Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An Embarrassing Secret

I write this, not only to get out what I've been feeling and thinking.. but also to hopefully let other aspiring pilots know... Its OK to be above average. There are other people who have setbacks in flight training and who take longer than they think they should to solo or to get their licenses. But no matter what, as long as you never give up, you have a chance at the prize. The only way to fail completely is to quit completely. As Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon runner said, "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."

My dear IRs, I will let you in on an embarrassing secret. I've been actively pursuing flight training since July 2010. I have (as of this moment - to be increased tomorrow hopefully) 108.5 hours of total flight time, 74.4 hours of dual instruction time and 34.1 hours of solo time. I've got 13.3 hours of cross country time (thanks to the extra long-long cross country my CFI allowed me to do). 3.3 hours of night flying time (including 10 take offs and landings to a complete stop at night) and 2.6 hours of simulated instrument time. I have logged 369 take offs and 369 landings and only 153 of them happened before I soloed at 40.7 hours of flight time.  I have remaining to complete another 0.4 hours of simulated instrument and 3 hours of checkride preparation with my CFI and god knows now many more hours of re-learning how to land between me and my Private Pilot's License.

For those that are not familiar, the FAA requires 40 hours of aeronautical experience before someone can get a PPL. Average is 70 hours. Average at the airport I fly from is 90 hours (so I hear). My husband took 88 hours. So I'm a bit above average *smile*

I have good friends, both pilots and non-pilots who keep asking me...  When I will get my license? Don't know. When is my practical scheduled? Not yet. How many hours do I have? More than average and more to come.  My husband teases me... if you ever get your license... or this is why you'll never get your license... he means well, teasing and humor is his way to show he cares. I have blown off a summer of running to focus on getting my license (that and recover from a sprained ankle, but the sprained ankle only counts for two months). So much so that I'll be traveling to a marathon in two weeks and won't run it because for the first time in years I don't think I can run the race without injuring myself.

I passed the written FAA Single Engine Land PPL test with 98%. I am convinced I will ace the oral exam. I am convinced I will ace the practical flight, when I get to it. I know I can do it. And yet I fret. I am sad sometimes. I compare myself to younger people or more experienced people or people who aren't me with my unique blend of strengths and weaknesses and find myself wanting. I see the finish line so close and want the end of this journey to be a quick sprint... not the end of the marathon that it really is.

I have fallen absolutely in love with flying, and I am limited to circles around the same airport and non stop flights within a 25 nm radius until / unless I get signed off for further by my CFI. I don't know what he's waiting for... maybe for me to master the last PTS maneuver, soft field landings. I don't know.

I had a set back in my flying but I am back on track again. I think that I am going to be able to finally become consistent on normal landings again and from there do soft field landings - the final PTS maneuver I need to master. My next flight I will focus on rounding out just a little bit later and increasing the pitch angle a little bit more right before landing. I think if I do those two more things I will have landings consistent again and be able to continue on my journey. At least this time I know what I will do.

And, as I go forward, I will remember the wise words of my brother. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And if I run a marathon focusing on what everyone else is doing and telling myself I won't make it, I'll have a miserable experience. I'm a middle of the pack marathon runner.. I've never felt ashamed once for my marathon times, from 4:39 all the way to 6:40. I am proud of every marathon I've run, each 26.2 mile race was a unique challenge and accomplishment. I will be proud of myself when I complete this flying marathon and get my PPL.

Come to think of it, I can be proud of myself right now. Not many people have flown a light aircraft for 100 hours. Not many people have felt their spirits soar on metal wings over and around cottonball clouds, bounced on turbulence and carried aloft by updrafts. Not many have seen the sunset from on wing or the city at night from 2000 ft. or the bright green pillows and black dots that are the Northern California hills in the spring. Not many have talked to ATC over 5 different states just as well as the pros or flew with DC-10s over an air force base. Not many indeed. And, when I do get my license, I'll go from a 100+ hour student pilot to a 100+ hour pilot.

Yes, I can be proud of myself now and I will be proud of myself when I get that PPL. I've earned every line in my log book and I'm looking forward to every additional line I'll add. I am a pilot and some day I'll be able to take you with me and share the joy of flight with you. Until then, wish me luck, blue skies and low cross winds on my check ride day! And, if you are like me and feeling so close and yet so far from your goal... lets make each other a promise... let's keep flying, no matter what. We will get there eventually, we've got plenty of fuel and VFR weather ahead. We'll make it - just keep flying the airplane.

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