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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Now we're talking

Flying has certainly picked up for me lately which is an absolute blessing, due to yet another change of instructor. My last instructor is headed for the regional’s and doesn't really need to build any more time and I hate to say it but it was beginning to show. So I chose another flight instructor who I'm becoming good friends with away from the airport, but who also still needs to reach that daunting 1500 hours and is more flexible. Most of you may know, but I am currently still in the Army on active duty which is as you might imagine certainly a full time job. I'm scheduled to fly on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s from 3:30PM to around 5:00PM. We are encouraged to fly more but in order to do that your instructor must be accommodating. David, my new instructor, is always open for business which works out great for both of us. My rate of completing the lessons required by my school has tripled itself since we began flying together. Not to say my old instructor was a bad guy, which he certainly was not, he just had a lot of other things going on also namely being a drummer for his band which performs all over the state of Texas. Unlike most cell phone plans there was not a lot of night and weekend minutes with said instructor if you catch my drift. On the other hand, it's July 2nd as I write this and I will fly
To give you a little more background I attend Central Texas College located in, you guessed it, Central Texas. We are a part 141 aviation school with a pretty in depth syllabus to follow, and a nationally ranked flight team as well. My private through commercial and then on to multi-engine and CFI ratings will be obtained all in one place. It's set up as a regular college semester but the courses are pretty much self paced, so it's really up to your individual work ethic and drive. How bad do you want it? Another note worth mention is the cost. It cost just north of $4,000 to obtain a private pilot’s license here compared to around $7,000 in other areas. We have students that have come from a wide variety of places just for that reason. If you know anyone looking for quality training, and a degree I'd recommend taking a look at CTC. (I'll leave a link to the site here: http://www.ctcd.edu/aviation/)
What were we discussing again? That's right training. Flights have become so frequent that I have rarely had time to update this blog. We have been knocking out the lessons left and right. Oh by the way, those landings that I was struggling with? Well they are starting to come easy and my best is still yet to come. (More on that in a post coming soon) I've been able to experience the calm of flying in the morning time also due to David's flexibility and willingness to work weekends. It truly was a night and day difference landings would for sure be no trouble on this day were my immediate thoughts.
A couple of Sundays ago we arrived at the airport for my first 8:00AM flight time completely stoked to experience the smoothness first hand, but on the way I completely missed the fact that it was complete overcast with low ceilings. No worries though, my instructor was determined to fly so he contacted Gray Clearance and received an IFR Clearance to fly through and above the clouds so that I could legally still continue my lesson. The view was one of the greatest things I've experienced in my brief aviation career and I had a blast listening and working the radio in controlled airspace, and assisting my instructor with what I could while he guided us through this layer of clouds that topped out at around 4,500ft that morning. Once above the clouds we cancelled the IFR but stay on for advisories just to be on the safe side while in the practice area. It's always good to have your "big brother" looking out for you as well. If you're a student pilot and you have that ability and are comfortable on the radios I'd actually recommend it. However it is not to be substituted for our own vigilance, because the responsibility of avoiding other traffic is the pilots and the pilots alone in VFR conditions. I performed all maneuvers to PTS (Practical Test Standards), and then handed over the controls for the IFR portion back through the clouds. David decided to go for the ILS approach on the way back, and it was a good learning experience to be in the airplane to see that. To hear the radio calls and get a feel for how a real life ILS worked. I've done them on FSX more times than you can count and I hear it on www.liveatc.net almost daily, but it is so much better when you have a front row seat to the action even though I wasn't at the controls. No one said you had to be an instrument rated pilot to handle radio communications.
Once below the clouds and David had flown us down to minimums I took the controls and executed several touch and goes in the traffic pattern with each landing getting better and better. The calm air was gone by this time I regained control of the airplane, and the AWOS was broadcasting the usual winds 170 at 10 or something close to it  Oh well maybe one day I'll get a straight in no wind, no excitement landing.  That day would actually arrive sooner than I anticipated that it would, but I sure as hell wasn't complaining. We went over maneuvers for one more flight the following Tuesday, and then the very next time that I would fly, my instructor would leave the airplane for the very first time. I had no idea at the time but my first solo flight was just around the corner and I will tell you all about it in the next post.

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