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Crosswind Landings: Sometimes you Need a Challenge

I am so freaking pumped right now.

I am getting ahead of myself though.

I was honestly a little frustrated with myself after my last flight on Saturday. All we did was patterns at KRTS and a few down at KRNO, but I was still struggling with my flare. I had a couple of okay landings, but I was really struggling to put all of the pieces together. I wasn’t thinking of quitting or anything, but I was really frustrated with myself.

Last night I stayed up far later than I really should have playing Call of Duty. Not exactly a Sunday game, but I lost to the Browns in Madden so I really needed to take out some more frustration. The relevance of this tangent is that as I was going to bed around midnight I decided that I needed to get back to some good habits that I had let slip over the last month, so I set my alarm for 6 am, and went to sleep.

6 am came around far too early, but I knew I needed to stop making excuses and get up. When I get up in the morning I like to read while my house is still quiet and get my mind going for the day. It was challenging to stay awake and not just go back to sleep but I did it.

I got to work and took care of a handful of things I needed to do. It wasn’t a groundbreaking day by any means, but I was productive, which is always a good thing.

Sitting at my desk I could see that there were blue skies outside so I messaged my CFI to meet up at the airport after work. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, I can now get some flying in after work.

The second habit I needed to get back to was getting exercise. I have been doing terrible at that for the last month, so I left my desk an hour early and went over to the gym for some cardio. I was able to hold a better pace than I expected, which was just another win that I needed. I always feel so much better after exercising, so I can’t figure out why I make so many excuses not to do it.

While I was working out, my CFI messaged me to say that it was a little bumpy but that we could still get some more pattern work in. Bumpy is pretty normal in this part of the world, so I was not to be deterred. I finished my workout, got changed, and headed to the airport.

When I got to the airport the METAR was calling for 3kt winds at 180 which is not anything to be concerned about, but as you can see by the windsock in the picture, that weather reading was just a little bit off. We had a full sock most of the time we were out there so winds were actually more like 15-20 kts. Oh yeah, and it was a direct crosswind.

These were the strongest winds we had experienced at the airport so we talked about positioning controls on the ground for the wind as well as proper crosswind controls on takeoff. Based on my previous attempts I was pretty nervous about how I would perform in even more challenging conditions. But we also chatted about how much better many pilots are in challenging conditions because they are forced to focus more on what they are doing.

We took off and it was indeed a little bumpy with plenty of wind. I actually felt pretty good about my pattern shape and taking the winds into account. Unfortunately, my landings were still sucky. Everything was fine right up until touchdown and then I couldn’t position the plane properly so that we landed smoothly. I landed in a crab once, and my CFI actually had to take the controls once because the nose wheel started to get away from me. As you might imagine, I became even more frustrated and was actually about to suggest we just land and call it a day because I wasn’t sure any valuable training was happening.

Fortunately I didn’t say anything and he gave me the tip that I had finally needed to hear. He once again pointed out that I was still carrying a lot of energy across the threshold and that was leaving too much energy when I would go to flare which was causing me to float. So this time I pulled my power to idle shortly after crossing the threshold at about 50 feet.

Holy crap it worked!

I didn’t end up in the middle of the runway, but both mains landed smoothly and the nose came down relatively smoothly. With only a small correction we came back to centerline and took off again to join a fellow Cherokee in the pattern. It was fun to have someone else out there for the first time. The next landing was even better, and I was much closer to centerline at touchdown.

I finally was feeling better about myself and that I may actually get this down. As we were turning downwind my instructor pointed out that most young pilots wouldn’t even be trying to fly in these conditions, and if the second runway had been open, we likely wouldn’t have done crosswind landings either, but it is closed for construction until the Reno Air Races this fall. I came around with one more solid pattern, pulled power as we crossed the threshold, kicked in some left rudder, lowered that right wing, held back pressure as the speed bled off, and then brought it all back to center right as the mains touched down evenly on centerline. As the nose gear settled to the ground I could feel the excitement surge inside of me and I just wanted to shout with happiness.

Taxiing back to the hangar I was so incredibly pumped. I am sure my instructor noticed the change in my demeanor. After putting her to bed we filled out my log book and talked about preparing to solo. Unfortunately, weather will likely keep me from flying the rest of the week, and then I will be out of town for five days, so this my have been my last flight for the next ten days. That being said, if I have to sit and think about my last landing, at least I had three good ones to end on.

It may seem like the first half of this post has nothing to do with flying, but I am more convinced everyday that everything we do impacts our performance. Sleep, diet, exercise, and mental state all play in to how well you perform, and all of those variables play an even bigger role when you are first starting. In my full-time job I can get by without each of those being at their peak because I have strong enough habit patterns to overcome other deficiencies. I am nowhere near that as a pilot, but after today I feel like I will get to the same level of proficiency someday.

I really can’t even express how excited I am right now, and pissed that the weather sucks the rest of the week. The whole way home I cranked up the radio and would randomly clap my hands together and yell out because I was so excited. It is a side of myself that I don’t show very often, and generally one that I reserve for competing in sports. Maybe that is why I am so excited right now. I feel a little bit like the competitor I used to be. Either way, I am super excited right now, and can’t wait to get back in the air.

March 13, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Becoming a Pilot: Getting Better Each Time You Fly

It is always amazing to me how much of a mental aspect there is in everything that we do in life. We spend so much time talking about skills and abilities, but in the past we pretty much ignored the mental aspects. Fortunately, we are starting to realize how important the mental side is as well.

As I went out for my second flight in the Cherokee, I was a little down on myself because I was struggling so much with landing. It is kind of an important part of flying so I think that added to my frustration.

For this flight we ran through the maneuvers and then headed over to KRNO for some visual patterns there. It was fun to be at a towered field as all of the other work we had done was at the non-towered Stead Airport. I am grateful for all of the time I have in the C-130 to help with all of the radio aspects of flying. I can see it being a ton harder if I was also having to learn that.

After a few patterns I was finally starting to get some relatively smooth landings. Both my CFI and I both realized that the sight picture I was familiar with was in a C-130 where we fly significantly faster and I am also sitting much higher. This was causing me to flare high, float it, and land too firmly.

Once we made that connection I forced myself to push through the ground rush and my landings got even better. Coming back over to Stead, my first landing was a little off adjusting back to the shorter runway, but the second landing was my best one yet.

I was on speed the whole time, I pulled power on-time, flared nicely, and smoothly touched down. We wisely stopped on a winner landing and put the old girl to bed.

We then went back and filled out my information for my student license. Along with my medical I got yesterday, I am finally seeing the reality of becoming a pilot, and I am almost shaking typing those words because I am so excited.

It was just amazing to me the difference it made in analyzing what I was doing and how quickly it could be corrected once we diagnosed it. No matter what you are doing, understanding the mental aspects will always make you better.

I also wanted to share how cool it has been flying around the Stead airport. My CFI owns his plane with his brother so they are a very small “school”, but they seem to know everyone around the airport. On the radios he is constantly talking to people he knows and talking about their planes and where they are flying. It is really one of the best parts of aviation, the community.

On our way out to the practice area, a buddy of his pulled up in his Kit Fox and we flew near each other for a few minutes chatting and just enjoying the wonder of flight. With the snow covered mountains all around us, I just couldn’t imagine how anyone could not absolutely love flying. It is the most incredible, empowering experience I have ever had.

I think the thing that is getting me the most excited about all of this experience is the community I am finally tapping into. If you haven’t been out to your local airfield recently, get out there and make some friends. As awesome as the planes are, it is the people that truly make aviation special.

March 8, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

My Heart was Stolen by a Piper Cherokee

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I made the decision to finally finish up my Private Pilot Certificate. With as much as I love flying and airplanes, it was a more difficult decision than you may think, so let me give you the condensed backstory.

I have wanted to be a pilot my entire life, and through college I did a few small things that would take me in that direction, but I never got it done. After I got married I started working on my certificate, but it quickly became far too expensive and very unrealistic. (On that note, picking a flight school and instructor is a hugely important decision. Please don’t make the same mistake I did and pick the wrong school and end up putting it off for ten years.)

With 7.5 hours in hand I pretty much gave up on becoming a pilot for the time. Life events led me to take a chance at becoming a pilot in the Air Force, but instead I was selected as a navigator. While I was disappointed at the time, I have enjoyed the last 6 years immensely. During my training I logged another 14 or so of student time which actually got me halfway to the certificate, but not there yet.

As life does to many of us, it got in the way and there were simply other priorities. I would like to tell you I should have just sucked it up and done it then, and to be fair I likely could have made different financial decisions and gotten to this point sooner, but the reality is I didn’t and no one is to blame, it was just a choice I made.

Fast forward to about a month ago and I was told that my Guard unit would be having a pilot board for the Navigators in the unit. Initially I didn’t plan on applying because I was continuing to make excuses about being too old, and not wanting to spend more time in training in AETC (Adults Eternally Treated as Children, lol) which is the Air Force command that oversees all training.

One day I asked my boss if I was being stupid to not even apply and he immediately said yes I was. He gave me a bunch of very practical reasons which I could not disagree with. Still not convinced I called a dear friend who is currently in pilot training after having gone through Nav training with me 6 years ago. We spent about an hour talking about the practical reasons to become a pilot like potentially going to an airline someday and simply getting two more years of active duty orders. I finally told him to just tell me what to do, which he declined to do.

The next day I was out flying my beloved Herc and when I landed there was a message from my friend that simply said “Do it.” Surprised by his sudden willingness to tell me what to do I called him to find out why the change of heart. His response is what has led me to this day. He said,

“Dave, for as long as I have known you, you have wanted to be a pilot. Why would you now not even try to do what you have always dreamed of doing?”

Just typing those words again gets me excited. I had spent a bunch of time talking to multiple people about the practical reasons to do it, and they do play an important role in the decision, but what I really needed, and wanted, was to have someone call me on my BS so that I would stop making excuses and do something about my dreams. I will forever be indebted to Brian for being the one to push me out of my comfortable seat and pursue my dreams.

While there is nothing saying I have to get my pilot certificate to apply for the pilot board in my unit, there are two reasons I decided to do it anyway. The first is that I want to distinguish myself from the others applying, because we are all very similar in many ways. The second reason is that this was the opportunity I needed where there was enough incenvtive for my wife to let me take on the financial burden. Thanks sweetie.

Life is still such that I couldn’t just go the next day and start flying, but I was committed to finding a way to make it happen. With the help of a good tax return, and the support of my incredible wife, I came up with a plan to make it happen. The only thing stopping me when I got back from a trip for work was weather, and wouldn’t you know we had the two biggest snow storms of the year within days of my return.

Since I am no longer in the excuses business, all I can say is that I had to start a few days later, but the scenery all covered in white looks spectacular from the air.

Yesterday, I finally did it and got back up in the air. I spent 2.6 hours in a stunning 1964 Piper Cherokee, and she has completely stolen my heart. We had a few rough spots on that first day, but overall, it was the most incredible feeling. I really can’t even put into words how excited I am right now.

As you might expect after 6 years away from flying, I was a bit rusty on some maneuvers, but for the most part it all went pretty well. For my own personal accountability these are some of the areas I struggled with:

Using the rudder consistently

Transitioning from descent to touchdown on landing

Holding a steady sight picture when doing steep turns

Getting deep into the stalls and not just recovering at the first buffet

Fortunately, I ended the day on my best landing and I put some of the pieces together that my CFI had been telling me to finish on a high note. It was also the first work I had done at a non-towered field, but my past experience certainly helped me out in that area.

All in all it was just such an incredible first flight back at it. As I mentioned in my last post, my goal is to finish by the end of the month, whether that means I am done in time for the board or not. As far as I am concerned, the only thing that will stop me is weather, or scheduling issues. I refuse to not take control of the things I want in life, and continue to believe that every one else is what is keeping me from pursuing my dreams instead of just myself.

If there is anything I can do to support you in your dreams, even if it is just moral support, please don’t hesitate to ask because helping each other out is the way of avgeeks, and the only way we are going to grow this amazing industry.

March 6, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Tomorrow I Return to the Skies

That title may seem a little unusual seeing as how I fly pretty regularly, two times this weekend in fact. But, the difference tomorrow is that I will once again be at the controls of the aircraft.

It has been about seven years since I was last at the controls of the Mighty Katana (DA-20) at IFS for the Air Force. But after lots of waiting, the time is right for me to get it done.

What has changed in my life you may ask to allow for such a change in my pursuit of a lifelong dream? Absolutely nothing, other than that I can wait no longer, and I simply have to do it or I may just burst with regret.

I have been reading a lot of business books recently and listening to a lot of podcasts in the same realm, and the one thing that always sticks with me about these successful people is that they just go for it. It isn’t just throwing life to the wind and seeing where it falls, but it does involve not making any more excuses and going after what you are most passionate about. Just typing this out on my phone is getting me super excited. I may not sleep well tonight.

To be honest, the timing is not perfect, and the financial side of it is somewhat tenuous, but I refuse to wait any longer. To give a couple of my favorite references, in the movie Rudy his friend Pete tells him that, “dreams are what make life tolerable”, and we all know what that led to. If you don’t, go watch the movie because it is one of the best ever.

The other story is from when I was finishing up high school. My sister told me that most people don’t pursue what they really want because it will take work, or money, or most commonly, time. However, after the three or four years it would have taken to pursue their dream, those same people are in the same place doing the same crap. I don’t want to be that person.

I want to inspire other people. I want people to know that where there is a will there truly is a way. I want people to get out and fly because there is truly nothing like it in the world, and while many people fly commercially, it is a whole different world when you are the one at the controls.

I promise that I will be better about writing during this process, mostly because I want to put my thoughts out in text to analyze how to get better, and how to prepare. I also hope that maybe somebody else will look at this 36 year old and realize they can go do it too.

What finally tipped me over the edge was talking to a dear friend of mine that told me, “Dave, as long as I have known you, you have wanted to be a pilot. Why would you not do it now when you have the opportunity?” Like I said before, I don’t have this whole thing 100% figured out, but dang it, I am going to find a way to finally pursue my dream.

Wish me luck!

March 4, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Creating Change in Aviation

Recently I have been reading a lot of books and listening to a lot of podcasts about business and personal development. There are some incredibly inspiring stories out there that I just sit in awe of as I hear them play out.

All of these people do amazing things to make the world a better place and to pursue their passions. Many of them make ridiculous amounts of money, but the part that always strikes a chord with me is how happy and fulfilled they all seem, and how that only inspires them to help more.

The person who is quickly inspiring me the most is Gary Vaynerchuk. If you haven’t heard the name you really should look him up on Twitter or Instagram or on his blog or podcast. The man has made his whole life around helping other people succeed and find happiness, and in turn, he has found unbelievable success. He also just released his fifth book, which is what inspired me to write this post.

The book is entitled Crushing It! and I have been enjoying it thoroughly since I got it. I will spare you the review for the time being and simply share the thoughts that it inspired in me as I read. Forgive me if they seem a little disjointed, but I wanted to share them now while they were fresh in my mind and heart.

He talks a lot about having a passion, which I honestly do have for aviation, as well as teaching, but he also talks a lot about providing value to customers, or as I see it, the people you care about, whether they be customers, or people you want to inspire, or people you want to help. Only when you provide value can you possibly have any real, lasting impact on the world.

I feel like this is an area I struggle with.

I want to provide value, but I often feel like there are people in aviation who simply know more than me, or that have more to offer than me so I will just keep quiet and let them do it. While there are tons of people who know more than me, I still have value to provide to the community, I just need to figure out what my niche is. Maybe it is the lesser known parts of the industry, seeing as how I am a navigator who has a very small, and shrinking, footprint in the industry. However, it is often some of the smallest footprints that can have the biggest impact when the time is right.

The area that I would like to create an impact in, is in the creation of pilots. I intentionally didn’t use the term flight training because I think we need to change the conversation and stop just looking at the problem or else we will never see the solution (one of my favorite scenes in the movie Patch Adams if you recognize the concept). I could be wrong, but not a whole lot has changed in the realm of pilot training in decades. Sure sims are becoming more common, and there are some cool advances in VR that may bear some fruit, but at its heart, it is still the same process.

Change for the sake of change is never a good idea, but it seems apparent to me that the creation of pilots could use an overhaul. I don’t know what exactly that looks like, but I find I learn more and create when I vocalize and discuss, so that is what I am trying to do here. I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts on the matter.

One idea I had was to create a system where students are able to get their early ratings, or maybe even all the way to an ATP, on a sort of scholarship fund that funds itself on a portion of the pilot’s salary from their dream airline job for maybe 10 years or something, just to throw out a number. It would obviously need a starting seed fund, and would take some time to bear real fruits, but I have learned that the best organizations are built around a community that cares about each other, and that is something I don’t think the aviation community takes advantage of nearly enough. Sure we are friendly with each other, for the most part, and we are happy to share a $100 hamburger run together, but I think there is a lot more we could do to truly foster and mentor the younger generation. Interest in aviation as a whole has waned as air travel has become more commonplace, and only the effort and passion of those of us that love it will ever re-excite this generation.

Another area that intrigues me is in fostering the growth of aviation in developing countries. Admittedly, flying a plane is a bit of a stretch for people who hardly have food and water, but if we can educate and inspire these people they will inevitably be the tide that raises all of the other boats around them. This doesn’t even necessarily have as much to do with flying as it does with teaching skills to these people in line with an education that will help them truly change the world. This train of thought definitely stems from having recently read the incredibly inspiring The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun, who has built hundreds of schools in some of the most poor parts of the world to allow kids to pursue their dreams of an education. Another must read if you enjoy learning about the greatness of people and the good going on in the world. They want to learn so bad that we are missing a great opportunity by not teaching them the skills that would dramatically change their lives forever. These thoughts may be straying from my message a little, but I wanted to share all of the insights I had today.

Originally I had one more thought, but decided it should have its own post so you can see that later, along with a sweet video I filmed on my flight today.

As you see, I don’t have some grand design to solve the pilot shortage, but I wanted to share my thoughts in a forum where maybe we can have some discussion. I just love this industry so much, and I hate the idea that anyone who truly loves it should not be able to be a part of it for something as trivial as money. There is plenty of that out there if we can just direct it properly.

Thank you for humoring me, assuming you made it this far, and I look forward to having some dialogue on the subject.

February 1, 2018 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Chair Flying May be the Best Free Thing You Can Do to Be a Better Pilot

Who would have guessed that something so simple could be one of your greatest assets toward becoming a better pilot?

Who would have guessed that something so simple could be one of your greatest assets toward becoming a better pilot?

Learning to fly is expensive.

I say that a lot, and so do a lot of other people who are associated with flying because it really is.  In the never-ending effort to reduce the cost of becoming a pilot there is something that anyone can do that I promise will save you time and in turn money.

Chair flying is a learning tool that is utilized by pilots in all stages of flying that has an incredible impact on your abilities as a pilot.  It is an amazing way to learn flows, checklists, improve your radio communications, and everything else it takes to be a pilot.  Something that can be that beneficial must be some complicated system that you have to pay a bunch of money for, right?  Wrong.

Let me take you through the simplest form of chair flying.

You sit in a chair and go through every single step of a flight in your mind.  The end.

At its heart, it really is that simple, but it can be more effective with a few basic tweaks.  Find somewhere quiet where you aren’t going to be distracted by a TV or other conversations.  Have your checklist, kneeboard, or whatever other things you fly with close at hand.  You may even put on your headset to block out the noise and make it feel more real.  Another asset that can really improve the experience is a printout of the cockpit in which you will be flying.  Even pulling an image up on your computer screen can be beneficial.

Then simply go through every step of your flight from beginning to end.  That means start from the moment you walk up to the airplane and go through how you will untie it, or get it out of the hangar, and do your external inspection.  Think about opening the door and where you will put everything (commonly referred to as building your nest) and how you will set everything up to get ready to fly.  Think through each step of the pre-flight including any radio calls or systems checks you would do if you were actually flying.

Go through engine start actually touching each of the switches and dials on your printout or computer screen that you will be manipulating or monitoring including in your mind what you expect to see from all of the gauges.  Make the radio call to ground when ready to taxi and lift your feet to release the brakes moving your hand forward to increase the throttle.  Look left and right to clear for traffic and adjust the throttle as necessary.

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.  Even just writing this out got me in the mindset of flying and each of the steps that I go through every single time I fly.  It helps in building that muscle memory, and maybe more importantly, a mental memory of repeating those tasks over and over again until it just becomes second nature.  That way when you get in the plane you will have an even better understanding of what you will be doing and you should feel less stressed.

This is exactly why we have crew briefings in the military.  We go through every step of each mission thoroughly to make sure that we are all on the same page.  Some things are covered multiple times in separate briefings to reinforce their importance.  For more complex missions we often spend days going over the mission to ensure that every crew member fully understands their role.

Now flying a 172 into a small airport after an hour is not as complex as a multi-ship formation flight that can cover many hours, but the principle is equally effective no matter what you are flying.  One of the best parts about it, is that it is 100% free.  If you know you are struggling with a certain task, say stalls, then while you are eating your breakfast walk through each of the steps in your mind considering how your hands and feet will move, what you will hear, and what you will see.  After doing it right in your mind, do it again and again until it just becomes second nature.

Becoming a good pilot is a never-ending process of learning and growth that requires dedication to that improvement.  It is not always feasible to get out and fly everyday for 3-4 hours, unfortunately, but it is possible to spend time every day going through the motions in your mind so that you will be ready when you do finally get to slip the surly bonds of the earth and take flight.

February 13, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Discipline and Positivity Will Help Improve the Pilot Population as Much as Anything

Conditions are often not ideal, but when you work amongst positive people you can do amazing things.

Conditions are often not ideal, but when you work amongst positive people you can do amazing things.

There is an article I have seen circulating on social media about the pilot shortage and how airlines have largely brought it upon themselves through the way they treat their pilots.  While I don’t doubt that the airlines couldn’t treat all of their employees better (what company outside of Google couldn’t?), I found the article to be mostly a bunch of whining with a whole lot of contradiction.

The one area that I wholeheartedly agree with is that flying is becoming too darn expensive for the vast majority of people to pursue.  A select few may be able to secure scholarships, have rich parents, or survive a career in the military before going to an airline, but for the rest it will be a massive financial sacrifice to secure a good job flying planes.  No matter how much pride or excitement someone has for flying, if you can’t afford it, it will never happen.  That is the real challenge when it comes to people not becoming pilots.  I know it has been for me.

It all went downhill from there.

She goes on to mention how airline executives talked a lot about discipline in last week’s IATA conference and how that translates into cutting costs and charging passengers more.  However, the definition of discipline she provided was, “requiring punishment for bad behavior…”  So who exactly behaved badly here, the passengers who are being punished with increased fares and fees, or…yeah, I don’t see anybody else mentioned in the following paragraphs except for employees.  That is the real focus of the rest of the article.

I find it interesting that she chose to use that definition of discipline since she followed that up with plenty of examples of employees that could use a little discipline of the type she mentioned.  She also states that, “discipline is something you force, not something you earn.”  Which I completely disagree with because of the definition of discipline that I feel is far more applicable in this situation.  I prefer, “willing behavior in accord with rules of conduct.”  This likely stems from my military background and how I have seen both good and poor discipline affect outcomes. 

"Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world."

“Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”

When personal discipline is present amazing things can be accomplished and the organization as a whole functions more efficiently, and with higher morale.  The exact opposite occurs when a lack of discipline is exhibited, which is when her definition of discipline comes into play.  Personal discipline is in fact earned through hard work and determination to do your very best against all odds.  It is exactly the type of discipline that allows the diligent pilot to wade through all of the crap the article mentions to get to that cockpit they dreamed about their whole life. 

If that discipline then fades away because of the actions of an employer, that is an indictment of the individual, not the employer.  So you don’t make a ton of money at first, neither do most people coming out of college with mountains of student loan debt.  You have to spend time away from your family?  So does every military member in the world, and I’m not just talking about deployments.  But that was part of the job I signed up for and I knew what I was getting into.  If you didn’t take the time to understand the demands of the industry you are entering then once again, that is your problem, not your employer’s.

A story is then shared about having a vacation cut short by the company that was scheduled by the company at the expense of the author.  That really sucks, and if I was there when you had to cut your vacation short I would empathize with you, and probably agree with your complaints, and then go about doing my job the right way, because that is the kind of discipline that makes a successful company from the bottom to the top.  Instead she proceeds to describe how she regularly wasted company resources such as fuel by extending flights, provided poor customer service because “why should I care about the passenger who will miss the connection…”, and brags about how, “there are things I could and did do which cost the company thousands…”.

She submits that employees “aren’t doing anything wrong” when they act in these ways but therein lies the problem.  Just because you haven’t technically broken any rules does not mean you didn’t do anything wrong.  In fact the greatest contradiction in the article came right before that last quote, and it was easy to spot because it included the word “but”, “I was proud of my position, and I have a deep appreciation for my comrades, so I would never do anything to harm my professionalism, but there are things I could and did do which cost the company thousands…”

You are not proud of your position when you reject your own personal discipline in favor of petty retaliation that has no impact on the person that upset you.  There is no professionalism in admittedly costing your company thousands of dollars because you didn’t like the way you were treated.  We all have aspects of our jobs that suck, but you deal with it if it means enough to you, or you find a new profession.  Discipline is not just punishment, it is a willingness and determination to do your best and to do the right thing because that is who YOU are, not because everyone else gives you what you want, or what you think you deserve.  That is what true pride in your position entails, standing tall because you did your absolute best despite the challenges you faced.

We live in a world right now where people call foul when everything doesn’t go quite their way, even when they signed up for it.  Many people are quick to point out the shortfalls of an industry or company or person, and want to place the blame for everything squarely on somebody else’s shoulders.  Nobody wants to take accountability for the role they played in the situation no matter how minor.  It is no wonder that we see this in our leaders because so many of us exhibit it ourselves.

Fortunately, she actually provided the answer to her own contradictions near the very end of the article, and I could not agree more with the assessment.  “Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”  WOW!  Those are powerful words that could not be more true.

The only way the next generation will be as passionate about aviation as we are is if we exhibited pride in our profession and discipline in our actions.

The only way the next generation will be as passionate about aviation as we are is if we exhibit pride in our profession and discipline in our actions.

If you stop and think for a minute, almost all of us can think of at least one person, if not many, that had a positive influence on our life that changed our world.  Maybe it was a teacher, coach, or family member, but their “positive ideology” inspired us to set and achieve goals that we never thought possible.  We saw the impact they had on us and we wanted to be like them.

We wanted to have an impact for good, but somewhere along the way many of us lost sight of that.  Instead we focus on the things that suck and how we were wronged by this person, or that stupid supervisor, or some company that screwed us over, and that is the ideology we have chosen to sell to anyone that will listen.  The relative anonymity of the internet has allowed us to project that negativity in ways never before possible, but there is absolutely no reason we can’t turn the tables  back in the other direction.

We can look at people like Ron Rapp who is quick to call out the FAA and other organizations when they damage the industry he has such a passion for, but also immediately follows that up with a solution that will meet the intent of proposed changes while at the same time improving the industry as a whole.

Or Eric Auxier who actively promotes the wonders of aviation to anyone that will listen.  He acknowledges the challenges he has faced, and continues to face, but chooses to have a positive outlook and focus on the good.

To quote something attributed to Abraham Lincoln in the movie Pollyanna , “If you look for the good, you will surely find it.”  That is true of everything in life, but is something that can be a great challenge if you never look for it.  It takes a concerted effort to get past all of the crap that happens and choose to focus on the good.

It bears repeating what the author said near the end of her article because it is the message she should have shared instead of the paragraphs of complaining and negativity that she chose to focus on.  I will be the first to admit that I struggle with this same challenge, which is maybe why I was so quick to recognize it, but all of us would be a lot happier, and our industry would be a lot more appealing if each of us would commit to the following phrase:

“Just a few people with a positive ideology can change the world.”

June 17, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Lessons Learned: Flying for Others Can be Better than Flying for Yourself

Flying is an interesting hobby as it is generally one that is limited in how many people you can include, but at the same time is an incredibly tight-knit, and large, community.

Unless you have the means to own a private jet or even a large twin, you are really limited to only about 2-3 other people coming along in your plane, if that.  However, fly-ins can bring together dozens, or even hundreds, of people who are passionate about flying.  Look at events like AirVenture in OshKosh where tens of thousands gather every year and it is clear that aviation is really a giant family.

Given the time of year, there have been a number of great articles talking about organizations that utilize planes to do good for others.  Ron Rapp wrote a great piece about avgeeks who are “the best” because of the charitable work that they perform using their aircraft.  Cap’n Aux also gave us a great look at individuals who opened their hearts to support others who may have personal struggles through the wonder that is aviation.

Both of these stories are great examples of the huge hearts that aviators have, and their amazing willingness to help other people.  It made me wish that I was in a better position to help in the ways that these great men have.  But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I have done at least a little good.

Just last weekend I spent about 15 hours flying during which I got essentially no training, but facilitated the training of 18 aeromedical personnel.  I have performed three such trips in the last year including one which included returning 7 wounded military members to their home states.

This week I am at Ft. Benning, GA supporting the Basic Airborne Course (look for more on this next week) which will provide the training for about 400 soldiers to get their jump wings.  This is the third time I have done that this year.

I don’t say all of this to toot my own horn, but to point out that we often overlook the good that we are doing because we consider it to be insignificant.  All I did last weekend was get the plane where we needed to go, but that allowed for training that could not have been received on the ground.

I was also the beneficiary of a generous pilot this weekend when my friend took me up in his Piper Cub for a little fun VFR flying.  It proved to be a short trip because of high winds, but it was some of the most fun flying I have ever done, and it further deepened my commitment to getting my PPL during the first of next year so that I can help others to enjoy the liberating feeling of small aircraft VFR flying.

It was a small thing to my friend, but it was a big deal to me.  Each of us avgeeks has the ability to do these great things, and I am sure most of us do them without even realizing it.

Much has been written about aviators asking others to go with them and have some fun flying, but I would like to turn the tables just a little.  I would strongly encourage anyone that is longing to get up and fly to ask any pilot you know to take you up the next time they go.  If you don’t know a pilot then head down to your local FBO and hang around for a little while.  You will inevitably make a few new friends and get that ride you have been longing for.

As I mentioned before, we aviators are really just one big family that is anxious to help our fellow aviators in any way we can.  Most pilots would love a little company when they go flying if you will only ask.  Don’t be afraid to ask because as most flyers will tell you, the stories are so much more fun when they are stories that you have shared with someone else.

November 30, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Precision Makes All the Difference in the World When Flying

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

I have been actively flying in the Air Force for only a little over three years which makes me pretty much a baby in so many ways.  For that reason I have decided I need to start analyzing the things that happen on my flights and ensure that I am taking advantage of every opportunity I have to learn.

The reason I am writing these lessons here is that I am hoping to get feedback from others on lessons they may have learned in similar situations or maybe even totally different ones.  I have always thought that part of being an aviator is sharing thoughts and ideas to make us all better.  Conveniently, I had a good learning experience just last night to share.

So as the navigator on the C-130 it is my responsibility to ensure that the pilots take us to the right spot for us to kick a load out the back and fall where I want it on a drop zone.  In the real world this could be anything from heavy vehicles, people, ammunition, water, food, to pretty much anything that a warrior on the ground could need.

As you might imagine, it is critical that the load falls where it is needed so that it can be quickly retrieved and minimize the amount of time that the people on the ground are in danger.  While there are certain aspects of the process that are somewhat scientific, a lot of it is based on the experience and expertise of the navigator directing the plane where it needs to be at the right time.

With all of that being said, the C-130 is a crew aircraft and it takes all of us working together to get that load where it needs to be.

On a crew of 6 we had two females.  We need more of that.

On a crew of 6 we had two females. We need more of that.

So last night we executed a quality route to an airdrop which led to me calling for the drop at just the right time at which point the co-pilot is supposed to flip two switches, releasing the load so that it lands right on the desired point of impact in the center of the drop zone.

What actually happened was that the co-pilot flipped one switch and the load didn’t immediately go out.  As I said before though, I am on a crew aircraft, and the loadmaster did her job and released the load, albeit about 1.5 seconds later.  That may not seem like much, but when we received our score it was 150 yards past the point of impact.

That means that in a real-world situation the people on the ground would have had to travel about a football field and a half to get their supplies while possibly under fire from the enemy.  I think it’s pretty obvious to see why that is not ideal.

As with any time that I don’t get the score I am looking for (perfection) I began to analyze what had happened to correct it for the next drop.  Did the winds change?  Was the plane not in position?  Did I make the call late?  It could be any number of reasons, but in the end I am trying to learn and I really couldn’t come up with anything other than maybe I just called it a couple of seconds late.  So that was the adjustment I decided to make.

Unfortunately, neither the co-pilot nor the load master had told me what had happened so when the next drop came around I ended up dropping almost the same distance from the point of impact, but short instead of long.  It wasn’t until we landed an hour later that I found out what had happened, and it all came together in my mind.

Part of flying is enjoying the scenery, which you can't do if you aren't being precise.

Part of flying is enjoying the scenery, which you can’t do if you aren’t being precise.

So there are really two lessons that came from this experience, one of which I didn’t even think of until I started writing so I guess this whole idea is working for me.  The first lesson is something I have already written about in the past, crew resource management (CRM).  We talk about CRM before every single flight and this just reinforced to me how essential it is at all times.

The second lesson is how important it is to be precise at all times when flying.  In this situation it could mean a really long run for needed supplies.  During takeoff it could mean hitting a fence or tree because you didn’t climb fast enough.  On landing, it could mean you don’t quite make it to the runway which could have terrible results.

The point is not to scare anyone, but to re-emphasize how important it is to be precise in everything that you do as a flyer.  Don’t accept short cuts or a lack of precision from the people you fly with.  Set standards for yourself and when you don’t meet them analyze how you could have done better.  Ask for feedback from other people you fly with and apply it.

Being a true aviator means you never stop learning, and always work at improving yourself.

October 7, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

The Many Faces of a Flying Career

Weather can affect your flying in unexpected ways so learn how to deal with it.

Weather can affect your flying in unexpected ways so learn how to deal with it.

I think most of us grow up dreaming about flying fighter jets or jumbo jets high in the sky, or fast through the mountains.  That is exactly the way it works out for some people, and for other people it works out for them flying smaller planes in remote destinations that they love more than they ever expected.

I know my aviation career hasn’t followed the path that I thought it would, and I’m okay with that.  In fact, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized how much I actually loved aviation.

I’ve worked in aviation for about 7 years now in a number of different roles, and there has been good and bad in all of them.  Working at an FBO provided an opportunity to see some incredible planes, meet some famous people, and becoming friends with people who changed my life.

In my four years in the Air Force I have met some incredible people, visited some incredible locations, and experienced some incredible struggles.  That is the part of a career in aviation that most people don’t tell you about.

Before I go any further let me be totally clear that I feel it is completely worth it, but there are some aspects that I had never anticipated.

I have spent far more time in a classroom than I have a cockpit.  Now maybe that is more of a factor in the military flying community, but either way you have to be ready to do a lot of learning.  That learning also never really stops.  Whether you are a weekend flyer, or a 747 pilot, if you want to be good at what you do then you can’t ever stop learning about flying.

There is also a lot more to learn about than just stick and rudder skills.  In fact, there is more to learn about flying than just flying.  There are all kinds of other areas that you can learn about to make you a true aviator rather than just a pilot.

Safety is one of the biggest topics you need to spend time learning about.  Read accident reports and learn as much as you can from others’ mistakes.  I know some pilots are intimidated by those types of things, but it can only make you better.

The reason this is on my mind right now is I am currently attending a two-week power point fest that makes me fall asleep just thinking about it.  However, it is an essential part of my career that will open doors that would otherwise be inaccessible.

It is entirely possible that something I learn during this training could save my crew’s lives someday.  Hopefully, I will never have to use any of it and we will remain safe anyways, but it is reassuring to me to know that the knowledge will be there in case I ever need it.

I guess what I am trying to say is to not be afraid of the many aspects of becoming an aviator, but to embrace those opportunities to learn.  With any luck you will never have to use it, but just ask Capt Sullenberger’s passengers if they are glad he took some extra training.

July 15, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.