Alan Porter's minimal net presence

Learning to Fly

I started flying lessons in September of 2005. By the end of September 2006, I had passed my check ride and earned a Private Pilot Certificate.

Below is a review of my 13 months of training.

Our first three lessons focused on the four fundamentals (straight-n-level flight, climbing, descending, turns), stalls, and a few touch-n-go's. The landings are my favorite exercise, but I am a bit wobbly. 34.07
I put the nice weather to good use. I took five more flying lessons. These built on the previous exercises, but we also worked on cross-wind landings and emergency procedures, and we visited two nearby airports (the much larger RDU in Raleigh and the smaller 5W8 in Siler City). 55.030
The unusually warm weather continued until right before Thanksgiving, and I continued to take advantage of it. I took three more flying lessons before the weather turned cold and nasty. We practiced a lot of landings and some more emergency procedures. 32.912
After almost six weeks of being grounded (due to the weather, then Thanksgiving, and then my surgery), I resumed my flying lessons. In the three lessons in December, we reviewed maneuvers and prepared for my pre-solo checkout ride. 32.88
I started off the new year with a pre-solo check ride with the club's chief flight instructor, George. For the most part, I did OK. But I forgot my flaps completely during one (rather fast) landing. And my approaches were not very stable. My next six lessons were cancelled due to weather. 11.64
After so many cancelled flying lessons, I had gotten a little rusty, so Norm and I practiced doing laps around the pattern. Then on Valentine's Day, Norm unleashed me on the unsuspecting flying public in Sanford. That's right, I finally soloed... three laps to a full stop. I thought I should be nervous, but I was not. Instead, I did three of my best landings ever, right on the center line (I have a tendency to land a little left of center).

I had two other flying lessons in February: one by myself doing laps (it felt very weird to go through the whole routine without an instructor around) and a trip to Fayetteville with Norm. From now on, we will be working more on navigation and radio work, which should be fun.

In March, I managed to get four flying lessons in. Three of them were solo in the pattern, and one was cross country with Norm. It was nice to get a change of scenery, and it was fun to pick landmarks and to work the radios. 43.917
April was the month of solo cross country trips. I went to Rockingham, Greensboro and Florence. Each one was a learning experience in its own way. At Rockingham, I decided that I needed to work on my initial approaches to the pattern. At Greensboro, I got confused talking to the tower controller. At Florence, I left the Hobbs meter running while I was on the ground. At the end of the month, I finally got back together with Norm for a quick introduction to short and soft field procedures (fun). 69.618
My flying career has slowed significantly -- I only had one lesson this month. Norm and I practiced short and soft field takeoffs and landings at a grass strip. Bad news and good news -- Norm got a "real job" with an airline. So I will find a new instructor. During the transition, I ended up with a handful of cancelled lessons. In the meantime, I did manage to go solo one time to practice my shorts and softs. 22.38
I finally got going with a new flight instructor, Betsy. She's nothing like Norm... she's a retired school teacher who teaches flying because she loves to teach and loves to fly (and yes, she gives me homework to do). We had one lesson together, instrument work ("hood work"). I also solo'ed once in the pattern, just to shake the rust off of my landings. 22.28
I continued my hood work with Betsy, and I scheduled what seemed like a hundred night lessons, waiting for a clear sky for our night cross country. Clear night? In the summer in NC? Forget it! We finally got our chance, and we flew to Stanly County (between Asheboro and Charlotte). Flying at night was very different from flying in the daytime -- takeoffs were a lot like instrument work, the view is very different, planning needs to be more detailed, you pick different landmarks. 46.712
The weather finally cleared up for some more night flights in the local pattern, takeoffs and landings. I also started my check ride prep. I had a total of six lessons and three solo practices in August. I am getting very close to being ready for my check ride! 811.830
On the last day of September, I took my check ride, the "final exam" to get a private pilot's license. The test has two parts: the oral exam and the flight test. The oral part is a barrage of questions about everything from weather to engines to aeronautical charts (maps). The flying test covers a lot of skills: "pilotage" (navigation using only landmarks and a chart), radio navigation, instrument-only flight, standard maneuvers like stalls and steep turns, ground-reference maneuvers, takeoffs and landings, and emergency procedures.

The oral exam went OK, as I expected. I had a few brain-farts, but I showed that I understood the material. I was not so confident about the flying part. There were items that I did better on (navigation, instrument flight) and others that I was not too proud off (crosswind landing, picking an emergency landing point). But the examiner was pleased, and at the end she printed out my new temporary pilot's licence certificate.

I asked Foong and the girls to meet me at the Sanford airport (the check ride was in Burlington). When they got there, I strapped the car seat into the plane and took my first two passengers for a lap around the field. Sydney was first -- she loved it, giggling and shouting the whole way. Audrey was second -- when we took off, she said her belly felt like we were really moving up.

Totals   4964.8190

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