After a year and a half of concerted effort, I’ve finally completed my initial training and earned my private pilot certificate in early November. It’s a great feeling!
For those who’ve been following along on my adventures at Galvin Flying, it’s been a long process of successes and setbacks, many of which were weather related because I live in the Pacific Northwest, where the local joke says that it only rains once a year — it starts raining in late October and stops raining on July 5 (it always seems to rain on July 4).
In case you ever wondered what the track of a checkride looks like, here you go. Screen capture courtesy FlightRadar24
Anyway, I did several mock checkrides in the weeks leading up to the actual FAA one, and had to complete Galvin’s end-of-course checkride before that. The end-of-course checks are designed to be more difficult than the actual checkride to ensure that pilot candidates are as prepared as possible.
The FAA examiner, also known as a designated pilot examiner or DPE, selects from a long list of information and flight maneuvers for the actual checkride known as the Airman Certification Standards. The check airman who oversees the end-of-course checks runs through the entire list to be sure you’re ready.
The business end of a Cessna 172, the type of plane I’ll be training in
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 time-intensive process. I’ve taken a number of introductory flight lessons, and at one point I actually started flight training with a private instructor and self-guided ground school (that’s the experience that made me realize a formal program would be better for me). I’ve also ridden along with several friends and their instructors on their own training flights.
Of course I needed a model C172 to help with training
Anyway, here I am, about halfway through ground school. Now, as JL has already told you, formal ground school is optional, as there are many legit self-study options available that will prepare you for the FAA written exam. Key to any learning endeavor – especially one for folks for whom school of any kind is a couple of decades in the past – is knowing your learning style preferences.
From experience, I know that my most effective learning style is a combination of books and a human instructor, hence my choice of classroom-style ground school. Other folks might prefer videos, still others might choose a self-paced pre-packaged program; all those options are available.
Student pilot requirements get their own chapter in the FAR/AIM, which is the combined set of Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). It’s the bible for flying in the U.S. I’m here to tell you that it definitely contains lots more rules and regulations than the real Bible.
Odds are pretty good that you have seen a little Cessna 172 high above you at the beach hauling an advertisement banner in tow. But have you ever wondered how exactly the process of attaching that banner to the aircraft works? Does the pilot just take off with the banner dragging down the runway? Is the banner deployed at some point in flight? Actually, the answer is way cooler than you would ever think.
Sammy1Mason recently posted a great video that breaks down the awesome procedure of attaching a banner to an aircraft. The process starts with the aircraft already in flight, and the banner waiting for it on the ground. The banner is attached to a cable which is suspended by two vertical poles parallel to the runway.
To pick up the banner, the pilot must “dive” towards the poles in pretty dramatic fashion. Just before snagging the cable, the pilot must then pitch up to reduce speed as the banner is dragged into the air. Once everything is hooked up, the banner trails the aircraft by about 300 feet. Attaching the banner may not be as difficult as snagging the arresting cable on an aircraft carrier, but it sure looks like it takes some time to master.
While the process to attach the banner to the aircraft is pretty awesome, the process to get it back on the ground is pretty simple. The pilot lines up with his intended target and releases it, hoping the wind doesn’t force it too much off course.