Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Just Showing Off

"Anything above 70% is just showing off," says a pilot on a forum to a student pilot who is trying to better his scores on practice tests to something above 85% consistently.

On one hand, I can see trying to ease the student's mind that he/she will pass with the scores the way they are. I totally understand there are people who just do not do well on tests, even when they do know the subject matter. Students need all of the encouragement and support they can get. A student pilot doesn't need to stress for a 100% on their written test, an 85% is fine. If they want to do even better, that's great in my opinion!

On the other hand, it irks me to no end when people denigrate the sincere efforts of others who are trying to excel.  Just showing off?! It's showing off to get more than 7 out of 10 correct on a test that is trying to gauge your knowledge of the things that you need to know in order to safely fly?

Who do you want to teach you how to fly? someone who goes for 70% on the written and accepts doing just enough to check the box as good enough? or do you want someone who takes the time to demonstrate they have the required knowledge of learning and the subject matter knowledge to teach.  Lets say you learn from that 70% CFI. The questions he missed on his knowledge test are likely to be the ones that he won't teach you, or won't teach you correctly.

It is true, whenever you miss any questions on the written tests, your CFI has to review the "areas of deficiency" with you and make sure you've learned what you missed. However, I believe the guy that is totally ok with a 70% score isn't too concerned about learning what he missed. The student pilot who is striving for better than 85%. He's a different story. I am pretty sure he will learn from his mistakes on the written and be a better pilot as a result.

[Sidebar: To be completely honest, it surprises me the FAA doesn't have a tighter standard on the written tests for CFIs than private, commercial and instrument pilots. How can we teach what we don't know? Aren't we the ones responsible to create those safe pilots the flying and non-flying public need?]

It was ironic seeing this exchange just days after I finally completed my first pass (of three) going through one of the study books for the CFI written test. After completing the first pass I know I could easily pass the written with a score better than 70%. However, that first pass also exposed some areas of knowledge I'm weak in. If I were that 70% pilot I'd go, take the test and merrily walk away with those knowledge areas left weak.

I'm not a 70% pilot and definitely will not be a 70% CFI. I am going to fill those knowledge gaps and get a much better than 70% score. It will take extra work, and it means that I won't be taking the written before then end of the year like I wanted. That's OK. I like showing off!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

California Greening

NorCal turns Green
Today's flight took me south of the home airport for the first time since the rains started and what I saw delighted me. Northern California is turning green again! The land that was brown a month ago is now a brilliant green and more and more green is coming. 

I love the way our hills and valleys turn green when the rest of the country turns brown or white with winter. Growing up in the desert this particular shade of green was just unknown to me until moving here. Green carpets all of the land not already carpeted with trees. 

Practice Makes Better

In addition to the green I had a fun flight today. I'm working on commercial maneuvers from the right seat now. Some are easier than others. Today my plan was to do 8's on Pylons, Chandelles, Emergency Descents and Lazy 8s. 

The 8s on Pylons didn't happen. I found flock after flock of birds right at the altitude I needed to use to execute the maneuver correctly. So I switched to Chandelle's quickly with Emergency Descents to go back down once I climbed high enough. I didn't have much success on the Chandelles. I got to the point I was doing the correct bank and turn rate but I ended up 10 MPH off the desired indicated airspeed every time. Just not pitching up high enough I think. Once I found I wasn't changing my results I stopped that maneuver. 

Next was Lazy 8's. I haven't practiced Lazy 8's extensively since my commercial check ride. I had a blast. I "lazy-eighted", as I like to say, my way from north of San Martin to almost Hollister. In the process I found different ways to improve the performance of the 8. I still have a bit to go to where I want them to be. Most were within commercial spec, but I know it is within my ability to fly these very close to perfect and that's what I want to do. 

Look, Ma, No Hands!

After almost an hour of flying I decided to take some pictures of the beautiful views I was seeing. I had the plane trimmed for hands off flying, so I did while I took pictures. It was much easier than trying to take pics one handed. Then I thought I'd try some rudder exercises. Instead of using any ailerons to turn, I make a lazy turn down the valley with rudder only. I turned the other direction with the opposite rudder and relaxed, observing how the plane behaved when only rudder was used to roll the plane from left to right and back again. It was a relaxing and enlightening experience.

On return to the airport I landed the plane well. I taxied back to the ramp and sat in the plane for a while. I was happy and content. It is great to have flying days like today... even better if everything was perfect, but I'm OK with how I did. Where I'm at is not where I will be tomorrow. I'm learning so much more about flying than I could have ever guessed there is to learn now. I'm noticing more than I ever did and gaining a greater understanding with every day, sometimes with every moment I think, study, observe, listen and fly.