Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Out of the gate

I'm sitting here at the airport this morning, having a cup of coffee and listening to chatter on the control tower frequency. This is going to be another good day.

As of today, I've been a CFI/CFI-I for two weeks. I'm actually much busier this early in the game than I thought I'd be. So far, I've given about 6 introductory flights, 2 flight reviews, and have one full-time student. The full-time student is working on his instrument rating, so doing the CFI-I is definitely paying off. It's still weird to think that I was working on that rating less than 6 months ago!

I think it's made a huge difference just being here to answer the phone, and we're seeing more business already because of it. We're getting an ad ready for October's issue of the Wacoan, and expect to see more business out of that too. Really, this is a matter of doing discovery flights and bringing students on until we reach a critical mass---for me that would mean flying 8 hours a day---and I expect that should happen sometime near the end of this year.

And, my demand is building at more than one airport! I've already given one flight review in Victoria, and the Cub will be ready very soon for me to begin giving tailwheel endorsements. I'm seeing some good, serious interest in that already, and I think that will only increase.

So far, I've seen some beautiful mornings and some equally beautiful sunsets, flown with some interesting people, and some interesting airplanes (the flight review in Victoria was in a Cessna 175 Skylark---very cool airplane if you've never seen one). And we're just two weeks in!

Alisa and I leave on the 5th for a much-needed vacation. She's put up with a lot this year, and I've done nothing but work since January between grad school and making my seemingly ridiculous progression through my pilot ratings. We're going back to Germany to see some of our best friends, and it's going to be great! What will be even greater is that fact that, this time, I can actually look forward to what I'm coming back to. It will make the vacation even more of a vacation!

I'm off now to walk down to the FBO (Texas Aero's office) to meet another prospective student for a discovery flight. It's clear outside today, and not blazing hot yet, so it should be fun. With any luck, I'll get a student out of it!

"All flying involves risk. That is part of the glamour of flight, but reducing the risk does not reduce the glamour."
-Sparky Imeson

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Livin' the dream

Well, I did it! I have officially packed about 3 years of flight training into less than 8 months!

This morning went well---I don't know that I got to demonstrate very much to the examiner, because he's all about showing you how to do stuff his way. The oral was about an hour, and he was on the phone with a fellow Continental pilot for a good 20 minutes of it. Very basic.

We split the flight up into two parts: the maneuvers in a C-172R, and one takeoff and landing to demonstrate proficiency in a complex airplane using a C-172RG. The flight did have an interesting moment; thinking that it wasn't enough that I'd earned my spin endorsement (see previous blog post) in an aerobatic Decathlon airplane, he proceeded to spin me not once, not twice, but three times from about 2,500 feet.

Is that the real world? Most definitely---it'll happen with my students, too. Is that the safest thing for an Examiner to do? Absolutely not. The PTS (Practical Training Standards) pretty much spells out that an Examiner shouldn't be touching the controls unless the student does something unsafe or becomes incapacitated. I digress.

In the end, we taxied in, cooled off, and he handed me my temporary airman certificate adding "Airplane Single-Engine Land" to my Flight Instructor privileges. That's good enough for me :).

I noticed when I logged into the blog account today that this will be my 41st post. That's a lot of damn writing about a topic that probably sounds like a heap of jargon to most of you. Thanks for riding it out. Just in case you haven't been keeping up with your scorecard at home (you're all good baseball fans, right?), I thought it would be fun to look at the past 7 months and 12 days by the numbers.

In 2009, I have:

-Flown 162 hours (almost doubling my aeronautical experience in the span of 8 months)
-Performed upwards of 60 Instrument Approach Procedures (IAPs)
-Flown 7 different types (make and model) of aircraft
-Operated into and out of 30 different airports
-Flown with 4 different instructors
-Taken 5 FAA written exams
-Taken 4 FAA checkrides
-Earned 2 new certificates and 2 new ratings

This last part of the process, actually becoming a CFI, began on June 1. Gary was a good mentor, but there's no such thing as a fast track to becoming a flight instructor. If you see one of these somewhere and you think you want to be a CFI, take it with a grain of salt. Come to think of it, add about 2 months to that estimate. You'll preserve your sanity!

It's been a long fun ride, and it isn't over yet. I'm going to try and keep up with this blog as a I start instructing (which will happen very quickly---I have two Discover Flights with possible students scheduled already, and several people lined up for tailwheel endorsements). I've tried to thank a lot of people publicly on this blog and I know I've missed a few. I've you've had a direct impact on me getting all this done, you know who you are, and I'm grateful.

I'm going to go pack my stuff now, go spend some time with Alisa, convert our dining room back to its original configuration from the little temporary flight school I had to set up, and sleep in my own bed. And, of course, live the dream.

I know I have gotten into the habit of ending on a quote, but today I think this signature is just as cool as any quote!

Aaron Dabney, M.S.Ed, CFI, CFI-I

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Take 'er for a spin

I've been in Houston again the past week and a half, preparing for the CFI add-on checkride. This adds to my certificate the privileges needed to train Private, Commercial, and theoretically, single-engine ATP pilots. Sounds like it would be a difficult checkride, but in the real world this one is done with a Designated Examiner, not the FAA. If you follow that train of thought, the DE knows that you've already showed you the feds that you have the "right stuff," so this is really your ticket to lose. It may in fact be one of the easiest rides in my career.

Show up on time, look professional, don't screw up too bad, act like every piece of advice the DE gives you is the most awesome thing you've ever heard, and then taxi back in to shake hands and accept your temporary certificate. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not too much if I take any stock at all in the words of the two colleagues who have just completed this ride with the same DE I'm using.

That checkride is tomorrow, and I'll post the results here. I expect to have a good day :). After that, it's open for business.

Onto spins. On Friday, I did my required CFI spin training at Harvey-Rihn Aviation in La Porte (near Galveston and Kemah). Most pilots are scared of spins for the same reason they're scared of other things---they're the unknown. At Harvey-Rihn, we went up in a Decathlon (a 180 HP aerobatic plane---I want one!) and explored every aspect of spins, including the feared accelerated spin. I did very well and loved it, so much in fact that we had time to throw in some introductory aerobatics. The picture at the top right of my blog page is right after we landed, and I think the grin attests to how the flight went.

I now have my "inverted wings" after performing my very first barrel roll with the instructor's "hands-off" the controls. I'll be back for more of that. I think that some further aerobatic training and some casual (Introductory Level and then maybe down the road Sportsman Level) competing may be in my future.

Harvey-Rihn, incidentally, is co-owned by Debbie Rihn-Harvey, who has more aerobatic awards than I can list here. I'll do a seperate blog at some point later about meeting her at a fly-in in La Grange where we saw her put on an impromptu performance.

That's all for now...I have some last-minute chores to get done for tomorrow. After tomorrow, maybe I'll have to change the blog name to "Keeping the dream on track!"

"Keep the ratio of happy airflow to pissed-off airflow acceptable."
--James, an aerobatic/spin instructor at Harvey-Rihn