Thursday, October 22, 2015

Doing Better

After yesterday's flight...
some joy and relief
They're right. I can't "fix" me. I will always be, by nature, hyper critical with myself and I will sometimes judge myself too harshly. And then after judging too harshly I'll wallow in my judgements, judge myself for judging, and carry that frustration for hours or days after.

As I practice good self critique I'll do that less and less often but the potential will always be there. It's part of who I am. It's something I've been doing for 45 years and I am REALLY good at it. If they gave out certificates or "Master" titles or whatever for judging oneself harshly I'd be Master, Gold Seal, SuperDuper, Top Dog many times over. Ask anyone who knows me!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.... I can't fix me. How do I move forward? How do I finish my flight instructor certificate when this one personality trait is having a negative and material impact on my progress? Something that my CFI said when we last talked struck a cord... he says this often.... examiners want to see IMMEDIATE CORRECTIVE ACTION when an error occurs in the check ride flight. I also remembered the revelation I had to have in order to solo. The revelation that I didn't have to be perfect, I had to recognize errors or conditions that were not as desired and fix it quickly.

With those words and thoughts floating around in my head I decided to do what worked for me in the past with one modification.

  1. When there is something wrong in my flying - identify whatever it is and fix it. I'm experienced enough now that I can relatively easily identify both errors and fixes. So I'm to do that as I fly. When something is slightly wrong, fix it quickly. If I stay on top of it "major" wrong won't happen. 
  2. Recognize and accept, in spite of my best efforts, I will have days, maneuvers, flights or whatever where I don't fix it. Where I will start judging myself and beating myself up. It's going to happen. There is no prevention for that. So yesterday I resolved I would forgive myself for when I do that. For the last time and the next time and the next time after that. I'll forgive myself as quickly as possible and move on. And when I fail to forgive myself, I'll forgive myself for that too.

The good news is, it seems to work. I forgave myself for Sunday and Monday and Tuesday. And resolved yesterday to fly, and when I make mistakes, take immediate and corrective action. Instead of focusing on being perfect, I focused on catching when the plane started to do what I didn't want it to do and correcting it quickly. I went up and did all of the air work I hadn't done recently, emergency approach to landing and practiced soft field take offs and landings.

What I found was, my flying was significantly better and not at all frustrating. I nailed the emergency approach to landing while talking and teaching as I did it. When my soft field landing wasn't exactly as I wanted I decided to try something different. I did the different thing and got different results. Then I modified what I was doing again and got even better results.

Looking through the list of flying maneuvers that could come up in the CFI ride, I've performed all of them to spec in the last month - first try - with the possible exception of soft field landings. Those are iffy. So I am a lot further along than I thought I was. :) There's a light at the end of the tunnel and I don't think it's a train.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Miss Joy

This was a bit of joy.. my dad captured
this photo of me flying. 
I miss joy.... I miss just flying for flying's sake. Flying to go somewhere. Flying without worrying about PTS specs, or what to say and how to say it to teach properly. Flying to have fun, being safe and occasionally demonstrating some real skill.

I've been working so long at this, at becoming a Certificated Flight Instructor. I don't even want to admit how long it's been. I've received all of the required training. As usual my CFI says I'll be great at the oral portion of the ride. As usual the question is will I put it together on the flight. This time is a bit different though, this time, while I know I can perform all of the maneuvers to spec - while teaching them no less - I'm not sure I will. I haven't seemed to be able to put a solid string of good flying days together, at least that's the way I feel. I do have good days, but then it seems I always have a bad one that sets me back again emotionally. Without a string of good days without the setback that I don't know how I'll be willing / able to face another check ride. I don't know how to create that string... I thought I had conquered my habit of beating myself up. I guess I haven't.

CFI has no suggestions for me. All he said today is he knows I'm not going to magically change the way I handle setbacks between now and whenever. So I'll just have to get over it.  Husband says, "not this again." That's it. To make matters worse, I really do believe, now, that I'll make a pretty good, maybe even great some day, flight instructor. So close and yet so far. I'm alone with no plan.

I don't know how to continue and I don't know how to quit. But I sure miss joy.


Update the next day. I slept on it... or I should say, didn't sleep on it... and I've come up with a plan. I'm going to forgive myself when I make mistakes and move on. I'm calling the way I handled my last "bad flight" a mistake. I'm working on forgiving myself and moving on. Hope that works.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

To Hawaii in a 767

Yours truly in the captains seat of
a 767 bound for Hawaii. 
Normally flying commercially doesn't warrant a blog post but this trip did.

Last week my husband, daughter and I were waiting for our flight to Honolulu for a long awaited vacation. We were in line at the airport Starbucks for the obligatory coffee and struck up a conversation with the airline captain behind us in line (after having him go ahead of us in line). We guessed he was going to be piloting our flight to Hawaii and he was. My husband told him we were both pilots and I am working on my flight instructor certificate. Jeff also told him we both have time in American Airlines 737 simulators so we can help if needed! When the captain learned that he perked up and the discussion got more interesting.

I asked him what it was like flying over the Pacific and did they actually get to talk to anyone en-route. He said they talk to Oakland Center most of the way but the HF radios they use traditionally make communications very difficult. He said they were "testing" out a new satellite communications method and he loved it. We shared some pilot jokes and asked his opinion about the American Airlines flight that went out to Hawaii without the required equipment for an oceanic flight. He asked where we'd be sitting in the plane and guessed we'd be in the very back of the plane because pilots make no money... in this case we were flying on "Hawaii miles" so Jeff and I were in first class...  so we told him to look for us in Row 3 in case he needed any help up front. He got his coffee and went on his way and we figured that was it.

We boarded with first class and got comfortable as we watched the beginning of several hundred people file on to the plane. After a while I spotted the captain in the front of the cabin. He seemed to be looking for something. I waved hi. He brightened up and came over to our seats. "Would you two like to come up front? We've got about 20 minutes to wait." Would we? Of course!!

He led us up front with a "It's OK. They're with me", to the flight attendants. And there we were, in the cockpit of a 767. The captain invited me to sit in his seat. Jeff sat in the jump seat and we both chatted with the crew. Jeff talked mostly with the First Officer, a younger pilot who was very enthusiastic. I talked with the captain. We shared stories of training and flying. I told him about how I look forward to turbulence when I fly commercial because it made me feel like I'm actually flying instead of sitting in a noisy box for hours on end. We talked about how the turbulence people think is severe is actually moderate at most. I also learned this jet flies AT Va at their cruise altitudes. (From this discussion I researched Mach numbers and the "coffin corner" on the flight, interesting stuff.)

He told me about how he trained for instrument in a 150 and when he would be bouncing around in the heat with the hood on and almost getting sick. He talked about how he worked his way into the airlines, the sacrifices and joys of his path and how his favorite job was flying King Airs.  He said he didn't go the CFI route but he said that was a great way to build hours. They both said I could have a career in the airlines if I wanted it. That the pilot shortage was happening NOW and my age (45) just meant I would get to retirement sooner than most.

The equipment in the cockpit was a combination of modern and archaic. They had the same glass panel, FCMS, clearance printer, etc of the newer planes (like the 737-8 simulator we've experienced). It also had fully functional ADF and DME. I pointed out the ADF and asked when the last time they'd flown an ADF approach... they just laughed and quickly dialed in their favorite AM frequencies to listen to the radio. They proudly pointed out the satellite receiver - a typical looking aviation avionics "box" with buttons, etc. It looked a little odd in the mass of older buttons, knobs and displays in the lower portion of the console.

Before we knew it 20 minutes was up and it was time to get out of the way so they could finish getting ready to fly. The captain mentioned this was his leg so if the landing was bad it was on him. I winked and said.... "You know how it is with a pilot on board... we shouldn't judge, but.... " and he laughed.

The flight was mostly smooth but there was about an hour where the seatbelt sign was on and we were in constant light chop. The whole plane creaked and rattled and I felt like we were flying. Shortly before landing the captain came back and asked me how I liked the turbulence I ordered. I said it was good! Then he found a napkin and gave me his email address. He said to stay in touch! I said I would and offered to take him on my version of a Bay Tour the next time he's in the area on a longer layover.

When we came in to land, the captain didn't land like your standard airline pilot - pile-driving the plane into the runway. I could feel him trying to keep the plane off the runway and even the little bit of extra float it got right before touch down. When we got off the plane they were both heads down in the cockpit. I was sad we didn't get to say goodbye. However, as we waited for our daughter to get off the plane we saw the captain again. We thanked him again for the experience and I told him I thought his landing was great because he landed like a GA pilot. We shook his hand and he was off.

It was a real treat to meet this aviator and I hope that we do stay in touch. There's nothing so much fun as talking with people who share the same passion for flight!