Jul. 7th, 2011 10:14 am
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Remember that truck I bought back in 2006?

I just paid it off. :P

It'll be nice to have the extra $300 a month. Right now that's going to go into savings to build up a little egg. Then I can buy an airplane. :P


Jan. 6th, 2011 11:46 am
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
I think I've actually had this same conversation on the tarmac before.


Dec. 19th, 2010 10:39 pm
kiranlightpaw: (pissedoff)
Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have noticed me railing against a company called FlightPrep. You may be wondering, what exactly is the big deal?

The short of the story is, there were a bunch of websites out there dedicated to flight planning. Some of the best ones (SkyVector, Flyagogo, NACOmatc and, best of all RunwayFinder) allowed you to plot a course overlaying a VFR Chart the same way you would in Google Maps. You could modify your route simply by dragging it about, and click airports along the route to get current weather reports. It was kinda like Google Maps for preflight intelligence.

Well, along comes this company called FlightPrep, who decided they weren't getting rich enough (just ignore the owner's $500k boat). So they convinced the USPTO to give them a patent on, bluntly, drawing digital lines on a digitized chart. The filed for the patent in 2005 (after a number of the sites above were already online), but used legal sleight-of-hand to get it backdated to 2001. Eventually, after a number of rejections, they were able to find a friendly clerk and were awarded the patent.

They then immediately lawyered up and started going after all of these free flight planning websites, many of which were simply hobbies of some pilots who also happened to know how to program. They requested that these sites "license the technology" (what a ludicrous thing to say, being that the sites pre-dated FlightPrep's patent) or face lawsuits with damage claims of $149 per unique IP per month.

So what happened? SkyVector settled and "licensed." NACOmatic, Flyagogo and RunwayFinder all shut down under threat of lawsuit. They've also gone after FlightAware, Jeppesen and the AOPA with no success, so far.

It's pretty clear that, instead of innovating, they're litigating. Rather than develop some radical new technology, they're abusing the patent system in an attempt to corner the market.

Bluntly, I'm pissed because they robbed me of a tool (RunwayFinder) that I loved and that was highly useful for a student pilot.

But, general aviation is a small community, and the backlash against FlightPrep has been a beautiful if small-scale example of what happens when you abuse your target market. Within the course of a week, they've become a pariah and the most hated company in general aviation. They had to close off their Facebook page because it was being overrun with people voicing their opinion, and their products are receiving highly negative reviews in all markets. The story even made it to TechDirt (thanks in a very small part to yours truly).

But, while this is all great, it doesn't bring back RunwayFinder. Even though Dave from RunwayFinder has decided to fight back, he faces a long uphill climb to have this asinine patent thrown out.

In the end, it's just sad. As I said, GA is a small community where nobody is getting rich. We're all supposed to be on the same team.


Nov. 18th, 2010 10:00 pm
kiranlightpaw: flying (flying)
So I discovered one very important lesson tonight: I like flying low-wing airplanes WAY more than high-wing airplanes.

The little 152 I've been flying had a collapsed strut and couldn't be flown today - the cylinder in the nosewheel strut needs to be replaced or at the very least recharged. So we took the opportunity to take the 160hp Warrior up.

Man, I haven't had that much fun flying in months. The thing is stupid powerful - I had to keep full nose-down trip pretty much the entire time we were flying just to keep the controls neutral. It just wants to climb and climb. You also have a much better situational view in the Warrior - you can see out and around you better than you can in a high-wing aircraft - but at the expense of a down view. Gotta rock the wings when making a descending turn.

But the best part was the landing. Unlike in the 152 and 172 - that drop like a stone when you pull power on final - the Warrior is a lot more forgiving. With the right airspeed setting (60 knots), I shot 4 of 6 landings tonight at both Decatur and Courtland (9A4) perfectly. The other two I did get down (one I came in too fast and floated halfway down the runway, and the other I came in too low and had to jam power at the last minute).

Moreover, thanks to tonight I think I'm finally getting the hang of landing. It's all about the pattern, and your altitude and airspeed. If you hit the right speeds and altitudes at the right times, you'll shoot a perfect landing every time. 80 knots on downwind, 70 knots on base and 60-65 knots on final. Pattern altitude to 1,000 AGL on downwind, and descending through 500 AGL when you turn base to final.

Every landing I shot perfectly in the Warrior was dead on 60 knots on final. At that point, once you're over the numbers, pull the power back to idle and you just kind of float onto the runway. Much nicer than slamming onto the deck if you do the same thing in a Cessna. And conversely, every landing I fucked up, I fucked up on one (or more) of the altitudes or airspeeds.

Now, if I can learn to keep the plane on the centerline on landing (and remember to retract the fucking flaps when lifting off from a touch-and-go - flaps FIRST, then full power) I'll be golden!


Sep. 14th, 2010 09:29 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)

13.4 hours down.
"Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me."
If you haven't flown a small plane, I can't describe the freedom that comes from with it. You pull that yoke back, and feel the plane leap from the runway ... it's like the wings are attached to your back and the controls become an extension of you.

Today we were working on steep turns, slow flight, power on and off stalls, emergency procedures, and pattern work. I've got most of the in-flight maneuvers down within PTS limits, but my landings still suck. According to my CFI, the next few lessons will be solely dedicated to pattern work.

My takeoffs are pretty good at this point, it's just sticking the landings...


Sep. 8th, 2010 06:06 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
This last weekend, my wife and I went to Chicago for a kinda-crazy 30 hour trip.

After a night that can only be described as Hell thanks to insomnia, we left for Nashville at 5:30am. We arrived at 7:30 and we're in the airport for our flight on Southwest to Midway. After landing at Midway, we met up with my Dad and rode the "El" back into downtown Chicago where they were staying.

Then, we went to Giordano's in downtown Chicago to get some delicious Chicago-style pizza. Yum!

(Yes, that fucker is like 2 inches thick!)

After that, we got on the road to Rockford, were my cousin was getting married. Well, not really married. They were already married - they just went to a justice of the peace - and were just throwing a big party to celebrate their marriage. It was an interesting evening. I got to see my cousin for the first time since I went to California a few years back, and my uncle for the first time in probably about 10 years.

We stayed the night in Rockford. I bought some natural sleep aid that worked on my insomnia. Or maybe it was that I was so tired I was beginning to hallucinate.

The next morning, we left to head back to Chicago. Since we didn't have to leave until 5pm, we decided to do a little sightseeing. But seeing as how we didn't have a lot of time, we opted to do a boat trip around downtown Chicago and on the waterfront.

(I'm on a boat!)

The boat tour turned out to be a great idea and a really good way to cover a lot of ground. And, at only $25 a person, a bargain as well!

We tool the "El" back down to Midway and flew home, where I learned a very important lesson about flying Southwest: if you don't check in, online, the minute you possibly can, you get really screwed. My wife and I were literally like almost the last people on the airplane, and couldn't sit together.

We finally landed back in Nashville and, after stopping at Jimmy John's for a sandwich (and I discovered I still don't like Jimmy John's that much), we finally returned back to Huntsville at about 10pm.


Aug. 31st, 2010 01:20 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Went flying again yesterday. Had a good flight. Spent much of it working on emergency procedures, like what to do when you lose an engine in flight. We were scaring some farmers going down to 400 AGL before climbing back up again.

We also practiced some landings at KDCU. My landings are slowly improving, as is my pattern work. I'm getting a bit better at squaring up my pattern, and I can get within about 5 feet of the runway. Did a few full-stop landing and takeoffs.


Aug. 25th, 2010 05:04 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Went flying again - first time back in the air since January - on Monday morning, and it was fucking awesome. I'm so glad I made the change to go out to Decatur instead of continuing to bang my head against the wall at KHSV.

The first major difference is that it's not actually a flight school. The CFI I'm working with is independent, and just works with the local FBO to offer lessons. I mean I even pay them separately - I pay the FBO to rent the plane and the CFI for the instruction.

The planes are bit more primitive, but once you put your butt in the left chair, you don't even notice. It flew just the same as the brand new 172SPs at KSHV, but at almost $40 an hour less. My CFI is also running me about $15/hr less, so overall I'm seeing a $55/hour savings. And the next time we go up I think we may try a different airplace - maybe one of the 152s - for another $20 in savings. The more money I save, the more often I can fly. :P

So we took off, and I'm gaining more confidence in my takeoffs. My heavy practice with FORCING myself to consciously learn directions (see my previous post about directional confusion) paid off a bit, and I was able to stay mostly on centerline, though my climb out was kind of sloppy. We did stalls (which sound scarier than they are) and spin awareness training, then some pattern work and a few touch-and-go's at Courtland-Lawrence County (9A4).

I'm still not fully there on landings yet. The good thing, according to my CFI, is that my judgement is good. On our first landing attempt (and actually only my second time flying the pattern at an uncontrolled field), I cut my downwind leg too short and came in high and, rather than force the landing, I applied full power, retracted the flaps and climbed out to try again. The second and third attempt, we got down, but my CFI is still having to help me a bit on the last 10 feet. So I can get within 10 feet of the ground! :P

One other thing I'm loving, for the moment, is lack of radio. KDCU is an uncontrolled field on the very edge of KHSV's Class C. I have a bit of "mike fright" about what to say when I push the little button, but mostly it's that I'm concentrating so hard on learning how to handle the airplane that constantly having to be on the radio - like I was at KHSV - was proving to be a major distraction. Now, that's not to say I don't need the radio or am looking to get away from it. But I want to be reasonably confident in my handling of the airplane before having to deal with a Class C airport where I have to talk to 5 different people just to get off the ground.

After practice, we returned to KDCU and landed.

Decatur is a really cool airfield. It's an old World War II training airfield that, in some ways, really hasn't changed all that much. The FBO is partially based out of some of the old WWII hangers, and there's always interesting stuff to be seen there.

Take, for example, this Antonov An-2 that was hanging out in the hanger undergoing repairs:

kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)

Met with a flight instructor today at KDCU. It's definitely a whole lot more primitive than Huntsville, but that is a certain amount of charm. The FBO is housed in two World War II-era hangers, with a bunch of old Cessnas and Pipers hanging out on the ramp out front for training and rental. The planes are also a lot older than the 2003 and newer 172s at Huntsville, but, again, that doesn't really bother me much. Frankly, as long as the plane has wings and an engine, I'm probably good to go.

Hopefully may be starting to fly again as soon as next week!
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Updating on the flight school thing.

I visited both Moontown and Decatur Pryor Field. The prices are roughly the same (or within $5 per hour) at both locations. Decatur is about two miles closer, but it's also almost all I-565 until you're practically right on top of the field. Decatur also has a 6,000 ft concrete runway versus Moontown's 2,000 ft grass runway. The locals at both places seem friendly, though Moontown seems a bit more insular.

Aircraft are the same at both. Both are a lot rougher than HSV, but that's okay as long as they fly. Decatur did have a nice looking Cherokee on the ramp for use, though.

I still need to meet a CFI from Decatur before making my final decision, though I'm leaning towards KDCU at this point.

For some reason, there were two Antonov AN-2's on the field at Decatur. Big ol' Russian biplane.


Jun. 14th, 2010 11:48 am
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
I put off mowing the lawn all weekend, mostly because it was so fucking hot I thought I might burst into flames if I went outside. Ended up waiting until 7:30pm last night just to get started ... and it was still in the upper 80s.

Picked up a Saitek Yoke and Pedal set over the weekend so I can practice landings in the sim.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
So I'm nearly done paying off the debt from surgery, which means I get my wings back. But it also got me to thinking about something. Some that's been bugging me for ... well ... probably damn near my whole life.

Do any of you guys have trouble telling left from right, or is it just instinct?

When someone tells me "take a right" or "turn left," for a moment, I never know which way they mean. It just doesn't click in my head; I have to stop and think about it. Okay, I'm right handed. Which hand do I write with. That one? That's right! My whole life has been that way, every time someone gives me a direction based on left or right. I have to consciously think about it. But it's only left and right. I have no problems with forward and backward, or up and down. I have no problems navigating on a map or telling cardinal directions. It's just directions relative to left and right that give me problems.

Now, most of the time, this causes me no problems. Over the years, I've gotten used to thinking ahead of myself - I know a turn is coming up, I know it's a right, so I know to turn that way when I get up there. It's even easier (lazier) when using a GPS. It has a little arrow icon on the screen indicating which way I should turn.

But flying is different. I don't have that moment to consider which is my left and which is my right when I'm sitting in a cockpit. Not when the plane is pulling to the left on takeoff and I have to correct to the right. Moreover, because I'm working in 3D space now instead of just 2D, my problems are doubled. I have to tell my left from right on the yoke and my left from right on the rudder pedals.

Even in airplanes, I've found little ways of starting to cope. For instance on takeoff, I no longer go all the way to full throttle immediately, but push it in slowly over about 4 seconds. This gives me the little moment I need to feel what the plane wants to do - I know it's gonna pull left, but I don't know which way left is! - and correct the opposite direction. But that's not right and might get me killed. Over time I've learned it's gonna pull that way, but the minute someone applies a label to it, I'm totally fucking confused again.

With the amount of shit I already have on my mind when in the air combined with how much faster things can happen at those critical times, I can't afford to use this same method I've used in cars.

So do any of you guys have a hard time telling left from right? What ways have you found to cope?
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Sittin' around, waitin' for an airplane... HSV > ATL > SJC.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
So I guess I was due for a bad lesson.

On takeoff, we had a 10kt crosswind. It was my first time taking off with a crosswind; I knew to kinda crab the plane into the wind, but I wasn't expecting the wind to get up under the wing and try to flip the plane.

Later, on landing, my CFI told me to turn off a little early at E6, but we still had to lose some speed. I started my turn a little soon and almost flipped the plane again....

So, almost two crashes. :(

I guess it's a positive that I learned from it; I now know how to handle crosswind takeoffs a little bit better, and next time to continue to E5 instead of trying to make a turn that I'm not comfortable with.

On the plus side, my altitude handling was a lot better, ground reference manuevers when well, and got some touch-and-go practice at KDCU, which was my first time flying into a field other than KHSV.

Today, I got the chainsaw out and hacked the huge hydrangea bush back as well as clearing out the brush along the property line. It's nice to be able to look out my back window knowing the line is clear and that it's not growing into the fence anymore.


Jan. 15th, 2010 04:35 pm
kiranlightpaw: flying (flying)
Had a great flight today! It felt amazing to get back in the air again. It's been about six weeks since my last flight.

My CFI and I didn't have any real plans for today other than to just knock the rust off since it had been such a long delay. We took off on 18L today - the 12,000ft long runway - and went up to PA3. My takeoff went very well; I think I'm finally beginning to master the takeoff - I no longer let the plane veer left on takeoff. I've found that by slowly increasing power - over about 5 or 6 seconds - rather than slamming to full throttle on takeoff allows me to feel for and correct the airplane.

We worked on turns, descents, and slow flight, mostly knocking off the rust and getting me back in the sky. I also flew the approach and landing in, with my CFI providing just a little assistance here and there. Still need lots of work on those. Also need to work on holding altitude - I'm always either climbing or descending.

Still, all in all a great way to get back in the air. I'm 1.6 hours closer to my license. Only 33 or so more hours, at a minimum, to go before I can sit for my exam.


Jan. 12th, 2010 04:27 pm
kiranlightpaw: flying (flying)
Flying again on Friday, 1200-1400.


Jan. 8th, 2010 01:36 pm
kiranlightpaw: flying (flying)
FAA Medical Acquired!
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Met my third weight goal today, at 180.0 pounds. That means I have lost 51.8 pounds, or 22.34% of my body weight. And more or less right on schedule, too. I'm averaging 10 pounds a month or 2.5 pounds a week. And, best of all, only 20 pounds to go until my final end goal!

Of course, the last time I tried this and got down around this level, I totaled my car. Let's hope that doesn't happen again.

In other news, the letter(s) from my doctor saying my blood pressure is normal and anxiety is gone are now on their way to the FAA CAMI in Oklahoma City. Hopefully I should have a definitive answer in the next few weeks, but I have a hard time believing they'll turn down an otherwise qualified pilot when the doctors agree there are no problems.

Here's hopin'!


kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Kiran Lightpaw

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