Sunday, April 5, 2015

There is No Try

No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try. Yoda reminds me of my CFI in this clip. There's no physical resemblance at all... but the wisdom is the same.

One of the most frustrating aspects of training for CFI is re-learning how to fly from the right seat. You must unlearn what you have learned. The minimum hours to get to a commercial certificate is 250 hours. So even for the fastest learner, you learn to be CFI after spending 250 hours in the left seat. In those hours you hone your skills to the level of reflex to get the results you want out of the plane.

Switch to the right seat where the hands are wrong, the view is wrong, the instruments don't read the same, etc. Its like going from being a right handed writer all your life and being made to write with you left hand. The brain has to get involved again and you have to think about those same things that were subconscious before, the muscle movements, direction the pen should go, etc. etc. Eventually you get used to being in the right seat and the mind gets to back off and subconscious can take over again.

Just when that gets comfortable, you have to "demonstrate and simultaneously explain a [insert maneuver here] from an instructional standpoint". While your at it, the demonstration needs to be done to commercial pilot specifications. Or, if you make a mistake, you must be able to explain (while you correct it) what the mistake was, why it happened and what to do to correct for it. If you want to see what this is like, try describing, out loud, in great detail, before you do it, every step of driving a stick shift car up and down a mountain road and why you do everything you do. And, every once in a while the strangeness of being in the right seat bites you as your brain gets overwhelmed handling all of the talking and explaining and demonstrating and then you start thinking even harder about the basic flying and it all falls apart.

I've added power when I should have reduced it, trimmed up when it was supposed to be down, put in left aileron when it should be right and right when it should be left. Demonstrating cross controlled stalls really confuses things since I need to actually deliberately cross control in a descending turn which is SOOO against what I've trained to do that I had to think twice as hard to do the cross controlled stall which then flowed over onto doing sideslips on short final wrong. And... I've had to go through a two to three month plateau to get to where I am today!!

So what? What does this have to do with Yoda's quote? you ask. Good question.

What I've found recently is when I don't try and I just do, I'm able to do very well. Do or do not. There is no try. It's come up many times over the last few months as I've started to break out of the plateau. At the end of a long solo practice flight where I came in to land high and, when I realized it, without thought, I effortlessly lost the extra altitude quickly and under control and landed the plane lightly on the mains. A situation that would have forced a go-around a year ago. When I "tried" to do power off 180s in perfect conditions and got nothing but frustration while I was able to do excellent power off 180s in gusty and erratic winds, various starting altitudes and very imperfect conditions. I didn't try, I just did what I had to do to make it work. "Trying" to land on the centerline in gusty cross winds and getting myself all confused about ailerons and rudders and how to do a side slip. When I finally gave up on trying and thinking about how and just told myself, hell or high water, get and keep, my ass on that centerline I was able to do so effortlessly.

I'm wondering if the trick to successfully "demonstrating and simultaneously explaining from an instructional standpoint" is separating the explaining from the demonstrating. Does the demonstrating have to be at the reflex level and the explaining happen separately from the demonstrating? That may be it. According to my CFI's definition of teaching in the air... teaching is when you explain before you do/it happens. Narrating is saying as you do and reporting is saying after you do. So if teaching is saying before doing... the doing has to be separate from the saying. And if I can think less about the doing and yet do it well, that leaves me more bandwidth for teaching.

Try not. Do or do not. There is no try. 

I will do less trying and more doing and see how that goes.

Spin Video

Some shots from three particularly good spins from my last spin training session. You can see how spinning a plane results in views that are entirely not normal for humans. We were working on making the spins last as long as possible. My CFI (the guy on the left) did the first and the last one in this sequence, I did the middle one.