Learn to fly a plane


One very impressive flight sim


June 2009

Well, I'm pretty much at the $5,000 mark in terms of savings, so it makes sense to start flying lessons sometime soon!

With the birth of Eli things are a little trickier, and I would like to re-read my ground school material, so we'll see, but it's exciting to be at the point where I can start when it makes sense!

August 2008

Here's another great aircraft concept

August 2008

What I love about this thing isn't so much that it folds up, but how simple and intuitive the driving interface looks. Awesome. It makes me wonder whether the barriers to flight will be substantially lower in the not too distant future.

Foldable Plane

In other news, I had the opportunity of watching some RC planes at the Kincardine Air Show this year. They're interesting to watch. $6,000 was the price tag of the one we were watching -- seems like a lot, more than I'd want to pay!

June 2008

On our flight home from Paris on Sunday, we had a one hour stop over in Montreal. We were sitting in the emergency exit row, so during takeoffs and landings, the flight attendents sat directly across from us. They were very friendly and fun to talk to, and while we were waiting in Montreal they offered that we could take a look in the cockpit!

I got to meet the captain, who was one of only three female pilots in their fleet (of 100), and even got to sit in the captain's chair. Meanwhile, the first officer was entering the values of the flight plan into the onboard FMS, and he explained a little bit more about what he was doing. It was even more meaningful to me since the airline is one of our customers. It was so cool to see the fruits of our labour being used on a real aircraft by real people!

March 2008

I came across this video of what it looks like to land the space shuttle from the cockpit. Wow. That looks pretty tough.

February 2008

I recently had a brain wave: What if I could hook my computer up to my big screen HDTV so that I could play flight simulator in a more captivating sort of way? Problem 1: How to send a 720p signal from the computer to the TV. Problem 2: My video card only gets me 10-15 frames per second at 1024x768, and 720p requires even more performance than that. ie. Even if I could get it to work, 8-9 fps wouldn't be much fun.

After some research and one failed attempt, I found a cable that did the trick. As it turns out, you can buy a DVI-to-HDMI converter cable for a mere $7 at KW Surplus. Wow! The second piece to the puzzle was a little pricier: A $150 video card... the NVIDIA 7950 GT, which I got used on eBay from a store in Florida. The new video card can do 20+ fps with even higher detail settings than I was using before, so I'm a happy camper. (Admittedly it's a little depressing buying a video card, because you know that in a couple of years it will be brutally slower than the new technology, and even more so since this card is already a year and a half old, but oh well)

My two issues at this point are that: 1) It's too much work to disconnect the mouse and keyboard and bring them downstairs every time I want to play, and 2) Wide screens aren't quite ideal for MS Flight Simulator since the UI was designed for a 4x3 aspect ratio which gives more vertical area to display the aircraft controls. I should be able to solve #1 by putting a crappy old keyboard+mouse downstairs, but #2 I think I'll just have to live with. Oh, and problem 3) Not having enough time to play!

January 2008

A really great Christmas present from Meredith this year was "From the Flight Deck", a book written by an Air Canada A340 pilot. It's chalk full of interesting facts about what it's like to be a commercial airline pilot flying a big rig. I highly recommend it!

December 2007

Well it's official: I have started saving up for flying lessons... cleaning and computer jobs, mostly. We'll see how long it takes, but at the rate I'm going it will likely be ballpark 3 years. Hey, I'm 10% of the way there already!

November 2007

I'm still slacking! What a lazy bum. On a side note, I was walking through Conestoga Mall tonight and noticed a remote controlled toy helicopter being demoed on a TV and it looked pretty impressive! How can you go wrong for $39? Maybe for Christmas :)

October 2007

I've been slacking on this one for the last few months... I haven't been flying the simulator, and I'm still being given the yellow light on actually taking lessons :) I'm toying with the idea of doing some extra work on the side... it might be a good thing for me to earn this rather large sum of money in part or in whole so that things are a little more fair!

Anyway, I'd like to get back into flying the simulator. There's no reason not to... I enjoy it, and it's a great learning tool.

July 3, 2007: Massasauga

After spending a fun Canada Day long weekend in Massasauga Provincial Park, I think it would be fun to simulate a flight from Turkey Point on lake Erie to Spider Lake in Massasauga... I wonder if the maps are detailed enough to have each of the lakes in the provincial parks? Should be fun to try out the float plane.

June 28, 2007: Landing at Erie

Tonight I put together a flight plan for flying from Kitchener to Erie PA and set off on my first simulated adventure. I took off from runway 07 and started off to the east as I climbed to 4500 feet. Next, I turned to heading 187 and I was off to Turkey Point. I was amazed at how quickly Lake Erie came into view. By the time I reached 4500 feet it was already visible in the distance. I hadn't accounted for the fact that I would be a few miles east of the Kitchener's airport before turning south, so I ended up flying over Simcoe rather than Turkey Point. From there I turned towards the tip of Long Point and set out over the water. It only took 7 minutes to fly from the shores of Simcoe to the tip of Long Point -- not bad! I could see Turkey Point clearly out of my right window.

At this point, I realized that I had taken off late in the evening and so it was starting to get dark. It added a bit of challenge, but it was still quite easy to distinguish the water from the land. After rounding Long Point I headed south west for 17 minutes which put me just north west of Erie. The flight plan I had constructed called for me to tune my VOR to ERI, which I managed to do. It had been a while since I flew the VOR lesson, but it came back to me. I was successful in flying right over top of the VOR, but by that time I should have turned east towards the runway. It made for a bit of a scramble, but after a couple quick turns I got headed toward the runway and started a quick descent. I was coming in at 1000 feet per minute rather than the desired 500, but I was still in pretty good control. It's funny how you can get quite anxious even when it's a simulator! After exactly 1 hour of flying I touched down in Erie with a black sky around me. Wahoo!

June 10, 2007: Simulating flying across the lake

As I was doing some thinking about potentially sailing across lake Erie, it occurred to me that it would be fun to simulate a flight from Kitchener to Turkey Point, to Potahawk, to the tip of Long Point, to Erie, and then back again. I think I'll work on a flight plan and then try this one out in MS Flight Simulator X.

May 12, 2007: Flight simulator woes

This past weekend I was delighted to have a solid block of 10 hours to work through the flight simulator lessons. I finished all of the "Private Pilot" lessons and then attempted the "checkride", where you takeoff with a virtual instructor who asks you to perform certain maneuvers. If you perform all of the maneuvers satisfactorally, you receive your virtual private pilot certificate. All went well until the part right after takeoff where the instructor asks you to make a steep 90 degree turn to the left. Sure, I thought, here we go... but after making the turn, the instructur says "Sorry, your turn was too shallow". Excuse me? You call a 50 degree banked turn too shallow? I tried again and again, perhaps more than 50 times, and each time the instructor would tell me, "Sorry". I eventually gave up in exasperation.

I did some searching on the Internet and found some evidence that there are some bugs in flight simulator... but it's hard to imagine something as critical as the private pilot checkride would be broken. Oh well. I've skipped the checkride and have moved on to the Instrument Pilot lessons which have been lots of fun.

I've also played with larger aircraft a bit more. I skipped ahead and read over the lesson that describes how to land the 737, and after a few practice runs I managed to do it. Wahoo! :)

April 13, 2007

My time with Flight Simulator has been good, but like I've aluded to, landing the aircraft is pretty challenging. I've wondered whether it is the clumsiness of the keyboard that has made it more difficult, and when I was passing by EB Games the other day I saw that they finally had in stock a little gadget from Microsoft that plugs into your USB port and allows you to use your Xbox 360 controller (or racing wheel) for games on the PC. The Flight Simulator manual has specific instructions for how to use the Xbox 360 controller, so I was eager to give it a shot. Well what can I say: It is much, much easier to control the aircraft! I can finally land consistently!

March 1, 2007

I've been enjoying my time with Microsoft Flight Simulator X these past three months, and recently completed my first simulated solo. The in-game flight instructor is good for the most part, but occasionally there are glitches. One flight as I was trying to navigate over a mountain range near Seattle, Washington, the flight instructor warned me to descent. I was only a few hundred feet above the mountain, so I ignored his warning. He then sternly repleated "DESCEND", so I obliged and crashed right into the hillside! Landings are definately the most interesting and difficult aspect of the flight simulator. Timing the turn onto final approach so that you're lined up with the runway seems like a bit of a guessing game at this point for me, and making corrections after that point can be quite tricky. Overall the game has been a great experience and I look forward to continuing to work through the in-game lessons.

December 2, 2006

I've finally finished reading From The Ground Up, the text for the National Flyer's Academy ground school course I took this summer/fall. It feels great to finally be done -- 8 pages per hour makes for one very long read!

Next up is learning MS Flight Simulator X and looking forward to flying lessons in the spring!

Fall 2006

This summer, Navtech offered to pay for those interested to take a ground school course at the KW airport. This month I'll finish that course, and so I thought it time to take my introductory flying lesson. As I drove to the airport, I got tingly with anticipation. Not scared, but a little anxious.

We started by doing our weight and balance, followed by a visual inspection of the plane. After going through some checklists, we were ready to go. My instructor started the engines and eased off of the brake.

When on the ground, the Cessna 172 is steered with the foot pedals which double as your breaks. What a strange feeling to have to keep your hands in your lap while you steer with your feet!

We taxied to the end of the runway and waited for ATC clearance. My instructor throttled up the plane and we headed down the great big wide runway. We lifted off before I knew it, and in the blink of an eye the buildings were already far below us. What a rush!

We started our flight by flying over KW and looking down upon Meredith and I's little apartment... seeing things from up high is breath-taking.

I figured an intro lesson would involve sitting and watching, but after we flew north out of KW, I took the controls and did some turns, climbs, and descents. I was flying an airplane! Wahoo! :)

I'll probably wait until the spring before I really get into flying lessons since I need to fly during the day -- the winter is a bad time for those of us that work 9-5.

I'm psyched!