archive for June, 2005

Ground School: Week 15

We finished discussing our cross country trip plans: San Diego to Palm Springs to Big Bear to Santa Monica. The trip seemed a lot harder when I first looked at it than it does now. I should have gotten the local maps for LA and San Diego. The local maps are a lot better at showing the different air spaces, and visual check points. I think I could do a decent job of planning a trip like this on my own now, but I’d want to have someone more experienced look over my plans and offer their advice before making the trip, at least until I get more experienced.

Yesterday was the last class of ground school. I’m a little sad to see it over, but I’m very happy to have finished it and to be moving on to bigger and better things. My instructor signed us off to take the written exam, but I want to wait until I’m closer to finishing my private pilot certification. The trick will be to keep studying and keep training.

Yosemie on Memorial Day Weekend

Jesse, her brother Tod, and I all drove up to Yosemite National Park for Memorial Day weekend (with a stop at Noriega’s of course). The park was great. With all the snow they had over the summer and temperatures starting to warm up, the waterfalls looked great. The meadows in the valley floor were a bit flooded, some more than others, but we could still get around.

The worst part was the lack of organization by the park staff. Maybe I’m being to hard on them, this is probably one of the worst weekends of the year (I’d guess July 4th is worse), but they should expect that. The first time we drove into the park we had to sit in very slow stop and go traffic for about 45 min. just to get through the gate. They only had two booths open, and it seemed like they wanted to have a chat with everyone who entered. Once we got to the valley itself, we waited in more traffic. There was a ranger asking if people had reservations. We told him that we didn’t, and he told us to make a left at the next turn. What he didn’t mention was that the left would take us back out of the valley. Somehow they think it’s okay to take our $20 and make us wait in line, but then just kick us out without a warning? We circled back, waited in line some more, and that then were finally allowed to enter. It took about 2 more than it should have to get into the valley and park.

It’s really ridiculous how cars are managed in Yosemite. They need to follow Zion National Park‘s example and virtually close the park to cars. All they’d have to do is put a good size parking lot/structure right outside the gates, and provide shuttle service to all of the major destinations. If you really want to drive (if you have reservations at the hotel, or are going to be passing through), then you could pay a little more. As long as the shuttles come frequently enough and aren’t over capacity, there’d be no reason not to use the shuttle system. I really hope that an improved mass transit system is in the works.

Okay, enough complaining. In spite of the annoyances, we had a really great time. We got several miles of hiking in, and saw parts of the park that we hadn’t seen before. Going in the spring was a nice change too. The last two times we’ve gone have been in the fall, and the waterfalls have been mostly dried up, or gone altogether. I’d like to get back in the winter to take pictures in the snow. Maybe we’ll do that later this year, or maybe it’ll have to wait until next year.

First Flight

Okay, I’ve flown in big jets before, but flying a small plane is totally different. I met Gino at the Santa Monica observation deck, and we drove over to the plane. We checked it out, called ground control to get permission to move to the run up area and were on our way in no time. I didn’t drive the plane on the ground (probably a good thing), but it seemed pretty basic. Probably the most unusual part is controlling the throttle by pushing and pulling a knob.

We didn’t have to wait at all for permission to take off, so before I knew it we were flying down the runway and in the air. There were some small gusts, so I’m glad I wasn’t in control. I’d like to be better at searing at low speeds before I try doing it at 65 kts. The climb into the air was a lot softer than I’m used to. In a jet you’re really smashed into the seat. In the Cessna, we were just in the air and floating up. Geno did the noise abatement maneuvers at the end of the runway and made the right turn at the shoreline.

Once we were up a ways and moving in the right direction, he let me take the controls and do some straight and level flying. Pretty quickly he spotted some traffic at about 2 o’clock and took the controls back to keep us separated. I flew us out to Point Dume. He did some clearing turns to make sure that the area was safe, and then let me try some full 360 turns. I had Geno do some stalls, and he did some nice tight turns. The sun was going down, so we started to head back.

There wasn’t much traffic, but the few plane we saw we were able to not run into. Clouds had started to form over the airport, so it’s probably a good thing that we went back when we did. The landing wasn’t exactly smooth, but fine. We closed up the plane, and drove back to the car parking lot.

When I was done I felt very excited. It was a lot of fun like riding a roller coaster and being able to change the track at your whim. It was also cool how much my time in flight sims made me comfortable with the instruments and mechanics of flight. I did end up with the slightest hint of motion sickness, but I don’t think it’ll be a problem, and it’ll probably go away as I get more experience. I’m looking forward to spending more time in the air.

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