A new Pilot!

This hardly needs an introduction so I’ll keep it brief. I received an email from Varun on March 9th, 2012 with this as the introduction.

“My name is Varun and I am interested in earning a Private Pilot Certificate. I have no prior flying experience (except for a 30 min discovery flight a month ago) and I am really excited and looking for help to get started as soon as possible. I have a full time job and I am looking for availability mostly on weekends and probably one or two evenings in the week.”

These are the challenges many pilots living in Silicon Valley face, but with solid determination and a steady flying schedule the results are huge.

I was intrigued first as to how he got my email address, and if this was a legitimate request. I’ve had a few odd ones come in via email. Much to my delight it was legit and the rest is now history and a successful new pilot is out there living his dream. Its been a pleasure to teach and fly with you!

Varun’s journey to becoming a Private Pilot!

2nd Jan 2014, KPAO, Cessna 747ZP

 I believe that most of us pilots have always wanted to fly. And often, with all the daily routine and focus on immediate needs, we somehow tend to forget our wants. It all started during a visit to my hometown in Dec 2012. It is a small place with no flight service by any airline carriers. And there, someone mentioned that an ex-airline pilot has recently started shuttling passengers in an 8 seat Cessna between my hometown and another major city. The word, “Cessna” stuck in my mind.

So, I Googled “Cessna” and the Cessna website appeared first in the search list. I learned a little about their airplanes on their site and then went to the link “Learn to fly”. And from there on I went onto “Pilot Center Locator” and put my US residence zip code. Diamond Aviation based out of San Carlos appeared first on the list where I learned about their discovery flight.

After I was back from vacation, I arranged for a discovery flight with Diamond Aviation. And that was it! From there on I had to learn to fly as soon as I can. I did some more research and decided on Advantage Aviation based out of Palo Alto. I reached out to a few CFIs and Ron was the first one to respond. I met Ron and I had no second thoughts.

My first flight lesson was on 24th March 2013 and I soloed on 23rd June 2013 (you can read more about my solo experience here). After a few more lessons, both dual and solo, I went through a phase check at the club with a former DPE for the oral and the assistant chief pilot for the flight school. The phase check helped discover areas where I needed improvement. I worked with Ron on improving them.  More lessons, a lot of study and I passed the knowledge test with a good score. Now the time had come for the checkride!

The checkride was on the 21st of Dec 2013 at 09:00 at the club. The weather was good that day – sunny, very light winds. I arrived early to get the weather briefing, complete the x/c plan (KPAO to 1O2) with the latest winds, and get myself setup. Ron arrived early too. The DPE arrived promptly at 09:00 and we went through the paperwork (IACRA, logbook, etc) right after he arrived. After everything looked good, we decided to begin with the oral.

A good thing happened and the DPE asked if my instructor would like to join us for the oral. It was comforting just knowing that Ron is sitting with me in the same room. The oral started off well. There were a couple of questions towards the end that tripped me off – one on the aircraft performance and the other on the validity of charts. In the back of my mind I wasn’t sure if I will make it through the oral. But in the end the DPE said that I did well and that I should go preflight the airplane for the flight. It was a relief to get through!

After preflighting the N48849, the DPE met me at the airplane. He mentioned that he doesn’t need a passenger briefing. And as I would have done many times before, I followed the checklist, started the engine, taxied to the runup area and completed the runup. After clearance from ATC for a “right Dunbarton departure”, I started with a soft-field takeoff as requested by the examiner. It went well. My first checkpoint was VPSUN. At KGO, the DPE asked me a time estimate to VPSUN. I gave him an approximate time and he seemed good with it. Then he asked me to find the time, distance and fuel to Salinas from our current location. I complied. We were at 2000’ and had just crossed the Dunbarton Bridge when the DPE noticed engine roughness in the airplane. We immediately made a call to head back to KPAO and he suggested not changing the engine configuration (carb heat, throttle, etc) in any way until we were within safe gliding distance of the airport. We were cleared for a short approach. It is supposed to be simulated but I did an actual power-off emergency landing on a checkride!!! After we touched down safely, on our taxi back to parking the DPE mentioned, “you are going to remember this checkride forever”. I surely will.

Being a Saturday, there was no mechanic available to confirm the problem (later it was found out to be a bad cylinder). And the other C152 (747ZP), had more fuel than the both of us could carry. A notice of discontinuance was disappointing but it was the right call. I ended up doing some solo pattern practice that day in 747ZP. And after a couple of reschedules later, I was finally able to book a slot on the 2nd of Jan 2014 at 10:00 for continuing with the rest of the checkride.

I arrived almost an hour early at the club. I called FSS for a briefing, preflighted the airplane (747ZP this time) and rehearsed all the maneuvers in my head before the DPE arrived. He arrived at 10:00. We went straight to the airplane. And this time, for some reason, I wasn’t nervous at all. It was a short field take-off and a “left Dunbarton departure”. We leveled off right after crossing the Stanford Stadium, did slow flight, power on/off stalls and a steep turn. Then we diverted to San Carlos airport. It was the first time for me at KSQL and I didn’t know the TPA. I was reaching for the A/FD when he said it is 800′ and said that the passenger happens to know it :-). The first landing was a soft field landing. I had never done a better soft field landing before! Then we did turns around a point near the cement plant and entered the pattern for a normal landing. Right after we crossed the runway threshold, he asked me to go around. We climbed back and did a straight out departure. This is when I put on my foggles and did some under the hood flying. I also did an unusual flight attitude recovery and then we headed straight back to KPAO. Things were moving along quite well.

He asked me to do a short field landing at the threshold. The touchdown went well and was within 200′ of the threshold. However, it was not the best approach for a short field landing as I was a little below the glide path. It was the last maneuver and I started wondering if I busted the checkride. The DPE had seemed to be an easy going person and had made me quite comfortable by making cool conversations right from the beginning. But now, to add to the uneasiness, he had not said a word after we had touched down. We continued to taxi to the parking.

At the parking, I looked at the checklist and followed it to shutdown the engine. That is when he said, “Congratulations, you are a private pilot now. You did very well and I will see you inside for the paperwork”. I did not know how to react and I only responded with a “Thank You” as a reflex. It was while I was walking back to the club when it finally sunk in me and I realized what I had achieved that day – I was a PRIVATE PILOT !!!

Once inside the club, it only took 10 minutes for the paperwork. The DPE congratulated one more time and asked me to go celebrate my achievement. I wished my CFI and/or my wife were there at that moment; I was feeling so exultant. The front desk guy was very kind and took a photograph of me with the temporary certificate and the airplane. Later I shared it with almost everyone I knew. It took me 9 months and 9 days from my first lesson to earning my certificate! And it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my wife and the patience and relentless effort put in by my CFI to make a pilot out of me.


Varun Checkride - PPL

First Solo

Actually it’s 2 solos as this is my first student to solo as a new CFI! Here is Peter’s story of the day. I’m so proud as he’s come a long way during his training.

The morning of Sat. Oct 6 2012 started for most people the normal way. For me, it was anything but normal. The day before, I flew with a chief pilot aboard. He said I had it in me to solo, but today we would put that statement to the test. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, flying the pattern in my head and watching aviation videos till the wee hours of the morning. I imagined Lindberg had similar anxiety flying the Atlantic, 33 hours without sleep.

 0900- I make a cocktail of Redbull and Mountain Dew, and had a light snack. “Charlie-Alfa-Tango, Hold Short” I said to the cat as I made my way out the door. I looked to the sky and it was blustery, gusts to almost 18, Clear visibility. Would this be the day? Would I orphan my cat. Ultimately the answer was yes to the first question, no to the second. I take my first step out the door. I would return as a pilot.

1400-I brought along a photographer friend Johnny to document the event, waiting for me was a camera crew setting up GoPros in  N48849, a Cessna 152.  I did my preflight, checklist in hand, as I had a number of times before. To me this is an act that ties me to the Wright brothers, Chuck Yeager, Neil and Buzz, and Amelia Earhart. They all had their first flight alone…This one, however, was mine.

1530-It seemed to take longer than I wanted it to but we got thru to taxi and run-up. It’s a good idea to practice a few times around the pattern with Ron my CFI aboard before committing to the solo. The winds at KPAO rattled us around a bit for an hour, and I was getting fatigued and dehydrated so we decided to put her down and decide if it would be go, or no go. We talk aviation stories at the terminal till the ATIS weather is updated.

1650- The weather was not improving much, indeed, the wind picked up another knot. Crosswind component was 4.5 knots, I’ve landed in worse than that. After agonizing for a few minutes it came down to one question. Do you have it in you? Yes I do.

Back in the plane for a few more practice laps.

1800- Taxing back we felt good about my chances. Ron warned me that the plane would climb like it had JATO bottles stuck to it without him in the right seat. Filling out the paperwork it felt like, this is the real deal, it’s official. I get to do this. We turn this into a photo opportunity because the sun is lighting up the sky a pretty shade of orange. We shook hands.

1815- I turn to my instructor and say “Ron you’re good a pilot, a friend and a fine instructor…But get the hell out of my aircraft”. He smiles, shuts the door behind him, the cabin grows eerily quiet. “Well, that’s just great, now what am I supposed to do?” Ron’s voice in my head- Mixture in, Clear Prop, Master on, Key to ignition…Go. “Time to get some” I must have said as the little Cessna started rolling with one guy in it. That guy was me. Run-up and make calls to the tower like I did a hundred times before, then the “Hold short” call.


“I’ve waited all my life for this” I said. “Cleared for takeoff” they said. “What do I stand for, What’s in you?…Throttle up, Gauges green, Airspeed alive, Rotate 50…..YeeHaw!” 849er went up F-16 style. I’m a seven year old kid flying his kite all over again. Today I’m not building a model airplane, I’m flying a real one!  Two times around, it feels like the plane was on rails tracing around the pattern. Training kicks in and you don’t think much about the nitty gritty aspects of flying, you just do it like you did a hundred times before, almost on reflex. A look left revealed the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. This is exactly why I fly. To experience firsthand the beauty, the majesty, the wonder of it all. There will not be another sunset like that one in my lifetime. I wanted the clock to just freeze right then.

It was my defining moment, Pete Nardo-Pilot.

I could have been in the pattern all day, but it was getting dark, and as much as I would have liked to stay, I had to put the plane down…Safely. Planes like this one don’t land themselves, It’s all on me. A little bit of crosswind wanted to blow me to the left, so I did a crab then a slip to maintain centerline. Flare, Flare (I could hear Ron’s voice in my head). The chirp of the tires meant I was on the ground, but no time to celebrate yet. I gotta park this thing. I roll to a stop, tower says “Great landing 849er” I said thanks but was too choked up with emotion to say much more. I take a minute at the taxiway to clean up the aircraft, and say “I did it, I’m a pilot”. Then I put on a Hachimaki (Japanese headband worn for inspiration, mine literally said Kami-Kaze) in honor of my Sensei’s (Teachers). I got clearance to park, which I did, and then the motor was silent.

1845-As I sat there in front of the flight school the sun was emitting the last of it’s rays, I was in a quiet moment of reflection. Everything about my life up to this point prepared me to do this. In my flight bag were three photos. One of my family, one of my Grandparents, and one with a seven year old kid who is flying a kite, and missing his front tooth. That kid, this pilot….Was me.

I must have had a tear in my eye, probably balling too, and I was so happy, I didn’t care.

Every pilot that solos has their own story to tell. This one was mine….What will your’s be?

Peter Nardo
Cessna 152, Palo Alto Municipal Airport
October 6, 2012


Photo’s taken by John Santillanes

Cross Country Flying and Navigating

I’ve always enjoyed exploring maps. Whether it’s a state road map to explore a new road trip or better yet an aeronautical chart to plan a new flight, the possiblitites are intriguing. One thing I learned long ago is that map reading is an art. The seemingly simply chart can suddenly become complicated when read in the air. Trying to match up a road I see with the chart can send even the best cartographer into a tizzy.

So the day started with high expectations and a long list of tasks to achieve and train for. Our first objective is to fly our planned x/c to a little used airport to practice various landings. The student planned the route and did the wind corrections and we hit our first checkpoint. I told him how the central valley is lots of farming area’s and it can be hard to pinpoint location as one patch of farm looks like another.

Sea of Squares

As we cross into the valley about 6 miles SE of course he discovers the sea of squares and he realizes he’s lost. All that preflight planning at a table that isn’t hurtling through space at 120 mph is far different than being in the plane and and trying to match up what we see on the ground to what’s on the chart. We discuss the airport he did see that was nearby and as he turn towards it to reacquire our landmarks we spot our destination.

Cross Country (Sea of Squares) from Ron Klutts on Vimeo.

We were abeam the airport we wanted and so it was a 90 degree turn to see it. The lesson he learned here is that what we want may not always be in front of us. Subconsciously we always think we are going were we should and therefore we just look straight ahead for our landmarks.

11,800 feet of Runway

Our ultimate goal was to go to Castle KMER and their 11,800′ x 150′ foot runway. It’s an old Air Force base and was home to B-52’s. So the long and wide runway is our training environment for the afternoon. I wanted the extreme length so we can practice flaring and flying down the runway for a mile, yes, a mile of it so he can develop the sight picture of what it’s like a foot or two off the runway. In addition we are transitioning to the Cessna 172 from the 152 and the sight picture over the cowling is very different.


All this proved to be a little taxing for him and we were pushing his skills into new areas. It was a long day with many objectives and he was feeling a little overwhelmed. The return flight proved to be the saving grace in this. We departed the pattern after our low passes and turned on course. This time the planning worked out and we hit the landmarks he planned on as the sun was setting. It was a glass smooth evening and no traffic and it was serene and everything we wanted a flight to be.

The grin is returning to his face and the struggles of earlier are fading away. Any thought of not continuing flight training is washing away as the sun sets and the city lights come into view. It’s what I love about night flying, smooth air and great views of the city lights and the Bay. The flight ends with a spectacular view of the SF Bay Area as we return to Palo Alto. We are both energized despite a long day of training. We decompress at a local restaurant with great food and a well deserved beverage.

Final CFII Update

The day has finally arrived. After a week of sulking and some more practice the day has arrived to finish the CFII check ride after last weeks discontinuance.

I spent Monday evening playing the instructor to the other student in our CFII class as I taught the G1000 sim and the maneuvers that were left on my task list. That went well but I still needed work on getting the instructions out fast and cleanly as there is a lot to do.

I awoke at 5:30, yes that’s AM, so I could get in an hour of my own practice (before going to work) on the sim and got it set up and then flew the partial panel approach as I “taught” myself and walked through all the steps. I had also reread Rod Machado’s IFR handbook on holding entries the night before and it all finally clicked. I could always enter the hold but I had to work at the process. That morning in the sim was magical and it just made sense. I got it now, this is in the bag!

Ctrl-Alt-Delete time

We had some interesting technical challenges with the sim right as I was intercepting the final approach course, the engine failed! No the DPE  pulling any funny stuff either. So we had to shut it down, reboot, and it was still wonky, so another shutdown and reboot. Meanwhile I’m thinking it’s broke and I’ll end up with another discontinuance and be stuck paying a third time as well.

We persevered and got the sim booted up fine and then repositioned my to where I was before and the exam continued. Whew, okay I can focus and do this.

Flew the partial panel G1000 approach and teaching at the same time how to adjust to that, what scan changes I was doing and utilizing the power of the moving map and such.

Wrapping up

Then it was on to the hold and I explained the parameters of the hold instruction and the all important way to determine the correct entry. That all went perfectly thanks to the practice.

Last up was to teach the unusual attitude and correct recovery techniques for both climbing and descending situations. I’ve always done well at that so no surprises there and we talked about common errors too that students make.

Did I pass?

It was odd to not know, even though I thought I did as she went off to finish off the IACRA application and suddenly was on the phone with the FAA. Hmmm, I started getting nervous. She needed to input the type of sim or really the type flight training device it was, on the application, but I didn’t know if she was checking the “Issue” box or something less desirable.

After an hour it was resolved and I was relived to see she was checking the Issue a certificate box and printed out my new CFI certificate with the added Instrument Airplane privileges on it.

Then it was time to take the “I just passed my check ride” photo at the plane the we flew the initial part of  ride then. What a thrill.

Getting back to teaching

So my time as a student is over and I can go back to teaching. Not only my primary student but also now the instrument student that was my motivation for adding this so soon after gaining the initial CFI.

Just like passing the private check ride, us instructors are still learning as we start teaching as it really is an art form to do it right. Thankfully the DPE’s recognize that we might be a little rough around the edges but they see the potential in us as we must do with our students and work to bring out the shine in them.

CFII Update #2

The time has come to take the CFII check ride. More about that in a minute.

As you may know I did an accelerated course over 4 days to prepare for this. I had also studied for and taken the Instrument Instructor written exam the day before starting the class and scored a 94%.

I felt good about the class and we were using the G1000 FTD after class to become familiar with the button pushing or “knobology” as I call it. We logged almost 5 hours over the 4 days learning how to load flight plans and fly the plane while loading approaches and using the GFC700 autopilot.

The following weekend we actually flew the plane with the G1000 and the practice was time well spent as all that we learned in the “simulator” transferred to use in the plane. On Saturday and Sunday we got some actual IMC during our flight and we were filing IFR to be in the system as the weather was marginal VFR down low and IMC at 1500′.

Norcal gave us vectors to the IAF and we had plenty of time to get the GPS programmed and ready to fly the approach. All went well and I felt prepared to take the check ride.

However life tends to throw us a curve ball when we least expect it. The ground portion of the check ride went well and after some question and answering on IFR flying we were ready to go fly.


I pre-filed an IFR flight plan and we picked up our clearance at the runup area. After two quick handoffs we were told we were being vectored for a visual approach. We needed to do the ILS but ATC told us the ILS was not authorized. This never came up in my briefing an hour earlier.

And so began my falling behind the aircraft. The DPE settled on a VOR/DME approach to a nearby airport and I had very little time to reprogram the GPS to get that setup.

The lesson I learned was even with a DPE on board I was the PIC and I needed to act as such. I was letting the DPE help with the radio work to get what we needed from ATC but in so doing I gave up some control. I fell further behind the aircraft but managed to fly the approach to acceptable standards.

However we needed to fly an ILS and rather than go to another nearby airport to do so I allowed the flight to end as I wasn’t flying up to the standards I knew I was capable of achieving.

it was very disappointing to realize that I wasn’t going to pass that day but I also know that there are times we need to acknowledge our limitations and abide by them. I have been listening to Rod Machado’s audio books and one thing that stands out regarding pilots that have accidents is that while we may regard them as good pilots that they weren’t as good as they wanted to be on THAT day. So it was proved to me on my check ride day, I wasn’t the skilled pilot I knew I could be on that day.


To say it was humbling is an understatement. To be able to fly, teach, talk to the DPE and ATC was a little overwhelming to say the least. And for me that is the downside of the accelerated course. There was so little time to put the polish on these finer points. Our instructor is a very seasoned and great instructor, but we have only so much time to absorb the information and be ready to teach it.

I will finish up next week as I have just 2 approaches, a hold and unusual attitudes to do. As always on a check ride the pilot is the PIC and needs to act as such. Take control of it and don’t let the situation or the DPE et you into a corner that you don’t want to be in. ATC is a resource and needs to be managed as well. It’s a delicate dance at times but we must realize that ATC is safe and secure on the ground while we are in motion.

It’s okay to ask for a delay vector as needed to assure a safe outcome to our flight.

In the end I got a discontinuance and will finish up soon, stay tuned for the final update next week….

CFII Update

It’s the end of the 4th day of the CFII class. It’s been an intense four days of learning and homework. Each day consisted of detailed info regarding the reg’s, instruments, IFR rules both part 61 and 91. What a great review it’s been.

At the end of each day we had time in the Garmin G1000 Flight Training Device. It has a 50″ plasma screen up front with the Garmin G1000 setup for us to fly and an instructor station to monitor and create all kinds of failures for us.

It’s been a very realistic learning experience and much easier to learn with out the wasted time of startup, taxiing and holding at the run-up area. I highly recommend using the FTD to learn the G1000 or any other TAA avionics suite in an aircraft.

Today was filled with student presentations consistiting of holding patterns, static pitot system instruments and programming the G1000 for a GPS approach. It’s very nerve racking to present in front of the very experienced CFI teaching us, but it’s a neccesary evil. Thankfully he’s very patient and will quietly pick apart our presentations with all the things we got wrong or left out. It’s truly a humbling experience to watch his blank poker face knowing we are stating something wrong and waiting for the critique.

However it’s all good knowing he’s doing so to make us better instructors. At the end of the day we both feel better about our presentations and are more motivated to keep doing better.

I passed the CFII written last Friday with a 94% and all that’s left is some flying in the G1000 C172 with the GFC7000 autopilot this weekend. We will also fly the G1000 KAP 140 equipped plane on Sunday to round out our experience. The check ride is soon to follow.

I’m really looking forward to being done with this and being able to teach instrument students. It’s been an exciting few months becoming a CFI and finally a CFII and I’m totally enjoying this new role. I can honestly say I never understood IFR flying to the depths I do now that I am looking to teach it. If you ever want to up your game, get your CFI and learn it like you’ve never understood it before.

Stayed tuned for the updates on our weekend flying and the check ride.

Ron Klutts CFI

Switching roles

The time has come for me to become the student once again.

Starting Sept 17, 2011 I will be in a 4 day class to earn my Instrument Instructor certificate. It’s a lot of work to add the second “I” onto my already new plastic, but it will be well worth it. Not only will I be more marketable, but I’m looking forward to learning the G1000 in the IFR environment.

That will be the challenge for me so I can be proficient and knowledgeable to pass it on to the students I have waiting to earn their instrument ratings. With winter approaching this is an ideal time to start working on it as we generally have good flying and decent mild IFR weather to train in. The golden days are lots of mild puffy clouds with no convective activity in order to train in actual.

Step 1 though is to finish studying for the instrument written and score high on the practice exams. It’s all the arcane instruments like a RIC and such that I get wrong. I mean who has those anymore? The good news is that I have been scoring in the high 80’s but I know a certain someone that is expecting me to get a 98% so it’s back to the books.

I’ll report back soon on my progress, written exam score and ultimately the details of the check ride.

Get specific about runways

For most of us flying at smaller general aviation airports it may seem redundant to read back the runway we are cleared to take off and land at but when flying at a larger airports like a Class Charlie airport with multiple runways it becomes very important for safety reasons.

This was impressed upon me on a recent flight landing at nearby San Jose International airport. While my initial training years ago was at an airport with parallel runways, I had developed the habit of including the “Left” or “Right” with the runway number.

After 6 years of flying at an airport with a single runway, that habit has gone the way of an affordable new airplane.

Get Specific

It’s good to be exact with our radio calls as the tower was quite correct in asking me to read back the correct runway we were to use. Even though they were operating on the Left runway only, they wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to land on the closed Right runway.

I firmly believe that the quality of our radio calls does make an impression and I strive to make it a good one. At times though sloppy radio work makes the wrong impression and we may be on a short leash with ATC as a result of that.

While we were able to conduct the low passes for our landing training, I was embarrassed for having set the wrong example for the student who is learning by my example.

Another example of sloppy radio work is when pilots at non-towered airports call “Clear of the Active”

While it’s less of a problem with a single runway, I hear it all too often at a nearby airport with crossing runways. While it’s okay to use the runway that isn’t aligned with the wind for crosswind practice, all too often I hear pilots calling “clear of the active.” Now that’s a little vague, as I don’t know what you consider the active. So lets remember the proper radio calls including to specify the runway number and “Left”, “Right” or “Center” as appropriate.

Ron Klutts CFI

A little hot under the cowling!

There are a few words in aviation that will strike fear into ones heart. For a new instrument pilot it may be the dreaded call from ATC advising of a reroute, advise when ready to copy.

A little further up the scale might be hearing ATC to ask if your ready to copy a phone number is another.

At the top of the list however is one single word, FIRE!

In all my years of flying I have not had an engine fire. This all changed recently.

I have had my share of hair raising moments and one emergency, but fire was never involved.

I know we’ve all read the staring checklist that includes the section if an engine fire occurs to keep cranking until the engine starts and run it for a minute or so and then shutdown to inspect.

The other line that makes me chuckle is to “Have ground attendants obtain a fire extinguisher” I always wondered exactly how I would get a ground attendant to do that in the time constrained event of a fire and the fact we don’t have ground personnel around during GA activities.

What was that sound?

So on a recent lesson starting the Cessna 152 we went thru the starting checklist as usual, turned the key to start and after a few turns of the prop it didn’t  start. Hmm, okay, waited a second, turn it again and pumped the throttle once as we cranked and on the 2nd or 3rd revolution we heard a “POP”

I wonder what that was? This is when it got interesting. Thankfully another club instructor had just returned and was parking the plane immediately to our right. I heard a voice yell something and he’s pointing at my plane. Did he just yell FIRE? Yup, he did and he repeated it “FIRE!”  and added “Keep cranking!”

Getting ready to run

Granted, me and the student almost bailed on the plane and had the doors open, but the training kicked in and I reached over and turned the key and kept cranking until it started up. All the while the other CFI is looking all around the cowling and the front of the plane very intently.

After a minute I get the kill signal and shutdown to inspect and talk about it. He said a flame shot out of the bottom about a foot long and then when it started it got sucked back up, so we gather it was coming out of the carburetor and not the exhaust pipe.

Whew, averted something serious and we locked the plane up and went inside to report it to the chief pilot to get it looked at to make sure nothing was damaged that caused it and to inspect for any damage before returning it to service.

All is well

I got the call the next day that nothing was damaged and the consensus was we over primed it and fuel had run down back through the carburetor and when it did start or backfired, it ignited the fuel in the induction system and blew out the bottom as it’s an updraft carburetor.

My lesson learned is to listen for that “pop” during the start, it didn’t sound like an explosion and we never saw smoke or fire. So had we not had that second set of eyes on us the outcome may have been different. Knowing the normal sounds of startup is important as it is in the abnormal sounds that we need to really pay attention to.

Fly safe and keep learning!

Ron Klutts CFI

First Flight

I’ve started this blog to share stories of my Right Seat Flying as a new CFI. I hope it is useful to a wide range of pilots as I now learn from my students as I attempt to teach them about aviation and becoming a pilot themselves.

So let’s give it a shot of primer, Beacon on, clear PROP, Master ON, START!

I have a confession to make

Learning to fly is hard work. I know this now as a new CFI. It’s often said that if you want to learn something then try and teach it. Over a 4 week period I earned my CFI rating and it was hard work. The trick was taking what I knew how to do and try and teach it. Whether it was a ground lesson or in the air, trying to explain all the elements that encapsulate a maneuver was tough to grasp and explain concisely.

However I loved the challenge and took all the criticism my CFI offered as it was positive and made me better. It was humbling at times to realize how little I knew technically about a maneuver and needing to be corrected. But I took the criticism in stride and incorporated it into my teaching style.

My desire is to be a great CFI and not just a time builder. I have no intention of going to the airlines, so I’m not  a time building CFI. I’m doing this because I love to fly and I want to share the passion I have for aviation with others. I hope this is evident in the way I teach, but my students will be the judge of that.

First Student

I’m fortunate in that I have one student that has started on his journey to be a pilot as we had his first lesson on July 23, 2011. He is also coming with me to Oshkosh for the annual EAA Convention. His enthusiasm is contagious and is pushing me to be the best instructor I can be. I have an obligation to him and any that follow to rise to the challenge and provide great instruction.

Peter on the ground with the mighty Cessna 152.

I know I’m not going to the airlines and that’s ok, I gave up that dream a long time ago. I have a great day job that helps to pay the bills. I’m doing this for the sheer fun of it. At this point I have taught a grand total of 2.2 hours encompassing the first lesson of a new student and a demo flight for a potential 2nd student.

Here’s a pic I took of Peter in the air during his FIRST lesson. He said something profound but simple that will stick with me for a LONG time. He said, “I can’t believe I waited so LONG to learn to fly!”

Peter's first flight

Peter as a happy student

It has been his desire to learn for many years and his circumstances are such that now he has the right combination of time and money to peruse his dreams. He did a great job at his first lesson and I look forward to many more lessons to share what I know to make him a safe and competent pilot.

Lessons learned

I hope to share a few things that I continue to learn as a new CFI with all of you and we all can continue to learn together and make flying fun. I have to be honest and say I’m not sure what direction this blog will take so at the moment I’m just excited to  share our experiences and hope it proves insightful or educational. I never know what little tidbit that may be insignificant to us may be helpful to others.

So please provide any feedback or suggestions you may have.

Thanks for stopping by,

Ron Klutts CFI