Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Say again?

Things are going quite well at the moment, that doesn’t mean that I’m flying perfectly but it does mean that I’m viewing each lesson fairly positively and learning something from it. I’m gaining confidence in areas that have traditionally scared me, such as navigation for example.

Obviously then my mind needs to focus on the next thing to be terrified of. My psyche being such that there’s always something I can latch on to anxiety wise. To be fair I actually think I may have a point with my latest “fear”. I’m getting very concerned about dealing with other people out in the practice area. I mean I reckon I can navigate my way out there and I can certainly find my way back, something I would not have believed was possible a few short months ago. But what worries me is my lack of situational awareness when I’m out there. Sure if there’s one other plane I can tell them where to go so that they won’t bug me while I do whatever I need to do. However; the practice area frequency covers a large swath of land and I’m not always familiar with the towns that people mention. This makes it hard for me to figure if a plane is 5 or 25 miles away.
On top of that, I actually find it hard to comprehend the radio transmissions. I don’t have a hearing problem or anything it’s just that they sound staticky and unintelligible to me. I don’t know if it is just me or whether other people have the same problems. Sometimes I find other pilots accents hard to understand. I think at least one of the flying schools in the zone takes on a lot of international students. They probably find me as difficult to understand as I do them. Canadians can have a tough time with my accent sometimes.

It worries me intensely because we all rely on each other making accurate, understandable position reports to keep out of each other’s way. I just see this ending very badly at some point. I know it is a big sky out there but there’s also a lot of traffic doing stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily expect in standard airspace. People are , by definition, pushing the envelope in that particular bubble.
As much as I moan about ATC, sometimes it all goes a bit scary when they are not around. I’m not sure what the solution is here.


Monday, 29 April 2013

Head not in the game.

Scrappy is how I’d describe my last flight. A good learning experience is Bob’s take on it. He’s much more the optimist than I am, for sure.

Don`t get me wrong, some of it was OK. I managed an obstacle takeoff from runway 15, a runway I've never used before. I think I`m even over my terror of runways with no run up spaces now.15 doesn't have one, so we found a little spot out of the way. I got us into a tight corner and ATC told the big nasty Dash 8 that they`d have to wait for me! Which they did.
My steep turns weren't quite as horrendous as before. I`m judging by the fact that Bob didn't seem to need me to repeat them over and over again, that my first efforts were tolerable. Unlike RTH I much prefer doing steep turns to the left. I don`t mind the feeling over hanging over nothing but for right hand ones, the feeling of being up in the air at the top of the plane makes me feel slightly queasy for some reason.

My forced approach was terrible; I crowded the field and would have overshot it big time. That`s almost forgivable but worse is the fact that I kinda realised early enough on that I really could have done something about it. I could have made some S turns. I could have widened it out. A couple of slipping turns maybe. But no, too much altitude and not enough ideas.
Precautionary, well I roughly achieved what I needed to, low pass; overshoot and then back round again but still scrappy technique. Nothing massively dangerous but not exactly a polished performance either.

Bob`s debrief was basically positive. Emphasising the way that I do have all the basic blocks there, I just need to fine tune my performance.  Mostly he`s right, but I got flustered out there today because I couldn't remember the steps involved. I need to get my head back in the game, start visualising those manoeuvres again and sort it out.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

No more Mr. Nice Guy!

Today’s flight was exhausting in so many ways; I mean I’ve had flights before where I’ve felt a bit worn out, where my mind has slowed down or my head started hurting but today was something else. I literally got out of the plane on shaky legs and with a distinct inability to think anything through. I stared at the timesheet from the plane blankly, knowing I needed to do something with the numbers but not entirely sure what.

Bob took pity on my confused look and kindly transferred them onto the flight and billing sheet for me. J from dispatch gently prompted me to put my card in the slot, after it became apparent that I was just going to stand and stare at it! Hey he could have billed me for anything but I trust the guys there.
Bob gave me a few minutes to collect myself and whatever thought processes I could muster before heading into the room for our debrief.  I slumped into the chair and looked at him, realization suddenly dawning on me; “you’re never going to let me reach my comfort zone, are you?”

“No, if I do, then it’s just a sightseeing flight” he replied. I may have muttered something under my breath about enjoying sightseeing.
It looks like the gloves are off then. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Obviously Bob reckons that I can do this stuff, he’s probably figured that the best way to stop me stressing about the small, stupid stuff is just to throw it at me. Without warning.

He’s probably right. Please don't tell him that though!




Saturday, 27 April 2013

Chasing my tail.

Interesting situation coming back into the zone last lesson. Active runway was 08, although the winds were 160°, you can’t use runway 15 for landings because someone built a large block of condos at the end of the approach. The VFR route back from the practice area brings you in over the downtown core.
Understand that on the way out we tend to follow the shoreline of the lake, on the way back you follow the highway, it helps to separate the traffic.
Also understand that Toronto is a tall city, obviously the CN tower is massive (although not the tallest structure in the world anymore, thank you Dubai!) but a lot of the financial towers are sizeable as well (50+ storeys).

Usually when you come in for 08 over the city, ATC clear you for a left downwind. The flight school don’t like solo students doing this, to be fair it can be a bit dicey over the downtown when you are trying to lose altitude to join the circuit. Circuit height is 1250 ft , the CN Tower is 1815 ft for example. There’s also the sightseeing traffic on the City tour to avoid as well. If ATC give us a left downwind instruction we are not meant to accept it, we need to request a right downwind, pretty much in the same way that we are not allowed to waive wake turbulence separation requirements either.

Bob is trying to prep me for flying to the practice area solo. Just like my solo circuit flight, he needs to be sure that I can cope with whatever ATC choose to shove my way; this includes having to refuse the left downwind*.  So suitably primed, I did indeed refuse said instruction. ATC weren’t exactly rude but they weren’t overly thrilled either. I got told to orbit a set point. I distinctly got the impression that it was a case of “fine, go over there and don’t bother me for a while then!” Spoken through a slightly clenched jaw.
So I orbited, and orbited and orbited. I got dizzy and slightly queasy (I never get airsick btw), I felt like a dog chasing its tail, running around in circles and slightly confused about the lack of results. You talk about needing to be in front of the plane. I was at least one orbit behind it. Bob took pity on me and showed me how to pull the rpm back and drop 10° of flaps. This slows everything down and allowed me to catch back up with the plane.  ATC came on the radio once, to tell us it was going to be a few more minutes.

Eventually they took pity on me and let me land. My stomach landed about 5 minutes after.
* sometimes learning to say "no" to ATC is a harder lesson to learn than the actual flying!



Friday, 26 April 2013

I don’t wish to alarm you…

…but I think our engine just quit!

Words spoken by me as we made a series of tight turns in order to find some lift. Yes I was in a glider!
Luckily Insane Instructor (as he shall evermore be known!) has a sense of humour compatible with mine. In fact he started it!

Gems of wisdom from him included him screaming “No, I’ve changed my mind!” as the tow plane dragged us along the runway! He also asked me “did you want me to open my eyes yet?” just as the tow plane released us.
I replied that either way was fine with me and in fact I often found my landings were better with my eyes shut (only joking Bob, honest!)

The glider flight was exactly what I needed for a break, the complete opposite of what I do with Bob in so many ways.
Bob is a gentleman, Insane Instructor spent the entire flight making crude jokes about “ his stick between my legs!” and variations thereof.

Bob explains things very carefully until he’s 100% sure I’m happy. Insane instructor just jumped in and off we went.
Insane Instructor totally gets my sense of humour and crude outlook on life. We had some seriously outrageous banter going. Bob’s far too polite to use that kind of language in front of me.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand exactly what’s going on here. Both of them are trying to achieve very different things. To Insane Instructor I’m a tourist to entertain. Bob is trying to make a pilot out of me. Of course we need to be more disciplined. Bob is in this for the long term. Kind of like the difference between a marriage and a one night stand, to put it into terms Insane Instructor might use.
And of course, I can’t really criticise Bob’s approach, when if it weren’t for him and the confidence he’s  given me, I would never have booked that glider flight in the first place.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Look both ways before crossing the runway

Jean airport is hilarious. In a totally good way. Think of CYTZ, where I normally fly from and then imagine the complete opposite. You’ve got Jean airport.

No commercial base, a few gliders, the odd tow plane, an occasional helicopter, some microlights.
No control tower, no Mandatory Frequency, no hassles!

I burst out laughing as we entered the perimeter, via the back road. Through a gate that looked like it hadn’t been closed in the best part of 20 years. We then proceeded to drive along the taxi way- pausing briefly at the hold short line to check for any errant aircraft on final before crossing the runway and its parallel neighbour.
While RTH was enjoying his trip up in the sky, I stood watching from a strip of gravel between the runways, no one batted an eyelid.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

My plane, not yours!

Hey, when I say “I have control.” I really mean it. I got very confused during today’s flight. Bob had me plan a very simple diversion.  He took control and asked me to give him a heading, distance and time to a nearby town.

It was easy. I quickly gave him a heading and made to fly us on that course. He wouldn’t let go. “Give me a distance and ETA.” I ran my thumb along the line “10 miles 6/7 minutes.” I go to take the plane, again.
“reconfirm for me please.”

Ah crap, am I suffering from the lack of math ability again? No my thumb is 2.5 miles, 4 thumbs = 10 miles.    
 “10 miles heading 020,” I reach for the plane, again.

“Look that’s 030, so the diversion is around 020 and that’s 10 miles.” <gimme my goddamn plane> muttered under my breath.

“Your plane, recover”

“What’s it doing WMAP?”
Holy crap , that’s some bank angle, ok sort that out; Ok woh! Don’t remember seeing that needle go that high for a while. Yellow- not a good colour

Ah damn! He put me in a spiral. I pause briefly to mutter “you utter b@st@rd!” while pulling the power back – now!
Really though I’m more p!ssed at me. Should have spotted the ASI before doing stuff with the wings. 3 stages to a spiral recovery. 1 power back, 2 level wings, 3 recover the dive.

Like a bad musician, I played all the right notes, just not necessarily in the correct order!
Ok well another reflex gained. Recover = eyes instantly to ASI, that’ll  tell me what to do. Heading towards red = power back NOW.

Lesson learned the hard way, as usual.



Tuesday, 23 April 2013

He only got a “Holy Hippo!”

Even though I decided that I was going to divest myself of any emotional baggage I cart around with me, I felt it was only fair to warn the instructor about a certain thing.

I was strapped in, canopy closed; it was obvious that I wasn’t getting out of this. I nervously cleared my throat and turned to the guy in the back seat and said,
“There’s something you need to know, I ermm swear. A lot actually. Sorry in advance”

Turns out though, that I don’t. Apparently my profanity is engine powered. All he managed to get out of me was a “Holy Hippo!” when we hit a bit of a sink and my butt left the seat for a brief moment.
I needn’t have worried either, the instructor was worse than me!

Monday, 22 April 2013

I have a dream.

I’m lying here in the sun, synthesizing some vitamin D (all Canadians are deficient after the 6 month winters!), slowly allowing my mile-a-minute mind to ease off. Dozing in the sun, keeping one eye out for the pool girl to order my next Margarita and dreaming.

Like many people before me, I have a dream. Mine isn’t Earth shattering in the realms of human rights or engineering prowess, but it is, for me a powerful one none the less.
OK My Dream….

I’m having a draining week at work*, so I decide I want to fly somewhere at the weekend. I don’t have to persuade RTH, negotiate for his time and effort. I just announce to him that this weekend I’m going to XXX, wanna come?
I don’t actually mind if he joins me or not. If he does, great, another shared adventure. If not , fine too – an adventure all of my own.

Maybe I do go on my own. I plan my flight and one Saturday morning I launch into the sky. Maybe I go mid-week, taking the multitude of accumulated lieu hours off from work in order to escape the weekend rush.
So I fly to wherever-the-hell-I-like and land, without incident. I find somewhere to park my plane. Pushing it back into the spot if needed and wander off in search of Coffee or a soft drink and food. Maybe I end up chatting with people in the cafĂ©. They ask if I’m the Brit they’ve heard on the radio. Ice broken we delve into plane talk. We swap flying stories. I explain that my plane is merely a rental. We swap tales, plane quirks. I express my fondness for the plane because I soloed/Cross Countried/passed my flight test in her. I might bemoan her lack of pockets or tendency to nose up high all the time.

We’ll swap stories, airport hints, food finds. We might exchange contact details, promises of future meet ups if we happen to be passing. One pilot to another.
Then I return, plane back to CYTZ, me back to home. Refreshed, exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time. Ready to face whatever the world chooses to throw at me and already counting the days until I’m back in the air again.

So there you have it, fairly mundane as pilot’s dreams go but to me the very pinnacle of my hopes


* I don’t dream of having a bad week at work, but I am a realist!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

1 year

Well it’s been one year…

..since I got in that plane! One year since that fateful day I took my first “intro flight”. One year since a certain someone may have planted the little seed in my mind that flying a plane was actually something I could do.

Ha, If I’d known then what I know now, I don’t think I would have been quite so eager. Actually I’m not sure if eager is the right word. I’ve blogged ad infinitum about how terrified I was, so I won’t bore you with that. Maybe quietly determined would be a better way to describe it (or foolishly stubborn, your pick!)

Seriously though, this stuff is hard, even having seen RTH get through his PPL I still had no idea of just exactly how hard it was going to be. The worse thing is I simply don’t have the words to tell other, non piloty people just how tricky it is. Sometimes I swear I hear people thinking “what so you just take off, fly it around a rectangle and land again? How hard can that be?”

Well let me tell you, bloody hard and you have no idea just how fricken hard until you’ve tried it, really. And those of you who`ve had a little bit of a bash behind the control column because you got a “Groupon deal or something” and the pilot “totally let you fly the plane and everything.” Yeah, you really didn’t. You probably had a really good instructor who let you take some control and certainly let you think that you were doing all the flying. But you weren’t, honestly. Even after several hours of lessons, I still wasn’t fully in control of that plane*, a gentle steadying hand on the control column, a light touch of the foot on the rudder pedal; all done without you even realising it. Gradually easing off over time until you are doing it all without you even knowing. All the mark of a good instructor.

It is interesting for me to see how my relationship with Bob has changed too. At the start he was the gentle person , coaxing me into the cockpit. Reassuring me that I could do this, gradually building up my confidence one tiny step at a time. Managing my workload for me, easing off the pressure. Making it all alright.

Now he's the son of a <bleep> who chucks whatever dastardly stuff he can think of at me. Constantly challenging me, never ever letting me get too comfortable, too complacent in the cockpit! Hmm he may well have unleashed the slightly competitive side in me. Well played, yet again!

But still it is hard and sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, sometimes I have to remember just how much I’ve achieved, before I get bogged down in just how much I still have to overcome. The sheer amount of theory I have to know is simply insane and I’m barely scratching the surface here. I knew it was going to be hard, I still had no idea though just how hard.

And yet even with all the above I’m loving every moment of it! It’s been a while since I was truly challenged by anything mentally or physically. Flying is doing both in spades that’s for sure.

Flying has changed me in so many ways, challenged my belief of what I can and can't do. Changed my perception of risk and helped me overcome many of my inner demons. I've made new friends, gained new skills and have a completely new outlook on life. I've reached dizzying heights and hit challenges that left me considering quitting. I've faced adversity and come out the other side a better person.

Here's to another year in the skies!

* I think the jury is still out on whether I actually am now !


Saturday, 20 April 2013

No room for any baggage

It is hard for me to describe the thought processes that led to the insanity of me booking a trip in a glider. Initially it just sounded like a cool thing to do and I’ve already mentioned my desire to fly in any plane I can get my sticky mitts on.

So I booked the flight (one for RTH, one for me) before I could chicken out. Reflecting on my decision I realised just how it is that gliders stay in the air. Thermals of course.  Ah!!! For thermals read “turbulence”. Oh crap WMAP!!!! What have you done? Seriously just what have you gotten yourself into? Too late to back out now, it’s booked and paid for. Suck it up and get on with it.
I made a decision, there and then. I need to stop labeling myself as a “nervous pilot”, because all I do is live up to my own expectations. I decided, I wouldn’t lie about my experience as a student pilot. I’d chat about the plane I flew, the airports I’d been to but no emotional baggage allowed. No sob story about how scared I was/had been. No tales of turbulence woes. No allegories of anxiety attacks.

I was just your run of the mill student pilot on her first time in a glider.
It ROCKED!!! (and so did the plane but that’s another story!)

Friday, 19 April 2013

And I’m back…

Didn’t win it big in Vegas, so no plane purchase on the horizon anytime soon.

Apologies for lack of blog posts but the Wi-Fi in the Venetian is officially crap. Am currently working on editing the footage of my glider flight and also researching how to claim the tax back on my nickel’s worth of winnings J
Back to regular schedule soon.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Fun at work

Both myself and my office mate were having a slightly dicey day yesterday. For her it is exam season, which involves matching student with numerous exam papers. Not as easy as it sounds for all kinds of reasons. Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have her job.

I’m desperately trying to clear my desk as I’m off on a week’s vacation soon. Certain aspects of my job are fairly tedious; I was busy sticking labels on envelopes moaning that “I’m glad I went to university for X years in order to be able to do this kind of high demand stuff.”
Office mate then walked over, picked up an envelope and said “you’ve stuck them on upside down!”

She was vaguely listening to a phone call I was making to a company in Vegas, trying to plan some fun stuff. The conversation went something like this:

OM – so you’re scared of flying?
Me – little bit, still. I guess

OM – and you’re looking to book a flight? In a glider? With no engine?
Me – Yup

OM – You’re insane!!!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Vegas, Baby!!!!!

Am off on vacation to lovely Las Vegas for a few days. Have no idea if I’ll get round to posting on my blog or not, still have a few posts waiting to go up. I’m not going to turn the blog into a diary of my vacation but weather permitting I'll have something awesome to talk about when I get back.

Insanity may have temporarily taken hold of me; I've booked myself an hours gliding tuition at an airport just south of the strip.

See you next week!


Thursday, 11 April 2013

I fought the map and the map won.

I thought I’d got this sorted but I really have got an organisational problem in the cockpit. Today, on top of everything else, I was having major problems just getting my chart to be usable. I’m fine if I’m working on the one panel and can get it folded up nice and tight and tuck it in the yoke clip. The second I need to unfold it though, it all goes to pot. I ended up dropping it at one point, I lost my pencil somewhere along the line and got completely lost because I didn’t have my map oriented correctly.

To be fair this was exacerbated by the problem that JPM doesn’t have front pockets, so I was already short on storage space. I’m having a really hard time with this cockpit management stuff; it is having a detrimental effect on my flying as well. I get distracted by the fact that things aren’t where they are meant to be, I spend too much time and energy p!ssing around with pencils, pens, charts and other paraphernalia that I stress about the flying aspect.

Last flight I tied myself in knots with it and much to Bob’s disgust, tucked it into the side of the dash and hoped for the best. That doesn’t work in case you were wondering! In the debrief, Bob scolded me for “giving up on my chart.” I suspect if he could have reached, he’d have smacked me round the head with it “you never, ever give up on the chart WMAP!”

I know he’s right but I suspect the chart has given up on me!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

For Flyinkiwi

Some pictures taken inside the hanger last week. Not JES, I was in JPM

Instrument panel on JPM, all the 172s are pretty much the same. JPM’s GPS has been taken out at the moment. It’s usually there.
Some other planes that were kicking around. A Pilatus and a Piper Malibu.
And last but certainly by no means least, JPM herself. All ready to be preflighted!
Sometimes the hanger gets very crowded, you have to pick your route through the planes very carefully, least you bash your head on an errant wing tip!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Slip-slidin’ away

On my epic journey to Greenbank, I found myself on final to the-strip-of-grass-that-is-allegedly-a-runway, far too high for comfort. Bob drew from his “blindingly obvious” bank of helpful advice and told me, “you need to bring it down, WMAP”

Obviously my hand meandered to the flaps lever, but of course I’m setting up for a soft field landing, I’m already at 30°, fully powered back as well. No help there then. Okay at this rate I’m definitely going to miss the target for sure; options? I could overshoot, always an option, and I’ve nothing really against that as a course of action, I approach pretty much every landing as a potential overshoot. But I’ve got one more trick left in my bag, not really one I’ve ever tried without prompting from Bob, let’s give it a go…
“forward slip, nice choice WMAP, a touch more rudder and I think you’ve got it,” approved Bob. For the less aerodynamically minded of you, in a forward slip you turn the ailerons one way and use opposite rudder, balancing the two out so that the plane gives up and decides to go straight and down instead. You can pick up a pretty decent rate of descent doing this. I’ve done slipping turns in the circuit before and gotten the VSI around the 1000 fpm descent rate or higher. I’ve certainly popped my ears on the way down.

This is really the first time I’ve really felt the balance point in the slip, the magic sweet spot where the ailerons and rudder kind of cancel out. To be honest the reason Bob needed to prompt me to add more rudder was that I was playing around with the feel of the plane, letting up on the rudder and , quite frankly, seeing what happens.
I’m a world away from where I was a few months ago that’s for sure, the concept of messing around on final and seeing what the plane does would have sent me running crying in panic. The truth is though that you have more time up there than you think and if it all goes horribly wrong, I know what to do to fix it. Maybe all those screw-ups have paid off after all!

Monday, 8 April 2013

You want me to do what now?

I’ve done many a simulated soft field takeoff. Usually if I’m doing circuits Bob’ll throw something in there to break up the monotony a bit.  The “hold it in ground effect” bit always freaks me out a minor bit. It doesn’t feel quite right but I love that moment where the plane decides that basically it’s gonna fly no matter what and it just seems to zoom right up underneath you!

To be truthful though I’ve always regarded the soft field practice as a bit of an academic exercise. When you sign the rental agreement for a plane from the flight school, it specifically forbids you from taking it onto gravel or grass surfaces, for insurance reasons I believe. So I didn’t really think it was of that much real life relevance to me at this moment.
Apparently Bob isn’t covered by the same restrictions I am! Seriously I honestly didn’t think that we were going to land. We did a high and low level inspection of the surface. I managed to spot that the surface was OK but failed miserably to spot the errant wind sock. Eventually we figured out which runway we needed and I set us up for an approach. Even at this point I really wasn’t sure that we were going to land. I figured we’d do a late overshoot. I listened to Bob’s guidance and finally got the hint that he wanted me to bring her down. Just to confirm I asked “I’m sorry you want me to do what now?”

The landing was ok, the approach a bit wonky, not helped by the fact that grass strips don’t exactly stand out from the surrounding fields. I completely lost sight of the airport on the base leg. I ended up high and had to slip it down on final.
Grass surfaces certainly fee different, on landing I barely needed to touch the brakes to bring us to a stop, even given the short runway length. Conversely on takeoff, it seemed to take forever to accelerate up to even shortfield rotate speed. I remember doing my usual airspeed check on the takeoff run and looking at the engine RPM at least twice to convince myself that we were generating enough power. It sure as hell didn’t feel like it and keeping back pressure on the control column takes a lot of muscle power. My puny arms are suffering now!

Fun even if it was completely unexpected!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A new destination but somehow I’ve been here before

I’m having trouble summarising today’s flight. So much went on, new and yet strangely familiar. The previous few flights have left me with an amazing sense of achievement and a feeling that I could take on the world, this one has just left me thinking “what the f@ck just happened?” By the time we had landed I was sincerely unable to string a coherent thought together. I was mentally drained.

Bob had thrown every single thing he could think of at me. We started off with circuits, simulating soft field takeoffs and landings, did a diversion to another airport. He had me do a precautionary “low and over” the runway to inspect the surface and spot the windsock. Then he made me land. If that wasn’t bad enough it was actually a grass strip; my first actual soft field work.
Obviously this wasn’t enough so he threw in some steep turns for good measure, something I am horrifically rusty at, loads more practice needed there I think. Followed by some simulated instrument work on the way back. Holy crap! 1.6 hours of relentless workload.

And this is why, despite travelling to a new destination. I feel like I’ve been here before. I was constantly behind the plane, struggling to pull stuff out of my brain. Floundering around trying to think of what I needed to do with the plane and how I was going to achieve it. Despite this, I got the plane to do what I needed it to, I didn’t do anything stupid and next time I will be better at it. Exactly the situation I was in when I started this phase of my training.
All this has happened before and all this will happen again!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Run ragged

Just landed from a looong flight. Good stuff but I am totally exhausted. I feel like I’ve run a marathon or done 10 rounds with a heavy weight boxer. Am barely capable of stringing two words together coherently at the moment, let alone a blog post. More later.

Friday, 5 April 2013

A rant to all Americans who think they are the centre of the known Universe

·         Please don’t leave me a voicemail telling me you are from xxxx school district – I have no idea where that is, or indeed what you expect me to do about it.

·         Linked to the above – if you don’t tell me a location don’t get p!ssed at me when I can’t figure out what time zone you are in and return your call at an inconvenient time

·         If you insist on paying by cheque* then please for the love of god tell me the goddam name of the person you are paying for. I’m dealing with hundreds of registrations here. I don’t have time to do the detective work to match this crap up.

·         Also linked to the above quoting my own account number back at me on the cheque, in lieu of an invoice is not helpful. At all.

·         Finally; and this really is THE most important thing in the universe, ever. I hold a special place in hell for people who write professional correspondence in Comic Sans font. I seriously want to hurt you. Very badly.

Yes it has been a fun day at work!

* We have many ways of paying money now that don’t involve stupid pieces of paper. I give you many many options on my carefully orchestrated website. So if you are going to insist on using technology from the 18th Century then at least spell the bloody word right!

OK so the law prevents me from….

... Operating a cellphone while driving a car , but you expect me to be able to map read ,operate the radio and use a flight computer whilst flying a plane?
Anyone else see a problem here?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Something that Bob can’t teach me.

Between them Bob and RTH have taught me so much. More than I ever dreamt possible. Bob has somehow managed to take an uncoordinated hippo and have her fly a plane reasonably safely on her own, albeit lacking a little finesse sometimes. Between the two of them they’ve gotten me to a stage where I can actually formulate a plan of action when flying, whereas at the beginning Bob couldn’t get me to formulate two syllables. After our flight to Lindsay though, it has become readily apparent that I don’t have something that RTH does and I’m not sure if Bob can ever teach me this. It’s an unwavering belief in his own abilities.

I don’t mean that RTH is cocky or arrogant, just that he knows what he can do and therefore has no problem doing it. He’s never been to Lindsay before; never really done an uncontrolled airport like this either and yet it didn’t bother him unduly. He took a quick glance at the chart. It seems (to him) reasonably easy to get to (peninsular in lake points pretty much at it). The weather was pretty sweet. So no problem. I don’t mean that he’s complacent. He checked the info he needed to, quick glance to make sure no NOTAMS etc. and as far as he was concerned off we go.
I’m thinking over logistics like “where will we park the plane?” and RTH is sure we will figure out something when we get there.  Even on approach when we overflew the field to come back round for our descent to join mid downwind, I admitted to him that I lost site of the airport in our turn, “yeah so have I,” he admitted, “it’s around here somewhere though.”

I will NEVER ever have that degree of casual confidence, confidence in my own abilities, confidence that it’ll all be alright somehow. I envy RTH that; it makes him a strong, steady presence in the cockpit and a joy to fly with. I think I will always be an awkward sweaty mess. I just don’t think that this is a lesson that Bob can teach me.



Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Managing my space.

Mentally I’m a very organised person. I have a very logical mindset. It took me a while in my working life to realise that many people don’t work the same way that I do, that they don’t see the immediate logical path that I do.

Notice that I said “mentally”, when it comes to physical organisation not so good to be perfectly honest. My desk at work looks like a paper factory spewed up over it, much to the disgust of those who work with me, I can still instantly find anything on it. I think I use a chronological filing system. The older the piece of paper, the further down the heap it’ll be.

Consequently organising myself in the cockpit has been a challenge. There’s a reasonable amount of stuff that you need ready access to and, quite frankly, not a lot of space to play with.  It has taken me a long time to come up with a method that even comes close to working. I’ve had numerous false starts, there was the infamous “clipboard on the instrument panel” incident for example. I’ve tried with a knee board (on either leg), without a kneeboard. I’ve tried utilising the pockets in the plane (tricky because some of the planes don’t have front pockets). I’ve tried the “here hold this” method but I’ve discovered that instructors often wish to play a more active role in the flight than merely being mobile storage devices!
It hasn’t help that because of my short stature and general use of cushions, I need to be careful that my kneeboard doesn’t interfere with the full movement of the control column. I think though that last lesson I may have found a combination that appears to work. I managed to attach my chart to the yoke clip and wear my kneeboard in such a way that I could access the clipboard bit to write on and use the chart pocket as a kind of “drop stuff in here and grab it when needed” section. I wasn’t floundering too much for items. As I mentioned before I managed to grab a pencil and ruler and use it to draw a straight line on my chart. Something I have never achieved before.

Sometimes it’s the small things that make me happy!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

“I know you”

Not always the words you want to hear, quite frankly, so I was more than a little worried when those words were spoken at me during the latest ground school session.

During a brief break we were chatting amongst ourselves, as you do, when suddenly one guy looked at me and said those words.
I gave a fairly non-committal response (wondering if he’s someone I’ve tussled for space with on the TTC or something, can’t be an angry parent, it’s usually the mother’s I deal with). You fly SAR, right? I hear you on the radio all the time.

Oh! Yeah it’s kind of hard to hide with a distinctive accent like mine. Guess I’m all kinds of famous now!


Monday, 1 April 2013

If in doubt, ask.

Lindsay is a very different airport to City that’s for sure. Technically it is an uncontrolled airport with a UNICOM frequency. Those of you who don’t fly have no idea what that means so I’ll do my best to explain. City airport (CYTZ) has an air traffic controller, they issue clearances and instructions, and although the final responsibility still lies with the VFR pilot, they do their very best not to smash you into something or someone (allegedly).  When you enter their zone they give you joining instructions and generally plot your approach for you. They may issue restrictions (occasionally they forget to cancel them, leading you to wonder just how you are meant to land and yet not go below 2000ft!). The main difference is that you talk to ATC, ATC talks to you and that’s it. No chit chat between planes whatsoever.

At an uncontrolled airport like Lindsay, everyone broadcasts on the common frequency. You make position reports; you negotiate for spacing and even the runway, a little bit like the practice area but with higher stakes. So you talk amongst yourselves and it is a lot more casual. It’s not uncommon to hear things like “Hey Mike, is that you out there, how’s it going?”
I know that people who learn at uncontrolled airports find places like City intimidating, for me it is the opposite. Even though I wasn’t flying the concept of such a free-for-all gave me a high degree of anxiety, in my mind it all had the potential to go horribly wrong. What I didn’t realise though is that the very casual nature of the set up works to your advantage. If you don’t know what the hell you are doing, you say so and ask what’s best to do.

A couple of examples from our flight, we landed, we backtracked but it was obvious that there were two planes lined up on the taxiway with no way past for us. So RTH asked “Hey guys, where can I pull in to let you take off?” People were only too happy to oblige with a suggestion that there was a small intersection that he could pull into. Same when we were wanting to prep for takeoff, there was no obvious run up area, so RTH wandered over and asked a group of people the best place to use.
Aviation people are a friendly bunch in general, all too happy to oblige if asked. An important lesson for me when I end up at these places on my own.