Dec 19, 2016 – Back in Ground School

I’ve talked about wanting to work at FlightSafety for a very long time. The idea of spending my days at an airport, or flying someone else’s airplanes into my golden years, has always been appealing to me. Engineering and management challenges were fun, but this is where my heart has led me. I am excited to be starting a new career at this point.

That career was to have begun back in November, but I had to delay my start when my wife ended up in the hospital. My Teammates at FlightSafety made the last minute adjustments for me with no hassles at all. We just moved my start date to Dec 19, 2016. Only after I began this new career, would I understand how impractical it would have been to leave for even a day in the middle of the training to be with my wife. I was glad I was up front with them, and more so that they made it easy for me. 

On December 16th, I had an interesting consulting opportunity pop up with my old company and a consulting firm. One more pull back into what had been a very lucrative career for me. This one was related to drone piloting for utility work; building and instructing the new pilots that would operate them in the field. From what I can see at this point, there is a good possibility an interesting niche business might develop for the future.  Before I began work at flight safety, I took the tine to pass the required FAA exams, adding a drone pilot certification to my resume. If it happens that I have extra time and do both – I will bring that option along. If not – I’ll let it go.

Monday, December 19th – my very first day of work. During my introductory briefing by the Director of Training,  I was told that my pay had gone up by a full 16%. Unbelievable! What a nice way to start my day, and a new career at that! The pilot shortage is clearly hitting everyone, and this raise was across the board for instructors that had been there for a long time. I was lucky enough to hit this at the right time. The new income will certainly make the restoration of my airplane easier to manage.

The week of the 19th had me doing eLearning all week, setting up the corporate iPad they gave me, and working with the FSI IT department to activate my accounts. I received a full box of business cards and several types of name tags from my new friend, Diane, who seems to make everything come together. She has been at FSI for a long time as a key HR person, and I came to understand that Diane is the type that keeps things smooth and moving. She became the smiling and encouraging face that greeted me those first few days, until I learned to find my way around on my own.

Oh – and it is not lost on me that I wear a name tag at work now.  Too funny!! I’ve been bashing my friends that wear name tags for years, and this is payback.

Tuesday 12/27/16 was the first day of ground school, coming off of Christmas break. School was scheduled to run four long days through Friday with Len. He is a dedicated instructor with high energy, who would be leaving FSI for a flying job any day now. It is his intention to ensure that I picked up where he left off, and was brought up to speed with the greatest haste.

Len hoped to stay on at FSI as a part time instructor, and many folks do. He hopes his new company will assign him to the Falcon jet, but acknowledges that he might end up in a King Air instead. Len is fastidious, highly energetic, and is spending 10% of our time together grooming me to become an effective instructor at the same time he is teaching me about the jet. The instruction I receive is one-on-one, so my focus remains complete.

I realized then and now how much better this situation is for me here, compared to the US-Air training I’d received. Both are highly effective, but this approach is completely focused on me, and biased toward my personal success. Len’s energy is boundless, and regardless of the length of the day, the quality of his instruction never declined.

The next instructor would be my assistant program manager. Dave takes a different approach by having me draw out the systems we are exploring as he walks me through them. It was a very effective way to teach me the subtleties of the system, and I find it a refreshing change to Len’s approach. Both are necessary to match the pace we need, and together I am getting through with a minimum, of stress. Dave wants to be sure I’m enjoying myself, and that I don’t get overly frustrated with the pace and quantity of information flowing into my cranium.  I am hesitant to relax with a check-ride ahead, but can’t help doing that just a little.

I did ask to leave on time that Thursday. My friend was having a 25th anniversary party that Bev and I very much wanted to attend. We had a nice night out, and I found Len in the office the next morning waiting for me. He reviewed where we were, and told me he wanted to knock out the rest of my ground school that day.  Off to the races!!  I could tell that Len truly wanted me to have as much information as possible, as early as possible.

Sometime during Friday’s marathon session, the program manager stopped in to tell me that I was off the next day (Saturday) for lack of an available instructor. Scott said that when I came back on Tuesday, I’d get my first chance to fly the sim as a right seat pilot for a client. This guy was just doing a warm-up flight, so it would be a good mission to cut my teeth on. I was very excited, even though it would be a 5 am start.

With that knowledge, after a 12 hour ground school day, Len added an introductory simulator flight for me that lasted about an hour. I went home totally exhausted, but feeling like I’d retained most of what I’d learned. This weekend would be for studying for the written as a primary focus; reviewing flashcards for the oral; and performing flows on a poster in preparation for the right seat ride. Things were moving fast.

After some sleep, I reflected on the fact that Len’s day was just as long as mine. His quality of instruction never waned all day, and my ability to absorb all this information seemed to be good. He was doing his job. I did worry about retention and recall as this process continued, but buckled back down and pressed on. I am still amazed that he never showed any signs of slowing down, nor took any shortcuts in his work.

Tuesday, Jan 4th – The sim ride was only slightly intimidating. This particular day was intended to allow the client to warm up for an upcoming check-ride. He already knew what he was doing, and the flight went very smoothly. I didn’t know any of the PIC or SIC flows, nor was I able to find the switches I’d need. It was still good to observe, and I was backed up closely by Dave in the back so that I didn’t look like an idiot. I was excited to be doing this in a jet for the very first time.

Wednesday, Jan 5th was my last day in ground school.

Thursday, Jan 6th was a casual free ride in the simulator to get familiar before the start of Sims. The checkride was already scheduled for the following Saturday, and I had a hard time seeing how the hell are they where going to get me ready. I’d never flown a jet before, and so much of this was new.

Fly safe!  I’m so very fortunate to be doing what I am, and to have the tremendous support at home to experiment boldly.

Frank

About fdorrin

Experienced single and multi-engine instrument flight instructor in the PA30, Cirrus, Piper, Cessna, Diamond and others. Own an Elite simulator and use that effectively for single and multi-engine work. CFII; MEI; ME-ATP; SES; DHC-8 / Dash-8 typed. Retired Manager of Control Systems and Network Operations for PEPCO Holdings, Inc.
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