Saturday, November 05, 2011

Kate's Second Entry as the 2011 Scholarship Winner

[Note: we've been having problems with the GWW message board and now it seems completely kaput - or, in other words, completely beyond my capability to fix it. I will be transitioning everything over to this blog and eventually deleting the board. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please friend the Girls With Wings Facebook group in lieu of the forum.]

As a condition of the Girls With Wings scholarship, we request updates from the awardees to keep us posted on their flight training. Here is Kate's Second Entry:

Last time I updated the blog I finished it talking about my concerns facing future maintenance issues in the Ercoupe and realizing it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I ended up having to switch aircraft. It took only one week after writing that for it to actually happen. I was set to go take my first cross county flight and the plane was not quite sounding right prior to take-off. End result? Lesson cancelled and after discovering the carburetor was the culprit, it was decided the plane should go in for annual early.

After talking with my instructor, Eric, we decided it was time for me to switch out of the Ercoupe so I can keep up with training during the annual. I am now flying in the Cessna Skycatcher 162. I have been happy to keep up with my flying, but it was a difficult switch because I had to change instructors in order to fly in the C162 due to the higher cost of the Flight Design CTLS Eric teaches in.

The first night I went up in the plane I almost felt like I had never taken a lesson. I always laughed when people looked in my plane and were puzzled with the one pedal on the floor. Now I was introduced to rudder pedals, differential braking, and a glass cockpit. Just trying to taxi the airplane to the runway provided a lot of entertainment for my new instructor, Ron. The additional clincher to all of this? Lessons could now be recorded so I could review my progress, habits, etc. Yikes! While it all felt overwhelming, I left the lesson feeling surprisingly content with this new challenge. All these changes were going to be good learning experiences.

I now have three lessons in the Skycatcher and because of a hectic work day schedule, I am getting a lot of night time flying in along with practice talking to air traffic control. Ron has been very helpful going over this and I started listening online to live ATC interactions to help learn how to talk in a controlled airspace. Because I have worked at the airport on the weekends for over a year, I am comfortable on radios, but ATC communications are a whole new thing.

The next few lessons will focus on getting experience flying under a hood and I will continue working on takeoffs and landings in the plane. Hopefully by the time I finish fulfilling all the dual requirements needed, I will be able to solo in the Skycatcher or move back to my Ercoupe to finish up the last few hours of solo time and cross country requirements.

I’ll also be spending some time with my Ercoupe getting a good look at all the parts of the engine and a view you normally don’t get when the plane isn’t up for annual. There is a great network of people at my airport who have been willing to teach me all the lessons that go beyond just flying the plane. With this entry I included some current pictures of the Ercoupe and I can’t tell you how much I recommend getting a detailed look at how an airplane runs. It really helps add an element to flying and brings another aspect of situational awareness, especially when faced with maintenance problems.

Kate's First Entry:

When I started flight training in June this year I took the optimistic approach of thinking this will be simple. I completed my written in April of 2010, found a great instructor, and figured if I flew so many hours a month I would finish in October. I didn't realize my faulty logic though which is I am not flying airplanes in my flight schools' line that are only 5 or 6 years old. My airplane is gracefully aging at a young 65 years old. It has a knack for getting attention not by people my age, but people who are my grandpa’s age.

I'll save all the specifics, but Ercoupes have no rudder pedals and as far as instruments go, I am flying about as simplistic as it comes. In the close to two years this airplane has been in my life I have watched it go from a trailer to test flights and due to prior maintenance issues, I am gaining a working knowledge of brake lines, carburetors, and radio wiring. It has been a labor of love, not without challenges, from day one. The best parts of it being this summer when I got to spend all my time flying with the canopy down and the most difficult part being brake issues that stopped me flying for a few weeks shortly after I soloed. 

Since starting back up with flight lessons this month I have been working a lot on cross country flight planning and my landings. It is a sort of an unnatural feeling landing in an Ercoupe, because depending on what the winds do I don’t always line up on the center line. If the winds are coming from the right side of the runway I line up towards the right side since the winds will then push me towards center line and vice versa.

In the last two weeks weather has been getting the best of my scheduled lessons, so my longer trips such as nighttime lessons have been postponed. This has left plenty of time to do pattern work. Ironically, my instructor Eric said my best landings were during simulated engines out and practicing short field landings. So the good news is I know how I am capable of landing, I just have to figure out some consistency. While this has been great practice, I’m most excited to get some nighttime flying in the next week and start flying to some new airports.

One of the best things Eric has taught me in lessons is all about preparation and making little adjustments to lead to a desired outcome while thinking ahead. Initially when I started training I was set on completing training in the Ercoupe and then getting my endorsement to fly with rudder pedals after the fact. Any concerns came not out of flying, but hoping I wouldn’t run into any major maintenance issues while pursuing my certificate. What I am learning is that if I run into anymore issues, it is not the end of the world if I have to change aircraft, but just making an adjustment to help me achieve my private certificate.

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