September 7, 2014
Total Hours: 61.4
This was my first full week as a pilot. It sounds kind of funny doesn’t it? It isn’t like much has changed since last week but it feels different. I feel less pressure now and I also feel a freedom to simply enjoy where I am and what I’m doing. No doubt I had that freedom all along, I just wouldn’t allow myself to have it until now. And at the moment my biggest goal is to savor that freedom and to enjoy the process. It’s even bigger than the goal of finishing my commercial and CFI. During this next portion of my training I intend to be more relaxed and to simply have fun.
After my checkride I had a meeting with my instructor and the assistant chief pilot. We laid out the goals and a timeline for the commercial/CFI training to come. I knew that I only needed about one hundred hours of flying to meet the aeronautical experience requirements for these certificates and I also knew that it wouldn’t take too long to simply build that time. But the thing I didn’t think about was how much time I would need to prepare my lesson plans. The learning to teach phase of becoming an instructor will be a process in and of itself, never mind the flying. Because of this I will be flying fewer hours in the coming months and spending more time working at home and doing ground. Most of my ground sessions will be spent “teaching” my instructor. Getting a feel for teaching from my lesson plans and getting plenty of feedback on how to make them better.
I’ve been looking forward to this part of my training for a while. Not just because I longed to escape the stress I put myself through during my private, but also because I have always enjoyed teaching. I like to dig deeper into the material, and as anyone out there who has tried to teach knows, teaching requires an excellent understanding of the material. I knew that I would have a chance to expand my knowledge as I prepared for instructing but I didn’t realize that I would also be learning about teaching itself. We have to learn the fundamentals of instruction, or FOI’s, which cover the theories behind teaching. It is the same material that any teacher would learn before heading into the classroom. Some of the FOI’s are difficult because they are so technical, but the information is useful and I feel motivated to learn them even though the amount of material is a little daunting.
For my lesson plans I am working on PowerPoint to create what will essentially be lecture notes. I like the platform and it’s working well in terms of flexibility and ease of use. My idea is to use the slides as notecards to teach from along with use of the whiteboard and the occasional photograph or diagram thrown in. I have had one session of teaching already and it was every bit as tricky as I imagined. I find it interesting that we can explain a concept in our own minds so competently only to find that we can’t even begin to explain it out loud to another person! This is part of the fun though. I will have to go through the same learning process with the maneuvers as well. Learning to talk my way through them and then eventually to “demonstrate” them to my instructor compete with commentary. It sounds simple, but I know it won’t be.
Besides looking forward to the teaching I also have plenty to look forward to in the air. I’ve had four flights since my checkride and as I said in the intro it definitely feels different. I can’t imagine that I have much more skill, but I certainly have more confidence and a more relaxed approach. So what kind of flying am I doing? As I’ve covered in previous posts I don’t really need to learn new maneuvers for the commercial or CFI, but I do have to become more precise. During my four flights I have worked on some of the standard maneuvers, but I have also spent time learning about advanced autorotation techniques. You may remember that an autorotation is a helicopter’s equivalent to an airplane’s glide. It is the technique that we would use in the event of an engine failure or similar emergency. Throughout the private we are not given much wiggle room when performing the autos. The airspeed is to stay at 60 knots, the RPM in the green. But now I am getting to learn about moving those numbers away from the middle ground. By going a bit faster we can increase our glide distance. A bit slower increases the time we have in the air. Good things to know when you are shooting for a suitable forced landing spot.
In addition to these training flights I also had my first pure fun flight. My instructor and I flew over to the Valleys, a series of deep troughs cut into the east side of the Kohala Mountains. Many years ago, on my only other visit to Hawaii, my girlfriend and I hiked into these valleys for a backpacking trip. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but the experience of flying there was even better than I anticipated. It was the kind of flying that I dreamed about. Cruising around within spitting distance of the steep valley walls, precipitous drops below our skids, waterfalls cascading down toward the valley floor a thousand feet below. It’s the kind of flying that helicopters were built for. I know that the commercial training will have its fair share of work, but I’m happy that it will be offset by some plain old fun! Here’s to enjoying where I am and what I’m doing.