Friday, February 28, 2014

Eat Healthy and Have Energy!

I've always heard people talk of how important it is to eat healthy, how much better I will feel if I do, and how much more energy I will have.  I always thought I was doing pretty good until I began working at the airlines.  Flying is a a demanding job that requires a lot of energy and no room for error.  If you get tired at an office job, no worries; just get up and walk around for a minute and you're good to go.  As pilots, we don't have this luxury- we can never allow ourselves to get tired, which is why it is so important to take care of ourselves!

 A few months after I began flying for the airlines I was scheduled to work a PM trip.  I am a morning person, and always bid for the AM reserve shift (4am to 4pm), but I was needed on a PM shift so that's what I was scheduled to work.  I packed some healthy meals, but added some crunchy chips and cookies to keep me awake if I started to get tired, which eventually did happen.  So I cracked open my junkfood to help keep me awake.  And the drank some diet coke.  I felt great for a bit and then I started getting tired again.  So I snacked on some more junkfood and drank some more diet coke.  But once my sugar high was gone, I was even more tired than before.  By the last leg this cycle was coming to an end, with my body wanting rest after all the junkfood I had eaten.  I was supposed to fly the last leg, but my sugar high was long gone.  I had no option but to let go of my ego and let the captain fly the last leg.

I felt so horrible for asking the captain to do my work- to fly my leg!  I'm sure he thought nothing of it, but it was a low for me.  How could I have let myself get so tired?  Maybe junkfood wasn't the best thing to keep me awake.  I decided I would never let that happen again.  I began researching and watched every documentary on Netflix regarding healthy eating and why it is so important.  I loved my cookies and cakes and daily snacks, so I needed a lot of motivation to get me started on my healthy eating path.

Once I changed the way I packed my food for trips, I noticed a difference immediately!  I don't remember if my next trip was an AM or PM trip, but I remember that I didn't get tired at all!  And the food I ate kept me full for longer than 30 minutes.  It was amazing- life changing!  I had so much energy!

I want you all to feel energetic all the time, so here is a sample of how I pack- this was for a 4-day trip a few months back.

You'll want to invest in some sort of a cooler.  This is the best one in my opinion, it is from (thanks to a few of my awesome students for buying it for me!).  It looks small, but it can easily fit 4 days worth of healthy food in there.

I try to always pack at least 1 serving of fruit per day.

These tortillas are great because there is no fatty oil in them,and they taste oh-so delicious.

Sometimes I bring veggies to fill my tortillas with, but this time I brought natural almond better and creamed honey.  If you are buying Tupperware for your flight bag, I recommend square ones- circle ones take up more space.

Choose granola bars and snacks wisely- not all are created equal.  LARABARs and KIND bars are my favorites because they have only a few ingredients- all of which I can pronounce.  I always pack some nuts as well; make sure the ones you are buying are not coated in oil.  The ones shown in this picture have salt on them but no oil.  And they are so good (I bought mine from Costco).

I love protein drinks because they are easy, delicious, and filling.  Shakeology is the best protein shake I have found, but it is a bit pricey, so I usually just buy my protein from Costco.  

I fill my Ziplocs with a scoop of protein, some dry milk and 1 teaspoon each of fat-free-sugar-free pudding banana and cheesecake.  Adding the pudding mix makes the protein shake taste like an icream shake.  

I've used a few different blender bottles, and this one is my fave by far!  It is insulated so it keeps my drink cold for hours and it has a little spring in it to keep shakes from getting clumpy.    In the background you can also see my icepack.  I usually stick 2 of those in my cooler to keep my food cold all day.

After all that I also throw in a couple of frozen meals.  When I make dinners that can freeze well (for example, pastas or rice with veggies) I put 2 servings in a Tupperware and freeze it.  Then when I pack for my trips I can pull a couple from the freezer.  It's so easy and the frozen meals also help to keep my food nice and cold.  

Everything fits so well!  

Because I eat the way I do, I don't need any caffeine to keep me awake, even on those long and stressful days of flying.  If you are tired all the time, maybe think about changing your diet; the worst that could happen is that you will feel better and be able to do more.  :)  Have a happy and safe flying career!

Monday, February 24, 2014

How To Spend Less

Aviation is expensive!  I realized this very early on when I went to purchase my books for school. My private pilot ground kit cost more than all my other books (for non aviation classes) combined.  Then I went to buy a headset...expensive.  And then some books to help me study for my checkride...small books, but also expensive.  The list goes on and on, right?!  We all know that if something is for pilots, it is going to be expensive!  I've always been a bit thrifty, so instead of going more in debt for these things, I devised a plan to help me save a little money here and there so I could finish school and flight training with the smallest amount of debt possible.

Here are my top 10 ideas on how to spend less and still get the most out of your training:

I have based my numbers on $120/hour for the airplane, and $30 for the instructor.  Obviously your rates may be more or less- this just gives you a ballpark range.

1. Memorize or become very familiar with the checklists so you can run through them quicker.  I thought this was silly and unnecessary until I began paying attention to how long it took me to get through all my checklists.  I changed my .5 (hobbs time) taxi from the parking area to runway down to .2 hobbs time.   If you are paying $150 for the airplane + instructor fees, that is a $45 savings!

2. Always study and then review your notes before meeting with your flight instructor.  If you have a good flight instructor, they should always let you know what you will be working on next time.  Don't just say you'll study and then find a million other things to do instead!  Set aside some time to study ALL the material so you can come prepared.  I recommend studying shortly after meeting with your flight instructor while you still have the motivation and the "high" from flying.  Then an hour or so before you meet with your flight instructor, review your notes and make sure you still remember what you studied.  I could always tell when my students studied before they came.  Instead of spending 30 minutes on our pre brief (talking about how to perform the maneuvers, airspeeds, clearing turns, etc.) we would spend only 10-15 minutes.  If you are paying your instructor only $30/hour, studying on your own will save about $8.  May not seem like a lot, but how many times do you meet with your instructor?  That $8 will add up!

3. "Chair fly."  I mocked people who did this, until I finally let my walls down and gave it a try.  It really does work!  Sit in a chair and mentally fly all the maneuvers you will practice that day.  Think of everything you will have to do when you are in the airplane.  Airspeed, amount of bank, back/forward pressure, rudder pressure, aileron pressure, when to start coming out of a turn, when to call ATC and what to say... everything you need to do!  And if you are alone, I recommend saying everything out loud.  Saying things out loud will help you think more and remember more.   Chair flying will save your countless hours in flight because instead of needing to practice the maneuver 3-4 times before getting it right, you will most likely get it right on the 1st or 2nd try.  

4. Clearing turns- 2-90 degree turns or 1-180 degree turn is completely safe.  You do not need to do a bazillion 360 degree turns.  I did stage checks for years- the students who did 3 or more clearing turns before each maneuver usually had at least .5 more time spent in the plane than those who didn't- that means they spent at least $60 more than they needed to.  Of course you need to do clearing turns (please never forget to clear the area), but just clear the area and then begin the maneuver.

5. While practicing maneuvers with your flight instructor or when solo, talk out loud.  Again, this will seem silly in the beginning, but like I said before, talking out loud has a way of helping us think more and do more.  You won't have to practice the maneuver as many times to get it right if you talk yourself through the maneuvers- just like you would if you were "chair-flying."

6. Use FAAs free online books at  Nobody ever told me about these, I just stumbled upon them one day.  Click here to open a new window to the FAAs Handbook and Manual page.   Especially with the use of tablets, books are becoming more obsolete.  Why pay money for these books when you can download and use them for free?  I used the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautic Knowledge the most; but they have a vast amount of other useful books including copies of all the PTSs.  Instead of buying the book from your local FBO, just print it off of their website or dowload it for free.

7. If you do need a book that the FAA doesn't give for free, buy used books.  Would you rather have a shiny new book or be less in debt?  Hopefully you picked less in debt.  I used the most, but I am sure there are a bunch of other websites out there that sell used books.  Just make sure you are buying the most recent edition.

8. If you are doing instrument training, invest in Microsoft Simulator.  You can't log it, but it will help you get your scan down, be able to fly while switching radio and navigation frequencies, and help you to think about what you need to do next.  It will help make you a better instrument pilot.  You will realize when you begin your instrument training that there is a lot going on!  Practice makes perfect, right?  So practice on the Microsoft Simulator before practicing it in the airplane.  This will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

 9. Get a hard case for your foggles.  I broke way too many pairs of foggles by just putting them in my flight bag.  Also, write your name in permeant marker so nobody will be tempted to keep them in case you accidentally leave them in the airplane after your flight lesson.

10. Fly at least 3-4 days per week; 2 days is not enough.  If you don't fly enough, each time you get in the plane you will have to spend time reviewing the items you learned on the previous lesson.  If you have gone too many days in-between, that review time may be 30-45 minutes; if you flew the day before yesterday, you many only have to spend 5 minutes.  I had enough students during my flight instructor days to see a huge difference in students who came to their lesson 3 days a week instead of just 2.  They spent way less money and were able to get their license in as little as 2 months, compared to some students that took almost a year!

Things you do not want to do to save money are underpay your flight instructor or make them feel guilty if they say you need another lesson before your checkride.  :)  They are there to help you and have your best interests in mind (if they don't, go find a new flight instructor).  It will save you money to fly once more with your instructor and pass your checkride the first attempt than to take the checkride, fail, have to fly with your flight instructor again anyways, and then have to take the checkride again.  See my point?

Be smart, and save where you can!

As always, if you have any questions about this or previous posts, email me at  I loved flight instructing and if I can help you out in any way, I am happy to.  Fly safe!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

CFI, To Be or Not To Be?

When I first started flight training the thought of becoming a flight instructor was scary.  How could I know all that stuff?  How could I keep students from putting me in not-so-fun situations?  How could I train pilots to be safe pilots?  These questions stuck with me for years.  But when I finally decided to start my CFI training, I realized it wasn't as scary as I had initially thought.  It's a progression!  Of course the thought of teaching somebody else when I knew close to nothing was scary, but as the years went by my knowledge and confidence increased as well.  Are you on the fence about becoming a flight instructor?  Here are some of my pros and cons to becoming a flight instructor.

I'm sure you already know this, but I LOVED flight instructing.  I was planning on doing it for my entire career until I decided that I wanted to see and do more.  Flight Instructing is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  But it's not for everybody, and if you aren't going to love it, then maybe there is a better way for you to accrue hours.

1. You get to learn every day!  If your ego is too big for this, then maybe flight instructing is not for you.  I had students teach me all the time, and I loved it!  My very first student was super smart with car engines.  Though I never admitted this to him, when I asked him how various systems worked (of course I was still testing him to see if he really knew) I learned from his answers.  Sometimes after he would leave I would research some of the stuff he had said only to find out he was completely right- when it came to systems, he was a genius.  I taught him tons, but he taught me stuff as well.  How awesome it was to get paid to learn while teaching.

Me and one of my students after his first solo.  Way to go!
2. You get to create your own schedule (depending on the flight school, of course).  This was one of the reasons I stayed flight instructing for so long instead of going to the airlines.  If I wanted to spontaneously spend a day with my sisters, I could!  Instead of meeting with my students I could give homework assignments or reschedule our time slot.  If I wanted to get off early on Fridays, I could!  I loved having such a flexible schedule.

3. You get to fly all the time and get paid for it.  My first paycheck from flight instructing is probably the coolest paycheck I have ever received.  I went from paying hundreds of dollars per hour to fly, to making hundreds of dollars per hour (wishful thinking, haha) money while flying.  Getting paid to do something you love is so awesome!

4. You get to know some of the most amazing people.  Not only do you learn from your students, but you can become great friends with your students as well.  I keep in touch with many of my students, people that I never would have had the pleasure of knowing if I hadn't decided to become a flight instructor.  Though I was the flight instructor, I looked up to many of my students and still consider them great friends.

5. You get to help others fulfill their dream.  If this doesn't help motivate you to become a flight instructor, maybe nothing will.  Helping others is one of the best things you can do in this life.  There are so many ways to help others, but I think flight instructing was the best way for me to do that.  If you become a flight instructor, you get to help others work on lifelong goals every day you go to work.  How amazing is that!?

I have always felt like the pros outweighed the cons, but here are the not-so-great things of flight instructing..

1. Your work is never really done.  Students have questions all the time and they should be able to come to you to for answers- whether you are on the clock or not.  I heard of some flight instructors that would bill their students for a simple phone call- do not be that person.  Your students look up to you and sometimes have exhausted all their resources; would you rather have your students search for an answer for hours just to get frustrated and still not find the answer, or just call you and pick your brain for a few minutes?  I hope you choose the latter.  Flight instructing is not a job that you leave at work.  It is with you 24/7.

2. Sometimes students do not-so-smart things when they get stressed or nervous in the airplane.  This can be scary for you, but after a couple of times you will begin to notice the signs from your students and will be able to recover the airplane before things get out of control.  Student tries to porpoise the airplane, like a dolphin, all the way down the runway?  No problem- you'll know just what to do to help him recover (go-around, of course).  Fail the left engine and have the student womp of the left rudder?  No problem- you'll be able to safely recover the airplane a split second after it happens.  You get the point.  Somedays students don't make the best decisions, but you'll know the signs and will be able to get yourself out of sometimes tricky situations with no problem.

3. If they fail a stage check or checkride, it's hard for you to.  Once you begin teaching your student, you'll feel as though you put just as much work into them as they do.  If you're a good flight instructor that cares about your students, you won't send them to a stage check or checkride until you know they are ready.  I only recall one student not passing a stage check first attempt, and only one student not passing a checkride first attempt.  I felt as though I hadn't done my job, like I should've spent more time with them, and prepared them better.  Their setbacks will feel like your setbacks as well.

4. Preparing lesson plans is time consuming.  Thank goodness you only have to do it once!  I spent months preparing my lesson plans.  Some lesson plans took me days to complete.  But I wanted everything included in them- I wanted my students to learn everything they needed to.  It was time consuming, but definitely worth it in the end.

5. Flight Instructing can be exhausting.  Once a year I took a 2-day stay-cation.  It's like a vacation, but you stay at home.  I would read those books I always wanted to, sleep in, go to the gym, etc.  I just needed a break from working.  Because a flight instructor is working all the time, it can get tiring.  To make it so you don't lose your mojo, you might need a stay-cation as well.  Your students will not be angry if you decide to take one because you will be rejuvenated and be a better flight instructor when you come back.  Flight instructing can be exhausting, so take a break when you need it.

If you are thinking of becoming  a flight instructor, I hope these items help you decide if it is a good career choice for you or not.  Flight instructing is not for everybody, but if you want one of the most rewarding aviation careers, I highly recommend it.  If you do become a flight instructor, make sure you are a good flight instructor!  Don't overcharge your students, be prepared to teach each lesson, make learning fun, and most of all, BE SAFE!

If you have any specific questions about becoming a flight instructor, do not hesitate to ask me.  Email me at or leave a comment below.  :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

If It's Your Dream, Go For It!

I was not one of those pilots who knew from day one that I wanted to be a pilot.  In fact, I didn't even know it was possible for a girl to be a pilot.  I'd never seen that before, and it was never one of the careers that came up on career day in school.  I always thought I would just have to be a music teacher, since that's what I was good at.

When I was a sophomore, I decided to start taking college courses because I could get college credit and high school credit for each course.  I'd taken quite a few of the ones offered, so by the time I was a senior, I was down to just a couple remaining.  One of them was Intro to Aviation Science.  I wasn't entirely sure what that class was about, but I needed some more science credits for high school, so I decided to take it.  And it was so cool!  We got to learn about the history of aviation, the basics of flying, and listen to many of the awesome stories the teacher had to tell.   I loved going to that class.  I geeked out and went to the library each week to check out more aviation books- from aerodynamics, angle of attack, airspace... you name it.  If the library had it, I read it.

But some questions were always in the back of my mind...can women do this career?  Will it be weird if I am the only girl in my classes?  Is this career even possible for me?

Though I wanted it, I was still undecided about becoming a pilot.  But I wanted to give it a try, so I decided to apply for a couple of aviation scholarships; if I got a scholarship I would get my private pilot's license and then decided if it was something I really wanted to do.  I got both scholarships (wahoo!), so I was off to Utah Valley University to begin my college career and flight training.  I took a few aviation courses my first semester, but mostly only general education classes, incase I changed my mind about aviation.  I started flying shortly after the semester began.

Photo Courtesy of  Mat Haderlie
But once I started I could not stop.  I was addicted to flying!  It didn't matter anymore that I was usually the only girl in class, or that all my pilot friends were guys.  I realized that airplanes don't care about gender, so why should I?  Flying is the best career for me, and I've never regretted choosing this career.  But it was not always flowers and bunnies...

I had opposition all over the place.  I took a Ethics and Values class (required for any degree at UVU), and I literally had a student in that class tell me that it was a sin for women to be in the workplace, let alone be a pilot.  Women were supposed to stay home and take care of the kids and house- not work in a man's world.  That stung, but then I realized he was wrong.  Did he not realize that it was 2004 and not the 1900s?

I also had numerous friends (including friends at the airlines) ask me how they could change my mind about becoming a pilot.  They would tell me about the awful pay when starting at the airlines, how I would have to put my life on the line every day I hopped in the plane with a student, how I would have to be gone all the time and wouldn't be able to have a family.

Instead of listening to their negativity, I found solutions for it all.  I payed off all my student loans before going to the airlines so that my first year pay cut wouldn't be so bad, I trained my students on the ground before taking them flying so it wasn't a safety risk, and I chose to go to an airline that supports families.  I work 4-5 days a week and am usually only gone for one night of that.

Whatever problem you are facing while trying to live your dream of becoming a pilot, there is a solution- you just have to figure out what it is.  I am here to tell you that only YOU can decide to throw out all the negative comments and keep working towards your dream.  Of course there are going to days where you want to give up.  That's just life.  If you want this bad enough, YOU can find a way to make it work.  You can choose to listen to others who tell you to pursue something else, or you can listen to yourself and do it anyways.  I asked myself this question all the time "Will I be truly happy doing anything else?"  If the answer is no, then keep at it.

College was tough, but studying wasn't so bad because I was studying what I loved.  Flight Instructing had its challenging days, but I got to teach some of the best people I now know.  My first year at the airlines, with such low pay, was hard, but it was worth it because I got to go to work every day doing something that I love.    Because I chose to follow my dream and not listen to the Debbie-Downers all around me, I have been able to look forward to every day of my life.  And I wouldn't trade that for anything.

What's your dream?  Decide to do it, and then just do it!

Happy flying!  :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Think Outside the Box

When I was 18 I remember my first instructor giving me a paper, front and back, with emergency procedures that I needed to memorize.  During flight training he would give me random emergencies, but always ones that were from that sheet of paper.  Of course it was good to memorize all those checklists and know them like the back of my hand, but what I hadn't done was think outside the box.  What if something happened that wasn't on that checklist?

Shortly after I began flight instructing such an event occurred.  I was with a student, flying in a Piper Arrow, maneuvering about 15 miles away from the Provo airport.  I don't remember the exact maneuver we were doing, but I know we had a reduced power setting.  When we went to add power back in to recover from the maneuver, nothing happened!  We had the amount of power one would use on short final; we were coming down, but not as fast as if we'd had a complete power loss.  I thought to run through the engine failure checklist, but this wasn't a total engine failure.  We tried moving the mixture and RPM levers but nothing happened.  Weird. This was not something I'd even thought would happen, so which checklist was I supposed to use? Up to this point, I had only practiced the emergency procedures with required memory items; for example, engine failure, engine fire, runuway trim, etc.

Something must've come loose?  But that's not an emergency that we're taught so it shouldn't happen, right!?  Wrong!  By some miracle, and with the attitude that girls have of "things will just fix themselves" (haha), we somehow regained control of the throttle, RPM, and mixture.  We both decided not to chance it, even though everything was back to normal, and immediately headed back to the airport.

On downwind, everything was still normal, so we ran through our landing checklist and began lowering the gear and flaps as needed.  We had discussed previously that we would only reduce the power, just incase it got stuck again, when we absolutely knew we had the runway made with whatever power setting we had.  Thankfully we did that, because when we reduced to the final approach power setting, it got stuck again.  Yes, we came in a bit faster than normal; Yes, we came in a bit higher than normal; Yes, we landed on the runway, safely.  But we had no use of the throttle, RPM, or mixture.  We had to use considerable braking after we touched down, and then had to taxi back to the hanger riding the brakes (which were smoking by the time we got back in- I always wondered what would happen if the brakes were used too much).

We were lucky!  The rod that connects to the controls somehow got disconnected, which was why we had no use.  Who knows why it began working so we could make it back to the field, but it did. Had it not, we would have been forced to do an off-field landing.  Point of the story?  It is good to have all the required emergency procedures memorized, but there are emergenices that could happen that are not on that list.  The memorized emergency procedures can help prepare you for whatever happens, but know that the possibilites are endless when it comes to something going wrong.  There are so many moving parts on an aircraft, so if you have to think outside the box, then do it!

Once I began doing stage checks for students, I decided to give them emergency procedures that were not part of the required emergency memory items. I would not fail them if they didn't perform perfectly, but I wanted to see them think outside the box. I wanted them to realize that there were more emergencies than an engine failure.

Most of the time I gave the students this scenario- reduced power setting, but not a complete power loss. Many students froze when I told them that their power was stuck at 1500rpm. But as I walked them through the situation they realized that it could be treated as an engine failure, and they could run through the ABCDs (Airspeed, Best place to land, Checklists, Declare an emergency). Hopefully I was able to help some students realize the importance of thinking when an emergency situation occurs.

So if you find yourself in an abnormal situation, think about what's happening, then use the checklist that most closely resembles your situation. Remember, not every emergency situation has an associated checklist. If you have to, Think Outside The Box!