Oshkosh Day 0

Day 0 (Zero) dawned as cold as ever, but not many events on the schedule. Here are some pics as we wondered around the grounds.

1997 Williams V-Jet II designed by Burt Rutan. The dark bug eyes kinda give it away.

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The Griz, another Burt Rutan design

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The AOPA sweepstakes Debonair. I’ll be back in Oct 2014 to get the keys!

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You got that right! Ouch…

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P51-D goodness.

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BD-5 jet built by Mr. Hall seen in the back.

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F86 Sabre Jet

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Peter and I at the famous Brown Arch

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Okay, who lost their parents?

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Because it’s my wife’s name.

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A view of the vectored thrust on a F-22 model.

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Spaceship One and the Voyager at the EAA Museum

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This lets in way too much air, but its called a “Breezy” for a reason.

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What started this thing we all love to do. A replica of the Wright Flyer.

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The control station of the Flyer

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A little whimsy artwork on the way back to camp.

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The show officially begins tomorrow, the crowds are building even today and the temps may soon get into the 70’s making for a great show. Some good announcements and press events that I’ll be covering tomorrow and I’ll bring you the details here.

Oshkosh Day-1

Saturday is a relaxed day at Oshkosh as the vendors are in full swing getting the displays setup. The one interesting thing that happens is the mass arrivals of the Bonanza’s, Cessna and Mooney groups. I managed to get some various shots of the grounds and the arrivals before I got to cold and had to head back to camp to put on sweat pants. First time I’ve had to bundle up here as normally it 90 degrees and humid.

First up is me and Duggy.

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Waiting for the mass arrivals I saw these two planes get caught trying to swap places. Sometimes it takes more people to help sort out a simple problem. Oh well, relax and enjoy being at Oshkosh.

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Traffic alert, multiple targets inbound!

Bonanza_arrival1Another shot of the massive Bonanza group.

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A Bonanza just before touchdown.

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Cessna shows that they can do it too, but they only had about 32 planes in the group and we down in 12 minutes.

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A nice orange Cessna 170

C170-1A red Cessna 170

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Cessna 182

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Oshkosh tower

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An interesting plane by the flight line.

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I feel like M&M’s
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Stay tuned for more through out the week.

AirVenture – Oshkosh

With less than a week to go before the official opening of the worlds greatest air show at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, pilots from all over are getting geared up and excited for the week long show. I’ll be attending as well and I will strive to bring some of the show to you with pictures, stories and maybe some video. So stay tuned to the front page as I leave for Oshkosh on Friday and will be there for the mass arrivals on Saturday.

Another Solo!

                                                             Varun’s First Solo !!!

23rd June 2013, KPAO, Cessna N48849

With 25 lessons, 175 landings and all of Ron’s confidence in me, I was eagerly looking forward for my first solo flight on Sunday. The Friday before, we checked and Sunday’s forecast was cloudy and it was not 100% clear if I could solo. Ron said to lookout for the weather on Sunday morning and if I did not hear back from him, that would mean the Solo schedule was on.

So came the Sunday. The morning started with the sun nowhere to be seen. It was cloud all over. I was a little disheartened. Then I checked for any message from Ron. There was none. I got hopeful. A message probably would have meant no solo. I was a little nervous (far less nervous though than my pre-solo check ride with another senior instructor) on the drive to the club and all the while hoping for everything to go fine.

After the pre-flight we decided to go for a few practice landings. ATIS, read “Ceiling 1600 overcast”. And right at the end of the engine run-up at rwy 31, Ground called and informed rwy assignment has changed to 13. I know things do not stay the same always. But I had practiced very hard the pattern for rwy 31 in the last few lessons picking up landmarks all the way. Use of rwy 13 is rare at KPAO (I had used only once during my training) and I already started feeling that things are not in my favor for solo today.

But Ron’s training kicked in and we did six landings. I got some confidence back, Ron backed me up and I thought I can solo just fine if the clouds cleared up. We were unsure of the clouds and decided to give it some time while we waited in the briefing room. Club rule for a student pilot is a cloud ceiling of at least 2000.

With every passing moment the uncertainty grew more and more and I kept thinking is this going to be the day? All the while since morning, my excitement was bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball in a long rally. After some more time, Ron looked up the weather on his IPad and confirmed I am good to solo! Scattered clouds at 1600 is ok. He signed the necessary endorsements and gave me a go ahead. We walked up to the plane. My wife had joined as well to watch me solo. Ron fixed a couple of cameras inside the cockpit, shook my hand, wished me good luck and they walked to the spot to watch me solo.

Varun Takeoff

I went over the checklists, started the engine, wrote down the ATIS and contacted ground for taxi clearance. No reply from ground for almost a minute. I checked the radios and contacted ground one more time. I heard the response, “Cessna 48849 Palo Alto ground rwy 31 taxi via terminal side”. I was so excited I almost wanted to shout and say, “Ron, rwy 31!” Everything from that point forward was automatic (thanks to Ron’s excellent training) except for the fact that it seemed odd and desolate to have an empty seat beside me. I had to talk to myself to keep company.

Varun Solo from Ron Klutts on Vimeo.

The first landing went good and I felt as if I took my first breath after the first landing. I did not feel nervous anymore and went on. I bounced a bit on the second landing (Ron joked later that it will still be counted as one :-)) and then went on to the third one which was smooth again. After three landings to a full stop, I parked the plane, and then Ron came along and raised his hand for a high five ! At that point I thought yes, I did it… I did the SOLO flight !!!!

Then followed the tradition of Ron cutting off the back of my shirt, signing it and giving it back to me. That is my trophy! And it indeed was my day!!

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SOLO!

I have been hard at work training several students recently and 2 of them have made great strides towards the first big achievement of soloing. So thanks for bearing with me as it’s been a while since the last post but I think your going to enjoy Patricks story.

The trip to my first solo in the Skyhawk 172 (tail N4660G) was more memorable than the solo itself. Taking flight by yourself for the first time is a dubious prospect at best, never mind the fact that the hardware you are flying is older than you by a considerable amount, and you recall far too much about the metallurgical effects of cyclic stress and strain on rigid bodies from some sleepy materials engineering class a few years ago.

Alone in the cockpit

Perhaps it is simply the fear of not having the right hand seat occupied for the first time that makes you think of the endless list of possible catastrophes (self induced or otherwise) that could cause your tiny plane to go careening into the ground with a sickening crunch.  But on the 16th of June 2013, I decided it would be a good idea to try my hand at some real flying.

I suppose the act of soloing the airplane is akin to a test in which the results can — by nature — only be binary: you either “sink or swim,” you “crash or land,” which is where (I think) some of the hesitation and nervousness must come from for students.  It is literally a test of skill from which there can only be two outcomes.  More importantly, I felt it was a demonstration of my learning over the past few months – a critical milestone to build confidence in the aircraft and myself as a pilot.

After endless loops around runway 31 in Palo Alto, endlessly hearing Ron’s voice in my headset: “right rudder,” “centerline,” “look at your airspeed,” “CENTERLINE!” my time to become a “pilot in command” seemed to be drawing near.  It really seemed more like an inevitable point in my training, not necessarily something I was building to.  To be completely honest, I hadn’t given the occasion much thought or reverence and was very at ease about the situation (an indication of Ron’s excellent CFI skills) – “sure” I thought, “I’ll fly this airplane, by myself, I guess?”

So, after a few runs around the pattern, Ron asked me to taxi to the “J” row and let him out so he could observe from the safety of the ground.  We shook hands, Ron wished me luck, signed my endorsement, then I secured the passenger side door.

The pattern was already buzzing with some traffic, one student was already in front of me on the taxiway waiting for his solo takeoff clearance as well.  Pretty soon, I heard “Skyhawk 60G, Palo Alto tower, winds variable at 4, runway 31, cleared for takeoff, right closed traffic.”  I responded with the crispest pilot voice I could muster despite the fact that I was excited beyond words: “cleared for takeoff, Skyhawk 60G, runway 31, right closed.”

From here on, it was all automatic for me as the checklists are engrained into my brain at this point: “power set, right rudder, gauges OK, airspeed alive, 55 knots, rotate, tap the brakes.”  My tiny C172 shot up into the sky like a Saturn 5 without Ron in the passenger seat!  In no time at all, I was sitting at 800 feet and on downwind.

Patrick on takeoff

I get my clearance for the option right away.  Abeam the numbers, I throttle back and expect the airspeed to drop to my flaps extended range and add 10 degrees.  Again, almost as quickly as I gained my airspeed on takeoff, I lost my airspeed.  I was abruptly reminded that momentum is indeed the mass times the velocity.  Base turn and final were completely uneventful as was the landing.  I asked myself: “that was it?”

And indeed it was, after careful training and prep work, I soloed an airplane for the first time.

Ron greeted me with an exuberant high-five and the ceremonial shirt tail cutting and I became a student pilot!

Solo is done!

Sunset IFR approach

I’ve been conducting an IPC with a pilot that hasn’t flown IFR in several years and after several flights to refresh long lost skills we had the pleasure of filing an IFR flight plan and getting some actual in the remnants of the clouds that brought some rain the day before.

It was a nice reward for his hard work and a confidence booster as well. We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset just above the clouds as we headed to the IAF where we turned and descended into the clouds.

Enjoy!

Decision making

We have to make many decisions as pilots. Are we safe and fit to fly? Is the plane airworthy and running well? We consider the weather all along the route to determine if we can make the flight according to the rules whether that’s VFR or IFR. Sometimes its not clear as to the correct decision and when something goes astray we reevaluate the situation and make a new decision.

Take for example a rough running engine during the runup. Maybe the plugs are fouled by lead and we burn it off and then retest the mags. Or what if we abort a takeoff because something isn’t right? It could be slow acceleration, a vibration or something just tells us that something is going as we expect. We should never want to take off and ignore that feeling. For me the subtle cues indicate a problem of some sort or another.

Ask yourself

So what happens after we abort? Do we taxi back and problem solve the issue and maybe try to continue our flight? Or do we taxi back and alert the mechanic or flight school to the issue and cancel the trip?

I raise these questions as I heard this situation at our airport recently. I do not know the pilot and I’m not making any judgments as to whether he made the right decision here. Just raising some things that we all need to consider if this happens to us so we can determine what we may do if we face this. I only know what I heard on the radio and so I don’t have the details this pilot had that led him to make the decisions he did. I ask the same of you and just use this as an opportunity to evaluate your own practices.

Here is the audio I recorded during a training flight with my student. Some transmissions from the pilot involved are blocked out by my speaking to my student before it was apparent there was an issue. Most of the important stuff is there.

I have edited out some of the quiet times to shorten the playing time and there is some time near the end that I let it play in real time so you get a sense of the time involved.

There’s 2 versions below, the video is just out the front of the 152 we were flying in case you want to see the are. The Saratoga is not seen in it. Due to upload size limitations I couldn’t make it all that large.

Audio Version Saratoga Aborted takeoff

Video Saratoga Aborted takeoff

It ended well with a safe landing so that’s always the best outcome.

He attempted a takeoff and had to abort. He then taxied back to investigate and no doubt did another runup to determine the source of the cause.

Here’s the big question.

What would you do at that point? Continue or call it a day and let the mechanic look at it? No judging here, just raising a question.

He determined it was safe as evidenced by his requesting to depart again. We we in front of him and on crosswind when we heard this.

After tower informed he he had smoke coming from the engine we were directed away from the airport so tower had less traffic to deal with and provide a safe environment for the plane to land. It also reduced traffic on the radio the they could both focus.

The pilot elected to land opposite of how he departed and with a slight tailwind. It was the shortest path back to pavement.

Take-offs or always optional but landings are not, so lets be prepared and ready in case we find ourselves in a similar circumstance and need to return for an immediate landing.