Tag Archives: Flight training

In the Bubble and in the Air

Yesterday I got up early and drove to the airport. I was anxious to get back up in the airplane for a morning of flying. It has been nearly 3 months since I last flew.

I had planned on heading north from the airport to a nearby airport to practice takeoffs and landings at an airport with a shorter, narrower runway than St. Cloud Regional Airport. As I approached St Cloud my sunny blue skies at home were quickly changing to a low cloud cover.

The cloud ceilings were high enough I could fly at the airport but I didn’t want to risk them getting lower before I would return to the airport. I stayed in the traffic pattern practicing my takeoffs and landings. Each pass around the airport I tried to improve my landings, maintaining airspeeds, headings and altitude. It felt great to be back up in the plane.

St. Cloud Regional Airport FBO & Wright Aero Flight School

My other reason for heading to the airport was to say goodbye to my CFI. She called the night before last to tell me that yesterday would be her last day at the flight school. She would be moving on to St Louis, MO to a new position this weekend.

There have been a lot of changes at the flight school since the announcement by St. Cloud State University that they would be discontinuing their aviation program. It is very sad to see things changing at the flight school. There are very few familiar faces left there since I started my flight training 3 years ago. I loved going there and listening to the enthusiasm of the CFI’s and their students.

After I did my post flight on the airplane I said my goodbyes and then drove over to the control tower for my first visit there. I’ve driven to the airport the past three years and always wondered what it was like in the tower and how much they could actually see from the tower.

When I went up in the Control Tower after going through a couple of security points I met Jim the on-duty controller. He was very pleasant and offered to answer any questions I had as time was available. He showed me where he gets the weather from for the hourly ATIS report and I got to hear him record the new ATIS report for the pilots. After he finished with ATIS he went on to explain that since the Delta airspace at the St. Cloud Regional Airport has no radar so he has to rely on sight and radio reports of aircraft positions.

Cessna taking off from the St. Cloud Regional Airport on Runway 13. The view is from the control tower

While I was in the tower I heard a radio call from a Canadian plane that was headed for the airport. He reported his position but was having a little difficulty spotting the airport. Jim patiently asked about landmarks the pilot had seen on his way in and tried to direct him the airport. Jim gave me a pair of binoculars like the pair he was using so I could see if I could spot the plane on its approach.  I was amazed at how little distance the controller has to work with in spotting an inbound plane.

View of Runway 13 from the control tower with the windsock in the foreground. Runway 5/23 also in the foreground.

Jim referred to the tower as a bubble.”We are just high enough in our bubble to give us an aerial view of the ground operations but not much beyond that.” He pointed out that when we are landing on runway 13 which is at the farthest end of the runway from the tower there are times because of the trees on the horizon it is possible to lose visual contact with the airplanes especially small Cessna high wing aircraft that I fly.

One of the things that he said that makes his job more difficult is pilots who read back absolutely everything that the controller says to them especially when all the pilot would have to respond with would be “Roger” or respond in the affirmative. There are times when we are required a verbatim read back as in clearances but he said that a lot of the other talking we do is too wordy and eats up radio time that might be needed by another pilot. He said keeping things short and simple will help everyone.

After my trip up to the tower this week I know that had I been taken there early in my training that I could have done a better job at making the controller’s life simpler by reporting my position as accurately as possible and keeping my radio responses shorter, two things I will definitely work on in the future, thanks to Jim.


Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Flight training, Photography


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Great Advice in an Unexpected Place

When I was checking the weather over the past few days and for the next few days to schedule some flying time the low ceilings of the past few days and forecast for the days to come reminded me of this post that I wrote this winter but never published. It was shortly after we returned from our first trip to Florida for a few days vacation away from the Minnesota cold.

This morning my flying lesson was canceled due to low ceilings. While in town I decided to take care of a few errands. I had my backseat of my car filled with bags of clothes that my youngest had cleaned out of her closet this week. After dropping of the bags at Goodwill I headed over to the mall to get a long overdue haircut.

I pampered myself and said yes to have my hair washed, cut and styled. I rarely leave the hair salon with dry hair. Usually a quick cut and out the door with wet hair and back to work. This morning was a treat. It was as close as I’ll ever get to going to a spa.

 Two weeks ago our local grocery store’s roof collapsed due to a heavy snow load. It has forced me to change my shopping habits and actually plan out my meals. While in town I went to the grocery store to pick up food that I needed for this weekend to feed our family and some guests for Sunday evening.

 I gathered my groceries and headed to the checkout lines and surveyed which line I thought I might move faster through. Each of the lines was long so I just got in line in the closest checkout. As I moved forward in line I noticed that the clerk was a small-framed older woman I guessed to be between 75-80 years old.

 The closer I got I watched her efficiency in her task of checking out the groceries and loading them back into the cart to be bagged by me later. When I was by the register I noticed the pin on her smock that said 5+. I assumed that it was her years of service at the store and asked her about it.

I said,  “Have you worked here for 5 years?”

She said  ”No, almost 9 years.”

I don’t usually engage clerks in personal discussions because they can sometimes lead into awkward subjects but I was curious as to why and almost 80-year old woman was checking out groceries.

I asked her “So do you have to work here or do you want to work here?” I was curious as to whether she was one of the many elderly that need to supplement her income or was there another reason that she was working.

“I just had to get out of the house” she replied. “I lost my husband a few years ago and the house just seemed to big and quiet.”

“How long were you married?”  She replied “54 years”

“Let me give you a bit of advice dear” she said to me. “Do all you can while you are young and able because you never know when you won’t be able to do what you planned. My husband and I did some traveling but always planned to do more and then one day he was gone and everything changed.”

A bit of advice I plan on using…..









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Decisions, decisions…

Last evening I received a phone call from my Uncle Harold in Illinois. He called to congratulate my on earning my private pilot’s certificate. He’s an old railroad man but he is also a pilot.

He called to chat for a bit about flying. He is in his 80’s. He quizzed me a bit on my flying, asking me about VFR minimums and weather. It was sort of a mini flight review. He used to be a CFI and was anxious to impart his wisdom for which I was happy to receive.

I asked him how he heard of me earning my PPL and he said he thought Aunt Dorothy told him.  Now Aunt Dorothy lives in Forsyth, MT about 500 nautical miles west of where I live in Central Minnesota. My mom’s family is spread out from Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arizona, and a few other states but this summer there is a family reunion in June at my Aunt Dorothy’s. He ended his conversation with “We’re looking forward to seeing you at the reunion!”

The reunion in on a Saturday and I have been contemplating renting a plane and flying out for the reunion. There is an airport in Forsyth, MT. I checked and there are several other airports along the way. It would be a little over five hours of flying from home to Forsyth. It would be a true “cross-country” flight in my book.

While in flight training we had to plan a long-cross country flight. It did not take the kind of planning that would be required for a five-hour flight. I’m excited at the prospect of taking the flight if the weather permits.

One thing I know for sure from flying is that weather is unpredictable. So while I would love to fly to Montana if the weather isn’t good, I won’t. This means that I will have to be watching the weather for days in advance to look at the weather patterns and make a decision. If the weather is at all iffy that means hopping in the car and driving instead of flying. If I wait too long to decide then I won’t make it to the reunion.

It’s a common dilemma for pilots. Some make bad decisions and put themselves and others at risk because they have their heart set on flying and not driving or they don’t allow enough driving time to attend an event if the weather seems to turn.

Even if the weather looks good for my departure time and I decide to fly there is always the possibility of not making the reunion because of the weather changing in some part of my route. If the weather doesn’t look good all the way through to the destination and back at the time of my departure, I will have to cancel and miss the reunion.

Between now and the reunion I have to decide. What is more important, attending the reunion or flying? If it is attending the reunion then I had better plan on driving and allow enough time for it. If it is some flying time then I will choose to fly to Montana for the reunion but if the weather is not great then I will cancel my flying time and look for another flying adventure at another time.

I hope the stars align for some flying.


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Time to Fly on a Day Off


I love early mornings. Especially ones with no snow and the possibility of flying for a time. This morning I am headed off to the airport with hopes of hitting some clear blue skies to view life from a different perspective.

My husband and I will be mixing it up a little with business and pleasure. Some flying time, some errands and be assured some photo time as well.

A couple of things that I love about early mornings are the quiet and the beautiful color changes I can see as the sun is rising. This morning in a matter of just 15 minutes the sky has gone from blues to pinks as the sun is rising.


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Daily Blessings


While we often spend our days



The past and the future,

We often miss 

The beauty

Each day has to offer

Just outside our tattered windows.


Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Photography, poetry, Quiet Times, Reflections


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Beacon of Light

Last evening I needed to kill a little time while my husband was at a racing meeting for the upcoming race season.  I decided to visit the local airport in Fergus Falls, Minnesota while he was at his meeting. I have often thought about flying to the airport but haven’t flown there yet.  When I am flying into a new airport I like to be as familiar with the surroundings as much as possible before I take off so I know what to expect upon landing. 

One of the most comforting feelings as a pilot is to see the rotating beacon in the distance as you approach the airport.  It lets you know you are almost there.  It projects a welcoming glow of safety to pilots much like the glow of a lighthouse identifies danger to passing ships on the water. 

Airports are not always easy to find if you are not familiar with the terrain and a lot of small airplanes like the Cessna I fly do not have GPS to identify my location.  I have other means to determine where I am at any given time that I learned in my training.  The rotating beacon confirms for me that I am on the correct path to my destination.

This morning my lesson for my Sunday School class of fourth – sixth graders was based on text from Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

I didn’t look at my lesson until this morning for my class today.  I love how last evening’s photo and this morning’s lesson fit so well together.  As a pilot it would be very difficult to find the airport without the beacon of light especially at night.  We each need beacons in our lives to show us the safe path to travel.  We also need to be beacons of light and safety for others. 

 This morning in class we discussed the fact that even though they are young there are still others that are observing them.  Many have younger siblings or classmates that are watching them for direction.  Young or old we can be a positive influence of light and safety into the lives of others.


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The Pioneer Spirit of Creativity

 Jodee Luna asked me to be a feature writer at her blog on creativity.  This is the post I wrote for her blog.  I decided to post it here as well.


Private Pilot April 17, 2010

There are days when I feel that I was born in the wrong time period.  A true pioneer spirit imagines the possibilities that are attainable by using what you have in new and different ways.  It doesn’t need the latest gadget or craft kit to get the desired effect. 

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Little House on the Prairie.  I realize that the show glamorized what life was like back then but the adventurous nature of those settlers that ventured out into unknown territory and used what they had to create what they needed inspires me.

My husband and I are modern day pioneers.  We like to take what we have and imagine what it could be.  In 1992 we bought a lake property near our existing home and business.  This is what it looked like when we bought it. 

People thought we were crazy when we decided to dig a foundation and have a crane lift a portion of the existing home onto the new foundation and add on to it.  We spent hours drawing our own plans and figuring out the cost of the project. The old part of the house that we were saving had no historical value but to us it was the work of a friend who built it.  Somehow we wanted to save it in our project.  The crane enabled it to happen.  This is what it looks like now. 


We attended an auction at a local lumberyard and bought up many supplies for our home.  We decided on color schemes, window trim, exterior finishes and windows based on what we could find and use from the auction.  We designed and built the entrance to our home.  The carpenters that helped install it just shook their heads wondering why we didn’t just make our entrance like everyone else.  We wanted something unique.

Whenever I am faced with a challenge I get creative.  A couple of years ago I wanted a headboard for our bed.  My husband didn’t want to buy a new bed because he loves our 1970’s vintage waterbed with the old big wide pine board frame.  It originally came with a bookcase headboard that I hated and the bed was just too big for our room.  By cutting off the frame of the bed that the headboard sat on I gained nearly a foot at the end of our bed to walk around.  I loved more space but wanted a headboard.  I combined my creativity and love of quilting for my own one of a kind headboard.  I painted the quilt pattern directly on my wall.


My latest venture in creativity is writing my blog.  Writing is not my forte and it takes work on my part to do it better each time I write.   I love taking the photos to include with each blog.  For now I take my photos with an affordable digital Nikon that was purchased for $120.00.  It allows me to take some good pictures but I want to learn how to do more which will require me to purchase a camera that can do so much more.






Here are some of my favorites.








Sunday Night Blues

  My pioneer spirit kicked in today thinking about the new and better camera that I would like to purchase.  It was time to get creative and find a way to purchase my new camera without having to buy it on credit.  I boxed up my flight simulator and software that my husband bought for me a couple of years ago during my flight training and put it on EBay.  I took photos of the flight simulator, wrote up the description and listed it for sale.  Five days from now I will be that much closer to my new camera. 

So many people limit their creativity, thinking it can only be achieved if you have enough time and money.  The key to creativity is work.  Trying things in new and different ways until you achieve something you like.  It’s not about whether other people like what you do but how it makes you feel.



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The Right Attitude

Attitude Indicator-Image credit

Monday morning again.  Where did the weekend go and how did Monday morning get here so quickly?   I’m struck with extreme sluggishness after a weekend of busyness.  Too much of a sugar high after an evening of Halloween treats and an overall desire to climb back into my bed and pull the covers up over my head in perfect denial of a job waiting for me this morning.   Its going to take a great deal of attention on my part today to my attitude to be effective at work.

In flying, its all about the right attitude.    Flying by attitude means visually establishing the airplane’s attitude with reference to the natural horizon.  There are four components in attitude flying:  pitch, bank, power, and trim.  Each of these four components are important for the pilot to maintain his or her position relative to the horizon.  If the nose of the plane is too high or low relative to the horizon a pitch change is made using the elevator.  The desired bank angle relative to the horizon is achieved by using the ailerons for turning.  There are times when power needs to be added for more thrust or power needs to be removed for the desired attitude.  Lastly, the trim is used to relieve  all possible controls pressures after you have reached your desired attitude to help you maintain your attitude.

Today at work I will have to use my “pitch” control at work to keep me “up” at work and not depressed about having to be there because I am too tired from a weekend of too much UP TIME and not enough DOWN TIME , as in rest.

I will have to use my “bank” control to keep me from wandering from my appointed tasks at hand and keep me in level flight towards my goals for the day.  No sidetracked trips  to check emails or how my blog is doing today. 

“Power” will definitely need to be added today to keep my plane flying at the desired attitude of some forward motion in all that I do.

And once I am at the desired attitude at work some fine tuning will be required by adding some “trim” to my attitude.  How am I relating to others today?  I hope not crabby and cranky for they certainly don’t deserve it from me.  They are not the cause of my overall exhausted state.  So time to “Buck Up” as some would put it and find my best attitude for today.

The primary rule of attitude flying is:

The same rule can easily be applied in every job situation.  Have a great day at work!  I will, if I remember to start with the right attitude.

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Posted by on November 1, 2010 in Flight training, Reflections


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METARs – The Other Foreign Language

Two years ago when I started taking flying lessons I realized that there was a whole new language to learn for aviation.  It was the language of weather. It wasn’t like any other language I had attempted to learn.  It didn’t require me to roll my R’s like I had to for Spanish.  I didn’t have to worry about pronunciation like I did when I was learning German and French.  It definitely wasn’t like learning a computer programing language as in BASIC or DBASE.  This was just maybe the language I was meant to learn.  I could understand it.

This is a METAR (pronounced ME-TAR).  It is one source of  the weather conditions for the St. Cloud Regional Airport last evening.

KSTC 262353Z 25031G41KT 10SM -RA BKN023 BKN029 OVC037 04/02 A2875 RMK AO2 PK WND 26046/2339

At first when my CFI(Certified Flight Instructor) had me look up the weather on ADDS(Aviation Digital Data Service). It made no sense to me at all.  It was just a group of numbers and letters unlike any I had seen before.  My CFI explained that each section meant something.  The first part KSTC is the airport identifier.  KSTC is the airport identifier for the St. Cloud Regional Airport in Minnesota where I took my flying lessons.

The next section is the date and time section.  The 26 of 262353Z stands for the 26th of the month.  2353Z stands for ZULU time.  The time is based on a 24 hour clock like military time.  In St. Cloud at this time of year you need to subtract 5 hours from the 2353 which would be 1853 and subtract 12 hours to get the local time for the weather which is 6:53pm.

After the date and time comes the wind direction and velocity, 25031G41KT.  At 6:53pm on the 26th of October the winds were reported from 250 degrees(almost straight out of the west) at 31 knots gusting at times to 41 knots.  This is not a day that I would be flying a Cessna 152 or any other small plane.  In fact the commercial planes at Chicago O’Hare were grounded yesterday morning due to the strong winds.

The next section of the METAR is the runway visual range, 10SM.  In the case of yesterday’s METAR it was 10 statute miles or better.  After the visual range is the weather.  The weather was reported as -RA which is interpreted as light rain.

Cloud levels are next.  They report the type and height of the clouds.  In yesterday’s METAR the clouds were reported as BKN023 BKN029 OVC037.  Last night’s clouds at 6:53pm were BKN(Broken) which means that 5/8 to 7/8 of the sky was covered with clouds and the clouds were 2300 feet above ground level. You add two zeros at the end to get the height.  001 becomes 100 above ground level, 010 becomes 1000 AGL. There is also another layer of BKN clouds at 2900 above ground level. The third level is an overcast level at 3700 feet above ground level.  The lowest level of broken or overcast layer becomes the ceiling for VFR pilots.  In last night’s weather the cloud ceiling was 2300 feet above ground level.

The temperature and dew point section is next in the METAR.  In last night’s METAR the temperature is 04/02 which means the temperature is 4 degrees Celsius and the dew point is 2 degrees celsius.

The next section in the METAR is the altimeter.  It is represented by A2875 which is 28.75 inches of Hg.  The interesting fact about this altimeter setting is that it is the lowest recorded altimeter setting in St. Cloud for decades.  The St. Cloud area and most of Minnesota has been experiencing very strong sustained winds in the past 24 hours which is very unusual for our area.  The current altimeter setting is important.  Each time you depart or land at an airport it is important to have the current altimeter setting set in your airplane.

The last section of the METAR is the RMK or remark section where a briefer can add supplemental information.  They are represented by remark codes.  In last evening’s RMK section it was noted that the PK WND or peak wind in the past hour was from 260 degrees at 46 knots and it occurred at 2339Z or 6:39pm local time.

You can check out all kinds of weather information at the website ADDS

Try your hand at tonight’s METAR for KSTC.  I know you can do it!

KSTC 280353Z 31025G33KT 10SM FEW026 OVC034 04/M01 A2977 RMK AO2 PK WND 29037/0321 SLP097 T00391006

A few clues …

280353-5 (for local time) = 10:53pm pm the 27th of October.

FEW means clouds reporting more than 0 to 2/8 cloud cover

M in 04/M01 means it is a sub-zero value.

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Posted by on October 27, 2010 in education, Flight training


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Single Engine Safety…Do The Work!

This past week I planned for and took a flight with my husband up north to view the fall colors.  For the week preceding our trip I talked a lot about our plans for our trip and booked the plane that we would be renting.  I spent some time investigating the island that we planned on visiting on our trip.  Our trip would be from St. Cloud, MN (KSTC) to Duluth, MN (KDLH) and east to Madeline Island (4R5) and then return to St. Cloud.  I called the Madeline Airport to make sure that it would be open and if there was transportation available to town which was two miles away.  During the week I kept an eye on the weather and continued to make plans for our trip.

The evening before our trip I pulled out my sectional, plotter, E6B, AFD, and POH for the 152 that I would be flying.  I began the process for planning our trip.  I put my sectional out on the table.  For this trip I would actually need two sectionals because I would be flying outside the Twin Cities sectional and onto the Green Bay sectional.  I would need both for navigation.  Prior to pulling out the sectionals I had gone onto a couple of navigational aid sites NavMonster, AOPA, and Skyvector.  I knew that the distance from St. Cloud to Duluth was 110 nm , 59nm from Duluth to Madeline Island, and 156 nm from Madeline Island to St. Cloud.  All of the distances of each leg were within the 152’s fuel range with the required reserve.  I had planned on a fuel stop in Duluth and a chance to stretch our legs before we continued on to Madeline Island.

When I began plotting our trip on the navigation log it was going fine for the first leg.  I had already flown this leg a year ago so its planning for checkpoints wasn’t a big deal.  I drew my course line on my sectional from Duluth to Madeline Island on my sectional and started to plot my checkpoints and that’s when the uneasy feeling started to creep in.  I plotted my first checkpoint east of Duluth and that put me out over water.  Lake Superior to be exact.  Just how in the world to do verify your checkpoint over water?  Do you look for your abeam point on land?  The shore would be approximately 15 miles south of my course. 

Next realizing that the course that I chose put me over water I put my plotter down, measured and found that I planned on flying over approximately 28 nm over open water.  Now I’m not flying a float plane and the only place I can land is on land so …If  I lose an engine in a single engine I essentially become a glider which my plane will do for a time but not long.  I have to admit for a very short minute I considered continuing with my plans.  Afterall it was only 28 nm and that would only take about 20 minutes .  What could happen in that short amount of time?  It was time to reconsider my plans.

I started taking a fresh look at my sectional.  If I changed my course from St. Cloud to Superior, WI which is just a few miles east of Duluth I could still fly to Madeline Island as planned only over land instead of  28 nm of open water.  I originally choose Duluth because of familiarity.  I had already flown into and out of the Duluth airport.  I researched the Superior Airport KSUW and found that I actually liked the runway orientation better for the winds than Duluth’s runway.  There would be less crosswind for landing and taking off at Superior.  I began working on my navigation log once again and started plotting my checkpoints to Superior.  Then I plotted my checkpoints from Superior to Madeline Island and back to St. Cloud.  The next thing to consider was fuel.  Madeline Island reported none.  I would have to fuel in Superior before heading on to Madeline Island. 

I felt more comfortable with the changes from Duluth to Superior.  The only amount of open water we would be over was  3 nm.  At any point in time I would only be 1 1/2 miles from land if there was a problem.  The other consideration with Madeline Island was the fact that they didn’t have any services there for the airplane.  No mechanics, repair parts, or fuel.  I was renting the plane and the thought crossed my mind  Just how much does it cost to get a plane off an island that isn’t working and how do you do it? As it turned out because of the change in the weather we didn’t pursue our trip out to the island.  But the thought of having trouble stuck in the back of my mind as we continued home instead of going to Madeline Island.

The experts in aviation say that every accident is a chain of events.  Rarely is there just one item that contributed to the cause of the accident.  I thought of my plans for last week and possible accident scenarios.  The point I want to make is that with so many options for technology that I think people get complacent.  Before I got out my sectional I didn’t see anything wrong with my plans because I was just looking at one aspect of the planning.  I was seeing the miles as related to fuel but not really seeing the course I was planning.  I don’t have GPS or any kind of navigational system other than VOR tracking.  I need to rely on what I see outside the plane as I fly, my instruments for direction and my sectional with checkpoints marked for reference along my course. 

If I had hopped in my plane without doing the work of plotting my course on the sectional and marking my checkpoints.  At some point I would find myself in a dangerous position, over open water.  You can fly a plane like driving a car and say that I want to go east about 59 nm and it should take me about 37 minutes at about 95 kts.  Which is what I knew to be true for the trip to Madeline Island.  Believe me it is so much less work to plan a trip that way than to sit down and mark out the checkpoints, figure out the wind correction and ground speed, and figure out how many minutes to each checkpoint but the necessity of doing the planning is to keep me and others safe.

Another issue of safety that I noticed as we were flying was the terrain.  When I plan for a trip I look for things on the terrain that are important because of the height, mainly towers along the route.  I marked the towers along my route there and back.  When we were on our trip my husband made the comment  “There aren’t as many places to land the plane the farther north we go.”  He was correct.  Where we live is primarily an agricultural area with a lot of farm fields for emergency landings.  As we travel north the terrain changes mostly to heavily wooded areas with very few roads and fields. 

When I was learning to fly there were three things that they said we should always know at all times:  Number one was where I would land the plane in an emergency, number two was how much fuel I had on board at any given point in time, and the third was where was the wind from.  It became apparent to me as we were flying that there were fewer places to choose for an emergency landing.  This is important when you are choosing a course to fly in order to fly safely.

There were many lessons learned this past week.  The most important lesson I learned was to do the work of planning for the trip.  If you do the work, correctly and thoroughly you will be better prepared to fly safely.  I didn’t say that you will fly without any problems but you didn’t create any problems for yourself because of lack of planning.   Again I say, “Do the Work!”


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