I thought I passed my medical exam. But, about two weeks later,
I received a letter from FAA stating that FAA hadn't received
necessary information and could not approve my medical certificate.
The letter was also saying, it was not a denial, but would be denied
unless FAA receives all necessary information within 60 days of the
What confused me the most was the list of items that FAA said missing.
The list was:
Discharge record of ER or admission to the hospital.
Radiology report of X-Ray, CT, or ultrasound.
Date of stone passage.
Renal function analysis result
A written report from the treating physician.
Result of metabolic evaluation
If the stones are still remaining, a report from the treating
physician including positions of the stones, possibility of the
stone spontaneously migrate and cause incapacitating pain.
I had sent everything to my Aviation Medical Examiner already except
two items in the list. The AME was supposed to have discussed
with FAA with those information, and FAA was supposed to have agreed
that I was airworthy. Actually my AME charged $250 for this
phone consultation with FAA. Was it a lie? Why FAA was
saying they don't have those information?
It was possible that FAA agreed that I was airworthy, but AME had to
send the paperwork to FAA and forgot to do so. But, then why FAA
came after me? Shouldn't FAA contact my AME instead?
I heard from other pilots that FAA is very strict about the medical
recently. FAA had been trying to decimate general aviation.
Was FAA trying to take advantage of my kidney-stone history to
permanently ground me even though my urologist was positive that I was
safe to fly?
After all efforts, possibility of having my medical certificate denied
deeply depressed me. I was grounded again. It was a
I made a furious phone call to my AME's office in the following
morning. According to the nurse, they had sent the information
but hadn't reached FAA yet. (Really?) And she told that as
soon as I send two missing items, she would fax them to FAA and would
make a phone call to make sure FAA received the informatoin.
It would be a tragedy if I sent something to FAA directly and if FAA
rejected my medical application because I didn't know the right word.
If they contact FAA and I don't have to deal with FAA directly, that's
better. I collected two missing items and sent to my AME.
The nurse got back to me and told that the information was faxed, and
she called FAA and confirmed FAA had received the fax. She also
said I should receive an approval within two weeks. That was
I waited for two weeks and had no word from FAA. I was almost
complaining my AME again, when finally I received the approval.
It took whole four months since I took my KUB X-ray. Finally, I
was really re-certified.
I flew a solo cross-country in the following weekend. I flew to
Connellsville (KVVS). It was so nice to be able to fly as a
Pilot In Command. Although it was a small airplane, I was a
captain of a Cessna 172.
And then I did some IFR approaches and night landing practice from
PFTC. I am now instrument current and night current.
What's even better is that the new legislation called Pilot Bill Of
Right 2, a.k.a., the third-class medical reform was passed by the U.S.
senate. Hopefully the third-class medical reform passes the
house and signed by the president early next year. This new rule
will allow a pilot to fly a small airplane for non-commercial purposes
without getting a third-class medical after getting an initial medical
certificate once. One of my dreams is to become an instructor in
the future, and I will need a medical certificate then, but for the
time being, I don't have time to work as an instructor anyway. I
will be happy if I can fly for non-commercial purposes.
Since I flew late August, I haven't flown as a Pilot-In-Command for
two months. I flew with an instructor once. That was it.
My previous 3rd-class medical certificate expired end of October, and
I had to renew it. Because I had kidney stones in the past, I
needed to submit to my aviation medical examiner (AME) a letter from
my urologist saying I am safe to fly and an X-ray report.
I had an X-ray taken early August, and my urologist told I didn't have
a stone. That was going to be easy. I had a clean X-ray,
all I needed to get was a letter from my urologist. That's what
I thought, and never expected that was the beginning of a 3-months
quest to get a new medical certificate.
I e-mailed to a nurse at the AME's office and asked what I needed.
Her answer was that it would be a special issurance and will be only
good for 12 months (a regular issurance is good for 24 months for 40+
years old person). Also the letter must say:
The remaining stone fragments are small.
All remaining stone fragments are located in the lower part of
the kidney and unlikely to migrate to the bladder.
What? My urologist said I didn't have a stone. Why the
hell I need a letter talking about remaining kidney-stone fragments?
I asked back by E-Mail. The nurse got back to me and explained
that my X-ray report said I still had kidney stones. Turned out
"Punctate Renal Calculi" in my X-ray report meant very small kidney
stones. According to my urologist, punctate stones are too tiny
to cause any problems. He meant that I didn't have a kidney
stone that can be a problem.
But, FAA may or may not buy it. I don't want to be punished for
flying with medical condition, regardless of my urologist's opinion.
I suspended flying.
I needed to get a letter from my urologist that includes the above two
points. I asked my urologist if he could say my condition
matches what's required. He said he could say that. He
also again affirmed that my stones are too tiny to cause any problems.
OK. That's great. But, he is very busy. So, I wrote
a draft and sent to the nurse to double-check if the letter was good.
I waited, waited, and waited with no reply. I finally got a
reply, but said I also needed an exam called metabolic work up.
What!? Why didn't she tell it to me before I met with my
urologist? I could have done that at the same time I took my
last X-ray. I logged on to my hospital's portal site and looked
through my past exams, and found ones called metabolic battery.
I didn't know if it counted as metabolic work up. I e-mailed her
again and asked if it counted as the exam she was looking for.
As expected, I didn't hear from her for several days.
At this point, I was becoming desperate. I took my X-ray on
August 4. Unless I get my medical renewed within 90 days from
that date, I would need to start over again. I prefer to
communicate with e-mail rather than phone because I can keep records
and I don't have to constrain someone's time. But, this time
it's getting an emergency. I called her.
What she said was "We don't know anything about you. We don't
know when you had incidents, what treatment you had, no exam records.
We cannot issue a certificate without those information."
You don't have that information because you didn't
ask!!!!!!!!!! (Shout from my soul)
I downloaded as many exam records as possible from my hospital's
portal site, and sent her. Also she said she was going to
contact my urologist directly to get other necessary information.
I waited a week again and called her to get the status.
According to her, she contacted my urologist's office, and told
exactly what additional information need to be included in the letter.
Those additioanl information were:
Was I symptomatic? (No, obviously. For 2+ years)
Is there any sign of the stones increasing in side?
Are the stones stable and unlikely to migrate?
Any complications or pain from the kidney stones currently?
(Isn't it same as the first point?)
Was there surgical treatment? (Yes, I had ESWL to crack
What are the underlying causes?
What are the recommended treatments?
I wish she gave the list earlier. At this point, I had only four
weeks to get my medical renewed. My urologist was busy.
When I called him last time, he was in a seven-hour surgery and could
not take my phone. My medical-certificate was low priority than
someone who is suffering. So, again I wrote a draft, and sent
him. I wrote it based on what I heard from him about my
diagnosis, but asked him to correct if there are some errors.
I finally got the letter next Wednesday. Well, he was very kind
and the letter was even more strongly stating I have no risks of being
incapacitated in flight. Also I don't have a vocabruary of
medical terms. His corrected letter looked much more like a
letter from a physician. I sent it to the nurse over E-Mail,
also called her and checked she received it. And, I made an
appointment of medical exam for October 29, only 4 days before the
30th day from my last X-ray. Close shave!
Actually, I also had a good news from AOPA. AOPA medical service
told me that recent changes in the regulation allowed a pilot with
kidney-stone history to obtain a regular medical certificate. My
case seemed to match the condition for regular issurance. That's
great! I printed out the information to ask my AME to give a
It was supposed to be the end of this quest for medical-certificate
I was to attend a seminar about retro-gaming console on Wednesday 21.
It was to start at 8pm. My wife was supposed to pick me up, then
I drive together to the apartment, drop her, and drive back to CMU.
However, my car was rear-ended by a careless driver. There was
no injury. My car was rather pushed than hit. But, the
trunk door was severely disfigured. The bumper was also
substantially damaged. It was an easy case that we were 0%
responsible for the accident, and my insurance company quickly
arranged things for us, and I was supposed to take my car to the
collision center on Monday after next Monday. The car was
drivable at that time, and I was going to drive to the AME's office in
In the morning of the day of appointment, I tried to start the engine,
and nothing happened. Looked like the battery was totally
drained. The collision could have made a short circuit
somewhere. My car suddenly became undrivable.
It didn't have to be this dramatic. I was able to take a taxi to
AME's office in time, and had a regular 2nd-class medical certificate.
After 12 months, it will automatically be downgraded to 3rd class, but
as long as I don't fly for commercial purposes, it is good for another
12 months. So, I have 24 more months to fly!
After three months of struggle, finally I have a ticket to go back to
the sky! Since I have flown only once during the last two months,
I flew with an instructor before flying as a Pilot-In-Command again.
In fact, it is common that I cannot fly at all for two months in
winter. But, that's different because I schedule and prepare for
the flight, but end up cancelling due to weather in winter months.
But, I didn't even try to fly except for my biennial flight review
during the last two months. So, the last two months were
psychologically different. I made sure I didn't forget how to
take off and land. Now I am confident again. I am ready to
take responsibility of Pilot-In-Command. Below is a screenshot
from my forward-looking video. The tree leaves are changing
color, and appeared even redder due to the reflection from the setting
My mother visited Pittsburgh from Japan mid May. I planned a
sight-seeing flight over Niagara falls from Beaver County.
I have flown to Niagara Falls only once before. That time, I
flew to Niagara-Falls airport, and my friend flew over the falls and
the return flight. So, I have never flown over the falls before.
I scheduled a dry-run.
I took my wife and her boss for the dry-run. The weather was
absolutely perfect. Unrestricted visibility with smooth air.
Nonetheless, I took off on an IFR flight plan. I like to fly on
IFR flight plan whenever I fly a cross-country.
I felt very slight engine roughness while taxiing. The engine
sounded like coughing every second or so. I wondered if I was
overly cautious or the engine was really rough. Nothing was
unusual during the run-up. I concluded that I was just overly
cautious and took off. I felt that the airplane was not climbing
as fast as it should. But, it was climbing at least. I
climbed up to 9,000ft. This airplane had a working autopilot, so
I turned it on, and the airplane sailed smoothly.
When the airplane came close to DKK VOR, the engine RPM jumped by 50
RPM. Until then, the engine never exceeded the red line even
though I kept the throttle full forward, and now the RPM was a little
bit above the red line, which is normal. Maybe, the engine was
not performing 100%. If the power loss is substantial, it can
easily be detected during the run up. But, this time the loss
should have been a few percent maximum. That's why we need to
take some safety margine always.
Lake Erie. I think we were
I was handed off from Pittsburgh to Erie, then to Buffalo approach.
When I contacted Niagara tower, I requested a sight seeing flight over
the falls before landing. The tower told me to join the pattern
over the falls, which is described in the Airport Facility Directory
at 3,500ft. The lower altitude are reserved for local
sight-seeing helicopters. Other airplanes need to stay higher.
Nonetheless, the falls were spectacular from 3,500ft.
Then I landed at Niagara-Falls airport. This airport has three
large runways and also is a base for KC-135s of Air National Guard.
When I land on such a large runway, I need to be careful because the
large runway gives an illusion that makes me feel I were closer than
actual. I need to be careful not to be too high. I knew
that. I knew that, but I ended up making a higher-than-ideal
approach. But, the runway was also longer. I could stop
with more than enough length remaining.
Video from the cockpit.
Landing at Niagara Falls
We had lunch at the restaurant next to the airport terminal, and
headed back to Beaver County.
The dry-run was successful. I just need to fly the same with my
mother comes. Only problem was that the forecast was predicting
heavy rain on the scheduled date. I was almost giving up, but as
the day came closer, the forecast changed from heavy rain to clear
sky. Still the forecast was insisting on strong cross wind.
It was saying that 19kt from the north. But, at last the
forecast changed to wind from the west 10 to 20kt. It may not be
a smooth approach, but the cross wind component would not exceed 15kt.
I can deal with it.
What turned out even better was that the weather turned IMC before my
flight. Probably the previous student who was going to use my
airplane would cancel. Then I can take off earlier and get to
Niagara Falls airport before the wind picks up. I checked the
online scheduling in the night before the flight, and confirmed that
the student pilot before me cancelled.
That's great! Everything was moving toward the good direction.
Nothing else should go wrong.
I came to Beaver County airport earlier knowing that nobody was using
the airplane before me. When I arrived at the airport, I was
told to change an airplane because the airplane that I originally was
going to use had a flat tire. I had to re-file my IFR flight
plan. And, someone else was using the new airplane, maybe for
instrument training. I couldn't take off early. That was
fine. I wanted to land before the wind picks up, but even the
wind is as fast as forecasted, it would be well within my envelope.
I took off, and the airplane climbed with no sign of troubles.
It was until 8,500ft. At about 8,500ft, a warning light came on
indicating one of the suction gyros malfunctioned. A typical
airplane is equipped with attitude indicator and heading indicator,
both of which are driven by what's called a suction gyro. An
incoming air from the forward spins the gyro and senses the change of
attitude and direction. There are two suction pumps so that the
instruments work even if one pump fails. I banked left and
right, and pitched up and down a little bit to make sure the
instruments were still working.
To my disappointment, another warning light came on telling both
suction pumps failed. My attitude indicator gradually tilted and
indicated as if the airplane had been flying an aerobatic.
Sunction failure warning.
I could have switched to VFR and continue. I would have done so
if I didn't see any cloud ahead of us and no cloud in the forecast.
But, in front of us was a overcast layer. According to the
forecast, it should be at 4,000ft. I still am trained to
maintain the attitude in case of gyro failure. But, in that case
I need to rely on the turn indicator which is electric driven.
What if I encounter electrical failure while flying in cloud? It
probably wouldn't happen, but it increased the overall probability of
an accident. I still could switch to VFR, descend early, and fly
below the cloud. But, in case of engine power loss, altititude
is the friend. I need altitude to be able to glide down to a
nearby airport with less or no engine output. Engine wouldn't
fail. But, again, it would increase the overall probabiltiy of
It was a tough decision. My mother must have been looking
forward to seeing the falls from the airplane. I called
Youngstown approach and reported suction failure. I requested to
fly back to Beaver County airport. Failed attitude indicator and
heading indicator were actually distracting because my instinct tells
me to keep the attitude indicator horizontal. My wife in the
back seat had a post-it note. I put it on the attitude indicator
and hid it. I was in VMC that time and there was no cloud or fog
all the way to Beaver county. But, just in case.
Airplanes I rent from Moore Aviation are much better maintained than
PFTC. I never had such a trouble before.
I still wonder if I should have continued on to Niagara Falls airport.
Most likely I could fly all the way and come back with more than 99%
chance. But, be sorry than be dead. At least I can say my
decision was a safer decision.
I have flown practice instrument approaches and a holding from
Pittsburgh Flight Training Center today. The airplane was of
PFTC maintenance quality as usual. The attitude indicator was
lagging, and I had to force myself not to look at the attitude
indicator when rolling out from turns. I rather had to look at
the turn indicator. The heading indicator was precessing like
crazy. I had to re-adjust the turn indicator almost every time I
rolled out of a turn. Although the saction gauge indication was
normal, this airplane definitely have a problem with suction-gyro
By the way, if you are a student pilot working on the instrument
rating from PFTC and using N596CS for training, do not look at the
attitude indicator to roll out from a turn. Look at the turn
indicator. The attitude indiator lags, which means that when the
attitude indicator is level, the airplane is already turning to the
other way. I noticed this issue when I flew 6CS last year.
I felt I could not maintain heading until I noticed that the
attitude indicator was lagging. (Maybe it is interesting to add
this kind of poor maintenance in YSFLIGHT. You will see how
difficult it is to maintain heading in the instrument condition.)
I'm wondering if anyone can pass an instrument check ride in this
airplane. Hopefully this issue is fixed in the next
100-hour inspection. But from what I have been seeing, I am not very hopeful.
On VOR21 approach at Wheeling (KHLG)
The positive side is that I am able to practice in a difficult
condition when I am flying with an instructor. If I am able to
fly this airplane, airplanes I rent from Moore Aviation is so much
easier. The maintenance level of Moore Aviation is way much
better than PFTC. Also, I am glad I no longer have to fly an
instrument check ride in this airplane. If I were training for
the instrument rating in this airplane now, I would be having a grave
The small airplanes like Cessna 172 does not have a so-called a flight
data recorder aka the Black Box. I don't need the recording very
often, but sometimes it is nice to have one. When I was not able
to fly as I wanted, I want to review how I was flying and want to
improve the next flight.
For this purpose, recently I am capturing videos with a
forward-looking camera and an instrument-looking camera whenever I fly. I
typically review the videos when my landing was not as smooth as I
wanted. Mostly those landings are from gusty wind, and I just
want to confirm that it was the wind that played on me.
However, the camera mount for the instrument-looking camera broke and
fell on my lap while I was flying today. I first thought it was
just a weak suction. But, it turned out that the rubber part of
the suction cup cracked and was torn off. I had been using this
mount for long time. Maybe it was about time.
I made this suction mount by drilling a hole on a automobile
windshield mount for Garmin GPS units, and tying a tripod head on a
L-bracket with cable ties. I have tried a few suction mounts and
concluded that the Garmin-original suction mount is the best.
The cheap alternatives sticks on flat and clean surfaces, but the car
and airplane windows are curved. Also it is not clean. The
cheap alternatives I have tested could stay on my apartment window if
I wipe the window with alchole but did not stick on car windshield and
windshield of Cessna 172.
If you go to Amazon.com, you can find cheap offers like less than $10
for a Garmin suction mount. Many of them are claiming that they
are selling a Garmin-original custion mount. THEY ARE
LIARS! You can find a lot of reviews complaining that
the seller didn't send an authentic Garmin product. In fact, I
purchased one and received a fake before. I wasted like $5 or
so. The suction mount looked the same unless you look at the
sticky surface of the suction cup. The sticky surface of a
Garmin original suction mount is glossy and shiny. The fake
lesser copy's sticky surface is matte and not shiny. The fake
lesser copy only sticks on flat and clean surfaces.
Sticky surface of Garmin-original
suction mount (Left) and a cheap fake copy (Right). The
Garmin-original product's surface is obviously smooth, glossy, and
Probably some sellers are honest and really selling an authentic
Garmin suction mount. The problem is I cannot distinguish liars
and honest sellers.
Until Amazon.com comes up with a filter that kicks out all liars, you
are better off buying a Garmin suction mount from a reliable retail
store in the original packaging. My quick search found that a
neaby Target store had some in stock. I drove up there and
bought two of them. The second one is to prepare for my
forward-looking camera. The forward-looking camera mount is
almost as old as the instrument-looking camera mount. It can
break any time.
If you insist on buying online, probably you want to buy directly from
Garmin. You can use the link below. But, I paid like $15
to buy from Target. It probably is more expensive to buy online
if you add shipping.
General Aviation Airports around
Pittsburgh - McVille (6P7)
I was bitterly defeated in a bowling league last night, and my team
failed to move up to the play off tournament. Flying a Cessna
was the perfect way of getting out of the feeling of defeat.
The weather was absolutely the best condition. Calm wind, clear
sky, and 20+ miles visibility. I took off Beaver County airport,
flew over North Park Lake, where a group of Japanese living in
Pittsburgh have been planting cherry trees, then visited an airport
called McVille (6P7). This McVille airport has a 2800ft-long
runway, which I am not allowed to land due to my rental agreement.
I shot a low approach instead.
This McVille airport is only printed on the Pittsburgh TAC chart, but
not on the Detroit sectional chart. A TAC chart is a
aeronautical map showing details around a class-B airport. A
sectional chart is an aeronautical map that covers wider area. I
mainly look at sectional charts, and I didn't even notice that an
airport was there until recently.
This kind of small airports are not utilized typically. Sadly, I
typically don't see an activity when I visit. But, this McVille
was very active. I heard some incoming traffic over the radio.
Also when I was shooting a low-approach, a twin-engine airplane was
about to take off. I ended up making him wait until I went
Since I was taking a CMU student with me, I flew over CMU campus, did
one touch & go at Allegheny County, and flew back to Beaver County.
General Aviation Airports around
Pittsburgh - Monroeville (4G0), Greensburg (5G8)
For my personal project - visiting all small public general-aviation
airports around Pittsburgh - I have flown to Monroeville (4G0) and
Greensburg Jeannette Regional (5G8). Both airports have a runway
shorter than 3,000ft, and I am not allowed to land due to the rental
agreement. I just did low approach without landing.
Monroeville airport has a runway 2280ft x 28ft. I once felt
there is no way to land on such a narrow runway. But, this time,
I was confident to land on the airport if necessary (like if the
engine stopped on final), but I didn't land. I flew a regular
traffic pattern until short final and then went around.
By the way, the runway of Monroeville airport was partially
snow-covered when I flew there on February 16. Then, the runway
was completely snow-covered when I flew there next time on March 8.
Finally, the runway was dry and clear on March 23.
It is one of the biggest privileges of a pilot to be able to see four
seasons changing from the air.
We were enjoying warm winter in December, and now we are trapped in
frigid air temperature for the last a few weeks in Pittsburgh.
The weather is also pretty bad. No matter how calm wind, a
Cessna 172 cannot fly into cloud because of the icing danger. My
instrument rating doesn't help. I was grounded for a while.
But, finally the weather gave a break last Monday. I took
half-day off and went flying.
Pittsburgh area was hit hard by a heavy snow storm two days before.
I saw several wrecked cars left unattended on the shoulder on the way
to Beaver. Towing company could not keep up with the accidents
I was looking forward to flying over the snow-covered field.
Also I planned to fly low approaches at Monroeville (4G0) and
My reservation was from 9:30 to 11:00, and someone else was supposed
to take the airplane before my turn. I arrived at 8:45 or so,
and saw nobody flying. Turned out the flight school cancelled
8:00 slot. I didn't have to wait. I was able to pre-flight
in the hangar and took off right away. I had the airplane full 2
Due to the frigid temperature, the air density was incredibly high.
Cessna 172 climbed up like an aerobatic airplane. The pitch
angle was almost 20 degrees to keep 75kt on take-off climb.
However, in this temperature, I need to be cautious about pitot icing.
If the pitot-tube is partially clogged by ice, it acts like an
altimeter. Accidents have happened in history when the pilot
mistook the pitot-tube icing as increased performance due to high
air-density. I lowered the nose, and the airspeed indicator
increased to 85kt, and raised the nose and the airspeed indicator came
back to 75kt. Good. The pitot tube is open.
I was already at 3,000ft while
climbing on the downwind leg.
Enormous water vapor billowing from
Shippingport nuclear power plant.
Few clouds at 1,000ft AGL.
First, I flew a low approach at Monroeville. Although WX
briefing gave no information about the airport closure, the runway was
pretty much snow covered. Part of the runway was clear, but
maybe the helicopter landed before me blew some snow away.
Snow-covered Monroeville airport.
Then flew to Greensburg. Greensburg airport seemed to be more
actively-used than Moroeville, so I was expecting the runway to be
clearer there. But, the runway was pretty much snow covered.
In fact, it was even difficult to spot an airport when my GPS was
telling that I was directly above the airport.
I briefly looked on my left to see some houses directly underneath the
final. Then I made right descending turn to join the downwind
leg and made a low-approach.
In fact, finding an airport is also a fun part of flying a Cessna.
A small airport is sometimes in the middle of corn field, sometimes
surrounded by residential area. When I come back to Beaver
county, I see several patches on the ground one of which is the
airport. I look hard to spot and identify hangars and control
tower. I want to add this element in YSFLIGHT eventually.
Then I did one touch & go at Allegheny county, then flew a few circles
over Carnegie Mellon University. When I have a passenger, I make
a right turn so that the right seat gets the better view. This
time I was flying solo. So I made left turn, and enjoyed the
view by myself.
Snow-covered Carnegie Mellon campus.
The low-hanging clouds were gone when I came back to Beaver.
Shippingport power plant was still producing enormous water vapor.
Last year, (or maybe two years back), this power plant ended up
creating a snow-cloud and gave a burst of snow shower over Cranberry
area. It was nonetheless spectacular.
I am renting and flying a Cessna 172 twice a month basis. In
most time, I don't have any particular purpose. I fly because it
is so much a fun, and I need to keep flying not to forget how to fly.
But, I thought it may be even more fun if I have some kind of theme.
So, I decided to visit as many small general-aviation airports around
Pittsburgh as possible. The rental agreement does not allow me to
land on a grass strip and a runway shorter than 3,000ft. But, I
need to practice emergency landings. I am allowed to do
low-approach over such grass strip or short runways. So, I fly a
low-approach over the airports where I am not allowed to land, and touch
& go at the airport where I am allowed to land. I have bunch of
videos from those visits, and upload them when I have time to cut out
from my forward-looking camera.