Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Update on Instrument Training

I suddenly realized that I haven't been writing here, and it's not been for lack of flying, but more for lack of time to write about it. Also, it's not been the most pleasant experience sometimes. I've basically been taking two training flights a week, doing an approach at Salinas and one at Watsonville each week. I've been really struggling getting the procedural stuff in my head (5 T's, 5 A's, etc). In addition, it's been very hard for me to stay calm in the cockpit, and the tension just makes things worse.

There have been so many factors. For one thing, it's really hard. It's hard to think about what to do at any given point on an approach, it's hard to remember those things as you're passing that point, it's hard to not stress out about the whole thing, it's hard to do all -- or even some -- of these things without compromising control of the aircraft.

The thing is, I can do it. I know I can do it, and John knows I can do it, and in a simulator, I CAN do it. But in the plane, it's a different story. Why? John and I had a talk last week about it, after a lesson in which I was tense through all the approaches and eventually just lost track of what I was supposed to be doing, which is what has been happening. John said I didn't have enough confidence in my own flying, that it was clear that my instincts were generally telling me to do the right things, but that I didn't trust it, and I showed that by hesitating and tensing up. This is basically true, so the question is, what can be done about it? It's not so much that I doubt my ability, it's that I don't know if I'm doing something wrong so I overthink it.

When I was getting my PPL, my instructor Sergey would constantly be saying random positive things: "Nice job." "Beautiful approach!" "Good call" for a radio call. Or sometimes just "Good job, good job.." even if things weren't perfect but just to relax me. After thinking about this last week, I told John about this this morning, and he understood -- it's not about ego or not being able to take criticism, it's about reassurance IN the cockpit environment that things are going OK and I'm not about to kill us. I can take criticism, for sure -- Sergey would criticize too, sometimes to the point where I would have trouble taking it, but he was always very positive about the positive things. So today John tried to be more praiseful in the plane. I think it worked -- it was a great lesson! Not that I did everything right, by any stretch; on the contrary I made more and bigger mistakes than I've made in a while, BUT I kept the radio the whole way, I owned the flight and I felt comfortable making those mistakes. I was more relaxed than I've been in a long time (in a plane). So, I think we're on the right track. We're going to try it again on Friday and hopefully it'll be a similar flight (without the potentially death-inducing errors).

On a side note, last weekend I flew for the first time outside of California. I was visiting relatives in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and I went to NS Aviation at North Perry Airport (KHWO). It was a little weird; there was a big problem since I didn't have proof of insurance with me and had to get AOPA to fax it over, but after a couple of hours I got it sorted out. The instructor, Alan, looked like he was about 19, and when I asked how long he'd been instructing, he said, "2 weeks." Um...O-kay! However, Alan was truly excellent. He had many great suggestions for me, and delivered them in such a way that they were very easy to understand and take in. He grilled me on airspaces and aerodynamic stuff, and we went out and did stalls and steep turns, which was great.

My intent was to fly my cousins' kids around on a subsequent day, but that never happened because of the thunderstorm activity in the area -- not anything I want any part of!

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