Sunday, 30 September 2012

A bit of a delayed reaction…

…but the enormity of what getting my student permit means has finally hit me. I spent most of yesterday with a stupid smug grin on my face. I’ve folded it up carefully and put it in a plastic protective sleeve to keep it nice and pristine in my flight bag. I’ve also taken it out just to look at, at least three times!

I’m immensely pleased with myself, especially as that last lesson was so good. I totally rocked that flight!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Permit me to be a student

So I have a shiny new piece of paper to add to my collection. A Student Pilot Permit. Official recognition that I have managed to amass the following items, A PStar pass, a radio license and a class 3 medical ( and am 60-odd bucks poorer!).
Surprisingly enough it wasn’t passing any exams that proved the stumbling block, it was getting Transport Canada to be able to correctly spell my name and address. Attempt one was returned in the mail by Canada Post due to a lack of apartment number. Attempt two had my address spelt wrong and just for good measure half of my street name cunningly inserted into the field reserved for my middle name. This has now led to my friends at work calling me “Terrace”.

The student pilot permit allows me to fly solo while under the supervision of an instructor. That means Bob can tell me I’m allowed to go up on my own but I can’t just turn up and sign out a plane.
Of course all this begs the question, If I’ve only just been granted “student” status. What was I before? Ballast?

Because I'll tell you something , this "ballast" kicks some serious ass in the air !!!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Leanings to the left.

Nothing to do with politics (although I am finally eligible to vote!). For some reason I’m having a hard time hitting the centre line. I just don’t seem to have a good visual handle on where I should be pointing the plane. Bob reckons that the guys in the tower get a bit worried every time I come into land. He may be exaggerating but not by much L

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Yes I really am that sad

Whenever I’m depressed, pissed off at work or just need some inspiration I go to this YouTube video

Even before I started on my PPL quest, I've always loved this song.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Sat in the wrong bit of the plane.

Just arrived back from my latest travels. I think the flying as a passenger thing is getting slightly easier. The flight out was OK-ish. Very smooth so not much to set me off. I don’t react to the changes in engine noise as much now, mostly because I know a little bit about what’s going on. I spotted that the engine noise got quieter as we levelled off from the climb and so on. I was fascinated during the approach to Dulles as I had a fantastic view of the flaps (this really is very sad isn`t it!)

The flight back wasn`t as good. For a start I was travelling with a work colleague (technically my boss). She attempted to coordinate our online check in so that we were sat together. This led to a potentially awkward situation. If I need to have a professional relationship with someone and am to maintain their respect level, then they can`t see me have a stupid turn on an airplane, it’s that simple. So I try not to sit with anyone I know (Sometimes I don't even sit next to RTH)
Luckily the flight was very empty, so she took the two seats on one side of the aisle and I took the other two, so not together but not too far apart either. The flight was a little shaky, some light chop. I`ve piloted through worse but it doesn`t stop me reacting to it. Anyways, she slept through the flight and I kept us from falling out of the sky by keeping a tight hold on the arm rests*

I`m getting better but I still don`t like being sat in the back part of the plane.

 *Any nervous flyer will tell you that the second you let go  the plane will instantly plummet into the nearest terrain!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Cross winds and grouchy me

So following on from the last post, I said I’d let you know what I decided to do.
It wasn’t an easy decision. I was kind of hoping that the winds would make the decision for me as I was still having a hard time gauging how sick I felt.

The winds looked sucky 15 gusting 25 knots @ 260°. These figures are sucky for all kinds of reasons. First thing, those are reasonably strong winds but not impossibly so, hard to make a firm decision just based on the numbers. They are also pretty much straight down the runway, so no nasty crosswind to factor in.
Bob, in an attempt to force me to develop some decision making skills, left the call down to me. You see at the start it was easy. If Bob said it was safe to fly, then flying we went. Now I need to figure out how to make the call.

That in itself is very hard for me. I know that I am hyper conservative, but at the same time I know that I need to push my limits enough so that if I do find myself caught out by less than ideal conditions, I can cope. So basically I’m left with “challenging but not impossible, your call”
After texts from Bob and discussions with RTH, these are the thoughts that went through my head

·         I’m still not feeling 100% but I think I’m well enough to fly

·         The conditions are challenging

·         I think that a tough lesson would frustrate me rather than provide a meaningful challenge at the moment

·         I don’t want to destroy my newly gained confidence

·         I don’t want to pay $300+ to have a crappy time

·         I’m worried that I should be pushing my limits more – so maybe I should fly

·         I hate cancelling lessons

·         Bob wouldn’t let me fly in dangerous stuff

·         If I fly and I’m not well, will that push back my 100% recovery?

·         Someone please decide for me!!!!!!
Long story short, I called it off. I think I made the right decision. Bob texted me to say he thought it was the right choice. I’ve just looked at the current winds and they are 18 gusting 23 knots with a 15 knot gusting crosswind. Nasty nasty stuff. I’m happy I did the right thing.

I recall this phrase from somewhere “better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground!’
So true but not flying leaves me grouchy!

As an end note, two days after I was meant to fly. I'm still not feeling right. Have a hacking cough that I'm sure would sound great to ATC over the radio



Monday, 24 September 2012

To fly or not to fly

That is the question...
So I’m sick and despite Bob’s gentle jibes it has nothing to do with the boozing and schmoozing that I carried out in Bethesda and more to do with my crappy sinuses and the air quality in commercial planes
I have a cold. I swear it’s been a long time since I had a genuine full blown bout of the sniffles. It sucks! This is my busiest time at work as well, so calling in sick is not an option at the moment. I struggled through 3 days of work feeling like crap and am now contemplating if I should be flying tomorrow or not.

I’m over the worst but I’ve still got that mildly fuzzy headed feeling at times. I’m also obsessing slightly about my ears. For a couple of days now I haven’t been able to pop my right ear. Now I hate being sick and would rather push on through most things than sit and wallow. When I had surgery earlier in the year, it took a supreme effort from RTH to keep me from going back to work after 2 weeks (I’d been signed off for 6 weeks). However, even I draw the line at potential barotrauma.
I’m mildly paranoid about my sinuses. I had sinus surgery about 6 years ago to fix various problems. I know what sinus pain feels like (lived with it constantly for 5 years before that). I can’t even contemplate flying like that. Luckily most of my sinus problems seem to have disappeared since I had the surgery ( and since the move to Canada) despite the operation to fix my deviated septum leaving me with a permanently perforated one.

So for the past two days I’ve been desperately trying to convince myself that I can clear my ears*. I’m sure that people have been giving me strange looks as I sit there pulling faces trying to pop my ear.
I think I’m developing a mild ear obsession. It is very very weird the stuff that flying does to you!

I’m still not 100% sure what I’m going to do. I’ll let you know what happens

*Despite my usual cavalier attitude to taking it easy when sick. This is kind of a hard limit for me. I have no desire to burst anything. No ear pop, no flying.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

No longer a passenger.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve undergone a slight attitude adjustment and am determined to stop being so passive. It appears to be working. I had a solid flight with all kinds of fun stuff going on.  I was happy with what was going on around me. I dealt with last minute runway switches and other traffic in the circuit with ease.
My running commentary has changed a little as well. Not as much swearing! (At least not as much that I’m aware of!) I’m also phrasing things more as statements than questions. For example I now say “ATC wants me to follow that Porter as he turns final” rather than “does he want me to follow that Porter in?”

After the slightly scary incident last lesson, I’m hyper aware of the traffic around me and am building up a good mental picture of what’s going on and what is likely to happen. This is a VERY good thing.

The title of this post sums it up. I’m no longer acting like a passenger in the plane. I’m making positive decisions. I made an overshoot decision today all on my own, no need for discussion. I wasn’t going to get in down in the first third so around we went. Again when I decided I told Bob we were going around, I didn’t ask him.
Of course this is all very good from a training point of view but next time I’m on a plane it’ll be as a passenger and I’m not sure how that’s going to work out.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

So why am I writing this blog?

A reasonable question seeing that I've hit the magic 100. It doesn’t have a massive audience (although still a lot of strangely anonymous people in Russia seem to be viewing it, maybe they are forced to read it in some kind of Gulag-esque punishment?). I still kind of shy about sharing the URL with people. I guess it’s kind of a very public diary. So why am I writing this in the first place?
Well for one thing; this will probably be the most monumental achievement I’ve ever embarked upon. I’d like to be able to look back in a few years and relive the ordeal! One of my greatest regrets about my move to Canada was that I didn’t keep up with the diary I started. Consequently the last five years all sort of blend into one. With my blog I can remember the exact details that led to my writing each and every post. I’d like to keep hold of those memories.

It’s good from a reflection point of view.  Some lessons go better than others, it’s nice to be reminded that I’ve had crappy days and gotten over them. I’ve a feeling that I will be hitting a few more bumps along the way. When I look back even the few months that I’ve been doing this, the change has been phenomenal. I need to remind myself that a few months ago I was too scared to relax my death grip on the column enough to lean the mixture. Now I fly whole lessons with one hand on the throttle.

It’s just possible that it may help someone else. When I hit my plateau with circuits (severely enough that I did consider that I may not have the aptitude to carry on with this flying stuff), it was fine Bob and RTH telling me that it happens to everyone and that I’d get over it. But they had a vested interest in either my training or my ego. To hear it from someone who has experienced it, felt it and gotten over it might be useful to someone else.

I think it gives Bob a little bit of an insight – into what goes on in my head. I know he reads this, if I write about things that I’m unsure of we miraculously cover them in the next briefing. This can be a bit of a two edged sword . Although I write about stuff as it happened so it is fresh when I think about it, I don’t always post things in chronological order (I usually have about 20 posts in draft form and often just pick a random one to stick up, for example I wrote most of this post 2 months ago). So it could get confusing, if after a really good lesson, I post about how crap I’m doing! It’s weird that sometimes it is easier to post stuff on here and hope he reads it than actually come right out and ask about stuff. For the record that is no reflection on Bob, who is very approachable and more indicative of my screwed up psyche.

I enjoy writing – in some ways this is almost as much fun as the flying and a lot cheaper!

So if you are reading it , please enjoy and feel free to pass it on.

Friday, 21 September 2012

100 posts and going strong!

Well there`s a milestone for you. 100 inane posts about my struggle with all things aviation related!

That means on average each hour of flying has spawned 4 posts! So let`s review the story so far

·         RTH* was worried that I`d freak out in the plane if he took me up as a passenger (perfectly reasonable given my history)

·         I took a `familiarisation flight` with RTH`s instructor

·         I survived!**

·         I took another lesson

·         Survived that one too!

·         Developed a bit of a taste for flying

·         Started ground school

·         Decided to take about 10 hours worth of lessons to get the basics

·         Survived stalls, spins and spirals

·         Decided I didn`t want to stop!

·         Somewhere along the way passed my PSTAR and radio exams

·         Still going strong!

At the moment I`m still flinging the plane round that circuit, waiting on the inevitable day when Bob decides to get out! I`m sure that I`ve got a million and one hurdles still to overcome but I`m having an absolute blast.
If you`d have told me 5 months ago that I`d be taking off, flying a circuit and landing with no instructor assistance whatsoever. I would not have believed you! If you`d have told me that three months ago, I`d still be dubious.

Of course Bob has always been convinced that I can do this. I hate it when other people are right!!

* RTH has been a huge influence in all of this. I would never have attempted this if it were not for his gentle persuasion. I`m hugely grateful for his prompting, willingness to discuss all things aviation related and generally hold my hand throughout the entire process.

** I still remember the feeling when I landed after that first flight. I just thought we were going to go for a bit of a fly around with me observing, but Bob had me doing the taxiing (heavily assisted of course!), the rotation on takeoff and I reckon about 80% of the actual flying! He treated me like someone who could actually DO this as opposed to someone who has difficulty telling her left from her right and that feeling was a turning point in my whole outlook on life.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


I’ve recently been introduced to an awesomely scary website
CADORS – or Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System.
It its simplest form basically if an incident* occurs,it gets reported (or are on the receiving end of someone else’s screw up**) this is where you’ll end up. You can do all kinds of interesting searches; you can look and see how many incidents the plane you are flying has been involved in or what your flying school has been up to!

The actual point is not to demonize people but to genuinely point out other people’s mistakes and the process that led up to them so that you don’t make the same ones.
It can be a bit troubling if you are of a nervous disposition, strangely though it doesn’t bother me at all that the plane I fly the most often has been involved in 2 mid air dings! What does bother me, is the so called mundane mistakes. Nothing got damaged and no one got injured but there was the potential for a problem. It bothers me because, reading through them I can see how easily these things happen. Pretty much everyone I’ve read (I did a search for the flight school!) I can see me doing exactly the same thing. I can see how you would accidentally land on 26 when you’ve been cleared for 24. Sometimes you hear what you expect to hear and not what is actually said. I can see how someone who is relieved to have gotten the plane on the ground in one piece might forget to get taxi clearance back to the hanger and just pootle on regardless.

I recall one flight out to the practice area, still fairly early on when I was just getting the hang of the radio stuff, getting ATC instructions and responding back to them (secretly pleased with myself that I’d got the response correct), then Bob asked me “ so did they clear us north or south of the stacks?” I had no clue. In concentrating on my response I’d accepted the instruction without actually hearing it.

When you are doing circuits , sometimes you don't get your landing clearance until the last minute, while at other times they clear you while still in the downwind. Everytime I cross that threshold there is a little voice inside me asking "did you actually get landing clearance?"

*an incident can be anything from a commercial airliner making a missed approach, to a bird strike to a mid air prang!

**This distinction is important, RTH has filed a CADORS report during his training but did nothing wrong. He got buzzed by an idiot in a Pilatus who was not monitoring the frequency and had made no position calls. The F@#kwit is probably still blissfully unaware that RTH nearly climbed into him.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

I’m just a high tech, low tech girl.

I love gadgets, Shiny new technology is my thing.  I think the technical term is I’m “an early adopter of new technology”. Between us RTH and I owned the first ever MP3 player (with a whopping 64Mbytes of storage) as well as cell phones that resembled bricks. I had a hard drive MP3 player that was like a lead paperweight. We both own early versions of the Sony Reader (ebook) and at some point various iterations of Ipods,Ipad, Itouch and Iphones. I walk around with my Bluetooth headset and tablet pc and curse the fact that “From the Ground Up” isn’t available as a pdf. There are more computers than people in our house by a factor of at least 3.
So why when I see a glass cockpit plane, all brimming with new gadgets and computer screens, does it do nothing for me? I need to see big dials, with hands that move and gauges that rely on vacuum pumps. Switches that click and circuit breakers that pop.
I dunno , for some reason that’s what flying is to me. Weird huh?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Asking for trouble.

Practicing Emergency procedures always amuses me slightly. Although I suspect this is not the frame of mind you are meant to approach them in! The slightly bizarre thing about them is in effect we have to ask ATC for permission to have a practice emergency.  We are in very busy airspace so we need a certain degree of cooperation from both them and the other traffic around in order to slot in.  Sometimes we have a lesson where we brief for the emergencies we are going to cover but the traffic doesn’t allow for us to actually do it.

One lesson (where ATC nearly smashed me into something, ok that only narrows it down slightly ;) ) the poor controller sounded perilously close to losing it completely , we just didn’t have the heart to ask him for anything extra!

Comms failures amuse me the most because it calls for ATC to dust off the old signal lamp in order to sear my retinas with it. I seriously have this mental image of them muttering under their breath “where the hell did we put that thing, I know it’s here somewhere” before running a sleeve over the cobweb encrusted facia. I really don’t think that thing sees the light of day much, not in Class C airspace.
Engine failures used to be slightly surreal as well. It didn’t exactly come as a surprise when Bob pulled back the power because a minute earlier he’d requested a “practice Echo” from the tower. However I have noticed that last time he pulled the power back first then asked the tower.

Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission I guess!

“This would be a lot easier…

…if you just gave me a plane that worked!”

This was my comment to Bob today during our pre-flight briefing. Now that he’s reasonably confident that I'm flying decent circuits he likes to mix it up a little and break things. As I’ve mentioned before we’ve touched on comms failure and practiced both flapless landings and engine failures.
Everytime we go out he knocks it up a notch. Today he simulated a comms failure by reaching over and removing my headset! So I genuinely couldn’t hear what he was saying to ATC and what they were saying to him. The engine is bloody loud without it! I could barely hear Bob over the noise. I ended up with a slightly high approach and had to improvise some hand signals to inform him I was going to overshoot.
It would also seem that I don’t get notice of engine failures anymore either. I think Bob got bored because there wasn’t much for him to do today, so he reached over and killed the power without a word to me or ATC initially. Thanks! Next time try Sudoku or something instead.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Random stuff you get at conferences.

My goody bag includes

·         Notebook – nice quality with a magnetic seal/catch thingy

·         Two pens – useful

·         A pin (badge to you Brits) with the educator providers logo on it- nice quality , solid metal engraved but no idea where or why I would wear it!

·         A trade magazine – useful for insomnia

·         A bag of gourmet tea – random but OK I guess

·         A guide to the night life in Bethesda – surprisingly more than one page!

·         A bag of M&Ms snack mix – pretzels and cookies – BLEUCH!

·         Some random chocolates – casually tossed in

·         Life saver mints – evil candy, they look suspiciously like British POLO mints but taste like your grandma’s arthritis ointment

·         A bookmark – doesn’t seem to work on my E-Reader though

I know this has nothing to do with flying, but the new job inspired me to get up there and do something crazy. Flying is one part of that, being at a conference where I’m so far out of my depth it is funny is the other part!
Hey I’m having fun, I’m the queen of Bullshit and unlike flying no one dies if I get this wrong!

Dangerous phrases in aviation….

Inspired by a text conversation

·         Trust me

·         Watch this!

·         What does this do?

·         What happens if I pull the red knob out?

·         Of course I know where I am

BTW I'm writing this from a slightly different airport this morning. About to be a passenger :(
I really hate commercial flying and you know its stupid-O'clock in the morning when not even Timmies is open !!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

I should start a list

Of things that ATC has tried to bounce me into. As well as the Hearn Stack, and medevac helicopter we can now add another Cessna to that list.
Seriously this incident scared me a little bit. It all happened in quite a weird way, but suddenly I found myself really really close to another plane.
Due to the winds and angles and stuff this plane just seemed to be hovering there. Any direction I moved it seemed to follow.  So I’m trying to analyze what happened , what I did wrong, what I did right and what I should have done to avoid the situation in the first place.*
What went wrong:
·         ATC turned me  prematurely and put me in a situation where I was coming up behind a slower plane
·         I accepted the instruction
·         I hesitated in taking corrective action to avoid coming up behind it
What went right
·         I was shaken but didn’t panic. I was still responsive and in control of myself
·         Once I was out of immediate danger I was able to think through a plan of action (in this case climbing because I was out over the lake)
·         I still managed to ace the landing!
What I should have done
·         I probably shouldn’t have accepted the instruction from ATC in the first place, without having the traffic in sight
·          I should have had an escape plan as soon as I saw had that plane in sight

Still I have learnt a very very important lesson. I absolutely 100% CAN NOT rely on ATC to keep me safe. I must not rely on them to keep me from colliding into things. Maybe I've gotten a little too complacent about traffic spotting.
I'm the one responsible for that plane. I need to act like it
* I wrote this post before Bob and I had time to go over what had actually happened. As i explained to him. I really didn't have a good grasp on what went wrong. The next lesson we spent a good few minutes analysing the evnts. A lot of it was to do with the crosswinds pushing me over and slowing the other plane down even more. Both Bob and RTH agree that if I came away with the underlined phrase firmly in my head then it was a valuable learning experience.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Like a Cylon….

…. I have a plan*
So thanks to my very good friend E from work , who is devastatingly funny as well as being super smart and very competent at her job. She refuses to take me seriously at all and stops my general self pity and wallowing dead in its tracks, I now have a plan.
·         Item number one was to “get over myself” and concentrate on flying the plane to the best of my ability – check (had a decent flight despite cross winds)
·         Item number two – figure out what you need to know – check (painfully aware of this)
·         Three – find someone who knows about it – sorted (Bob and I are going to spend some time after my next flight going through the dreaded test. I’m going to ask him about the stuff I got right as well as the stuff I got wrong just to ensure it wasn’t luck!)
·         Four – carry on with the reading – I promise I will get back to this after our guests have left.
·         Five –Generally be more assertive about situations you are unsure of. (For example I knew that I didn’t have a copy of the flight school policies and stuff. I should have asked for one – so I did**)
·         Six – enjoy myself!!!! Luckily still managing this

* Actually when you look back at the whole run of Battlestar Galactica , they really didn’t!
** I found one in the back of the plane that someone had left behind and "liberated" it – but that counts right?