Friday, March 18, 2005


Flying Lesson #8

I'm going to be losing my flight instructor. He received a letter from Delta informing him he's been accepted into their training program. So that's good news for him, but bad news for me and his other students. The school doesn't have any instructors with open schedules, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes to get another instructor hired. My current instructor will be around for another week, and I wish him the best.

After doing the pre-flight and starting the engine, I made the radio call to ground control. For the first time, I did it all perfectly. It felt good. The instructor also let me taxi the plane through the tight area between the school's other planes. That went smoothly as well.

The instructor had me focus on more "hood work" (simulated instrument flight). That was a bit of a shame, as it was a beautiful day, but it was a good thing for me to work on. I put the Foggles on right after takeoff (before we even got to cruise altitude), and for almost an hour he had me practice level flight, climbs and descents, turns, and slow flight on instruments.

The first half hour was really shaky; I kept chasing the airspeed indicator and altimeter, and didn't pay enough attention to the other instruments. For some reason, I had it in my head that I wasn't supposed to use the attitude indicator (popularly known as the "artificial horizon"). Once I did start using it, everything got a lot easier. The last fifteen minutes or so under the hood, I was doing pretty well. The only remaining problem is that I need to incorporate the magnetic compass and engine gauges into my scan of the instruments. I also need to pay attention to the clock to remember to switch tanks and do a cruise checklist once in a while.

After I took off the Foggles, the instructor said, "OK, get out your chart and tell me where we are." I looked around for landmarks. I couldn't see the buildings of Atlanta, or any large bodies of water, but I could see an airport. By comparing that with our current heading, I determined that the runway direction was roughly east-west. There are two airports in the area like that, so I looked around for other landmarks to figure out which one we were near. I looked for Lake Lanier, which should have been nearby if it was Lawrenceville (LZU), but didn't see it. So then I looked for the runway of Dobbins Air Reserve Base (MGE) which should have been nearby if the runway I was looking at was Cobb County/McCollum Field (RYY), but I couldn't find that either. After a couple of minutes, I had to tell the instructor that I was stumped. He was disappointed: Stone Mountain was in clear sight, meaning we were near LZU, but I totally missed it. Lake Lanier actually was in sight, but it was very hazy in the distance.

We flew back to the airport. While on the base leg for landing on runway two-right, ATC suddenly asked us to land on two-left instead. A few weeks ago, I probably wouldn't even have heard that on the radio, and if I had I would have been rattled by the sudden change, but today it was no big deal. Maybe I really am getting better at this after all.

The instructor wants me to verbalize what I'm doing and why while flying, so that it will be easier for him figure out what I'm thinking and to correct my mistakes. I'm trying to do that, but it is difficult for me to think and speak at the same time. I clam up when I'm concentrating or when I'm under stress, not because I don't want to be communicative but because I can't hear myself think if I'm talking or listening. It's something I'll have to work on. Telling the examiner what I'm doing and why will be important on the checkride.

For today: 1.4 hours dual, including 0.9 hours simulated instrument time, in N4363D. Cost: $275.82.

When I got home, I called the FAA to check on the status of my student pilot certificate. They said that I'm certified, and will be receiving the certificate in the mail. So I'll finally have the certificate, just as the instructor is leaving, but maybe that works out for the best. I'll have a fresh start with a new instructor, but with a big head start.

You'd better believe it. Hundred dollar sunglasses, five hundred dollar headset, and making fifty bucks a day. These aren't fashion accessories. It's a noisy environment, and we spend all day staring at the sky. If eyesight or hearing diminishes below standard we lose our career. How many days' pay would you spend to protect an irreplaceable tool essential to your job?
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