Once upon a time, a self-proclaimed Archaeology-Lifer got a job as a flight attendant. No one knows quite how it happened. Here's what happened next...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Student Pilot

"Student Pilot".  That's what I am now classified as.  A Student Pilot.  Except that three weeks into the program it feels like all I am is a student.  There's nowhere near enough Piloting going on.  But there is a giant pile of homework and reading to contend with.

The weather this month has been awful. I have managed four lessons in three weeks, and that's it!  I'm on the verge of throwing a temper tantrum every time I check the METAR/TAF.  So much for spring in Ottawa.  I actually had to wear my uniform sweater for half of last week because it was too darned cold outside!

The small amount of flying I have managed to squeeze in has been pretty interesting so far.  The first lesson was just a bit of review.  It had been about two months since I flew last, so My Instructor just took me out to the practice area and we went through the basic exercises.  After that he let me do an hour of solo circuit work to let me buildup my confidence flying solo again, and then back out to the practice area for some work on precautionary and forced landings.  Apologies to any farmers whose fields I buzzed.

On Wednesday this week I finally got the go ahead to go out to the practice area by myself.  My first solo flight last summer was a really big deal - it was like the instructors were saying "OK we don't think you're going to kill yourself if we let you fly a plane alone, so go for it..."  But it also felt like there was a little bit tacked on the end there saying "...but we don't trust you that much yet, so stay right where we can see you, young lady."  Getting signed off to fly to the practice area (a good ten to fifteen minute flight away) felt like the training wheels were finally being removed!

I felt pretty nervous leading up to the lesson.  I'm not entirely sure why - I am confident in most of the exercises, and have a pretty good idea of what to do in case of an emergency.  I'm comfortable with radio communications involved, and in working the circuit.  Nothing really to be terribly nervous about there - it was probably just the whole "what-if" going around in my head.  What if I do forget something and My Instructor isn't there to remind me?

After a quick walk around of my plane for the day I had a short briefing with My Instructor, and received an "Off you go then", so off I went!  I lost most of my nerves once I was in the air.  Working in the Practice Area alone wasn't at all bad.  I picked my area to work in, announced my intentions on the radio, and got to it.

I found it strange to be giving myself directions.  Usually My Instructor tells me to do a stall or a steep turn or whatever else he wants, and I do it.  Now I had to decide what I would work on by myself.  I chose to start small, so I put myself in slow flight for a little while, and then recovered.  Not bad.  Then I figured I'd have a go at power-off stalls.  I did a lookout to make sure no other aircraft were nearby, did a cockpit check, and began to reduce my power slowly, while simultaneously pulling the nose up to keep my altitude.  It worked nicely.  I didn't lose any height, and I waited to hear the stall horn sound.  It should have gone off around 50kts or so, but by the time I reached 40kts in silence I figured something wasn't quite right, and recovered.  I tried again, and once more made it to 40kts without hearing anything.  Feeling spooked, I recovered again and decided to call it a day on stalls.  I thought perhaps the stall speed was a lot lower because of the absence of 160lb of flight instructor in the plane next to me, but it turned out that this particular plane just doesn't like to sound it's stall horn, which is slightly worrying.  It was probably a good job I gave it a rest, in hindsight.

I moved on to work on a few steep turns, which was pretty fun, although I was frustrated to find I still lose about 150ft of altitude during the maneuver, so I am going to have to work on that.  After about 40 minutes out there I figured that was enough of my newfound freedom for the day, and headed back into Ottawa, requesting a few circuits before calling it a day.  It definitely felt good to be flying solo, although I wasn't pleased to discover that I have apparently lost the knack of a good landing.  I can land safely, and it's not terrible, but the landings are quite bumpy and lack grace so I need to work on that again.  My primary goal is not to cringe when I imagine which of my friends are in the club house watching me do circuits!!

Still, hopefully once the weather improves I can start flying more and start polishing up my skills.  The next thing on my training schedule is work on cross-country flights. This is rather exciting, and I'm looking forward to getting into some real flight planning.

Aside from the flying, classes are going rather well.  There is a lot of material to learn, and a lot of homework to be done, but I find it nice to have something productive to do with my brain again.  I didn't realise it but I actually don't mind doing schoolwork.  I had been quite nervous about the math class, but I am surprised to find that I haven't had much difficulty yet.  We are mostly reviewing things that I learned in high-school.  It is just a matter of convincing my brain to remember them.  However sometimes the professor will still go off on a little tangent and I have to look at The Newfie sitting next to me and ask "Is he still speaking English?"

Some things never change I suppose.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Well folks...back in January I came to the realisation that this whole training to be a pilot privately wasn't working out for me...

So I applied to full time education and am now training to be a commercial pilot through Algonquin College!  Surprise!

A classmate has recently set me up with my very own webpage, so I'm picking up my darling blog and sticking it there instead!  I really want it to grow and become something I can be proud of, and I feel like having my own page for this will help.

SO if you wouldn't mind terribly, please mosey on over to http://www.alwayslookingabove.com

It's still very rough, and I will be spending a lot of time tweaking it over the next week or so to get it just right. At the moment it appears basic, but I've imported all of my old content to it, and have also written a new post.  Enjoy!

Much love!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Changes

Well how was your winter?  For me the winter was, to put it delicately, a huge pain in the ass.  At least with regards to my pilot training anyway.  The weather sucked, which in itself made flying difficult - but then I had a number of small and not so small setbacks that meant that from November up until March I barely managed to scrape ten hours in total.  Not good.

Eventually a decision had to be made.  Unfortunately, obtain Pilot's licenses is extremely difficult, not to mention expensive!  But giving up was not even a remote option for me, so I eventually came to the conclusion that if I am going to follow this dream I needed to do it properly.  That's why in January I applied to Algonquin College for the Aviation Management program.  Now it's called "aviation management", but what it really does is train you up as a commercial pilot, and provides you with the starter kit to getting a job.  All accomplished in eighteen months! Sounds good to me!  To make it even more appealing, I was able to continue flying at The Ottawa Flying Club, and even stay with My Instructor.

Initially I applied to and was accepted to the September program, but after speaking to the program's coordinator I was convinced to apply for the May program.  I had intended to work my butt off all summer and then start in the fall, but eventually I figured out that I might as well just do it.  I got my acceptance, got my student loans in line and was ready to go.

Term started May 9th, and so far I am having a blast.  It's a pretty daunting thing - being a full time student again.  But I am sure I will manage.  My classes are pretty interesting, and a lot of them are specifically aviation based.  For those that aren't (English and Math for example), our professors are doing a good job of trying to incorporate aviation into the material, which is much appreciated.  In addition to interesting classes, it's a delight to be around a group of like-minded individuals, and naturally I adore the fact that I get to fly more than once a week - indeed it is expected of me!

I'm still keeping my job at the airport, although I have reduced the hours to part-time on the weekends, and I will take some flights with The Airline if I can at all manage it.  I've been told by several of my professors already  that working while I am in school is not a good idea, but it's not going to make a difference.  When I consider how much this program is going to cost there is no way I can justify giving up my job.  And to be honest, although I understand the workload involved in this program I don't think I will have any difficulty finding the time I need to do my work.  I've only been in the program for a week and a half and already I feel as though I have had more down time than I ever did working full time.  That time can easily be put to good use for studying.

Giving up full-time work was a huge challenge for me.  I didn't realise it, but since I finished university two years ago I have been hugely motivated by the goal of full time work (and then some...in March I worked 23 days in a row without a day off!).  I found that in the week prior to the start of term I was extremely nervous and jittery.  Initially I chalked it up to nerves about the program, but when I really considered this I discovered it wasn't the case at all.  I'm not completely new to training, and I've done full time education in the past.  Nothing there could really intimidate me.  After some time spent thinking on the subject, I realised that what was really throwing me for a loop was the idea of going from full-time employee to part-time employee.  This was an extremely distressing thought for me, and I am quite sure that if it were at all possible I would be attempting to cling to my full-time status AND do school.  But my flying and class schedule simply will not permit it, so part-time hours it is, and a life of full time studies and austerity for me for the next eighteen months.

Really though, if it means I get to fly three times a week, who cares if I don't get to buy that colour of nail polish I really want, or can't buy that shirt I saw in my favourite shop?  None of those things can truly compare to how it will feel when I am a licensed pilot.

Now obviously I didn't do much updating over the winter.  This was due, at least in part, to a severe lack of flying to write about.  However there are a few snippets that I will attempt to share with you soon in order to get you caught up.  I did a lot of flying with The Airline, so there are plenty of stories to tell!  But now that I am in the Algonguin program I should have lots to write about so expect more frequent updates.  I am even going to try and put myself on some sort of schedule so that you know when to expect updates from me.

All this is still to come, but for the time being I have math homework to do.  Now there's something I didn't think I'd ever be saying again after high school!