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Life on the Upwind

Okay, so as of June 19th, I am officially a high school graduate!  How exciting!  I’m still in denial that such an incredible chapter in my life has come to a close, but I am eager to start anew! College here I come!  Don’t worry though, I won’t be far.  I have decided to attend the County College of Morris where I live in Randolph studying Business Administration in the fall!  As an undergrad, business is transferable into many degree programs which gives me options in the meantime.

June has been packed full of  emotions!  While I tend to deal with these very privately, it’s inevitable to avoid a mini meltdown once in a while.  Unfortunately Tom was the victim of one of these episodes, but helped me work through it.   For those of your unfamiliar with my situation,  I came from a horrible situation with my last instructor before coming to Fischer.  I was very insecure about my abilities as a pilot which led to a lack of confidence.  I dealt with the fear of ‘not being being good enough” or “not making it” on almost a daily basis.   Not a good mentally to have when your a pilot, where having confidence in your decisions and actions is crucial.  While this was a vulnerable moment, it showed my passion and heart for flying.

After that, I was back on track making more progress then ever.  I was finally able to let go of all the things which were holding me back  so I can now excel forward.  To put it in an aviation perspective, it was like having the carburetor heat on with full power.  You’re still moving forward, but not at the fullest potential.

I finished the aircraft written and pre-solo exam a while ago, so once I completed those, I knew the solo wasn’t far off.  I kept a checklist on my phone of all the stuff I needed to accomplish before the solo so flight by flight something was erased.  This included crosswind takeoff and landings, hood work which i’ll discuss in a bit, pattern entry, emergency procedures, and of course,  engine and instrument failures.  As I progressed, my confidence, attitude, and decision making process did with me.

Recently, I finally completed our little checklist, so what does that mean… it’s time for a stage check to solo.

If you ask me how I feel going into the stage check, I am certainly expecting to undergo a stress test.  To my own surprise though, I feel prepared to handle whatever situation I will undergo.  I know I can rely on my training as I have seen over 60 hours in the sky leading to this point.  I know I can fly the pattern at KCDW and KMMU (not relevant) in my sleep.  At this point, I prefer Tom to stays off the controls as much as possible when were together unless he is  making a demonstration or I need serious help.  Why?.. you ask, I like knowing that the actions I am taking are unassisted, which gives me a piece of mind knowing that very shortly, there will no longer be an experienced instructor sitting next to me.  Every decision and action will be own once I become the Pilot in Command and I feel fully ready to accept that responsibility.

Being that Tomohoro is away, my stage check must wait.  However, that doesn’t mean I have to stop progressing.  One of the things Tom wanted to work on was hood work or simulated instrument flying in hopes to lighten up my grip on the controls.

For never having flown using strictly instruments before, I thought I did well.  Tom even let us practice unusual attitudes.  My understanding is not fully there yet, but I did enjoy learning something new.  To practice this, Tom would say “my aircraft” at which time I would let go of out of the controls, put my chin to my chest, close my eyes and let him disorient me by throwing the aircraft around.  I can feel the changes in pitch and bank but since I couldn’t see, my body would loose track of which attitude we were in.  Tom would then announce “your aircraft” which I would then reply “my aircraft”, put my head up and eyes open to figure based off the instrumentations what action I need to take to recover to straight and level flight.

After fixating on the  instruments, I found myself struggling to switch my focus outside when we went back to flying VFR.  In my head I had to keep repeating to “look outside”.  I handled our entry into the pattern nicely with a smooth landing to end the lesson.  I learned  that a gentle touch can still go a long way, so now I will be sure to  loosen up my grip a bit.   I enjoyed my intro to instruments lesson today and I will keep you posted on solo status.

Lost Procedures, Engine Failures, and Bird Strikes, Oh My!

First, I would like to start by saying that I have never touched a simulator until I came to train at Fischer.  I was certainty out of my element to say the least.  However, I still managed to land to plane safely in a open field during an engine failure and my navigation using the VORs was almost spot on even with a 25kts cross wind.  Tom was impressed but we both know it was more or less accidental to my benefit.  On the sim, we also practiced  spin recoveries and for the grande finale, a bird strike on the final landing!

The whole time, I couldn’t help but to laugh at my mistakes as I quickly found that flying on the sim has a stiff learning curve to it!  It definitely requires a gentle touch, something I am still working to develop.  Whenever I get frustrated or nervous I tend to have a death grip on the yoke.

In my opinion, I think the fact that the sim is unexpected makes it seem more realistic.  While everything seems to be perfectly fine, the next minute an engine fails, there’s a bird strike, or weather worsens.

I would like to be completely honest here.  When I trained under my former instructor,  I always questioned my abilities as I pilot.  I had little confidence in myself and was unsure if I could recover from a potentially fatal situation.  Spending time on the sim put my mind at ease.   I feel far more prepared to handle unexpected and dangerous situations knowing that I can now rely on my training to safely recover.  I have been making so much progress with Tom lately.  I am really looking forward to our lessons as he gives me the desire to learn more.

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Home At Last

It’s official!  I have found my new home at Fischer Aviation and could not be more adamant and excited as I begin training with Tom.  I find it amazing how things have come full circle.   While I did not begin my training here, I will be staying to complete my private certificate.  After coming from a flight club, it’s been a slight adjustment but I know Fischer is the right fit for me.

The story began over a year ago in November 2012 when I took my very first intro flight with Fischer Aviation, which I will never forget.  I don’t think I spoke one word the entire time because I was literally speechless!  While taking to the skies confirmed my love for flying, at the age of 16, I was not prepared to make such a major commitment.   I put flight lessons on the back burner to let the winter pass, but come spring, I was desperate to take to the skies once more.

In May, I managed to join a flight club based out Morristown flying with a part time instructor.  While lessons went well the first few months, I quickly began to experience ‘turbulence in paradise’.  Between availability conflicts and a lack of communication, I decided to leave the club in March to finish training elsewhere.  After struggling with inconsistent training, flying with a school is such a blessing.  I wish I would have made the switch to Fischer Aviation a lot sooner!

Fischer has one thing most flight schools lack; a sense of home.   I don’t know what draws me to Fischer, but it’s a comfortable and friendly environment.  I more happy now than I have ever been before and I look forward to my lessons with Tom.  His laid back teaching style is incredibly helpful and I always take a lot of valuable information away from my lessons.

Home At Last