Cessna 172 Upgrade!

Flight Training

1999 Cessna 172S

To get the 172 sign-off I had to take about 5-8 hours in instruction with my flight instructor which resulted in about 4 lessons including 1 night cross country flight! The extra instruction was to demonstrate I have the knowledge to safely operate the airplane. It had more complex systems and has a bit different setup. So what does the 172 have to offer over the 152? The largest difference are the 2 extra seats along with more than double the payload capacity. A few of the flying clubs 172s have autopilot’s which is nice for longer trips. All of the 172s in the flying club have full color map GPS navigation systems as well. The best part about the Cessna 172 is that it is the safest general aviation aircraft on record.

HUA to LUG Night X-Country C172

My cross country night flight was the highlight of my 172 training! The flight was planned from Redstone to Lewisburg, TN and back to Huntsville International then a final landing back at Redstone. See flight to Lewisburg, TN (Ellington Field) detailed here. We departed about an hour after sunset into a spectacularly clear sky at dusk, you could see literally for miles, probably 40 miles visibility at 5500′ altitude. The air was clear and smooth as silk which made for a very short flight.

On the return flight to HSV I was able to try out the auto-pilot, this was always something I wanted to do and it was pretty cool to activate it and watch it track the GPS course with very high precision. I’m not sure what I expected it to do but but it put a smile on my face as it took the controls out of my hands.

I now have 5 more airplanes to add to my list of planes to fly at Redstone, so aircraft availability shouldn’t keep me from flying. Now I have to work on getting some better weather, February was an awful weather month and delayed my 172 training. Hopefully spring is here to stay and good flying weather will be more abundant. 

My Cessna 172 training flights used all 5 redstone 172s, they are a mix of 172N, 172S and 172R models ranging from 1978 to 2002 model years. It took a total of 6.3 Dual Training hours (with flight instructor) on 5 flights. 

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Solo_Flight

First Solo Flight

Flight Training, Flying

This post highlights my First Solo Flight, I’m late making this post but I wanted to write this post while it’s still fresh on my mind.

The date was August, 28th of 2013 and I had scheduled a normal flying lesson with my Instructor. When I arrived at the Redstone flying club (flyingactivity.com) during the pre-lesson brief with Craig he asked me what my comfort level was when landing the Cessna 152. I suddenly got a bit nervous, I think I replied something like, “I guess I’m fairly comfortable with it since my previous lesson went pretty good.” But that wasn’t to comforting for him so he suggested that we do some trips around the pattern to practice a few landings and then could discuss a potential Solo attempt. This was very exciting, I knew I was getting close to my solo but it kind of snuck up on me since I was just getting comfortable with the landings.

I did the normal pre-flight inspection of the airplane and we prepped the plane for takeoff. I made all the radio calls to the Redstone traffic and he was pretending to be a passenger to observe my solo capability. Everything went smooth and we taxied onto runway 35 and departed, staying in the “Right Hand” traffic pattern we proceeded to complete 3-4 landings which were good and got my comfort level up a bit. The next time we took off from the runway he told me to make this a good full-stop landing and taxi back to the end of the runway he would hop out and walk back to the flying club. The blood started pumping pretty hard with excitement and anticipation. I had been waiting for this moment for years similarly to my first few flights but this time I would be on my own. I went around the pattern and made a good landing, pushed the brakes firmly to stop and he directed me to back taxi runway 35 back to Taxiway “Alfa” (the flying club ramp). He gathered his flight bag, requested my logbook and gave me the endorsement for a solo at HUA (Redstone Army Airfield) and gave me instructions to do at least 3 touch and goes and bring the airplane back in when I was done. He hopped out of the plane and yelled over the plane noise, “It will take off much quicker without my extra baggage in there.” I took note and chuckled a bit.

He proceeded to walk down Taxiway Alpha back to the flying club and I gathered my courage and started to turn the plane around and lined up and ready for takeoff at the end of runway 35. I did my final checks of the instruments and announced my intentions on the radio. I was finally ready to takeoff, I released the brakes and gave the engine full power. The plane accelerated very quick to rotation speed, about 55 knots and I pulled back on the yoke and it jumped off the ground almost instantly. I had never experienced that fast of climb rate before, then I realized why Craig warned me that it would take off much quicker…

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I continued climbing until I was in the right traffic pattern as usual, everything seemed normal except for an incredible sense of freedom that I had never experienced before. Before I knew it it was time to start my descent for my first solo landing. It seemed like I remembered all of what I had been taught and everything played slowly through my head as I anticipated the next processes and checked things off of my mental checklist, it seemed very natural besides my excitement. I was on the final approach for the runway and everything looked normal I was descending to the runway at around 60 knots and soon was over the end of the runway, I started to flare (see pictures in the gallery above for my landing approaches, compliments of my instructor Craig for taking pictures!) then I felt the wheels touch. The first landing was decent, maybe a bit harder than usual but I was OK with it. So once the wheels touched down I put the flaps to 0 degrees, turned the carb heat off and gave it full throttle and off I went for another touch and go. The next few touch and goes were almost identical I think my second attempt was the best because I waited a little bit longer to flare so it was smoother than the others. I actually logged 4 touch and goes I was having enough fun that I didn’t want to land quite yet.

As the sun was setting on the horizon I came in for my final approach and announced on the radio that I was planning a full stop landing, so it was my last for the day. After I landed I was excited and slowly began to realize that I had accomplished another dream. I couldn’t stop smiling as I taxied back to the flying club ramp to park the airplane, I saw my instructor giving me a thumbs up and directing me to the parking spot. After I shut down the plane I was greeted by Craig with a big congratulations handshake! I had done it, my first Solo flight was official.

I logged .9 hours Solo time with 4 take offs and landings as well as 6 take offs and landings with Craig for a total time that day of 1.4 hours of flight time. This Solo gave me a moral boost and it felt like I was accomplishing what I set out to do when I decided to start taking flying lessons. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to tell my beautiful wife all about my Solo flight!