February 17th, 2015
Total Hours: 154.5
It’s getting a little harder to write these blogs some weeks. I’m not sure if it’s because I am nearing the end of the program or if it’s because I’m not seeing the big changes each week anymore. It is hard to believe that there is light at the end of this training tunnel. Just today I was remarking to my instructor that the last seven months have been a blur. I’ve been living my dream, working almost every day at completing this training and giving it everything I’ve got. In a couple more months I’ll be ready to take the next step and try to become an instructor. It’s still unbelievable to me that this could have happened so fast.
Well, as for the instrument flying, it’s going really well. I’ve heard a few people mention that they disliked the instrument portion or that they found it the most difficult. I can’t say I agree about the difficulty at this point but I will admit that it is not quite as thrilling as VFR flying. Which isn’t to say it isn’t rewarding or fun. I can see that the lack of excitement could lead to lethargy or less motivation though. Due to the nature of instrument flight it requires a lot of memorization and procedures and this takes a fair amount of work. I think that putting in the hours at home is the best way to get through instrument quickly and painlessly, but it can be hard to do that when you are not motivated by the flying itself.
Perhaps I am just one of those weirdo’s who actually likes instrument flying, I don’t know. I would certainly prefer cruising slow and low, landing off-airport, or flying some sling loads to instrument flight. But I do enjoy the visualization, planning, and procedure work. And I think mastery of the instruments and onboard equipment are just another level of overall mastery of the machine. When I decided to become a helicopter pilot I knew I wanted to put everything into it. To be the best pilot I could be. In my mind part of this is broadening my horizons, even if it is beyond the scope of the work I plan to do one day. Because of this I can say that the skills I am learning in IFR training are important to me no matter what, and I’m enjoying building those skills with every session.
This week I continued to work away in the simulator. The most amazing thing to me is that I am getting better at flying it! I would have sworn two weeks ago (and I swore plenty, believe me!) that I would never really get good at flying the sim. But this week I’ve seen real improvement. Most of this comes from the scan, not the physical ability to fly the machine. As I mentioned in my last post the scan is the primary thing we train in the sim. I can really see the difference in the speed at which I scan and how I don’t fixate on instruments as easily. When I first started working on the scan it seemed impossible and it was hard to see results on a day-by-day basis. But it’s happening! So if you are out there doing your IFR training don’t give up hope, it gets better.
The frustration in the sim is one the biggest challenges. I’m sure anyone out there can appreciate that any task becomes more difficult when frustration levels rise. It is an interesting balance trying to fly a specific procedure, remember all the steps and follow them, and at the same time struggle to make the sim do what I want. In addition the time windows are short and a few seconds spent cursing the sim only gets you that much further behind it. So in addition to the scan and procedure practice the sim is a great tool to challenge stress reduction techniques. I have to laugh each time I notice that I am death-gripping the stick! But relaxing the grip or taking a deep breath, instead of cursing the machine and seeing red, are steps in the right direction. And learning those skills will pay off in any type of flying I do down the road.
Now I couldn’t have it be all instrument monotony so I decided that even though I am focused on the instrument side of things I still have to do some fun VFR flights as well. I don’t want to spend too much time away from the flying I really love so I figured that every other week or so I should try and do a little commercial flying. By commercial flying I mean simply getting out and flying to commercial standards. In fact I try to make a little mission for myself and imagine how I would handle it as a commercial pilot working for a customer. These are the first steps in making the transition to being a pilot. This is another interesting fact I’ve been keying in on lately. Making the mental shift, taking the step, or should I say leap, to accepting that I am a pilot and no longer a student. Taking that responsibility and recognizing it may be one of the biggest moves in my new career.