Thursday, April 24, 2014

Accept Only Your Best

When I was going through flight training I always thought I was doing great if I could hold altitude within 100', or airspeed within 10 knots, or heading within 10 degrees.  That is what the PTS standards teach, right?  If I can do that, I can pass a checkride and become a pilot.  But what I didn't understand is that those standards are simply there so the FAA has some way to grade us all the same; flying just within those standards will not make us the best.  Do you think the Blue Angels, when flying in formation say, "I'm only off 5 degrees, so I'm good."  Heck no!  Being off only 5 degrees could mean catastrophe.  I am here to tell you that you can fly better than the PTS standards.

You want me to fly at 16,000'?  No problem!

Looks like I needed a little more right rudder!
I remember, way back in the day when I was working on my Private Pilot's license, an airline pilot saying to me "If you can hold your altitude 100' low, why not just hold the correct altitude?"  It made sense to me, but I was still learning what an altimeter was, let alone fly at the correct altitude for longer than 5 seconds.  I always remembered what he said, but I got sucked into the PTS standards way of life and didn't take his lesson to heart.  I didn't mind so much if I got 75' low because I was still flying within the standards set by the FAA, and they always know what is best, right?  Right?

I continued my training and was soon teaching others how to become pilots.  It was then that the light bulb turned on.  I needed to be training these pilots for life, not just for a checkride.  I, of course, still showed my students the PTS standards, but I explained that if they flew these minimum standards, they were barely passing... and in school barely passing means getting all Cs.  Do I want to train pilots to be C pilots, standard pilots?  Heck no!  We want to be the best at what we do- that is why we are pilots.  We are competitive and we want to be the best!

Remember, it takes time to become a great pilot, but it is possible.  Don't expect "perfection" (of course 100% perfection is not possible, but you know what I mean), especially not on your first flight; if you do you won't make it past the first lesson.  Not once did I have a student fly "perfect" on the first, second, or even 15th flight.  It takes a lot of time and patience, but if you are determined, you will get there.

Here are a few things I did to get my students from their first flight to awesome pilots:

Prior to my students first solo I had my students practice the PTS standards, but I accepted deviations- if you are too hard on yourself, or if your instructor is too hard on you, that just brings negative learning, and that is no good.  The solo is amazing for building confidence and helping you (or your students) realize that you really can fly an airplane with no assistance from an instructor.

After the solo I would tighten the standards, but remind my students before each flight that I expected them to be able to fly within the PTS standards.  I didn't say this in a mean way, but in a motivating way, telling them that I knew they could do it!  "You can fly solo, so you can fly within the PTS standards, no problem."

After a few more flight lessons came the solo cross-countries.  Again, an amazing confidence builder.  To all students- now, not only can you fly all over the place by yourself, but you have had the time, alone, to practice your flying skills- with no flight instructor talking the entire time distracting you (I'm sure I never distracted my students from talking too much, I just heard stories of other instructors doing that).

Aiming for 180 knots, pretty darn close!
After the solo cross countries, and before I would send my students on checkrides, I would have them fly and hold 1/2 of all the PTS standards.  For example, I would have them hold airspeed within 5 knots instead of 10 knots.  But I tried to always remind them that if they could hold 5 knots off, they could hold the correct airspeed as well.  Why accept less than your best when you can do your best?

 Now I know I was not the perfect flight instructor, and I'm sure there are better ways to teach than what I did, but I really tried to teach my students to be great pilots for life, not just for a checkride, and I hope you will do the same.

If you are an instructor, do better!  If you are a student, accept more of yourself and remember, if you can fly 100' low consistently, you can fly your target altitude consistently!  Accept only your best!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Work Is What You Make It

One of the many benefits of working for the airlines is all of the travel opportunities- there, I said it.  These past few weeks have been pretty great for that.  I know a career at the airlines can be hard for some spouses, who may feel left out of the fun or feel stuck at home watching the kids or working.  It can be like that, but it doesn't have to be.  Make your career at the airlines an enjoyable experience for the both of you!

Last month one of my favorite female captains and I decided to bid for the same 2-day trip and have our husbands come along.  We bid for a trip that had only 2 flights the first day, got done at 1pm, and over-nighted in San Diego.  We met our husbands in San Diego and had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted.  We spent some time at the pool/hot tub relaxing, eating great food, and visiting Old Town San Diego.  It was a blast and by far the best way to work/vacation.  I know I don't usually post personal pics, but I thought just this once might be okay.  :)

The past weekend I had to go to Long Beach for my yearly sim session.  I had studied so much before hand (which is why I haven't posted in a few weeks), that I could study no longer.  So my husband came out with me and we enjoyed our time on the coast.  My sim slot was from 4-10pm so we had the entire morning to do whatever we wanted to.  The morning after the sim (I passed, of course) we did a little bit more sight-seeing and then headed home.  It was great!  

Here's a picture of the lovely full motion sim.  I always wondered what they looked like when I going through training, so here ya go.  

My point to all of this is that working for the airlines doesn't mean you have to be away from your loved ones all the time.  You can turn your work days into mini getaways with your spouse so you can still see each other and continue to grow your relationship.  Life is what you make it, so make it something you can enjoy!