Real Life Experience

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This is a collection of stories of FlightGear pilots doing it for real. Feel free to add your own experience.

Ralf Gerlich - First flight lesson

(Jun. 03 2006)

following the tradition of reporting on the progress of the respective pilot's license on flightgear-devel, today it's my turn as today I had my very first flight lesson for the Sport Pilot's License for very light aircraft (Ultraleicht, i.e. MTOW 472.5kg).

No, that doesn't mean I'm flying trikes. Essentially these planes are like your everyday light aircraft (Piper PA28, C172, whatever), just a lot lighter ;-)

And as we were talking about the value of FlightGear, it has proven to have its very own value for me, even monetary speaking. Thanks to "training" on physically accurate FlightGear I was able to skip all that typical first-lesson stuff (flying curves, climb, descend, holding course and altitude, etc.) and go directly to traffic circuits and landing practice. Which essentially means that I'll possibly be able to actually do something sensible with the "expensive" instructor lessons and train for the really important stuff ;-)

Matthew Law - Another FGFS PPL

(Nov 13 2004)

After 18 months and 49 hours flying I finally passed my PPL skills test today.

I can quite confidently say that I would never have tried flying at all if it wasn't for the adventures of David M and a few other people on these lists.

I'd also like to say a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to FGFS. It has without a doubt saved me lots of lessons and allowed me to run through some things I found difficult until I nailed them. IMHO FGFS is the best 'fly it like it is' simulator around.

Martin Spott - Maiden Flight

(Martin Spott, Wed Jul 16 09:03:57 2003)

Inspired by others on this list I had my first flight with controls in my hands on a C172. This was the first flight I ever had on such a small plane.

I once sat in a BN2 as a passanger but I must admit that sitting in a 10 seater, even though it was a great excitement sitting behind the co's seat (no co present on this flight), watching everything that's going on, was far not that much a great experience as the flight yesterday.

The Instructor took of from EDLN runway 13 and handed the controls over to me after reaching 1500 feet. I had about 10 minutes time to head south and get the feeling how to fly at a constant altitude - I didn't really 'manage' it but it worked quite well for the first time ("watch the horizon" !).

After reaching the 'playground' over an open mining of brown coal we had time for a little 'programme'. Standard turn right (I overshot by about 15 seconds), standard turn left, another standard turn (much better than the first one). The next excercises were shown by the instructor before I had the chance to do them myself - I had to handle carb heating and throttle, the instructor dealt with the mixture.

So I had a few narrow curves with 60 degree bank (how would you say this in English ? - "Steep Turns") and two stall recoveries ("hey, you lost only 100 feet !"). _This_ was really a pretty nice experience after all. During our programme a pair of Tornados came by way below us, VFR at about 150 feet.

After 25 minutes I headed for the airport the instructor took over for approach. EDLN is an airfield with (small) airline traffic, so you have to follow certain procedures that are quite new to me. But I think I'll be able to learn that stuff.

Hey guys (and gals), do that yourself, it is really worth it ! And don't forget to watch out, especially remember the position of the horizon anytime,

Martin. -- Unix _IS_ user friendly - it's just selective about who its friends are !

Matt Fienberg - First Solo

Please excuse the off-topic post... But I'm too proud to hold back. Completed my first solo flight as PIC tonight at 13.9 hours.

Before dropping off the instructor at the parking area, I did seven touch and goes dual. I was supposed to do three, but I needed a little more confidence in my landings... After five, I was confident enough, and just kept radio-ing in without announcing full stop... Oh, well, one more time around..... And yet one more....

The last touch and go prior to solo was a little interesting on the take-off.... As I'm approaching rotation speed (~55 KIAS on a C152) I notice there's something in front of me making it's way across runway 29 from right to left, about 5 feet from the centerline. I think I got us in the air about 20 feet prior to a turkey dinner. ;)

So, I dropped off the instructor, taxi-ed back to hold short of taxiway Bravo, and called Worcester ground (KORH) with a somewhat awkward, I-forget-what-I'm-supposed-to-say-and-in-what-order call. There was no other traffic in the pattern except for a 172 who just taxied out ahead of me. Hopefully they were tuned to tower, and not ground, but I doubt it... I'm sure the student and instructor in the 172 got a chuckle.... Anyway, I got my clearance to taxi, held short of 29-er, and called to tower for take of for left closed traffic. Got all the words in cleanly this time... Cleared for takeoff, and lights, camera, action, as my instructor says. (Landing light, transponder to ALT, and slowly open up the throttle to full.) Next thing I know, I'm at about 55 KIAS, and I'm airborne. And nobody nagging me to hold 67 KIAS! (Best rate of climb.) I kept looking over at the empty seat, as my grin grew from ear to ear! This is GREAT!

Winds were 230@8 which is not a big deal, but I did fall victim to it every time. (With and without the instructor.) Every turn from downwind to base ended past the point where I needed to start the turn to final. Every turn to final overshot, and I needed to correct quite a bit.

First landing was pretty uneventful, aside from the pilot giving a "wahoo!" that could probably be heard from miles away. Upwind wheel first, then downwind, then nose. Pretty smooth. Probably my best landing yet. (Who needs that extra baggage in the right seat?)

Second landing.... well, I made it work. I got extended on downwind, since the radio was tied up by an incoming Bonanza. I've been in this position before, but it still makes me nervous... Had I been more confident, I'd have slowed my flight to not extend downwind too far outside the normal pattern. By the time the Bonanza conversation with ATC was done, tower contacted me, and said I was cleared number 2, behind the Bonanza. "Report traffic in sight." Well, I knew where it had to be. Straight in approach to runway 29er. Could not find it for the life of me. Finally I find him almost abeam me, and about 200 feet below on long final. After radio-ing that I had traffic in sight, I thought that the tower was going to joke that he was already on the ground... The Bonanza pilot was probably waving his arms at me for 30 seconds... In any case, with him past me, and clearance from the tower, I made my turn, and tried to adjust for the long extended downwind. I kept power in at about 2000 RPM to hold altitude until the picture looked right to be on final. Next thing I know, I'm descending at about 85-90 KIAS, and I'm *high*. I pulled power out completely, and did my best to slowly pitch up to slow myself, such that I could get the first stage of flaps in. Long story short, I went from too high to too low, and pushed power back in. Moderate side-slip got me lined up pretty well, and pulled power once again when I knew I'd made the threshold. Thud-ed the landing... Not too bad, I guess. (Yes, I've had worse, and I'm sure, will again...)

Third time around was uneventful, except that I misjudged the flare a bit. I was unpowered at that point, and flared with too much speed. Ballooned up a bit, then had too little speed to really flare properly the second time around. I should have added power to get it under control, and re-approach at 65 KIAS again. But I didn't, and tried to glide it back down. Thud. Okay, bring back the right seat baggage... I apparently need some more work.

My instructor was just glowing when I got back. I think he was more excited than I was. He made some comment about seeing his kid taking his first steps. I now call him "Dad." He was very impressed with my progress, and we both attribute much of it to FlightGear. It's certainly paying off. He's now thinking about getting FlightGear in the office, partly to play with, and partly to teach/demonstrate. They've got a real old machine there, and I'm sure the graphics card isn't up to par, but I think he may see the benefit in upgrading... Does anybody know if there's a way to generate an mpeg of a flight? I'd love to show him the graphics. I mentioned that in flying in Flightgear, I thought to myself, what's that? There's no water south of the tower. Well, sure enough, as I'm turning downwind today, I notice that that water really is there... I mentioned it, and he was floored. And following the powerlines out to the Qaban reservior to Orange (KORE), too. He was really getting excited about it. One of the guys there took a look at flightgear after hearing me at a prior lesson, and I think they were put off by the installation procedure... Maybe I'll have to do it for him....

In any case, I'm so glad I got started, and I can't wait to get up in the air again. Flightgear is fun, but there's just no substitute for the real thing. So all you guys flying the simulator--- get your seat in a 152 seat, and put Flightgear to real use! Trust me, you'll all love it. (No, I won't finance it.... ;)

Regards, Matt Fienberg PIC 0.6..... Hmmm... not so impressive....yet. ;)

David Megginson - Instrument Flight Test : Passed

by (David Megginson, Thu Jul 24 19:11:43 2003)

I passed my instrument flight test this morning -- thank you all for the positive karma you sent my way. We did the test in the real thing, hard-core IFR with a 400 ft ceiling and rain. My visual contact with the ground during the entire test was probably less than two minutes. A narrative follows for people who like that kind of thing (everyone else can stop reading now).

The ground work went fine, but I wasn't worried about it. After startup and clearance copying, we taxied to 04, and I double-checked the ceiling with ground before switching to tower (when the DFTE asked earlier, I told him that 400 ft would be my personal limit). At that point the DFTE took the foggles from me, said that I obviously wouldn't be needing them, and put them away for the rest of the flight.

We took off, and in a few moments, the world vanished into white all around us. We were cleared up to 6000, then direct to the Ottawa VOR to start a simulated cross-country to North Bay. At the VOR, I turned onto V316, intercepted it promptly, and was stabilized on course and groundspeed by 2 DME (not bad, since we were 1 mile above the VOR to start with). I then hauled out my E6B, calculated a revised ETA and fuel burn based on my current DME groundspeed, and then just sat back and relaxed the rest of the way out to 9 DME.

Ottawa Terminal then cleared us back to the VOR for a hold north on the 360 radial. I flew back the 270 radial (90 TO), then turned sharply to intercept my inbound radial outbound with reverse sensing for a parallel entry (I like doing it that way, so that I get DME groundspeed readouts to plan the rest of the hold). We did a couple of laps in the hold, then I asked terminal for a couple of vectored approaches (no full procedures in hard-core IFR, since I'd mess up their very busy airspace). They vectored me around for a while, then set me up to intercept the NDB 07 (at which point the examiner failed my DME, just to keep me honest on the stopwatch work). The approach went fairly well -- I did bust MDA by 20 ft, but caught it and recovered in less than a second, and the DFTE didn't mention it in the debrief. My compass precessed a few degrees during the descent, so I ended up a bit away from the runway when we got a glimpse of the ground straight down through the mist just before going missed, but there's nothing to do about that.

Tower handed me back to terminal, who vectored me south to bring me around for the ILS 07 to a full stop. I asked for a bit of time to prepare, but they had a boatload of arrivals about to hit (all airliners), so I agreed to go straight to the approach and just asked not to be vectored too close into the NDB on final. They brought me around for an intercept 8 miles out and then asked for maximum approach speed, so I opened the throttle, pushed the nose down, and shot on in at 110 kias. The needles stayed nicely centred all the way, but I did feel my first unease in IMC when I thought of how fast I was flying and how close to the (invisible) ground I was as I got closer to DH. The runway came into view less than a mile back, just as I was calling out advisory visibility, and 50 feet above DH the DFTE said "OK, you're visual, go ahead and land".

Fortunately, 07 is an 8000 ft runway, since I was at 110 kias and 250 ft almost over the threshold and the runway was wet and slick. I brought up the nose and dropped flaps, but I didn't want to do any serious braking on the wet surface, so I let the plane roll on past the intersection with 14/32, ending two or three miles on the far side of the airport from our destination on the North Field. We had a long taxi back, but the DFTE didn't say anything about whether I'd passed or failed, and the 20 ft MDA bust started to loom larger in my mind. When I came inside (wet) for the debrief, he chewed me out for not putting on carb heat every 15 minutes or so in IMC (not part of the test, fortunately), then filled out the examination form in front of me from memory. The NDB approach was one of the last items, and it was only when I saw him give me a 3/5 for that that I was fairly certain I'd passed. He then shook my hand, told me that I was a good, safe, competent IFR pilot, and endorsed my license.

Well, that's it for now. We have to retake the IFR flight test every two years in Canada, so I'll be back up in Summer 2005.

All the best,


David Megginson, david at megginson . com,

Gijs de Rooy - Trip Report: On the stick!

(Aug. 30 2008)

Today was the day one of my dreams came through: flying a real plane, with my hands on the yoke!

At about 1:15 pm we went to Lelystad Airport (EHLE). We'd to wait a short time in the restaurant, while we were watching al thos little planes and helicopters taxiing 5 meters in front of us and takingoff really quick after eachother (yes, we saw the PH-GYS!). Sometimes even two at the same time. At 2:15 pm my instructor (hi's fulltime job is a A330 pilot for KLM Airlines) sat down around our table to explain some basic stuff. He explained how a plane stays in the air, how to use the yoke, the pedals and the thrust handle. It was a very nice guy and he explained a lot. Altough I did knew most of it, some things where new to me.

Now it was time to go to our plane and make a check around it. There where some other planes next to us on the platform. Our plane was a Piper Warrior (you might know it, since we have a very nice one in FlightGear!). The check started with the tail. He showed us that when we move the elevators the yokes moved front- and backwards, he did the same with the ailerons. At the wings we had to check if we had enough fuel to make an one houre flight. In the left wing there was about 17 US Galon, which is enough for one and a half flight hours. The other wing containd a little les, but we had enough to fly over two and a half hours (which is the distance to Paris!).

After taking some pictures it was time to board. My sister was first, she had to sit behind me, next to my mum. Then it was my turn. I stepped on the black tape on the wing and climbed into the aircraft. My place was at the Captains seat, the instructor was the co-pilot. We had to put our headsets on, which are very good to keep the sound of the engine out of your ears!! The next thing to do was to start the engine. We only had one, so it was quite straight forward. The instructor asked me if I could start a car, well this is the same he said. I turned the key and the engine began to simmer and the propeller started moving. During taxi I had the full controls. Using my feet on the pedals I managed to keep the plane straight on the taxiway. SHortly before the runway we mad a stop to check our engine. The instructor set full power (and full brakes!) and we heard the engine spooling up.

Now we could enter the runway. I was still on the controls. The instructor asked me if I wanted to takeoff. I didn't knew what to say first, but then I said ofcourse! Well, let's go he said. I pushed the trusth handle all the way forward and we start moving. The instrucotr kept the plane straight on the runway with his feet, while I was on the stick. After a very short time we reached 65 kts, which was the speed where we had to pull our nose up. I slowly pulled the yoke towards me and watched the nose coming up. Within a few second we were airborn and flying away from the runway.

We had to make our first turn in the air. It was a left turn. I turned the yoke to the left and the plane rolled over to it's left. A perfect turn. I was very concentrated. I didn't even saw the electircity wires beneath us. After the turn we were parallel to the A6, a highway. We followed the highway all the way to Almere, where we changed our heading to Pampus, a fortress on an island, close to Amsterdam. I was flying straight to Pampus, but the instructor told that we would have a better view if we flew a little right of it. So we turned a little and had a very nice view on the fortress.

Next thing on our citeseeing tour was Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands. THe instructor made a special flightplan for us, because he knew we live in Amsterdam. The airspace above Amsterdam is controlled by Schiphol Airport ATC, so we had to watch our height all the time. We don't want to get in the route of a Boeing 747! Our main height was 1000 ft, but sometimes we went to 800 ft, when we saw some nice things on the ground. After making 3 turns above the city center we flew in the direction of Schiphol (EHAM). The instructor told me that he would ask if we could make a turn around the main tower!! He made radio contact with the tower and asked if we could make a circle around the tower for citeseeing. They agreed and I was feeling wonderfull. On the way to the tower we flew ecactly over my house. We could even see the barbecue of the neighbours.

Then we entered Schiphol's grounds (well, we were still in the air ofcourse, but we came above it's ground terrain). On our left and on our right, everywhere you lookd there where planes. Taxiing beneath us, taking off and landing. It was beautifull. We flew over the terminal buildings and now we where very close to the tower. The instructor told me to make a very steep turn, because we aren't alowed to cross any runways! At about 700 ft we flew three laps around the tower. While we were watching to the controllers, staring at us. When we were finished we left Schiphol by the same way we came through. There where 3 runways in use, we were lucky that there was a gap where no planes would come after takeoff or before landing. So we could safely enter and leave the airport.

After this great intermezzo we went back to Amsterdam. After a last turn we flew to Muiden, a mideavel town with a castle. We had a very nice few. After Muiden we flew above the fortress of Naarden, which is built on a star shaped isle. On a canal close to Muiden we saw some old sail ships. We went a little lower and closer to watch them. Now we were flying above Flevoland again (the manmade piece of land, where Lelystad and Almere are on). Around us we saw a lot of windturbines. It was full of them. And they were only producing a very low amount of electricity. To make enough electricity for the whole country we have to place them everywhere. Luckily they're building new windturbines in the sea. My instructor sees them very often when he's coming over the ocean on approach for Schiphol. Our last real citeseeing spot was Harderwijk, home to the famuos Dolfinarium. A kind of aquarium for Dolphins. At the beginning the instructor told us that we may have some time to watch the Dolphins, we thought he was joking. But from ca. 900 ft we could see the dolphins very clear, jumping out of the water for their show. After one circle above the dolfinarium it was time to go to the airport again, sadly.

All planes approaching EHLE fly to a specific point, called point Bravo (there's a road crossing a bride, so everyone knows where it is). I flew the plane straight to that point. When we reached it we flew in a right-angle to the runway. Close to the runway we made a left turn and we were donwind for runway 05. A right turn to go Base and another right turn and we were on final. I was still controlling the plane, keeping it lined up with the runway. At about 100 ft the instructor took over and landed the plane very smooth (I think it was smooth, since it was my first landing in a small plane). We vacated the runway through taxiway B. Now I was controlling the plane with my feet again. I choose a nice spot to park the plane and turned it in.

We shut off the engines and we put off our headsets, giving our ears some fresh air. Quickly we opened the door, because it had became very hot in the last few minutes. The instructor left the plane and helped us to get out. On the ground we made some pictures with the pilot and ourselves. My father was waiting for us to hear our stories. He wasn't able to fly with us, since there are only 4 seats (including the instrctor). But he already made a flight with a photographer of his job, so I decided to take my mum and sister with me.

In the airport building we sat down for a debriefing. The instructor said he was impressed by my flying skills and he had time to enjoy the view more than with other "first-time-flyers". I told him that I used FlightGear for virtual flights and he said that he could really see the difference with people who had not used a flightsim. With some Icetea and Cola we talked about what we've seen, which was a lot! The instructor wrote a certificate for me, which improves I made a flight. After thanking him very much for the nice flight we ordered something to eat and watched planes takingoff, landing, taxiing and even doing aerobatics!

After a long day I still can't believe I really flew in a plane. It's such an immensive feeling if you turn the yoke and the plane turns with you. I can really advise everyone around here who haven't flew a plane yet to do it. It's the experience of a lifetime! Thanks for reading.