Challenges of Flight

I’m a big fan of being a part of the pilot community online, whether it’s reading blogs, forums, following pilots on Instagram and Facebook, or par-taking in groups on Facebook. It’s a lot of exposure to aviation on a daily basis. Recently, it’s been working against me in a way. I see many pilots getting to fly often, gain new ratings, or just have adventures. I want the same for my flying, but it’s not in my best interest financially and career-wise right now, and that’s a hard thing to cope with when seeing these things all day every day on social media.

In a moment of passion, I’d most likely drop everything, take out a loan and fly until I have all the ratings I want (which will probably never end). But what good does that do to my future? Pretty much nothing, it hurts me in the end. I could do that, get myself in debt, have fun for a year, and then be struggling the rest of my life to repay my debt and barely fly.

PatienceQuoteIt’s been said in my blog before, and for someone who is pretty impatient, it is in my best interest to remind myself again: life is a marathon. You can’t sprint the entire way, but have to conserve your energy to make a fantastic finish. Flying is also a marathon. Jake imparted some knowledge on my recently when I said how much I’d love to earn more ratings at this moment in time. He told me the first 300 hours of flying are the most fun, why rush them? You won’t get to experience that type of learning and experimentation again after those hours. They’re not something to waste and hurry. He wish he could do it again and take more time. Find the perfect airplane to get his complex in, instead of settling for the Piper Arrow his school had. Maybe go the route a friend went and found an airplane that got him his complex, tailwheel, and high performance endorsements all at once. He doesn’t remember what airplane his friend found, but I want to know because that sounds like an awesome airplane!

I know for many of us, especially me, it’s a struggle to wait for what you want. I have to keep telling myself: doing it right will make it more enjoyable than doing it in a hurry. While I intend tWorkonPatienceo make aviation my career, I do not want to be a pilot for a career. Even as a career, most pilots I know, say it isn’t worth getting into debt for it. That’s probably the best advice for aspiring pilots: don’t get into debt for flying. Jake routinely flies with captains who are still at a regional airline in their 40s and have lots of flying debt. It’s an unstable and unpredictable career. You can say you’ll be different, but you don’t know how the industry will change in a heartbeat. I’ve seen it first hand with Jake’s career, and he has absolutely no power over it. Well, the only power he has is to be responsible and be ready financially for anything. He’s now instilling that within me.

Every one has hurdles in their training, most commonly a learning plateau or money issues. It’s through hard work and patience we can overcome those hurdles. It’s hard not to get discouraged like I have been recently, but looking to the future and focusing on what you can do in the present helps.

I do feel stuck on the saving up money part since I’m currently waiting to see if I’ll be moving across the country, but I can focus on reading the instrument books I have. Even though it now seems like it’ll be awhile before I can formally start training, I can always save that knowledge and be prepared for it. It will also help me as a dispatcher, so win-win.

It may be the littlest things that can satisfy you until the future, but you can always find something.

6 Tips for Student Pilots

Flight training is such an exciting time! The fact is you’re learning to fly an airplane that sometimes you get caught up in the passion and emotions that come with that and forget to take a more calculated approach into your training. There are a few things I would have changed about my training if I had the chance, but I was also lucky to have an outside source to help me take a more focused approach to my learning. Here are a few things I thin every new student pilot should be prepared to do:

1. Do interview or do a discovery flight with different flight instructors

This is the piece of advice I really did wish I listened to when I first began. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken so long to solo or gone through three instructors. It is important to find the right person to teach you to fly. Flying isn’t an easy task, but it becomes easier when you have someone suited to your specific learning style.

2. Chair flying is the best!

It’s expensive up there with the engine running. You don’t want to be stumbling around at the controls with a maneuver you learned last lesson. During the time between lessons take a few minutes to review the movements associated with each maneuver. Pretend to pull the power to idle, turn on the carb heat, add in some right rudder, etc. It helps, I swear!

3. Don’t put off the written

My CFI said he wanted me to take my written right around my solo XC, and I listened to him and took it less than a week after my first solo XC. I’ve seen others put it off and it has delayed their check ride, listen to when your CFI thinks you should take your written and be prepared!

4. Study, study, study!

You’ve got your chair flying studying, but you need book studying to be prepared for your written and oral. Don’t think you can cram for it either, it’s also just no wise because you SHOULD want to learn the required knowledge. It’ll help you be a good pilot. If you just want to coast through and not really learn then maybe being a pilot isn’t for you. A good pilot is always learning!

5. Make sure you know your plan

Always make sure you know what your next lessons will be about so you can prepare! Around my cross countries I really got into this and if I forgot to ask or my CFI forgot to tell me at the end of a lesson, you can bet I texted him before my next lesson so I could be prepared. It made sure I didn’t waste time in the airplane or at the airport when I could prepare at home.

6. The internet is a great resource

There are tons of websites, YouTube videos, and podcasts to help you out. I do suggest to take some with a grain of salt or double check, but it’s a starting place. I used Sporty’s Study Buddy (for free!) to study for my written. I downloaded UND’s podcasts to go over basic maneuvers better. AOPA is a great resource and I enjoy mzeroa.com’s videos. There is tons of information out there if you want to use it.

What are your tips for new student pilots? What did you learn through your training you wish you knew at the start?

What is an Aircraft Dispatcher?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about becoming a dispatcher the past few days and thought it would be valuable to share some information about this little known aviation career. I have to admit I would have never known about this career by myself, knowing airline pilots who deal with dispatchers allowed this suggestion to come my way. When I was attending my school for this, the president of the school did make a comment how she loves sharing information about this “little known, but awesome aviation career.” So let’s get to it:

What is an aircraft dispatcher?

Dispatchers are required by Part 121 for airlines. Supplemental only need flight followers (they don’t require a certificate but most Supplement carriers require one anyway). Part 135 normally have flight followers as well with dispatcher certificates as well, but again, not a Federal Regulation.

What do dispatchers do?

Dispatchers plan the flight for the pilot. They submit the flight plan to ATC for the pilot. They gather the weather information and NOTAMs and present them to the pilots and factor them into the flight plan. Dispatchers can delay the flight as well. During the flight, they monitor its progress and issue necessary information for the safety of flight, and either cancel the flight or redispatch if it cannot be continued safely as planned. They give updated weather before landing. If the flight needs to go to an alternate airport, they make sure the airport is ready for the flight and also help the pilots decide which airport to divert to.

How do I become an aircraft dispatcher?

You need to attend an FAA certified school and receive 200 hours of instruction. Unlike pilot training where it’s mostly individual, you will be in a class with other people. You will still take a written exam and a “checkride” involving an oral and a practical exam. Here is a list of approved schools by the FAA.

So getting your Aircraft Dispatch Certificate is like getting your ATP?

The written exams pull from the same question bank currently, but that’s where that similarity ends. Getting the rest of your certificate involves class time and focuses HEAVILY on Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), weather theory, applying weather information to flight planning, and flight planning/weight & balance calculations.

What can I expect when earning my Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate?

Lots of hard work! You need to thoroughly understand lots of subjects pilots can get away with only half-knowing. Weather was difficult for me, but I had to take the time and learn it. It depends on what type of school you go to as well. There are the traditional 5-6 week course with 40 hours of class each week, which is like drinking from a fire hose. I went to a distance learning course, I spent from March-June doing the online content, 2-5 hours every day to do it. You have to be extremely motivated. Then I went for 6 days of classes, 10 hours of class each day. You take your checkride at the end of it with an examiner.

How do you do a long distance or shorter course?

Lots of hard work again! Some schools require Part 121 experience or military experience in accordance with the FARs. A lot have online portions that count towards the hours as well. I went into this with only my Private Pilot, which meant I had a lot to learn. I went out of my way to learn more about instrument procedures (I used Gleim books and the FAA books that weren’t on the course syllabus) and also I knew nothing about turbine systems when I went to study the Boeing 737-300 so I went to the Turbine Pilot’s Flight Manual, again not assigned. You have go out of your way to learn if you want to do this type of course.

How do you stay current?

Like your PPL, this certificate doesn’t expire. You only have a currency requirement if you work for an airline. They are required to give you 20 hours of recurrent training plus 5 hours of flight deck observation. (Yeah, that means you get to jumpseat!) If you get this certificate and you don’t use it. You always have it, but if you don’t keep up on your knowledge when you apply to work at an airline you’ll probably fail their test and interview.

Why become an Aircraft Dispatcher?

This is a personal question. For me, I wanted to be in aviation but didn’t want to spend years and thousands and thousands of dollars earning my flight ratings. I wanted to have a job that opened me up to have time and money to fly for fun (granted it’ll take a bit to earn some “good” money) but I won’t be stuck at the regionals as long as pilots are most likely and I get to be home every night.  I love flight planning, I found that out during my PPL so took it a few levels up!

If you have any more questions, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll add it! I hope this helps some people decide if they want to go down this route!

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Another FAA Rating!

Thanksgiving 2013, I decided that I wanted to officially change careers and become an aircraft dispatcher. After that, I ended up reading up on airline operations and schools to become a certificated dispatcher. I had to work January-March at a job to have the money to attend school and March I registered for June/July class at Airline Ground Schools in CVG. I spent the next 4 months doing the online course and teaching myself about turbine systems and everything dispatch. Now, July 5th, I can say I’m a certificated FAA Aircraft Dispatcher!!

10500275_2552540490247_6009382284961533988_nI’m so excited to have earned this new FAA certificate and make it through my second FAA checkride! While, I’ve enjoyed so much learning dispatching. It can be frustrating at times because you don’t get the fun flying part like with other ratings! It’s all theory and regulations and flight planning. I love flight planning so that was good.

It’s been a whirlwind. I came to Cincinnati for 6 days of intense classes. 10 hours a day of class time to teach us flight planning and reviewing for the oral exam. My intention was to come to class prepared to pass the oral, and I was definitely one of the better prepared students. Even though out of all the pilots in class, I was the only one without an instrument or commercial rating, I had the advantage I had recently learned flight planning and still remembered it so it came really quickly to me while many others struggled.

Every day was class until 6 or 7pm, come back to the hotel, rest for about an hour, eat dinner and study at dinner with classmates and then back to my room to study some more and bedtime. Rinse and repeat, that’s been my week. I’m exhausted, but it hasn’t hit me until after being done with the exam.

I always freak out about oral exams, and I heard my examiner likes to focus on weather. I’m scared of weather (well, not anymore) and I prepared for that. We made it through FARs and weather and I moved onto my flight planning. I made a mistake and forgot to take off the burn fuel to landing and I kept thinking I was over my maximum structural landing weight no matter the route I did around thunderstorms, and I wasn’t going to fly right through them. It took me doing three different routes to realize my mistake. I was glad though and picked my second route, and luckily he wasn’t in the room so it didn’t matter for my final flight plan.

He came back into the room. I briefed him as I would a PIC (if that ever happens). And then we got into weather charts some more, approach plates, and more FARs, alternate requirements. All the fun stuff that comes with being a dispatcher!

In about 3 and a half hours I became an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher! I’m very happy and now I just need to get a job!

Island Hopping

Well, okay, Long Island isn’t the typical small island. Jake and I went for another flight, this time to an airport we’ve never been to before but always wanted to go. Block Island, Rhode Island. Got to fly over some water, reminds me of when we did the Hudson river and I did a DME arc around JFK, but going from the tip of Long Island I could clearly see the island so no worries there.

10451022_576326725413_1219494741644487966_nIt was PERFECT weather for a flight. I called for a brief and he even had a PIREP with the remarks “perfect weather” I told Jake he’s lucky, every time we plan a flight it’s always great weather, but with anyone else I always have to cancel. He said it’s probably because he’s the one least excited. Now, I just have to tell my friends not to get excited. It started out clear skies, as we walked from the train to the airport a few clouds formed. It was actually pretty cool to watch clouds form like that, I’ve never seen that before.

Checked in with my instructor before we left to grab Jake a headset since his is at work. He got to see the Grumman Cougar and he was impressed how good of shape it was in and they were replacing the engine of a 172 in the hangar. The 152 I fly just recently got a new engine as well (I was the first flight where it was broken in enough to do touch and goes and other training activity). Jake said he’s never flown a 150 with a new engine. I was saying how much I appreciate the school I found because they keep the airplane in SUCH good shape and care. He was even impressed by the sim in the office since it was expensive. I think it really makes a difference because these are guys who are mostly retired and do it for fun instead of do it for money, I always want to fly at a school like that.

10447085_2539597446679_4990823088655271134_nWe took off shortly after that. Jake turned to me while taxiing and said “are you doing a short field or a soft field take off?” I just wanted to do a regular take off, but he was trying to challenge me and make me not forget everything during training. I picked soft field since that was the one I always the most challenging. Jake was impressed how good it was, and actually so was I! Nice to know I didn’t forget anything or get that rusty. During our way out, the exhaust was making a popping sound every 30 seconds. I’m glad I had Jake in the plane with me to tell me if was just the engine running rich, he was in charge of the mixture to fix it. It stayed like that the entire way out there, new engine problems, just like starting it was more difficult as well.

It was a perfectly clear day and beautiful! I didn’t get to enjoy it for too long because Jake made me put on my foggles. My wonderful pink foggles, but nonetheless I couldn’t enjoy the view. He made me fly more precise and was very nit-picky. We also worked on VORs and finding out my position at all times in relation to different VORs. I have to admit I was confused at first when he asked what radial I was on for the Calverton VOR. I said I was flying parallel to it so how could I tell? He said I’m always on a radial and should know in case ATC asks where I am or something goes wrong. When I moved onto the Hampton VOR I just tracked it for awhile under the foggles while maintaining everything else!

1782079_576326805253_5214444288268683114_nI got to take them off right at the edge of Long Island and get my first glimpse of Block Island. It was beautiful there. It’s a short runway for me (I’m spoiled with ridiculously long runways) and the first one I had to go around. The second time wasn’t that much better, Jake took the controls from me. His landing wasn’t great either.

We went to the airport diner and then into town for some ice cream. It was such a cute town! Went out by the ocean and just enjoyed being somewhere else. It was the first time I’ve gone on a cross country and left airport property. Actually enjoying the privileges of being a pilot!

10462706_576326875113_44423163047593071_nAfterwards, we did some touch and goes at Block Island for Jake to get current (he was instructing me at that point so it wasn’t an issue) and headed over to East Hampton to grab some Avgas because I think due to the engine running rich we sucked up more gas than usual. I did touch and goes there to work on my landings since they obviously needed some work. I got mad at Jake and told him he can’t talk during final because it was distracting me too much. My approaches weren’t stabilized so he couched me more on those and making sure I was stabilized for final which made it better. My last one wasn’t too bad so I wasn’t horrible and we departed for KFRG. I just really need to spend some time in the pattern and work on landings since I don’t fly that often anymore.

During our trip fro KHTO to KFRG, I donned the foggles again. Stabilized my altitude, airspeed and heading and figured out my position and then I was allowed to take them off. We also worked on simple math to do in the cockpit so I am better aware.

First thing: To quickly and roughly figure out when you should descend, take your altitude and multiple it by 3. That’s the distance in nm you should start descending, it works extremely well!

Second thing: To figure out how many fpm you should descend, take 5% of your ground speed and that’s it. So I was going 98kts for my ground speed. My quick way of figure out 5% is move the decimal over one, so 9.8, divide that by 2 I just rounded up to 10 so 5 to make it easier and I had to descend at 500fpm. Jake said also add 100ft extra just in case. If you hit the altitude earlier than anticipated it’s easier to level off rather than dive to hit it.  Again, worked extremely well!

Last tip: 100rpm roughly equal a descent of 100fpm so you can figure out how much power to pull without really changing your trim. That’s true in most single engine airplanes.

I love those tips and plan on using them ALL the time now. I’m glad this was such a learning flight for me. Jake can be hard on me, he holds me to a high standard because he knows what I want to accomplish and I appreciate it, even if it frustrates me at the time.

I Passed!

Good news on the dispatcher front! I passed my written exam! Yay! And with a 95% whooo! I was shooting for 100%, but I’ll take a 95.

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I used Sheppard Air to prepare, they are amazing. It’s not a hype and if you do their method it works so well. I studied less for this exam and scored higher than for my PPL written. They don’t guarantee money back for dispatchers if you score less than 90%, but for everyone else they do. I did have one question I didn’t see while studying so I may get my money back anyway!

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I’m not too happy with the FAA though, I got 10 validation questions. My 80 question test was bumped up to 90 questions. It was more of a psych out that I didn’t appreciate. 1 or 2 extra questions, fine, not 10! They were hard questions too and involved a lot of calculations I wasn’t sure how to do. Oh well, luckily they don’t count in my score, but it did make me nervous.

photo 1-1I’ll be leaving in less than 2 weeks to go do my residency in Cincinnati to actually earn my license. Now onto real studying! I have my colorful flash cards to help with that. Jake says I need to be prepared to pass before I arrive, while I think that’s a little overboard since they will teach me more calculations and using this fun whiz wheel to the side. I do see where he is coming from, so nose to the grindstone for a bit longer.

I promise I’ll have more to write about soon. Lots of things are happening in our life right now, just things need to be confirmed before sharing!

You’re Cleared Through The Class Bravo!

Yay! First time in the Bravo airspace today! Hearing that over the radio was almost magical.

I just went for a cross country with my CFI on Thursday because 1. I was missing him 2. I wanted to do some instrument time and go through the Class Bravo. Well, I didn’t accomplish any instrument time sadly. It wasn’t too sadly though because it was a gorgeous day and I much rather look around. I got to see the City from the North, which was great!

photo 1The morning of the flight the weather was looking pretty good. I originally wanted to go to Sky Manor but it was marginal there and wasn’t getting any better. I picked another airport in the North of New Jersey (still having to cross into the Bravo) Essex because it was a little more than 50nm away. I got to the airport and my favorite airplane ever was just finishing up getting her engine replaced. She wasn’t ready for me! So we ended up taking the other 152 which I flew last time. I told him of my plans about Essex and he shot back to me Greenwood Lake is 50nm away, has a restaurant and a Constellation there! I was down with that and we’d grab lunch there.

We pulled out our iPads and played with Foreflight finding the best way to go. Very different from initial training where we tried to not use iPads. He has a Stratus so we could get even better GPS in the airplane on our iPads. It was a lot of fun using Foreflight more and seeing what it can do.

The winds were calm and we were taking off runway 14, taxiing to it he said we should have requested runway 1 just to save us time. I have to remember to keep that in my back pocket if the winds are calm and they have us going to the furthest away runway.

photo 2Took off and soon enough we were talking to NY Approach. He didn’t let us climb past 2500ft into the Bravo at 3000ft but we changed frequencies pretty quickly and he said ask the next controller for higher. Over the Long Island Sound I was cleared into the Bravo! I definitely did a fist pump. Kept in a 500fpm climb until 4500ft. Got a lovely view of New York and New Jersey. Our VOR wasn’t really working correctly so I just flew a heading to Greenwood Lake and used some pilotage.

Randomly over New Jersey hills we dropped like 100ft at least. I raised out of my seat. It was very random since it was clear above us. Our transponder wasn’t reporting altitude either to ATC, they were nice enough to let us stay in the airspace until our descent a few minutes later.

Hills are TRICKY! I wasn’t seeing the lakes like they are on the sectional because the hills were hiding them. It made spotting the airport a bit more difficult, but I totally spotted it before my CFI, very proud of that.

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The Captain and FO apparently work for different airlines….

I was coming in fast, too fast I thought. It’s a shorter runway than I’m used to 2500ft versus the close to 7000ft I’m used to. I wanted to go around but my CFI told me I was fine and I ended up landing it pretty good. If he wasn’t there I would have gone around though.

We stopped and ate lunch together. Some bonding time! It was interesting to hear some stories about student’s progress. I’d love to know more about it and experience teaching. One day! We also visited the Connie that was at the airport and checked out the cockpit and then headed back.

We didn’t go through the Bravo on the way back because of the transponder. Stayed around 2000ft and followed an arc of water towers that kept us perfectly outside the Bravo, pretty neat trick! Love navigating like that! I can’t wait to take a friend that way.

photo 4My landing wasn’t great on the way back, I did balloon back up but it was soft both times the wheels touched the ground. We were late in coming back, I felt bad for the student after me (who I actually follow on Instagram, so it was nice to actually meet him!) I ended up walking to the train myself since I had like an hour because I missed the earlier train. I walked passed the approach end of the active runway so it made my walk infinitely better.

I thought I was 3 hours further into cross country time (forgot to subtract that pesky night XC) so now I’m at 11.5 hours. Still a long way until that 50xc for my instrument. I do want to do a lot of that not in training because I think it would be more valuable to me to be doing it without an instructor and under the hood. I just have to save the money and fly!