Thursday, April 11, 2013

Flight Simming

The cravings to fly are getting worse.

I just located the flight simulator where I work and paid it a visit yesterday. It was heavenly. Absolute bliss. And actually you know what was even better than finally getting my hands on the wheel again? The look of absolute joy one of my students got after he flew. He's going to have that high all day. It's the best feeling to be able to pass on that type of excitement to another person. It was his first time ever flying (sim or otherwise) and his face just lit up like Christmas morning.

Enjoy it while you can. You were just given quite possibly the best and the worst addiction ever. ;)

In other news, my craving won't last long. I got in touch with one of the pilots after my last entry. He said I'd be welcome to fly with him, although he was doing his own training at the moment. That's okay - this month is pretty busy for me too. And I need to work on some more stuff on my own before then.

I was on the radios at the CAP last week. Had to cover for one guy who just didn't show up. It was okay - I got some extra practice in. Still a little nervous, but as Auntie says, that will fade in time. I practically made her come sit with me because the other guy was absent and I was too nervous to sit alone. I did end up calling out the wrong time because I had forgotten to take daylight savings time into account. Oops. No one else seemed to notice fortunately though.

The student who was on top of the world yesterday after flying the flight sim is still on top of the world today and is telling everyone who will listen about his adventures. The sim was on top of a platform that would move with it and they could simulate ANY condition you can think of - smoke in the cabin, bird strikes, snow, wind, rain, night, day, engine-outs... The detail was absolutely amazing. He also pointed out to everyone in the office that I crashed my plane during landing and he didn't. haha He was flying a Cessna; I was flying a jet with the majority of the instruments obscured. Which, I might add, made for very challenging conditions once the wind, snow and rain came.

I miss it. Even after 6 months, being in that chair made my body automatically respond to certain things - like staying straight and level with the pedals, and even using the trim. My students didn't know what trim was and for the little tiny exercise, they didn't really need it. My hand just went for the trim wheel by itself. "How do you know when to use that?" one student asked. The flight sim operator told him to let go of the wheel and if the plane moved up or down, to move the trim in the opposite direction. My student was afraid to let go of the wheel. haha That along should tell you how real it seemed.

I can't wait to go back again. Hopefully I'll get some real flights in as well pretty soon. At the very least, I know the aerobatic flight is scheduled for May 19th.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

#1 Rule of Aviation - Do what's best for you

It was awards night tonight at CAP. At first, I didn't think much of it, as I haven't been there long, so I didn't think it would really involve me. Never got my beginner awards from the last squadron, but I'm not really too concerned about it.

Also turns out I wasn't on the radios tonight either - that's next week. So excited that I got ahead of myself.

So they get started and the first person gets an award for Airbourne Photography, one of the emergency services qualifications. My heart leaps into my throat. Mission Observer is also an emergency services qualification. I contemplate hiding out in the bathroom. No joke- that really went through my mind. A few of my buddies get recognized for their achievements, so I get distracted and congratulate them. Before I know it, my name is called. I walked up to the front on auto-pilot. They said something about me, something about my achievements, but I didn't register what they said. I walked back to my seat with my new Observer wings.

My eyes filled with tears looking at them. They were beautiful and I've waited so long to have them. So very long... Not only the wings, but the title, the respect, and heck, even the flight suit that went along with the Mission Observer title. The person in charge of the missions and one step closer to Mission Pilot - the whole reason I joined this organization.

But they weren't mine. I still have a lot to learn with the G1000 and I most certainly am in no way, shape or form fit to be in charge of any mission. I'll get there, but I just don't have it yet. I require too much help in the cockpit to feel right about accepting these wings. Each "congratulations" given from my buddies and other members was like a stab to the heart.

After the meeting, I went to one of the guys in charge and told him my concerns. He said that there was a difference in being qualified and being proficient. I was qualified, but the problem I was having was that I didn't feel proficient. Good, glad we understand one another - take these wings back. Not so fast, he said. The regulations state you only must be qualified and then you use training missions and real missions to become proficient. I stated my case and pointed out how when I became a Scanner, I was qualified and proficient. He said that was different. Heck yeah, that's different - Observer carries much more responsibility than Scanner. He said it was a "license to learn", just like the pilot told me. I understand all of that and by all means, I don't intend to stop learning here. But I'm just not proficient enough to be a good member of the flight crew. He told me to talk to the Commander or even the Chaplain, but he wasn't taking the wings back.

I sat and waited on the Commander. They took so long that I nearly gave up and went home. But I knew in the bottom of my heart that I wouldn't have been able to sleep tonight if I left with those wings.

Finally, they were finished and I went into talk to him. My voice cracked as I told him I didn't deserve the wings. He said I was just nervous about having to perform a real life mission and it was understandable; that we all go through that. And if we don't, then it's time to move on. I guess that may be part of it as well, but I don't think my performance as an Observer is adequate.

With Mission Scanner, I made sure I was so proficient at that role that they could wake me up out of a dead sleep at 2am, and I could still perform flawlessly - blindfolded and with my arms tied behind my back. Not really because you need to be able to see and write as part of the job. I know that the situation will change when it becomes a real mission, which is why I need to make certain that I am without a shadow of a doubt that I am the best I can be at that position. Otherwise I let my flight crew, the people I am trying to save... and myself... down. If I don't know what the hell I'm doing on a clear, calm day, then how am I gonna know what to do when they actually need me? I'll freeze. They'll need to come to my aid, when we should be coming to someone else's aid instead. That's not right and that's not fair.

The commander told me he was really happy I joined this squadron. He reminded me that one of the first things I told him was that I liked how they trained well over here and people worked really hard. He said that told him that I wanted a place to learn and wanted to work hard too. All of the people I've flown with have told him that they loved flying with me. I work hard, ask good questions and everyone just enjoys being around me. I couldn't help but smile at this point. That made me feel good. He said all of the "license to learn" stuff again - yeah I get it, I really do... But that's not good enough for me. He told me to wear the wings proudly and ask some pilots for extra help, if I thought I needed it.

We were at an impasse. I couldn't feel good about walking out with the wings and he wasn't going to accept them back. But we worked something out that made us both happy... and unfortunately, I can't disclose it here. He made me promise not to tell any of the other members and to promise to keep learning.

And learning I shall keep doing. One of my pilot buddies needs an excuse to fly and I need to fly to train more. I'll email him in the morning and see if he wants to go flying again.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stand Out & Stand Up

It's been awhile since I've updated. Between then and now, I have (obviously) survived the Spartan.

And with a smile, no less. Every picture they captured of me during the race, I have a smile on my face. Even in my worst moments, when I thought things were rough or bad, I still had a smile. I joke and say it must have been delirium, although I know it was because I was having fun.
Another lesson the Spartan taught me - face adversity and ever obstacle with a smile. The change in perspective won't change the circumstances, but it will make it easier to get through. Plus, after everything is over, people seem to think you are stronger for being able to smile through it.
The biggest struggle is recovery right now. I was doing 40 push-ups nightly before the race to help build up my upper arm strength. Although my mind is craving to run right now and is telling me I can do so, my body is still maxed out. I tried push-ups for the first time the other day and my arms gave out after 4 of them.

It strikes me as odd how similar this is to flying - know your limits and gently push that envelope. If you exceed the performance capabilities of the aircraft, it may be slow to recover or will not recover at all. Perhaps going into the race sick, I wasn't in danger of not finishing - oh no, my will and perseverance are too strong for that. I would have crawled to the finish line if need be. Perhaps the real danger was in recovery. I'm sure recovery is much slower because of the shape I was when I began the race.

Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat. You push your limits, you do the things you never thought you could do... I climbed over an 8 foot wall with the aide of my teammates!!! A skinny girl who is afraid of heights climbed over an 8 foot wall!!! Once you do that, the rest is small stuff... So, as I was saying, you push your own limits, you do things you never thought you could do, you build relationships with people who are racing beside you and you are doing this in the most uncomfortable conditions possible. Most of the time you are wet, cold and muddy. It doesn't really begin to bother you until the end anyways.

I mention all of this because I stopped updating because I was tired of updating about meetings all the  time. What I really want to do is update about actual flying. It began to discourage me. I know I need to find a new instructor and a new school... I say money and finding time is the problem, but I also know it's really me. Money is a big factor, don't get me wrong... but not the main reason. I'm scared. I'm haunted by the memories of being at a school before, and I'm haunted by the memories of a private instructor. What if it goes badly again? What if I never make it?

It's just the obstacle race all over again. Overcome adversity and obstacles with a smile. I'll certainly never make it if I continue to sit on my rump and worry about what may or may not happen. I need to get back into the air; my body, mind and soul almost require it. And no one is going to come to me and say "Hey, wanna go flying? I'll be your instructor!!"; I have to go out and find him myself. Just like no one ever came to me and said "Hey, wanna run an obstacle race together? I'll help you over the walls". I had to sign-up by myself, make a team out of the people I met there and ask them for help. People are more than willing to help you, but you need to take that first step, you know? I need to contact the woman I spoke with when I was first looking for flight schools. I need to try and work through trying to use a flight computer again.

In actual aviation news, last week at CAP meeting, we had an aerobatic pilot come talk to us. He installed LED lights on his airplane and on the propeller. I think it's a FANTASTIC idea myself... and as did one of my buddies. The others had to tell him that he couldn't install lights on any of the CAP aircraft and asked me to tell him too. I looked at him, smiled and said I'd help him to install them. :)
The aerobatic pilot came to have drinks with us after and I couldn't say a word to him. I kept thinking that if I opened my mouth, something stupid might fall out and I was holding myself back from leaping over the table and hugging him.

This week, I'm back running the radios again. And this time around, I'm not nervous. Well... maybe excitedly nervous. ;)

At the EAA meeting last week, we were discussing more plans for the year and fundraising begins with burger cook-outs. I'm sooo excited and thought about inviting all of my friends out when we started scheduling them. Then talk came up about Young Eagle and Eagle flights, to introduce kids and adults to aviation. The President said we needed coordinators for both of them. He asked for volunteers to only be responded to by crickets. I was idly curious and asked what the position involved. Later in the meeting, he'd say things like "We can schedule these monthly or every other month. It just depends on the coordinator and what SHE wants to do". LOL My fault for asking a question, I suppose... In any case, I'm the new Young Eagle Flight Coordinator.

But I'm honestly excited about it. I get to call schools, scout groups, etc to let them know when we are holding a Young Eagle flight day and get in touch with the airports to schedule them. Plus, I need to round up pilots and on the day of the flights, I get to check everyone in and give them their certificates when they finish. Whenever the group holds Board meetings, I am invited to attend and give feedback. Very cool, yet also kinda surreal... Me - the girl who squeaks and loves cartoons will be sitting on the Board of Directors. The only girl and the youngest one sitting on the Board with all those older guys. Well, hey... if you are gonna stand out, might as well stand up, right?

And speaking of standing up, I've also been busy contacting my representatives in DC about the closure of air traffic control towers, cancellation of air shows and the grounding of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. To my utter frustration, they don't seem to be listening. We just need to be louder and get their attention.

Aviation has come to mean so much to me. The best way to show my appreciation for it is to pass on what I have learned and to protect it in any way I can.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

OCR and Aviation

Short entry tonight. All of my energy is going towards a race I have on Saturday. (Part of my New Year's Resolution to run one road race a month) Now it's not just ANY race either - it's the Spartan Sprint. It's one of the top obstacle course/mud races (OCR) out there (some even say the hardest) and it's also a Bucket List item for me. I am a mixture of excitedly nervous and nervously excited.

I have my outfit ready to go and I have team mates, both experienced and non-experienced willing to help me be as successful as possible. We're put our heads together to think of a checklist of items not to forget for brand-new racers. Although this is my first Spartan, I have run an OCR before - the Run for your Lives 5k.

What does this have to do with aviation? The prep is nearly identical.

-First, make a check-list.
-Gather the items you will need ahead of time. And bring extras, just in case.
-Reach out for advice from those who have experience - they are usually more than willing to help newbies be as successful as possible.
-Help those who are just starting out - I may not be an expert, but I still know more than when I started and can pass on what I have learned.
-Have confidence.
-Use proper ORM (operational risk management) - push my limits, but if I come across an obstacle I don't feel safe doing, move on. Safety first.

During this exercise, I will face obstacles that are unknown to me. I do not know what is coming or when, much like the weather we face as pilots. This race is more mental than physical, which was never more apparent than when the race management made us read a document that stated:

"This race is brutal" and "This race is no joke"

I started to get scared after reading those words and then I remembered that they were just trying to psyche us out. It's a mind game and people I know who have run this before have confirmed it. The last obstacle course I ran was pretty awful and I felt it was as tough as a marathon I once ran. But I made it through. I WILL make it through this one too. After the last one, I loudly proclaimed that I hated these types of races and would never do one again, yet here I am a year later doing it again. If it was really all that brutal, I wouldn't have signed up for another one.

The aviation world is full of obstacles too and are more mental than physical. People seem to have the hardest time on the radios? Not because it's extra hard, but because people get "stage fright" and are hesitant. Once you get over that, it gets easier. Walking into a room full of older guys who are all pilots is quite intimidating and can be quite a daunting obstacle. But again, it's mostly mental. Most of those guys are really nice and more than willing to help. Money can be an obstacle too. I could easily list a hundred more obstacles...

Why? Because LIFE has obstacles. But you wanna know what?

Just know that they are mostly mental road blocks and change your attitude so you are better equipped to handle them.

Madness? Perhaps... However, THIS. IS. SPARTAAAAAAAAA! Wish me luck. :)  Talk to you guys again after I reach the finish line. Nervously excited is slowly morphing into just excitement now. AROO!!!!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oshkosh Pt. 2

I just realized that I'm about 4 months away from Oshkosh and I still haven't finished updating about my last trip!

Jokingly, I have said many times that Oshkosh was an aviation "summer camp" for adults and there's actually some truth in there as well. It ended up being more expensive than I anticipated, however, the education I received while I was there was invaluable.

Before I left, the organizers posted the schedule of events on the Airventure website. I printed it out and created a schedule of forums/events that I wanted to see while I was there. I even scheduled times to eat because I knew I just might be wrapped up in everything that I might forget to eat. Once I arrived, and especially as the week went on, I threw the schedule out the window. One thing I found was that you can learn more from one person than you could ever learn in a forum. A couple that I wanted to see were on engine-out procedures from someone who lost their engine and tips on how to get started in home building. Well, I have my mom to talk to about losing your engine in flight and I have my home building buddies to give me tips on building your own airplane. Some of the speakers/forums were great - the Tuskeegee Airmen, the WASP and aerobatic pilots. However, the best part was just sharing time and acquiring knowledge from others who share the same love you have for aviation.

That was my favorite. Since I basically came up there alone, I was more motivated to reach out and talk to people. If you know me at all, I can be kind of shy at first. Not so with aviation. Mention an airplane and I'm chattering away like a chipmunk on espresso, talking to the other person like they were an old friend. It was fantastic because you had the best ice-breaker questions in the world to ask the person riding beside you on the bus or your neighbor in the campsite -

"Where are you from?"... "Are you an aviation enthusiast, or pilot... or both?"..."What are your plans today?"..."What brought you here?"

I met people from all over the world and I know I've said this before, but we concentrated on what brought us together (aviation), rather than what tore us apart (politics, religion, etc).

Some of the highlights:

Meeting the Tuskeegee Airmen and hearing their story. I teared up at some points. The speaker said that some of them won't even speak about their experience because they are still bitter about the way they were treated. That's understandable. As he said though, it was all in the past and at some point you need to move forward, otherwise you will always be stuck back there. He said a lot of people could learn from his experience, so he was happy to talk about it. I got a picture with him... and had my sunglasses on top of my head while wearing my normal glasses. haha

I also got to hear one of the WASPs speak about her experience. During her presentation, however, we experienced some pretty rough weather. The forum building was just mostly a small covering with flaps on the side. It started to rain, so we tied down the flaps. However, while she was speaking, we could barely hear her over the amount of applause coming from the forum pavilion next door. Then it went on a little too long... so one guy lifted the flap to see what was going on. It wasn't applause, but rain hitting VERY hard. We all scooted inwards to avoid getting wet. Then the wind picked up and tore the flaps off. We scooted closer together. Then something out of the movie, Twister, the wind started picking up the empty chairs and throwing them. Another person told us to run up on stage - the only area that had the sides covered for protection. We watched, while holding onto our belongings as the wind came into the forum. It was like staring down a wild tiger. I briefly thought of my poor little tent... and then thought that it didn't matter - if I made it through this, then I'd sleep in the car. No biggie. I had one arm around my bag I carried around with me during the day and one hand on my hat. They were about to take off on their own. But just like that, it was gone. I've since learned what I saw that day was a micro-burst. It's kind of fun to study about them now as I lived through one to tell about it. An odd note about it - my Mom and one of my friends somehow knew I was in distress during the microburst and called afterwards to make sure I was okay. Pretty freaky...

Afterwards, I texted my buddies at the air show to see if they were okay and it turns out it only occurred in the one area I was in. My tent was fine. It was the perfect little $15 tent - withstood the wind and the rain the whole time.

Bernice Falk, the WASP who was speaking, asked afterwards if we wanted to continue with the talk, despite the weather. Sure!!! Are you kidding?!?! If you are willing to continue, then I'm willing to sit my butt on a wet chair and listen. She thanked all of us and said how brave we were. Pfft, you were the brave one for being a female pioneer in aviation. Sitting in a wet chair is nothing. I was a little concerned about my tent (as I didn't know it's status at that point, but I figured it'd be the same whether I stayed a little longer or not).

Everything happens for a reason, as I've said before. After the microburst, I arrived back at camp to see my little tent flattened. It had survived, but someone else's tent was picked up by the wind and thrown on top of mine. One of my rods was broken. I grumbled, disassembled it, and one of my camp buddies and I tried to tape it back together.

A woman from the camping spot behind my tent came out to apologize. It was her family's tent that got tossed and landed on mine. By this time, we had everything fixed already. She felt really, really bad and asked if there was anything she could do. It was an accident and we had everything fixed. No big deal. Sure, I was ticked at first, but everything turned out okay and it wasn't her fault in the first place. I was actually just happy that my tent was still there. Earlier in the day, I had feared it wouldn't be there when I returned.

Later that evening, I had just returned from taking my shower and was sitting in the entrance of my tent enjoying the sunset. A shadow passed over my tent and it was the woman from the campsite behind me. She sat in front of me and we talked for a bit. She still felt bad and asked if I had had dinner yet. I hadn't - and was actually not wanting to get up and walk a mile for it (yes, the restaurant was about a mile from the campsite - I got really in shape that week). Plus, a warm, "home"-cooked meal was better than the fast-foody meals I had been eating all week.

She came to Airventure with her family - husband and three boys - from Minnesota. We ate breakfast and dinner together every day after that for the rest of the air show. They became my camp family during my stay. Their tent falling on top of mine was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

One day, I was wandering around the airport and decided it was time for some lunch. I got my food and looked for a place to sit. Meal times at the air show were one of my most favorite times because I was on my own and sitting at someone else's table gave me the chance to meet new people and talk with them. I looked over the crowd and saw a lot of groups of older pilots. I had hung out by the Warbirds already that morning and talked with a bunch of WWII pilots already, so I looked for someone different. My eyes fell on a couple who looked about my age. I asked if I could sit there and we started with the normal ice-breakers. After awhile, I noticed he had "Kevin Coleman Aerosports" , so I asked if he had an aviation business. "Sort of" he replied with a smile. His girlfriend smiled too. With more prompting, I found out he was an aerobatic pilot, although wasn't preforming at Oshkosh. "Only smaller airshows", he said. "Like Sun & Fun". (Btw, Sun & Fun is in FL and is probably about the same size as Oshkosh). WOW. And to think it was pure luck I just sat down next to him.

We talked some more and he said he was a student of Sean D. Tucker. "Would you like to meet him??" SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! Would I like to meet him!??! Omigosh, omigosh!!! YES YES!!! So he told me to text him when Sean wasn't flying and he'd introduce me. I texted him as he asked, but nothing came of it.

He also said he offers flying scholarships that I should look into on his website. I didn't take him up on it at the time, as I had a private instructor, but I should look into it now that it looks like I may be going back to a flight school. It's amazing who you meet at these air shows.

And I did end up meeting Sean D. Tucker after all. Later in the week, he was scheduled to give a talk about how he got into flying and aerobatics. It was earlier in the day, so not many people were there. He encouraged questions and gave autographed hats to the people asking the questions. My shyness took over, but I wanted one of those hats. I thought of a couple of questions for him and fought the shyness to raise my hand. He didn't end up calling on me, but he stayed after to sign autographed pictures. It's one of my favorite pictures ever and one I still need to get framed. He's flying upside down in his biplane and signed it "To Heather, Sky Sister, Fly with passion. Sean D. Tucker". I quickly asked him a few questions during this time and briefly told him of my own quest to get my pilot's license.

Afterwards, I bounced out of the tent with my prized possession. I had a friend who had his plane on display at the air show and wanted to show him what I had just received. On the way there, I noticed in one of the booths, Greg Koontz's plane was on display. I had seen both him and Sean D. Tucker preform at the Dobbins airshow where I first got bitten by the aviation bug. I had always thought that if I ever got into aerobatics, it would be because of those two. Greg Koontz's plane was beautiful and I got a picture of it at the Dobbins airshow, but here it was - right in front of me. I had to stop and marvel at it. Maybe get another picture of it closer up. I stood on my tippy-toes to look at the instruments inside the plane. A head popped up on the other side of the plane: "Like biplanes do ya?". So I started talking to him about airplanes and flying. Turns out this guy works for and is a friend of Greg Koontz. He starts telling me that Greg has an aerobatic flight school at his house. NO WAYYYYYYYYY!!! This day just keeps getting better and better. We walk around the plane and who is standing on the other side but Greg Koontz. The guy I was speaking with said he'd introduce me and I could ask him more about the flight school. I was like a kid on Christmas who got to eat ice cream for breakfast. They both told me that November would be a good time to learn aerobatics from him and it was plenty of time to earn my license. I didn't make it back then, but am thinking I'll try again this spring. I can't train in aerobatics just yet, but I can still go for my first aerobatic flight. :)

There is no word in the English language sufficient enough to accurately describe my excitement and joy at that moment. I couldn't believe all of that had happened to me. I wanted to pinch myself because it couldn't have possibly been real. I also wanted to hug every stranger who walked by me and tell them what had just happened. I continued over to my home builder friend who had his plane on display and told him the good news. I think he knows all of these guys already, but still shared my excitement.

He built a beautiful airplane and was invited to have it on display. I had the chance to sit in it and take a few vanity pics in it. Even got the opportunity to clean her off in the morning after rain showers to make her shine.

One morning, he took a break and walked around with me to check out the other home builder's airplanes. I think I mentioned before about how sometimes the forums were good, but real world experience was better. For example, I could have sat in a "How to start home building" forum all day. Instead, I think I got a better education by walking around with an actual home builder, being introduced to others (and hanging out/eating lunch with them!!! Lunch time at the air show was one of my favorite times because of all the people I'd meet), and getting to know the stories behind a lot of the airplanes.

He was even nice enough to take me up for a flight around the airport in a Bell 47 Helicopter towards the end of the airshow. We got to see everything from up above and got some good shots of the airport and camping area. Both of us took pictures of the instruments inside the helicopter. I laughed - "Must be a pilot thing", I said.

I think that's really what I missed when I left. Sure, the air show was spectacular and I loved the planes. However, it was the people I met that made the trip. I've never made connections with people like that before and it was because of our mutual love for aviation that brought us together... and consequently tore me apart when I had to leave.

As of today, we're 150 days away and I can't wait to be a 2nd year Oshkoshian. As I reflect on all the adventures I had last year, I can't wait to have more. I can't wait to see my friends from last year and I can't wait to make even more.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I was excitedly nervous all of yesterday in anticipation of my first official night on the radios at the CAP meeting. As the day progressed, I became more and more hyper.

I also began to think how my buddies would all congratulate me for the new Observer rating and a knot began to form in my stomach. I emailed the pilot I flew with, thanked him for his time and said that I didn't want to insult him, but that I just didn't feel comfortable accepting the rating yet. One of the hardest emails I've ever had to write. Everyone here knows how much I want that rating and it caused my emotions to conflict to nearly have it in my grasp, only to hand it back. I knew I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror if I didn't tell them I wasn't ready for it. Like I told the pilot (and think I wrote here), I'd rather be an asset rather than a liability.

With both of these issues at the forefront of my mind, I went to the meeting early to set up everything on the radios. One of my buddies had already set everything up for me and tested it. I licked my lips nervously and focused on the radio room.

The pilot I flew with found me and asked to talk with me. The knot in my stomach tightened. Not now, dude, I gotta get mentally prepped for the radios. He said he respected my opinion that I didn't think I deserved the rating, but how he wouldn't have signed me off if he didn't think I could do it. Unfortunately, this squadron already recognized it. However, it wasn't on the website yet officially and I didn't have the wings printed on my shirt yet. So what we were going to do is take a few more flights (at my expense, but that's okay) to get me ready to my liking and before any potential real missions come up. He said he didn't know why I didn't think I was ready - that he had flown with people who have had their ratings for years and I did much better than any of them. So he told me not to worry and we'd work on it.

Good - one task down. I refocused on the radio room and walked in alone, which momentarily caused me to freeze. One deep breath, and I silently reminded myself that someone was going to sit with me. I wasn't going to be alone. I can do this. I can do this.

Another member arrived. My ears perked up at hearing her say, "Communications". I poked my head out and asked if she was running comm too. She looked more nervous than I did and said she was just here to train, but didn't know about it. I laughed, and told her it was my first night on the radios. What a team, huh? Fortunately, the main guy showed up and sat in the back, ready to jump in if I needed it.

We got out the script and I asked questions before going live. My eyes kept nervously flicking to the clock and the sound of each second ticking by was deafening. Finally, 7:15 - show time.

I hit the button and followed along on the script, silently reminding myself to try to go slow (and not to suck all of the air out of the room). Reading the script was easy. It got more complicated when people would call back in. I turned to the main guy on more than one occasion - "What do I say to that?!?!". LOL I was feverishly writing down what they told me too. After awhile, he said that it may help to have the other woman training to write down everything and I just handle the radios. He said we should switch off too and she shook her head with a firm "NUH-UH!". haha

Now, basically all I'm doing is setting up so other stations can call and check in. Usually we run one of these on our meeting nights and we have to check in to the other two. Well, I hit the lottery and I had to set up 3 check-in sessions! The guy watching me said it was a hard night to be scheduled on, although I thought that having 3 was good practice even if it seemed like a lot. I got more and more comfortable with each session.

At one point, he tells me that I don't need to worry so much about terminology and be so formal all the time; I can also be friendly by saying "hello" or "good evening" too. So I threw a couple of those in. By the time I was doing the 3rd time through, I felt like a radio DJ by adding inflection so it didn't sound like I was just reading and being friendly to everyone else on the channel.

A few stumbles, a few messing up on terminology, but not too bad.

I wrapped up by checking into a repeater, which was pretty easy and that was it - I was done! I was feeling pretty good about everything when the guy (who didn't have to lift a finger during my time on the radios) says to me that I did a really good job! He said that he's never seen anyone do so well on their first time (Thank you to Auntie for showing me the ropes a few weeks ago!)  and how I felt more comfortable as time went on. The other woman training with me said I sounded clear & smooth, spoke neither too fast nor too slow, had good volume, and was articulate. BOO. YAH.

Walking out of the radio room absolutely on Cloud Niner (haha), I couldn't wait to celebrate with everyone. It was quite a big deal for me. I was smiling ear to ear and greeted everyone enthusiastically. Once again though, I was pulled aside from one of the higher ups. Oh no, here we go... are we gonna rehash the Observer thing again? Please don't tell me I'm wrong...

No, he didn't want to talk about that. Apparently someone told him that another member was going after me and telling me he'd put me on a 'no-fly' list. Umm, that's news to me. He was concerned that the other guy was picking on me. I told him that it wasn't the case and the other member had been nothing but nice to me. He looked puzzled, but thanked me for my time and let me go. Seems they have lots of problems with this other member and even though I said everything was cool, they took him aside and basically gave him a "Don't you dare harm a hair on her head or tell her she can't fly or you are gone" speech. I felt a little bad, as nothing like that happened. Although makes me wonder if maybe it was said behind my back? I don't know...  However, it was kind of nice that I had people looking out for me, I guess.

So we went out for drinks after again and it was good to spend time with me. As cool as working on the radios was, it keeps you isolated from everyone else for a little bit.

On the way home, I turned up every dance song I heard and cruised all the way home. Nothing like doing well on something that once made you nervous. I'm still riding my high today and tried explaining my happiness to my co-workers, but they just don't seem to understand it. I can't wait until I go on the radios again!!! <3

Monday, February 25, 2013



1. the height to which something is elevated or to which it rises: The elevation of the tower is 80 feet. 
2. the altitude of a place above sea level or ground level.
3. an elevated place, thing, or part; an eminence.
4. loftiness; grandeur or dignity; nobleness: elevation of mind.
5. the act of elevating.

Last week consisted of a CAP meeting, an EAA meeting and a FLIGHT (!!!!), so lots of aviation goodies to update on.

I got all of the sign-offs I needed to become a Mission Observer, however, I still don't think I'm ready to be qualified. First, I may have completed the tasks, but I don't perform them perfectly. The pilot I flew with said you didn't need to and each flight would be a learning experience. Getting my rating was like getting my license - doesn't mean you know everything, but is a license to learn. Still, an Observer is supposed to be in charge of the mission and help the pilot. I'm more of a liability than an asset to the pilot right now. We're going to be a team up there, trying to help someone on the ground who needs help. I won't be much of help to someone on the ground if I don't know my stuff and have to have someone else take away time from trying to help someone on the ground if they have to help me.

Plus, I wanna be happy when I get my rating and feel like I've actually earned it. Perhaps I've internalized Merlin too much inside my head. The pilot on Sunday said I did a fine job and it was just a matter of doing things over and over and over. Merlin would have yelled at me for my performance. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it), I was/am much harder on myself than Merlin ever was.

The pilot I flew with knows of Merlin quite well and was surprised to hear that I knew him (and flew with him for about 6 months). I told him he was my former flight instructor. He winced and asked how my experience was. I dodged the question, half-jokingly answering "I take the 5th". He laughed and tried again. More seriously, I said how things may not have worked out for me, but I wasn't going to say anything about it. It was in the past and over with now. I just wanted to keep moving forward and leave that all behind me. It wasn't worth it. He was shocked and said how good it was/how much control I had to be able to do that. lol If only you read my blog... haha. No, I'm done with that. No more negativity in this blog.

After the flight, the pilot got a call from one of the guys on the ground radio. "The person you flew with...", he said. "Who WAS that? She sounded so confident...". That was a pretty nice ego stroke. I did feel more comfortable on the radios this time. Although, what they don't know is that it was my best acting to date. I didn't feel confident. Just tried to act it more. lol Oh well, fake it till ya make it, right?

I got to fly a little bit as well. Having to do my job while flying was a little bit crazy. I've been told trying to do both IS crazy, but you never really know until you are put in that position. Plus, it was from the right seat, so that's disorienting as well. The pilot would switch my display (we were in G1000) from the PFD (primary function display - where all the instruments I need to be looking at are) to the MFD (multi-function display - where all the nav instruments are... which I didn't need at the moment). That would throw me off a bit - airspeed would speed up or slow down and I'd get off course. I need to be looking out the window anyways.

At the EAA meeting, upcoming activities were discussed. Lots of talk about fundraising, which I am more than happy to help out with. Aaaaaaaaaaaaand then came the mention of building a plane together. I nearly blasted off in my chair I was sooooooo happy. I tried to sit still to not look like a total goober. Squeeing, acting like a little kid on Christmas morning and bouncing up from one's seat with a giant WHOOP!!!! are somehow not seen as professional. lol  I understand it, but I wish being excitable wasn't so frowned upon in society.

So the President mentions how he wants us to think of "wives activities" to have at the plane building sessions because "no woman wants to help build a plane or watch you build one". That comment was met with an intense glare. I'm sure he felt the heat from it because he looks over, laughs guiltily and says "Oops, sorry, except maybe you". I suggested that perhaps we try to get the wives involved. They may not be interested, but if you isolate them, then they definitely won't be interested. Show them what you are doing, put a wrench in their hand, or do something to get them involved if even for only a few minutes. Even if they aren't interested, they will appreciate being involved. Plus, who knows, you may awaken a love for aviation in someone who never knew they had it. If you only reach one, then you would have done your job.

The President also mentioned fly-in days and Eagle flights, where they take adults up for a flight who have never flown in a small aircraft before. I already talked with another group I'm apart of - The Geek Girls - about coming out for it. We're a group of females who love geeky things - science, museums, comics, etc. Collectively, they seem very excited about it. I'm excited too! I can volunteer that day and make sure all of my friends get to experience the magic of flight.

Last CAP meeting was on the G1000. Lots of good information, although mostly geared towards the pilots. Just think - when I'm a pilot, look at all the free resources available to me and I'll actually understand it all!!! I understood most of this presentation... but the presenter lost me towards the end. I feverishly wrote all of the terms I didn't understand to look up later. Once again, the only student pilot in the room... and the only one taking notes. haha  Guess I should be used to that by now.

Next week... or rather, this week... GAH!!! Tomorrow!!!!, I'll be on the radios. It's okay - I felt very lucky to have sat with someone who could show me the ropes a few weeks ago. Glad I did it when I did because I got sick after that and missed that week's meeting. I think this is actually good -- the way to become more in-charge in the airplane is to increase my confidence and I increase my confidence by doing things that I'm not comfortable doing. Besides, I rocked the communications in the plane on Sunday. It'll be okay, I can do this. I'll have a script in front of me this time. ;)