900 hours as pilot in command.


Gyroplane CFI
Staff member
Oct 30, 2003
Santa Maria, California
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2600+ in rotorcraft
AKA what did I learn in the last hundred hours as pilot in command?

I feel I am making steady progress with my navigation and managing the environment.

I am emboldened by my continued success.

The last 100 hours included our flight to the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In where I took a different route than the last two years and ran into unreported cloud cover. I availed myself of Flight Service on the Radio to get a picture of the weather and I feel I managed it well. I had enough information on board to press the recalcitrant flight service person for useful weather updates. I found that the preparation for the trip was fundamental in managing the unexpected weather challenges.

I certainly tested my prerotator At the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In giving 45 rides in one day.

Flying at El Mirage was good practice for managing distractions. It is a very chaotic environment with lots of gyroplanes buzzing around and lots of distractions. Using the radio does not seem to be an element of the protocol. I found great joy in sharing the fun of flying a gyroplane with so many new friends.

I find it hard to accurately identify the lake bed surface and practice improved my landings there. I made some maladroit landings.

The last hundred hours included our flight to Rio Vista (O88) where I was more creative in my flight planning navigation and successfully used the services of Nor Cal approach between Georgetown (E36) and Rio Vista. I had not been able to get Nor Cal approach to offer useful services on past flights because I was too low and too distant. This flight took me very near lots of busy airspace.

On this same adventure I found a fuel hose leaking with no visible damage during preflight. I feel fortunate to have found it before it caused a problem.

This flight went particularly well.

The last hundred hours also included our flight to Cable (CCB) airport in Upland on the edge of the Los Angles Megalopolis with very complex air space. It showed me that I still have not truly grasped the fundamentals of compass headings, runway headings, reciprocals and I am not visualizing patterns as well as I would like. My navigation by dead reckoning is getting better but is not as accurate as I would like. I am learning to use my GPS as part of the process and I used VORs to help me understand my position on the chart.

I found that I did not have to be very far off in my navigation to be confused about which freeway I am over or which pass I am using.

Cable airport reaffirmed my feeling that a interacting with a community of pilots can be a remarkable experience. Cable Airport is now tied with Santa Paula as the airport with the strongest aviation community. We were welcomed like the prodigal son.

I have a new way to manage the chart with a clear plastic holder that I purchased at a stationary store. If I refold the chart at each gas stop I can see everything I need to see without the chart departing the aircraft. It seems easier on the chart than my clipboard scheme. I found myself using the chart more often to answer more questions because it was easier to use.

I found that using the chart more increased my situational awareness. I found that understanding the patterns and proximity of nearby airports helped in choosing a flight path with less traffic.

I find I am paying more attention to the yaw string. I find that when flying in a strong crosswind, 10kts at more than 40 degrees, The Predator flies with a little yaw and straightening it out allows me to fly or climb a little faster for a particular power setting. I flew a gyroplane that wandered in yaw and it caused me to pay more attention to this. I had previously only been concerned with yaw in turns and landing. I did not realize how much just a little out of track flying increases the drag. The Predator requires very little pedal work so I had not worked on this aspect of my flying. This new awareness will cause me to put in flight rudder trim on Mariah Gale in addition to the rotor trim. My new stick grip already has the switches in place. With a tandem I do not see value in controlling the rotor for left and right trim. I feel putting a trim on the rudder will be fairly easy to manage.

I am still having trouble identifying an unfamiliar airport from 1,000 feet AGL. I have flown high enough to know that altitude makes a difference in my ability to identify an airport. On the trip to Upland I was restricted in my altitude by some overlying class Charlie airspace and the industrial clutter added to the confusion. A larger GPS screen and terrain will help with this.

I am making better aviation decisions and have stayed overnight for better weather twice in the last 100 hours. This is the first 100 hours where I did not make a decision to fly that I regretted. I still have trouble making a decision not to fly because of weather and have less conviction than I would like making those decisions. I exceeded my wind limits 3 times in the last 100 hours. I took off once over my gust limit because I wanted to continue on my journey. The others were due to changing weather while in flight. Overconfidence haunts me here and I have to consciously imagine the consequences to maintain reasonable caution. I have not had a difficult windy landing experience in the last 100 hours. I seem to be getting better at responding to gusts while landing.

I recently stopped at Santa Barbara (SBA) for gas and was very pleased with my management of the communication of class C airspace. I managed it with very little effort and no negative emotions. For those who have been following along on this journey you know what a big deal that is for me. It was an unexpected stop so my call sheets were not ready but were close at hand. Runway 15 Right at SBA crosses the main runway and the first taxiway is very close to the numbers. Turning at the first taxiway seemed easy.

I have become more accurate with my simulated engine out landings. I seldom turn a page in my log book with only 14 landings. I feel my takeoff and landing skills continue to improve when I practice. I find value in trying to improve on my last landing just a few minutes later that I don’t get when flying to a distant airport with 90 minutes between landings and a different winds and site picture.

I added Rio Vista Municipal airport (O88) in Rio Vista, California, Taft-Kern Airport (L17) in Taft, California, Whitman Airport (WHP) in Los Angeles, California and Cable Airport (CCB) in Upland, California to my list of airports we have flown into. We have to go further afield to find virgin airports whose runway has not been penetrated by The Predator. I have flown into at least 44 airports, some are forgettable; most are precious memories and a good exercise for situational awareness.

I continue to learn on every flight and my joy continues to expand.

I am more excited on takeoff today than a year ago.

I continue to find new sources of flying pleasure as my resources expand.

I find it is easier to identify the progress I am making on the longer flights over unfamiliar territory. It seems more black and white.

I find a special delight in planning and successfully executing each small step and practicing each unfamiliar skill involved in the more distant and complex journeys.

Most of our flying is over more familiar territory with flights of around 2 hour round trip.

I find a different pleasure in a short repeated flight that is not greater or lesser than the pleasure I find in cross country flights over unfamiliar territory.

It is nice to have the opportunity to say or do what I wish I had done on the last flight.

I find the anticipation of a special part of a familiar flight delightful and sometimes I can find ways to enhance the experience. Descending from 1,000 over the Five Cities to five hundred feet over the Oceano shoreline and turning north comes to mind; sometimes a spiral descent, sometimes a vertical descent sometimes a straight forward 500 foot per minute descent into the cool fresh ambiance of the azure sea and white sands. The delight I find continues to grow.

I find I am less inclined to feel overwhelmed by the revelation of my ignorance if I know most of what to do and I know where I am.

I have become increasingly aware of the freedom we have to explore the trackless sky. I revel in that freedom to place The Predator anywhere I can imagine. I understand there are limits. As my piloting skills increase I feel my freedom expands.

I continue to battle overconfidence.

My totals to date are 2,913 landings, 1,003.1 Total flight hours 1001.7 in rotorcraft, 493 hours of cross country and 11.6 hours of night.

I flew 241.4 hours as pilot in command in 2011. My log book shows 440 landings, 182.5 hours of cross country and 1 hour of night in 2011.

That is 59 hours of flying about aimlessly, practicing stop and goes, giving people short rides or flying to Lompoc or Oceano. I don’t log it as cross country time unless is at least 25 nautical miles to the destination airport even though I have satisfied the FAA requirements for cross country flight.

I find value in reflecting on the lessons I have learned in my four years and 900 hours as pilot in command. There are so many skills I am developing on so many levels it is easy to miss the progress. I want to savor every facet of the aviation experience.

The Predator has over 1,100 hours on her.

The joy I find in flight continues to develop in ways I could not imagine.

Thank you, Vance


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ad-Vance-ing your horizons

ad-Vance-ing your horizons

It's my opinion, nobody does it better then you !!!!!!!!!!!
Congrats Vance and thanks for taking us along.
A very nice thing to say.

A very nice thing to say.

Thank you Jay,

I find value in the introspection.

My handicaps limit the speed I can advance.

I learn to cherish the little victories.

I feel time slipping away as we are building the new aircraft slowly.

My drive and commitment to adventures has diminished with the years.

I need to fly across the country before I get too old to fully appreciate it.

I imagine I am ready until I am actually in some situation I am unprepared for. I don’t know what I don’t know.

I try to imagine each day how to take a step on our journey.

I hope I don’t encourage people to try things they are not ready for.

Part of what I came away with this time was the recognition of how valuable the Garmin 695 will be and how often I will use the two station capability of the new radio. I love the idea of just pushing buttons on the GPS for the correct stations rather than having to sort through my radio call sheets.

I feel that learning my navigation and communication skills is good and I am glad I didn’t start out with those tools.

The Predator works so well there are many skills I have not acquired.

Ed is looking over my shoulder and says “Hi Jay!”

Thank you, Vance
I am living a dream!

I am living a dream!

Thank you Mike,

Having my friends along compounds my joy and expands my perceptions.

I try to live up to their fantasy of who I am.

I find that writing about our flights has taught me many things.

I do it for me. I would not have the discipline if not for my friends on the forum.

Thank you, Vance
Congradulations Vance, that is quite a number of hours and thanks for all the pictures of your part of the country. The Freedom flyin is on my Bucket list.
Thank you for the kind words!

Thank you for the kind words!

Hello Stan,

I agree to disagree.

I don’t think of it as a competition.

I am learning skills you will never need for the kind of flying you do.

When we were flying to Cable Airport and I was confused about which freeway we were over and which pass we were in; I identified a real gap in my skill set. If we had done it a year ago I would have made many more mistakes to the point of it not being fun.

I don’t want to be lost or afraid on our trip across the country and I want Ed to be as safe as she can be. I want to manage weather and planning well.

I would like for pilots reading the book to feel I am a good pilot rather than just some old guy that is out on a lark and only succeeds because of luck. I would like someone like Scott, my friend who is a captain on a 737 to be able to say; “that was well done.”

The gyroplane community does not have a good reputation in the aviation community and I don’t want to reinforce that by making high profile dangerous mistakes.

I don’t know what I don’t know until I collide with my ignorance.

I have asked many good pilots what I need to know and most don’t have an answer.

When I describe my challenges many of the same pilots nod and say; “I made that same mistake.”

When things go badly it takes some of the fun out of it for me. I would like to avoid making most mistakes, and learn from my mistakes so I don’t repeat them. My learning challenges seem to cause me to make the same mistake on a higher level the next time.

I know when things are not going well even if Ed doesn’t see it. I try not to let the chaos instigated by my errors degrade my performance. In my opinion to mitigate this chaos I need a solid knowledge and experience base.

I imagined that I was ready to fly to Bensen days in 2009. I now know enough to feel that I would have probably made enough mistakes to take the fun out of it. I feel it would not have been safe.

In my ignorance I imagine that I could fly The Predator across the country now.

I hope that Mariah Gale’s extra fuel capacity, increased cruising speed, better GPS and radio will make the trip more fun and less work.

The three air show I hope to fly in this year will be good practice for our new barnstorming across the USA fantasy. I have only flown in three air shows at SMX and I have a lot to learn. At Hollister and Cable I will be doing an engine out landing in front of the crowd.

The latest fantasy about getting my commercial endorsement has it combined with my flight review in June. Flying to Buckeye will be a 900 mile round trip plus whatever flying I need to do for the training, flight review and check ride.

I continue to learn with every flight and I often feel ambushed by my ignorance.

Thank you, Vance
Thank you Mark!

Thank you Mark!

Congradulations Vance, that is quite a number of hours and thanks for all the pictures of your part of the country. The Freedom flyin is on my Bucket list.

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to fly as often as I do.

When I post one of my hundred hour reports I always take a deep breath before I push send.

I get so excited about the details but I don’t want to sound like I am bragging.

Some of my challenges may seem trivial.

I love sharing the adventure with my friends on the forum.

I find the responses are usually positive and the people who don’t like the flying adventures don’t have to read them.

Flying from Woodworth, La to El Mirage, Ca in a gyroplane would be quite an adventure.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Thank you, Vance
The only real competition is, can I survive this flight.

We pilot’s all learn at different rates and in different way’s. The hard part for an instructor is to recognize the current approach is not working and develop a different approach. Your flying is not that much different from us. You have recognized many of your difficulties and have overcome them.

As to skill sets, you would not have much difficulty flying here in the East other than navigating the large flat terrain that looks pretty much the same, whereas I would have difficulty flying in the higher altitudes and mountainous areas. But that is what training is all about. Pushing our abilities just a little bit further so we know not to go there.

Navigation is a skill set that many pilots have forgotten with the introduction of lorans and more recently the GPS. Most pilots would have great difficulty going cross country with just a map. They would arrive at their destination, but with many more miles covered than planned for.

As to getting lost, apprehension on a long trip is a natural and good thing, especially if you have never been that route. Apprehension makes us rethink the trip, what have I missed, is there a better way. But there is a time to take a deep breath and just do it.

As to what you don’t know and other pilots can not answer goes to your flight instructors and mentor’s. As a student a foundation was laid. The foundation is the building block from wince we pilot’s started to learn. The instructor teaches us how to preflight, take off, climb, straight and level, descents, stalls and landings. From there the instructor introduces cross country navigation, radio procedures, and traffic patterns at other airports. Along the way the instructor will hopefully instill the foundation for decision-making, the truly hard part of flying. They will for instance teach you short field landings on a very long runway, but that will not prepare you for an actual short field with the trees coming on fast. Things of this type might be the reason the other pilots may not be able to answer the question as to what you need to know.

I can only offer this advice as to what you need to know:

  1. Always fly the fly the aircraft. It does not matter if you take care of the problem if you quit flying the aircraft.
  2. Always leave yourself with an option.
Example - Short field landings, at what point will I execute a go-around. Deteriorating weather – at what point will I divert or go back. These are items we must, in the back of the head, have an option ready before we need it. Much like always looking for a place to set the aircraft down.​

Follow these two simple ideas and fly with confidence.
i love all the pictures!! thanks vance
Good Counsel!

Good Counsel!

Thank you Jeff,

I love the specificity of your thought provoking post.

Fly the aircraft is a fundamental concept for me.

Managing distractions is a primary focus for me.

I have heard enough test pilot stories from the likes of Scott Crossfield and Bob Hoover to know to fly the aircraft all the way to the scene of the crash.

I don’t like to feel I don’t have the tools to manage a situation well.

I find joy in managing a previously unmanageable situation.

Part of the reason for the 100 hour reflections is to recognize progress.

I am grateful to be haunted by my ignorance because it is part of my struggle against overconfidence.

I am rigorous in my exploration of alternate plans.

Thank you Jesse,

I feel fortunate to fly in an area where I can point the camera in any direction and capture beauty.

Ed does a much better job of capturing the feeling.

The splendor appears different to me on every flight.

I enjoy bringing the pictures to the forum and trying to connect them to the words.

Thank you, Vance
Vance, a very nice report. You are not alone in making runway mistakes, wondering which road or freeway you're over etc. All of us do it once in a while. Keep em spinning-Bob
Quantifying progress!

Quantifying progress!

Thank you for your words of encouragement Bob, I feel they come from friendship and experience.

I learn a little slower than most people so I have to try a little harder.

My ability to gain a feel for a route and make decisions based on the charts continues to grow.

It is difficult to quantify the value of the experience and writing about it helps me to recognize when I am ready for the next step.

We had a big storm pass through here the last several days with a lot of wind and rain so I spent some time studying the charts for my flight to Buckeye, Arizona for my flight review and practical test later this year. I try to take at least a small step on our journey each day. I wanted to make this flight for my private pilot license practical test in June of 2008 and Terry Brandt, my friend and CFI felt I was not ready for such a flight so I put her on the trailer. I did not understand why at the time. I am sure I still don’t understand all the reasons now.

The trip would include the flight we just made to Cable so I have recent experience to relate to the chart. My experience flying to George Town, Marysville and Rio Vista has value. The total distance is 396 nautical miles but most of the way there are plenty of airports and lots of aids to navigation. From Blythe (BLH) to Buckeye (BXK) is 102 nautical miles. I studied my log book and I have done a lot of 90 mile hops and still landed with an hour of fuel on board. This is an area where the wind can be quite strong all day. Flying direct keeps me along the highway and out of the many nearby MOAs but assumes that the wind is not too strong.

Plane B would be to fly up to Parker (P20) and east to Wickenburg (E25) which is 74 nautical miles and then down to Buckeye. Plan B has us over a lot of wilderness and some mountains. The total distance with plan B is 426 nautical miles. Plan B is a commitment to not have a problem over the wilderness and requires better navigation. There are many places along the route I feel I could not walk out of.

If I make a commitment to plan A the fall back position going out is BLH to E25 which is still 98.1 nautical miles. The fall back position coming back is BXK to P20 which is still 90 Nautical miles.

I feel that a big head wind could be a problem. On the other hand I don’t like flying over wilderness.

If I am fighting a 20kt head wind I would still land with 6 gallons but that is cutting it a little too close for me. More wind would make it impractical. I have had the experience of intently watching the fuel level indicators and almost two hours of wondering if the wind will get stronger doesn’t hold much appeal for me.

The Predator has 22 gallons of gas on board but I would not count on all of it being usable. I feel the best solution is to build a tank that fits under the rear seat and lengthen the right side tank aiming for a total capacity of 28 gallons.

After 700 hours as pilot in command I began to hear more of what the chart had to say. I have made a lot of progress with the chart in the last 200 hours. I would not have been able to make decisions on this level or plan taking so many elements into consideration at 700 hours. I am pleased with this evidence of my continued progress.

Thank you, Vance


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Vance, In my opinion (lived in AZ many years) I would fly the I-10 corridor, if you have a problem, absolutely much more traffic for help, you go down any time in the summer between Parker & Wickenburg, you'll never walk out of there without gallons of water. I've hunted in the areas N.E. of Wickenburg for Javelina, you don't want to go down in that environment. Nobody around to help. Just my opinion.
Vance, you display wisdom. Don't fly over wilderness unless 1) that is the ONLY route or 2) that is the only route. Fly smart, live long, fly more.

I would rather be embarrassed by landing on I-10 than wadded up in a Ball by Mammoth Mt. I guarantee someone will stop and get you gas. The Predator will attract attention. You may even get a meal out of that deal!!
Something to think about.

Something to think about.

Thank you Jay,

I value advice like that a lot.

This is also a good example of my increased communication from the chart and the value of flying experience.

If I was planning this early on I would not have recognized this hazard.

Now I hear what the chart says.

I have flown over hostile territory enough to have considered what it would take to walk out if the engine stopped.

I have Spot so hopefully someone would come and rescue me but it is still not a situation I want to find myself in.

I only carry a quart of water and a little food so I am ill prepared to manage the desert wilderness.

Thank you, Vance
I don't know what I don't know yet.

I don't know what I don't know yet.

Thank you Bob,

I am gaining wisdom and trying to apply it.

I still don’t know what I don’t know.

I was busy posting to Jay when you posted.

I agree with you.

There are lots of places to land safely along the wilderness route but getting out might be ugly.

I measured The Predator today and a fairly simple tank could be constructed that goes under the seat that would hold 17 gallons for a total capacity of 39 gallons with the two 11 gallon side tanks. I feel this would give me a safe range of 165 nautical miles with a 20kt headwind. I would land with more than an hour of fuel on board. I feel this will manage the flight to Buckeye.

Thank you, Vance
Congratulations Snooky!

Congratulations Snooky!

I think of all the conversations we have about flying and how much you know and I have learned from you also. Just like we discussed last nite.... we look at things so differently now the world is a new and Cooler place!
Thank you for introducing me me to it as well! By the way should I get a Log Book? So do I get 450 of those hours as Your Popsicle Spotter?!
Love You! Ed

So glad all my sunrises and sunsets are with you!


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Vance..fly the I8 corridor to buckeye and you can stop in for a visit to Yuma. I would fly wingman for a portion of your trip!
Ed's Log Book

Ed's Log Book

I think of all the conversations we have about flying and how much you know and I have learned from you also. Just like we discussed last nite.... we look at things so differently now the world is a new and Cooler place!
Thank you for introducing me me to it as well! By the way should I get a Log Book? So do I get 450 of those hours as Your Popsicle Spotter?!
Love You! Ed

So glad all my sunrises and sunsets are with you!

Hello my special Ed,

I have found many joys in flight that I did not imagine at the beginning of my flying adventures.

One of them is sharing the joy of flying with you.

My world is a different and wonderful place since I became a pilot and your husband.

Your wonderful photographs are your log book that helps us to share our joy with our friends on the forum.

I suspect you have more pictures than I have hours as Pilot in Command.

Love, Vance