Jan 14, 2016 – Flying to the Edge of the Envelope

I like the title, but I admit that it’s overly dramatic. The envelope I’m talking about is my own personal limitations. Trying hard to learn jets and to do this professionally once more, I can only drawing parallels to my previous experience at Piedmont. I am beginning to understand myself more in the process.

I tend to set my personal standards very high. That isn’t unusual for pilots and A-type personalities, but I struggle to find the right expectations for myself when I’m learning a new aircraft. That creates undue stress and lessens the enjoyment I would otherwise feel while going through this amazing experience. Both at Piedmont and now at FlightSafety, I’ve been told to relax and enjoy the experience. I’m only a little better at it now, and still lose sleep approaching a check-ride.

At the start of sims, I had the opportunity to observe an initial check-ride being given to a client. This young man flew the check-ride flawlessly the entire time, from what I could see. Flawlessly. Fast forward a week to my own check-ride, which I did pass, and I felt that I was working a whole lot harder than that young man did. I did get it done, but it will take more experience for me to be as smooth as he.

Simulator Lessons: There were five sim sessions, one per day, and I learned something with each one. Combined, they gave me enough repetition that I could begin to build the skills and muscle memory that I needed. The feedback I got was that I was certainly on target, but needed to relax more and have more fun with it.

Lesson four in the simulator was particularly difficult. Unusual attitudes, V1 cuts, single engine go-arounds, and emergency procedures among other maneuvers. I didn’t fly up to my own standards that day, and the instructor agreed. Dave reassured me that I’d been at this without a break for 11 days, and everyone had fatigue and performance issues by now. He told me to relax and have fun. I was doing just fine.

The final lesson and LOFT went very well and my confidence soared. LOFT is Line Oriented Flight Training, and that means basically flying the airplane from one point to another as you would on the line. I found that entire experience to be great fun – hitting Dulles, LaGuardia, and JFK airports to simulator dropping passengers off on a typical flight. I left that Friday feeling very good about my ability to pass the check-ride the next day.

The Check-ride: The ride went smoothly, for the most part. I did make a few mistakes along the way. Not getting all of the flaps up after a single engine go-around, and then not getting them down on the next approach comes to mind.  Later I had several failures to deal with, plus a distraction on a single engine approach. I announced I was descending to an intermediate fix before I should have, and the FO called out that he didn’t advise that. I realized what I’d begun to do, and that saved me from a serious mistake. Keep moving.

At the end of the day, I passed the check-ride.

I do need to improve how I manage the cockpit to ensure I get the most out of my FO, while helping him or her to enjoy the experience as well. In other ways – exerting authority under pressure, without being an asshole, is more difficult than it appears. Extensive single pilot IFR experience has ingrained habits that get in the way of my being a fun captain to fly with. I’m getting better with each opportunity though, and have that as a goal.

The quality of the FlightSafety training is every bit as good as the USAir experience. The really big difference here is that everyone at FlightSafely is biased toward ensuring I’ll meet the standards and be successful, whereas the airline’s sought to minimize training and emphasize evaluation in an impersonal environment. The training at FlightSafety – both classroom (ground) and simulator – was one on one. Personal training with a bias toward success makes this experience an amazing opportunity for me. I’m making the most of it.

Upcoming Features: I have completed high altitude training this past week, as a refresher to the training Mike B and I had done in 2009. This past week was an easy one, and I used the time to build an instructor’s book identifying all of the content I’ll use to teach ground school. My boss tells me I’m working too hard, but I’m really not. I’m enjoying myself and want to make sure I fulfill any expectations, out of respect for the opportunity to do this.

Monday, Jan 23 starts another initial class for me. I’ll observe the class going through the training I just completed, so that I can not only see the material again, but observe how the instructor presents it. That will run through Saturday, and then I’ll have a day off on Sunday.

Monday, Jan 30th will start a week of simulator training that will culminate in a check-ride the following Saturday for the clients. I’m afraid that, once again, I’ll see others flying a check-ride with amazing ease compared to how much work I did. It is possible that I’m a very good pilot simply because I work so hard at it.

Doolittle Connections: Now I have two connections to the Doolittle raiders. Larry Kelley’s owns the B-25 Panchito and established the Delaware Aviation Museum Foundation. Matt Sager also works there and managed to get me a signed copy of Dick Cole’s book. Dick was Doolittle’s copilot, and the first to launch off of the carrier at the start of the raid. I consider that a connection by 1 degree of separation.

I recently met Lloyd Austin, an incredibly experienced octogenarian military aviator working with me at FlightSafety. Austin gave me my check-ride last week, and noticed that I have a B-25 rating. He also has one, and proceeded to tell me that his first CAA issued instrument ticket was signed by Travis Hoover. He would later fly with Travis in the B-25, and Travis would go on to become the co-pilot in the second bomber to be launched off of aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) on the Doolittle raid. That’s 1 degree of separation to the co-pilot’s of the first two bombers launched that morning. I just think that’s pretty cool.

Fly Safe!  I am looking forward to flying the simulator again, so that I can really hone my proficiency in this jet.

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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