Fulfilling a Life Long Dream
By Glenn Shubert, EAA 619449
I’ve always loved airplanes and dreamed of being able to fly. When I was a kid, I ran around with my arms spread wide imagining myself flying. The aging, grey-headed guy in my mirror told me it was time to do something about old dreams. So I attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for the first time in 2005. I was overwhelmed. I knew Oshkosh was a big air show, but I had no idea how big.
I walked my feet off soaking in everything and returned home with piles of brochures and stories about all the amazing things I had seen and how awesome it would be to fly. My wonderful wife soon tired of all the talk of flying, so she presented me with a gift certificate for a “Discovery Flight” at Campbell Airport (C81) at Grayslake, Illinois. Instructor Ray Nowack took me up in a Piper Warrior and let me take the controls. I was hooked. I started flight instruction with Ray and logged 12 very enjoyable hours. However, I was going to need a third-class medical before I could solo.
Like many folks my age, I had some medical issues in my past – nothing that would make me unsafe to fly but there’s a Catch 22 in the rules. Under the light-sport rule, one can fly without a class three medical. But if you take and fail the medical, you can’t fly at all. I decided not to take the medical exam for fear of losing any chance of fulfilling my dream. I also believe in the value of good classroom instruction with an experienced teacher, so I signed up for the ground school at Campbell airport. I’m glad I did as I was able to pass the written test with a grade of 90 percent. Campbell airport didn’t have a light-sport pilot program. Although there were a few light-sport planes available for instruction in north central Illinois, none were available for solo due to insurance issues. If you can’t solo, you can’t complete the program. My flight training came to a halt.
I read in an EAA e-mail that Mount Vernon Outland Airport (MVN) was to host its first annual Light Sport Expo in October 2009. I drove down in my camper van, and the expo was terrific. The airport was terrific. Everybody there was terrific. Chris Collins, the airport manager, went out of his way to make me feel welcome. He even arranged an electric hookup for my mini motor home. Chris and his team obviously worked very hard to make the event a success. Despite being in class E airspace (no tower) Mount Vernon Airport is a first-rate small airport. Ozark Airlines used to fly there. It has a big runway, and a very nice terminal building with a restaurant. The fixed base operation, SRT Aviation, has plush facilities and a busy maintenance hangar. But the main thing was the friendliness of the people.
A few months after the Light Sport Expo, I received another EAA e-mail announcing that SRT Aviation at Mount Vernon was starting an LSA academy, and they were planning on having an accelerated training program. That was what I needed to hear. I called them and was assured that it would be all right to park my camper at the airport for a few weeks while I was taking flight instruction full time. I drove the six hours from my home to Mount Vernon, where I met Shawn, Rich, and Tom (the S, R, and T of SRT Aviation). They and everyone at MVN treated me like family. The next morning, I met with CFI Rachel Heinrich, and we started my flight training in a Jabiru SP 230.
Glenn with the Jabaru SP230 LSA
Excerpts from my flight blogs to inform the wife and friends of my progress:
Flight Blog 1. I arrived Wednesday at Mount Vernon Outland Airport to hopefully complete my flight training. I flew three hours on Thursday. Friday a.m. is raining. Hope I can fly this afternoon.
Flight Blog 2. So far I’ve logged 12.5 flight hours here at MVN. I’ve done: stalls (power on and power off), straight and level flight, ascents, descents, turns, steep turns, slow flight, takeoffs, landings, stalls, touch and goes, turns about a point, simulated engine failures and emergency procedures…whew! Someday I hope to get good at all the above. Tomorrow is a big day. I’m going to have an engine-out while in the pattern (close to the ground preparing to land). Also more stalls, landings, and practicing maneuvers. I’m getting ready to solo, maybe this weekend or Monday.
Flight Blog 3. I flew my first cross-country today. We went to Centralia, Illinois, using VOR navigation. I landed, taxied to the parking area, and got a root beer at the FBO. The lessons are sinking in.
Flight Blog 4. On Friday I did my official dual cross-country. I had to plan a cross-country trip, calculate headings adjusted for magnetic deviation for compass headings, get weather briefings to calculate headings adjusted for winds aloft, calculate fuel burn based on altitude, winds, weight at takeoff, and calculate true airspeed based on indicated airspeed, wind, and density altitude. Then I had to pick landmarks on the aeronautic chart to note along the flight and verify my position and verify that my speed calculations were correct by measuring the time between waypoints. I also had to file a flight plan with Saint Louis Control.
Flight Blog 5. Yes, I know, it’s been several days since I’ve written an update and everyone’s lives are on hold waiting for some news from Mount Vernon. Well, I’ve been extremely busy and I’m exhausted. I’m also a pilot.
CFI Rachel Heinrich performing the traditional shirttail cutting ceremony after Shubert’s first solo
After soloing on 7-19-2010 in N698J, I needed 5 hours solo time before taking the check-ride. I had 3 days to log the solo hours between thunderstorms and heat and humidity that no mortal should be required to endure. I had to do a solo cross-country stopping at two other airports where they signed my logbook. Between preparing for the solo cross-country and practicing the maneuvers I would need to perform for the check-ride, and logging the required minimum 5 hours solo, I also had to study and review.
I met with FAA Examiner Leland Widick on Friday morning. The Practical Test consists of an oral exam that can last 2 to 4 hours followed by the flight test, another 2 hours. Everything aeronautical is fair game to be quizzed on – flight dynamics, navigation, mechanical systems, regulations, preflight procedures, airport procedures, radio procedures, checklists, emergency procedures, weather, weather services, weather systems, and charts.
I got through the oral exam, so we preflighted N698J and started the flight exam. It was 97 degrees and high humidity with strong winds aloft and gusty winds on the ground. I planned another cross-country trip for the check-ride and had to point out my checkpoint landmarks along the way so he could determine that I hadn’t gotten myself lost. I had to calculate my ground speed by measuring the time between two checkpoints using an E6B computer. All the while flying the plane somewhat straight and level, maintaining altitude within 200 feet in very turbulent air. I had to tell him our estimated time of arrival at the destination airport based on the true ground speed
Once I had the destination airport (Salem, Illinois) in sight, he said it looked like really bad weather there. Divert to Centralia (the weather looked fine to me). So I got out the chart and plotted a course to Centralia, got Centralia’s radio frequency tuned, got their AWOS (automated weather observation station) tuned in so I’d know surface wind direction and speed to help me determine which runway to use and if the cross wind exceeds the aircraft’s limits (to say nothing of my limits), all the while flying the plane.
After demonstrating my ability to not get lost and making a few less than stellar landings at Centralia, Leland had me fly to a sparsely inhabited area to demonstrate the required maneuvers including steep turns, slow flight, turns about a point, and stalls. He had me stall the plane in a turn, and I recovered before the plane had a chance to spin. A few minutes later, he shut the throttle and said, “The engine just quit.” Okay, first, fly the plane. Trim for best glide speed. Find the best field for an emergency landing. When I was set up for a suitable emergency landing and pointed out my intended touchdown point, Leland hit the throttle and we headed back to Mount Vernon.
FAA Examiner Leland Widick presenting Glenn Shubert with sport pilot certificate.
I felt honored to be the first graduate of SRT Aviation’s accelerated light-sport training program. I logged my first hour on Thursday, July 8, soloed on July 19, and finished flight instruction Thursday, July 22 – a total of two weeks. I logged a total of 32 flight hours, 5.7 hours solo. I passed my check-ride on Friday, July 23. I don’t know if I would recommend this level of intensity for everyone. I got in two flights on most days; one day I flew three times. Between flights, I was very busy studying. It was possible only because I had previously attended a ground school at Campbell Airport and had 12 hours previously logged in the Piper Warrior with Ray Nowack’s excellent instruction. I had already passed the FAA written exam, was living in my motor home with no distractions, and flying with a terrific instructor in Rachel Heinrich, while being treated like family by everyone at Mount Vernon Airport.
Glenn’s shirttail documenting his first solo flight
If you’ve ever dreamed of flying, take a discovery flight at your local airport. Whether you opt for the high-intensity, full immersion type of flight training that I did, or the more conventional one or two sessions per week, there’s no time like right now to start fulfilling a dream.
When I was just a young boy
I dreamed that I could fly
If I waved my arms and ran as fast as I could
And jumped up real high
I tried and fell, tried again and again,
Kicked my feet out from behind
And spread my arms and left the ground
Soaring for the sky.
Glenn R. Shubert