Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

27 August 2009

Changes, Holding Patterns, and Comedowns

I never really liked that dark blue background with the white text. Too hard to read. I noticed that a couple of other bloggers have changed their background colors, and so I figured that since it's been...what...over three years that this blog has been up, maybe it was time to redecorate - you know, spruce the place up a bit.

Or maybe it's time to put it to bed once and for all. Surveys indicate that more and more people are Facebooking and/or Twittering these days. And Facebook is much better for posting pictures. Are blogs still viable anymore?

I had done my Recurrent Training in the helicopter last week. And if I do say so myself, I did pretty well. Smug with pride at my god-like mad flying skillz, the very next day I showed up at Pensacola Aviation where I am taking lessons in pursuit of my Instrument Rating. That's the one the FAA requires you to have if you're crazy enough to want to fly inside of clouds. I never did. That's why I fly helicopters! We helicopter pilots generally fly down low, in the terrain. Smart helicopter pilots stay well clear of clouds. (You need the Instrument Rating to fly above 18,000 feet, too, which is where our King Air spends the bulk of its time.)

So my instructor, Will and I went up in this little Cessna 172. I wear a "view-limiting device." This is like a pair of oversized, opaque sunglasses with a little cut-out in them that allows me to see just the instrument panel. The idea behind flying on instruments is that you do it when you cannot see outside because of the aforementioned cloud.

The task for this lesson was Holding Patterns. This is a deal where air traffic control "parks" you over a navigational fix somewhere if things get too busy. You go to the fix and then start flying racetrack patterns in the sky. There's a procedure to it, of course. The inbound leg should only be one-minute long. If there is any wind, you have to adjust the outbound leg to make the inbound come out right.

And there was wind. Plenty of wind!

I went 'round and 'round and 'round, never getting it quite right. Eventually Will gently suggested that we move on to something else. Will is a lot younger than me, and doesn't have as much total time. I think that he's a little reluctant to criticize me when I go wrong. I can be...you'll find this hard to believe...a bit "bossy" in the cockpit. And I think it inhibits Will from being as assertive as he should be. I did warn him of this in advance. Still, he is much too deferential. He needs to be tougher on me, kick my ass some more if I'm ever going to pass the checkride.

The lesson did not end on a good note. I was not happy. The holding pattern lightbulb did not come on, and I did not suddenly "get it."

There's always next time.

But I'll tell you what: Every time I get to thinking that I'm the World's Greatest Pilot, some little event comes along to disabuse me of that silly notion.


Cass said...

Tell the controllers you want 2, 3, or 5 mile legs instead of timed legs. When in the Kingair I routinely asked for 10 mile legs and had no problem with the request. No stopwatch and the GPS made it easy to do. It worked great for me. Maybe it will light the bulb for you.

Anonymous said...

Cass, I find that in some lessons I do great. In others...not so great. I would have thought that my flying was pretty consistent by now, even in airplanes, but it's not. It is interesting to see the differences in my performance from day to day.

I keep telling my instructor how difficult it sometimes is keeping all of the balls in the air. And he goes, "Well you sure fooled me. You're making it *look* easy."

And that's the trick, eh? Making it look like it's just a walk in the park when in reality you're busting your ass and sweating like a pig underneath.

I've actually suggested to Will that we use longer legs in our holding patterns so I can get the damn airplane stabilized on the inbound leg. His response? The rules say one-minute legs, so we'll do 'em that way until you pass your checkride. Then you can do 'em any way you want.

Oh, well.

Bob Barbanes said...

Now that's odd. My comment above shows as Anonymous. On my own blog, with me signed-in! WTF? Blogger can be wierd sometimes.

tim said...

Hi Bob:

As a comm seaplane pilot, I understand your lack of the IFR rating. But could one still fly the gulf w/out a rating? I'm having a hard time visualizing single pilot 135 helicopter ops in the gulf without the rating. My ex father in law used to fly a 76 for Air Log - I got to fly with him a bit - could hover and land that beast - sure couldn't do the same in a robbie.

Anyway, enjoy your blog, chalk me up on the "keep writing" column...


Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for the exhilaration you'll express after you get into the ME world, enter the hold, lose an engine, declare an emergency, and then be told by the IP/ATC that, unfortunately, he cannot shorten your hold, nor can he put you #1 for landing, but he will do what he can.....which won't be much!