Whoa, sorry I've been so delinquent in my posts. When I started this, I hoped that I would be able to post more often once I had more things to do. As it turns out, I've had too many things to do to keep up. I'm going to write up a couple events from the previous ten days or so, starting with the most recent "fun flights," then summarizing how all my students are progressing.
Yesterday I was in the office waiting for a student to come in about 45 minutes. One of the other CFIs came in, saying he had to take a Bonanza to the other airport (about 5 miles away) and fly a twin-engine plane back. As he was walking out the door, he asked if I wanted to come along. Of course! I had my headset in my hand and was out the door in about 0.002 seconds. I have wanted to fly a Bonanza for a long time. They are high-performance, complex single-engine planes made by Beechcraft, pretty much the Mercedes of light planes. I am rated for complex and high-performance planes, but haven't ever flown a plane that is both at the same time.
I slid into the left seat and took a quick minute to locate the controls. I ran through the checklist to get the engine and radios going while the other guy was briefing me on the takeoff procedure and appropriate airspeeds. We started up, did the run-up, and made it to the end of the runway. There is definitely something special about a high-performance plane from the moment you start the engine, but the acceleration on takeoff is always a huge treat. I have noticed that the trainer planes I fly seem to move so slowly to me lately. The students feel like they are landing at 1000mph and to me it feels more like 10. Well, the Bonanza moves at a much more appropriate speed for an aircraft, things were happening quickly, but not too fast to handle, and it was a fantastic. Pitch for 95, gear coming up, accelerate to 105, trim it up, and we are at 1,500', just like that. Brought the power back to 25" manifold pressure, set the prop at 2500 RPM, and it was already time to start landing.
As we were landing, the strikefinder detected some lightening about 25 miles away, and the sky was getting dark. Not wanting to be stuck out, we put the Bo in its hangar and got into the twin. I didn't get to fly it, sadly, but it might have been a bit more plane than I'd be able to handle. It was a cool feeling, literally, to be in a plane big enough to have an air-conditioning system. We got out of there and took off for home, landing about 30 minutes before the storm arrived.
The trip in the twin was cool, but now I know why everyone wants a Bonanza. It handles like a dream, lots of power, easy to control on the ground, and many gadgets to play with on the panel. I was really pleased with myself, that after flying Skyhawks so much I was able to hop into a new airplane type and pretty much fly it like a pro. I'd need about 9 more hours (and it rents for $200 per hour) in one to qualify for insurance coverage, so I won't be flying one solo anytime soon, but I can't wait to fly something other than small Cessnas again. Its looking like I'm going to get checked out in a Mooney M-20C pretty soon for only the price of gas. I've always liked Mooney planes, and they have a well-deserved reputation as being easy on gas, so that should be a fun, cheap plane to move up into.
In other news, I have 3 full time students. The doctor I have been working with for two months is going for his private pilot checkride tomorrow. I think that I'm more nervous than he is, as his performance is at least as big a test of my competency to teach as it is a test of his competency to fly. We have been going over so many things, reviewing material, practicing maneuvers in the plane, and filling out applications and log books. Every time I go over the list of things to do, I think of one more item to add. I'll be going with him and sitting in on the oral portion of the exam, and I'll be there to fix any endorsements or paperwork that needs it. I won't be able to go on the flight, as the plane would then be improperly balanced to perform some of the required maneuvers, but I have talked with the examiner, and he is happy to give me a private de-briefing. I have done my best, but know that there is a lot of ways I can improve, and I really think that the examiner's feedback will be tremendously helpful.
I am as excited for one of my other students (the college guy) as I am nervous for the doctor. The college guy is getting ready to fly solo for the first time. We only fly once a week, but the last 3 or so flights he has flown really well, and we covered all the required material. He has bounced around between several instructors already, and I'm happy that I have been able to get his training moving along. I would have let him fly solo yesterday if he had completed the paperwork. Next week, its going to happen. He has been training on and off since last fall, and is quite ready. We are going to start navigation and cross-country flying soon, which should be fun for him at least, because it is something different. I have discovered that I enjoy the pre-solo training much more than the flight planning and navigation stuff. That is definitely a weak area of mine, and I need to put some serious thought into how to organize and present the material better.
The third guy who has sort of become "mine" is also making progress, but he is challenging to me in a different way. He really wants to solo, and then finish his license in 2 or 3 weeks. I don't know that this is a realistic goal. We have worked very hard on the pre-solo stuff, but neither of us feels like we are making progress. I've not traditionally been a very blunt person, but I think I need to get better. Also, since my impressions of him have been colored by our time together, I think the best thing for us is to have him fly with someone else for a second opinion. This is one situation where the experience I don't yet have would be a great asset.
As far as the job itself goes, it can be quite a lot of work. I've never been terribly detail-oriented with regard to paperwork. This is a real handicap in aviation. For example, I got a call from my supervisor this morning asking me why there was a big gap in the logbook for one of the planes. Seems that my student forgot to record his solo flight in there, I forgot to record yesterday's lesson in there, and I forgot to write up purchase orders for both flights. Not a big deal, and something I can fix when I go in later today, but something I need to get better at.
One way I think I can do this is to create a checklist for arriving at work, before a lesson, after a lesson, and before leaving the airport. I have joked about the fact that only pilots, who use checklists for everything in flight, would create a checklist to hang on the wall for closing the office. Well, it seems that I need to make my own system of checks for taking care of my job. Not really a big problem, but embarrassing none the less. Apparently my paperwork skills need the most attention, because there are aircraft logs, purchase orders, my logbook, my students' logbook, my time sheet, the fuel log, and the fuel invoice to fill out after every flight. Considering all this, combined with being at work 6 or 7 days a week, sometimes for 8 to 12 hours, preparing lessons for students, and trying to have some personal time, and its easy to see how a blog can slide a little bit.
Anyway, thats pretty much my situation right now. I'm sure I'll write again Friday night or Saturday about the Doctor's checkride. For now, trying to stay out of the heat and miserable humidity. The air has been so thick and hazy, visibility has been poor and the real horizon has become a stranger, even in visual flight.