I have just finished two weeks in Bedford, Massachusetts, that was supposed to be the next stage of my flying adventures.
Despite my advance planning and requests to the flying school I logged just one hour of flying in the first week and just four in total. I am feeling more than a little frustrated.
With Alex about to start his second year at Olin College we thought we would spend two weeks flying from KBED; Hanscom Airfield, in Bedford, Massachusetts.
KBED, although only Class D, is the second busiest airfield in New England based upon aircraft movements. Only about 15 miles west of Boston, there is plenty of corporate traffic as well as flight training.
We both signed up with Executive Flyers; http://executiveflyers.com/
Why these guys? Their emails to us were efficient and for Alex they have a Piper Seneca twin.
So I flew from Dubai to Frankfurt on Friday 12 August and onwards on a Lufthansa 747-800 from to Boston on Saturday 13 August.
Alex and I were staying out in Burlington – five miles or so from the airfield.
We visited the airport on Saturday evening. To say hello, collect the local ifr and vfr maps and an airports/facilities directory. But we also found that no flight lessons had been scheduled. The issue appears to be a lack of instructors; and plenty of student demand.
Sunday we drove out to Rockport for lunch, a self-consciously pretty down on the coast northeast of Boston.
It was Tuesday before I flew for just one hour and Wednesday before Alex had his first flight.
My flight was not scheduled in a 172 with a Garmin 1000 glass cockpit but in a round gauge traditional cockpit. Not exactly what I had not asked for. And it almost feels like starting all over again. I have about one hour in a 172 round gauge. I only have about 6 hours in a 172. But at least from my Skycatcher I am more familiar with using and scanning the screens in a glass cockpit.
My instructor was Ralph Mangianello. Nice guy. A builder by trade who flight instructs three days a week. He is fairly new as a CFII.
In misty and overcast weather we checked the airplane and flew for an hour. Leaving from and returning to Runway 11. As class Delta the procedures are a little different from Sarasota. No need to ask for a vfr clearance; just announce that you are ready to taxi. No squawk code assigned. Taxi, run-up. Tell tower that you are holding short and ready to depart and where you want to go. And leave. No calling big airport approach or departures as long as you do not bust their airspace. So we can just fly with a vfr squawk of 1200.
It was a murky day – close to marginal vfr. So we just flea out to their west practice area and got used to flying again. That and spotting a few local landmarks for future reference.
Back to KBED for a Runway 11 arrival after a very long straight in approach.
And that was it until Monday 22nd when I had a second flight with Ralph in much better weather. So we did the basics of VFR PPL practice – power on and power off stalls, emergency procedures, slow flight and a touch and go and second landing at KBED on runway 29 with a very sporty wind gusting to 222 knots.
One more flight – this time with Rob Dumovic; the chief pilot at Executive Flyers. Rob is a top notch instructor, aerobatic pilot and know how planes fly; he understands the systems; the dynamics; the sound and the feel.
Alarmingly he left me feeling like I have not learned anything. We flew four short sectors with a touch and go at each of the intermediate stops – Beverley, Lawrence and Nashua before returning to Bedford. All the airports are towered to lots of radio work – and setting up in the pattern to approach and land. But Rob is much more rigorous than Ralph.
I learned a lot – but that is in part because I felt I knew nothing.
This evening I am wondering whether it is really worth the cost and effort of continuing to fly.
I came here thinking that I could fly every day – maybe twice a day – get current; get signed off to rent the flying school’s C172s and make a decent start on my instrument rating.
I have only done the first. I am current. But just three instructor flights in my two weeks here is really disappointing. All I have learned is how much I either do not know, have forgotten, or am unable to effectively execute.
My total instructor hours in two weeks here – just 4.1hrs.
One last note from yesterday’s flight with Rob. We were coming back into Bedford and Rob was selling me on the view – so I gave him the controls and took a couple of pictures.
He then asks if I would mind if he flies the landing – you have already flown three landings and I don’t often get to fly one he says. I did not think much but said sure – and it was good to watch how a good pilot flies a short approach and a crosswind landing…left wheel, right wheel, nose wheel. It was that good that I could almost hear him purr!
Did I learn from watching him land? Yes. But it was my lesson. And it was also the last lesson that I have scheduled with Executive Flyers and my last landing. I guess I did fly decent landings at Lawrence and Nashua. But thinking about it afterwards the last landing back at KBED really should have been mine.
Thinking about the three flights some more the first two were basically a waste of time. Ralph is a nice guy. But he was far to easy going on someone who had not flown for five months. All he really confirmed was that I was safe and that I could fly the basics. His reassurances that I was making his life easy made me complacent.
Flying with Rob was actually harder than my private checkride. I felt under pressure; his questions added to my frustration.
Had I flown with Rob from the outset the few lessons might have gone very differently.
So onto Thursday and Alex, who has had a good week, and I had N224TA to ourselves from 10am until 3pm.
Now I am not checked out to rent on my own so we can fly together but with Alex as PIC. Honestly, this is a bit dispiriting. Yes, he has been flying a year longer than me; and all his experience is with round gauge airplanes. But sitting in the right seat feels strange. And I cannot do much other than monitor the radio and work with Alex through the checklists. And watch and learn.
That said, he is an excellent and sensible pilot; he understands the physics of flying; his radio work is good. His short approach and landing when we returned to KBED were first class.
So we flew from KBED to New Bedford, KEWB, and onto Martha’s Vineyard, KMVY. Then back to KBED.
Lunch was at the Airport Grille in the terminal at New Bedford. Excellent aviation-themed restaurant with good, reasonably priced food, and nice people.
KEWB is Class D; but quiet. ATC were welcoming and helpful, advising us to park by the playground!
KMVY is much busier Class D. It is where the Obamas have their summer holiday. They were there last week. We just stopped for twenty minutes for a quick hello and coffee.
Holding short of 23 at Hanscom Field
Captain Alex – he is a very capable pilot.
Pilatus country at Marthas Vineyard
Lunch at New Bedford
New airfields on this trip:
Hanscom Field – Bedford. KBED
New Bedford Municipal KEWB
Marthas Vineyard KMVY
Beverly Municipal KBVY
Lawrence Municipal KLWM
Nashua Boire Field KASH