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

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

Student – Instructor Relationships: Ones That Soar

One of my students earned their Private Pilot License today, making me so proud! He texted me this evening, it went something like “thank you for all your help, I was well prepared and owe it all to you.” Wow. It’s great to get a thank you and feel appreciated but really as an instructor we are only part of the equation.

To students:

  • Work hard and know that it wasn’t just your teacher that led to your success.
  • Your hard work and dedication is what will ultimately lead to success in your endeavors. No amount of pure instruction will lead to it. Read what you’re asked to read, study what you’re asked to study, and pay attention!
  • If you don’t care, your teacher probably won’t either.
  • Be thankful for a great teacher.

To instructors:

  • Know your shtuff (…and yes I meant shtuff), no person ever knows EVERYTHING.
  • Provide the tools for your students. Go the “extra mile”, I say go two. Or ten. Or one-hundred. Make your job a labor of endurance: just when it looks like you’re reaching the finish line, push a little harder.
  • Give your students all you can, they won’t care if you don’t.
  • Be grateful for a good student.

I will be the first to admit I am nowhere near perfect. Heck I probably don’t even pass as average (if that could be measured) and I think many instructors often lose sight of the real picture: We are students. I’m not the one who always thinks myself a student. I have to have those nudges that push me along or remind me who I really am so my pride can take a step back. This leads to my last (little) blurb: Please thank one another – it really does feel good! It’s always refreshing as an instructor to receive a thank you, and it helps us “keep at it”. It feels great as a student to know that your instructor appreciates the time and work you put into accomplishing something, anything! Plus, it inspired this post!

So let your relationship soar! 🙂

Do you have any stories of a great student or instructor? What made the difference? I’d love to update the two lists above to help others and I’d love to hear it because it helps me improve too!

To our studies,

Up in the Air

To Fly or Not To Fly: The Benefits

To fly or not to fly? If you’re me, that’s no question at all. I’d fly a plane until the wings fell off…of course, hopefully I’d have a parachute on and a prayer in mind, I’d also have to do it where no FAA guy would find out, and of course I’d have to either have enough fuel on board or refueled many, many, many………many times, in the air. But on to the entire point of this….

You’ve heard of aviation, pilots, airlines, air travel and such. You probably know a pilot, maybe a family member, friend, or neighbor. Maybe you’ve been interested in planes since you were little. Maybe you’ve been interested in flying. Maybe you’ve never had an interest in either or perhaps in something else… You might be thinking flying is too expensive for you, it’s an expensive hobby with not much to show in the end. Maybe not. Maybe your family doesn’t support the idea, maybe you don’t support the idea.

Believe it or not, these are extremely common situations, and I see it nearly every day. I was working just the other day and overheard a conversation on very similar topics (yes, I was eaves-dropping, but sometimes you can’t help it in a quiet building, so shhh…). A man who hangars his airplane at the airport, took some acquaintances flying. From the looks of it, they were not close friends, they were friendly with each other of course, but the only reason he seemed to have taken them flying was to show them how much fun it was and to be open to them. At the end of their flight they began talking about both the expenses and the conveniences of flying. It hit home for me. This man did a great job of being realistic about it all, remaining enthusiastic and encouraging the whole time.

What does it all boil down to? It boils down to worth. What is flying worth to you? Do you care if you spend and don’t receive anything back but the intangible, or are you the type that weighs the costs and benefits – looking for what you will get in return?

For example:

You need to drive somewhere that will take you six hours in a car. In a plane, say a Piper Warrior or Cessna 172 , you can get there in maybe two and a half hours. Not looking at anything else, is this worth it to you?

Lets look at a time table. You have a lunch meeting (business or pleasure, you pick) that will last perhaps 2 hours. You’re meeting everyone at 11:30am. In a car, you will need to leave at…hopefully 5:30am…planning on no traffic. Okay, so you make it on time, and everything is wrapped up by 1:30pm. You say your goodbyes, and after filling up on gas you’re on your way again by 2pm. With no traffic , and no stops, you’ll be getting hope around 8pm. Long day? I know I would hit the hay after that…but then again, I’m not a morning person. In a plane you might plan on being at the airport by 7:30 (to be safe) and taking off by 8:30am, giving you half an hour to get from the airport you’re arriving at (11:00am arrival) to wherever you need to be. Again lunch is up by 1:30pm and you’re on your way to the airport by 2:00pm. You take off by 3:00pm (being conservative) and arrive at your home airport by 5:30 pm. No sooner than you land, you’re greeted by your wife or husband when you walk in the door at 6:00pm. Dinner is on the table, and you’re hungry! Eat up, then go relax. If you’re me, you’d enjoy that – maybe get in a good movie before you’re off to bed, because after all, you didn’t get up before the sun.

Let’s quickly look at finances…Assume you own your airplane, I have never owned an airplane, and don’t deal with maintenance and insurance, so that would be something you would have to do your own homework on for now. This is what I do know: My car, if I’m not driving like a maniac, gets about thirty miles per gallon. Lets assume that six hour trip is 360 miles and I drive sixty miles per hour the entire time…that’s using twelve gallons of gas one way, and twenty-four gallons round trip. At $3 a gallon, that’s $72. I can usually lean out a Piper Warrior to burn six gallons per hour. On a two and a half hour trip that’s fifteen gallons. At roughly $4.75 per gallon, round $71.25 up to $72, and it’s the exact same fuel cost.

What is time worth to you? If time doesn’t matter, how about the fun? What is the enjoyment worth? What is it worth to your family to see you home for dinner? Is it worth maintenance and insurance? You may have another reason to fly, that I haven’t thought of just yet. Whatever your reason, think about it – what you come up with may surprise you (or I could be wrong…I admit I sometimes am, okay, I can’t admit that but you get my point…I think)! 🙂

Happy flying, and see you next time.

Up in the Air

Originally Written: April 29, 2010

First time flying experiences are always the best! This is flying from the perspective of fresh eyes! 🙂

theThinkingArnold

I had the privilege of flying yesterday morning over the city I currently live in, Santa Barbara. And this has been possible thanks to my good friend Julien Lecomte, who just had his license.

After a night of bad sleep, I got up at 6 AM, packed my photo gear and drove to the Santa Barbara airport, where he was waiting for me. After sneaking in the airport (you just open a small door with a card and you are in. I wish you could do that at LAX too!), we prepared the airplane (especially me), filled it with fuel and took off. By the way, don’t go to refill you car at the airport, it’s more expensive…

It was an amazing experience that everybody should try at least once in their life. Plus, I always wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid, and even if I…

View original post 154 more words

Flying into a Bad Decision

It doesn’t matter how good you are. Poor decisions will lead to poor results.

Ahh frustration…the deceiving villain that always seems to lurk in the recesses of the mind of a student pilot (pilots too I should say!)…Not very conducive to learning and it always seems to come up when you least expect it.

Weather had been holding my student and I back from completing our cross country for some time. Finally a day came that we thought we could get it done. Weather was reported to be fine, good VFR (Visual Flight Rules) weather.

About half an hour into our flight we came across an ever thickening layer of clouds. Perfect scenario.

“What should we do?”

I was no help. “What do you wanna to do?”

We contemplated back and forth but ultimately he made the right decision despite his desire to continue on. Did his mind let him believe that? Maybe the frustration, as it crept out from between the cracks, wanted to sabotage a perfectly sound decision.

I could tell he was feeling pretty down and I wanted to help cheer him up. “You want to do a little landing practice before we head in?” Like a little more frustration would help…I wish I could go back!

“Sure,” was the not so sure reply.

We changed course to an airport near our home base. 10,000 feet long. How can you go wrong?

  • We overshot final. Three times.
  • We did a go around. Twice.
  • We climbed out on go around 20 knots too fast. Every time.

This was my star student! What happened?… Well partially, I happened.

He was frustrated. I later found out he missed a gathering with friends the night before so he could make the flight at 7am. He had really wanted to go to the party. But that doesn’t matter. As an instructor it’s my job to tell when someone is just not ready for learning. This was bound to be “one of those days” from the moment he decided not to go out the night before. That part can’t be avoided. Had the clouds not been there we probably would have continued on not knowing how close the flight was to a mental disaster.

We flew back to our home airport as if someone had just died; Tip toeing our words around each other for the benefit of the other. No fun. If anything was learned we both learned how quickly things can go downhill.

There was a lot I did wrong on this flight.

  • While the weather reports pointed to good weather I failed to make sure my student was ready to go (as much as I could).
  • I took us from one frustrating event and put us in a situation that can often be the most frustration-producing …landing.
  • I overestimated my students abilities to cope with frustration.
  • I tried to make him feel better (at his expense)…

Remember, as an instructor it’s not our job to make a student “feel” better, it’s our job to show them what they did well and what they need work on. Positive is good but a healthy dose of reality is key. Most of all take responsibility when it’s due…I completely own up to the fact that I alone screwed up the remainder of the flight.

For the students out there:

  • Things will not always go your way, be prepared for it and realize that it’s not just you…and like everyone else you will need to keep working at it.
  • Don’t let frustration get to you, yes I know that’s why it’s frustration but don’t let it own you. Even once you have your license there will be frustrations and you’re going to need to be able to handle them…

Did I miss anything? Let me and everyone else know your thoughts! Comment below and you’ll be helping both me and others improve. Thanks!

Fly safely,

Up in the Air