Lesson Ten
20 November
1.5 hours

Ten touch-and-goes.

That's says most of it--although of course I'll go blathering right on.  (There's a long blather about teaching and learning in the middle of this.  It's in green.  If you're bored by academic stuff you can easily skip it, and you can find it easily if you're bored by flying stuff.)

The lesson began in Adam's office space, which is hardly more than a study carrel, defined by low side partitions that separate his space from those of the other instructors.  Nothing new here; this is where we end up after every flight, and when Adam doesn't have a long preflight ground session in mind we do it here instead on back in the conference room or the pilots' lounge.  So today we sat in his carrel.

Still noting new--except that one of the secretaries and the head of the flight school, Becky Luther, were working right on the other side of the partition from me.  Of course I knew they were almost certainly paying no attention to us at all, but I felt as though they must be thinking how dumb I was as Adam grilled me.  It was VERY clear to me that students need to be able to talk with teachers in private.

I suspect that Adam might have felt a little uncomfortable, too, because Becky Luther is his boss and he's been working there only about two months.

Adam had drawn a diagram of the traffic pattern on a white board and asked me to write in the names of the four legs and discuss the various maneuvers and altitudes associated with taking off and landing.  The before-take-off check: seats, belts, and harnesses secure, fuel valve on, mixture full rich, carb heat off.  Full throttle, rotate at 50 knots, holding just enough back pressure to get the nose wheel off the runway but not so much that the airplane leaves the ground too soon.  When the airspeed builds up to about 60 the plane lifts itself off, and we let it accelerate and climb out at 70.  If we're leaving the pattern we climb straight out until 1200 feet (which is 1,000 feet AGL because the airport is at 237? feet MSL).  If staying in the pattern we turn onto crosswind at 900 feet MSL (300 feet below pattern altitude).  The purpose of this is to keep local traffic and outbound traffic separated both by altitude and distance--outbound traffic will be making their turn farther from the runway by the time they reach 1200 than we will at 900 feet.  We level off at 1,200 feet and turn downwind, and at midfield it's time for the before-landing check: belts and harnesses secure, fuel valve on, mixture full rich, carb heat as required. Abeam the numbers it's carb heat on, throttle back to 1500 rpm, holding the nose up, letting the speed decrease until the needle is within the white arc (below 85 knots in a 152), then add 10 degres of flap.  At 45 degrees off the end of the runway, still holding about 70 knots, it's time to turn base.  Add another 10 degrees of flap, keeping the nose from pitching up and holding to 70 knots.  Turn onto final and get lined up with the runway.  Keep to about 65 knots.  When sure we can get to the runway, add the last 10 degrees of flap.  Over the threshold, pull the throttle back to idle.  Keep the glide angle--keep the nose down--until about 20 feet off the ground, then level off, letting the plane sink gradually, and finally flare out graduallly as it settles down onto the concrete.

Well, I stumbled my way through it, with Adam quietly supplying the right word or datum when I needed it, just the way he sort of makes suggestions to the controls when I'm having trouble getting the airplane to go where I want it to.

Two things interest me here especially.  One is the effect of having--or feeling I had---an audience on the other side of the little partition.  I felt a little rattled, knowing there were two persons just a few feet away, even though I didn't really tink they were listening.  One of them, Becky Luther, the head of the flight school was probably no more than a yard to my left, with a low cubical wall partially between us, although I deliberately kept from looking over to see if she was listening.  If she hadn't been a pilot, I probably wouldn't have been bothered by her proximity.  That she's a 40-ish woman--well, I was aware of that, too, but it was mostly having to struggle for answers any pilot knows cold that made me feel like a dolt.

The other is the efficacy of various teaching methods--in this case, Adam's technique of supplying the right info or control movement.  Right now, I don't really know how I feel about it.  Sometimes it's very helpful, and it has the effect of preventing failure.  That's certainly a good thing when smashing up the airplane would be the alternative.  And it saves the student's ego.  On the other hand, I sometimes find myself confused by Adam's influence on the controls--can't really get the feel of the plane because he and I end up working against each other.  But for the possibility of smashing up, I'd rather that only one of us was on the controls at a time.

So in other words, the method is good and bad.  When I'm teaching English classes, there's no danger of crashing, so I have a luxury that Adam doesn't have.  My general intention is to stay out of students' way--provide them a situation or conditions in which they can explore their own ideas and other people's ideas, and to communicate their ideas to others.  I think the exploration is important, but it's also important to be able to try things that don't work.  In flying an airplane, unfortunately, there are plenty of situations in which experimenting can bend metal.

The two groundschool teachers' styles are different from each other's and from Adam's.

Kris Helms exudes energy and confidence; paces, fidgets, seems always to be holding himself in check.  He talks tough, seems almost intimidating at times, but also definitely seems to want students to succeed.

Chris Edwards, on the other hand, seems much more deliberate and contemplative.  He seems more patient, both with himself and with others.  That squares with my first impresson of him.  It was he I spoke with when I first droopped in to look the place over, and I thought then that he was helpful and patient, almost to a fault.

Adam Coulter, my flight instructor--private tutor, really--seems sort of somewhere between the other two in temperament and teaching style, and is probably younger than they are.  (Chris Edwards told me he's 34; Adam might be around 25.)

So the question is, which teacher's temperament and style is most effective, for me and for other students?

Toughie! I feel most comfortable with Adam; but then he's the one I know best.  I know Edwards next-best and feel next-most comfortable wih him.  I've never had a personal conversation with Helms, so it's probably natural that I'd feel least comfortable with him.

Can I gauge the amount I'm learning from each of them? No, not yet.  The groundschool has just begun.  I have only the one flying instructor, so the only comparison I can make is with my hazy memory of Ira Sheib, back in the Reading, PA, Dim Ages.  I don't recall sharing the controls with Ira, but once--although he may well have been helping out, the way Adam does, without my ever being aware of it.  The Aeronca had tandem seating, so I couldn't see what Ira was doing in the rear seat.  On the other hand, I don't remember ever feeling him on the controls while I was flying.  There were other differences:  It was a simpler airplane (no flaps) and the landing procedure was different (no power); and I was younger and only a year from the army, where I worked around airplanes every day, and the regulations were a lot less stringent then.  Ira had me solo in less than six hours' dual time (the average then was about eight hours), but he had had me spend proportionally more flying time early on in practicing landings and pattern flying.

Another difference was that the Reading airport was controlled airspace, but not particularly busy, so there was a lot less radio work to worry about.

Also, with Adam I'm trying to verbalize what I'm doing a lot of the time.  I don't recall ever doing that with Ira--partly because we didn't have an intercom or headsets, and had to communicate with each other in shouts.  So in other words, it wasn't practical for Ira to be talking to me most of the time, and he was taciturn, anyway.  Adam, on the other had, seems to talk comfortably, so it's probably natural for him to prompt me more often than Ira did.

Fortunately, I'm enjoying flying--and flying with Adam, who's good company- -so I'm in no particular hurry to solo, or anything else.  I'm accumulating dual time, which I have to do anyway, and I'm learning a lot in each flight.  What I want to do is learn flying, not learn to fly one particular airplane or in one set of conditions.  (I've even caught myself thinking of going on for an IFR rating--I, who hate rules and regulations!)

Well, I'll keep thinking about the learning-teaching business as I go along.

The flying part of today's lesson--well, as I said, it was all touch-and-go.  We ran the engine for 1.5 hours and were in the air most of that time, but never left the traffic pattern.  It was--

WHEW  but no time to take a break, flaps up, carb heat off, throttle full, and do it all over again.

And again, and again--ten times is what Adam wrote in my logbook, although he said he'd lost track.  I stopped counting after three, but it felt like ten times ten times.  Despite trying to relax often during the lesson and and despite the fact that Adam took over the radio work so I could concentrate on the flying--even so, I must have burned up a quart of adrenalin today.  I'd had a light breakfast; we quite at about 1:30, but it wasn't until after 3 that I began to feel hungry.

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