Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Day in the Life

I was told by a prospective customer (who happens to be a VERY casual pilot, like 10 hours a year casual from what I gathered) last week that I charge too much for instruction. Nevermind the fact that this is my living; how could I possibly ask $xx an hour for what I do? I got to thinking about how I spend my time. Here's a little window...

Aviation is such a noble profession. We eagle-eyed pilots get to look down at the rest of the world from such a lofty perch, and leave any and all problems behind with those poor terestrial suckers. A perfect life. We'd all just do it for free if we had to. Right?

January 19, 2011

5:30 AM

My alarm clock was supposed to wake me up for a 7 am flight to check out a renter in our Cessna 150. Apparently this does not happen.

6:50 AM

Alisa wakes me up and I text the renter to let him know I'll be there as soon as I can.

7:10 AM

I'm in the car, waiting for the deep freeze-sized layer of frost to burn off the windshield.

7:15 AM

Still waiting.

7:35 AM

Arrive at the airport to find the airplane (you guessed it) covered with frost. Answered questions from the renter about the plane and squared him away on the preflight and systems (he wasn't used to the stone-age systems of a 150).

8:15 AM

Strapped in and ready to go, and the plane won't start. The 0-200 engine just doesn't like the cold, the battery is weak, and I allow him to succumb to the temptation of over-priming. It finally turns over and runs for about 30 seconds. We know we flooded it because the fuelish smell of an overly-rich start is obvious.

My renter swears he smells something burning, and when we investigate the nose we find the fiberglass moulding around the engine air inlet on fire. We get it extinguised with little damage except for the foam air filter and some soot.

8:45 AM

Air filter changed and our mechanic standing by with a fire extinguiser, just in case. Battery is now exhausted, so our mechanic hand-props the airplane (I do this all the time to our Cub, but it's not often in 2011 that you see a flight school 150 being "propped.").

Airplane starts and runs great, with no fire this time, but now the intercom has failed. Flight is cancelled.

9-11:30 AM

I fly with one of my favorite students. He's turned out to be a loyal customer and something of a business mentor to me, but he's often too hard on himself and today was one of those days. It's hard to convince a perfectionist that a private pilot checkride isn't about perfection. Not sure about my street cred as an amatuer psychiatrist today. We'll be re-flying that mock checkride again.

11:30-1 PM

Check in with the boss, check up on work on the 150, and try to answer a few e-mails.

1-1:20 PM

Scarf a Subway sandwich and shotgun a Coke.

1:30-3 PM

Mock checkride #2 for the day. This student lets stuff roll off of his back, and did well. He's almost ready.

3-5 PM

Unusual attitudes and partial panel work with one of my instrument students. He's a great student, and unusual attitudes are fun from the right seat. Basically, we have the student close his or her eyes and then we maneuver the airplane so they lose track of "which end is up." They, they recover the airplane to straight and level flight using only the's good training for accidentally flying into a cloud. Anyway, while we're "maneuvering" it's one of the few excuses a CFI has to really yank and bank on an airplane. Good stuff.

Capped it all off by a well-flown partial panel VOR approach on the part of my student. Maybe I do know what I'm doing.

5-5:30 PM

Paperwork. I'm about to hire at least one instructor, so all the standards and procedures that have only needed to dwell in my head (as "chief" of one at the old Waco Flight Training) for the past two years now need to take up residence on paper. As you can tell, I have tons of time for that.

5:30-7:30 PM

Mock oral exam with a student who, for the most part, is prepared. We worry about when we have to "drag" responses out of a student and he did a little of that, but less than last time. I just sent him home with follow-up items to study on, and I'm finally done for the day. Tomorrow at 8 AM, I'll start it all over again.

Why am I sharing this? Today was a typical day in the life of a working flight instructor (well, except for the whole fire thing...I wouldn't be cool with that being typical). As with anyone working in any other profession, I had some moments of brilliance and some "why do I put up with this" moments. I try to learn from both, and I think that one of my favorite things about this job is processing that learning.

All things considered, I'd rather have a long, tiring, brilliance-punctuated day here than the best day ever behind a desk.

And that $xx an hour? Totally earned.

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