Archive for the 'Continuing education' Category

Medical Issues

Sept. 14th the Petaluma Area Pilots Association had a very informative speaker at their monthly meeting. The AME (aviation medical examiner) gave a good description of his side of the equation on obtaining and keeping our medicals. The subject is especially germain since none of us are getting any younger and loosing one’s medical must be a very sad event.

Basically the doc can pass, suspend or defer our medicals when health issues or medications get in the way of what the FAA will accept. The very best place to look up medications and or health issues is on the AOPA web site. They define what meds can fly and which can’t. If something comes up (like a cataract) and you do not pass your medical your medical will be suspended. After surgery you will need a letter from your eye doctor stating what your new vision is and that you are able to go back to flying. You must obtain these papers. The papers will be sent to Oklahoma where they will give the seal of approval.

If something comes up between medicals and you voluntarily suspend your flying, get treat- ment/cure, you still must obtain papers from your medical provider stating what happened, how it was treated and that you are safe to fly. Take these papers to your AME to back up any questions.

AGAIN- if something comes up, check the AOPA web site for medication questions. You can go back to your medical provider and insist on a different (acceptable) med to keep you airborne.
IF the unfortunate happens you can still fly ‘light sport aircraft’ as long as you don’t fail a medical. (meaning you never go back to fail a medical) ‘Light sport’ aviating only requires a drivers license. But in saying that it is all our responsibility fly safely. Options are having another pilot fly as ‘pic’ with you or flying with an instructor. The very best option, of course, is staying healthy!

Watch out for long flights, do some isometrics or stretch! Pulmonary edema is so common in long cross country flights.

SANTA ROSA NINETY-NINES Aviation Scholarship

Aviation Scholarship

Please help us spread the word, the Santa Rosa 99s 2011 scholarship application is now available for download.

Purpose: To provide funding to be used for a specific rating or certification to further the recipient’s pursuit of a career in aviation.

Award Amount: $3,000

Eligibility: Any women at least 17 years of age, holding at minimum a current private license, a current medical, and a current flight review. Must reside within 150 miles of Santa Rosa Airport, be eligible for the rating being applied for (i.e.: number of flight hours required, rating required, medical required), and have completed any written requirements for the rating before funds are dispersed.

Application Due: May 1, 2011

For additional applications see our website at

For more information or questions email

Valerie Suberg
Scholarship Chairman
Santa Rosa 99s


Acronyms are helpful aids to reminding us of a list of requirements or actions. Here are a few. If you have a great acronym, please send it along and we will add it to the list.



O-Oil Temp Gauge
M-Manifold Pressure Gauge (if constant speed prop)
A-Airspeed Indicator
T-Temp Gauge (water temp, if water cooled engine)
O-Oil Pressure Gauge

F-Fuel Gauges
L-Landing Gear Position Indicators (if retractable gear)
A-Anti-collision Lights
M-Magnetic Compass
E-ELT if Required (FAR §91.207)
S-Safety Belt (FAR§91.105 & §91.107)


F-Fuses (complete set of spares or three of each kind)
L-Landing Light (if operated for hire)
A-Anti-collision Lights
P-Position Indicator Lights (Nav Lights)
S-Source of Electrical Power

All alone with the Noise


The following article was sent to me by Mark Henderson, son of Cathy Morshead, (99 extraordinaire).  There’s lots to learn! Thanks Mark!

A story of how a common mistake can make for a hair-raising solo flight.

A first solo is exhilarating in itself, but it can get down right scary when you lose a major system on the plane at 400 feet after take off. This happened to me, or at least I though it did, because of a very simple mistake that was not covered in my pre-solo discussions. As I left the ground on my solo flight there was an incredibly loud static sound in the headset and it seemed I had lost my radios, or something worse. When you have hundreds of flight hours a surprise like that may not merit a panic.  But when you’re on you fist solo, a distraction on that level can be downright freaky. Let me explain.

It was a sunny day in August 2010. My instructor, Caroline Patterson at Aero-club Marin was getting me accustomed to flying in a Piper Dakota (PA-28-236) which was formally owned by my mother, Catherine Morshead (a 99).  You see I purchased the Dakota from my mother after she lost her medical. It was a way to keep the plane in the family and to still fly together as we used to do, this time with me in the left seat. So Caroline was teaching me the ins- and outs of the Dakota, which was a bit more complicated than the Cessna 172 that we started training in.  That day Caroline called me on my way to the lesson, which was at an airport in Marin County and gave me the news. I was to pre-flight the plane and fly just a few miles to a neighboring airport, Gnoss field (KDVO) and meet her for the lesson. This constituted the first solo in the Dakota (I had soloed the C172 around the pattern at KDVO previously). I felt the butterflies in the stomach but told Caroline that I am up for it and I would see her at the destination airport shortly.

The pre-flight was standard. The winds were about 8 kns left to right on the departing runway. The radios were pre-programmed by me for the departing airport frequency and the destination airport frequency. I even picked an alternate airport on the chart if the winds were too strong at Gnoss. The run up was fine, I looked over everything once again, grabbed a sip of water of my water bottle that was in the back seat, took a deep breath and made the radio call that I was departing.

As I gave it full power the realization that I am solo the Dakota set in. The instruments seemed to be a little brighter. “Were there this many instrument dials before”, I thought. Everything was just a bit more intense; hell, I’m soloing!! When the wheels left the ground I was happy, or better said, I was thrilled. But at 400 feet everything changed.

I suddenly heard a loud static sound in the head set.  It sounded as if the door was open, or broke off. I checked that the door and window were shut which they were. Now I was at 500 feet and I thought it could be an electrical problem. It sounded like what would happen to your TV if someone ripped the plug out of the wall. I looked at the instruments and they seemed fine. Now I was at 600 feet. I took off the head set to see if the sound was only in the radio. All I could hear was engine noise, which was normal, but loud. I put my headset back on and I was at 700 feet. The foreign sound persisted and was loud. It cannot be good. My thoughts began to race in all directions. What if there is some thing wrong with the plane? If I need to turn around I’ll have no radio to make calls, I could collide with someone. I sure don’t want go to the destination airport with no radio. Remember it was my solo, my nerves were already rattled enough doing normal procedures.

Suddenly a voice inside my head cleared my thoughts. I remembered Caroline instructing me over and over if something goes wrong, the first thing you do is “fly the airplane”. Don’t panic and drift into uncoordinated and dangerous fight attitudes as you rummage around the cockpit trying to fix something. One should first accept that something is not going right, then make your first priority flying the airplane. With this guiding voice in my head I blocked out the horribly strange noise and made sure to level the wings, brought the pitch to Vy and climbed straight out to 1500 feet. I leveled the nose, reduced power to cruise, trimmed, and then took another sip of my water bottle. I tried to block out the fact that I was doing this in my solo. “Everybody’s solos are like this” I thought; gulp.

OK, now lets figure out the strange noise problem.

My first move was to call a radio check. Nothing. My next move was to find another headset. There was one plugged into the right seat where Caroline sat during our training. I reached down to grab it off the ground and put it on my head. Then I made another call for radio check. But the yoke talk button seemed dead. (I found out later that the talk buttons only work on same side it’s plugged into). I took that head set off and placed it on the seat to my right. I put back my original headset and the awful sound was gone. The headset was quiet and functioned normally. I made a radio check call and I received a response, “check loud and clear”. A huge rush of relief came over me. I double-checked everything and it all was normal. “Could I be saved?” I hoped. Of course I was suspicious that the problem would return. At this point I was halfway between airports so I headed to Gnoss, the destination airport, switched radio frequencies, and listened to AWOS. It reported light crosswinds, which to me was good news because at least the radio worked to inform me of that.

I entered the pattern, landed a bit long and taxied to Caroline who was waiting on the field.

“Well, how was it?” she asked.

I told her the story and she reviewed with me some possible reasons for the problem.

“Maybe somebody had their radio on, that can happen. Maybe the headset ran out of batteries, or the plug is faulty” She suggested.

Then she paused for a second and asked, “Was the right-side headset on the floorboards plugged in?”

It was.

“Well, that’ll do it,” she said, “once you got up to speed the vents blew air on the extra head set microphone and forced the talking microphone to stay open. This caused a loud wind sound to persist in the left head headset until you picked it up”.

You see, once I reached over to try on the right-seat headset I retrieved it from the floor. Then I placed it back on the seat, away from the vent. By doing this move I unknowingly solved the problem.

This simple problem could happen to anyone when you think about it. We train with two people in the front seats. Both headsets are used. When the instructor gets out for a solo, it is likely for the right seat headset will still be plugged in. If it happens to be next to an open vent, then you can create a very scary flight environment. As, in my case, the already nervous first time pilot-in-command who cannot talk or hear anything on his solo.

In writing this little story I hope that it can help others avoid this problem. But of more importance, if you do encounter a problem that you remember the classic first move for all pilots; “fly the airplane” above all else.

Mark Henderson
Son of Cathy Morshead (99)

Wing Tips

Flight planning, whether for a short hop or a long haul can be gleaned from many sources. I always like talking to a briefer. It used to be they knew the ins and outs of the area. Now you just get what they’re interpreting off the computer. Anyway a warm, fuzzy voice can help dissect the wx issues.

Currently there are a number of flight planning products, for free, out on the web. I took on two programs just to see how easy, and supportive they can be. The two were Flightaware and navmonster.

This program seems to be geared more for the pro or IFR flight. You have to create a login profile before you start getting any info. That took a lot of rooting around, trying to remember all the details of my plane. Then before they would give me wx and flight routing they took for granted this flight would be filed. I don’t often file. The routing was also geared to standard routes without any field trips to places of interest or avoiding high
terrain. I suppose once you get familiar with this product, you can sail through all the hoops and ladders to get your info. Not a product I would go back to.

This is a great site. It’s easy, fast, you don’t have to have a NAV profile. Just type in departure point, destination and away you go. Their maps are great for wx, winds, and they have a radar loop. A chart with the winds aloft at different altitudes helps with altitude planning. There also is a listing of fuel prices in the vicinity of your route if you need a potty break and to pick up more fuel. A nice feature is the Tripkit which gives you everything plus the shopping list. It took no time for my brain to wrap around this one.