Friday, 30 July 2010

Flying Solo

On Monday I flew my first solo flight in Goodyear! After a lesson of circuits with my instructor, he deemed that I was ready to go, and so I fired the plane up and took it DSC00589around a single circuit on my own. Once back on the ground, I was duly led to the swimming pool and thrown in by my classmates as is the tradition here at OAA! It was a great  experience, and now all of my course have flown solo, so we can really begin to make some progress. Most days we will be flying 2 flights, one dual with our instructor and one solo.

Tuesday was a lesson of circuits with my instructor, and then one hour of solo circuits, all in preparation for my first Progress Test which was on Wednesday. I was really nervous before hand as I wasn’t sure what to expect flying with a different instructor, but everything went really well and I managed to score a 2. The scores are based on 3 being average, DSC00608 above 3 better than average, and below 3 worse. So overall, I was thrilled with a 2 as only a few people on my course scored that well.

I also had a lesson with my instructor this morning, flying a few of the departure and arrival procedures out of Goodyear, and practising some forced landings in the desert. This is officially the start of my navigation lessons, which means we will start flying around using charts etc. I also have a couple of solo lessons in the circuit to complete before I start flying solo navigation lessons, which sound a bit daunting!

It has been a relatively quiet week, most of our trips out have either been to a restaurant or for food shopping. The weather at the moment is pretty interesting, it is quite humid and the monsoon season seems to be coming closer. The last couple of days have been dominated by south-mountain-lightning-strike-phoenix-az-james-bo-insognacumulonimbus clouds, and we have experienced a couple of thunder storms and some rain today. The CB clouds here grow to huge heights, about 45000ft quite often. They also tend not to move much but stay static and just grow and grow, and last night we were treated to lightning  like I have never seen before. Also, the new course arrived from Oxford on Monday, so we are not the new kids any more. It’s nice to see some old faces again, though it’s hard to believe we have been here nearly 6 weeks already.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Los Angeles

DSC00442Big news… the sun is still shining in Arizona! I am still waiting to see my first drop of rain since I’ve been here, though this morning there was lightning to the north, which was quite spectacular.

We have still been running through the basics in our flying lessons, moving on to a bit of instrument flying towards the end of the week. This involves flying with sole reference to the instruments, ie. without being able to see outside. So I took off, and after the initial climb I was made to wear the ‘hood’, which is a plastic thing that goes around your head so you can’t see above the instrument panel. The idea is to get you used to instrument flying before going solo in case you end up in a  cloud or something. It may not sound like a big deal, but the problem is that often your body gives different interpretations of the attitude of the aircraft to what your instruments might show. For example, if you roll in to a turn and stay there for a while, your body starts to interpret that as DSC00497flying level, and then when you actually straighten the plane up, the body thinks you are in a turn. It can get disorientating at times, but the number one rule is to always trust your instruments.

This week, after doing practice forced landings and engine fires tomorrow, we move in to the circuit for the rest of the week to practice our take offs and landings. And hopefully, if we get a lesson every day, we should have our first solo flight on Friday afternoon! It’s a big first step, as after that we will be doing a lot of solo flying which means we could be flying a few times a day. Next week will be our first progress test which I am already dreading!

Me and Andrew took to the road this weekend and drove the 370 miles down to Los Angeles. The worst thing is that it is the same road all the way from Phoenix to LA, and it is a long, straight drive through the desert. We had a great time though, playing the role of tourists! We did all the sights, the Hollywood sign, the walk of fame, Venice beach, even a tour of the stars homes. The best thing though
Map picture
was a tour of Warner Bros. studios which was absolutely brilliant. We got to see a lot of movie and television history, including a visit to Central Perk from Friends, which they have rebuilt as a permanent feature! It was a fun weekend but we were back flying this morning at 5.40am so I am pretty tired now! And now I have to sleep before my 7.20am flight!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Steep Turns & Stalling

Another week goes by in sunny Arizona, and we have had plenty of flying this week at least. Last weekend was Independence Day so we went out to celebrate that at the local ball park in Goodyear, which  DSC00435 included an F-16 fly over and lots of fireworks. We also then had the Monday off as it is a national holiday. Other than that, I have been up in the air every day, either flying or backseating, and have completed 6 lessons now.

We have made a few more trips out to other airfields. We went out to Wickenburg on Thursday, which is to the north west of Phoenix; there was some great scenery out that way. Also, the runway is on quite a big slope, so there was a kind of valley one side, but some daunting hills in front of us as we were climbing out, it took some skill from our instructor to navigate ourselves over them! We also headed out to Buckeye on Friday, which is on the western side of Phoenix. Like Gila Bend, there isDSC00356 pretty much nothing there, although there was a fridge full of snacks in the pilot’s lounge, which we could help ourselves to for a small donation. Best of all though, I was able to backseat one of our instructor’s other students on Wednesday. He is on the course ahead of us, and was performing one of his first navigation flights. We flew out to an airport called Phoenix Mesa Gateway which is on the eastern side of Phoenix. It is a large airport, with three parallel runways, and taxiways the size of an international airport. I flew back, and we actually took off behind a departing MD-80, which was very exciting! This week looks to be another week of general handling, followed by circuits and hopefully our first solo the week after!

Map picture
Other than that, life is very gentle, and consists of a lot of swimming, tennis, pool, table tennis and even some TV! After those long, hard months of ground school I think we have earned the right to be lazy! There is still a lot of ground work to be done, in terms of reading up about our coming lessons and the aircraft. Also, we have an essay due in soon for our Bucks New Uni Foundation Degree, so I have been working on that this weekend. Best of all though are the local restaurants, of which there are many. It has been great trying them all out, and tonight we are off to TGI Fridays.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Flying in the Wild West

After those long months of sitting in classrooms we finally took to the air on Wednesday afternoon! Flying in Arizona is pretty challenging as the DSC00331temperatures have been hitting in the forties all week which means the air isn’t very dense. This means the aircraft performance and the engine performance is pretty poor. The sun also heats the ground and by early afternoon that heat is being released which causes thermals everywhere, and hence plenty of turbulence to keep things exciting! Most of all though, it is sweltering inside the aircraft, and I have already come to appreciate how much of a blessing air conditioning is when we get back.

However, we have had some great flights so far. The first lesson on Tuesday was an introductory flight to show the basic use of controls and some general things about the local area and the training grounds. I also back-seated my flying partners lesson on the same day, which is great as I got to observe and take in a few extra things. I flew again on Thursday, and this time it was a bit more in depth things with the controls to demonstrate some of the secondary effects; and also the effects of things such as the flaps. I also got to take off and land back at Goodyear on that flight. It has been a long

Map picture
while since I landed an aeroplane, which kind of showed in my rather three-wheeled, bumpy effort which is in a video below.

We flew again today at 6.00am, which meant pre-flight planning started at 4.45. My flying partner was first up today, and we flew out west to an airport called Gila Bend, which is basically just an airstrip with a few facilities. It was deserted when we arrived at about 7.15! The scenery on the flight out was stunning, and we got to see it all with the sun just rising up behind the mountains, absolutely beautiful. I flew the return leg to Goodyear, after a quick touch-and-go at Gila Bend, which involves taking off, flying around the circuit, landing and then taking off again without stopping. This is a technique pilots use to practise their take offs and landings. My lesson today was about flying the plane ‘straight and level’, ie. at a constant altitude and at a constant heading. We flew back to Goodyear and I landed again, overall it was a pretty great flight and I was really DSC00279 pleased with my performance. It was strange to arrive back at 8.45 though and everyone is still in bed!

Other than flying, we have been making full use of the facilities here; the tennis courts, gym, swimming pools etc. There is still plenty of work to be done, but it is so nice just to relax a bit in this great environment. A few of us went out to a restaurant called Red Lobster last night which served really nice fish dishes. We are on a long weekend now as it is 4th July on Sunday, so hopefully we will fly again next Tuesday. My plan is to take it really easy this weekend ready for the hard work to begin all over again! 

First Landing at Goodyear