Oshkosh 2017

First off I apologize for being silent for so long, too many things going on and not much new with students, other than lots of landing practice and some short cross-countries. So not much to share lately. Doing a night X/C to SMF so there may be something on that later.

That will change as I head off to EAA Airventure on Friday, I had planned to fly the T210out there but it won’t be ready in time from the shop.

So its Virgin America to to ORD and driving up, but at least I’ll be there again. I plan on sharing and posting as many pics as I can so stay tuned.

Ground School that pays you back!

At EAA Airventure Jason Schappert of MzeroA.com announced a program that will award the hardest working member of that month of the online ground school $5,000.00. The students accrue points by watching his training videos and participating in forums and more.

MzeroA Logo

The Ground School Contains
– Over 320 Full HD and Mobile Friendly Videos
– Weekly Webinar Workshops
– Monthly Mock Checkrides
– Customized Written Test Prep
– Exclusive iPad Training
– 100% Checkride Pass Rate
– 100% Written Test Pass Rate
– 97% of Students Who Start Finish Their Certificate
– $5,000 Given Each Month To The Hardest Working Members

For more information go to http://groundschoolcontest.com

To enroll use my link here groundschoolacademy.com/rightseatflying

Oshkosh Day 6-Friday

There was hope that the balloon launch would happen as the sky was clear and the winds were light but they were blowing towards the lake and that doesn’t make for a good landing spot. We awoke early and headed out to see the balloons on static display and got some shots early in the morning as the sun came up.

_MG_1942 _MG_1945 _MG_1948 _MG_1962 _MG_1963 _MG_1970 _MG_1996 _MG_1992 _MG_1990 _MG_1985 _MG_1997 _MG_2003 _MG_2009 _MG_2012 _MG_2013 _MG_2014

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!!



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!

Electrical failure

One of the most difficult things to teach a student pilot are the failures that can occur in an aircraft. Oh sure we talk about them, and what to do when they occur, but without being able to simulate them in the plane it’s just an exercise in the procedures. So when a failure happens it’s a good teaching moment as they don’t always just fail instantly. The failure can be gradual and may present itself as a series of failures.

This was the case recently while we were in the pattern practicing landings. The first indication was the intercoms and radio started sounding a little scratchy. Then at one point the tower repeated an instruction 3 times as they never heard the first two read backs. I thought that was odd as the student did a good job and I saw the “T” on the radio indicating he was transmitting.

A few minutes later tower reported they no longer were receiving our mode c from the transponder and asked us to recycle. We did that and still they weren’t getting our altitude readout. This was now the third odd thing of the flight. Even for me it snuck up on me as I have experienced an electrical failure twice so far. It’s a gradual failure of multiple systems that really makes one think.

It was time to get this on the ground. However with everything going on we were high on final and the student decided to go-around. I advised tower that we had an electrical failure and asked to get our landing clearance early in case the battery totally failed. They asked if we required assistance which is always an attention getter for me. I declined as mechanically we were fine as there was no smoke or evidence of something serious. After telling us we were number 2 to land if we needed priority to land just advise. I acknowledge and we flew a good pattern and landed normally.

On the taxi back we discussed what would happen if the battery failed before we got our clearance to land. He responded with the appropriate light gun signals the tower would use. Good answer. Next trip out to the airport I think I’ll have the tower shine a light gun at him so he can see what they are. It’s good to be familiar with these things.

We put the plane away and then debriefed the flight and discussed more scenarios that could have played out if it happened away from the airport and what would you do then? It was a good discussion and valuable lesson in another failure for him to file away in his experience.

Cross country to Harris Ranch

I recently went flying with two good friends to Harris Ranch for a steak dinner. The friend flying used to co-own a PA28 with the intent to learn to fly. It turns out that he wasn’t one of the few meant to fly so being roommates I gladly helped out whenever we wanted to take others up. So we were once again going to Harris Ranch just like the old days. There’s lots of silly conversation so please forgive me for that. It’s all in the name of good fun.


Cross country to Harris Ranch from Ron Klutts on Vimeo.

Winds are blowing, are YOU ready?

Have you ever been on a trip and discovered the winds have picked up while you were enroute? Or maybe you need to divert and your chosen airport has strong crosswinds. What will you do? Is your crosswind technique polished and ready to use or does the pucker factor go up and you just hope for the best?

I had the experience a few years ago where I checked on the weather about 50 miles out at an intended fuel stop and the winds were in the high 20’s with gusts close to 30 knots. I was approaching a non-towered field and the winds were calm there so I chose to divert and spiral down. But what if I hadn’t checked weather until I got the ATIS 10 miles out and facing a low fuel condition? I wasn’t ready to handle those kinds of winds then, and if there’s a less windy alternate available it’s probably wise to go there.

This is about the worst case scenario where we are stuck by whatever circumstances that we now need to land in a serious crosswind. I call it a “FWA” style landing after the landings I’ve seen on Flying Wild Alaska.

On a recent flight review I conducted we went over to Tracy airport (TCY) for some landing practice. Winds were 230º @24 gusting to 28. After a practice emergency decent from an engine failure we landed on runway 26 to get warmed up. The crab angle on final was dramatic as was the reduction in groundspeed.

After demonstrating short and soft field takeoffs and landings we head over to runway 30 for an extreme crosswind landing. I brief the pilot that if he feels he can’t make a safe landing we can always go-around if he doesn’t like it. It will be good practice to fly the pattern correcting for drift and to establish the crab on final.

This time the crab angle was even more severe as the x/w was about 70º, the nose was pointed what seemed to be about 20-30 degrees left of centerline. The gusts made it bumpy too. Needless to say we were the only ones in the pattern. The transition to the wing low landing went well and to correct for drift with liberal right rudder to stay aligned with the runway. On the rollout it was FULL left aileron into the wind and we felt the airplane wanting to weather vane into the wind. It was interesting to say the least.

We decided once was enough so we taxied over to RWY 26 to depart for home. It was a workout for the pilot but a good exercise to brush up skills and build confidence in something that we may rarely do. Isn’t that the point of a flight review or an occasional dual session with a CFI?

So if your unsure of your ability in any area, grab your friendly CFI and go brush those skills up and get ready for those winds.