Thursday, January 12, 2006

New Instructor

It's been almost two months since my last lesson. My grandfather passed away on December 3rd, and I spent a week with my grandmother, leading up to the memorial service. Then I got back and had a huge backlog at work. I have also been dragging my heels about continuing to fly because of my current instructor's schedule. I am not lacking any confidence in him. Since instructing is not a real job for him, though, he can only fly early in the mornings or after work or on weekends. I can't really fly on weekends right now because the best chance I have at keeping Jodie okay with me taking lessons is if it doesn't interfere with our time together. That means that to fly with Rich I either have to be at the airport around 5:15 in the morning or (at this time of year) we fly after dark. The mornings are tough because I need to leave home by 4:30 or so, which means getting up at around 4:00. Evenings aren't bad, but I think part of my problem with stalls and the other maneuvers is the darkness. It's hard to see well, and it generally adds to my discomfort.

So another instructor in my club, John, has agreed to take me on for a while, maybe just until I solo when I can continue flying with Rich. John's been flying for 50 years, is former NASA, literally a rocket scientist, retired. He generally doesn't like to instruct primary students, but I think he may have taken pity on me.

So we flew today for the first time. I think I'm going to like working with him. He's a stickler in some ways, but he is teaching slightly different things, too. For example, Rich had me use 30 degrees of flaps on final. John has me use 20 degrees, "or more or less, depending on what you need." Same thing with power. I've read that there are different philosophies of teaching flying, "by the numbers" or . . . I don't know what you call it. I recognize Rich as primarily teaching by the numbers, with a recipe for when you reduce power, and to what degree you reduce it. That's a very popular approach in flight training. John doesn't tell me what the RPMs should be, though, he says things like, "Now see you're a little low, so you'll want to add some power to level off your descent." He's teaching the exercise of judgment. If I think I'm a little low, add a bit of power. If I'm high, reduce power and/or add flaps. I like the mental exercise of constantly assessing what's happening and making minor adjustments, even if there is an exact setting that will work, exercising judgment and using the different flight ingredients to control my descent.

The other thing: I have a LOT of questions. Because we were flying before work, Rich and I were generally in a hurry to get in the air and then get to work after we landed. In the evenings, we had both had long days and wanted to get home. Because he's retired, John has a schedule that is generally flexible, and he's willing to stand (or sit) and talk about planes and flying for hours, it seems. I can learn a lot that way, I know. If he's been flying for 50 years, there's got to be a lot I can learn just from him telling me. I'm already learning stuff from him-- he'll answer any question I have, and keep talking when I don't have any more questions!

This was only the first flight, so we'll see, but I think I'm going to like flying with John. And if I'm lucky I'll still be able to fly with Rich from time to time to get the benefits of both teaching styles.

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