Today’s Flight Plan
We’re very honored to have Swayne Martin join us on today’s AviatorCast. Swayne is a stellar blogger, media monster, and a newly certificated private pilot.
Swayne runs a blog called “From Private to Professional Pilot“. On this blog he had documented his entire private pilot training process. Complete with images, videos, and even 3D maps of his training flights, Swayne gives great insight into what it takes to become a private pilot.
He also works for a great up and coming flight training company called BoldMethod.
One of the best things you’ll notice about Swayne is that he’s a prime example of what a new, young private pilot should be. Swayne pays a lot of attention to detail, he’s humble, he practices his craft, and he’s a solid aviator.
Swayne soloed at 4.5 hours, which is really rare. He attributes this to his study and also his time with simulators.
There are a lot of great things that we can learn from Swayne, both experienced pilots and starter pilots alike.
During this episode we’ll talk about Swayne’s process of getting his private pilot, what his blog is like, people he’s met, etc. And that’s just a start.
Then we get into ‘Flying While Traveling’. Swayne has made a habit of flying when he travels with his family. He talks about experiences in Santa Monica, Alabama, Tahoe, North Carolina, and also his future plans.
This is a solid episode that I know you’ll really love.
A big thank you from all of the listeners for joining us, Swayne. Thanks so much! We look forward to catching up with you again soon after some of your travels. Looking forward to all the great new stuff you come up with! Again, check out Swayne’s blog at “From Private to Professional Pilot“.
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Transcript[transcript] If you love flying solo, you’ve come to the right place. This is AviatorCast episode 10.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I love all things that fly, particularly single-engine airplanes, but don’t count anything else out. If there’s a cloud, I want to charge it, assuming it’s not a thunderstorm. If I meet another pilot, we’re almost instant friends. Aviation is my passion. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today.
AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have a real flight training and flight simulation topic or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion, and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the 10th episode of AviatorCast. It’s really great to have you here. I’m glad that you found AviatorCast. Maybe you are a returning listener or a first time listener, regardless, welcome. I hope you enjoy your stay here as we discuss our passion for aviation. We have some great topics today that I think you will really, really enjoy. Before we get to that, I want to share with you one of the reviews we’ve gotten from iTunes. This is from Bill the Judge, he is from the United States. He said “This podcast is great because Chris skillfully combines topics from real world aviation and flight simulation. I love Chris’ and AOA’s approach to flight education and training because they try to blur the line between real world and simulator and teach everyone to be better aviators. I love Chris’ passion and congratulate him for seeing a gap in the flight sim world and feeling it.”
Thanks Bill the Judge, really appreciate it. Great review. Thanks for taking the time for doing that. If you would like to leave a review, go ahead and do so on iTunes. Pretty easy. Please keep it honest. We want great feedback and we want to improve the show, but we also want you to share with others how much you like the show, so they know that this is worth their time. We’re getting reviews from all over the world, we’ll certainly share one from another country next time, so yeah, go ahead and review on iTunes if you don’t mind.
Today’s episode, I’m really excited about. We have a very, very special guest that will be having a bit of a hangar talk with us. This guest is Swayne Martin. Swayne just barely got his private pilot but you wouldn’t know it. This guy is just top notch. You can tell he’s going to be an awesome professional aviator. He’s been running a blog for several years now that is really great. He does a great job sharing a bunch of pictures, a bunch of reviews on different airports that he flies into, lots of great videos, and all the while you notice that he is just a great aviator and is definitely professional for the level of flying that he’s at. I really enjoyed this interview with Swayne and I know that you guys will enjoy listening to it. He has a lot to share and it’s just very inspiring especially for those of you just starting out or thinking of starting out with your flight training. So let’s get right into it. Let’s have a hangar talk with Swayne Martin.
Now, a special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we are lucky to have Swayne Martin with us today. How are you doing Swayne?
Swayne: Good, how are you?
Chris: Doing awesome. Swayne has a great blog that you got to check out right away while we’re talking during this entire podcast. It is at MartinsAviation.blogspot.com. He does a great job there. Swayne, when did you start this blog?
Swayne: So I started the blog “From Private to Professional Pilot” pretty much right when I started my flight training when I was 15 years old about in 2012 or so, and I started it kind of as a basis point for me to write about everything I was going to do from my training starting with the very first lesson, so I could be really, really transparent online about how flight training works. Kind of demystified the whole process to student pilots.
Chris: Great. I really like that perspective because from a story standpoint, you really don’t hear what it’s like from the beginning through the end, and although pilots that have been there and done that can kind of go back and do that for you, it’s just been this really detailed process, sharing images and videos which has been really cool to see and you have a lot of that right there in your blog.
Swayne: Yeah, and if you’re going on the blog and go to literally the flight training tab, I just go through from the very beginning, every single major moment of the private pilot training is in there, from the first lesson, first solo, everything, just going down. But one thing I made sure to do was to include not just the good days but also to include the bad days and the bad experiences from flight training because it’s not always going to be great flying. Sometimes you’re going to have bad landings, bad weather, bad instruction, and I tried to include that as well.
Chris: Right on. Just part of the question, did you have the same instructor throughout your entire training.
Swayne: Oh no. I’ve had three main instructors, because my first one moved on to the air force. My second one went on to a different job and then my third one is kind of been the one I’ve had a longest who is just an instructor right now and I’ve been working with.
Chris: Right on. Yeah, I was lucky enough to have just one instructor but I was at a university so it’s a little different, but it definitely helps, especially to have one guy that you’re with most of the time. I’m guessing this last instructor you have is probably your best instructor.
Swayne: Yup, that’s accurate. And it was also good, and we’re going to talk about it some later, but to have experiences with different instructors just for single flights and in different parts of the country to get their views and stuff.
Chris: Definitely, definitely. Okay, so how did you first fell in love with flying? What’s your love story like there?
Swayne: I have a pretty typical story I think that pretty much most pilots can relate to. The one thing that’s a little bit different for me is that I’m the only person in my family who flies. No one in my family flies. My grandfathers were both really interested in aviation. I think one of my great grandfathers was a pilot in World War II, but I grew up having aviation kind of surrounding me. My grandfathers would take me to airshows. I have models that they’ve built, pretty much been hanging on my ceiling since I was like 2, and so I really grew up with that kind of surrounding me. I wasn’t always really into aviation. There was a period when I was a kid probably from when I was 8 years old to about 14 years old where it kind of died of a little bit and I wasn’t as into it, but then when I turned 15 and started thinking about it some more, it really came back and I just kind of went head on into it.
Chris: Right on. That’s actually a very similar story to me because no one in my family was a pilot and I was kind of the only guy and right around 14, 15 I decided that I could do that and so I went headfirst. Great. And then, at what time, actually I haven’t gone back this far in your blog, but at what point did you actually start your blog during this entire process.
Swayne: So I started in December of 2012 and I took my first flight lesson on I think December 28, 2012.
Chris: Okay great, so right when you first started pretty much.
Chris: With a little bit of probably preparation articles in there.
Swayne: Yes, there were.
Chris: Awesome. And you’re an east-coaster right?
Swayne: Yes, I’m from Virginia.
Chris: Great. Lots of good places to fly around there.
Chris: Right on. So tell us about the story of you getting your private pilot. Build us up from hour one, take us through your solo, your instructors, we want to talk about that because we’ve already touched on that, and then I’ll prompt you some questions along the way and then I guess the culminating part of that is your checkride, we’ll talk about what that was like.
Swayne: Sure, that sounds good. So when I started my flight training, one really interesting thing about the school that I’m at, HOVA Flight Services, is that our airport is the Tecnam North America headquarters. Tecnam is an Italian brand of aircraft that is light sport. So I did all of my private pilot training in a light sport aircraft. I do have experience flying in Cessnas and Pipers and some Diamond Stars as well but I did the majority of my training in the Tecnam, so that’s kind of a good overview of the very beginning. But I did my first solo flight after doing lessons for a while. I did my first solo flight pretty quickly, the week I turned 16. I soloed after about 4-1/2 to 5 hours total time.
Chris: That’s crazy.
Swayne: Yeah, I know. It was pretty early, and the thing was, was the only reason I felt comfortable with doing it that early was because I’d gone up with three instructors by that time, and they had all said “We would sign you off right now to do it.” And so I was pretty ready by that point. It was really early to go which was good for me because it ended up allowing me to have time during my training just to kind of fly around solo with not that much to do. I just got to build a lot of solid time pretty quickly.
Swayne: And then later in about June, I did my first solo cross-country from Hanover to Farmville which was pretty fun. And then after that, I didn’t do very many solo cross-countries for a while because my instructor by that point had gone to the air force, so I was in a process of finding a new one, and by the time I got a new one, it was later about the fall of last year, and I started doing more work on solo cross-countries, building more time and working up towards my written exam which I took in I think January or December. That’s what I did up until then and then I took my private pilot checkride shortly after I turned 17 in February. I couldn’t do it the week or the day I turned 17 because we had a big winter storm come through and just messed up everything up for like two weeks, so it was rescheduled a few times but I did get the checkride done.
Chris: Weather is frustrating. When I was doing my private pilot, I was grounded for three months. It was unbelievable and so frustrating, so I feel you there. Great. So tell us what the checkride was like. It sounds like so far you were very well prepared. Actually, let me go back. I have a question. Why do you think it was you were so well prepared for that solo flight, because that’s pretty rare. What was it? What’s the determining factor there?
Swayne: You know from me, it’s almost unrelated to my actual flight training. When I was younger and up until to the point I had done my actual flight training, I had a lot of aviation review and kind of even simple stuff like learning how to fly well on a flight simulator or knowing when the right point is to flare, I think the skills have kind of developed from an early age. Just like computer games, doing flight simulators actually helped with training going really, really quickly at the beginning. That and the fact that, and this is a big suggestion for student pilots out there, is if you want to get your training done quickly in a time-efficient way and not having to spend too much money, instead of going through and just showing up at the airport, getting ready for a flight, show up having reviewed everything about the flight you’re about to go on, so that you could almost know everything about it before you even do it, because it will take much, much less time to get through everything if you’re not learning it in the airplane. If you learn it before or after a flight and well enough to practice it in real life, it’s going to make things go a lot quicker.
Chris: Great. Yeah I love that. It’s definitely good to come prepared because once you start the engine, it gets really expensive to learn just in that sense, and honestly, that’s the way most people do it. They kind of throw money at the airplane and they don’t necessarily prepare. I think you see that mentality a lot more in Part 141 programs, but you did all this Part 61 right?
Chris: Yeah, so it’s really common for people just to kind of scoot through on a 61 program and not I guess in a sense take studying seriously. It’s definitely a big component to it.
Chris: Great, so checkride time. Tell us the story and not necessarily even in brief but just tell us what it was like, what your experience is like and this is actually pretty recently too.
Swayne: Yes, so I took my checkride about, I think it’s about a month now, yeah, maybe a month to the day and a few days. So we got an examiner after a while. We’ve been going back and forth between a few examiners because of the weather messing everything up and then the plane going in for maintenance, but I did get a good examiner eventually. He was actually, he used to be an FAA safety examiner, which is kind of unique because lots of the DPEs or the designated pilot examiners actually didn’t work for the FAA before, but this guy who I did have was a check safety airman with the FAA at one point which was kind of interesting.
Swayne: Yes. So we got him and the checkride went really well. I prepared a lot for it. I mean, I did not want to mess anything up, and the one thing about the check ride and the oral, especially the first portion of the checkride that is really critical is that if you get the first question right they ask you, let’s say they’re asking about systems, and you answer the first question about the pedostatic tube correctly or the pedostatic system correctly, they’re not going to delve into other questions about aircraft systems necessarily. If you can answer that first question, they’re going to know you know what you’re talking about and so they’re going to back off a little bit, and that’s what ended up happening for the most part in my checkride which was pretty good and the actual flight went well. We did everything pretty quickly. I think the flight was maybe less than an hour which was pretty fast. It was pretty fast. We had a great day, there was no wind, I got lucky.
Chris: You didn’t have to demonstrate your crosswind abilities.
Swayne: No. The only thing that the examiner missed apparently and I didn’t know that he missed anything until after when somebody told me after reading my article was that we did everything from short field and soft field landing and takeoffs, but he never actually got me to do a normal landing or takeoff, which you’re technically supposed to do as an examiner. I guess maybe there’s a chance because I had done the landings pretty well that he just decided not to but normally, you should expect to have to do a normal landing and takeoff during the checkride.
Chris: Right. Makes you wonder if there is even such thing as a normal landing and takeoff with crosswinds. It seems like it’s always kind of variable. So tell us the moment you found out that you got your ticket. What did your examiner say?
Swayne: So what we did, we came in and did a soft field landing, and at that point, I knew that I had gone through everything on the flight and the checkride pretty well. I was pretty confident that I’d pass and I was just in short final for this last landing and I was like “Alright, let’s not mess this up now. You’ve done it well so far.” So we did the landing and went fine, cleared the runway, and then we want back to the ramp area and we just shut down the plane. He didn’t say anything, but he just gave me a handshake and said “congratulations” and then he got out of the plane and walked in and I followed him. I tried not to smile but I couldn’t help it, and then my family was there which was kind of cool.
Chris: Right on. Yeah, there’s nothing like that experience man. It’s nothing you’ll never forget. I was thinking about this morning, just thinking about, talking about something in the show, and I remembered my private pilot checkride which was 10 years ago this week, but I do not remember my instrument. It’s like you remember the private pilot and from there you’re just kind of adding things on, it’s not as substantial. So cool, really cool to hear your story. It’s a common story with a lot of people. They fall in love with aviation early, they get the bug and they work hard on that. I think in your case, the differences I see is that you really have gone above and beyond and you’ve documented it well the entire time. One thing I really like that you’ve done that wasn’t available back when I did my training, is you’ve kept track of a lot of what you’ve done with CloudAhoy which is a really cool app.
Swayne: Oh that app is so cool. Somebody had mentioned it to me, a few months ago, I think two or three months ago and I started using it and I didn’t know about it until then but I wish I had because that’s so cool being able to go back and look at your flight in 3D with altitude, and then you can download each file into Google Earth and then you can click on each one so they all open so you can see everywhere you’ve been in that state which is pretty cool.
Chris: I was looking at one of your CloudAhoy pictures the other day and you’re doing turns around the point, and it was just this perfect circle. It was awesome to see that from that perspective, just to kind of have it proven you know.
Swayne: Oh I know. That’s super cool. You can even like see the object you’re turning around.
Chris: Yeah. It’s really interesting because what I’m seeing is that there’s a lot of new tools coming out these days that will allow us as pilots to evaluate ourselves better, and not only that, we have apps like ForeFlight and then the Garmin Pilot app which they just came out with synthetic vision for that one, so it’s just amazing the types of thing that we’re able to do with those mobile devices now. Hopefully, if we have the correct intention, it can make us better pilots.
Swayne: Yeah I know. I’ve been trying to take advantage of as many as those things as possible. One big thing I did is I try to take videos with GoPro cameras because you can actually use that as a pretty good training tool if you record audio with it to kind of record your audio calls, see what mistakes you’re making on final, if you’re too low, too high, having to add power, and you can kind of review that afterwards which is cool.
Chris: Right. One thing I really love about the flying you do and one thing I’ve noticed in your videos is that you take things seriously. I see a lot of the other YouTubers out there, you aren’t necessarily a YouTuber, you’re more I guess a blogger type but, I see a lot of YouTubers out there with their GoPros in their cockpit just doing really stupid things, not being professional, so from the standpoint of that, I can see that you’ve had great instructors that have really thought you sterile cockpit procedures and just good decision-making, so it’s really cool to see that too, and see the difference because there is a big difference.
Swayne: Thank you.
Chris: Yeah, no problem. So, I actually didn’t put this question in our show notes together, but where do you from here? What’s your next step as a pilot and how are you going to keep yourself safe as you now build hours while out there flying solo I guess.
Swayne: Yeah. So one of the biggest things that has happened to me recently and is going to help me be able to fly over the next few years is that I got, I’m now a writer and producer for the flight training company Boldmethod, and with the money that I’ll make from that job, I’ll be able to fly once a week or more which is really, really exciting for me because my parents pretty much, they paid for a part of the flight training, I had to pay for the initial half or so of it, but after I got the license, they were like “Alright, it’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to pay for flying.” So getting the job with Boldmethod is really going to help with that and I think it’s going to make, it’s going to open up a world of opportunity flying on a regular basis which is good. And I think that, speaking into safety as well, is that for me when I was a student pilot, one of the big things that tried not to do and it did happen sometimes was that because of weather maintenance, personal conflicts and stuff, sometimes there can be periods at which where you might go a month or even two months without flying at all, which is not very good if you’re trying to keep up your coordination and keep up the muscle memory that you need, so what my main goal is to stay safe is to not go super long periods without flying. I’m going to try to get in the air every week or at the very minimum, every other week. I think that that will help a lot.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of people that complain even about the biannual flight review which is if you’re only flying every couple years to keep up your proficiency, it’s definitely not enough. Just to be 100% honest, I’m in one of those positions right now. I’ve been living in Hawaii for a while and before that in Alaska, that’s where I’m actually from, I’ll be going back there. But believe it or not, flying is actually more difficult in these places where I’ve been, especially Alaska which kind of blows my mind because there are more pilots there than anywhere else. My home airport, there’s hundreds of airplanes around but nobody rents airplanes, and so it’s just been really difficult. And it’s easy to let those things go, and so I’m starting to kind of sympathize with the people that kind of let things slide and have that problem because sometimes life just gets in the way. One of the best tips I’ve learned is that even through you may not be able to go out and fly in an airplane, you still need to be engaged in just thinking actively about aviation and be studying something all the time, and that certainly helps too, so good. I like that. Quick question for you. Have you read the book The Killing Zone?
Swayne: I have not.
Chris: Great. That might be one you pick up because it talks about what happens to pilots after they get their private pilot and how dangerous it is for a certain period of time. Really interesting and compelling. Going back to the GoPro thing, from what I see of you, I don’t feel like you have this dangerous attitude that a lot of pilots have because a lot of private pilots get their licenses and they come out with kind of this bigger confidence than they should have. They should be very conscious now that they’re out on their own.
Swayne: Yeah. I try to treat it when I’m flying as a private pilot, I mean probably the best example is that I made a transition from flying the light sport to the 172 I think like a week ago and what I did to kind of get used to the 172 because I did get a checkout flight and everything, I was good to go, was instead of going out and just flying around in the 172, I took it out and did like 11 patterns, just knock out touch-and-go’s, just over and over because I really wanted to almost treat it like I was training in a new aircraft. You can as a private pilot be certified to fly any plane without a type rating under 12,500 pounds but if it’s a new unfamiliar aircraft, you should really treat it as if it’s like your first solo in that aircraft.
Chris: Right. I mean, you can get yourself in really odd traps.
Swayne: You should go out and do touch-and-go’s and get used to it.
Chris: Yeah. I like that. Great. So, our next subject, we’re going to talk about, this is actually something that you suggested. We’re going to talk about destination flying or flying while you’re travelling. Say you go on vacation, you go to some far-off place, if you have a private pilot license, why not rent an airplane in that area and maybe even get a CFI too and experience the difference in that area, and this is actually something that I too have experience and it’s look like you’re starting a lot earlier than I have but this is a really cool, I wouldn’t even cool it a tip but a really good attitude to have as a private pilot, is learning new things and new places. You kind of listed out a couple of places here that you’ve flown in so far and then I know that you have a couple more planned, one of which is in Hawaii here which would be really cool.
Swayne: I have a new one that I’m going to add to the list that I set up yesterday, but I’ll tell you in a little bit.
Chris: Yeah. Let’s hear about that later. Let’s start off with Santa Monica. Tell us kind of what that was like and what you took away from that experience.
Swayne: Sure. So this was kind of in Santa Monica back in 2013 for spring break, I had my first real experience flying outside of Virginia. Because of the website From Private to Professional Pilot, I do have some followers on Twitter and on the website and I posted about me being in Los Angeles over my spring break. One of the followers of the website emailed me, just kind of reached out to me and was like “Hey, I have a plane at the Santa Monica Airport. If you want to go flying over Los Angeles and Malibu, just shoot me mail back and we’ll set up a time.” So that was really, really cool. And I met this guy out at the Santa Monica Airport which is a really, really cool airport by the way. If you get the chance to go there, I highly recommend it.
Chris: It’s really cool.
Swayne: There was like Harrison Ford’s jet we saw. It was really awesome. Yes, so we went out and he had a Diamond Star. So we got to go fly over Malibu and the coast and Huntington Beach and all these places which was really fun, and I got to kind of experience flying in a really, really high traffic area. He had on his plane, he had traffic collision avoidance systems on his Garmin displays which was cool because I hadn’t seen that in any aircraft I’ve flown before, but it was definitely unique to be flying with another pilot who kind of gets to experience a really high density area as opposed to Hanover Airport in Virginia where no one flies.
Swayne: So, that was pretty cool for me just to have that experience of somebody reaching out and then he let me take off his plane and he was sitting next to me and just let me fly his plane around which was super cool.
Chris: Yeah, that’s awesome. One of the cool things I like about Santa Monica Airport is the fact that it doesn’t have taxi place. It’s just like one big taxi where you call pull off the runway anywhere. They should do that more often. It’s really cool. It’s very cool.
Swayne: It works well. I like it.
Chris: Yeah. Okay. I actually flew in there one time too but it was IFR and I didn’t see the airport until you’re like two miles out. I think it was just smog. It wasn’t actually, it might have been a little bit of mist too but it’s pretty crazy. I didn’t see it until the last second, but definitely a cool airport. And when you have that ability to communicate on that kind of level with that much traffic around and air traffic control, it’s actually one of the fondest parts about aviation and being a pilot, so definitely really cool. Alright, so Alabama, you flew there too. Tell us a about that.
Swayne: Yes. So I was down in Alabama for my family reunion. We have like, every two years we go down the gulf shores and have a big family reunion there, and so I thought I might just well see if I can rent a plane or fly with an instructor, I was a student pilot at that time so of course I was with an instructor. But I went out to the airport, I had emailed an instructor that’s a really, really nice guy named Rod Kellogg, and we went out and my mom and brother actually sat in the backseat and this was the first time they have flown with me. So we got on the back of this Piper Warrior and that was the first time I have flown in a Piper. So we flew around gulf shores. We actually flew over the condos where our family was staying, and they were all in the beach waving towels and that was really fun. We got a cool video from it, from both the ground and the air, and flew out to this airport call Dauphin Island. We went out to this island and they have this airport that’s pretty much like an aircraft carrier. It’s an aircraft carrier runway surrounded on three on almost four sides by water, spilled out into the water, and it was really, really cool. There was no one there. We shut down the plane, explored a little bit, and that was really fun.
Chris: Right on.
Swayne: So I got to experience kind of when we were flying over Gulf Shores and over the gulf coast a little bit. We got to learn a little bit more about flying over the open water and some of the restrictions for flying over beaches and altitudes and stuff like that.
Chris: Wow. I’m looking at this airport right now. It’s unbelievable. It’s covered. It’s like a peninsula just kind of sticking out and it looks like they excavated it just for the runway. It’s not a natural landmass at all.
Swayne: Not at all. Yeah, if anybody’s listening and they want to check it out, you can just go on my website From Private to Professional Pilot and click on airport reviews, a tab at the top and everything is under there. You can find it pretty quickly.
Chris: Great, we’ll put that in the show notes too. That’s really cool. Definitely a cool airport. There’s one like that here in Hawaii in Molokai, it’s right in the shore, and in the AFT it says that during X and X months, wave break will come up over on to the runway and so you have to be really careful not to catch a wave on the landings. It’s pretty funny.
Swayne: One quick thing about the Alabama flying and this is kind of traveling and flying as a whole, is that if you choose to go on a flight somewhere else that’s unfamiliar to you and you get to meet other people, that’s a really, really good thing. I just yesterday, was out at the airport, meeting Rod again who was stopping by in his King Air on the way to Boston at Richmond, so he gave me an email. He just shot me an email that night and said “You know, I’m going to be in Richmond filling up the plane. Come out to the airport, we can say hi and I’ll show you the King Air.” So it’s really cool to be able to know people who are from different places, you get to know more people, and I actually got to meet the owner of the aircraft who said “The next time you’re in Alabama, come and we’ll put you up in the left or right seat with Rod and you can fly around.” So that would be really fun. It’s definitely worth it going out and meeting some different people.
Chris: Yeah, good networking. And you know, it takes coming out of your shell too. So for me, I grew up as kind of a shy guy that’s changed over the years. It’s just one of those things you have to just put yourself out there and just ask, and honestly, pilots are the type we love to talk about this stuff. If we have the opportunity to share with someone else, then it’s just so natural to do that and it’s going to be natural for you when you get in that position like Rod where you have a King Air, it’s going to be the same type of thing where you’re going to want to help someone out too. It’s just kid of this unwritten rule in aviation where everyone helps each other out.
Swayne: Oh yeah.
Chris: Cool. So next is the First Flight Airport. I don’t even know this airport existed until I saw your airport review video and some of your other material on it, so tell us about that one.
Swayne: Yes. So we went down to the Outer Banks at North Carolina for a vacation over the summer with the family, and once again I had called up or looked up some flight schools in the area and found in Dare County which is part of the island chain in the Outer Banks and I got hooked up with this really, really nice flight instructor Jenny Hawk out of OBX Airplanes. And so we went up in a 150 and that was the first time I had been in a 150. I did sort of the same thing I did in Alabama, flying down the coast, flew over the family at the house we rented, and then we flew back up to First Flight Airport which is where the Wright Brothers took their first flight and you can see, I’ve been there a few times prior to this flight, but there’s a big monument on this big hill, tons of people flying kites. You get to fly over the Kill Devil Hills Dunes where people are still doing hand gliding and stuff like that and it’s really, really cool. It’s a tiny airport. There is this old pilot saying that Jenny thought me about that this guy said once “If you can land at First Flight on a windy day, you can land anywhere,” and I have to agree with that, because there are 70 to 50-foot tall pine trees on either side of the runway and it is just gusty all the time because it’s on this island, and there’s a sea breeze coming in and it’s just windy.
When we were doing it, we had a really strong crosswind. I don’t know if it’s strong for some people but for me it was at that time being a student pilot. It was like 15 knots maybe and gusty too. And so I learned a lot about crosswind flying after a little bit of a bumpy landing and making sure my airspeed was up, and so it was good to do that with an instructor and learn a little more about that. But it was super, super cool to fly into First Flight Airport for the first time. I was kind of wondering as I was flying over the Wright Brothers’ first flight site, what they would have done had they had the opportunity to get in the cockpit of that 150 I was flying.
Chris: Yeah, that’s amazing. This is actually one of the times when I was reading your blog where I was pretty jealous just because that’s where it all started you know, and it just kind of brings it all full circle and like you said, it makes you wonder what they would in that position. One of my favorite quotes from I think it was Orville, he said “It’s possible to fly without engines but not without knowledge and skill.”
Chris: I really love that quote. So that’s really cool. That’s one of the coolest areas that I think you’ve flown into. Alright so, let’s see.
Swayne: There’s one more thing on the list that I guess we haven’t added but I had the opportunity when I was out in California, this was separate from Santa Monica, but it was out in Lake Tahoe.
Chris: Oh right, right.
Swayne:: Yeah, I got the first chance to fly in a glider for the first time over Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada which was really, really fun. I flew with, I think it’s Soar Truckee maybe, and so we flew out of the Truckee Tahoe Airport and I was with an instructor who was an older guy, I think he was probably in his 80s and had flown fighters with the Belgian Air Force. We flew the glider, this old glider for the first time. It was really fun. I got a little bit dizzy and altitude sick from it actually because we started at 9,000 feet MSL and we actually rose up on the updrafts and on the thermals up to about 14,500 feet. So we were up there pretty high without oxygen and I got a little bit dizzy. Considering that when you are flying in a glider in the way we were, we were just spinning the entire time up thermals which is a little bit dizzying but it was really cool. Really cool to learn more about gliding and how air currents work and actually feel the thermal push you up and try to stay inside that bubble. It’s really good for developing your piloting skills and learning to use the rudder more, so I think that if you get the opportunity, if anybody who’s listening gets the opportunity to go fly a glider for the first time, do it.
Chris: Well, I’m think I’m going to take you up on that because there are some glider flying available here on Oahu in Dillingham that’s pretty popular, it’s a pretty popular place to do it, so it’s something that I’ve been kind of putting off. I need to go do it. Also, when you up to this airport, was that your first time with high density altitudes and high altitude?
Chris: Okay. That’s pretty intense. So is the actual airport 9000 feet MSL?
Swayne: You know, I don’t think it’s 9000 MSL. I want to say the airport was probably 3000 or 4000 feet MSL.
Chris: Yeah, gotcha. Wow, you guys were up pretty high in that glider.
Chris: I’m trying to look it up here and see what the airport altitude is.
Swayne: Yeah, you can check it. I’m not 100% sure if that was right.
Chris: 5900 feet.
Swayne: Okay, yeah, so 6000.
Chris: Still pretty high. So most of my flying I did so far was in Utah and Colorado so I’m pretty familiar with density altitude but if you’re not used to it and you’re a sea level guy which I am now, definitely, that altitude can get to you and it’s pretty crazy. Even if you have oxygen, it seems like other parts of your body are kind of wacky. It’s different. In fact, one of the coolest things if you ever get the chance to do this and you’re just using supplemental oxygen at altitude, take a Coca-Cola with you and drink it like above 20,000 feet. It comes out as foam. It doesn’t even come out as liquid. It’s pretty cool.
Swayne: Oh that’s cool.
Chris: It feels really weird. And then sometimes, we’d have bags of chips in the back just kind of explode as we were climbing, it’s pretty funny.
Swayne: Yeah. That’s definitely good. It’s good to experience that high density altitude experience too because as a sea level person doing all my training here, I haven’t had the real chance of experiencing that and learning it firsthand.
Chris: Definitely. There are some prime examples of it on YouTube and obviously some actual accidents that have happened but there’s that one video on YouTube where the guys were taking off from that off-wheel strip in Idaho and they just kind of fly straight in the trees. Density altitude is a real thing, I can tell you. If you don’t have the airplane to handle it, then you’re going to be hurting all day long, you’re not going to be climbing, you’re not going to have any type of performance reserve for yourself if something goes wrong, so it really can bite you. And it’s good. This is another example why actually going out and flying in different places when you’re traveling is a great idea because you get all these different perspectives. It’s really not likely that you at this time in your flying career, would go from the East Coast all the way over here in an airplane and be able to experience that, but if you’re there, find somebody, go up and experience that, so it is a really, really great idea to fly when you’re travelling.
Chris: So is that kind of the culmination of what you’ve experienced so far? Is there anything else that we’ve missed?
Swayne: So far, no. That’s pretty much good for my actual flying on trips and stuff. I think that’s it so far.
Chris: So what do you have next? What are your plans for the future? I know you have a couple of things planned.
Swayne: Yeah, so there are three big flights I’m going to do this year that are going to be pretty fun. The first of which is, well it’s not going to be the first but I’m going to take an acrobatic lesson when I’m down in the Outer Banks again with the same person. Jenny got a decathlon and so I’m going to go up with her and get some tailwheel experience too which will be fun, and do some upset recovery and acrobatics which will be really fun I think. I think that’s something that if you get the chance, it’s definitely worth it. I don’t know how it works, I haven’t asked her, but maybe some spins too because we haven’t done any training with spins at all at my school. I don’t think they let them do spin trainings.
Chris: I’d be surprised if you guys didn’t do that because that’s the big thing to take away, is spin recovery, because that’s still a big killer for private pilots, is just losing control especially on base to final, pretty common.
Chris: Great, so you have that planned. What else?
Swayne: Yes. So when we’re down in Hawaii in late July or early August, I’m going to take a flight with Wings Over Kauai. We’re going to Oahu for about three days and then I think we’re going to Kauai for a week, and so I’m going to go up with an instructor in one of their 172s and my brother and mom will probably ride in the back. But technically as a private pilot, if I wanted, I guess in theory I could get checked out in a 172 somewhere and rent it but because I’m a private pilot and don’t have experience flying around the islands and there’s a lot traffic from tours and stuff, I definitely think it’s a good idea to go up with an instructor who knows the area, will be able to tell you cool things, give you tips, and be able to keep you kind of on your toes which is good, so I think that will be really fun.
Chris: Yeah, I like that idea. I actually experienced something like this when I first got my license. I went to Alaska. This was almost 10 years ago. I went to Alaska. My dad and I and my brother, we went up, we got checked out with this instructor in a 172. He ran us through, took us over at Glacier, it was really great. We came back, we did a simulated engine failure, and I failed that part. I just did not see it coming but he pulled the engine on me and I didn’t exactly pass that part of it. But he did find that I was able to take the airplane and go where we want to go, and we wanted to take it to Talkeetna which is near Denali, and after having experienced everything that he took me through and kind of the upper echelon that Alaska pilots are on, I decided it wasn’t smart for me to take the airplane that we’ve just kind of go with it from there. So that’s a definitely a great tip because they know the area and if you’re flying in somewhere different like that and Hawaii is very, very different and you’re right, Kauai is a very dense area for helicopters.
Swayne: Oh yeah and they have the mountain ranges too. You get stuck in a box canyon or something.
Chris: Right, it’s pretty wild, so it’s definitely a good idea to go up with somebody that’s familiar with the area even if you’re spending more time with that, because you can circumnavigate that island pretty island and go up along the Na Pali coast. It will probably be one of the most amazing flights you ever take.
Swayne: Yeah. It’s going to be, they said it takes about an hour, like 65 minutes I think to go around the whole island which is what we do, just go around the whole island by coast. It’s going to be really fun I think.
Chris: Yeah. It’s amazing. Make sure that everyone has cameras that they can take pictures while you’re manipulating the controls. Cool. Do you have anything else planned? I think there is because I don’t think you’ve told me about this last one.
Swayne: Yeah. This last one I figured out and planned yesterday. In June, and this is something Rod convinced me to do and I wasn’t sure about it if I wanted to or not, but in June, I’m going to be in Jordan in the Middle East with a friend who’s in my grade who’s from Jordan and he invited me to come stay with his family. And so I found where they live. It’s a town called Aqaba, it’s on the Red Sea. It’s kind of where Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia like come together at a point basically on the ocean, and so it’s this really cool area. And I found this aviation academy called Ayla Aviation Academy and it’s a really legitimate company. They have people flying with Qatar and Emirates. It’s like 87,000 likes on Facebook. They have tons of people that train with them and I don’t even know it existed really.
So I just send them an email and it was like “Hey, I’m a private pilot from the US and I’m interested in going up and flying around Jordan, around Aqaba and the Wadi Rum, the desert there, just to see what it’s like and see what flying in a completely different international setting is like.” And they were like “Yeah, we can go up and we’ll set you up with an instructor and you can fly in a Diamond Star.” So that’s going to be really, really fun I think and definitely good to be flying with an instructor in a completely different country in the Middle East. They have different air regulations. They might talk a little bit different communications-wise on the radios which is going to be good to have an instructor with me.
Chris: Man. I am jealous. That sounds amazing.
Swayne: Yeah. It’s going to be really fun. I mean I don’t even, like I’ve been planning this trip to Jordan, live we’ve had tickets booked for about four months now but I’d never really considered doing it, and then yesterday, I was just like you know, this would be really cool if I can make it work, like going up for a flight as a private pilot in the Middle East. I mean, who’s done that? It’s pretty cool.
Chris: Yeah. Really rare. Yeah, that’s going to be amazing. You’ll have to get some good footage of that one for sure.
Swayne: Oh yeah, definitely.
Chris: Cool man. Well, anything else? Any other plans to fly? Actually, this last weekend, we were going to record last week but the last several days you were out touring some universities right to figure out where you’re going to go to your training?
Swayne: Yes, I was.
Swayne: Yeah. We visited a school in North Carolina but I have been looking into the aviation universities as well, but we were kind of going, the purpose of our college visit this past week was just kind of to look at a non-aviation university that gives you a non-aviation environment because to be fair about it, you want to go visit everything, you don’t want to just go visit, you know I’ve already visited Embry-Riddle and I’m going to UND sometime soon, but it’s definitely good to go visit some other colleges so you know that that’s something you really want to do. Because you can always go a normal university and just go to a Part 141 training school or an FBO and get your ratings on the side if you want to.
Chris: Right. Yeah, definitely. I spent time with a university program and they really do a great job, and definitely, if you plan on being a professional pilot, if you plan on flying for the airlines, it’s definitely the way to go. I don’t see any other way to do it. It’s a little more complicated now with the hours rule but it’s still…
Swayne: That’s even more of an incentive to go, you know, with the restricted ATP and you get basically a third of the time knocked off the ATP if you go and do a 141 program.
Chris: Right, yeah, cool. Well, it sounds like you’re well on your way to a very successful career, and I think it would be really nice to catch up with you after you’ve flown in Hawaii, in Jordan and learn what those experiences were like and maybe learn some takeaways from you, what it was like flying in the Middle East for example.
Swayne: Oh that’s going to be completely different. I can’t wait.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot to learn there. And that’s the great thing about kind of where we’re at in aviation enlightenment if you will, is the internet is allowing us to reach out to all different parts of the world and learn about aviation in that part of the world. So not only are we going to have people on this podcast that are from different areas of the world, we have someone from Australia coming up, we’ve already had someone from United Kingdom. Also, like for you, to be able to go to that part of the world and actually experience it is a very cool perspective too, so it’d be great to have you back and talk about that.
Swayne: Of course. Yeah, I’d love to.
Chris: Alright man. I appreciate your time. I think people are really going to like this show. We shared a lot of unique experiences and I think you’ve definitely proven that it’s worth making the time and effort to find someone in the area that you’re travelling to fly with and learn something different, a different perspective, continue that networking, and I think it’s going to pay off huge dividends for you as you continue your career. So good job, good job on your blog, on your passion really. You’re just doing excellent and I look forward to see where you head.
Swayne: Yup. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Chris: Appreciate it Swayne. We’ll talk to you some other time.
Swayne: Yup. Talk to you later.
Chris: Alright. Big, big thanks to you Swayne Martin for coming on the show today. I hope you guys enjoy that hangar talk as much as I did. It’s really a great perspective to think about actually flying when you go and travel somewhere. It does give you much more depth to your view on aviation and allows for others that are out there that experience very different things to teach you and to share with you their experience. Swayne has just some very interesting experiences so far, having flown in the busy airspace in California, having flown at the high density altitudes near Tahoe, and also his experience in Alabama at that very, very cool airport right on the ocean and his experience at the First Flight Airport, and I’m really excited to hear about what else comes up with his experience that will happen in Kauai which is in Hawaii and also in Jordan. I think that one will just be amazing. So really looking forward to it. Swayne, thank you so much for coming on the show, and for of you that are listening to this AviatorCast episode, because you are followers of Swayne, this guy is super cool and I wish I would have found him much sooner than I did, but it’s great to be in contact with Swayne now and I really look forward to seeing how he progresses and the stories that he shares with us through his blog.
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Until next time, throttle on! [/transcript]