Getting Back in the Swing

So what do all my blog posts seem to start out with recently? I’ve been bad about sharing! I’ve been able to get up in the air a couple times recently and haven’t written about it and I’m sorry!

I’m getting back to being VFR proficient since it’s been a bit. So we worked on power on and off stalls, slow flight, all the fun basics. It’s so good to be back flying (almost) regularly. What’s even more fun is switching back and forth between one of my favorite airplanes, Cessna 152 (duh) and getting more tailwheel time in a Decathlon.


Tailwheel and inverted time!

For those who have been reading my blog for awhile will remember during my initial PPL training I was kind of afraid of stalls. I could do them, but I didn’t enjoy them. Then I took to aerobatic training to help get over my fear. It helped, but getting back into a 152 I must be rusty just doing stalls and slow flight. I can make a plane loop and do a hammerhead just fine, but then if I’m rusty with stalls, I get nervous! It’s extremely frustrating.

The only way we found to break this is to just do stalls and slow flight over and over again. I’m now much more comfortable with slow flight – Jake has me make the stall horn sound while my other instructors didn’t enforce that as much. And power off stalls are no big deal.

I need improvement on power on stalls though. I need to make sure to be more firm with my control movements and make the stall happen quicker. I get nervous when the pitch it very high since I’m taking too long to stall the aircraft. This problem is worse in the Decathlon, which Jake likes to point out I have made loop so it shouldn’t be an issue. It’s something I need to work on more and find the root of my fear so I can overcome it.

More to come soon!

Left Turning Tendencies

I’ve been able to get back into the air recently and start reviewing old private pilot knowledge as I prepare for my Instrument Rating. Since it’s been awhile between the two, we’ve been reviewing lately. In the car to the airport, Jake asked me about left turning tendencies. I knew the basics, but forgot the names and how this will affect my flying.

So let’s review! What are left turning tendencies? And more importantly, why do they matter?


This is caused by the engine. The more power, the more torque. The engine is putting power in turning the propeller, but it also turns the airplane. Well, hold on, the airplane is MUCH heavier than the propeller so that’s why it doesn’t rotate like the propeller. From the cockpit perspective, the propeller turns clockwise. Therefore, the engine causes the fuselage to rotate counter-clockwise (bank to the left). Since the fuselage is lighter than the propeller, it only rolls slightly to the left and requires a little right aileron to fix it and the effects are only really felt at full power.

Torque is caused by engine power.


Propeller factor. This one I find hard to visualize. The downward swinging propeller blade takes a bigger “bite” out of the air in a nose high attitude. What does that even mean? It’s basically asymmetric thrust taking place. Yeah…still not helping. Okay, so a propeller is an airfoil. In a nose high attitude, the downward swinging blade of the propeller generates more lift (thrust) due to the higher angle of attack (of the blade, not necessarily the airplane). This means in that attitude, the right side of the propeller (downward swinging blade) generates more thrust than the left side (upward swinging blade) which causes the airplane to yaw to the left.


P-Factor is caused by high pitch.

Spiraling Slipstream


See how the blue arrow (i.e. the air) will come from the propeller and wrap around the airplane in a corkscrew fashion until it hits the tail? What would happen when a crosswind would hit the tail? You’d yaw in the opposite direction. It’s the same concept, air is hitting the tail, but it’s just from the propeller and not the wind. Due to the way majority of propellers rotate, it’ll be to the left. This only happens at slow speeds. At faster speeds the corkscrew (slipstream) is longer and also the airplane is moving faster, therefore moving out of the slipstream before it can hit the tail and cause the left turning tendency.

Experiment: Grab a friend, and on a piece of paper draw a spiral and have your friend pull the paper slowly. Then repeat drawing a spiral at the same speed but have your friend pull the paper faster. That’s how you can get a better visualization of what the spiraling slipstream looks like at slow and fast speeds.

Spiraling slipstream is caused by slow speed.

Right, right, I get it. But why does it matter?! Knowing your airplane and how it’s going to react when you have certain inputs is important. You can stay ahead of the airplane and not react to it and play catch up, but anticipate it.

When you takeoff, you’re at high power and high pitch and you start off slow. So what is a factor? Torque (power) and p-factor (pitch) and for a little bit before you gain more speed, spiraling slipstream (slow speed), so you’re going to have to use a good amount of right rudder  and a little right aileron on takeoff since you have two of these forces acting upon the airplane.

Slow flight involves all three of these. You’re at a high pitch (p-factor), you’re slow (spiraling slipstream), and you have a lot of power to hold altitude (torque). It’s the perfect storm and causes LOTS of right rudder. Then what if you have to turn right? You better give it all the right rudder you can along with a small bank to remain coordinated.

But wait, Caitlin, you’re missing one more! Okay, yes, there is one more left turning tendency.

Gyroscopic Precession

This is always mentioned during left turning tendencies and gets glossed over sometimes. And honestly, that’s not a HUGE deal, but it is important to know. Gyroscopic precession really only matters if you’re flying a tailwheel airplane and most pilots don’t train in those for their PPL nowadays.

Just due to the laws of physics, when you put a force on a spinning object it’ll deflect 90 degrees to the right. While the following is NOT correct, it helped me to think about it as a delay. You hit an object at the top (360) but by the time it reacts, that point is at the (090) mark. Speed of the spinning object has NOTHING to do with this, so that’s why that’s wrong, but it’s just what helped me remember it and understand it better.

When you takeoff a tailwheel airplane, the tailwheel will lift up before the front wheels. Lifting the tail puts a force on the top of the propeller. That force is deflecting 90 degrees and causing the airplane to yaw to the left.

Whew, and those are the four left turning tendencies! I hope this helps for a better understanding and application of them to take into your next flight!

Any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment!

Studying Away

I finally got that push to motivate me to take the IRA written. the FAA rolling out new developments in the written exams on June 13th. I don’t want all the studying I’ve done so far go to waste, so I’m finally ramping up my studying!

I’m planning to take the written within the week, hopefully! I’ve identified my weak areas and plan to attack those today and tomorrow.

To study, I do use Sheppard Air and I have no shame in it. I used it for my ADX and got in the high 90s. The way the FAA written exams are currently don’t really test knowledge as well as they should. They’re probably as useful as the SAT, which I loathed.

Now, there is that age old argument that you need to actually know the knowledge on the written. Yes, some questions you do and the stuff I really do need to learn I’ll learn for the oral and practical.

It’s interesting to see how my knowledge is in different areas since Sheppard Air splits the learning up into different categories. Weather – I’m a rock star. Though I have to stay, on my daily basis of planning flights I don’t use half the charts they reference. There are many better tools out there now for weather prediction and observations, I hope they begin to incorporate them into training and the writtens. The IFR navigation is where I have to study and learn.

I’m in a unique situation where I do know a lot about some IFR knoweldge. I can read Jepp charts easily, for planning purposes I’m good. I know the Part 121 regulations and Operations Specifications of my airline in regards to alternate minimums and navigation very well. I need to transition it to Part 91 knowledge and know the differences. Actually flying the plan and reading the gauges….I need to learn too, but that’s what this is about!


Various studying positions

I hope to have some good news to share soon with you all and achieve one of my goals for this year!

Getting Back Up Again

Can you believe it’s been almost a year since I actually flew in the air? Heck, it’s been almost a year since I got to fly the sweet A320 sim! How on earth did that happen? Oh yeah….work, money, life.

It’s way to easy to not fly and it’s difficult to fly in many ways – you need extra money, time away from other commitments, and the weather to hold up. But finally we got around to flying!

13124862_3256390886067_266177424961656713_nJake and I joined a club in the area and he got checked out yesterday in one of their aircraft and we went flying together today. I’m a bit rusty and need to brush up so will schedule my check out later. Today he took me up to show me the area and the ridiculous amount of reporting points this tower has.

We talked to the front desk woman – who is really nice and helpful – and she was saying what a shock it is to fly here. I said I learned in the NY area so it shouldn’t be such a big shock. Well, actually, this place is so much more condensed than where I learned. Pattern altitude is only 800ft since Bravo airspace is at 1500ft above the field (on one side). There is noise abatement which keeps traffic to the east of the field. We saw a 747 landing at the main airport about 5 miles away when in the pattern, crazy!

Republic probably had about 2 reporting points maximum one on either side of the field. This airport has a sunken ship as a reporting point! A radio tower, two specific buildings, a highway, and I feel like I’m missing others. Today was about getting me up there and familiar with the area so that’s less time spent paying an instructor to do it.

13174123_3256391046071_5846264451366063034_nThe cool thing about the airplane we flew was it was the first Cessna 152 off the production line – you all know I’m obsessed with Cessna 152s so this was pretty cool to me. It was something on my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on it! It also had 150HP which is powerful for this little airplane! I can’t wait to get my hands on the controls more.

I have to say I’m a bit intimidated by the airspace and not having flown for so long but realize we have money and time to spend to get me ready again and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

We have a plan in place now to get me more ratings and endorsements this year so I’ll keep you updated! Yay!

My BFR is expired so will get current soon. Any suggestions on how you prepared for your BFR?



What is Bingo Fuel?

Today at work we were talking about standard phraseology for ATC. I’m not a fan of people who say “No Joy” or “Tallyho” It’s outdated and unless you’re an old military aviators, you may just be trying a bit hard to sound cool on the radio. I’m very much for standard phraseology because it just makes communication that much easier between all parties involved. It also prevents accidents due to miscommunication.

“Bingo Fuel” is a biggie that is commonly used and also caused a miscommunication with the (somewhat) recent emergency landing by Allegiant. Okay, first what is bingo fuel? That is what can be the issue. I’ve seen that “‘Bingo fuel’ is a military term meaning the pilot doesn’t have enough fuel for anything but returning to base and cannot continue on a mission.” But more commonly now, it’s referred to as the fuel number when reached the aircraft has to divert to an alternate and keep their 45 minutes of FAR required reserve on board. At least, that’s the way most people talk about it to me. Two totally different things, right?

Here’s the issue I think though, there is no good term to replace it. “Minimum fuel” has been used to replace it sometimes, but then you’re bordering on declaring a fuel emergency. If you’re using bingo fuel to refer to the latter of the two, that’s not really the case.

From speaking with my pilot resource (Jake), he said it’s quite common pilots will come up with two different numbers when calculating bingo fuel in a holding situation too. Ugh, that’s not good either! Obviously, they always pick the more conservative one just in case. As a dispatcher, when I have a plane in holding I’ll also calculate it for myself. Unfortunately, my snazzy flight planning software doesn’t do it for me. So it’s good ol’ pen and paper! The way I calculate “bingo fuel” is what the 45 minutes of reserve is plus the fuel it takes to get to the alternate plus the burn from their holding position to the airport (since what is they go missed and still need to divert once there?).

I don’t actually have a good solution, just something to think about for those in training. I recently had a captain declare a fuel emergency to ATC, but then he landed well over reserve fuel. Was he confused between fuel emergency and minimum fuel? Possibly, I’ll never know since he didn’t share this information with me. I only found out when the FAA showed up at my desk at work asking for paperwork. That was a fun day for me! But I get not sharing with me: aviate, navigate, communicate, if he thought it was an actual emergency I was last on the list. But if he did send me an ACARS we could have compared “bingo fuel” numbers!



Finding the Time

I’ve been terrible about keeping up on here. I promise I want to! The downside to having two jobs and working a lot to save up for flight training means very little personal time and sleep becomes very important! It’s been a bit of a whirlwind the past week too. The airline I work for has been acquired by another (I’ll let you put it together) and now the question is – will I have a job? If I do have a job, we’ll have to move again and most likely take a pay cut (COL though does matter so it may not actually be a pay cut). Lots of things are uncertain now and no one knows the answer, so we just have to sit and wait for the information.

Ever since this news came out there’s been a LOT of speculation. I’ve stopped reading all the articles that people in my department keep sending with a new rumor every day. It’s just not worth it for me to worry. Again, just a lot of siting and waiting for information, ugh.

Back to flying, I’ve been desperately trying to find the time to study for my instrument written. It’s been difficult: 1. to find the time when I’m not working or exhausted 2. to really get passionate about it to want to study. Possibly starting to fly IFR and those practical lessons would help me get more into it, but I did want to get the written done first and then focus all my attention on flying and getting it done quickly.

What were your methods to study? Did you study and fly or do the written first?

Two Jobs

From the pilot forums to the Facebook groups I follow, there’s always questions about “how do I pay for flight training” or “how do I save up for flight training” The truth is for most people, it’s hard work and takes time. That is if you don’t want to go into debt.

For my PPL, I had money saved up from my high school graduation that I kept until I knew what exactly I wanted to do with it. It was nice not to have the stress of a dwindling bank account. I didn’t have to try to balance money used for every day life and money for training. Or have lessons be stressful because I had to get this lesson right or otherwise I was out of money.

Now, I’m onto wanting to get more ratings. I’ve been talking about instrument rating for awhile now and I think it’s finally time!

So, back to the issue at hand, how do I save up/pay for flight training? Right, I hear a lot of these questions and a lot of the same answers. “Get a second job” “make friends with someone who has an airplane” or even “barter your services”. Okay….well, personally those all sounded good, but I had NO IDEA where to start. I started mainly with saving up money from Christmas and birthday and a little extra each month. That seemed doable.

Of those suggestions, a second job would be great, but most people have enough trouble finding regular employment as is. Or finding a second job that fits in with your main career can be difficult because I can’t sacrifice my career for an extra job that I’ve taken to save for flying.

It’s taken me years, but I finally found a second job! Actually, I wasn’t actively searching for one. We moved out to California. Jake had taken a second job as a CFI for extra cash. It ended up falling through after the first two weeks due to the location, having only one car, and my work schedule. It got me semi-thinking again about a second job to save up for flying. Living near Silicon Valley, there are tons of start ups here. I was using one to get clothes shipped to me. For some reason, I looked for jobs on their website and voila! A part-time gig that I could work from home. Perfect! I sent in my resume, interviewed, and got the job! Best of all, it provides a creative outlet that I’ve been needing since I left the theater world. I’m enjoying it. It has been difficult recently with the amount of overtime at my regular job, Jake being home, and working an additional 15 hours at this second job. The payoff will be worth it though!

Other people at my work have second jobs too, and they vary from track coach to remote pilot operator at TRACON (sweet gig, right?). To me, the thing that made me actually find one is finding a second job you’d enjoy and you want to do. Not just a second job to pay for flying. I know it can be difficult to find, but also waiting and finding that good job will be worth it.

I know it isn’t so easy for other people, but I truly think waiting and finding the right opportunity is what makes or breaks this idea.

What have you done to save up for your flight training?