The Courier, By Gerald Brandt

I’ve been so focused on multi-engine flight test prep, I’ve felt guilty about spendng any time writing blog posts, so this is me catching up.

Gerald Brandt is a local Winnipeg author, and as I’ve said before, Winnipeg authors kick butt and are amazing and don’t require the velvet glove be-nice-because-they’re-my-friend treatment.

The Courier is a near-future science fiction novel set in the California area when pretty much every city in Cali has gotten so big it’s amalgamated into one mega city, San Angeles. The setting reminded me a lot of the tv show “Dark Angel”, especially with the main character on the motorcycle.

The main character is a young woman – points already for the female main character –  who is assigned to deliver a package that puts her in really the wrong place at the wrong time.

And I’m a sucker for any plot that involves the little people rising above their oppressors, so the meta plot of the story was an easy sell for me.

But then there was the romance. And I mean, okay, it’s kind of understandable that a sixteen year old girl would fall in love with the first guy that ever was nice to her. I mean, I remember being sixteen and having a guy be nice to me in a world that was all pitted against–

Goddam it Gerald, I’m allergic to romance, and you sucked me into it!

It’s a very fast paced read – almost entirely set within two days, story wise, and the plot drives forward with barely a moment to let our poor main character sleep, as is characteristic of a thriller. I definitely empathized with the main character, and am looking forward to the sequel.

Upcoming: Avians by Timothy Gwyn

I’ve been waiting until I had a little more to link to, but I’m super excited to announce that one of my critique group is getting his novel published!

Timothy Gwyn is the pen name of Tim Armstrong, a pilot who flies out of Kenora – about – well, okay, I’ve never driven to Kenora, but it’s about 45 minutes in a Cessna 172 – east of Winnipeg.

I met Tim at Keycon – he had found my blog fairly close to the beginning of my epic journey into the world of aviation, and he introduced himself to me at my home sci-fi/fantasy convention. I think he was the first pilot I met and got to know that I didn’t meet outside of my flight school. And he was there because he had a novel he was working on.

He offered to take me on a tour of one of the King Airs he flew, and I took him up on it – that was the day I made a kick ass landing in 9G17 straight across the runway in Kenora and naturally no one ever sees when you make a good landing.

Anyway, we had a fun chat about writing and flying, and I was intrigued by his worldbuilding, so we traded novels to give one another feedback. I really enjoyed it – I mean, I’ve said this before about my fellow local writers, but you read a local writers work ready to sift through and find nice things to say, but the local writers I’ve read, I’ve been pleased to find I don’t have to look hard.

The planet his story is set on had an atmosphere so dense that  it’s uninhabitable at sea level, and the human life exists only high on the mountain peaks. Which are mostly volcanoes. Can’t think of anything that could go wrong with that? Neither can I. (/sarcasm)

Society wise, he’s got what would normally be considered an iron age, except that for reasons you’ll have to read the book to find out, there is next to no metal available to the inhabitants of this planet. Their coins, instead of copper and tin, are made of glass.

Between the sparsely situated volcano peaks on the planet, is a trade network of mysterious airships. Communication with the airships is strictly limited to accounting and commodity availability, and the closest the planet’s occupants ever get to these ships is the glider pilots that deliver goods to the ships. Glider pilots like the main characters.

I think I read the original draft in two days – it sucked me in in a way few books do, to be honest. It’s young adult fiction, and that’s definitely something I enjoy, and it was the sort of thing I’d be happy to give to my young cousins or if I had kids myself, to read. I can only imagine it’s gotten better since he’s revised it himself. When my critique group lost a member, we invited him on my recommendation to join our group, and he brought a few scenes in to us. He mentioned in a blog post when my best friend and I went over his opening thirty pages to help him get them ready to present to the editor in time. But we were really just excited to be a part of a novel that we could see was worthy of publication, and we were over the moon to hear a contract was the result.

It’s set for publication in August of 2017, from the sounds of it, and you can be damn sure I’ll remind you all.  So if aviation, and in particular alternate aviation and it’s convergence with science fiction intrigues you as much as it did me, keep your eye on his blog, where he’s posted a blurb to taunt you. He’s got a informatively created planet, with aviation focused exclusively on women pilots, and a story that more than passes the bechdel test. This novel is gonna kick ass, and I will be plugging it in the future closer to the publication date, be prepared!

Multi-Engine Flight Test

It’s been a rough couple of months – I’m really still recovering from losing my Grandma, and work has been crazy busy and no one is able to pick up shifts when I try to give them away like I did when I did my private licence. Various family stress that aren’t my stories to share – honestly sometimes I figure I should make a list and keep multiple copies on hand to hand to people when I tell them I’m a bit burned out and they ask me what I’m so stressed about. I manage.

But I got my multi-engine test done and passed.

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That’s a pic of the left engine while we were flying around with the left engine shut down and the prop feathered. It’s a thing we do while training.

So many things went wrong – right down to the weather. I was feeling pretty good after the two flights the day before. Ready even. Then there was the storm.

We had power all through the evening, but my brother in Southport was reading by candlelight, and multiple other areas of southern Manitoba were without power. I got up to get my math all together for my afternoon flight test and my instructor phoned me.

The airport was without power and they couldn’t open the hangar doors to get the planes out. All the school planes were hangared and safe, which was good because this was an epic storm – the Navajo that was tied down on apron one was found in a field south of the airport, and there was a little Cessna flipped upside down on apron four.

Anyway, they had me come in to do the ground portion in the hopes the power would come on and they’d be able to get the planes out they needed for two flight tests.

The ground went well – probably the most confident I’ve been on the ground portion of a flight test so far. About halfway through the ground portion, the printer started making noises, and we realized, zomg, the power’s come back on. Hail Hydro. (Manitoba Hydro, that is…) I had a two hour wait on the other student who had a flight test scheduled that day, but it gave me some time to go over some notes I’d made.

The weather: redonculously hot.

So the gear-in-transit light wouldn’t go out on the second takeoff. See — this is why I was told I might get brownie points on the test just for taking GGOO (airplane registration – we use C-GXXX or C-FXXX for registrations in Canada, for my US followers). Anyway, this plane has multiple snags per page (snags = things wrong with the plane) in the logbook, and currently even has one deferred snag, with an electrical issue with the autopilot. We didn’t need the autopilot for my flight test though, so no big deal.

Halfway through the test the screws in the plastic knob on the right throttle lever came out and I ended up finishing the test just using the metal part of the lever. I guess the plastic part is really just ergonomics anyway. I managed. I think I got brownie points for dealing.

Landings wise, the wind was 270@15G20. Our airport has three runways, 18/36, 31/13, and 04/22, so for my non-pilot followers, that basically means it’s a decently strong wind, and it’s literally the least favourable wind direction for *any* runway at my home airport. I checked and it was apparently about 2 knots below the demonstrated crosswind capabilities of the aircraft. Again, I managed well enough to pass.

And when got home, test passed, rating signed off, I broke down in tears as grief hit me like a tonne of bricks. Since I passed my private flight test and got my pilot’s licence, the first person I phoned to tell about my accomplishments was my Grandma, who died three months ago.

But don’t worry. I’ll manage.

Canada Day Tragedy At Lyncrest

It’s a surreal moment when you hear news like this.

There’s been a crash.

Holy, crap, is everyone okay?

No.

I was at the Osborne street festival in Winnipeg when I got a text from a friend asking if I knew someone who flew a PA-28. It was noisy and I didn’t hear my phone, but two minutes later, the friend texted my husband, who was with me, asking if I’d been flying that morning, because a plane has crashed next to Lyncrest airport.

I’ve flown out of that airport. I know a lot of people who do. It could be someone I know. Whoever it was is a member of the local aviation community that I’m a part of. I spent a couple years time building on the 99’s plane owned by the RAA, C-FLUG. The RAA has a second plane, C-GNUC, and it’s a PA-28…

So I immediately thought, could it have been C-GNUC?

It was.

And of course there’s something about plane crashes that captures media attention. Both the RAA planes had gone flying, and the pilot of the other plane, who had no idea what had happened, was accosted by the media when she landed. Someone said the reporters were there before the emergency crews. The sneaked into the clubhouse to take photos of the phone list so they could call people at home and pester them for information. The photo of GNUC that first appeared on the news articles was quickly replaced by actual photos of the crash site, which I don’t even really want to share here.

Fatal car crashes don’t even make the news, but pilots are held to a higher standard than drivers on the road. I think that’s why there’s many times as many fatal car crashes, but they don’t garner the we need to find out what happened so we can make sure this never happens again reaction that plane crashes do.

Which is not to say that reaction is wrong. I mean, the roads would be a hell of a lot safer if drivers were held to the same standards as pilots and I don’t know why they’re not other than society thinks driving a car is a right and flying a plane is a privilege.

But that attitude is one of the things that defines the aviation community. When there’s a fatal car crash, people look at it as a random act of fate. Something that could happen to anyone. Maybe someone did something stupid or reckless, but anyone could do that. Drunk boater drowns, they go ugh, those guys, they should know better. Snowmobiler hits a tree at 180 clicks, they roll their eyes and lament the irresponsible attitudes of snowmobilers.

Not pilots. As information from the crash site trickles in, we all want to know what happened. I think it’s probably because of the level of training required to get a pilot’s licence, and just the whole environment of open discourse about safety, but I don’t think there’s a lot of pilots who take off thinking to themselves It won’t happen to me. The take off telling themselves I have the competence to be able to handle it if something happens, and I’ve taken all possible measures to prevent something from happening. Recklessness is not accepted by the aviation community – if someone brags about doing something dangerous, the community as a whole responds with disapproval. There’s a reason the accident rate is so low.

That’s why when something does happen, the whole community is left reeling. We work so hard to be safety conscious and make sure safety concerns are communicated, and instructors work to instill a cautious attitude into their students. I know the people at that airport, and the people who manage that plane, and I know what sticklers they are for following rules of safety. Apparently Transport Canada is often impressed with their diligence, and the diligence they require from anyone flying those two RAA planes.

It’s quite possible we may never find out for certain what happened. There was a briefing tonight, and I went out to Lyncrest to attend, and we got what information there was. Speculation on what may have caused it is counterproductive at this point, and only spreads misinformation. The TSB is investigating.

I didn’t know the pilots who died, but I know a lot of people who did know them, and I’m still part of that community. I listened to my friends in the 99’s tell about how they heard, others describing when they heard the news but didn’t know who it was, how they breathed a sigh of relief every time one of the people they knew chimed in on facebook or responded to a text, confirming they were safe.

It’s been a sad weekend; I don’t really know what else to say.

The Time My Boyfriend-Now-Husband Got In A Nerf War

I’m tired and stressed and getting close to finishing all the ratings I need to actually start looking for a flying job and huge changes in my life and with my Grandma’s passing still fairly fresh, it’s got me thinking about the past. So you get another random story – probably the most entertaining story about me dating my current husband.

I had just met my husband, and it was either the first or second time I had him over to my place – I was living with my dad at the time. Anyway, I went downstairs for something, and he followed me.

My brother and I both had the Nerf bow and arrow, from way back when we were kids – we used to play a game where one person would try and dodge the arrows while the other fired them. We picked it up from step cousins.

But for some reason, I was twenty-two and the Nerf bow was laying out on the floor and my husband found it while I was getting whatever I was getting. I came out to him aiming it at me and firing off the three arrows as fast as he could re-load.

I ran into the storage room while he retrieved his arrows. He was blocking my path to the second bow, but this was my house. This was my turf, the house I knew like the back of my hand. And as he came around the door to the storage room with a freshly loaded Nerf bow and arrow, there was something he didn’t know.

What he didn’t know was the storage room was where we kept the Nerf Gatling gun.

Six arrows. No waiting.

Multi

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My instructor changed his mind about starting me on the multi-engine aeroplane next week. Instead, we hopped in last Wednesday, and I’ve had a couple flights now.

The plane they train on is a Piper Seminole, which is a nice plane, fairly easy to handle.

The first thing you notice taking off is the power. Bigger engines, more power on each one. The idea is not only to have more power with the two engines, but also to have engines powerful enough that if one fails, the one still running can still keep the plane in the air.

The second thing you notice is what everybody kept telling me I’d notice when I got to the Seminole. It’s about fifty percent faster than the Cessnas I trained on. It cruises at the speeds I’m used to avoiding exceeding, and at twenty five hundred feet, the speed increase is noticeable. In a Cessna, cruising at ninety knots, if feels like you’re crawling across the sky, but in the Seminole, it feels like you’re actually going somewhere.

It’s also a much heavier plane than the Cessnas, and glides like a rock. Maybe not quite as bad as the float plane, but close. Steep turns are a breeze – it doesn’t get bounced around as much in the wind because it’s heavier. The other thing though, is when you add power,  or nose down it takes a bit longer for the plane to respond, so when you’re doing anything at a slow speed, you have to be extra careful of getting close to a stall.

It’s my first time flying a low-wing – for the uninitiated, that’s a plane with the wings attached at the bottom of the fuselage instead of having the fuselage hanging below the wings. That means you can’t use gravity to feed fuel into the engine, so you have fuel pumps, which is yet another among a million things that you have to remember to turn on and off and test.

So many firsts; it’s also my first time flying with retractable landing gear. I’m told landing gear up is bad. You know how you can tell if you’ve landed gear up? It takes full power to taxi to the ramp.* But in all seriousness, it’s an easy thing to forget, and a really bad one if you do!

Overall, it’s helped a lot that we’ve been going over multi-engine stuff in the simulator, so not all of it is completely new, and it hasn’t been too overwhelming. And it has been super nice to get back in the air and behind the controls after having not flown since finishing my float rating in November.

 

*Can’t believe my instructor hadn’t heard that one.

IFR Part Two – Good Days And Bad Days

I’m kind of posting this for the benefit of other student pilots who might read it because it’s an observation of the learning process and what’s normal, and that you can have bad days, and just push past them to succeed.

I’ve had good days and bad days since my Grandma died. One of those bad days was my first lesson back in the Redbird. Part of it was being out of practice, having cancelled one lesson, then the next lesson back was in the other sim, doing a multi-engine intro, since the Redbird was booked. Part of it was stress and being exhausted from work, and part of it might have even been me starting to come down with something. But I did really terrible, no improvement, and regression in some areas.

Sometimes I feel like I’m just a complete failure. But today I was thinking, you know, if I knew someone who was dealing with all the shit I’m dealing with right now, I would wonder how she managed to get as far as she had with flight training, knowing how much dedication flight training requires to get where I am. I need to give myself a break sometimes.

Last week I had a conversation with my manager that was overdue, the result of which was my hours being reduced to part time, to give me time to cope, time for myself, and most importantly, time to fly.

The next lesson in the Redbird I was back on the horse, and the one after definitely steady improvement again.

And then there was last Thursday. I ended the lesson and began the de-breifing frustrated and disgusted with myself, feeling like I’d done awful like that other day.

But then I realized something as I recounted all the things I’d got wrong or missed. It was the first time that list was short enough to start to zero in on what I needed to work on. The first point – in my IFR training at least – where I wasn’t just happy I was doing more things right.

I remember now, hitting this point in learning circuits, where things suddenly didn’t seem quite so overwhelming, and that was that tipping point where things  it wasn’t long after that I was ready to solo. My IFR instructor agreed, and even said, if all goes well, maybe after next week, we’ll be hopping in the real plane to work on the next step.

I’m really grateful that all my instructors have been really positive and encouraging, while still demanding everything I can give them.