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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Solo!

D2 just had his first solo!  Last Saturday morning, we flew to Mesquite, because it's uncontrolled (no control tower).  After two or three touch and goes, I told D2 to take me to the fuel pumps, where I got out and told him to do two solo touch and goes and then land and pick me up.

I had my handheld radio with me, and a new headset adapter I'd just bought from Sporty's, so I was able to put on my headset and listen to his radio calls.  Apart from messing up his call sign a couple of times, he made all the calls, and made good circuits in the pattern and good landings.  I did have to get on the radio one time, when just as D2 was turning onto the downwind another pilot announced that he was entering the downwind.  I could see that they were close, so I advised the other pilot that he was very close to an aircraft being piloted on his first solo, at which point the second pilot said that he was only on his second solo!

After picking me up, we flew North to McKinney where I again got out and had D2 do another set of touch and goes, this time at a controlled (towered) field.  I called the tower, and advised them that D2 was doing his first solo, and asked him to watch out for my student and keep it simple.  Instead, the tower first gave him right traffic instead of left, then cancelled and had him do left traffic.  At one point they had him delay his crosswind for traffic, on another he had D2 turn crosswind early for sequencing.  and on yet another he had D2 extend his downwind for sequencing.  It seemed like he went OUT OF HIS WAY to make it harder!

Fortunately, D2 coped with all off this.  One time he wasn't sure what the tower wanted him to do, so he asked.  D2 is a tri-lingual Brazilian, and English isn't his first or second language,it's his third.  Combined with the normal radio-phobia of many students and unfamiliarity with ATC requests and terminology, he did very, very well.

Finally we flew back to AeroCountry where D2 keeps his Cessna.  By that time to winds were picking up, and I had to help on the landing, but I think it won't be long before D2 is signed off to solo from AeroCountry as well.

It's nice to know I really can instruct.  :)

Friday, June 8, 2012


I've been flying more as an instructor than as a private pilot this past two months.  Partly it has been because my Bonanza wasn't back (it is now), and partly because my new primary student, "D2" is anxious to advance, so we have been flying a good deal.

D2 owns his own airplane, a Cessna 172.  That permits us to fly whenever the conditions (and schedules) allow.  When he came to me, D2 had about 30 hours with 2 other instructors, and had basic aircraft control down.  He'd done take offs, steep turns, stalls, slow flight and some instrument "blind" flying, but was frustrated that neither of his previous instructors had taught him how to land.  Since I know both of those guys, I think I can understand why.

D2 is a perfectionist.  His airplane is pristine, inside and out.  It takes him 30 minutes to pre-flight his airplane, and afterwards he is still wiping it down as I leave.  I don't do anything to discourage his "anal" behavior, I'd far rather see that than the slap-dash pre-flights and flying that I've seen from some others.  I just try to arrive 20 minutes after he does, so that I can do my own double check and help push the airplane outside.  His instructors were both similar people (they might be where he learned to inspect every rivet), and I can imagine them thinking something like "that turn wasn't quite coordinated we need to make that perfect before working in the pattern".  My view is that he needs to be able to fly to private pilot standards by the time he takes his test, and with more practice which will come from flying more, those last few mistakes will go away.

I don't think that means I'm willing to accept more "sloppiness" - before he can have his test scheduled he will have to be flying to standards - I'll give him a simulated test and if he fails a task, we'll work on the parts that need work before handing him over to a DE.  But I am willing to accept that a 50 hour student can't fly to the level to perfection that a 500 hour pilot can.

So we have been going round and round, up and down at all of the local airports, towered and uncontrolled.  He can now do a complete pattern, and if the winds are not too strong, can land without help every time.  But if there's a little summer bumpiness, it seems to throw him off, and we haven't tackled crosswinds yet beyond a quick (and not very good) demonstration by me.  And he needs to be able to make all the radio calls himself, because once he solos, I won't be there to make them for him.

But we are getting close.  Just needs those radio calls, and a nice smooth morning with little wind, and he can make his first solo.  That will help his confidence tremendously, and we can build on it from there.