleep was restless with thoughts of flying alternating with thoughts of sitting on the ground while the wind howled. Woke up Saturday to a beautiful calm morning. Bright sun shining from a magnificently blue sky onto dazzling white snow. And dead calm! I knew we'd be flying but I called the airport to be sure - no answer. Called Jamie's house and was told he'd just left for the airport. Good news. For virtually the entire drive I kept thinking of what a great day it was for flying and getting more and more excited as I approached the airport. My first inkling of trouble came as I was about a half mile from the field. I was behind a snow plow widening the road. The snow kicked up was getting whipped from the northwest at a nice clip. With the only runway running 4/22, that's a bad sign. Got out of the car at the airport (which is located on a ridge) and knew I was in trouble! I greeted Jamie with "Tell me there's not too much wind." His response was predictable and the FSS was predicting increasing wind. He'd called the house 10 minutes after I'd left. Worse, his schedule for Sunday was booked. Bob, the part time instructor had one slot at 10:00 so I booked it. Arriving home. Linda reminded me that I'd agreed to sing in the choir on Sunday so, tears welling, I called Jamie and canceled the 10:00. He agreed to call me if he or Bob had a cancellation.

Sunday morning, of course, was award-winning. Going to church when every cell was screaming to be taken to the airport was torture. Dashed out of church at the end of Mass to check the answering machine with the firm conviction that there'd be good news from Jamie. Nothing. Twice more during coffee hour did the same thing with the same result. Arrived home and tried to divert my attention without success. Finally I said "I'm going to the airport to hang around an see if I get lucky. Jamie had no objection to my hanging around so I read and watched touch & goes. At about 2:30, at 4:00, Jamie (I think taking pity) said he'd take me up at the end of the day (about 4:30). Since Linda was going out with friends in the evening, I'd promised to be home for dinner at 5:00. When I called to explain the situation, she agreed that she didn't want to see me cry so...

Actually, we got up about 4:15. Taxiing's getting better. This was my first take off and was a great thrill! (Rwy 22) As we left the ground, I shouted "Yes!" Totally different from "riding"! Off again to the East to do a series of turns. I did much better with standard-rate and 30° turns but had no control with steep (45°) ones. I was all over the sky. Just East of Elk Mountain, I was introduced to power-off stalls. Pretty scary but not terrifying like I'd expected. Jamie did two and I did three. Then turns around a road intersection. With no wind at all I still had trouble keeping distance. I tend to spiral in.

As we headed in, we saw a hot air balloon far below. Obviously a calm afternoon. This was by far the most exciting flight so far. I was as pumped as I've been in a long time. I kept thinking about how Jim had said Linda would find she was married to a different man.

Flight 4

The beginning of the week brought more beautiful weather. By Wednesday, I decided to take time off to fly. Called the airport only to be reminded that Jamie was off flying for Jewelcor. Thursday, made an appointment for 4:00. Left the office at about 3:10 and got behind every slow driver in this part of the state. Got there about 3:55 with blood pumping. There was a stiff breeze which gave me a start but it was straight down 22. Sky was light, high overcast. Not a bad day but certainly not the beauty of earlier in the week.

Ran into the head to get changed and Jamie was still with the previous student. I pre-flighted while he finished up. By the time we climbed in, I was stressed. Finally taxied to 22 and took of with me in control again. What a thrill. Hope I don't get jaded to that! More turns which I now handle quite well. Even did the steep ones fairly well. Stayed in an altitude window of 50 feet or so. I'm having some trouble with the roll out. I start at the right reading but must come out too fast 'cause I usually come up short of the desired heading. Still needs work.

Next, slow flight. That's going to take some getting used to. Understand it from the book but it's weird when you do it. Just going to take work. I asked Jamie whether I'd ever feel at ease with this stuff - I'm really too tense. I find my hands actually cramp from gripping the yoke!

Did several more power-off stalls. I'm starting to get the hang. I'm also starting to take more responsibility for my training, telling Jamie that I want to do another with absolutely no control input from him.

Power-on stalls were definitely not fun! Scary and a little tough on the tummy. Jamie did one and I did one but that was enough for the first time.

More turns around a point, of course. With the wind, it was tough but I think I'm making progress. A bit of a time with altitude, though.

Did one touch and go and then landed. Followed him on the T&G and had at least some control on the approach. Pretty scary.

This time, instead of exhilaration, my felling was of exhaustion as I drove home. Whether it was the hectic day or the flight I'm not sure...

Flight 5

As with last week, today's lesson was supposed to happen yesterday. At least there was no mystery about it this time; the sound of the wind woke me on Saturday and I knew we weren't going. Just to be sure, I got ready and waited for Jamie's call which came at 8:10. Actually, he said we could go but he felt I'd be wasting my money since we'd be thrown around too much. I checked back twice as the day wore on but conditions didn't improve, A bit frustrating since the sky was beautiful.

Had some apprehension about whether today's lesson would happen since a winter storm warning was posted. Fortunately, woke to total calm but high overcast. During church, the sky cleared and I thought it'd be another brilliant day but, by the time I got to the airport, the sky was overcast at 10,000 ft. I went up a couple hours early just to hang around and look at planes. Walked the hangers and the flight line just looking and dreaming...

Jamie went to lunch and said I could pre-flight the plane and he'd be back around 2:15. Hung around the office for a while talking to Bob Seamans and some other guys. Jim Richardson had told me that one of the joys of flying was the camaraderie - he was right!

At 2:00, I started the preflight and finished before Jamie got there. It was cold so I climbed in and was reading the POH when he arrived. I took off without any help from Jamie. Wasn't award-winning ( I wove around a bit.) but it was all mine. What a kick! Climbed out and headed Northeast to a point just Southeast of Elk Mountain. Did some standard, 30° and 45° turns. Definitely getting better with these. I can hold the altitude and roll out pretty smoothly on close to the right heading. Still not perfect and I don't hold the angle as well as I should but I'm confident I'm not far from doing them very well.

Next, slow flight. It's in my head but I can't get the reversed control into my hands. This will definitely take practice. Then the obligatory stalls. God, I hate these things. On one, I pulled back instead of pushing forward. How stupid! The power-on stalls are terrible. Scare me to death. We don't do a lot at a time, thankfully.

After a while, we realized we'd gone quite a way North. I said "Where are we?" Jamie looked down and said "Kirkwood". We turned around and I said "How 'bout if I follow 81 back down for fun?" When we got to Lenox, I said "That's where we turn to go to my summer cottage." He said "Wanna go have a look?" So I followed 92 and then turned at Gelatt and followed the road to Thompson, then cut across to the lake (still frozen solid). What a kick!!

I said "Why don't I do my turns around my cottage? " Went around 5 or 6 times. We're going to come back in the summer with a camera! Elk Mountain is real easy to spot from there so we headed for it and home. Added some time to the lesson but definitely worthwhile!

We did 3 touch and goes before the full stop. I tried my hand at it but Jamie always had to come to the rescue. I was always too high and he had to use full flaps to get us down every time. Had a hell of a time with the heading, too. On the takeoff from the last T&G, I was late coming up - didn't leave a lot of unused runway! The lesson was 1.6 hours and I really feel that's the upper limit for me. I was beat!

Flight 6

Was busy Monday and Tuesday and on the road Wednesday and Thursday. Friday afternoon we were going to NYC so I called Jamie Friday AM to see if I could get a lesson before we left. No dice; too much wind. Saturday we were driving back from NY and I didn't want to be tied down so, that left Sunday. As it happened, Saturday was windy so I probably lucked out.

I had a 4:00 appointment. As usual, I got antsy long before time to leave so I left for the airport and got there around 3:00. Bob Klemens, a part time instructor, was sitting there with another guy watching a golf tournament. I looked at the schedule and it indicated that both Bob and Jamie were tied up all afternoon. It had Jamie out for several hours ending at 3:00. Jamie has one “student” with something like 500 hours. They just go flying every Sunday; breakfasts, fly-ins, etc. Then he had a one hour block before my 4:00. About 3:10, Bob mentioned that Jamie still hadn't gotten back from a run to Atlantic City with his Sunday breakfast guy. Turned out the guy waiting with us, John, was Jamie's 3:00. About 3:20 or so, Jamie returned with apologies for the delay due to headwinds. He suggested that, since we were running late and Bob's appointment had canceled, one of us could go up with Bob. I was quite eager to compare instructors so, after an appropriate series of, "I don't care”, I agreed to go with Bob.

For the first time, I pre-flighted N5123E, another C-172. There were a few minor differences but nothing of significance except that it was tied down on the line; I'd never untied a plane before! Bob came out just as I finished the pre-flight. We taxied to 04 for takeoff. The differences between instructors came evident on runup; Jamie says to use toe brakes instead of parking brake. Bob had me use the parking brake. Another happened on the runway. Jamie always has me do a mini checklist from memory (DLTT - Direction, lights, transponder and time). Bob had turned on the transponder for me and just wanted me to take off. I took off and he had me turn crosswind at 1600 MSL then turn directly to downwind. That began a series of T&G's which ate up the entire 1.2 hour lesson. With 12 landings, that made an average of one landing every 6 minutes. Several more differences... First, Bob doesn't have me do a landing checklist (both tanks, carb heat, throttle back, full rich), just carb heat and throttle back. Also Jamie starts at midfield, Bob at the departure end. Jamie has me put in 10° flaps when I turn base and another 10° as I turn final. Bob has me put in 10° at about midfield and the second 10° just before or just after I turn base. Bob says I should trim for 70 KIAS and then keep neutral elevator. By the time we finished, I was starting to get the hang of it. Ballooned several times but Bob said he thought I was doing well especially when he found how little practice I'd had to date.

With Jamie, the lesson is over when you shut off the engine. When we were finished and shut the engine down, Bob kept me in the plane perhaps 15 or 20 more minutes (at no charge!) going over what we'd done. Bob explained the procedure in great detail and suggested I make a diagram (He later did it - on the back of the bill!) and then go over it repeatedly at home, work, etc. I'm to imagine myself doing the entire operation one step at a time over and over. He says it's a lot cheaper to learn it at home than in the plane at $70/hr. Good point. I like this guy. At the least, I want to fly with him occasionally - can't do it permanently 'cause he only instructs Sundays.

Flight 7

Took off work to fly at 4:00. Sky was sunny with about10 knots from NW. Taxied to 04 and took off with Jamie. Jamie thought the wind was a little strong to spend the lesson doing T&G's so we did slow flight and ground reference. First, slow flight for a little while. I don't think I gained anything on that one today. Then turns about a point. I'm getting better at it but still no great shakes. Today I was having trouble with altitude. Really crummy. Then rectangles around a field. After about 5 circuits, I started to get the hang of it. Wind made it a challenge but I guess that's the point. Then off to do s-turns. It’s unbelievably hard to find a straight line in PA! We used I81 but it was anything but straight. I did OK at this one. Then a series of power-off stalls. I asked Jamie to do a couple so I could get a better idea what it looked like when done properly. Finally did one quite well.

Headed back to the airport and did 2 T&G's and then a full stop. With the wind, it was tough and I ballooned one very badly. All in all, I don't feel real good about today's progress but it still beat staying in work. This working for a living is interfering with my flying!

Flight 8

Flew over the cottage again. My son, Eric went with me for my lesson so it was something of a sightseeing tour. Lesson was scheduled for 11:30 but as usual, I was early - 10:45. Jamie had had an appointment for a “scenic ride" at 10:00 but the guy never showed. Stupid since the day was magnificent.

I'd intended to do some touch and goes, take Eric for a tour, then do more T&G's. Did one T&G and realized that the traffic was terrible so went for the tour. It's easy to find Elk Mtn. so I flew there and then it was easy to find Mt. Ararat and then Sugarloaf. Headed just left of Sugarloaf and there it was - all in about 10 minutes. It was a beautiful sunny day but the bad news is that means a lot of thermals which turn a level ride into an elevator ride in seconds. At one point, I was going straight and level. A second later, my vertical speed indicator said I was going up at 1000 ft/sec while my nose was still pointed straight ahead! Did a couple turns around the cottage but came to the conclusion it's a bad idea - I become more interested in sightseeing than working on my skills. Headed back after taking a turn over the town of Thompson. Did 2 more T&G's and than quit. The conditions were just too unstable and it was frustrating me. In the future, I'll give up the sleep and go early in the day to have a better chance of smooth air.

Flight 9

Tried to fly yesterday (Good Friday) but had two things in the way. It was windy and Jamie was late in returning from a gig for Jewelcor. Today (Sat.) dawned beautifully; sunny and no wind to speak of. Got up early as usual and was at the airport by about 8:40. Pre-flighted 76F and took off from 04. We did 10 T&G's on the first "circuit". At first, I was trying to do the radio work and was getting messed up. Finally asked Jamie to do it so I could concentrate on flying. Getting my climb-outs better; keeping my airspeed closer to Vy but still need work. Also, I tend to level out too high. By the time I'm on downwind, I'm 100-300 ft too high and have to go back down. The first landing scared me for some reason and I started feeling I'd never learn it. By the 10th it was better but I was getting tired. Also, the wind was gusting a bit. I suggested we take a break and come back out. Since Jamie's A.M. schedule was free, he agreed. having flown for an hour, we stopped and sat for about 15 - 20 minutes. As we entered the building, there was a Cherokee 6 taking off. The guy was big time out of control and Jamie said we'd almost seen a crash! He did 2 T&G's while we were resting and both were bad news. Each time he came in too high, bounced, then lifted without enough airspeed and fell when he left ground effect.

We went back up and did 5 more T&G's. By the time we finished it was getting gustier but I was getting better. Things to work on are:

  • Overshooting altitude on climbout
  • Turns too steep
  • Too wide on downwind
  • Attitude/speed control turning base and final (getting better but...)
  • Tendency to come in too high
  • Flare

Things I've definitely improved:

  • Pre-landing check list and setup on downwind
  • Staying lined up with runway
  • Holding speed on final
  • Gauging aiming point and staying on it

It was too nice a day to stay home so after the lesson, I picked Linda up and we drove over to Cherry Ridge for lunch. There were two Piper Cubs sitting on the apron. Both were beautiful and I planned to look closer after lunch. Had a non-descript hamburger and fries but had a great time watching planes come and go. Unfortunately, the Pipers were among those going. That bright yellow against the bright blue sky was magnificent. I need to see that with a camera in my hands! One came back and we walked over to the hanger for a closer look. Sure would be fun to fly one!

Looked at planes in general and Linda said "I think we should get you a $30-35,000 plane, I wouldn't feel good about a cheaper one." That’s the spirit!

Flight 10

Amazing what you can lose in 12 days. We’d gone to St. Lucia in the Caribbean for a little R&R. Do to the trip I'd booked to fly the departure day and the return day but both were windy so a lot of time passed between lessons. Seemed like I'd never seen a plane before! Actually, I wasn't scheduled to fly today but it was a day not to be missed - bright and windless! Jamie wisely thought we should start with some air work. Good idea! After about 1/2 hour, I realized that I really had done this before. We then spent about 1-1/2 hours doing go-arounds and full stops (a total of 10; 3 go-arounds and 7 full stops). By the time we were finished, I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable. I still come in to high. Can't wait for it to "click" as everyone promises.

Flight 11

I couldn't fly with Jamie 'cause he was already booked so I booked with Bob. It was fairly windy and I was fairly certain Jamie wouldn't fly. Bob, on the other hand is less conservative. He suggested we give it a try and quit if it was too bad. He also said we could try Wyoming Valley if the winds at Seaman's were too much. As it happened, there was quite a cross wind but not too much. In addition to T&G's, we did quite a bit of air work. I asked Bob if we could just fly around a bit to see if I could feel whether the plane was coordinated or not. Finally got the feel of it and realized that, if I sit straight up in the seat, the ball is on the side my head wants to lean. Great discovery!

Also worked on slips 'til they didn't feel too scary. Bob's great at letting me experiment. He had me do some steep turns. As usual, I had a tough time holding things stable. He then took the plane, put it in a steep turn, trimmed it and took his feet off the pedals, crossed his arms and continued a perfect turn while grinning like a cat. Makes it look sooooo easy! He also did some demos of turns with no rudder and with only rudder. Just a lot of stuff to establish the parameters.

As to landings, we did about 10. Started to really get the hang of it. Bob gives me a lot more latitude than Jamie does. Jamie always has his hands and feet on the flight controls when I’m landing. I guess it makes him feel more secure but I’m never sure whether I’m feeling the plane or Jamie’s control input. If Bob wants a correction, he just gives a little "bump" on the controls now and then. Unfortunately, the last landing sucked. I just didn't pull back far enough in the flare so I ate up lots of runway. Passed the last taxiway on 04 and had to go back. Lousy way to end after a great lesson.

When we got back, we spend quite a long time in the plane talking. Bob really explains things and he's very supporting. He physically patted my back several times during the lesson. I commented that his style was very much more to my liking. Bob said they were getting a new instructor starting on Thursday and they'd be looking for people to switch. When we got to the building, Bob Seaman's asked me and I said I'd give the new guy a try!

Flight 12

First time with the new guy. Boy, is he young! Name is Greg Schwartzendrubber. It's good he writes small or he'd never fit it in my logbook! It was very windy as I got the field and I was almost embarrassed that I'd driven out. Based on previous experience with Jamie, I figured for sure we wouldn't go. I thought it's be a good chance to meet Greg, anyway. Greg said he was willing to go if I was so we went. Left 04 and immediately got thrown around. I suggested we do air work rather than T&G's and Greg agreed. Went over near Elk and did stalls. I told him I was lousy at it but then did quite well at the power-offs. Not great on the power-ons but not hateful, either. Did some slow flight and did only OK. As we headed it in ,I slipped it down beautifully to downwind but as we got back near the ground, it was really rough so I had him take it in final. I'm definitely not ready to land in those conditions - crosswind and strong gusts.

Flight 13

Lucky 13. My oldest son, Don went with me.

Seaman’s has an “interesting” runway. It’s 2500x50 with a drop off at each end; rather like landing on a large, stationary carrier, I guess. Come in low or run off the end and it’s all over. At the approach end of 04, there’s probably a 50 foot rise in terrain before the threshold. At the takeoff end, the ground drops perhaps 150-200 feet. At the bottom is Lake Sheridan. On the southeast side of the runway is a hill and a stand of trees. Taking off on 04, you get thrown around by wind gusts off the lake. Coming in on 22, the lake has a habit of sucking you down.

Pretty decent cross wind again. If runways are normally laid out in the direction of prevailing wind, why have I spent 2 months in crosswinds? Took off on 04 and, on leaving the end of the runway, immediately started getting thrown around with turbulence over the lake. Most disconcerting! Did one go-around 'cause I was too high (as usual) and then one T&G, then headed north for some air work. Steep turns. On the first one, I lost 100 feet, the next was better and the third I kept nailed. This kid Greg is good; explains things well and is very positive. Since Don was with us, I asked if we could fly up to the lake. Went all the way at 3000 MSL. Did one turn around the cottage, then went over Thompson and headed back. Approaching Elk, the updrafts were amazing. Nose pitched down and still gaining 1000 ft/min! Had it almost in a dive to hold altitude and was doing almost 120 KIAS.

Returned to field for T&G's. Cross wind was pretty strong and there was some turbulence but I made a lot of progress on my approaches. They’re not great but not too bad. I think in still air, they would have been good. Flares are still awful. I flare too soon and too much, then bounce down the runway. They started getting better but the last one was so bad we ate up too much runway and had to go for the full stop. That's the second time I've ended on a sour note. Damn.

Flight 14

Great day. As normal for this week, the morning was calm but the wind picked up as the day wore on. DUATS had it at 2510G20. Pretty gusty but pretty well lined up with 22. I called Greg and he said it looked fine. Left the office around 4:00 but had a hell of a time because of construction on 81. Greg was just stuffing something in his mouth for dinner. I told him I'd wait while he ate but he said "nah, let's go..."

Since it was pretty windy, I suggested we go over to WBW for the T&G's since my friend, George Gross, had suggested it was a lot better there; less bumpy and a lot longer. Greg said he thought it was a good idea.

It was damned windy as I was pre-flighting. As Greg came out I said, "Greg, this is it, I'm gonna land it by myself today." As we climbed in, Greg said we were going to have a pre-flight briefing. He said, "OK, how are you going to do a good landing?" I said "By setting it up properly." He said, "How you gonna do that?" And so it went. Finally, he said "Lets go do it!" The whole time we were sitting there, the wind was buffeting the plane.

Took off from 22 and held the heading 'til after we crossed the river, then jogged a bit to the right to stay out of the AVP class D airspace. Crossed WBW midfield and turned downwind for 24 to begin a series of T&G's. This kid, Greg, must have minored in psychology. Very little touching of the controls and only a small comment now and then but lots of encouragement. Kept telling me to relax and have fun. For the most part, when I'd ask a question (e.g. "How does it look?") he'd respond with one ("What do you think?") I forgot the second notch of flaps about half the time and, each time, he waited 'til I figured it out myself. Still had trouble with the flare and keeping the plane straight after touchdown but kept getting better at it. Each time, he was putting the flaps up as I handled throttle and heat. At one point I said, "Let me do the flaps; pretty soon I hope I'll be alone up here!). He said "What's wrong, you don't like me?" I said, "No, I want to save the 18 bucks an hour!" I told him my goal was to solo in May. He said that shouldn't be a problem.

After one pretty good landing, he put his hand on the flaps lever (after I'd retracted them) and said "You've just lost your flaps." I said "What do I do?" He said, "Go land the plane!" So I did! Admittedly, he gave me a visual hint about slipping.

At one point, we did a full stop and pulled off onto 27 so another guy could land. When I took position again, he said he was going to handle the throttle to simulate a high density altitude summer day. He set it at about 2200 and we climbed out just fine.

Finally decided to quit and go home. Headed NW for a while to stay clear of the class D while we climbed to 4000 MSL, then headed up to look at the highway construction. Took a good look at Mom & Dad's house as we passed. Headed straight for Seaman's and 22. Did a pretty crappy landing. I always give myself something to stew about 'til next time.

As I left, Greg said, "I enjoyed flying with you today; it was fun!" Good kid.

Flight 15

Bad day all around. Really foggy in the AM. DUATS said < 3 miles in fog early but 4 miles in light rain for 9:00 (the time of my lesson), then reducing to 3 miles by 10:00. I drove up hoping I'd get lucky. I didn't. Sat around 'til 10:00 but the visibility stayed at 2 or less. Finally drove home after asking Greg to call if things improved and he was free.

About 3:15 Greg called and asked if I wanted to fly. My response was predictable and I hurried right out. Should have stayed home. Did about 8 full stops over 1.3 hours (actually, Greg did one of them to demo.) I just can't get the hang of the flare. Some of my approaches were OK and some were ridiculously high. Left very frustrated. I'm at the "I'll never get this." point. I feel like crying.

Flight 16

Well, better than yesterday, anyway. Nice day; appointment was for 2:30. At first it was quite calm. In fact, the first takeoff was from 22 and the balance were from 04. By the time we finished, however, it was a bit bumpy. Did a total of 10 approaches. One was a go-around 'cause I was too high. I could have gotten it down but decided it wasn't worth it; rather spend the time doing good ones! One Greg did as a demo. The rest were mine; some full stop and some T&G's. Definitely improving but still not award-winning. Flares are still a bit to much. I did all the radio work this time which made for an extra element to consider. One real bright spot. I've always admired hawks and love to watch them soar. At one time on downwind, I looked down as we were passing a hawk. Quite a kick!

Flight 17

Friday afternoon. Supposed to fly tomorrow but the weather's been bad and is supposed to be bad tomorrow so I figured I'd go up in this little piece of nice weather. Took 23E and started with some air work. Minimum Controllable Airspeed, power-off and power-on stalls. When Greg does MCA, he likes to hear the stall warning on constantly. If it stops, you have to pitch up 'til it comes back on.

After some of that, we started the old T&G's. This is really getting ridiculous. I just can't get the flare right. The difference between too much and not enough is minuscule in my opinion. I'm really getting sick of this...

When we were refueling, Greg said he didn't really get his flares right 'til he got his commercial license. I said, "What about the check ride?" He said, "You don't have to flare properly, just get it down without breaking the plane!"

I gave him my answers to the pre-solo written thinking he'd look them over at his leisure but we sat down and reviewed it together. Out of 85 questions, I got part of one multi-part question wrong. Theory's not my problem...

Flight 18

N94609This was more a lark than a lesson. We flew up to Pocono Mountain (MPO) for their fly-in. As I pre-flighted 23E, I noticed the front strut was collapsed. Brought it to Greg's attention and he said it was NG. So, I pre-flighted N94609 which is a Cessna 152. Man, is that thing small! Felt different for a while but then I got used to it.

The direct route took us almost directly over our house so I took a turn around the yard. I'd called Linda before we left and she told me later that she sat at the picnic table and waved. I didn't see her, though.

The fly-in wasn't very exciting. Weather was pretty crummy; periodic light rain and pretty windy. There weren’t lot of people there. We had two pancakes, sausage, OJ and coffee for $5 a head. The local RC club had a rally and were there in force. It was fun watching them do acrobatics. Around 11:40 we couldn't take the excitement any more so left for home. Rain started again and visibility wasn't great. Had a hell of a time seeing while landing on 22. Came in much too fast. Landed OK but had too much speed and the runway was wet go Greg grabbed the controls and took it around. Damn! Second (and last) landing was OK. I'm not a happy pup today.

Flight 19

Had a bit of a break between lessons due to a weekend trip to Chicago for the National Restaurant Association Show. The Chicago trip was nostalgic 'cause it was on Monday at this show last year that Jim Richardson and I had talked so much about flying. Every time I passed Grant Park, I was thinking about that day.

Anyway, Thursday was a nice day so I figured I'd better get back in the groove before I forgot everything. Made an appointment with Greg for 4:00 but got held up at the office and didn't get out 'til about 3:45. Greg was patiently waiting. Took 23E and did T&G's from 22. My flares are definitely improving but I'm not staying with the rudders. On about the third approach, Greg said, "OK, I've got the plane except for the rudders; that's your job." We did two landings that way, with me concentrating on keeping the nose pointed down the centerline. Big improvement. After one of the full stop landings which was particularly good, Greg said, "When you get clear of the active, do a full stop." When I did, he shook my hand and said "Great landing" I thought he'd jump out and was scared to death 'cause I didn't feel ready to solo. I needn't have worried; he stayed in the plane and we did a bunch more. Definitely getting better.

Flight 20 - Solo at last!!

Beautiful Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend. Since we were going up to open our summer cottage, Linda rode with me and sat in the car while I flew. Knowing how nervous she is about all this, I asked whether she wanted me to park the car facing away from the runway but she didn't. Winds were light and the active was 04 - good news! So, we started the T&G's again! I'm now feeling in control. One notable exception was the second or third which I really messed up and he had to help straighten out on the runway. I thought "OK, no solo today!" After that, things kept getting better. On one, he pulled out the throttle on downwind and said, "Yeah, these cheap engines do that sometimes!" I totally forgot what to do so he talked me through it. On the next takeoff, I said, "Let's do that again." and I did OK the second time. On one short final, I said "I'm too high for my taste, if I was alone, I'd go around." He said, that'd be the prudent thing but let's give it 40° flaps and put it down. Landing was fine. Pretty soon I was using more flaps when I needed which is something I'd always avoided.

Landing #10 was great and, as we were rolling out, I said, "OK, let's quit on that one." Greg said, "Nah, you can't quit on that one." so I firewalled it and went back up. On crosswind, I was thinking, "If I can get back up Monday and if the wind is OK, maybe I can meet my goal of soloing by the end of May." Then he said, "Are you in a hurry to leave and get to your cottage?" I said, "No, I can keep flying." Next landing, he said, "Make this one a full stop." As we started taxiing, he said, "About three more?" I said, "Sure, why not?" I figured "OK, this is it." but we kept rolling right past the building with no instruction to stop. I thought "Damn, I really think I could do it!" We taxied all the way out to the end of the runway and Greg said, "OK, I'm outta here; give me three." I said, "Don't talk to Linda, maybe she won't notice you're there." She’d said all along she didn’t want to know when I soloed. She’s sure I’ll kill myself up there. Strange twist of fate that I soloed on the one day she went with me!

WOW, I was about hyperventilating! I wasn’t the least bit frightened but I was very excited! It felt great to taxi out there alone. Up I went and around for a pretty good landing followed by a messy one. Came in high and hot, flared too high and floated along. Brought that to a full stop 'cause I wasn't sure how much runway I had left. Third one was nice. Felt like a million bucks taxiing back. Life is good!

Turns out, Linda saw it all. Drove back into town to buy champagne before going on to the lake.

Flight 21

Memorial day; 10:30 appointment. Winds were light and variable. Used 04. Greg came with me. I did about two landings, then 3 or 4 simulated engine outs. About that time a guy approaching the airport called us to see if we knew if the gas pumps were open. Greg told him to land and he'd be down in a minute. We landed and Greg said I should go solo while he sold the gas. When we got to the pumps, Bob Seamans was there so Greg stayed in the plane. Winds started getting pretty gusty and I guess Greg could tell I was nervous about it. Never did solo today. Damn. Still not getting the flare right. I was better Saturday than I was today.

Flight 22

Beautiful day. Left work early for a 4:00 lesson. When I'd called, Greg had said that he was free but both 172’s were booked. Suggested we take 609 (a 152). I asked whether that would be a good learning experience at this point and he said yes. When I got there, he said 23E was available after all but I couldn't solo in it; it was overdue for its 100 hour. I decided to take 609 in hopes I could solo in it today or tomorrow. Bad move. Sun was bright so it was very bumpy; we were all over the sky. Pretty gusty crosswind, too. Also we were using 22 which is tricky. Got a couple OK landings in but some were very bad. On one, I almost ran off the runway 'cause I didn't correct properly. Before the hour was up, I concluded we were wasting air time so I quit.

Flight 23

Fun day. Beautiful sunny morning and 10:00 appointment. Winds calm. 76F still not available and 23E still past 100 hr so no solo possible. Greg suggested that, rather than stay in the pattern all day, we should do a few T&G's at Seamans, then try landings at other airports. Sounded like a plan to me. Did 3 decent landings on 04. Third one was a bit high so I slipped it at the last minute; pretty slick and Greg was pleased.

Headed east for Cherry Ridge (N30) (I found it without help) where I did a full stop on 35. Landing was OK but I'm still having trouble staying on the centerline; drifted to the left. Next, went to Spring Hill (70N) and runway 5. Greg spotted this one before I did. Approach to 5 is a bitch; there's a ridge before it so you have to stay over the ridge, then get down rather quickly to a displaced threshold. Actually hit it on the second go; came in too high on the first and did a go-around. Did a full stop on this one, too. (I learned years later that the locals avoid landing on 5 and it's even closed for landings between dusk and dawn. Small wonder seeing as planes have been known to go off the end!) Next went to Mount Pocono (MPO) and runway 23. I found this one, too. Came in a bit high on the first one but got it down; this time I was off to the right and applied rudder instead of aileron to correct - STUPID! Did a total of 2 T&G's here, then headed home. With Greg's permission, did some sightseeing around the North Pocono area where I live. Back to 9N3 without incident; I spotted that, too. No problem landing but flare still not great.

What's bothering me now is economics. I'm over the $2200 mark and still a long way from my PPL. Should I be doing this?

Flight 24

Well, I'm still doing it so I guess it's OK. Called the airport about 2:00 to see if Greg was available. Bob Seamans answered and said Greg was up flying. He wasn't in the office but he said he knew Greg was coming down at 3:30 and was free from then on. I asked him to put me down for an hour at 4:00. When I got there, Greg said he had an intro lesson at 4:30 so we'd have to get moving. Did a joint pre-flight of 76F and were moving in a few minutes towards my old nemesis, runway 22. Did 4 T&G's with Greg constantly watching for the guy to show up. Made the fifth a full stop and Greg got out and told me to keep going. I did 16 more, solo. The wind was about 10 KTS and gusty. Started pretty well aligned with the runway but veered to close to a cross wind by the time I finished. Greg had said to be careful of the small pond just to the left of the threshold; said it had been trying to pull him in all day. (That’s a pond in addition to the lake!) Nice thought!

After about 1/2 hour, Greg called to ask where I was in the pattern. I said I'd just entered downwind and he announced backtaxi on 22; he was off for his intro lesson. Nice to know he has that much faith in me; he's leaving town!

Had a mixed bag. Some were pretty OK, a couple were go-arounds. On one, I bounced three times, then firewalled it. I'm setting up the approach beautifully but then still messing up at the flare. Still not staying on the centerline, either. About the third from the last landing, I saw a golf cart as I was taking off and saw that it was Bob Seamans and his wife, Karen. When I approached next time, he was at the end of the taxiway, obviously there to watch me. Oh, great! Lined up fine, then goofed it. Last one wasn't too bad. Bob helped tie down and they both came into the office. Karen is certain I'm not looking far enough down the runway. She says I should look all the way to the end. I'll try it next time. Bob had a lot of suggestions but said I was doing fine. It'll be interesting to see if he jumps on Greg for my inability to stay on the centerline.

Flight 25

Maybe a watershed lesson. Got an e-mail message from Karen Seamans suggesting that she fly with me. It made Greg nervous but since she’s the wife of the owner of the airport and a CFI, there wasn’t much he could do about it. Karen & I taxied to 22. She asked me why I didn't keep looking at my wing tips. I asked why since we were on the taxiway and far from everything. She said I should do it anyway and didn't know why no one had told me. Took off OK and then she took the controls. Things are so confused in my mind about exactly what we did, I can't put it down now that I’m at the keyboard. Used both 22 and 04 and did some figure 8's in between. Really threw me off. Also, I was very nervous with her there; much more so than when I'm alone. My pattern work was terrible; couldn't seem to get anything right. On one final, I was high so I started to slip. She said, "Who told you can slip with flaps?" I said "All three of my instructors, plus there were a lot of CFI's on the internet who recommended it as long as I didn’t have more than 20° of flaps." She said, "I disagree but OK." She said she'd watched me on approaches and knew I could do it; she just wanted me to relax and work on the landings. Her big point was that I need to look at the far end of the runway when I'm ready to flare, then keep looking there. She kept saying "Look at the end of the runway" over and over like a mantra. Guess what - it worked. Flares got better and, more importantly, I'm staying lined up on the centerline much better. She said she thought I'd forget where to look when I was alone so I bet her a dollar I wouldn't. After about 8 or so (forgot to keep track), she got out. By that time, we were using 04.

On the first solo landing (with her, Bob and Greg watching, no less!) I forgot my second 10° of flaps, came in too high and fast and DID forget to look down the runway. Terrific! Greg came on the radio and asked me to switch over to 22. Then I got it right and did several good ones. Thankfully, they were still watching.

Pretty soon, Greg came on the radio and said, "You're doing well." By that time I wanted to blow off steam so I said, "Wanna go for a ride?" He said, "Sure, if you're buying." so I picked him up and we went to WBW. Part way there, we decided to stop there for breakfast but then I remembered I was supposed to get home to spend our anniversary with Linda so I did 2 T&G's and we came back. Landed on 22 no sweat. Put the dollar and a note in the cash box for Karen. I hated paying the dollar but it was the bargain of my life!

Flight 26

Woke up to a beautiful day. As I headed out for my 8:00 appointment, I drove into fog. Called Greg from the car and found things were socked in at the field so I went home. He said he and the plane were free 'til 11:00. About an hour later, I set out again. As I got there, things were lifting but not so hot. I worked a bit on my do-it-yourself checklist, then I pre-flighted and we launched. We'd planned on doing controlled-field landings at AVP but weather was pretty close to minimums so Greg said he had "another idea". As I was getting in, I saw the hood and understood what was in store.

This was the first time I'd flown up through scattered clouds and it seemed strange doing so. As soon as we got on top, I put the hood on. What a weird feeling. There was no connection between the plane's attitude and what I felt. I'd read that, of course, but the reality was still a shock. Did turns and a climb up to 5500 MSL which is as high as I've ever flown. After the hood, he had me do constant-altitude turns. Took me a while to get the feel of them again since it had been a while. My stomach got a little queasy - another first. Greg says a lot of people have a little trouble when they come out from under the hood. I really need to work on these turns.

Headed back and did a few T&G’s. Greg says he wants my to set it down before the first taxiway on 22 or else go around. That really got me screwed up since I went from trying to hold it off to trying to get it down. Had one go-around and some pretty hard hits. I'm not feeling very happy.

Flight 27

Good time; just what the doctor ordered! It was pretty hazy when I got there but Greg said I could go but stay pretty close. I taxied out to 22 and, as I neared the runup area, I noticed I'd let the oil access door open! I had to shut down, get out, and close it. I'll put that on the checklist!

I'd planned on a few T&G's but there were workmen paving the new taxiway so Greg came on the radio and suggested I leave the pattern for about 1/2 hour so they could finish. Went a few miles west of the Nicholson bridge and did turns around a silo. No great problem since wind was very light. Visibility seemed to be getting worse so I called Greg and he said it was OK to come back to the pattern. Started an approach on 04 and, as I turned final, there was a piece of equipment on the runway. I was ready to go around when they pulled off to let me land. Repeated the dance a few times and then went west again and turned around the high school. Again the visibility got worse so I came back for more T&G's. By this time, the guys were finished. Did a total of 7 landings today. One was too high so I went around. The rest were pretty good. I'll have to get down a bit sooner but all were quite smooth. This was what I needed after the last lesson. As I taxied in, I saw some lightning; good timing. This is the first time I did the whole thing without an instructor near the plane at any point.

Flight 28

Once again, the nose strut of 23E was collapsed so we took a 609. The bad news is that we didn’t do the controlled airspace (again!) since we couldn’t use the headsets - there’s no intercom in 609. The good news is it gave me some 152 time. I need to get checked out in a 152; they’re cheaper and at least one is always available! I started by doing two pretty decent T&G’s. Greg decided we’d do some pilotage so told me to go find the Bradford County Airport (N27) in Towanda. Found it no sweat but that wasn’t a big challenge - head west to the river, then follow it while cutting off the bends. Landed there and bought a kneeboard. Cute little place with quite a bit to sell - they have some Sporty’s stuff for sale there, too. Coming back, I immediately picked up the smoke from the P&G plant so I could head right to it. In retrospect, you just fly between the smoke from P&G and that from Masonite in Towanda! When we neared P&G, I just looked at the sectional and guessed at a course of 115. I asked Greg what he thought and he said, “I don’t know, why don’t you try it and see what happens. Bingo. Dead on! Wind had switched to 22 and my approach was crummy. Came in low and slow. Finally went around. Second time, I thought I was high but Greg said I was just confused by the nose-high attitude of the 152. Right on this time. Pretty good landing but a little fast. Nice day.

Flight 29

Called Greg at supper time to see if he wanted to go night flying. I said I'd be up around 8:00; figured I'd get in a little solo time, then fly dual when it got dark. What a beautiful evening. Sky was clear with just a bit of cirrus and no wind. I was thinking of flying over the cottage since my son, Donny, was up there. Nose strut still shot on 23E so I pre-flighted 76F. Taxied to 04 for my runup and, when I pulled on the carb heat, nothing happened! Pushed it in and pulled it out again and it pulled right out to the flexible part of the cable; must have come disconnected. Taxied back and put it back away. This was the first time I'd parked between 2 other planes and I was a bit nervous but did OK.

Greg came out and we took 609. By the time we got up, it was starting to get a bit dark. We headed east and did some stalls and a power out drill. We got pretty close to the field I picked out before he put the power back on. I'd just suggested we head back towards Seamans when I saw a burst of light which turned out to be fireworks at Montage or the stadium. We flew down to the mall to see better. Good view of the fireworks and no traffic afterwards! :-)

Came back to Seamans and did 6 landings of which Greg did one to demo the different attitude of the 152. I tend to keep the nose high. I was having a ball and hated to quit but it was getting late and I had to get up early.

When we got back, he signed me off to solo the 152. Good night all around!

Flight 30

N757AJI hadn’t had time to fly earlier in the week; Monday I was at a retreat, Tuesday I went but it was too windy, Wednesday & Thursday I was committed to help at the firemen’s picnic. On Friday, we had a 2-day seminar at work that finished around 3:30. Sounded like the perfect opportunity! I started driving first, then called Linda and the airport. Linda was picking up a new puppy so was happy. I took N757AJ (the other 152) and put in 0.8 hours. Did some turns around a silo, then headed for the lake and did 3 turns around the cottage. Found out later that my neighbor was on his dock waving but I never saw him. Headed back, did one T&G, then quit. First landing needed a little work; second was fine. Hated to give up, it was a beautiful day and I was having fun but I had to work at the picnic again.

Flight 31

We were on the way to the lake, Linda, I and the TWO dogs. My car was getting brakes so Linda rode with me to Seamans. We still couldn’t use 23E ’cause the nose strut still isn’t fixed. As a result, we still couldn’t do the controlled airspace stuff. This is getting pretty old! We talked about a cross country and actually started planning it but I decided it’d take too long with Linda sitting in the car. Took 609 and flew to Stahl’s Mountain (34PN, now 3PN7) to see what a grass strip is like. The field there is weird. Runway 19 starts right after a stand of trees, has a dogleg in it and drops about 30 feet in its length. Makes for some interesting challenges. I was nervous about it so Greg did the first landing, then I did two more, he did another to try another technique at clearing the trees and I did one more. He asked if I wanted to do more and I said, “Nah, I can do these...” On the way back we did another power out drill, I set up the landing before checking things out so he corrected me. Makes more sense to worry first about restarting the engine, then landing. Did a nice landing and quit. Funny, though, when we dual, I walk away uptight; when solo, I walk away relaxed.

Flight 32

Hadn’t planned a lesson but it was a beautiful morning and I hadn’t flown all week so I called Greg to see if he wanted to fly. He decided we’d go cross country and I chose Greenwood Lake (4N1). There’s a very interesting pilot shop there which I found on the web. It’s in an old Constellation. It took quite a while to plan the trip since I was learning how to do it. The air was a bit rough ‘til we got to about 4000 ft. Since we flew at 5500, it was not too bad once we got to cruising altitude. The trip out went like clockwork; hit every fix dead nuts and within a minute or two of the expected time. Had a strong tailwind so we had a GS of 109 KTS. Made the trip in 42 minutes (ETE was 43.5) Winds on landing were a bit gusty but we had no problem. Unfortunately, the pilot shop was closed so that was a disappointment. We had lunch and did the planning for the trip back. The wind had actually picked up a knot or two so the estimated GS for the trip back was only 59 KTS! The visibility was fantastic. Shortly after leaving 4N1, Greg was able to point out Elk Mountain. We could clearly see Elk and New York City at the same time! The trip was so beautiful, blue sky, bright green trees and black lakes. What a great way to spend time! The trip back was not quite as precise but still damned good. Pretty gusty on landing so it was tricky but again, no big problem. All in all, a great day.

Flight 33

Another beautiful day. Finally, 23E was serviceable and available. Used it to do work in the controlled airspace at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Int'l (AVP). We first did a long pre-flight briefing on controlled airspace. Took off and contacted AVP approach. They vectored us over to Eynon, then straight in for 22. They couldn’t get a reading from our transponder ‘til Greg fooled with it a bit. Another problem with 23E!

Did 3 T&G’s and a full stop on 22 at AVP. Man, that runway is HUGE! It’s exactly 3 times as wide and 3 times as long as at Seamans'. No real problems but I did tend to come in too high. I just wasn’t extending the pattern enough. Extended on the fourth approach and came in fine. Taxied to Tech Aviation and parked next to a Lear. Some contrast!! Had a Coke, paid my $3 landing fee and left. No problems with ATC on the way out, either. It’s a little intimidating but I’ll be OK with it after a few more tries.

Came in on 22 at Seamans and had a real problem. It was gusty so I came in a bit fast. Used quite a bit of runway so had to brake fairly hard. Trouble is, the left brake was nearly useless! We were risking going off the end and/or the side. Got it stopped on the grass and had to turn through the threshold lights to get back on! Wouldn’t have gotten hurt but might have damaged the plane if we’d have gone 5 more feet! I’m having serious doubts about 23E!

Flight 34

This flight started shortly after the last one. I left the airport and, as usual, called Linda from the car. Got her in her car as she was going to recycling. She was doing errands and said she’d be at least 2 hours. I turned around near the golf course and headed back to Seamans! Took 757AJ to do some solo work. Did some MCAS work and, at the same time, turns around a point. Interesting combination. Had trouble hearing the stall horn with the headset, though, so took it off for the MCAS. Flew to the lake and did 3 or 4 turns around the cottage. Saw Dad’s Sunfish coming in - found out later it was my son, Don. Also found out Mom, Dad and several neighbors were all watching. There was a bit of turbulence but only enough to make it interesting. Came in on 22 with a fair crosswind - no problem. This is really fun!

Flight 35

Night flight again. Got there about 9:00 and it was still too light so we chatted a while about what I still need to learn for my checkride. Except for unusual attitudes and VOR, DME, etc., it’s a matter of improving what I already know. Last time, we were up before it got fully dark so this was my first preflight in darkness. It was a bit foggy so we stayed in the pattern, Did short field, soft field, and normal takeoffs and landings. I didn’t do as well as I did last time; had a hell of a time with depth perception on the approaches. Need more work on this.

Flight 36

Took 609 for some solo practice. Did 2 or 3 T&G’s, then left to east to do steep turns. Had a hell of a time holding altitude. Tendency was to loose altitude and accelerate. This needs lots of work. Returned to pattern for more T&G’s. Still having some trouble keeping approach consistent and speed pegged. My flares are much better, though. At one point I was just turning final when 76F announced he was back-taxiing on 22. I’d made every announcement so I was a bit surprised. I was just deciding whether he’d get clear in time when he apparently saw me and announced he was holding short. I tried to call him to see if he could hear me and there was no response. I don’t know whether the communication was his or mine. Odd situation; Greg wasn’t there when I got back so I wrote up my own bill, left a check and left. Overall, I nice evening.

Flight 37

Saturday’s 8:00 lesson was a wash-out because of the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. I made a 5:00 appointment for Sunday. We’d planned to do unusual attitude hood work and solo then T&G’s at AVP. Visibility sucked and there were t-storm warnings so we stayed pretty close to 9N3. Still did the hood work, though. Don’t know what other CFI’s do but, when Greg takes the plane and I close my eyes, he jigs it around a lot to get me totally disoriented before he gives it back to me. First time we did it, I recovered beautifully. Then he said I can’t use the attitude indicator - he covered it with a piece of paper. That made things a lot trickier and I had some trouble. I could recover fairly well but had a hell of a time holding altitude. Found he was also messing with throttle, flaps and trim on me just to see if I’d pick it up. He kept saying “Look around the cockpit to see what other information you can pick up.” Eventually, he said, “After you get your license, you can carry passengers. There’s always the chance that someone will mess with the controls.” That’s how I found the flaps! The kid’s a sadist! :-) I eventually started to get it but it’s a challenge. No fear here ‘cause Greg’s with me but if I was alone in the soup, I’d be scared silly!

Took the hood off and visibility wasn’t much better! We ended up north of Seamans but I wasn’t sure exactly sure where we were so I asked him what the Lake Henry (LHY) radial was for the instrument approach into 9N3. He said 309 and that put us on the subject of VOR’s. Used both Lake Henry and Wilkes-Barre (LVZ) to practice with, then quit. Shorter lesson than we planned; just 1.1 hours.

Flight 38

I was supposed to go on Saturday AM as usual. The plan was to do cross-country. We’d talked about Grand Canyon (the one in PA, not AZ!) but I got the bright idea it’d be good to go to Quakertown (UKT) since it’d give me experience in the class C for Allentown. The wind howled all night so I knew it was no-go. Got up anyway and checked DUATS. Winds gusting to 30 and winds aloft @ 6000 ft. were 45. Called and re-scheduled for Sunday.

Pocono RacewaySunday was beautiful but still a bit windy. Don’t know why, exactly, but I took the camera along. Went up early to do my briefing, etc. This was the first time I got a weather briefing other than from a recording . The briefer was very friendly and helpful. The winds were still pretty stiff but manageable. Calculated my GS at 133 KTS! Greg asked me if I’d mind taking a few minutes to fly around Pocono Raceway (found out later it was the Winston 500!). Since I’d plotted a check point within about a mile of the track, that was no problem. Greg took the plane at the check point and flew around while I took pictures from our 5500 MSL. Fuji BlimpNifty to get photos of the top of the Fuji blimp!

Because of the fast speed and my choosing fixes too close together, it was tough keeping up with the plan. Definitely didn’t feel in control as with the last one. I’d plotted VOR bearings in as a cross check and for practice. In the heat of battle, I completely forgot to use them! To add interest, the DG on 23E is completely shot so I had to fly on the magnetic compass. Another fun thing, I’d chosen a reservoir as a fix but missed it completely. Figured out the reason on the way back; it was dry! That made me mis-judge my progress. If I’d not been above it, I’d have busted the class C; I was 2 miles inside the perimeter when I called them! My radio work is still pretty bad. Forgot to give them the ATIS letter. Then too much info came too quickly for me to get it all. Glad Greg was with me! Was a bit high when we got to UKT so had to slip down big-time while crossing midfield for 29. Was a bit gusty but no major problems on landing. I’d called a friend who lives in Quakertown before we left 9N3 so he was sitting on the fence when we arrived. Got talking to him and almost forgot to close my flight plan. Need to be more careful! Looked at planes for a while then planned the return and left. Trip back was a lot slower so the checkpoints unfolded more slowly. Still forgot to mess with the VOR. Only trouble coming back was the fact that the class C is just north of UKT. We had to contact them before opening the flight plan. The radio work was confusing. Got back at 4:55 to a strong cross wind on 04. A little rough but no problem

I’d hoped I’d be ready for solo cross country by the end of this one but I’m not. I guess I’d get there and back OK but not without some anxiety.

Flight 39

Greg had suggested we do some airport hopping to several uncontrolled fields. After thinking about it, he changed his recommendation to 3 class D airports. Took a long time to flight plan - about an hour and a half! The weather briefing called for good weather everywhere but at AVP. Finally took off for Reading (RDG). Tried to climb over the crap at AVP but gave up at 6500 MSL and went under. Trip down was uneventful. Did a T&G at RDG, then headed out for Harrisburg Capital City (CXY). Did a T&G there (didn’t handle the cross-wind landing too well), then went to Lancaster (LNS) for a full stop. On that leg, got vectored very close to the infamous Three Mile Island. Shut down at LNS and had lunch. Disturbing to see a soldier at the gate; obviously a result of concern over bombings of TWA 800 and at the Olympics. Had lunch and planned the flight back. Winds were apparently different from what I’d planned so I had to correct quite a bit. Got back no problem, right on schedule. Wind was strong and directly across. I was a bit high and Greg took it from me; guess he didn’t want to waste time going around or maybe he didn’t trust me. Anyway, his landing wasn’t elegant; I’d have been unhappy with it if it had been mine. I guess even a CFI can have a bad one sometimes.

My radio work was a better this time but still pretty rough. I was pretty unhappy but Greg said I’m doing fine. He wants me to solo to AVP, then do some more night and a few maneuvers. After that, he says I’m ready to go to Greenwood Lake. Maybe I’m doing OK...

Flights 40 & 41

Went up at noon and, as I got to the airport, Greg was taxiing out in 23E. Called him on the radio and he said I should solo in the pattern for an hour. Took 76F and proceeded to do a horrible landing. Second one was a bit better. Greg called and said to pick him up. We did dual pattern work for the balance of the 1.1 hour and I wasn’t functioning well, doing stupid stuff like forgetting to call downwind, etc. I suggested we quit for a while.

Tied down and did some ground briefing; sectional, weather reports, FAR’s, etc. About 3:00 Greg said he wanted me to go down to AVP and work there. Talked through the procedure but I decided against going for 2 reasons; visibility sucked (3 miles MAYBE) and it was getting late and we were going out for dinner with Mom & Dad. So, I took 609 and did more pattern work. By the end, they were pretty good. I’m going to have to do several landings every time I fly.

Flight 42

TV weather forecast was for clear skies across PA and NJ. Was clear when I got up. DUATS, however, was not as good. Was sunny when I got to Seamans so I asked Greg if I could solo down to Greenwood Lake. He wanted to do maneuvers so he said to preflight the plane and then we’d talk about it. As I was pre-flighting, he asked me a zillion questions (e.g. What’s the gross weight of this plane, where are the com antennas, etc.) Didn’t do too well on them. Need to be a lot more careful when it’s the examiner’s turn. By the time we were finished, the sky was overcast and the ceiling was quite low. Took some work to find clear sky to work in. By the time we found it, we were at Harvey’s Lake. Did stalls and power outs for quite a while. As usual, I was rusty but was OK after a series of each. Amazing how fast you loose this stuff.

Returned to Seamans’ after 1.6. I really wanted to solo today, at least to AVP but the weather really sucks; decided it was prudent to quit.

Flight 43

What a frustrating day! After going home from the last flight, Linda and I went shopping and for lunch. Thought about waiting for the mailman who we hoped would deliver my handheld. Finally decided he’d leave it at the door. As we were going to W-B, I could see the ceiling lifting - could have gone to NJ or at least AVP if I’d waited a while. When we got home, there was a card from the post office saying they tried to deliver a package. By this time, the PO was closed so now I have to wait ‘til Monday. It was still clear so I called and Jamie said I could have 23E at 3:00. I figured maybe I could still get to AVP with NJ as an outside chance. Got to Seamans to find a gusty crosswind. Greg felt it prudent to hold off. We decided to do some dual T&G’s in the crosswind, though. Good practice but boring. Went home and the wind died again. @#$&*%!

Flight 44

The day started with rain but it cleared up by noon. I went over to the pilot’s club to eat lunch and some of the guys came in so I didn’t watch John & Martha King as planned. More fun to talk to the guys, anyway. Left the office at 4:30 for the airport. I’d asked Greg to sign me off for AVP on Saturday so Jamie released me in 23E. I’d been apprehensive about the radio work but it was no big deal. Told the tower I wanted to do full stops and taxi backs. Did all the work on 04. As soon as I’d clear the active, he’d clear me to taxi back. At one point, he held me for traffic and I watched a C130 do a T&G. What a sight! Must be getting ready for the air show on Saturday. He cleared me to taxi and hold position for wake turbulence separation and I waited a long time! Traffic was fairly heavy and once he had me do a right pattern. On the fourth landing, I taxied to Tech Aviation. Parked my little 172 next to a Citation; some contrast! Had a Coke and talked to the girl at the counter about the air show. Back to 9N3 and did the nicest landing of my life. Nobody at the field to see it, of course! I love to solo! Weather was magnificent. Life is good.

Flight 45 - First Solo Cross Country - Greenwood Lake (4N1)

Finally! This was my first solo cross country. I’ve been getting antsy to start these things. I was concerned about the weather on Saturday since we’ve been getting so much AM fog. Also, tomorrow’s forecast was for T storms. Called the FSS about 10:00 and all looked good. Called Jamie and booked 609. Called Greg when he got back at noon and he said OK. So, I took 1/2 day vacation do the x-c.

After flight planning, got off about 2:25. Visibility was only OK - perhaps 10 miles in haze. Sky was scattered at about 4000 - 4500 MSL. I started out at 3500 but later dropped to about 3000 to maintain cloud clearance as I got into NJ. Also, by the time I got to Sussex Co., visibility was down to 6 or so. My navigation was dead-on the whole way down with one notable exception. There was a notam about sky jumping over Sussex County - asking pilots to stay 1 statute mile away. My direct route put me just north of the airport. I figured I’d spot it a couple miles out, then skirt it. When I found it, it was under my right wingtip! Actually, I probably still had the 1 mile separation! The good news that I was exactly where I was supposed to be relative to course. As I got to 4N1, I started to listen to ATIS at some nearby airports. All had landings on runways like 25. Naturally, I expected to use 24 at Greenwood Lake. Called unicom without response. Started setting up for 24 and heard someone announce that they were using 06. Pattern work was a bit sloppy and the 1000 ft pattern (as opposed to the 800 at Seamans) resulted in my being a bit high and therefore fast at the fence but all was well.

Looks like Greenwood Lake is in trouble. Though it was mid afternoon on a Thursday, the restaurant and pilot shop were both closed. Even the lobby was locked up. I got someone to open the door so I could use the restroom. He also opened the pilot shop for me but I didn’t buy anything after all.

Did my flight plan sitting at a picnic table outside. There were two guys there with a homebuilt gyrocopter so I chatted with them for a while. Called the FSS and filed my flight plan. Took off on 24 and flew a bit north of my intended course to miss Sussex. I overdid it a bit since I never did see Sussex County. It was pretty hazy and I didn’t really want to be on top of the scattered layer so my whole trip back was 3000-3500 MSL.. Crossed into PA over Matamoras rather than Milford so cut south a while ‘til I intercepted I84 at the power line I crossed on the way out. As I approached Lake Wallenpaupack, I realized I’d never opened my flight plan. Well, too late now! When I spotted Seamans, it was dead center in the windscreen. Nifty.

Overall, I had a good time and I guess I did OK for the first time. My errors were:

  • Didn’t spot Sussex in time to skirt it
  • Had a tough time holding heading and (especially) altitude.
  • Pattern work into 4N1 was sloppy and approach too high and fast.
  • Forgot to open my flight plan.
  • Went too far north to avoid Sussex

Flight 46

I’d booked my appointment for 10:00 rather than 8:00 to avoid the August AM fog. It was raining when I got up but the briefer said it’d clear up within an hour. He lied! Never got into the air ‘til after 11:00. In the meantime, I talked to another student who’s a mechanic at O&N. Nice guy. Gave me some insight on maintenance costs. When we did get off, we were bumping our heads. Had to work to find a hole in which to practice. Did turns around a point which Greg said were flawless. S-turns were trickier but he explained I should pick a point on the road and turn 180º around it, then pick another for 180º the other way. Also helps to pick the point at which to re-cross the road. That seems to work and I’ll practice it on my own. He said I should pick a road that’s aligned with the wind if possible. The big problem around here is finding a straight road! Because of the late start, we only got in 0.7 hours but it was well spent.

Flight 47 - Second solo x-c - Blairstown (1N7)

Funny how it worked out. Last night I was sitting in Mom & Dad’s front room at the lake studying for my written. Suddenly, I got the idea I should work out a flight plan to Blairstown, NJ. I’d decided Saturday that Blairstown would be good since Jamie said that was where I’d probably take the check ride. The trip is exactly 50 nm so just qualifies as xc. Today was a clear one and the FSS said it’d hold so I blew out at 3:00 and took 7AJ. While I was finalizing my plan, Greg dropped the bomb that Bob was retiring 23E and 7AJ ‘cause he didn’t want to continue paying the insurance. That’s gonna make it tough to get a plane.

The flight down went well. I tended to be a bit left of course. Should have been a mile or two south of Spring Hill but found it right under me. I need to look in front of the plane a bit more! Found Flying Dollar without trouble but got to it later than I’d figured. Never did spot a fire tower I’d planned on using. When laying out my plan, I’d totally missed on the chart what must be Sunfish Pond sitting up on the ridge. Pretty dumb since it’s distinctive, easy to see and right on my flightpath. Anyway, I hit it and found 1N7 just beyond it. One other good landmark that isn’t on the chart is a ski slope just before the pond. Easy to spot a from a long way off.

As I started my descent, I saw a glider entering the pattern so I went out beyond the downwind leg and did a 180 to get back to it. Landed no sweat and taxied in. A guy with an Arrow came in behind me. The pilot shop was open but unattended. The restaurant was closed. Guess small airports aren’t big on being open like a real business.

Someone finally showed up at the FBO so I bought a new A/FD, then did my flight plan and headed out. Took off on 25 and headed back. It was a bit more hazy but again, no big problems. Held altitude and heading pretty well but was still off to the left. When I was doing heavy searching for landmarks, I lost a bit of altitude; need to work on that.

By the time I found Seamans, I was several miles too far south. As I entered the pattern at Seamans, I finally figured what was with the heading - The DG had precessed 25º! Another lesson graphically learned! Nice landing. This is really fun!

Flight 48 - Labor Day Weekend - Long Cross Country

This was the big one! I’m still on a high from it. (Pardon the pun!) Since the last x-c was only 1.6 hours, I’d suggested to Greg that I take longer ones to build up the time. Since I was planning to go to Grand Canyon this week, he suggested I plan one to there, then Capital City. He said it’d give me the time plus some controlled airspace experience. Sounded like a good idea so I started to plan that. Yesterday, the forecast for the weekend was for clear and cool; perfect flying weather. I figured since the trip Greg had suggested was 250 miles, I’d might as well go for my long x-c. As a result, I spent last evening planning both. I figured I wanted to be ready whether of not he let me do it. Since my brother Dave lives in Oswego, NY, about 100 NM from us, I’d figured long ago that Oswego County (then N00, now FZY) should be one of my stops. In order to fill out the 300+ NM, I’d picked Lock Haven (LHV), the former home of Piper.

Woke at the lake to a beautiful day and, as I drove down, Elk mountain was clearly visible. Not a cloud in the sky. Called David to see if he’d be around but they were going to the NY State Fair. Damn. Greg was up flying when I got there so I got the briefing and planned the first legs of both trips. The bad news was that both trips had me going near Williamsport and they were IFR. Everywhere else was clear and >10 miles. The briefer said it’d burn off. Greg came in and it wasn’t tough to talk him into the long x-c. I went out and pre-flighted so I’d be ready. Greg had me call LHV and N00 directly for field conditions and both were clear. Called the FSS and IPT had cleared up so I filed and was off on my great adventure.

Lock HavenFirst leg was to Lock Haven. There’s not a lot out that way and the Williamsport VOR was almost directly in my path so I flew to that first. Greg normally forbids me to use VOR's for x-c work; wants me to rely strictly on dead reckoning and pilotage. Actually, I flew the heading and used the VOR as a backup. From there, it was easy to find checkpoints. LHV was landing 27 which has a right pattern so I looped out over Lock Haven University, my son Don’s alma mater, to enter the downwind at a 45. After landing, I did my planning and decided I’d get to Oswego with about 45 minutes fuel remaining. Seemed prudent to fuel up so I did that. Lock Haven has the Piper Museum so I figured I’d check it out. It was closed but the old woman who works there opened it for me! Nothing outstanding there but it was nice and the lady was great. Turns out she worked for Piper for 40 years!

Oswego CountyAfter a nice break there, I headed for Oswego. Went by LHU again and shortly thereafter, looked at Mansfield State University, my son Steve’s alma mater. Funny looking at the two stadiums the kids graduated from only minutes apart! Brought back fond memories. Contacted Elmira approach and they gave me advisories over the TRSA. Vectored me at one point to avoid a lot of glider traffic. At one point, he stopped getting altitude info so instructed me to stop altitude squawk. Released me from the vector when I was still SW of Watkins Glen so I was able to correct my heading and pick up my original course at Watkins Glen. Looked into the glen itself as I passed - neat! Watkins Glen is an amazing site from any angle! Navigation up here is real easy because the Finger Lakes are great landmarks! Hit N00 head on and landed on 33. Terrain is weird there and I felt very low when at pattern altitude. Also, the threshold is invisible from the key position due to a hill. Traffic was quite heavy but no problems. There were two buildings with “Oswego County Airport” signs on them and I picked the one that was closed. There was a closed restaurant which was disappointing for a guy who figured he’d eat there!. The open building had a nice lounge but only a candy machine for nourishment. Not even a soda machine! The guy who fueled me said he was going across the field to a machine so he got me a drink, too. Finished my planning, hung around talking to people and headed south.

Called SYR approach as soon as I was out of the pattern, thereby neglecting to open my flight plan! Never gave it a thought until I terminated service south of SYR. It was 1/2 hour after takeoff but I called and opened anyway. A little embarrassing but safer than continuing without it. Contacted BGM approach and they followed me ‘til I requested frequency change at Seamans. When I spotted the Nicholson bridge, it was dead ahead. Neat how that happens. Beautiful landing on 04. Exhilaration and exhaustion at the same time. What a wonderful day!!!!

Flight 49

Last week’s weather sucked so I didn’t get out, therefore it’s been 14 days since I’ve flown. I was starting to get withdrawal symptoms! The plan was to do a dual lesson in 76F and then my last solo x-c. Woke to a bright morning but, as usual, the ceiling came down as I approached 9N3. Took 76F and headed east with Greg. Found a hole to go up through and climbed to 6500 MSL - the highest I’ve been so far. Did some VOR work and he showed me how to use the DME. That’s a nifty little tool! My major problem was holding altitude; kept climbing. For the most part, we were on top of BKN or OVC. Eventually, he talked to me about emergency descents and then demonstrated it through a hole. Wow, 2000 fpm vertical speed. He took it back up and had me do one. We were at Crystal Lake so he had me simulate an emergency descent and landing there. Just did a low approach and then headed back to 9N3. Ended up terribly low and slow on short final. Damn! Lousy ending.

Flight 50

After the dual in 76F, the plan was to solo to POU. Checked FSS and, as expected, the wx wasn’t good. Actually, it wasn’t too bad here but MVFR there. Apparently the remains of hurricane Hortense. Nothing like hurricane season; glad my long x-c is behind me! Asked Greg to sign me off for landings at WBW. Took 609 for some solo work. Started with pattern work which I haven’t done in eons. At Greg’s suggestion, did short field and soft field work. Eventually tired of it and flew over to WBW and landed on 24. As I entered downwind, encountered some mild turbulence; enough to be a bit disconcerting. Landed no problem, parked and went into the club. I was alone at first but then others came in. Hung around for an hour or so chewing the fat. A couple bumps going out. Flew out over Dallas, then back to 22 at 9N3. Over the lake, encountered some rough air which really tossed me around on short final. There was a plane waiting to take 22. In spite of the gusts, greased the landing and heard Greg on the radio, “Nice landing!” It was he who was waiting for 22. Glad I didn’t know it; I’d probably have messed up! Good ending for the day!

Pre-Written Test - Sept. 16

Drove out to Seamans after dinner for my pre-written test. Greg was going night flying so he set me up with the test and left. His is tougher than he FAA’s; 100 questions and he’s hand picked a lot of hard ones. In the end, I got a 98. One I honestly got wrong, on one I knew the answer and marked the wrong one. Not too bad.

FAA Written - Oct. 5

Had a heck of a time scheduling the exam. I took the test at Sylvan Technologies. They give it in Scranton but not at a time that worked for me. I ended up scheduling it in Allentown. The test started at 9:00 and I was supposed to be there 1/2 hour early. They were giving a number of tests at the same time - nursing, SAT, GMAT, Fireman... Signing in was a bit hectic but, overall, it wasn’t a bad experience. There was another student pilot there. Test was computerized and the questions I got were pretty easy. Didn’t touch my E6B and never used the distance scale on the plotter. In 35 minutes, I’d answered all the questions. Used another 45 minutes or so to double and triple check. I finally figured out that I’d done what could be done so I finished up. Had only one wrong for a score of 98. The category of the missed question was H04 - airplane performance. It’s illogical for an engineer to miss one of those so I looked through the Gleim book to see if I could psych out what I missed. Turns out I screwed up on a cross-wind chart! Calculated headwind, not cross wind. Talk about stupid!! (Question was 3688) On balance, can’t bitch about a 98 but what a stupid way to blow it!

Flight 51

This was the first flight in 3 weeks! Told Greg not to be too tough on me. Started with pattern work; normal, soft field, short field, short field over obstacle... Eventually departed to northeast and did power-on stalls. I think I’ve finally got them nailed. We were about 7 miles from the field at 5200 feet when he gave me an engine out. I went through the checklist and started to pick a field but he said we could make it back to Seamans. I didn’t see it so he told me which way to head. Finally he pushed the nose down and I saw we were closer than I’d thought and very high for it. Did a long straight in for 22 and he showed me s-turns to get down. In the end, I let the speed fall a bit so we were lower than comfortable so he gave it a small shot of power and we put it on the runway. Not a bad day; weather was crystal clear and the lesson went well.

Flight 52 - Duchess County (POU)

Another perfect flying day. Drove out after church and finished my flight plan. Greg had looked it over yesterday and signed me off ‘cause he was going to be flying when I arrived. Pre-flighted and gassed up 94609 and launched at 1:45. Headed for Duchess County (POU). Hit it dead on and on time. Traffic at POU was heavy; not surprising considering the beautiful day. Controller told me to report downwind for 25. When I reported, he told me to extend my downwind, he’d call base. I was loosing my altitude slowly so I wouldn’t end up to low. I wasn’t even to the normal position to turn base when he told me to tighten up my pattern and turn now. As I turned onto final (which, of course, was shorter than normal) he cleared another guy to position and hold! Not “Cleared for takeoff, no delay” but “Position and hold”. By the time he was on the runway, I was planning for the go-around. I called, “Tower, 94609 on short final for 25.” He cleared me to land just as the other guy lifted off. Wow! I asked him where to taxi for something to eat and he sent me to the County ramp. Had a tough time finding someone who knew where a restaurant was but eventually someone pointed me to the back of a place just off the field. Had the obligatory cheeseburger and fries. Finished my plan for the return during lunch.

MohonkAfter lunch, I launched and headed for Mohonk Mountain House which is near POU. This is a resort where Linda and I had spent a long weekend in late summer. It’s a huge old place on a mountain overlooking the Hudson valley. Did a couple of turns around it at 3000 MSL and took pictures. The place is even more impressive from the air! I’d figured on spending 15 minutes there but actually spent only a few. Trip back was uneventful except that I was consistently too far north and I didn’t compensate adequately. I was supposed to cross between Carbondale and Forest City but I came in at the north end of Forest City. In any case, got back no major problem. I do have a hell of a time holding altitude when distracted with navigation. I’m concerned with that for the check ride. Flight was 2-1/2 hours; I’d needed 2 to finish my x-c requirements. All around, a good day. After replaying it in my mind, though, I think I mis-read the altimeter at POU. Pattern altitude was 1166; I think I was at 1660. Also in retrospect, I think I was too far out on downwind. That might be why he told me to tighten up.

Flight 53

Spent the morning at a fly-in at AVP. Linda and I drove down and I listened to the handheld in the car. Radio traffic was phenomenal. They had a heck of a crowd there. They were giving airplane rides for $5.00 but had to quit apparently due to traffic. Rumor was the tower asked them to stop but my guess is they were just spending too much time due to delays to make any money. I timed one trip and it was almost 20 minutes. With 3 people paying $5, that doesn’t make much sense. Talked to a guy from WBW who came in a Cherokee 140. He’s thinking of selling it. Intriguing!

I left and got to Seamans before Greg, who I’d seen at AVP. I pre-flighted and was just ready to roll when he came. I did two circuits while he finished up with the other guy. Did a short field, then a short field landing with a T&G. Next time around, Greg called me in. Picked him up and headed north for steep turns. Finally feel better about them. Did a few emergency descents and then came back to the pattern. Mostly soft field with a couple of engine outs for fun. Also 2 emergency descents and landings. Not a bad day. I sure do love to fly!

Flight 54

Nothing remarkable. Did some hood work and, for the most part, did pretty well at it. Last maneuver, however, I messed up pretty badly.

Flight 55

Last night flight needed for the check ride. I needed 1.1 hours and got 1.5. This was probably the first time I went flying without looking forward to it, though. It was a great night; clear as a bell with almost a full moon but I just wasn’t hyped. I think all the crap in work’s getting to me; just felt like vegging out. However, wanting to get the requirement behind me, I went. We flew over to MPO to try another airport. Turning on the lights with the mic was a kick! I had a terrible tendency to make the pattern too big. Greg says it’s because I’m referencing from the size of the runway so a big runway throws me off. That must be what happened to me at POU! Twice during the circuits the lights went out and had to be turned on again. Neat! Really nice night for a flight but my pattern work had me depressed.

Flight 56

Not a good day. Still a little bummed about last night so started on a down note. He had me start with steep turns. First 360 degrees (left) was great; almost letter perfect. Rolled into a right and it went downhill from there. Couldn’t hold altitude and never rolled out at the right point. I just kept screwing up one after the other. Not terrible but certainly not what I’m capable of! Eventually quit that and did some engine outs. Did two over around Crystal Lake and would have lived through both - probably even would have saved the plane. Did the third in the pattern and I did a beautiful landing.

We’d planned to do a ground briefing but I told Greg I just wanted to talk. Told him I think I need to back off; I’ve got too much on my mind with everything in work including the travel. I’m just not thinking enough about my flying. I actually think I’m getting worse! We agreed to drop back to one lesson a week and not press for the check ride. I really feel a bit like a failure, but something’s gotta give and this is the only option.

Flights 57 & 58

My first experience with frost - what a pain! The hanger’s been rented out and was supposed to be available Nov. 1 but it isn’t. As a result, the plane was left out and covered with frost. Took Greg and me about an hour to get it off using towels. I finally suggested he get some hot water and that worked! Then we had to sit for a while to warm up the engine. Phoenix is sounding better!

I suggested we fly to a couple other airports to work on patterns. Went to Spring Hill and Cherry Ridge. Did a second landing at Cherry Ridge ‘cause I didn’t like the first. Second wasn’t much better. That’s a tough place ‘cause you can’t see the runway as you pass the threshold on downwind.

As we were coming in to Seaman’s Greg said my flaps didn’t work; come in without them. Had to go around twice to get it down. Even at that, he applied some heavy input to slip it down.

Dropped him off and just tooled around to have fun. Killed the engine a couple of times to see what I could do. My tendency was to come in too high. Funny ‘cause last week I did them well. I wonder if it’s ‘cause of the weight. As I reached the state park it started to snow. Scared the hell out of me so I high-tailed it back and quite.

Flight 59 - Flying in Georgia

Last week I got done out of my lesson due to weather - low ceiling an visibility. Bummer! This week, I had to be in Peachtree City, GA (near Atlanta) for a sales meeting. Saturday, there was free time for a golf tournament. I looked in the yellow pages and called Falcon Flight School at Falcon Field (FFC). Reserved a C172 and my friend Kurt Emmrick and I drove over in his car (he’d driven down from Charlotte.) The CFI was a young (28) guy named Brad Fiddler. Nice, friendly style.

Since Kurt’s got his license and a 1/2 interest in a Warrior, I bowed to his seniority and asked him to fly first. I climbed in the back. He had a little trouble at first due to the time since he’d flown a Cessna. Then he was fine. He flew us over the Atlanta racetrack and Atlanta Center. Then he flew us over the course where the other guys were golfing. Kurt flew for 0.6 and then I did the same. Headed South and then West just looking around. Brad remarked that I held altitude very well. Coming in, there was a pretty stiff crosswind which goofed me up a bit. Ended coming in slow and hit pretty hard. Would have preferred to do it again but Brad had another student so we quit. Great way to spend a free afternoon on the road, though. I’ll do it again!

Doldrums & First Cherokee Ride

The whole thing began on Friday. Jim Sample, another student at Seamans’, had suggested we get together for lunch. Ate at the Woodlands, then visited the pilot’s club. It turns out, Jim’s a bit frustrated with Seamans’, too. Trouble getting planes and we both think the training’s going slowly.

Had 4 hours scheduled Saturday. With things in work fairly stable, I was eager to get on with the program and get my ticket. Got home Friday night and Linda said Greg had called; I was to call him before coming out. Called him after dinner and found that 609 is down for service. #$%&^@$^#! Won’t be in service at all this weekend.

Woke to a beautiful, calm, sunny morning. Perfect flying weather. Drove down to the pilot’s club to see if I could bum a ride somewhere. One of the guys asked if I wanted to go for lunch and, of course, I did!. Preheated his Cherokee 140 for about 1/2 hour and headed out. We headed to Sullivan County to take a look at his cabin. He said to stay at 3000 feet. Really enjoyed flying the low wing. Feels a lot more open and there wasn’t really a problem looking down; the wing’s far enough back so you can look down at a shallow angle forward of the leading edge. I wasn’t very comfortable flying so low over the plateau since there were very few open areas. When we got near his cabin, however, he took the plane and flew lower yet. Did several turns so he could “check the thermostat”. Then he went over Lopez and did the same thing. Just a bit disconcerting. There’s a lesson for me there concerning flying with my guests!

I took the plane back and flew us to near Williamsport (IPT) and he took it in. Had a nice lunch there, got gas, and headed back. He took off and I flew ‘til we were coming in over Edwardsville. Did the whole thing with the Loran. That’s a nifty device! Nice flight!

There were lots of folks at the club. One of the guys gave me a demo of his new Garmin 195 GPS. WOW!!!!

Got talking to the guys about my frustrations at Seamans’. Plane availability is really tough. Clido suggested I fly with him in Columbia’s Warrior. After today’s flight in the 140, that sounds nice. Gotta give that some thought.

Flight 60

Back in the saddle again! Visited my son Steve and his wife Krista in Raleigh for turkey day and tried to get a plane from RDU but, of course, no CFI available. Had a lesson scheduled for yesterday but it was a wx washout. Wx this AM was crummy but cleared by noon which worked well with my 1:00 appointment. Did an hour or so ground work with Greg, then pre-flighted 609. Stall horn still has not been fixed and they still don’t have a fuel sampler in 609 - had to steal one from 76F. This is getting out of hand!

Wind was damned strong and gusty from 310. Perfect for x-wind work! Also a great wind for ground reference. Did turns around 2 different silos (didn’t want to piss off only one farmer! ), then s-turns. The turns around the points were OK, I guess, and the s-turns went quite well. Then he had me climb up to 3000 ft. and did an emergency descent to Crystal Lake, then one to Clifford. Crystal Lake was long; would have overshot. Clifford was good. Then an engine out - got that one right. Finally some stalls including with turns - no problem. For the final act, he had me at 4000 ft over 9N3 and pulled power to 1500 RPM and had me take it in. Still a screaming x-wind but the landing was good. Not a bad day.

Had a long talk with Greg about my frustration with Seamans’. Told him I’m only hanging in there for him but I’m about ready to defect to Columbia Aviation.

Flight 61 - Switching to WBW

Runway 24 (now 25) ar WBWWell, I made the switch - at least I took a step in that direction. Friday, I realized that my solo endorsement was out of date. Since yesterday’s lesson was supposed to start with a solo, I drove out to 9N3 after dinner for a new endorsement. Asked Greg about the stall horn - still not fixed. Not a good sign.

N2572UYesterday was a wx washout - fog, snow, rain, etc. Today, the plane wasn’t available and, of course, it was a beautiful day. After church, I called Clido to see if he wanted to fly. Met him at the pilot’s club a little before 1:30 and started pre-flighting N2572U, a Piper Warrior II. Things here are a little loose, too. There’s no checklist other than the POH so I used that. The Piper Checklist isn’t as well thought out procedurally as the Cessna’s so I think I’ll write my own. There was no fuel cup. Clido said to just drain some fuel and look at it. When I did the right wing, I didn’t like the look of it so Clido got a bottle for me to drain it into. All was well so we gassed up and took off on 24. Climb out is at 80 KIAS - wow! Climb out went pretty well but I had trouble holding airspeed - seemed to swing fairly wildly with not much pitch change. There was quite a bit of turbulence. Headed west and just flew around. S&L, turns, climbs, descents, etc. I asked for an engine out drill and was pleased with the glide. One strange thing, though. IAS wouldn’t drop below 80 even though I pitched up quite a bit. Eventually, the stall horn sounded and we broke off the drill. Weird!

Eventually, we returned to WBW and did a full stop a T&G and a final full stop. First two were too low, third was fine. Settled up, then sat around the club shooting the breeze with some other guys - a side benefit.

Flight 62

The advantages of WBW - a midday flight! Had a relatively sane day at work so I called Clido and booked for noon. We agreed he’d go over early and pre-flight so I could spend most of the time flying. He called about 11:45 and asked if we could go at 12:30; Another guy had just taken 2572U and would be back by then. Unfortunately, the other guy started doing T&G’s and didn’t bring the plane in ‘til about 12:50. Then it needed gas so we only flew for 0.6. All we did was pattern work. Had a little trouble with the climbout; kept overshooting. Otherwise, no problems. Did an engine out the last time in and greased it. I like this plane!

Flight 63

Saturday was a washout as usual. Saturday night was the WVPC Christmas party. Sunday was a decent day. Actually started off to be magnificent but by lesson time (1:00) it had clouded up; ceiling about 1800 ft. Had planned on doing stalls but not with that ceiling! Did 8 landings, T&G, soft field, and short field After 8, Clido climbed out and I soloed for 4 more normal T&G’s. Nice day!

Flight 64

Quit work at 11:00 and headed for WBW. Clido already had the plane gassed up. Finished my flight plan and headed out to Easton (N43) to check out he location of my checkride. It’s been a while since I’d done a flightplan so the process took a while. Got goofed up on the departure; went too far south before turning on course so I was right of course. When I got to I-80 I was near the turnpike entrance instead of by the intersection of 115 so I turned left and hit my checkpoint before continuing. I would have just corrected the heading a bit but was really concerned about busting the class C for ABE. Was pretty nervous about that all the way down but found N43 without incident. At the FBO, Clido called the DE and set up an appointment for 1/11. Seems a bit soon to me but I might as well go for it. I talked directly to the DE for a while. I guess the die is cast!

I suggested lunch but Clido wanted to get moving. I wanted to go to UKT to show Clido the plane I’m considering; looked at it yesterday and it’s at least interesting. Didn’t bother with filing a flightplan due to the short distance. Maybe I should have checked with flight service ‘cause, when I got to UKT and called unicom to ask about the active, I found the airport closed! Funny since it was open yesterday. Here I was with a closed airport and no flightplan for home. I certainly could have gotten home without incident but Penn Ridge (formerly N70, now CKZ) was only 5 miles away so I headed there to regroup. The scuttlebutt there was that a plane had gone of the runway at UKT. While I was planning the flight back, Clido looked at the wx on a terminal and said we had to get moving ‘cause weather was moving in at AVP. He said we’d file the flightplan from the air. In order to save time, I planned to overfly UKT, then pick up the original flightplan. Did that and it worked like a charm. Hit WBW dead nuts. What a beautiful day for flying! The wx never did move in on us. We’d done all the paperwork (paying, logbook, etc. before I remembered to close my flightplan. The guy in flight service made no comment but as we were walking away from the hanger, someone from WVA came out and told us the FSS was looking for us. Oops!

I’m not happy about my performance today; missed several things on the checklist with absolutely no excuse but sloppiness. Had trouble with heading and airspeed control while departing N43 and talking to ABE approach. Failed to hear several calls from AVP approach. Just sloppy!

I later sent an e-mail to Tim at Biplane Adventures at UKT asking what had happened there. Turns out a friend of his hand landed with the gear up. And I thought I had problems!

Flight 65

With only two days left in the year, I decided to take a few hours off to fly. Met Clido at 2:30, pre-flighted and left. Headed out to the practice area (interesting difference between WBW and 9N3...WBW has a practice area; 9N3 is so far in the sticks, it doesn’t need one!) and did turns around a point and s-turns. After the second s-turn, he had me break off, saying it was fine. I didn’t feel good about it, though; didn’t hold altitude as well as I’d have liked.

Did some ADF work and then some standard rate turns to headings he specified. Turns out he was checking out his girl’s house! Flew a couple of turns around my office, then pulled the power and landed beautifully at WBW. Clido said it was one of the best he’s ever seen. I have to admit it was great. Then I blow it by forgetting to retract flaps as I did the T&G. Damn!!!!

Did two short field landings and quit. On the second one, Clido took it on short final and put it on the numbers on 06. We were able to turn off on the taxiway and that’s close to the threshold!! I was sure we were short. Scared the hell out of me!

Went in the club and several of the guys were there. Chewed the fat ‘til it was time to meet Linda, Krista, etc. for dinner. There was some discussion of my buying all or part of a plane now owned by one of the members. I don’t think he’ll go for it but it would be nice! I really want a plane!

Flight 66

Finally! Missed the entire month of January due to an unending succession of low ceilings, wind, too cold to start plane and ASI goofed up. Had to postpone my checkride several times. Finally got all the stars to line up and able to go back up to re-learn how to fly. Got to WBW about 2:30 but I’d told Clido to plan on 3:30 so he was gone flying with someone. Ceiling was 8500, visibility 9 SM and winds calm. Pre-flighted 76U and taxied it up for fuel.

Finally got going shortly before 4:00. Went to the practice area to do stalls. Started out by neglecting to do a clearing turn - great start!. Took a couple power offs to get it right; the third was great. Tried 2 power ons but never did get it to stall, just mushed. Neither Clido nor I was completely confident in the static system so we decided to pack it in. We were about over Edwardsville at 4500 MSL when Clido asked if we could make the field with an engine out. I said “hell, yes” and pulled power. Amazing how the plane seems to hang in the air. Got over the threshold for 24 and did a 360 to loose altitude, then greased the landing. Had the plane parked and shut down when we decided to see what effect the alternate static port had. Taxied back out and took off again. Clido flew while I meddled with the valve. Discovered (by watching the effect of opening the storm window) that the valve’s in the normal when the flag is pointing to the right. Clido suggested we try a T&G at AVP. Did one T&G on 04, then headed back, landed and shut down. I was feeling really unhappy with a bunch of small errors but Clido insists I’m too hard on myself and that I’m ready for the checkride. Stopped at his house on the way home and discussed the stalls, etc. All in all, not a bad day but I really need some solo work.

The search for a plane, Part 1

Since I’ve been so frustrated with maintenance, I decided to get serious about the search for a plane. I’ve been looking at Trade-a-Plane for a while and on Feb. 1 decided to do something else. I’d been in touch with a woman on the net who said she’d found her 180 by calling every FBO within a 2 hour drive. I decided to write to FBO’s and started looking for addresses on the web. Found www.airsport.com which had a way of sending messages to a lot of FBO’s. Within an hour or so of starting to send the messages, I got a call from Tim Kennedy at Hawthorne Aviation at Queen City. His wife works at Hawthorne at ABE and they got a fax saying I was looking for a plane. Gave me a lead and I contacted the seller, Bruce Nash, on Monday. On Tuesday, I took a 1/2 day vacation to look at N8857N. It’s a 1969 PA28-140 in cherry condition in appearance. Engine time is only 1066 SMOH but the overhaul was done in ‘73. That’s 1/2 TBO as measured in engine hours but twice TBO by calendar time.

Next night was Pilot’s Club and we had a presentation by Morgan Brown and Jim Ryan from the FAA. A lot of the discussion revolved around “my plane” Hard to know what to do.

Flight 67

Spent from 8:00 to 1:30 in meetings at work. Linda called and asked why I was in the office on such a sunny day! I said there were a lot of clouds at 1000 AGL or so plus I had to do 2 performance evaluations. Finished the evaluations and the sky was clear so... Got to WBW by a few minutes after 4:00. Found I needed both gas and oil etc, etc., etc. Got off at 4:40 and flew to the practice area to do steep turns. Did several, then did a couple turns around my office. Returned to WBW to do T&G’s. There was a Tripacer ready to take 06 as I was on downwind. It quickly became evident my mic wasn’t working; I heard him but he didn’t hear me. I’d been using my headset for the first time in this plane. Picked up the hand mic and he read me. Plugged the headset mic in that jack and all was well. Hmmmm...

Hated to quit but it was getting dark. The mess ups I made today were...

  • Busted altitude on the turns; 360 to right no problem; lost altitude and gained speed on the left turn
  • On one climb out, was messing with the mic so overshot altitude
  • Pattern work was erratic
  • Forgot to announce backtaxi coming back from my full stop

All in all, frustrating but still fun. I still love to fly!!!!!! Oh, as to problems, the avionic switch is still erratic and the transponder is dead!

Flight 68

What a beautiful day! Called Clido from the car on my way to my 12:30 lesson. He said he was running late so I said I’d solo a while and meet him at 2:00. Got to the club and George and Doc invited me to go to Blairstown for lunch but I declined; the only thing more fun than going flying with someone is flying yourself! While I was preflighting, Ed & Ron taxied in, parked their Cherokee 140 and walked over to talk to me about my search for a plane. They’d heard that some folks were trying to talk me into something bigger and they wanted me to know they were very happy with their plane. We spend a lot of time talking and it was about 1:30 by the time I launched. Flew to 9N3 and spent a few minutes talking to Bob Klemens and Greg. Left and returned to WBW to pick up Clido. On the way in I was just about to announce that I was 4 miles north of WBW inbound when someone else announced the same thing!! I looked around and saw nothing but sky! Pretty scary! I announced and asked for his exact position. He said he was crossing the river and I was past it and therefore in front of him. I asked him if he saw me but he didn’t. Landed without incident at about 2:20; 20 minutes late for my appointment with Clido.

Parked at the gas pumps and asked for a top off while I looked for Clido. I caught him just as he was about to leave the lot with another guy. I said I’d solo if he wanted to blow it off but he said we could dual but would like to have this guy, Ken come along. Ken is a 1.5 hour student I said I didn’t mind if Ken didn’t.

Learned another lesson while getting ready to go. Checked the fuel levels and took a sample from each wing. Was walking away when Ken pointed out a fuel leak from the right drain valve; it hadn’t seated when I sampled it and I would have flown without noticing! From now on I have one more thing to watch for!

With three of us aboard, launched and headed to the practice area. Did my first hood work in this plane. Also the first time I’ve tried my Foggles. No big problem. After the hood work, did MCA, steep turns, flew toward the Hazelton VOR (HZL) and then to the NDB. Set up for left traffic on 28 at Hazelton Airport (HZL). When I announced crosswind, someone pointed out that they were now using right traffic. Had to break off and go around but then did the T&G no sweat. Funny, neither Flight Guide nor the A/FD said anything about right traffic!

Flight 69

Today was a mixed bag. I told Clido what I wanted to do to get ready for the checkride, tentatively scheduled for tomorrow. I knew we’d start with a cross country so I planned one and headed out. There was no wind so I didn’t do a correction. Unfortunately I forgot the magnetic correction! As a result, I ended up a few miles north of my two check points. Better be better tomorrow.

Broke off the x-c and did turns, emergency descent, and an ADF on Crystal Lake (CYE). At that point I felt like flying around a bit so we headed for Moscow, where I live. Did some turns around our house and headed for Seamans. Landed on 22, said hi to Greg and Bob K. and used the head. We then returned to WBW for T&L’s. That was the bad part. Soft fields were OK but the short field’s stunk! Better get a lot better in 24 hours!

Flight 70 - Pre-checkride practice

The check ride was scheduled for today, weather permitting. I’d decided to take the test from Bill Standing who flies for USAir and lives at a private field (Gap View) in Mt. Bethel. This guy flies a 757 for a living and a J3 for fun! I’d expected to have to fly to Easton (N43) for the ride. Due to weather, I’d already cancelled the ride 3 times and was getting pretty tired of getting psyched up and let down! Last Friday, Bill called to see how I was coming along, reminding me that I’d said I wanted the ticket before my 50th birthday which is in 2 weeks. He said he was coming to Scranton on Monday (today) on personal business and could give me the test at WBW if I wanted. Sounded good to me; I’d save the flight to Easton and be flying on my home turf (er...sky).

It was really uncertain whether this one would come off, either. Weather forecasters weren’t in agreement as to what would happen with the weather that came in Sunday night. Bill said he was willing to meet me in either case and we could at least get the oral out of the way.

I didn’t sleep all night. If I had to pay for the flying I did as I tossed and turned, I’d be broke! Morning came and I felt like hell! Clido and I had planned to meet at the airport at 9:00 for more practice but it was still snowing at 8:00 so we cancelled. By about 9:30, I figured I’d go down and get psyched for the oral, anyway. Going down, the sky started to look pretty good!

By the time I got there, it was damned good so I pre-flighted and launched. Did a total of 5 short field landings, not one of which was award winning! Did one go-around since it occurred to me I’d never done one in this plane!

Taxied to the pumps and topped off, then got permission to leave it on the ramp while I had lunch and did the oral. By this time, it was close to CAVU! Starting to look like this might actually happen!

Flight 71 - 2/17/97 - CHECKRIDE!!!

Talk about anxiety! Bill was to meet me at the Pilot’s Club at 1:00 but didn’t get there ‘til about 1:30. By that time, I had the carpet worn out! Fortunately, Hank Ward, one of the club members, was there to keep me from slitting my wrists! When Bill came, Hank left.

Bill was great! He immediately put me at ease. He said his job was to see if I could fly, not to trick me into doing something wrong.

After the paperwork and a long explanation of what we’d be doing, we started the oral. He said, “Don’t think of this as a test; we’re just two guys talking about flying.” He asked a lot of questions and expected me to answer correctly but was so relaxed about it that I did fine. Lord knows I’ve studied the stuff enough; I was just worried I’d clutch and forget my name or something!

Eventually, he said, “Finish your flight plan and let’s go flying!” My heart stopped a bit, I think! I called the FSS and got my briefing, then finished my plan.

As I started the preflight, Bill was standing back a bit. I asked whether he wanted me to explain what I was doing and why. He said, “No, I’m justa passenger.” I said, “I was told you’d want to know whether I knew what I was looking for or just going through the motions. He said, “Believe me, I can tell!” As I was doing it, he even gave me some additional things to look for; things none of my 4 CFI’s have mentioned!

We eventually launched and started on the x-c. He asked for a short field takeoff . I did a real nice one and he said, “Wow, that was great!” Nice start! Headed out for LNS. At the first checkpoint I was a tad South. In retrospect it was because of my 45° departure from a takeoff on 24. Corrected and continued on ‘til I sighed HZL, my second checkpoint, in the distance. At that point he said, “Where are we on the sectional?” I showed him and he said, “Right. Now, there’s MPO, take me there.” I determined a course and started out on it. He said, “That’s fine but notice that there’s a VOR in almost a straight line behind it; give it a try.” I set off to the VOR, then he asked me to take him to the Wilkes-Barre VOR instead.

Then we did hood work, MCA, steep turns, stalls, and an emergency descent. We worked our way over to the west side of the valley for ground reference and engine out.

Eventually, we headed back to WBW for pattern work and it was over! Put the plane away, did the paperwork and after about $6,000, 398 landings, 357 calendar days, 99.3 flying hours, 5 airplanes, 4 instructors, 2 FBO’s and one great DE, ......... I’M A PP-ASEL!

What a great experience. Through the whole thing, he was checking me out but also giving me tips on how to improve further. This is a great guy! What I’d thought of as a nightmare was a dream come true!

Now I can go learn how to fly!