Stalls, Spins and Puke

I’m a little slow at writing this update, but two Saturdays ago I was doing the last of my initial introduction to air work. We practiced stalls, spins, as well as flight for range and endurance. We were going to do spiral dives, but after doing three stalls and two spins are started to get pretty sick, and even threw up. I’m not really disappointed at myself for getting sick and having to end the flight early, as I was able to accomplish a lot this lesson, a lot more than I did when we did steep turns. So I’m getting more endurance when it comes to air sickness.

Some thoughts on stalls. One thing I learned was that when your speeds starts to slow down and you approach the stall, you really have to pull back on the controls pretty hard to get the plane to stall. Also, it’s good advice to release the back pressure on the controls very slowly, otherwise you’ll be looking at the ground.

As for spins, they weren’t that bad, and we only did partial spins meaning I wasn’t looking completely at the ground. I believe with partial spins, we recovered earlier during the incipient stage.

My next lesson should be interesting. I’m going to be starting circuits. My instructor says that this is when most students start to really get “into it,” as circuits are what the majority of flying is about.

Steep Turns, Slow Flight and Stalls

This lesson was a success! Much better than the last one.

I did the pre-flight inspection myself.  My instructor quickly checked things as well before we got started, but for the first time I was getting the plane ready pretty much on my own. I did not find any snags on the plane, there was one little scratch on the rudder, but it wasn’t major.

During preparatory ground instruction we went over the load and balance check. Then since I would be doing the ground calls, we went over what I’m supposed to say to the controller. I think I eventually started to wrap my head around it, but like everything else I’ll still need a lot of practice. If I remember it correctly, the call goes something like this:

me: Thunder Bay Ground, this is Cessna 172 Golf Quebec Foxtrot Zulu with information Papa.

controller: Quebec Foxtrot Zulu, Thunder Bay Ground go ahead.

me: Thunder Bay Ground, Quebec Foxtrot Zulu is at apron 6 requesting taxi to the active departing to Hazelwood for 6,000 feet.

controller: Quebec Foxtrot Zulu taxi to and hold short of runway 25 via taxi way echo, delta, alpha, charlie. Altimeter is 2990, squawk 0462.

me: Squawk 0462, hold short of runway 25 Quebec Foxtrot Zulu.

I think that’s roughly how it went.

We did our run up, called for clearance, lined up on the runway, and then waited for about a minute before taking off as a Porter plane just landed before us.  It was a little bit bumpy in the air, but as we climbed it smoothed out quite a bit.

Once we were in the practice area and leveled off I did two 30 degree, left and right turns, then proceeded to do a steep turn. I did feel the extra weight of the turn, but this time it seemed to be a lot easier to handle. Perhaps it was because I was the on doing the turns, and I wasn’t totally doing them perfectly, but I did survive them. There were a few points in the turn where I did feel pretty light headed–it’s almost like an out of body experience where you feel like you’re not there anymore–that seemed to happen when I kicked in the correct amount of rudder.

Next we did slow flight, my instructor demonstrated it, then I gave it a try. When it slow flight, at about 50 knots, the ailerons become less responsive, the plane buffets a little, your airspeed is slower of course, and in some cases you may hear the stall horn.

My instructor then demonstrated a stall, which didn’t feel too bad. She is pretty good at not making stalls scary; one of the secrets to making not so scary stalls is to gently apply down pressure, which then prevents the nose from dropping really fast.

And that was pretty much the lesson. We then turned south and headed back to the airport. I flew a bit of of the circuit, made the downwind, base and final turns and landed with my instructors help.  The biggest challenge this lesson was mainly just information overload, and the heat! It was 30C today.

Next lesson is range and endurance, stalls and circuits.

Steep Turns and Too Many Gs

Last Friday was lesson number three.

It started off alright. We talked about range and endurance during the preparatory ground instruction we talked about range and endurance, slow flight, stalls and steep turns. We tried to check the weather on the school computer, but Firefox was being unresponsive (the computer was running out of virtual memory, and needed a reboot to fix itself, or perhaps more RAM). I did the pre flight inspection, which involved me nervously inspecting the plane while I told my instructor what I was doing.  Ever have that feeling where you’re trying to pretend you know what you’re doing while someone is evaluating you?

So I proceeded to to start the engine, we called the tower for taxi clearance–I recognized the controller’s voice. We taxied to charlie where I did the run-up. There was a higher than normal drop in RPM when we did the magneto test, as well the engine sounded a bit rough, so there was likely some spark plug fouling happening. We fixed this by running the engine at 1700 for a few minutes. Afterwards, when we did the magneto test again the drop in RPM was only 100. Later, we got clearance and took off.

I did the climb, and when instructed proceeded with the crosswind turn. We maintained heading until we crossed the new expressway, at which point we followed it out to the Kakabeka practice area. As we were climbing there were a couple of clouds in our path, so I had to make a few adjustments in heading to avoid them. It never ceases amaze me that I’m up in the air sitting in this vehicle trying to dodge clouds; it really is a special kind of privilege. Once we were at the desired altitude of 4,000 feet, I spotted traffic at twelve o’clock. My instructor didn’t see it at first, as it was flying behind some fog, but she later spotted it and we made a right turn to avoid it.

Now with the traffic out of the way, we started to practice some turns. I did a few 30 degree turns, left and right. The right turn was the most difficult since as the pilot you’re sitting at the high part of the plane. The left turn was much easier–perhaps this is why left circuits are more commonly flown at airports.  Then my instructor proceeded to demonstrate steep turns at 45 degrees of bank, and it was at this point that I started to get very sick. I think it was the added G forces or load factor from the steep turn that was making me very sick. I felt pretty light headed and at a certain part of the turn things were almost starting to appear bright white. I told my instructor I was starting to feel sick and we took a little bit of a break, but I still felt pretty nauseous and had to end the lesson early.

It’s strange that the steep turns bothered me so much. I have no problems at all with turbulence, which there was quite a bit of since it was a warm and sunny day, but for some reason the extra Gs and the centrifugal force of the steep turns seems to make me pretty light headed. It was pretty discouraging that there’s this little obstacle to overcome in my flight training–I almost felt like quitting–but at least I can try again, and try again several times.  I was pretty tired after this lesson and took a three hour nap. I’m not sure if I was tired from waking up early, or if I was tired because of the nausea from the G forces–either way it was a good nap and I felt better afterwards. I booked my next lesson for this Friday, and this time it will be in the afternoon so I’ll be better rested.

We’ll see how it goes the second time around. Perhaps if I expose myself to enough of them my body will get use to it.

Climbs, Descents, and Turns

I now have lesson number two completed. First of all, one thing I’ve noticed about this flight was that I did not feel nauseous at all. Perhaps it was all the peppermint tea I’ve been drinking, the fact I wore sunglasses this flight, or maybe it was because my flight instructor was working me a lot harder this lesson that I did not have time to feel sick. Either way, it’s a very promising sign, and I’m starting to feel much more relaxed and enjoying the training.

This lesson I was learning how to do climbs, descents, and turns. The steps for doing a climb is basically (hopefully I get this right, as I was absorbing a lot of information in this lesson) atitude, power, trim (or APT, think climbing up an apartment). The steps for making a descent are, power, attitude, trim (or PAT, think bending down to pat the dog). We also covered power off descents; I got a feel for how long the plane will glide without any power, and the best rate for a power off descent in the 172N is about 65 knots. We practiced a bit of coordinated turns: stepping on the ball, or another visual reference you can use to make coordinated turns (hopefully I remember this correctly), note the spot where the horizon intersects the dash and keep it in the same spot.

One little bad habit I have, and my instructor reminded me of this periodically; I guess the reason for this habit is that I’ve never been taught or been told this, is that I have to remember to keep one hand on the control stick, and my other hand on the throttle.

Lastly, when were coming in to land, I confirmed a little suspicion I had ever since I moved into my house. During the summers when I’m setting on my deck, or doing yard work I would always notice Cessnas and other small aircrafts would always fly directly above my house, then cutoff their engines once they pass my backyard. As I suspected, my house is directly below the base turn for runway 25. So why is that the Cessnas always fly over my house, and never fly over the neighbours? The answer is simple. When flying the downwind leg of the circuit, pilots will use the grain elevators on the Lake Superior shore as a point of reference with which to line themselves up. Then when they cross the expressway (which my house backs onto) they power off their engine and make the base turn. Maybe one day I’ll put a giant sign on my roof that says, “Base Turn.”

Next lesson is air work: stalls, slow flights, and maybe spins. I asked my instructor about spins and she said for private pilot training we only do partial spins, and for the exam Transport Canada recently took out the section on spins, so they’re no longer required as part of the exam.  That’s reassuring!

My First Flight

Last Friday I was finally able to complete my very first flight. It went very well, and wasn’t that bad. Occasionally, I felt a bit nauseous from the quick altitude changes, but other than that it was good.

Flying behind the controls of a small plane was an entirely new experience; almost like being in a magical Disney movie. It starts off feeling like you’re driving a car to the runway (yes I know ‘taxing’ is the correct term, but I’m using a metaphor here). Then suddenly you start speeding as fast as you can down the runway and seconds later your car begins to fly and everything below you starts getting smaller and smaller.  Then when you are up in the air and you take over the controls, you realize you’re in a whole new world.  I say you’re in a new world because unlike flying commercially you’re able to see the whole horizon, but more importantly, you’re in control.

So I have decided to pursue training. I seem to be able to handle flying without getting too sick. I’m not sure about spin training, but I guess the only way to find out if you can handle it is to do it. Training is pretty costly, but at present time I am probably in the best situation to be able to pay for it.

This early in the training it’s easy to get anxious about everything you need to know and learn. Will I be able to handle the radios while making carb ice isn’t forming, while doing the other what now seems like million other things?  We’ll see how that feeling changes as training progresses.

Still Grounded

It has been a while since I’ve posted on this blog, but I just wanted to say that I’ve finally booked an orientation flight in a Cessna 172N. I was scheduled to go out on Tuesday, but the flight got postponed until the next day due to a thunderstorm. Well, Wednesday is here, but looks like the cloudy weather won’t go away, so I’m postponed again until Friday. Hopefully then we’ll finally have good weather!

I’ve never flown in a Cessna or a small plane besides in a simulator, so I decided that an orientation flight would be a good idea. It’s kind of a funny feeling because my mind hasn’t decided if I should be nervous or scared about flying in a small plane. Either way I guess it’s exciting to finally be up in the air in a real plane.

The main concern I have right now for this upcoming flight is how well my left ear will take it. When I fly commercially, often on landings I get a pretty severe pain in my left ear, which from what I’ve read is caused by air being trapped in the air canal and pressing against the ear do to changes in pressure. Perhaps it won’t be an issue, as in a Cessna you don’t climb as high an altitude as you do commercially.  We’ll see.

The FAA Hates Its Employees

This whole fiasco surrounding ATC Dad was created and blown out of proportion by the FAA. The controversy started ATC Dad back in February when a LiveATC listener heard a seven year old on JFK ATC. He then proceeded to record the boys transmission and share it on YouTube.  The ATC Controller’s only mistake was that he did not consider the PR his action would create.  Some of the facts surrounding this incident:

  • All the planes were on the ground
  • The controller could interrupt his child if something was going wrong
  • The pilots knew ahead of time a child would be transmitting

The real problem with this incident is how the FAA worded their press release. Had they said, “Air Traffic Controlling is an exciting and challenging career, and we occasionally children to explore this field under the supervision of an experience controller.” Or if they were even smarter they could have been proactive and release a possible press release before the media caught wind of the youtube video, “Today, pilots at JFK airport heard a different kind of voice on the radio, as part of the FAA’s mentoring program.”  If they were to have done this, then this news story would have made the Friday feel good story of the day.

For further commentary on this story, Robert Mark of JetWhine shares his opinion.

Listening For “Air Force One” On The ATC


For everyone who wants to celebrate Barack Obama’s first visit to Canada, you may want to listen to the ATC for the Air Force One callsign.  Conviently, has the terminal, tower, ground and cleareance frequencies setup for Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.  You can find the link to the streaming audio here, or if you would like a diagram of the airport to look at, check out  I believe Air Force One usually lands at Ottawa Macdonal-Cartier, but someone once told me that there is also a Canadian Air Force base near by where it sometimes lands, maybe in the event of an emergency.  I wonder if the controller will say something funny when they make radio contact.

The green Air Force One pictured above is an April Fouls joke from How Stuff  It was suposedly a new version of Air Force One that uses hybrid fuel technology.  Something the US government should get cracking on anyway.  I wonder if it’s more fuel efficient to fly the president in a F-18 than it is to fly him in a Boeing 747.

Obama will arrive at approximately 10:30am ET on February 19th.

Quick Flight to Dryden


I took an hour and a half flight from Dryden to Thunder Bay today in a Cessna 172SP.  The winds were calm, but light flurries as I took off.  Things cleared up when I got close to Dryden.  Landing was a little hard and could use a bit of work.  This flightw as flown IFR, but for the most part it was VFR conditions after I got outside of Thunder Bay.

I’m thinking I’ll head to Winnipeg next.

Amazing Photo of Plane Crash Rescue


Rescue Attempt of Flight 1549

This is an amazing photo taken by Janis Krums of the rescue attempt of U.S. Airways Flight 1549. It beats CNN by far!  I believe it was taken from a ferry helping with the rescue.  Amazing job by the pilot making an emergency landing.