Thursday, January 21, 2010

Showing improvement

This morning I scored in the 90s (finally!) on my FOI practice exam. With a nod to all of you that have been sending me tips and advice, I have been cycling through emotions ranging from sheer terror at my ineptitude to a calm feeling of, like other achievements I have attained in my life, that I'll get there eventually....

All right, ineptitude may be too strong a word. I just know that I have a lot to do before I can (should) instruct students - after all, they're paying a rather sizable chunk of their hard earned money on their flight training. And then there's that whole, "screw up and die" factor in aviation. I want my students to fly safely, too.

I have been reminded that passing the writtens is more than memorizing the correct answers - there is a reason for this test and that is to check an instructor's comprehension of the concepts referred to in it. I guess that's why it's called the Fundamentals. Of. Instruction. I get it.

Another issue I'm dealing with is referred to in this question:

When a person has difficulty recalling facts after several years, this is known as

poor retention.

I'm not sure, but don't show this question again
I'm sure, don't show this question again

The fundamentals of flight training that I received so many years ago have definitely gotten a little dusty. So yesterday, just for "fun," I started to take the Private Pilot written exam. Out of 54 questions, I got 36 correct. I know, I know, I shouldn't be bragging about that. But c'mon, that was walking into that completely cold!

Some of the topics were things I didn't think about any more, perhaps because of automation? The Flight Management System figures out the landing distance for the Citation X given various information about the aircraft and it is also printed on our dispatch release the company provides. I did get this one right, because we do need to know how to do it anyway (just in case the computer goes down).

One question about takeoff distance I got wrong because the number I got seemed so tiny. I just didn't trust myself.

Here's another question about a topic that I haven't had to deal with in ages - and even then it was only briefly. I was in a single engine airplane only to transition from helicopters to the King Air (a multi-engine turboprop)...

While cruising at 9,500 feet MSL, the fuel/air mixture is properly adjusted. What will occur if a descent to 4,500 feet MSL is made without readjusting the mixture? The fuel/air mixture may become excessively lean (I was right, but only because I guessed the longest answer - that's an insider's old trick, btw).

This one brought up an old memory.

Which would most likely result in hyperventilation?

The excessive consumption of alcohol.
An extremely slow rate of breathing and insufficient oxygen.
Emotional tension, anxiety, or fear.

I'm not sure, but don't show this question again
I'm sure, don't show this question again

Although excessive consumption of alcohol was definitely present during my flight school training my first year in the army, the answer is emotional tension, anxiety, or fear. I was able to answer this one from experience, because that's exactly what I did when an instructor in the army took me out for spins in a Tomahawk (sometimes referred to as a traumahawk).

According to Wikipedia: The Tomahawk was Piper's attempt at creating an affordable two-place trainer. Before designing the aircraft, Piper widely surveyed flight instructors for their input into the design. Instructors requested a more spinnable aircraft for training purposes, since other two-place trainers such as the Cessna 150 or Cessna 152 were designed to spontaneously fly out of a spin. The Tomahawk's NASA[1] GA(W)-1 Whitcomb airfoil addresses this requirement by requiring specific pilot input in recovering from spins, thus allowing pilots to develop proficiency in dealing with spin recovery.

After the first spin, we leveled out and I could not catch my breath. Huh. Huh. Huh. My instructor (the one who used to chuckle if we messed up) said, "Lynda, c'mon breathe. Stick with me here."

Once I caught my breath, we did it again. Only a tiny bit of hyperventilating. Then again. No hyperventilating. Then again, and again, and again, until I could enter the spin and recover on my own with no interference from the instructor.

I am *really* looking forward to spins again.

Next post we'll talk more about the advice I've been getting. As always, comments are appreciated. Keep 'em coming!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Student Responsibilities

Ok, I have to tell on myself here. I've spent two days focusing attention on my Army instructors for their performance, but we students have a responsibility, as well, and that's to let our instructors know what's going on in our heads. This question brought back a memory...

Which statement is true regarding the achievement of an adequate standard of performance?

A flight instructor should devote major effort and attention to the continuous evaluation of student performance.

Flight instructors can affect a genuine improvement in the student/instructor relationship by not strictly enforcing standards.

Flight instructors fail to provide competent instruction when they permit students to partially learn an important item of knowledge or skill.

The answer is C. I thought about a concept in my primary training (the first phase of Initial Entry Rotary Wing - IERW) that I didn't grasp initially that haunted me in subsequent training. And I mean for a long while. Even to this day I can't remember what the name is for this technique, so any of you instructors out there are welcome to comment below with the correct name.

This integral knowledge that I never fully grasped was that concept of being able to see where you were going to touch down in the helicopter and maintain a constant angle of descent to it, achieving a stabilized approach. I remember it being explained to me that it was some kind of "cone of action" or movement or something or other.

The idea was that you were supposed to be able to look at your intended landing point ( end of a runway or section of a field, etc.) and see no movement at that particular point. However, everything around that point should be moving (albeit minimally). Things in front would be moving forward, things to the side should be moving farther out, and things behind should be moving backward. If you got this concept, which I hadn't, you would be able to maintain a constant descent angle through out your approach and landing, preventing you from under or over arcing from the straight line that could ideally be drawn from your point of initial descent to your touchdown point (possible action for under arcing= add power, over arcing = subtract). Pictures (and a more thorough explanation) at

Obviously, this is a purely visual maneuver and would take, for example, just small corrections in power if the target settings were hit straight off. But, if you (or me, in this case) never understood this concept, too large corrections would be made too late and increase the possibility that I talked about in my last post, where the instructor got back to the table and said, "you were too high on the first one, too slow on the second," etc., and never a stabilized approach would be achieved.

I was working way too hard trying to cover up my ignorance when I should have just admitted my confusion. I'm not sure when the light bulb went on in my head, but once it did, it solved a multitude of problems and let me focus on the real subject of the lesson at hand.

FoMI, pt. 2

This morning I did another iteration of the Fundamentals of Instruction exam. [And to answer your question, I am still far FAR from getting 100%.] When I read the question: "When an instructor critiques a student, it should always be..."

Unfortunately, the online test was being difficult and wouldn't let me easily copy the choices, so I'll just jump ahead and tell you that the answer was, in effect, to conduct the critique immediately following the lesson. One of the results of that experience with my first Army flight instructor I told you about last time is that I was switched to a new one after my original instructor went on vacation.

What led to this change? Because when I didn't have his presence in the left seat (the primary flight position in a helicopter is in the right, remember?) and an instructor over there who didn't scream at me, I did great. We flew with this substitute instructor pilot for a week and I not only caught up with everyone else, I exceeded the standard for that phase of instruction.

The day my instructor got back, I was supposed to FINALLY solo (in a helo that means you fly with your stick buddy in the other seat - technically not really alone), but the winds exceeded the limits. So Screamerman instructed me to fly back to our home airfield. I picked up to a hover, departed the traffic pattern, flew back to home station, made an approach, came to a hover, taxied onto the ramp, and set the huey down in a confined space and shut 'er down - without him saying a word. I will never forget the slack jawed look my instructor gave me, and the disbelieving praise he then offered.

The next day, however, as I had been conditioned, I flinched every time I knew I had done something wrong, even though the instructor wasn't (had promised not to) yell. Too late. Flinch, quake, fumble. Fail.

So, again, Marty the stick buddy to the rescue. I was too cowardly to "give up" and demand another instructor so he went to bat for me. Again, it was the Army. Tough it out, soldier! The funny thing was, the NEW instructor I was assigned had adopted a technique of not immediately offering a critique. He would remain silent the whole flight session until we returned to the table and then say, "You were too fast on the first approach, too high on the second, didn't put enough wind correction in on the third," etc. How useless was that information? Not only did I have no recollection of these individual approaches, it also wasn't allowing me to make the corrections when I could have seen the results! I eventually soloed, which it seemed I would never do, as you can see in the photo to the left.

What a struggle. Yet I made it through and learned a lot in the process. The instructors I had in later phases were just fine, but I probably still would have been reluctant to request a change. Doing so the second time might have labeled me a "troublemaker." Don't want to make those waves... Luckily, in the civilian world, you don't have to worry about that. It's your money, take charge of your training! Get what you pay for!

What else did I learn from my flight training? Not just how to be a pilot, but also some real world applications (which I will continue to share) for some of these concepts in the test.

Except for questions like this:

Affective domain relates to

attitudes, beliefs, and values.
physical skills.

I'm not sure, but don't show this question again
I'm sure, don't show this question again

You're darn tooting, I'm not sure. What in the world does this have to do with anything?!?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fundamentals of MY Instruction

As I begin studying for my CFI written, I am reminded of my experiences with my own training to be a pilot. I dreamily read the Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI), a 193 question test that I must complete before the flying portion of the training. I imagined myself guiding my students to great heights and achievements as I molded their willing minds. And then I took a practice test on I scored a 74 out of 100. Well, ok, I can't expect to be perfect first time around. So I took it again today. 72 out of 100. Either I'm regressing or I'm hungry. I'll take the second option, as I have learned from the FOI that students must have their basic needs met first and I really need to go get some groceries.

Anywho, I read with interest question #99: A communicator's words cannot communicate the desired meaning to another person unless the
a. words give the meaning that is in the mind of the receiver.
b. listener or reader has had some experience with the objects or concepts to which these words refer.
c. words have meaningful referents.
Any guesses? I'd rule out the one with the word "referents." I've never even heard of that word before. And if the receiver already had the meaning in their mind, they wouldn't need an instructor, would they? So that leaves b, which is pretty obvious anyway.

This reminded me of my flight training days back in the Army. My instructor (a Vietnam vet, now Department of the Army civilian) was a screamer who was not satisfied unless I left the helicopter crying (I'm pretty sure the FOI would say this would have been needed to be stated in the learning objectives, but I digress).

The briefing table was not much better. The prebrief consisted of introducing new concepts of rotary wing flight that we would see demonstrated in the Huey. Sounds fair, right? I still remember one day that we sat down at the table and first thing my instructor says to me totally out of the blue, "A pound of torque equals five knots or 100 feet per minute." I stare back blankly. So he says it again. "A Pound Of Torque Equals Five Knots Or 100 Feet Per Minute." I got nothing. So he asks my stick buddy (as we called my training partner in those days - love ya, Marty, wherever you are), "do you understand me?" "Yes," says Marty, "but I majored in Aeronautical Engineering (or something similar)." [I can only assume my degree in History is why the question was directed toward me in the first place.] Screamerman wasn't listening. So, again, he repeats, "A POUND OF TORQUE EQUALS FIVE KNOTS OR 100 FEET PER MINUTE." This time so the whole room could hear how much trouble he was having getting through to me. [visual aid (the use of which is highly stressed in the FOI) from]

I finally said to him something to the effect of "You know, you could be speaking Greek for all the sense those words are making to me. And saying it louder is certainly not going to make it any more clear." There was probably a sniff in there too. Then, and only then, did he explain that the power applied to the main rotor was measured in pounds of torque (force rotating around an axis) and an increase in this force could either manifest itself as an increase in airspeed (measured in knots) or a climb (in feet per minute). Or something like that.

Now. Wasn't that easier? Less hostile? Much more effective?

The good thing is that I made it through flight training. Yes, I struggled with the basics, but by the time we were in the practical application phase (Basic Combat Skills) I had no worries whatsoever. The residual effect of this method of training, though (yeah, I know, it WAS the Army), was that when I messed up in the helicopter, I would scream at myself. My first airplane instructor (also ex-military) chuckled every time we students messed up. Laid back, calm, constructively criticizing. I much prefer the latter, wouldn't you? My students won't have to choose; I don't have much of a voice for screaming anyway.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Furlough is now official.

I started this blog entry on what was officially my last day as a pilot with NetJets. I know that I used that designation a couple of times, but I previously was referring to my last day flying with them, then the last day of my tour, then January 16th, which was my official furlough day (I will have another 'last day' - that day that my pay and benefits end).

This has been a rough time. I've never been furloughed before so I am wading through a bunch of paperwork - trying to figure out all of the ins and outs of "pausing" employment, like getting my vacation days and PTO (personal time off) paid, filing my last expense report, updating my standing bid and contact information (when we get recalled I only have 7 days to respond - don't want "undeliverable mail") and sending my stuff (like my crackberry and ID) back to the company. Sunday I registered for Ohio's unemployment benefits - surprisingly a not too difficult task. I only wish that my unemployment check would exceed the amount of my mortgage - government doesn't want us to get too comfortable sitting on the couch eating bon-bons I guess.

That being said, I am so lucky in that I am being furloughed instead of my company going out of business. If they had, I would not have access to COBRA, which will allow me to continue medical and dental benefits during this time and I would not have the job to look forward to going back to. Any pilot will tell you, now is not a good time to be looking for a flying position, so I expect to be able to have quite a bit of time working on Girls With Wings -- and there is a lot to do!

One of the projects I am working on in this new venture with Girls With Wings as a non profit is to gain tax exempt status with the IRS. This is the infamous 501(c)(3) status will allow tax deductible contributions to the organization.

But just like any IRS form, it is long and convoluted. I am having to answer questions like: "Have you ever or will you ever, act, think, or plan to do any of the following activities or anything resembling such actions as it pertains to a past, present, or future endeavor your organization undertakes or is even remotely considering participation? If so, who will be responsible for these events and in which way are they qualified? Include any publicity methods and materials along with the specific criteria under which you will take part in said activities...." Or something quite similar to that. Sheesh. They do not make it easy. But then again, no one wants a impostor organization skimming funds for vacations to Europe, either. I would love to hand this off to my assistant, but.... I don't have one. [Applications for this unpaid position are being gratefully accepted.]

Another top priority? Getting my CFI/CFII/MEI. More on that next time...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Should that be "Life on the ROPES as a Pilot?"

For those readers of this blog that haven't heard yet: I am going to be furloughed this month from NetJets. Boo. I am completely bummed about this because I do believe that NetJets is about the best flying job out there to be found (and I've been a military, commercial airline and fractional pilot). However, in addition to working my 7 day tours earning my living, Girls With Wings (which sucks that salary back out again) has always kept me so busy on my days "off" that after 7 days at home I was ready to go back to "work" flying my beloved Citation X.

Frankly, I'm pooped.

In a way this furlough is very timely. There is so much potential with Girls With Wings - now a non profit organization officially (though it hasn't made a dime in its six years anyway) with 501(c)(3) status pending (or at least whenever I can finish that bleeping IRS paperwork) that I can finally take advantage of!

And so, as of mid January, I will be shaking the trees to find sources of revenue for Girls With Wings in the form of grants, sponsorships and donations so I can pursue the many many ideas for GWW. Meanwhile, I have to also be covering my mortgage because very few people will give money to homeless people. I mean, they do... but panhandling has never been my forte.

And though I could try to find another job and still work on GWW in my spare time, I just don't see my being able to grow the organization - as the situation seems to demand. Already I think people may be getting frustrated with thinking about the mission of Girls With Wings: "using women in aviation to inspire girls to achieve their full potential," and think yeah, but HOW are you doing that? I know I do. So many ideas; so little time.

Already I have had some amazing women(and men) raise their hands to help out. Folks are compiling events for the Penelope Pilot Project and resources for the presentations, asking for scholarship donations, creating informational multi-media materials, writing for the new Penelope's Page, etc. I know people out there want to assist me in our mission, but it takes time for me to get them into a position to be able to do so. Hours that right now I don't have.

So, what am I going to do to keep Mr. Ci T. Mortgage off my case? Start flight instructing. Yeah, I know, I know. There's, like, NO money in instructing. Plus, you're talking to (or reading about) a woman who went right into the Army's Flight School and flew helos and King Airs for seven years. Then went right into the regional airlines flying Beech 1900s and then got jet jobs with Flight Options and NetJets. So even though I have approximately 5000hrs (time to update my logbook, I should think), I have barely any single engine time. And even less flying around the pattern, flight following, VFR cross-country time. Which is what I'm going to be instructing in. Ha.

I am a curious case for sure. Most people get their basic certificates: private, instrument, commercial, and then instruct til they can get an airline job. I've had the airline job, now I have to turn around and get training as a student pilot. No kidding. How in the heck am I going to land an airplane that can't fly as fast as the speed my current airplane lands at? Chandelles? Lazy 8s? Uh... what?

p.s. am totally NOT looking forward to spins again.

Luckily I met up today with a highly recommended local instructor who is willing to take on the challenge of teaching me. He also, strangely enough, has more confidence in me than I think healthy at this point. He has told me what to study and what written tests to take first. Then we'll start the flying portion in order to become a CFI: Certified Flight Instructor, CFII, a CFI that can train students in instruments, and MEI: a multi engine airplane instructor.

I am really excited at the prospect of being an instructor. I don't know how many students are available out there right now, but I think I will bring an unusual perspective to the syllabus. As a pilot who has been out there in the real world flying a variety of missions, I hope to be able to impart some insight to my students. And, truth be told, I'm a little rusty on some of the fundamentals. I could use a little refresher myself. And there's no better way to learn than to teach.

I'm sure some of you reading this are a bit confused by some of the terminology I have used. My goal is to bring you along as I go through my training so you will know by the time I get signed off. [Especially since I won't have stories of my jet-setting lifestyle for SOME time to come.] Then I can share my experiences of flight instructing, too. My deadline is set for May. That's a little vague, but I've got to figure out exactly how much I will be on the road the next few months to fit in the flight portions. I think May is completely reasonable to complete all my ratings. First I have to start studying for the writtens.

I'm also looking into ways to fund this training, which will probably cost about $2000. Some of my options appear to be 1. GI benefits (which I kinda think I'm not eligible for anymore) 2. State Unemployment Funds (I understand Ohio is not too willing to pay for pilot training since, obviously, aviation is not exactly a "growth industry" these days) 3. Sponsorship (from companies and organizations willing to do a little cross-promoting of getting more women interested in pursuing flight lessons).

If you're intrigued with any of this, please leave your comments, questions and suggestions on the blog. I would love to hear them because I would like to know what you'd like to hear about as well.

2010 is going to be great. Happy New Year!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Flying Above the Glass Ceiling - A book review

I was asked to read the book Flying Above the Glass Ceiling and give the author my comments. I always feel under such pressure to do this (what to say if I don't like it?), especially since I'm writing my own book and know that you just can't please everyone. If I'm willing to blog about it, my feelings about the book must be ones I would like to pass along...

Captain Nina Anderson has compiled a book about the women in aviation between the era of the WASP up to the present day. The WASP were amazing in supporting the war effort in WWII but their efforts did not achieve full equality with their male counterparts though they did many of the same jobs - especially since they were only offered jobs as flight attendants instead of pilots by a major airline after they were disbanded by the government. If you don't know the history of the WASP. Stop Reading. This. Now. and proceed to Wikipedia to learn about these amazing women. Then come back. We'll wait.

Ok, so we now know it took thirty three years for these women to get official recognition for their efforts, so there were many years leading up to 1977 - and after - for women to gain acceptance as pilots and equals (some would say we're still waiting...). It was only just last year that the WASP received awards for their military service! But there has been and are so many other aviation careers available - and rarely do we hear stories of the first female major airline pilots, corporate pilots, aeronautical engineers, air traffic controllers, etc., and examples of their struggles to be able to get their turn at the controls.

Well, here, after a nod to the women who blazed the trail before them, is a book that talks about those women who punched through the glass ceiling that the WASP and others in the past could only crack. And Flying Above the Glass Ceiling tells their stories with all the facts - some of them a bit harsher than others. It could not have been easy to be a fully qualified (perhaps even over-qualified) female applicant and told that you weren't going to be hired for the job because there were no bathroom facilities appropriate for the "fairer sex." Or that the wives of the other pilots would be threatened by a woman working so closely with their husbands. Or laughed at as a child when voicing dreams of going into space. Luckily legislation has made some of this, at least, illegal. You'll have to read the book to hear get the stories about ridiculous treatment from the general public.

I found myself inspired by many of their stories. I remember the day in the Army Flight School when a senior officer said to me, "You know the only reason you're here is because you're a female." The wind left my sails with an audible whoosh (though that could have been the lungful of air that escaped when that verbal punch hit my gut). Here I had thought I had gotten there (and stayed there - seemed like a lot of folks wanted to wash me out) through all of the hard work I was putting into my classes.

Although I feel I had a bit of a struggle in my becoming and being a pilot, it was nothing compared to women being outright criticized and rejected merely because of their gender. I appreciate the honesty of the women in this book who share their stories and their frustrations of being hired only to be the only pilot in their flight department not able to do ________, since a woman's place was _______. [This was kind of a recurring theme, feel free to choose your own words to fill in the blank.] It is also an underlying message in all of the stories that everyone is responsible for creating her own success.

Just in case you think this might be a call to burn your bra and scream out an anti man tirade, it is far from it. A couple of the women even submit opinions such as "women who seem to attract harassment or discrimination expect it." I can't agree with this generalization, though I will offer that none of the chapters relate only negative experiences. The contributing authors also share moments where they had people offering an incredible level of support (made more obvious in the midst of some who only liked having female pilots around to hit on). The most important thing we current women in aviation can do is to mentor our successors and offer our support to those following in our footsteps in what is still, obviously and unarguably, a male dominated profession. Ignoring this fact does not make it go away. Encouraging more women into aviation so they can be successful there will achieve the equal acceptance women seek.

I believe this book helps with that goal because it gives wonderful insight into the career progression of all of the women so that people unfamiliar with the different ways of "building time" in a career in aviation will learn about various routes to achieve their goals - whatever they might be. The book closes with some well worded, well deserved tips on being a respected professional in the aviation world (some unfortunately need a little reminding). But mostly it allows us to know the women who wore our shoes first; and though the styles have changed the lessons still apply today. Their frustrations, motivations and inspiration and why they continued to fly against headwinds no matter how strong and gusty because they wanted their dreams to take flight.

If you like what I had to say and would like your purchase of the book to result in a donation to Girls With Wings from click here.