Saturday, February 04, 2017

Reflections of Flight

During my healing process I had planned to study for my commercial written test. To date I haven't made much progress.  I've picked up a book about Alaska Bush pilots and knocked out a few chapters of another book I'm nursing along for the last six months.

Boredom...I started reading MY blog posts about our most memorable trips, they still bring a smile to my face. I even started to read about my chase for the PPL and instrument rating, but something was missing.

I needed to keep my head in the game and decided to step back and read the blog of the man who got me started in aviation blogging. The man who's adventures made me want to stretch my wings and really use our plane to explore new places. I clicked on the link of Flights Of The Mouse.  Bo Boggs, a friend I made through flying that became a mentor.  Bo passed back in May 2013, I still think of him every time I fly 08Romeo. I picked the following entry from Chapter 22, The Next 300.  This post hits home, I just wanted to share with my readers, enjoy.

Reflections at a milestone.
It is said that the private pilot's license is merely a license to learn. It is assumed that the fledgling aviator learned from the Instructor enough to keep him (or her) alive until experience and judgement could come. This goes along with the saying that one starts out with a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. One can only hope that the bag of experience is full before the bag of luck runs out.

Aviation insurance statistics bear this out. Most non commercial accidents and incidents happen to pilots with less than 300 hours. This then is the milestone. At this time, late July 2003, I have 299.9 hours in my logbook.

The statistical data
I received my license to learn on May 9, 2001. Two years and 3 months ago. Of that time, almost 6 months were lost while the engine of the Mouse was being rebuilt. In spite of that, I have logged 198.3 hours during that time. What sets my record apart from that of most newly minted private pilots are the 55 new airports I have been to and the 136.9 hours of cross country time. We have been as far west as Carlsbad, NM, as far east as Nashville, TN, as far north as Branson, MO and as far south as Karnes City, TX. We have been in 8 states and flown over a part of one more.

Many fledglings never venture too far from the nest, sometimes never going further than they can go and return on one tank of gas. Many others slowly, slowly, slowly go further and further, sometimes taking several years before they go further than they can get home before dark. Others launch out bravely and the first time they scare themselves, they never fly again.

Also, many new pilots do not have a significant other that supports their "hobby", let alone one who is eager to travel with them. Within my 300 hours, the Redhead has been in the plane 120 hours, most of them in the 200 hours since I got the license.
With the intent of traveling on our newfound wings, I made the most of my solo cross country training flights. Our first flights were carefully plotted and logged. But we soon discovered that our combined senses of direction and map reading ability, coupled with a boost from VORs, got us where we were wanting to be. There is no greater joy in navigation than taking a course by eyeball from 25 miles out and identifying the destination airport a few minutes later, directly over the nose. Or flying on top with only occasional glimpses of a featureless landscape and having the few recognizable landmarks appear in the right place.So the biggest fear keeping new pilots from travelling was no big deal to us.

The learning process
Learning the art of flying as opposed to the simple mechanics was a different story. The mechanics consist of making good landings, controlling altitude and direction of flight, etc. The art lies in making the flight as comfortable for you and your passengers as possible. This includes handling turbulence with skill and grace but so automatically that the passengers are not aware of the effort. Making pattern entry to the destination airport so smooth that they instinctively know that you planned it that way from a long way out. And whatever you do, never say "oh sh*t!"

When you travel consistently with the same person, it is far better if the two people aid and complement each other. Our cooperation on the navigation has slowly grown to include the other aspects. Although she never has, I would bet that Sandra could perform an unaided pre-flight and know what and why of the items checked. She knows how to tune the radios and navs and the basics of the audio panel. She can set squawk codes and listen with me for our tail number when we are using ATC.

So learning the art of flying has been an experience for both of us. We have learned the limits of visibility and the impact of it on navigation. We have learned that avoiding clouds and weather is more important than sticking to the line drawn on the sectional, that going around is better than trying to go under. We have learned that going around is better than attempting to salvage a bad approach. We have learned that landing quality is directly related to recent experience. We have learned that flying in turbulence is very tiring. Flying towards the sun is easier than driving towards it because you do not have the glare from the highway in front of you. Visibility away from the sun is better on hazy days.

We have also learned that the view of the country from 2000' or more above the ground continues to be breathtaking. When seen from the side or above, the puffy white clouds are beautiful. The contours of the land as you slip from prairie to hill country are much more obvious and impressive from above. The gullies leading to washes leading to a creek across a pasture can be seen in their entirety from above.

The white line on a lake that is the wake of a boat shows us again how limited that form of recreation is. The cars on the interstate slipping back below the wing remind us again how much more we can see and do with our chosen hobby. The friendly, helpful people at every FBO remind us again that "plane" people are a different breed. Every FBO has clean restrooms, no matter the size or age of the building. We can leave our magic carpet tied down at any airport overnight and not worry about it being stolen or damaged.

We remain, if anything, more enthused about our choice to fly. The only regret is that we will have so little time. I can only count on a reasonable chance of holding my medical for 10 more years. In that time, I must somehow squeeze in 30 years of flying.
Why the thoughts of Bo every time I climb aboard 08Romeo? Bo and Sandra first put eyes on 08Romeo, even before the pre-buy was started. Bo and I shared conversations about the plane, the shop doing my pre-buy and I trusted his knowledge on the overall condition. I trusted his advice and experience as we leaned across 08Romeo's wing, teacher and student.

I have more to read and absorb, I can hardly wait until I can get back in the air!


Chris said...


I hope your convalescence is going well. Thanks for sharing Bo's observations. I spent a lot of time on his blog many, many years, ago. Reading that post with many more hours under my belt than I would have had the first time around, I found myself nodding a lot. I was in the vicinity of 300 hours when Kristy and I flew the Warrior from MI to FL and many of Bo's learnings, including his observations about his wife's learning experience, feel so familiar. I am not really sure if I was conscious of these learnings at the time, but he articulated them really well. I can only guess at how much he is missed.

Your foot is healing, the days are getting longer, and spring is directly ahead on the calendar!

Gary said...

The healing process is moving along, never fast enough for the one that is sidelined. I hope to get this cast off in March then maybe a boot and some weight bearing. I also want to drive but the Doc and my Bride say no... :(

It's different looking back and reading my journal entries and Bo's too. I also find myself nodding in agreement or thinking been there done that, one added to the experience bucket. I will say reading Bo's journal is good for my heart. Every now and again a Bo'ism slips out and I bust out laughing. Mary will ask what he typed and then giggle when I read it to her. Maybe when I'm done his journal I'll buckle down and do the remaining commercial chapters and get ready for my test.

I am anxiously awaiting Spring! I went out to the hangar again today since Mary had to run a few errands and we wanted Ziva to get some exercise. My friend Ted met us there so he could hook up my new battery minder. I couldn't fit the knee scooter around the truck or crawl across the seats to reach through and plug the unit in.

I'm so looking forward to getting back in the air!