Summer 2018 – Lesson #1 & #2- cancelled!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update, for many reasons. One reason is I had a huge gap in my flying lessons, from August 2017 to June 2018. Another reason is I have  been busy trying to figure out how to be a full time good teacher and still see my son and husband sometimes. There wasn’t really time left over for studying between lessons and actually putting in the work I needed to, both for my employment, and for studying.  The third reason is: I felt really discouraged. I won the Mommy Pilot’s Scholarship for 2017 to help me with training expenses, which I am really excited about. At the time I only worked part-time, so it was really encouraging as it would help me afford lessons. Then I got a full-time job with no time for lessons and dropped off the aviation scene. It seemed even more awful to win this scholarship and be so encouraged by it, then not be able to continue to press forward. I encouraged myself with the thought all school year (I’m a teacher) that summer would come soon and I would have time for family and studying ground school information and taking lessons.

Mommy Pilots Scholarship Header

So, filled with hope, I went to schedule my first lesson. A few days after I scheduled the lesson, I received an email from the online booking software that the plane was offline because of a deer strike. I had to re-read it. DEER strike, not BIRD strike like one would think! Needless to say, I didn’t get to take that lesson. I managed to get one lesson in the following week and was a bit relieved. While rusty, I hadn’t forgotten everything, and the Cessna 152, while not a 172 like I wanted, was familiar enough for me to feel very comfortable. It definitely was more comfortable than the other planes I tried out, especially the Piper Warrior, which I felt was built for a large man not me! In my next post, I will tell you all about my Goldilocks experience of trying different planes and instructors, but for now, just know I’m happy with the final choice!

I had a lesson scheduled for today and when I looked up the weather it was MVFR and I thought, I might have to cancel. Then, I was checking the weather again, and was relieved to note it was VFR. My relief was short-lived, as right about that time my CFI called. The 152 is offline again, due to a fuel leak. Apparently, when someone sampled the fuel this morning, the plane had started leaking fuel. So, no lesson today either. But I did check the weather twice, which is good practice reading a METAR. I checked it first without the Text box checked so I could practice reading a METAR and then clicked the Text box to check my accuracy. I still remembered how to read a METAR, so that’s some weather practice in, at least. I’m going to use the time I would have spent in the lesson using my Sporty’s PPL course to study.

The highlight of my aviation summer was meeting 3 of the Tuskegee Airmen in Tuskegee, Alabama, earlier this summer. Look for a blog entry about that (soon!)  as well as some book recommendations for children about aviation and famous aviators.

2018 Jul 7 - weather

2018 Jul 7 - weather txt

2018 Jul 7 weather improved


When you’re not flying…

I started this entry awhile back, and never posted it (oops) so here it is!

Maybe you’re having to take an unintended long break from flying. Possibly you’ve been sick off and on with respiratory plague, or maybe the plane you fly hasn’t been repaired (even though it’s been weeks), or maybe a little of both. Maybe prior to this, the weather was the roadblock. What to do?

Of course, if you’re like me you have plenty of other things you SHOULD be doing, but they won’t help you in your flying career, or in my case, your progress towards getting your PPL. The worst thing is feeling discouraged because you aren’t making forward progress. So make some! Even if you’re not in the air, you can still make some progress. Study for the written, use AOPA’s Air Safety Institute to review or learn something new, attend/watch webinars such as the ones the EAA99s or FAA’s Wings hosts, and be sure to chair fly.

Sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself to study if you’re missing out on the best part of flying—the actual flying. But unfortunately, life does sometimes get in the way. How do you stay motivated until you get back in the air?

(1) Remember WHY you are doing this.

-Fulfilling a lifelong dream?

-Beginning a new career?

-So you can fly to the beach for one day and still be home at bedtime?

-Because airplanes are cool?

(2) Remember, progress IS progress!



-First, look at the hours you’ve accumulated.

-Then, think about all the knowledge you’ve gained.

-Finally, acknowledge, no one’s taking all that back!

(3) Remember, flying is muscle memory.

-This is an advantage and disadvantage. You may need a few weeks to get back your comfort level, but you also haven’t totally forgotten what you’re doing. If you’re a more experienced pilot than I, I’m sure your skills are more cemented in place and you’ll be fine, but me, I might have to learn some things all over again! I hope not. To quote myself back in December “After a week off I always feel like I’m going to suddenly forget how to fly. I don’t know why I feel that way! But, realistically speaking, I think missing a week, or 3 weeks like I’ve done once since I started my training, sets you back A LOT. I think, before you’ve flown, you don’t realize how much of it is muscle memory and just doing things a certain way repetitively, like you do when driving…” I have, as of today, not flown in awhile! (My last lesson having been March 4th.) sigh.

I started lessons in May of last year and definitely thought I’d be ahead of where I am now, but I’m not going to beat myself up too much. I can’t control the weather or the broken airplane. I can keep studying, consider flying elsewhere, and keep moving forward.

UPDATE: I went for a few months without a lesson. March- July are the best times to look for a job if you are an unemployed teacher. I’m happy to report, I have a teaching job until December at a school I like!

I switched airports for flying lessons, tried out various planes and instructors (all of whom I liked) and have accumulated a few hours since then. I’ll write about that in the next post. But, in other good news, I got a Mommy Pilots’ of the 99s flight training scholarship! This is the first scholarship awarded by the Mommy Pilots as they are a fairly new organization and I am really excited to be the first! Visit the Mommy Pilots of the 99s for articles about pilots who are mothers, stories about women in flight, and other topics.

Mommy Pilots Scholarship Header

Tri-Motor Tour

Flights on the Tri-Motor were rained out on Friday because of the horrible overcast weather, but I still looked at in the hangar where it dwarfed the surrounding Cessnas. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it was that big! I got a close look at the cockpit, engines, exterior wires (which look so strange), and very cool art deco detailing in the interior.

Trimotor_To the Left



You can tour it for free, or take a flight for $70.00. You WILL NOT fly in style like this today on a commercial airliner! Every leather seat is a window seat. With only one on each side, there are no pesky neighbors elbowing you or taking your armrest. It was designed to be like a Pullman train as that was the height of traveling in style at the time it was built, in 1929.

This particular Tri-Motor first served as a passenger airliner and mail service for Eastern Air Transport. Below, you can see a timetable from 1931, with low prices!


(Image from the collection of Björn Larssen and David Zekria at Airline Timetable Images)

Next, in 1930, it ended up in Cuba where it served as Cuba’s first passenger and airmail service. It was also used as a multi-engine trainer in Havana for the Curtiss flight school.

Cuba Trimotor (Image from Craig Morris at Airline Timetable Images)

It spent time in the Dominican Republic with Dominicana de Aviación as a passenger airline and possibly served as “Air Force I” of the Dominican Republic from 1946-1948.

It was back to the USA in 1949 where it was used as a barnstormer, crop sprayer, and a “borate bomber” that would drop fire retardant into forest fires.

This Tri-Motor has appeared in two movies, “The Family Jewels” starring Jerry Lewis and “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp. Possibly the most famous appearance of a Tri-Motor on film is in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. For other appearances of Ford Tri-Motors in film check out the Internet Movie Plane Database. Yes, there is such a thing! You didn’t know you needed it, but there it is!!)

This airplane was seriously damaged when it was torn from its tie-downs in 1973.  The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Air Museum Foundation purchased the aircraft and restored it over a 12-year period.  It appears at airshows and aviation events across the country to introduce others to aviation and encourage them to explore its history.

For more information about the EAA visit:

For more information on the EAA’s Tri-Motor:

To book a flight online: Tri-Motor stops

My intro post on the Tri-Motor with more history, links, and information: Tri-Motor Tour on Waving at Airplanes


You could go Coast to Coast in a Ford Tri-Motor, with part of the journey by Pullman Car, in 48 hours with Transcontinental Air Transport.

To read more and see vintage photos: Mac’s Motor City Garage article

EAA’s Ford Trimotor

EAA’s Ford Trimotor will be at KMDQ, Huntsville Executive Airport, from Thursday, May 4- Sunday, May 7th. You can tour it and/or buy a ticket to fly on the historic airplane.  The schedule for Trimotor stops and purchase of advance tickets is on EAA’s website. The history of the EAA’s Trimotor  is colorful, beginning in 1929 with its first flight. It was used as a passenger aircraft for Eastern Air Transport (later Eastern Airlines) and Cubana Airlines, a crop duster, for aerial firefighting, appeared in a movie, and was used by the government of the Dominican Republic. It suffered damage in a thunderstorm and it took 12 years to restore it to its current condition. It was the 76th of 199 Trimotors built and there are only an estimated eight still flying.

360° view and specs of the 1929 Ford Trimotor 4-AT-E




Why you should use your landing lights

Saturday, March 4, 2017 – 1.2 Hours

The weather was nice for my lesson today.  We flew to a beautiful area that was a small valley with a few ponds in it.  It was a beautiful view.  Unfortunately, my camera was out of reach, so I’ll try to take some pictures next time.  We did three power off and three power on stalls.  The power offs went fine.  I need to work on 2 things with the power off stalls.  On the first power off stall I “recovered” before it actually stalled.  The second thing I need to work on is keeping the ball centered better.  I think I just need to do a lot more power on stalls, because I’m comfortable with power off, and I have done a lot more of them.

We then went back to Moontown and did 6 landings.  They were fine, but I need to become more automatic in the traffic pattern. I did learn something very valuable in the traffic pattern, which I will illustrate below with some crappy photos I took.

There was another plane in the pattern, a Champ, who consistently reported where he was as we both were doing take offs and landings. The Champ did NOT have on landing lights. If you hadn’t guessed it by the lack of concrete, etc. at Moontown, there is no tower, so you really have to rely on your eyes and other pilots reporting their positions. It is really important to stay alert. Well, we realized the Champ hadn’t reported his position in awhile (this might have been on the 3rd or 4th pattern) and we could not see him. For a split second I saw glare of the front window of the plane, then nothing again. Mr. King pointed out this is why one should always have on their landing lights. The bright white and royal blue airplane disappeared in front of the hill. If I hadn’t known it was there, I would not have seen it. When we went inside the office, Mr. King asked him if his radio died. Apparently he has a handheld radio with a short battery life and it had in fact died.




Saint Patrick’s Day


No lesson this weekend as the plane is down for maintenance. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Here’s an article with awesome photos of Irish aviation history. Scroll to the bottom and click through the gallery. Check out the lady hanging out her wash in front of a Boeing, Amelia Earhart, and an awesome flying circus photo.

Come fly with me: a history of Irish aviation in images

And how have I never heard of Lilian Bland? She was a photographer, martial artist and Ireland’s first female pilot and the world’s first female aviation engineer.

Lilian Bland: Ireland’s first female pilot, the world’s first female aviation engineer

Wikipedia article about Lilian Bland


The first person to fly and build his own powered airplane in Great Britain was an Irishman most known for his contributions to the development of the tractor, Harry Ferguson, in 1909.


January & February 2017 —Weather

Most of January the weather was totally unsuitable for a lesson, so the year did not get off to a flying start. (I know, bad pun. I couldn’t resist.) I cancelled January 14th’s lesson for a family event,  the 21st’s for weather. I scheduled one on the 25th to make up for the missed lessons. I don’t usually have a lesson on Wednesdays, but I have a flexible work schedule so I made up the hours elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 — .7 hours

Then on the 25th of January, this was the weather:

Jan_25_MVFR screenshot

Moontown doesn’t have automated weather, but Huntsville Executive Airport (MDQ) does, and is nearby. Mr. King said we’d stay nearby and do ground reference maneuvers until we would probably have to cut it short. He timed it just right, as the second picture is on the way back to the airport. After we landed and tied down, it started to storm.


We did S-Turns, Turns around a point, and constant airspeed maneuvers. He said I did well, especially considering the wind and the huge break in between lessons.  He also pointed out yet again that I’m too hard on myself.



And then, my regular Saturday lesson on January 28th.


I think by the time of my lesson it was gusting to 25 or 26 knots. So, no lesson for me AGAIN.

Saturday, February 4, 2017 —.5 hours

We did .2 of simulated instrument flight and some slow flight. Wouldn’t you know it, good weather and I felt like I was getting sick and like I wasn’t concentrating as well as normal, so we cut the lesson short. I’M SAFE, however.


FitToFly   Feb 4 (2) edit

Saturday, February 11 and February 18, 2017 — weather

The weather both days was MVFR, but really ugly with gray skies, low ceilings and intermittent rain.



Feb 18 (2)_edit

Saturday, February 25, 2017 — 1 hour

Finally, good weather again!  I really HATE missing lessons. We did .2 of simulated instrument flight. Mr. King said I did really well on that.  Sometimes I have felt like I was overcorrecting one way, then the other the whole time I was in the foggles, but today I didn’t feel like that, so…progress!

Feb 25 (1)_edit

Slow flight —I need to work on not speeding up by accident.

Steep turns — They were good to the left and need work to the right.

2 power off stalls —fine

Power On Stalls — I got too far off heading and need to work on keeping the ball centered.

Simulated Engine Out — remembered mostly, but need to remember confidently. I will be reviewing that this week.

S turns — were not as good as usual, I didn’t have as good a mental picture of wind direction as I should have. It probably didn’t help that the wind was N/NW at 10, with gusts to 15, but still, I should have been on it, so I’m not making an excuse for myself.

Emergency Descent — Needs review. Seriously. I need to get on that.












The Rocket City Remembers

At the end of January each year, Huntsville remembers the astronauts who lost their lives pursuing the American dream of exploring space.  Grissom High School held its Virgil I Grissom/Apollo 1 Tribute Assembly to recognize the 50th anniversary of the tragedy on Friday, January 27th. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Marshall Space Flight Center held their NASA Day of Remembrance ceremonies on Tuesday, January 31.


The Space and Rocket Center’s audience, made up of Space Campers from the USA, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates, media, members of the community, and tourists, were reminded of the inspirational lives and dedication of NASA’s fallen. Marshall Deputy Director Jody Singer reminded us that “as we build today the Space Launch System which has the power to put humans in space” that we should remember our mistakes, push forward, and remember the passion of the explorers we were honoring.  She reminded us that “This past year we have lost former astronaut Gene Cernan, who was the last man to walk on the moon and former astronaut and Senator John Glenn.” She also mentioned how many people were behind the scenes at NASA making it all possible as in the popular movie “Hidden Figures.”

Robert “Hoot” Gibson, former astronaut, mentioned that we were there “to remember the mistakes of the past and learn from them, but more, to remember the people.” He listed the many astronauts NASA has lost over the years, not only the crews of Columbia and Challenger, which he knew, but also the crew of Apollo 1, and other astronauts such as Alan Shephard, Sally Ride, and Janice Voss. While discussing the SLS (Space Launch System) being tested at Marshall he concluded, “from our space past we have built our space future.”


In the crowd there was a boy of 6 years old, Jesse, and his mom, Angela Beavers, of Huntsville. They spent a lot of time at the Space and Rocket Center this summer. “I wanted him to see this,” Beavers said, “He loves space, he loves rockets. It’s his thing.” Jesse, future Space Camper, and who knows, astronaut, shyly lined up for his photo opp with the astronaut, Hoot Gibson, and then went inside to his promised meal at the Mars Grill. I remembered being his age, at my grandmother’s during the school day because of the chicken pox, and watching the Challenger launch in great anticipation that quickly turned to sadness and shock as my 6 year old brain accepted instantly what it took the horrified people on TV a few seconds to realize. I think space travel has become this oddly normal thing for most people, who don’t recognize the scientific achievement, the teamwork, the belief, and the drive to explore that leads people into space. It can’t be that normal for people who saw the moon landing live, or remember the horror accompanying the tragedies of Apollo 1, the Challenger, or Columbia. At the risk of sounding ancient at only 37, these young people don’t realize….. But, at the Space and Rocket Center at the remembrance I saw some younger people who “got it.” The space campers of the UAE, Taiwan, and the USA, as well as little Jesse, see the magic of space travel, that is, science at the pinnacle of human achievement. These younger people see, and they will remember.




Virgil I. Grissom High School’s principal, Becky Balentine, received a plaque for the school in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 1 at Grissom’s remembrance ceremony. Members of the community and NASA were in attendance as well as Grissom’s students.





For further reading/ listening:

Summary of the Apollo 1 tragedy at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Summary of Columbia Disaster on

Loren Grush interviews her parents, NASA engineers, about the Columbia tragedy — 35 minute podcast and very interesting

Infographic with summary of the Challenger disaster on

First Man to Orbit the Earth, Oldest Man in Space: NASA Profile of John Glenn

Last Man on the Moon: Gene Cernan’s Official Website



December 22, 2016- Last Lesson of 2016

1.0 hour

I had my last lesson of 2016 for a total of 23 flight hours in 2016.  The most memorable thing about this lesson is that when taxiing to take off on runway 9, we saw two deer run out of the woods to the left of the runway, through the ditch, and across the road.

In this lesson we did slow flight, steep turns, power off and power on stalls, simulated engine out, turns around a point, S turns across a road, a rectangular pattern, an aborted landing and 2 landings.  There are a few things I need to work on.  I stayed on heading well during slow flight, but need to maintain a steady speed.  I need to maintain altitude better in steep turns and not pitch the nose up or down.  On my landings I was consistently a bit high because I didn’t level off on the downwind.

I need to review the steps in an engine out and aborted landing so if I need them, I will be efficient.

Lesson #22 and 23

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stats: 1 hour, 7 landings

We stayed in the pattern and did 7 take offs and landings and one simulated engine out. I landed well every time, but need to fly a more consistent pattern. I’m taking next Saturday off to see family, so hopefully that won’t set me back too much.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Stats: 1 hour, 7 landings, 1 aborted landing

After a week off I always feel like I’m going to suddenly forget how to fly. I don’t know why I feel that way! But, realistically speaking, I think missing a week, or 3 weeks like I’ve done once since I started my training, sets you back A LOT. I think, before you’ve flown, you don’t realize how much of it is muscle memory and just doing things a certain way repetitively, like you do when driving and you don’t think about turning on your blinker, or looking over your shoulder before you back up, but you still do it.


It was 24°F out and the plane, which is in an open hangar, exposed to the air, had its own blankie and space heater. When I did my preflight and climbed up to check fuel levels, I hated to remove my gloves to get a good enough seal to check the fuel! Of course, I did it, because, as they say, the only time you believe a fuel gauge is when it’s on empty.  When I put my hand on the plane while checking the oil it was warm to the touch over the engine, as if the plane had been in the sun instead of cold and windy shade under a tin roof.  JC had plenty of oil and gas, and the one water droplet pieces of ice were on things other than the plane.


(For anybody wondering why the plane had a blanket and heater, it is because cold starting a plane is not good for the engine, and is the equivalent to several hours of wear. The heater is turned on a little before the lesson.)

We spent my lesson today in the pattern, with me feeling varying degrees of frustration mixed with the happy/ hardworking/ concentrating feeling that only a person who is learning to fly can feel. Mr. King tells me often that I am too hard on myself, and that I “haven’t invented anything new” in the way of mistakes.  He also says that “everybody feels that way” and then suddenly they’re doing it right.


My takeoffs were fine, although on the first one, I felt like the plane didn’t want to leave the ground. That was a bit different, as normally it feels to me like you are trying to restrain the plane while it wants to fly, before you achieve your rotation speed. I asked Mr. King about it, since neither of us had suddenly gained tons of weight or anything, and he said maybe the ground was softer than I was used to.

On my first takeoff, I didn’t “relax back pressure” (Mr. King’s words) quickly enough so I lost a little speed. As I know the dangers of that, it was perfect the following 6 takeoffs, and hopefully isn’t a mistake I will repeat. The 55, rotation, 59 best rate of climb, 73 best rate of climb speeds are something I have beaten into my head, for sure. If you are a student pilot and don’t know where to find these speeds for the specific plane you are flying, you should check the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for that specific plane. You need to know these speeds!


I felt a little like I was veering from one small mistake to the next while flying the pattern. I’m flying at a non-towered airport with a left pattern if using runway 9, and a right pattern if using runway 27. I am not fabulous as right hand traffic patterns, which I mentioned in a previous post. I haven’t used runway 9 in awhile, so I’m curious to see if I’m as sloppy in the pattern that direction, because the last time I took off on Runway 9, my pattern was fine. Could the right pattern really be that much of a factor? I don’t know, it’s something to look for, I guess.

On some of my circuits around the pattern I was not reducing the power from 2300 to 2100 RPM quickly enough, so I was gaining excess altitude or speed, depending on which circuit in the 6 I did we want to criticize. This was causing me to be either faster than I needed to be in the pattern, or climbing through pattern altitude of 1450 to about 1550.  I corrected that on some of my circuits, but I need to be more consistent with this, as it seems like I was doing it at the same point in the pattern each time. Another thing I did a few times was to creep in toward the runway on the downwind. When I would look to the runway on my right to see when to turn on the carb heat, I would drift in toward it. So, the correction was to look at a point ahead of me and fly straight to that so I would maintain a good distance.

Every time around I remembered to turn on the carb heat opposite the center of the runway when I was on the downwind and to reduce power opposite the touchdown point, so at least I did that right. We practiced an aborted landing also, but most of the lesson just focused on flying the pattern consistently and landing correctly. I felt pretty frustrated for part of the lesson, as I feel like I’m stuck at the same point I was last lesson. I think scheduling two lessons closer together to fix this problem is what I need to do.  Next lesson Mr. King said we would do ground maneuvers again and work on flying a rectangle with reference to points on the ground to help me fix the pattern issue.


Mr. King said I did well at flaring and landing every time, so at least I was consistent with that. I felt like if I could have done 2 or 3 more I could have put it all together, but the next student had arrived. So 6 so-so patterns and 1 almost right would have to do for this lesson.



Chair fly the pattern, CALL OUT everything step by step!

Review pre-solo info, learn the weak spots!