Beginning Again

Today is the day, folks. The skies are blue, the winds are calm, I’ve bought all of the materials a student pilot should have. It’s time to put on my big girl panties and get back up there.

In about an hour I’m off to what I’m told is one of the best 141 aviation programs in the Northwest. I will meet my CFI (a fellow 99!) for my first official lesson. I will be instructed in pre-flight operations and airport procedures. I might even go up today.

With fall weather this great the airport is bound to be buzzing with activity. Here’s to new adventures, and new friends. Wish me luck!

Getting back up there

Our lives in Oregon have been unfolding in the most marvelous way. We have started to feel bad for sharing the fun we are having with friends and family back home. After a while it sounds insincere: “Sorry it’s still 107 back there and you’re under an ozone alert again. What did we do today? Oh, well we hiked through Forrest Park with our dogs; picked fresh raspberries from a farm; played on the beach all day; had coffee at a cafe full of adoptable cats; went to the open air market across the street; rode the MAX downtown to see the Flugtag; visited an international rose garden; ate our body weight in fresh smoked salmon and dungeness crab; discovered our favorite food truck pod; tried chocolate/apricot/blackberry beer…”

But there is a downside to living in a new place full of things to do: it makes it that much harder to focus on the things you are putting off. And I was putting off my flight training.

I have not been up in an airplane since March. After we got settled in here, “call the local 99s” sat on my to-do list for twenty-seventh days untouched. For two months I couldn’t even find where I packed my headset or log book.

Each day a new layer of guilt was suppressed under another adventure that distracted me from continuing my flight training. After all, serious students don’t neglect their training, lose their headsets and stall contacting the people that could help them get started in a new area until the rainy season begins.

Each day I didn’t do it, it got harder and harder to call.

And then it came to me: I was afraid.

My first round with a flight club and a couple of dueling instructors had left me overwhelmed and frustrated. I knew all kinds of things about aviation, but nothing connected to any other part of the body of knowledge I had. I had been left to pick up little morsels of information here and there from some retired airport bums that happened to be CFIs. I was learning everything I could from flight magazines and online videos but I’d still never had a structured flight lesson. I’d never even seen a syllabus or had any idea what was expected of me. I had taken off and landed a plane a few times but no one had ever actually shown me how. I had never sat down with anyone and talked about what our goals for the lesson would be. I was never sent home with reading for our next lesson. And not so surprisingly, it hadn’t gone so well. I felt like I was just shelling out money but not really getting anywhere. I was constantly frustrated because I didn’t know if I was doing anything right. I just knew I was doing it and I guess that was good enough.

And for the past six months, that fear and frustration has kept me out of airplanes.

To be honest, if it weren’t for winning a flying scholarship I might have dropped the whole thing by now. There’s a certain impetus that comes from a number of peopleĀ  putting their faith and money on my chances of getting licensed and I feel I can’t let them down.

And so, about a week ago, I made one of the more awkward calls of my life and contacted a 99 with the Columbia Cascades Chapter who directed me to a local airport 10 minutes from my apartment with a training program where some fellow 99s were studying and teaching. Yesterday I took a tour of the facility and today I submitted my application. It’s time.