Hopefully helpful writings of a career minded pilot, working through the ratings in a Part 61 school while still managing to eat and find time to sleep and work.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The FAA recalculates my FOI written to make this the BEST RAPTURE DAY EVER

Got a suspicious and scary looking thin manila envelope from the FAA today....thin letters are usually the bad ones, right? Before opening it I said, 'please let this be good news...' and it wasn't good news...it was fantastic news!!!

I passed!!

With a 72%!

My lowest written test score ever!

You need at least a 70% (only 15 wrong in this particular test) to pass, so I guess I padded it with one question..heh.

What a great day! I don't have to take the test again!

315 total time and counting...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Building more actual instrument time

Today was yet another milestone - this time not marked by failure! I gained my first actual time in the airplane without an instructor present. Around Massachusetts today there were scattered showers, some bumps, but most importantly; not a lot of convection. Claire and I decided to head to KBAF - Barnes / Westfield Ma. as they have a nice little on field restaurant. I filed direct as I knew that with such a short flight (about 45 minutes in the air) I would get an amended clearance which would be largely radar vectors anyway. I'll never forget that feeling I got as I was just about to punch in the clouds. Pitot heat on - carburetor heat on momentarily. You're initial instinct is that you're careening at 150mph into a solid object, but that of course goes in the back of your mind with all the vestibular leans and spatial disorientation. Aware that these fair weather cumulus clouds contain some fair weather bumps, I applied pressure to both pedals and made sure my instrument scan was complete and rhythmic. And there it was - woosh - in the cloud, then almost immediately the rain starts picking up, which incidentally is very loud in a small airplane. I do a quick check of the outside air temperature, and look for any ice - all good. for about 30 minutes we were in and out of clouds and Claire got some great shots below.

Here's the plot to:

The way back was similar, only less actual. It was grey VFR, then went marginal, then just past Worcester we went into a particularly lighter grey, but very thick cloud. The rain was intense. It was also think enough where the wingtips were disappearing in the clouds - with a 35' wingspan that puts the visibility at about 12-13'! Somewhere in there the top of the windshield started leaking as well - a big drop soaked my brand new charts...i'm not complaining though.

I flew the vectors for and started the ILS11 back into KBED, but we broke out of a scattered layer at about 3500. A few minutes went by and I picked up the runway and canceled IFR. The controller was happy to do so as that meant he didn't have to vector all the pattern traffic around me anymore :)

Here's the plot back home:

And some photos by Claire, some using the retro camera app for Android. Next time I need to bring along the Mino HD to get some decent quality video:

i finally took the 4 minutes to learn microsoft movie maker

And I made this nifty video I plan on giving to students:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fundamentals of Fail

Update! The FAA has apparently decided to re-calculate my test score, and I passed. Just barely, but still...woo-hoo!

I took the Fundamentals of Instructing written test last weekend (FOI) and only managed only a frustrating 66% (you need a 70% to pass). It's not because I didn't know the material, or because I didn't prepare, but because of a recent change that the FAA has made to their question bank which has AOPA and future CFIs all riled up - and rightfully so IMHO.

What happened is that the FAA had found that applicants taking the FOI had been breezing through it in 15 minutes and getting very high scores. The fact this test requires no calculator and only has one figure, it was an obvious decision to change the question bank as applicants were employing rote memorization to breeze through the test.

Up to now, I'm in total agreement of the FAA changing the test bank - I don't think you'll find anyone that isn't in favor of this. The problem is that the study material is simply the test source, the Aviation Instructor's Handbook. That is to say, there's no study guide, practice tests, etc... provided by the FAA. Naturally that leaves an opportunity for companies like Gleim and ASA to fill in the gaps and make some money as well. So once a year these companies will release books with all the questions and answers (and incorrect answers) that they obtain most likely through the FOIA from the FAA. Because these commercial products are all that exists for applicants to see before the test, naturally they are bought and used, and along the way a good deal of rote memorization takes place.

The problem mostly manifests itself with this particular test, the FOI. The questions are mostly educational psychology based and let's face it, the FAA is not on the forefront in the field. Even more obviously, the non-psychologist writing the test certainly is not. The questions are largely based on semantics and read as though someone without a conceptual grasp on the material had picked a few important looking words and wrote 'main idea' type questions around them. I'll give you an example:

Responses that produce a pleasurable return are called:

  • positive feedback
  • praise
  • reward

Go ahead...figure that one out. There actually is a right answer, and a justification for it, but tell me how anyone who isn't memorizing portions of the study material are getting this question correct? It's complete semantics, and it should have no place in the test. Unfortunately this is not the only question that is similarly dumb.

So now with a changed test bank, ergo; no study materials, what should we future CFIs do? Well, the way I'm looking at it is that the test so far has cost me about $160 total. $140 to take it, and about $20 in prep materials. It's going to take another $140 to take the test, so this little trick of the FAA is certainly costing me. I think what I'd like to do is study the text again, take extremely thorough notes, and try not to fail again. ASA's updates page are far better than Gleim's update pages, plus they represent closer to what I've seen on the test. There's some solace. Maybe I'll pony up the cash and try ASA's prep material? Should I wait for the June/July cycle to do it? Are the FAA going to keep changing test banks?

310 total time and counting...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

planes trains and automobiles

it's a banner day in the old logbook. there's a shining .4 (yes, that's 0.4) PIC logged that I didn't have to pay for. I landed my first commercial gig ferrying a club plane from KBED to KOWD - Bedford to Norwood. Well, I should back up and mention that technically my first commercial pilot gig was driving approach plates for the club owner up from Norwood airport to Bedford for his trip to Sun 'n' Fun...0.0 in the logbook, but hey, we all have to make impressions?

I drove up to Bedford this morning (automobiles) flew N813ND, a Piper Arrow down to Norwood (planes) and now i'm sitting on a train back to Boston to head to the day job (trains). check, check and check...maybe I'll try to fit a boat ride in later, as the subway will be covered once I get in town.

The flight itself was very quick, a minute airborn I had the field in sight, and before I knew it I was back on the ground. A hefty tailwind didn't help much either. On top of that, not a moment of smooth air, but what the hell - this is what that commercial certificate's all about, right? free flight time? By my fuzzy math I saved somewhere around $54...not too bad for a Wednesday morning before 9AM.

306.9 total time and counting....

Friday, March 4, 2011

CPL-ASEL-IA...feels good, man...

Punch - it took two concerted tries for the DE to hole-punch, i.e. "mutilate," my plastic credit card-like pilot's certificate. No, I didn't do anything wrong - I just received my commercial pilot's license today - it's not much at the moment, it's just a piece of paper, but oh, those words together...."Commercial Pilot - Airplane Single Engine Land; Instrument Airplane"

So where to now? the regular route - CFI-A (initial CFI-Airplane) with a multi-engine thrown in somewhere along the line. I'm still shopping around for places to do my multi rating, but with hiring expected to pick up at the end of this year (2011) I'm expecting that the schools will pick up their prices accordingly.

the ride itself was pretty standard stuff, very relaxed, got a couple things wrong  / grey area'd here and there, but all in all the DE liked that i knew where to look stuff up (even had my FAR/AIM labelled :D ) and as all checkrides go, it wasn't so much of a Q and A, but more of a conversation where he could find out that I didn't just memorize things, but that I understood them, and could apply them to real world situations...sounds like the fundamentals of instructing a bit, doesn't it :)

turns out i also hit 300 hours somewhere in the middle of a steep turn, or perhaps chandelle too!

300.8 hour$ and counting....

give me casual...meh, that'll do, i guess...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

48kts at 3000 feet, oh my!

I opted not to fly yesterday as it was howling all day. Instead I chose today because it was better, and because the winds were set to die down as the day went on. Last week my instructor said he wanted to fly by myself one more time before taking the commercial checkride, and even though i'm okay with all the maneuvers, one more time on a calmer day will be ideal.

Coming out of KBED to the west, it was bumpy from the second i left the tarmac. Immediately weathervaning about 15 - 20 degrees (rwy 29, winds were 320/15/G23 i think?), I maintained the centerline while i took the winter elevator ride straight up. those who fly GA in the winter know what i mean. on the way out to the practice area, i hit probably the worst turbulence I've experienced since going up to portland, ME back when doing my private. BUMP BUMP BA-BUMP...for about a good 30 seconds while trying to write down a squawk code from boston departure. I managed to tighten the lap belt and get a quick bravo clearance to climb up above 3000 where the winds were supposedly smoother. the bumps were so bad, i had a hard time talking as i was fighting with the controls to keep it level. at about 2700 it was like a different day altogether - ride was as smooth as glass, although my groundtrack was definitely cockeyed with the 48kt reported winds. I slowed to MCA to see if I could appear to go backwards :)

anyway, lazy 8s are still right where i want them, so i headed back, and landed with only one notch at 80+ kts given the crosswind. WONK...crappiest landing i've had in months. i pulled off the runway, sat for a sec and thought, 'that won't do...what if this was my checkride?' so i called up ground and asked to head back to the active for pattern work. cleared to takeoff, i did two more crosswind landings, this time paying more attention, and they were nice and smooth - 80-85kts, and two notches of flaps. all in all, a great flight.

291.4 hours and counting...

Here's my PIREP:

And here are some Piper Arrow parts pictures of the legs I snapped during pre-flight...everything in it's right place!

right main

nose gear joints + bottom of the engine

the motor what makes the legs go up and down + the battery

corner office with a view.