Friday, December 18, 2009

My Training Situation Figured Out

As of last post, I had no idea where I was going to get training so I would have the skills and confidence to fly my Pterodactyl . I have spent many painstaking hours sorting this out in my brain and I've finally come to my conclusion. Since I would like to be a full, FAA approved Certified Flight Instructor (and possibly a CFII), why not start training towards my private pilot rating? My plan before this decision was to get this training once I was in college. I realize that I'll have more work and more distractions in college, so why make things any more difficult for myself.

Obviously, there is a HUGE difference between a four seat, 1,620 lb, enclosed cockpit, 160 hp, Cessna 172 and a single seat, 200 lb, open cockpit, 30 hp, Pterodactyl Ascender II. I will not be one of those general aviation folks who believes that ultralights are toy airplanes compared to their Cessnas so they automatically have the skills to fly them. That is a mindset which has killed and continues to kill many and I would like to stay alive longer so I'll have even more time to fly.

I was concerned a while back about the FAA's decision to essentially end all training in ultralight-like, experimental light sport aircraft. Since then, the Experimental Aircraft Association has worked with the FAA to establish a set of guidelines so that training in these types of aircraft can continue. I will definitely will need to get some sort of transition training so I'll have the skills to fly my low inertia, light wing loading, high performance ultralight. Because of the EAA/FAA arrangements, I'm not worried about finding a safe place to get instruction. For now, Rainbow Aviation (the same folks who have written "A Professional Approach to Ultralights") appears to be the place for me to get my transition training.

If in the unlikely event that I can't find a place to get instruction, I'll find or make a friend with the right equipment and go flying with them. If even that doesn't work out, I'll have to revert back to the way people learned how to fly ultralights in the 1980's and self teach myself. Jack McCornack, the man who designed the Pterodactyl line of aircraft wrote a self training guide and amazingly, those who actually followed the guide step by step had very little problems.

Some people have told me to simply follow the self training guide and not worry about getting training in a dual seat machine but I will learn to fly my Pterodactyl in the most comfortable way that I see fit. I'm all about flying safely so I can continue flying for years and years to come.


Jack Fleetwood said...

Mark -

You'll make a fine instructor. I look forward to watching you progress. Your cautious approach to flying will serve you and your students well.

I'm one of those guys who just went from GA to ultralights without training. I like your approach better! I went from a Decathlon to an Airbike, which handled very similar. I just had to remember to keep my speed up on final.

I did the same thing when learning how to fly powered parachutes. I was going to taxi with the parachute kited and next thing I know I was flying!

My background is flying tailwheel and I also had a lot of skydiving, both helped me to feel confident. Still, I'm not the example to follow. If you really want to pursue training, I recommend not even doing high-speed taxiing... I'm a good example of how easy it is to pull back on that stick and head skyward, even when that wasn't my intention!!

Mark Zinkel said...


I often wonder if I'm taking too much of a cautious approach. I hear of guys doing all sorts of things that I consider a bad idea and they hardly ever get themselves in trouble. Perhaps aviation is safer than I think.

I've flown in a powered parachute before and must say that your approach of transitioning into it probably wasn't that dangerous. Kiting is probably the hardest part, however I wouldn't know. The only thing I would want to learn before soloing in one of those is how to recover from a collapse and how to kite it properly. They are so blindingly easy to fly that a caveman could probably do it. I'll have to write about that flight sometime.

Jack Fleetwood said...

I never used as much caution as I should have... I consider myself lucky. I took a few hours of aerobatic training and decided I could do it all. I almost died and would have taken someone with me.

PPCs are the easiest aircraft I've ever flown. Kiting is the most likely place to have a problem, but even then, I've only blown two launches. I stopped and setup again, no issues. There's no such thing as an emergency takeoff!

As far as a collapse goes, it's not going to happen on a modern PPC wing. Even if if could, you wouldn't do anything to recover. I had a friend whose PPG wing folded over almost in half and I happened to get a photo. He didn't even know it had happened! It recovered on its own.

Mark Zinkel said...

I hear that the Cima K2 is amazing when it comes to stability and collapse recovery. With trims and speedbar fully out and brakes fully applied, it recovers SUPER fast. Here's a video: