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Patience, Pivot, and Persistence: Get a new Certificate/Rating during COVID

Two steps forward and one step back. In early January I took the written exam for the Commercial certificate. I scored a healthy 86% and was anxious to get in the airplane to learn and master the Commercial maneuvers with the goal of a check ride by my birthday at the end of March.

We all know what happened next. As pilots we have had to exhibit some patience in order to try to tamp down the outbreak of the Corona virus. I would like to give a big shout out to my instructors, Mike Jesch [primary] and Christopher Keran [night] and my DPE Dave Koebel. We all had to exhibit patience, pivot and persistence. I am happy to report that on July 5th I took and passed my Commercial check ride in Hood River, Oregon. I hope that understanding and applying the following principles will help you to reach your aviation goals in 2020 and beyond.

The key to living in these times, psychologically speaking, is the use of Three P’s:

  • Patience

  • Pivot

  • Persistence

    Mt. Shasta en route to Hood River, Oregon

Patience

To say that these are unprecedented times would be an understatement. Our entire sense of “normal” has vanished like the many scheduled events on our flying calendars. Additionally with many working from home, off work, or recovering from illness, our ability to define normalcy has been decimated.

Personally I had two opposing forces; my desire to complete my training and achieve the Commercial; and my psychotherapy practice that was busier than ever. At the beginning of the pandemic I could have worked seeing clients virtually 24/7. There was [and is] so much need for psychological care. I had to develop some patience during this early transition to “COVID-normal”. Eventually I was able to strike a balance between work, study, and a personal life.

It is safe to say you haven’t lived through a global pandemic of this magnitude, so what I am about to say might seem a little strange. Let yourself be a learner; give yourself some grace. As information changes, life changes, and your feelings change, remind yourself that you are back to being a student-of-life. Try to show patience to yourself and others, as we all process at our own pace.

Pivot

Humans react differently to stress and trauma. For many the “shock” phase, in which the person feels foggy and is keen to deny reality, lasts longer. There comes a time where the shock wears off and we have to make new plans that line up with the new reality. This is where the concept of Pivot comes in. Flexibility is the key in learning to pivot.  Like many of you, I had a timeline for my new rating. Then 2020 said, “Hold my beer” and those plans that included in-cockpit instruction were out the window. Time to change course and do as much as I could on my own.

 

I used King Schools for my Commercial ticket. Luckily the online content was up-to-date and very complete. Another added benefit of quarantine was that so many outlets [AOPA, EAA, FAAST, Social Flight, etc.] were offering educational content. Owning my plane provided a major advantage during COVID. I was able to practice maneuvers and get the night cross country and required night landings in all while being in complete control of my aircraft environment.

Getting ready for check ride

 

Persistence

As days turned in to months in our COVID-normal, I found myself drifting a bit. In the “before-times” I used to work really hard, so I could play hard at aviation events. Now the play was all gone, replaced by work, work, work, then zombie. You see, when you are staring at a screen all day your brain downshifts your body to zombie mode. Yet other parts of your brain are on high alert, keenly aware you are working, being observed and on-camera. The combination of sitting for long periods, body on zombie, brain on high alert leads rather quickly to exhaustion or burn out.

After I finished my day, mustered up something to eat, and took my pup Mooney out for a walk, the idea of watching another Zoom video, or online education video just made me cringe. Another factor was that my attention span was about 20 minutes. What I had to do was exhibit Persistence. I set small goals for myself; every day I would do at least one thing that would make me a better pilot.

On approach in Bakersfield, CA.

In late May I talked with my CFI Mike Jesch about his feelings about resuming flight instruction. We agreed to wear our masks, disinfect the yoke/instruments, to use our own headsets and to be as socially distant as one can. We started up the flight training, specifically on the maneuvers. I had watched the King Commercial check ride prep videos repeatedly, read the Airplane Flying Handbook and did a fair amount of ground prep. CFI Chris Keran was on board for the night dual, which turned out to be a hoot from Santa Maria, to Bakersfield, then Fresno, CA.

Finally back in the air with Mike Jesch, CFII

The reality is, when you are in the air, you are back to being a learner. I had to exhibit the grace and grit I spoke of earlier. I can’t count how many people told me how much they loved flying the maneuvers, how graceful it felt to them. Let’s just say, at the beginning it wasn’t graceful for me. I had to apply my formula; patience in allowing myself to struggle, correct, and succeed; pivot by remembering how I learn best [by demonstration]; and perseverance in sticking to my commitment of becoming a better pilot.

Before I got my instrument rating pilots would tell me that there would be a moment in which instrument flight just “made sense”. I didn’t believe them, until it made sense for me. The same thing happened with the maneuvers and me. Instead of being afraid of the chandelle, power off 180 landing or 8s on pylons, I actually looked forward to it. Voila. All I needed now was a good flight to the Columbia River Gorge from California and the surface winds to take a chill pill in the Gorge.

T-Rex of a check ride

18 years ago I learned to fly in Hood River Oregon. Nestled in a natural wind tunnel at the base of Mt. Hood, we used to say if you could fly in the Gorge, you could fly anywhere. The 15 years I have been in California erased some of the high-wind memories. Back then it was 18G26 on my PPL check ride. Turns out that the CPL wasn’t going to be much different. Hood River Oregon [4S2] departure Runway 25 280 @10G15, The Dalles Oregon [KDLS] landings-Runway 31 [email protected] 13G21, [email protected] 16G26. There is nothing like demonstrating a soft field takeoff on a warm day with those winds. My track from Foreflight is a sort of Rorschach test… what do you see? I see a T-Rex, taking a bite out of those maneuvers!

New CPL and Dave Koebel, DPE

When I landed in Hood River after a successful check ride I felt proud of myself. Although the certificate was 3 months “behind schedule”, I am happy to have accomplished it during these trying times. My DPE got out of the plane and headed to his car. I was left on the ramp, gazing over N18213 the C150 that I got my private in all those years ago. The wind was blowing as I tied down Maggie. True to form my tears started flowing shortly after. Memories flooded my mind from 4S2, both good and bad. For today I was focused on the good. Another successful flight of Haywire Airlines and now on to the search for a fountain cherry Coke.

 

 

 

 

 

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Don’t judge a book by its cover; promote aviation to adults and kids

On Cinco de Mayo I had the pleasure of sharing the “screen” with Julie Clark, Martha King and Pia Bergqvist on Social Flight Live as we each talked about our aviation careers. As we were preparing for the show I found it interesting that we all had very different entrées into aviation. Three of us were children of pilots and one sort of stumbled into aviation by happy coincidence. After the show, [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MWq3crzMMs&t=11s ] I thought about the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover, you might miss out on an amazing story.” I wonder if we should re-think our approach to inspiring the love of flight, promoting aviation, and protecting airports.

We always love showing off our airplanes to wide-eyed tots, but perhaps it is the adults we should be pursuing.

So pull up a chair and listen to the stories of four women with wildly different backgrounds who became pilots from their teens to their forties.

Teenager

Julie Clark 18 years

It is hard to think about the small family of female airshow performers without thinking of Julie Clark who has been gracing the skies for decades. What is lesser known is that she had to tell a few white lies to find her way to the blue skies.

Julie started flying lessons while attending University of California Santa Barbara at age 18. Julie was taking lessons on the sly, not telling her Aunt and Uncle who were her guardians, after her parents passed away. The only ones that knew about her clandestine flight lessons were a few of her Alpha Pi sorority sisters. Julie says that she spent her book money on flight lessons in a Cessna 150. I think we can all agree that we are glad she did.

20-Somethings

Martha King, 24 years

Martha learned to fly when she was 24 years old. She recalls she was generally not aware of private aviation. Martha’s father was a pilot in the military, but she did not have a passion for it from early on. But her boyfriend John was in love with flying—he used to fly with his father, and with some family friends. After they got married and finally had both some time and some money, John said he wanted to finish getting his pilot’s certificate. Although Martha knew nothing about the process, she said, “I was not going to stay at home while he was out at the airport having fun!” So the couple bought a Cherokee 140 [pictured] and got their certificates together—2 days apart. They did their flight training at Speedway Airport (now gone) and Eagle Creek Airpark in Indianapolis.

It would be hard to imagine aviation education without Martha and John King. So hats off to John for pursuing his pilot’s certificate and to Martha for seizing the opportunity for a lifetime of fun flying.

 

Pia Bergqvist, 29 years

An 8-year-old Pia Bergqvist was smitten with aviation after a visit to Kallinge AFB in Ronneby, Sweden with her friend whose father was based there. That is when she first laid eyes on the Saab JA-37 Viggen Jet.

Pia’s Uncle was a charter pilot in Sweden, and she flew with him once. She remembered that her Uncle went to the US to get his license. She had never heard of little private planes until moved to Switzerland at 19 yrs. old.  The idea of going to the US seemed too difficult. Further complicating matters she had never even seen a woman pilot. Her desire was there but there was no clear path to get to her goal.

Pia came to the US in August of 1997 [Brentwood, CA]. Pia worked on the USC campus. It was there she befriended a female student who was a flight attendant for Delta, who was working her way through dental school. Pia told her she wanted to be a pilot but that it wasn’t possible, as there weren’t any female pilots. Her new friend told her “yes, there are female pilots and it is possible!” At age 29 Pia went to Santa Monica’s Justice Aviation for her PPL.

Fabulous 40s

 Jolie Lucas, 40 years

I was raised in a General Aviation-savvy family. We drove a modest car, but always had a small plane in the hangar. My Dad was a primary trainer in the Army Air Corps [WWII] at Rankin Field in the Boeing Stearman. We flew, as a family in our Bellanca, then a Mooney to Seattle, WA or Indiana annually.

In 2002 airport day at Jackson/Westover, CA coincided with our Lucas family reunion. While up at the airport my Dad landed in his Mooney, my brother in his Bonanza, and I thought, “What the heck am I waiting for?” I was married, worked full-time as a psychotherapist and had three children, but I decided it was my turn to learn and grow. When I returned home to Hood River, Oregon I called the airport and started lessons. Within three months I was the proud owner of a PPL.

I love seeing the fly-over events happening across our country to honor those first responders, medical workers, and essential workers who are serving us during the pandemic. Over the past weeks many of us made our way to get a glimpse of those magnificent jets. I do think that seeing some GA airplanes buzzing around might give folks joy right now too, assuming you are safe to do so. If you are able to fly, do so. It will be good for you and who knows, you might inspire someone on the ground to look up how to become a pilot.

When aviation events resume, and they will someday, please consider talking to ADULTS about becoming pilots. Don’t get me wrong; I will always talk to kids about becoming pilots and mechanics. But think about it for a moment, the seven year old you are talking to will have a ten year lag before they can become licensed. However that child’s mother, father, or even grandparent could start flight lessons right away given some motivation. Imagine if Pia never ran into the flight attendant who told her she could become a pilot.

 

I got my license when I was 40 years old, and in 2020 I will complete my commercial and commercial multi-engine add on. The first 40 years of my life were awesome. I earned my degrees, had my children, and bought my first home. I believe the second half of life can be more exciting than the first.

 

 

Pilots make up 2/10 of 1% of the population.

Let’s work together to increase that number and land our dreams.

 

 

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Great Mentor: Level up to a new rating

This month I wanted to focus on mentoring. I think we might need to come up with a new rating for mentorship. Seriously though, take a moment and think about who mentored you in life. It doesn’t need to be an aviation mentor. Recall what this man or woman offered to you as a guide. Let’s face facts: We need more pilots coming up the ranks. One way to do this is to be an example to all, young or older, that want to learn to fly or advance to the next level. Here are some concrete things to do to achieve your next rating: “Great Mentor.”

Remember:  Mentor is a noun and a verb.

I was a lucky girl to be raised by two parents who were great mentors, and had many non-family mentors as well. I grew up as the daughter of a School Superintendent, I was taught that there were things I could and could not do because I was a Lucas. My father told me that I needed to be an example for the other children. I have to say that this was quite a bit of pressure on a kid, but I never wanted to disappoint my Dad, so I tried very hard to be an example of kindness, honesty, perseverance, and humility.

Other kids went out partying during high school; I didn’t have my first [and last] sip of beer until our senior party. Others might have ditched school, cheated on exams, and tried to take shortcuts around hard work. While I don’t recall a lot of missed classes, and had only the occasional help with trigonometry [thanks Gretchen], what I remember was a lot of hard work and fun. It might not come as a shock, that in my senior year I ran for ASB office, and won the Secretary of Publicity. It was during those early times of organizing a student body, dealing with the administration, and trying to manage school and service that I learned a lot about myself.

One example of mentorship I received was from Mr. Marshal Waller, Beaumont High School [Beaumont, California]. He was the boys’ varsity tennis coach, taught history, government, economics, and vocal arts. Those are all worthy accomplishments but here is what I remember about Mr. Waller:

  • Zest for life
  • Curious to get to know students
  • Encouraged us to think outside box
  • Was prone to bursting into song

These characteristics, perhaps minus the bursting into song, are hallmarks of a good mentor. Mr. Waller created a safe space for us to learn about life and ourselves. As pilots we can do the same for others, remembering that being a “learner” is a tender place.

Sigmund Freud theorized that in order to have a happy life you needed to possess what I call “Freud’s Four.” Part of the work that I love to do in my psychotherapy practice is to help those who are stuck in the holding pattern of life. I help clients to come up new way points and hit enter on their LIFE plan. Make sure that you can put a check mark next to each of these items.

Freud’s Four

  • Physical health
  • Do work you love to do
  • Love of friends and family
  • Passion

Passion has been described as a feeling for something [someone] which you have a hard time fully describing to others. Insert comment about how our nonflying spouses don’t understand why we can get up at o’dark thirty to go to the airport, but can’t really get to the 9:00 a.m. church service on a regular basis.

Passing the baton

As mentors we should want our mentees to pass us. Make sure that you have these way points in your life plan.

  • Make your life happen
  • Have high expectations of them and yourself
  • Hope your mentees will pass you
  • Have a happy life, share with others

As we begin the New Year, and 2020 flying season, take a self-inventory. How do you think others would describe you in terms of being an example? Check out Freud’s Four and get yourself on track. Look for opportunities to help others. Bust out your calendar and take a look at when the fun regional fly-ins, Sun ‘n Fun, the AOPA Regional Fly-Ins, and Oshkosh are happening. Consider taking someone with you that wants to learn to fly, or take his or her flying to a pro level. Be visible. Remember in regards to mentees, they can’t be what they don’t see. I am looking forward to presenting workshops at Sun ‘n Fun, all three AOPA Regional Fly-Ins, and Oshkosh 2020. See you out there!

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

The Reluctant Aviator

Many years ago I posted on an Army Air Corps website hoping to connect with folks who flew with my Dad. I received a response a few years after I posted and began a lovely pen pal relationship with the subject of this article.

On a beautiful sunny Bay Area day I had the pleasure to record an interview my 97-year old friend about his experiences in aviation. You see Bill never really wanted to be an aviator, yet the love of flying was deeply instilled his brother who  had become a pilot. Here is the story of how this reluctant aviator’s openness to opportunity and determination to learn, led to a lifetime of flying and becoming an ambassador for General Aviation.

Bill [front seat] and Sammy Mason, circa 1927. Note control cable to the elevator

After high school Bill Mason was working as a line boy then mechanic at historic Metropolitan [Van Nuys] Airport in the early 1940s. Tex Rankin, a nationally and internationally known aerobatic pilot, was running Rankin School of Flying there. Bill’s job was to push airplanes out, start them, and warm them up. He says that it was a funky job but part of pay was learning to fly. Prior to this job, Bill hadn’t thought about aviation and didn’t have a burning desire to learn to fly, but since he was there, he did learn to fly in a J3 Cub. Bill’s brother Sammy, was already an accomplished aerobatic pilot .

In 1940 Tex Rankin was awarded a Department of Defense contract with the Army Air Corps to develop and operate a civilian primary flying school for soon-to-be cadets. Tex chose Tulare California located in the Central Valley. Tex was looking for instructors and he sent a telegram to Sammy. Sammy had been doing aerobatics and was interested in a change. Tex persuaded Sammy to follow him to Tulare, and a few months later Sammy asked Bill to head to Rankin to work as an airplane mechanic. “Then it wasn’t long I followed Sammy up. I had less than 100 hours of flight time” Bill says.

In late 1942 Sammy approached him and said “Bill they need instructors, you better go get some more time.” Bill explained “At the beginning, the requirement was something like 500 hours and Instructor’s endorsement. But with the war, events were happening so fast, and the pressure was on to find qualified instructors, the requirement went down to 200 hours, and I went over the mountains to Olancha in Owens Valley, to scrape up 100 hours in a plane; an Interstate, owned by one of the Rankin instructors.” He or his wife would come over on weekends, and drill us, while during the week; he and a buddy would sharpen their technique. He laughs and says, “That Interstate was a delightful plane to fly, as most all of my previous time was in a J-3 Cub.” Bill put in nearly 100 hours in Interstate and went into Rankin’s Instructor Refresher Course. Brother Sammy was his instructor. “You probably couldn’t have a better instructor than Sammy. He had won a national award for instructor of the year.” It was the spring of 1943 when he started instructing. Bill was very young, most instructors were much older than him, but before long he was confident in himself and teaching. With a twinkle in his eye Bill recalls the following story:

 “Such were the times, that I didn’t even have a license, when I started instructing! I don’t know how I got under the radar on that, but halfway thru the war, someone upstairs said that those few of us without should be licensed. I remember that ride with the CAA inspector, (it became the FAA after the war) a bright and warm sunny day in the valley. During the ride, he said, “ Okay, now lets see your aerobatics.” Being a lot younger than he was, and by that time well honed in my job, I pulled the loop half of the maneuver nice and tight. I looked in the mirror at that time, and he was completely blacked out, with his eyes closed and mouth hanging open. It was a beautiful Immelmann, but he never saw it! So that ride gave me a Commercial license, with Instructor’s rating, up to 450 HP, the only one I ever had.”

He describes the cadets who were mostly young adults [19,20,21 years] as gung ho, jumping to go, they wanted to learn so they could fly in combat. He received five green cadets and tried to graduate all five. Bill says he didn’t wash out too many people. I remember my Father saying the he did wash out a few. On the whole the cadets wanted to learn.

Training started with basic controls, rudder to turn etc. Soon the teaching focused on flying square patterns how to adjust for wind. This task was easier in the Central Valley with county roads and farmer’s fields providing reference lines. The instructor sat in the front seat of the Stearman. There was a mirror where you would watch the cadets. The students could hear the instructor, and vise versa, but there were no two-way communications. For the most part they used eye and hand motions. “I look back on it and think about how amazing it was, they learned quickly. Once they had 60-70 hours they were pretty good pilots.” The Army Air Corp handled the classroom ground instruction.

He was in the air instructing 5-6 hours per day, depending on where the cadets were in the program. As they became more proficient there were less hours in the plane. He recalls that after learning aerobatics didn’t have to teach them too much. When to solo was up to the instructor. He shared, “If I figured they were showing good progress, I would have them pull over, get out, buckle the belts and tell them to go. Most of them would say that they heard my voice in their head while they were up on their solo.” Cadets were with an instructor for 60-70 hours or a little over 2 months.

James Lucas, Instructor with cadets which he called, “Dodos”

Some students had better personal facilities, were more natural flyers. Bill told me of a couple of incidents his cadets had in the airplanes. He paused and said:

“Come to think of it, pilots that make mistakes and recover from it, are probably better pilots than a pilot that never made a mistake.”

Bill Mason was done flying at Rankin in 1945 and the school closed. He was given a chance to get out of service or stay on active reserve. He laughs in recalling his decision, “ I said get me out as quick as you can. This meant that the draft board picked me up and I was drafted right way.”

After discharged from the Army Air Corp Bill tried to get job as a CFI but there were no jobs. All the flyers were back from WWII and were working at airports. So Bill let go of flying for a time, took up a career, and set about raising his family.

Bill’s beloved Stearman, N65874

Brother Sammy had a Stearman in Santa Paula. In 1963 his wife saw it and bought Sammy’s plane for Bill. It was N65874. For decades Bill flew that airplane around the country particularly enjoying annual Stearman gatherings in Galesburg, Illinois.  Bill was well known for giving rides, answering questions about training in the Stearman and being an ambassador for General Aviation. As well, over the years many cadets found their way back to Bill to talk with him about their primary training, update him on their lives and military careers, and thank him for the wisdom he imparted to them.

The reluctant aviator took opportunities presented to him, showed determination in the face of being young and inexperienced, got an education, and went on to become a talented instructor. We can all learn lessons in perseverance, commitment to craft, maintaining an adventurous spirit from the Greatest Generation.

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Exiting the Hold: Quieting the Critic

In last month’s installment of Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals we talked about the importance of being a flexible thinker. This month we will focus on quieting the critic, exhibiting determination and the importance of perseverance in reaching your goals.

Quiet the Critic

“You are not enough.”  “You don’t have enough time, intelligence, money or opportunity.”  For most people their critic gets up in the morning before they do and goes to sleep well after they do. This critic keeps a running commentary of everything they have done wrong all day, the shortfalls, and missed opportunities.

In order to master something new, you will have to first master your critic. This process must be quite active. Simply trying to ignore the critic will not work. Passivity will not work. The critic lives in scarcity. In order to break out of the hold, we must be able to live in plenty, and that requires inserting positivity into your thinking. It might be helpful to think of the critic being on a dimmer switch. Our goal is to turn the dimmer switch down. If you make a mistake in training, fess up, analyze what went wrong, and move on.

The Thought Layer

When initially presented with stressful stimuli, our brain and body cannot tell the difference between fear and excitement. A person sitting on a ride in an amusement park that loves roller coasters is going to have the same bio-chemical reaction from the ancient part of the low brain as the person seated next to them that hates riding roller coasters. The body doesn’t know the difference between the two beliefs. The layer that makes that determination is thought which comes from the higher part of the brain we don’t share with reptiles.

The thoughts you have about your journey will determine whether you perceive worry or anticipation. In the same way that we need to keep on the correct side of the power curve in an airplane, we must do the same with our thought layer.

Exhibit determination

Determination has been shown to be one of the key factors in success. Our greatest strength lies not in never having fallen, but in rising every time we fall. This old adage rings true in pursuing your aviation goals. As my CFII and dear friend said, “Instead of looking at obstacles as a brick wall, instead look at them as picket fence.” Develop the ability to look past the obstacle and realize there is success on the other side.

Demonstrate sheer determination and be willing to apply yourself in any situation that will allow you to continue to build time, complete your training, and pursue advancement. Perseverance means that you continue to strive for excellence and guard against complacency. Remember the critic is only a dimmer switch away.

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

We’re all instructors

I don’t know if this meets the definition of an official “pilot shortage,” but if anecdotal evidence is worth anything, my company is adding pilots and airplanes at a rapid rate. We’re already one of the biggest large-cabin charter companies in the business — and still growing.

You can see the same thing happening all over the country. A friend who flies for a competing charter company recently attended an industry job fair and said business at his booth was “very slow”. He indicated that it was hard to find pilot candidates if you were a corporate, charter, or regional entity. The major airlines seem to be beating the bushes for people as well. JetBlue has an ab initio program, and airlines have partnered with flight schools large and small (including one I used to work for) in order to find a pipeline for new aviators. Another friend of mine, recently hired by Southwest Airlines, said there were a number of no-shows in his class.

Plenty of people saw this coming. The financing options for pilot training rapidly dried up when the 2008 economic crisis hit, and for a number of years, relatively few people had the wherewithal to pursue flying. As a result, there weren’t many new pilots created in the 2008-2012 time frame. Meanwhile, professional aviators continued to age out, retire, pass away, lose medicals, change careers, and so on.

So if you’re an aspiring pilot seeking an experienced instructor, you might find the pickings are rather scarce. Ironically, the odds of finding a highly qualified CFI are probably better if you’re looking for some kind of specialty training, since teachers in those nooks often make a career out of it.

I’d imagine this problem is going to get a lot worse before it gets better – if it ever does. A former student of mine who’s been trying to earn his instructor certificate has been run through the wringer by a number of unprofessional operations and individuals. The list of drops, no-shows, and abusive behavior by those charged (and being well paid) to mold him into a first-class CFI is long and varied. His story is so compelling that I’ve encouraged him to write about the experience once he’s done. I suspect my friend is not the only one in that particular boat and that his tale will ring true with many pilots in the training pipeline.

What surprises me most is not where you’ll find the bad instruction but rather where you’ll find the good stuff. It might not be where you think. Take the corporate/charter world, for example. The PIC on a jet aircraft is pretty much required to have an Airline Transport Certificate these days. The FAA thinks highly enough of an ATP that they are allowed to provide formal dual instruction to other pilots in the course of charter and/or airline service, even without a flight instructor certificate or any other teaching experience (see 14 CFR 61.167).

I don’t know how often this kind of instruction takes place on an official level, but the reality is that every co-pilot is a captain-in-training, so most PICs will find themselves doing a fair bit of mentoring and teaching in the cockpit.

As I look back on my flying career, I think I’ve seen as much competent and effective instruction from non-CFI ATPs as I have from those who’ve been through FAA-sanctioned instructor training. It pains me to say that, because I’m a CFI myself. Teaching is not only a passion but one of the things I’m most proud of as a pilot. I wish I could say otherwise, but there are many sub-par CFIs out there. Oh, they probably have the knowledge and even the experience, but without consistent professionalism toward and dedication to their student, none of that matters.

To put it plainly, the fact that a person has a flight instructor certificate in their wallet doesn’t make them a good teacher. Likewise, the lack of formal CFI training shouldn’t infer an inability to instruct effectively.

One of my favorite teachers, James Albright, is a guy who has undoubtedly forgotten more about flying than I’ll ever know. I’ve never taken a course from him. In fact, I’ve never even met the guy. But I’ve read his books, articles and posts. He’s been kind enough to reply to email inquiries, too. As a result, I’ve learned many things that were not a part of my formal aviation education.

And that’s what this post is really about: the fact that we are all teachers. We’re all instructors, whether we know it or not. Oh, we may not be signing logbooks or endorsements, but every time we fly, there are people watching us. Every time we open our mouths, they’re listening. Coworkers, passengers, fellow pilots – present and future. They’re observing us and learning something – even if it’s simply what not to do, how not to fly. As incident and accident reports show us, that can be a powerful lesson, too.

So the question is, what kind of instructor are you?

Ron Rapp is a Southern California-based charter pilot, aerobatic CFI, and aircraft owner whose 9,000+ hours have encompassed everything from homebuilts to business jets. He’s written mile-long messages in the air as a Skytyper, crop-dusted with ex-military King Airs, flown across oceans in a Gulfstream IV, and tumbled through the air in his Pitts S-2B. Visit Ron’s website.

Just ahead in the August issue

 What does your flight instructor pound into your brain this time of year? (At least we hope your flight instructor is pounding this into your brain.) Density altitude.

We’re not going to stray from that path. Hot weather and airplanes have a long and complicated relationship, and you need only look on YouTube to see lots of evidence of what happens when you don’t calculate density altitude. (This clip, which shows in-cockpit footage from a 2012 crash, is particularly educational. The four occupants of the Stinson did walk away from the crash.)

That’s why our Technique and Weather articles this month are devoted to density altitude. You can’t learn too much about it, particularly if you are a flat-land pilot who may be tempted to assume—incorrectly—that density altitude is something you don’t have to think about.

Also in our August issue:

  • Energy management: Does throttle control altitude or airspeed? What role does the elevator play? We break down energy principles of motion control in four steps.
  • Keep yourself sharp: Now that you’re a certificated pilot, just how sharp are you? Here are some ways to keep yourself in the student mindset.
  • Buddy system: Why should you be a safety pilot? We tell you all the reasons.

Also: A marriage made in aviation heaven; an interview with Living in the Age of Airplanes and One-Six Right director Brian J. Terwilliger.

The August digital edition goes live on June 23. Learn more about how you can get the magazine delivered to your tablet, computer, or mobile device here.

In-home delivery begins July 2, and if you’re not yet a subscriber, you’ll find it on newsstands as of July 14.

We welcome your letters to the editor; email [email protected]—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Gian gets an angel

Gian takes his introductory flight in a Cessna 150 in Miami.

Gian takes his introductory flight in a Cessna 150 in Miami.

For many of you, Greg Brown’s monthly colum “Flying Carpet” is appointment reading when you receive your new issue of Flight Training. If so, likely you recall April’s edition, “Tomorrow’s Pilot,” in which Greg introduced you to a 13-year-old named named Gian who loves aviation.

Greg bought Gian an introductory flight lesson. Long story short, he wanted to do something nice for Gian, and he could tell that the young man would appreciate the gift.

The column ends with an ecstatic Gian telling Greg, “I was surprised with myself! It was like I had previous flying experience.”

But Gian’s story doesn’t end there. A reader (who will remain anonymous) has offered to contribute $500 to Gian’s flying future. He and Greg are conferring on how best to do that, given that Gian is more than two years from being able to solo.

The good news doesn’t stop there. A reader in Long Island, New York, reached out to Greg as well. “I own a Cessna 172H [that I] keep at Brookhaven Airport (HWV) and my son is a CFII and multi CFII. If you hear of anyone who is interested in aviation and is in this area we’d love to give them the chance to really see how exciting it is to fly.”

It seems like we have a small movement afoot here. We’ll keep you posted.—Jill W. Tallman

 

Just ahead in the March issue

Best Flight School, Paragon Flight in Fort Myers, Florida.

Best Flight School, Paragon Flight in Fort Myers, Florida.

Top of the heap, cream of the crop. Our annual Flight Training Excellence Awards issue spotlights the best flight instructor and flight school, as chosen by you, our readers. If you’re not geographically close to these winners, fear not—the complete list of highly scoring instructors and flight schools may have a candidate within reach.

Also in this issue:

  • Did you forget something? 10 key tips that should be mentioned every time you fly—but frequently aren’t.
  • Technique: iPad preflight. It seems unusual to think of prepping an electronic device for flight, but these steps will keep your device working more efficiently for you.
  • Flight Lesson: Second solo spin. Practicing stalls by himself, this newly soloed student found himself in a bad spot.
  • Debrief: Bob Pittman. The man who launched the MTV Networks says he likes “anything that goes fast.”

The March digital edition goes live on Jan. 27. Learn more about how you can get the magazine delivered to your tablet, computer, or mobile device here.

In-home delivery begins Feb. 5, and if you’re not yet a subscriber, you’ll find it on newsstands as of Feb. 17. We welcome your letters to the editor; email [email protected]—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

Time for a change?

06-492  Learn to FlyThe flight school closed; your favorite CFI got a job with the airlines; you like your flight school but you don’t like driving 50 miles to get to it. Whatever the reason, sometimes you need a change.

If you’re searching for a new flight school or flight instructor, AOPA has some tools that can help you with your search.

  • Our online flight school directory lets you plug in a ZIP code and search parameters (25 to 100 miles). Find it here.
  • Our online flight instructor directory lets you search for a CFI by city and state. Find it here.
  • AOPA Airports is an online database of public and private use airports. Although most pilots use this as a flight planning tool, you can check to see if an airport has a flight school by searching for the airport, then click the “Services, Businesses & FBOs” link at the top of each listing.
  • This is more hit or miss, but you might also post a question on the AOPA Forums. (They’re found here.) There are regional forums, and you also can post learn-to-fly questions in the Left Seat/Right Seat forum.

Seek and ye shall find! Good luck with your flying endeavors in this brand-new year.—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

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