Finally, I Get to Fly!

Today (03/25/2012) I woke up to a gray but relatively clear morning, there was no fog, no mist and it wasn’t as dark as it has been recently. I assumed that I wouldn’t fly today but decided to check the aviation weather website anyway and found that the winds were calm and the visibility was 10 miles. However the cloud ceiling was only 1000 feet, and the minimum required for staying in the pattern (i.e. to practice takeoffs and landings) is 1300 feet. The clouds were also broken and the ceiling was expected to rise later at around 11.00 am, when I would be finishing my flight lesson as it was from 9.00 am – 11.00 am.

Since I didn’t hear anything from Jeremy, I got dressed and left for Thunderbird at 8.35 am and reached my destination by 8.50 am. I found Kevin and Aaron relaxing and watching TV as I entered the building. I greeted them both and said to Kevin, “I might be flying today, but I don’t know since I didn’t hear anything from Jeremy”. “Yes probably not as the cloud ceiling is about 1100 feet right now and it’s expected to rise later on at around 11.00 am” said Kevin as he checked the weather on his cell phone, and continued, “I’m surprised Jeremy didn’t say anything”. I then said that I’ll give Jeremy a call to make sure if we were still going to fly today. So I called Jeremy and asked if we were still flying since Kevin was saying that the ceiling was only 1100 feet. “Well I’m on my way so let’s decide what we’re going to do when I get there” said Jeremy and I said okay; end of conversation.

Jeremy arrived ten minutes later and checked the weather on the computer and saw that the ceiling was forecasted to rise later around 11.00 am. Jeremy then looked at other airports such as Anoka, Cambridge, Buffalo etc. and said, “I suppose we could go to one of these airports and do pattern work since the ceilings there were going to rise fairly soon and weren’t as low as those at Crystal. But let’s wait here for about half an hour or so and see what happens”. As he was saying that the sky had brightened up a little and the sun could be seen in the distance although it was still a little cloudy at Thunderbird. In the mean time Jeremy said let’s do a little bit of Ground School and we went back to his office and he proceeded to explain the Air Traffic Pattern (ATP). I knew most of it already but Jeremy went further and explained some other details that I did not know such as the fact that there should be a 500 ft descent at each stage in the ATP after we begin reducing power and introducing the flaps.

a) At 90 knots 10 degrees of flaps  (500 ft descent)

b) At 80 knots 25 degrees of flaps (500 ft descent)

c) At 70 knots 40 degrees of flaps (500 ft descent)

When the Ground School part of what we were going to cover today was over, Jeremy checked the weather once more. The time was about 9.45 am and he said that I should go and pre-flight the plane now as the ceiling had risen to 1300 ft, the minimum required to do ATP.

Once we boarded the plane Jeremy said, “I’m pretty strict with my students. I’m there to help and guide and I will tell you what to do and explain things if you don’t understand something. After that, it’s up to you. I’m not going to keep telling you to do something; I want you to think ahead and take action. You’re flying the plane, not me. I will give you credit where credit is due and tell you where you’re going wrong. You can only solo when you don’t need me, so most of the time I’m going to be like a passenger so you should do everything by yourself. I can get pretty upset if you’re not progressing and I’m sorry if that comes off as mean but I want you to progress and get your private pilot’s license and NOT waste your money. It’s good for you and it’s good for me if you pass!” I was pleasantly surprised and taken aback at the same time with his forthrightness. This was a stark contrast from Tim’s approach to teaching. I remember Tim telling me one time that he wasn’t hard on his students because when he was learning his instructor used to get really angry and that hampered his progress he used to get nervous and then made mistakes which would only aggravate the situation. So I think Tim realized what kind of affect it could have on a student. Although I agreed with him up to a point, but then I began to rely on Tim, especially on the radio communications with Tower during pattern work. His thinking was that you should concentrate on the pattern work and later you can start on the radio communications.

Then Jeremy asked “Do you have a pen and paper? Do you have a plan of the airport?” My answer to these questions was no. He then said “You should always have a pen, paper and a flight plan of the airport. You must write down the ATIS information, and then when Ground Control directs you to a given runway, you should be able to look at the airport plan and see where you need to go to the runway”. Jeremy let me do everything from the very beginning and I liked it because it really felt like I was indeed flying the plane myself, but now and again Jeremy would step in with advice and compliments. In all we did 6 takeoffs and landings and of these 4 were great, at least according to Jeremy. Then after our flight lesson was over and we returned to Thunderbird, Tim said, “Okay let’s do a quick recap of what we did and where you went wrong”. I never did this with Tim. Tim would just do a quick recap as he signed my pilot’s log book and that would be it, whereas Jeremy explained in detail before and after the flight lesson using a writing board. After the recap he told me to remember the following:

1. Execute coordinated turns (keeping the ball in the center).

2. Angle of bank should be no more than 30 degrees.

3. Keep an eye on the airspeed.

Finally Jeremy asked if I had the Flight Maneuver booklet and when I replied in the affirmative, he said “Study that for homework as we’ll be covering that in the next flight lesson”. With that we shook hands and Jeremy said, “You did a good job today and I think you noticed it too”, I agreed smilingly.

As I drove home I introspected on today’s flight lesson and realized that I indeed felt that I had learnt something and wondered why this hadn’t occurred to me when I flew with Tim. What a difference! Now I understand why parents desire to send their children to private schools as the teaching is much better. All this time I used to think, if the student applied him or herself it didn’t matter which school they went to. After all not every doctor, engineer or lawyer went to a private school, but then these individuals were probably smart or really applied themselves. So in conclusion I think that if I had been taught by Jeremy from the beginning I would have been much further along in my private pilot training by now.


2 responses to “Finally, I Get to Fly!

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