Lessons Best Learned from Mistakes

20We’re all human, right?! Today, because I am human, I am ranting – at least sort of.

I was doing a flight in a 182RG with a CFI candidate the other day, we also had another CFI candidate riding along in the back. The guy in the back was a big know-it-all, and I had been ignoring his outbursts of “knowledge” injected into our lesson here and there but he finally crossed the line.

If you’re an experienced CFI (or student for that matter) you know there is NOTHING more valuable than learning from a mistake – if it can be done safely of course.

My moment with the CFI candidate was approaching.

We had just finished our turn onto final after flying an extended downwind and he was talking about something other than what we were doing. We were a little under a mile out with several hundred feet left to go – but I was convinced I had him where I wanted him.

It was then that the obnoxious guy in the back blurted, “Don’t forget the gear!”

Come on dude, really? Okay…so I’m not completely heartless…I get it, I really do. BUT, what may have been an innocent gesture on his part completely sabotaged my lesson. There would have been sufficient time had he waited and really been worried.

There could have been nothing more valuable to this CFI student than getting the go around call from me as we nearly committed to a landing. Granted, he could have possibly done his final check like he had been doing on all the other patterns, and realized the gear was indeed not down. We won’t know. We can’t know. I won’t ever know.

It would have been a great learning experience either way, whether he had committed to the landing in his mind (and never noticed the gear) or whether he caught how close he was to missing the gear with a final check. Either way, it could have been a learning experience, really, of a lifetime.

If anyone disagrees, it probably hasn’t happened to them.

I love those opportunities because I know from personal experience how valuable and changing they can be. I was doing my MEI training and had moved the gear lever into the down position. I called “gear down and locked” and did so again on short final, as trained. At about 100′ AGL my instructor called for a go around. I was a little perturbed, my approach was looking great, and I was excited to nail the landing.

“Why’d you make me do that?” I blurted.

“Are you sure you were ready?”

I didn’t get it until he pointed out I had never obtained three green. To his credit, he had pulled the circuit breaker on me. I had called “gear down and locked”, yet not ONCE did I check for the three green I was supposed to check for.

I have NEVER done that again, and I have always been grateful to him for teaching me that lesson…nobody else had. I was at, what I thought was the height of my flying career, I was training for my MEI! Big leagues eh?

I learned several valuable lessons:

  1. I needed to lose the attitude.
  2. I needed to realize and admit I didn’t know everything and I wasn’t perfect.
  3. Check for three green…always, always, always… essentially, don’t ever be robotic.

There is probably more I learned from that, but this was the lesson I so wanted to give to this future CFI.

On the bright side, I had a chat with the “guy in the back seat”, and told him how it could have been a great learning experience. Hopefully, he can teach one of his students the same lesson down the road and not all will be lost.

Don’t be “that guy”.

Check your bottom!

Up in the Air

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Love of the Mountains – Revisited

I haven’t done any major or “hardcore” mountain flying just yet, but I have done a little. One of my absolute favorite places to go in the Sierra Nevada mountain range (so far!) is the small town of Quincy, CA.

Nestled in a valley at about 3500 feet, it would be what I consider a well-kept secret! I’ve gone in there several times, and always make sure to stop at the Morning Thunder Cafe, which is about a 10 minute walk, 15 if you take in the sites, plane to doorstep.

I even flew in there once on a Father’s day fly-in and got to see a little more than I thought I would! Made my day, my friend’s too!

So if you’re looking for beautiful scenery, small town and feel, and good food (huge portions!), then fly to Quincy (Gansner Field “2O1”)!

Happy Flying,

Up in the Air

 

Originally Written: April 28, 2012

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

There’s a lot of talk on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

I thought I’d give my two cents.

A lot of family members are blaming the airline and getting angry with them over their lack of providing information. I don’t think this is the airline’s fault, and if the plane hasn’t been found and there were no final communications, they can’t really say much. No reason to get mad at the guy with his hands tied. That said, could they be hiding something? Absolutely, by I think it is not likely.

I find any cause other than terrorism difficult to believe. Total structural failure is unlikely and there was no weather to deal with. Beyond being shot down, terrorism seems to be the most logical conclusion given we have nothing else to go on. I don’t necessarily believe it’s tied to the missing passports, because from what I’ve heard, that’s pretty common in that area of the world.

Other thoughts or theories? Share below.

Here’s to hoping for the best,

Up in the Air

How to Study for your Checkride

If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to studying for your checkride, look no further.

21This is NOT a study guide.

This is your “compass”, and it focuses on the oral. With studying for an oral, I’ve found that most just don’t know where to begin.

With so much material spread out over the past 6 months, year, or two years, the task of prepping yourself to get ready to spit it all out on cue is daunting.

This is usually for one of two reasons:

  1. You were never given direction on where to start.
  2. You were given directions, but didn’t listen (which was me, way back when).

If you fall into #2 I’d be surprised, seeing as how you’re here. So for those of you who fit into #1, read on.

Start with the PTS, Practical Test Standards (it’s the skinny little book that has the surface area of a half sheet of paper and has an inch-wide dark blue stripe across the top). If you don’t have a copy of the FAA’s Private Pilot Airplane PTS, you can find one here.

If you’re looking for the rotorcraft PTS or others, just go to the FAA’s Practical Test Standards menu, here.

Special Emphasis AreasTo begin, makes sure you read the introduction at the beginning, focus on the special emphasis areas (these areas will more readily be applied to the flight portion of your checkride, but still important knowledge-wise).

The importance of doing this cannot be underestimated.

It is HUGELY important.

Ok…

Once you’re done, continue on to the Preflight Preparation section.

(I apologize for the emphasis, but if you knew me, you’d laugh…I hope)

Preflight Preparation ChecklistPTS Task A-B Preflight Prep Pronunciation

Start with the tasks that apply to you (each task is lettered with “A”, “B”, “C”, and so on).

For example, if you are testing for your Airplane Single Engine Land certificate, then you will want to study those tasks in which you see “ASEL” next to them. For example, in the above picture, letter “H” and “I” do not have ASEL in the parenthesis, you do not need to study those sections.

I like to call the PTS a pilot’s bible and there’s a good reason for it.

The PTS is your road map to pilot heaven, or rather, passing your checkride!

There is no way you can fail your oral if you go down the list and check everything off as you study it and KNOW it.

The Preflight Preparation section begins in detail on page 31 and continues on to page 35. Follow the objectives under each task, marking each item off the “list”, and you will be golden.

It’s easier said than done, because there really is A LOT to know, but this is your start, middle, and end-point for the oral. Heck, they even give you where to find more on all the material right under each task’s title (see right – I wish I had paid more attention to this as a student pilot).

I hope this helps you in your pilot endeavors!

Comment below with questions, concerns, or grievances!

To passed checkrides and happy flying!

Up in the Air

Weaker Moments as a Flight Instructor

You’re fired!!

Those words have never been said to me but in a roundabout way, I’ve said them. Not to an employee either. To a student.

Not my strongest moment.

We’ve all had our frustrating students. The ones that won’t study. The ones that show up late (so habitually that you can show up late and actually appear to have been on time!). The ones that just don’t seem to get it – not flying, not ever.

5 years after I was handed that temporary certificate – that license to teach someone else – and I still feel like I’m the student.

I sat there in that debriefing room staring at my frustrated student. With all his wrinkles, gray hairs, and past military experience and here he was looking to me – a 25 year old instructor “whippersnapper” – for wisdom, for advice, for knowledge, for feedback. I didn’t have any more to give. He was frustrated, I was frustrated.

12Our relationship had begun roughly a year earlier. I took him over after he was dissatisfied with a previous instructor. After nearly 70 hours he finally soloed and promptly headed off to Florida for the winter.

He was back now, only with him he now had a Sport Pilot License. All we had to do was check him out in the airplane. For the life of me though, I could not get him to land the plane safely – consistently. He had his random one or two good ones, and as soon as I thought “he’s good to go”, he pulled something out of nowhere.

Overshooting the runway. Undershooting the runway. Side-loading. Flaring high. Flaring late. Not flaring. Blasting down final at 90 knots. Blasting down final at 90 knots 500 feet too high. If there was something we didn’t do it was making it to the moon.

The key here is that it wasn’t his fault. Hence my frustration. He felt it was his fault. Hence his frustration. I felt like I had exhausted all possibilities, so finally, I told him to finish up with another instructor.

I hate not seeing things through. I’ve had students I’ve sent to another instructor for a couple lessons to iron out some un-ironable kinks, but never completely dumped a student.

Moral of the story? There’s still so much for ME to learn. There’s still so much for YOU to learn. Should I have fired him? Maybe, maybe not. But it was all I could do, with what was available to me, to help him progress at the time.

THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE TO LEARN – AND IT WILL USUALLY, IF NOT ALWAYS BE LEARNED IN OUR WEAKER MOMENTS.

So live up to those moments. Don’t let them fester but don’t forget them either.

But who am I to say it…you probably already knew it! Have you fired a student? What was one of your weaker moments and what did you learn from it?

Time for Change

A lot has happened this past year.

I lost my medical. AGAIN.

My husband and I bought a house. FIRST TIME!

We had a baby. THE FIRST!

We’re learning all the ins and outs of owning a 60-year-old home. ONGOING.

We’re dealing with job insecurity. COMES-WITH-THE-AIRLINE PILOT-TERRITORY.

27

It has been a heck of year, stressful would be to say the least. But I’m not here to complain. I’ve decided this blog needs a little bit more. I’ve found it hard to stay motivated to write through it all. I was writing the other night when I realized I was missing something. I think I’m missing the personal aspect. What good am I doing writing something when you know NOTHING of the person writing it?

The best student-instructor relationships I’ve had (both as a student and as an instructor) have also been the ones that were meaningful on a personal level. I knew more about them, they knew more about me. We didn’t have to be close friends, but having a better understanding of each other is always beneficial. It’s easier to teach someone when you know how they tick, what motivates them, what they are struggling through RIGHT NOW, what can they handle. The same goes in reverse. It’s easier to respect someone, for example your instructor, when you know where they’ve been, where they’re going, where they want to be.

Any thoughts? Do you agree or disagree?

Up in the Air

To Fly or Not To Fly: How Much Did Your Car Cost?

IMG_3750I’ve talked about some of the benefits of flying as part of a decision on whether or not to fly. If you haven’t read To Fly or Not to Fly: The Benefits, give that a read at some point.

With the economy still down in the dumps, fewer people are learning to fly. If you’re one of those that says you think it’s too expensive, I urge you to give it some more consideration.

If you’ve done your homework, you know realistically how much earning a pilot’s license is going to take from your pocketbook.

These days, when all is said and done (training, books and materials, exam fees, etc) earning your ticket to flying will probably run between $12,000 and $17,000, give or take a couple thousand.

The cost has gone up since my Learn to Fly post, but it is the current and most accurate number…after all, you probably don’t live in my city, so I’m not trying to reel you in as a customer! Be wary of those places that are, they will often quote the cost at the minimum training time and will many times leave out examination fees and costs of books and other materials – but that’s a side note.

Let’s just say learning to fly is going to set you back $15,000. Although you may be the exception, chances are your car, truck, or SUV COST MORE! These days, it’s easy to spend $40,000, $50,000, or more on a vehicle, I wouldn’t, but you certainly could, and many do (perhaps even you). Whatever you spent, you’ll probably buy another one in 10 years or less. Check out my other posts to compare costs of operating a car versus a plane (The Benefits).

Flying just isn’t that expensive.

If you spent $40,000 on your car, and plan to buy another in 10 years, you’ve just spent roughly $4,000/year for just the car itself (not counting fuel, oil changes, maintenance, and so on).

With disposable incomes seemingly dwindling, we certainly do what we can to have a nice car. Why can’t you do the same for flying? Now I’m really biased, because I LOVE flying, but if your budget is open enough to buy an expensive car but too tight to do much else, spend less on a car. Pay less for luxury and more for what you need to get from point A to point B. Or, if you’re one that still has plenty left over but couldn’t seem to justify the cost of flying (for whatever reason), I hope this changes your mind.

If I’ve offended any one, I can’t really apologize. I’m an aviation enthusiast and have been flying since I was 17. I was fortunate enough to not have to pay for the first $10,000 of my training, but I am paying now. I don’t drive an expensive car and I live well (my needs are met, I have cable TV, Netflix, a flat screen, a desktop and laptop, an iPhone (don’t judge), and I’m not starving!), but I’m paying for $80,000 or so in my aviation education costs. I haven’t gone on vacation since 2010, but I can justify the cost a little easier because it is my career.

Yet, for a fraction of that, and a fraction of what you spend on your car, you can fly too (for pleasure, for business, or both!). Think about it. How much is your car really worth and how much is the experience of learning to fly and earning your PILOT certificate worth? I can assure you, there are few things, if any, that are more challenging and more rewarding, both intellectually and emotionally.

I urge you to check it out. Do Something Magical: Learn to Fly!

To that first flight,

Up in the Air