Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Starting to Be the Pilot I'm Going to Be

It's odd. Sometimes it is in not flying that I start to feel my flying come together.

Since I last wrote I went up and practiced flying power off 180s, steep spirals, chandelles and soft field landings. Steep spirals worked, chandelles I needed help on, soft field landings were good. The power off 180s were cool. The first time I was too aggressive in applying the flaps and didn't quite make the runway. The second time I fixed that... and just made it. The third time I did even better. Perfect in fact. It was so fun! Being able to put the plane where I wanted it to be just based on knowing what I have to do to get the plane to do what I want it to do given the conditions we were in. This is a skill I have long envied in other pilots and finally, I am developing it too!

Next flight with my CFI we spent time fixing my chandelle problem, that took about 20 minutes. Then the rest of the planned flight was introducing me to turning accelerated stalls. He knows me well and told me it I won't like it but I'll just have to do them. He thought he would demonstrate a couple then I would call it a day. What he didn't know is, I had already determined I wouldn't let it bother me. Not to mention there was no way accelerated stalls in an Arrow (a plane that *really* doesn't want to stall) would be nearly as "snappy" as the accelerated stalls in the Extra 300L I practiced a couple months before.

He demonstrated one, then I volunteered to do one. Then another and another and another and another. I kept working at refining them (trying to do the stall in a level turn instead of a climbing or descending turn). Eventually my stomach decided it had enough turning and Gs and I did have to call it a day. Did I like them? No. Did they scare me? No. I still need to work on them a bit more but I am not afraid of doing it.

Next flight was solo practice again, the winds aloft were forecast for 25 knots. I hoped the forecast was wrong, but it was right. The winds were strong and there was enough mechanical turbulence in the practice areas that it would be a waste of time trying to fly to spec there. So I flew back to the airport and did a soft field landing, almost perfect... so I went around another time and overestimated the strengths of the winds and turned base way too early and was high as a result. I used my new found skills and brought the plane in smoothly for landing on the spot by cutting power and gliding to the runway. Not my best flying but I liked the way I was able to put the plane where I wanted it.

Today, I was supposed to go up with my CFI again but the winds were strong. He just finished a flight so he knew how rough the air was. We decided to do ground school instead to start getting me ready for the oral portion of the commercial check ride. I learned how to decipher the FAA regulations on commercial pilot privileges and limitations. I am sooo grateful I have a CFI that can turn those FAA regulations into something I can understand.

What does this have to do with being the pilot I'm going to be? Being a pilot is more than sitting in an airplane and getting it into the air and back on the ground in one piece. Its an attitude, a feeling, an intimate knowledge of cause and effect in the physical and mental world, and learning how to control self and plane in a constantly changing and sometimes hostile environment. Today, as I drove the hour commute home, I reflected on the events of the last week or so and I felt it start to "click" in me. A recognition that I am starting to be the pilot I want to be, the pilot I'm going to be. I wish I could explain it better... maybe I will be able to some day, perchance I can be the writer I want to be too *grin*... Until then, I'm happy and looking forward to my further evolution as a pilot and a human blessed with the ability to play in the sky.

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