Reborn Wings, Blogbook Entry 6

Let's not pretend...or should we? Playing the game of pretend can help me achieve my private pilot license.

Practice Area Map

Practice Area Map

Practice Area Map


I had my third flight lesson on Saturday, six weeks after my last. I had made the decision about a month ago to finish the FlightSafety ground school course and take the written before continuing with the flight lessons. Remember, when I started flying "oh so many years ago," I learned over the course of several years, so there wasn't a rush. After all, one couldn't solo until the 16th birthday. I was 12 when I made my first logbook entry. It was casual and leisurely, no pressure to finish in a certain amount of time (four years was forever). Easy access to an airplane and instructor…both residing right out my father's front door. (When he bought the airport, he moved into the house that was on the property after having it renovated, and rented the two trailers on property to aviation enthusiasts). And I never had expectations at the age of 16 to fly too far afield, much less get into "complicated" radio-controlled airspace. Just climb in and go around the patch on pretty days and practice touch and goes. It was an amusement, really, a fun way to occupy the sometimes-long hours hanging out at the airport while Dad was recovering wings of a Waco or some such restoration. Don't get me wrong, I happened to like flying (after, of course, I stopped being afraid of it!). And even at that age, I could clearly identify why it was a passion for my father and everyone else who kept their taildraggers and antiques at his airport. Heck, I could even feel it to some extent. But, to be honest, if it hadn't been an organic part of my world, I probably would have never sought out the sky on my own.

Let's Not Pretend So, here I am in the thick of it, at a whole new level. Like having to become intimate with weather and radio, for instance, two things I didn't spend a lot of time on and never flew enough to have to. There's no pretending that these topics do not come easy to me. And, though it's a huge privilege to be attending a professional academy that trains career pilots, along with that comes a more intense and structured format, though I was generously invited to go at my own pace. But soon it became a reality that I had to keep on it to be successful in retaining the info and not let a lot of time lapse. FS assigned a flight instructor and a ground school instructor to me, both of whom would be available per my schedule. At first, I pursued the two tracks simultaneously, but soon realized it was too much given that I still had to manage a fulltime, deadline driven job during the week, which was when ground school was offered. My Grand Plan was to go one to two days every other week and return on each Saturday (weather permitting) for flight lessons. The GP's first wrinkle became apparent during the first and second flight lesson, at which time I had had only two days of ground school. The lesson involved exercises that wouldn't even be discussed in ground school until near the end. When Seth asked me to decode the metar during that first lesson, I was lost. When he asked me to calculate the airplane's weight and balance, I was lost again. He had to show me on the spot. It dawned on me at that point that the FS instructors are used to instructing students who come straight from ground school. I'm a bit of an anomaly. Yes, FlightSafety does have executive programs, but it's typical — and best — that a person takes time away from his or her job to complete their private's at an academy such as this. Unless you're a Whiz Kid. Admittedly, I'm not so much one of those, even though there still some flying technique recorded in my muscle memory. By the end of the second lesson, I let myself become stressed, feeling scattered and unable to properly absorb the lesson material. That following week I became Grumpy at home and work, and Dread was ever so gently knocking at my back door. It was then I knew I had to nip Grumpy and Dread in their derrieres and revise my Grand Plan, for this opportunity was to be enjoyed! Grand Plan No. 2 became instituted immediately.

As a result, I was able to have fun with Saturday’s lesson, having the Ground School/FAA Written Test Monkey was off my back. I was able to focus on putting my learned info into practice without feeling overwhelmed with “completely new” info bombarding me from every direction while trying to learn manuevers(45-degree turns, power on and power off stalls, radio work).

Let's Do Pretend Don't get me wrong. The studying hasn't stopped — and won't as long as I continue to fly! But now it's fun. A poster of the Warrior instrument panel rests on the wall in my home office. I've been sitting in front of it nightly, going through the checklists as if I were sitting in the cockpit. Yes, I even touch the appropriate switches and such. Then, before going to bed, I review the next lesson's maneuvers even though they're a week away. The corresponding graphics accompanying it are proving to be a boon for me. I commit to memory the Vrefs and corresponding RPMs, altitudes, etc. suggested for each maneuver. On Sunday, I sat at my computer for more an hour "absorbing" the Vero Beach satellite map on Google Earth so I can better know where we are the next time we go up. The real-life depiction is much better than looking at a sectional or regular map. We have to radio in every practice maneuver we conduct and that means stating the training area and a location landmark (see map). So I scrolled through the image, pretending I was flying over the areas, identifying the landmarks Seth had pointed out for reference. I even hunted down the VORTAC to the west of the airport that he used as his three-mile marker to call our approach in when we were heading back from our first lesson conducted in Charlie South. True it was a lot of work, but it can only make me even more aware of and familiar with my surroundings — and less nervous on the radio next time out. And then there's weather. Yes, weather. The days are gone when I can just look out the window for my report. I've been logging onto each day and reviewing standard reports, metars, pireps and radar, just as if I'm gathering the info I need to make my "no or go" decision to go flying. It doesn't matter that I'm not actually going up. It gets me comfortable with the information.

Things aren't so different from those "oh so many years ago" after all. Maybe they're even better — pretending is still fun but it's also helping an adventure become reality.