VaibhaV Sharma

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Category: Aviation (page 2 of 2)

Night Flight and the surprise landing at PDX International

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The night flight was awesome!

Made my flight plans and reached the airport at 7.30 pm. Tom was already there. Plan was to do 10 stop and gos and a total of 3 hour in-flight time to meet the license requirements.

I filed the flight plan, did the pre-flight checks with a red flash light. That takes a few minutes to get used to. Because Pooja was with us, Tom and me had to do 3 touch and Gos for him to be night-current before she could hop in the airplane. That was an interesting experience. Wind was pretty strong, kind of a crosswind blowing at 14kn. I did the runup and taxied short of runway 30. Tom took over from there, did 3 touch and Gos and then I took the controls back to taxi back to parking.
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Night Flying today

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Yay! So it is that day when the forecast for night flying is good and Tom is available too.

I am really excited, so is Pooja.

Plan is to fly from Hillsboro Airport to Aurora (KUAO), fly over it and catch I-5 South and follow that till Salem and then cut across to Corvallis (CVO). And then trace the same route back to Hillsboro.

Need to plan for it and condition myself for the 10 takeoffs / landings at night.

Will be fun.

FAA Knowledge Test and Dreams about the future

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My FAA knowledge test finally happened, but not without some effort.

Studied like crazy, gave lots of sample tests (scores 85% – 94%) and was trying to push towards 95% or more. This is probably the first time in my life that I was trying to push scores rather than just trying to pass (70% required in this case). 🙂 So I reached the airport at 9am, prepared, but could not give the test because I did not have my passport with me. Had to reschedule for 1pm which gave me a chance to polish a few topics a bit more.

Took the test at 1pm and scored 93%. PASS! I was happy but not too much. I came 3% short of my goal.

Anyways, the creepy part is that this is the third time something has happened in the past few months. Pooja talks in her sleep sometimes and at first I used to ignore but lately, I started talking back to her and she responds to my questions! It was kinda fun to start with until what she said started coming true months later in the future.

First was about her previous employer going belly up (with approximate dates). I told her when she woke up and we laughed about it and then it happened. Then a second incident at home and now about my knowledge test. She was alseep and talking about some weekend in October about us flying down to Crater Lake now that I had my Private Pilot License and I asked her how much did I score in the knowledge test and she said “93%!!”.

Ofcourse she said a few other things which did not come true but then who knows, its too early to say. 😉

Anyways, I am kind of happy with the test result. I feel much better, more confident and geared up to prepare for my final checkride for the private pilot certificate.


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Sometime last year, I got to use a borrowed bluetooth gps receiver. Since then, I have used various combinations of gps receivers with smart phones and software that can munch on the data and spit out something useful.

Last month while flying from NY to Portland, I used my macbook to log gps data using –

That gave me raw NMEA data from the GPS device. Used GPSBabel to convert that data to Google Earth KML and here is what I got.

What I really wanted to do was to track my flight training sessions on gps and plot them on google earth. There were various problems. First was that I did not have a bluetooth GPS unit of my own. I borrowed a Teletype GPS receiver from Siddharth (another gadget fiddler) sometimes. Other was that I did not have a smart phone kinda device to log that data on the move. Last november, I picked up a Nokia E50 from India which runs a decent version of Symbian. I tried a bunch of cool GPS software for symbian but none of them did what I needed. There were also a lot of problems with the GPS receiver’s accuracy.

There were a lot of sophisticated options available if I had a palm or a windows mobile device. So I borrowed a Tungsten T for a few days and among other experiments, tried the combination with Soaring Pilot. That worked really well. Soaring Pilot is designed for glider pilots but it worked well for my use too. So I went and bought a Treo 680 hoping that I can mount it on the yoke. It turned out that basic SoaringPilot features worked fine on it but when transferring the logged data out of the device, it crashed and rebooted the whole device. Bad! Maybe the next version will fix these problems.

I was back to where I started.

A few weeks back, Mrinal posted a GPS route which he recorded using his Nokia phone. I was thrilled to know that it recorded altitude data too. More than that, it could export the data to google earth format directly. That was *exactly* what I was trying to do. After some initial problems with making the Nokia E50 talk to the bluetooth GPS, I finally figured it out and the results have been amazing.

So, a few days ago, I was flying with a friend who has his own airplane. We flew for about 4 hours in total. He has been trying to log hours like crazy for his commercial rating. We flew down south from Aurora Airport to north bend and then flew for a few miles over the beach at 1500 ft. following US101. That side of Oregon is *really* beautiful. Here is the Google earth file to prove it. Load this file, zoom in and try tilting. With the ocean on one side and lush green jungles on the other, it was just amazing. After a fuel fill up break at Corvallis, we headed back to Aurora airport.

After a successful data log, I decided to log my first solo flight to the West Practice Area. Here is the result. Load in google earth, zoom and tilt for best results. There is a lot of data missing from the point I took off and then just before I landed back at Hillsboro Airport. That is because of the crappy 8 channel GPS receiver I have. I ordered a better unit yesterday and it should be here by tuesday.

For now, I am happy with what I can do with my existing resources.


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Woot! First Solo happened today.

solo_polaroid_picDid 3 touch and gos and a full stop landing with Tom. Traffic pattern was almost empty. Just as we were holding short of the runway for takeoff, about 5 airplanes landed one after the other. It was as if everyone had planned it just for me. 🙂 On the 4th landing, I taxied to parking, shutdown the engine and Tom hopped out. Then the engine won’t start. Waited 30 seconds, gave it more fuel to burn and it started.

I made a few mistakes here and there but overall I flew *very* safe. There was no one in the pattern except two crazy pilots. One of them was trying to landing from the opposite side of the active runway. Tower flagged him and he did a go around. The other guy was still on the ground and was trying to take off using RW 30 while RW20. Ground controllers pulled that guy off and Tom reported the incident to his instructor.

I had never used RW 20 myself so taxing was a bit confusing at first but after the first takeoff, it was fine.

While in the air by myself, I was sweating like crazy. One was because I was wearing a thick denim jacket, other was obviously because it was different. There was no one else in the plane and it was upto me to fly and land. Tom was not there, the airplane felt lighter and the wind felt like it was slapping the airplane all over the place. Specially just before touchdown on landing, it was hard for me to keep the nose straight. On the first two landings, I was a bit faster than I should be – 70 knots instead of 60 – 65. That made the plane a bit difficult to steer once the tires touched the ground but I got used to it in the first two landings. The last landing felt like butter because I nailed the airspeeds.

I realized I did it when the sweet sounding lady on ground control congratulated me before clearing me to taxi to parking. Overall, I still don’t feel like its done. It was a wierd feeling. Happy and a lot of fun but wierd. It will take me a few more solo flights for it to settle into my head.

After getting married, today is probably the next biggest day of my life.

Video is here.


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