Thursday, December 29, 2011


Received an email this morning from the FAA stating that I have been cleared for flight training. Hopefully I will be back in the air within 7 days.

2012 is going to be a great year......................

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cockpit Audio

Thanks to the internet, I have been able to research different audio set-ups. Check out @rfelty and his YouTube setup

I have selected a digital audio recorder from Sony. The Sony icd ux512 retails at $99.99 but is available from Amazon for $75. 

The cabling set-up is so simple and discrete. I can plug in my headset to a patch lead from Barnstormer Audio. It comes with three connections. One end connects to my David Clark headset. The other end connects to the regular audio socket in a C172. I then connect spliced end of the patch lead directly into my audio recorder. It's that simple!

Next I need to focus on the video. I have an idea to use a small HD camera, but I am first going to get the audio nailed. There is no point having video with no audio. Also, I don't want the audio and video to distract from the task at hand. Let's take our time.

All going well, I will be recording my first cockpit audio in about two weeks time. In the mean time, I will continue to watch and admire Rick's YouTube channel.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alien committing a crime?

Being a non permanent US citizen working in the United States , I am classified as an Alien. If that wasn't bad enough, I have to visit the Chandler Police Department next week to give my fingerprints. Don't worry, I am in the country legally and I have not committed a crime. This is all part of getting clearance to commence flight training since this that terrible September day back in 2002.

This should be the final step in getting TSA clearance. I am on track to commence my flight training in January out of KCHD in Chandler, Arizona.

I need to start thinking about my training schedule. After talking with the family, we feel that flying two evenings after work and once on a weekend should be manageable. I am targeting finishing my training by March which will allow me time to build my confidence for the remainder of the year before tackling that elusive IFR ticket in early 2013.

Monday, December 12, 2011

In-flight audio

This evening, I am researching how to record cockpit audio. If I can get this working I may make a small weekly podcast with my training highlights.

I am using a blog entry from the popular StudentPilotCast podcast to research which equipment is needed.

One of the questions I have is whether instructors approve of audio being recorded. Need to do some research on this once I start my training.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pima Air & Space Museum

This was our third weekend in Phoenix. I was keen to continue the aviation theme as with previous weekends. I took the family down to Tucson for the day. The ladies went shopping. The boys went aircraft hunting. Everyone was happy!

As far as museums go, Pima Air and Space Museum has to be the best I have ever visited. Such a wide range of Cold War and Military Aircraft. I only had four hours there. I really have to go back next year. Very impressed with the restored B-36 that last flew in 1959.

PhotobucketIn addition to over 250 static objects, there are two busy airports near by. Tucson International Airport and Davis Monthan AFB. The Arizona National Guard are based at Tucson International. Was pretty cool to see several F16's lined up on west apron.

When I do go back, I have to visit one of the aircraft boneyards in the area.

All in all, just another great aviation experience in Arizona.

Overall, this has be be one of my fav. photo's from the day.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Page 1 of 1315

Purchased Jeppesen's FAR.AIM 2012 manual yesterday. Essential reading for any pilot.

The problem is, it's over 1300 pages long. Where do I start?

Need to get a head start on FAA regulations before my flight training starts in January.

Monday, December 5, 2011

And the winner is.........

Chandler Air Service.

Today I visited CAS based out of Chandler Municipal Airport (KCHD) to discuss my flight training options.

I spent an hour with one of the Chief Instructors talking about the the road to getting the FAA Private Pilot Ticket. UK and Irish Flying Schools have nothing on this crowd in terms of introducing people to aviation. So impressed with that today.

Basically I will work on my medical and TSA clearance over the next two to three weeks. Training will commence early in the New Year.  I am going to stick with the C172, however the PA28-Warrior remains an option.

The most exciting part is the thought of the Cross Country exercises. I will discuss them in a later posting.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So much to talk about.......

I have only been in the US for a couple of weeks, but this place is just happening for General Aviation and #AvGeek interests in general. 

I could talk about the contrailing fighter jets that I saw dog fighting in the SELLS MOA this weekend or the number of small GA airports around the Phoenix area. But instead I am going to about the my son's first flight in a GA aircraft.

Last Wednesday I logged onto Stella Airpark's (SLJ) website for no real reason. Turns out there was to be a EAA Young Eagles morning at the weekend. I spoke to my 9 year old and he said "sign me up".

On Saturday morning, we headed the 1/2 mile to Stella. We were greeted by a business jet and a L-39.

I filled out the disclaimer paperwork before my son was released  to the flight line. There were some pretty cool looking aircraft flying around. I was not disappointed to hear that he would be flying a Mooney M20C (retractable gear!).

Marvin and my son taxied towards the active right in front of me allowing me to take some photo's. They departed runway 17 at Stella and headed west towards the mountains. They flew right over my work which added to my son's excitement. They then appeared approx. 20 minutes later on left traffic for 17.

24 hours after the flight, my son is still buzzing. He has the aviation bug. Where we come from, experiences like this don't happen to kids of 9!

After 2 weeks, I am clearly in love with General Aviation in the US.

Thanks to Marvin for taking his time and money to share this experience with my son. Thanks to EAA for running the Young Eagles program.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Next Up - TSA Clearance

Good news from the Flying School. They say I can complete my flight training on my current VISA. I was worried that I required a M1 which would have delayed my training ($ impact too). Additional good news, they also confirmed my JAA hours count towards my FAA ticket.

Next I need to get TSA clearance and a medical complete. Plan to drop into the flying school one evening this week to start the process.

In the mean time, I am studying the local sectional to get an idea of how airspace is structured. I love the website. I prefer the paper sections spread out on the table, but the @skyvector website is a great alternative.

I am also carrying my handheld scanner with me in the car so that I can learn the different between FAA and JAA  terminology. I am a little worried about the radio's over here, but I have flown enough hours to know I should just fly and be confident in my ability.

Like Father, Like Son

This weekend my son will take his first flight thanks to the Young Eagles.

He will take a 30 minutes flight out of Stella Airpark (KSLJ) in Chandler, Arizona.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Travelling to Phoenix

On Sunday 20th November, I travelled with my family from Dublin to Phoenix via Heathrow. Thanks to @Planefinder on Twitter, they tracked my flight at various stages;!/planefinder/status/138376315349909504/photo/1

One of the cool features on the @Planefinder website is it's playback feature. On the following link you can see my flight approach Casper in Wyoming.

The flight was pretty much uneventful other than the low vis procedures in place at Heathrow. This result in a 30 minute dash from Terminal 3 to 5 in order to catch the Phoenix connection. We departed 09R 90 minutes late in <500m vis. The rest of the flight was spent chasing the sun set west. Landed in Phoenix at 1940 local time approx 10 hours after departing Heathrow.

Next blog update will be when I take my first FAA training flight in December.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Last Ireland Flight

On the morning of Saturday 12th November, I woke up at 0700z to more or less CAVOK conditions. I headed off to the airport for my last flying lesson before heading to Phoenix. I had booked a two hour slot in Bravo Charlie Kilo, my solo aircraft! 

My regular instructor was not available. I have always relished the chance to fly with different instructors. During the duration of my training I have flown with approx. six different instructors.

I have come to realise there is no one way to fly an aircraft correctly. Each instructor has his or her own take on how things should be done. For example, I normally climb at 75KIAS. During the flight today, the instructor suggested I target 80KIAS on the climb out.

At Weston Airport (EIWT), the rejoin procedure is 1500' overhead on the QNH (airport elevation ~150'), join the downwind and then land. For the last few flights I have struggled to get the height off. Quite often, I found myself turning base at >1000' which always resulted in being too high on final. Armed with a new instructor, he instantly realised what I was doing wrong. We called up the tower and asked if we could go back round to the overhead 1500' point. My issue was that I was trying to bleed to speed from 100KIAS cruise down to 75KIAS before losing the height . This time, my instructor had be reduce the power but simply point the nose down. As expected, the height dropped, and before I knew it, I was at the circuit height. At that point whilst maintaining the height, the airspeed fell back to the desired 75KIAS. Turned final and landing with 30degree of flaps (40 available in Bravo Charlie Kilo).

During the flight I had my first real introduction into navigation. We flew for 75 minutes west of the Weston Control Zone but below Dublin Controlled Airspace. Since the solo, I have been become more confident about trimming the aircraft and letting it fly with the smallest of corrections. 

Confidence Points - This allowed me time to focus on the map and look for those confidence points. The instructor taught me to focus on rivers, roads, pylons, towns, villages. Even the simple thing of a road passing a railway line, or a river being parallel to a road can be used as a confident point along your planned route.

Landed after clocking up another 75 minutes. Very enjoyable flight. Pleased I had a chance to fly with this instructor.

Time to wrap up my Irish training. On the 1st January 2011, I had no idea what the year had ahead. New job, back flying and now moving to the US for a couple of years. 

When I next fly in Ireland, I better have that PPL Ticket! 

Goodbye Ireland, see you in 2013.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Mixed emotions during the solo flight. I felt ready. I treated the flight as it was any other flight. 

I taxied to ALPHA for power checks. I double checked everything, I questioned one of the magnetos during the RPM drop check, but I gave it the thumbs up. Just paranoid. There was no issue.

I taxied onto the active. Then it hit me. The decisions I make in the next 10mins could kill me. It really hit me as I applied full throttle. Rudder control. Ailerons neutral. 65kts.

I probably flew one of my best circuits. I was 100' high on the downwind. I extended my downwind leg due to traffic ahead turning base. I didn't panic. I didn't want my first approach to be a go around with the need to retract the flaps.

Turned final. 600' on the QNH. Felt low. Power. Pitched for 70kt. 10deg then 20deg. Perfect profile. 65kts. Runway not moving up or down.

Wind? Slight xwind. No factor Fly the approach.

Landing was amazing. With an instructor, you always feel he/she is giving you guidance. This time, there was no help. I felt in complete control.Right wheel, followed by left (1sec). Then the nose wheel. 

I had done it. I think I only swore ten times to myself during the circuit!

ATC audio available on the following link. Audacity misses the first second of each transmission.

0 --> 2156mins (Solo!!)

My journey to date has all been about stop/start. 

2000 --> 2001 = 733 minutes (stopped due to lack of money. Medical not complete)
2007 --> 2008 = 858 minutes (stopped due to work commits situation. Medical, complete 1hr before training stopped!)
2009 --> 2010 = 140 minutes (lack of flying due to work commits) 

I started flying again on the 23rd July 2011. Circumstances came together allowing me to fly at least a couple of times a week. At this point, all the previous experience started coming back to me. "I just get it" I said to myself after nailing a few landings. After another 425 minutes of flying, I was ready for the solo. 

On Tuesday 20th September, the wind was 10kts down the nose. I had been struggling with cross controls with a cross wind component >8kts. I knew there was a chance that today would be the day. 

I started off with two normal flapped T&G's. Nailed the landings. On the third landing, the instructor called the tower asking for a glide approach and the option for a full stop/touch and go. I knew at that point that if I nailed the landing I would be going solo Glide approach, turned base early, no flap until I knew the airfield was reachable, full flap, pitched for 60kts, nailed the landing. Vacated at BRAVO and taxied to the ramp. My instructor said, "On you go, power checks at ALPHA, 1 circuit and come back and pick me up.

The time had come.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Just as I was getting back into flying in the circuit and pushing for that solo flight, the weather closed in. I have not flown for almost two weeks. This week Ireland bore the brunt of ex Hurricane Katia with winds gusting over 50kts. (

Being grounded has allowed me time to think about the procedures I need to follow whilst in the circuit. @askcaptainjon on Twitter has asked me adhoc questions on what I would do if a particular scenario transpired. There is no harm in revising the procedures once in a while. I am fully aware that a PPL is a License to learn and not an indication that I know everything about flying!

On a positive note, I did pass my English Proficiency Test. Armed with my valid Student, Medical and EP License, I am now ready to push for that elusive solo flight.

Next flight is Wednesday 14th.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

English Test

Where possible I am practising all my radio calls ready for my English Proficiency Test next week.

The radio doesn't scare me. Just need to remember to write everything down that ATC asks me to do. I am always anticipating what the Controller might ask me. When I flew out of Newcastle (EGNT) last year in a PA28, I came unprepared to fly out of such a big airport. No pen, no paper etc. Lesson learnt!

Here is a link to a recent flight where I had to call into the Dublin Controller who was handling several inbounds into Dublin. I know it's not perfect. Didn't mention VFR once. But with the help of websites like, I am improving.

What a Difference a Day Makes & Social Media

With 3 years away from flying, the world has become a smaller place. Since starting to fly again in August, there is a large amount of information out there to aid student pilots. One resource is Twitter. I am now tweeting updates on each flight to my followers (I call them fans!). I am finding that people are very helpful with providing inspiration to continue and advice when needed. 

I lost a lot of confidence during my latest lesson where I could not judge a 40degree 10kt crosswind. People like @askcaptainjon and @JamesDCessna152 are providing instant feedback on what I should be thinking about. One comment was made that I should not get back in an aircraft until I understand the following. Thinking about what the Tweeters were writing to me helped me understand the issue.

Speaking of the issue - On Tuesday, I nailed the 6 T&G's. Felt I was getting closer to solo. On Thursday I screwed the whole thing up. What a difference a day makes. I now understand what went wrong and I need to work on ensuring it doesn't happen again.

Thanks to those who are tweeting me. For me, it's an additional briefing/de-briefing session.

Now focusing on getting these landings sorted and solo before moving to Arizona in October.

Next up is my English Proficiency test.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back Flying

Well it's a long story that I can tell you over a beer one night. But I am back in Ireland. Back flying again. Hired a C172 this evening and clocked up another 50mins with 2 T&G's and 1 landing.
Moving to Phoenix Arizona next month for eight months. Expect lots more blog updates as I aim to complete my PPL in under12 years!!