Stories by Francis Zera

EDITOR-AT-LARGE - SEATTLE, WA Francis Zera is a Seattle-based architectural, aerial, aviation, and commercial photographer, a freelance photojournalist, and a confirmed AvGeek.
In the traffic pattern at Boeing Field. The view doesn't suck

This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly. You can read the whole Fly With Francis series here.

After six weeks, which went past in a seeming eyeblink, I’ve completed ground school. Drinking from a fire hose is an appropriate analogy. Still, I passed all three written stage tests, and just passed the written comprehensive finals, which consisted of two separate tests over two class sessions. Next up will be scheduling and taking the proper FAA written exam before all this hard-earned info leaks out of my brain.

I’ve also been flying quite a lot with my CFI (aka my instructor) – two or three hours a week on average. I’m learning new skills like crazy, but am also burning through money like a Silicon Valley startup. In contrast with most of my stories, I don’t have very many photos to share for this series, not at least so far. Learning how to fly is hard, and if I’m on the controls the whole flight, there’s no time for taking photos. I’m considering finding a way to mount a GoPro either inside or outside the plane so there’s at least some video to share.

Anyway, we started doing pattern work a week or so ago; that means pretty much flying in the airport’s prescribed traffic pattern, doing a touch-and-go, then re-entering the pattern. Lather, rinse, repeat. At Boeing Field (BFI), you can get about six laps around the pattern into a one-hour lesson.

The first time we did this, it was utterly demoralizing. I’m flying a plane, which is amazing and fun, but landing is *hard*. Especially when dealing with BFI’s notoriously squirrelly crosswinds.

Coming in to land at BFI following my first training flight with Galvin Flying

This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly. You can read the introduction here. As of now, I’ve completed the stage one and two ground-school exams. These exams are administered by the ground-school instructor at Galvin Flying and serve as checkpoints; they don’t count toward the FAA exam.I’ve passed them both, which is encouraging (a passing grade is 70% – I did quite a bit better than that).We’ve already covered basic aerodynamics, powerplants, flight instruments, airspace, airports, communications, and flight safety. We just wrapped up the comprehensive weather and FAA regulation sections; now it’s on to flight planning, which is where the math starts. We’ll learn to compute things like fuel consumption rates, time/speed/distance, endurance, airspeed, density altitude, and wind correction angles.

Ground school wraps up on May 25th with a comprehensive knowledge test, which is basically a full-on practice version of the proper FAA exam.Theoretically, if we’ve successfully completed the course, we’ll then be prepared to plunk down the roughly $165 to take the FAA written test; a grade of at least 70% is required to pass.I’ve also started flight training. I didn’t mention before, but basically my butt is a bit too heavy for the Cessna 152, which is the aircraft I’d originally planned to train in, primarily for the $60/hour cost savings over the larger C172. Putting two 200 lb. adult males (my CFI isn’t a small guy, either) in a C152 means no cross-country flights, as the aircraft’s maximum payload limit leaves room for no more than 1/2 tank of fuel. I won’t lie, though, I do like the larger plane.

The business end of a Cessna 172, the type of plane I'll be learning to fly.

Yep. I’m finally doing it. After close to a decade of talking about taking flying lessons, and after a couple of false starts, I’ve plunked down my money and started ground school last month with Galvin Flying at King County International Airport, aka Boeing Field, aka BFI, in Seattle. Flying is both a spendy and […]