Thursday, 25 September 2008

Note: While I'll likely cross-post the occasional flying post here (or maybe I'll just mention a few highlights), I've started a whole new blog called Coordinated Flight where I'll publish all my flying-related stuff. That way this blog won't get overloaded with long, detailed flying stuff.

The past couple days I've spent a little time down at Twin Oaks Airpark, a small private airport located on the far west side of Portland, Oregon. Yesterday I spent an hour there, and today I went for about two hours. Both days I learned and flew with my new flight instructor, Kelly. I've always wanted to learn to fly and over the years I've spent quite a bit of time in small aircraft. But now I'm going to put the time and effort (and expense) into learning and practicing everything one needs to know to safely fly a small aircraft.

Yesterday was what they call an introductory ride. Kelly met me and we went to the airpark office, where we chatted with Betty Stark. The Stark family owns the airpark which is on an old dairy farm and has a single runway, several hangars, classrooms and a fuel station. Then we went to our aircraft for the day, a Cessna 150. Kelly showed me the aircraft and together we went though the walk-around checklist. The Cessna 150 is a two-seater and is a smallish aircraft, but is a very common trainer. After checking out the aircraft we climbed in and started the checklist for starting the aircraft. I turned the key and the prop started spinning. Kelly explained some more necessary details about the controls and told me what was going to happen. And then we were off.

We taxied from the ramp to the end of the runway and did the engine run-up and final checks on the list. Kelly radioed the local traffic to let anyone flying in the area know we were departing, and he told me to put my hands and feet on the controls so I could feel the aircraft as we departed. He explained each task he was doing as he performed them, from the time we walked up to the aircraft until we were in the air. I think I've found a great instructor. He clearly knows his stuff and is confident. That gave me a feeling of confidence, too.

Once we were in the air, he told me he was going to hand the controls over to me. The next thing I knew I was flying the airplane. Of course, Kelly was still there, light on the controls in case I screwed something up. He didn't overwhelm me with information, but instead balanced the doing, the explaining and the having fun and looking out the window. We spent about 30 minutes in the air (and a little rain from the clouds that were well above us) and then returned to the air park. I learned about the traffic pattern for Twin Oaks (it's a left pattern with a 45-degree entrance). It was a lot of fun, and probably just the right mix of time, information and experience for a first flight.

Kelly gave me a quick-read intro book with some basic information to learn: Controls, attitude, parts of an airplane, climbs and descents, turns. He assigned it as homework and we arranged to meet again the next day at 3pm for two hours - starting with a quick ground lesson followed by some time in the air.

When I arrived today, we went into the small classroom and Kelly explained some of the performance numbers I need to start getting familiar with. It clear to me that there are a lot of pieces of information that will need to become second nature. Today's classroom lesson focused on common airspeeds and engine RPMs for different basic flight maneuvers, plus an introduction to flying the traffic pattern and the proper aircraft configuration for landings. I had a chance to ask questions and took some notes and we headed out for the aircraft (another C-150, but not the same one).

Today our time at the aircraft was a bit different than yesterday. Kelly handed me the checklist and rather than having me following him as we did the first time, he followed me as I did the walk-around inspection, checking the aircraft from nose to tail, top to bottom. He told me that the next time we meet, he may have me do the pre-flight walk-around on my own (I'm sure he'll check my work, too). After the outside inspection, he then moved the plane to a safe spot on the ramp and we climbed in. Once properly buckled up, we returned to the checklist and started the process of making sure everything was working, properly configured and ready for flight. I turned the key and Kelly showed me how the ground controls work. It's pretty counterintuitive to get out of a car and climb into an airplane: To steer in the ground you use the two foot pedals (and toe brakes when needed). If you put your hands on the control yoke (wheel), nothing happens on the ground. I'm sure looked pretty funny when my brain automatically told me hands to turn the wheel left or right. I had to force myself to use my feet. Once I took my hands completely off the yoke, however, it got a little easier.

I was taught how to do turns on the ramp, with and without brakes. After that, Kelly had me taxi the plane down the taxiway to the end of the runway, where we then entered the runway and taxied all the way to the end, did a couple turns, and then did the same thing all over again. It was a good opportunity to try to get my brain around driving the aircraft on the ground with my feet. I think some future practice will be helpful in overcoming some of the counterintuitiveness.

Kelly then had me stop on the ramp at the end of the runway, where we did our engine run-up and other checklist items. Then he made the radio call and told me to taxi onto the runway and line up on the center line for take-off. I managed to line it up and then let it point left a bit. After correcting for that (I bet it looked pretty dumb from outside the plane, heh), Kelly walked me through applying full throttle and he controlled the plane with his feet as we sped down the runway. "Okay, you feel that? We're doing a wheelie now," he said as the nose started to lift. A little pull back on the yoke and we were in the air, climbing out. When you depart to the south out of twin oaks, you have to start a turn soon after departure due to a noise abatement area (you'd think if you buy or build a house next to an airport you'd know what you're getting into, but oh well). So after a gradual left turn we straightened out and continued climbing. The airport is at about 270 feet above sea level, and we climbed to about 2200 feet.

The main in-air lesson consisted of progressively moving through various maneuvers and maintaining proper attitude of the aircraft: Climbs, gradual turns, medium turns, descents, trimming the aircraft for hands-off flight, and then combination maneuvers: climbing turns and descending turns combined with ending each of the turns on specific compass headings and returning to straight and level flight. It was really fun.

We were almost right on top of the airport before I even recognized it. That whole awareness-of-where-you-are thing comes with time, they say. For now, it;s enough to pay attention and apply what my instructor tells me.

By the time we were ready to enter the landing pattern, my brain was on the edge of overload. 45 minutes of information and sensory load was enough for my feeble brain I guess, so it was good that Kelly was handling all of the landing. I just kept feet on the pedals and fingers on the yoke to feel the controls move. Kelly explained what he was doing as we followed the landing pattern (upon passing the end of the runway on the downwind leg turn carb heat on, throttle to 1500 RPM, flaps to 10 degrees (three seconds pressing the switch), add nose-up trim... then on turn to base leg, dial in 10 degrees more more flaps, engine speed will increase as work load decreases so a little less throttle to maintain RPMs, maintain 70mph, look for the end of the runway on your left and prepare to turn to final... then your final turn, check airspeed and ensure you're moving straight for the numbers on the end of the runway (that they're not rising or sinking), add or subtract throttle as needed and line up... after that, work some voodoo magic, flare the aircraft a bit and put the wheels on the ground without breaking anything - I figure the details will become more clear as I get more experience, heh... then keep the aircraft moving straight down the runway with your feet (back to those feet again) and when all the tricycle wheels are on the ground and it's safe apply a little gradual brake as needed to slow the airplane and taxi off the runway...)

Now I have my first textbook in hand, which is the basis of the ground school lessons (which I am looking forward to). I took a ground school class several years ago at Portland Community College when I was thinking about learning to fly helicopters (I then did the financial math and decided maybe I should wait), and I am hoping some of that will come back and help me this time around. I'm flying to Philadelphia this weekend for a family get-together, so I'll have plenty of time for reading the first couple chapters and answering the questions for each - while on the plane.

I borrowed all the pics here from the Twin Oaks web site. Sometime I hope I'll get comfortable enough to be able to take some quick pics of my own (but for now all I can really think about are the tasks at hand in flying that chunk of metal through the air).

Add/Read: Comments [13]
Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:55:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback

Referred by: [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral] [Referral]

Thursday, 25 September 2008 21:21:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Awesome post! I hope you keep posting your training experiences. I've always wanted to learn how to fly. Some day.
John Walker
Thursday, 25 September 2008 22:00:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I'd like to blog about them for sure but am worried about overwhelming this blog with flying posts though. Maybe I should set up another one?
Friday, 26 September 2008 05:21:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Yes yes yes, separate post would be great!
Friday, 26 September 2008 08:27:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Chris, you mean a second blog just for the flying posts, or seperate posts on this blog?
Friday, 26 September 2008 10:03:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Either one would be fine by me, put s link on the right side for those of US that want to keep updated. I have had a life long dream of getting a pilots license and doubt it will ever be a dream come true for me, so it shall become true through you :)
Friday, 26 September 2008 10:18:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Okay, well I will do my best to try to keep updating about flying then :)

I've started a new blog for the flying stuff, which is at
Friday, 26 September 2008 15:03:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Well, a usual, the mom is the last to know :) Sounds exciting! xoxoMOM
Sunday, 28 September 2008 23:34:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
All I Have to say is that.... ITS ABOUT TIME!!!! gohd!, for years you have been talkin about it, and cryin about it, and I have to listen to it....and then you send some random dude in your place and all he does is rub it in your face about how totally awesome and sweet it is, hahahaha. Its about time though man, its one of the best things you will ever do and Im stoaked that you finally started. -Dave

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." -- Leonardo da Vinci
David SON!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, 28 September 2008 23:42:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
HAHAHAHA!!!! Twin oaks Rwy is only 50 ft. wide. Tell your instructor to take you up to Woodland State (W27) after you get a few good landings under your belt, that Rwy is only 25 ft. wide. LOL ive made a few landings there, its hard but fun. And check out the advisories for Rwy 32. No such thing as a normal final approach for that Airport.
David SON!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, 28 September 2008 23:49:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
You are gonna love landing at HIO, its so wide there. One thing for sure, if you learn to land perfectly on those small runways, you will be able to nail the center-line every time one bigger runways, which is crucial when it comes to FAA assesments. Keeping center-line is a really big deal. It will be easy as cake for you.
David SON!!!!!!!!!
Monday, 29 September 2008 07:02:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
@mom - Oops I could have sworn I mentioned I was planning to start the last time we spoke. That I went to the Dr. physical appointment? Sorry. :)

@David - Hah, you're not a complete clown or anything. :) I'll mention that narrow runway to my instructor, thanks. You should try to find that 727 the guy changed into a house I told you about. Landing perfectly is so far from imaginable reality for me at this point, but I am sure it will all start to make sense before too long.
Monday, 29 September 2008 09:59:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Greg, congrats on starting your flight training. It is an awesome feeling to be out flying and wish I could do it more often. Be sure to take a trip down the gorge on a nice day and wave as you pass over TTD. :)

Friday, 03 October 2008 06:18:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hey! That's where my Dad used to fly out of! He learned to fly at a little place up in Vancouver, but he used to borrow/rent this plane out of Twin Oaks. Haven't been there in years - thanks for the great photos!

Have fun dude!

PS: Especially when your instructor gets you to the point where he kills the engine and asks you where you're going to land? ;)
Comments are closed.