Monday, October 25, 2010

Family First ...

The past 3 months have been hard for me because I have been helping my parents, who both need in-home care or assisted living. But, as other have shared with me, many seniors don't want to exersise anything that challenges their independence.

October gave a few great flying days, but most of them tied up with tasks.

Friday, October 8, 2010

SODA!! I got the SODA

I know that the FAA has a reputation. I see the comments such as “FAA. We are not happy until you are unhappy”. Today, I saw the potential, but the experience was very decent.

The potential was there, yes, but that was due to my unnecessary nervousness, not due to the FAA Flight Examiner. I could not do basic math (adding 5 numbers). Keep in mind that I was in the mortgage business and adding 7 digit numbers was routine. My memory was shot, and nerves ruled the roost between my ears. After I calmed down, I was much better. Luckily, I was being tested for VISION, not on doing my weight and balance and knowing my Cessna 152 numbers.

The flight test was completely without pressure. I flew the plane, but not up to my standards, but well enough and had an ego boost to hear the examiner tell me that I was doing well for a low time pilot.

I got my SODA paperwork on the spot and also my corrected medical certificate, so I am good to go.

I have 14 hours of required solo left then I will have the time to do my check ride. I am pretty sure that it will not be a bad experience.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Oh $#*#, a Letter From the FAA

I have been waiting for 4 weeks for this letter from the FAA. Today I received my authorization to take my Medical Flight Test for my Monocular condition (single vision).

Sooooooo, today the letter came. Suddenly, I am worried. Why? I have no idea. All I have to do is to be able to:

• The ability to select emergency landing fields at a distance, from high altitude, and preferably over unfamiliar terrain.
• The ability to simulate forced landings in difficult fields; note the manner of approach, rate of descent, and comparative distance at which obstructions (stumps, boulders, ditches, etc.) are recognized.
• The ability to recognize other aircraft (which may be present by prearrangement) approaching at a collision course (particularly aircraft approaching from the far right or far left).
• The ability to judge distances and to recognize landmarks (compared with the ASI’s estimate).
• The ability to land the aircraft.
• The ability to read aeronautical charts in flight and tune the radio to a predetermined station accurately and rapidly.
• The ability to read instrument panels (including an overhead panel, if any) quickly and correctly.

I am already doing most of this already, but at the same time I am not being watched over by the FAA.

After I pass this evaluation I will be granted a SODA, which is a Statement of Demonstrated Ability, not Pepsi or 7Up.

I will make the call in Monday morning and see what appointment. If I don't pass, I will need a SODA (7Up and Jack Daniels).

Monday, September 27, 2010

My First Solo Cross-Country!

Two weeks ago my instructor and I flew from Wadsworth Skypark to the Youngstown Airport. To be honest with you it has been over 30 years since doing a cross country, yet, for me it did not feel like a difficult process. The only change is that on a cross country flight, especially to keep the FAA happy, there has to be quite a bit of planning for your flight to come off without a hitch.

This whole matter did not start off well because I was late leaving for the airport due to family obligations, and late arriving late to the airport. I then had to fill out my flight planner and complete the last-minute details. Since all of this was being done on in a rush many details were not correct.

My flight instructor and I flew to Youngstown and landed and taxied over to the apron and shut down and relax for a few minutes, and then planned the flight back home. After arriving back home he told me that if I felt comfortable I could fly this fight route by myself if I wanted to. Of course I was not going to let that chance go by.

Yesterday was one day I wanted for a long time. After two perfect weather flying days which were tied up with family obligations, on the third day I stole away and went to the airport for my first solo cross-country. My instructor was out flying so I had one of the other flight instructors to review my flight plan and was given the green light. But there were still some more problems that cropped. The first problem was that there were no ‘push to talk’ attachments for me to buy in the pilot shop. But luckily one of the other pilots allowed me to borrow his as long as I returned it as soon as I returned from my flight. Of course there were only about 3 gallons of gasoline in the plane so that added to the delay. So I topped off the tanks and took off into the wild blue yonder (which was actually 3500 foot overcast). As I called Akron approach control there was no response. I switch back over to the Skypark frequency and still had no response. So I turned back in flew back to Skypark still trying to establish communications with the airport but no avail. I announced blind on the frequency that I was landing and announced my position, after cutting off the Cherokee and a Cessna, but landed safely.

On the ramp another pilot and I fiddled with the radios until we got them working properly. It all came down to one simple switch being in the wrong position. 10 minutes later I was up in the air again and this time when I called approach control I received a response I was hoping for. 12 minutes after that I spotted the Kent State Airport which happened to be about 4 miles south of where it should have been. So either the winds were blowing differently than forecasted, or my planning was off, or over a 10 day period they packed up and moved the airport to the south. I altered my course in flew directly over Kent State and reestablished my course, and found that I was still getting blown to the north more than I planned but with my next landmark insight I was able to fly directly to it and found out that the course correction was much greater than expected.

It was great to see Youngstown Airport over my cowling and that approach control and the tower were very cooperative even though I made a couple simple mistakes, such as not acknowledging that I had the most current ATIS report, and did not report my altitude. Not to mention that I did not push the flip-flop on the frequency control so I transmitted on the wrong frequency, which ended up being good for a chuckle for approach control.

I landed at Youngstown refreshed at the pilot’s lounge which is quite a feeling when you are actually the pilot in command and not a passenger. Of course I got a photograph with the two (pretty) staff members at Winner Aviation.

15 minutes later I contacted Clearance Delivery, and taxiing to the runway and departing was pretty easy and I was quickly on my way back home. Suddenly I realized that dusk was approaching and I had to hightail it back home. I made a bold move in flew through the Class C airspace of Akron, received my clearance and that went without a hitch. I called this a bold move because my flight instructor and I have never reviewed the proper procedure for flying through Class C, but thanks to the training material Comm1 I was relaxed and had absolutely no fear of trying this on my own.

I was able to make it on the ground actually about 30 minutes before sunset and all was well.

Quite a bit was learned on this solo trip, and this was one of the biggest ego boosts that I have ever had with flying because I had a chance to put together all of my knowledge and make my own decisions when a flight was not going smoothly. I felt very comfortable on this 50 mile flight, and wanted to fly another 25 miles beyond my planned destination. Next up is one more dual cross-country and then I can take my long cross-country, and then the final steps should be the night training, a little more hood time, and then to brush up on my maneuvers and hopefully get a check right in before the end of November. My only regret is that I did not get to do all of this 30 days sooner.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Today, I Felt Like a Pilot!!

Yesterday, Sunday, it was a different story. Sunday I planned to go up about 10AM. It was a breezy day, 20-30-40 degrees off the nose about 10-12 knots. Been there, done that, so I can do it again. Right? After 2 trips around the patch I was beat. The second landing left me wanting oxygen and a reason to fly, period. I tied down, tucked my tail between my legs and sulked to the pilot’s lounge. But … I was not the only one to call it a day. One other pilot cancelled his cross country due to the winds and turbulence. For me, it was not the winds but the intermittent moderate turbulence, especially on final approach to runway 21, which is the one over the small valley that I-76 runs through and trees that are about 75 feet off the approach on the left. These trees love to kick up winds that are completely unpredictable. They lived up to that and then some.

Today, though, it was a different story. As they say, attitude, attitude, attitude. Guess what? It’s 100% true.

The wind was down the runway, about 8 knots gusting but fairly nice. I wanted to concentrate on my airspeed management, and checklist usage. I a 152 there is not much to watch, but still, good habits are needed no matter what the plane.

Takeoffs were good and I made sure I held runway centerline and also best rate of climb and also best angle of climb in the initial minute. Never have I done best angle now that I have, I love it and will do it until I reach 300 feet and retract the flaps. Downwind I worked on my altitude and keeping the right distance from the runway. And on final I was accurate in my 65-70 knot approach. As I came over the imaginary fence I wanted no more than 60 knots and was close to the numbers mostly and 9 out of 10 landings were at the first turnoff without heavy braking. The last landing was a PERFECT full stall landing with the wheel to my chest. I was so excited that I almost did another run around the patch, but called it quits as planned.

Unfortunately my camera kept cutting off, and after getting home I saw that it was due to weak batteries.

Lesson learned? Attitude is key and also, fly the plane by the numbers from takeoff to touchdown.

Next up, is my dual cross country. Now that the Cleveland Airshow is done, I may fly 15G – KBKL – KYNG – KCAK – 15G. This way I can fly into 3 controlled fields, Class D, TRSA, and Class C in one cross country. I’d better get out my Comm 1 training program.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Right into the Fire.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that I have not flown since October, which was about nine months ago. So you know how excited I was to get back in the air after this extended period with my feet, sadly, planted on the ground.

My plane, 94400, was in the air when I arrived at the airport. And as I anticipated it needed to be fueled up after the previous student was done with his lesson. While standing by the airplane talking to the student while he was tying down, my flight instructor Mark yelled across the apron "How much hood time have you gotten so far?". I don't think he was asking me how much time I had spent in "The Hood", so the answer was zero time.

After going through the usual re-acquaintance of the airplane we were up in the air for about five minutes, not even giving me a chance to practice any turns or any other maneuvers he had put on the hood and we started boring holes in the sky with my head buried in the panel. This is where my experience with Microsoft Flight Simulator started to pay off. Keeping in mind that I was rusty for not flying all this time overall I did pretty well and was not intimidated too much, except when Mark decided to cover up the heading indicator. When Mark tried to show me how to turn to headings based on timing my turns it started to become a little overwhelming, but I was still somewhat successful. Mark also had me hold my head down and asked me to fly in different attitudes without looking at the instruments. It pretty much was a head down do not look at the panel, turn left without looking at the panel and then start to climb without looking at the panel, and then he would remove the hood and I would have to recover from these unusual attitudes. From this, I began to appreciate the need for an instrument rating and why it is very important to stay out of the clouds and what could happen if you had a partial panel when flying into clouds. We finished up with me flying to Wayne County under the hood with him talking me through the approach and then removing my lead when about 200 feet off of the ground on very short final.

We flew back to the home base in my landing actually was not bad after not flying for such a long time. What made this landing better than all of the others was that might push the was right on target, at 60 knots, and there is very little float when I flared for landing.

I decided to take an hour and a half break while Mark flew with another student and then decided to go up for some takeoffs and landings. For some reason the airplane did not want to make its descent steep enough and I ended up with three aborted landings. Now keep in mind this, I have probably aborted three landings in all of my training but today I had three in one hour. All of the landings were aborted because I was high on my approach after I turned final. Mark suggested that I would slip and lose altitude on final approach, but I felt uneasy about that because I had not performed a slip let's just say for a very very long time. So we departed the pattern and flew out to a practice area and practice a couple slips, and came back for a few more landings. After a couple of mediocre and hot landings I decided to call it a day. Even though I wanted to try a couple more landings I had to call it a day mostly due to the fact that I had consumed two large bottles of water and when you have three kidneys that water gets processed very quickly and you know what happens after that.

Next weekend is the Poker Run between four airports, and since I am due for my dual cross country this would be a great time to get it in a 200 mile, four hour cross-country instruction. We will see.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crappy Cross Country (It was only a test)

This evening I decided to take a short cross country from one unfamiliar airport to another. This flight made me see exactly what I have forgotten over the past few months.

Well, before I get into the story, I will warn you ahead of time that this flight was on my Microsoft Flight Simulator, which also has Ultimate Terrain software. What I really like about the software is that it adds in many landmarks that the regular flight simulator does not have.

I started from Bolton airfield in Columbus and flew to route direct to Stewart Airfield which is approximately a 52 mile flight direct.

I will have to grade myself a C- due to a few mental errors. And while some will laugh or roll their eyes at simulating a flight such as this, to me and many other pilots this allows us to work on our routines and procedures such as using the check list, navigation, and get used to many procedures, many which are mandatory, and the simulator allows us to learn on the ground when it is not going to get us killed, or written up by the FAA.

I had a few minor glitches from the beginning such as not having the correct frequencies written down, but that will clear up as soon as I start using this flight planning sheets. My taxi, take off, and climb out were pretty much within guidelines and I was able to maintain the compass heading fairly well most of the flight. Also keep in mind, I am using the magnetic compass and not be directional gyro on the panel. The funny thing is that when using the magnetic compass you are always turning in the opposite direction to achieve the correct compass heading.

My first landmark pretty much was within two to three minutes, but absentmindedly I had climbed to 3500 feet as planned, but should have planned for a climb to 4500 feet due to my true course heading. Even though the 3500 foot altitude I was still legal because I was just about 2000 feet above ground I still have a cushion before I had to adhere to the even and odd altitude assignments.

My second checkpoint came a lot sooner than I figured. After I completed my flight I figured out what the problem was. Pilot error, garbage in, garbage out. After I got to my final reference point which is located about 4 miles east of the airport I had to search for the airport for a few minutes before I found it. From there, I entered a 45 into the upwind leg and everything after that pretty much was routine. And by the way, the landing was good, and the right beyond the threshold which is where I went to idle on the downwind leg.

Once I get back up in the air in a few weeks I should move right into my dual cross country.

And one final note. When my friend Steve flew up from Stewart, I was at the airport waiting for him. But when I landed at Stewart tonight on my flight simulator I expected to at least see a little animated pilot waving at me as I landed. I guess I was asking for a little too much?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Waiting is almost over

Okay, I know that I have not blogged for a long time, but that is because I have not been flying.

I SHOULD be back up in the air in the next 2 weeks after I get back from Madison, Wisconsin, from the Transplant Games. My plan was to have my license by now and to fly up, but, as things go ...

I been in the books, and watching vids and will be taking a couple of sample written exams to get back to speed. I have to get signed off to solo again and then do my cross countries.

I MAY be switching to a friend's Piper Cherokee, and have a new instructor, but that remains to be seen. For now, 94400 is waiting for me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Wounded warrior gets new wings
By Dave Hirschman

Tammy Duckworth, a former U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk pilot severely wounded in Iraq in 2004, is now an FAA-certificated private pilot in fixed-wing aircraft.

Duckworth passed her checkride July 19 at Manassas Regional/Harry P. Davis Field in northern Virginia, and she hopes, eventually, to return to helicopter flying. Her husband, Bryan Bowlsby, is an instrument-rated private pilot.

“Tammy is a very rare person, and she was fun to teach,“ said Ben Negussie, Duckworth’s flight instructor at Dulles Aviation in Manassas. “She’s incredibly self-disciplined and hard working. She’s got a great sense of humor, and she made my job easy.”

Duckworth lost all of her right leg and most of her left when her helicopter was struck by an insurgent-fired rocket-propelled grenade. She currently serves as an officer in the Illinois National Guard but her amputations prevent her from military flying. Duckworth lives and works in Washington, D.C., where she is an assistant secretary at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Medical Certificate Update

All I can say is ... GOT IT!!

Thank you Dr. Dr. Wirtz in Westlake. All of you pilots in the Cleveland area, I can vouch for this physician. Non-threatening, professional and down to earth. The staff was friendly and jovial also.

Best of all, I saved a LOT of money that translates to almost 2 hours of flying.

WOW ... as a Cleveland Clinic fan, I will have to stop bad mouthing University Hospitals.

‘It’s just a mess’

Difficult recovery ahead for Nashville airport
By Alyssa J. Miller

As Nashville residents return to their homes and offices to clean up from the recent flooding, tenants at Cornelia Fort Airpark headed to the airport May 6--not to assess the damage, but to figure out how to pick up and start over.

“It’s a loss that’s going to be hard to recover from, but we’re gonna try,” said Bill Colbert Jr., who joined the family business of running the privately owned, public-use airport 19 years ago after he retired from the military. His father has been involved with the airpark since it was founded in 1944 and has owned it since the 1950s.

The waters rose so quickly that only one of the 30 based aircraft escaped the damaging flood, but even it still had water in its tail and interior. The aircraft owner was able to move it to the highest point on the airport so that the engine at least remained out of the water.

“We did not expect it to crest at 13 feet above flood stage” at the airport, Colbert said, explaining that the airport, which is located next to the Cumberland River, has flooded before but never to this extent. “Today was the first day we were able to get back in the warehouse,” he said of the building housing the other family business, Colemill Enterprises, Inc., which offers charter services, airframe and avionics maintenance, conversions, and flight instruction.

As of May 6, other hangars on the field still had water in them, including one that housed two King Airs (at crest the water was up to the windshield on both), and the taxiway was completely submerged, but parts of the runway were starting to appear. A hill behind the Colemill building slid, causing further damage, and the airpark’s fuel tanks came loose, floating about 10 feet before coming to rest against a hangar.

The water, which rose to six to eight feet in some hangars, isn’t expected to fully recede from the airport until Saturday. Power likely won’t be restored for more than a week.

“Right now we’re just trying to get some professional companies in here to clean up,” Colbert said, “and then we’ll have to start rebuilding.”

John Mrzena, who works in the parts department at Colemill Enterprises, said the water was four to five feet deep in the parts room where he was starting the cleanup process, sanitizing tables and chairs in the office. “It’s just a mess,” he said.

Insurance brokers have started coming to the airpark to assess the aircraft where the water has receded enough. So far, all that have been inspected have been totaled.

Colbert has notified the FAA to issue a notam closing the airport. “It’s a pretty sad story,” he said. “It’s just going to take time” to clean up and reopen.

May 6, 2010
(This is where I took my first flying lesson when I was 14. This airport is on my list of places to fly to after I get my license.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

GROUNDED!! And it's NOT my $*&@($ Fault!

Look, I am still upset over this so I didn't post, but a few have been asking me what is going on with my flying.

Here is the latest. On April 30th, my medical expired, thanks to some person at the Cleveland Clinic. After I got my okay from the FAA to take my medical exam, I immediately called the Clinic for my exam with the (AME) Aero Medical Examiner, the same AME I took the exam with initially.

When I showed up for my exam, I was advised that I had no appointment. Upon further review, it was found that someone in the Clinic cancelled my appointment instead of cancelling my eye exam appointment. It was an admitted error of the system, a 'common occurance' when using MyChart, which is the Clinic's program that allows patients to manage their appointments and other matters on line instead of calling in.

Well, I am human and so are staff members at the Clinic. Mostly all of them are professional. An error was made, no problem. I can come next week, no harm. Well, the scheduling system was showing that he was not available until June. Now, while I have not flown in MONTHS and I am anxious to be back in the air in the next 72 hours. But the 'Scheduling Gate Keeper' had other plans.

The 'Scheduling Gate Keeper' in a professional way told me "Tough $#!*" when I told her I can not wait until June. So, even though CCF screwed this up by their own admission, I still have to wait??

I will see another AME in the next week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Ironic

As some of you know, part of my Social Security Disability was hit so I had a drastic decrease in income, therefore, flying was the first to go in the budget. That is unless I stopped paying my other bills and eating. (I did want to lose a few pounds though.)

So I started my job hunt and on the second job try, not only did I replace that income, but I added in enough to get 4 to 5 more hours of flying a month. While I am leaving the office, after the initial interview and hiring (and working for an hour to see if I liked the job), the Cleveland Clinic called me with my appointment for my doctor for my medical exam to renew my medical. Didn't even get out of the office and the AME has my appointment set up.

Not a bad day, huh?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ooooops ... It's at the Post Office Box, Stupid

Each day for the past 3 weeks I have been waiting for the mail, impatiently. I see Renee walking dow the street, I dash to the box to see if my letter from the FAA is there, and, sadly, it never made it into my mailbox.

As few days ago while across town I went to my post office box and voila, there it is, an envelope from the FAA. Don't these folks read the letter that shows my MAILING ADDRESS is my physical residence? Guess not.

So the lines that I was waiting for was waiting for was in the letter. "The AME is authorized to issue you a third-class airman medical certificate bearing the limitation Valid for 12-months following the month examined, providing he/she finds you otherwise qualified".

So, now I have permission to take my medical exam and have my medical issued to me on the spot instead of waiting for Oklahoma City to review and approve it.

As for the mailing address issue, a 2 minute trip to the FAA wed site corrected that problem.

Now, I will see when I can visit Dr. Lang at the Cleveland Clinic. Wish me luck.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Medical Renewal Time

Well, it's been two years since I first applied for my medical certificate, which means that it is time for my renewal. As a transplant patient there are many issues that can come up with medicines, rejection, and other physical issues from having these two foreign objects in my body.

Over time the Federal Aviation Administration developed protocol based upon statistics that have allowed many transplant recipients to receive certification for their pilots license. Many people do not understand how strict the FAA can be regarding the physical capabilities of pilots. I was fortunate enough to be one of the people to be granted a medical certificate after receiving an organ transplant.

My blood pressure has been steady. My vision has been steady. My side effects from the anti-rejection medication has been pretty much limited to food allergies, and also airborne allergies in the spring and fall.

This year I have not been participating in sporting activities as I have in the past, and that will change in the near future. When volunteering at the Cleveland Clinic I can easily walk up to 5 miles a day. For those of you who are not aware of it the Cleveland Clinic is pretty much a city with in the city of Cleveland. In fact, Cleveland Clinic has its own zip code. I have not been ice-skating except for once this year, and I generally bowl once or twice a week.

As a transplant recipient I had to receive what is called a Special Issuance from the FAA. Two days ago I had to send in updates for my physicians to demonstrate that my health has not changed. After receiving the paperwork the FAA should be sending back to me their authorization for me to take my medical exam with a physician so that I can have an immediate issuance of my medical certificate. So I guess I will be spending the next three weeks checking the mail daily.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Continental Airlines honors its first black pilot by naming new 737 after him

A black pilot who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to be allowed to fly for a major airline had the rare distinction this week of having a Continental Airlines jet named in his honor.

Capt. Marlon Green was honored in a ceremony in Houston more than 50 years after he first approached Continental for a job. His six-year battle to fly for Continental ended with a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that forced airlines not to discriminate in their hiring.

"We turned him down for one reason and one reason only -- because of the color of his skin," Continental Chief Executive Jeff Smisek said in remarks as the airline unveiled its newest Boeing 737, a white jet with Green's name painted in navy blue near the nose. The other three Continental aircraft named after individuals honor former CEOs Larry Kellner, Gordon Bethune and Robert Fix.

Smisek acknowledged the airline's fight to keep Green out.

Smisek, also chairman and president, said he was "proud to be here today representing my 41,000 co-workers. But I tell you there is part of Continental's history of which I'm not proud. That happened over 50 years ago."

The trailblazing black pilot died last year at age 80. His brother, Jim Green, flew in from his home near Seattle for the ceremony Tuesday.

"He's looking down from heaven and saying well done -- a little bit late, but well done," Jim Green said in a report by the Houston Chronicle.

Green's fight to become a commercial airline pilot started in 1957 after he retired from the Air Force, where he flew more than 3,000 hours in multi-engine aircraft. He was rejected by every airline at which he applied, including Continental.

Continental granted him a flight test and interview only after he declined to note his race on his application. But the airline refused to hire him while hiring other less qualified applicants -- the basis of Green's legal challenge.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that no one applying for a pilot's position could be denied a job on the basis of race. Green began flying for Continental in 1965. He remained with the company for 14 years.

"Capt. Green was a pioneer who was willing to challenge the unacceptable status quo of the time and paved the way for the most qualified applicants to be hired, regardless of the color of their skin," Smisek said.

Continental said minorities today account for more than 40 percent of its domestic workforce. Among its 4,310 pilots, 272, or 6 percent, are minorities, the company said.

At the Houston ceremony, Continental announced that Capt. Ray-Sean Silvera has been promoted to assistant chief pilot, the first black aviator in Continental's ranks to achieve the high-ranking administrative position. Silvera had proposed the idea of naming a plane in honor of Marlon Green after learning of his death.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

(Belated) Thank you AOPA Flight Training Magazine

(This article from the February issue of AOPA Flight Training, has resulted in me receiving a lot of positive e-mail from many across the country, including people from organ transplant agencies, high school, old co-workers and even people who work at the Cleveland Clinic. We, in the organ transplant business, can not thank Mike Collins an staff enough for demonstrating the positives from life saving organ transplants.)

Flying to Inspiring and Motivate Others

As a child, Grier, now 51, spent summers with his father in Nashville. And he disliked airplanes. “I had no interest in flying until I took my first trip back from Nashville. I hated it. Then on my second trip, I remember the stewardess taking me up front to the cockpit. The flight crew was really nice. That was a Lockheed Electra. And then I was really hooked,” he said. “Growing up, I read more flying magazines and books than I did my regular schoolwork. That was reflected in my grades.”

He took his first two flying lessons at Cornelia Fort Airpark in Nashville when he was 14. “Now that’s on my list of places to fly when I get my license,” Grier noted. A couple of years later, he trained at the long-gone Chagrin Falls Airport southeast of Cleveland, but never soloed. A vision problem prevented him from getting a medical certificate; the cause eluded him for nine years but the solution, it turned out, was as simple as changing contact lenses.

At that point Grier had to take another break. “I didn’t lose interest, but other things were going on in my life, and flying had to be put on hold. For another five years, flying was always on my mind,” he added. When he found out he had a daughter on the way, his grounding was extended. “At that point I pretty much gave up on it—but I didn’t forget about it.”

Then he got sick. After a year and a half of illness, Grier received a liver transplant in 1997. “I thought I might as well give up on flying completely,” he recalled.

He recovered and went back to work in the mortgage industry and providing technical support. But Grier became ill again. “My liver was failing, and my kidneys were failing because the medication you take is toxic to the kidneys,” he explained. In 2007 he received a double transplant—a liver and one kidney.

“When you’re lying there in the hospital, you start thinking about a lot of things. Part of it is that you’ve got to maximize your opportunities,” he said. “I was upset that I’d never completed my goal of becoming a pilot. I guess this is my second chance.”

Grier said he got out of bed, went down the hall—with his IV pole in tow—to a computer, and in 10 minutes found out there were pilots flying with transplants. “I saw that there were about 200 pilots with transplants, including heart transplants.” Kidneys are most common, followed by livers, he said.

“I spent that night in my bed—my mind was racing, because I could have been [flying],” Grier said. Four days before the one-year anniversary of his second transplant surgery, he visited his aviation medical examiner. The FAA came back to him twice for additional records. In July 2008, 65 days after the exam, his medical certificate arrived in the mail.

Grier passed his knowledge test and then resumed flight training as his finances allowed. He soloed on October 19, 2009. “I was amazed at how quickly
the aircraft jumped off the ground with just me in it. Then when I was on downwind it occurred to me, ‘I’m by myself.’”

Now Grier is preparing for his dual cross-countries, and hopes to take his checkride in March or April 2010. That’s important, because he’s planning a flight to Madison, Wisconsin, in late July for the National Kidney Foundation’s Transplant Games. The biennial track and field events roughly parallel the summer Olympics, and Grier hopes to compete in bowling and maybe volleyball.

People—especially transplant recipients—are surprised to find out he’s becoming a pilot. “I see patients every Wednesday in the transplant center at the
Cleveland Clinic, and a lot of them get very pumped up when they learn that. They think, ‘What can I do?’ It inspires and motivates them to reach for their goals,” he said. “They need to be reminded of where they can go.”

Eventually, Grier would like to fly for Angel Flight or a similar organization. “If patients see me doing all of this and it motivates them—and I can say, ‘Oh, by the way, I know what you’re going through, I’ve been there’—patients have told me that would be a big kick.”

Mike Collins is technical editor for AOPA Publications

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yeah, *#(*&#^@*@, I'm Grumpy

Not been flying since December 10th, and I am not taking this all well.

The car needed repair (4 hrs of flying lesson money), plus Christmas expenses, and other things that drain the bank account all add up to not flying.

Even if I deceded to take the money and fly, the weather is snowy and crappy.

David is not a happy flyer.

Guess I should clean the bathroom and do a load of laundry. Oh, I need to work on 2 spreadsheets and lay out that fund raiser. At least I am busy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Hop, Skip, Jump, and Back Home

When flying from my home airport I really like the northern winds because I prefer to land on the runway 03 because there is much less turbulence due to the lack of trees at the end of the runway. On this Thursday, I wanted that northern wind and got it.

The plan was to take off and fly over to Wadsworth Muni, and then over to Wayne County, and then over to Medina County, and then back home.

As a student pilot I did not want to form the bad habits that I read about in the various aviation magazines. So with the northern wind today I would be landing on different runways therefore the patterns would be different which is what I've been waiting for for a long time.

So when departing from Skypark, the departure will be from the downwind leg and overflying Skypark direct to Wadsworth Muni and enter on a 45 for runway 02. And since this was all planned out ahead of time it went like clockwork. The first landing was good and it to a full stop. I then took off, and planned for a touch and go which went well. The third landing I planned for a full stop with no flaps. I almost backed out because I did not clear this with my flight instructor, but this is where he worked with me since the Wadsworth runway is long enough to accommodate this practice. The approach was flatter than the usual 20° flat landing, but went without a hitch. With this practice completed my taxi back for takeoff to fly to Wayne County.

The departure was routine and dislocating Wayne County was not too difficult. The question was whether I was to enter on a 45 or enter on the downwind to runway 10. I opted for the latter and found myself with another aircraft already on down wind and followed her. (not because I was being a gentleman, but because she was there first). Since the layout of Wayne County results in a back-taxi I preferred touch and goes and glad that I did. All was right with the world and the spacing was nice. I was able to space by cutting corners and/or extending legs as needed. With my 3 touch and goes completed I was ready for my leg to Medina County.

This was my longest leg and after I spotted Wadsworth Muni (Skypark is hard to find at times) I was able to find Medina quickly. There was a Mooney already in the pattern for runway 36 so why mess with they flow of traffic. The wind was a little stronger and about 40 degrees off my nose but still within my allowances. The first landing was a full stop which was not worth saving for the archives. Maintaining centerline was not easy since I was not thinking right. I taxied back for a second try and was reminded why I didn’t like this airport runway. You are taxiing uphill to the approach end and have to back-taxi a few hundred feet. I was going to cheat and take off from the entry point of the taxiway, but know better. I did the pivot after the 15 second back-taxi and off I went. The takeoff was sloppy but after regaining my composure I hit everything pretty much on target. I planned on a touch and go and all went well. The departure was good and did another one. This plan was for a spot landing since I realized that I had not done one at all on this day’s practice. This went fair and resulted in power on the short final. Next time, I will hold off on the second 10 degrees of flaps until needed. Touch down was nice and soft (love that chirp of a classic landing). Flaps to 10 degrees, carb heat off, full power and off I went for my final take off, and flight home to Skypark.

Skypark eluded me for a moment as I left on the downwind leg from Medina, because Wadsworth Muni catches my attention before my home airport did. There was a simple downwind entry to runway 03, and the downwind leg was sloppy since I was 100 feet below pattern altitude. But still, when abeam the numbers I pulled the power for my approach. I turned base and waited until I was halfway on my base until I drop my first 10° of flaps. I was still high but waited until I was on final to add 10° more. Halfway on final I was still high so I added the final flaps and corrected for the crosswind and made a halfway decent landing.

All in all it was a good day behind the joystick. I clicked off the Flight Simulator and looked outside the window again and saw that the snow was still coming down quite heavily. After grumbling for a few minutes I put on my boots, two sweaters, grabbed my scarf and gloves, and went out to the garage and started up the snow blower.

(It was a crappy day out. Did you really expect me to fly in this weather)