Friday, June 6, 2014

Another student?

I have shifted course a bit on the pursuit of Project Pilot. The more enmeshed I got in the process of preparing for the written, oral, and flying tests required to achieve certification as a flight instructor, the more stressed I became. There is a lot to learn, far more than I had assumed. For example, I figured that written tests ought to be a breeze - how hard can Fundamentals of Instruction be for a guy that aced Psych 101, right? And I passed my IFR written test with a 98 - surely the pilot knowledge test wouldn't be that much harder. And the flying? Dude, 800+ hours. I know now to fly. Or thought I did, anyway.

A little studying in the prep guides and a flight with an instructor disabused me of those notions. This is going to be hard.

I don't shirk from hard work - I do it every day when dealing with the vagaries and outright hostility of computer hardware and software. With no higher authority to appeal to, the buck stops with me when it comes to apparently unsolvable, intractable problems. There is no small amount of stomach-churning stress in being faced with a very thorny problem that makes me wonder if I can solve it at all, and having no one to turn to for help. So no, it was not the apparent difficulty that concerned me, at least not in and of itself.

No, it's a question of time. Time, and overall capacity.  I got to thinking that I am just too busy with day to day stuff to spend hours studying. But I started down that path anyway, only to find something in the chapter about FAA regulations that gave me pause: the CFI certification only lasts for two years, after which I would have to re-certify, which would entail going through a lot of this all over again.  There is an "out" for people that can maintain their currency by taking five students all the way through checkride within the preceding two years, 80% of whom have to pass on the first try.

I am never going to be able to maintain that level of currency, at least not until the day when I can throw off the shackles of a full-time day job.

With all of that looming over the horizon, I had to re-assess why I am doing this in the first place.  The answer to that was easy enough: because I enjoy it!  Certified or not, I am free to teach people to my heart's content. They just can't officially log the time. The obvious decision was to defer the CFI training until such time as I am ready for it.

Reaching that decision should have felt like having a heavy burden lifted from the preternaturally slight shoulders, but there was a snag: Jeff.

Having started well down the path of getting him licensed, I felt like I would be abandoning him. It isn't in my nature to deliberately strand someone, or to back out of a deal, not matter how informal the contract is. That was something that would require a great deal of thought, so I did what I usually do in situations like this: I thought about it while mowing the yard.

I decided that it wasn't that raw of a deal for him after all, although I still felt more than a slight twinge of guilt over it. The reality of it, though, is that he is only out-of-pocket from the Private Pilot training videos that I encouraged him to buy, and I still contend that those were a wise, long-term investment. I bought them for myself too, using the same logic. They are great for keeping my knowledge of the more arcane aspects of flying up to date.

On the brighter side, I thought, if he does decide to pursue a rating through a "real" CFI, he will have the benefit of a great head start. The minimum hours for an LSA rating are 15 hours dual, 5 hours solo. It is pretty rare for a brand new student with no experience at all to get the rating in the minimum hours. In fact, I think you could safely add 30% to those hours to arrive at a more accurate figure. If I keep flying with him, it should be a breeze for him to get through in the minimum time, which would equate to a significant cost savings. Using a CFI with a Commercial rating would also allow those hours to be applied to a Private Pilot's license, would not be true of the hours logged with me. The hourly rate of a paid CFI is the same either way.

I have decided to head down the same path with Co-pilot Egg. She has been flying with me for her entire life, and being able to teach her how to fly as a pilot rather than a participating passenger was one of the reasons I selected the RV-12 as my airplane to build.

We had our first "lesson" last night.

In the interest of time, we skipped the traditional first ground lesson, which is where we would have very slowly gone through the preflight inspection. We got a fairly late start, and we had to be back on the ground before Civil Twilight, which is typically 28 - 30 minutes after sunset. We would have to be back on the ground no later than 9:28 pm.

Building on my experience with Jeff, I anticipated that she would not be able to much more than fly in a general direction and hold an altitude of "whatever."

For the first few minutes, that proved true. This was only her second time flying in the new plane, and her first ever time flying from the left seat. That caused a little bit of consternation, but within ten minutes she settled down and her prior years of flying by reference to the instruments paid off: we were on course and on altitude, and staying that way.  She was so comfortable cruising along following the course to Jackson (I43) that I mixed things up a little bit and asked her to turn left to a heading of one two zero.

That through her for a (metaphorical) loop.  It is clear that we are going to have to talk about compass headings and the like. Her skill at piloting the plane had caused me to forget that she has not had any book learning to back it up. On the plus side, she accomplished the turn quite well.





By the time we landed on filled up the tank, time was running short. That presented a problem as neither of us had eaten. Fortunately, we know people in Jackson and we were able to borrow a car. Egg insisted on driving, but again was met with an unexpected level of complexity - we borrowed a very nice yet thoroughly modern car that was intimidatingly fraught with fancy screens and such.


Once we got rolling, she felt much better about it all.


The airport in Jackson is very rural, so the empty roads suited her initial trepidation at being behind the wheel of a much larger and heavier car than she is used to.


I have to admit to being somewhat worried by the fact that my nurse-in-training loudly proclaimed her excitement at seeing "Horses!"


Said concern is mitigated by the fact that she is not my veterinarian-in-training.

After an absolutely hideous dinner from the local Dairy Queen, we were able to socialize for a half hour before the pressure of the setting sun forced us to embark for our trip back to the north. The view was quite spectacular!





We landed with fifteen minutes to spare.


To be continued...

UPDATE:

From the mail bag:
Your CFI does need to be renewed every 2 years, however there is still an easy way to do that. If you log on to the American Flyers website, they charge $100 for a lifetime membership to their online flight instructor refresher course. All you need to do is go online every 2 years and click through their presentation, there are tests after each section but they are easy and open note. They also can be redone until you pass them. If you have the motivation to get your CFI, keeping it current/renewed is no big deal. On the other hand, teaching without it can be rewarding as well.

2 comments:

garaggio said...

Your CFI does need to be renewed every 2 years, however there is still an easy way to do that. If you log on to the American Flyers website, they charge $100 for a lifetime membership to their online flight instructor refresher course. All you need to do is go online every 2 years and click through their presentation, there are tests after each section but they are easy and open note. They also can be redone until you pass them. If you have the motivation to get your CFI, keeping it current/renewed is no big deal. On the other hand, teaching without it can be rewarding as well.

Anonymous said...

Great story but you need to reminder her to keep her feet on the pedals.

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