Obtaining Private Pilot License on Cessna 172S

date
Mar 21, 2024
slug
private-pilot-license-journey
status
Published
tags
Aviation
summary
This blog chronicles my transformative journey into the world of aviation during a pivotal time in my life. After facing personal and professional challenges, I turned to aviation, a field that has long captivated me, as a means of rediscovery and growth. Within these pages, I share the initial steps of my adventure, from the decisive moment of choosing flight over terrestrial confines to my first experiences in the sky. I also include some of my learning notes I've gathered along the way, hoping to enlighten and inspire others drawn to the boundless freedom of the skies. Join me as I navigate this exhilarating new chapter.
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My Entry into Aviation

During 2022 and 2023, I found myself in a low point both personally and in my entrepreneurship. Early in 2024, I unfortunately experienced a loss of basic trust among people, leading me spending a ton of time with just myself, and therefore reflecting on what I truly wanted to pursue in 2024.
 
The idea of aviation resurfaced in my mind. It's something I've considered for a long time, especially after realizing how developed aviation is in North America, with countless small airports dotting the cities and a vibrant aviation community. The notion of hopping into an aircraft and flying to any less populated area evokes the same excitement I felt when I first learned to walk, ride bikes, and get my driver's license. Obtaining a private pilot license essentially opens new possibilities and allows me to elevate my lifestyle.
March 2nd, flying right after a light snowstorm, showcases the beauty of BC, Canada, where you experience all seasons. I completed my very first landing, and both my instructor and I were surprised that it went so well. It’s funny how in my following several landings, I was struggling to achieve the same level of smoothness and stability.
March 2nd, flying right after a light snowstorm, showcases the beauty of BC, Canada, where you experience all seasons. I completed my very first landing, and both my instructor and I were surprised that it went so well. It’s funny how in my following several landings, I was struggling to achieve the same level of smoothness and stability.
 
Additionally, the motivation comes from the inferior railway services here, compared to my experiences in Asian countries like Japan, Singapore, and China. Another factor is discovering that some of my taxes contribute to maintaining aviation infrastructure. Interestingly, the cost of parking an aircraft overnight is often cheaper than car parking fees in major cities.
 
At that time, I was contemplating whether to trade in my second-hand Mazda3 for a better car to enhance my daily driving experience, or to dedicate six months to obtaining a private pilot license. Both options had a financial impact of around $20,000, and I was torn between which path to choose and which would offer a more enriching experience of the world.
 
Cessna 172 engine compartment
Cessna 172 engine compartment
Eventually, I chose to embark on my aviation journey. I believed that dedicating six months to achieve a certain level of geographical freedom, entering a new industry, and joining a community of pilots, who thrive in calm, coordinated environments and tackle mechanical challenges hands-on, was worthwhile. Most importantly, I was drawn to the love of flying and the freedom it brings.
On February 2, 2024, I completed my demo flight with Aquila Aviation at CYXX Abbotsford International Airport in British Columbia, Canada. In my opinion, this airport is the best location to start a pilot program in the Greater Vancouver area. It's just minutes away from the practice area, the runway is less busy, which means less time spent waiting on the runway and less time communicating to and from the practice area.
My Private Pilot License (PPL) trainer.
My Private Pilot License (PPL) trainer.
 
The flight school, though small, is thriving. Their fleet is newer than those of most other pilot schools. I was fortunate to meet the great school owner, Reza, and an awesome CFI, Mike. We became close friends and started exploring business opportunities in aviation to see how my tech background could benefit the industry.
The rest is history. Soon after the demo flight I enrolled in the pilot program with the goal of obtaining my PPL by the end of July 2024.
 
Video preview
 

Preflight Preparation

  • Cross wind calculation
    • Given wind 230@10knots
    • Wind direction - runway heading
    • Decomposition the wind speed into headwind/tailwind + crosswind component.

Walk Around

Fuel sample(5/5/3) and fuel quantity
Oil level
Electrics, all lights and pitot heat, flaps and annunciator panel, avionics fan
Left tire, brake, door hinges, flap, aileron
Baggage
Left horizontal stabilizer, elevator
Rudder
Right horizontal stabilizer, elevator
ELT
Right tire, brake, door hinges, flap, aileron
Right leading edge
Right cabin vent ports
Exhaust
Nose wheel, oleo, shimmy damper
Propeller blade, cone
Alternator belt, air intake, no animals inside engine compartment
Static port
Left cabin vent ports
Pitot tube
Stall horn
Fuel vent
Left leading edge
 

CYXX Procedure Chart

 

Checklist

Reminders
  • PRE TAXI CHECK
    • When setting the radio
      • Com1 121.8 (Ground), 119.4 (Tower)
      • Com2 119.8 (ATIS), 121.5 (Emergency)
    • Alternate Static — Check remember to pull out and check VSI
    • CYXX don’t do radio call during pre taxi check
  • TAXI CHECK (this can be down during taxing to the run-up area)
    • Flight controls — WIND INPUTS
      • notion image
      • Use the ATIS wind direction
      • Elevator neutral, control column towards the wind direction if the wind is coming from forward direction
      • Elevator down, control column align the wind direction if the wind is coming from backward direction
    • Flight Instruments
      • R turn, attitude indicator, altimeter, VSI steady, compass, heading indicator swing, T/C wing right, ball left
      • L turn, attitude indicator, altimeter, VSI steady, compass, heading indicator swing, T/C wing left, ball right
  • ENGINE RUN-UP CHECK (remember to move the head towards the wind direction)
    • Throttle (Slowly) TO IDLE: here remember to check the RPM is above between 525 - 625?
  • LINE UP CHECK
    • Lights — AS REQUIRED: turn on landing and strobe.
    • Remember to look at the final leg and do radio if there is no traffic.

Basic Manenvers

 

Straight & Level

Definition: holding a steady direction with the wings laterally level while maintaining a constant altitude
Reducing Airspeed
  • Reduce power setting and apply appropriate rudder
  • Apply sufficient back pressure
  • Trim
Increasing Airspeed
  • Advance the throttle smoothly and apply approperiate rudder
  • Apply sufficient forward pressure
  • Trim

Climbing

  • Best rate
  • Best angle
  • Normal
  • En route
Procedure
  • Attitude pitch up
  • Power full
  • Trim
Level off
  • Attitude to cruise
  • Power back to cruise
  • Trim

Descending

Power-on descents
Power-off descents
 
Procedure
  • Reduce power & left rudder
  • Allow the airspeed to drop to desired airspeed and desired rate of descent
  • Attitude pitch down
  • Trim
Level off
  • Advance power & right rudder
  • Attitude pitch back to cruise
  • Trim
Note: power controls the rate of descent, pitch controls airspeed

Turns

Procedure
  • Enter
    • Make sure S&L
    • Look around “clear left / clear right”
    • Roll the wings to the desired bank attitude
    • Apply appropriate rudder pressure to control any tendency for the aircraft to yaw
  • Exit
    • Look around
    • Roll the wings level
    • Appropriate rudder pressure
 
Steep turns
Procedure
  • Enter
    • Lookout LRFB (360)
    • Roll the wings & appropriate rudder in the same direction
    • When reaches 30 bank angle, pull back and power add 100rpm
    • Maintain at 45 to complete the 360 turn
  • Exit
    • Look around
    • Wings level & rudder
    • Make sure cruising attitude
    • Resume power (-100rpm)
March 24th, practicing steep turns
March 24th, practicing steep turns

Flight for Range and Endurance

This section is mostly about theory, it is recommend to refer to the text book
Maximum Range: maximize the distance possible per unit of fuel consumed
  • Optimize for Lift/Drag ratio
Maximum Endurance: maximize the length of time an aircraft may remain airborne
  • Optimize for minimum power
Each aircraft has different max range or max endurance speed
Procedure
  • Reduce power
  • Wait until the airspeed drops to the desired speed
  • Lean mixture
 

Upper Airwork

HASEL check

  • Height: recover by 2000 feet
  • Area: non-populated / non-buildup area
  • Safety: seat, seatbelt secured, copilot also secured
  • Engine:
    • Magneto / Ignition on both
    • Master switch on
    • Circuit breakers in
    • Mixture rich
    • Emergency fuel cut off in
    • Fuel tank on both
  • Lookout:
    • 180 turn or 2 90 turn (S turn)

Slow Flight

Normal
  • Enter
    • Power 1500 rpm & left rudder
    • Nose up, reduce speed to 55knots
    • After the speed is reduced under max endurance speed (60?)
    • Add power to 1800 rpm to maintain altitude
  • Recognize
    • low airspeed, high power setting, say “slow flight”
  • Maintain
    • S&L(heading, attitude)
    • maintain airspeed, altitude
  • Exit / Recovery
    • Power full & right rudder
    • Nose down (to horizon)
    • When speed is back to cruise, resume to cruising setting
 
Advanced
  • Enter
    • Power 1500 rpm & left rudder
    • Nose up, start to reduce speed
    • Enter white arc range, flaps down (full)
    • Hear the stall horn, power to 1800 rpm (maintain a steady stall horn)
  • Recognize
    • low airspeed, high power setting, say “slow flight”
  • Maintain
    • S&L(heading, attitude)
    • maintain airspeed, altitude
    • Note once enter into slow flight, it is ok to adjust power to maintain altitude and add power for turning etc.
  • Exit / Recovery
    • Power full & right rudder
    • Nose down (to horizon)
    • Flaps 30 - 20, nose up slightly
    • Positive & Positive
      • Positive vertical speed
      • Positive altitude
    • Flaps 20 - 10, nose up slightly
    • Flaps 10 - 0, nose up slightly
    • When speed is back to cruise, resume to cruising setting

Stalls

Power-off stall
  • Enter
    • Power to idle & left rudder
    • Nose up, control column keep back pressure
    • Reduce speed until stalled
  • Recognize
    • Altitude drop, Nose drop, Wing drop
      • Do not use control column (aileron is useless under stall situation)
      • Apply opposite rudder
  • Exit / Recovery
    • Nose down (immediately reduce the angle of attack)
    • Power full & right rudder (smoothly)
    • When speed is back to cruise, resume to cruising setting
 
Power-on stall
  • Enter
    • Power to 1500 & left rudder
    • Nose up (pointing to horizon is enough)
    • Enter white arc range, flaps down (full)
      • Flaps down, gently press nose down to keep at horizon
    • Hear the stall horn and stalled
  • Recognize
    • Altitude drop, Nose drop, Wing drop (more likely to happen if with no rudder control)
      • Do not use control column (aileron is useless under stall situation)
      • Apply opposite rudder
  • Exit / Recovery
    • Nose down (immediately reduce the angle of attack)
    • Power full & right rudder (smoothly)
    • Retract flaps
 
March 17th, a sunny day in Abbotsford CYXX, practicing advanced slow flight and power-on stall.
March 17th, a sunny day in Abbotsford CYXX, practicing advanced slow flight and power-on stall.
 

Spinning

Definition: stall that has been aggravated by yaw
Need to check utility category to see if an aircraft can perform spinning
Procedure
  • Enter
    • Power to 1500 & left rudder
    • Nose up (pointing to horizon is enough)
    • Hear the stall horn and stalled
    • Full rudder (one direction) to aggravate the rotation
  • Exit/Recovery
    • Power idle, ailerons neutral position
    • Full opposite rudder to stop the rotation
    • Positive control column to break the stall
    • Neutralize rudder once the rotation stops, and recover smoothly from the resulting dive
    • Back to cruise
 
Factors Affecting Recovery
  • Aircraft loading
    • Distribution (?)
    • Centre of Gravity (?)
    • Weight (increase inertia, extend recovery)
  • Altitude (higher altitude will lengthen recoveries)
  • Power (result in increased airspeed and height loss during the dive recovery)
  • Flaps (extended flaps)
    • Prolong the spin
    • Reduce the effectiveness of the rudder
    • Might incur damage form high speed or high loading during recovery from the dive
  • Rigging (?)
Video preview

Spiral

Definition: a steep descending turn in which airspeed, rate of descent, and wing loading increase rapidly.
In a spin the airspeed is constant and slow — at or about the stalling speed
In a spiral the airspeed will be well above stalling speed ad increasing rapidly
  • Recognize
    • Airspeed increasing rapidly
    • Altitude drop
    • “Say Spiral”
  • Exit/Recovery
    • Power idle
    • Wings level
    • Ease out of the dive
    • Back to cruise
Video preview
 

Slipping

Definition: slipping is a manoeuvre in which the aircraft is placed in a banked attitude but its tendency to turn is either reduced or prevented by the use of rudder
Purpose:
  • Increase the rate of descent without increasing airspeed
  • Counteract the effect of drift when landing in a cross-wind (side-slip)
Types:
  • Forward slip
  • Side-slip (counteract the effect of drift)
  • Slipping turn (same as forward slip but in a turn)
Procedure
  • Enter
    • Bank
    • Full opposite rudder
  • Exit
    • Wings level
    • Neutralize rudder
 

Take-off

Normal Procedure
  • Power full & right rudder
  • Gauges green
    • Oil temp & pressure
    • Vacuum Gauge (link)
  • Airspeed alive
  • Nose up at 55knots
 
Short Field Takeoff
  • Wing Flaps -- 10°.
  • Brakes -- APPLY.
  • Throttle -- FULL OPEN.
  • Mixture -- RICH (above 3000 feet, LEAN to obtain maximum RPM).
  • Brakes -- RELEASE.
  • Elevator Control -- SLIGHTLY TAIL LOW.
  • Climb Speed -- 56 KIAS (until all obstacles are cleared).
  • Wing Flaps -- RETRACT slowly after reaching 60 KIAS.
 
Soft Field Takeoff
  • 10 flaps
  • Control column full back (no brakes)
  • Power gradually to full
  • Nose wheel up hold (adjust to maintain nose wheel up)
  • After lift off, adjust to cruise attitude and accelerate to 70kts
  • Maintain Vy, retract flaps at 400 feet (200 AGL)
 

Approach and Landing

Normal Procedure
  • Approach
    • Last 500 feet (152 metres) should be straight
    • Aim at the runway number (for now)
    • Airspeed 65knots
  • Landing (beginner landing)
    • Pull 1: At approximately 15 to 30 feet above the ground, power idle, flare/round-out
    • Put the nose to horizon (1 metre)
    • Pull 2: Attempting to hold same altitude by increasing angle as speed is lost (feel the sink)
    • Pull 3: Final pull before touching the runway, make sure the main landing gear touches first followed immediately after the nose wheel.
  • Landing (intermedia landing)
    • Gradually power idle and gradually flare
    • Natural attitude when over the aim point
    • Depends on you height, second pull steadily and allow gliding sink down
    • Final pull to glide down and touch down
    • After the touch down, do not release control column, the nose wheel will touch down itself.
    • Retract flaps only after the aircraft is stabilized, and gently release control column but consider wind input.
Adjust power to control the rate of descent
 
Short Field Landing
  • Airspeed -- 65-75 KIAS (flaps UP).
  • Wing Flaps -- FULL DOWN (30°).
  • Airspeed -- 61 KIAS (until flare).
  • Power -- REDUCE to idle after clearing obstacle.
  • Touchdown -- MAIN WHEELS FIRST.
  • Brakes--APPLY HEAVILY. Can pull control column to increase friction
  • Wing Flaps -- RETRACT.
 
Soft Field Landing
  • Normal approach
  • Power idle and flare
  • When feel the sink add back some power to maintain nose up (1100-1300rpm)
  • After touch down, power idle
  • Adjust control column to maintain nose up (control column full back)
  • The nose wheel will touch down eventually
  • Remember to retract the flaps

The Circuit

notion image
  • Upwind
    • Take off
    • 80knots climb to 700ft (500ft above ground)
    • Climbing turn 90 degree
  • Cross-wind
    • 80knots climb to 1200 ft (1000ft above ground)
    • Level off, cruise setting
    • Climbing turn 90 degree
  • Downwind
    • L check
      • Magneto/ignition switch
      • Master switch
      • Landing light on
      • Circuit breakers
      • Mixture rich
      • Emergency fuel cut off in
      • Fuel tank on both
    • Radio
      • Abbotsford tower, FAQA, on downwind, requesting for touch and go (need to confirm)
    • When in parallel with the runway number (90 degree), reduce power to 1600 - 1700rpm, flap to 10 degree (do not start descending on downwind)
    • Descending turn 90 degree (when looking at the runway number, 45 view angle)
  • Base
    • 70knots descending to 700 ft, flaps to 20
    • Descending turn 90 degree
  • Final
    • 65knots, flaps to 30
    • Entering landing procedure
Note:
  • Reference landmark
  • Reference heading
  • Reference the runway
  • Turns should be <20 degrees
  • Do not retract flap immediately after touch down
  • Hold control column, the nose wheel will drop automatically
 

Emergency Landing Procedure

  • Precision 180
    • Start on downwind
    • Start 180 turn towards the runway
    • Speed maintain at 68
    • If too high
      • Use flaps
      • Use forward slide
      • If still top high we can extend the base leg
    • If too low
      • Cut corners, fly straight to the runway
  • Flapless Landing
    • Since there is no flap, the nose position will be higher than normal landing if the speed is maintained at 65
  • If engine failure after take off below circuit altitude
    • Close the throttle and land straight ahead
  • Communication failure
    • Check radio volume and headphone plug
    • Call tower (you can find the tower emergency number in CFS)
    • If ^ not working, set transponder to squawk 7600
    • Perform a normal circuit to land with full stop. (note be aware of the traffic)
    • While landing pay attention to tower light
      • Only land if tower light is green
      • Overshoot and continue normal circuit if tower light is red
 

Forced Landing

Circuit Approach
A: airspeed 68, trim, fuel pump on
B: best field (COWLS)
Civilization, Obstacle, Wind, Length, Surface (light green)
C: cause check
L-check, restart if no oil, fire, nor smoke, otherwise don’t restart
restart means power in, power out (throttle)
D: distress
Mayday call, Passenger briefing
E: engine
Mags, Emergency Fuel cut off, Mixture out, leave the master on until put down the flaps
 
Crosswind starts from 2000ft Downwind starts from 1500ft Base starts from 1000ft Final starts from 500ft
 
360 Approach
Start hight key at 1400 ft
low key at 800 ft
Should reach 500ft at the last 1/4 of the circle
 

Precaution Landing

  • High pass 1000 ft and use COWLS (Civilization, Obstacle, Wind, Length, Surface (light green)) to select field
    • Say: to be filled
  • Descending to 500 and enter 65knots slow flight before low pass. Put 20 flaps, power to 1800 maintain altitude
  • Start counting and measuring the field length
    • Say: to be filled
  • Overshoot and climb back to 1000ft
    • Passenger briefing
  • Start the normal approach and landing

Instrument Flying

notion image
  • Straight & Level
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ Heading Indicator
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ altimeter
  • Turn
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ Turn coordinator
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ altimeter
  • Straight Climb & Descent
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ Airspeed Indicator
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ Heading Indicator
  • Turning Climb & Descent
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ Turn coordinator
    • Attitude Indicator ↔ Airspeed Indicator
Note:
  • while turning, it is also important to pay attention to the current heading and target heading
  • while climb & descent, it is also important to pay attention to the current attitude and the target attitude
  • ^ scanned less frequently, but still need to pay attention so we don’t miss the target
 
OBS, VOR
Homing
  • Tune the receiver to the frequency, and identify the station by listening to the morse code
  • Tune to find center line and flag is TO
  • Turn and fly the top heading
Intercepting to / from From Top | To Bottom
  • Intercept in bound to the station
    • Set the radial number on the OBS to bottom
    • Look at the CDI and add/subtract 90 degree
    • Set the heading and fly that heading until the CDI is almost coming back to the center (2 units)
    • Turn to the inbound heading
  • Intercept out bound from the station
    • Set the radial number on the OBS to top
    • Look at the CDI and add/subtract 90 degree
    • Set the heading and fly that heading until the CDI is almost coming back to the center (2 units)
    • Turn to the inbound heading

Radio

 
Before taxiing
Abbotsford ground, Cessna172 FAQA, with information J
Abbotsford ground, FAQA, on the run up area, request taxiing for northbound departure at 3000 feet
Abbotsford ground, FAQA, on the run up area, request taxiing for the circuit
 
Pre take off
Abbotsford tower, AQA on Alpha, holding short 19 (runway), ready for departure
 
Before taxiing back
Abbotsford ground, AQA on Alpha, for the apron
 
Must Read Back
  • Standby
  • Line up (line up means runway center line)
  • Hold short (means holding outside the runway)
 
Related to traffic
If tower informs us that there is traffic and tells us the direction etc.
  • If I see traffic, i say CAU, with traffic
  • If I am looking for traffic, I say CAU, looking for traffic
  • If can't locate any traffic, I say CAU, negative traffic
  • If found the traffic, can say with traffic
 
Other notes
  • Possible pull up means possible overshoot
  • If I am on downwind, and for some reason I didn't have time to do radio, just flight straight & level
  • To confirm something:
    • Tower, FAQA, on blah, confirm [the info you want to confirm
    •  
Inner to outer Twr: CAU, contact outer twr 121.0 now/above 1000 CAU: 121.0 CAU Switch to 121.0 CAU: Outer twr, CAU, climbing through 1000, Clayburn Departure, with you Twr: CAU, cleared 2500 CAU: CAU
Leaving the zone Twr: CAU, surveillance service terminated, switch en-route CAU: CAU
Entering practice area
  • Position report CAU: Harrison traffic, (A/C Type) C172, (Registration/Call Sign) FCAU, (Current position and altitude) 2500 over Clayburn, (Intentions) North-east bound towards the farmers fields north of Sumas Mountain, lower air works
  • Starting the descent for forced landing CAU: Harrison traffic, ……, (Intentions) Descending for simulated forced approach over the farmers fields north of Sumas Mountain, over shooting W/E bound.
  • Starting the overshoot and climbing back up CAU: Harrison traffic, ……, currently at 500 west bound, (Intentions) climbing to 2500 followed by an east bound turn then descent for another simulated forced approach
  • Leaving the practice area Optional position report CAU: Harrison traffic, ……, (Current position and altitude) 2500 over Hazic lake, (Intentions) South bound for CYXX, leaving the zone, switching.
Entering CYXX control zone Before entering, obtain ATIS on 119.8 Contact outer twr 121.0 (If advised by ATIS) CAU: CYXX twr, ……, with info B Twr: FCAU, CYXX twr, go ahead CAU: FCAU, (Current position and altitude) 2500 over Hazic lake, (Intentions) in bound for a full stop/circuits Twr: FCAU, SQWAK Ident, altimeter 29.92, Rwy 19, cleared Clayburn arrival CAU: Clayburn arrival, CAU
Outer to Inner Twr: CAU contact inner twr 119.4 CAU: 119.4 CAU Switch to 119.4 CAU: Inner twr CAU descending through 2000, Clayburn arrival, with you Twr: CAU continue inbound, number 3 follow traffic ……
Distress Call MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY C172 FCAU FCAU FCAU Engine Failure 2500 over Hazic Lake east bound Conducting forced landing in farmers’ fields north of Sumas Mountain 2 people on board C172 FCAU
Passenger Briefing
  • All passengers, please be aware, we have an engine failure on board.
  • We will be conducting a forced landing into the farmers’ fields’ north of Sumas Mountain.
  • Please remain calm, don’t panic, I am trained to do this. Keep your seat belts fastened and unlatch the doors before touch down. I will meet you around the airplane after touching down.
 
 

Frequent Land Marks

  • Mission Bridge
  • Misson City
  • Hazic lake
  • Dewdney
  • Deroche
  • Stave lake dam
  • Stave lake
  • Emmy
  • Rocky

© Daniel Zheng 2022 - 2024