Monday, February 11, 2008

1st the air and feeling fine!

Hey everyone,

This will be my blog central for all adventures airborne! I saw many cool blog chronicals of persons journey from flight student to full private pilot. As such, I thought it would be additionally cool, even for my own benefit, to do the same! I'd love to hear comments, questions, etc... for those reading in! Thus far it's been a joyous, and yet sometimes humbling experience! (NOTE: This blog begins after I've already started flying, but does start at the beginning)

My First Flight (Dual):

Well the day finally came for me to take what I've learned so far in ground school, and actually fly a plane! As if the blog would suggest I'm working on my Private Pilot Certification!! As evidence per witting this blog, I survived...actually I did pretty decent considering I had zero experience. Sure I've accumulated 110+ Hours with Microsoft flight simulation, but it's not close to experiencing the real thing (but it certainly helped)! Turns out time in the sim helped me a great deal, epecially when the instructor has a sink or swim policy!!!! I couldn't believe the maneuvers I did on the first flight!! 6 assisted landings, 6 take offs (of course), engine stall simulation, 45° banks, shallow banks, pattern flying...OMG I'm still not believing it!

Mini Story Of That first Lesson
(For those who are interested, otherwise feel free to skip!):

I got there early, just in case, in hopes of calming my jitters. It didn't help. I scoured through the operation manual for the nearly new Diamond DA-20 C1 two seater, low wing, 2-seater aircraft. Jitter's continued. Somehow, knowing a choose a fuel injected, newly engineered aircraft did put me at some ease. The owner was giving a thorough look-through outside while I waited. A truly beautiful aircraft, with green stripes and N636DC registration number. (See Pics) Finally, Jeff finished up with his last student, fellow Classmate Seth, who flys the bigger 4-seater DA-40 with full Garmin electronic screen gauges.

We head out, do a full over pre-flight check on the airplane. I had no idea how comprehensive this is! If we did this sort of thing on our cars, I think breakdowns would be so much less likely! We checked part movements, linkages, fuel, oil...etc. The fuel shown a nice clear blue, indicating the 100LL Octane fuel...oooh yeah. Sooner than lickety split, she's untied and we're in the cockpit running through the pre-engine start check list. I'm going through this checklist quicker than I'm comfortable with, having never done it before, but Jeff reassures me I'm not missing anything. With the sound of fuel pumps roaring I called out the classic "CONTACT" shout, and the engine turns over...VAROOOM, and the torque shakes the plane a little. She's got a continental engine producing a mere 125HP, but it's more than enough in this 1656lb (fully loaded) vehicle! The older Katanas have a rotax 80 or 100 engine!

Now up to this point, I've had the notion I wouldn't be doing any of the PRIMARY flying (taxing maybe, but certainly not taking off, landing, etc). Next up Jeff says...ok now let's go ahead and taxi out. WHAT! With all the planes close by, certainly he didn't trust me to do so! Sure enough, I throttled up, began moving out...tested the brakes, and hit the right rudder for a right turn towards runway 20. Holy crud were the pedals tuff to get used to...if you push your feet at an angle it applies the brake instead of the rudder...boy oh boy...if I can't stay on the dang line (his phrase "Keep the line on your...&*^"), how am I even gonna fly this thing. Turns out you really need to use differential braking on these, which is accomplished pushing up on your toes.

After getting a hang of it somewhat, we arrived and held short of runway 20. Jeff said "ok, let's do a runup". So I held the brakes and mid-throttled the engine...WOW this puppy has some torque! With T/O flaps, magnetos checked, 1200 squak, and we were ready. He threw me another surprise by saying, ok, call it in! WHA? Me, doing the radio work already too? Ah goes "Pitt Greenville Traffic, 6-3-6-Delta-Charlie, ready to depart runway 20" "Excellent!" Jeff said approvingly. This was it, I throttled up and turned onto runway 20. This was totally wild! Manuevering yourself onto that runway for the first never forget that moment.

I was keeping on the lead line better and stopped at the numbers. I applied the brakes..."Oh you want to do a full power start eh?" Jeff exclaimed. Uh WHA? I was stopping because I thought he was doing the first take-off...ah I guess not! I'm nervous like all hell at this point, thinking I"m way over my head. I gradually apply full throttle, let go of the brake...and we're off heading down the runway. It's harder for me to see in this airplane, so I'm getting off the center line...rudder corrected... Jeff called to me to rotate (Pilot term for pitch the airplane up to begin taking off).

In no time, there I was, if it was a dream. I successfully commanded the plane into the air, at a calm climbout. Looking straight ahead, furiously scanning gauges and checking the real horizon. The sun was beginning to set.. euphoria set in. No time, however, to totally calm myself before more instructions head my way. "Give me a left bank of 20°"...I move the stick left, and give some left rudder to stay coordinated. I found left turns at full power hardly require any left rudder, just let off of the right rudder a little. OMG I'm really flying this thing...another turn to the right... Now I'm looking at the scenery more and I see the ECU Stadium from 1200ft. The lights are up and their practicing. This was blowing my mind.

Soon I'm working on climbing and decending, working the throttle, and I realize quickly...little planes can produce some decent Gs. It was like a roller coaster, pushing me into my seat when I reached to the sky, and causing moments of butt lifting on decents. This was some wild, but smooth, ride. We do a steep 45° left turn, and the glory of Greenville, NC looms calmly below. I recognize the hospital, and then, my neighborhood. As I look down, I wonder if my daughter Maggie & wife Meg have any clue I'm right above them at 2500 feet.

We turn around and head back to the airport. At this point he's stopped giving basic instructions, and just saying "go ____" So I head his commands and head to mid-field. I'm already much more comfortable with the plane now, but the rudder coordination is still tuff. We turn left, heading into a route parallel to the runway, called the "downwind leg". Jeff again asks me to make the announcment... "Pitt Greenville Traffic 636DC on downwind for runway 20" "Not Bad, but always mention if your in a left or right pattern." Now we're in what we call the landing "pattern," but I've also seen the term "circuit". Same thing you've seen on every airline flight.

By now, you'd think I'd noted the pattern of Jeff's sink or swim methodology...but my mind said "There's no way he's gonna make you land this thing". Survey says "EEEEH". I turn left into base, and note I'm right on the proper glide scope, and mention so. Jeff at this point starts inquiring..."Your doing way to well to be your first flight! Are you pullin' my leg?" You sure you've never flown before?". To which I shrug "nope, just in Microsoft Flight Simulator." "Ahh.." he replies.

So here we are, on the final approach, and this time Jeff radio's it in. Then he starts saying, "Ok, we're not gonna land, just glide down close to the runway"...."We're not gonna land"...he keeps repeating that. He helps me setting up the rudder, keeping it aligned with the runway centerline. Power comes out a little... I round out and begin pulling up to glide over...which he tells me to keep doing. In my mind, from sim, I know at this point....we're A)Slowing down, B) In a decent...we're freakin''s inevitable. Seconds later...I've made my first assisted landing ever, and it was fairly smooth. No bouncing...nice and soft. We ramp up the throttle and take off again...I'm late on the rotate, but hey, there's plenty of runway, left.

The third go round, suddenly, *brrrrrr*...the ending goes to idle.... "Welcome to engine cut out simulation" Jeff said. OMFG, your absolutely, got to be, kidding me. First flight, and he throws that at me? I immediately look left at the airport 1/2mile away. Looks like runway 26 is out best shot he says. We make it there with a heavy decent that really lifting my arse up from the seat. Still we make it, i guide it in, and touchdown...We did a few more touch-n-go's and the next one I came in too hot and heavy, and wee...can you say "bounce plane, bounce". Nothing huge, but enough for me to be embarrassed...yet Jeff reassured me it was normal, and surprised I hadn't done it sooner.

An hour had passed, and I taxied back to the aviation tie-down area. Once again the rudders challenged me...I'm really gonna have to work on that. Never the less, Jeff said he still couldn't believe it was my first time flying. He said I did extremly well, and that he pushed me because he could see I could handle it. *GRRRR* We go out, tied it down, locked it up and headed out. 1 hour down 12-14 more to go before I solo. Only two thoughts came to my mind... Holy crud, I actually flew a plane! Shortly followed by "I better pass my 3rd class medical!!"

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