Friday, 31 January 2014

All or nothing

10 cm of snow forecast for tomorrow, but better conditions on the horizon for Sunday. I’m bored of blogging about the weather. My next post will be on Sunday. It’ll either be a “Yay! Fantastic! I got some solo time in and it went so well” or a “I hate the weather" post

Let us see.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Nothing to see here.

It’s winter, judging by last night’s text from Bob, the chances of flying this weekend are low.
I’m cold, sick, tired and cranky. 

I’ve got nothing to post. 

I’m off to pick another fight with someone on the internet. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Watch this!

Usually not words you want to hear spoken in the cockpit. It ranks up there along with “what does this button do?” but I’m at home and sick (thank you RTH) and honestly don’t have the mental capacity to do anything but watch TV.

I’ve been catching up on some flying videos, seeing as I haven’t been able to get any actual flying in. A flying buddy makes awesome videos.

Good viewing. You should watch them. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Let’s talk

Today is Bell’s “let’s Talk” day, aimed at ending the stigma associated with mental health issues. More info here.

These two cartoons are far more eloquent than anything I could blog.

Monday, 27 January 2014

I know I said I was done moaning about the weather…

…but it has finally dawned on me why I’m so annoyed at the enforced break in my training. I’d literally just turned a corner. I finally felt like I was a calm, confident, competent pilot. I was actually looking forward to the solo airwork. Convinced that I’d go out there and do whatever it took to get those maneuvers sorted. No longer afraid of them, sure that I could persuade the plane to do what I wanted. Hell, I was enjoying it.

Now I’m just a crazy lady shouting at the weather!

Enough with the snow and crappy winds already!!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Things the weather is good for….

….because it sure isn’t flying

  • Sleeping
  • Curling up on the couch under a blanket
  • Sleeping
  • Eating soup
  • Sleeping
  • Drinking tea
  • Sleeping
  • Staring out the window at the blowing snow
  • Sleeping
  • Watching movies
  • Sleeping
  • Hot baths
  • Sleeping
  • Not going outside

 WMAP, considering hibernation as a viable option.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Insert random weather­ moan here

Because that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment.
It’s snowing and the wind is gusting up to 51 knots.

That’s really all I have to say.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Loving the fact that…

... the fire alarm at work decides to pick a day when it’s minus 20 odd to malfunction. Cue 100+ staff and 600 very cold students standing around outside for half an hour. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Not my job.

At work this morning, walked into a scene of utter carnage. Someone has obviously had a bit of an issue with the photocopier. I think the cartridge has exploded. There is toner EVERYWHERE.

Copier toner is evil stuff. I’m seriously surprised that no one has tried to weaponise it.  The stuff coats anything that gets in its way and is almost impossible to get off. When fixing the copier was my job, it would inevitably wait until I was wearing any white item of clothing before needing attention.

People used to laugh at me, I took the war against the copier in our building seriously. There was no way that sucker was ever going to win. Calling the service centre was an admission of failure as far as I was concerned. I used to carry a flashlight and screwdriver in my purse in order to be able to fix it. I guess only I could turn copier fixing into a competitive sport, but after today I’m kinda glad that’s not my job anymore!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

I suspect you are bored by now..

.. of me complaining about the weather. Yes it’s cold. Yes it keeps on snowing. Yes it is preventing me flying. Yes it is really irritating me. and NO I didn't need you to point out the crappy forecast for the weekend , Bob!

As much as I love this country, I find the winter weather hard to deal with sometimes. Nothing’s really changed. Here’s a picture to show you exactly what WMAP thought of her first winter in Canada.

not impressed!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

As advertised.

Despite months of procrastination, I am actually getting off my backside and working towards the  PPL written exam!

The exam itself is in 4 sections: Air Law, Meteorology, Navigation and General Knowledge. You need to get 60% overall as well as 60% in each of the individual sections in order to pass.

To sit the exam I need a letter of recommendation from the flight school. To get this I need to sit a practice exam at the school and get 80% overall. With a little nudging from Bob and RTH I bit the bullet and attempted one last week down at the flight school.

It was tough, mainly because they deliberately try to trick you and sometimes I fall into the traps. After I sat it I reported my progress to both Bob and RTH as “I think if it had been the actual exam I would have passed but I don’t think I’ve done well enough to get the recommendation.”

Bob marked it before today’s flight and yeah, that’s exactly how I’d done. Hovering around the 65-70% mark, there were a mixture of questions I genuinely didn’t know and should, ridiculously obscure questions and questions that had both Bob and I howling at the injustice of them.

Overall I’m on an upward trend. I’ll try another and see how that goes. I’m okay with where I’m at. Every time I sit a paper I’m alerted to a new and exciting way they try and trip you up, so more attempts could turn out to be better in the long term.  

Monday, 20 January 2014


It’s blatantly obvious that my outlook has changed drastically, no real surprise there. I didn’t realise just how much though until I started replaying my first phone conversation of the year with Bob back in my head.

With the fairly brutal weather that’s hit at the moment, I’m resigned to the fact that my cross country isn’t going to happen any time soon. There’s nothing that I can do about that. I summed it up to Bob that “this is meant to be the most exciting flight I ever do, let’s make sure that I can enjoy it.” Bob is in total agreement and we both know where my flying needs to be heading at the moment. If I can’t get the cross country in then I need to start looking at the flight test standards. I’d come to this conclusion independently, before Bob even mentioned it.

This is a huge leap if you think back to the person who wasn’t convinced she could ever solo let alone pass her flight test.

The plan at the moment is simple. We alternate dual and solo flights. Each dual flight we’ll pick some air exercises, I’ll make myself familiar with the test standards. We’ll practice them until I know what’s expected and when I solo, I’ll do the same exercises. Repeat with the next set of air work and so on.

I’m happy with this as a plan of action. I’m happy that I’ll be achieving something. I know it sounds odd but I’m proud of the fact that I’m moving beyond my initial goal of “not being scared” and now have reached a place where I’m in danger of being mistaken for a competent pilot!

It may never come as easily as it does to some. I may never be the most smooth or natural pilot but there is the real possibility that within the next 6 months I’ll become a fully licensed one!  

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Another text from Bob and another flight planned. A subtle change in language though.

Not “We have a flight at 9:30”
Not “We have a lesson at 9:30”
Not even “I’ll meet you at 9:30”

Nope, just a straight forward “you have a plane booked from 9:30, keep an eye on the weather”

In other words, “there’s your plane, you know what you need to do. So just do it!”

This kind of excites me actually. Yet another step along the road to being in charge. A gentle nudge towards the full responsibilities of being PIC.

And while I’m a little nervous about making the call weather-wise (apologies in advance to flight services!), I’m reasonably confident that I can make good decisions whilst I’m up there. In my head I’m already going through alternative airports if the weather closes in from the west (Oshawa’s a good bet).

After all I’ve been caught out in unexpected cloud once before and made the right call.  I’ve encountered tricky winds on landing and done completely the right thing by overshooting multiple times until I got the feel for the conditions.

I’m getting a lot more comfortable around the edges  of that flight envelope now, but I’m also cautious enough that I’m not going to do anything stupid.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Why does the weather hate me?

I was all prepped up for today’s flight. Accepting of the fact that I was going to go out to the practice area solo and do what I needed to do.

I wasn’t even anxious about it.

So of course it sodding snows.

The wrong kind of snow as well, wet and sticky as opposed to dry and powdery.

It’s just not flyable weather and while I’m happy that I’ve made the right call. I’m p!ssed that I’ve missed another solo opportunity. Next time I get the chance to fly, I’ll be out of solo currency which means I’ll either have another dual flight or need to fling it pointlessly around the circuit with Bob on on board for a couple of circuits before I can head off to the practice area.

The weather seems to hate me and the feeling is entirely mutual at the moment.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Apologies to flight services.

I’m really really sorry that I was constantly bugging you before my last flight. I’m sorry that I phoned you no less than 4 times in the space of an hour or so. I apologise for the fact that it got to the point where you recognised my voice.

I got really nervous about the reports of freezing drizzle, you see and despite the fact that I’ve been at this flying lark for a while now, this is really the first winter where the responsibility for making the weather call has fallen to me.

Ice on the ground frightens me; the thought of it in the air terrifies me. I’ve never had to deal with icing and quite frankly I never want to.  I lacked experience to make a judgement and was really relying on your expertise.

I’m sorry that the one thing I wanted from you was, of course, the one thing you couldn’t give. You can give me the numbers, interpret the forecast for me but I know the one thing you can’t do is make that decision for me. I have to make my own call.

I was very grateful though when you told me that we’d sent the freezing rain to Quebec for the French to deal with.

Thank you and sorry for bugging you.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Not pretty.

As I’ve mentioned before, last flight I made a conscious decision to just simply focus on what I needed to do. The instrument work in particular frustrates me. The trouble with frustration though, is that it consumes mental energy. Mental energy that, quite frankly, I don’t have to spare at the moment.

So I needed to push out the frustration and replace it with something else, something productive. Taking a long hard look at what my worst faults are, I tried to think of a way to redirect them into something useful.

I like the sound of my own voice; I come out with inane crap to cover my nerves. So let’s say something useful instead.

I kept up a constant commentary of what I needed to do. Bob’d tell me to follow a specific heading and/or altitude and I’d talk myself through it out loud.

It went something like this
Maintain heading 210
Bring her round to the left
Small bank angle only, wait for it to come round, patience
Watch the altitude, bring the nose down
Roll out at the heading
Level the wings
Altitude is good
Keep the heading 210, slight correction to the right
Level the wings
Watch the altitude
Recover that lost height
Level the wings
Small corrections WMAP
Keep the heading
Altitude is good
And so on…….

Probably for a solid 15 minutes.

I don’t think for a minute it was pretty or particularly nice to listen to, but IT WORKED!

I didn’t rush the course changes. I managed climbs and descents under the hood (I think technically that’s beyond the PPL skills). I was super focused. I was in my own little “under-the-foggles” world. 

Somehow verbalising all the stuff stopped me fixating on the one instrument, it forced me into the selective scan technique that’s the key to success here.

Next stage will be to tone it down a little bit, more for the sanity of the people around me, But I think I’ve got this sorted now.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

I didn’t fight the plane …..

As I boarded the ferry for the ride home after today’s flight, my face burst out into a spontaneous grin. I was just so proud and so happy.

I’d just completed a flight. A really good flight. A flight where the exercises were conducted to flight test standards. And I’d met them.

I’m a universe away from the person who panicked at every little jolt and bump, who was overwhelmed by it all, who was convinced that at some point she’d reach an end point, the point at which she’d reach the limit of her abilities.

It turns out that point is further away than I ever thought. I casually talk about my flight test, as a real thing that is going to happen. As something that I can do. For sure it’s something I’ve got to work at but there’s simply no reason that I won’t be able to manage this.

There’s a few new instructors around the flight school at the moment and they talk to me. They talk to me like I’m a pilot. Like I belong there. Passing on tips and opinions. Some I’ll take on board, some I probably disagree with but either way they are all gearing me up for that check ride.

I never in a million years thought that I’d ever get to this point, to the point where I felt confident I could handle this, to the point where I was shrugging off the bumps and jolts of some light to moderate chop as a mild inconvenience to overcome. Something that was a minor irritant as it knocked off my near perfect instrument work.

When did turbulence become an inconvenience for God’s sake? Rather than something to be feared? At what point did that sneak up on me?

I mean I did a stall where I got a slight wing drop, I cursed myself for the probable uncoordinated entry and picked it up with the rudder without a second thought. The first time that happened to me I screamed!

Bob commented that I wasn’t letting the plane intimidate me anymore, that I simply knew what I needed the plane to do and I made it do it.

I didn’t fight the plane, consequently I think I won!!


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Something’s got to give

Now that I’ve accepted that the cross country isn’t going to happen just yet, I’ve moved my focus to the flight test standards themselves. I know that there’s no inherent reason that I can’t fly to these tolerances, I just need to do it.

When I look back over my flights I often get frustrated by stupid things, the fact that my second bash at instrument work is fine but the first attempt is a disaster, ditto with steep turns. I get annoyed because obviously I can do them, so why don’t I?

I’ve had time to think a lot about this and as with everything in flying the answer is “attitude, attitude, attitude!”

I need to stop with the smart arse remarks, I need to stop with the nervous tics, I need to stop spending my mental energy on beating myself up for every blip. I need to FOCUS!

So I did. I made a massive effort to remain totally and utterly on task at all times. Bob’s acting more like an examiner than an instructor now, no idle chit chat to distract us from our goal. 

It worked. That last flight was honestly the best I have ever done. I was so happy with it. Even when things started to go a little out of tolerances, I just concentrated on bringing them back in line. My instrument work was the most accurate I have ever achieved.  My steep turns amazing for someone who probably hasn’t attempted them in near two months.

They were not perfect, but rather than let them get away from me, I just fixed them. My left was better than my right (as always) and my angle of bank wasn’t always consistent but I was so determined that I was going to claw them back no matter what. And I did. Consequently they were both probably within flight test tolerances. Certainly my altitude was spot on.

Next came slow flight, previously something I disliked a fair bit. No issues this time. Smoothly entered, minimal altitude deviation, stall horn bleating intermittently, a little bit of yaw but that was soon sorted out. In and out with no problems whatsoever.

Stalls; power off with and without flaps. A little aggressive with the recovery initially but the big improvement was with allowing the plane to fully stall. Bob was very happy with that and I guess I complained less than usual.

I made the field on my forced approach, holding off with the flaps until I was 100% sure I was going to make it.  10 then 20 and then 30 degrees just over the tree line. Some things to work on, mostly my briefing and other checks but nothing that’s going to be too much of an issue.

More instrument work on the way back, again easily within tolerances and finally a landing on 26. Every single exercise would have been a pass according to Bob, and who am I to argue!

The more I treat it like a test. The more likely I am to pass the real thing. This isn’t a game anymore.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Worth the wait.

So I’ve bitched a lot about the weather and the lack of flying recently. I wasn’t optimistic for this weekend on the long range forecast; we are back into unsettled winter weather. Temperatures swinging wildly which brings various types of precipitation and / or fog.

A text conversation with Bob confirmed my take on the weather. If we were going to have any chance of getting airborne it was going to be Sunday. Saturday looking to be a damp, miserable write-off.  Bob’s assessment was slightly more poetic, leading me to ask (perhaps a little unkindly) “are you high?”

As predicted Saturday was so badly fog bound that you literally couldn’t see that there was a world outside our condo windows, good call so far.

Sunday arrived, the weather not without its challenges but long story short, it was totally worth the wait. It has been six weeks really since I did any decent flying, other than a quick few laps round the circuit­­­­­. I was concerned about degradation of my skills, but I needn’t have been. That was, without question, the best flying I’ve done so far.

Worth the wait for sure.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Let the battle commence

Winter flying means one thing in the cockpit: The battle of the heat controls.

The planes I fly have fairly primitive heat controls, they wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s pick up. Basically you pull out one knob for air and another for heat. The air is heated by passing it over the exhaust manifold for the engine. Crude but effective. Too effect.

Bob and I exist in very different temperature zones; there are probably many reasons for this. For a start I carry a great deal more “personal insulation” than Bob does and so am much more comfortable in cooler temperatures.

Basically though each winter flight goes like this: we do the run up, warm up the engine and take off. After a couple of minutes I realise that I’m getting hot and stressy over the simplest of tasks. If I have spare capacity I might realise straight away what’s going on, if it is a high workload situation it may take me a while to figure out that this isn’t just stress sweat.

Eventually I’ll say “Hey Bob, wanna dial down the heat a little bit?” He does something and the sauna like environment tempers off a little bit.

A period of time later, I’ll notice my feet starting to cook, Bob has obviously diverted the air flow downwards somewhat. Depending on how the flights going I may or may not say something. The way I look at it is like this. If I’m managing the flight Ok then the slightly warm temperature doesn’t bother me too much and if it’s a hard flight well then that’s usually Bob’s fault because he’s pulling evil stuff on me. In which case he deserves everything he gets when he diverts a stream of hot air onto my sweaty, smelly sneakers!

I can cope with being cool better than I can with being over warm and Bob is the polar opposite. The problem arises from the fact that the heating controls are on his side and he has nothing to do on most flights except play with them.

Either way it’s a constant battle and probably not one I’m likely to win anytime soon either.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

spot the odd one out.. of these things does not belong with the others

welcome to my Friday night.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Maybe they heard

It’s possible, just possible that there may be a window this weekend in which I can get airborne.

At the moment the plan is to meet earlyish Sunday morning when it looks like the snow/rain mix forecast may have eased off and the windows will be a pleasant 25km/h from the southwest.

The aim of the flight? Simple, I’ve got to practice, practice, practice that airwork until we are convinced that it’s flight test worthy.

 After so many weeks with not a hint of a flight, I’m dreading to think what my steep turns are going to be like!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

A plea to the sky gods.

Seeing as …

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my cross country flight isn’t going to happen this winter

I’ve been ever so philosophical about it

I’ve studying for my written exam

I’ve even got as far as sitting at least one mock paper at the flight school

…Could you please cut me some sodding slack here and at least give me the odd day of flying?
I don’t want much, really but the weather for the next two weeks looks bloody crap and I’m getting desperate OK?






Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Every family has its Christmas traditions. Ours are probably geekier than most. Often they aren’t by choice.

Traditionally, for us, Christmas is a time when things break. Mostly electronics.  Every time RTH and I put aside time to catch up on DVDs, Blu Rays, XBox , PC or PS games, one of the aforementioned inevitably decides to quit on us.

One year it was the hilarious overheating of the graphics card which led to GTA Vice City being populated by very pointy random polygons, and then there was the great Xbox red ring of Christmas. I have distinct memories of ringing in the new year trying to rebuild RTHs PC and cursing the fact that we appeared to have blanked the hard drive before downloading the SATA drivers needed to re-access it.

Well this year the fine tradition seems to be continuing. RTH’s PC obviously got wind of his new year’s plan to upgrade and decided to quit prematurely in protest. Which means I got to spend Christmas day watching RTH and a friend build a brand new PC from components.

With a decent bottle of wine it actually turns into a reasonable spectator sport, although I suspect half my fun has been done away with as I actually caught RTH reading the manual beforehand.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

- 35 with wind chill

Well the title tells you everything you need to know about the weather today. There’s ice on the inside of our condo windows. It’s due to be like this all work week. On the weekend the temperatures going to rise to a balmy 4 degrees, but it’s going to rain.

I officially hate this weather

Monday, 6 January 2014

2014 – Resolutions

Following on from last year, let’s make some new ones, in no particular order:

1)      I’m going to stop procrastinating over the written exam. I’m very aware as to why I’m putting it off. It’s got to stop.

2)      I’m going to get my PPL. This is the year for it. It’s within reach. I know I can do it. Those words look so simple written down but the massive mental shift that’s gone into me being able to put those words down is immense. I don’t know how to adequately describe it.

3)      I’m going to pay it back. To all the people who have gone above and beyond what could reasonably be asked. To RTH whose endless patience I’ve pushed to the very limit when it comes to hollering for help, to Bob who is always at the other end of a text message or email or phone call. Who probably bills me for a third of what he actually should time wise. To my internet posse who are always there with constructive help or advice. To my family who follow my every flight even though they are thousands of miles away. I’ll pay it back by sporting those coveted wings and making you proud of me.

4)      I’m going to start on my book. Yep I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and working on the odd bit here and there. I’m going to write a book, a self-published, vanity affair, covering learning to fly and emigrating abroad and other random stuff. Probably in e-format, probably of no real interest to the majority of people, but I’m having fun writing for it.

5)      I’m going to learn some stuff about video production and editing. I have a ton of video material but am lacking creative ideas as to what to do with it. I want to stand out as more than just another set of flying videos. I need some ideas and some skills.

6)      I’m going to become a better passenger when RTH is flying. I’m going to stop worrying and fidgeting and questioning and just relax. Alternatively I’m going to become more useful like actually being able to handle the radios or the navigation for him.

I think that just about covers it for the moment. There are some fairly big ones in there. Lets see how I do! 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Winter flying

Winter has hit hard and quickly this year. Having just experienced my first “ice storm”, I can safely say that I’m in no hurry to experience that again. We were incredibly lucky in that we didn’t lose power and didn’t have to go out in it. It did give some very pretty pictures though.

Today’s flight was probably my first of the “winter season”. The lake’s frozen in places, the apron is slushy in some areas and the planes are sporting their winter kits. All engine starts are definitely of the “cold” variety.

Luckily dispatch are kind to me, keeping the plane in the hanger for me to do my walk round in the warm and dry. On the flip side though, everyone wants that hanger space and your walk round takes on the aspects of an obstacle course, with high wing and low wing planes stacked together like a game of aviation tetris.

It took me a while to get a feel for the increased performance that the cold air brings. Initially I was confused as to how the hell I managed to get to near circuit height by the time I turned crosswind. Then I noticed the pegged VSI, one hell of a rate of climb. It took me a circuit or two to realise I either needed to lay off the flaps a little or keep the power up for slightly longer. In the warm air those planes float for ever. In the winter they like to come back down.

Of course the worst thing about winter flying is that it doesn't look like I'm going to get much of it in. The weather looks to be unsettled for a long time to come and this is frustrating me so much. I got so close and I've come so far and the weather just won't cooperate.