Saturday, January 23, 2010


Everybody knows when you become an instructor that it's something you have to grow into. None of us like to admit it, but there is just as much of a "fake it till you make it" element as most other endeavors. So, your first few flights with students you stick to the syllabus and hope you're not screwing anything up. You start seeing some lightbulbs going off, but you're still a ways away from the local Designated Pilot Examiner signing off on your work.

In that vein, I've had two milestones in the past week. They've both demonstrated to me that I actually know what I'm doing and left me hungry for more new pilots to teach.

The Solo

June 21, 1999 is an important date in my logbook. That was the day that I first soloed. It was in the family Cub at Ball Airport. It's also a date I'll never have to look's committed to memory. I finally got to give somebody else an important date in their logbook last week.

In fairness, I inherited this student. He was flying at another flight school and it just wasn't working out, so he came to us with about 10 hours. After flying together a couple of lessons, we both realized that although he had the hours we were really starting "at the beginning" given his experience with the other flight school. He really struggled with landings for quite some time, but I stayed patient and figured out ways to show him what he needed to see. Last Wednesday, I soloed him.

I watched the whole thing from the tower at Waco. It's really a neat feeling to know that this guy you've taught it up there by himself in the airplane you're watching, and hopefully your voice is echoing in his head. "Fly that downwind a little tighter. Control that airspeed on final. Flare it, flare it, not too aggressive, let off on the back pressure momentarily. Good job."

Just like Joe Kosler, the family friend who taught me how to fly, did back in June of 1999, I cut his shirt tail. I still have mine hanging in a frame in my home office, and I know Jeff will keep his too. I'm looking forward to adding to my collection of shirt tail photos.

The Checkride

This week, my first student passed a checkride. It was pretty appropriate because it was an instrument student, which was the first instructor rating I earned back in July. It was even more appropriate because it was Adam, the very first student I really gave instruction to. We started working on his instrument rating back in early September. After the typical, life in general, class (he's a college student), we were finally able to get him ready.

Although the oral exam and the flight were a couple of days apart due to some GPS issues beyond our control, he kept his cool and did well. The examiner told us that he's a safe, competent instrument pilot and that I prepared him well. I'm also ready for more conversations like that.

A cool sidenote about this checkride: The oral exam was January 19, 2010. My first instrument lesson was January 19, 2009. That's what I call a productive year :).

With three more students nearing their soloes and a couple of other checkrides coming up in the very near future, this story is most definitely to be continued.

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