Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about a flight lesson in which she invited along her college professor. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published
writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.
When and where will I fly? What kind of airplane and with whom? I have not found a regular airplane, CFI, flight school, or field since my one-year favorite shop closed. But it is March, and I am determined to fly at least once a month. I schedule with Lee in Independence. Great instructor and cool airplane.
In the cold wind coming cross-wise onto the airfield, we sit in the cockpit
going over the instrument panel of a Grumman Tiger AA5B owned by Jeanne’s Flight School. We look at the checklist and Lee answers questions, even before we go into the building to grab headsets and begin to check the checklist. Ah, I see. One removes one’s hearing aids before putting on the headsets. Got it.
Except for a glider, this is my first time in a low-wing airplane with a sliding canopy. Feels sort of like a luxury convertible car, tufted fabric seats and all. I told my CFI—my OLD CFI, ’cause that is what his car license plate says—that it reminded me of the time I drove my father’s Maserati. Fits and feels a bit like a glove.
After I made my first radio call at a field without a tower, we were soon
airborne. I enjoyed the handling of the Grumman very much. I hadn’t done any maneuvers in the air in a while. Mostly I just wanted to fly at the controls over the landscape. Lee encouraged me. Play with it, he said. I did a few steep turns and practiced power-off and power-on stalls. A nice review of some basics and I learned much because the airplane was new to me. Just a smooth little airplane with a great view.
We tootled over the Willamette River between Amity to the north and Camp Adair to the south. We stayed between the West Salem hills and the beginnings of the coast range. The cumulus clouds at about 5,000 feet and the late afternoon light toward 5 p.m. gave wonderful definition to the sky and the patterned fields, trees, and standing water. OK, got that needed dose of airtime.
It was a high-wind day, so I turned the ailerons into the wind for taxiing and did a crab on final before landing sideslip to align to the runway.
I smiled as Lee backed the airplane into the hangar of a house on the large airpark residential grid of runways and roads. I remember laughing the first time I saw homes with hangars. Here there are 200. What a community.
My only frown for the day was noting that Lee, like some, charged for ground school, while many instructors base their fee on the Hobbs time on the airplane. My lesson here: It is good to ask before you begin. Then the ending conversation is serious fun too.
I happily headed home, an hour drive away. I had just finished one story on CD and popped a new one into the player. The story opens with a man preflighting a Cessna. Cool, I think. I just flew and now I get a story about flying! Only, in the story, the airplane crashes. It is more ironic than a downer for me. I know it is a story, and I also remember the wise advice of my first flight instructor: Rather than get rattled by news of any crash or airplane incident, try to dig and find out what happened. This has led me to understand that most accidents in small airplanes are caused by pilot error. And two of them are at the top of my list to simply avoid.
First check, and if necessary, double-check that fuel. I remember checking the fuel with a CFI in California. There was plenty for the flight, however the company wanted the airplane full and sent the truck over to fill it. After the top-off, at the CFI’s instruction, we checked the fuel again for water and actual amount. I appreciated the reminder that the pilot in command is ultimately responsible. I will also remember to check that fuel cap and think carefully about the distance and wind direction I plan to fly.
The other caution I have firmly in my mind is to stay away from sketchy weather—which is what did in the pilot in the story I listened to. He was in just too much of a hurry and flew into weather, instrument rating aside, that his airplane could not handle.
While I have much to learn, that advice to check out incident details keeps me ready to take to the air, air sorrows for others in story or for real, not keeping me away.
And of course, having really old CFIs who are solid pilots still in one piece, helps.—Jean Moule
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