Flight 9: Basic maneuvers with Tom Fischer (5/2/14)

Note: I’ve moved my blog!  You can find this post here.

I took the entire week off this week and had a “staycation” with the intent of flying as much as possible.  Unfortunately the weather was bad almost all week and Tomoharu needed to travel to Europe for business on Friday.  Since the weather was finally clearing up, even though Tomoharu was gone I wanted to still get some flying in.  What better time than to get a flight in with Tom Fischer, who owns the flight school!  It would be interesting to get the perspective of a different instructor.

During the flight we reviewed basic maneuvers:

  • Slow flight.  I killed this and was able to enter slow flight and fly with the stall horn buzzing while turning to various headings.  I was flying so slowly I was ready for the plane to stall at any moment!
  • Power on stalls.  I was able to enter the maneuver fine, but every time I got the airplane to stall it would go straight into a spin.  Of course, “ain’t nobody got time for that”–apply rudder opposite the direction of the spin and then level the aircraft.  Tom thinks that the reason this would happen is that I wouldn’t let the speed bleed off before pitching for the stall.  I would go straight into a critical angle of attack and keep pulling back until I stalled, meaning that I was stalling at a much higher angle of attack than necessary and thus it was easier to cause a spin.
  • Steep turns.  I did these satisfactorily by using the “two turns of the trim wheel” technique.  After that, Tom asked “so try it now without the trim wheel.”  I had no idea how to do it, so Tom showed me–keep the horizon on a specific part of the dashboard at all times.  It’s that easy!

There were a few other highlights to the lesson:

  • Looking for traffic.  I was a champ at this.  Normally I’m like “hmm, I don’t see it…” but there were three different traffic calls I had to look for and I found all of them–and even handled the ATC communications for them.  Tom tuned us into the NY approach frequency and we heard them talking about us being at the 2 o’clock of an incoming aircraft.  I spotted him and Tom took over and we climbed 1000 feet.  As we watched him pass underneath us, it was clear that we would have come close to colliding with him if both of us just stayed straight-and-level on our paths.  The big sky theory would have you believe that potential collisions are a rare incident, but considering that on my 9th lesson I came into this sort of situation shows you that the sky may not be so big after all, especially around busy airports!
  • Silly (read: stupid) mistake.  When you’re working with an instructor you want to impress and try your best, but sometimes that desire to impress takes too much control and makes you do stupid things.  When we finally taxiied back and it was time to shut off the engine, I couldn’t find on the checklist where the engine shutdown procedure was.  In a rush to not sit there staring at a checklist like a bumbling idiot, I knew what I needed to do–pull the mixture to full lean and throttle to idle–but wait!  I forgot to switch off the avionics before shutting down the engine, and Tom made sure I knew that.  This is the sort of stupid mistake that I need to stop myself from making in the future and I will definitely be on the lookout to safeguard myself against it and to be more authoritative as pilot in command.  I need to stop worrying about what my instructor thinks of me and focus on performing my duties as a pilot safely!  First and foremost, that includes not skipping checklists.  I’m ashamed I made such an elementary mistake, but it’s better I did now than alone without an instructor to correct me.

Overall the flight was a lot of fun, and Tom Fischer has a notably different teaching style than Tomoharu.  There are two main differences:

Tomoharu

  • Talks through things as you’re doing them.
  • Preemptively guides you to act.  If we need to descend to stay below a shelf of Bravo airspace or need to get the weather before landing, he’ll call it out in advance.

Tom Fischer

  • Talks very little.  This was weird to get used to, since Tomoharu is the opposite.  Jodi in the office (Tom’s wife) warned me of this.
  • Observes you and lets you act, likely to see how you respond in certain situations.  He doesn’t tell me “descend so you stay clear of the Bravo” or “you should probably get the weather now,” he just watches me to see if I do it.

It seems from his teaching style that Tom Fischer has much more experience flying with students than Tomoharu.  Tom Fischer’s observation and silence takes balls when you’re flying with a student for the first time.  However, it lets him deduce your strengths and weaknesses from your actions, and regardless he seems to have developed a keen intuition into reading what students are thinking.

One thing I realized is that it is valuable to have both styles of instruction.  Tomoharu’s style of teaching is great because he is quick to point out things to help you learn, and that atmosphere might make you feel more comfortable asking questions.  Also, I’m a “learn by example” kind of guy so learning via repetition and seeing how Tomoharu does things help me better understand how I need to do things.

On the other side, Tom Fischer’s style is very helpful because now that you know all this information he shuts up and gives you a chance to be pilot-in-command.  This lesson I felt like I was given more responsibility than I have been given in any previous lesson.  I climbed when I wanted to what altitude I wanted, turned when I wanted, navigated us to the practice area, navigated us back via pilotage to the airport, stayed clear of the Bravo airspace on my own, and did 90% of talking to ATC (he only stepped in when Tower asked us if we wanted to land on a different runway because of wind conditions).  Both styles of teaching complement each other;  I couldn’t have flown with such authority with Tom Fischer had I not been endowed with Tomoharu’s knowledge.

I didn’t realize I’d uncover so much about teaching styles and how beneficial it is to work with other instructors from time to time from just one lesson with Tom Fischer!