SOLO!!! And Onward and Upward!

The time is here! I have soloed! What a feeling! I would like to thank everyone in the FMA and all the sponsors for making this possible! I would also like to thank the good people at Quality Aviation Services at Jack Barstow Airport, including JT and Janine Rairigh. Everyone has been extremely generous to me and I am very grateful!

The FMA and QAS should be aware and very proud of the financial burden they all have lifted off my shoulders. You guys made it possible for me to accomplish all that I want to accomplish short term, and making the future goals more attainable. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people my age to fund the education we need to get where we want to be, and still have even enough money to fill our gas tanks. Scholarships are almost a necessity these days… Even with a deadly amount of determination and non-stop hard work, I still find it hard to keep the funds suitable to get where I need to in the future, yet still live my life and accomplish my goals. After all, we all have 1 life on this earth and personally, I am definitely not wasting the first 25 years (might I add just under 1/3 of a LONG lifespan) doing nothing but school πŸ˜‰ So in short, thank you, and I am so appreciative of everything the FMA, the sponsors, and QAS has done for me and do for others like me.

So now I guess the best thing I can say is onward and upward! The journey doesn’t stop here, in fact this is the end of the beginning! So, if you are wondering what is next, I think I feel safe predicting a future of hard work, busy schedules, and good times ahead, which is nothing new for me but that’s how I like it πŸ™‚ Hope to see you all in the skies someday!

With incredible gratitude,

Aaron Smokovitz

(Above): The day I soloed and the huge chunk of shirt JT Rairigh (instructor) removed. Quite drafty wearing that shirt these days…

(Below): After topping off fuel, before I departed for my solo cross country.

Dual Cross Country

Finally! After a few rain/thunder checks, schedule issues, etc., I finally was able to get in the air and check off my first dual cross country last Thursday! Due to a chuck full schedule as always, I wasn’t able to get in the air for the last 3 weeks or so. I flew from Midland Jack Barstow Airport (IKW), to Lansing (LAN), Flint Bishop (FNT), MBS International Airport (MBS), then home for a grand total of 144 NM.

LAN and FNT are both class C airspaces, and MBS is class D airspace, so the trip was very helpful on getting a good foundation on communications with ATC. I admit, I obviously wasn’t perfect, and had a few mistakes, hiccups and brain farts, but overall I think I did okay, and more importantly I soaked in a lot and learned from the mistakes.

I filed a flight plan, got a weather briefing, and used pilotage and dead reckoning to navigate this cross country, which actually worked pretty well for the most part. Meanwhile JT, my instructor, looks at his fancy tablet and chuckles as he watches me drift ever so slightly off the course line.

On a note about my instructor, JT is an extremely smart man, and an even more experienced pilot. I’ve gathered from his stories that in the past, he used to fly as a missionary pilot in New Guinea, which I can imagine can only present the least desirable conditions for flying (tight airfields, nothing but jungle beneath you, an airplane that doesn’t quite work right more often than works right, etc…) I have a large amount of respect for his knowledge and experience, and his flight school at QAS. And if you ever meet him, you will understand when I say he is a character :). He may be all of the above, but he also has a fun joking personality to him that you can’t help but find funny, and on occasion you have the opportunity to give it back, which makes things kinda fun and takes the serious edge off of things, if you ask me since I’m kinda the same way in a less mastered sense.

Anywho, The cross country went well, could have gone better, but couldn’t have gone better in the sense that I learned a lot! Afterward, we sat down and went over the whole trip, and looked very closely at the hiccups so that I can wrap my brain around it without being rushed in the cockpit, and learn from it.

More to come, and less time to do more since school is starting up again πŸ™ But we’ll make it happen!

Until next time,



Ultralight build: 1/2 VW progress

Well here is that video of the ultralight engine I built that I promised to show a long time ago… My pride took over and I did some tuning before I posted a video of my work to the world, and ended up tearing the head and cylinder off the left side to chase down an oil leak, which is why it took so long… As of right now, she has about 2 hours on her, is bone dry (although I didn’t risk getting doused again and ruining clothes by wearing all black πŸ™‚ ), and runs great! The idle could still use some work as I was focusing on tuning the top end. If you notice in the video, its pulling the test stand across the ground a little with me on the back! And yes, that is a snowmobile oil reservoir luxuriously ratchet strapped to the top for a gas tank and custom fitted for a gas line, the fitting and idea courtesy of my instructor and boss. AND YES! I know it rotates ‘the wrong way’! Blame the disoriented Germans for that πŸ˜‰

Vacation minus peace and quiet (Oshkosh)

If your idea of vacation is out in the wilderness where there is no pavement, and no sounds to dampen the calls of the birds, count me in! However, as lovely as that sounds, I would strongly urge you NOT to come along to my recent vacation if that is what you are seeking… aaaaannnnddd for those of you who have experienced Airventure know exactly what I mean. And for those that haven’t? Well…. one high decibel Oskhosh day in the future, you will think back to this life changing post you read a long while back and that cobweb covered light bulb will come on πŸ˜‰

Well, let me tell you, it was a strange feeling to not have to work, fly, wake up early, or rush anywhere for an entire week! A fairly large sum of my family and friends camped under the wing at Oshkosh last week. It was a great time, and I learned a lot of things during the week.

I participated in the EAA airventure band, and we had a great time as usual! On that note, the EAA band is very impressive considering the circumstances. First off, they are all flying musicians, whether part of the association or not πŸ˜‰ Second, none of us are professional musicians (at least none that I met, so don’t quote me on that πŸ˜‰ ), which means that odds are that most people in the band don’t have the luxury to practice everyday. That considered, it is extremely impressive what the EAA band accomplishes in a few hours of noisy and distracted via airplane rehearsal!

I also slipped into the Open mic night the FMA put on in the ultralight section. That was a good time, and I think went very well! I got to meet a few people from the FMA, and really enjoyed talking to them!

If you are wondering about my progress on flying, I haven’t flown since Oshkosh. My schedule was chuck full earlier this week, and weather is marginal for the next few days, so I am a bit uncertain to when I will be flying again. Soon, I am sure, in which I will keep ya’ll updated when the Man Upstairs gives the homesick angel a window πŸ˜‰

More to come,


A few hours later

Hi All!

It has been a while since I last checked in with the blog, but I assure you I have been staying busy busy busy… I have a couple more hours logged, and am trying to cruise through ground school yet taking enough time to plug one ear so it doesn’t just flow out the other πŸ˜‰ I believe I have made some good progress up in the air as well! Since I posted last, we have worked on fine tuning coordinated turns, steep turns, slow flight, side slips, landings, emergency procedures, etc. I’m working hard and trying to make the most and soak up everything I can every minute. I am feeling confident in my abilities as well, which I feel is very important, for pilots, and musicians! Don’t get me wrong, I am still staying humble! As goes for both hobbies, there is always room to grow, and although that is true, confidence in your abilities goes a long way.

**Sometimes you have to explain that to a musician, and sometimes you have to explain that to a pilot, but come on! The Flying Musicians Association?!?! Give me a break! Ya’ll got that covered πŸ˜‰

Anywho, I am working hard, having a blast, and excited for the future ahead! Β I’ll be posting soon hopefully!

Best wishes,


Dual Instruction Continues!

Hi All,

Here is a picture of the Skyhawk I am learning in, and of course, my ugly self blocking the view πŸ˜‰ I’m LOVING this FMA bag for all my dual instruction stuff! Real handy! πŸ™‚ I also have been wearing the AOPA pilot in command shirt for every lesson. My goal to maybe subliminally force an idea into my instructors head, but more realistically to jokingly nag him for every lesson πŸ™‚ One day, that tail will be cut loose!

I completed my second lesson in the air yesterday, and it went very well! I’m trying my best to absorb everything he throws at me like a sponge. There is indeed a lot coming at me in a short period of time, so I think I am going to start writing down what he is throwing at me after the lessons in hopes that I don’t forget all the little things. Well, we tried to get up in the air on Tuesday, but Mother Nature said no in the form of a vast black wall to the North East that would swallow up and laugh at a little 172… We ended up doing a burning lap down the runway and aborting the takeoff. He still managed to make it eventful, however, by announcing the child on the runway (simulation of course).

Well, I shared that scenario because it played a roll in a miscommunication in the next lesson with my instructor. So, thursday comes, and I rush home from the airport all dirty from working, shower, change clothes, grab a pb+j and my flight bag and head right back to start the preflight. I get done with that, and we then proceed with a half an hour lecture on longitudinal static stability. After that, we taxi out to the threshold, run up, and announce our take off. He tells me to pull out and center and stop, which I do. He then gives me the IFR goggles to put on, “take off with nothing but my voice and instruments. The key is your heading Β and airspeed indicators” I quickly tune the heading indicator, and let it sink in that I am literally flying blind! The only part that freaked me out was seeing the millimeter gap between the goggle’s barrier and cockpit, which displayed part of the runway rushing by. He kept saying, “MORE RIGHT RUDDER! YOU’RE DRIFTING! MORE! MORE!” I stuck with my heading indicator and was waiting until at least 65 knots to try and lift off.

Now keep in mind here that my mind is rushing, so don’t judge πŸ˜‰ At about 62 he says in a seemingly disappointed tone, “alright pull back come on.” Now, with that last scene of a child on the runway still fresh in my mind (don’t worry, there was not actually a kid), I quickly reacted by grabbing the throttle, pulling back to idle, and hitting the brakes to come to a stop and abort the takeoff. Once I crossed the threshold, he asked, “why did we abort the takeoff?” I responded at first with maybe I wasn’t centered enough. He said, “not centered? When you pulled the throttle back you were in the dead center!” Suprised and clueless, I asked why he did call me off then. “I didn’t! I mean pull back to lift off.”

Hehe… instantly I turned red and felt a little stupid πŸ™‚ He acknowledged and appreciated the fact that I wasn’t indecisive and did exactly what I thought he meant, and did it right. However, I still felt a little idiotic for misunderstanding something as simple as pull back…

Anyway, besides that hiccup it went great! We taxied back and I got a redemption on the goggled takeoff, which went great the second time. We did about a half hour of goggled flying, then we did disoriented corrections, in which I would close my eyes and look down while he angled the play in a strange manner. He would then say Go, and I would take the controls and reconfigure the airplane in a smooth manner. We also did slow flight, and demonstrated longitudinal static stability while in the air, and the effects of it.

He made my heart pump again by pulling the throttle back, and not letting me touch it. I asked if this is an engine out simulation. His only response I could get is “if it was an engine out, who is going to tell you that?” I then continued with the steps on an engine failure, announcing them out loud so he knew I knew what to do. That went very well, since luckily a beautiful hay field was practically laying on our laps, and I studied the emergency procedures very carefully since I knew it would come eventually in the dual instruction, however sooner than I thought. We also ended the day with two landings.




First Dual Instruction Hour


Hi All,

I survived my first hour of dual instruction! It was a bit more nerve racking than I anticipated. I have had past experience flying the airplane from the right seat with family members, growing up with a family chuckfulla aviators. The cockpit is a familiar environment for me. People often are confused in the cockpit at first from all the stimuli whirling around you and cramming through all your senses. That wasn’t what was so nerve racking to me, since I understood what was going Β on, and it was just the usual. What made me so fidgety was the fact that I am going through a more intense version of drivers training again. We all remember the first time taking the reigns of a car for the first time, whether it be at 15 or at 6 years of age πŸ˜‰ and the nerves that come with it, especially when there is somebody next to you correcting your bad technique, which there were plenty of at the time. You all know a version of theΒ feeling that somebody is watching for errors, and how it makes you second guess everything. For example, when he says set your heading to 270, I suddenly can’t find the Β hiding in plain sight heading indicator. By the end of the hour I was perfectly fine however (composure wise).

My instructor is a very friendly, and what you might call, an ol’ timer, which I respect him for. I noticed very quickly that he has a fantastic reservoir of knowledge that he is more than willing to share, especially if you ask πŸ˜‰

Unfortunately, we were dodging storms, so I didn’t have time to take a nice cheesy picture of my first dual instruction with an excessive, perhaps overexcited grin… Instead, I posted a picture with my slick new FMA shirt, which makes up for my ugly face πŸ˜‰ next to my newly built 1/2 Volkswagen Ultralight engine. I know, unrelated, but I had to share it since I spent the last year building it from scratch, and tend to be quite a bit proud of the ol’ girl. If you are wondering, “what do you mean 1/2?!” Just look it up, it is half of a 4 cylinder (now 2) aircooled volkswagen engine converted for ultralight aircraft. It will be running soon, so if anyone would like to see a video of that, I suppose I can figure out how to post that somehow…

FMA Swag

Hello all! My package of FMA Swag arrived in the mail a couple days ago. WOW! What great stuff! I couldn’t stop finding prizes in all the pockets and crevices! Most of the FMA Swag is in the picture. There were a multitude of little things like pens, flashdrives, stickers, Β etc. All that stuff is scattered and put to use already, so I decided to save the hour and keep them at their duty post. This stuff is Great!Β I’ve worn three of the five hats around so far. (FYI, I am the kind of person who picks one comfortable ball cap, and wears it not only until you can’t see what it says from oil and dirt stains, but until it basically reincarnates to the dust of the earth:) ). All these hats fit darn well too! So I have been wearing them, and 2 out of the three times, I have been asked by multiple people what the deal is with the social upset of me changing hats, which then gives me an opportunity to explain the FMA! Who woulda thought?! So thanks for the ice breaker, plus the cultural diversity, which some people say I could use more of ;).

As of right now I am wrapping up high school, and starting work at the airport June 5th with a job description of “whatever needs to be done type of handyman,” which if I must say, is my specialty :). Until next post, I’ll wrap it up by saying I can’t put into words how exited I am for this summer! Not only getting paid to be at an airport, but to also take to the skies!

Talk soon!

Aaron Smokovitz