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Staying Motivated in Aviation

My apologies in advance if this post ends up being hard to follow, I am mostly shooting from the hip and letting my thoughts flow where they may.

Yesterday I was feeling a little down on myself and posted a tweet/Instagram post about what was on my mind:

In a prime example of what I love about the aviation community, I got three rather prompt responses from people that were exactly what I needed to hear, including one saying I should write a blog post about it, so here we are.

My first thought is that we all need to be more willing to put how we are actually feeling out there.  It is okay if you are not 100% pumped about every aspect of aviation every day.  It’s okay to be frustrated with where you are at, or the lack of progress you are making, and to share that with others.  I think it makes us all a little more human and can help others who may also be struggling to realize that it’s okay.

As I experienced yesterday, there are a lot of people out there that want to support and encourage you, me included, but it is hard to help someone when you don’t know what they need, or that they are even having a hard time.  I find my greatest joys in helping other people, and in talking through decisions that people are making.  There is just something about the act of being involved in someone else’s life, even in some small way, that speaks to the deepest parts of who I am.  I think that is why I have always loved instructing so much.

Admittedly, a lot of my frustration comes from when I look at other people on social media and see all of the fun things that they are doing, and then I get jealous and want to go and do the same things.  I have gotten to do some pretty awesome stuff, but I am always jealous of the people doing other awesome stuff that I want to do too.

I have mentioned before how much I want to get into backcountry flying when I get back to Reno, and I am not doing a good job being patient for that to happen.  I have to remind myself that it will happen someday but that it will take time.  I am in the middle of a year of pilot training, followed by 6 months of C-130 specific training, and that was all part of the plan.  Then when I get back and get settled in then I will be able to start to pursue other avenues that this year and a half of training are opening up.

But I don’t want to wait. (insert pouting child face here)

That can be one of the greatest challenges when we pursue lofty, yet attainable, dreams.  Many of them take a lot of time and effort to actually achieve.  Some people are able to get there faster based on their circumstances, and good for them, but we can’t spend our whole lives comparing ourselves to others.  One of the amazing things about aviation is that there is no one route to get to all of the amazing places it can take you.

My wife was writing a paper for school today about how we need to cultivate our talents and try to figure out what makes us special.  She warned about the dangers of spending too much time comparing ourselves to others, and how that can suck the joy right out of life.  This was not news to me, but there was an interesting article she referenced which suggested that under the right circumstances comparing ourselves to others can actually be a good thing.

If you look at the things you are jealous of, or that you wish you had in your life, you can get a better understanding of the things that matter to you, and potentially where you should set your goals.  This is a dangerous line to walk if you are constantly jealous of “stuff”, but I think it could be a powerful tool if you look at experiences, knowledge, friendships, service, or other virtuous things that you may be jealous of.  In that case you can gain a better understanding of what you value most, and in turn how you might need to change your life to achieve those things.

There is nothing wrong with reaching out to the people you are jealous of and asking how they got there.  In fact, that is exactly what you should do.  Social media allows so much more mentorship than ever existed before, and you are wasting amazing opportunities if you don’t ask.  If you go looking for a quick fix you may find yourself disappointed, but if you are willing to put in the same effort and work that they did, there is nothing stopping you from achieving the same things, and becoming your own version of that person.

I think I will close with the comment from Instagram that inspired this post.

Sarina is an amazing writer, and a fabulous person to follow if you aren’t already, and there is a ton of value in what she said.  It can be hard to find the will to do even the things we love sometimes.  Between work, family, school, and life we don’t always have a ton of time for what we love, and sometimes we just want to rest.  That’s okay.  Just keep loving the things you love, and when you get the motivation, then do it.

I have wanted to be a pilot since I was a little kid, but it took me until I was 36 to get there.  I guess I just needed to wait long enough to have the motivation to do it.  It wasn’t easy, but it has been totally worth it, and it has opened doors that I had thought were closed.  By the time I am done with all of my training I will be 39 and just starting to learn how to do my job.  That thought is both amazing and terrifying to me.

So if you are having a hard time reaching your goals, reach out, ask for help.  Maybe someone can say just the right thing to get you going.  Or maybe you just need to vent a little to someone.  Either way I am happy to listen and to help in any way that I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read my sometimes random thoughts and let me know how I can help you!

December 2, 2019 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.

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.