Browsing Tag: Galvin 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.

Always lots going on at BFI - that's an Air Canada B737 MAX 8 fresh from the Renton plant, landing next to one of Galvin's C172s

Always lots going on at BFI – that’s an Air Canada B737 MAX 8 fresh from the Renton plant, landing next to one of Galvin’s C172s

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

A few weeks ago, I completed the written pre-solo exam and Cessna 172S checkout paperwork. Both tests are specific to Galvin’s flight school/rental program. The former test covered lots of flight-safety topics, while the checkout test covered aircraft-specific things like performing weight and balance calculations, flight planning, fuel consumption, takeoff and landing distances based on hypothetical weight and balance figures, and so on.

Taking a spin around the west side of TIW

Taking a spin around the west side of TIW (Tacoma)

I’ve had to back off the frequency of flight training a bit; this is definitely an expensive exercise. I’ve gone from flying two or three times a week to three times every two weeks to stretch the budget a bit. This is, based on conversations with fellow students, also nothing out of the ordinary.

That pacing, though, has made me feel like my skills have been stagnating a bit. I had a frustrating flight a week or so ago, where nothing seemed to go smoothly and my memory of the required procedures needed refreshing by the instructor, rather than my just doing them without prompting; it was disheartening.

There have been a couple of flights like that.

In the traffic pattern at Boeing Field. The view doesn't suck - that's Mount Rainier on the horizon, and the airfield is on the lower-right side of the image

In the traffic pattern at Boeing Field. The view doesn’t suck – that’s Mount Rainier on the horizon, and the airfield is on the lower-right side of the image.

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.