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Human Skill + Machine Performance

Category: flight_training (page 1 of 2)

150nm Cross Country

Finally did my long cross country flight.  I had to take a break in July/Aug due to job changes.  Now prepping for written test.  Hope to finish my training before the end of the year.  Fingers crossed.


Cross Country

I haven’t posted an update for awhile, but I’ve completed my first cross country to Modesto last week.  It went uneventful.  About 1.7hrs round-trip.  Now we are in more of complete the requirements mode.  So next destination is Sacramento!  This will be a long trip, KHWD -> KSAC -> KMOD -> KHWD.

Cross Country : KHWD to KMOD

Weather finally started to play nice and I was able to get flights scheduled.  Last Saturday was a nice day between rainy Friday and Sunday.   We started at 730am and got almost 3hrs of flight squeezed in.  (ouch says my wallet).

Early on I did a solo flight to the practice area, did some shallow turns, and then came back to Hayward.  After touch down, I did enough pattern work to get total 1hr solo flight.  I appreciate taxpayers, because for about 30 minutes I got the whole Hayward Airport to myself 🙂

After that, we did our first cross country flight, to San Carlos (KSQL).  Oh boy, it was very busy.  We had to wait about 5 minutes around a sunken ship first, then got clearance to enter traffic pattern.  As we taxied back, at some point there were almost 10 planes on the ground waiting to take off and another 5 in the air to land.  We did a short-field take off (San Carlos has a short runway) and flew over the Oracle buildings.  Oracle buildings look nice from top.  One of these days I need to setup my garmin camera so I can show you the view.

Next destination is Modesto!   about 56 nm direct but there is a high mountain in between, so I think we have to go around a little bit.

Venice, Florence, Rome, and Surprise!

Well, two suprises for today:

  • When I picked up my daughter from school yesterday, she surprised me by saying ‘VFR daddy’.  I asked her what’s going on.  It turns out she had an exam at school about Venice, Florence, and Rome.  To make it easy to remember, she looked up online for an acronym and found out VFR 🙂

Well, where is the surprise you might be asking.

  • Your captain speaking…. I soloooeeeddddd  todayyy…  I did 3 take off and landings by myself.  Hurraaayyy.

Frankly, I didn’t realize the passenger seat was empty till I parked the plane back at the school.  Then it hit me I flew a plane by myself from take off to landings 🙂

I was wondering when is the right time to solo and frankly today was the perfect day.  Weather was kind of calm, I was top notch, calm and was ahead of myself.  My three landings were perfect (ahemm).  Can’t ask for a better day than this.

I have to thank my instructor Mats for bringing me to this level and then trusting me that I’ll be fine.  When I look back, I can connect the dots on what he showed me and why in the specific order he did that.

What’s next?  Well, I need to do more solo flights, especially going away from the airport a little bit and then coming back for landing.  Also I need to start cross-country flights, which means I need to fly to an airport at least 50nm far away.  That should be fun.

If you are a student pilot, all I can say is you will solo at the right time.  don’t worry about it.

Thoughts – How flight training made me a better person…

I realized I’ve made certain changes to my lifestyle and mindset after starting private pilot training.  I like to mention a few today:


Every pilot must get a medical check at various periods, depending on the type of flying they like to do.  For example, captains flying Boeing 777 passenger airlines, go see a doctor very 6 or 12 months (depending on if they are under or over 40yrs old).  For average Jose pilots like me, a 3rd class medical requires visiting the doctor every 5 years if you are under 40yrs and every 2 years if you are over 40yrs.   I have to see a doctor every 2 years.

The visit contains a bunch of checks – similar to car dealers 120-point checks for their certified cars.  We go thru blood pressure, sleep, mental, physical, eye, dexterity, hearing, you name it checks.

For me, blood pressure was a risky area so I worked 2months to improve my blood pressure.  I lost ~10lbs by eating healthy and less portions than I actually need.  I saw my PCP for consultation and started medication.  I started exercising.  I pay attention to my sleep quality.  I reduced alcohol intake.  I got my certificate already and technically I can stop doing all the healthy things I mentioned for the next 1.5 years until it is time to go see the doctor again.  But I’m continuing these healthy activities because I also feel better!

Alcohol Intake:

If you are stopped for alcohol test and refuse to take teh test, you will lose your license.  If you get a DUI,  you will lose your pilot license. Worst, if you are a career pilot and get a DUI, your career will be over and you will have to find another line of work.  (I’m rephrasing the part losing your license, but FAA pays special attention to alcohol/drugs and may deny, suspend, revoke your license.  It is very serious business.)

I’m now very careful about my alcohol consumption when I’m outside.  If I think I will drink more than allowed amount, I plan for transportation back home.

No matter what, you keep flying the plane:

This is from my instructor Mats.  He told me in all situations including emergency or even hopeless situations, you keep flying the airplane and keep flying the plane.  Everything else is secondary.  Even you know you are going crash, you still keep flying until plane comes to a halt in one way or other.

I apply this to my life.  Life always have problems otherwise it would be boring.  Since starting flight training, I now keep thinking I have to keep flying the airplane.  So I keep working on the problems and keep trying solution after solution.  Do I have thoughts about giving up, that I would never accomplish what I want to do?  Does it look difficult and impossible?  Yes, but I keep flying the plane and eventually get to where I want to.  Alive and in one piece 🙂

So no matter what, keep flying the plane.

Lesson – My Flight Simulator

This is my flight simulator setup that I put together a few years back.  Given the plane+instructor cost, this setup paid itself many many times.  Best part is you can position the plane for what you want to practice, save it as a scenario, and then fly it a zillion times, without wasting time+money for taking off, making a turn, calling the tower in real plane.


Lesson – Slips

For some reason I have trouble with slips.  I tried maybe 5~6 slips and they were nowhere close 🙂

This is the only video in youtube that actually explains how slips work and what to do if you are not lined up with the runway.  This plus 2 hours on the simulator, I think I’m ready to try slips again.


Lesson – Traffic Pattern

Late December 2016, Mats told me we would start traffic pattern work.  In other words, we take off, turn around the runway and then land.  Repeat, rinse.  In the short time between take off and touch-down, I had to deal w/ a lot of controls, radio communication w/ tower, as well as monitoring outside for other planes, glancing at instruments, and of course flying the plane into the final leg,  work on holding the plane lined up with the runway (one arm on yoke, one arm on the throttle, legs on the rudder).  I felt like a monkey each time.  It turns out we did 16 or 20 landings in 2 hours.  No wonder I was exhausted afterwards.

Fast forward a few weeks, I have about 70 landings by the end of February.  The weather was rainy in Jan/Feb so we had to skip a few lessons. The problem with skipping is I forget some stuff and have to relearn.

My last flight (mid Feb) was a windy day.  First 45 minutes, I always ended up short on final and was wondering what I was doing wrong.  Then we realized (we meaning me, Mats knew what was going on but he has started to keep quiet in lessons to get me ready for solos), I realized there was a strong head wind so I was coming down fast.  Once I figured this, I adjusted my glide path accordingly and started to reach the runway numbers.  I still had a problem with the gusty winds during flare so I can’t say I am ready for solo yet.  Mats told me we had approximately 20 knots headwind in the air and 10 knots headwind on the ground.

As I said earlier, I noticed Mats started to keep quiet during the flights, letting me do the whole thing from taxi to landing and taxiing back to the hangar, including mistakes and recovering from them.  This coincided w/ the time I decided not to depend on him anymore to get ready for solo.  I now ask the ATC to repeat if I don’t get what they want instead of looking at Mats.

By the way, I forgot to tell you I am learning in a Cessna 152.  I started with Cessna 172  but I switched to 152 because it  was $20 cheaper and I like the simplicity of 152.

Lesson – Getting ready for solo – Medical first

Fast forward to lesson 7 and my instructor told me to get ready for soloing.  This meant three things:

  • Get my medical exam
  • Apply for Student Pilot license
  • Complete pre-solo written exam

Getting Medical

FAA requires each pilot to go thru a medical examination.  For private pilot license, this means 3rd class (no, it doesn’t mean third class citizen).

My suggestion is if you answer yes to one of followings questions, you should take care of your medical first before sinking too much money into flight lessons (no, lessons are not cheap unless you inherited a plane).

  1. Are you over 40?
  2. Have you ever been diagnosed w/ anything in your life?
  3. Have you ever used any prescription drug (i.e. not off-the-shelf)?
  4. Have you seen any doctor for non-routine reason in the past 3 years?

If you answer yes to one of these, you need to be careful.

  • Do not go to an AME yet.
  • Read the FAA class medical requirement and make sure you will pass all requirements.
  • See Pilots of America (PoA) forum useful insights
  • If you have any issues, contact Dr. Chien Bruce at
  • Once you are sure you will pass on everything and/or have the required paperwork, then find a good AME.
  • Contact AME if you have any questions or questionable items.
  • Take a print-out of your medical form to the AME and have them look at it before opening your online FAA form.

If you go to an AME and they look at your form on FAA website (, a 14-day timer starts immediately. If the doctor does not give you the medical certificate within 14 days (continue reading why this would happen), then your case gets deferred to FAA and then it requires back and forth to get your medical.  Why would a defer happen?  If the doctor needs a new test, form, whatever and you can not get it in time.  For example, in my case, I had seen a sleep doctor 2 years ago for consultation.  I had to schedule a home sleep study to prove I don’t have any sleep issues (consultation was for high blood pressure and if sleep was an issue so we talked about sleep apnea).  Unfortunately the earliest sleep study could be scheduled a month later.  If AME asked for this, then  I would not have made it in time.

Good news is most of the medical conditions is ok for 3rd class.  PoA is a good resource and also Dr. Bruce if you have a complex case.

Lesson 05 – Stalls

This lesson was focused on stalls.  I’m completely comfortable now.  What fixed me was I started thinking I’m in a F-15 fighter pilot and have to slow down and brake very quickly to let the enemy behind pass me, and then I need to recover and speed up to catch him 🙂

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