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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rome Wasn't Built in One Day

New Rome

The title of this post sums up exactly how I had been feeling during the early stages of my flight training. My flight slot comes at 3:30 pm every day that I'm scheduled to fly. Those of you with experience know that the afternoon into evening air can be quite bumpy. Never mind the fact that the Archer is a non air-conditioned aircraft, and this is only the beginning of the Texas summer. Add to that an inexperienced pilot such as myself and you can see where learning to properly control an aircraft could become difficult. Even the most basic maneuvers proved a little tricky for awhile.
My last few lessons have consisted of a small review, and then add some maneuvers; repeat the cycle. Those maneuvers consisted of straight and level flight, (surprising difficult at times when your practice area is over a lake) climbs, descents, turns regular and steep, MCA (minimum controllable airspeed, or slow flight), stalls, forced landings and of course there's a takeoff and landing. None of these maneuvers are inherently difficult; however it requires a bit more effort at 3:30 pm than it would at say 8:00 am. My first morning flight was on a calm and clear Sunday at around 10:00am and we flew out and climbed up to 6,500 feet without a gust of wind or bump. I immediately became envious of my fellow pilots that have the freedom to occupy the early morning time slots, but I can say that it is helping me to become a better more proficient pilot. Flying in smooth air is really a piece of cake. So easy in comparison that it actually feels like cheating.

So far so good right? Well yes and no. I'm a competitive person by nature and I expect to perform to the highest level so naturally I expect things to be as close to perfect as they can be. Yes I understand that we are all humans and we will make mistakes but what I'm saying is I prefer to keep those to a minimum. Without any amount of flight hours worth mentioning I expect to be able to perform at the same level of my CFI. Realistic no, but it is a goal that I will continue to work towards. Expecting greatness isn't the problem though. Failing to contain the frustration will we fall short of our own expectations is certainly an issue. And I'll admit I am certainly guilty as charged.
My most problematic area, the most important phase of flight, quickly became landing the airplane. When I dial the radio to 128.57 to check the AWOS I would be willing to bet money that I would hear something similar to "Winds 160 or 150 @ 12 gusting 20". Our active runway you're probably wondering? That would be runway 19 which is one of only two options at Skylark Field. The other of course would be the 180 degree opposite direction runway 1 which I've used for a total of one landing. (Took off on 1 did a touch and go, went out to the practice area came back and for sure the weather had switched back to what I call normal). Out of the considerably small amount of landings I had done, only maybe 5 were in descent wind conditions. Crosswind landings are my normal landings which again isn't necessarily a bad thing, on the rare calm afternoon flying the airplane is a dream. I'm slowly learning to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty.

Crosswind landings from YouTube
Other pilots, including Professional Pilots, have given me constant encouragement which certainly does help. Just knowing that people believe in you or that they have gone through the same emotions is comforting. The most important piece of advice that I have received thus far came from those same conversations. I was told that it's ok to have goals and expectations but to not let those frustrations of falling short affect future performances and training. I was also told by a good friend "there is no such thing as a perfect flight “and he also said "I still make them every flight" referring to mistakes. Composure is the key. Every lesson won't be filled with joy and fun times. Some maneuvers will be more difficult than others and mistakes will be made. However in my experience I've learned that I can learn more from a bad flight, or bad game film, than a complete blowout or a great lesson. There's that glass half full concept again. More importantly we must constantly exercise patience and remind ourselves that even Rome wasn't built in one day. Considering the fact that 1500 hours is for the time being the magic number, pilots in my shoes still have a long way to go, more mistakes to make, plenty to learn, but also pretty of great times to go along with it.

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