Posts Tagged ‘landings’

Nana Jean faces a challenge

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

After reading a letter to the editor in the June Flight Training about a lack of women and minorities represented in aviation, Jean Moule sent this previously published blog to Editor Ian Twombly. We post it here with her permission.—Ed.

Jean Moule and her flight instructor, Steve Larsen.

Jean Moule and her flight instructor, Steve Larsen.

“75765, is there an instructor on board?” My erratic taxiing had been noted by the control tower. The basics seemed so difficult. Maybe it was a good thing that the threatening weather kept my instructor and me on the ground in our plane.

I stared through the raindrops on the aircraft windshield. Would I ever learn to fly? I have seen my grandchildren and my students begin a difficult task, become frustrated and put the material or task down with a sigh, lacking the will to continue. I have learned how to help them move past the barriers to try again. Could I do that for myself?

Rarely in my adult life have I faced tasks I found challenging beyond learning a new skill on the computer or how to work a new appliance or gadget. And rarely do these tasks have high emotional impact or the kinds of pressure one may experience when the task is complex, cognitively difficult and watched over intently by a teacher.

Perhaps I needed a reminder of such experiences. Five years ago in “Ask Nana Jean” I wrote about my climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and concluded with my desire to reach more heights. Climb another mountain? Learn to fly? And that is how I found myself behind the controls of an airplane, I in the pilot seat and the instructor on controls on the right. Could I reach high places in a plane?

This was my 3rd lesson; this time with a substitute instructor. The checklist with 120 items and a cockpit with a lot more dials than a car seemed bewildering. Afterwards, as I paid for my half hour on the ground my head filled over and over with “Why am I doing this?” I reminded myself: I want to learn to fly…

  •  Because I like heights.
  • Because I want additional perspectives.
  • Because I need exhilaration and a new challenge.

I drove home feeling dejected, the rain and gray clouds matching my mood. I knew that at some point I would have to find the reserves to try again. I tried to encourage myself by thinking about other challenging things I have accomplished:

  •  Remember learning to drive a car?
  • Remember handling an excavator that one time?
  • Remember learning to ski or pull a sled while on ski patrol?
  • Remember learning to teach!

I made a list of resolutions and requests that I believed would help me continue on:

  •  Get a copy of the preflight checklist and go over it at home
  • Get a life-sized poster of the cockpit and practice touching the right switches
  • Ask my instructor to taxi next time to at least get us off the ground

And finally, I remembered the pleasure I receive when my own students begin to grasp a concept that is hard for them. So my final reason for continuing with my lessons? My instructors may feel blessed when their challenging and challenged student finally makes progress. They, too, will have a student whose success they will remember fondly…when she finally leans to fly solo.

Ten days later:

I flew today. My instructor watched as I turned the plane over our house, circled the small town of Lyons where we used to live, flew over the road I take to work. Up and down. Level flight, smooth turns and a deep satisfaction. Now I need to learn to take off and land!

What a contrast to just a few days ago when I almost put down my pilot log-book for good.

My words for myself and others: when the journey gets tough, be strong and continue on. No matter how long it takes.—Jean Moule 

Jean Moule is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

Just ahead in the June issue

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

13_Stall Spin_We’re in the home stretch on production of the June 2013 issue. All the pages go to the printer on Friday, April 19, and your copy begins making its way to you as of May 9. Digital subscribers get theirs May 2, so if you’re one of our readers who can’t wait for the next issue, keep that in mind!

Here’s a quick look at what’s headed your way:

The Not-So-Obvious Cause of Stall/Spin Accidents: You know how your instructor is always trying to get you to make a really nice turn from base to final? Here’s why.

Little Fish in a Big Pond: Have you landed at a primary airport in Class B airspace? No? We’ll show you how to plan and execute such a trip.

Calling Dr. Landing: Common-sense solutions for the same problems that hamper your ability to pull off a greaser.

OK, that’s enough teasers for now. Happy reading—and happy flying!—Jill W. Tallman

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Student or teacher: Which is harder?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

So which is harder: learning to fly, or teaching people how to fly? I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum, and looking back, it’s hard to say.

There are a lot of things in life we have to learn, some which we don’t see the immediate value in or have an interest in, such as learning rote math facts or the difference between verbs, adverbs, and dangling participles. Other things that we learn are the result of optional endeavors, such as learning to play an instrument, painting, and flying. Those optional endeavors are not necessarily easy to learn, but because we choose to do them, they are either fun to learn, or “easier” to learn, because we are motivated to learn them.

Let’s face it. Some parts of learning to fly are easy, and some parts are downright hard. Learning the FARs is rote memorization, and much of it is common-sense stuff: Don’t fly too low over houses and highways; stay out of clouds; and get a good weather briefing. All of these are pretty simple.

Other stuff is much more work-intensive and more difficult to learn, landings being the most obvious one that comes to mind. Everyone has more trouble learning to land than anything else because you simply can’t replicate the same approach (or even the same control inputs and hand-eye reactions) on each attempt. That’s also one of many variables that make teaching landings so challenging.

Every student has certain maneuvers they struggle with more than others. I recall one who was absolutely terrified of steep turns, but had no trouble with stalls and slow flight. Another—a teenager, no less—had so much trouble learning to taxi that we spent an hour one day just following yellow lines and working on using his feet to turn. Talking on the radio comes naturally for some, but creates stage fright for others.

As a student, it’s possible that you will complete your certificate and possibly never take another organized lesson again outside of a flight review.

The CFI, on the other hand, must master not only the private syllabus, but also those of the commercial certificate and the instrument rating. Further, the CFI must also be able to fly and teach these maneuvers all from the right seat, which can be a challenge.

Learning the various maneuvers is one thing, but being able to break down all the material into bite-sized chunks that students can digest is something else. We’ve all had instructors who were better than others, whether it was because of patience or the ability to convey the subject in terms that student can understand. Having had it both ways, I think that learning to fly is more difficult, only because you are getting your initial exposure to so much. You need to learn the terminology, the acronyms, the skills, and so much more. Teaching flying forces you to slow everything down, but at least you already have (or should have) a basic grasp of the material.

Of course, it would be more accurate to say that one of the bigger challenges is learning how to teach people how to fly. Unfortunately, the first several students become the guinea pigs, and the airplane becomes the lab.

What are your thoughts?—Chip Wright