Monday, 30 September 2013

Command decision

I’ve been thinking about a comment Flyinkiwi posted a while back, talking about decision making

“……thoughts like, "I don't think I can manage this," change into, "I am making a command decision, and it’s a no go." Once you stop second guessing your ability flying gets a whole lot easier.”
I’ve been away for a few days and have come back home with a nasty cold. I always get a cold this time of year, I can pinpoint when I’ll succumb to almost exactly the week each year. It’s the special combination of the kids being back long enough to incubate the germs and my most stressful time of the year.

Last year I agonised over whether I should fly or not, trying to decide at what point you become too sick to fly. I spent hours trying to weigh up the pros and cons, the regression in my skills caused by a gap in my training vs the potential harm of flying when sick.
This time there was no question in my mind, as soon as I felt the all-too-familiar-symptoms kicking off, my first thought was “crap! I guess I won’t be flying this weekend then.”

I don’t know if the decision was easier because I’m confident enough in my own abilities that I know that a week won’t make much difference in the long term or that now I’m flying solo I’m very much aware that solo+sick is a potentially deadly combo but I do have a suspicion that Flyinkiwi is exactly right. I made a command decision, I stuck with it. And I feel OK about that,  

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A certain degree of optimism

Regarding my upcoming cross country. After this post where I realised that I can indeed fly a plane, it occurred to me that during my cross country that’s all I really need to do.

I’ve rapidly come to appreciate that now it isn’t the flying that stresses me out at the moment; it’s practicing the airwork, the stalls and slow flight etc. Well guess what? During my cross country I’m actively discouraged from doing any of the aforementioned manoeuvres!

I know that the navigation is going to be challenging but I’ve taken a quick look and it looks, well, doable really. I mean it is the standard route picked by the flight school. I’m guessing that’s for a reason. It looks like there are some reasonable landmarks to ensure you don’t end up in the wrong country, including a “if-you-see-the-lake-you’ve-gone-too-far” options for routing.
I think it might be OK after all.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

I fought the plane…. And I won this time!

The weather has started to take a turn towards the autumnal. Personally I’m Ok with this, not being a fan of hot humid weather. The winds are starting to turn a little funky though, today the swung right round from the north in the morning to SSW by the time I got airborne. They weren’t too gusty on the ground but were blowing a little harder once airborne.

My dual circuits with Bob were fine and I headed out on my own. Once enroute I realised that the plane was fighting just a little, not quite going where I pointed it and shaking around just a little. Once upon a time I would have started panicking and wondering what I was doing wrong. Now I quickly realised that it wasn’t me, just the winds aloft.  Despite the fact that the plane was indeed fighting, I was winning. I was holding my altitude within the limits I needed to and was holding my course. All was well.
Although at the time I was a little unsettled; looking back I handled it well. I flew the plane within the parameters I needed to. And that’s all a pilot can do!

Friday, 27 September 2013

That doesn’t look right.

Just as important as getting things right, is the ability to spot them when they are not. I did a fair amount of that today.

Sitting on the apron, listening to the ATIS, I dutifully set the altimeter to the stated 29.98 setting.  Then I looked at the reading. Hmm, the needle looks kinda off. “I’m just going to listen to another cycle of this. That doesn’t look right to me.” Ok so it’s a pain to waste time on the tarmac but this isn’t right. Sure enough, 29.88 is the number I’m looking for.
Exercise number one, a mini diversion. The two towers to Brougham. Line drawn, heading guestimated. 040 degrees. Winds seem strong and from the north, we’ll knock off 10 degrees.

I get overhead my start point, pick up my heading and work out a distance, ETA and rough fuel consumption. Then I turn my attention back out the windshield. This isn’t right. I mean I’m roughly heading in the correct direction but I pick out a couple of familiar landmarks. I’m well south of the highway intersection I’ve got pegged as being on my route.  The transformer station is ahead as well, extrapolating my current track; I’m going to be on the wrong side of it.
 I fly to the intersection and alter my course, let’s try 020 degrees. We get there, I spot it easily with the correction. My ETA, incidentally, is spot on.

Despite my initial misstep, I figured out that a) something was wrong and b) what I needed to do to fix it.
I’m counting that as a success.


Thursday, 26 September 2013

“… it just kind of happens.”

The most truthful and yet most useless advice for a student pilot.

The first time I was entrusted with a chart and some decision making in the navigation process, I knew I was in over my head.  I was struggling to even look down at the chart while flying the plane, let alone figure out where I might even be on it. When Bob instructed me to take a pencil and draw a line on it while flying, well he may as well have been asking me to leapfrog over the moon.
Even worse, I knew that there was more to come. I’d seen RTH’s meticulously planned cross country routes. I knew that he had been expected to use his E6b while flying! A piece of equipment I couldn’t even master on the ground. This was never going to work.

I may have expressed this opinion, in a self-pitying whiney kind of way. RTH shrugged “you’ll manage. It just kind of happens.”
Ditto with landings, crosswind landings, circuits, forced approaches and the like. “It’ll come to you eventually. You’ll be fine. It happens.”

This is the MOST infuriating advice you can give a student pilot. It’s useless.  But even worse is the fact that it is 100% true.
All this stuff just kind of falls into place eventually. One minute you are struggling to remember which way to move the throttle, the next you’ve got a diversion route drawn up on your chart complete with heading, wind correction, ETA and fuel calculations.

It just kind of happens.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

I miss my lab coat

A lifetime ago (or so it seems) I used to be a Science teacher. More accurately I used to be that Science teacher. You all know exactly what I’m talking about. The teacher who had scorch marks on the ceiling and sometimes no eye brows. The teacher who would confiscate your cigarettes and matches and then show you how to use the foil wrapper and match heads to fashion a rudimentary rocket.

When my world consisted of showing students how to measure the speed of light using a microwave and marshmallows and the occasional fire brigade incident, I chose my clothes for flammability (or lack thereof) not suitability.
When I needed to make a quick get away from my lab tech because I’d left unreacted sodium on a combustion spoon and inadvertently, by proxy, set fire to her washing up bowl again; I needed shoes that allowed me to run away, very quickly.

Now I have a job with very different demands, I have to make an impression on people without setting fire to myself or my surroundings. I have to wear occasion appropriate outfits. Sometimes that means two different lots of clothes in one day.
I’ve just finished packing for my annual “conference-for-people-who-host-conferences” and realised that I’ve had to pack no less than six different outfits, complete with three pairs of shoes (they have to match apparently?)

I really miss my lab coat sometimes.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


Best Practice Forced Landing ever, except ….

….I didn’t make the sodding field. ARGGH!
It has been a while since I did one of these, and even though I was getting better at them, I know that I still struggle with all the ancillary stuff. The engine warming, the cause check, the mayday call and so on.

Knowing this I devised a plan, actually when I was in a very boring meeting I sat dutifully taking notes. Except they weren’t on the topic being discussed, it was a flow chart of events to be carried out for a PFL. Once I’d written it out a few times, I was fairly confident that I’d got a bit of a handle on what to do. I broke it into little steps, fly a bit, do some ancillary stuff, fly a bit, then some ancillary stuff and so on.
It seemed to have worked. Bob cut the power. I picked an awesome field, even managed to pick out a decent key point to help plan my approach. I knew what I was doing. I had this nailed. The engine was dutifully warmed every 500ft or so, my passenger briefing consisted of more than “OMGWEREALLGOINGTODIE”. I kept the field in sight and was on track. On short final I was pretty confident that all was going well, we were going to make it. I announced this to Bob and dumped my flaps.

Big mistake.
I’d misjudged just how strong the winds were. I came up short by a matter of metres, maybe even centimetres.

I’d blown it.
One more second, maybe. Or one less notch of flaps initially and I would have been celebrating my finest victory to date.

Instead I was left cursing at the world in general and myself in particular.
Bob made me fly back round to my key point and start the approach again. Nailed it perfectly this time. But of course that doesn’t count at all.

You only get one shot at the real deal.

When I’ve got a bit more time I plan on putting videos of both attempts up on YouTube. I will admit that I was sorely tempted to edit the two together and not say anything because I swear you wouldn’t have noticed the difference.  


Monday, 23 September 2013

Just one more

I dislike power on stalls. I dislike the thought of them. I cannot understand why anyone would want to do them. They are not fun.

However, I realise that I need to practice them, to convince Bob that I can add them to my solo repertoire. To be fair they don’t scare me anymore, they don’t cause me the degree of anxiety that they used to, but I still don’t like them.
I did one, loudly complaining about the stupidly extreme nose up attitude. “Hanging by the prop” is how Bob describes it. He’s not far wrong. We got a bit of a wing drop, it took me a few moments to realise what was going on. I used opposite rudder to pick up the wing and initiated the rest of the recovery.

We did another, almost had it nailed. Another and another. Still not quite there. Close but not 100%, not good enough to add them to my solo skill set.
“Let’s try another,” encourages Bob. It is at this point I have to admit “one more and I’m going to puke.”

I’ve never suffered from air sickness before, I’ve felt anxiety related sickness in the pit of my stomach, but nowhere near the “I’m about to revisit my breakfast” stage that I reached today.
I don’t know if it was the extreme nose up attitude, the wing drop, the doing so many in quick succession, the fact that I haven’t been 100% well this week, the new brand of breakfast yoghurt or a combination of any of the previously mentioned factors but I was definitely feeling a more than a little queasy.

Both Bob and I were a little disappointed that I didn’t quite nail them. “Just one more and I really think you would have got it, “he said.
“Just one more and you definitely would have got it. All over you.” I retort.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Stupid O’clock on a Sunday morning

dragged from pleasant dream by incessant beeping
Ignore RTH's disgusted look at alarm sounding on a Sunday morning
Stumble out of bed, eyes not fully open yet
Thump off alarm
Grab clothes from various shelves in closet, duck as Jeans cause a gravity related cascade of pants.
Walk into kitchen
Walk in to kitchen counter
Curse new contacts that take 5 minutes to settle on eyes
Outside, still dark
Not a morning person.

Saturday, 21 September 2013


After this conversation with RTH, it suddenly dawned on me. I can fly a plane. Let me say that again…



Now to those of you who have followed my ramblings for a while you may well ask yourselves what the hell I thought I was doing, if I’ve only just come to that realisation. Okay so I’m not flight test ready yet, but all that means is that I need more practice. I can get a plane in the air, point it where I want it to go, get it back down in one piece and not annoy too many people when I’m up there.

If that isn’t the definition of “flying a plane,” then I don’t know what is!

Friday, 20 September 2013


RTH is standing by the window, watching the airport traffic. It’s been a busy day today. Lots of planes coming and going.

“Look, a light airplane has just taken off,” he observes.
“So it has,” I reply noncommittally.

“Two years ago, did you think that’d be you ­­up there?”
“Not even for a second, nope. Not at all.” I reply, after thinking it over for a moment.

“Just think, every weekend people look up at the sky and see you up there flying that plane. I’m so proud of you.”
Thanks RTH, I’m kinda proud of me too!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Commitment issues…again.

I’ve solved my commitment issues with regard to landings now.  I still do the occasional overshoot but in general my landings are much better. Even my “bad” landings are much more acceptable. Today I landed in an 8 knot crosswind without really breaking a sweat. The cross wind part of it was great but I lost my focus on the end of the runway and kinda ended up in slow flight and mushed it down onto the runway. Not my greatest effort but no major problem at the end of the day.

My commitment issues at the moment are related to slow flight. For some reason I really loathe this exercise. It’s not difficult at all. You pull the power back to about 1500rpm, bring the nose up until the stall horn starts to bleat (about 5 knots above stall speed), flaps are optional. When you are established at the desired speed, you add a bit of power to arrest the descent. Easy.
Except I detest it. You are on the ragged edge of a stall. And the stall horn lets you know it. I just can’t commit to it. I end up in kinda medium flight, maybe 5 knots faster than I should be and then rather than retrim for the correct speed, I just bottle out.

I’m apprehensive (I won’t say scared because I’m not any more) about stalling while in slow flight but bizarrely enough I’m totally fine with actually doing the stalls. It seems that I can fly the plane fine, I can stall it ok, full on. But ask me to mush it around in between and once again, I have commitment issues.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Stuff I don’t remember

While having my eyes checked, I got chatting to my optometrist about flying. Like many people she says that it is something she’d like to try*. She asked me what my motivation was, why I started in the first place. I explained that I used to be scared silly of flying and now I wasn’t so much. She asked what the turning point was, obviously I’d been scared for a while, so what was the thing that made me start this journey? I explained that RTH flew and she seemed to be happy with that explanation.

But it got me thinking. I don’t remember an awful lot about that very first “intro flight”. I mean I remember flashes, I recall being absolutely horrified when Bob suggested that I might be responsible for the actual takeoff. I remember being genuinely interested in the walkround and what all the bits did, but I knew it wasn’t sticking in my head.
The main thing I don’t remember is how the hell RTH got me down to that airport in the first place, knowing that I was about to fly a plane. I mean I must have known that I was going to go flying, because I was clutching the spare headset in its little bag. At this point RTH was still a student as well, I think he had a lesson booked but had cancelled it or something and I took his spot. I’m still not convinced that I really knew that I was going flying. To this day I maintain that RTH tricked me into starting this whole business!

I don’t remember a lot of the instruction for those first few flights either. I mean Bob must have woven some kind of magic in the plane to get me back there in the first place, challenging stuff when I wasn’t that communicative at all really.
I remember being scared and anxious (and nauseous!) just before I got in the plane but I distinctly recall the feeling of elation that accompanied my walk home.

I don’t remember talking to Bob about taking more lessons. Maybe I emailed him? I have a suspicion that RTH acted as a go-between for a little while at least. You may ask yourself why I was so reluctant to even admit to Bob that I wanted another lesson. The truth is that I’ve always been ashamed of my flying fear, for all kinds of reasons. I didn’t want to admit to someone who was obviously so calm and confident in the cockpit, that I was so darn scared. I didn’t want to admit that I threw up before every flight despite his (and RTH’s) assurances. But mostly I think I was scared that if I admitted to myself, RTH or Bob that I wanted to become a pilot, that they’d laugh out loud.
I don’t remember when that feeling stopped either.

But it did.

*So many people tell me that they'd love to learn to fly but...... I wonder what stops them? I mean if I can do it anyone can.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Are we there yet?

When I initially started flying, I quite enjoyed the little jaunt out to Claremont*. The time allowed me to settle down and shove my fear down to the pit of my stomach rather than it sitting on my chest. It wasn’t wasted time by any stretch of the imagination, when just flying straight and level was an immense achievement, any time you spend doing just that is time well spent.

The trouble is now I can actually fly a plane, I’m more and more conscious of the fact that it actually takes time to get out to a place where I can do my airwork. And the truth is the more confident I get with the basic flying, the further away Claremont seems to get.
Today, I got a little, I wouldn’t say bored, maybe a little impatient on the way out there. Once I realised there wasn’t really anyone else kicking around I decided to work SW rather than my initially planned NE, just because it was closer.

I shouldn’t really complain. It all counts as solo time and the plan now is to spend some of my dual time with Bob getting some instrument practice in under the hood.

* in as much as I can say I "enjoyed" any of it, maybe "was grateful for" is a better line

Monday, 16 September 2013

Shaking off the rust.

Because it had been two weeks since my last flight, I had to fly with an instructor before being let loose on my own again. Bob and I did two circuits, one touch and go, one full stop. During one of them he asked me how I was finding it after a two week break. I shrugged, my flying was fine. I still remembered which end was meant to point forward and what all the fancy levers did. No rust there.

What I did notice was I was finding more difficult to focus on what was happening on the radio. I didn’t miss any radio calls but I was filtering it out a little more than usual. On my solo flight out, I missed some info in a radio call from ATC and had to ask them what they wanted me to do. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I initially misidentified the traffic that ATC were talking about.  Nothing dangerous, I did exactly the right thing when I wasn’t sure about what they wanted me to do, I asked. That’s probably the mark of a reasonable pilot.
The skill came back reasonably quickly though, once out at the practice area I could figure out what the, admittingly minimal, traffic was doing. Enough that I successfully negotiated with another plane at the same altitude that I would stay south of Claremont if they stayed north.

The stalls went fine, power off ones seem ridiculously pedestrian. There’s no fear involved in doing them now. JES stalls very very gently, sometimes it is hard to figure out when she’s gone. I swear that during one stall with full flaps, I got the ASI to read lower than zero!
WMAP- redefining the laws of physics since 2012!

Sunday, 15 September 2013


I knew exactly what was expected of me today. I had to do a couple of dual circuits with Bob because the weather has seen me fall out of the flight schools currency requirements for solo students. After that it was solo to the practice area for slow flight and stalls. Building up the solo time.

Conditions were pretty good, the cooler weather means that density altitude isn’t so much of an issue, there was a not insignificant crosswind but the skies were clear. Winds were roughly from 200 degrees, so during our dual time Bob and I experimented with both runway 24 and 26, giving me the option of picking either on my way back. I dropped Bob off and headed out to Claremont.
On my return, I shut down the various systems and Bob stuck his head in the passenger door to ask me how it went. Honest as usual, I admitted that I’m still struggling with the slow flight. The stalls were OK and the conditions were a bit bumpy but nothing I couldn’t handle. We briefly discussed my landing (not my best but good crosswind corrections), “So good flight then?” Bob asked.

I pondered this for a moment and said “I guess it was….uneventful?”
Looking back though, there are a lot worse things than an “uneventful” flight. I should totally embrace the “uneventfulness”!

Saturday, 14 September 2013


Sometimes it’s hard for me to get my head around how much my outlook on this flying business has changed. When Bob casually asked me to bring down my charts to our next lesson so that we can start looking at my cross country flight planning, I was massively excited.

I’ve gone from thinking “OMG-HOW-AM-I-EVER-GONNA-FIGURE-THIS-OUT” in a panic stricken way to a more quizzical “Hmm, I wonder how I’m going to figure this out?” train of thought.
Because I know I will figure it out eventually, with some help of course. More on that later. At the moment I’m just really psyched up about this. It represents real, proper flying as opposed to tarmac bashing in the circuit. It’s going to be a totally different experience. Just like my first foray out of the circuit on my own was, where my first comment to RTH was “I wish someone had told me that an hour of flying on your own is a lot less stressful than an hour of circuits on your own!”

The cross country flight represents a new challenge but one that I feel I can master, albeit eventually!
I have help available to me. Bob has sent me some help sheets that I’m currently plowing my way through; I’ll take it one step at a time. I’m content to tackle one hurdle at a time and won’t beat myself up if I get something wrong. I guess I’m confident enough now that I don’t feel the need to beat myself up over every mistake. They’re gonna happen. I’ve also resisted the urge to get RTH to walk me through every step. For sure he knows how to do this but I need to get the confidence to tackle this on my own. Rather than agonising over every line drawn on my chart, I need to get stuck in and give it a go.

I’m still excited though!

Friday, 13 September 2013


….or more accurately contacts, of the lens variety. For a little while I’ve had mild suspicions that my eyesight wasn’t as sharp as it has been. Nothing dangerous, I mean my medical is only just over a year old and I could pass the vision test just fine for it. I had to do all the vision test stuff three times over. Once with no corrective lenses, once with my contact lenses and a final time with my incredibly old dug-out-of-some-dusty-corner-of my room glasses.

However, the world wasn’t appearing quite as defined as I remember it being and very occasionally I struggle to remember if I’ve taken my lenses out at night, which means the difference between with and without isn’t as pronounced as it should be. I also noticed that Bob is much better at traffic spotting than I am. It could just be experience but I wanted to cover all my bases here.
I waited until I had pretty much exhausted my current supply of lenses and bit the bullet and headed to the optometrist. BTW I pretty much loath other people playing around with my eyes, even though I happily shove pieces of plastic in them myself. This is partly due to one optometrist a few years ago deciding to invert my upper eyelid without warning me. I nearly punched his lights clean out!

Anyways my optometrist confirmed my suspicions that, yes indeed, my prescription has altered somewhat. Her description of my vision issues were spot on when she asked me if the world looked “soft”.
As suspected the mild astigmatism I have has reached the stage where it actually needs correcting, probably I’m noticing it more because I need my vision to be good for flying. So for the first time ever I’ve had to resort to Toric Lenses. They feel a little weird, although I’m not sure how much of that is the slight soreness from just the general poking around that my eyes have been through today.

I do know that the world looks really BIG at the moment!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Getting twitchy.

I got weathered out last week, the week before that I only managed some circuits due to cloud, wind and visibility.

I’m aching for some real flying. I need to get out there and fly. I need to conquer those solo stalls, nail that slow flight. I need to manage the crosswind landings on my own and handle the anxiety associated with that. I need to counterpoint the frustrations at work with some progress in the sky.
I need to fly!!!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

From the archives: Getting the first 5 minutes right

This is my big goal for the next few flights. I get really frustrated with myself and say all kinds of bad swear words in the first few minutes of each flight. Unfortunately the jolts and bumps of what I perceive to be turbulence still freak me out, especially at this time of year when the north winds stir up mechanical turbulence from over the city. I get so angry at myself. The plane starts bouncing a bit and I immediately start whinging “Bob I don’t like this, Bob I’m really not comfortable with this.” Bob, for his part plays the “tough love” routine. All he says is “No, its fine, you got it” and steadfastly refuses to put his hands anywhere near the controls. To be honest, this is probably what I need him to do.

Eventually I settle down and start flying the plane, by the time we’ve gotten out to the practice area I’ve forgotten that I’m meant to be panicking. So If I can do it then, why can’t I do it from the start? I mean I take off fine and I do actually fly the plane like I’m meant to, it is just that it is accompanied by a whole load more whining, complaining and swearing than it needs to be.
My goal is to “pull-myself-the-hell-together”* and get those first few minutes right. There is no reason for me to react like this. I quite simply, just need to stop.
*This is probably what Bob is thinking :)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Driving a Cessna.

So I’ve been grounded due to weather am potentially RTHless for the afternoon and am looking for something to do. I call upon my flying buddy D, of Utah trip fame. He has an idea. A pretty cool one. He’ll pick me up and we’ll go for a drive.

Sounds pretty mundane, until you realise that D drives this…..

It is an M38A1 Canadian forces jeep. And it is amazing. It is the closest you’ll ever come to driving a Cessna on the road. The similarities are uncanny, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
When D first pulled up I quickly realised that hopping in at the lights would be relatively easy due to the lack of doors. Thanking my decision not to wear my white jeans, I grabbed hold of a convenient handle and literally hauled my ass into the seat (check out the height of the step compared to the height of me!). Just like a Cessna, it took me about 5 minutes to figure out the seatbelt but we pootled along, enjoying the breeze.

This car is an absolute riot; the dash has an instrument panel that honestly looks like it was pulled from a C150, complete with gauges you occasionally have to tap into life. I’m not a girly girl and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty but the shocking shocks combined with the lack of doors left me in fear for my bag. Luckily the sailor in me quickly improvised a knot around the grab handle that would tighten with any sideways force.

So many cool features that D took the time to point out; the hand operated windshield wipers complete with vacuum driven pump. Yes it actually has a vacuum gauge a la Cessna! Other features include a hand throttle, a lack of Synchromesh on some of the gears and an option for blackout lighting.

I have never had so much fun driving around Toronto in my life. As D says; it is impossible to be sad in that car, everyone wants to be your friend!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Just can’t catch a break

Despite the rampant stream of consciousness rampage the night before, I’d pretty much psyched myself up for my latest flight. Based on our text conversation I persuaded myself that Bob had booked another student* at the same time as me, thus ensuring that I’d have to go solo. So I mapped out the flight in my mind, getting to the practice area is easy. Once there I’d scope out my sector (I have a preference for NE at the moment) and then attempt the steep turns as part of my HASEL check, follow it with some slow flight. Then some stalls, power off, maybe a couple with, a couple without flaps. I pictured myself carrying out the manoeuvres and then reporting back proudly what I had achieved.

I was keeping an eye on the METAR, as previously mentioned there was weather due to come in, but round about the time I would be due back. I was relatively confident that I’d make it back in plenty of time. I would have been happy to take off given the predicted conditions and the view out of the window. However, in my quest to actually act like PIC, I dutifully phoned flight services for a weather briefing, expecting to be able to use it to justify my flight that morning.
Hmm, apparently not. Got the “slightly-verbose-and speaks-very-quickly” guy from flight services and while I didn’t quite catch many of the locations he was talking about I did get the general idea. “Bring whatever the TAF says forward by about 2 hours and I’m not expecting it to remain VFR at your location for more than an hour or so”

I dutifully report this to Bob; he confirms that he has just cancelled our flight. “What about tomorrow?” I ask hopefully. Eventually we discover that there is a plane (and instructor!) available, but only from 7:00am – 10:00am.  

Now while I wanted to fly I was aware that I was a little on the tired side. After cancelling this flight I’d actually realised I was a bit sleepy and crept off back to bed for a nap. Three hours later I finally emerged. Not wanting to get up at 5:30 on a Sunday I told Bob that I could do that flight but wanted to make the Go/No Go call the night before. We waited until the 8:00pm TAF, it was calling for lingering low cloud (possible fog) and potentially gusty winds (up to 22 knots) from the North.
We called a No Go, and yep you guessed it. Weather has been perfect all fricken morning.

I CANNOT catch a break.

* I have NO idea if this is true or not, it falls into the category of "lies I tell myself to ensure I don't bottle out"


Sunday, 8 September 2013

From the archives : Unexpected expenses.

Now flying is an expensive hobby, I’ve never been under any illusions about that. But unlike a lot of women I don’t have a significant purse or shoe habit so I kind of justify it that way.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on all the requisite money to be paid out. Ground school, textbooks, charts, headset, medical, endless copies of the CFS* and so on and so forth. Here’s one I wasn’t expecting though, around $150 bucks to what seemed to be a Botox factory.
Let me explain a little bit. I have two fairly large pigmented skin tags on the right side of my neck. Which for the past 30 odd years have caused me very few problems. They do; however, bleed like hell if I catch them. And therein lies the problem. The seatbelt on the Cessna 172 starts from the centre of the plane (not the side as you would expect in a car). This means that the seatbelt presses into them and occasionally cuts them. I prefer not to bleed over other people’s vehicles so I thought I would investigate removal of them.

Normally I don’t hold with googling reviews of doctors and stuff because opinions are so subjective but this time I’m glad I did, I went in forewarned that it was basically a Botox joint and would probably try the hard sell. They did, they seemed more interested in trying to sell me laser treatment for my rosacea** than removing the tags.
Well they are not going to get to do either. I’m not paying $150 to have a couple of tags removed. I’ll resort to the low tech method of sticking a band aid over them if I can’t get my hands on some liquid nitrogen and do the job myself.


* By the end of his flight training RTH had enough copies to construct a small fort in his study!

** the doctor was slick, I’ll give them that, but I’m actually well aware of what caused it and the effectiveness of various treatments. I also noticed that the waiting room was kept deliberately hot and dry, all things guaranteed to make the condition worse! You’ve got to admire that level of hard selling.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The night before.

I’ve mentioned this before but flying is not like driving a car. Even for short, comparable journeys. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the thought processes involved in planning a trip to the same destination, by road and by air.

The trip in question is Toronto City Centre to Claremont, ON. A trip that according to Google Maps would take about an hour by road, considerably less by air.
I’m going to need a bit of poetic license here because, as you may know, I don’t actually drive. But I reckon I can take a rough guess as to what’s involved!

1)      By road

Hmm, Okay: keys, purse, vague idea of where I am going, cell phone. Let’s go.

2)      By air (I swear this was pretty much my exact stream of consciousness the night before a solo flight to Claremont*)

Okay haven’t soloed for a few lessons, let’s go over in my head what I need to remember, Weather is looking a bit dicey -  keep an eye on that, phone flight services in the morning, what direction is the wind likely to be coming from? Southwest OK so my “bolt hole” airport would probably be Oshawa, I know how to get to Oshawa, check the frequencies are still written on my chart, chart – did I put my VTA back in my bag after last time? Must remember to do that, Damn I need my CFS as well, do I still have it or did RTH borrow it for his flight? Add that to list of things to check, back to Oshawa I know how to get there, should still consider dialling it up on GPS if cloud coming in, that’ll help with distances so that I know where to make position calls and stuff, should ensure I have flight schools phone number in case on unexpected landing, OK relax a little bit, unexpected trip to Oshawa unlikely to happen, still weather is a concern, what to do if cloud starts to come in? how will I know that going back to city is bad idea? Ask someone? Who? Flight services- do I still have frequency list on kneeboard? Remember if visibility bad on way back-request special VFR, can't offer it, you have to ask, What would I say to flight services, doesn’t matter I can make myself understood on radio, a few “umms” never hurt anyone- just don’t make a habit of it, still my responsibility though, PIC and all that, damn paperwork, WMAP you really shouldn’t gloss over this like you do, check the damn paperwork on the plane before you take off, no one to blame but yourself if docs not on board – do you even remember what you need to carry? There’s an acronym, AROW…something or other, right you don’t know this get Bob to go over it with you, ask him now, text him now, right will look that up as well but get him to go over tech log and stuff again, weather had better bloody cooperate after all this, weather-winds, ok, you are not going to let the thought of a little crosswind freak you out, I’ve seen you land in a 10+ knot crosswind,, video evidence exists, no sweat- have a plan, maybe first landing aim for overshoot- take good look at windsock and plan second landing accordingly, no one would blame you for that, reasonable decision- it may be that you can actually pull off the first landing but aim-to-overshoot never hurt anyone………

…….and breathe!!!!!!!

On paper the plane might look the quickest but it is NOT the easiest for sure.
Do I over think things? Or do other pilots do this?


* no apologies for dodgy punctuation, my mind doesn’t do full stops!

Friday, 6 September 2013


A couple of people have made similar comments to me recently about flying. They all say something along the lines of “You must get an amazing sense of freedom when you are up there.”

Funnily enough, I kind of don’t really. Please don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy flying a great deal but when I’m flying on my own I really don’t have time to stop and smell the roses as it were.
Non flying people don’t realise that it isn’t like driving; you don’t just sit there and watch the world go by, you have to fly the plane, monitor your instruments, keep a listen out for radio chatter, and keep an eye out for traffic. Unlike the road, you can’t predict what direction it might come from either. One extra dimension equals a massive increase of workload.

Although I feel an amazing sense of achievement when I fly solo, I don’t really recall feeling a sense of freedom. On the contrary what I feel is an overwhelming sense of responsibility. I am totally in charge of the plane and all decisions rest on my shoulders.
While it is probably admirable that I take my responsibilities seriously, I feel that maybe I ought to lighten up just a tad.

I’ve got a solo lesson coming up, Bob offered me the option of a solo or dual, learning opportunities a plenty in both options. I hesitated for a while and finally succumbed to the inevitable. I need to build up that solo time.
So I have a new goal. As well as fully accomplishing the slow flight, steep turns and stalls. I want to be free. While I want to focus on what I need to do, I also want to lose the pressing leaden mass that sits on my chest and stomach.

If nothing else, it can’t be good for the weight and balance sheet!