Bigs Aircraft

Human Skill + Machine Performance

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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 🙂

Lesson 03 & 04 – sharp turns, ground references, radio communications

Did more of the previous

  • sharp turns (45, 60 degree banks)
  • S-turns and circles around ground references
  • radio communications

I’m still not comfortable w/ radio communications, but I’m sure it will get better and better.  Still listening to liveATC a lot.

Lesson 02 – first stall

Wow, I went thru my first stall.  Mats told me to slow down the plane, put down flaps, and then pull the power back, and try to hold  altitude. As I started pulling back on the yoke, I knew we were going to fall down.  I was waiting for my death as the stall horn started screaming.  My heart started to pump up fast!  Suddenly it happened.  The plane started falling forward…

I don’t like roller coasters at all, and this felt exactly like that. Even worse is there is nothing below our feet towards the ground that will hold us.

I think this was Mats’s way of giving a taste of stall to new students.  He told me to clean up the plane and we go back.  I think we’ll practice more stalls in coming weeks, which means I need to get over my fear of stalls…

This is how stall looks (not me):


Lesson 01 – Cleared for take-off…

I finally did it!  I decided to get my private pilot license.

Today was my first lesson w/ my CFI Mats.   We went thru pre-flight, and then he did all the radio communications while I did taxi, take-off, climb, and basic maneuvers, including slow speed.  I understand now how to slow down a plane; idea is to bring up the nose to slow down.  Best of this lesson was I did the landing (with a lot of help from him) and it was amazing to see the runway start small and then get bigger and bigger and bigger, finally feeling the tires grabbing the runway.

Mats is very good teacher, he lets me do almost everything, while explaining how it works and what I should do.   I am lucky to have him (thanks Joe).  (Mats reminds me my model airplane teacher Chuck who taught me how to fly model airplanes).

Homework: listen to ATC on the phone.

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