Sunday, April 29, 2012

Flight training on a Cessna 172SP Skyhawk

I don't exactly recall the first time that I flew on airplane. I believe it was back in Russia, when my parents and I traveled to the Black Sea for vacation. Every since then, I have always been a fan of aviation.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a pilot and fly military jet fighters. I built a wooden glider which I launched from a 3rd story window in my apartment in Moscow.

As I got older, I learned that the U.S. military had very high standards for eyesight - 20/20 vision - which I lacked. Ever since I was young, I wore glasses to correct my myopia (I was nearsighted).  I would never be able to fly one of those fast jet fighters (like the F-16). It was quite disappointing.

When I attended Lehigh University for my BSEE, I briefly attended the Air Force training. However, I quit early on, when I realized that all the other Air Force cadets do was march around. There was no flight training. I really wanted to learn to fly - but didn't think that I would ever get the chance.
On April 26, 2012, I received an interesting LivingSocial deal by email. The Trade Winds' Executive Flight Package offered a chance to fly a Cessna 172sp single engine aircraft with an instructor. I was excited and setup my first flight for April 29, 2012 at 10:00am.

On Sunday, April 29th, I met Gene Hudson, my instructor at the Trade Winds Aviation clubhouse. He got an extra headset out of his car and we proceeded to walk to the Cessna 172SP aircraft. This was a practically new airplane with the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit (instead of individual instruments, it had multiple video screens). Gene had been flying for over 20 years and had thousands of hours of flight experience, so I was not worried.

The Cessna 172SP is a small single-engine propeller plane with a 180 hp engine. It has seating for 4 people (2 in the front and 2 in the rear). The seating is quite cramped so there is not a lot of elbow room. There are two identical sets of controls for both pilots sitting in front.

After inspecting the plane, we got inside and followed pilot's checklist. Once completed, we got out of the cabin and pushed the plane to a taxiway. We got back in the plane and started the engine.

Gene taxied the plane to the runway and contact Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV) ground control. Before taxing on the runway, Gene verified all the control surfaces (ailerons, flaps, rudder, etc were operational). Then, he contacted the tower and got authorization to take off.

We slowly taxied onto the runway. Gene set the flaps to 10 degrees (this is normal flap angle for take off) and set the engine RPM to 2500. He let go of the brakes and the plane began to roll down the runway. Once it reached 55 knots, Gene and I gently pulled up on the yoke and the plane was in the air.

We flew straight, ascending in altitude and then Gene turned the plane to the right, to avoid entering class B airspace associated with San Jose airport (SJC). We continued turning and flew south for a while. We practiced a few rolls to the right and left and saw a couple of other airplanes far away. Once we reached Gilroy, we turned around and landed at Reid-Hillview airport. It was a short, but exciting first flight. Landing was quite short, as the 172SP landed at about 60 knots (same speed as cars on the freeway) and did not require a lot of runway.

Jets typically take off and land at much higher speeds, so it was quite unexpected to be taking off and landing  at such slow speeds.

When flying, I learned about the importance of using trim-tabs to adjust the altitude, so that I would not be always pulling up or down on the yoke. The Yoke should be neutral in flight and setting trim tabs correctly allows this to be so.  I also learned that one must always use the rudder in conjunction with the ailerons for all the turns.

The hardest part for me was steering the plane on the ground using foot pedals. The top of the pedal activates brakes on the rear landing gear and the lower part of the pedal turns the front landing gear. It's quite tricky to steer the plane using both feet.

I had a fantastic first flight and decided to take the ground school class, to learn more about flying.

A few months later, I took the written Airman's Knowledge exam and passed with a score of 93%. Not bad at all!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Los Cabos, Mexico

In April, we flew on Virgin Airlines from San Jose to Los Cabos, Mexico.

We stayed at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, where we stayed many years earlier. This Hilton has lovely pools and excellent Mexican food. 

The Hilton has two tennis courts and I played tennis with Alex one day. The courts are not in very good shape but they playable.

We ate lunch at El Meson and dinner at Fenicia, Madeo, and La Barca

The ocean is fairly rough there, so we did not swim in the ocean. However, we had a very nice, relaxing time. We originally scheduled this trip for December 2011, but Alex got sick,so we rescheduled it for April, 2012.

The room attendants made some wonderful characters using towels.