Stranded In The Southland

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Boy Scouts, Too, Into the Air[*]

Well, I survived my second flying lesson.

This time, we did a complete pre-flight, according to the voluminous checklists, gettin' down to examine the tires and hinges on the flaps and the pitot and static system flushing mechanism. Yeesh. Apparently, nobody really bothers with this stuff for most flights, but I'll need it for the check ride.

I figured that as long as we were poking around, looking at everything, I'd ask every stupid question that came to mind. My instructor, Kris, who is a moderately mellow guy, didn't really know why there was a vent at the top of the vertical stabilizer, but the owner of the place did -- it vented air into the rear of the cockpit for the passengers.

Then we hopped in, and I got to run through all of the checklists to start the plane myself, taxi out, ask for clearance to taxi to the runway, go through the runup just short of the runway (where you throw open the throttle and check things just to make sure that nothin' will break under pressure), and get approval for takeoff.

I was kind of nervous about the whole radio communication, but managed it with a little coaching. I definitely need to study this.

Anyway, I even managed to steer us out to the runway and take off. Since this basically involves throwing the throttle wide open and pulling back on the yoke at 60 knots, you shouldn't be too impressed by it. We headed out to the practice area, and practiced a whole bunch of turns. Sadly, I continue to have problems pulling back on the elevator enough, and I tend to wander a bit, to the dismay of my instructor -- "Gee, we're at 30 degrees bank, now 45 degrees bank -- can you see how as you get to 55 degrees you have a hard time pulling up enough on the elevator to keep us from loosing altitude?" Well, yeah. :-(

We ran through a couple of power-off stalls and a power-on stall, and headed back, bopping into the pattern, fiddling with the flaps, and landing. I didn't actually do the landing, as I'm still mystified by the sort of controlled crash that is arrested at the last moment to result in a soft touchdown.

I'm still not sure about training with these folks. Kris is a reasonably instructor, but I'm a bit put off by his lack of professionalism. I was on time for our 9AM meeting. He was a few minutes late. Then he fiddled around with the schedule book, took a cell phone call, chatted with the owner, and finally took me out to the plane about 15 or 20 minutes late.

While we were pre-flighting, he took another cell phone call, and just generally wandered off a bit. Then, he made sure to charge me for half an hour of instructional ground time.

I don't mind the charge for the time, as we messed around quite a bit with the pre-flight, and I don't mind the cell phone calls and the dawdling around, but the combo is kind of aggravating. If I'm paying him $40/hour to instruct me, it seems like he oughta just turn off the friggin' cell phone. Or, if he's gonna be a slacker, then he oughtn't to charge me for the ground time. My pilot pal at work confirmed that this seems like kinda sketchy behavior.

I'll give him another chance Friday, then possibly contemplate trying out the more attractive flight school that is down at Chino. It'd suck to drive twice as far, but given what I'm paying to learn, I ought to learn from someone who is fully involved. (Which, of course, assumes that they are any better down there.)

[*] The titles of the last two posts came from a song I learned at me ol' dad's knee which mocks the Air Force. I can't seem to find any references to it on the web (just references to some Captain Video song), but I suspect ol' dad wasn't makin' it up on the spot.