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August 25th, 2002

on euphoric flying

Friday I was scheduled with Aaron. I thought it was ground school, but he was ready to go up. We took N1959H, and after a bit of shaking off my instrument rust, he surprised me by wanting to shoot approaches. We did the VOR 4L via vectors, then the VOR 18 via procedure turn, circle-to-land on 32L, did one touch-and-go, then went out again for the ILS 32L.

I did mostly okay for someone who hasn't shot an instrument approach in fourteen years. Kept the needles mostly centered, didn't get too far behind the plane, which wasn't easy with Aaron wanting to constantly point things out on the approach plates and give other instruction. The worst of it was only about 100 feet above decision height on the ILS, he told me to take the hood off early "to see where we are"... sure enough, the runway was right in front of us but I had the nose pointed about 20 degrees to the right and we were in a rather alarming nose-down attitude. This was only 300 feet above the ground. "Thought you might want to have a chance to fix that so we could land." I kind of got into needle-chasing mode towards the end, and that was the result. The localizer and glideslope indications in the cockpit are extremely sensitive (hence "precision approach") and it doesn't take much loss of concentration or discipline to cause them to come off the centers, and close in to the runway, the time from coming off the center to pegging the needle (and thus blowing the approach) is only a few seconds.

The BEST part was on the second approach, which I was handling pretty well. Aaron said "take the hood off and check this out." And we were flying in and through and among these beautiful cumulus clouds! What a wonderful feeling knowing the plane is under my control, going where it needs to go, and just popping in and out of clouds and giving us such a show!

After we landed, I got asked "how that was." I answered, truthfully, not too bad. Kept me very alert; was a bit intense a few times, but didn't seem like anything I couldn't handle with practice. And my shoulder didn't hurt! Always after doing busy flying work, I get an intense pain in my shoulder, a combination of being tensed up and just using those muscles to pull and push on the control wheel. But Aaron is always telling me to relax, to not grip the yoke tightly, to keep on the trim so I'm flying with just three fingers of my left hand. He raps my right hand with his pencil every time I grab the yoke with it. It used to irritate me, but I think he might be onto something in terms of flying ergonomics.

Today was ground school... 90 mind-numbing minutes of learning the excruiciating details of approach plates. They're very complicated, and present a tremendous amount of information in a very small amount of space, with very little redundancy: every fact is on there once, and only once, and often needs context in order to properly interpret. Seasoned corporate jet pilots often puzzle over the more complex ones, even. So that wasn't so much fun. And I am having really bad hayfever today and was all drugged up on top of it. Yuck.


well, crap

My powered speakers will no longer power on or make any noise. Stupid low-quality crap. I swear, I get better stuff from Best Buy than from more reputable mail order places.

Oh well, time for another retail cure, I guess.



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