Thursday, July 17, 2014

My First Student

I'd like to introduce you all to Ren. Ren is our family's little black kitty. Her name, Ren, is short for Serenity because she's always been a very mellow and friendly cat. Unfortunately for her, she is also my first flight training student!

My CFI suggested I might benefit from practicing delivering my lessons out loud to a plant, a board, a cat, or whatever. "Get the words out of your head and into the air to hear what you're saying," he said.

Today I introduced Ren to the traffic pattern and how to land a plane. She was reasonably attentive when the plane was moving but seemed uninterested in the finer points of wind drift correction.  It was difficult to establish a common language up front and the only understanding I think she developed was that model planes make good cat scratchers.

I doubt she will make it to her first solo, but at least she is a being I can talk to and hear my own voice without feeling totally ridiculous. And going through that process a couple times today is helping me refine my thinking and my message.... so who knows. This may be a good way to do it. 

The lengths I am willing to go to in pursuit of my dream!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It would sound like music...

This is one of my favorite songs. Six String Orchestra by Harry Chapin. You can tell he loves to tell stories with his songs. The same way I love to tell stories in my blog. Today, for some reason, the song came on the radio and reminded me of me as I try to learn how to teach how to fly. So I thought I would share it with you all...

My favorite line: "It would sound like music and the music would sound good." 

Enjoy :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Learning to Teach

I'm having some trouble adjusting to my new world of "flight training" now. I'm about a month in to training to be a CFI and, as one should guess by now, CFIs not only have to know how to fly. They have to know how to teach. In this phase of my CFI training I've developed a private pilot syllabus and am developing lesson plans according to my syllabus. For each of my lessons, I am "teaching" my CFI according to my lesson plan.

What I'm struggling with isn't necessarily the teaching, its the context switching between teaching and learning. Obviously, I don't, at this point (nor will I ever), know everything there is to know about teaching someone how to fly or how to operate safely as a private or commercial pilot in our National Airspace System. Also, I'm not an expert teacher/educator. So, with each of my lessons, my CFI has the opportunity to teach me. Sometimes its facts or a deeper level of understanding of the finer points of flying. Sometimes its interpretation of the FARs and sometimes its teaching techniques or concepts about the process of adult learning. All good stuff. All stuff I want to learn and am very interested in.

But I struggle. When I'm in teaching mode it is hard for me to switch over to learning mode when my CFI has something to teach me. I argue with him or get frustrated. Some days are worse than others. The bad days aren't very good for my confidence. Some days are good. I've already had days where I both learned and taught well. Those good days I remember I'm there to learn even more than I am to "teach". My last lesson was a bad day.

My CFI says this process will get easier.  I sure hope he's right. He usually is. This is something he specializes in, training very good CFIs ... that's why I'm having him teach me how to teach how to fly. I have to remind myself, I'm here to learn - to learn more about flying and about teaching.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Queen of All I Survey

I went for a long solo cross country flight today. Just me and the plane to a place I'd never flown before. It was the type of flight I haven't done in a very long time. I had a good enough excuse to go, a friend wanted to meet me for lunch and show me the planes he works on at Camarillo Airport down in Southern California. It was my first trip into LA airspace VFR. The flight was mostly smooth and I flew high to enjoy low fuel burn and high air speeds.

The visit in Camarillo was great. Great food at Waypoint Cafe. Great company there and a whirlwind tour of a very busy airport with many unique planes. After visiting I hopped back in the plane and flew back to home base. And this is where I felt it again.

A two hour return flight, just me and the plane. Scanning the instruments, maintaining heading and altitude. Watching the ground slide beneath my wings. Scanning for traffic. Looking left to the ocean and right to the Sierras. Feeling a bit sad at how brown the hills and land have become. Looking for smoke from the fires I know will be happening in this drought year. Switching frequencies with air traffic control. That zen state of flying that I get sometimes when flying cross country alone. Totally in the moment.

As I approached my home airspace I recognized the distinct shapes of hills and valleys. I relished the memories of different flights I've taken up the familiar valleys and past familiar peaks. The fun flights and the not so fun flights. Ah yes, this is the area where I was caught in a 2000+ per minute downdraft. Here is where I passed my commercial check ride. Right there, in the dip between this hill top and that one, is where I performed accelerated stalls for the DPE. There is the airport that my most memorable flight lessons happened at. There is the valley with the really good steak house. Over there, that ridge, that's where you aim to cross the ridge line for an easy descent onto the 45 into Watsonville. In front of that observatory is a great place to practice maneuvers. There's an area to avoid, too many student pilots training there. There - where I flew between clouds and peaks to get back into the Santa Clara valley. The wonderful long trips that ended with descents starting above this airport.

I recognized the sweep of the land all the way from the sea to the mountains. I knew it intimately and it was mine. Not the land itself, land belongs to no man, but the view, the moment. The past, present and future in the moment. That was mine. I was queen of all I surveyed. What I surveyed was good.