Posted by: Brian | January 2, 2010

No Airtime Today :(

So, I was super excited to get back up in the air again, but the wind would not play along today.  I got in about 745am this morning (15 minutes early) and met some of the other CFI’s.  They all seem pretty cool and make you feel pretty relaxed (which is very important anytime you are learning something which creates stress…unless you are a Navy Seal).  Anyhow, the winds at Freeway Airport were hovering around 25 knots, with gusts around 36 knots.  While those may be fine for students a bit further along, they were not great for me in only my second lesson.  Instead, Matt (my CFI) decided to go over the Pre-Flight Checklist for the Cessna 172, which is what I fly.

We stepped outside in the below-freezing weather and headed to the Cessna 172.  If I remember correctly, the thermostat read 26F.  Then, add 25-35 knots of wind, and that makes for a pretty cold morning.  I seriously thought at one point that frostbite would set in.  We approached the plane and immediately started going down the Pre-Flight checklist.  I was glad to hear that our checks would start in the cockpit.  While the heater inside wasn’t on, it felt warm compared to Antarctica outside.  We systematically went through the list, covering each item on it in-depth.  What I liked about it was that Matt also explained why certain gauges on the instrument panel worked and how.

Once we completed the interior portion of the check list, we stepped outside to complete the exterior portion.  While many of the checks we do is based on what you see, some of it is also based on what you feel (btw, very difficult to do when you can’t feel your fingers).  It started with checking the fuel sump, which requires draining.  I got some of the fuel on my hands, which made things worse with the cold.  * Note to self: Don’t get fuel/water/anything wet on your hands when it’s below freezing with a windchill factor.  Just saying.  We checked everything from the fuel sumps to katter pins to static ports.  The last two items on the checklist were a general walk-around and to check the windscreen.  Once we completed those, we went back to the cockpit, turned on the Master Switch (Battery Only) to raise the flaps.  They were fully retracted in order to view the tracks, weights, nuts, bolts and katter pins.  We killed the power to the Master Switch, replaced the Control Lock, grabbed our now-cold coffee and returned to the main building.

Once inside and de-thawed, Matt explained how to file a flight plan, as well as the weather briefing procedures.  If you are not familiar, being within the DC SFRA (DC Special Flight Rules Area), which is a 30 mile radius around Washington DC, we have to file an SFRA Flight Plan.  Matt told me how to do it, then made me call Flight Services and do it myself.  I must admit, I was a bit nervous, but once Flight Services answered, I rolled right along.  The biggest issue for me was that they just spit out the information, but if you aren’t familiar with the order or how it’s supposed to sound, some of the information is lost.  You can ask them to repeat themselves, but they never sound too happy, so I didn’t.  I was just happy I got most of the information.  It will come with time, I’m sure…

That concluded my training for today.  My next session is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, but the winds are supposed to be worse than today was.  So I went ahead and scheduled a session on Monday as well.  My David Clark headset I ordered should be in by then; I can’t wait!  The Sticky Pod mount and cables should be in soon too.  My next lesson, we will be in the air, so that is refreshing to know.

One very important lesson I learned today was, no matter how cold the weather is, if you plan to fly, you MUST abide by the checklist.  I would imagine that these are times when complacency tends to set in; not necessarily because one is lazy, but other factors as well (for instance cold weather).  There are very few second chances in flying.  One quote from Matt today: “It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than the other way around.”

~ Brian



  1. I love your take on the cold weather, Brian. You’d hate living here in England – this morning my desktop weather gadget (Windows 7…booyah) reads -6 degrees Celsius. About 21 degrees Fahrenheit.
    I’ll remember to always abide by this here checklist, btw. Fancy letting me borrow a plane?

    • hahahahah

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