Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Monday, April 10, 2006


Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited ... Time for some bugs to die. I'm going flying.

The airport at which I earned my first pilot rating (picture above, which is not officially CAVU ... you can see the haze) is still open, but there is little to no flight training there any more. Mostly "serious" flying. I considered a life of "serious" flying once, but for me it looked more like a being glorified bus driver (don't hate me, fellow pilots!) driving someone else's routes. So I chose a life in Banking.

Actually, the city that runs my old home-base it is letting it whither on the vine because neighbors complain about the noise. It used to be that you could drive up to one of several flight schools and take a discovery flight as your first lesson. Nowadays, if you can find a flight school, you also need to prove your citizenship or get permission to take training in the US before a school will take you on. You also won't find a group of guys sitting around a coffee machine and talking about this and that with wild waving of the hands supposed to represent the aircraft in various manoeuvers. People seriously in need of a life who had found one. I miss those days.

So I found an alternative up the road where people still come out to the airport on a sunny day to talk and, perhaps, to fly. I try to do it at least once while I am back in the US. Usually in rainy and grey weather so I can keep my instrument flying proficiency up to date (you need that to fly in bad weather, when you can't see where you are going, or when you are flying with the big boys in busy airspace, or, in Europe, when you are flying at night and, around Frankfurt, most of the time). But today was a beautiful day, and it was time for some bugs to die!

Today's aircraft was the venerable Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Looks small, but it carries a couple of people comfortably (it has four seats, but I've never dared to fill them ... the aircraft runs out of capability to carry weight well before it runs out of space). With only two people and full fuel at a few hundred feet above sea level on a cool day, it flys quite well. A little mushier on warm days at several thousand feet above sea level.

Today's "mission": Do 10 practice takeoffs and landings ... so called "touch and go's," which I more affectionately call "crashes and dashes" ... and then head out to the north to look around.

Think of how many times you have really had a smooth landing in an airliner (probably not as often as you think). It's even more fun being bounced around in a bug-smasher like a Cessna. Here's what it looks like when you are almost lined up properly on final ... nobody's perfect, especially when they are being blown around like a leaf in the breeze. Many pilots find T&Gs boring, but we do it because we can all use practice with takeoffs and, more likely, with landings, which are really nothing more than controlled crashes.

As for heading out to the north, it was also a good day to see from a low altitude what is developing in America. Today was a turn over some new McMansions. When you see this going on for miles and miles, you can only marvel at how rich America is. This plus auto-malls full of brand new cars and SUVs. You see some of this in europe, but not nearly on a scale in proportion to the actual comparison to the USA. European per capita GDP is estimated to be roughly 75% to 80% of that in America. It is easy to see that from the air.

An American pilot can fly in Europe, but generally only in an aircraft that is registered in America. You can bring your own over, or you can try to find one already over here and rent it. Alternatively, you can try to convert your American license to a European license. In any case, flying in Europe is not cheap. You can fly an hour in the US for what it takes to start the engine in Europe ... OK, just kidding, but US costs are roughly one-half of those in Europe. This is why most professional pilots in Europe do their training in the US.


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