March 23, 2019

Lesson 9: Sat Mar 23

Lesson 9: Sat March 9, 2019. Cessna 172 N73924 Daisy.

It's been 6 weeks since I've been in a plane. I had two lessons cancelled for bad weather in that time, and after that I was just too busy with moving.

But we moved in on March 15th, and though the house is still a maze of boxes, it's time to get back in the air and go back to flying every week. Flying every other week was just not enough to keep me progressing the way I'd like.

In our old apartment at N. Shallowford off 285, we were frequently under the PDK flight path. I'd frequently hear an airplane over the freeway noise, call out "Airplane!" and pull out FlightRadar24 to see if I could identify it. Fortunately, in our new house I can still hear airplanes coming in and out of PDK on occasion. (I've also heard commercial flights coming east and then north out of Hartsfield; those planes are at 10,000 feet when they get over our place, but you can hear them when the conditions are right.)

Since I last flew, however, I do have one piece of official evidence of my flying status: I got my student's pilot's license from the FAA. I don't actually need it until I solo, but it's a necessary step. I'm still waiting on my medical certificate. The FAA needed current blood work, and though it was current when I submitted it, I'm gonna blame the government shutdown for delaying it to the point where they wanted a more current test. Thanks, Trump.

Before I actually solo, I need three things: the medical certificate, proof of aircraft renter's insurance (I have to be able to cover the $5,000 deductible on the flight school's aircraft insurance), and I have to pass a pre-solo test given by my instructor. And, of course, I actually have to be competent to get the airplane into the air and back onto the ground reliably without my flight instructor's help. I'm not there yet, but today I stepped back into that process in earnest.

It's surprising how much you forget in six weeks of not flying and not studying. I had to be reminded where to check the fuel. I had to carefully rehearse calling up ground for my clearance. I had to fight with my old nemesis: taxiing. And my takeoff was pretty squirrely after 6 weeks away.

As for the flying, this was basically a mirror of lesson 8 back on 2/9: pattern work at PDK on 3L. Take off. Turn left at 700 feet. Level off at 1,000 feet, turn on the downwind leg. At some point, the tower calls: "Cessna 73924, cleared for the option." (We have options: fly low and slow over the runway like we've doing, do a touch and go, or make a full-stop landing.) Abeam the numbers (lined up with the end of the runway), turn on the carb heat, reduce the power and start descending. Bring the speed down "into the white" (basically below 90 knots) and bring in 10' of flaps. (The flaps increase the lift and let the plane fly slower.) When you can see the runway at 45' over your left shoulder, make a 90' left turn onto your base leg. Bring in the second notch of flaps. My instructor is controlling the throttle at this point so I can focus on everything else. Keep the speed around 70kts; control that with your pitch. Too slow: push forward slight on the yoke to push the nose down and increase the speed. Do the opposite to slow down. There's a little wind from the left, so we use left aileron (rolling into the wind slightly) and right rudder to keep us centered over the runway. Down the runway, down the runway ... now we've run out of runway, so time to go around. Full power: push the throttle all the way forward. Push the carb heat back off. Flying level, bring your speed up around to 79 kts, then raise the nose and climb out at about 76kts. Bring up the flaps a notch at a time: if you bring the flaps up all at once, you lose lift and settle back down onto the runway. And that's no good because all the runway is behind us.

I'm not sure how many times we went around. Steve took two of the passes over the runway to demonstrate what I should be doing.

My initial passes were rough. I had trouble last lesson with uncoordinated turns int the pattern, which means I was not using the rudder properly; this time I worked to use make better use of the rudder. Each time around I did a little better. I'm also taking more of the steps from Steve: I did responded to most of the calls back to the tower, and this lesson I put the carb heat in, which I didn't do last time. Steve is still handling the throttle down near the runway, but that's understandable - down that low, the main thing you need to get you out of trouble is power, and I'm still quite capable of getting us in trouble.

The last time around as we were going to land, I expected Steve to call "my airplane", but he didn't, so I landed. Sort of landed. It was not quite straight, and Steve took control immediately after we touched down, but it was my first time taking the airplane all the way down to the ground. Mentally I'm not counting it as my first landing; I need to be able to get it all the way down the runway safely before I'll count it. But it's progress!

Afterwards we sat in the Skybound office and talked about the flight. We discussed crosswind landings, takeoffs, and taxiing. While taking with Steve, I had an insight about taxiing the Cessna. Unlike a car, the there is no direct linkage between the flight controls and the nose wheel. The rudder pedals are connected to springs, and when you push on one of the pedals, it pulls the spring which pulls the wheel in that direction. Today's insight - Steve always pushes the pedal to the floor when he wants to make a turn, and then backs off as necessary. I've been treating the pedals like I would a steering wheel: little turn, little push - and little result. I'll give that a shot next time.

I'm at 10.2 hours now, but I've got three more lessons in the nexts three weeks already booked, so weather permitting, I should be racking up the hours. Onwards and upwards!

February 10, 2019

Lesson 8: Sat Feb 9, 2019

Atlanta was invaded by the Super Bowl in early February. The ground invasion was more visible, but the effects extended to the Atlanta airspace as well. The FAA banned all flight training within 30+ miles of Atlanta from Tuesday Jan 29 until the following Tuesday Feb 5. I went out to PDK on that first Tuesday, and the flight ramp where Skybound parks it’s airplanes was completely empty. By the end of the week PDK had shutdown 2 of the 3 runways; traffic was only coming in and out on 3L/21R. The other two runways were full of expensive business jets. My instructor Steve noted there was probably a billion dollars worth of aircraft parked out there. It’s plausible: even that early there were 5 Gulfstream 550s on one of the runways. Google says those go for over 50 million. Oddly, there was less to see for visitors: fewer takeoffs and landings than normal. But this weekend PDK was back to business as usual.

Today we didn’t even leave PDK. It’s a day of “closed pattern work” -- taking off via 3L, at 700’ AGL turn left into the crosswind leg, then into the base leg, then turn final and back down to the field. Once again we’re flying “low and slow” -- not landing, but down close to the runway, just like we did in lesson 5 and lesson 6.

I’m back in 73924. The last time I was in 924 I could not keep it under control on the ground. I did better in the newer plane in lesson 7, so I was curious to see how I would do this time in the older plane. I did pretty well taxiing from the Skybound ramp, right turn on taxiway Alpha, then almost immediately a slight right turn on taxiway Bravo. But there were still some hiccups where Steve had to take over.

We’re in the run-up area just off 3L where we do final checks before takeoff. Peachtree ground clears us to taxi the short distance to 3L. I switch the radio over to the tower frequency and gingerly move out of the run-up area. Don’t get too close to that jet which is taxiing across 3L to take off on 3R. The jet throttles up as it is cleared onto 3R, and our control yoke moves back towards me on it’s own from the force of the jet’s blast.

We’re holding short of 3L waiting for inbound traffic to land. There it is ... it comes by us, but we’re still waiting. I saw it looked like it was going around, but now I can’t see it ...? Just wait.

“Cessna 73934, cleared for takeoff on 3 left.” Oh crap: showtime!

Left hand on the yoke, right hand on the throttle. Turn left onto the runway. I’m a little too far to the right, so line it up with the rudder pedals -- now we’re centered -- push the throttle in full. The torque of the propeller is trying to push us to the left of the runway, so push in on the right rudder pedal. We’re moving faster, faster ... 60 knots comes quick. Pull back on the yoke ... goodness, that’s a squirrelly takeoff, but we’re up. Don’t worry about how much to pitch up: try to make 79 knots. Too slow? Put the nose down a little. Too fast? Pull the nose up. We’re staying in the pattern to practice, so at 700’ above the ground, we start a 90’ left turn on our crosswind leg.

Today I’m in somewhat better overall control of the airplane in the air, but I still have problems. “You’re driving the airplane, not flying,” says Steve, meaning I forget to use the rudder pedals when I turn the yoke. If you don’t use the rudder pedals, your turns are uncoordinated, mushy. The airplane will turn, but it’s poor airmanship. We are pilots and can do better. (I’m not alone; it’s a very common problem among student pilots.)

Back when were initially practicing bigger slower turns, it was easier to remember to use the rudder: turn the yoke left, and push the left rudder pedal at the same time. When you’re banked into the turn sufficiently, bring the controls back to neutral until it’s time to move the yoke and rudder in the opposite direction. But in the pattern I’m having to make many small corrections to our direction. I’m using the yoke, but just about every time I’m forgetting the rudder. Or perhaps I’m even moving the rudder in the wrong direction? I’m not sure. We’ve been practicing slips down over the runway, and in a slip you move the rudder the opposite direction to the ailerons. I think that’s been messing with my memory of how to do a coordinated turn.

We’re in the downwind leg with the airport off to our left. We’ve reached our pattern altitude of 2,000’, 1,000 field above the field, so we bring the throttle back from 100%. Watch for the traffic in front of us -- there it is. It’s another Cessna. Peachtree tower tells us we’re #2 to land.

Normally if there’s no traffic you’re supposed to continue in your downwind leg until you can look back and see the end of the runway at a 45’ angle over your shoulder. But most of the time at PDK you’re at the mercy of the airplane ahead of you. You don’t want to overtake them.

We’re now abeam the end of the runway. Throttle back to 1700 RPM, get the speed down to 90kts, and move the lever to bring in 10’ of flaps. Watch it, the plane wants to balloon up when the flaps come in. Steve says the first 10’ of flaps add the most lift; the remaining increments (20‘, 30’) mostly add drag to bring the airplane down faster.

Time to turn base - 90’ left again until you’re flying perpendicular to the end of the runway. Throttle back to 1500 and bring in 20’ of flaps. Steve is handling the throttle for me at this point so I can concentrate on my approach. He turns on the carburetor heat which drops the power a little. Carb heat prevents carburetor icing.

There’s a building south of PDK that looks like a black triangle. Steve tells me it’s a useful landmark to tell me when I should turn final and head for the runway. (I look it up later; it’s the GA Dept of Revenue building just off Century Blvd, 1.6 miles from the end of the runway.) I turn. Steve brings the throttle down more and puts in 30’ of flaps. We’re now doing about 60 knots, right were we should be.

We’re not that high at this point; maybe 300’ AGL and coming down. I’m pointed a little to the right of the runway heading and need to turn left a little more to line up properly with the runway.

We don’t want to touch down; once again we’re just practicing slips over the runway. Right aileron to slide right a little, lots of left rudder to hold the plane straight. Now a left slip - left aileron, right rudder.

All too soon it’s time to go up and around again. Throttle full forward, carb heat off, bring flaps back up in stages. Establish best rate of climb at 79 knots.


I have no idea exactly how many circuits we made around the pattern, but I’m guessing about 10 minutes per time, so probably 6 times around the pattern before we land. Today we’re actually back 45 minutes before the next flight, so Steve and I have some time to talk about what I didn’t do right. It’s clear I’m suffering from flying only every two weeks. Every thing I’ve read recommends you fly more frequently, and now I really start to see why: every lesson I have to relearn something of what I did before. But until we move into the new house in March, I want to keep my cash flow under control.

I’m now at 9.1 hours. I’m not really satisfied with my progress; before every lesson I’m pretty nervous, and I’m not fully in control of any aspect of my flying. Before Steve can sign me off to solo, he has to be confident that I’m safe to take the airplane out by myself, communicate on the radio while flying the plane, and get myself back safely. I’m not close to that goal.

On the other hand, not counting the first demo flight, I’ve had 7 lessons over 2 months. On Thanksgiving Day the world over the fence at PDK was foreign; now it’s becoming familiar. Flying is challenging, and I’m not used to anything being this difficult. Less than three months later, I’m on the other side of the fence and gaining altitude.

January 26, 2019

Flight Lessons #6/7

After a two week break, I flew twice in the last week: Lesson #6 on Mon Jan 21st (MLK Day holiday) and #7 today on Sat Jan 26. It's been a mixed bag.

Monday started off very cold: 25° at 8am. We had to bring out the jury-rigged heater to get the engine started. It's got a propane tank gadget that my CFI used to blow hot air to the engine. Steve, however, is a master of getting cold engines to start.

The lesson started with my nemisis: taxiing. When you're on the ground, you steer the airplane with the rudder pedals at your feet. Those pedals are attached to springs which move the nose wheel: at least that's how it's supposed to work. I'm fairly sure last Monday when I was pressing left, gremlins were sitting under the floorboard and making the plane go right. That's got to be it, right? It's not just that I'm crappy at it? In any case, I'd try to taxi for a few seconds, the plane would go the opposite of where I wanted it to go, and my instructor would say "My airplane!" and take over. I tried again a couple of times, but somehow I just was not getting it. Even though I'd done a takeoff the previous lesson and should have done it again, I told Steve I didn't feel confident in my ability to keep the plane on the runway, and he agreed.

The rest of the lesson was uneventful. I think Steve decided I just needed to do some review, so we went out and did some steep (45°) turns, trying to maintain altitude. Steve showed me one, and as he came back around, the plane hit a bump - and Steve turned to me, excited, and said "We just hit our own wake! That's how you're supposed to do it!" Needless to say, I was in no danger of repeating his feat.

It was also very clear. Steve said he could see planes landing all the way down at Hartsfield. You'd think it would be cool to be 2,000 above the ground on a beautiful morning - just look at everything! But when you're up there, your attention is fully consumed, and you really don't have much time to enjoy the scenery. If you want to enjoy looking at all the cool stuff, take my advice: go up with someone else and enjoy the view.

Steve's summary of the lesson: "You're doing fine in the air but terribly on the ground!" disagree.

It's better for learning if you can fly more frequently. Several times a week would be ideal. But I made the improvident decision to start flight lessons right before we also decided to buy a house. So until we get into the house and the finances stabilize again, I'm trying to fly every two weeks. Those of you who live in Atlanta realize that next weekend we're going to have our very own no-fly zone called the Superbowl. And the FAA has decreed that no training flights will be allowed out of PDK between January 29th and February 5th. In fact, they're going to shut down runways at PDK and start parking plants right on the runways. I will come out to the airport next Saturday Feb 4th just to see all the crazy traffic flying in, but if I wanted to avoid waiting three weeks to fly, I had to schedule something this weekend.

For #7 this morning I was back in the much newer Cessna 172 N704RB. Fuel injection, baby. Yeah. But 11 points where you have to check the fuel. Ah, the smell of avgas in the morning; I can't say I love it.

Today was a mixed bag. On the plus side, I did far better with the taxiing. I think I was over-controlling the aircraft Monday; today I managed to keep it until control, and I even did the takeoff. Today's destination: KLZU: Gwinnett County Briscoe Field, better known as Lawrenceville. The idea is once again to practice being in the pattern (1,000' above the field), turning base and final, and then coming in low over the field, working on my ability to keep the plane aligned with the runway while the wind tries to blow the plane sideways off the runway center line.

It was a beautiful day, but it was pretty bumpy up there. My instructor's advice: don't try to chase the altitude: every time you get bumped up above your altitude you're gonna get another one pushing you down. Just ride it out.

Lawrenceville is a towered airport with a single runway. With the Superbowl coming up, all of Atlanta and their ferrets were up and flying today. At one point we were 5th in line for landing. I even heard the tower say "The pattern is full." to one pilot. (No Ghostrider, though.)

My flying was spotty today; there were times where I not in full control of the aircraft. You could feel it. Steve was always ready to take over and did so at a few points.

On one of the trips around the pattern, I finally relaxed a little and had just my left hand on the control yoke instead of gripping it in both hands. "That's better!" said Steve. "You need your right hand free for other things." Like controlling the throttle. I am getting more confident with using the throttle. In a car, you're always using the throttle: stopping, going, slowing down, speeding up. In an airplane, you tend to keep a constant throttle except to go up or down.

So all in all, bit of a mixed day. Some things I'm doing ok at it; some things could be better.

But it's still really cool. I've been sitting here at the Downwind Restaurant overlooking the field writing. It must be busy out there; I've been hearing aircraft buzzing every few minutes. While I'm at the airport I'm still feel like a pilot. I think I'll go out with my radio and listen and watch for a little while longer before I go home and back to earth.

Postscript: I did go out and listen and watch. Just two months in, and I'm part of the club: I understand what I'm hearing. As I listen, I hear 704RB call Peachtree Tower, and I watch it land. There is a woman next to me taking pictures with a big Canon lens, and I want to say "704 Romeo Bravo! I flew that today!" But instead I watch it taxi back to the ramp and shut down.

Flying, man. Flying.

January 6, 2019

Flight Lesson #5

Lesson #5: 1/6/19. Cessna 172 "Nola" N703RB from Skybound Aviation. Last flight: 12/22.

I wanted to fly between Christmas and New Years, but the weather didn't cooperate. Today was beautiful, or as the automated information (ATIS) put it, "Winds 320' [~NW] at 8nm/hr, visiblity 10nm, temperature 15[C], dewpoint 3, visual approaches in use, Runway 3 right and 3 left. You have information November." (The information changes every so often, and every update gets a new letter: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.)

I spent money on two aviation things since my last lesson. I bought private pilot video course from King Schools with your hosts John and Martha King. Some people think the Kings are corny, but I'm a dad, so it works for me. The King Schools guarantee you will pass your FAA written exam or you'll get a full refund.

But the more fun thing is an Icom IC-A14 VHF Air Band transceiver - ie, a radio that tunes to the ground, tower, and automated weather frequencies that you need to use at a towered airport like PDK. The plane has radios, of course, but if you have your own radio, you can go out to the field and listen to the ground and tower personnel work with flights on the ground and in the air. Very fun. And you take it up in the plane, giving you a backup if the plane's radios go out.

I wasn't sure what to expect from today's lesson - more slow flight? More slips and stalls? Nope; said Steve, today we're going to practice emergency landings!

I haven't done any landings yet, emergency or otherwise, so this was new. And to do this, we flew up to Gainesville (aka KGVL), an "uncontrolled field" - one with no tower personnel - at Gainesville, aka KGVL, 39 miles to the NE of PDK.

In the end today was really just more about attempted landings than emergency landings. The emergency part turned out to being pulling the throttle back to idle a few times as we attempted to land. It turns out that a Cessna 172 glides pretty well, and doesn't feel at all out of control as it's sliding back down to the field with the engine throttled back.

We didn't actually do "full stop landings." Instead Steve demonstrated a few touch-and-gos, bringing the plane all the way down to touch on the runway and then throttling back up again for to takeoff.

We practiced using the traffic pattern for landing. You approach the field at pattern altitude, which is usually 1,000 feet above the field. (Gainesville is at 1,300', so you enter the pattern at 2,300'.) You fly parallel to the runway in the opposite direction from the direction you want to land, and about 1/2 - 1 mile away from the runway. This is known as your downwind leg, because usually you land into the wind (or up wind). Like most fields, Gainesville has a left-handed pattern, meaning you fly downwind past the end of the runway until you can see the runway behind you and to the left at about a 45' angle, and then you make a 90' turn to the left onto your base leg, and then finally you turn another 90' to the left to line up with the runway. You should be losing altitude as you make these turns, and if you've done it right, you want to be down to the altitude of the field just at the start of the runway.

It's hard to visualize. Google "airport traffic pattern" and you'll see what this looks like.

Today I didn't do the part where you make it all the way to the ground. Instead, I focused on trying to get down to the runway in an orderly fashion, and then trying to fly low over runway trying to keep the plane centered on the runway. That's a little tricky if there's any wind at all. As Steve said, if there were never any wind or just wind coming straight down the runway, all our landings would be fabulous, but that rarely happens. After flying low down over the runway, you throttle up, get back up to 500' below pattern altitude and make a 90' left turn to go around the pattern again.

So round and round we went - turn left, turn left, turn left, turn left - six passes over the runway in all, with Steve doing either two or three of them and me doing the balance. After that we made a beeline for PDK. I flew all the way back from Gainesville, getting it down to PDK's pattern altitude of 2000, getting it slowed down under Steve's direction, and sort of lined up with the runway. I was a bit off to the right, but Steve handled the last mile/minute of the flight and got us back on the ground safely.

Landing really is a whole bunch of things you have to do correctly. We're taking them a step at a time.

One interesting thing: as we're coming into Gainesville the first time, I noticed several birds ahead of us. And as we went around the field, several times there were more birds - including an entire flock of them under us. Birds! They're the real owners of the sky; we're lucky to get to share in their realm.

December 22, 2018

Flight Lesson #4

Lesson #4 at PDK: 12/22/18. Cessna 172 "Daisy" N73924 from Skybound Aviation.

Clear skies for my 4th lesson. Pretty chilly, though - temps in the 30s around 10:30am when we went out to the aircraft.

CFI Steve Hurst's finger is better from his cut a week ago just before my 3rd lesson, but it still hurts.

The first thing in the checklist is to turn on the master switch and check the fuel gauges. But given that you can't just pull over in the air, another part of the preflight check is to get up on the wing, open the fuel tank cap on each side, and use a clear plastic tube to physically check the level. Today we didn't have as much as we wanted, so Steve had to call a fuel truck. I got on with the rest of the preflight.

And promptly got told by Steve to go back and look at the checklist, because I missed extending the flaps first. Lesson: always look at the checklist first. I got through the rest of the checklist ok.

This particular plane really doesn't like getting started when it's cold. Steve had us pull out all tricks: prime it multiple times, pumping the throttle, and after about 5 minutes, it started.

Once in the air, I was introduced to the "Foggles": Foggles look like safety glasses with the top half frosted over so you can't see out the windshield. My task was to fly straight and level with reference only to the instruments, and then do a slight turn to the left. Spoiler: it's hard to do. I had trouble holding a consistent altitude. Steve was reasonably satisfied: "You didn't turn the aircraft upside down. Good work."

The first ground manuver was turning about a point: keeping a consistent direction from a fixed point on the ground as you make basically a square around it. We found a water tower to use, went down to 1500' AGL, and Steve demonstrated. Then I tried it, and did a reasonable job: I made left turns and went around said water tower twice, trying to keep the altitude steady and the water tower a consistent distance off my left side. (Side note: 1500' above the ground is not as high as you might think. If you're used to flying in jets that are only low on landings and takeoffs, it's striking how low it looks.

The second thing we practiced is the "forward slip". The point of the forward slip is to lose altitude and/or air speed more rapidly than normal, which is useful when you're landing. Put in left aileron which wants to make the airplane turn left, but full right rudder which keeps the aircraft instead going straight ahead. The result: the descent rate doubles.

The last manuver of the days: stalls! Stalls get lots of attention when you're learning to fly, and understandably so: a stall happens when you raise the nose so high that the wing basically stops flying. The Cessna 172 is a training aircraft, and she really doesn't want to stall. We did the first stall "clean" with flaps up. Pull the throttle back to idle, trim the airplane to fly at 65kts, and then start pulling the nose up, and the airplane slows. And slows. Somewhere below 40kts there's a slight disturbence in the controls, and you lose lift, and then you just lower the nose and you're back flying. Easy peasy.

Next up, stalling with flaps down. Flaps increase the area of the wing, so Daisy can fly even slower. As before, gliding, then pull back .. and back .. AND BACK .. it takes a lot of back pressure on the yoke, and airplane is going slower and slower. (Steve noted our ground speed was 25kts before she finally stalled.) Push the nose back down .. coming back .. and wait, what's that? The plane starts to drop again - we got into a secondary stall! Steve did the recovery on that one. We didn't talk about that again, so I'm going to have to bring that up next time, and look it up in my books.

Instead of following a highway back, Steve dialed in PDK in the GPS, which give me a heading to follow back to the airport: 238 most of the way, I think. I liked this part of the flight best: all the hard parts done, just flying along.

The flight ended on a bit of down note when I had some trouble taxiing. Taxiing is tricky because you do it all with the rudder pedals at your feet: the yoke does nothing. Plus, the pedals are dual purpose: press on the tops to brake, on the bottom to move the rudder. At the same time, I'm having some trouble nailing down which way things move correctly. Take the throttle: push in to go, pull out for slow. Don't be like me: when your instructor tells you to throttle the engine back, don't push in the throttle and suddenly have the airplane speed up and make your instructor suddenly have to take control.

But all in all, a good flight. More progress. Total hours to date: 4.5.

December 15, 2018

Flight Lesson #3

Lesson 3 today. First flight in two weeks. Last weekend the weather was bad both day.

Today was a longer lesson; 1.4 hours from engine start to shut down. I was with my instructor Steve Hurst for about 3 hours in total.

Today's accomplishments:

  • Applied for my student pilot's license. I'll get a card from the government in a few weeks.

  • Didn't freak out when Steve managed to cut his finger badly. I found a first aid kit. (Three, actually, but only one had bandaids.)

  • I did the initial call to ground to get our clearance to leave the ramp. I had to rehearse it like 3 times: "Cessna November 73924 at the Skybound ramp with information Tango; we're VFR to the North." CFI copied down the information from ground and did the readback of the information. One thing at a time.

  • Flying up above the cloud layer which was about 4,000'. We're allowed to fly above clouds so long as we can get back down without going through a cloud. We made it up to about 6,000'. (Altitude at PDK is 998', so that's around 5,000' AGL - above ground level.)

  • Lots of turns again. Left, right, 180, 360, climbing turns, descending turns. I'm doing better with direction, but doing not quite as good with altitude. That tends to drift 100-200 feet off if I'm not paying attention. I'm getting better as I go along.

  • Slow flight. Normal cruise speed is something over 110 knots, or about 126mph. In slow flight we were down between 55-65 knots, or 63-75mph with our flaps fully extended. When we were up around 6000, he pulled throttle back to idle and we were gliding down. It was so much quieter at idle! We flew around for quite a while in slow flight. You need to move the controls further when the plane is slower, and the plane tended to mush around a bit more.

My favorite part: my CFI pointed out 400, and said "Let's follow that back towards the field." I found it much easier fly just trying to follow the road. I'm pretty sure we flew right over Avalon in Alpharetta, so right near work. Then we aimed for the King and Queen buildings. We were around 2800' the whole way down.

Steve called the tower and got our clearance - straight in to runway 21R. We turned towards the east and descended towards pattern altitude - 2000'. Steve adjusted the throttles and trim to get us into the right glide. He had me turn towards the runway. He took over the landing, but I got reasonable close - maybe less than a mile? Wow. Wow.

I taxied back. You steer the airplane on the ground with rudder pedals at your feet, not with the yoke. At some point Steve was going to have me call ground for taxi instructions, but that point I was just .. well, see above. Wow. Wow.

At some point when we went into slow flight I told Steve "I'm having a lot more fun this time." And I was. My biggest problem so far is getting a little too focused on each thing and not being aware of all of what's going on. That will come with time as I don't have to concentrate on just controlling the aircraft.

I still can't believe I'm doing this. Trippy! (Forgive me, I'm a 70s kid.)

December 2, 2018

Flight lesson #2

No cool pictures today, but very good first real flight lesson: one full hour in the aircraft.

We did 30/45° left and right turns of all kinds (90, 180, 360°. Climbing and descending. Descending and turning. Dutch rolls (roll the aircraft 30° to the left, then 30° to the right.)

I'm not a natural at this - there were a number of times where I was struggling to keep track and do everything. At the beginning of the lessons my turns were very sloppy: losing altitude, not using rudder properly. By the end I was doing much better with holding altitude and using rudder. It was good to make progress.

Bottom line: this was much more fun than the first one. So much to learn, but I'm doing fine.

January 20, 2018

My favorite tech purchases of 2017

A few years back the Accidental Tech Podcast did a "tech Thanksgiving" episode in which each of the hosts talked about the tech that they were most grateful for.

For the past two years, I've kept an OmniOutliner document with a list of my favorite tech things of the year. Here's my list of the favorite things for 2017, starting with my favorite for the year.

10.5" iPad Pro with LTE

I bought a 12.9" iPad Pro in December 2015 shortly after it came out. At the time, I had an 2013 9.7" iPad Air which was starting to feel slow. The 12.9" iPad Pro was great, and it immediately replaced the Air, even at times when the smaller one would have made more sense. (Bringing a laptop-sized screen to bed only seems ridiculous at first.)

As time went on, I found myself picking up 9.7" Air more and more. The Air was a good size to take to lunch. The 12.9--well, one day I was out for lunch and I had the 12.9" on the table. A waitress rushed by and sent my iPad crashing to the floor. (Surprisingly, it still worked.)

But even though the smaller size of the Air made more sense, it was still slower than I wanted. By the beginning of 2017, the Air was over three years old. When the 10.5" iPad Pro was announced, I ordered it immediately.

I've loved it since the moment I got it. It's fast, the screen is great, and the four speakers in the corners make it so much better for watching video.

This is my 5th iPad, and every one I've bought has had a cell connection. Getting the cell over the WiFi model adds $130, but it makes using the iPad much more convenient. I love being able to grab it and use it with no delay no matter where I am. When I got the 12.9 I tried tethering it to my iPhone, but within a few weeks I added it to my cell plan.

Bose Soundlink Mini

We've had the largerBose Bluetooth SoundLink speaker about 5 years, and we love it. It's got great sound for a portable speaker. It usually lives in the kitchen, but in the morning I like to listen to podcasts while I'm in the shower., and it's a bit of a pain to go get the speaker from the kitchen. I've had my eye on the Bose Soundlink Mini ever since we got one for one of my kids a few years back. So when Bose gear went on sale for Amazon Prime Day last summer, so I grabbed one.

The larger Soundlink is still better for music, but the Mini is great for podcasts, and it's much more portable. We threw it in the suitcase when we went to Asheville in November and loved having with us. The battery also lasts for a couple of weeks at a time, which is much better than the larger Soundlink.

Apple Watch Series 3

I bought the original Apple Watch in 2015 a few months after it was released. Although I liked the Watch and wore it every day, by the of that year I was underwhelmed with what it did given the over $400 price tag.

But WatchOS updates kept coming, and by WatchOS 3 in September of 2016 my Watch was reasonably usable. Apple updated the hardware with the the Series 1 and 2 at the same time, but I was reluctant to spend another $400 on the watch only a year after it came out, so I decided to hold out another year for the next version. So when the Series 3 was announced in September 2017, I was chomping at the bit to get one.

The Series 3 is much faster than my Series 0. There were a number of apps that I'd given up on for being buggy, but what I discovered was that they were actually just too slow on that original hardware. On the old watch, activating Siri took a few seconds, but on the new one, Siri is right there.

Though I bought the LTE model, I haven't activated the cell service, and at this point I don't think I will. I could have saved myself some money by getting the non-cell version, but I wanted to keep my options open.

iPhone X

I'm in the Apple Upgrade program, which basically forces you to buy a new phone every year. (If you don't, you get a very friendly phone call from an Apple employee around November asking if you're feeling ok.)

I moved from the iPhone 7 Plus to the X. It's nice to be back to a phone that's a somewhat more reasonable size. (But if there's an iPhone X style larger phone this year, I will be tempted.)

Everyone talks about the OLED screen and Face ID, and I like those features, but it's the little things I like about the X. It's essentially waterproof, and the speaker is loud enough that I can use it instead of an external speaker. I've taken it into the shower with me in a pinch when I didn't have an external speaker available and not worried that I would drown the poor thing.

Amazon Echo Dot

The Dot was an impulse purchase back at the beginning of 2017. I bought a couple of Wemo Smart Plugs with it. By the end of the year we were happily saying "Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree" and "Alexa, turn out the lights" at bedtime. Having a human hanging around all day and all night to switch your lights on and off would be unseemly, but robot servants are cool. And way cheaper. Relatively. (This Smart Home stuff can start to add up. Fortunately, there are limits to our spending because we live in an apartment. No splurging on a smart thermostat or smart switches.)

Philips Hue Lights

The Wemo switches went into hiding once we got the Philips Hue bulbs.

The good: changing colors on your lightbulbs is cool. Another an unexpected benefit: we had dimmer cords that we'd bought back when we used incandescent bulb. Annoyingly, the dimmers didn't work well with LED bulbs: they had a nasty flicker when you turned them down. But the Hue bulbs dim smoothly with no flicker at all.

The bad: the Hue bulbs are only the equivalent of a 60w incandescent. Hue Bulbs are aimed at 20-somethings, not 50-somethings. Oh, well. I guess we just need to buy more of them.

Bose QC-35 Bluetooth noise-canceling (Series II) headphones

I bought a pair of wired Bose QC-15 headphones a few years back. I used them all the time at the office to cope with the noise of our open plan office. (Can't I just have a cube again? Please?)

Towards the end of the year we had to move desks around, and the result was even more noise. A co-worker had a pair of the newer QC-35 Series I headphones. I did an A-B test with my pair to see I could tell any difference, and .. yes, darn it, his were noticeably quieter. At lunchtime I went straight out to the local Best Buy and bought the QC-35 Series II headphones. And yes, Bluetooth is better: no cables to snag on everything.

BeatsX Bluetooth earbuds

I bought a pair of Apple AirPods for my sweetie for her birthday last year. She loved them, so I was excited to buy a pair for myself and see what everyone was raving about.

I was disappointed. In a noisy location, the AirPods are next to useless--they don't block out any sound. More critically, after about 3 hours of use they hurt my ears, so I returned them. (I bought them on-line from AT&T. Returning them to an AT&T retail store was surprisingly painful.)

I did like the AirPod's W1 chip that made it easier to switch between Apple devices. So instead I bought the BeatsX in-ear headphones that also included the W1 chip. The Beats X didn't hurt my ears, and I much preferred their noise-blocking in-ear style.

They're pretty tough. Right before vacation I accidentally put them through the washer. I figured they were ruined, but I went ahead and packed them in rice, and then immediately went to the Apple Store and bought another pair. I took both pair on vacation, and four days later I took my drowned pair out of the rice, and to my great surprise they still worked. Moreover, I could not tell the difference between the pair I'd washed and the new pair, so I got a refund on the new ones. Against all odds they're still working fine 8 months later. I still recommend against washing them.

Apple Smart Keyboard for 10.5" iPad

I've had an reluctant relationship with the Smart Keyboard. When I got my 12.9" iPad, I held off buying one. It was expensive, and I had a Bluetooth keyboard I could use with the iPad. I broke down and decided to give the Smart Keyboard a try, and I liked it. It made the 12.9" iPad much closer to a laptop replacement. That proved useful for about 6 months when my sweetie started grad school and needed to borrow my laptop. I was able to get by pretty well for about 6 months until she got a new laptop of her own.

Nonetheless, when I got the 10.5" iPad, I was reluctant to buy another expensive keyboard cover. One iPad with a always-attached keyboard is enough, right? But if there's one thing I'm good at, it's justifying spending money on gadgets, so ..

I'm using it right now to write this post. The 12.9" keyboard is better, but the 10.5" keyboard is damn good, and lets me use my smaller iPad when I would otherwise just leave my laptop-sized 12.9" iPad behind. An iPad with a keyboard that's always available is more useful.

Apple Pencil

I bought an Apple Pencil with my 12.9" iPad Pro back in 2015, but ended up not using it very much. I bought my sweetie a 9.7" iPad Pro for her birthday in 2016. Not long thereafter she started on a Master's Program, and discovered she loved using the Pencil for taking notes, so I ended up ceding it to her.

When I bought the 10.5" iPad, I now had two iPads that could use the Pencil, so I decided to buy one again. I actually did find a use for it: though I can't draw and my handwriting is atrocious, I found that when I'm trying to work something out I prefer handwriting to typing. I use the Notability app, and I love the ability to select a word or paragraph and move it around. I've been using it to keep notes for our daily 9am standup meeting.

Looking ahead to 2018

Unlike 2017 when I was already looking for a new iPad and a new Watch, there isn't a lot I'm looking forward to in 2018. My iPads are great and my Watch is good for another couple of years. I bought a new MacBook Pro in 2015, and that's still good for a number of years. (Apple needs to fix the faulty keyboard design introduced with the 2016 Macbook Pro before I'll be ready to buy another laptop.) 

I am interested in the Apple HomePod. I'm skeptical going in, but given my track record with buying Apple products, there's a good chance I'll decide I need that.

My 2011 iMac is getting long of tooth, but I had an SSD put in it a couple of years ago, so it's still going strong. I'll probably keep it until Apple stops supporting that model with new OS updates, and at that point I'll probably buy a 27" 5k iMac.

I've been staring to think about 4k TVs, but I don't think this is the year yet. That would be a major upgrade; I'd not only need to replace my TV, but my receiver, Blu-Ray player, and Apple TV as well. I also wonder how long it will before my cable service offers 4K. Plus, I think I'd want an OLED TV, and those are still pretty expensive for the larger sizes. So I think 2018 is not the year for that.

Since I'm paying for my iPhone monthly on the Apple Upgrade program, I'll almost certainly get a new iPhone later this year.

January 6, 2018

More private words

Back in 2014 I noted that even though I'd barely published anything on this blog, I was still writing a lot - just privately.

Even though I haven't been writing in public, I've still written 58,000 words this year [0]. But those words haven't been public; they've been in Day One, a journaling app I use on my iPad and Mac.

I noted back then that I'd written 124k words in total in Day One in the previous four years.

Looks like I'm pretty consistent. Looks like I wrote just over 60,000 words in Day One in 2017. My total is up to 324,000 words with journal entries going back to 2010.

I'm still alive

A former co-worker recently discovered this blog. I was reminded once again I once wrote a lot here, but barely anything in the last 10 (!!) years. (I was suprised the blog was still running. I guess I did revive when I moved over to Digital Ocean a few years back.)

The idea of New Year's resolutions is an anathma to me, but perhaps I'll try to write a few things here.

Recent Comments

  • ha: I like it very much, thanks!!! read more
  • vshih: Ah, thanks TKid! "Color level: Full" worked like a charm. read more
  • Edward Vielmetti: Sometimes I'm convinced that the internet is more of a read more
  • TKid: I had an issue with this as well. The problem read more
  • Jerry Zigmont: Pual, Thanks for your post. I was wondering if you read more
  • Edward Vielmetti: Thanks for the book list reviews Paul! read more
  • Terry Tanner: My last suntea jar was good, and was a gallon read more
  • Will Cox: The Da Vinci Code was just blah. Perhaps its reputation read more
  • paul: I have to agree that it's not as good as read more
  • Edward Vielmetti: Paul, sounds like a welcome move home - though I read more