Flight Review for learning in a fun flying sort of way

by Bill ~ October 13th, 2012

Last Thursday I learned more about flying my own airplane – during my Biennial Flight Review (BFR). While a Flight Review (shorter, current terminology) is NOT a test with a pass/fail result, the Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) needs to feel confident of the pilot’s competency before endorsing that pilot’s (in this case, my) log book. The FR endorsement enables a pilot to continue flying for two more years.

I scheduled my flight review with an instructor from the airport where I used to base my Ercoupe. I was confident of his capabilities because I had some instruction from him in the past (and he and I both had former careers in public education). He also wanted to learn how to fly an Ercoupe.

I had to fly 110 miles (in a strong headwind) to get to Harford County Airport (0W3) and landed on their (relatively) short 2000′ runway in a strong, gusty crosswind. Unknown to me, the CFI was standing near the runway waiting for one of his students to return after a short XC flight. As I was parking on the ramp he drove up and complimented my landing (which I, fortunately, greased) by saying that it was a great landing and “I should sign your logbook right now.” Kidding, of course – but that did indicate a good start to my Flight Review experience.

We went inside the FBO to the training room and he got me started on the “ground work” while he finished up with his student. (The “ground” portion of the flight review will be another tale.)

So, on with the “air” portion of the review. The ground portion took a bit over an hour and the winds were calming a little – down to 12G17. But it was still a direct crosswind so I suggested we head 25 miles east to Summit Airport (EVY) for the landings because the runway there is twice as long as at Harford County. I felt at ease staying at 0W3 but I knew he wanted to try a couple of landings. We agreed we could cover the air maneuvers on the way to Summit.

Ercoupe and CFI at Harford County Airport 0W3

The CFI called for his own WX briefing as we get ready for the air portion of my Flight Review.

On the way to Summit we climbed to 2500′ for some stalls (or lack thereof – because it’s an Ercoupe). I demoed a couple of stalls – then gave the plane to the CFI. He was surprised at the lack of a real “break” and the ability to control the plane with full back yoke and no power – just a 1200 fpm downward “mush.” The ease of recovery, by just releasing back pressure and pointing the nose down a bit put us in a respectable glide. After the series of stalls he was surprised that we only used/lost 500 feet of altitude. I remember telling him, “Only in an Ercoupe.” 🙂

Landings were also fun. He had observed my “arrival,” the flying of a rectangular pattern and a “greaser” landing in a gusty crosswind situation. That covered my “ground reference and crosswind landings” – so I asked if he was ready to shoot a couple landings. Silly question – he loves to fly – and he loves small planes, especially the FBO’s Citabria – and here was a chance to fly a plane WITHOUT RUDDER PEDALS and LAND IN A CROSSWIND. All I needed to do was “coach” the technique. Fortunately, he trusted me when I told him about touching down in a “crab” – and his first landing was excellent. (But I did see his feet “dancing” just a bit – heh.)

I then demonstrated some Ercoupe idiosyncrasies that allow it to land in a variety of conditions. I culminated with a high approach and s-turning to lose altitude (no flaps and unable to slip) – hit the runway – did a T&G – and headed back to 0W3. The CFI already saw me land on 28 in a crosswind so I had him do the same – with just a bit of coaching.

We flew for only a little over an hour and did nearly all the maneuvers in a Private Pilot PTS without having to repeat any. We did NOT cover navigation because the CFI knew I was VERY familiar with the area and had already flown 110 miles to “get here.” I had shown him my DUATS briefing (I’m a DUATS junkie and always take a screen shot of the first screen as a CYA measure.)

So…how did I actually “learn” during this Flight Review when all I had to do was demonstrate proficiency with my aircraft? I had to think through and explain, aloud, many of the maneuvers to the CFI when he was on the controls. Things like steep turns and turns about a point (ground reference) are straightforward – but stalls, the landing process and takeoffs are all a bit “different.” I had to translate my muscle-memory habits into descriptive language and, therefore, had to self-analyze what I actually “do” to fly the plane. I figure that taught me a bit more about my own aircraft than what I would otherwise gain from just demonstrating maneuvers.

It was a good flight, a successful Flight Review, we both learned and it was fun.

Visual Impact of Flying Late in the Day

by Bill ~ October 12th, 2012

Flying in the late afternoon and/or early evening is some of the best time to fly for the “visual impact” of our picturesque countryside. The farmlands of the Delmarva Peninsula and the (lowering) sun reflecting in the distant waters of the Chesapeake Bay really “make” this photo.

Chesapeake sun reflection while flying Delmarva

Flying at 3,500 feet, headed south-southeast over the northern Delmarva Peninsula in my Ercoupe. Purpose of the flight was to return to my home field (OXB, Ocean City, MD) after PASSING MY FLIGHT REVIEW with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) at Harford County Airport (0W3, near Havre de Grace, MD).

At this point in my flight the Chesapeake was about 30 miles off my right wing. I just had to fish the camera out of the flight bag and snap a couple of shots. I slid the window open on this one to eliminate “plexiglass glare” in the photo.

The cool looking horizon is because of a thin, but distinct haze layer at about 4500 feet. Other than that – the visibility was “severe clear.” Just goes to prove that if ya shoot enough pictures you occasionally end up with a good one.

And…here’s another picture taken a few minutes later…

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Silhouette

This distant shot shows the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in silhouette – caused by the sun reflections on the waters of the Bay. This was also from about 30 miles away – zoomed in a bit with the ol’ Nikon Point-n-shoot, cropped a bit and enhanced with “auto-levels” in PhotoShop Elements.

To give you an idea of the “scope” of this shot…the Chesapeake Bay bridge is 4.3 miles long, crossing the Bay in an east-west direction. The roadway on the western span, at the highest point, is 200 feet above the water. The eastern span is slightly lower, giving large ships 186 feet of clearance at high tide.

New solo pilot can teach us a lot…

by Bill ~ September 11th, 2012

Sometimes it is good to watch a new pilot perform the basics of landing. Even though this is not an Ercoupe, I was sharing the landing pattern awith this Cessna pilot as his CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) was getting him ready for his first “solo” flight. When I saw what was happening I landed and put my Eroupe back in its hangar – so I would not be a distraction as the new pilot was getting his solo wings. The following are photos of his second (of three) landings. Note that this was on the evening of 9/11/2012 – a very fitting evening for us to exercise our freedom to fly.

On short final approach…

Short Final at Ocean City Municipal Ariport

The new pilot has his Cessna on “short final” during the approach phase of landing.

Over the threshhold of the runway…

Over the threshhold

The pilot is now almost home – he is over the end of the runway.

The flare…

The Flare before landing

The Flare is where the vertical decent is halted and the airplane is ready to gently land on the runway.


Touchdown at OXB

The pilot performs a perfect landing at Ocean City Municipal Airport.

Congratulations to both the (new) solo pilot and to his Instructor – for a job well done.