Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard ...

Boy how time flies. Seriously. I can't believe I haven't opened a blog entry with that line yet.

Making time to hit the books and review a year's worth of material for my private pilot written exam remains a challenge. Part of the problem is that the video course I've been using, made by King schools, really isn't my cup of tea. It's a decent product but appeals more to the masses than someone technically oriented. Unfortunately, I've been using it for more than a year.

Thankfully, a fellow by the name of Irvin N. Gleim has an entire line of books and courses which are exactly what I've been looking for. Sadly, it's still a ton of information to review. Given that my first exposure was back during the Bush administration, my brain often struggles to recall distant memories. That being said, I could probably pass the test right now. But I'd rather have a mastery of the subject and not take any chances either on the day of my test or any other day up in the air.

A couple of weeks ago, I took "one zero alpha" up to NJ to celebrate my mom's birthday. It was a fantastic trip from start to finish. Sadly since I don't yet have my license,I hired a friend to actually fly the plane with me as an unofficial co-pilot. Even before we left,things seemed to fall into place. I won the headset I had bid for on eBay. It shipped and arrived on time. The Garmin GPS 496 unit (with XM satellite weather) arrived with plenty of time to get reasonably familiar with using it. The weather, speaking of which, was threatening to cancel our plans. But after much discussion the day before and morning of, off we went.

I've never flown such a long distance in a four seat airplane. The novelty seemed to shift perspective somewhat into the sublime. I mean, having your own private airplane is a level of freedom that's difficult to explain. If I can ever actually get a license to fly, I hope to explain more of it to many people first hand. The undercurrent of natural fear (we were after all in a glorified 2,000lb aluminum tub 8,000 feet up in the sky) and disbelief that we were actually flying on our own to a destination of our choice ... combined like a sweet and sour mix in my soul.

I guess I'll have to forgo some of the details of the flight. Or perhaps add them later. Daniel did a fine job getting us safely to Somerset NJ (KSMQ). The weather was lovely here in VA but got a bit dicey farther north. I got to experience several new aspects of flight first hand. I was blown away at how well the plane's autopilot works. You really can fly the thing by doing little more than twisting some knobs and pressing some buttons. Yet, I also saw how Air Traffic Control (ATC) can vector you all over the place when flying an IFR (instrument flight rules) flight plan. We started out heading towards the Chesapeake Bay, then got routed West of Philadelphia. This zig zagging continued much of the trip along with several denied requests to fly above (as opposed to through) the clouds. The latter makes for a bit of a bumpy, blind ride. I have to give a small plug for the Garmin GPS 496. It was fantastic. The whole flight up we were able to track any semblance of problem weather ... and avoid it.

The flight home was picture perfect. I can't wait to do it again soon.

That will have to do for now. I have several hours of study left ahead for the evening. I'll close with a link to photos from the flight. Click the picture below and it will redirect you to the Picasa web album. Laura did a great job taking pictures during both flights. I hope you'll agree these are some great shots of the Chesapeake, Virginia ... and clouds. Enjoy.

[Click the image below to see the pictures]

Oh and fasten your seat belts, please.

1 comment:

phaques said...

Dude, please consider hiring me the next time you want to make a trip like this. Sounds like fun.