Destressed.

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So as I mentioned briefly in yesterday’s blog post, yesterday I passed my checkride with an FAA Examiner and I am officially a licensed Private Pilot. My license allows me to fly a single-engine, land based aircraft (vs a seaplane) in VFR, or Visual Flight Rules conditions. Basically, I have to stay out of clouds. I can go above clouds, as long as I can get back under the clouds without passing through clouds to do so. I can also fly at night and I can carry non-paying passengers.

I think I’ve had some amped up, self-inflicted stress during my whole flight training experience, with the stress levels being especially high since I passed my oral exam in November. Normally, the oral exam and the checkride go hand-in-hand, but flying in Central New York at this time of year is a roll of the dice when it comes to weather. Thankfully, yesterday turned out to be a good, yet challenging enough day, to keep me on my toes with the examiner.

I’m still struggling with the idea that I have my license, because honestly, for the past 46 years I have dreamed of becoming a pilot and it seemed unobtainable at times. Flying airplanes is a thing that great people do, at least in my understanding of the world, and I feared I wouldn’t be great enough. This added to my stress. This was a needless addition.

I hadn’t slept very much between the oral exam and checkride so I thought for sure that I would sleep like a rock last night. Surprisingly, I didn’t. I would startle myself awake, probably from my body just letting go of some of the stress I had piled onto my psyche. I have a headache this morning and I know it’s from my mind trying to relax; I’ve felt this way only a couple of times before: after nailing a particularly challenging exam in college and after getting through my first role with speaking parts in one of my high school musicals. It’s a high and a crash at the same time.

So now that the realization sets in that I can fly the airplane when I want, with whom I want and wherever the airplane will take me, I’m starting to daydream about some things that I want to do as a pilot. I’ll be starting up classes again next year so that I can fly in the clouds if I need to. I want to get my commercial license so I can fly around aerial photographers or whatever. But more importantly, I want to get in the sky and enjoy doing what I have learned how to do and to continue to share that joy with as many people as possible.

And for that reason, the stress melts away and the smile lines are reappearing.

Accomplishment.

So today I became a licensed private pilot. I am now able to fly with passengers in a single-engine airplane. After 65 hours of practice time in the air, countless hours of studying on the ground, two written exams, an oral exam and today’s checkride, my first flying goal of becoming a private pilot is a reality.

I still can’t believe that I successfully passed my checkride today. I am beyond excited.

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Night.

With sanity restored for a few days (the end of Daylight Saving Time) before the insanity started again (the midterm election results), my instructor and I took the opportunity to do a little bit of night flying last night. Technically when we started the flight yesterday it wasn’t quite night but by the time we meandered around a bit (and I worked on maneuvers for my approaching checkride), it was plenty o’ dark quick enough.

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While flying at night brings interesting challenges to the sport of aviation, I have to admit that I really the extra challenge. Everything is beautiful from the sky; the city lights twinkle, the car lights snaking their way through the city streets.

With last night’s flight I am “night current” and once I get my ticket I will be able to take passengers at night. I am really looking forward to that.

Solo.

So on Sunday I went on a solo flight that wasn’t part of my official requirements to becoming a Private Pilot. Any flight time where I’m Pilot In Command is good and I’m always looking to get all the hours I can get, but the purpose of this trip was special to me. I wanted to fly into a Fly-In Breakfast this year and I wanted to go to the airport where my Dad belonged to the local chapter of EAA.

My instructor and I flew to KFZY, or Oswego County Airport in Fulton, a couple of weeks ago together so he would feel comfortable with my performance and endorse my logbook so I could make the flight solo as student pilots have restrictions when they’re flying the airplane alone. The flight to and from KFZY went without a hitch and I was given the endorsement to make the flight solo. I was very excited and barely slept the night before, though I felt great that morning and was more than ready, willing and able to make the flight.

The flight was awesome. The weather was perfect, there wasn’t a bump in the sky. The airplane handled wonderfully and I felt very confident behind the controls. One of the new experiences of this flight was the I was flying into a non-towered airport; in these instances, the pilots talk to each other on a common frequency and everyone works together to keep the area in and out and around the airport safe. The only caveat to this is that at smaller airports, some of the airplanes don’t even have radios, so you have to just kind of watch out for them. The important thing is that everyone is doing what is expected of them and that keeps things predictable and as safe as possible. Being predictable is an important part of training to become a pilot.

If you want to get a sense of what the traffic going in and out of the airport was like, I made a video of the experience. It’s rather long clocking in at 14+ minutes, but it gives one the sense of what I was hearing and watching for.

Earl was kind enough to drive back and forth to the airport so that we could have breakfast together. I told him that he shouldn’t have to drive to meet me for much longer because once I get my license we’ll be flying everywhere together. I am really looking forward to that day, but only if it’s as safe as possible for the both of us.

The flight in and out of the “non-home” airport was a good challenge for me and ultimately went well. While I was there I spoke with some other pilots and even showed one the photo in the office of my Dad standing next to his AcroSport II.

It was an amazing experience and just confirmed for me that becoming private pilot is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

IMG_0473Busy breakfast line. Delicious food served up by the Civil Air Patrol.

IMG_0482Posing next to the airplane before departing back home.

IMG_0485A shot of Interstate 81 as it crosses over the eastern end of Oneida Lake between Central Square and Brewerton. No, driving a vehicle and flying an airplane are not the same and while I don’t have a habit of using my smartphone while flying, I had the airplane at a point where I could snap this quick photo without anything startling happening.

IMSAFE.

A blog entry on FlyMachias about my latest flight adventure. This one was a big learning experience for me.

IMSAFE.

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Milestones.

So I have been taking private pilot flight training since the 30th of November 2013. It has been an awesome experience for me and when people ask me how much I love flying, the best I can tell them is that it’s the second best thing to ever happen to me. Ever. There’s no doubt about this in my mind. I like to think that I live life without regret, but I wish I had gotten started on my aviation career earlier in my life. Earl reminds me that I’m learning now because I was ready to learn now, not 10 years ago.

This past Thursday I had a lesson with another flight instructor. This is normal, as my flight instructor and this other one work together, are really good friends, and they cross-check each other to make sure they’re teaching everything they need to be teaching to student pilots. Plus, flying with a different instructor adds an element of pressure that helps determine if the student is ready to handle the pressure of flying the airplane solo.

After four landings, we headed back to the hangar and Russ told my flight instructor, Chuck, “I recommend him for solo, he can handle things safely in the air.”

Chuck looked at me and asked me, twice, if I was ready to fly solo and after a few seconds of thought, I answered in the affirmative.

“I’m ready.”

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I was nervous. After all, there wasn’t going to be anyone in the other seat that could compensate for any mistake I could make. I was confident, yes, but I was still nervous. And I was also very excited.

I made a turn around the pattern and performed what I considered to be my best landing to date. Feeling good, I went around and did it again. The landing wasn’t quite as good as the first; the wind had picked up a little bit and I came down a little harder than I would have liked, but my landing was safe, I didn’t break anything and I felt good. Since it was getting bumpy up there, I opted to make it a full stop. I taxied over to the hangar with a big grin on my face.

I was officially a solo student pilot. I can now fly by myself and practice landings. After a few times at flying solo and a few lessons with my instructor, I’ll be able to venture out a bit more.

I feel like here’s where the harder part of the training begins. I’m really on the road to becoming a private pilot. I am more excited than ever.

I reached a milestone on Thursday and it was one of the best moments of my life. On Sunday morning I went out and practiced landings all by myself. I have such a feeling of freedom in my being now.

I captured my first solo on video if you care to view it.

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Flight.

So yesterday one of the chapters of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) that my father belonged to had their annual picnic. It was being held at the airport my father last flew out of last December. Our family was invited as part of the picnic would be a memorial to my father.

My father always had a big grin whenever I rode my bicycle up to his house (around 60 miles) so I thought it would be appropriate to ride my bike to the airport. The trip was around 70 miles and since I have been active with my cycling again, I thought my body would be well prepared for it. The weather called for rain, so I wore my rain gear.  I found the ride to be quite enjoyable.  I was making good time and when I got to the halfway point I noticed that my bike started feeling really odd. I looked down and saw that I had a flat tire in the back.

Sigh.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had to change a tire on my bike while in the middle of a ride, but after a few deep breaths, I remembered how to do it and set about doing what needed to be done. It took a while to complete the task and during this time, four different vehicles stopped alongside the road to make sure I was okay and each driver seemed genuinely interested to see if there was anything they could do to help. I had everything under control but I expressed my thanks.

Just as I was getting ready to pump the tire up, my phone started blaring an alert about a severe thunderstorm warning. As fate would have it, I was right in the path of the storm that promised hail and 60 miles per hour winds. I looked up and sure enough, the sky was getting quite dark.  I hurried my pace and quickly tried to pump up the tire. And that’s when I realized that the CO2 based pump wasn’t seated properly on the tire stem, so I expended all the air that was suppose to into the tire outside of the tire instead. My tire remained flat. Luckily, the CO2 pump doubles as a mini hand pump, so I fiercely pumped up and down hoping to get enough air into the tire so I could at least get under cover before the storm came.  

No such luck.

I admitted defeat and called Earl and asked him to come get me. I continued trying to get the tire filled with air so I could head away from the storm. A short while later and still having no success, I picked everything up and got ready to head into a wooded area close by. I then looked up and saw my husband driving up.

The best laid plans…

Anyways, we finally got to the airport and had a lovely time at the picnic. Because the weather was still kind of dicey, some of the pilots didn’t feel comfortable with flying in the planned Missing Man Formation. I had expressed an interest in flying along in the planned formation, and though it was canceled, our friend Rich asked if I wanted to go up with him so we could see what was coming in for the next round of weather. 

So, in my father’s flight jacket, I jumped into the 1948 Piper Vagabond and we left FZR to do a few rides around the pattern, looking to see what weather was coming in so that others that had to leave by plane could get out before more storms moved in. It was the first time in over two years that I had flown in a small plane and it was the first time in nearly two decades that I had flown in a small plane with anyone but my father as the pilot. That being said, flying with Rich was like flying with family.

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1948 Piper Vagabond.

 

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Rich doesn’t like to yell over the engine like I did with Dad in the J-5 Cub Cruiser or the AcroSport II back in the day. We used an intercom. Wicked cool.


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Fulton, New York.


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Coming in for a landing. The stormy weather made the ride expectedly bumpy, but the landing was smooth. The vertical lines are actually my iPhone catching the spinning prop.

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Back on the ground and all smiles with Rich.

Flying with Rich yesterday made me remember how much I love to fly. God I’ve missed it.Yeah, flying on a commercial flight is fun and neat and all that, but flying in a two or four seater is where my passion truly lies. Though I inherited my Dad’s flight jacket, I really inherited his passion to fly. 

Rich and his son Scott flew a formation in memory of my father as they left the picnic yesterday.

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Formation.  Rich is in the Vagabond, higher up, Scott is in the Piper J-3 Cub (yellow), which is much like the J-3 sitting in the foreground of the photo.

It was a very special day for us in many ways. Gosh I miss my dad, but I think he was smiling the whole time, especially when he saw how much I was smiling (ok, there were a few tears).

And I can’t wait for my next opportunity to fly in a private plane again. 

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Repost from Aug. 23 ’05: “Flying With Dad!”

This is a repost of an entry from Aug. 23 ’05.

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Tonight I had the opportunity to do something I haven’t done in a long time. Dad and I went flying together.

My father has been a private pilot for a long time. I’ve complained about flying in the past, but those complaints are limited to flying the commercial airlines, mainly because they herd you like cattle through a shoot. I also have another beef, no pun intended, about flying commercially. I don’t know the pilot. And I can’t trust a pilot I don’t know.

I’ve been flying with my father since I was six months old. My grandfather was a private pilot, so we’d fly with him, and then my dad became a pilot in his late 20s. Where most people have blood flowing through their veins, my father has aviation fuel.

When I was growing up, we started off flying in the pilot’s association’s Cessna 150 (which is still going this day, I might add) and then a Piper Tomahawk. Later in the early 1980s, my grandfather and father bought a 1940 Piper J5-A that my dad stripped down to the metal and rebuilt. He had that for several years, before building the plane you see in the picture, his Acrosport.

The Acrosport is a lot of fun to fly in, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s open cockpit, so you get to wear all the Snoopy gear. I had the honor of wearing my grandfather’s pilot gear tonight. The passenger’s seat has the ominous warning: “PASSENGER WARNING: THIS HOME-BUILT AIRPLANE IS EXPERIMENTAL AND THEREFORE DOES NOT MEET FAA SAFETY REGULATIONS”. Who cares. It’s rare that I feel that free as when I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat of my father’s airplane. Just be sure to sit low in the seat so the wind doesn’t blow your sunglasses off!

Right after take off, the engine backfired a little bit and did a little sputter thing, just as we were banking to the right. My father straightened the plane to the horizon and it stopped. Another quick bank to the right to make sure it didn’t do it again, then a zip around 180 degrees to buzz (that means fly really low and fast) my sister and Earl, who were standing along the airfield watching us, both waving. Did the sputter worry me? Absolutely not. I was in the capable hands of my father, so that meant there was nothing to worry about. He’s been in worse situations and has never had even a close call. Nothing to fear.

The rest of the flight was awesome. We flew eight or nine miles to the west of my hometown to fly along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario a little bit before heading back home. I wasn’t ready to take the controls to fly yet, though Dad would have let me. I used to fly occasionally with the club instructor or my dad when I was younger, given the controls of the Cessna or the Apache. And I’m eager to try my hands at a Cessna 150 or 172, but not his Acrosport. Not yet.

Afterwards, we had a wonderful meal with my Dad, his girlfriend Karen and my sister Jennifer. Great conversation, delicious food and a flight down memory lane.

A wonderful evening.

You can click on the picture above for more pictures from the flight.