Bartow

Today I succeed in my efforts of trying to wake up early in the weekend. Actually it is a good reason to do it: much more chances to fly cross-country wherever you want before thunderstorm activity. Today I am going to Bartow. It is an airport on the South-East, about 70 miles. Close enough to have a breakfast and go back before significant weather activity. Today it is a typical Florida summer day near the Gulf of Mexico: after about 11 am South is closed by some thunderstorms lines or at least isolated thunderstorms. So, I am going to Bartow. Controlled airport, class D. I can practice my communications. I checked tower working hours, and everything seems OK. With that weather and my working hours I fly to the South-East not very frequently.

I decided to ask for a flight following: good practice for IFR flight communications (of course, not exactly, but close enough). And it is a good idea to get a traffic information in that area. Climbing to 5500. The air is calm and cool. Perfect in summer. No clouds, so nothing prevents me to climb to that altitude.

15 miles to the destination. ASOS. Weather, runway in use. “The restaurant is closed”. Oh, it seems that I have no breakfast today.

Landing, vacating the runway. I am asking taxiing to the FBO. Taxiing to something that I supposed to be the FBO, but… “N7692U, FBO is in another direction!”. “Request progressive taxi…” How can I know that the FBO is the small building with a 4-plane parking? I thought that it is a group of hangars and 100-plane parking nearby… No signs in the airport, no marks on the airport diagram. BTW, thank you very much for understanding!

The airport is a cozy place. Interesting small museum, free coffee. Friendly tower controller 😉

So, it’s time to go back. The weather still looks good, the coffee is done.

On the way back I decided to ask for a flight following again: there are some clouds on the way, and it is a good idea to have traffic advisories. I fly non-IFR airplane, and possibly I even cannot go direct. In that case flight following can be a good advantage.

I requested 4500, but the controller asked me for 3500. OK, why not. After some time I have been seeing clouds straight ahead. OK, asking 4500. Clouds are still somewhere in front of me and getting closer. 6500. No way, still below the tops somewhere in front of me. Damn, I supposed that tops should be at about 4000-5000! I have absolutely no wish to try to go through that labyrinth. So, I should either try to go higher, or descend and proceed below them. OK, descending back to the summer hot. I cannot continue direct, I don’t want to go back, so making 360. 6000, 5000, 4000, 3000. Still a little bit above the cloud base. 2000. OK, at least here I am well below. I can proceed to my destination, and it is easy to find a labyrinth path when you are below it.

After about 10 miles the clouds become scattered to few. Oh, every day in that place I can see almost the same. Two more hours, and there will be thunderstorms here. But now it is still good.

What a nice weekend! =)

Skills Recovering

Today I finally was able to fly. I know that landing and approaches are still my weak point, and today I practiced them a lot. I flew at six different airports to increase challenge.

I was pretty good at my home aerodrome with a wide long runway, and so I moved to LKPLES, where the runway is 1640 feet, and its width is only 15 meters. It is still paved though. After my home airport it seemed tiny!

All other aerodromes were with grass runways. Nevertheless, none of them is similar to others. I landed on a runway with a “step” where the airplane wants to jump like a kangaroo. I landed on another one which was downslope, and it was unusual that land goes further during the flare. I landed on a plain friendly runway. I landed on a rough short runway with a powerline and trees in the vicinity. It was a very interesting day.

I am happy that I have time to fly again!

I’d like to see some interesting places during my hour building, but I cannot find detailed information. Probably I have to discover it myself. For example, there are very beautiful mountains in the Northern and Southern parts of Czech Republic, and I am going to visit them.

I suppose that some day I will rent an airplane and fly across the whole Europe with multiple stops in different countries. I think it is even better than traveling by car. Some day. Probably anyone wants to join me 🙂

Turbulence

After about 2-months break I continue my practice. The school allowed me to fly only with a safety pilot. We made a normal take-off, standard pattern, and on a base leg we caught very strong downdraft. I started preparing to a go-around procedure, but on final everything was OK, and I made a normal full stop landing. Safety pilot did not want to take off again today, and so did I. It’s safer to wait for a better weather.

Summertime

The summer is coming, and it means that we will see thunderstorms. I need two more hours to complete my training, and today these hours are going to fly by. I came to the aerodrome and saw a dark cloud accompanied by thunder. I have to be in Moscow soon, and extending my stay is not an option; therefore all I can do is just wait and hope for better weather…

Fortunately that front didn’t last long, and I could finish my flight lessons. There was one more cloud not too far from the aerodrome, but it was far enough to let me fly.

The sky was incredible, especially closer to sunset, and it was a pleasure to see.

I flew at LKMO today which has a much better runway compared to LKRO where I used to practice. The runway is shorter, but it is much flatter and wider, with much clearer borders, and I don’t have to cut my downwind turn due to the village below. The wind also helped today, thus my landings were better.

Today I completed all required flight hours for my PPL, so tomorrow I am going to CAA.

One More Exam

Today I had one more check conducted to sign me off for navigation flights. That check is internal, and it is mandatory for all students according to our syllabus. It was nothing special, just a usual cross-country flight using a paper chart. We flew a very beautiful route today.

I am not afraid of the navigation flights. To be honest, on one of my previous lessons, I miscalculated my heading and deviated about five miles off course, but after that I saw Pilsen, and it was impossible to get lost as it is a very big city. Of course I flew without a GPS that time, and today flight was also without a GPS. In any case, I feel that I don’t have any problems with cross-countries.

The flight was very relaxing as the wind was calm and the landscape was absolutely awesome. One more record to my logbook!

The First Solo

Finally it happened: I flew my first solo today. It is a very important step for every pilot. That day we had done more than 10 patterns with my instructor and 3 patterns with the examiner before I flew alone. The examiner was staying on the ground with a handheld radio. I was instructed that if he say “GO AROUND!”, I have to go around immediately. Fortunately, it did not happen.

My landings were perfect. I think that I never landed so great. Probably it is because the airplane is lighter with just one person aboard, or I simply tried to do my best.

I heard that one remembers it for the rest of life. I recorded it with my action cam, just in case. To be honest, I felt that I had not have time for worrying: checklists, runup, taxiing, before takeoff checklist, full power, acceleration, pitching up a little bit, acceleration, rotation, acceleration in a ground effect, climbing, brakes, after takeoff checklist, trim, climbing some more, flaps, trim, climbing, turn, one more turn just before this village, level off, power cruise, trim, before landing checklist, radio call, carb heat, turn before red building, maintaining altitude, reduce power keeping level attitude, speed for flaps, flaps 10, trim, check traffic on final, turn to final, flaps 20, nose down, radio call, flare, keeping nose up, keeping nose up, keeping nose up, keeping nose up, keeping nose up…. Touchdown. Nice and smooth touchdown. Full power, carb heat off, flaps 10, acceleration, and do everything one more time except full stop instead of touch-n-go.

After landing I could not stop smiling. All day long =)

Land in Sight!

We fly a lot of aerodrome patterns. We do it in different aerodromes for a richer experience. My instructor is not totally assured in my flying, and so he does not want to let me fly solo now. Probably with the only instructor from the beginning it can be faster, but now we have what we have.

However I do not complain. Safety is the first priority. Additionally, I enjoy flying even patterns, and I am happy to see my confidence improve. Furthermore, I need 200+ hours for my commercial license, and it does not matter a lot whether I have 45 or 60 hours under my belt after private.

Controlled Airspace

Karlovy Vary is a very beautiful place. Lakes and buildings look fantastic from the altitude.

Today I flew to the control zone. I did not expect that the workload would be so high: the flight itself is almost the same except that I have clearances instead of advisories, but I felt somewhat uncomfortable. OK, possibly it is just the unfamiliar environment…

The controllers speak English much better than our tower. Actually our tower is not so bad compared to some airfields in the vicinity: sometimes they only speak Czech. I remember that I am in Czech, and I try to do my best, but I wish to see some more operators speaking the international aviation language (which is English), at least at a basic level.

Additionally we made some landings on the way there, it is a good practice for me. I am becoming more confident, and I make better and better landings even on sloped runways.

They Are So Different…

I enjoy exploring new aerodromes. They appear very similar, but they are not. Of course I say that only with my level of experience, but I think that it’s true for many pilots.

Today we flew circuits in an aerodrome with a grass runway. The runway itself is rather uneven and rough: firstly, it has a slope, and there are small bumps and hollows. Secondly, the grass is very uneven, and does not cover the entire runway. Actually there is no significant difference, but I still like concrete runways much more.

Here is the picture about how approach to a grass runway looks like:

Approach. Land. Go. Repeat.

I had a lot of landings on the grass. In fact, I had REALLY a lot of landings on the grass. Today I fly patterns on the aerodrome with a grass strip.

Today I made many landings. The main outcome is that finally I mainly fly the airplane than it flies me. I see where it is going to land, and at least I have proper feedback from the flight controls. At least the approach becomes stabilized. Previously it was more like “trying to aim to some point by any means, using all available flight controls”. Now I have to be more precise: the strip is shorter. I was pretty good in theory, but for the some reason it did not help a lot. Possibly the reason is that I mainly concentrated on an instantaneous correction without building a ‘big picture’.

Today I have a level-up: now I analyze my track during the approach and try to keep the straight paths really straight, and curved paths as smooth as possible. I use trim even in turbulent weather. I mainly set the flaps to the desired position for landing earlier instead of correcting a glide path by using flaps.

I am making progress. I perform slower than I wanted to, but I am moving on.