I’ve been flying more to build time and prepare for instrument training. This week we flew to Llano and met some guys who were waiting as a mechanic replaced a magneto on their Maule. We also met Larry Snyder of the Ercoupe Owners Club, who had flown in from Arkansas for lunch. After a stop in Fredericksburg, we headed back to Austin and encountered some moderate turbulence west of the city, resulting in a PIREP. Foreflight continues to be an amazing tool for managing flight plans and other details.
Like many pilots on vacation, I often find myself staring skyward and wishing I could stop at a local FBO and sign out an airplane. Doing so isn’t especially difficult, but it does requires a checkout and enough paperwork to make the endeavor more chore than adventure.
But thanks to OpenAirplane and its Universal Pilot Checkout concept, I can now easily rent from about 100 operators in more than 32 states using little more than my iPad.
A few minutes after landing at Brenham Municipal Airport, I’m greeted by a cheerful waitress in a poodle skirt. She leads me to a booth at the airport’s 1950s themed diner, not minding that I’m distracted and weary from a gamey landing that included a gusting and wavering crosswind. Like all experiences that are both challenging and rewarding, the crosswind nudges me out of my comfort zone.
I order lunch as two men who appear to be in their 70s discuss aviation fuel prices from the booth next to me. The Brenham Airport Diner is one of two themed diners frequented by pilots and aviation enthusiasts in Central Texas. The other, Gillespie County Airport, is 130 miles west of here and features a theme that pays tribute to the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II.
As I take in my surroundings, I wonder if my generation will produce enough pilots to justify airport theme diners.
After lunch I preflight and fuel the airplane. The winds have calmed some, and the area weather stations report that clouds are continuing to rise into the autumn sky. The Cessna climbs rapidly in the cool air, cutting through the wind, toward home.
August is a great time to leave Texas. For pilots especially, summer presents unique challenges. High temperatures and humidity contribute to bumpier, often less enjoyable flights. These conditions also diminish aircraft performance, resulting in longer takeoff and landing distances and reduced fuel efficiency.
Of course, these issues aren’t particularly difficult to deal with. Perhaps the hardest part for me is the time spent on a smoldering airport tarmac for pre- and post-flight operations.
In Austin especially, the months of August and September are not kind to Midwesterners.
For these reasons I was anxious to escape with Lauren to California. Sonoma County is a good destination for anyone seeking chilled air. We decide that before setting out on a fast and furious tour of areas wineries, we’ll kick-off the trip by logging some local flight time in Napa. It would be our first experience in flying out-of-state since I earned my pilot certificate in 2012. Continue reading →
I passed my private pilot checkride after 18 months of flight training.
I scored well on my written exam, but by the time my instructor signed me off to take the checkride I felt a degree of uncertainty. Part of this was due to high expectations I set for myself, and part of it was based on my knowledge that the examiner I was scheduled to test with had recently failed a number of students for various reasons.
I’m fortunate to have trained with a flight instructor who drives high standards and expectations. In addition, she’s a natural teacher who is able to communicate complex information effectively. Rather than just memorizing fragments of information, my CFI taught the whys and hows of systems, operations and regulations. But the checkride exams –– divided into an oral and a practical flying segment –– filled me with uncertainty.
I channeled my nervousness into more studying and more flying. The end result paid off. I performed well and was issued my pilot’s license; When my examiner shook my hand and told me the job was well done, I felt like I had let out a breath I had been holding in for weeks.
To help other student-pilots out during this grueling process, I prepared the following guidelines on what to expect on the day of your checkride. I also provide a list of likely questions and topics that will come up during both your oral exam and your practical test.