Challenge Accepted!

Hi fellow aviators! It has been one month, one week and three days since I have gone up in an airplane. My first fly-out with the 99s was rescheduled because of bad weather, and I have otherwise been without a plane to train on since quitting the airplane club.

To tell the truth, I’ve lost a lot of momentum in the last month. With so many uncertainties in my life with our cross-country move this summer I’ve had a hard time justifying the cost and time away from finishing our house renovations, job hunting and packing to go fly. Even the flight magazines I used to devour the day I got them in the mail have started collecting dust on the shelf.

I talked it over with my mentor through the 99s and she advised me to wait until we get to Oregon to pick up flying again. Its a big commitment (in more ways that one) and I am spread pretty thin right now with all of my other obligations.

I have no idea what life will bring with this move. With the uncertainty of it all I was starting to think it would be years before I stepped into an airplane again for a lesson. But this weekend I got an email from the national 99s trustees about the Amelia Earhart Memorial FLY NOW Scholarship and I am pleased to tell you that you are reading the blog of one of the scholarship’s award winners!!! It’s a $3,000 scholarship towards my private license that has to be completed by May 2016.

This is fantastic! Not only do I have new resources to keep me going, I have a deadline to motivate me towards my goal.

Check your six Oregon, you’ve got a woman on a mission on your tail.

Hey! Pilots from Oregon, any good schools you could recommend? I’m leaning towards a 141 program. Drop me a line in the comments if you have any suggestions. We plan to be based near the Portland area.

Heeding to cautionary tales

Well folks, I did something bold today. I fired my CFI and quit the airplane club.

Now when I say “fired” and “quit” it actually means I crafted two very poetic and polite emails to express my gratitude and gently explain my position to the club manager and my CFI. The hard truth of it is I’m back to the beginning, needing a plane for training and a program for ground school.

For a while now I have felt frustrated and uninformed. Every time I asked a question I got very vague answers. When I asked for a checklist, or suggested list of readings I was given an “all in good time” response. When I tried to show my CFI a curriculum I wanted to work from, he ignored it.

The airplane club turned out to be a bust too. The schedule filled up fast and new members were joining the club every week. I could get a plane just before sunrise for 30 minutes, or after 5pm. Sometimes. The planes were ill-maintained metal death tubes. When people spoke to the club owner about fuel leaks and planes not starting after refueling he dismissed it as nothing. Every pre-flight there was another laundry list of items that “really weren’t safe, but we’ll let it ride.” Then came the kicker: the Cessna I was training on left the fleet suddenly one day. Just like that [insert snap here]! I had it reserved through spring break and out of the blue an email came from the club owner that the Cessna was leaving the fleet two weeks early and all future reservations for it would be cancelled. I was left with a much larger Piper Pathfinder 235. After jumping through about a dozen hoops I was cleared to fly it. It didn’t help that it was $20 more an hour to rent, it cost $30 more than the Cessna did to fill up, and my CFI showed up an hour late for our lesson that day. When we went up the lesson was more basic than a discovery flight. “Turn left” “good” “turn right” “good” The end. My CFI said he wanted to give me a chance to get used to a much larger plane before we did new stuff.

I left the airport that day almost in tears. I had worked so hard and studied as best I could to be forced into a more expensive plane I honestly had no business flying to learn absolutely nothing new. I was going backwards, and it was costing me more.

Then I got some sound advice from a number of brilliant 99s. One of them told me how she did what I am doing (studying independently and hiring an independent CFI at a local airport). She had been through three CFIs, had bought a plane, finished her training and still didn’t feel ready to take her check-ride. “I’m just not sure I learned the things I should have” she told me. Another 99 told me her story. She was at a 141 school and had a lousy flight instructor, but didn’t know it until he went on vacation and she had another CFI sub in for him. She asked me what I had learned so far and all I could list was “I turn left and right…my CFI showed me one stall…He walks me through landings and takeoffs…sometimes I do the takeoffs, but I’m really not sure if I’m doing it right…I know some of the instruments.” That’s it. I didn’t realize it, but after more than 5 logged hours, that’s pretty pathetic. Especially considering some people who really put their minds to it solo after 7 hours. Then I was given advice about all of the things I could do on the ground to prep for my time in the air. I felt so gullible. I had been asking about this stuff and never really gotten an answer and moved on blindly into the next lesson time and time again.

You don’t know what you’re doing wrong if no one has ever told you how to do it right. All I knew to do was read everything I could get my hands on and keep going up with my instructor. After all, that’s what he told me to do. I’m glad I expanded my horizons to get access to the advice of other pilots on what their journey was like and how I can avoid the pitfalls they fell into. I don’t want to end up like the one that preceded my path, owns her own airplane, and still doesn’t feel ready for her check ride. I also don’t want to stay with an instructor that has no structure or timetable for my training and can’t give a clear answer to any of my questions.
I deserve better. The money I have worked very hard for and sacrificed to save deserves better. The time I am spending away from my family needs to be worth more than another lesson of “turn right…good…now turn left.” So today I did something bold. I quit what I was doing because it wasn’t working and I am starting again.Starting tomorrow morning I am researching 141 programs (and applying for scholarships because dear lord they’re expensive).

Future pilot out. [microphone drops]