Taking Inventory
27 June

When I got home last Tuesday I re-read the temporary certificate that Leo had given me.  The Big Stuff stood right out:


has been found to be properly qualified and is hereby authorized in accordance with the conditions of issuance on the reverse of this certificate to exercise the privileges of 




Still hardly able to believe it, I took a look at what Leo had written in my logbook in his tiny hand:



For the next day and a half I was just so silly--kept catching myself grinning, feeling this terrific mixture of elation, disbelief, and relief.  I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone, except for my wife and a couple of friends who asked the direct question.  Today, however--it's Saturday--Chris (my elder son) and I went to an EAA fly-in, where I surprised myself by volunteering the info to several total strangers.

It's all pretty silly, I think.  Even sillier because I think everyone in the family dreads going flying with me.

All right, this is probably a good time to take inventory.

Back in October I decided to learn to fly and get the private pilot certificate.

I expected then that I'd be able to do the flying part fairly easily because, after all, I had accumulated nearly 20 hours of flying time, about 5 or 6 of them solo, back in 1959.  What I was anxious about  last fall was the FAA written test.  I'd been dreading it all those years, mainly because I'd never been much of a student--bright enough, but not in the ways that make one a consistent success in school.  I was also anxious about committing myself to a change in life-direction, because getting a pilot's license also means using it after you get it, and to a certain extent that means changing what you do in your life and how you do it.

As it turned out, both the written and the practical tests were difficult for me--although eventually I did very well on the written and--evidently--well enough on the practical.

The whole process took almost exactly twice as long, both in elapsed time and flying hours, as I had expected.  Part of that was because a number of scheduled lessons had to be postponed because of the weather, and rescheduling them was often complicated because of conflicts in Adam's schedule.

However, I think there were two other, more important reasons that it took longer.  One is that I just wasn't able to learn as quickly as I expected.  I was often dismayed, especially at the beginning, that my earlier experience was no help at all.  My muscles had forgotten almost everything, and I often felt that if anything what they did remember conflicted with what I had to do now.

A second reason I think, is that without meaning to, Adam and I wasted some time, especially in the middle lessons.  He wanted me to perform maneuvers perfectly before soloing.  That wasn't wrong--it worked out fine in the end--but it's not the way I seem to learn best.  I didn't try to insist on proceeding differently--partly because I was studying my  teachers' teaching methods and their effects on me, and partly because I just wasn't sure how I learn best.

I think now, however, that I'd have been better off practicing the things I didn't know how to do at all, instead of perfecting those that I did know how to do.  Also, I probably would have been better off soloing as early as possible and then doing a lot of solo cross-country flights.  That's because I now believe that I learn best by trying new things and by going on--and by just going.

Here's an example:   When Becky checked me to see if I was ready to solo, she found that I did everything easily and accurately--except for the one two-part maneuver that I had never practiced.  She pulled an engine-out on me in the pattern when there was a stiff crosswind.  I had done only one engine-out simulation with Adam, and I hadn't done it very well.  And I had never learned how to land in a strong crosswind.

I knew  that, and was terribly anxious going into that stagecheck.  And sure enough, I botched that landing--didn't break anything, but made several very stupid mistakes.

I didn't get any good practice with either engine-out in the pattern or crosswind landings until long after I'd soloed.  And until I finally did, I continued to feel anxious every time I went to the airport.  I think now that I could have learned those maneuvers well enough much, much earlier, and that I would have made much faster progress if I had insisted on it.
None of this is to criticize Adam or the other instructors.  They did their best to help me learn, and if anyone is at fault, it's me.

 Okay.  What's next?  It's clear that you never finish learning flying--so I think I'll keep on logging "lessons," whether they're formal ones, or not.

Back to "Learning Flying"
My home page.