As previously noted, I am taking lessons to obtain a private pilot license. In order to obtain a pilot’s license, one must pass both a written and flight examination. But, one does not simply get in an airplane and take an exam. As part of the journey to the license, one must complete certain prerequisites with respect to the actual flying part. Your instructor must feel you are competent or able to make the appropriate decisions based upon the situation. Below are those prerequisites and the progression of each.
|Requirement||% Complete||Date Completed|
|40 hours of flight time||100||Current|
|20 hours of flight training||100||Current|
|10 hours of total solo flight||100||2022-07-29|
|10 hours of ASEL solo flight||100||2022-07-29|
|5 hours of solo cross country||100||2022-07-16|
|Solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance||100||2022-07-29|
|3 takeoffs solo at a towered airport||100||2022-05-09|
|3 full stop landings solo at a towered airport||100||2022-07-02|
|3 hours of cross-country flight training in a single-engine airplane||100||2022-06-12|
|3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane||100||2022-06-12|
|Night cross-country training flight of over 100 nm total distance||100||2022-06-12|
|10 takeoffs at an airport at night||100||2022-06-12|
|10 full stop landings at an airport at night||100||2022-06-12|
|3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane solely by reference to instruments||100||2022-08-13|
|3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane within the preceding 2 calendar months||100||Current|
Updated: 2022-07-29 Today was the day! I arrived early for a 6 AM pre solo assessment (go up with instructor a few times) and then if all is well, proceed to the solo. This was the big solo; the one I was unable to finish last time due to clouds. I went the reverse this time: Fort Myers –> Venice –> Sebring –> Fort Myers as Venice usually picks up in traffic as the day progresses. The flight from Fort Myers to Venice was fine, in fact, it went very well. I did have to land on runway 13, which A) was new for me at this airport and B) it has a RIGHT hand entry pattern, which is opposite the normal. After getting reconfigured, I took off and headed east to Sebring. The Saharan dust was present, making the view hazy and unclear for most of the flight east. I configured to land in Sebring, but came down too steep and flared too much, causing a bounce or two. With that I applied full power and started my climb, slowly retracting the flaps while gaining altitude. I made a second attempt and that one was much better. After getting configured for the final leg, I took off and started my travels southwest. And lo and behold, clouds again. For a moment, I thought another diversion was going to be necessary as the size and layering was much more than when I started in the morning. I found an opening and climbed up to 4,500 feet and stayed above them. I activated the GPS to Fort Myers just in case and kept Punta Gorda in the back of my mind if the situation worsened. Thankfully, the closer to Fort Myers I got, the more the clouds dispersed and were less of a problem. I made a straight in approach for runway 13. I taxied over to Paragon. With that the solo cross country is complete!
Updated: 2022-07-22 This is a late entry as we are on vacation. Last Saturday, I attempted my solo, long cross country flight between Fort Myers, Sebring, Venice and then back to Fort Myers. I left Fort Myers without issue en route to Sebring.
As I approached the area, I listened to the weather and overall it was favorable, but they did report distant lightning. After landing and configuring the airplane for a flight to Venice, I took off and started west. That is when everything changed. I noticed the clouds were quite big up ahead and as I continued my journey, also noticed the layering and increased amount of them. As I am a VFR pilot, I have restrictions about flying around clouds. I listened to the weather coming out of Venice and the report was the cloud layer was at 2,500 feet. As I continued, I noticed an opening in the clouds and descended from 6,500 to 2,500 feet. But, this was not enough. I continued my descent until reaching 1,800 feet. This was going to be the make or break moment. Realizing the cloud layer could continue to lower, I began my diversion to Punta Gorda.
https://videopress.com/v/vDO1k61J?resizeToParent=true&cover=true&preloadContent=metadata&useAverageColor=true This was supposed to be Sebring to Venice.
I decided this airport for a few reasons: it is a controlled tower during the day and if the weather got worse, they could vector (direct) me in for a landing. I radioed to Punta Gorda and gave them a quick description of the situation and told them my plan is to continue to Fort Myers if able. They instructed me to stay west of the field and let them know if I needed to change my plans. I was able to continue on to Fort Myers without issue.
The problem is: I will need to reattempt this flight as I did not meet the requirements for this solo, long cross country. But I did learn something valuable from this experience. Being a pilot is not just about flying a plane, but more so, knowing your limitations and personal margins such that you make the necessary changes to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
Updated: 2022-07-12 This morning, I completed another solo flight to Venice. I chose this location for two reasons: A) it was a new place and B) it will be the second stop on my long cross country flight, which, hopefully, will be Saturday.
With that long solo flight, I should have my “big” cross country complete along with the 5 solo hours of cross country time. The only remaining requirements will be additional time as solo pilot and “foggle” time. I have been working on the written practice exam, but honestly, cannot beat 75% at this time. Much of this learning I have done over the past year and some of it is not as fresh as it once was. With each practice exam, I am remembering and understanding more of the principles of flight and the various rules associated with private pilot. Once I complete two practice exams, scoring over 80%, I can receive my endorsement for the actual written test.
Updated: 2022-07-03 While the holiday weekend did not start off with the best of news with respect to the pilot license, the rest went well. Paragon called me late last week to finalize scheduling for my lessons and also informed me the DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) will not be available until likely September. There could be a cancellation, but there is no guarantee I will have all prerequisites done nor my scheduling will be agreeable to a cancellation. I still need to take the written exam; it is just a matter of studying for it and receiving my approval to test. But, otherwise, the holiday weekend has been very productive in the pursuit of the private pilot prerequisites. Friday, along with the instructor, we flew to Labelle, did a touch and go and continued to Punta Gorda with a touch and go too.
During these flights between these two airports, I put on “foggles” (foggy glasses, which only allow you to look at the instruments) to simulate flying solely with instruments only. As a private pilot, I am to follow visual flight rules, but the FAA requires training with instruments as one could fly into weather, which rapidly deteriorates and obscures your visual references. With that flight Friday, I am nearly complete with respect to the instrument training prerequisite. I also practiced working with VOR navigation. VOR (Very High-Frequency (VHF) Omnidirectional Range) is an older, but still in use technology, which is less favored than GPS based navigation as it can be much more precise. It is good to learn other ways of navigation as one can experience issues with GPS (rarely, but possible) and will need additional navigational aides during the flight.
But the much bigger achievement this weekend were the two cross country solo flights. Saturday, I flew to Wauchula, FL and performed a touch and go and came back to Page Field (Fort Myers).
KFMY –> KCHN –> KFMY
This flight utilized the previously mentioned VOR navigation system to direct me to the airport. Using my knowledge of this system, along with pilotage, I was able to find the airport.
Then, this morning, I flew to a new place: Sebring, FL.
KFMY –> KSEF –> KFMY
I have never been to this airport, but again, utilized pilotage and VORs to navigate my way. After performing a touch and go, I headed back to Page Field to complete the second cross country solo.
This is the MFD (multi-function display) which is the right panel. In front of me is the PFD (primary flight display) displaying relevant information about the plane (altitude, speed, heading, etc.). I took this quick photo on the way back just as a memento of the cross country adventure.
My hope is that the next cross country solo will be my “long” one, which will complete the cross country prerequisites.
It is weird not having a “right hand” person next to me on these journeys. It is just me, flying above, through and below the clouds in pursuit of a destination and more importantly, a lifelong goal.
Updated: 2022-06-19 This morning, I met with a stage sign off instructor to review the ground material for Stage 2. This stage encompasses the solo work, which is the last big block of prerequisites for my private pilot license. The review covered a navigation log (nav log) and weight and balance/center of gravity worksheet for an aircraft in various stages of the flight. There was an oral review of some information pertaining to maintenance, weather and some of the flight systems. The only part I did not do my best on was the sectional and the airspaces depicted on the chart. I am still learning these and how to tell the differences between them and what rules change depending on what airspace you are flying. I have already bookmarked some websites, which will hopefully best review this topic so I can have a better understanding. Tomorrow is a mock stage check for solo work in which we actually fly (likely to Arcadia) with a nav log, sectional and VOR work to learn about lost procedures. Next week is the stage check in which I will fly to another field, likely Wauchula, and if successful, will obtain the endorsement to start the solo work. Updated: 2022-06-19 This morning, I met with a stage sign off instructor to review the ground material for Stage 2. This stage encompasses the solo work, which is the last big block of prerequisites for my private pilot license. The review covered a navigation log (nav log) and weight and balance/center of gravity worksheet for an aircraft in various stages of the flight. There was an oral review of some information pertaining to maintenance, weather and some of the flight systems. The only part I did not do my best on was the sectional and the airspaces depicted on the chart. I am still learning these and how to tell the differences between them and what rules change depending on what airspace you are flying. I have already bookmarked some websites, which will hopefully best review this topic so I can have a better understanding. Tomorrow is a mock stage check for solo work in which we actually fly (likely to Arcadia) with a nav log, sectional and VOR work to learn about lost procedures. Next week is the stage check in which I will fly to another field, likely Wauchula, and if successful, will obtain the endorsement to start the solo work.
Updated: 2022-06-13 Last night, I was able to complete multiple requirements with a night flight from Fort Myers to Sarasota. Even though we had a later departure than anticipated, it was a calm flight and refreshing to be one of the very few airplanes in the air. There were some clouds, but overall we maintained a direct route to Sarasota and made a “straight in” landing on runway 32. My landing was definitely not the best, but I chalk that up to unfamiliar airport and night flying (it really does warp your perception). Sarasota then had us taxi to another runway, 22, for our departure and we headed south to Fort Myers. It is rather nice to have a collection of these prerequisites done at once. Except for some more instrument flight training (IFR), the last big block are the solo requirements. It is getting closer and closer to a finale!
Updated: 2022-06-07 This weekend, weather permitting, I hope to complete three of these prerequisites at once: night cross country of at least 100 nm (Sarasota and back), night takeoffs/landings and three (3) hours of cross country flying.