Posts Tagged ‘ Lessons ’

Freshly Paved Asphalt

This morning, I met with a woman out here named Mary, and I found it ironic that she would be my flight instructor because I saw her on the “Local Legends” clips of the news not twenty-four hours after I booked with her.  She was probably friends with the Wright brothers and, at 73 years old, she knew so many historic facts about the area that I’ve lost track of most of them already.  We spent about three hours together today, and the first half-hour of my lesson today was both of us just getting to know each other.  She asked a lot of the same questions that I would have, had she not beat me to them, and you could honestly feel that she genuinely cares about her students.  She isn’t just another instructor, and you aren’t just another student to her.

I did the preflight (a mechanical checklist, basically…I’m pretty adept at those right now), and soon enough we were in the airplane (a Cessna 172), and getting back on the bike again.  Mercifully, she handled the radios today, as I would’ve been a little overloaded at times; as expected, there is a lot that I’ve forgotten.  We spent about 1.1 in the air.  Takeoff was easy enough, of course–airplanes are designed to fly, they just want to if given enough speed–and we took a tour over the area just north and west of Tucson.  She pointed out the landmarks and mountain names, and we flew right over the Silverbell Copper Mine (gorgeous from the air).  It’s really something to get your bearings on an area as vast as the country is from the air, where there are no signs to point the way.   When the time came to land, my approach was pretty sloppy (decidedly eight years old), but my final approach turned out to be pretty stabilized, and the landing was up there with any of my other best on the Grease-O-Meter.  (For anyone wondering, pilots usually refer to a really smooth landing as having “greased one in.”)  Like riding a bike.

Over all, the flight was everything I’d hoped it would be.  I got used to the aircraft and its quirks (it’s a 1967 model), and learned something about what skills I still have, and what I need to develop.  In a week, we’ll be up doing nothing but pattern work (takeoffs and landings) to get me current again, and after that, we’ll take a cross-country trip so that I can brush up on my trip planning skills.  With any luck, the cross-country will go smoother than my first solo one did, back in the day.  Feel free to ask about that one, if you have yet to hear the story and are interested.

I drove straight from the airport to my bi-weekly Toastmasters meeting, where I Toastmasted for the first time.  I had been slightly nervous about it since I’d only found out last night that it would be my role, but it was as easy as any Student Government or Phi Delt meeting ever was to lead.  I worked straight off the agenda, and the meeting ran itself.

I’m pretty proud of myself, I’ll admit.  I walked out of that meeting to my car, and had one of those cheesy moments when I smiled to myself and thought, “I’m finally on my way.”  I was nervous about getting back in the plane…but Mary assured me there was no need for it, and it turned out that there wasn’t.  I was nervous about the Toastmasters meeting, but  again–nothing to worry about.  Conquering fears, becoming stronger, continuing training…these are the things that I’ve chosen as my road to follow, and so far, I’m driving a Lexus down a brand new highway.

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Eight Years Isn’t So Long, Is it?

Eight years ago, I made the decision to switch careers in the middle of college.  Like many kids my age, I had to “come into my own” and figure out that working hard will get you to where you want to be.  Only now am I realizing that a great work ethic and extensive network of people will get you there far, far faster.

In a couple of days, I’m finally able to get back into an airplane as a student (thank you, tax return).  Being now in my late twenties (and a little more wise), I have gotten out my old Private Practical Test Standards (PTS) book, and begun the arduous process of relearning the things I used to know fairly well.  I am determined never to get caught with my pants down because of poor preparation, as I did so many times in school.  I’ll also have to adjust to the sheer speed that things need to be done–after all, as an aircraft mechanic we do literally everything by the book, with the manual detailing each step with verbage and pictures, and you have time to study it to make sure that your work is correct.  In the cockpit, many times, you don’t have that option, and your decisions could be life or death, or the difference between saving the aircraft or major damage.  Sure, you’ll pull out the Emergency Procedures checklist if your engine quits, but no matter how long you study it, gravity will still do its job.  In an aircraft, you have to know those procedures like the back of your hand.  But of course, that’s what flight training is for.

I have been fascinated by airplanes ever since I was a kid, and I noticed that, like most things you want and then get, eventually the novelty wears off, and you begin to take that thing for granted.  For me, that was flying.  I spent my whole life wanting to fly, and when I finally got there, I lost the enthusiasm to pursue a career that would suck the life and fun out of flying for me.  (Plus, I needed to build those practical skills that I was always so proud of my dad for having…I have, and I’m proud to have them as well.)  Once again, I have begun to take my mechanical skills for granted, as my job has sucked the ever-loving life out of the fun of fixing things.  I suppose I’ll eventually grow apathetic about flying once I get a job doing it to build time, but this time around, I have an entirely new set of skills on which to place a flight foundation.  Almost as soon as I realized I wasn’t content to do one thing for one company for the rest of my life, I realized I wasn’t limited to doing it, either.  And oh boy, once I realized I had more options than I knew, it set my imagination on fire.

What have you been putting off that will light a fire under your butt to go and do?

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth”…

Every pilot knows this line, but many mechanics may not.  It was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr, who was killed at the age of just 19 while flying a Supermarine Spitfire (yes, THAT Spitfire, with the awesome monster mouth on the cowling inlet).  He wrote the poem, actually a sonnet, in August 1941, shortly before his death.  Flying a Spitfire at 19…I guess I was born in the wrong part of the 20th century!

Anyhow, the poem describes the feelings one gets when piloting an aircraft, and I felt it today, even though I was merely a passenger reading about flying in a magazine.  I looked down from our vantage point at 38,000 feet (headed west, if you’re direction-vs.-altitude-keen), and saw a snowy, cottony blanket of clouds for most of the trip.   It drew my eye naturally toward the separation of earth and sky at the very farthest point on the horizon for a long while, and I marveled at what must be literally the longest sunset on the planet; when you’re flying west at five- to six-hundred knots, and the Earth spins at roughly 1,000 knots, it just never seems to end.  Once it got dark, and the sky above matched colors with the sky below, I saw a shooting star far, far off the left wing of the plane, that made me wonder if I’d been the only person to see it.  I wished on it, and smiled to myself about it.  My soundtrack didn’t hurt, either…I bought Brad Paisley’s new album, “American Saturday Night,” not long ago, and a song called “Then” was playing at the time on my iPod.  That song was the first dance that Allison and I shared at our wedding, as newly minted husband and wife.  (If you like today’s country music, I don’t see how you couldn’t enjoy the music on this album.)

Anyway, it’s a neat little memory that I keep with me to remind me of a certain point in my life–the broke-as-a-joke, newlywed point in my life.  Soon though, we’ll dig out of it, and start running on all 12 cylinders, and  get on with our biggest plans.  I’m sure of it.  Until then, old poems and new music seem to invade the consciousness of my goals…

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