Browsing Tag: Flying with Francis

Likely my favorite C172 in Galvin's fleet

Likely my favorite C172 in Galvin’s fleet

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

March 20 marked the one-year anniversary of my having started flight training; my first ground-school class was already more than 12 months ago.

Deciding to pursue a private pilot’s certificate has been, simultaneously, the most fiscally irresponsible thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’ll leave that to the reader to reconcile; I’m totally OK with the decision.

Progress has been sporadic, mostly due to a particularly bad winter with consistent low clouds that precluded flying and resulted in dozens of cancelled training flights. On the upside, now that spring is here, I’ve started to make progress again, although COVID-19 holds the potential for future disruptions. Our governor here in Washington state was kind enough to declare flight training to be among the exempted activities during the lockdown (at least for now).

Since my last post, I’ve completed both my day and night cross-country flights with my instructor, have been working a lot on navigation and flight planning, and now have returned to practicing basic maneuvers to kick off the rust from a winter’s worth of very little flying.

Doing some solo pattern work on a recent sunny Seattle afternoon. Photo by Dave Honan

Doing some solo pattern work on a recent sunny Seattle afternoon – Photo by Dave Honan

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

Progress is being made: I’ve done several more solo flights, and am feeling lots better about landings, maneuvers, and dealing with air-traffic control. We’re working on navigation and cross-country stuff now.

The blues part from the headline comes from the weather-enforced gaps in my training flights. Here in the Pacific Northwest, winter usually means low ceilings and visibility-lowering precipitation. Scheduling time in aircraft becomes a game of chance – you sign up for sessions in advance and then hope for the best.

We’ve tried three times now for a cross-country flight that will qualify for the FAA requirement of flying at least 50 miles away from one’s home airport. We’ve had to cancel all three because of poor weather.

That's me. In a plane. All by myself. Photo by Chuyi Chuang

That’s me. In a plane. All by myself. – Photo: Chuyi Chuang

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

I did it! I flew an airplane totally by myself over the Labor Day weekend. It was, in absolutely equal parts, terrifying and exhilarating.

Doing this was the culmination of a lifelong dream. Unlike a lot of airplane nerds, I don’t have any close family with ties to aviation. Instead, all of this started for me as a boy – my grandmother would take my brother and me to our little local general aviation (GA) airport in western Massachusetts, where we’d lie on the hood of her ’69 Beetle and watch skydivers while eating ice cream. My interest in planes waxed and waned over the years, but never really went away. There was a time when *gasp* I was afraid of flying – my first-ever flight experience was a very turbulent series of flights down the Atlantic Coast in the height of summer that put me off flying for a long time.

Fast forward to about a decade ago, when my wife got us a helicopter tour of Seattle for my birthday. The desire to fly returned with a vengeance. And the fear had long faded.

That's me, working through preflight checklists on the Galvin ramp. Photo by Chuyi Chuang

That’s me, working through preflight checklists on the Galvin ramp – Photo: Chuyi Chuang

Anyway, at a flight school like Galvin, periodic stage checks ensure students are properly prepared to advance to the next segment of training by having them work with different instructors, who both confirm the students’ competency and verify that the primary instructor has done their work properly. Some find the process cumbersome; for me the rigor is comforting.