Saturday, March 22, 2014

N94565 1.4 Bob

Closed pattern at KPAO, 9 landings. Rwy 13 active with light x-wind from the left. Very busy with trainee tower controller trying to keep everyone organized. Lots of radio chatter.

Getting noticeably better. I still do "wishful flying" -- keeping the nose pointed towards the runway as I get closer to it, which means I dive into the runway. Coming in high and fast a couple of times, but no serious under-speeds today. A couple of bounces where I pushed the nose down after flaring too early; I need to just keep the back pressure consistent, allow the plane to start sinking again, then continue the flare. A little better, but not much, at lining up with the runway, transitioning from crab to forward slip, and sliding left and right. CFI says I need to fly to the extended centerline and then stay there, rather than just wallowing left and right. CFI also taught me that, as I flare, the control forces will become less and I will need to control more with the position of the yoke rather than the force, until it's pretty much full back on touchdown.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Please co-sponsor S 2103 / HR 3708 (General Aviation Pilot Protection Act)

Sen Barbara Boxer (CA)
Sen Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Rep Anna G. Eshoo (CA 18th District)

Dear representatives,

I am writing to you all to ask you to CO-SPONSOR S 2103 / HR 3708, the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act.

My letter to you is not a "form letter" from an advocacy organization; it is from the heart and applies to my own situation and that of my own local jurisdiction. Please read it with that in mind and please do consider carefully why I would like you to be a co-sponsor.

As you know, the Bills are a preliminary proposal to permit more of the General Aviation fleet to be available for operation with a driver's license medical, in place of the current FAA Class 3 Medical certificate.


In 2004, the FAA created the Sport Pilot rule allowing flight with a driver's license in certain small airplanes. We have a great record of safe flight since then. But for some reason, the definition of "small" did not include the most common, cheaply available airplanes in the fleet -- small Cessna and Piper airplanes -- and so people had to buy new airplanes or maintain their Medical.

Sport Pilot is also limited to 2 seat aircraft, which make it hard to take more than one family member. This makes aviation inaccessible for most folks with children.


One might think this Bill's main effect is cost reduction to pilots. It's more than that.

The FAA's arcane medical requirements set up "traps" for otherwise healthy people that drive them away from aircraft in general, regardless of the cost. While the FAA testing may cost thousands of dollars, it also requires endless medical appointments and an endless fear that the certificate will be taken away for some minor issue.

The FAA is not "evil" -- they are simply trying to cover their bases in the legal way they believe they should. We the people must free them from this self-imposed deadlock. We the people are the only ones who can make the executive decisions on this matter.

Medical incapacitation is by no means the worst cause of accidents. By the FAA's own analysis --

medical incapacitation does not even show up as a cause. The main causes are "Loss of control inflight" and "Controlled flight into terrain" -- airmanship issues that can be better addressed by equipment and training.

One wonders how much public funds would be available to the FAA to combat the real aviation safety issues if the backlog of medical applications and rule-making were alleviated.


The question remains -- why is this important anyway? And why now?

The US has been the leading light in worldwide aviation research and development. We have the best General Aviation infrastructure anywhere. And we are losing it quickly. The FAA's data on the number of certificated pilots --

shows 188,001 Private Pilot certificates in 2012, down from 241,045 in 2003. That's a big loss!

We must make general aviation in the US accessible and "friendly" (as distinct from merely "cheap") or we stand to lose it.


A common argument is that aviation is a "luxury" -- we cannot afford it as a society. Sometimes that is phrased as an environmental concern, given that aircraft burn fossil fuels, and most small piston aircraft unfortunately continue to burn leaded gas.

There is plenty of money -- and there are plenty of resources -- available for recreation in this country. We purchase electronic devices, cars and food. When we participate in classically "green" sports, like surfing and kayaking, we often drive to our starting point and back. We should of course find better ways to become more conscientious consumers.

But -- none of this justifies singling out aviation as the "luxury".

Many of my friends at my local airport are common people who put into their airplane about the same amount of money as you'd spend on an average car. They are not all "rich" (though of course some are -- and these folks also drive fancy cars).


But really, revitalizing our general aviation population is actually the best way we can improve it! Without continued investment and participation, we cannot expect better, more eco-friendly airplanes. We cannot expect quieter airplanes. These exist at the moment, but they are very expensive because the pilot population is so small. We must first get pilots into aviation, then start replacing the current fleet bit by bit. For an example of a fuel-efficient airplane, look to Pipistrel, who regularly win the NASA fuel efficiency competitions --

These aircraft are not affordable yet. But the reason a Toyota Prius is affordable is that it slowly grew to replace an existing, healthy fleet. Can we build the Toyota Prius of airplanes? I'm sure we can! But not if we scare people away from flying by waving a big Class 3 Medical stick at them!


The Airplane Owners' and Pilots' Association (AOPA) has clearly come down in favor of these Bills. I agree with them.

But please remember that we pilots do not necessarily agree with the AOPA on all issues; they do not necessarily speak for us all!

An example is the AOPA's position on Pres Obama's budget proposal that would impose a $100/flight user fee on jet (and other turbine) aircraft flights that use Federal air traffic control facilities. The AOPA would have us believe that this is the gateway to a set of user fees that would put an end to general aviation! Yet -- somehow -- I can't get myself to agree with that. Many of us in the aviation world would be happy with a reasonable set of fees, structured based on some rational scheme, on a sliding scale. In Canada, for example, the fees are $68 per year for small airplanes --

I don't think this is unreasonable, given the other costs of aviation. If that's what it takes to keep the government running -- well, we must all pitch in!

So please, do not conflate the medical certification Bill before you with other "pro-aviation" efforts. We aviators are a diverse bunch and each issue before you deserves to be considered separately.


The AOPA -- and here I will use a link from the AOPA's website! -- maintains a list of co-sponsors of this Bill --

and I count only two Democrats! Please, do step forward and tip the balance. The Tesla Motors of aviation will not happen if we lose our pilot population! The Toyota Prius of aircraft will not be built. Our children will not learn how to fly if general aviation in this country is dragged down by over-regulation!


I am a student pilot living in Palo Alto, CA, and flying out of Palo Alto Municipal Airport. I fly the second cheapest airplane in the entire field, N94565 --

which is a tiny airplane, and one of the most common in the world, but (once again...) is not eligible for Sport Pilots because of the way the rules were drawn up back in 2004. I hope to fly this and the 4-seat version (not much bigger...) for fun with my family. This is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream set back in the 1960s when I was a child in Egypt, dreaming of aviation.

I cannot start flying "solo" without a Class 3 FAA Medical. I am very healthy -- low heart rate, low blood pressure, exercising every day. There are a couple things I have that trip the FAA's "radar" and require extra certification. But here's the kicker --

Every doctor I go to, in my travails to assemble the necessary paperwork, starts by rolling their eyes and saying, yeah, I know how the FAA is! Every single doctor. One of them said, "Oh, this is a formality." Another one said something unprintable. But this has taken me months and months, and $1000 of extra unnecessary testing, and there's no end in sight.

I am obviously an aviation nut. But do you really believe someone who's not as nutty as I am would go through all this trouble? Cost or no cost, just the trouble and legwork and endless appointments and medical records!

If my own general practitioner, who knows me best of all, can look at me and say I'm safe, and roll their eyes at the FAA's crazy rules and paperwork, is this not a sorry waste of Federal funds?


Once again, I entreat you to CO-SPONSOR these Bills! They are the future of aviation in the United States.

Best regards,
Ihab A.B. Awad
Palo Alto, CA

Monday, March 17, 2014

N94565 1.3 Bob

Afternoon flight from KPAO to KHWD to do a bunch of touch and goes and flying down Rwy 28L to learn low-speed control. Flew back to KPAO and landed.

Today I learned about the "Coyote Hills" landmark.

Very windy (we started at 5:30pm or thereabouts) with strong gusts.

We flew down 28L a couple times in addition to the usual touch and goes. On the second go, I could sort of stay on the left side of the runway, then scoot over to the right side, but it was very dicey. I am not really confident with this, but I also can tell that getting more confident will make me better at landing.

I'm still being overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do. Getting better, but still missing things like carb heat sometimes. It's hard to do all the "checklist" items while also paying attention to stick and rudder flight.

CFI says I'm not behind the curve, which is good to know.

On my final landing at KPAO, I got too slow (CFI says I was below 55 knots) by not paying attention, and we had hardly any flare at all. Not good!

In general, a satisfyingly challenging lesson, but I think it would be nice to have more time "in the flare" ... I'm imagining going to (say) some salt flats somewhere with 30 miles of perfectly flat ground in every direction, and just flying around at zero feet and learning how to control the airplane.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

N94565 1.4 Bob

KPAO closed traffic again. 11 landings.

Had a couple of pretty good approaches and maybe one good landing. Approaches are becoming far better; am now more able to control speed and stabilize with trim. Flares are problematic because I pull too fast, end up floating, let go, dive, pull again, ....

I need to practice moving side to side and lining up while on short final. I talked to Bob about doing some flying close to the runway at Hayward to practice, for next time.

I annotated my "store bought" checklist and made a little one for preflighting that I can easily carry with me around the airplane, so almost no missed items today.

I arrived early and preflighted the airplane by myself, at my leisure, which was much better than feeling like I'm taking up the CFI's time watching me putter around.

I need to work on how to use the rudder in the climb. The general theory is not hard -- right rudder to counteract torque -- but for some reason, when I counteract the torque, I end up turning the plane to the right of the runway extended centerline. I spent a while thinking about it, walking around our house and making airplane shapes (my neighbors must think I'm crazy), and I'm sort of suspecting that I actually take off in a right sideslip due to inadequate rudder use, and then when I "fix" that I just line myself up with my already-incorrect flightpath.

I tried to remember to look out the windows at the pretty scenery from time to time. :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

N94565 1.5 Bob

Closed pattern at KPAO. Touch and goes, with a couple of full stop landings. Made 12 landings total. Rwy 13 active, wind around 10kt at start, increased to about 20kt by the end of the lesson. Was coming from the left so go to practice crosswind landing skills.

I became more confident / comfortable in the plane, no longer trying so hard to rip the yoke out of its moorings. One thing that helped is that N94565 has a seat height adjustment, which I raised all the way to the maximum height so I could see well over the glareshield. That was a problem last time with N6334M -- I could not see well enough and that affected my landings. I do wonder though -- at 5'9", I'm not tall, but I'm not very short either. I'm surprised I have to raise my seat all the way to feel comfortable. I wonder what Cessna was thinking, or am I unique in wanting to sit so high...?

I started to learn how to crab, then transition to slip on short final. The advice is: use the ailerons to move side to side, and the rudder to line up with the runway. That would work well until I was -- oh, I don't know -- 50-75 feet off the ground, then whump! I would be hit by some weird gust and it seemed like whatever I tried to do, the plane wanted to go where it wanted to go. By the time I had battled my way to the threshold, I wanted to just land the thing, at which point I had the urge to practice my other bad habit, the dreaded CFI-killing early flare....

Maintaining speed, especially in the presence of wind shear, is a challenge. Turns out paying attention to my sight picture is not enough after all; wind shear will change my speed even then. Yet the trick here is to pay attention to sink, which will be noticeable and tip me off to a change.

I need to work on my checklists. Decide which ones I'm going to do by my spiral-bound laminated "book" and which ones I'm going to either do from memory or write quick notes on my kneeboard for. Then go through each of these and make sure I iron out any "bugs" and rehearse on the ground so that I stop missing checklist items.

I've been doing a bit better about pulling carb heat when appropriate.

In the pattern, there are a lot of things going on and it all happens pretty fast. Take off. Maintain speed appropriately. Turn crosswind at 500' (300' short of pattern altitude per the AIM) while climbing. Turn downwind after rolling out of the crosswind turn. Meanwhile need to level off, push the nose down and then reduce to cruise power (2200 rpm). Trim for cruise. Oh wait, you're abeam the numbers, have you done your pre-landing checklist? Do it now! Reduce to landing power (1700 rpm). You forgot to pull carb heat again! Keep the nose up while the airplane slows. White arc, 10 degrees of flaps. Are you at 45 degrees to the numbers? Turn base. Be mindful of wind -- base turns with wind need to be more than 90 degrees so I end up crabbed on base. Ok now turn final. Whoops, not so steep! Ok now we're on final, off the centerline. Start flying to the centerline. High or low? Throttle as needed. Flaps full down. Hold down the nose. Whoops, not so far down, you're flying at 90 kt and your approach speed is 65 kt! High or low, throttle to adjust. Throttle affects everything -- yaw, pitch, everything. Now transition to a nice forward slip. Oh look at that. So slip, very landing. Whoosh! Ok now all of a sudden I'm 20 degrees banked in the wrong direction and off centerline again! Try desperately to correct. Keep the nose down, don't be ground shy! Ok now cut to idle gently. Flare gradually. Try to stay lined up and on the centerline (easier said than done). Chirp! (The inevitable side-to-side shuddering as the poor landing gear tries to absorb the effects of my ham-fistedness.) Now keep back pressure. We tumble to a near-stop, or CFI cleans up my plane and says "go" and I firewall the throttle to do it all over again....