Ramblings of insecurity

Learning to fly is unlike anything I’ve learned before. For starters, there are no simple answers. Even the most basic questions elicit an outpouring of different answers.

Example: Where does one complete ground school?

Answers: Sporty’s, Embry-Riddle, King, the local community college, ASA pilot training manual, AOPA courses, the FAA website, an aviation ground school, an accelerated weekend course, a four year aviation program, a fast-track aviation program. And each comes with a conflicting opinion about if it will really prepare you with the knowledge you will need to know. Good luck!

Even filling out the simplest paperwork is confusing. I just figured out this week that my student pilot license number and medical certificate number is the same (I think). And don’t get me started on the training videos that throw arbitrary variables at you for velocity and lift, solve the equation in one breath and declare “see, it’s easy!” I’ll be the judge of that, training video. Maybe if they had some apples and took some of them away…now that I could endorse as easy math.

To further complicate things, I can’t seem to do anything right. My first time to shut a hangar door, I did it with such enthusiasm I bumped it off of its track prompting a “friendly reminder, be gentle with the hangar doors” email to the entire flying club and a sea of rumors about “that girl that joined the club.” My first time to fill out a log book turned into a scribbled and arrowed map to Calcutta. [Note to self: log books are to be filled out in pencil.]

When I’m in the air I’m being told things like “now when you’re about a half mile out…” How am I to know at what point I’m a half mile out? Or 500 feet out? Or 1,000 feet away from the airport after takeoff? Or 10 miles out from the airport I can’t even spot yet? Pilots know these things. I’m just not sure how it is they know them yet. When I ask they say “it’ll come to you.”

Why am I the only girl in my airplane club? Where is the “it’s called Algebra II because it doesn’t make sense until the second time around” crowd that doesn’t find the lift equation intuitive? Why does the Sporty’s Pilot Shop magazine have airplane themed wallets, cocktail shakers and highball glasses for men and only a couple of skanky you’ll-never-hide-your-bra-straps-in-this tops for women? The only way I can share I am a female and a pilot is to go braless? I need all the support I can get right now Sporty’s! Why does my husband who has no interest in flying know how to break down an airplane manual effortlessly when I’ve been at it four hours and still don’t know this plane’s Vy or engine type?

Don’t worry folks, I’m not quitting yet. I’m too pissed to quit now.

Perhaps right on time, I acquired a mentor with the Ninety-Nines this week. I will share future ramblings of insecurity with her, but I wanted to offer this up to the many other student pilots out there (especially the ladies) that feel very alone and inadequate in the learning curve to becoming a pilot. Don’t quit yet. I won’t if you won’t.

9 thoughts on “Ramblings of insecurity

  1. Hang in there… sometimes flight schools offer evening ground classes , you might check at your school. Invariably it ends up taking long because of all the different factors, but once you are done it will never be the same 🙂

    I didn’t realize it immediately, but having an excellent instructor sometimes makes all the difference and you will glide through all this without stressing out.

    Good luck!


  2. Welcome to the world of aviation. The only easy flight was yesterday. There is so much to learn and you cant learn it all at once. Patience Grasshopper.

    By the way on a 3 degree glidepath which is the normal descent profile of 650 feet per minute on the vertical velocity indicator (vvi), you can wag 300 feet above the ground is equal to 1 mile. So if you are doing a straight-in from 2000 feet, you should start down about 7 miles out. Of course that is no wind and a tail wind will mean you should start earlier and a head wind you can start the descent closer in.

    Remember this as well. Measure with a micrometer, mark it with a grease pencil, and cut it with an ax. Pilots famously flight plan everything to the nth degree, use imprecise navigation aids and never are able to perfectly hold their heading, altitude or airspeed. A average pilot is more scientist than artist but a great pilot is more artist. Be an artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I couldn’t have explained the training process and misunderstandings during initial flight training any better. My biggest advice to you is to keep asking questions. You will never know it all – but if you can learn one thing from each person that you run across, you will gather a plethora of knowledge. Everyone in the aviation community is eager to share their thoughts & experiences. I’ve found that the best advice/experience/thoughts comes from those in professional settings rather than just the “airport bums” that you frequently see when completing part 61 training (although they do have great stories, I’m not sure if they’re versed on the most up-to-date information).

    Additionally! One very important thing is to have an open communication with your flight instructor. If you don’t feel like you click with him/her, then you NEED to change flight instructors. I completed my entire Private certificate and never realized that I didn’t “click” with my instructor until I did a BFR (biannual flight review) with a female flight instructor and fellow 99. The communication between us was seamless and I finally felt comfortable asking questions and establishing an opening dialogue.

    I wish you all the luck in your flight training! I really love that you’re blogging about it because I see so many parallels from when I completed my private training — Now I know that I wasn’t crazy & that everyone feels this way when completing training. It looks like you have a lot of people cheering you on & a 99 mentor will be great for you!! I love my Carolina 99’s!!!

    Blue Skies!!! xo Chrissi

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Believe me, I feel your frustration. This whole pilot business takes a lot of research, reading, discussion and good old-fashioned luck. I started ground school three weeks ago at my local airport (post coming soon). Studying isn’t as easy as it used to be and, like you, there are certain aspects that I just don’t grasp yet, but I trust that I’ll eventually learn with dedication and hard work. Your love for aviation will keep you going. But, sometimes you fall back on the support network you build to lift you up. Keep asking questions and by all means, keep flying!

    Liked by 1 person

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