April 11th, 2015
Total Hours: 185.2
This is it; I am now an official graduate of Mauna Loa Helicopters’ Professional Pilot Program. It’s been a wild ride and my head is still spinning from everything that’s passed over the last 9 months. Many have asked how it feels to finish and all I can really say at this point is that I feel relieved. Perhaps as the reality of what I’ve accomplished sets in I will feel more excitement, but right now I am simply happy to be done with the pressure of lessons and checkrides. Upon completion of such a significant amount of work it is easy to expect some feeling of euphoria or jubilation but more often the end is anti-climactic. This came as no surprise to me though; my experience of completing difficult climbing routes after months of effort taught me that despite the incredible amount of time and energy applied the mind simply shifts to what’s next.
As I came to my final checkrides instead of expecting some powerful feeling my main goal became hanging on to some feeling of satisfaction for as long as possible. After all this hard work it would be a shame not to enjoy my success for at least a moment! I know that eventually it will be replaced with concern and anxiety about getting a job and starting the next step in my new career, but why not try and make those emotions wait? The reality is that many times already a voice in my head has said, “Nothing to do now but move on to the next step.” I am trying my best to allow this voice to pass by without latching onto it but eventually it will stick. Until then, there is nothing to do but enjoy the peace and relaxation that’s come after this period of intense work.
After passing my CFII checkride on Friday I spent some time reflecting over my experiences here at Mauna Loa. I arrived with very ambitious ideas about how quickly I would roll through the program. I thought that it would be no big deal, just a simple matter of putting my head down and cranking out long days of studying and flying. In the end it required so much more than that. During the first two months I was a wreck. The stress of living in a new place and having no local friends or family for support, the pressure of starting a new career, and the investment of a huge sum of money were almost too much to bear. There were a few moments during those initial months that I felt so miserable I had to consider walking away from the training. But I knew I couldn’t give up so easily. Some say that nothing worth doing comes easily and while I do not like absolutes I tend to agree with the sentiment of this idea. Instead of giving up I realized I was going to have to transform myself in ways I had not anticipated before starting the program. Instead of simply learning new aviation skills I would have to learn a new way of life.
After completing my private pilot certificate I tried to find better balance. Without quality of life no one can perform at his or her best. This was not a new realization; it was simply one that had been clouded over by the desire to complete the program quickly and begin my career. Unfortunately Hawaii does not offer the things that I’ve considered essential to creating the quality of life I’ve enjoyed over the last 15 years. I knew that before I came here and I knew that one part of the challenge would be to find a new way to create a satisfying life. Looking back I can see that despite this knowledge once I arrived all I did was hit the books and go flying. While I was very motivated to apply myself at school I slowly realized that I was suffering from having no other outlets. Interestingly the solution ended up being something I had intended to do as soon as I arrived in Hawaii. That solution was to start a regular yoga practice. Though I had set this intention before arriving once I was here I was swept away by the self-imposed urgency of finishing the program. I think this is a common thing for many students. It took nearly three months but I finally came to my senses and made the decision to commit to yoga twice a week. Not a huge commitment, but it completely changed my experience throughout the rest of my training. Feeling more relaxed and balanced I found that I could accomplish just as much at school with less effort and, more importantly, less stress.
In the end I surpassed the goals I had set for myself. I’m not sure which is more surprising; the fact that I thought I could complete the program in less than a year or the fact that I actually did it. It took an enormous amount of work and dedication and it also required a transformation of myself. But that’s fitting isn’t it? It was the goal all along, but it was hard to appreciate what it would mean until just now. And the reality is that this was just the first step in a process that will continue to redefine who I am. This is both scary and exciting. Thankfully it is mostly exciting! In the next week I hope to have an interview with Mauna Loa and gain some insight about the prospect of working there. With a little luck I will be able to start working in a couple of months, but while I wait I am going to do my best to relax and enjoy myself. That will be a lot easier once I am back home in Colorado, a trip that I will make as soon as possible after finishing my interview.
In the coming weeks there will not be much activity here on the blog, but it isn’t over yet. I have amassed a huge amount of data about the training program and I will be converting this data into graphs or tables to help prospective students get an idea of the timeline and budget they might expect. In addition I will continue to write about my search for work (hopefully not much of a search!) and once I start I’ll be writing about my experiences as an instructor. Thanks to everyone who has been reading, I’ve really appreciated the comments and encouragement, I hope that I’ve been able to help or inspire some of you whether your dreams are in aviation or otherwise. Please feel free to contact me if I can answer any questions… Thanks for reading!