Stella Starts Flight School
Stella officially started her flight lessons with Lizzy. Since Stella gets to benefit from this individualized attention, I thought I'd put together a mini flight school that allows you to follow along as she learns the basics of flight and gets up in the air.
Are you ready to fly?
Getting Ready to Take-off
Do you remember what ATIS stands for?
That's right! It's the Automatic Terminal Information Service.
Pilots use the acronym, ATIS, for short.
Lizzy always listens to the ATIS before taking-off.
The tower tells Lizzy which runway to use based on the current wind patterns (speed and direction), other traffic on the runway and up in the sky. Let's have a listen while Lizzy gets ready to take Vyctor up in the air.
Stella will start us off by reviewing the radio alphabet.
Did you know...?
The plane's propellor provides its thrust and the flaps on the wings let Lizzy slow the plane down or improve lift.
The ATIS Report
ATIS = Automatic Terminal Information Service
Lizzy needs to know several important things before she takes Vyctor up into the sky.
She needs to know:
🌦The current weather conditions - windspeed and direction, air temperature, barometric pressure and if the ceiling (cloud cover) allows for proper visibility
🛫The recommended runway for her to take-off
✈️Whether or not there is any other air traffic nearby
Lizzy radios the tower to find out the information she needs to know before flying. The tower is located at the airport and an air traffic controller tells Lizzy whether or not it's safe to fly.
Lizzy uses Vyctor's radio (not her cell phone) to communicate with the tower. The communication goes both ways, so Lizzy can be the one to radio the tower of the tower radios her.
The tower will let Lizzy know the visibility and whether or not it's safe to fly. This is based on many things, like wind speed, but also the CAVOK.
CAVOK = ceiling and visibility okay
This just lets Lizzy know that the clouds aren't too low since a low ceiling makes it difficult to see during take-off and landing.
Are you ready to hear what Lizzy hears?
Listen to Lizzy as she radios the tower to get the ATIS report.
Let's review what some of this means in a bit more detail.
Lizzy's not yet done inspecting Vyctor. She must now go inside her plane and make sure the instrument panel is in working order.
She'll also need to radio the tower to let them know that she'll be flying today. The tower will communicate back important information like the wind speed and direction, ceiling (height of the clouds) and visibility, as well as which runway Lizzy needs to take-off from. We'll learn about all of that in the next post.
For now, let's get familiar with Vyctor's instrument panel.
Are you ready to learn about some of the gauges?
Vyctor's Control Panel
Understanding the Instruments
Let's listen to Lizzy as she explains what all these gauges and gadgets actually do.
Vyctor gets the walk around
Each time before Vcytor goes up in the air, Lizzy must inspect her plane.
What's she looking for?
Well, anything that could signal danger while taking-off, up in the air, or landing. This could be anything from contaminated (dirty) fuel to low tire pressure.
Lizzy has a visual checklist she needs to complete before she can start Vyctor up and get ready to fly.
Let's follow her around as she completes Vyctor's virtual inspection.
Are you curious to know more?
Step #1: Observe the weather
Before Lizzy even thinks of flying, she needs to take the weather into account. If the winds are too high, the clouds are too low or a storm is on its way, then Lizzy can't fly.
Lizzy and Stella are going to feel any adverse (bad) weather.
Did you know...? The height of the clouds refers to the ceiling.
Low ceiling = low clouds
Why is this important?
The clouds affect a pilot's visibility.
Visibility = how far & clearly a pilot can see
Step #2: Observe Vyctor
Once Lizzy's done checking the weather report, she's going to check Vyctor. She's looking for any visual signs of damage to her plane.
Plane's experience wear and tear over time, so Lizzy needs to make sure there's nothing seriously wrong with her plane that could make it too dangerous to fly.
Lizzy does this by walking around Vyctor's exterior (outside) and checking a few key parts.
Lizzy's main checklist includes:
1. Weather - Lizzy always checks the weather to know if it's safe to fly
2. Vyctor's fuel quality and quantity - his fuel is stored in his wings
Quality = the cleanliness of the fuel - (dirt + water)
Quantity = how much fuel there is
3. Landing gear - Lizzy wants to make sure Vyctor's three tires are inflated (hard) and the wheels are securely attached. This is really important for take-off and landing.
4. Ailerons - these are the movable surfaces on Vyctor's wings that control his side-to-side movements and allow Lizzy to perform stunts.
Close to the ailerons on Vyctor's wing is a small tube called a "pitot static tube" and despite its small size, the pitot static tube actually plays quite a large role since it affects Lizzy's instrument readings.
Lizzy needs to make sure there's nothing blocking this air intake tube. If any bugs or debris, like dirt, get in there then Lizzy's air speed indicator won't work properly. She always needs to make sure air can pass through this small tube.
5. Rudder - think of the rudder like Vyctor's tail. Lizzy wants to make sure there's no damage since this controls Vyctor's "yaw" by fine tuning his side-to-side movements during take-off and landing.
6. Elevator - you probably already know what an elevator is and that it carries passengers up and down. An elevator on a plane has a similar function. Vyctor's elevator, located at the back of the plane, lets Vyctor and his passengers travel up and down.
Lizzy doesn't just know how to fly, she also knows how to make us laugh. She keeps us entertained as she does Vyctor's walk around.
Check out this video of Lizzy inspecting her plane:
Join us next time as Lizzy and Stella go inside the cockpit and get ready to fly.
Meet Your Crew
Let’s start it up! ✈️☁️
When someone says, “you have your head in the clouds” it often means that you are a daydreamer. It might also mean that you are someone who doesn’t pay attention.
But what if we changed the meaning of the term?
I’m going to challenge the existing definition.
What if having your “head in the clouds” meant that you were bold, adventurous, daring, and willing to take risks. What if it meant that you turned those daydreams into reality and actually took to the sky.
You are about to meet two females who’ve done just that.
Welcome to our blog:
Head in the clouds: Stella & Lizzy take flight
This blog is for aspiring pilots and those who are interested in flight.
Here you’ll find information on aeronautics for young people. This blog will cover piloting, planes, flight dynamics, communication, aerobatics and airports.
Since so few females consider flight as a potential hobby or professional career, my goal is to get young people, especially young girls, thinking about whether or not they want to have their head in the clouds.
This pilot and "co-pilot" team are about to take you on an adventure.
Are you ready to join them?
Meet Lizzy McFly
Lizzy has been flying since 2005, and she’s unique for many reasons. First of all, she’s the only female aerobatic pilot flying at the Niagara District Airport.
What’s an aerobatic pilot, you ask?
Well, an aerobatic pilot is someone who has a specific rating that allows her to fly stunt planes.
Flying straight isn’t what gets Lizzy excited. She’d rather roll the plane (aileron roll), let the plane do a controlled drop (hammerhead), or land her plane on a grassy runway in a field. That last part isn’t about aerobatics, it’s just plain cool.
Watch Lizzy in action as she rolls, twists, drops and turns her plane.
Being female means that statistically Lizzy is much less likely to have a pilot’s licence, but more likely to have Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
< 7% of commercial pilots are female, but ~ 75% of individuals diagnosed with MS are women.
MS is a neurological disorder caused by a virus that leads to the protective coating around nerves getting destroyed. The protective coating is called “myelin” and it’s a fatty substance that helps your neurons transmit signals to other parts of your body. Think of your neurons like a runway.
A runway is a long, smooth surface that is used to get a plane from the ground up into the air, much like how neurons move signals from one part of your body to another. If the runway isn’t smooth then it’s hard for the plane to take-off. Similarly, if your nerve cells lose their protective coating and become frayed then signals can no longer move easily from one part of your body to another.
Lizzy not only pushes the boundaries in terms of being one of the only female pilots in the area doing stunts, she also shows us that some diseases are manageable and they don’t need to stop us from doing what we enjoy. That’s not to say that Lizzy doesn’t have tough days as someone with MS, it just means that she doesn’t let it stop her from doing what she loves. That is, flying her plane Vyctor through the clouds.
Want to learn more about Lizzy, flying, or MS?
Stella is a nine-year old girl who loves flying and being upside down in planes.
Stella’s first flight with Lizzy was in 2019. They flew together in Lizzy’s plane, Vyctor, and Stella loved every minute.
It doesn’t hurt that Lizzy’s an amazing instructor that can explain what she’s doing with a plane in a way that even a nine-year old totally gets what she’s saying.
From very early on, Stella’s been in the air.
Stella's first ever flight was to Halifax when she was just a few months old. Since then, she’s flown at least ten times to and from the Western Arctic; as well as to Japan, Bermuda, Europe, and the United States.
All this time in big commercial planes meant Stella was already quite comfortable flying. She handled her first flight with Lizzy in an aerobatic plane like a pro.
Like Lizzy, Stella’s head rests comfortably in the clouds.
Vyctor is Lizzy’s second plane, and this plane is anything but plain.
He’s a Cessna 150 Aerobat and Lizzy’s owned him for about twelve years.
You’ll get to know more about Vyctor in future posts.
Meet Ming & Donkey
Lizzy and Stella love to fly! Join this dynamic duo as they soar through the clouds on another adventure.