Sunday, August 23, 2015

Good for two more years - my first BFR

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Instructor: Mike
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 81 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 7 knots

Believe it or not, I've been a licensed pilot for nearly 7 years and have never completed a Biennial Flight Review (BFR). Before you go calling the FAA let me clarify that I only mean a BFR in the traditional sense. You see, until now, I've always extended my PIC currency through seminars, courses, and flight training logged within the FAA WINGS program.

It goes without saying that this has been a hectic year and I haven't been flying as much as I used to. My infrequent blog posting schedule (sorry!) is certainly a testament to that. Between house projects, work travel, and our own vacations I simply haven't been home all that much; I've already flown about 65,000 miles this year.

What's the point of this anyway? In short, the FAA requires all pilots to complete a review with a CFI covering both ground (knowledge) and flying elements every two years. Personally, I needed a BFR by the end of August and today was the day to make it happen.

Although I've known him for years, today was my first flight with Mike as the guy in the front seat. We started the review on the ground, discussing airspace, cloud clearances, charts, and certification requirements before completing a full weight and balance for the Cub. It was a casual conversation but we covered a range of things over roughly an hour in the office.

He had a chat with a prospective student while I walked outside and preflighted the airplane. Having not flown much lately, I took my time to make sure I looked everything extra-thoroughly. Then Mike walked over, propped the engine to life, and I took off from Runway 26.

S-Turns are still one of my favorite reasons to record GPS tracks

In the air, we ran through most of the basic maneuvers. I climbed over the lake then leveled and put the plane into slow flight, putzing along at about 40 mph. After a few gentle turns, I pulled the stick back to my chest and did a couple stalls. Then we flew north and I did S-Turns along a road - I hadn't done any in a while and it's always good to practice ground reference maneuvers.

He pulled the power (somewhat unexpectedly - I've clearly lost the primary student's mindset of constantly expecting the CFI to simulate an engine failure over the years!) and I spotted a field below, put the plane into a full-on forward slip to lose altitude and speed. I would have been able to touch down on the east side, leaving more than enough room for a safe landing. Mike was satisfied and had me go around when we were still a few hundred feet up.

Back in the pattern, the Hobbs meter said we hadn't flown quite as long we thought so I made a few circuits; Mike had me do a short field and soft field takeoff and landing. On my own accord, I went around (never a bad thing to practice) prior to my final landing - a pretty soft and short touchdown in the modest headwind blowing straight down the runway.

All told we spent a couple hours between the ground and sky. While I somewhat prefer the additional education and time spent working towards completing a phase of WINGS, today was still a good all-around refresher. Most importantly, I'm fully qualified and current to fly for the next two years - provided I keep current with my takeoffs and landings, of course.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 333.5 hours

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I still remember how to fly a plane!

Plane: Cub, 65 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 74 degrees, wind 360 degrees at 11-12 knots

We returned home from our amazing vacation this past weekend and, amongst many other things on my welcome-back-to-reality checklist, I didn't exactly want to let my currency expire. I kept looking out the window at work this afternoon since it was downright beautiful outside; I called Stewart when I left the office and snagged an hour in the Cub.

It was a little windy down at my favorite grass strip but I figured that would just enhance the knocking-off-the-rust experience. I did a more thorough preflight than usual to ensure I didn't forget anything then Jamie came over and to give me a prop. Having flown earlier in the day, one swing of the blade it all it took to bring her to life.

As I took off the wind was a nearly direct crosswind. Ailerons into the wind, stick forward as I pushed in the throttle and began the takeoff roll. That first liftoff was decent and the airplane quickly weathervaned into the wind as I climbed away. With skydivers jumping, I continued straight out until crossing the road west of the field before turning crosswind.

It's rather difficult to dislike this view

My first landing, frankly, felt about like you'd expect your first landing in two months. Safe but not completely coordinated; I don't think I bounced, though. It also felt like tailwheel was a bit more willing to break loose compared to the big Cub so my feet were doing some extra dancing on the rudder pedals.

The next takeoff was better and the landing was downright perfect. The right wheel touched first as it should but all three grazed the grass so smoothly there was no clear transition from flying to rolling on the turf. I made one more circuit and both takeoff and landing were again very good. Three up, three down - I called it a success and headed home.

One final thought related to our aforementioned trip, which I posted on Facebook after I got home this evening. While there are very many things I love about very many countries, ours is the only one where you can so easily enjoy the magic of personal flight. Today was a perfect day to hop back into the pilot's seat after two months spent as a mere passenger.

Today's Flight: 0.5 hours
Total Time: 332.5 hours