Friday, June 26, 2015

Happy Dance!

I got the coolest text today! I got a text from a student pilot I worked with as a Ground Instructor. I spent about 9 hours with him in May preparing him for the oral portion of the Private Pilot Practical Test. As a Ground Instructor I could not sign him off for the actual check ride, so I didn't know when he was going to go up for his test. Today he let me know.

He passed his check ride today! I'm so thrilled that I was able to help someone achieve their dream of flight! What an awesome feeling... :)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Success and Shooting Stars

Aviation is a complex world... to master flying one must master the invisible world of the air. The world in which aviators work and play is ever changing, and, like I said, its invisible! We have to learn how to observe and feel the actions of the aircraft - the slight vibration in the controls right before inducing a stall, the speed the ground slips below the wings or rises to meet us on final approach. We can't see the air, all we can do is read its signs around us.

I was thinking today of what can guarantee success in aviation and actually I don't think there is a guarantee of success in aviation. There are characteristics or traits that can definitely increase likelihood of failure, however. The FAA talks about the "five hazardous attitudes" Macho, Impulsiveness, Anti-Authority, Resignation, and Invulnerability. All people have these attitudes at one point or another and one of the keys to success is recognizing and countering the attitudes when they occur.

I do think there are other traits or attitudes that are more likely to lead to failure, damage to aircraft or person, death perhaps ... things like laziness, sloppiness, lack of attention to detail, lack of caring. There more I see these types of traits in the aviation world the more upset I get. Pilots who skip weather briefings because they're in a hurry and the sky is blue anyway. Pilots that crash their planes because they didn't bother to sump the fuel tanks after allowing a plane to sit a full winter. Pilots who don't notice they took off on the same tank they arrived on and end up running out of fuel short of their destination (only to have others discover one of the fuel tanks was full!) Pilots who leave doors unlatched on planes in storms, allowing water in to damage the interior. So-called instructors who don't prepare their students for the mental skills required to fly and survive in addition to the physical skills, who don't even completely train to meet the basic requirements for a certificate.

Serenity Prayer comes to mind... God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. One of the reasons I am pursuing my flight instructor certificate is because I believe I can change those that I touch... guide new pilots or even experienced pilots seeking improvement onto a path that will increase their likelihood of success, of survival in this invisible world. Not that I know everything or even that I'm a master of my craft, far from it. But I do know what is likely to kill the unwitting pilot and I believe I am starting to understand what makes a pilot an aviator.

Now I have to decide what to do about what I can't change. Do I stay around it for a while longer with hopes I can change it later? or do I separate myself from it so I do not have to face it day to day and be upset. So I do not have my name associated with these traits and their inevitable consequences. I don't know what I'll do.

The last sunset of spring.
However, I do not want to leave on a down note... I thought I would share a photo from a flight this weekend... the sunset over the bay on the last day of spring. I have a secret even better than the sunset. I'll share it with you, Don. After I contacted RHV tower for clearance to enter their airspace and turned towards San Jose from over the East Bay hills, a brilliant green streak flared overhead. Aligned directly with the longitudinal axis of my plane as I headed west. OMG I've been reading too many FAA texts!  It was a shooting star. Brilliant and mine, all mine.

As you all know, you get a wish when you see a shooting star. I figured I should get two since I saw one and I was right on its centerline :) So I made two wishes. I can't tell you what they were... but if you love flying as much as I do and followed my journey this far, you can probably guess.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Making a Small Fortune

I know it has been a long while since my last post. I've been extremely busy with training, the flying club, work, work travel and family life.  Frankly, when the inspiration to write hits me it's usually been accompanied by a stronger inspiration to sleep! But I thought I would take a moment to share with you, my dear IRs, a brief update on my journey to flight instructor.

As you know, I earned my Advanced Ground Instructor certificate earlier this year. I've actually been putting it to use and providing some ground instruction. I've made almost $300 so far, a very small fortune that's paid for the extra test I had to take in order to get the certificate. I've been able to help someone prepare for the oral portion of their check ride. I could not sign them off for the practical test, I'm not a CFI yet. After I was done the Chief Pilot of the flight school this student pilot attends said I did a great job with that student. I've also spent some time with a prospective commercial pilot discussing the requirements for that certificate, aircraft performance, and managing power when using a constant speed prop.  So far I've found ground instruction quite fun and rewarding.  I've always been strong in aeronautical knowledge and it is nice to be able to share that knowledge and help others be more successful as a result. 

On the "flight" part of flight instruction, my CFI and I spent the majority of the last month or so working through all of the knowledge portions of the CFI practical test. He says he could put me up today and I'd pass the knowledge portion. He even said I talk like I wrote the book for some parts! Now all I have to do is fly.... so that's what we started to work on. I am able to teach and fly at the same time and I've even done some spectacular soft field takeoffs. On the other hand, I've been thinking so hard that my landings fell apart. I put them back together and am starting to rebuild, yet again. 

I could be done with this rating in a month or two or it could be longer. I'm told the first couple maneuvers will take a long time at this stage and then we'll get to the point that we'll be going quicker. At least by this time I know the drill... how to deal with the inevitable frustration as I don't do as good as I think I should right away on some maneuvers. I know how to move forward through that more quickly now too. I'll get there eventually. I'm not putting pressure on myself to get done in a specific time which makes the whole process more pleasant. 

As someone told me when I first started on this CFI journey - How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!