Saturday, 4 October 2014

Sight unseen

I’m really ramping up for the inevitable destination of my flight test, despite the weather’s best attempts to foil me.

I’ve done a practice flight test with Bob, which was indeed a valuable experience. Now it’s time for the next big step. A practice flight test with someone else.

That’s a scary prospect, unlike many students who end up with a variety of instructors for various reasons. I’ve only ever flown with Bob and while that’s been a great thing from a confidence and comfort standpoint, it’s a situation that’s going to have to change.

So I threw myself at Bob’s mercy and allowed him to arrange for me to fly with another instructor. I’d never even really spoken to the instructor he picked out for me but I just shrugged and said “trust ya” when he wanted to confirm that his choice was OK.

What else can I do?

So The Other Instructor (TOI as he shall henceforth be known) called me to set up a time for us to meet and fly. Two separate occasions, it’s his preference to do the ground portion on a different day.

Despite the fact that I’m not massively keen on a) talking on the phone and b) flying with someone else, the call went well. He started off with a certain degree of flattery, that he’d heard good things from Bob (ha!) and that he knew I’d worked hard to get here and was very close to my flight test. 

Bizarrely enough he seemed almost eager to fly with me. Hmm that may change in the future!

We agreed on a couple of days, flight first then ground portion. As you may have realised the flight was cancelled due to cruddy weather and crappy ceilings. Even that was weird though, Bob and I have been doing this flying stuff together for over 2 years now. I’ve spent more of my free time with him than any of my friends. We’re comfortable with each other, our communications follow a pattern , a flow. I know when to start bugging him about if we are flying or not, he understands my tentative “so those ceilings are looking a little dicey….” texts.

TOI, not so much. We just don’t have that easy familiarity with each other. I know how long it takes Bob to get to the airport, so I know when we need to make the call. I know if the conditions are marginal but he’s already down at the airport I’ll join him and we’ll stand on the apron together peering at the clouds but if he’s at home, we’ll probably cancel.

I have no idea how TOI works, what his preferences are, so I don’t know when is a reasonable time to be thinking about calling off a flight. Does he do last minute or is he like RTH’s previous instructor and prefer to make the call the day before.

Oh the indecision.

Eventually he prompts me with a “what’s your call about the weather?” text.

I explain that I’m not hopeful, the ceilings look bad but there’s a vague hint of a clearing trend in the TAF and I’m waiting to see if that pans out but I’m not hopeful

His “good decision” makes me a feel a little better.

I get fed up with stalking the TAF and call flight services. They aren’t entirely helpful, although maybe I’m just being picky. Their interpretation of the various TAFS agrees with mine but he does add the fact that the clearing trend might be contained to areas near the lake and that as I come inland the ceilings will drop. I probe a little deeper on this, the TAF calls for scattered at 3000, that could be workable. Scattered isn’t a ceiling as such, I can work above it but that’s of no use if the next layer isn’t much higher.

His next sentence is the one that leaves me baffled, he claims that the air is quite dry so there isn’t much cloud forming above that altitude. I beg to differ, the whole weather pattern is screaming “FOG!!!” It's possible he doesn't have the "look at the window and see what is actually going on" option that I do. In fact it occurs to me that I have no idea where they keep the people that I call on a regular basis. It could well be in a bunker underground for all I know. 

Instead I choose to pay attention to his “Legal but not optimal VFR” summary and dutifully report back to TOI that I’m cancelling.

He’s fine with it; we agree to still meet up for the ground portion later in the week.

And that concludes my first interaction with an instructor that I’m still not 100% I know what he looks like.

It’s going to be interesting for sure.

1 comment:

  1. Flying with a stranger is just another of those many hurdles you've had to cross on your journey to your PPL. I think its good to get that experience out of the way before you sit next to your examiner. Just keep in mind that TOI will be just as sneaky and devious as Bob is. Be confident in your decisions and you'll be fine.