An interesting day of flying

aviation, Flight Instruction, Flying Is Fun

My weekend office

Another flying lesson this morning.  Despite dire warnings of an approaching storm, my instructor decided that we could go up.  Today’s flight was to practice slow flight and then start getting into stall recovery.  I’ve been nervous about this part of the training but off we went.

A crappy picture of my weekend office.  The Cessna C172R is a cramped area and you’re really up close and personal with your instruments which is a good thing because they can save your life.  The six instruments in front (called the Six Pack) give you all the information you need to make sure you’re flying straight and level.

Not much of a viewPeople always say that the view must be fantastic.  Not so much.  There’s not a whole lot of visibility forward as the windscreen is so high.  The magnetic compass sits front and centre and you’re usually looking through the spinning prop.  In slow flight you can actually get hypnotized by the blades and have to force your focus past them.  Here I’m sitting in the airplane waiting for Steve to show up.  The wind was just starting to gust up and the little Cessna was bouncing around quite a bit.

We finally got off the ground.  It was a good takeoff and I got to practice my crosswind procedures.  We headed north until we were over the Shelburne wind farm which is part of practice area – not many houses below if you decided to do something stupid.

Spent about an hour in slow flight.  This involves pitching the plane’s nose up as you reduce power.  The trick is to do this while making sure that you don’t lose or gain significant altitude.  It’s an important part of the exam and we kept at it until I finally started to get it right.

Weather moving in

So here we are at about 4,000 feet when we notice that the storm front is coming in a lot faster than predicted.  Figuring that we still had some time, Steve stalled the airplane a couple of times so I could get a feel for it.  What a hoot!  Cut the power to idle and start pitching the nose up until the speed falls to 44 knots which is flaps up stall speed in the Cessna.  The stall horn starts blaring and it sounds like an angry mosquito in your ear.  Just like clockwork, the plane loses lift and you start to drop – straight down.  Steve immediately drops the nose to start air flowing over the wings and brings the power back on.  The first time felt like being on a roller coaster as it crests the top of a rise.  My stomach was somewhere behind my ears and just wanted to get out and walk.  The second one, now that I knew what was coming, was a whole lot of fun.  Steve makes it look easy and my turn comes next Sunday.

By now the ceiling had dropped so low and the visibility so crummy that Steve had to handle the ride back to the airport.  With the headwind, we actually got the airplane to stand still.  He was trying to make it go backwards but we didn’t have any more time to mess around.

A bumpy approach and a textbook crosswind landing and we were back on the ground.  I taxied up to the pumps and we had to chock the wheels as even with the brakes on the light little C172R was still moving forward.  I think we made it back just in time.

All in all, one of the best days I’ve had in the air.

Weather is fun

Flight Instruction, Flying Is Fun

This week in ground school we had the second of three classes in meteorology. You think you know weather but until you start to look at through a pilot’s eyes you really have no idea of how important and complex it actually is.

Through how air moves (predictably) to the different types of clouds and what they mean to the dangers that weather holds for small aircraft, it’s a fascinating part of the studies. Unfortunately, I’m going to miss the final class next week as I’m off to Vancouver on business. I can make the class up later but I think it’s best to take all 3 in a row so I’ll jump out of the current schedule and pick it up again on a different night.

In the meantime, I’ve picked up a few books on the subject that I’ll read while I’m away.

If you’re interested in the subject, a good place to start is the Cloud Appreciation Society where you’ll find thousands of cloud pictures.

Fizzy Flying


If you’ve never been to FARK, you’re missing some fun.  Of particular note are their Photoshop contests where insanely talented submitters have some fun.  Here’s an example from today’s “Unforeseen consequences of the energy crisis” contest. 


Submitted by user “inebriated brain”, it provides an interesting idea for the airlines who are suffering under the burden of high fuel costs.

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Flight training


Cessna 172 engine Week 4 of ground school.  Focus was on engines and airframes.  More and more information is coming fast and furious and I think my head is just about full.  In two weeks, I’ll be writing my PSTAR exam which is a critical milestone for my license.  Minimum pass rate is 90% so I’ve got some studying to do.  Luckily, it comes when we’re on vacation so there will be some cram time available.

Just over a week to go before my medical.  Again, a  really critical step.  No pass, no license.

This morning, spent nearly 1 1/2 hours in the air.  Today’s training was on turns.  Mild, medium and steep turns finished up by a collision avoidance turn.  That one was fun!  Cut the power, bank about 45 degrees to the right and dive 500 feet while turning 90 degrees.  Scared the crap out of me when the instructor did it but was a real blast when I did it myself.  Total flying hours are now 5.10. 

Rocky Mountain High


Mountains and Engines

Ok, so it’s a corny headline.  Heck it works.  High above the Rockies from seat 12F on a Air Canada A320.  I’d forgotten just how majestic they were.  I’ve seen the Alps and, yes, they’re beautiful too but there’s something about the Rocky Mountains that makes the Canadian heart stir.

A normal economy flight – no meal (unless you buy it) but I was in a good seat.  Watched the movie “Cloverfield” and you should save your money.  The same jerky camera style that made “The Blair Witch Project” so hard to watch.  Bargain basement CGI monster but at least it wasted and hour and a half.

I’ve made it as far as the Richmond Inn and so far all I see is construction.  It’s almost as if they were preparing for something.  Oh yeah, the Olympics.  After work tomorrow, I hope to make it over to my old stomping grounds of West Vancouver and North Vancouver.  Lots of places to see.

White Spot

Of course, no trip to Vancouver would be complete without a trip to White Spot for one of their Triple “O” hamburgers.  Those things have been clogging my arteries since 1967 when we moved out here.  They don’t taste as good as I remember but at least I made my pilgrimage.

Aviation history


Had a great evening last night at the Canadian Aviation Museum.  We were treated to an empty museum and we even got a tour of the storage hanger.

I didn’t shoot all 250 pictures – only 233.  I’ve got lots of processing to do when I get back home but here’s a little teaser.

RL-206 was the last Avro CF-105 “Arrow” and was still under construction when the project was scrapped and all aircraft ordered destroyed.  Some enterprising Avro employees hid the nose section from the wrecking bar and it now sits as a sad tribute to this dark time for the Canadian aviation industry.

The weather this morning is crappy.  Guess I’ll attend the sessions instead of going downtown.

I’m a Capitalist


Greetings from Ottawa, Canada’s Capital.  Air Canada got me here briskly on one of their little Embraer E190’s and the 2008 Dodge Charger that Thrifty rented me finally found it’s way to the Chimo Hotel.  It would have been a lot easier if they hadn’t closed the onramp to the highway.  Unfortunately, my GPS doesn’t have a live update feature to warn you of construction.

The Canadian Aircraft Historical Society meetings have started but nothing on the agenda excites me this afternoon so I’ll wait until our excursion to the National Aviation Museum gets underway in a couple of hours.

I’m looking forward to seeing the collection of classics.  They dropped a brochure in the welcome package and they certainly have a few I’m looking forward to seeing:

  • The Silver Dart (first powered flight in Canada)
  • Curtiss JN-4 Canuck
  • De Havilland Beaver
  • Douglas DC-3
  • Boeing 247D
  • Avro Anson
  • Spitfire
  • Meserchmitt BF 109F
  • Avro Lancaster X (same model as my museum’s restoration project)
  • Sopwith Camel
  • Bell Huey helicopter
  • Lockheed Starfighter
  • and others

Another treat will be to see the largest remaining piece of an Avro CF-105 Arrow.  The nose is the biggest thing to survive the wrecking ball.

I’ve got enough digital cards for 250 pictures and I’ll probably run out before the night is over!

Tomorrow morning, I plan on getting up beaucoup early to take drive downtown and walk around Parliament Hill and Sparks Street.  It’s about 20 years since I’ve been back in Ottawa.



October 1st, 17:15 Took a cab from Jake’s to the airport for my trip to Zurich.  Along the way, we passed the site of the Air France crash.  Nothing to see but it looms large in your mind.  It truly is a “ghost ship”.
18:00 Arrived at airport.  People wonder why I check in early and here’s the reason why.  I was told that my ticket was now standby because they’d had to change equipment.  Sweet talked the agent for a little while and manged to get a confirmed seat (13C).  Hmmm….. if I see a black cat coming down the aisle, I’m bolting.
Nothing is guaranteed to tighten the scrotum faster than hearing that a flight has been overbooked.
18:15 Sitting in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge.  A cocktail, a sandwich and a cookie.  Fellow loungers look like passengers anywhere but we have better chairs and free booze.  Hip young businessmen, buttoned down drones enjoying a perk and young families and old-timers cashing in their Aeroplan points to travel in what passes for style nowadays.
19:25 Gate 522.  The natives are getting restless as the gate agents call them up one at a time to change their tickets or give them the bad news that they’re not flying out tonight.  It feels like 120 degrees and the agents are getting desparate as they try and find their victims.
20:00 I’m actually in my seat onboard the aircraft!  The flight attendants look like Tokyo subway pushers as they try and get everyone seated to meet a somewhat close on-time departure.  Question – doesn’t anyone check their luggage anymore?  Everyone seems to be determined to cram all their worldly goods into the overhead storage bins.
I’m two rows away from business class and the Broadway show has already started. Rumor has it that they’re actually going to stage a production of Aidia later, complete with animals!  Am I jealous?  You bet.  Here I sit in steerage and they’re just about to hand out the oars.  We should set sail any minute now.
20:15 Pushback!  Only 5 minutes late and I am impressed.
21:30 37,000 feet somewhere near Quebec City.  We just finished tonight’s exciting round of “Guess The Meat”.  Brown sludge identified my meal as something made with some part of a cow and my seatmate had chicken.  I could tell by the cream goo it swam in.  Surprise about the wine though – 2000 Pichard Bordeaux and very, very nice.
22:05 I’m in a time warp.  They’re showing the original “Matrix” with monosyallabic Keannu Reeves going “Woah” and looking deep.  Are there no new movies available?  The two idiots in the row in front of us took this opportunity to ram their seatbacks to their full recline position.  I almost lost a kneecap and heated words from me didn’t even get an apology.
October 2nd, 02:10  Cabin lights just came up – only 2 more hours to go.  We watched something with Jennifer Lopez.  I didn’t get any sleep and I feel like shit.
04:30 (10:30 Central European Time) Landed 10 minutes early, waited 15 for a gate and managed to get my luggage.  Just waiting for the hotel bus to arrive.
11:15 (CET) Checked in, unpacked and relaxing.
Nearly 12 hours start to finish.  Flying is fun!
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