Thursday, 31 July 2014


Conference finally over. I can breathe again.

I’ve spent the past four days going from work (insanely early) to hotel and back again.

The outside world ceased to exist. I sat in my hotel room only vaguely aware of a massive thunderstorm that was raging on outside.

I feel like I’ve been caged up for the best part of a week. Now I’m aching for some freedom.

I need to fly.

Weather gods please take note.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Room service

This used to be a luxury, a treat when you were on vacation. Today it is a necessity.

I honestly don’t want to talk with another living soul.

Oh, today (opening day) went fine but I am done with being sociable for the day.

Still 250 attendees, 25 leaders, two official observers and 1 douchebag, that’s not  a bad ratio!

Don't expect much blogging this week, too tired.

Sunday, 27 July 2014


I'm about to embark on my epic annual conference that I organise.
It involves trying to herd 250 cats ( or attendees as they prefer to be known)

I'm away from home, living in a local hotel for the next 5 days.

Blogging may be sporadic, as will contact with friends.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Girls just wanna have fun

Or at least this one does.

I want to fly for fun. I want to take off, fly around and enjoy the scenery without having to stress about the next power on stall, steep turn, instrument time or other such nonsense.

The temptation to request a sign out for a solo flight and just spend it sight-seeing is sooooooo tempting right now.

But I won’t.

No matter how strong the urge becomes.

Because I work best when I have a solid reward for my endeavours.  That’s how I finally got my written done and it’s how I’ll make it through my flight test.

I’m starting to allow myself to think about what I might do once I have that license.

Baby steps at first I think, although long term I want to fly as many different types of plane to as many places as I can think of.

I’m trying to think of it as just the start of another great big adventure because looking at it as the end is just too sad to contemplate.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Near future

A generally positive lesson and a brief chat about the near future. I’m gearing up for my “officially insane” week at work but after that things start to calm down. I even get to take some vacation time.

Once I get my annual conference out of the way I’ll have the time and the mental energy to devote to the next big step.

You see I’ve got all the hours I need: Dual, solo and cross country. I’m even getting close enough on the instrument time that I don’t need to fuss about it anymore. It’ll work itself out naturally. I’ve passed my written exam. There’s only one stage left. The flight test.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this, which we’ll explore in another post but we’ve got a plan to get me there.

We’ll carry on with our usual routine for the next couple of flights whereby we a have brief chat as to what exercises I think I need to practice and negotiate from there. It usually follows this framework: pick a speciality takeoff, instrument work, steep turn as part of HASEL check, a power on stall. Forced approach or precautionary landing, maybe a diversion or maybe some more instrument work; unusual attitudes or the like followed by the trip back to City to set up for a speciality landing.

After that we’ll evaluate. The hope being that I’ll have demonstrated to Bob that I have pretty much got everything nailed.

Then it’ll be time for a mock flight test. With another instructor. 

I can’t say that I’m looking forward to flying with someone else but I know I need to. I have to get used to flying with someone else in the other seat. Someone who isn't as "nice" as Bob. 

If it all goes well, it is time for the real deal.

You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to realise that the above constitutes a mere handful of lessons.

Getting so close now.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Mixed feelings

A weird thought occurred to me, I probably have less flying hours left before I get my Licence than I ever intended to take in the first place.

Remember I only ever intended on taking around 10 hours of flight training. Enough for the very basics. Enough to be a help rather than a hindrance to RTH in the cockpit. That’s when I started this blog. I had about 10 hours and the idea in the back of my head that at some point soon I was going to reach the limit of what I was capable of.

I’d approach every lesson with that sinking feeling that today would be the flight where Bob’d decide that I’d reached my limit. I was genuinely waiting for him to say “let’s call it a day.” Now I’m waiting on him to say “let’s talk dates” for my flight test.

At the moment it seems like a completely rational, sensible, sane idea that I’m heading for my check ride.  I can see the progression in my flying, my knowledge, my decision making processes and my ability to assimilate multiple sources of information.

And then I take a step back and think about the enormity of it all.

I oscillate back and forth between thinking that I’m just a hair breadth away from hitting those standards and it’ll come to me soon. That’ll it be no big deal, I’m safe and proving that to an examiner will be a breeze. And thinking that it’s going to remain tantalisingly out of my grasp. That the chances of me making just one stupid mistake are high enough that I’ll never get there.

I know that Bob thinks I can do it, but I also know he’ll be crossing his fingers the entire time. Because I suspect even he has mixed feelings about this. He’s easy to read sometimes. I can see the satisfaction and respect in his expression when I pull off a flawless takeoff or an impeccable 180 degree turn under the hood.

And then I see the look of exasperation as I do something stupid or his look of mild incomprehension as I hesitate in stalling the plane, despite my ability to recover from them more than adequately. The awkward way he tries to broach the subject of “WMAP-you-really-can’t scream-your-way-through-a-power-on-stall-because-the-examiner-isn’t-going-to-realise-that-you-actually-know-what-you-are-doing-he’s-going-to-assume-you’ve-lost-control-of-the-plane.” Because he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings but at the same time he just can’t understand what the issue is. As far as he can see I know how to recover the plane and I do it every time, if only I could shut my mouth a little!

Yeah I might only have a short time left in my training but it’s going to be intense, that’s for sure.
I’m not sure how all this is going to pan out. Occasionally I let myself dream of that moment when I hear the magic words that mean I’ve finally achieved the impossible.

One thing I do know is that I wouldn’t have been able to get event his far without Bob’s steady encouragement and unwavering belief in me.

And I will miss flying with him.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Minor irritants

A couple of things that irritate me on the ground, all of them to do with the large spinning propeller on the front of the plane.

That prop is lethal, and I treat it as such. With a healthy dose of respect. People have been known to get careless and people have been known to lose their lives.

So why does it seem that I’m the only one who yells “CLEAR!” at the top of her lungs, just before engine start?

I’ve been standing next to planes that have suddenly started their engines. I can assure you that no verbal warning was given beforehand.

On the other hand, when I’ve blasted your eardrums warning you that the big spinney thing is about to start spinning, can you at least acknowledge that you’ve heard me, rather than just wandering seemingly oblivious in front of me?

Seriously, aprons are dangerous places and sometimes you need just as much situational awareness on the ground as you do in the air. I never approach anywhere near a plane with the prop running unless I have visual confirmation that the pilot has seen me.

And passengers need briefing before you go out, to be on the lookout for engines starting.

Let’s all be safe out there, OK?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Something stupid I’ll hopefully never do again.

It was all going so well; the takeoff, the instrument work, the steep turn, the power on stall. All completely passable. Before I’ve really had time to recover my breath, Bob pulls back the power.
I set up for the forced approach. I’ve got a reasonable field picked; long with the option of a diagonal landing if it comes to that. I’m using the 360 technique and orbiting down to try and make it.

It starts to go a little scrappy but I’m determined to keep flying it until the bitter end. As it turns out I don’t quite make it. I come in a little high.

We overshoot. Bob takes control so that I can give him my undivided attention while we discuss what went wrong. In my head I know that I made my turn a little too tight from a little too high and no amount of slipping was going to bring it back. I also know that I thought I was at 30 degrees of flap when in reality I was still at 20 (JES has kind of a stiff flap setting from 20-30, it’s easy to miss).

I fully expect Bob to run through those mistakes with me.

Instead his first sentence freezes me in my seat.

“I didn’t see any engine warming”

I have nothing to say. 

I’m mortified that I’ve overlooked something so basic, something so potentially dangerous.

“I kept an eye on the engine temperature, it was okish but it kind of stuttered on the overshoot.” He adds.

I’m gutted.

That’s an amateur mistake. Rookie error.

And yet in all of this, I know why he let me do it. The shock factor alone of thinking of what could have happened is enough that I’ll never let that happen again.

Bullet dodged. It was a cooler than usual day. Any cooler and; well I don’t like to think about what might have happened.

Sure enough on the next attempt,Bob has to gently chide me for over enthusiastic engine warming.

“Once every 500ft or so is fine.” He reassures me.

Monday, 21 July 2014

I have no idea.

Once I’ve landed I gather up my various cushions and other assorted crap from the plane and head back into the flight school. I throw one of my cushions onto the sofa, narrowly missing an instructor who’s parked himself there and go to fill in the flight sheet. There’s a little bit of haggling over what the initial Hobbs start was, a discrepancy of 0.1 on the official log. I quickly realise that the discrepancy works in my favour, so I don’t push it too much.

Bob wanders back to the computer, pulling up the radar. Obviously keeping an eye on the impending rain showers. He has flights later that day and is presumably trying to get a handle on whether to cancel them or not.

His next student arrives and we chat while I wait for someone from dispatch to process my bill. “So how’s the weather out there?” he asks.

I open my mouth to reply and then shut it again.

I think for a moment.

I’m puzzled. I don’t have an answer.

Then I realise why.

“Sorry, I spent exactly half that flight under the hood, I wasn’t even aware that there was an ‘outside’. I have no idea what the visibility was!” I laugh.

He looks puzzled and then figures out what I’m talking about “Oh you mean the cone thingy”

Of course, he hasn’t had the joy of that particular form of torture and won’t for a long while yet.

Enjoy the ignorance while it lasts! 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Getting there.

I think I might be clawing my way out of the plateau that I’ve found myself in recently. Although I still have things I need to work on, I can look back at my last couple of flights and say “I did that better than last time”

The circuits lesson has obviously solidified my speciality take offs and landings. Today’s lesson called for an obstacle takeoff. I set us up for a static start, develop full power and rotate at the appropriate speed. I hesitate briefly to ensure I have adequate airspeed before hitting the magic best angle of climb speed.  Once Bob calls “obstacle clear,” I transition back to best rate, the only blip being that maybe I retract the flaps a little too early. Maybe 50 feet or so.

“Nicely done,” comments Bob before sticking me under the hood as a reward.

Ditto on the obstacle landing. Despite ATC keeping me at 2000ft until the downwind, when I finally asked them please-can-I-descend-now-because-landing-from-2000ft-is-actually-quite-tricky-thankyouverymuch. I managed my speed, altitude and flaps reasonably well to clear the imaginary obstacle at the threshold and yet still manage to bring her to a full stop before 33. Maybe I needed a couple of squirts of power to bring my descent profile up to where it should be but absolutely nothing major.

I was happy with those, which is good because the speciality takeoffs and landings have been bothering me a little. Up until now I’d never really felt comfortable with them, now Bob and I are confident that I’ve got two out of three of them nailed solidly. Just the soft field one to work on now. I’m hopeful that next lesson I’ll attempt that and be able to add it to my list of things-that-I-know-I-can-do-to-flight-test-standards.

I flew out under the hood, starting a little raggedly but getting it back under control relatively quickly. My 180 degree turn was flawless. After a good while Bob relents and lets me remove the cone of stupidity.

“Where are we please?” he enquires. I dutifully pull out my VTA and try to make sense of what’s in front of me. Initially unsure, I allow the gentle turn I’m in to continue until I’m facing North, double checking that the Lake is indeed behind me. I look out and identify “That built up area is Stoufville.” I point out, “So that water tower there is Goodwood.” I glance back down at my VTA and look back up again “which means Claremont should be……” I glance down again “right off your side. Yep there it is.” I say confidently indicating with my finger.

“Good,” remarks Bob “now set me up for a power on stall.”

No resting on my laurels here then!

We’ll leave the forced approaches for another post but generally it was a good flight. Some things to work on but mostly solid progress.

I can live with that.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Role reversal

Despite the forecast of sunny skies and unlimited ceilings, I woke up to cool and overcast skies. I take a look at the weather sources available to me. The City METAR/TAF looks ok for the morning but I notice an area on the GFA hovering over Hamilton, low ceilings and precipitation. This combined with the fact that the actual winds at City were stronger than forecast, causes me to pause for thought. The weather is going to be fine until the rain hits but when will that be?

There are people who are paid to be better at interpreting the weather than me. So I call them. I get a rundown of the local conditions. Most of which I’m aware of. Then we get to the rain. Amazingly his interpretation agrees with mine, Yes the rain is going to get here earlier than predicted but I should still be good for the length of flight I have planned. I thank him for his take on the conditions.

Then it starts to get a bit weird.

He asks me if I need the NOTAMS, I assure him that I’d reviewed them and was aware of the restricted airspace over the Exhibition Grounds (It’s Indy Race time!). “Oh Ok then,” he says. “In which case, you’re a local pilot, can you tell me how the tower are handling it, I mean they are going to be using the East runway and that’s right on the approach path, right?”

Luckily I can answer that question; I was keeping an eye on the situation yesterday. I explain that they seem to be either turning people on a really wide base and final out over Humber Bay or bringing you in over the city to join mid right downwind.

We end the call with him thanking me for my help!

Hmm a little role reversal there!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Whiskey and poutine.

Rough week at work, not just for me. The answer, as usual was a mass exodus at 4:30 to a local drinking establishment.

One plate of poutine and several Whiskeys later it’s time to try to make our way home.

Our receptionist thinks that “putting drunk people in taxis” needs to be written into her job description and I’m now wanting to curl up under my desk and die.


WMAP (counting down the hours until she can crawl back under the duvet)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Random creepy stuff

This little display is currently sitting outside my office.

Yes, it did freak me out when I was the first one in at 7:00 this morning.

No, I do not know why it is there.

No, I do not want to know.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


My morning routine doesn’t vary much. As I’ve mentioned before I have a tendency towards OCD like behaviour.

I’m normally at work well before my actual start time, simply because I’ve never really figured out how to arrive any later. This gives me a few moments to check up on my blog and hit “publish” on my latest offering.

I take a quick look-see at the statistic pages. Figure out who is reading what, how people ended up on my blog, which bots are trawling it ,what search terms people have used and how many people were actually looking for Russian porn at the time*.

Most of my blog posts are written as batches, I’ll do a flight and even if I  don’t write the posts that instant, I’ll jot down 4 or 5 thoughts, each of which will form the basis for a blog post.

So flying once a week pretty much keeps me in blog posts, one a day, for the entire week.

Or at least it used to.

I’m finding less and less to blog about from each flight because, quite frankly, each flight has less and less to distinguish it from the last. I’m not making stupidly massive mistakes that I can tell you about. There are no “quantum leaps” of learning anymore. No one wants to hear about you holding your altitude to a tolerance of 50ft rather than 100ft. It isn’t actually that interesting.

So I guess one of two things is going to happen here; either I carry on blogging everyday but the posts are less about my flying achievements and maybe more about my everyday life, or I stop blogging as often.

Not sure which way it’s going to go at the moment. I enjoy the writing, so much so that come August when I get some time of work, I’m finally going to start work on that book I’ve been promising myself. The other consideration is that for various reasons my readership (the proper readership, not the porn hunters) has risen 4 fold in the last few months.

I feel I’m short changing them a little.

*Seriously a large percentage of my daily hits are from Russian bots, most of which lead back to porn sites (yes I clicked on one once, by accident. Yes I did need mind bleach afterwards). I have no idea how I came to their attention and I don’t know how to feel about it; insulted? Disgusted? Flattered? 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Wretched hive of scum and villainy

Star Wars fans might think of the Mos Eisley Cantina when they see this quote. For me it’s the ferry to the airport.

Take 100+ people all anxiously wanting to catch their plane, add in the fact that the ferry only runs every 15 minutes and then couple that with the fact that everyone is towing rollaboard luggage* behind them. It’s a touristy mess that brings out the worst in all concerned. Everyone wants to be the first off the ferry, occasionally I will admit to falling into that category. Most of the time I’ve left myself enough time and am in no real hurry. It still annoys me to see stupid people, though.  Like the idiot “stroller brigade” the other day who got the elevator up to the ferry queue, wandered directly to the front and positioned their strollers in such a way that not only would they be blocking anyone trying to get on the ferry ahead of them but also ensured that no one coming off the ferry could get to the elevator either.

Normally I just try to stay out of the way. I’m not trailing luggage and so can nip into the gaps left by people struggling to manoeuvre their cases through a space I could get a Cessna through. But the other day I did take matters in to my own hands. Disgusted by the way people were almost climbing over themselves to shove in front of three people in wheelchairs on the ferry. I let the idiots who had managed to get in front move and then positioned myself in such a way that I formed a physical barrier to anyone else trying to get ahead and thus forced everyone to let those three passengers off first.

You’re all getting on the same damn plane, what’s wrong with you?

* the worst invention ever in the history of air travel if you ask me. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Last woman standing.

Solo flight yesterday, dual flight today. Nice and early to avoid the worst of the afternoon sun and associated thermals. Although I’m a little frustrated about some aspects of my airwork, I’m generally more relaxed about the flights in general. I’m very much calling the shots now. Our briefings pretty much consist of Bob asking me “so what are we doing today then?” He might make suggestions but I’m very much in charge of my own training now.  I’m feeling in control and it feels good!

I’d been mentioning for a while that I wanted to do a circuit lesson. I know that I need to nail those speciality take offs and landings. I also know that I’ve developed some bad habits on landing. I’m tending to land long. Nothing dangerous but, as I admitted shamefacedly to Bob, “It’d be nice to make it off by Foxtrot occasionally”

So circuits it was. Short field, obstacle, take offs and landings all on the cards.
As usual the best laid plans of bringing each circuit to a full stop were scuppered by the enormous volume of traffic. 4 or 5 planes in the circuit, commercial traffic landing and departing and the occasional medevac. All conspiring to keep me in the air. Not a touch and go in sight let alone a stop and go.

I found myself stuck behind a painfully sluggish 152, flying the worlds widest circuits; occasionally by ATCs request, occasionally of their own volition. If planes had brakes, I’d have been standing on them for sure.

The winds being light and variable we hopefully requested stop and goes on 06, but no joy. I kept my mouth shut, dutifully followed the slower plane in front and managed my spacing without any prompting from ATC.

It was hard work for sure, but eventually my persistence and patience was rewarded. The traffic thinned and ATC actually asked me “JES, you were looking for stop and goes earlier. Now we can accommodate, are you still interested?”

I replied in the affirmative and thanked them. I would like to think that eventually good behaviour in the circuit gets rewarded. I wasn’t causing them any problems. I did exactly what they asked me to. I didn’t complain when they overshot me (again!) and trusted them when they had me overshoot with a plane on the runway below me and climbing.

Eventually I was left all on my own in the circuit, rush hour having passed. ATC happily accommodating my requests. I could really see the progress in my short field landings. First one at Foxtrot (oops, not so short I confess to Bob), the next a little better until finally I’m easily down and stopped by 33.

About half way through the lesson as I’m grappling with yet another funky circuit, I turn to Bob and say “well this is fun!!” He scans my face for signs of sarcasm but in truth I’m grinning from ear to ear.
It is totally insane up here and ye I’m still flying sensible circuits. The takeoffs and landings are physically challenging and the mental gymnastics involved in trying to keep my place in the traffic flow are more convoluted than any master logic puzzle.

It is FUN!!!

A wise friend once told me that “no one learns to fly in order to do circuits” but just occasionally there is some fun to be found close to home!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A high standard of maintenance

I’d mentioned before that I was a little anxious about being the first person to fly JES post maintenance.
As it turns out I needn’t have worried. As usual she performed admirably, the pilot; not so much. Not a mechanical problem in sight. And that really is the story of my life with the planes I fly. Despite the shocking abuse they tolerate from us students on a near non-stop daily basis, I have never had a maintenance related issue at all.

Sure the interiors have a look which is well worn at best but the mechanical bits are solid, rugged and well maintained. The important stuff is looked after.

While I’m waiting for maintenance to finish off the paperwork (the plane can’t be released until all the I’s are dotted and t’s crossed), I’m treated to the sight of the owner giving my windows a thorough cleaning. I relish the VIP treatment and silently thank him for not mocking my three milk crate system for getting up to check the wings.

We push the plane outside and I wait on maintenance to return the keys and journey log to me. It’s pleasant on the apron. A gentle breeze keeping temperatures manageable, the general hustle and bustle of a busy airport unfolding in front of me.

Eventually they finish up and bring out the stuff I need to start my flight. The mechanic takes the time to talk me through the entries in the log. Some engine work; compression testing of the cylinders, a replaced wheel bearing, adjustments to the rear seatbelts. Nothing that raises alarm bells.

I thank him for his time and we spend a few minutes chatting. I introduce myself and ask him a little about the work he does. I’m interested in learning more about what’s under the hood of my plane and have some time to spare in August. I mention this and I’m told I’d be more than welcome to come down any time. I intend to take them up on the offer.

Finally, after my flight I take the time to duck back into the hanger to once again thank them for an uneventful flight in JES and chat a little more.

I’m quite excited at the prospect of getting an expert tour of the inner workings of the planes I fly and getting my hands dirty.

Maintenance people are often overlooked in the world of aviation but every uneventful flight starts with a well maintained plane and for that I am very grateful.