Thursday, May 2, 2019

CAP: Lunch with Major Joe, moving forward

My first real conversation with Maj. Joe was chock full of information, but it was delivered via iPhone while I was driving. To me more precise (in order to ward off the nannies), the iPhone was pumping through the fancy software in my truck; it was like listening to someone sitting right there with me. And I do mean "listening" - it was a lot of info and I gathered as much of it as I could while still paying adequate attention to traffic, etc. It wasn't until a couple of days later that I started having questions to ask.

The delay in queries came from the discovery of the squadron's website, where I found a treasure trove of interesting documents, ranging from "getting started" to details about the tasks expected and required of crew members. My favorites, which I can't seem to find again, were copies of actual mission briefing sheets. There were also documents describing the knowledge and skills that will be put to the test on check rides. Those were the ghosts of CAP future that I feared the most. While I can (and do) fly my RV-12 safely and according to applicable regulations, I doubt if I could answer the types of esoteric questions that are the very hallmark of check rides.

In a nutshell, there are going to be challenges in learning the non-flying aspects of the CAP and there will be challenges in getting myself back up to the flying and aeronautical knowledge standards appropriate to the mission. In other words, I have to do a lot of refresher learning in both the book stuff and the flying stuff. For VFR (good weather) flying, I am mostly concerned with the knowledge portion, although I will need some flying time to get up to speed on the bigger, faster, and more complex Cessna 182.

The questions that I had ranged from uniform requirements (what are the uniforms going to cost), how pilots are tasked with missions and what is the expected response time (is it 30 minutes notice? 48 hours?), and confirmation of the parts that sounded too good to be true (personal rental of the planes for training for only $40/hr dry), so I invited the Major to meet me for lunch to get an idea of what the time requirements would be (don't really care - I have time!) and what kind of financial outlay will I be looking at. I was also wondering how to work through all of the learning documents I had found in some kind of logical order.

First, there are many options in the uniform regs. They can be as easy as a blue polo shirt and grey business slacks. Sadly, the military-style flight suit is acceptable, but not mandatory. Being optional and carrying a price tag of over $250 makes it a tough sell. I may treat myself to one of those if/when I work my way up to flying from the left seat as the flight commander.

Response time varies, but it seems that there is plenty of notice before showing up for a mission. Promising news was that many of the pilots have day jobs, so are mostly restricted to evening and weekend flights, whereas I would be available just about every day. That sounds like I will be able to fly a goodly number of missions, and I'm okay with that!

The airplane rental is real - $40/hr, but I have to buy the gas. We'll talk more about this in the budgeting section of this report. I also learned that in addition to the Cessna 182, they also have a Garmin G1000 equipped Cessna 172, which is important for two reasons: it burns only a little more than half the fuel as the 182, and it isn't very popular compared to its big brother, meaning more availability for 2nd Lieutenant Memyselfandi. I forgot to verify that the CFI (flight instructor) is free, but that's not a big deal. Either way, it's a very good deal from a financial point of view.

I'm pretty close to 100% sure I'm going to do this, but the process needs to be followed; I will have to attend two meetings before submitting my membership application. The first meeting is inn two days, and there is another scheduled for two weeks after that, so this part will go quickly. I will have to go to the Sheriff's office to get finger printed and they will do an FBI background check, but that's nothing new. Once that it done and my membership is approved, I will get a training curriculum, most of which will be simple policy training and easily available online.

While I'm waiting for that, I will bone up on the flying aspect, starting with the VFR flying. That one is easier than IFR for two reasons: I need only concentrate on the weather, regulations, and flight planning since I am confident that I can fly the C-172. The bigger plane is a separate thing and can wait. The book learning will be easy because I bought the Sporty's Learn to Fly Private Pilot online training years ago for exactly the same purpose: keeping up with the things I need to know, and keeping up with new regulations.

Once I'm comfortable with that, I will do the IFR side of things. This is where I will need the most work - not only have I forgotten most of the book learning, but I am also way, way out of practice in the flying aspects too. For this I will buy the Sporty's IFR training package. I am also going to need to buy an iPad - flight planning is almost always done with an iPad app called ForeFlight. My tablet is an Android, for which there are no apps equivalent to ForeFlight, and my old iPad is exactly that: too old.

One thing that I can do right now is to get started on learning the Garmin G1000. That will be enabled by a flight simulator I have on my PC. It's called X-Plane 11, and it has a simulated Cessna 172 with a G1000. It also emulates Air Traffic Control (ATC), so I will be able to plan and fly actual flights - that will save both time and money.

So, budget. Everything related to flying costs money, and more often than not, it costs a lot of money. Just to get an idea, I put together a brief pro forma budget.

ITEM           COST
Uniforms       $150, until flight suit
IFR Training   $200
172/hr*        $40 + fuel ($5/gal, 8 gal/hr) - $80/hr ($185 mkt)
182/hr*        $40 + fuel ($5/gal, 14 gal/hr) - $110/hr ($225 mkt)
ForeFlight     $100/yr
iPad           $600 new, $450 used

* $5/gallon is very conservative - it is likely to be less given current prices. I figure I'll need about 15 hours split between the two planes to get to a decent level of competence, so initial flight training will be around $1,500, more if the CFI is getting paid.

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