Are We There Yet?

Runners often talk about a wall they have to push past when the training gets tough and their bodies want to give up. I know of no analogy in aviation training like a wall you have to push past, but it certainly seems there should be some common allegory for the frustration and bullshit you have to go through to get a pilot license.

Last night I spent a few hours on the phone with my 99s mentor divulging how angry I was that I haven’t soloed yet and I’m on my fifth CFI. Granted I’ve had many starts and stops, a cross-country move, and a bout of supposed tuberculosis. Fortunately I have not wasted many hours on bad instructors. My current total is 14.7 logged flight hours. Still I am angry at all of the red tape I will have to cut through to get another new CFI that statistically will use me as a means to and end to get an airline job.

We also spent a good deal of the conversation reassessing the Part 141 vs. Part 61 question. Under Part 141 it will be five more flight lessons before I get to the progress report flight with a person that will evaluate if I’m ready to solo. And that’s if I complete one lesson each time I go up…which I’ve learned depends upon your instructor. Some understand it is best to check every box you can every time you go up. Others are in no hurry and four or five boxes at a time are good even though the lesson requires 20 boxes to complete.

I’m thinking of switching to Part 61 because I fear if I stick with this school and Part 141 I’ll never get to the private. I’ll give up first. It doesn’t help that my scholarship deadline to get my private is roughly 12 weeks away. The only reason I decided to do 141 was because I like structure and I wanted to leave the door open for me to have an aviation career someday. Everyone told me full time careers in aviation typically go to folks from 141 programs.

My last instructor told me if I was Part 61 he would have soloed me already but he was stuck checking the boxes with 141. Now I have to win over the endorsement of a new instructor to get to where I should have been a few flights ago. Why do I keep going backwards?!

If I were to tell my true feelings, I’d say a great many of those boxes are not necessary. Do we really need a box that everyone has to check for “operation of a seat belt” and “location of the first aid kit” back at dispatch? The operation of an airplane seat belt is not that complicated. Do we really want people operating a plane if they can’t figure out how to slip the buckle into the clip? And where else would you look – other than the little building with everything in it – for the first aid kit? Are there really student pilots out there that experience a medical emergency and go looking down the runway or off into a field for some gauze? And again, do we really want those people flying?

When I learned I would need to find a new CFI again. It stalled me out for a couple months. I have been dreading the process. Fortunately my mentor is older and wiser and helped me to see something that really hadn’t occurred to me yet: My CFI is not the end all to my progress. My CFI is a tool, but I have to do the work. Hard words to swallow considering how much I loved my last CFI and how far I progressed with him compared to all the others. But she is right, and I need to get out of the mindset that my progress depends on which CFI I get. Sure there are bad ones out there, far too many I’m afraid, but part of becoming a competent pilot is navigating your way through one obstacle after another, whether it be uncertain weather, FAA regulations or lousy instructors.

Two things are responsible for me waking up this morning, selecting a new CFI and emailing the flight scheduler after two months of sulking on the ground. One is my mentor, who has once again saved the day by believing in me and convincing me this entire project is my responsibility and mine alone no matter who I encounter along the way, even a CFI. The other is a recent flight I took to Texas. My husband and I flew down to see family since we were quarantined for the holidays. The flight back to Portland was after dark. I had forgotten how beautiful DFW is from the air at night. From a distance the ground looks like the sky, both glittering with millions of lights. It was a clear night when we crossed over Colorado, Denver sparkling in the distance, the Rockies draped in moonlight. I couldn’t help but wonder what the view was like from the cockpit.


Fish Tank Granola

Greetings again, everyone! Welcome to the wonderful world of medicine and the adventure it is being married to someone with Cystic Fibrosis.

In my last post I gladly announced my husband does not have tuberculosis. Yay! That in fact he has a non-TB mycobacterium with a difficult name to pronounce. Tomorrow we will wake before the sun rises to drive to a research hospital to meet with the top lung expert in the state of Oregon about his – say it with me, kids – chelonae infection.

So what is chelonae? That is an excellent question. A question I took to the internet to find an answer for. WebMD believes it is a skin infection you get from tattoo ink. That is where the easy, breezy understand it in one paragraph and move on with your day starts and ends. The rest – and more accurate – of the information on chelonae can be found in dry medical journal studies that are neither conclusive nor comforting.

To someone like my husband, who eats, breathes and lives in medical jargon, these articles are interesting and provocative. To someone like me, they are enigmatic and full of made up words.

Whenever I need to be cheered up, I ask him to read French to me. It’s hilarious to hear someone with a Texas accent and no formal education in French take a stab at it. When he needs cheering up, he asks me to read from a medical journal. After a few sentences of struggling through Latin-based anatomical jargon, I get creative and go for the first word that comes to mind that most closely resembles the word on the page. This is where my reading aloud about chelonae got us:

“Currently, the epidemiology and clinical features of the NTM diseases are dominated by their occurrence in patients with HIV infection and, more recently, in patients on tumor necktie factor a Tunisia pathway blocker. However, disease caused by this group of orgasms continues to occur in persons without delectable seismic immune dysfunction (e.g., recipients of prostitute knees, fish tank granola, hot tub lung).”

Once I get a few paragraphs into it, and he stops laughing, he gives me a definition I can understand. The short and sweet version is that he has a NTM (non tuberculosis mycobacterium) infection in the soft tissues of his lungs that will take about a year to treat.

And for those of you who were wondering, yes, hot tub lung is a real thing, prostitute knees and fish tank granola were my creations. 😉

The World Didn’t End

Since my last post things got worse, and then they got better. And now that they are better, I am ready to blog again.

First we learned the people I had the terrible dog incident with just before Thanksgiving were our next door neighbors – we share a bedroom wall. Then we learned they claimed one of my dogs bit the girl and filed a police report.

It didn’t add up.

They didn’t ask for my contact information that night. They didn’t mention anyone was hurt when I asked. They didn’t ask for shot records, or ask us to cover a doctor’s bill. The apartment manager explained that the girl said she had been bitten on the hand and it had broken the skin and everyone accepted it as truth. An insurance claim is still pending. A note has been added to our permanent file. And no one has come to me yet to ask if any of this story matches what I saw happen. How did the one person that took no part in breaking up the dogs get bitten? I asked for proof of the bite and was only given a sad expression from the manager with a hint of disapproval for asking.

For a few weeks we gasped each time the phone rang or a knock came at the door. Now more than a month has passed and we are breathing easier.

Absolutely nothing has happened.

We haven’t been contacted by the police, or told we have to move out or put a dog down. No news is good news, and as each day passes, more no news appears to mean we’re in the clear.

In the clear…that brings me to my next update: My husband doesn’t have TB! A student in the lab made a mistake and got a false positive (yay for teaching hospitals). Three more cultures were sent and three more TB tests were done that all came back negative.

Perhaps the best part (for me) is I will no longer have to greet a stranger in a duck mask at my front door before I’ve had a chance to brush my teeth or change out of pajamas. No more suffering through an unwelcome CDC rep going through our affects  asking questions like, “who plays the guitar?” and “where was this picture taken?” I never did, but I always wanted to respond “that picture was taken a the corner of not-your-business and give-him-the-pills-and-leave-already, and I’d be happy to play you a ballad called get-out-of-my-home-now-you’ve-made-me-late-for-work-again.” I’m not sure what came over me, but I HATED having the county force me to let these people into my home every morning to watch my husband take pills like a five-year-old and treat it like a social call.

So, what does he have? A non-TB mycobacterium with a difficult name to pronounce. If he were sitting next to me I would ask him how to spell it, but as it so happens, he is back at work right now. He tells me he has had this one once before and it takes about a year to treat, but its not a bad one.

The rains have stopped in Portland. Today the skies are blue and sunny. It was 32 straight days of rain before it ended, but it ended at last. It went out with a bang too, the final day of precipitation produced the first snow Portland has seen since early 2014.


The “viscous beats” terrorize the neighborhood in their thug gear.

And so, things are better here. The earth keeps turning, the clock keeps ticking. We have applied for a mortgage loan to buy a home up here. I have made contact with a new flight instructor. Little by little everything is getting back on course.