Sunday, 30 November 2014


bring it on ........
The rare Blue Yeti in its natural environment

Saturday, 29 November 2014

My mission…

…and I have chosen to accept it!

Now that I’ve got a licence (a proper shiny one from Transport Canada!) I need something to focus on. I need to fly every month to keep current at the flight school and I know me; being the conservative flyer that I am, if I’m not careful I know that all I’ll do each month is fly out to Claremont, pootle around a bit and come home.

Okay but not exactly riveting and hardly a good use of all my hard work.

So I need a plan and I need to push myself while I still have the confidence to do so. I’m kind a feeling on top of my game at the moment, like a proper pilot. Let’s capitalise on that. Let’s take the things I’m still nervy and unsure about and work on those.

Well finding airports, even larger international ones has always been a teensy bit of a problem for me and I still struggle to visualise joining paths for the circuit.

We should do something about that. 

Here it is then.

My mission

I am going to visit every single airport on my sectional chart.

Now some of them I won’t be able to land at because the insurance won’t let me land on anything over than a hard surface (so no gravel or grass) but I can at least do a “low and over”. Either way I’m going to find those suckers!

Obviously this is a majorly long term plan, we are talking years probably. But at least when I find myself needing to fly, I’ll have a goal in mind.

Friday, 28 November 2014

It is officially official.

Got home yesterday to this in the mail:

My shiny, new, official aviation booklet.

It’s full of official looking stuff and far too many images of my photo.

There are many abbreviations inside; including the fact that I’m officially a PPL SEL.

That’s Single Engine Land.

I informed RTH that I needed to get both my Sea and Multi engine rating ASAP.

Because then I’d be SMELS, and I find that funnier than I should!

In true Canadian Bureaucratic style though, all is not as simple as it should be. My “Aviation Documentt” negates the need to carry my medical certificate with me (it’s now a sticker in the back of the booklet) but it doesn’t include my radio licence (different department you see) so I still have a loose piece of paper that I need to lug around. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Never ready

One of the things that plagued me throughout my training was my lack of belief that I was ready to do certain things.

I knew I would never, ever feel ready for my first solo, clinging on to Bob’s presence in the cockpit like a safety blanket.  It was always touch and go as to whether I was ever going to agree to him getting out. Even now I’m still not convinced that I was ready. Bob obviously differed in his opinion!
I didn’t feel ready to do my solo cross country;  I had a serious moment or two in the flight school that morning. I wasn’t exactly crying (I don’t do the public crying thing) but I was definitely emotional and on the ragged edge.  I oh so nearly did not get in that plane.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I literally put one hand on the door of the plane and then turned away, ready walk back into the flight school and give up.

My second cross country was slightly better. I’d been cancelled off due to weather so many times that I was itching to get it done. I suspect I was very much of the mindset of “well what else can go wrong? I couldn’t find either of the airports on my first trip.” Of course I had no idea that the Harvards were going to throw me a serious curveball.

Once they were out of the way. Bob and I knew that it was all flight test prep from here. Once again I didn’t think I’d ever get there. The power on stalls were a serious problem for a long time. I suspect I had Bob pulling his hair out over those.  Just as I got bogged down in the circuit for what seemed like forever, I got mired down in the airwork. Hovering at the “close, but not quite good enough”  level.
My flight test seemed an eternity away, which for a while was ok, I couldn’t even contemplate taking my checkride.

Then I started getting annoyed with myself. I began to resent the airwork, I enjoyed flying; I didn’t enjoy the constant stall after stall after stall.

What was probably blatantly obvious to anyone else, came slowly to me. The realisation that the only thing standing between me and me flight test was, well, me! So out went the frustration and on came the game face.

Focus, focus, focus, every flight.

When the frustration and impatience boiled over, Bob kept saying the same thing to me “we’ll both know when it’s time for your flight test.”

I couldn’t comprehend what he meant. I was terrified at the thought. It was “first solo” time all over again. I’d never agree to it. I had a suspicion in the back of my mind that Bob’d have to book it without me knowing or something.

But surely enough we got there.  Bob chose another instructor for me to have a practice flight test with and suddenly I realised that I could actually do this.

Oh for sure it wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t that bad either. It was certainly good enough that Bob did my letter of recommendation there and then.  We started talking dates.

Amazingly Bob had been right after all.

I was ready and I knew it.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that my passing wasn’t a certainty. I was still more than capable of messing something up. But I was equally capable of getting through it intact as well.
It was time for sure.

Well we all know how it went down. I passed.

At the very end of the debrief the examiner asked me if there was anything unusual or unexpected about the test itself.

I contemplated this for a good few moments and concluded “No, it all went exactly as I knew it would.”

And it had, exactly as I’d done with Bob and TOI.

“Well Bob prepared you well then” was the examiners final comment to me.

And he had. Both in terms of skill but also psychologically; I was as well prepared mentally as I was physically.

And now I’m a pilot and I’ve taken passengers who survived the experience!

I think that the best way I can pay Bob back for all his hard work, commitment and belief in me is to simply get out there and use my licence.

And that is exactly what I plan to do. I have a mission. I'll tell you about it later!

Now if someone could just tell the weather!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Not exactly flying weather

High winds would be a bit of an understatement. I grabbed this screenshot from last night*.

At those wind speeds you could become airborne from a standing start. The upper winds were a more-than-sporty 70 + knots. I tried to explain to K how we could end up flying backwards at those wind speeds.

On a more serious note at least one local airport had some serious damage to some of their hangers and planes.

Luckily D’s plane was unharmed; apparently the FBO had someone there all night ensuring that the tie downs held.

*apologies for the volume bar, I still haven't gotten the hang of screenshots on this phone.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Inertia is a powerful force.

Blog is probably going to stay as it is, just because I can’t honestly be bothered to be creative and sort it out.

Am contemplating changing the profile name.

More stuff for you when the writing bug strikes me again.


Now I ‘m firmly behind the cause. I have a personal interest in the issues being raised, but if I have to attend one more presentation given by someone who looks like they escaped from a seventies porn movie. I’m going to be scarred for life.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Guest post from K

This is my story of my first flight with  LFE– or as I like to call it, “’The Bumps are Okay’ – this and other Life Lessons with LFE”.

First of all, I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of flying. I prefer to define myself as being highly uncomfortable with it. But when I heard that LFE was taking flying lessons I had no doubt that she would be an amazing pilot.  I’ve known LFE for over three years, and during that time she has always projected herself as a calm and competent person.  Exactly what you want in a pilot, really.

As a friend, I got to hear about all of the ups and downs (literally and figuratively) in her journey to become a pilot.  While she may have doubted herself from time to time I never did.  She is intelligent and analytical; a quick-witted person with a dry and hilariously sarcastic sense of humor. But that big brain is equally matched with a huge heart – so that is why when LFE asked me to be her first passenger/guinea pig I agreed without hesitation. My husband, who has a much bigger sense of adventure than I do, also immediately jumped on the guinea pig train - er, plane as it were.

So, after deciding on a destination, and then a plan B destination, the day finally arrived and the three of us headed to the airport. But unlike the other commercial flight passengers, we got to take a different route to our plane.  Like the group of cool kids that we are.

I had an idea of how small the plane would be, but I had never actually seen one close up in real life.  They are small! So small in fact, that my 6’ tall husband bumped his head on the wing.  Twice. Now, my “flying discomfort” is having an internal fight with my mild claustrophobia. But I’m not going to tell LFE that. So, after LFE completes her inspection she buckles my husband and I into the plane, and surprisingly, it’s cosy, not claustrophobic.  I’m in the front so I have lots of leg space – which is good because I don’t want to be anywhere near the steering wheel thingy (yes, I just said “thingy”) or the pedals that lay before me.  LFE jumps in the plane and with gentle authority says “here is Bob” and hands me her small pilot bear.  I don’t question this.  I’m glad to have a soft cuddly friend tucked into my arm.

“Okay! Welcome to LFE Airlines!” my pilot friend says to my husband and I as she turns in her seat to give us the safety lowdown along with her ‘here’s what you can expect’ speech.  We get to the ‘in an emergency’ bit and LFE explains the steps to me of what to do in an emergency landing.  My uncomfortable-with-flying mind micro-focuses on these steps and I forget that this is for emergency purposes only. Suddenly I’m thinking that I have to open the door before the plane lands and put a pillow in front of my face anytime we land. My ready to leave now. Luckily before I jump ship – er, plane – I quietly communicate my unease with this responsibility and my non-judgemental friend reiterates that this is only for an emergency.  And all is well again. 

Until LFE turns on the plane.

Let’s take a moment to remember that I can only compare this to commercial flights, and what it’s like driving a car. When the pilot of a commercial plane turns on the engine, the passengers hear the audible “Vvvvrooomm!” of the engine along with the strong but subtle vibration. Cars have a similar but much softer reaction to the engine being turned. But now I am hearing a “gugida gugida gugida” and feeling a shaking that I can liken to a dogs’ body when it wags its tail so enthusiastically that the entire body shakes and bobbles.  If this was a car this would not be good.  I would not drive in a car behaving this way.  But I say nothing.  Clearly if this was not normal, LFE would say something.  Prior to flying we had agreed that if something went wrong LFE would tell us.  I know LFE, and I trust her.  But I don’t know this plane, and my only real fear for this flight is something going wrong with the plane in the air; and I can only watch helplessly as LFE quietly tries to bring us back to safety. If something is wrong, I want to know, darnit! That’s just how I am.

And now for takeoff.  This is always the worst part for me on a commercial flight.  I can feel the plane leave the ground and I think to myself, “Well there you go.  There’s nothing I can do about this now. We’re no longer on solid ground.”  But I didn’t have the same feeling in this tiny plane.  There is just so much to see from every direction! Don’t get me wrong – I still was holding my breath, blinking hard, and trying to suck back the fear.  But LFE seemed cool as a proverbial cucumber, and I could hear my husband’s giddy “woo hoo!” from the back seat, so that was a bit of comfort.  I learned quickly that if I focus on taking pictures I could distract myself from my mostly illogical fear.  Was it illogical of me to think that if I leaned too far on my side to take a photo I might actually tip the plane? Well, regardless, Bob the bear co-pilot and I did not move much in our seat. But I did take a cute selfie of the two of us.

Then came the bumps.

I suppose I should call it turbulence, but to me it was just a lot of frickin’ bumps in a really frickin’ small plane. I don’t remember how I externalized my fear of the bumps (I had promised myself I would not be afraid of turbulence like some idiot) but LFE pointed to the sheet of grey cloud above our head and explained that they were throwing up air that would feel like waves but it’s okay.  It was a perfect explanation as they did indeed feel like waves, and it was indeed okay.

Eventually, as I do with commercial flights, I finally felt acclimatised to the plane flying in the air, and I took some time to sit back and enjoy the view.  I’ll even go so far as to say I felt pretty awesome up there with my official head set and mic, listening to all of the official weather reports, and other pilot speak crackling through the radio. It was during this awesomeness that the sparkly snowflakes appeared before our eyes.  Now this is where my ignorance really comes into play because I didn’t know the oh-so-pretty snowflakes could actually be oh-so-dangerous. LFE very calmly announced that we are going to turn around.  Her demeanor was so calm that I thought she thought I was still having a tough time. But snow is a no-go, and so we turned around and I enjoyed an amazing view of the city.

Then, it was time for the landing. A.k.a. more bumps. Ever the diligent pilot, LFE explained that there would be more bumps, but bumps are okay.  “Bumps are okay” I repeated out loud three times until my brain believed it. I was able to repeat this mantra silently to myself as we made it though unscathed, though Bob the bear co-pilot probably didn’t appreciate the not-so-gentle squeezes he received.

The landing itself was surprisingly soft – but hey, ignorance is bliss. Who knew that this softer-than-a-commercial-flight landing of LFE’s was not entirely perfect? Either way, I was happy to be safely on the ground, but disappointed that the flight had to be cut short.  I was actually having fun! Imagine that!

So now the big question: would my husband and I fly with LFE again? Definitely! Hours after our first flight we began planning our second which we will do when the weather is warmer and more predictable.  And perhaps less bumpy.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Passenger pictures

Two wings, three wheels, let's go!

View from takeoff, Ontario Place


On our way home again

approaching from the East End

"The city looks so small"

Runway in sight

Awesome city shot

Bob says "hi!"

safely on the ground

Thanks to K for sharing her awesome pictures.


Theory is when you know everything but nothing works

Practice is when everything works but no one knows why

In this office we combine theory and practice: Nothing works and no one knows why.

Friday, 21 November 2014

What to do?

I’m in a bit of a quandary about what to do with this blog. I created the persona of WMAP, the World’s Most Anxious Person. A scared-beyond-belief student pilot who was fairly convinced that she’d never ever be able to do this. That at some point I’d hit the metaphorical wall and we’d all politely agree to call it a day.

I started documenting my thoughts and LocalFlightEast the blog was born.

LocalFlightEast was a student pilot’s blog.

I’m not a student anymore. Believe it or not I’m now a fully qualified, calm, competent and dare I say it, confident, Private Pilot.

Honestly, I am! I’ve taken passengers and everything. I made good, solid decisions and ended up with at least one passenger who was less nervous at the end than the start.

So while I have every intention of carrying on with the blogging. I’m unsure where to go from here.

Do I…

  • Leave everything as it is, despite the fact that my profile and the intro blurb says I’m a nervous student
  • Revamp the look of LFE, changing the intro and my profile description
  • Start a new blog with my adventures as a freshly qualified PPL
  • Or something else

Thoughts anyone?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Seeking advice and the fine line

I have no problem is seeking advice from others. Especially when they have more experience and knowledge than me (for that read pretty much anybody!). So when the previous flyer of JES returned the keys back to dispatch I took a moment to ask them about the current conditions out East.

His take on the weather confirmed my suspicions that the conditions were slightly worse than the forecast would have me believe. Mentally I had already cancelled our planned trip around Lake Skugog and was weighing up our options for a different sightseeing route.

Good solid advice there and well worth listening to.

And then he said something a little odd. He suspected that the ASI was reading high. Now planes do have quirks and little irritants. It might be that the Heading Indicator drifts more than you’d like or one mag shows a little more rpm drop than the other, but an off ASI was not something I’d ever come across.

He claimed that at 2200rpm it was showing 120 KIAS in cruise. We both agreed that was very optimistic for the R model who usually pootles along quite happily at 110 KIAS at that setting. He reckoned it was reading about 10 knots too high.

I puzzled over this, not saying much as I mentally processed the implications of this. “Yeah, just don’t get too slow….” he tailed off.

I nodded and turned back to my passengers, flashing them a smile to show that all was well. I still didn’t know what to do with that info. If he really thought it was that off, he should have snagged it. I parked the info away and decided I’d just keep a careful eye on it and not do anything different.
Sure enough she rotated at the expected speed, gave me best rate of climb at the expected 79 knots, the “best rate” not being that great with three passengers and 30 gallons of fuel on board.

And at cruise, she was trimmed and steady at a constant 110 KIAS, exactly what I’d expect. I shrugged it off. Maybe JES was being a bit naughty for him, or maybe he was mistaken. I don’t know.

I just know that it would have been very easy for me to take his word as gospel and knock 10 knots off all my standard speeds. Given the slightly blowy conditions on landing, well that could have gotten a little more than sporty.

As a new pilot you are very vulnerable to the opinions of experts, it really is a fine line between hanging on every word you are told and not seeking advice at all.

I guess you find the balance eventually.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Still trying to fight the good fight

And promise me, you will NEVER, EVER buy this book for your kid


edited to add this site has just been drawn to my attention:

please feel free to share your creations

Ignorance is bliss

For your passengers at least.

We are on our way back from our somewhat shortened flight but everyone appears to be having a good time, pilot included.

But now it’s time for the fun part, the part they are going to remember.

The landing.

The winds have gotten up to the 20 knot mark, about 20 degrees off the runway. I’ve certainly done worse but it is getting up to the “sporty” end of my comfort level.

Still, it has to be done. I put all my attention into getting on a nice stable approach, my passengers mercifully responding well to my “I’m about to get a little busy here” and contenting themselves with much taking of photos.

I’m obviously giving this my full attention but once again I’m trying hard not to communicate any stress to my passengers, that’s not how I want them to remember this flight. I’m actually on a pretty sweet approach. I don’t normally pay much attention to the PAPI lights but I see white over red. I’ll take that for sure. A touch of power sees me right as I hit the inevitable gust of wind from Yonge Street, a local phenomenon that I’ve become all too familiar with.

I’m actually going to pull this off. I even have enough capacity to inform my passengers that the fact the engine is at full idle is normal. I’ve powered back, it hasn’t quit on us.

We land, remarkably within sight of the centreline!

My passengers are reasonably impressed, although completely ignorant of the fact that I’ve just completed an amazing shortfield landing without even trying. I could have been completely stationary by Charlie and I certainly didn’t need to drag it in under power.

Then again they are also ignorant of the fact that I flared a little early and a little high and brought her down just a little firmer than I’d like.

It all balances out I guess!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Calm and confident

Confidence is everything, especially when you have passengers. I realised very quickly that passengers take their cues from you. If you are calm and confident, then they are relaxed.

Knowing my own little quirks I’d already told K and M that if I went quiet it wasn’t anything to be concerned about. I was just busy flying the plane. I assured them that if anything was wrong I would definitely tell them, as I’d need their cooperation. In the same vein, if I swore to myself it was probably because I hadn’t done something as well as I could have, nothing dangerous; just a little mental kick.

The thing is though; I didn’t actually have to fake the confidence. I really did feel it. This was a routine flight, covering ground I’d been over a hundred times before. Yes the weather was a potential concern but I was confident in my preparedness, I knew where it was coming from and I knew what my “escape route” was.

I hope I projected that. A couple of times K was asking me questions along the line of “how comfortable are you now with the conditions?”

I knew this really meant that she wasn’t sure about things and wanted some reassurance. Reassurance I could happily give because everything was totally fine. I wasn’t even worried about the dropping cloudbase in front of us. My preparation had been thorough, I was thoroughly briefed weatherwise and has spent 10 minutes or so before leaving home just looking at my chart. Despite being intimately familiar with the airspace I checked and double checked the local geography, the airspaces around me.

Even while my passengers were “ooh” and “ahhing” at the pretty crystals sparkling in the air around us, I was calmly evaluating the situation, casually glancing over at the wheels to check for any telltale signs of icing.

There was none to be seen and the snow was fairly light and patchy but I knew the forecast was only due to get worse, the winds were obviously stronger than forecast already. I knew it was time to go back and communicated this to my passengers.

Obviously I did it in such a way that didn’t alarm them in the slightest. K was more concerned that I was turning back because of her. I simply told them that the weather conditions were no longer conducive to a fun flight. Which was pretty much the truth.

The last text message I got from Bob before my flight test was “Confidence and calm”

It seems I finally got there!

Monday, 17 November 2014

The perils of passengers

The whole point of getting your PPL is to fly places and take people with you. Your training more than adequately covers the former activity but leaves you woefully unprepared for the latter.

Beyond telling you the legal points you need to cover in your safety briefing, no one mentions anything else beyond that.

Time for some willing victims, I mean volunteers. People who I can practice the fickle art of being a pilot on.

Cue K and M. Both inquisitive and intelligent and willing to provide honest feedback on how I performed from a passenger management point of view. Especially with K being a slightly nervous passenger, it was good practice for my being the kind and reassuring voice of reason.

After having the privilege of taking them on a flight, I now have time to review my performance.
Firstly, I’ve learnt that no matter how much you tell them to be careful on the apron, the second your back is turned, they will walk into your airplane (twice in M’s case!)

I also need to work on my passenger brief a little to make sure there is no ambiguity about what I’m talking about. I didn’t want to use the word “crash” or anything along those lines when talking about emergency landings, so I tend to use the phrase “If we need to land somewhere other than an airport” as a euphemism for a forced landing. K got a little confused when I described the procedure for covering your face and opening the door prior to touchdown. She thought I meant for any landing. I’ll work on that for sure.

Generally though they agreed that I got the balance between telling them enough to reassure and inform them without overloading them with too much info.

K mentioned that it was a little unnerving when it took me a few seconds of cranking to get the engine to catch. That’s a tough one, it was a cold day but the engine was warm, always tricky to decide between a hot and cold start. I don’t like to overprime as fuel injected engines can be prone to vapour lock.

One thing I did do that was kind of sneaky and I’m just a little bit proud of, is also kind of funny. K warned me that she doesn’t like takeoffs in particular. I knew exactly what she meant. It used to be my least favourite thing when travelling as a passenger with RTH.

K and I are very similar in some ways (we both have similar OCD rituals on the way to work for example). I was worried that she’d do what I’ve heard stories about some passengers doing, namely panicking and grabbing on to the first thing available. When you are in the front seat, that thing could be the control column.

That can’t happen. A diversion is needed. K needed a job. A very important one.

K became guardian of Bob (the bear, from this post). Sure enough, it kept her hands occupied, Bob spent the flight being firmly held in her lap or tucked under her arm. When things got a bit bumpy, he got a reassuring squeeze.

Funny but effective.

Looking back at the video (it’ll be on YouTube soon) I think I need to provide a little bit more commentary on the local area. I was a little quiet but K and M didn’t seem to complain. They were very good at stopping talking whenever anything was going on radiowise. I’d talked to them about this beforehand. Actually M seemed fairly interested in the radio chatter. He could barely comprehend how I managed to take in what was being thrown at me at such a rapid pace and understand it, let alone formulate a response.

I’d love to tell him that it was some special magical skill but we all know how much I struggled with this at the start. The truth is, it is purely practice. Nothing else.

All in all, it was a fantastic first passenger flight and has given me much to think about in regards to my next passengers.

I can’t wait to be up there again!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Good sports

The happy smiling couple you saw in the previous post are K and M. I used to work with K and about a year ago, she married M. The more cynical amongst you might point out that they are happy and smiling because they took the photo before getting in the plane!

But no, they were still happy and smiling once we’d completed our flight as well.

You have to realise just what good sports the pair of them are. K doesn’t actually like small aircraft and M has only met me once before. Quite frankly I was incredibly flattered that he’d even consider getting in the plane with me, but hey, apparently he did. He strikes me as a fairly pragmatic guy, his reasoning being that someone gave me a licence so I must be relatively safe.

K, well K is just incredible, self-confessed nervous before we even got in the plane. But also please bear in mind that K has been with me through out every hurdle in this epic journey. She’s heard firsthand accounts of every single problem I’ve encountered, every single thing I’ve f#cked up and every single thing that scared me. I honestly thought that would leave her extremely reluctant to set foot in a plane with me. I mean it hardly inspires confidence does it?

K has a slightly different and probably unique perspective on the situation though.  She said something along the lines of “if I get in a commercial plane, I’ve never met the pilot. I don’t know if they are having a bad day, if they have decided to cut corners because they are in a hurry or if they’ve just come straight from the bar. I know you. I know how much you’ve trained for this and all the emergency stuff you’ve had to practice. I can see what is going on”

Turns out that K has control issues just like me!

K and M were awesome to have as my first passengers. The right mix of keen and but realising subtle things like when I said “I’m about to get busy” I really needed them to be quiet.

Despite rating herself as “mildly terrified” at one point, we had barely touched down when K was enquiring as to when we might be able to go up again!

In return for the flight, K especially was very willing to provide useful feedback as to what passengers want or need to hear from their pilot.

Being a pilot isn’t just about flying a plane, it’s also about managing your passengers. And that’s a whole other blog post!

But anyway, thanks for being awesome passengers guys!