Archive for June, 2004

Stage Check?!?

23 June 2004 at 3:34 pm
by Berck

Last week D. signed me off for my “stage check”. Since I’m learning to fly under FAR Part 141 (the part that deals with specialty pilot schools), my training is a little different than most people who learn under Part 61. Part 141 supposedly follows a rigid syllabus which is prepared by the flight school and approved by the FAA. 141 Private training is divided into three “stages”, at the end of each I have a “stage check”. I already did my first one, where all I have to do is prove that I can fly the plane, do some basic maneuvers and land. Last week, I finished “stage 2” where I learn to plan and fly a cross-country course, as well to do things like short and soft field takeoffs and landings. I get to demonstrate these things to one of a few “assistant flight instructors” who mostly do this sort of thing rather than teach these courses, since the person giving the exam can’t instruct the students he’s examining.

Anyway, D. signed me off at the end of last week. I finally got a call on Monday that my stage check would be Tuesday at 2pm. On Tuesday morning, I got a call that the plane was down for maintenance and my stage check would be Wednesday at 2pm.

That’s today. I plotted out a course on Monday night for Gainsville, TX. I’m not going to actually fly there though, because after I fly the first couple of checkpoints, they’ll divert me somewhere else, and I get to figure out a new heading, distance, ETA, fuel burn, etc. All while I’m flying. Yay. Tuesday morning I got up to get the weather about the same time D. called. Today, I got up, got the weather, figured out the nuances of wind correction and magnetic deviation, groundspeed, estimated time, etc. Then I realized I still had time. so I figured out fuel burn for “cruise” flight. Then I decided to do it right, and figured out time/speed/distance/fuel burn for the appropriate climb with today’s weather. And accounted for engine run-up taxi/takeoff. This is all amusingly insignificant when you consider that- A) I’m not actually going to be flying there. B) The amount of fuel burned is a whopping 9.5 gallons. The plane holds 40. Yes, I think that’s plenty.

So I bicycled in the heat with all the appropriate material. D. had asked me to meet him a half hour earlier so he could fix some paperwork he’d messed up and needed my logbook to do it. Fine. D. didn’t show up until about 2pm, but then B., who was supposed to give me the stage check, was nowhere to be found.

So after figuring out which plane I was supposed to be out, I went to do a preflight. I arranged everything in the cockpit, did the interior check, and then did my walk-around. I start with the left wing and finish with the nose. Everything looked good until I knelt down to inspect the exhaust pipe and nose wheel. I’d already spent a fair amount of time checking everything else. And what did I find? I nice little puddle of oil, dripping from the exhaust pipe. That’s just wonderful. It was not an insignificant amount of oil.

When he arrived, B. agreed. And there we were with yet another plane in for maintenance.

Thursday is completely booked. I’m in the schedule for Friday at 8am.

Read This Carefully

19 June 2004 at 8:32 pm
by Jonah

Mom deposited a check to pay for our hotel bill in Richmond. We got quite a chuckle out of her e-mail notifying me. I have no idea where the second to address came from. And Ben didn’t answer, so I left him a message.

— Original Message —
Subject: money
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 13:42:14 -0500
X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.613)

readthiscarefully……i,spilled,water,on,the,keyboard,and,it,will,not,l et,me,spacebar,or,return,etc,…,i,have,to,write,like,this…i,depos ited,350,dollars,into,your,compass,bank,account,on,thursday….it,should ,be,ready,for,withdrawel,by,tuesday,i,imagine…i,am,mailing,you,some,cl ippings,,,,when,it,rains,it,pours,it,seems,when,something,comes,along,th at,i,think,you,would,like….also,i,opened,joanne,lawrence,s,gift,and,to ld,you,about,it,on,the,card,that,is,in,your,envelope,with,all,the,clippi ngs….it,is,a,stovetop,wok…..looks,very,nice…..ben,said,you,called, last,night….he,seemed,pleased…..i,hope,you,had,a,good,conversation.. …this,is,too,wierd……let,me,know,if,you,get,this….i,hope,the,keyb oard,dries,out,ok….love,mom

I did it!

17 June 2004 at 9:29 pm
by Berck

I flew, all by myself, to Ardmore, OK, did a touch and go there, then flew to Paul’s Valley and did a touch and go there, and then flew back to OUN. Total Distance: 120 NM, Total Time: 1.8 hours.

Admittedly, it’s a very simple cross-country. I-35 goes ALMOST all the way to Ardmore, and where it veers off my course, there’s a railroad. The railroad is kind of hard to spot, and Ardmore is just on the other side of what is the first hill I’ve ever seen from the window of a plane I’ve piloted. There aren’t many hills there, and when you’re used to seeing COMPLETELY flat ground, this thing looks like a mountain.

The weather wasn’t perfect, there were just a few scattered clouds between 4-5 thousand feet, and central OK was surrounded by warm, unstable airmasses. After looking at all the weather, the radar pictures and talking to weather briefers, I decided it was okay to go anyway.

I flew down to Ardmore at 3500ft. It was a little hazy but not too bad since the sun was more or less behind me. There were just a few clouds at 4,000-5,000 feet. I called OKC approach and got flight following all the way to Ardmore. I’m not required to do that, but I feel much safer as they’ll watch for traffic for you. While they’re not responsible for separation, it’s nice to get advisories. (More about this later.) They transferred me to Fort Worth Center about 15 miles south of OUN. I heard quite a few planes with the callsign “Candler” talking to Center– it was the first time I’d heard it as a pilot. “Candler” is ASA’s callsign, and with a hub in Dallas, it’s not unsurprising to hear quite a few of them on Fort Worth Center.

I didn’t get lost at all. I was able to navigate exclusively by pilotage, i.e. landmarks. I flew over Noble, Purcell, Wayne, Paoli, Paul’s Valley, Wynewood, Davis… All these little towns I probably wouldn’t think about even if I drove through them. Little towns are kind of neat from the air, the way you can see how they have all the need to be a little town, the ways they’re all alike, yet how you can tell one from another… (VFR pilots have been known to fly around looking for water towers with town names on them when they get lost…)

As I was nearing Ardmore, center told me ADM was 12 miles at 11 o’clock and asked if I had the field in sight. I looked at 11 o’clock and saw a clearing, on which I thought there was an airport. I told him I had it in sight, he told me squawk VFR and contact Ardmore tower. Which I did, after getting the ATIS. Tower told me to make a left base for runway 13. About this point I realized that the clearing I THOUGHT was the airport wasn’t the airport at all. No matter, I immediately found it at my one o’clock position. I’m not terribly sure why tower thought it was at my 11 o’clock. Admittedly, I was crabbing a little, but not very much, and I was crabbing to the RIGHT. But I should have been tracking straight to the airport, and I think I was, until I started flying to the airport that wasn’t the airport. And if I was tracking straight to the airport, the controller should have said it was at 12 o’clock. In any case, visibility wasn’t good enough for me to have been able to see it 12 miles out anyway. I did, in fact, set myself up for a LEFT base, just like I was supposed to. I reported one mile left base, and was cleared for the option. I made my touch and go and asked for a north departure. I called up Forth Worth Center and got flight following back to Paul’s Valley. Everytime I ask for flight following for a 30NM flight, I can just hear them snickering.

After he told me he had radar contact, I was nearing 4,000 feet. I was supposed to fly at 4,500 or 6,500 on the way back. (VFR traffic eastbound flies at odd thousands+ 500ft, VFR westbound flies at even thousands + 500ft and IFR traffic flies even/odd thousands). That scattered layer, which thinned out toward Norman, was such that I wasn’t sure if I could find a hole big enough to climb through it. And by the time I got up to 6,500 I’d have to fly circles to land at Paul’s Valley. Since the cloud layer was right about 4,500 I decided just to stay at 4,000. I figured if there were IFR traffic, Fort Worth Center knows about me, and they’d tell me.

I made LEFT traffic for Paul’s Valley, did a sweet touch and go there, and called up Fort Worth center for flight following back to Norman. They were rather rude, said I should call OKC approach, I was too far north, blah. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to know for sure, since OKC approach handed me off to Forth Worth Center well north of Paul’s Valley, and Forth Worth Center was the last person I talked to. And then it took me a good 10 minutes to actually get through on OKC approach it was so busy.

I need to find out about handoffs. I was withing a couple of miles of OUN’s Class D airspace without having called them, even though I was on with OKC approach. I’m required establish radio contact before entering their airspace. But OKC approach is supposed to hand me off to them in time. Since they hadn’t, I asked if I could switch to tower. “Niner One Echo contact Westheimer Tower one one eight point zero.” Right.

Anyway, I landed without incident. And I felt like the coolest guy in the world.

I’m not sure why, but mostly because I’d been dreading my first solo cross country. I was sure I’d get lost, or I’d make some other stupid mistake. But it all went just fine. And I did it!

(My solo was on Wednesday. Today (or what was today) I did my first night flight. I’ll catch up with the journaling soon.)

Jonah’s New Phone

15 June 2004 at 9:03 pm
by Jonah

Well, it has happend.

Joanna has a mobile phone.

E-mail me, and I’ll be happy to send you the number. (JonahB52 at

Ba ba-ba-ba, ba ba-ba-ba, baby
Don’t forget my plumber

In other news, I came home to find the apartment in disarray with an industrial -sized fan blowing toward our living room wall. Apparently, a pipe blew in the wall when our neighbor turned off the water he’d been using to wash his truck. The carpet beneath the bookshelves is soaked. Berck said that the maintenance guy spread magic cinnamon enzymes on the carpet and sucked up most of the water, and he’ll be back tomorrow to give our carpet a real carpet cleaning. The carpet is beyond cleaning (it was that way when we moved in, but we’re poor), so we’ll see.

In yet other news, I’m fighting a little cold. I’m trying to decide if truly the best thing for a cold is running around in a humid and very hot environment. It does seem to help.

Berck is soloing, and I’m listening to him on the webstream request touch-and-go’s from Westheimer Tower. He’s supposedly going to get some night flying in at around 10 tonight. I think I’ll be sleeping.

If not, I’ll be reading the manual for my phone. It has color. It’s pretty :)

I wonder how to make it work…

Pics They Missed

15 June 2004 at 8:16 pm
by Jonah

My brother-in-law Nathan has a new site up at

Right now it’s just some photos taken by our Air Force friend Max, but Nate hopes to expand into a receptacle for pictures from anyone who wants to share their photos from being deployed overseas.