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Crosswind Landings: Sometimes you Need a Challenge

I am so freaking pumped right now.

I am getting ahead of myself though.

I was honestly a little frustrated with myself after my last flight on Saturday. All we did was patterns at KRTS and a few down at KRNO, but I was still struggling with my flare. I had a couple of okay landings, but I was really struggling to put all of the pieces together. I wasn’t thinking of quitting or anything, but I was really frustrated with myself.

Last night I stayed up far later than I really should have playing Call of Duty. Not exactly a Sunday game, but I lost to the Browns in Madden so I really needed to take out some more frustration. The relevance of this tangent is that as I was going to bed around midnight I decided that I needed to get back to some good habits that I had let slip over the last month, so I set my alarm for 6 am, and went to sleep.

6 am came around far too early, but I knew I needed to stop making excuses and get up. When I get up in the morning I like to read while my house is still quiet and get my mind going for the day. It was challenging to stay awake and not just go back to sleep but I did it.

I got to work and took care of a handful of things I needed to do. It wasn’t a groundbreaking day by any means, but I was productive, which is always a good thing.

Sitting at my desk I could see that there were blue skies outside so I messaged my CFI to meet up at the airport after work. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, I can now get some flying in after work.

The second habit I needed to get back to was getting exercise. I have been doing terrible at that for the last month, so I left my desk an hour early and went over to the gym for some cardio. I was able to hold a better pace than I expected, which was just another win that I needed. I always feel so much better after exercising, so I can’t figure out why I make so many excuses not to do it.

While I was working out, my CFI messaged me to say that it was a little bumpy but that we could still get some more pattern work in. Bumpy is pretty normal in this part of the world, so I was not to be deterred. I finished my workout, got changed, and headed to the airport.

When I got to the airport the METAR was calling for 3kt winds at 180 which is not anything to be concerned about, but as you can see by the windsock in the picture, that weather reading was just a little bit off. We had a full sock most of the time we were out there so winds were actually more like 15-20 kts. Oh yeah, and it was a direct crosswind.

These were the strongest winds we had experienced at the airport so we talked about positioning controls on the ground for the wind as well as proper crosswind controls on takeoff. Based on my previous attempts I was pretty nervous about how I would perform in even more challenging conditions. But we also chatted about how much better many pilots are in challenging conditions because they are forced to focus more on what they are doing.

We took off and it was indeed a little bumpy with plenty of wind. I actually felt pretty good about my pattern shape and taking the winds into account. Unfortunately, my landings were still sucky. Everything was fine right up until touchdown and then I couldn’t position the plane properly so that we landed smoothly. I landed in a crab once, and my CFI actually had to take the controls once because the nose wheel started to get away from me. As you might imagine, I became even more frustrated and was actually about to suggest we just land and call it a day because I wasn’t sure any valuable training was happening.

Fortunately I didn’t say anything and he gave me the tip that I had finally needed to hear. He once again pointed out that I was still carrying a lot of energy across the threshold and that was leaving too much energy when I would go to flare which was causing me to float. So this time I pulled my power to idle shortly after crossing the threshold at about 50 feet.

Holy crap it worked!

I didn’t end up in the middle of the runway, but both mains landed smoothly and the nose came down relatively smoothly. With only a small correction we came back to centerline and took off again to join a fellow Cherokee in the pattern. It was fun to have someone else out there for the first time. The next landing was even better, and I was much closer to centerline at touchdown.

I finally was feeling better about myself and that I may actually get this down. As we were turning downwind my instructor pointed out that most young pilots wouldn’t even be trying to fly in these conditions, and if the second runway had been open, we likely wouldn’t have done crosswind landings either, but it is closed for construction until the Reno Air Races this fall. I came around with one more solid pattern, pulled power as we crossed the threshold, kicked in some left rudder, lowered that right wing, held back pressure as the speed bled off, and then brought it all back to center right as the mains touched down evenly on centerline. As the nose gear settled to the ground I could feel the excitement surge inside of me and I just wanted to shout with happiness.

Taxiing back to the hangar I was so incredibly pumped. I am sure my instructor noticed the change in my demeanor. After putting her to bed we filled out my log book and talked about preparing to solo. Unfortunately, weather will likely keep me from flying the rest of the week, and then I will be out of town for five days, so this my have been my last flight for the next ten days. That being said, if I have to sit and think about my last landing, at least I had three good ones to end on.

It may seem like the first half of this post has nothing to do with flying, but I am more convinced everyday that everything we do impacts our performance. Sleep, diet, exercise, and mental state all play in to how well you perform, and all of those variables play an even bigger role when you are first starting. In my full-time job I can get by without each of those being at their peak because I have strong enough habit patterns to overcome other deficiencies. I am nowhere near that as a pilot, but after today I feel like I will get to the same level of proficiency someday.

I really can’t even express how excited I am right now, and pissed that the weather sucks the rest of the week. The whole way home I cranked up the radio and would randomly clap my hands together and yell out because I was so excited. It is a side of myself that I don’t show very often, and generally one that I reserve for competing in sports. Maybe that is why I am so excited right now. I feel a little bit like the competitor I used to be. Either way, I am super excited right now, and can’t wait to get back in the air.

March 13, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

My Heart was Stolen by a Piper Cherokee

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I made the decision to finally finish up my Private Pilot Certificate. With as much as I love flying and airplanes, it was a more difficult decision than you may think, so let me give you the condensed backstory.

I have wanted to be a pilot my entire life, and through college I did a few small things that would take me in that direction, but I never got it done. After I got married I started working on my certificate, but it quickly became far too expensive and very unrealistic. (On that note, picking a flight school and instructor is a hugely important decision. Please don’t make the same mistake I did and pick the wrong school and end up putting it off for ten years.)

With 7.5 hours in hand I pretty much gave up on becoming a pilot for the time. Life events led me to take a chance at becoming a pilot in the Air Force, but instead I was selected as a navigator. While I was disappointed at the time, I have enjoyed the last 6 years immensely. During my training I logged another 14 or so of student time which actually got me halfway to the certificate, but not there yet.

As life does to many of us, it got in the way and there were simply other priorities. I would like to tell you I should have just sucked it up and done it then, and to be fair I likely could have made different financial decisions and gotten to this point sooner, but the reality is I didn’t and no one is to blame, it was just a choice I made.

Fast forward to about a month ago and I was told that my Guard unit would be having a pilot board for the Navigators in the unit. Initially I didn’t plan on applying because I was continuing to make excuses about being too old, and not wanting to spend more time in training in AETC (Adults Eternally Treated as Children, lol) which is the Air Force command that oversees all training.

One day I asked my boss if I was being stupid to not even apply and he immediately said yes I was. He gave me a bunch of very practical reasons which I could not disagree with. Still not convinced I called a dear friend who is currently in pilot training after having gone through Nav training with me 6 years ago. We spent about an hour talking about the practical reasons to become a pilot like potentially going to an airline someday and simply getting two more years of active duty orders. I finally told him to just tell me what to do, which he declined to do.

The next day I was out flying my beloved Herc and when I landed there was a message from my friend that simply said “Do it.” Surprised by his sudden willingness to tell me what to do I called him to find out why the change of heart. His response is what has led me to this day. He said,

“Dave, for as long as I have known you, you have wanted to be a pilot. Why would you now not even try to do what you have always dreamed of doing?”

Just typing those words again gets me excited. I had spent a bunch of time talking to multiple people about the practical reasons to do it, and they do play an important role in the decision, but what I really needed, and wanted, was to have someone call me on my BS so that I would stop making excuses and do something about my dreams. I will forever be indebted to Brian for being the one to push me out of my comfortable seat and pursue my dreams.

While there is nothing saying I have to get my pilot certificate to apply for the pilot board in my unit, there are two reasons I decided to do it anyway. The first is that I want to distinguish myself from the others applying, because we are all very similar in many ways. The second reason is that this was the opportunity I needed where there was enough incenvtive for my wife to let me take on the financial burden. Thanks sweetie.

Life is still such that I couldn’t just go the next day and start flying, but I was committed to finding a way to make it happen. With the help of a good tax return, and the support of my incredible wife, I came up with a plan to make it happen. The only thing stopping me when I got back from a trip for work was weather, and wouldn’t you know we had the two biggest snow storms of the year within days of my return.

Since I am no longer in the excuses business, all I can say is that I had to start a few days later, but the scenery all covered in white looks spectacular from the air.

Yesterday, I finally did it and got back up in the air. I spent 2.6 hours in a stunning 1964 Piper Cherokee, and she has completely stolen my heart. We had a few rough spots on that first day, but overall, it was the most incredible feeling. I really can’t even put into words how excited I am right now.

As you might expect after 6 years away from flying, I was a bit rusty on some maneuvers, but for the most part it all went pretty well. For my own personal accountability these are some of the areas I struggled with:

Using the rudder consistently

Transitioning from descent to touchdown on landing

Holding a steady sight picture when doing steep turns

Getting deep into the stalls and not just recovering at the first buffet

Fortunately, I ended the day on my best landing and I put some of the pieces together that my CFI had been telling me to finish on a high note. It was also the first work I had done at a non-towered field, but my past experience certainly helped me out in that area.

All in all it was just such an incredible first flight back at it. As I mentioned in my last post, my goal is to finish by the end of the month, whether that means I am done in time for the board or not. As far as I am concerned, the only thing that will stop me is weather, or scheduling issues. I refuse to not take control of the things I want in life, and continue to believe that every one else is what is keeping me from pursuing my dreams instead of just myself.

If there is anything I can do to support you in your dreams, even if it is just moral support, please don’t hesitate to ask because helping each other out is the way of avgeeks, and the only way we are going to grow this amazing industry.

March 6, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Tomorrow I Return to the Skies

That title may seem a little unusual seeing as how I fly pretty regularly, two times this weekend in fact. But, the difference tomorrow is that I will once again be at the controls of the aircraft.

It has been about seven years since I was last at the controls of the Mighty Katana (DA-20) at IFS for the Air Force. But after lots of waiting, the time is right for me to get it done.

What has changed in my life you may ask to allow for such a change in my pursuit of a lifelong dream? Absolutely nothing, other than that I can wait no longer, and I simply have to do it or I may just burst with regret.

I have been reading a lot of business books recently and listening to a lot of podcasts in the same realm, and the one thing that always sticks with me about these successful people is that they just go for it. It isn’t just throwing life to the wind and seeing where it falls, but it does involve not making any more excuses and going after what you are most passionate about. Just typing this out on my phone is getting me super excited. I may not sleep well tonight.

To be honest, the timing is not perfect, and the financial side of it is somewhat tenuous, but I refuse to wait any longer. To give a couple of my favorite references, in the movie Rudy his friend Pete tells him that, “dreams are what make life tolerable”, and we all know what that led to. If you don’t, go watch the movie because it is one of the best ever.

The other story is from when I was finishing up high school. My sister told me that most people don’t pursue what they really want because it will take work, or money, or most commonly, time. However, after the three or four years it would have taken to pursue their dream, those same people are in the same place doing the same crap. I don’t want to be that person.

I want to inspire other people. I want people to know that where there is a will there truly is a way. I want people to get out and fly because there is truly nothing like it in the world, and while many people fly commercially, it is a whole different world when you are the one at the controls.

I promise that I will be better about writing during this process, mostly because I want to put my thoughts out in text to analyze how to get better, and how to prepare. I also hope that maybe somebody else will look at this 36 year old and realize they can go do it too.

What finally tipped me over the edge was talking to a dear friend of mine that told me, “Dave, as long as I have known you, you have wanted to be a pilot. Why would you not do it now when you have the opportunity?” Like I said before, I don’t have this whole thing 100% figured out, but dang it, I am going to find a way to finally pursue my dream.

Wish me luck!

March 4, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Are Avgeeks Hurting the Growth of Aviation?

My brother, the healthcare IT expert, tweeted something a couple of days ago that has really got me thinking.  He said,

“I wonder how often the jargon we use prevents people that could benefit from joining our various communities.”

I am well aware of how much jargon I use when talking about aviation because the other people I work with are well versed in this jargon, and it is just easier to use it with them.  When I go out with my friends, and our spouses or non flying friends are with us, it is hard to not talk about flying because it is such a huge part of our life.  My wife has grown used to this and does a pretty good job at engaging other people so that she isn’t just as bored as they are.

I know this is an American MD-80 but that is about where my knowledge ends.

I know this is an American MD-80 but that is about where my knowledge ends.

I must admit that even I have been uncomfortable around certain groups of aviation experts because I felt that my avgeekyness was simply inadequate to be in their presence.  I am pretty good at identifying most commercial aircraft though I am far from polished when you get into all of the different variants.  I doubt I will ever know which engines are on which aircraft, and I guarantee I will never know seating configurations or other things like that.  I just don’t have the spare brain bytes for that right now, or probably ever.

If I can feel uncomfortable in that environment, then I can only imagine how someone with even less aviation knowledge would feel.  There are a lot of people putting forth a lot of effort to try to increase interest in aviation, but I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t the ones standing in our own way.

It is one thing to show awesome pictures and videos or to even share a flight together, but how often do we scare someone off because we just know too darn much?  If someone is new to aviation and you get talking about Lycoming engines, or even worse high-bypass turbofans, then it is entirely possible you could intimidate them.  Even talking about relatively simple terms like crosswind, downwind, base, and final could scare them off if they aren’t ready for it.  None of us like to admit we don’t know something.

Even a simple beauty like this Piper Cub could scare someone off if they don't know the right jargon.

Even a simple beauty like this Piper Cub could scare someone off if they don’t know the right jargon.

I’m not saying that we should insult their intelligence or oversimplify the truly complex nature of aviation, but I think it is important that we be very careful with how we respond to people who show interest in this amazing community.

Avgeeks can be some of the most inclusive and friendly people I have ever met.  I have stumbled across friends from Twitter at various airports and ended up spending the rest of the day with them enjoying the wonders of aviation together.  These are people who I had never met in person, but that I had an immediate connection with because of our love of planes.

As I previously mentioned, I have also been amongst groups that left me feeling inadequate because of their ability to rattle off all sorts of numbers and statistics.  This is likely in large part due to my own insecurities, but I can’t help but wonder if other people feel the same way, and have been scared away from aviation entirely.

Aviation jargon is an incredibly important part of aviation, maybe even more so than most industries because of the time sensitive nature of what we do and the efficiency that jargon can provide.  Let’s be honest, it is a lot of fun to sound cool when spouting off a clearance, or trying to impress a girl by knowing all the pertinent data on Boeing’s newest aircraft (if you find a girl who is impressed by that hold on to her and never let go), but it could also scare someone off that is just too timid to think they could ever be that cool.

I’m not saying we need to eliminate this jargon, or even minimize it, because if we can’t sound cool while we look cool around planes, then what is even the point?  Am I right?  What I am saying is that we need to be very cognizant of how we are using that jargon to ensure that we are using it in ways that will be inclusive rather than exclusive.  We avgeeks are the only ones that will be able to rejuvenate general aviation, and ensure that it has the booming future that it deserves, and I know that none of us would ever want to scare someone away.

When in doubt start them on the basics.

When in doubt start them on the basics.

So the next time you ask a girl if she fell out of a B-17, cause she’s the bomb (I love that movie), make sure she realizes you are talking about an amazing airplane and not the latest development in cancer research.

October 26, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Christmas in a Piper Cub

The first attempt to fly didn't get much past the hangar, but even there she sure is pretty.

The first attempt to fly didn’t get much past the hangar, but even there she sure is pretty.

It is amazing how much life can change in only one short year.  Last year at this time I was deployed to Afghanistan thousands of miles away from my family.  While not the worst Christmas I have had, it was certainly not where I wanted to be.

A year later I am back in Arkansas enjoying a break with my beautiful wife and kids.  On top of the much-needed family time, I was able to take part in an amazing experience this afternoon.

I have a friend that I work with that is the proud owner of both a Pitts and Piper Cub that he bought a couple of months ago.  I was thrilled to find out he had gotten a plane with a second seat because all I want to do is fly anytime, anywhere.  We tried to go flying a few weeks ago but it was just too dang windy to fly.  This really sucked because he is scheduled to deploy soon.

Few things bring me more joy than walking out to a plane to fly.

Few things bring me more joy than walking out to a plane to fly.

On Christmas Eve we were two of the roughly 10 people who showed up to work for some strange reason and he suggested that Christmas should be a good day to fly, so we agreed to get together in the afternoon after the traditional festivities.  Fortunately, the weatherman was right and it was a gorgeous day to fly.

By the time I got to the airport he was already up in the pattern getting a little work in and it got me super excited to actually get up in a small plane again.  He pulled into parking and I hopped in to begin an amazing hour and a half.

The awesomeness began with takeoff as with a slight headwind we were able to takeoff in only 200 feet.  While it was no zoom climb up thousands of feet, there is just something fun about taking off in less than the length of a football field with the wind blowing past the open door next to you.

While not really for those afraid of heights leaning out the side of a plane is just awesome.

While not really for those afraid of heights leaning out the side of a plane is just awesome.

That is one of the amazing things about the Cub, with the door open you gain a sense of freedom that really is like nothing else.

We casually flew our way down to the Arkansas river at about 1000 feet enjoying an extremely pleasant December day.  There were a handful of other people out enjoying the amazing Christmas weather which was nice to see.  Once we got to the river we followed it out to the West and my friend showed me some of his favorite spots to play around.

The first was a small island in the middle of the river with a nice open grassy area surrounded by leafless trees.  We came in low and dropped below tree level until the end of the island and then popped back up over the top of the trees.  With my weight added to the plane and the tail wind it just wasn’t a safe move to put it down there.

This is what freedom looks like from the air.

This is what freedom looks like from the air.

We then spent the next hour or so cruising up the river checking out sandbars, a small abandoned runway, and the newest airport in the area which just recently began IFR service. We never broke 1500 feet or 95 knots which may sound incredibly boring, but it was quite the opposite.

It was incredibly exhilarating to literally fly amongst the birds and enjoy the wind blowing through the plane.  It is something that truly must be experienced to fully appreciate.  I genuinely hope this is the first of many flights in not only the Cub but in any other old tail-dragger that reminds me of how much fun flying is supposed to be.  Planes like this are what bring the wonder to aviation in this modern age of technological bells and whistles.

There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than VFR flying with a friend.

There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than VFR flying with a friend.

One of the incredibly cool things about this experience was the landing.  At our local airport they have an agreement to keep the grass mowed down so those who want to can land on the grass next to the runway.  Just one more example of the fun that can be had in a plane like the Cub.

I am incredibly grateful to my friend Harrison and wish him the best of luck and safety during his deployment.  The world needs more true aviators like him that really understand what flying is all about.  I have already learned a lot from him and I look forward to continued adventures once he returns.

December 26, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Improving Aeronautical Charts Will Improve Safety

As a Navigator, most people really have no idea what I do when I fly.  I can’t say I blame them since there are almost no commercial aircraft that fly with a navigator, or engineer, anymore.  With the growth of GPS use there honestly isn’t much need for us most of the time.  Even the plane I currently fly on is being replaced by one that doesn’t need a navigator, or an engineer.

With that being said, a lot of the work I do outside of flying is important to the missions that all kinds of different aircraft do.  The vast majority of work that I have done for the last year or so is building charts for us to fly with.  I won’t bore you with the details of what that entails, but suffice it to say that it is essential to keeping our crews safe so they can effectively accomplish their missions.  As a navigator, utilizing my chart effectively is vital to getting us where we need to be and when we need to be there to drop off our cargo.

The rugged terrain of Alaska’s Mystic Pass, looking north. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

The rugged terrain of Alaska’s Mystic Pass, looking north. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Chart reading is a diminishing skill in this modern era of GPS, which is really a shame, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter how well you can read a chart if the chart is inaccurate.  The crazy thing is that many of the charts we use today were made as many as 50 years ago.  I’m sure it is not much of stretch to convince you that quite a bit has changed in the landscape in 50 years or so.

What’s awesome is that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), who is responsible for keeping those charts updated, is actively working to do just that.  The Washington Post has a great article about the details of that program and how it is slowly working to improve safety in the greatest frontier in the US, Alaska.  They wrote about how awesome this program can be better than I could, but there is one aspect of the story that I want to focus on.

These updated charts will drastically improve safety in all parts of the US, but most of all in Alaska where, according to the article, you are 36 times more likely to die than the average US worker.  That is just unacceptable when the ability exists to drastically improve safety.  Improved technologies like airborne lasers (lidar) and radar (ifsar) are capable of creating not just better paper maps, but collecting the data necessary to improve GPS and other new devices that can save these courageous pilots’ lives.

Unfortunately, the government’s inability to pass actual budgets has stalled the project and delayed the benefits that it can bring.  There is so much benefit to be realized that some of the contractors have continued working in the hope that the funding will ultimately materialize.  It is incredibly irresponsible of those in a position to make a difference to stand idly by while they could take action that will save lives.

The aforementioned article gets into some of the specific numbers but it is a relative pittance that would be needed to have significant financial improvements to go along with the safety benefits.  At this point we can only hope that those in a position to make this happen will get past the politics and take action so that they can make the money they so anxiously pursue, but more importantly save the lives of people who deserve the best information we can give them.

October 20, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Precision Makes All the Difference in the World When Flying

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

I have been actively flying in the Air Force for only a little over three years which makes me pretty much a baby in so many ways.  For that reason I have decided I need to start analyzing the things that happen on my flights and ensure that I am taking advantage of every opportunity I have to learn.

The reason I am writing these lessons here is that I am hoping to get feedback from others on lessons they may have learned in similar situations or maybe even totally different ones.  I have always thought that part of being an aviator is sharing thoughts and ideas to make us all better.  Conveniently, I had a good learning experience just last night to share.

So as the navigator on the C-130 it is my responsibility to ensure that the pilots take us to the right spot for us to kick a load out the back and fall where I want it on a drop zone.  In the real world this could be anything from heavy vehicles, people, ammunition, water, food, to pretty much anything that a warrior on the ground could need.

As you might imagine, it is critical that the load falls where it is needed so that it can be quickly retrieved and minimize the amount of time that the people on the ground are in danger.  While there are certain aspects of the process that are somewhat scientific, a lot of it is based on the experience and expertise of the navigator directing the plane where it needs to be at the right time.

With all of that being said, the C-130 is a crew aircraft and it takes all of us working together to get that load where it needs to be.

On a crew of 6 we had two females.  We need more of that.

On a crew of 6 we had two females. We need more of that.

So last night we executed a quality route to an airdrop which led to me calling for the drop at just the right time at which point the co-pilot is supposed to flip two switches, releasing the load so that it lands right on the desired point of impact in the center of the drop zone.

What actually happened was that the co-pilot flipped one switch and the load didn’t immediately go out.  As I said before though, I am on a crew aircraft, and the loadmaster did her job and released the load, albeit about 1.5 seconds later.  That may not seem like much, but when we received our score it was 150 yards past the point of impact.

That means that in a real-world situation the people on the ground would have had to travel about a football field and a half to get their supplies while possibly under fire from the enemy.  I think it’s pretty obvious to see why that is not ideal.

As with any time that I don’t get the score I am looking for (perfection) I began to analyze what had happened to correct it for the next drop.  Did the winds change?  Was the plane not in position?  Did I make the call late?  It could be any number of reasons, but in the end I am trying to learn and I really couldn’t come up with anything other than maybe I just called it a couple of seconds late.  So that was the adjustment I decided to make.

Unfortunately, neither the co-pilot nor the load master had told me what had happened so when the next drop came around I ended up dropping almost the same distance from the point of impact, but short instead of long.  It wasn’t until we landed an hour later that I found out what had happened, and it all came together in my mind.

Part of flying is enjoying the scenery, which you can't do if you aren't being precise.

Part of flying is enjoying the scenery, which you can’t do if you aren’t being precise.

So there are really two lessons that came from this experience, one of which I didn’t even think of until I started writing so I guess this whole idea is working for me.  The first lesson is something I have already written about in the past, crew resource management (CRM).  We talk about CRM before every single flight and this just reinforced to me how essential it is at all times.

The second lesson is how important it is to be precise at all times when flying.  In this situation it could mean a really long run for needed supplies.  During takeoff it could mean hitting a fence or tree because you didn’t climb fast enough.  On landing, it could mean you don’t quite make it to the runway which could have terrible results.

The point is not to scare anyone, but to re-emphasize how important it is to be precise in everything that you do as a flyer.  Don’t accept short cuts or a lack of precision from the people you fly with.  Set standards for yourself and when you don’t meet them analyze how you could have done better.  Ask for feedback from other people you fly with and apply it.

Being a true aviator means you never stop learning, and always work at improving yourself.

October 7, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Becoming a Licensed Pilot This Year

By the end of the year I will have one of these with my name on it.

By the end of the year I will have one of these with my name on it.

I know I say it all of the time, but I love planes and everything about them.  Most of you probably do too, and that is awesome.  I read about aviation all of the time, I write this blog, and I talk about it every chance I get, much to the dismay of the non-avgeeks I interact with.

Despite this passion, I have an admission to make, I don’t have my private pilot’s license.  I started it about six years ago, but the birth of my daughter and dozens of other excuses have since gotten in the way.  I currently have just over 22 hours in the C-172 and DA-20 aircraft which is roughly less than half of what I would need to finish.

However, the writings of others, namely Dan Pimentel and Brent Owens, has inspired me to commit to finishing my PPL this year.  I already shared Dan’s article about increasing the number of pilots on the FAA records to 1 million which is really where this all started for me.

Then last week Brent wrote about how if you really want to fly that you can find a way.  Pretty much all of us have things we could cut out of our lives that would allow us to spend more time/money on flying.  The reality is that if you want something bad enough, you will find a way, and after dreaming about being a licensed pilot for essentially my whole life I have decided now is as good of a time as any.

The reason that I am posting this is because I would greatly appreciate your support and encouragement as there are a few challenges in my way.  The difference is that I am trying to find ways to make it happen as opposed to just making the excuse and moving on.

The first challenge that I have is that I am in the middle of a Master’s degree program that I have to finish first.  I have to have it for professional reasons, and I am already financially invested so I can’t just set it aside.  There is no reason that I shouldn’t be able to finish it by the end of the year and still have time for the PPL though.

I think I know what my goal for next year is going to be already.

I think I know what my goal for next year is going to be already.

The second challenge is one that I have written about before, and the one that prevents so many of us from finishing, or even starting.  I have to have the money.  I still haven’t figured this one out yet, but I am determined to beg, steal, borrow, and cheat to get it done.  Okay, I’m not going to steal or cheat, but I am begging you to support me through visiting this blog as well as any other suggestions you may have.  Brent has provided me with quite a few ideas in his great eBook The Pilot’s Guide to Flying on a Budget, but I am always open to new suggestions.

The last challenge is a wife who doesn’t think it is possible.  However, if I can find a way to help her see the possibility I know she will be supportive because she always has been with the adventures we have taken together.

I intend to post occasionally about my progress for anyone that may be interested.

Lastly, I am looking for people who are also willing to commit to this challenge of mine.  I have found that I am more successful when I have people with the same goal as me where we can help encourage each other.  If you already have your PPL then by all means pick a different flying goal and let’s support each other in that.

If you are interested in working together, please leave a comment about what your goal is and how I can help you reach it.  You can also contact me on Twitter or Facebook.  I am always willing to help in any way that I can.  Maybe we can create a community of people that are committed to helping each other get there, and not just talk about it.

Then by the end of this year we can all celebrate reaching our goals, and make new ones for the next year.  I look forward to hearing about your goals and dreams.

January 4, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 12 Airplane

The Global Express has long been my favorite corporate jet.

The Global Express has long been my favorite corporate jet.

The last day has finally arrived, and like I said earlier, I have saved the best for last.  For the twelfth and last day of Avgeek Christmas, I strongly recommend you buy your favorite avgeek an airplane.

But it can’t just be any airplane.  If you really love them a lot then you should buy them a Bombardier Global 5000.  That’s right, for the incredibly reasonable price of only $30,500,000 the beautiful plane to the left can be yours.  I mean is there really any question here. Just buy it, and thank me later. (If anyone does buy this plane I expect a finder’s fee.)

Okay, so maybe a Global Express is not the right plane for everyone, or most people actually.  If however it is in your price range, please send me an email with your contact information, we need to become friends.  For the rest of us, there are still quite a few options believe it or not.


The SD-1 minisport is one of many LSA’s that really opens up flying to more people.

One option if you are looking to buy a new plane at a comparatively reasonable price is a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).  Not only are they cheaper to buy, the training is simpler, and you don’t even need a special medical certificate.  There are quite a few out there now, but one that I found that looks like a lot of fun is the SD-1 Minisport by Skycraft Airplanes.

This LSA cruises at 120 knots with a range of just under 600 miles.  The engine is so efficient that it burns only 1.8 gallons per hour at cruise, and has an overall operating cost of only $12/hr.  It even has a glass display in the cockpit with GPS and wings that can be removed to transport it in a trailer if you want to.  All of this can be yours for the reasonable price of $55,000 and only a $2,000 deposit.

In the event that price is still a little to high for you might I suggest something in the used aircraft category.  As always there are tons of options depending on what you are looking for.  Sites like Browse the Ramp and Aviation Classifieds will give you plenty of fun stuff to browse through if you have a free afternoon.  Here are a couple I found recently.

The Piper CUB is an iconic aircraft that any avgeek would love to fly.

The Piper CUB is an iconic aircraft that any avgeek would love to fly.

Again in the LSA category, I found this Piper Cub for sale at only $33,000.  The Cub is one of those planes that just about every avgeek can admire.  Even people who are diehard followers of a certain company will often have a soft spot in the heart for the Cub.  I don’t even really know what it is, but they are just a fun little plane that hearkens back to the early days of aviation.

The second one I found is an experimental tail-dragger that you may run across at your local airshow because it is also fully aerobatic.  This Pitts S1S is simply stunning and according to aerial demonstrator Lauren Richardson, “They are the best fun you can have with your clothes on. Trust me!”  That right there is a pretty ringing endorsement if you ask me, and all of that fun can be yours for the rock bottom price of only $31,500.  If you think about it, I bet most people spent more on their last car, and I don’t think any car could be this much fun at that price.


The Pitts S1S is a fully aerobatic plane that will take you for a trip every time you start it up.

I for one was surprised to find such nicely maintained planes at prices that low, but there is still no way I could buy a plane even at that price as I am sure most of you couldn’t either.  But that’s okay, there are still a few more options that I had never even really considered until just a couple of weeks ago.

If you read my blog very often, and I hope you will, then you probably saw my post titled, “Becoming a Pilot at a Discount”.  The post was mostly just my thoughts on how we could make flying cheaper, but the comments were what truly inspired me.  One person in particular, Jeff, left a string of comments about how restoring an older aircraft is possible for just about anyone who is willing to do the work.

The best advice that was given over and over was to find a mentor who can help you pick the right plane and get you through the process.  Another great resource is your local EAA chapter who is devoted to helping with experimental aircraft in particular, but any budding aircraft enthusiast.

A couple of other sites that were mentioned for finding aircraft were and  In just a few minutes of searching on those sites I found dozens of aircraft for less than $20,000 and many below $10,000.  Obviously, the cheaper they are, the more work that may be involved, but that sounds like part of the fun to me.

One of my recent excitements that I hope to carry through the rest of my life is the desire to spread aviation to more people who have the interest but just don’t know where to start, or don’t think it is even possible for them.  I know those people are out there, it is just a matter of getting them involved.

I know I started this post with a ridiculous option that most of us couldn’t afford with our lifetime earnings, which is still fun to dream about.  However, I hope that I have shown you in some small way that owning your own plane is a very real possibility.  If I haven’t, go read through the comments from the post that I mentioned and maybe the great people who commented there can get you just as excited as I am.

My Christmas Day is coming to a close here on the other side of the world, and it has been a fine day with some good friends around some awesome aircraft.  I hope that you are able to enjoy this day doing something you love with the people that you love, because that is what these holidays are all about, people.

So whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or whatever holiday you may celebrate.  My best wishes to you and your family, and lots of wonderful aviation adventures in the new year.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

December 25, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 8 Handheld GPS

The cheapest way to go is attaching a GPS receiver to your iPad, phone, or other device.

The cheapest way to go is attaching a GPS receiver to your iPad, phone, or other device.

You can have lots of flying with nothing more than old steam gauges in your cockpit.  In fact, sometimes all of the technology can bog us down from enjoying the actual flying itself.  That being said, there are a couple of pieces of equipment that can make your life easier in certain situations.  We’ll look at the second one tomorrow.

For the eighth day of Avgeek Christmas we will take a look at a couple of different GPS units available for flying.  I should mention that it is possible to buy an attachment for your favorite tablet, phone, or laptop and use that as a GPS device.  That is generally the cheapest choice, and in some ways the best because then you can have the GPS interact with any other flight related apps you may have also purchased.

When it comes to actual handheld devices there are two companies that essentially own the market, iFly from Adventure Pilot, and Garmin.  I’m sure many pilots will talk your ear off about why one is infinitely better than the other, but I would venture to guess, like most things, it is personal preference.  Garmin is definitely the more widely recognized name, as well as what I have the most experience on.

The iFly 720 sports a nice 7" touchscreen that is easy to read, but not bulky.

The iFly 720 sports a nice 7″ touchscreen that is easy to read, but not bulky.

Both systems offer many of the same features like aviation charts, terrain avoidance alerts, and airfield maps/directories. Some of them will even give you a map of the airport to help you taxi more effectively.

Both companies also offer the ability to use your GPS on the roads too, so once you land you can still figure out where you are going with turn by turn directions on some models.

The iFly system comes in both a 5″ and 7″ touchscreen model.  They are also somewhat cheaper than the Garmin models likely, because they are not as well-known.  The 5″ model starts out in the $450 range, and the 7″ comes in closer to $700.

The Garmin aera796 3-D view is almost like a flight-sim version of your plane, as you fly.

The Garmin aera796 3-D view is almost like a flight-sim version of your plane, as you fly.

There is also a subscription fee involved to keep your charts updated which comes in at $69 a year for the basic package, and an additional $40 a year for IFR charts.  Compared to buying all of that in paper that is a very reasonable deal.

Garmin on the other hand offers a whole range of shapes, sizes, and complexities that range anywhere from about $600 to $15,000 or more if you get some of the in-panel models.  Even some of the higher end handhelds will be in the thousands of dollars, but they do offer some pretty cool features.

One of the coolest features that is on some of the higher end models is the ability to look at a 3-D view of you flight.  In essence you can watch a little window on the screen that will give you a 3-D rendering of your plane in the airspace.  So you can essentially watch your 3-D plane land as the real one does.  Kind of cool, just don’t watch it instead of the real ground.  I could see that as being very reassuring in IFR conditions though.

ADS-B receivers will be mandatory in the US in 2020.

ADS-B receivers will be mandatory in the US in 2020.

I would go into the pricing for their update subscriptions, but let’s just say it is a 16 page document on their website, so I will spare you.  In simple terms, a single update will run you around $50, with yearly subscriptions starting in the low hundreds, and going up into the thousands for the higher end models.  Just keep that in mind as you are deciding what to buy.  A GPS receiver can be a great tool, but if it is out of date, it quickly becomes less valuable as accuracy is paramount in aviation.

The last thing I will mention is the upcoming need to have ADS-B in your aircraft.  I won’t get into what exactly it is capable of doing, but it is their to help make the airspace safer and more efficient.  It is also going to be a requirement in the not to distant future (2020 in the US).  So it might be worth considering a GPS unit that also has ADS-B capability.  There are a number of different units out there that do one or the other, or both.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

December 22, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.