Monday, 31 December 2012

OMG it’s an airport!

Today’s statement of the blindingly obvious but an important achievement for me. Important in that not only did I manage to successfully navigate us to Oshawa airport, I actually managed to spot the airport. This may sound trivial but airports can be surprisingly tricky to see from 2400ft when they are in the middle of a built up area. I was probably over excited by my new found skill but hey! No one ever died from over enthusiasm.

Today’s flight to Oshawa was FUN!!!* And quite frankly one hell of an achievement for me. It certainly is starting to sow the seeds in my mind that eventually I just might be able to tackle this cross country stuff. As Bob said, you get the departure and approach sorted, everything else is just distance in between**. Today I successfully:

·         Planned a route to an unfamiliar airport

·         Identified all the pertinent information I needed to know prior to flying

·         Flew the correct heading and route to arrive at that airport

·         Exited one control zone and entered another, making the appropriate radio calls at the correct points

·         Spotted the airport in good time and figured out the runway configuration

·         Correctly anticipated the potential circuit joining instructions and established myself on the correct leg

·         Spoke to an unfamiliar control tower and successfully communicated my intentions***

·         Flew two circuits at an unfamiliar airport (aced the landings BTW!)

·         Exited their control zone and got myself back to my home airport without causing any issues!

Not bad eh?

Unfortunately once we got back to City, this is where things didn’t go quite as swimmingly. I managed two pretty sweet touch and goes at CYOO, only to be magically repelled from the tarmac at City. It took two overshoots before I got the damn thing down L


*I really want to emphasise this. It was hard work for sure but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Sometimes straight after a flight I`m so caught up in what I did wrong that I forget what went well and how much fun it was.  It would be very easy to get the wrong idea and think I wasn`t enjoying it. I really am J

** Yes I know the ``bit in the middle” can be problematic it its own right too but give a girl a little bit of hope!

*** and I didn’t p!ss them off either, nor them me!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

On my third flight of Christmas…

… I flew this from City:

3 overshoots

2 touch and goes

And a full stop on two-six!


This is as close as I get to singing Christmas Carols, enjoy!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

8 fun facts about Oshawa Municipal Airport:

I’m reading up on CYOO in preparation for my impending flying visit. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

1)      Their website was last updated in 2011 and was designed by a colour blind person. It seriously makes your eyes bleed.

2)      It was voted “The 2010 World's Most-Female-Pilot-Friendly Airport” – I have no idea what this means, possibly it refers to a promise of female washrooms and a guarantee that women won’t be shot on sight. Or maybe they’ve painted the runway pink. I’ll let you know.

3)      It is about 200ft higher than City.

4)      There are intersecting runways – this scares me somewhat.

5)      It is actually tower controlled – this scares me a lot, as much as I complain about the ATC at City at least I know them and their idiosyncrasies. I also have a vague idea of the local geographical references. I now have to talk to a whole new bunch of people intent on killing me*.

6)      The CFS shows 3 towers in the immediate vicinity of the airport- Oh goody! Something else for ATC to attempt to bounce me off!

7)      The runways look to be roughly the same length, if a tad narrower. This should be ok.

8)       The CFS reports “wildlife frequently on runway” – it is unclear as to whether this refers to animals or merely the local populace.

Still looking forward to it though. I’m sure it’ll spawn a blog post or two.
* despite sounding a little over the top, reckoning that everyone is actually out to kill you is actually a fairy healthy attitude to have in aviation.It keeps you on your toes.




Friday, 28 December 2012

Bulletproof paperwork

One of the things I’m going to have to sharpen up on is the paperwork associated with flying. There are various bits of paper that you have to keep on board in order for your flight to be legal. I’d imagine that the required stuff is fairly standard the world over. The fact that I’m being deliberately vague about what they actually are, should tell you that my knowledge may be a little lacking in this area.

Time to hit the books on this topic I feel. Ironically the one piece of paper I have no trouble remembering is very area specific. Due to our paranoid cousins to the south I have to carry on board a copy of what are known as “interception procedures” aka “how not to get shot down by the US military”.*
I am seriously not making this up. You have to carry a little card telling you what to do if you accidentally wander off course and attract air force attention.

Now I am fairly close to US airspace and it’s not inconceivable (given my sense of direction) that I could wander across the border accidentally but the concept of being intercepted makes me laugh, a lot! For a start I wouldn’t be too worried about any deliberate acts of terrorism committed in a C172. You hit a building with that thing; chances are it’ll bounce right off!
The thing I find totally hilarious though is the thought of an F16 (or whatever the USAF use now) trying to intercept a light aircraft. I can stay in the sky at 50 knots, I suspect an F16 can’t. Has anyone even given any thought as to how this might actually work?

Despite what it says on the instructions if it ever happens to me all you’ll see is a person trying hard not to wet herself laughing as she slowly pulls back the power!

*Technically I guess the same applies to the Canadian armed services as well but I suspect that they are far too polite to shoot down a plane. They'd feel terrible about it !


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Does that seem right to you?

I give Bob a bottle of reasonably nice local icewine for Christmas, he gives me 12 Megs worth of study pdfs in return; does that seem fair?

Seriously though, he also lent me a study guide for the PPL exam which has already proved incredibly useful, so I suppose I should be grateful really.
I actually am. For the first time I’m  seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I have a plan of action and it appears to be working. Even two hours’ worth of work has seen me be able to get around 45 out of 50 of the sample questions right on meteorology. Which, incidentally, would see me with a more than respectable pass mark. Of course I'm not satisfied with that so the work continues.
I’m under no illusions that I’m going to ace this exam, but it certainly seems within my grasp if I can keep this up.


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Life is good

I've got a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in one hand and a box of Jaffa cakes* in the other
It's snowing heavily and I have nowhere I need to go

There's a James Bond movie on the tv.

What more could a girl want ?

* British cake type thingy, hard to find in Canada, specially imported by friends !

I’m not sure I want to fly in this

First break in the crappy weather so I arranged to meet Bob down at the airport to hopefully get some flying in. Situation was a tad complicated due to JES being confined to dual circuits at the moment. She’s had some new parts as a result of this, it meant I’d have to swap planes if I wanted to solo.

Well I woke up and could feel the wind shaking the apartment. I was tempted to roll over, go back to sleep and forget all about this flying nonsense. Knowing that wasn’t really an option RTH* and I dutifully trundled down to the airport. All the time looking at the seemingly lowering clouds, gusty winds, with worse predicted and a hint of snow in the air.
On the ferry over I admitted to RTH that “I’m not sure I want to fly in this” but as I explained to him I kept asking myself “what’s the worst that can happen?” I’m with an instructor, I’m staying local and if the weather comes in I’m 2 minutes from a runway, maximum. I was less than reassured when RTH admitted that he wasn’t sure he wanted to fly in it either!

As usual I admitted to Bob that we were at the limits of my comfort zone and as usual Bob listened sympathetically and then marched me off to the plane anyways! We did agree though that the winds were outside the school’s limits for soloing.
As it turned out I’m getting better than I realised at dealing with this stuff. Circuit was square, landings were better (centreline needed some work, but I’ve got an idea of what I’m doing wrong now. I’ll have that sorted next time) and I wasn’t overly stressed. Even when dealing with my old nemesis in ATC, he was reasonably ok with me  because my radio work is awesome**but I reckon there was at least one overshoot caused by him taking so bloody long to issue a takeoff clearance.

 I did feel sorry for him at one point. There was traffic kicking around that was obviously unfamiliar with the area and were having a bit of trouble responding to ATC’s requests to stay clear of a certain area. The back and forth went on for a while. The traffic requested a bearing rather than a geographical point. ATC told them to remain north of the CN Tower. There was a brief pause, I resisted the urge to hold down the radio trigger whilst I said “it’s the big pointy thing, you can’t miss it!”

I’m glad I flew today but I’m still not sure I’d fly in those winds for fun.
*RTH has let his currency at the flight school expire. He was meant to got up for an instructor sign off with Bob but the cloud base was too low for anything other than circuits. He didn't get to fly.

** It's one of the few things that Bob never seems to have any "feedback" about so I figure I'm doing something right.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!!

To all my readers wherever you may be*

More posts to come but at the moment I’m taking advantage of the lull in flying to catch up on some drinking!



*click on the comments underneath each post to leave me a message, let me know how you ended up here, even if it was my Mom pimping out my blog to you!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Something to get excited about.

I reluctantly admitted to Bob today that I “was getting bored with the circuit”. Reluctantly because I don’t want him to get the wrong idea and think that I’m not enjoying this anymore. I know why we’ve been doing so much circuit work and I know I’ve got still more to come and that the conditions are not exactly ideal at the moment for doing much else. Again, not to say that I’m not achieving anything in the circuit. I most definitely am, but I need a change of scenery, a break from tarmac bashing at City.

Bob, as usual, took this completely in his stride and had a plan*. A short trip to a nearby airport. A  mini cross country trip. Nothing too far away, but enough that I’m going to have to pull out a chart, figure out some headings. As well as looking up the airport in the CFS to figure out frequencies, runway layouts and other stuff. I also have a feeling that it’s an uncontrolled airport, so I’ll have to review joining procedures as well as brushing up on the required position calls. It’ll be very different to what I’m used to. I’m a little excited about the prospect to be honest.
 A really good idea. New challenges but still well within my abilities (I hope!). Just what I need. Perhaps it'll bolster my confidence enough that the prospect of my actual cross country stuff I've got to do will be less daunting.

Once we get there the idea is also to do a few touch and gos on an unfamiliar runway. I expressed my concern today that although I’m flying fairly reasonable circuits at City (even with some challenging wind conditions today I kept it square), I feel that I’m relying too  much on local landmarks. I’m flying relative to buildings and so forth, not the runway. An unfamiliar airport will stop that habit for sure!

*Secret Cylon maybe? Could explain a lot! (apologies to the less geeky in the audience who have no idea what I’m on about, but that's how my mind works. Live with it!)

Sunday, 23 December 2012

How do you eat an elephant…..?

… you nibble away at it slowly!* and thus begins my strategy to study some PPL theory. Rather than be daunted by the sheer amount of knowledge that I need to possess I’m going to take it one small bite at a time. Today I successfully made headway with the following topics

·         Pitot/static instruments

·         Gyro instruments

·         Airspace classification
Not bad for a couple of hours work. More importantly I actually feel that I understand them now.  For example the pitot/static instruments. Not only do I have a better idea of how they work, I have a much better feel for what I would physically experience in the cockpit if they decided to misbehave, if either the pitot and/or the static ports became blocked. That’s really important.

Once I began studying it became immediately apparent to me why I’d found it such tough going previously. I’d been going about it all wrong. I simply don’t learn just by reading, unlike RTH. He’s capable of simply reading “From the Ground Up” from cover to cover. I’m not
As soon as I started making notes and writing the stuff down it was the difference between night and day. The subtle nuances in airspace classifications made themselves clear to me. It was like a light bulb going on. Suddenly I understood. I found some inherent sense in it. Now my mind isn’t intimidated by it, I’m confident it’ll stick.

Success at last. Next time I’m going to look at some Met questions and figure out how to answer them. It doesn’t bother me that I might not know the answers, I’m happy that it’ll give me a clue as to where to start nibbling!


* This dreadful metaphor was a favourite of my A level chemistry teacher and it has stuck with me for all these years. Sometimes I dread to think of the legacy I left behind in my 10 years of teaching!


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Good news and bad.

Good news is that we appear to have come through the apocalypse relatively intact, which is nice!

Bad news – as per my deal with Bob this means that I have to start studying for my PPL exam. You see in an uncharacteristic fit of reasonableness Bob agreed with me that it was useless for me to start my studying endeavour until we were quite sure that the world was going to continue. He also seemed very keen to provide a home for my extensive alcohol collection if things didn’t go so well for the planet.
So now I have to put a plan into action and make sure I don’t squander the time I have available to me. It’ll be a long time before I get 17 consecutive days off work again (if ever!). My plan is to aim for 2 hours a day while I’m off work and maybe half an hour to keep up the pace when I’m back in the office.

Realistically I need to get this out of the way before March Break because then my work schedule gets insanely, stupidly busy. I’ll have time for the flying but not the studying.
To work, then! But looking at the text book I’m not convinced that the world didn’t end last night and hell is actually trying to pass your Transport Canada PPL exam.




Friday, 21 December 2012

Behold, for I am the harbinger of crappy weather.

Seemed appropriate to have a mildly apocalyptic theme to today’s post. Well assuming we’ve all survived and that. If not then I guess my pilot exams are the least of my worries!

As of 4:00pm yesterday my inbox has been cleared* and my voice mail switched to out of office and I’m off work for a hallowed 17 days! Bliss!
The plan, as usual, is to get some flying time in. The weather disagrees. We’ve got winter storms, freezing precipitation and lake effect snow all on the cards. As well as storm force winds. Déjà vu anyone?

It would seem the second I book a single day off work the weather apocalypse befalls us!

WMAP- sulking in advance



* by cleared I may mean anything not dealt with deleted, if it is important they'll mail me back ;)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Ideas above my station (or why I need to stop watching trashy TV).

It would seem that I’ve developed a bit of a taste for this flying stuff. As well as watching any crappy TV that is vaguely aviation related that I can find, I’m also looking at various different types of aircraft and thinking “hmm, gotta get me a front seat ride in one of those”

I think I might have taken this a bit too far last night when I caught myself thinking that about a DC4! Highly unlikely I feel!!
Seriously though I get kind of excited that one day I may have the transferrable skills that might enable me to have a bash at some of these other types of planes I see around. Now I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of glass cockpits but I do like shiny planes. Basically at the moment, if it has wings I wanna fly it! Except for helicopters. Helicopters are stupid and possibly defy the laws of physics. I don’t like helicopters.

I may have to cut down on the trashy aviation TV though. With learning to fly has come a certain amount of knowledge. I’m no expert but now I know enough to realise how over dramatized a lot of the stuff is.  I can understand that this is meant to provide entertainment but the last straw was when they described one of the planes having to do a “risky manoeuvre” called a “touch and go.”
I must be more of an expert than I thought then because I do, on average, 6 of those “risky manoeuvres” a lesson.

I had no idea I was so skilled, so where’s that DC4 again? I might take her for a spin!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Whatcha been doing to my plane?

I’m a little bit possessive and I don’t like to see JES being mentioned in CADORS reports, especially ones like the one below that mention “rough sounding” engines.


I hope it was just an overly cautious pilot or an easily fixed problem, rather than something major. Don’t break my plane!




Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Yet another plan

To put an end to the endless procrastinating* I’m doing with regard to the transport Canada exam. I have two things, a timeframe and a study plan.

The timeframe – I’m going to aim to be ready to sit the exam by the end of February.
The plan – I’m going to take some vacation days off work over Christmas** and spend the time working towards this. For the Met I’m going to concentrate on answering the typical questions that come up in the exam rather than trying to wade through endless pages of theory. For Nav, Bob is going to email me a “script” of the steps you need to go through each time and then a series of pretend routes for me to plan. Also I hope to supplement this with some actual real life planning by flying with RTH over the Christmas break.

I need 80% for the flying school to recommend me for the exam. I’m aiming for a lot higher than that.


* and whining. Need to get it out the way for everyone’s sanity

** I’m being forced to take vacation. Apparently I didn’t take any last year. I carried over more days than I accrued!

Monday, 17 December 2012

39 pages

I was mildly optimistic for a while. Bob promised me a step-by-step guide to figuring out the Navigation stuff. I had visions of a little cheat sheet that I could laminate and stow with my general flying kit. A bullet point sheet of steps to follow.

I got mildly excited when I saw the email. It almost made up for the fact that the weekend weather wasn`t going to allow for any flying. I took a quick glance at it and gulped. It looked kind of complicated, but the iPhone has never been the best medium for viewing word docs so I waited until I got home, praying that the issue was formatting and not content.
Then the full horror hit me. What I was expecting was a quick guide, what I got was 39 nightmare pages of hell.

39 pages

In aviation speak -  three-niner pages!
Seriously, you’re talking to a girl who still navigates her way round her home city by following the moving dot on her phone. I don`t recall orbital mechanics classes at university requiring that much math. I have a better chance of calculating the orbital parameters of a GPS satellite than actually finding my way without using one!

I think I may just quit now.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

When can you call yourself a pilot?

I fly planes now. No one can argue with that. But am I a pilot yet? At what point can I legitimately call myself that? I’d always assumed that it was after passing your flight test and getting the coveted licence*. I’m not sure the general public agree though, my work colleagues refer to me as a pilot all the time.
During my last trip to Florida, I was travelling with 3 colleagues. All of whom I’d primed about my dislike of commercial flying and the need to ignore me if I start freaking out. As it turned out, I was OK on both flights, despite so­me chop on the way out.­­ I actually found myself in the slightly bizarre position where I was the only one who wasn’t apprehensive.

We were coming into land in a significant crosswind. I'd spotted what was going on as we set up for our final approach. My fellow travellers obviously hadn't as we approached the runway sideways. I looked to my work collegues as we touched down left wheel first to say "cool crosswind landing" only to see them clutching the arm rests in a way that I recognise all too well. "oh is that what it was?" They asked, releasing the death grip a little. The guy on the end of the row looked quizically at my boss.
 “She’s a pilot” she explained. I started to argue that at best I’m a student pilot, but it seems the distinction was lost on both of them. Apparently if you understand exactly how it is that you didn’t just die horribly in a plane crash, then to the travelling public, you’re a pilot!

* Very occasionally I allow myself to dream of the moment when I possess this hallowed document. I wonder if it is in the same way that a young child might dream of being a movie star, technically possible but highly improbable.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Flying and my brain

It would appear that flying has changed my brain functionality*. Let me explain further.

An integral apart of any gathering of educational professionals is the inevitable “learning styles preference” discussion. Depending on what is in fashion at the time you could be discussing:

·         Neil Fleming's VAK/VARK model.

·         Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.

·         Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

·         David Kolb's model

While I completely agree that different people learn in different ways. I tend to view the psychology based pseudo sciences with the same level of disdain that Richard Feynman did. Still I’ve filled in enough of these damn questionnaires to know exactly where I stand. Using the Kolb model that was being thrown around in today’s discussion I know that I always come out as an Assimilator**. In that I prefer observing to doing and thinking rather than feeling to put it crudely.  I usually fit quite strongly in this category as well. No questions.
Except that now I don’t apparently. The last one of these things I filled in has me absolutely smack bang in the middle of all four categories***. And of course I blame flying!

I have been forced to use parts of my brain that simply weren’t allowed to function before. I can read all I like about landing a plane but now I’m being forced to experience the visual and kinaesthetic feedback that you need to in order not to bounce the plane to high heaven.  Watching Bob doing something is one thing but I need to experience what a stall feels like and do the recovery myself. This has shuffled me from one polarity towards the other enough that I'm now on the fence as it were.
While I find it vaguely interesting that flying can change your mindset in such a way. I actually find it more interesting that people make a living by coming up with these “models” in the first place!


* Bracing myself for the inevitable barrage of rude comments!

 ** I think this makes me sound like the Borg from Star Trek. I’m totally cool with this J

 *** Apparently, according to our workshop leader, this puts me in a fifth category “awkward”. Again I’m fine with this


Friday, 14 December 2012

Sometimes I suspect I don’t exist

I’ve always known that bits of me are invisible. I have a hard time using faucets and hand dryers that automatically detect your hands. Because apparently my hands are invisible. I’ve come to accept this. 

I didn’t realize that my voice is inaudible though. This comes as somewhat of a surprise to me as I have always been told that my voice carries, excessively in some cases. I’m still infamous for the restaurant incident where someone had asked me a relatively simple question about temperature variation during the seasons; this resulted in me using a wine bottle and a salt shaker to demonstrate the path of the Earth around the sun and ended in me getting a round of applause from the rest of the diners!
So how do I know that I have an inaudible voice? Well I’ve discovered this website, which the geek in me uses to review my flights (especially when ATC have been up to their weird and wonderful tricks and I want to figure just what the hell happened).  On the ground it doesn’t pick up my voice about 90% of the time. Which is kind of disappointing. Not as disappointing as wearing my new head mounted camera and somehow failing to turn it on to record thoughL

When it does pick up my voice though, once I’ve gotten over the inevitable cringe of how my accent sounds, I have to say my radio work is pretty damn good compared to some people out there.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Sometimes I say the stupidest things.

You know how you have a thought in your head and it’s not until it comes out that you realize how ridiculous it sounds? That was today’s post flight conversation with Bob.

We’d done some circuits, couple of emergency procedures thrown in. Some improvement, some room for improvement. Nothing too problematic, so not much of a debrief needed. Still I had a few questions from a while back so I pulled out my trusty phone and read from my notes. I had a couple of q’s from a situation weeks ago where ATC wouldn’t acknowledge my call into the zone and then I attempted to broach the subject that has been weighing on my mind a lot recently. The written exam.
Now for a person who used to make a living out of talking to crowds, sometimes I have real issues communicating what’s on my mind. I tried to explain to Bob that I was having issues with studying, some topics in particular and just getting the timing right in general.  The topics I’m struggling with didn’t come as a huge surprise, Nav – lack of practice and Met – lack of interest! But he looked puzzled when I said the timing was an issue. I reminded him that once you sit the written, you only have a certain time period to get the flight test done. “Yes, it’s TWO YEARS” said Bob.

“So, you think I’ll be ready in that time then, we’re OK and on track?” I asked and immediately realized just how ridiculous that sounded. Bob, with his infinite patience said “yes WMAP, we’ve got you solo, that was the hard part. You’ll do it in less than two years”
I hate the way my insecurities make me sound stupid. I hate being so needy but part of me needs this reassurance that I’m OK, that I’m just like any other student. No better, no worse. I need to get rid of this voice in my head that still reckons that everyone is just humouring me, I need to listen to the one that says you can actually do this.

Self doubt is soul destroying.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Studying – new tactic

I tried to sit down with “From the Ground Up” over the weekend again. A slight improvement in that this time the book didn’t become airborne, but still not great. I have no idea what’s wrong with me. I just look at certain sections, namely Nav and Met and go “meh! Don’t know, Don't care!”.

I keep making excuses about the Nav, saying “you can’t really read about this , you need to do it as a practical exercise.” Of course this is only partially true, some of the theory you can read about, how much use it is I don’t know. Still I’ve now read about rhumb lines* and transverse Mercator projections** and am still none the wiser as to how to plot a course from here to Niagara without busting Pearson’s airspace.
Met, I have no excuse for. Its bloody important, especially as I’m sitting here listening to predictions of how Hurricane  Sandy is going to wipe us all out.  I may start on the Air Command Weather Manual again, although I’m not sure if it covers how to interpret the maps, diagrams and stuff that looks like hieroglyphics to me.

Now coming up with a study plan ought to be easy for me, but timing is everything. Part of the problem is the nebulous nature of when I need to take this exam. I need to pass it at some point. Time wise that doesn’t give you much of a motivation factor. However I need to be careful, once I pass the exam I only have 24 months to get the flying done and skills test passed. There’s no way I want to be doing this exam twice and everything with flying seems to take twice as long as you expect especially if you hit crappy weather. So I’ve got to time this right.
Anyways my new tactic is to focus on my weak areas by trying sample exam questions. I’ve downloaded one paper from Transport Canada website and just skimmed though it to see how I’d do. Now it’s a pdf and on my computer so I’ve glossed over some of the questions that need you to flick back to the appendices. The idea is to figure out which sections I need to brush up on and then make some notes on them rather than just reading the sections.***

So how did I do? Surprisingly pretty well, nowhere near 100% but good enough to manage a pass in the following sections , air law and aeronautics general knowledge. So what does that leave me with? Nav and Met!!! <bashes head against wall>
Seriously if anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears.


*Microsoft denies that this is a word.

** I can’t read anything to do with maps and projections without seeing this clip from “The West Wing” . It took all my self-restraint in Nav class to refrain from asking “so where the hell is France?” when confronted with the various projection types. I suspect that not many people get my Imperialistic Eurocentric humour!

*** The more observant amongst you will notice that I’m not making notes but am in fact blogging L