Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Living the Dream (is hard, sweaty work)!

It is 10:15pm as I sit down to write this. I am exhausted, tired, sweaty, hungry, have a slight headache, and couldn't be happier. Today was my first day of really extensive flying with multiple students. This morning around 9:30am, I got to the airport. Met my student, Dustin, at 10, and we went and flew for an hour and fifteen minutes. By that time, the day was warming up a lot. We hit it hard, doing landings, going to other airports, some high air work, ground reference maneuvers, and even a little bit of ground school. As soon as we landed, one of the guys from the maintenance shop wanted us to take him to the airport across the river. My student and I were both hot and hungry, but free flight time is, after all, free flight time. I did a lesson on "how to go into and out of airports with a control tower" on the fly, literally. We got almost another hour of flying out of that endeavour.

The actual lesson with Dustin went really well. Every time he flys (once a week) he does better, and I'm very pleased with our mutual performance. I think he could probably solo in June if we keep after it, but there is a lot of new things to cover between now and then. Russ and I both think that maybe 3 lessons every 2 weeks, or 5 every 4, would help his progress a lot.

Anyway, by the time that was all said and done, I was very hungry. Ran across the road to Taco Bell for lunch, and ate it in the FBO (the office). There really isn't a cool place on the airport, except for the office in the maintenance hangar. I didn't want to turn the A/C on in the FBO, so I opened the doors and windows to get a breeze, and sat on the couch to study for my Instrument Instructor written test, and maybe to take a nap. Actually, neither got done, as I found myself answering phones and talking to airport regulars who were wandering through to get a drink or rest. I had a really nice chat with Gene Gill, a really nice, older Canadian native who now lives here. He flys powered parachutes whenever the weather is nice, and it was nice today; with a light breeze and fluffy, white, fair-weather cumulus clouds. I also answered a call from a man who was in Kentucky and planning on flying his Piper Cherokee 6 in this evening. He asked me questions about the airport for a minute, but we were cut off when the cordless handset's battery died. I couldn't find the call-back number, and he never called back.

After a long, hot afternoon in the office, Russ had me fly with one of his students about 4:30. Russ had to go home, but his client had some time off and wanted to sneak in some landing practice. We flew for about an hour, and he had some really great landings. Of course, it was hot as hell, even at 90mph with the windows open. The last couple landings wouldn't have won any contests, but they were most definitely average, and I was really just an advisor mostly. This guy is right at the verge of soloing, and I really want to get my students to this level. Hell, I was proud of him, and I didn't even do anything. It is really cool to be able to see someone just getting to the point of correcting themselves and really flying.

After that series of trips around the pattern, I ran across the road again, this time for dinner at McD's. My food today wasn't very healthy, but at least I'm not the stereotypical, poor, Ramen-eating CFI - yet.

I came back and started working on a lesson plan for my other main student, Francis, who was supposed to arrive around 7:45. I went for a walk along the runway (it was still pretty hot and humid) to gather my thoughts about what we need to do. The reason I wasn't sure about a plan is that Dola flew with him last, and I wasn't sure what they had covered. After I came up with some ideas, I went inside and made a plan. I got the map and plotter out, and made a maze-like itinerary of intersections and airways for us to fly between here and Charleston, WV. My plan was that, if Francis had done short runway and grass field takeoff and landing techniques, then we would fly the Charleston route, working in the various types of landing as well as introducing navigation by VOR stations and emergency procedures. This would have put us out well past sunset, which isn't a problem, but would have made for a really long day for both of us. If he hadn't done the various types of takeoffs and landings, then thats what we would do - until dark.

Well, turned out that he hadn't done them, so we took off and started around the pattern. He seemed a little nervous about actually taking off and landing in the grass. I remember when I first did it, it seemed really strange and a little scary. Nowadays, I almost prefer a nice sod runway to a paved one (unless its raining). We did a couple grass operations, then moved on to short field techniques. That was going OK, and (given his previous pattern of extensive study between lessons) I have no doubt that the next time we go out, his procedures will be excellent.

As we were doing our lesson, a Cherokee 6 entered the pattern and landed. I chatted with the guy on the radio for a while - he was the man who had called earlier that afternoon. Its a good thing I was out with Francis, because everyone has usually gone home by that time of night. He landed and shut down by the fuel pumps, we did two more landings. On the last landing, I asked Francis to talk himself through the landing - I would remain quiet unless something was seriously wrong or he had a specific question. His last landing was firm, but good, and I was quite pleased. If he keeps flying every day, he will solo in a week I believe.

After landing, I ran into the office, grabbed the key, unlocked the fuel pumps, helped Francis secure the plane, de-briefed the lesson, ran the owner of the Cherokee 6's credit card for the fuel, wrote up the 3 million forms for all the transactions, locked the building, and drove the transient pilot and his luggage to the hotel that is, almost literally, located at the end of the runway. He was a nice guy, and we chatted for a few minutes after I dropped him by the hotel. I got on the highway, headed for home, but I felt like something wasn't quite right. About 2 miles down the road, it hit me - I had forgotten to lock the fuel pumps up! I turned around at the next exit, raced back to the airport, and locked the pumps up. I have already gotten "reminded" to lock both locks on the office door (I had only locked one a couple times), so now I'm paraniod about the locks. Got that straightened out and headed home.

Now I'm sitting out front of the apartment, drinking a cold drink and enjoying the night. It was a long, hectic day, I was at the airport (in the heat and sun) for about 12 hours. I got about 5 hours of flight time, and made just over $100. Thats about comparable to the restaurant job last summer, but today was a whole lot more fun. I'm not sticky, I don't smell like frying meat, and I spent the day doing two of the things that I love to do - fly and teach. I am going to fly at least once tomorrow evening on a longer flight, and again Thursday morning. Thursday late morning I'm going to be flying a photo mission, which should pay well and be a lot of fun. Its shaping up to be a great week. If I could fly as much every day as I did today, I couldn't really complain about anything at all. I'm finally, really, making a (very modest) living flying airplanes. It seems unreal, but it is real, and it is really satisfying to have achieved another one of my goals.

Workin' hard, and hardly workin'

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