In an attempt to get caught up I’m using some time in a hotel room during a work trip to submit a couple of these posts.
I took my FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Exam May 10th. In next 5 weeks between then and July 18th I was only able to get 4 lessons in due to my CFI being on vacation and the full flight school calendar and missed opportunities with poor scheduling.
Please don’t take anything I say here as reflecting negatively on my past flight school or CFI. For some that approach or one CFI’s way of doing things might work great while frustrating others. For me I got to a point where I was frustrated with the school and the program just wasn’t working for me; once you become frustrated with either its time to make a change.
My first flight school was a 45 min drive away so all those days when the weather was questionable I’d leave home an hour before and drive there only to drive back after meeting with my CFI for 30 minutes to call the FAA for a weather briefing and making a decision. Also my CFI seemed hesitant to go out in anything but absolutely perfect weather and no wind. At this point I had 20 some hours in and at some point must learn to fly and land in safe but windy conditions. Also weeks out from him going on vacation he said I needed to fly with another CFI to get a second evaluation of my progress and that could be done while he was gone. I provided him with my days off during that period but nothing got scheduled. A week prior to him leaving the schedule was full resulting in me having to sit out a month. The more I examined the school the more disorganized it seemed and there seemed to be lacking communication between management and the CFIs. I had asked for and was trying to understand the overall process and requirements for becoming a pilot and hadn’t gotten much from the school. I had learned much more by research on the Internet. Finally among other things I had been led to believe that I was doing my landings on my own and that my CFI just had his hands on the controls in case he needed to take control. I slowly become aware that this might not always be the case. The hardest part for a new pilot is developing the feel for the controls and hand-eye coordination needed to bring the airplane from 1000 ft down to a soft landing to the point where you are barely moving and can pull onto the taxiway. If I don’t get the feel for what I’m not doing I can correct it.
All this led me to check out the flight school less than 5 minutes from my house. I walked in and explained my situation and a CFI took me out to evaluate my ability. While he said I exhibited good knowledge and control of the aircraft, my weakness became evident on the first attempt to land. I hadn’t developed that sense for the aircraft to transition from decent glide angle to round out and flare. Translated I hit the runway and bounced down it like a ping pong ball! He took me around for several more attempts and by the end of the hour I was getting the hang of it and landed a few times on my own.
I decided this was the right move for me and transferred to Dream Flight School DFS, Westminster Md on June 24th.
DFS is at a smaller regional airport. The flight school has great facilities with a large hanger and a full motion high end simulator. They seem well organized and as I soon found out expect students pilots to fly in all safe conditions. If conditions don’t allow you to fly cross country or out to the practice area they have you practice your takeoffs and landings in all reasonable conditions and winds. They have established Standard Operating Procedures SOP and a Syllabus to give the student an overall concept of the learning plan.
Between June 24th and August 16th the weather finally cleared into a more normal summer pattern and I was able to complete 13 lessons in 6 weeks; as many as I had between starting flight training and transferring to DFS.
Within a couple lessons my landings were looking good and I was on my way to a huge milestone in one’s training. Their 1st Solo.
I first had to do a check ride with the schools owner and chief flight instructor. That day came and though it is nerve racking flying with and being evaluated by a new person, I did well and he stated I was ready to move on. I was given an extensive take home Pre Solo Test to complete and bring back next week!
I spent the week completing the test, looking up and/or verifying answers in the appropriate regulations, handbooks, and texts and providing the correct citations along with my answers.
At my next lesson my CFI was very pleased with my completed test and said it was one of the best most thoroughly answered and cited exams he had ever seen; I probably went a little obsessive compulsive on it but I used it as a review of all the knowledge gained in ground school and more. In ground school so much is thrown at you you often don’t realize what manual or regulation it comes from or how it fits into the big picture so this text helped expand on it.
So after reviewing all my answers we would send the next two lessons practicing emergency procedures, emergency landings, and brush up on correcting for cross wind landing and then I’d get my solo endorsements to fly alone in order to practice what I had learned so far. From then on some of my lessons would be with a CFI learning new stuff while others would be solo to practice.