Tuesday, 31 December 2013

And now

Well now that it’s been a year and I’ve had time to reflect, let’s see how it has gone.

While I still remember what happened, but I don’t have the vivid mental picture of that runway edge emblazoned on my mind. Whatever “paperwork” that needed to be taken care of (notice the 'yes" notation under "further action required?" in the initial report), Bob did without me ever knowing. No one ever suggested that I shouldn’t be flying. The owner still chats with me about this and that and shows no signs of  remembering the incident ever occurred. I don’t drag it in under power anymore and I’ve even encountered roll due to wake turbulence since. I instantly recognised it and executed a flawless go around.

I’m a lot more confident in my own abilities. I realise now that a lot of my overreaction emotionally was due to me feeling like an “imposter”. I was still waiting for someone to turn around and tell me that I had no place in the cockpit. I had so little faith in myself that I genuinely didn’t think I should be there. As far as I was concerned this incident was the proof of that.  Now that I’ve got more flying experience and have proven to myself that I can make the right call, I don’t feel like that anymore. Bizarrely enough the internet has helped with that, all my virtual flying buddies who take the time to read my blog, watch my videos and email me.

The one thing that my virtual friends have done for me is make me realise that I’m no different from any other student pilot out there.  If you don’t know me other than my web presence, if you ignore my self-proclaimed fears and psychological hang ups, I haven’t done or experienced anything that any other student pilot hasn’t.

Of course RTH has been a solid rock, by talking frankly about the challenges he experienced during his training, about the things he found difficult, he made he realise that sometimes it was OK to be scared, that everyone finds somethings tricky whether it is physically or psychologically.

And finally I have to give a lot of credit to Bob, whose reaction was the exact counterpoint to mine.  Calm when I was terrified, de-escalating when I was hyped up. Confident in me when I had lost all faith and pushy when I was reticent. He never once waivered from his utter belief that I could do this.

I don’t know if I’m a better pilot because of or despite that incident. All I know is I AM a better pilot. And that’s all that matters.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Mountains out of molehills.

(written Jan 10 2013)

One of my more practiced skills is the construction of the former from the latter. I seriously reckon that pretty much everyone has forgotten about the incident last week. Except me.

I was mildly surprised that I just got the standard phone call/ text from Bob with regard to this weekend’s lesson. Nothing mentioned at all. I don’t know what I was expecting maybe I feel I should be “punished” for what happened. Maybe everyone has realised that I don’t need them to do that. I’m doing an awesome job myself.
My aim for this weekend is just to do a solid flight and get that horrible mental picture of the edge of the runway out of my head. I’m nervous about the flight. I’m nervous about seeing people down the flight school. They probably have forgotten the whole thing ever happened. I haven’t.

This is how I screw up my own mental health. I hold onto things for decades after people have moved on. Not healthy. Time to put on the actress face. Breeze in, smile, like nothing ever happened. Because chances are no remembers anything ever did.
Except me*

*and of course Bob.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Breathing again.

(written 8th Jan 2013)

A storm in a teacup

A figment of my over-active imagination.

Nothing to see here
All phrases that can be used to describe the ultimate consequences from the “wake turbulence” incident.

Nothing is going to happen. I don’t think that anyone is particularly p#ssed at me. No one has suggested that I should stop flying. No one has even suggested that I need a bout with the Chief Flight Instructor.
Ironically the very video whose presence on YouTube inspired the initial panic turned out to be the exact thing the flight school needed to prove that this was a “flying incident” rather than someone hotdogging the Porter.

Yep, apparently for a while it was suspected that I’d deliberately overflown the Porter to “show off”. Oh the irony! The student who every flight questions whether she is worthy to be in that cockpit, is suspected of showboating!
Yeah I really wasn’t for those of you who were wondering.

So now that I can actually breathe again, now that I can physically feel the weight that has been lifted off me it is time to go back to me original mission of education. I never want a student to have to go through what I just did. I want people to see that video. I want a film to speak a million words.

It would seem that everyone else has shrugged this off as “just one of those things. Now I’m going to do the same.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Years of self-doubt and lack of confidence

(written Jan 8th 2013, while at work)

Are pressing down on my chest at the moment. I can physically feel them pushing down and constricting me.

It’s getting harder to breathe

Friday, 27 December 2013

Considering my future.

(next in the series, written Jan 7 , 2013)

I wrote this post on January 7 2013. It’ll probably be long past that now.  I’ve waited a considerable time before posting this because the issue became more controversial than I anticipated.

Basically there was an incident involving some wake turbulence that left me really rattled. I happened to be filming it. I posted the video on YouTube for many reasons.

1.       I wanted Bob to see it , to talk me through what had actually happened

2.       I wanted other pilots to see what “caution wake turbulence” actually means

3.       I wanted ATC people to see it to understand what can happen when a light aircraft gets too close to a larger one.

The following are NOT reasons that I posted it

1.       To show off

2.       To look cool

3.       To advocate that other people should try it.

Shortly after the incident I got a phone call, the crux of which was that various people “requested” that I take down the video in case people interpreted it as encouraging the above reasons. I complied. I’m not sure they had the right to ask, but at the end of the day it’s their playpen. They don’t have to let me fly their planes. They don’t have to train me. So I decided it was a battle for another day.
I am concerned about the other part of the phone call, where the word ”investigation” was mentioned. Another pilot had obviously filed some kind of report. The nature of which was unknown to me at the time. I had no idea of the scale, scope or possible consequences.
I won’t lie. I’m scared. For a  number of reasons. In no particular order:

·         I’m scared that someone’ll figure out that I really shouldn’t be flying*

·         I’m scared that Bob is going to cop some sh#t for this

·         I’m scared that the flying school will as well

·         I’m scared that the above two points will lead to my relationship with them both deteriorating (perhaps beyond repair)

I’m considering all my options at the moment, which yes, do include quitting.
By the time I post this, I’ll have made a decision one way or the other, this post will help explain how I got there.

* I always have that little voice in my head that tells me " this really isn't for you WMAP, just give up now" 

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Investigation – day one

 (written Jan 7/8 2013, 2 days after the incident)

Again, a while will have passed since this actually happened but I’m writing it while fresh in my head.

Last night I got a phone call, in which it was kind of casually mentioned that the incident was “being investigated” as a result of the Porter pilot making some kind of report. This was on top of the request for me to pull the YouTube video as well as sending a copy to the flight school owner.

As of yet I don’t know anything. I don’t know what type of “report” was made, I don’t know who is “investigating” it. I don’t know who or what is being investigated. I don’t know what the potential outcomes might be. I don’t know if I should be worried.*

I kind of feel like the suspect who is “helping police with their inquiries”. It starts off very pleasant and amicable but at some point you realize you’re in a hole and should have had a lawyer from the start.

A lot of possible outcomes are weighing heavily on my mind at the moment. I am seriously considering the possibility that I may lose my license before I’ve even gained it. There’s the possibility that the flight school may terminate my training, whether officially or (more likely) by someone having a quiet word with me. I think it’s extremely likely that they may require me to fly with the Chief Flight Instructor before doing anything else. And while I can see their point, I’m feeling emotionally fragile enough as it is. I can do without the added scrutiny of a check-ride like flight with the CFI and all the pressure that will bring. I don’t actually think it will be beneficial to me.

If it comes down to that, I may put this all on hold for a period of time if not permanently. I’ve blogged all along that secretly I’ve expected to get to the point where I’ll have achieved all I can and will be politely told to call it a day. Maybe now is that time. This annoys me a little bit because until I got that phone call I’d managed to persuade myself that I should carry on. Now I’m having second thoughts.

Part of me also thinks that I’m being punished, just a little bit, for the massive inflation of my ego that flying has caused. Up until a day or so ago. I felt that I could take on the world and I let everyone know it. I was probably boring beyond belief to be around. I’m paying for that now.

* Whether I should be or not, I am.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Reviewing the wake turbulence incident.

(next in the series originally written written jan 5/6 2013)

For one thing I love my camera, if it wasn’t for that I’d still be wondering what the hell happened and I’d probably have quit flying.

The video helped, first of all to show RTH just exactly what happened. I wasn’t sure I wanted to show him the footage but when he got home and could tell something was wrong, I didn’t have the words to describe what had happened. Because I didn’t know what went wrong.  He could tell that I was shaken up. I tried to explain that it wasn’t just the wake turbulence incident that had rattled me. It was the fact that I knew something was not right but I just didn’t know what to do about it. I hesitated and that could have been fatal. I was mostly concerned about the fact that Bob had to take control. Did that mean that I wasn’t safe to be up there on my own? Should I stop now? Before I actually did kill myself (or other people)?
RTH, as ever, is the voice of reason. But also brutally honest, which is good because I know it means he’s not just trying to make me feel better. I can trust his opinion. We watched the footage, I nearly threw up. RTH realised that it was as bad as I’d made out and no I wasn’t overreacting.

We talked about it, watched it again, talked some more, watched it again and so forth. Interestingly viewing the raw footage on a large HDTV screen you can actually see the wake vortices out over the water. You can see them drifting right into my path.

So here are some of the points that came out of discussions with RTH and Bob* after the event.

·         I was low on my approach, which put me right in the path of the vortices -  I should know that isn’t how you approach the runway if a larger plane has just landed in front of you. This was probably the biggest factor

·         Less than a minute lapses between the Q400 crossing the threshold and me landing – I know that ATC are under pressure to manage the traffic effectively but perhaps this was a little too close separation-wise. I’d like them to see this footage to remind them what vortices do to us little planes

·         According to RTH incidents like that are as bad as it gets! He said he’s had something similar on climbout but never that close to the ground. He’d have been shook up by it too – This actually makes me feel better. I regard RTH as almost unflappable. If it scared him then I’m ok to feel this way

·         RTH has had situations that have shaken him up and his instructor had to take control – this is very significant to me.  I know he is an extremely safe and competent pilot. I’m not going to go into details to protect his privacy but knowing this is probably the single biggest factor in persuading me not to quit. I will totally admit that all that was going through my mind on the way home was “am I too dangerous to carry on?” He wasn’t, maybe I’m not either.

·         “What you are doing is not a zero risk activity” – again wise words from RTH. I started fixating on the “We could have died” aspect. We didn’t (of course). I’m incredibly lucky in that I have the opportunity to learn from this event but what I’m doing is not without risk. Accept that fact and move on. What-ifs will paralyse you.

·         Power is your friend – intellectually I know this but physically I have a hard time making sense of the fact that if you are hurtling headlong into danger then the best thing to do is go faster! It seems so counter intuitive to me. Psychologically I’m having a hard time with this. Again talking this over we could only come up with one scenario (spiral dive) where adding power would do more harm than good. ANY other situation, if it doesn’t feel right shove that throttle in.

·        I’ve gotten complacent about wake turbulence warnings. They become part of the background noise. I don’t plan my approach with them in mind. They are real, the effects are real and it will kill you if you give it the chance. Other students should watch the movie to understand what "caution wake turbulence" actually means

Today was as bad as it gets for me. I’m lucky to walk away with the bolded lesson firmly planted in my head as opposed to my head being firmly planted in the Tarmac.
On a lighter note Bob is a machine! I swear he didn’t even break a sweat during all of this. I don’t know if I could ever be that calm! And I don’t know what the pilot of that Porter at the hold short line thought when he saw a Cessna careening towards him! I bet that woke him up a bit!

* The beauty of the camera. Relatively quickly I edited out the important bit, stuck it up on YouTube and let Bob know it was there.  He very kindly took time out of his evening to view the video and call me to talk through it and answer all my questions.  It really helped. I'm still having flashbacks though

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Today, I almost quit.

(second in a series of posts about a wake turbulence incident, originally written Jan 6/7 2013)

This is a difficult post to write. Today I came perilously close to a number of things; the ground for one L

I also came seriously close to quitting. I didn’t think that would ever happen but stuff changes in the blink of an eye.  I seriously questioned (maybe still am) whether I had the “right stuff” to carry on. Something majorly scary happened to me up there today.

The flight started off relatively normal, Bob up to his usual mean tricks (another post, another time), we were practicing short field takeoffs and landings.  Few circuits in, everything fine until I was on short final for a landing. I’ll let the video show you what happened.

If you look very carefully at the start of the video you can see a Q400 passing underneath the CN tower. ATC were trying to sandwich me in between that one and another further out. I got hit by its wake turbulence. I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was that the plane was doing something very very wrong and I was in a whole heap of trouble. Bob had to take control. I had no idea what was going on, let alone how to fix it. I barely had enough time to figure out just what the f@#k was going on let alone react to it. And that’s the bit that scares me most.

I honestly thought I was going to crash that plane. Maybe if Bob hadn’t been on board I would have. I’m still really shaken up by this. More to follow but if friends and family are reading this. I’m fine, honestly and I'm not going to quit but the thought did cross my mind for a short period.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Several attempts

That’s what it has taken me to write this post. I’ve been toying with this for a while. Just under a year ago (5th Jan 2013 to be precise), something happened during one of my lessons that scared me beyond belief at the time and nearly caused me to quit flying.

I wrote some blog posts at the time, I pulled some blog posts at the time. It all got a little messy, mostly in my head. I had both the luxury and misfortune of catching my near demise in glorious high definition video.

So now, after several attempts to put my thoughts down in writing I’m going to put a series of posts up describing what happened and what was going through my head. Before I post anything I think it is important to point out that my attitude at the time is very different to what I feel now.

For a long time I couldn’t blog about this at all, I was embarrassed. Embarrassed about the incident itself, it was a stupid flying mistake. More embarrassed about how I reacted to it.

Now (I think) I can look back at it a little more rationally and with a little bit of realistic self-reflection. And now for a lack of anything better to blog about (thank you weather!) I think it is time to share my thoughts past and present.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Under siege

Current weather conditions call for the worst weather conditions that can exist as far as I’m concerned.

It’s not blizzard snow or even tornadoes. It is an ice storm.

It’s currently zero degrees and raining. Everything is covered in a fine coat of ice.  The rain is going to get worse and the temperatures are going to drop.

RTH and I are planning on staying put for a good couple of days. These kinds of conditions terrify me to be honest.

Of course this is probably my fault for having the nerve to book time off work. I have a reputation of being the harbinger of crappy conditions. The second I have vacation, the weather worsens.
To give you an idea of what we are facing, here’s the latest GFA (thanks for the email S)
So glad I’m not travelling anywhere

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Doing a little happy dance

Despite keeping me on tenterhooks for daaaaaaays before giving me the seal of approval. Our business office have just giving the OK on a contract I’ve been negotiating for months.

This means I can officially tell the-company-with-the-website-from-the-1980s-that-kept-crashing-and-whose-help-system-sends-you-in-a-recursive-loop* to naff off!

After being very quiet during the time I was screaming for help when trying to deal with 250+ online registrants they now appear very keen to get back in touch when they sense that their contract should be up for renewal.

<dancing WMAP>

*may not be the actual company name!

Getting twitchy

Need to fly
Weather spectacularly uncooperative
Apologies for lack of flying posts
Working on one at the moment

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Where hope goes to die

My office mate and I have a problem.
We’re mass murderers.
People buy us plants and we kill them.
We have a wall of shame.
It aint pretty

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Time to do something

This morning I lost my phone.

Not my cell phone.

My desk one. The one that’s attached to the wall and takes up a large portion of the corner of my desk

I fear it may be time to do something about the state of my desk.

If you don’t hear from me again it’s because I got buried in my own paperwork.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Yep it is winter

Apologies for the lack of flying related posts but the weather has failed to cooperate spectacularly.
As advertised we got about 25cm of the white stuff over the weekend and the lake is frozen over as far as the island now.

I was hoping that the snow and cold air would bring stable weather but it seems this isn’t going to be the case. Temperatures are set to rise from the current minus mid-teens to plus 6 degrees by the end of the week.

This basically means we have a horrible, slushy winter mix lying in wait for us.

Expect either a distinct lack of posts or at least a lack of flying related ones until the weather decides what the hell it wants to do.

I thought I’d leave you people in more temperate climates with some of the lesser known features of surviving a Canadian winter

  • Artillery attacks – at least that’s what it sounds like. When you live in a high rise and the snow starts to fall off other people’s balconies, it sounds like you are under siege fire
  • White stains on your pants* J - the vast quantities of salt and other chemicals they use to melt the ice and stop it refreezing gets on your pants leg where it dries. Leaving you with white semi circles up the back of your legs
  • Sore knees and ankles – walking through snow takes effort. I am not exactly sure footed in the stuff and I walk funny. It makes my legs ache.
  • Fighting your way through waist high snow banks – they plow the sidewalks here but push it all to the side of the street. Crossing the road means karate chopping or ninja kicking your way through a snow bank.
  • Footwear logistics – my job (allegedly) requires me to look reasonably presentable at times. This means the tights and hiking boots look doesn’t cut it.  I have to plan to make sure I have the right footwear in the right place. If I go home via taxi straight from an event. I have to ensure that I have my walking boots with me somehow, as I’ll need them to get back to work the next morning.
I’m sure I’ll think of more.

* I don’t know what you were thinking

Sunday, 15 December 2013

So made the right call

By Wednesday it became obvious that the forecast wasn’t looking too favourable for the weekend. Thursday Bob and I agreed to call it a no-go.

With the unpredictability of the weather recent and the inaccuracy of the forecasts it is always a bit of a gamble as to whether (weather?) you’ve made the right call.

Many of the flurries predicted for the week failed to materialise, leading me to predict to RTH “you watch, I bet it is 10 degrees and blazing sun on Saturday!”

Well I was wrong. Here’s the current view out of the window. The ledge providing a convenient gauge of how much snow has fallen.

It’s predicted to be 25 centimetres by the end of the day. RTH has just gone out for supplies. I hope he makes it back…..

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Someone’s having a bad day!

Taken from December’s AAIB bulletin

Whilst taxiing, the left main landing gear retracted which resulted in damage to the left wingtip and the propeller. The pilot stated that the incident was caused by the inadvertent selection of the landing gear to UP, instead of DOWN, during the pre-flight checks. He attributed this action to a number of distractions and interruptions which had occurred during the preparation for the flight.


Friday, 13 December 2013


Work stuff because I’m not flying much at the moment. I’ve got to admire the persistence of a sales guy I’m dealing with at the moment. He’s been calling me sporadically for a couple of weeks now. I actually do want his product but I’ve got to run some stuff past our CFO before I can proceed, so just need to stall him for a little while.

He must realise that I can see whenever it is him calling me and assumes that I’m ignoring his call by sending him to my voicemail.

Today the persistent little devil managed to call me from one of these companies that lets you fake a local area code. You’ve got to admire that level of creativity.

Unfortunately for him, it’s not just his call I send to voicemail. I send everyone there. On purpose.

According to HR and the time-management trainer they dragged in to speak to us last year, this makes me officially a baaad person.

I might have had a slight differing of opinion with said trainer on this tactic.

She maintains that phone calls are much more efficient that email in dealing with most problems. “30 seconds on the phone and it’s all dealt with,” she chirped irritatingly, “compared to endless emails back and forth.”

I totally disagree.

I look at it this way. When you call someone, you are making an instant demand on their time. I triage stuff reasonably well. You have no idea how you fit into my time frame. Let me be the judge of how urgent something is compared to the rest of the stuff I’m dealing with.

I pointed out that I always return calls and this way is actually much more efficient. You leave me a brief message, telling me what you want. I have time to find the info and then call you back when I have it. You are not hanging on the phone making useless small talk while I look it up.  It saves us both time.

“But what if it can’t be conveyed in a brief message?” she asked

“Then they don’t know what it is they are asking and they are wasting my time until they figure it out.” I replied

Seriously people if you can’t sum up your inquiry in 20 seconds or 3 bullet points then you don’t know what it is you want.

My record is a 5 minute voice mail from a parent that could have been summed up in 4 words.

Thursday, 12 December 2013


Flying is full of acronyms. We use them for anything. The title of this post is one IM SAFE*







All factors which influence your ability to fly safely. It’s kind of a personal checklist you should run through every time you set foot in that plane. It’s a useful reminder. I never touch alcohol for at least 12 hours before a flight, I don’t fly with a cold or anything like that. I always eat and usually take a pre-flight snack down with me as well. I try not to let outside factors creep into the cockpit, lateness stresses me so I always arrive in plenty of time for a flight, even if it means sitting around for an hour or so.

It’s Thursday at the moment and already I’m starting to run through my mental checklist before the weekend.


Except I’m not sure that I am.

I’m really tired. Late evenings at the office combined with a massive event last weekend that saw me working until the small hours of the morning have left me fatigued.

The weather looks marginal. Time to call a stop to this now. I text Bob to let him know. I mean I’m not in danger of falling asleep behind the controls or anything but I’m tired and irritable. I’m not going to achieve anything meaningful up there. Better I recognise this now.

It’s a good positive decision. Safety is always your top concern and I don’t feel any pressure to fly just for the sake of it. I’m confident enough in my abilities that a week isn’t going to make much difference.

I’ve got some vacation time coming up and if the weather cooperates I may sneak a couple of flights in.

IM SAFE, snug here on the ground with my textbooks.

*for those of you who thought I’d missed the apostrophe.