It’s been two months since I officially started my flight training. There have been good and bad days, stretches of days lost to weather, and frustrations along the learning curve. Nonetheless, when I look at these past 8 weeks collectively, I feel extremely accomplished and proud of what I have achieved. I have just over 30 flight hours logged. I’ve flown solo as pilot in command. I’ve learned so much, met so many great people. I’m getting closer to my first certificate, private pilot.
This week we did more instrument work, and honestly, it was pretty frustrating and confusing at the beginning. As I wrote in last week’s post, instrument flying means you are flying and navigating the airplane without any visual reference (looking, or being able to see things outside). Newer planes with ‘glass cockpits’ use GPS and basically most of this work is done for the pilot. The airplane that I am learning on uses only analog radio wave instruments to navigate from one point to another, the way it has been done since the dawn of navigation in aviation. Almost all new production aircraft being built today are equipped with glass cockpits. Many people who learn to fly today opt to start their training on a glass cockpit airplane rather than the old analog style, but I believe that learning on an old ’round dial’ aircraft and having to learn to do things the hard way leaves you with not only the ability to get the job done, but a much more thorough understanding of the fundamentals of flight and the mechanics behind the processes that make navigation and aviation possible. Once I complete my private pilot certificate, I will continue my training in a G1000 glass cockpit equipped aircraft.
On Thursday there was a TFR (temporary flight restriction) issued for the airspace over Philadelphia, as our new president Trump was in town. Our airport lays just outside this area so we opted to fly, but the skies were calm as most people are either scared off simply by the thought of a TFR, or do not know that you can commence a flight as usual during a TFR, as long as you file a flight plan. Again, even if you are flying VFR, you need to file a flight plan and get a unique identifier to fly within a TFR. Furthermore, there may be areas of the TFR that may be completely off limits to general aviation aircraft. We flew out to the northeast to Princeton. As we approached Princeton, a small uncontrolled airport, the winds picked up and we encountered the strongest gusts, downdrafts, and shear that I have experienced up until this point in my training. We intended to practice pattern and do touch-and-goes at Princeton, but after one attempt which resulted in a go-around I decided that practicing my landings on Princeton’s narrow and short runway during these rough wind conditions wasn’t for me.
I finished the week off with a great day of flying. We continued our instrument work and everything as coming together much better for me. I was able to navigate and fly the plane on instruments at my instructor’s request much better. My instructor gave me two simulated engine failures and I felt good about the outcome of both. As we flew along, he called out “you’ve had an engine failure” and cut the power to idle. The first time we were just over a small uncontrolled airport. I pitched for best glide speed, simulated my engine restart procedure, did a mock mayday call and passenger brief. All the while I was flying the plane toward the airport and was able to land the plane on the runway. We taxied back and took off, and as we climbed through 2500 feet he did it again! He called out “you’ve had an engine failure” and again cut the power to idle. I immediately pitched for best glide and start flying toward an old closed down military base that was just ahead. He did not tell me that that airfield was there, and was impressed that I had seen it and identified it even before he cut the power on me. We finished the day off with some stall recovery practice with foggles on, and headed back to the airport.
I’m really looking forward to more solo time now and finishing out the requirements for my private pilot license. Assuming good weather, by the end of next week I should have most of the training requirements done for my private pilot certificate. I’ll spend some more time brushing up skills, hitting the books, and not to long from now I’ll be taking my check ride for my private pilot license. Back in late 2016 when I was starting this endeavor, I was hoping to be on track to have my private by my 30th birthday, which is in two weeks. I’ll probably need a bit more time, but considering I started a bit later then I wanted to and all the time lost to holidays and weather, I’m more then satisfied with where I’m at, plus every day is a blast.