Flying a Cirrus
I have accepted a part time job flying for a local business here in town flying a Cirrus. (Click here for pic). I think it will be a fun way to make a little extra money as well as help keep me current and proficient. Hopefully I can manage my time well enough that it won't affect my full time job.
I just got back from Cirrus school in St Louis. It was the first time I ever actually had to go to school to fly a specific make and model. I was expecting a normal checkout just like all the other aircraft that I have transitioned to. This aircraft is the most advance thing I have ever flown. It has a glass cockpit. For those of you that don't speak pilot that means the instrument panel is all digital and very few conventional gauges. This took a few hours for me to get used to.
(Click here for pic.)
The instructor was pretty rough on me but later said he was so tough because I had my commercial and Flight Instructor certificates.
All and all the school made me feel like a dumb ass and was a lot like work and not a checkout but everything came together at the end.
Flight to KPNS -Written by Diane
<---Written by Diane--->
Airplanes kick ass because one moment you can be waking up at 5 am in Missouri and the next moment (and about 3 hours later), you're making a long final approach into Pensacola, Florida.
Yeah, I said Pensacola, Florida! Oh. My. God. I was so excited. Jesse had to take a couple of passengers to Pensacola today, and I got to go! We woke up about 5 am, got dressed, filed a flight plan, and went out to the airport to preflight and pull out that nice Piper Lance. So our passengers show up about 6:00, and we were soon airborne. You know I drank one of those Red Bulls to wake up, but I never got my wings, aside from the airplane's.
Anyway, it was about a three hour flight, ground speed about 146 knotts (which is really freaking fast) on an IFR flight plan, at an altitude of about 9,000 ft. It was pretty cloud-free, but it's so humid where I live that is was hazy - so hazy that you could barely see the ground. But at least the vents were blowing cold air into the plane, so it wasn't a hot flight until you began the descent. Omg, we got over Memphis International (KMEM), and for those of you who may not know, Memphis International Airport is a major Federal Express hub. LOADS of Federal Express airplanes like 757s and stuff fly in there usually between the hours of 1 and 4 am CST making it one of the busiest airports in the world. Well, we were flying along, and like from NOWHERE, this FedEx plane comes soaring across our flight path about 2 miles (if even that) RIGHT in front of us. ATC told us he was 10 miles, but if the airplane was close enough to where we could read "FedEx" on the side of the plane, it wasn't 10 miles. In fact, that's much too close for comfort. Jesse and I just looked up like, "Where'd he come from?!"
Other than that, it was still pretty smooth the rest of the way there. About an hour out from Pensacola, though, we started seeing clouds below us flaoting along like huge puffs of cotton. It's amazing to think that clouds are big masses of moisture just floating in the air. We got about 45 minutes out and began a descent to about 5,000 feet from 9,000. We came up on the Gulf of Mexico while Jesse was dealing with ATC and getting vectored, and I saw all that water, and I was like, "Wooow!" =O So we actually got to fly out over the gulf while we we making our approach, and it was awesome, but it was a little cloudy because some rain clouds came up, and there was a little precipitation on the approach. Still, flying over the Gulf was fantastic.
Once we got on the ground, we sent off our passengers, and then Jesse and I decided we were pretty hungry since we hadn't eaten, yet. So we got a courtesy ride to this really cool 50's diner and had a "600 Dollar Breakfast" since we flew to Florida pretty much just to eat. We had talked about getting the courtesy car for a couple of hours and visiting one of the beaches to collect shells and maybe wade in the water, but we decided against it b/c I think Jesse was kinda tired and just wanted to get back. That and I think he was afraid that we could get into some possible weather if we waited too long to leave, so even though I was inwardly pouty, I understood.
So we finished our breakfast, went back to the airport, and we were off again after refueling. And boy was it a hot takeoff. Did I tell you it was really freaking muggy down there?? Anyway, we were climbing out, and as it would turn out, those 'little' clouds from the morning got a whole lot bigger. We flew through several towering cumulus clouds, and even though they don't look menacing, they are turbulent as hell sometimes! Omg. I hate turbulence, and flying through those huge clouds made me realize that I will never get my instrument rating. Nope. Not gonna do it. Fair weather pilot here and I am fine with that. Those cumulus clouds are actually developing thunderstorms. One of those such clouds was pretty darn rough, and when we came out, our storm scope picked up a couple of lightning strikes from it. The rest of the clouds had no lightning, but they all sucked equally. We flew into another one, and Jesse was about to comment about how smooth that one was being when this huge unstable mass of air popped the airplane so hard that he smacked his head on the ceiling. I freaked a little bit (and in every other cloud we flew into). I hate turbulence in VFR conditions. I hate it more in IFR conditions, and I can't beleive my husband flies in WORSE than what we were in sometimes. In fact, after that crap in the clouds, we finally got away from them about 30 miles out from our home airport (KPOF), and we hit unstable air and were being bumped about, and it seemed like nothing. I was relaxed and glad to be AWAY from those STINKING CLOUDS.
I did get a hold of the controls, though. He offered me to fly, and at first, I said no, but then I was like, "GIMMIE!" because I couldn't resist. Problem is that even though I am 5'7" tall, I can't see over the dash of a Piper Lance because the seats are so low and there is no seat crank on my side! I navigated it into KPOF under Jesse's direction, and I got to adjust the throttle (which I might add is really freaking sensitive ) and take it down from 3,000 to 1,500 and then down to traffic pattern altitude. Got to turn on the boost pump and put the gear down, too. When we got to about the base leg of the pattern for Runway 18, he took over (boo I wanted to take it all the way to final and give it over to him to just land )
I now realize why he has such a healthy respect for flying in those conditions. You feel clausterphobic, for one, because you can't see anything outside excpet grey. You have to rely on your instruments and ignore what your internal senses tell you, and it's easy for your body to confuse the two, causing you to become disoriented if you don't know what you're doing. You're always taking a huge risk flying into those kinds of cloud masses because of the unstable air they generate. You don't even know if it's raining in there, or worse, if you'll be getting into hail. My husband isn't much of a fan of flying in IFR conditions, though he says he doesn't mind it as much if it's just plain overcast and he can get above it. But if it's turbulent with embedded storms, he gets freaked out, too, and I see why. Today wasn't too bad for him from what he said, but it was hell on me!
I had a bunch of fun, though, and I hope that if we get to go back again, we can make it to the water this time. And maybe not have to put up with flying into CLOUDS! D=< -Diane