Monday, November 29, 2010

Which hand do you drive with?

or do you use both as you should? one hand at 10 o'clock and one at 2 o'clock, keeping your hands carefully in those positions as you turn or go straight.

I'm finding my driving changing the more I fly. For one thing I've noticed I drive one handed more often. I don't know if my CFI would call this a Negative Transference of Skills (as he says those words I can hear him saying the capital letters) or a Positive Transference of Skills (also with capital letters).

In a 172 (and probably other planes too) you use one hand on the yolk and the other on other stuff (throttle, flaps, trim wheel, carb heat, etc.) or as he likes to say "Left hand air speed, right hand altitude". But I've flown from both seats. In the Pinch Hitter training, I sat in the right seat because that's where the non-pilot sits. When in the right seat, right hand is air speed and left hand is altitude.

This is where it got weird this weekend. I was driving down to my run Saturday morning nice and slow. It was wet so I wasn't in a hurry at all. I was thinking about flying as I drove. I realized after a while I was steering with my left hand, my right hand was resting calmly on my thigh. Later that same day, I was thinking about flying with my husband (which means me in the right seat), I realized I was driving with my right hand, left resting calmly on my thigh.

I've noticed my husband drives left handed almost all the time. His right hand is rarely on the wheel, its usually on the e-brake. The other thing he does, which I thought was amusing, is he parks his car when waiting to pick up or drop off someone like he's pulled up in the run-up area and waiting for clearance to depart.


Better than Google Earth

Did you see Google Earth now has 3D trees? Its pretty cool... and, as the author points out in this article, we expect to see 3D dirt highlighted in a future release.

Gotta tell ya though, flying beats Google Earth for an awesome way to see the world in real 3D. Flying gives you 3D trees, plants, terrain, buildings and clouds. Plus smell-o-vision (one plane I fly gives you the lovely smell of avgas every time you turn right when taxiing), and the feeling of the air. Glass smooth air like yesterday, mostly smooth air like Thanksgiving, or bouncy as all heck like my last flight lesson.

If you want to see the world in real live 3D, with living color and variable lighting and the feel of the air beneath your wings, and watch the kids on the dirt track riding their bikes on the track, hop in a small plane. Preferably a high wing one so you have a good view... and take in a whole new way to see the world in your back yard that you never saw before. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You know you're a pilot when...

You worry more if your medicine is FAA approved than FDA approved.

It seems perfectly reasonable to drive an hour to an airport to fly 40 minutes to a restaurant to have a "quick bite to eat", and then fly back to the airport and drive back home for a total cost of 3.5 hours of total travel time and $200 in airplane rental fees. When it would have taken only 1.5 hours total travel time and no airplane rental fees to drive to the same restaurant directly from your house.

You are very careful to not drive drunk because a DUI arrest will make renewing your medical problematic.

.. more to come ..

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Perfect Flight

The joy of life consists in the exercise of one's energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.
My CFI and I had an interesting conversation yesterday. I said I was trying to master the traffic pattern. He said no one masters flying.

"What about 'No such thing as good enough'?", I asked.

He said, "That's right, but perfect flight doesn't happen. I've tried. You have to strive for perfect, but you won't get there."

I'm pretty sure most happy student pilots think their CFI must be the best pilot ever, or close to it. I'm guilty of that failing. Knowing my CFI and his fanatical focus on perfect, I tend to believe him, both that he's tried and that its not possible to be 100% perfect.

However, that doesn't mean it isn't important to try my best to be perfect. My hubby recounted another conversation with this CFI. In this conversation he pointed out how, in some jobs, being right 9 times out of 10 is OK. When flying you have to land 10 times out of 10. That doesn't mean don't go around, but it does mean when you DO land, you'd better do it right.

I am reminded of a picture my parents had on the wall when I was growing up. It was a photo of a hand reaching for the sun. The quote was:

A man's reach should exceed his grasp.

Indeed it should.

Lust of Result

Students will understand how in meditation the mind which attaches itself to hope of success is just as bound as if it were to attach itself to some base material idea. It is a bond and the aim is freedom.
Friday's flight was frustrating. The breakthrough I had Wednesday did manifest itself... as far as not chasing the air speed indicator was concerned. So the next problem was trim. Again. *$#&(&@! Nothing I did seemed right. And I did something very dangerous too. It was instinctive and my CFI corrected it before it was very bad. But that was scary. I botched a landing, bounced actually. I did the typical student thing, unconsciously pushed the nose forward to "get back to the ground". He grabbed the controls, brought the plane safely to the ground and spent the taxi back explaining how dangerous that was. Ultimately, Friday was the most frustrating flight I've flown. Coming in on short final, 20 degrees of flaps, "trim" he said. I trimmed, the wrong way. *grrrrr* At one point my CFI pointed out "this should be fun" as we went around AGAIN in the pattern, 9 times in 1.1 hours. I wanted to smack him.

After the flight, debrief. My CFI is very good, he makes sure to point out the good as well as the bad. I asked what I should think about or study while I'm out of town for my next trip. He said, "nothing". He said I should take a vacation from focusing on this stuff. And, of course, he's right.
For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.
I think I got myself into a mental trap this week. Before I left for my long trip, my CFI said I could possibly solo in 5 hours or so, based on my progress so far. I think I let that go to my head. All of the sudden I wanted to "master" the pattern, I got focused on a goal. Target fixation. Getthereitis. Whatever you want to call it. Before then I was simply really enjoying learning and flying. Add to that my "breakthrough" Wednesday and I was doomed.

A similar thing happened to me in my running a year ago. I had been training for 3 years, then had some set backs, life, medical issues, family matters and work made it impossible for me to maintain a regular running schedule. I was watching my friends who were much slower than me the year before disappear in the distance ahead of me on our runs. I got more and more frustrated. I wanted to get faster and all I did was get slower. Finally, I gave up the "get faster" goal and focused on having fun. I left my watch at home and only looked at my Garmin when I wanted to know how far I ran (not how fast). I started a diet with a long term goal. I also started flying lessons (which I never would have done before because it does take away from my running time). I lost 30 lbs and went to run my first marathon of the year and ended up running my fastest time ever. My running now has much less pressure and much more fun. Looks like this is what I need to do for my flying.

Friday, after the flight, my husband and I were able to laugh about my struggles (my hubby has about 150 hours flying and learned under the same CFI). Even with the difficulties, I wanted nothing more than to get back up in the air ASAP.. just to fly.

Today I feel freer. I still have the intense desire to fly, but I know my next flight will be more fun. I will forget about soloing, that will come. (Though I better get my medical soon.) I will make a conscious effort to truly be present in the joy of flight. Focus on joy won't be too hard when I'm not worrying about a goal. The goal will come, I just have to let it. Not force it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whack! A break through?

More pattern work. I was gone for three weeks, didn't fly (or drive) a day. I'm back for a week.. flew Monday, flew today... scheduled to fly Friday. And the task of the week is pattern work and more pattern work. I wasn't horribly rusty. But I've had my challenges this week so far.

Monday's problem the way I kept "looking ahead in the turns". This is a great thing to do when racing cars. This is NOT a good thing to do when flying an airplane. Yes, you want to look before you turn to know what you are turning to. Yes, you must look before you turn to make sure you don't turn into the path another aircraft. But look ahead as you go THROUGH the turn? No no no! If you are looking ahead in a turn, you aren't looking at your pitch and then your airspeed goes to hell. Its all about airspeed (and therefore its all about pitch). But I felt like I had the trim worked out better and trim was a problem for me before I went out of town.

Today's problem? Well, I fixed the looking ahead problem, but this time I was struggling with trim. And when I wasn't struggling with trim (pitch, power THEN trim damnit!) I was struggling with pitch. I was struggling with pitch because I was chasing the damn airspeed indicator. I would pitch for what I thought was right, look at the airspeed indicator, it wouldn't show what I needed so I'd make a big adjustment and then over adjust up and down and up again. My CFI finally got so sick of it he put a sticky note over the airspeed indicator and had me fly the pattern without it. All of the sudden I was able to nail the pitch all the way around.

Other problems today, leveling off at pattern altitude .. I kept overshooting by 100 ft, but I dialed that back in eventually. Crosswind leg to long or too short, this is because we were flying a left pattern instead of right pattern and the right pattern I'm used to has a noise abatement turn before the crosswind.. not doing that noise abatement turn really changes the timing. But I dialed that back in. Turning too late onto base, still working on that, it was rather windy I think that was impacting me. Turning too steep from base to final (we do power off approaches, so its really important to preserve airspeed).

But.. a break through. The last loop through the pattern I finally understood. If I put the nose at the pitch I know is right.... I KNOW the right pitch. I've proven it.... The airspeed indicator will eventually read the right thing. It has to chase me, not the other way around. So Friday, I will put that new understanding to practice.

On another note.. it was windy and gusty today. The plane got bounced around more than a little, and it didn't bother me one bit. What a huge change from earlier this year when I was terrified of even small turbulence. Another little tidbit. I flew the whole time with the door unlocked. I didn't realize it until I landed and went to open the door at the end of the flight. That's is a bit scary to me. I also, for the first time, tried to go through a checklist from memory.. not on purpose, but I found I didn't use the checklist 100%, and it showed. I missed a couple different steps on different checklists. I need to make sure to really GO THROUGH THE CHECKLIST. Every checklist.

Today was a really good learning day, as frustrating as it was. Hopefully Friday will show the fruits of that learning.

-AB out

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Aviation, An International Language

I'm sitting in the Heathrow Terminal 1 waiting area. This is where they put everyone to shop and wait for the gate for their international flight to be announced. I purchased my usual batch of music from the HMV store and did a little work, now I'm blogging.

I wanted to record one observation from my multicountry, multicultural travel these last three weeks. I've been in Munich, Germany, London, England (twice), and Athens, Greece. In Munich the language is German, of course, in Athens, Greek. Every sign and every symbol is different from my usual English... even in London the signs and language are slightly different... the Queen's English is different from American English, certain terms are different and the money is different too. One thing, however, is common to all three. That's the language and signage of aviation.

When I got on the plane in Munich, after a week of listening to German and trying to figure out what druken means when I get to a door (that means push - I remember that because druken looks like drunken and a drunken man will fall - or push - forward) I looked out the window of the plane as we taxi to the runway. And there, as plain as day, are the standard runway and taxiway lettering, numbering, colors and words. It felt like coming home. the lighting was the standard lighting, everything made sense to me. I finally knew the language!

In Athens the feeling of familiarity and being "home" when I saw those aviation markings arriving and departing that airport was moving. In Greece, the language is very different and the letters are very different, but almost not different at all. It was more bizarre and it became somewhat disturbing to me to look at regular characters interspersed with deltas, omegas and sigmas than it was to see umlauts and those weird "B" shaped letters in German. I would almost rather be surrounded by characters that have no relation to my own language, Japanese doesn't disturb me that much.

After three weeks out of the country, the comfort of those familiar words, markings and colors give me the grounding I need.. that feeling of being home, even over 5000 miles away from home, put me at an airport where I can see the tarmac and I do feel at home. That's a really nice thing.

Its almost time for them to open the gate for my flight back to San Francisco. I expect I will get extra special security screening this time. I have SSSSS on my boarding pass, when I went through the check-in line my name was highlighted in red. I also just spent a week in Athens, there have been many attempted bombings in Athens the last week, they are still going on now it appears. I would search me giving where I was. I will get to the gate as early as possible so they can search me at their leisure.Such is the cost of travel in the post 9/11 world. I hope this sort of security actually stops attacks.

See you all on the flip side.... Monday morning (assuming good weather) I get to fly! My first flight lesson in over three weeks. I wonder how much I've lost during that time...