Oct 16, 2017 – Moving on; N833DF Update; and Brain Food

The stress of the big move is over, and all of my check-rides for the year are behind me as well. The Astra type rating in the bag, and I’m working on identifying and filling in the remaining boxes so that I can expand my instructor qualifications to include the Astra.

Thus far, the demands of being a FlightSafety Instructor do not approach any that I’ve experienced before in terms of complexity and time away from home. The schedule remains the obvious hurdle, if this is to become a long term avocation for me.

FlightSafety: I’m enjoying the work, but many are telling me I will be bored very soon and will decide to move on. I don’t see that coming at the moment, but I am starting to believe that there may be something to that if instructing is all I have going. One thing that will help keep me challenged is getting my airplane back. Re-training and traveling will help keep me busy. Angel Flights and taking Beverly on three and four day trips will add additional spice, and the combination might just be enough.

I committed to two years. Financially, that means I’d have to write a check of less than $20k to leave now. Personally – I have no intention of leaving until I get much better at this than I am now, and that will take at least another year.

I’ve been influenced by clients and colleagues to plan now for what is next, and pursue my desire to fly jets as well as teach. I’ll address that in the next blog, using the writing itself as a means of thinking it through. The path forward will include FlightSafety, and might possibly blends in a few other opportunities that have arisen. I’m excited to be thinking about it.

N833DF: My airplane is still not flying, and that is an obvious source of frustration. There was at least good news on that front this week, however, when a picture showing that riveting has begun on the left wing came in. We are putting something back together for a change. I refuse to not be optimistic about that.

One thing that helps with this is to remember that the timing of this major down-time for my airplane is actually fortuitous. Freakin’ amazing, actually. At the very moment I find out that my hobby will be taken away from me for some time, I get a phone call that hands me a tremendous opportunity to get two jet type ratings in a year. Starting full time work as a FlightSafety instructor requires focus, and that took my mind off of my airplane for a time. So many things happened this year to keep me occupied, that I can at least be grateful for the timing.

Now it is time to focus on moving it forward though, so I am putting an increasing amount of pressure on myself to get it done. While Matt is an amazing talent, he is constantly pulled in different directions. I want him involved in the repairs from start to finish, but may have to work with him to find a better solution. That decision will be made in December, based on where we stand.

In case you are wondering. I have absolutely no regrets buying either one of my airplanes. They have challenged me; opened up an amazing array of new opportunities; and have given me the chance to work alongside an amazing array of people in the past few years. Thank God I have a wife who understands and supports this obsession. It isn’t cheap, but it has been worth it.

Home front: my wife is amazing and we are coming up on our 20 year anniversary this November 9th. Major projects on the outside of the house have been recently completed. The new propane tank was installed in a more reasonable location. It has been moved away from the driveway where someone visiting was bound to park upon it. Owning the new tank gives us access to competitive propane gas pricing, and has broken a lock that Shagrin Gas had on the previous owners. For example, I filled the new tank with 1000 gallons at $1.30 versus refilling from Shagrin at about $2.60. That equates to about a 3 year pay-off on the project.

The concrete driveway has also been completed, allowing a landscaper well known to us to come in and repair the considerable damage done to the yard by all this work. The results of those efforts are impressive, and we have been watching new grass grow and begin to stabilize the wet ground this past week. It appears that the two major rain storms that came through after the work was done caused only light damage and erosion. Progress.

We have been socializing and exercising more, and I just sent our our bikes to get new saddles and tune-ups. We’ve been out playing more in the last month or so than in all of last year, it seems. Good times. Many of our friends are closer to the new place, and our family has easier access to drive-by visits now that we are 45 minutes further north.

Our commute improved as well, shaving about an hour of driving a day for each of us. Bev’s round trip to her parents, and mine to the airport are significantly more convenient. Additionally, the new hangar in Wilmington is 5 minutes from work and only 25 minutes from home. It’s all coming together.

Staying in touch with old neighbors, and building relationships with new ones is also keeping us moving. Wine and cheese at 5pm on someone’s deck is not uncommon, and a recent vacation to Key West continued the tone for us this fall.

Chesapeake City is a quaint little town we are getting to know. We love our house and are working to learn how to fit in with the ebb and flow of the town. Interactions with the town planning committee and the town manager have led to positive outcomes, but I admit to going in prepared to do battle. I need to relax, but hold them accountable while protecting my interests. They are working with me.

I’ll be pursuing a variance with the town and wet lands commission (whatever that is called) next year for an additional driveway lane. I’ll also be building two decks and removing a fence. That means I’ll have both the county and the town in my business, and I’ll be walking around in my Centurion outfit. I’m sure it will all work out fine, but I’m not always the best guy to deal with bureaucratic non-sense (see – there I go again).

Blog Writing: I had significantly curtailed my writing about aviation as a result of my airplane’s woes. I just found it too distracting and didn’t want to be reminded of it. The joy I’ve gotten out of learning to fly the WestWind and Astra Jets burned through some of that melancholy, but the temporary loss of my airplane continues to slow my writing.

I think that may change though. Renewed confidence that either Matt or another resource will return my airplane to flight, and a the decision to being career planning I alluded to earlier will renew my energy on the matter.

‘Finding your own way’ is the title of a book I’ve been working on. The book gets a lower priority when it comes to experiencing life, for a number of reasons:

  • More than likely – not many people will read it when it’s done.  That’s ok though – I enjoy reading it and a few folks might get something out of it.
  • The shelf life of a best seller is not all that long at all – even when incredibly successful. Anything I do will be incredibly short-lived in comparison, so it is important to keep things in perspective.
  • I learned to put a camera down and participate instead of record. It is better to live life than to capture images – unless you enjoy the picture taking part of it.
  • I’ll enjoy the process more when I can write about getting N833DF airborne again.

N833DF Progress: I reached out to my A&P, Matt, this week. I suggested that the lack of progress to date might make it unlikely that I’d be flying by the end of the year. He’d made the promise before to have the plane reassembled by year end, and I think it is a reasonable goal for both of us. If we don’t make it, I’m hoping to work together to get someone else involved to help. Matt would stay involved, but the work would get done.

Matt sent a picture of the left wing soon the latest text exchange. I could see clecos bringing the skins together on the left wing, and was absolutely elated.

Thrilled to see some form of progress here for a change, Matt tried to temper my enthusiasm,  saying we had a long way to go. It is hard not to get excited, so I am.

I did remind him to follow up on his contact regarding the building of my right wing gear support piece. There are no new ones available, and all the salvaged ones we found are all cracked.  Not following up has led to delays this past year.

Traveling in N833DF is a definitely part of the 2018 plan for Beverly and I, and I intend to make that happen.

WestWind / Astra instruction: I’ve been teaching in the WestWind for both initial and recurrent pilots. I am rated in the Astra and have completed all or most of the instructor qualifications that will enable me to instruct. Just a few more steps to go before I can contribute in that program.

I have also taken a 135 check-ride in the Astra, and suffered through a 135 indoc course out in Ohio. Terribly boring event, the later. I still don’t get asked to do 135 evals, so there must be additional requirements yet to meet. I believe I’m on course to be a TCE (training center evaluator?) this year, which would enable me to perform continuous checks on recurrent clients and basically be more useful.

I’ll let my program manager drive that process, however, and will enjoy a better schedule until we get there. Never volunteer, but show up early when called upon.

Our new guy is Mike J. He is eager and energetic, and makes me feel just a little guilty about dialing back when I do. I have been avoiding solving various organizational issues like getting hardware and IT support teams to follow through on things.  I have been working around problems and compensating when it is clear those folks have other priorities. Mike J doesn’t take NO for an answer, and that is refreshing.

Brain Food:  My mother in-law has observed that I have an insatiable need to be reading, studying, or learning something. I’ve always recognized that I get bored easily, and keep looking for the next project to jump into. Keeping my mind busy on something seems to be a requirement for me.

One of my colleagues recently made the innocent comment that he thought I’d continually need to find ‘Brain Food’ to be able to stay interested in this work. New equipment, procedures, or challenges would be required if I was going to stay. I like the term for describing how I function, and it is consistent with what my mother inlaw observed. I like that description, and it works.

In the next blog, I’m going to talk about what my next steps might be with FlightSafety to keep me engaged. Given that a recent announcement informed me that the WestWind/Astra Program will be getting a new Manager, it will be good to do some planning.  One weak leader with no vision could quickly make this job intolerable.

Thanks for reading all this.  Fly safe!