Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Pause....

The other day a casual friend asked me if I still fly. I said "not really".
That felt weird. But it's the truth.
I don't know if I have the energy to keep working at it or not.
Maybe if the financial outlook improved it would be more attractive to me, but the youngest is only a freshman in college so I don't see that improving for awhile.
I don't seem to make the time to even practice on the simulator.
I rarely, rarely check out the forums any more.
I guess I'm taking a break from airplanes for awhile.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why I Almost Gave Up My IFR Rating- An How A Flight Simulator With Real ATC Saved Me

I’ll try to make a long story short. I struggled to pass my IFR checkride...failed it twice before finally passing it the third time. It didn’t come easily to me, obviously. The extra tests (and related training) took me far, far over my budget and when all was said and done I had an IFR ticket and no money left to go use my “license to learn”.

It was somewhat depressing. I flew a few VFR flights over the next several months but did not fly IFR. Partly I couldn’t afford to rent a plane and an instructor, and partly I just didn’t feel like it.

Then I read about PilotEdge (www.pilotedge.net) and how they have Air Traffic Controllers in real time, set up like real life. You have to change frequencies as you travel through the system. They offer you shortcuts just the way it’s done in real life. There’s other airplanes on the frequency with you and sometimes you have to wait for a break to get in, just like in real life. It sounded like a way for me to practice and get better without spending a wad of money.

I had played around with Microsoft Flight Simulator X before and it was somewhat helpful for tracking VORs, setting up an approach, and all the planning stuff that goes into an IFR flight. The Beta testing of PilotEdge was up and running, but so far only supporting X-Plane’s flight simulator. At only $29 I figured it was worth trying out X-Plane. And it certainly was. I was able to get a Comanche set up nearly identical to my buddies airplane and then I got configured for PilotEdge.

The experiences I’ve had on PilotEdge have been far more profound than I expected. Each flight I’ve become more and more comfortable flying “in the system” and I’m a much better pilot because of it. The controllers are professional and treat you just like real life ATC.

I can practice as much as I want and I know that the next time I file IFR in real life, I’ll be far better prepared.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So, I discovered another really cool tool in my quest to become a better pilot. When flying on X-Plane's flight simulator I can now get live Air Traffic Controllers to talk to me just the way it would happen in real live. PilotEdge is an app that you add to your X-Plane simulator and it ramps up the realism exponentially. I file a flight plan, then pick it up from clearance delivery (or ground if it's a class D airport) and read it back. Then I fly the IFR flight plan but because there's a real controller involved sometimes things are different, like getting a vector, just like it is in real life. This combination of X-Plane and PilotEdge is really going to make a difference in my proficiency.

Simulator Flying

I spent some time on Microsoft Flight Simulator X awhile back and thought it could be a good tool for training...but I recently purchased X-Plane and I'm blown away by the realism. I was able to take a Comanche 250 and reconfigure the panel to replicate my buddy Ron's airplane so that when I practice, everything is where it should be...practice makes permanent!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Montgomery Field to Big Bear

Roy and I went flying again, this time a cross country trip from Montgomery Field (KMYF) to Big Bear Lake (L35). We used a flight plan and timed each leg and were somewhat amazed at how close we were in our flight planning.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Ron and I flew the Comanche from El Monte to Santa Ynez the other day and then took the shuttle over to the Indian casino for lunch. Normally neither one of us is too keen on gambling but this time we pooled our considerable resources ($25) and punched the buttons on a few slot machines.

After trying out 2 or 3 slots with no luck (but no real loses either) we found a cool machine that went into a mode where it played itself...and it kept winning and winning and winning until we had parlayed our small fortune into $226.24!

As Toyota used to say "Oh, what a feeling!"

Flying Again

After finally completing my Instrument Rating my flying dropped to practically zero. The move to San Diego's North County (Escondido) put me about 2 1/2 hours away from my home base airport (El Monte) and the beautiful Piper Comanche that I regularly flew with my buddy Ron.

I thought I would be renting airplanes down here but the way I drained money into the IFR rating there wasn't much left for fun flying.

I did manage to meet up with a guy I met on the Purple Board (http://www.purpleboard.net/forums/index.php) and we flew around the San Diego area and out to the Anzo Borrego Desert where we landed at a remote airport (the name escapes me). That airport was a trip because the ground rises pretty steadily to the north (I think it was north) and there's a mountain to the south and west...So....if you take off to the west and turn to the north the ground continues to rise at about the same amount that your airplane is climbing...an interesting feeling to say the least. My new flying buddy, Roy Rodgers, has done extensive mountain flying training with a CFI that's an expert in the field so I was able to trust his judgement.

Roy is an Electrical Engineer and he brings that certain thoroughness to flying that you would expect. I love it. He verbalizes everything he's doing and that, to me, goes a long way toward building trust. I never once think that Roy might do something dumb.

I'm hoping that Roy will help me get to know the intricacies of the complex airspace around San Diego.