August 26, 2014 – Moving from Network Operations to Flight Operations.
As many of you know, my wife and I made a significant decision this past June. At the time I was the manager of Network Operations and Energy Management Systems for Pepco holdings, Inc. The decision was to retire, and pursue my longtime dream of flying professionally for a living. I left a job that I loved and people that I enjoyed being with to set up a whole new life with new friends.
Rarely do I achieve a flight that approaches my own standards, but each flight does get better. My overall performance is improving, and the mistakes I make are smaller ones. My landings are more often on the centerline, and the touchdowns are relatively smooth. I readily admit that I can still be left in the dust any time the Captain or ATC changes the tempo or pace either intentionally for training, or for operational needs. I look forward to the day when I can maintain my proficiency regardless of what comes my way.
Today we took off in the dark from Salisbury Airport and flew up to Philadelphia. I’m working hard to avoid overshooting the flight director and pitching up smoothly to match the pitch attitude the flight director demands (autopilot off). The landing of Philadelphia was smooth and on the centerline to runway 35. After the mains touched, I moved the propellers into disk mode smoothly like I have been trained to do, but I was a bit too hasty. I need to remember to lower the nose all the way to the deck before I apply prop discing. I do understand how important it is to get this right. Should only one of the propellers go to disk with the nose wheel still in the air, you could be headed off of the runway pretty quickly.
Our next stop was out of Philly up to Syracuse, and I was to fly this leg as well. Supervised operating experience is about getting us flying as much as possible, and I’m truly having a good time doing it. I understand more now the approach that the SOE Capt. is taking, as well as what I’ve read in various trade publications. That is, getting really good at production flying requires shear repetition, particularly at complex airports such as Charlotte, Newark, and Philadelphia.
Landing in Syracuse, the Capt. decided to give me another opportunity to perform a 35° flap landing. To accomplish this you bring in 15° flaps, and as aircraft gets to the proper airspeed, you drop 35° of flaps, while simultaneously pushing the nose down to about eight degrees. Next you set about 40% torque on both engines, pitch up to about 5° and fly slowly down the glide path. This is one incredibly capable machine, and I planted this one on the centerline.
My SOE Capt. was correct in telling me to relax and give it time, repetition will fill in the gaps and make it easier. As I continue with the SOE experience, I am beginning to understand his point. The only way to truly become proficient (consistently look and sound like you know what you’re doing) is to go out there and do it repeatedly. I’ve recently read an article that Dick Karl wrote in Flying relating similar sentiments for his journey from surgeon to corporate pilot. The act of repeatedly performing complex tasks allows you to push more aspects of those tasks into an automatic mode (subconscious), allowing you to focus conscious thought to the things that change.
As frustrating and challenging as Piedmont’s training approach can be, It does work.