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Tag: flight training (page 1 of 6)

Exiting the hold by letting yourself be a flexible thinker

In last month’s installment of Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals we talked about understanding what type of learner you are to maximize your educational experience. This month we will focus on the importance of being a flexible thinker.

Neural pathways are like goat trails in the brain. We establish well-worn patterns of thinking and develop neural pathways, which become default ways of thought behavior. Thought, experience and behavior about events form schemas, a cognitive framework, that helps us to interpret and understand our world, and can be predictive in nature.

Humans naturally prefer to filter new information through an old “thought box” [schema]. Take a look at this video and see the concept in action: 

The habit of assimilation means that we often times take new information and try to make sense of it through trying to relate it to old learning or ways of thinking. However many times information or experience won’t fit in an existing schema. In those times we have to accommodate the information into a new way of thinking. An example would be a young child that knows what a dog is [four-legged animal], but when sees a cow incorrectly identifies it as a dog. This child will have to accommodate the information of a large four-legged animal into another thought box to know it is a cow.

As an adult, it is sometimes difficult to allow yourself to be a learner, yet that is what we need to do to reach our goals. Brain research in decades past pointed to brain development being completed in stages of childhood and remaining relatively fixed until death. However in the late 90s research began to show evidence of neural plasticity, the idea that your brain isn’t completely hard-wired. Through experience and training, we can re-wire or alter the brain’s functioning, forcing a cortical and neuronal re-wiring. Breaking out of a cycle of inaction or inactivity requires action. If we default to old ways of thinking we will do ourselves a disservice.

Flexible thinking is key to getting out of a holding pattern. Practice makes practice, and through practice you will gain mastery.   Having one achievement opens up the belief that you can do more. Learn from the best, and let yourself make mistakes, give yourself grace, and marvel how education can change your brain.

Right Seat Ready! at AOPA Camarillo, CA. Photo credit: David Tulis

I am getting ready to head to Longview Texas to teach Right Seat Ready! a companion safety seminar I co-founded with my teaching partner Jan Maxwell.  This national Mooney conference called MooneyMAX takes place October 10-14. The one-day Right Seat Ready! seminar is open to all non-pilot companions in single engine airplanes.

Jan and I toured with AOPA last year offering an abbreviated version of Right Seat Ready!.  It never fails to amaze me how much anxiety our students have at the beginning of the day.  You see, at the beginning of the day they are trying to fit all the new information into the old thought box that is labeled, “I am not a pilot.”  However, by the end of the day the anxiety is gone, replaced by excitement of new learning, smiles, practice and encouragement. Before long the old thought box is replaced with one labeled “I am Right Seat Ready!”

Right Seat Ready! at AOPA Camarillo, CA. Photo credit: David Tulis

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Exiting the Hold: Choose your course of study wisely

Get to know your learning style and choose your course of study wisely

This is the second part of six in my series Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation goals. Last month we focused on the importance of timing and the Greek concepts of time: chronos and kairos. This month we will be delving in to choosing a course of study or preparation for your meeting your goals. Having just returned from Oshkosh at the beginning of this month, the use of my instrument rating in actual weather conditions is fresh in my mind. The decision-making I used for the 26-hour solo flight relied heavily on my IFR training. The smoke, rain, low visibility, thunderstorms and clouds with ice, I encountered gave me real-world experience that tested me.

Learners are as variable as the airplanes they fly. Now that you have made the decision to reach your goals, set yourself up for success. Are you choosing a professionally developed curriculum or leaning on a variety of books and study guides? Do you need the pressure of having a time-based weekly program, or are you self-motivated enough for home-based study? Whatever you choose, choose wisely to maximize your chance of success.

A decision on the best course of study must take into account the following components:

  • Quality of study program
  • Mode of study [in-person, online, self-study]
  • Level of accountability [peer pressure, schedule, community]

Quality of study program

The aviation community is very lucky to have wonderful educators and educational institutions that have been around for decades. Over the years I have used King Schools, Rod Machado, Sporty’s, Gleim, and AOPA’s Air Safety Institute. Don’t skimp on the quality of your study program. My advice is to purchase the best that you can afford. Think of your education being an investment in you, your life and longevity.

Mode of study [in-person, online, self-study]

As one of my IFR instructors said to me, “Here is where we are going to go to school.” I am a psychotherapist with 26 years of experience. In that time I have become fascinated in the differences between males and females, specifically in terms of brain differences. I am not a brain researcher; my thoughts are based on a basic review of the current science, and are by no means exhaustive. You should also know that there are exceptions to the facts and we can train our brain to do less than innate activities.

Here is the short story: I versus We:  Competence versus Connection.  The male brain is organized and focused more as an individual, striving for mastery.  The female brain is wired for communication, connection and cooperation

Men have slightly larger brains even when adjusted for their larger heads. They have larger parietal cortices (in charge of space perception), and amygdala (which regulates sexual and social behavior). This might explain why visual-spatial tasks are easier for men. They tend to be able visually manipulate things in their brain, whereas women tend to need to see spaces and shapes on paper.

Men also have more gray matter in their brains, which is full of active neurons. This might explain why there are more men in physically or mentally active professions like airplane pilots, bush guides, racecar drivers, and mathematicians. Men also tend to be more systematic in their thinking.

Women’s brains are 8-10% smaller than the male brain, yet on average, are much more active. Women have larger volume in both the frontal cortex (the inner CEO) and the limbic cortex (involved in emotional responses). This, in conjunction with speedy connections facilitated by the white matter, is another reason why women’s brains work faster. Renowned brain researcher, Dr. Daniel Amen’s research shows that women have greater activity in the brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that helps store memories.

In addition, the female brain has a larger corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerves that connects emotion and cognition. As a result, women are better with language abilities and rely more heavily on oral or verbal communication. They also tend to have a better time controlling emotions, although they are more emotional. Women, on average use four words to every one word a man uses. The female brain secretes more serotonin and oxytocin, which connects them further to the emotional world. These differences are important because when you know what lights up your brain, you will be better equipped to make the best “course of study” decision.

In sum, males will be excited about the individual mastery, competition, or competence in aviation. Females will be excited to be part of a collaborative, interactive group of students. Males might be better with conceptualizing basic principles of flight. Females would learn better by hands-on demonstration. In sum, think about yourself, your learning style and make the choices that support an optimal environment for your education.

Level of accountability [peer pressure/community, schedule]

I decided that 2017 was my year to get my IFR rating. In late 2016 I started studying for the IFR written exam. I used online training, attended a weekend intensive seminar, and had individual tutoring. Although my friends knew I was studying, I kept my test date a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know I was testing, but once I passed with a healthy 90% I did put it out to my friends and family that I would complete the rating in 2017. I know myself. I knew that I didn’t want the social pressure of folks knowing I was taking the written. But I did want the social pressure of publicizing that I was committing to getting done in 2017. Think about your personality and the impact peer pressure will have on you. It might be a good thing to put in to words your goals and methods for attaining them.

There is never a good time to do anything. As discussed in last month’s column there are instances where you just have to leap. Think about your life, responsibilities and energy level. You might be best served by a weekly course of instruction, slow and steady toward the goal. However, your work or family schedule might be better suited for a two-week intensive program.

Good luck in determining the course of study to help you reach your goal. Next month we will tackle the third element in Exiting the Hold: Quieting the Critic. For those of you on the West Coast, if you would like to come see my multi-media presentation of Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals, I will be presenting at the Capital Airshow in Sacramento, CA [Mather] on Sunday September 23rd at 10:40 a.m. in the education pavilion.

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

I have more than I need, so I give back

Many of us have friends on Facebook that we follow but may have never met in person. Such is the case for Joshua Knowlton and me. It all started with Oregon and airplanes, but my esteem for Joshua has grown over the years so I want to tell you about him. He is 40 years old and has been working in aviation for about 7 years. He has been an A&P for 5 years, and an IA for 2 years. He says, of his careers, “I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and didn’t go to college until I was 32. I have worked in a slaughterhouse, I’ve been a professional cook, a sewing machine technician, a painter, and I drove a tow-truck for 7 years before starting college. “

He attended Lane Aviation Academy at Lane Community College in Oregon and was awarded several scholarships and finished first in his class with a 4.02 cumulative GPA. He started working at PJ Helicopters soon after graduation from A&P School and worked there for a little over 3 years. After that he started working with his friend and fellow alum Kyle Bushman, restoring antique airplanes. “Since I have my own 1942 Piper L4A Grasshopper that I am restoring I thought this would be a good transition. We worked together for about a year before I decided to get back into rotor craft since I was so attracted to them. I started working for Hillsboro Aviation about a year ago. That is where I currently work and I love my job”, he says.

Joshua is a humble person when talking about his work as a philanthropist. He probably would bristle at me calling him that. He states simply, “I am in a position now where I feel like I have more than I need and I want to be able to give back. This is why I am trying to do good and help others and raise money for causes I support.” I remember he posted on Facebook saying he wanted to take his daughter and her school friend to Disneyland. That quickly turned in to her school friend and her two sisters who were all homeless. He was able to raise over $1800 to help pay their expenses and had a fabulous time at Disneyland. If that isn’t philanthropy I don’t know what is.

After that he decided to start his own scholarship at the A&P school that he attended. “I wanted to pay for one student’s written FAA mechanic exams (about $500) but after talking to a couple of people I raised $300 from them and decided to pull a couple hundred more dollars out of my pocket and pay for the written exams for two students” he says. He calls this scholarship the “Anna Marie Shurden Scholarship for Positive Change”, named after a fellow student who beat the odds and overcame many personal difficulties to finish school and get a job in the aviation industry and continues to be a success. His goal for 2019 is to raise enough money to pay for both the oral and practical exams as well as the written exam for one deserving student. The link for the fundraiser for 2019 is: https://www.gofundme.com/annamariescholarship

Joshua says, “I would like to point out that I am a member of Women in Aviation and my scholarship is geared toward (but not exclusive to) females that are pursuing a career in aviation maintenance. I am a firm believer that this industry needs more women. Not just pilots but mechanics also. “

Joshua was poor as a kid and didn’t have a lot of opportunities. He’s never been out of the country. “Aviation has given me the life I always wanted and has given me opportunities that I never thought I would have. Whenever I have the chance I want to help out other people who are in the place where I was. They just need a hand up to get to a better place and have a chance at the life they have always wanted. I do my best. I am grateful. I work hard.” Be like Joshua.

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Gotta Get that Rating!

I started my training for my instrument rating in 2011. I decided that I wanted to learn from Mike Jesch who was a dear family friend, Master CFII, American Airlines Captain, Angel Flight, and LightHawk pilot. Mike is based in Fullerton, California. I knew that choosing to have instruction in the LA Basin would mean a greater challenge. Not only would I have to get to LA, but also train in one of the country’s busiest air spaces.

My Mother and Father were my biggest supporters in my life. My Father was a trainer in the Army Air Corps. We always had a little airplane. When he landed he would always say, “Another successful flight of Haywire Airlines.” I lost my Mom in 2010 and my father in 2015. Life happens and I went from being married, to being a single mom. My IFR training was self-funded. Due to these changes I had to take a break in the instrument training in 2012 and didn’t re-start until July of 2016.

Through the years I have been intrigued by the concept of neural plasticity, the idea that your brain isn’t completely hard-wired; that through experience and training, we can re-wire or alter the brain’s functioning. I have been a licensed psychotherapist for 27 years now. I am used to being a teacher. I have taught at the graduate school level, aviation seminars and numerous presentations. These activities let me be the leader, the one who “knew the answers” [or at least knew where to look]. Being a learner is hard. It is hard on the ego, your emotions, and your confidence. I am lucky that Mike is such a wonderful teacher. Much like my primary instructor Dave, he was encouraging and patient. But even with the best teacher the beast that needs to be tamed is insecurity, doubt and old thinking patterns.

My Mooney is equipped with dual VORs and a DME; no autopilot or IFR certified GPS. What this meant for me was a lot of “public math”. Mike would ask me “Where are you?” and I would struggle to try to figure out my location based on radials, DME distances and such. Needless to say, it was a humbling experience.

Training in the Mooney was double-edged. On the positive side, the airplane is a very stable platform and my instruments were configured in a simple but effective six-pack. However the downside of a high performance, very aerodynamic airplane is speed. My no-wind groundspeed is 145 kts. My IFR-student brain speed was probably 100 kts. This meant slowing the airplane down. I was pushing myself toward neural plasticity, forcing a cortical and neuronal re-wiring. I tell you sometimes it downright hurt. The mental fatigue was stunning. I truly believe my IQ lowered while under the hood due to the lack of visual and situational cues. Through it all I was humbled, dismayed, frustrated, and exhilarated. I always tell my clients or students that unlike the common assumption, practice makes practice. Practice allows repetition and through repetition we gain mastery. Practice we did.

The other thing I forgot to mention is that my instructor Mike is wicked smart. Seriously. He is probably one of the smartest folks I have ever met. A natural teacher he would challenge me, come up with unusual approaches or scenarios and gave me a lot of experience. I have four hours of instruction in actual IMC conditions. What a gift that is from an instructor. While IMC enroute to Camarillo for a 99s event, I experienced vertigo. It was the strangest sensation. I felt like my body was in one of those carnival mirrors that distorts reality. Mike said that he watched me and timed how long it took for me to recover, 3-4 seconds. Although it was uncomfortable, I am thankful for the experience.

I cannot count how many times I had to drive somewhere because of the coastal fog or weather. Mike would always say, “Gotta get that rating!” I decided that I needed to act in 2016. I made cuts in my budget to pay for the training I needed to get my rating. I became focused in the fall of 2016, secretly scheduling the written exam in November. I studied for hours a day and it paid off with a solid 90% on the test. 2017 was dedicated to instrument instruction. This meant that my son got used to me being in front of the computer, on the simulator, or at the airport. In late August I had my check ride scheduled. For some reason I felt pressure to get the rating done in August due to my travel schedule with AOPA to the regional fly-ins.  The pressure I put on myself caused insomnia, stress and lack of focus.  Mike and I went on a “check ride prep” flight and I performed horribly.  There were no safety of flight issues but mentally I was just not there.  It was hard for me even to calculate the reciprocal of a heading to radial.  As we were at MDA for the LOC BC-A I said, “I am postponing my check ride, I am not ready.”  After landing Mike gently said, “It is better for you to know that you aren’t ready versus me having to tell you.”  Mike flew home to LA and I burst into tears.  Only a few folks knew when my check ride was. I let them know that I postponed due to stress.  I quickly received a phone call of support from Robert DeLaurentis.  He could tell I had been sobbing. We processed the event and he helped me to see this was a positive versus a negative. I continued on with my training and came to believe I had made the correct decision.

During my last flight with Mike he asked me, “Where are you.” I glanced down and quickly said, “I am 5 miles south of Paradise [VOR] on the 185 radial” I suppose it was then I knew. I had literally wrapped my brain around instrument training.

November 17, 2017 was my instrument checkride. I was grateful to be able to use an office at ArtCraft Paint in Santa Maria. The DPE, Dennis Magdaleno drove up the coast and we started about 10:00 a.m. We began with the ground portion. I didn’t think I would be as nervous as I was. If he had asked me my middle name, I probably would have hesitated.   I did well enough for us to move to the flying portion. It was early afternoon and the day was just perfect. Low clouds had cleared and the sun was shining. As we walked out to the airplane Dennis said, “I love Mooneys! It is my favorite airplane.” I said, “Me too!”

Before we started the engine Dennis told me there are three outcomes: pass, fail or discontinue. If there were an issue that caused me to fail he would simply say that I needed more instruction and I would have to try again. He ended by saying that if he didn’t say anything after landing and during taxi that it was a good sign that I passed.

Although extremely stressful I did everything he asked of me on the practical test [LOC-BC, ILS, VOR partial panel, unusual attitudes, DME arc]. The final approach was a circle to land. As I landed I made sure I was right on the glideslope and touched down on the centerline at the aim point. I taxied off at the first exit and parked outside of ArtCraft. Dennis didn’t say a word. [Inner happy dance going on]. We debriefed the flight and he asked for my logbook. As my certificate was being printed he excused himself and left the room. I was alone, keenly alone. I burst into tears, I suppose from the adrenaline, relief and pride. At that moment I missed my parents and my kids. Getting my instrument rating was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It was harder than graduating from college, harder than my professional licensure exams, and harder than being a single mom. 2017 was the year I promised myself that I would indeed get my rating. 366 days from the date of the written test, I did just that. Another successful flight of Haywire Airlines.

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Last Chance to Dance: camaraderie, education and inspiration during the close of the flying season.

With fall leaves changing and winter weather approaching; many of us are getting our last fly-ins of the season in the flight planner. Though I live at the beach in California, not everyone gets to enjoy about 11 months of VMC. Why not check out remaining fly-ins in your area, and get in on the end-of-the-year fun?  Need help finding an event or have an event to post? Check out the calendar on the AOPA Events page. I hope to see many of you in Florida at the end of this week.

Coppertstate Fly-In Aviation and Education Expo, Falcon-Field, Mesa AZ (KFFZ)  October 27-28. Come and meet fellow aviators and attend a variety of workshops and forums.  Weather toward the end of October is typically clear, sunny with highs in the mid to upper 80s.  Lows in the 60s.  Bring your family for a great aviation outing!  For more information visit event site.

Cooperstate Fly-In

AOPA Regional Fly-In, Tampa, FL [KTPF] October 27-28. The AOPA Fly-In season wraps up at Peter O. Knight Airport (KTPF), Friday Workshops led by world-renowned presenters were very popular with attendees. Topics include: Flying in the Extremes: Water Survival Tips and Techniques, IFR Refresher: Getting Back to Instrument Proficiency, Pilot Plus One: Combining Learning, Inspiration, and Adventure, and Owner-Guided Maintenance: Managing Your Aircraft Maintenance. The fun continues at the ever-popular Barnstormers Party, presented by Jeppeson. Saturday activities included free seminars all day, dozens of exhibits and aircraft on display, great meals, and a Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker. Event Info and Registration.

AOPA Friday Seminars. Photo Credit: David Tulis

Challenge Air for Kids and Friends, November 4, 9 am-4 pm at Ambassador Jet Center at Dallas Executive Airport [KRBD]. Pilots volunteer their planes to fly children with special needs on a 25-minute flight to build confidence and self-esteem.  Pilots must have 500 PIC hours, current Medical and FAA license, and insurance for $1,000,000.  Challenge Air for Kids and Friends has been around since 1993 and been doing this event in Dallas for many years. Please join us on Pilots, Volunteers, Families, and Agencies all need to register here on their website. We look forward to seeing you there!

Challenge Air for Kids

Spirit of Flight Living Aviation History Day, November 11, 10am-2pm Spirit of Flight Center Erie, CO [KEIK] Educational program about our aviation heroes and Salute to Veterans. Annual museum canned food drive for community food bank. Bring a food item and receive a FREE Starbuck’s coffee. For more information.

Living History Day. Photo Credit: BlueDharma

Friends of Oceano Airport Toys for Tots, December 2nd, 10 am-2 pm. Oceano Airport [L52] Join us for our annual Toys for Tots event in cooperation with the US Marine Corps. Bring a new, unwrapped toy and enjoy the fun. 10:00 Arrivals and holiday beverages 11:00 Live holiday music: the Jingle Bells 12:00 Burger Fry 1:00 Reindeer Games There is no admission charge. Aircraft on display, historical exemption sign-offs. Banner Airways: Take a ride back in history in the 1943 Super Stearman Yellow Bi-plane. SkyDive Pismo Beach is on hand for those wishing to skydive with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Oceano Fuel Discount $.25 per gallon, plus $.25 per gallon donation to Toys for Tots. Lodging Discount: Pacific Plaza Resort L52 Oceano Airport, Oceano California. Make a child smile at Christmas.

Oceano Airport, Toys for Tots

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Follow your Lead, and then perhaps later you will lead.

Planning, Precision, Performance: how formation training can help us all be more proficient pilots.

I used to think that formation flight was dangerous for the average pilot. When asked by Mooney Caravan formation pilots why I didn’t partake I would say something like, “I don’t want to fly so close to someone I don’t know.” In July of 2016, I attended my first formation clinic held in Chino California. Later that month I flew right seat in the Mooney Caravan arrival into Oshkosh/AirVenture. Before those experiences, I suppose I had a certain amount of naïveté that allowed me to hold the belief that non-military G.A pilots would not be safe to fly formation. Boy was I wrong, on so many levels.

I have just returned from the sixth annual Gunfighters Formation Clinic at Yuma International Airport/MCAS. The three-day multifaceted event had something for everyone and gave us an opportunity to improve formation skills, demonstrate proficiency for mass arrivals to AirVenture/Oshkosh and socialize with the other, now hopelessly addicted, formation pilots.

For the second year, the Gunfighters Formation Clinic included training opportunities with the Red Star Pilots Association.  The Red Star Pilots Association is a federal 501(c) (3) non-profit whose mission is to promote and preserve the safe operation, display and enjoyment of all aircraft — jet to prop, aerobatic, sport, war bird and utility — especially those originating in the current and former communist block nations. They are a signatory with national Formation and Safety Team [F.A.S.T.] This allows them to train, qualify, and manage civilian formation pilots in the United States and Canada for the safe conduct of formation flight displays in the US and Canadian air show industry. Several of our attendees were awarded their wingman or lead cards at the training.

Our FBO Host was Million Air FBO.  James “Curly” Combs the General Manager of Million Air gave us an incredible experience.  The facilities and staff were top notch. The food from their Jet-a-Way Café was down-home and delicious. Yuma International Airport is a large airport facility that shares runways with the Marine Corps Air Station. I assumed that perhaps the FBO might reflect a larger more corporate feeling. My assumption couldn’t have been further from the actuality. Once arriving I immediately felt like part of the family.

Any aviation volunteer knows that there is a lot that goes into the planning and execution of a formation clinic, or for that matter, any  flying event.  The behind the scenes work that starts several months prior to the event is extensive.  Safely and effectively mixing a full range of formation pilots, IP’s and safety pilots is a daunting task that requires a dedicated Air Boss with a substantial  background.  Airspace planning, ingress/egress routes, altitudes, sector frequencies, and publications take a great deal of thought and effort.  Not to mention training materials, and standardization of instruction/mentoring. Kudos to organizer Chuck Crinnian, Air Boss Larry Brennan and all the others.

Just over forty airplanes came in for the weekend. The Thursday night ground school covered numerous topics including:

  • Ground Operations
  • Element Takeoff
  • Interval Takeoff
  • 2 Ship Formation Procedures
  • Fingertip Position
  • Fingertip Maneuvering
  • Route Position
  • Turns in Route
  • Cross Under
  • Echelon
  • Close Trail
  • Formation Recoveries
  • Element Approach and Landing
  • VFR Traffic Pattern Recoveries
  • Overhead Pattern
  • Taxi and Shutdown
  • Formation Maneuver and Rejoins
  • Four Ship Formation Procedures

Then our challenge was to actually fly those procedures on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We began each exercise with an extensive brief. For me, this led to an increase sense of security knowing there was a procedure in place. I was paired with a seasoned CFI or Mentor pilot both days. The weather and landscape were beautiful in Yuma. Unfortunately, while flying formation I had my eyes glued to Lead and couldn’t see the majesty. The second day I got to fly Lead in a two-ship formation. I got a better look at the scenery that day.

All missions ended with detailed debrief covering negative and positive elements of the flight. Psychologically, the flying is challenging not only because of the proximity of other aircraft, but of the new nomenclature to be learned and maneuvers. I always find it interesting to be a “learner.” As a professional psychotherapist, aviation writer, and presenter, I am most comfortable leading and being an expert. Being a newbie was an exercise in patience with myself as I learned and grace when I made a mistake.

As is often typical with training of any sort, my abilities the second day were better than the first. The formation flying itself was very mentally and physically challenging. Taking off and landing in elements is a thrilling experience. I pushed myself to fly as precisely as possible and to increase my comfort level flying close to Lead. My level of focus was so intense that I found myself fatigued at the end of the day. Both nights we had a chance to share dinner as a group and to establish bonds of camaraderie.

Overall, the training experience was excellent. With focus, perseverance and encouragement the skills were all within my reach. I feel strongly that my formation training has made me a safer and more precise pilot. I would encourage all pilots to investigate formation training in their regions. I also left Yuma feeling like I had made some life-long friendships. I look forward to attending at least one more clinic before Oshkosh, then on to the mass arrival. We also learned the two most important rules in formation flight. #1 Don’t hit Lead, and #2 Refer to #1.

For more information on formation training and arrivals to OSH17:

Mooney Caravan: http://www.mooneycaravan.com/

Bonanzas to Oshkosh: https://www.b2osh.org/Web/B2OSH/Pages/Training/TrainingRegional.asp

Cessnas to Oshkosh: http://www.cessnas2oshkosh.com/920home.aspx

Cherokees to Oshkosh http://www.cherokees2osh.com/index.asp

Formation Flying Inc.: http://www.ffi.aero/

 

 

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

Owners, pilots, and owner pilots

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the goal differences between helicopter owners and pilots. This could be because of my annual involvement in cherry drying work which is one of the few kinds of work that probably appeal more to owners than pilots.

What Owners Want

I think I can safely say that all owners–whether they own and fly for pleasure or own primarily as part of their business–want to keep owning the helicopter. That means keeping costs low and revenue–if any–as high as possible without jacking up costs so they can continue to meet the financial obligations of ownership: insurance, debt service, storage, required maintenance, registration, taxes, etc.

Of course, if a helicopter is owned as part of a business, the owner’s main goal is probably to build that bottom line. That means maximizing revenue while minimizing expenses. While every helicopter has some fixed costs that come into play whether it flies or not–insurance, hangaring, annual maintenance–an owner can minimize costs by focusing on work that pays even if the helicopter doesn’t fly. That’s why you can lease a helicopter with a monthly lease fee that’s independent of hours flown and why certain types of agricultural work–cherry drying and frost control come to mind–pay a standby fee that guarantees revenue even if the helicopter is idle.

As an owner, I can assure you that there’s nothing sweeter than having your helicopter bring in hundreds or even thousands of dollars a day while it’s safely parked at a secure airport or, better yet, in a hangar.

If the helicopter does have to fly, the owner wants the highest rate he can get for every flight hour and the lowest operating cost. How he achieves those goals depends on his business model, the equipment he has, the services he offers, and the pilots who do the flying.

What Pilots Want

What pilots want varies depending on where they are in their career.

  • Student pilots want to learn. Their goal is to learn what they need to and practice it enough so they can take and pass checkrides. Because they’re paying full price for every hour they fly, they’re not necessarily interested in flying unless it enables them to practice the maneuvers they need to get right on a check ride.
  • New pilots want to fly. Period. Their primary interest is building the time they need to get their first “real” flying job: normally 1,000 to 1,500 hours PIC. They’ll do any flying that’s available. And even though commercial pilots and CFI may be able to get paid to fly, some will fly for free or even pay to fly if the price is right. Indeed, I’ve had more than a few pilots offer to fly for me for free, which makes me sad.
  • Semi-experienced pilots want to build skills. Pilots who have had a job or two and have built 2,000 hours or more of flight time are (or should be) interested in doing the kind of flying that will build new skills or get practice in the skills they want to focus on for their careers. So although they still want to fly, they’re more picky about the flying they do. They’ll choose a job with a tour company that also does utility work over a job with a tour company that doesn’t, for example, if they’re interested in learning long-line skills.
  • Experienced pilots want flying jobs doing the kind of work they like to do and/or paying the money they want to receive for their services. Pilots with a good amount of experience and specialized sills are often a lot pickier about the jobs they take. For some of these pilots, flying isn’t nearly as important as pay and lifestyle. A utility pilot friend of mine routinely turned down jobs if he didn’t like the schedule, just because he didn’t like being away from home more than 10 days at a time. But dangle a signing bonus in front of him and there was a good chance he’d take it.

Of course, there are exceptions to all of these generalizations. Few people fall neatly into any one category.

But what you may notice is that most of them need to fly to achieve their goals, whether it’s passing check rides, building time, learning skills, or bringing home a good paycheck.

And that’s how they differ from owners.

Owner Pilots

I’m fortunate–or unfortunate, if you look at my helicopter-related bills–to be both an owner and a pilot.  I’ve owned a helicopter nearly as long as I’ve been flying: 15 years.

The owner side of me is all about the revenue. I love agricultural contracts that let me park the helicopter on standby and collect a daily fee for leaving it idle. Every hour it doesn’t fly is another flight hour I can keep it before I have to pay that big overhaul bill. (I own a Robinson R44 Raven II, which requires an overhaul at 12 years or 2200 hours of flight time, whichever comes first.) It’s also an hour I don’t have to worry about a mishap doing the somewhat dangerous agricultural flying work I do.

The pilot side of me wants to fly. I love to fly. I bought a helicopter because I felt addicted to flying and needed to be able to get a fix any time. (The business came later, when it had to.)

Owning a helicopter means having a safe place to keep it when it's not flying.

Owning a helicopter means having a safe place to keep it when it’s not flying.

And because I’m an owner, with ultimate say over how the helicopter is used, and a pilot, with a real desire to fly, I can pretty much fly where and when I want to. But when the fun is over I’m the one who has to pay the bill.

Being an owner pilot gives me a unique perspective, an insight into how owners and pilots think and what drives them.

Working Together to Achieve Goals

In a perfect world, owners would think more about pilots and work with them to help them achieve their goals. That means helping them learn, offering them variety in their flying work, and paying them properly for their experience and skill levels.

At the same time in that perfect world, pilots would think more about owners and work with them to help them achieve their goals. That means flying safely and professionally, following FAA (or other governing body) regulations, pleasing clients, taking good care of the aircraft to avoid unscheduled maintenance and repair issues, and helping to keep costs down.

What do you think? Are you an owner or pilot or both? How do you see yourself working with others? Got any stories to share? Use the comments here to get a discussion going.

‘It was worth it’

Branden Blackford recently shared his solo photo from September 2013 on our Facebook page. He’s looking forward to finishing up very soon. Here’s his story.—Ed.

Branden Blackford soloed in September 2013. He's coming to the end of a six-year flight training journey.

Branden Blackford soloed in September 2013. He’s coming to the end of a six-year flight training journey.

It all started before I was even 1 year old. My family use to take me to airshows every year growing up in Indiana before I could walk or talk. My dad was a crew chief mechanic on KC-135 Stratotankers so he was the one who introduced me to aviation and taught me a lot about airplanes and their control surfaces and how they worked.

By the age of 5 I could point to almost every military airplane at an airshow and identify it. As I grew older my interest for airplanes grew, and I would read books to educate myself about airplanes and all the different types of planes while I was in school. I knew before I entered the third grade I wanted to be a pilot.

It wasn’t until the age of 10 I took my first flight with the EAA Young Eagles program. I was nervous and worried I’d get airsick since I’d never flown before, but I did it. A 20-minute flight and I was hooked! I knew I’d do whatever it takes to be a pilot from then on.

For the next seven years my dad and I were chasing Young Eagles events all over the state just so I could go flying and learn more about airplanes each time I went up. At the age of 17 I took my first flight lesson when I got my first job working at a fast food restaurant.

From 2009 to 2013 it was a struggle financially to get to my first solo as I would literally take my minimum wage check of two weeks and spend it all on one hour of flight instruction and wait about another three weeks to get enough money for another hour of flight instruction. But it was worth it to me.

In the the meantime I overcame a spontaneous collapsed lung, passed the FAA medical and on September 26, 2013, I soloed. I got a better-paying job working as an aircraft cleaner just to be around airplanes and could better afford my flight lessons.

I’ve completed my solo cross-country requirements in March 2015, got my 40 hours, and now I’m preparing for the practical and my final hours of being a student pilot. As of June 2015, it will mark exactly six years of flight training. I’m not happy it took me so long, but it’s now 2015 and this year I’m finally going to get my wings!

And this summer I plan on going to a fly-in with my father to celebrate my success. The point is never give up on your dreams no matter how long it may take to succeed. I did this mostly off of minimum wage checks but my passion and love to fly got me through the tough times. Don’t give up! And keep on flying. And remember… your hours in your logbook never expire.

Name: Branden Blackford
Age 23
Event: Solo (September 2013); private pilot certificate forthcoming
Where: Hendricks County Airport Gordon Graham Field, Danville, Indiana
Airplane: Cessna 172

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 resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Look Ma … No Hands

trim_tab

Photo courtesy FS-Force

As a kid, telling your mom you planned to try something without holding on was a tipoff that something dangerous was surely in the offing.

But when I tell flying students to try letting go of the control wheel or stick at times when I first get to know them, I’m actually trying to help them become better pilots. In my case, it’s all about learning to trim the airplane. Pilots who fail to learn the purpose of the trim tab – that little piece of hinged metal on the end of the elevator – or the movable horizontal stabilizer really are doomed to work way too hard at becoming truly good pilots. I often find though that many instructors don’t take enough time to explain the “why” behind trimming an airplane.

Most simply put, trim tabs help maintain an airplane’s state of balance where all four of those basic forces we learned about as student pilots — power, lift, drag and gravity — come together. Alter any of the forces and you’ll need to re-trim the aircraft to reestablish that balance.

Failure to reestablish balance and the pilot’s forced to hold back or forward pressure on the control wheel to maintain altitude or airspeed. That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s just one more brain function that’s not available for other important things like navigating, looking out the window for other airplanes or drones, or keeping an eye on the weather. Continue reading

Just ahead in the February issue

FrederickIf you routinely touch down in the first third of the runway and give yourself a pat on the back, Budd Davisson throws down in the gauntlet in our February 2015 issue. “Flying should be a never-ending quest for improvement,” he says. In “On the Numbers,” he tells you how to do just that—land on the numbers.

Also in the issue:

  • Be A Ground Instructor. Talk about flying and get paid for it? Sign us up!
  • Flying the Alphabet. We sent one of our editors on a quest to fly to as many classes of airspace as he could in a single day. Here’s how it turned out.
  • Technique: Anatomy of an Approach. Making the transition from cruise to landing in instrument conditions.
  • Debrief: Chris Meloni. If you’ve ever watched “Law and Order: SVU,” you’ve seen this late-blooming pilot pursue his other passion.

February’s digital edition went live on Dec. 24. In-home delivery concluded Jan. 6, and if you’re not yet a subscriber, you’ll find it on newsstands as of Jan. 13. 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.

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