Keycon Coming Up

If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ll know I go to my local scifi/fantasy con every year, Keycon. Last year I did a panel on query letters and synopses, and while I was hella nervous, it went quite well and was well attended.

This year I’ll be in two panels. The first one is helping fill the science track of paneling, and I’ll be talking about the science of flight. Because apparently somebody found out I know stuff about that. I’m really excited about that one, and I’ve been starting to put together pictures for a slideshow – they’re giving me the AV room, so I’ll bring my computer and hook it up to the projector. That one I’ll also be doing alone, which is a little extra nerve wracking, but for what I have planned, I think I can get myself into it enough to mostly forget to be nervous. I hope. So if you’re in the Winnipeg area, or have the means to be in the Winnipeg area for May long weekend, and want to hear me talk about flying, come on down to the Radisson hotel on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, I have another panel with two other authors, about Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and Dieselpunk. I understand Leia Getty will be covering Cyberpunk, Ann Aguirre will be with us covering Steampunk, as she’s working on a new Steampunk series, and I’ll be covering Dieselpunk.

Keycon has much more going on than just that, though, and there’s something for everyone. Well, all geeks, anyway.  So if you can make it, come, it’s a blast!

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Flight School Update – Post-Solo Thoughts

Since I did my first solo last week, I’ve built up about 5 hours of solo flight now. Previous to that, my instructor mentioned several times when she took me up in more questionable weather, that I’ll need to start thinking about what my personal limits will be – what I’m confident I can handle with regards to winds and crosswinds, and what I might not be able to land the plane safely in.

Post-solo, having flown a bunch on my own, I’ve noticed it really does change the way I think about that. The safety net is gone, but not only that. For the last ten years, I’ve been working in a call centre environment, and that’s an environment where, despite what management will try to push you to believe, the completion of whatever task you perform is dependent on the performance of so many other individuals, that it’s very difficult to excel, and sometimes indeed, to even complete the task assigned at all. You’re either waiting on someone else to complete something, or transferring to another department, or waiting for a tech to arrive and finish the repair that couldn’t be done over the phone, or trying to pick up where another rep left off and they left incomplete notes because they were rushed because of limits on time provided to leave notes, or maybe they just didn’t care enough, or you’re dealing with a customer that someone else made angry, etc. It’s a grinder that you beat your head against the wall and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get ahead or on top of things because that would mean that everyone else in the entire company would have to be on top of things, and everything the company does reflects on you as far as the customer is concerned, and as far as management is concerned, your entire department’s performance is a reflection of your performance.

In the air though, it’s different. In that plane, it’s all on you.

At which point I think how on earth have I not managed to kill myself by now?

And one of the instructors replies “Ha. I think if you don’t feel that way at least once in a while, they make you hand back your license.”

That was Chuck – he’s a fun guy. I flew with him today because my main instructor had to go home. I also flew with Thiea today, and she’s the main flight test examiner, so it was nice to get to know her a bit. I won’t be so scared of her when I go to take my flight test, and Sandra keeps reminding me that’s going to be coming up fast.

Anyway, this week was mostly solo time building, practicing soft field and short field landings (I’m getting good enough at landings now to do different kinds rather than just hoping I can make the runway without having to overshoot :P) and then a couple of flights doing unusual attitudes under the hood (you wear this hood thing so you can’t see out the windows, but you can still see the instrument panels, and you have to fly using just the instruments) and some forced and precautionary landing approaches, which I’m doing much better on than I was. Not that I’ve had much practice at them – I’ve done maybe three or four forced landings, a couple more approaches, and about three precautionary approaches, including the two from today. With precautionaries, you fly a low pass over the field  to check the field conditions before landing, and that can be tricky because you want to fly low and slow enough to be able to see the field, but not so low and slow that you have to pay too close attention to flying the plane, or you don’t get the look at the field you wanted to get. The trick there is to get it set up in level flight before you reach the field, then you just have to hold it there. Anyway, I think I got that down.

Next week will be a big week. We’ve got my first an second dual cross country trip booked. First one is too Lac Du Bonnet, then to Steinbach, and then back to St. Andrews. And I have to do up the flight plan and all that crazy stuff. It has math. And I got this awesome doohicky – a flight computer, also known as an E-6B or a whiz-wheel. I think it’s the coolest thing in the world, because these puppies have been around since World War II, with little or no design change. There are computers that do this now, of course, but hey, if your electrics go down, how are you going to calculate flight time and fuel burn now, sucker? Plus, they’re awesomely retro – dieselpunkish even.

In other news, mid week, I got hit with a shiny new idea, writing wise, and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to be writing for NaNoWriMo this year. It will be YA this time, and guess what it’s going to be about! (Three guesses, first two don’t count :P)

First Solo

Without disruption of air traffic, this fearless, forthright, indomitable and courageous individual did venture into the wild blue yonder in a flying machine. Furthermore, this skillful individual did safely land said flying machine at the St. Andrews airport incurring no significant damage to self or machine. Thus completing a first solo flight!

Or so says the adorably tongue-in-cheek certificate they gave me when I got back to the ramp this afternoon.

My twitter followers have already heard, but yes, my category 1 medical certificate came in the mail early enough this afternoon to take it with me to my scheduled flight today. Paper-work was done, and I have a student pilot permit now that allows me to legally act as pilot in command of a single engine piston aeroplane.

First step after that was the pre-solo checkout. If your instructor is a junior instructor, you go up with one of the senior instructors for that – basically, do a few circuits, prove to them that you’re ready. My instructor, Sandra, is rated such that she’s allowed to make that call, so I did the pre-solo checkout with her. No pressure, she says. *g* I’m lucky – I tend to perform at my best under pressure.

We took C-GZLF, which I haven’t flown for a while, but when I looked at my logbook, I realized it was the plane we took, not for my discovery flight, but for my first lesson. Did a bunch of circuits. We also did a power off landing, and while it wasn’t by any means perfect, I did make the runway and we didn’t need to backtrack. The last landing, she asked ATC for “the option” which means we might do a touch and go, or we might do a full stop, and finish up. What she was doing was, if I messed up that landing, she’d have me do one more, so that we left off on a good landing, with my confidence up.

I didn’t mess up that landing though, and we got off on taxiway H to head back. Then she had me bring her to the ramp and drop her off.

A student’s first solo is just a single go around the circuit – one take-off, fly a rectangle to come back, and one landing.

I was pretty excited. The most eerie thing was I remembered I was supposed to buckle the seatbelt in the empty seat, because that counts as loose objects, and needs to be secured. It makes it hard to forget your safety net, that person who can fix anything you screw up, isn’t there. Just as well I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I had this feeling like I was supposed to be scared, but that voice in my head that tells me I can’t do something was stuttering over the question “and why not?” and coming up blank. The vicious logic of the aspie brain can be great sometimes, no? Mostly I just tried not to focus on the nervous thoughts and distract myself with what I was doing – flying the plane.

It went fine – was even one of my better landings. I’m definitely less distracted without my instructor there. I’m always one ear paying attention to anything she says, and half the time I forget things is when I’m listening to her and forget what I’m doing because it’s not automatic yet. That’ll come though. It’s starting to – I’m not feeling so overwhelmed by all the things I have to remember in the circuit like I was when we started.

Anyway, I did it, I didn’t die, didn’t crash the plane, and did good. Didn’t bounce or balloon, or drift across the runway, or anything. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. (No, really, they gave me a t-shirt!) Here’s the pic of me right after landing.

So what’s next for me? It’ll be more hood time, and cross country training mostly, plus building hours flying solo. Weather permitting, I’ll be doing 2 flights on Friday solo circuits. Then it’s flight test prep. I wish I could say this is the end of the road blocks, but I’m sure more will come, and whatever comes, I’ll take it head on.

Thank You To My Blog Readers – and Please Introduce Yourselves!

I’ve seen bloggers in the past talking about how wonderful their followers are, and never thought much of it. But lately, I’ve been finding I get what they’re talking about. It’s been a while now, and I’ve managed to accumulate some blog followers, both friends I’ve met in real life, and online. Of late, I’ve kind of been laying myself bare, confessing my dreams and all. I’ve always been afraid to do that, because I’ve been torn down so much in my life, told I shouldn’t hope for things I want, and that my dreams are unrealistic, I should get my head out of the clouds.

I never mentioned this, but there’s a section in the flight manual that says that every student goes through a period where they feel incompetent, and worry that they’ll never get it and maybe aren’t meant to fly, but that you just have to practice and push through it, and you will get it. I did have that moment, starting to get frustrated with landings not coming together as fast as I’d expected. I didn’t talk about it, but like I usually do, just fought down those feelings and told myself I just needed practice, and I did. I’ve mostly got it now, and Friday my instructor had me do a tailwind landing for the first time (with the wind blowing you towards the runway instead of away – makes your ground speed faster, harder to judge when to start descending) and I got it well enough the first time to not have to overshoot (realize the landing isn’t gonna happen this time around and pull up to try again) or backtrack (run out of runway to take off again after landing and have to turn around and go back to the beginning of the runway.)

And every time I’ve posted about difficulties, and especially when I posted about running into road blocks and getting discouraged, I’ve gotten nothing but support and encouragement in the comments. Not just from friends, but from random people who I don’t even know how they found my blog! Like a gust pushing me on, up to the sky, you guys are the wi….no. No, not gonna go there.

Anyway, I want, first of all, to thank you all for your kind words – it really has helped. And second, I wanted to invite you to introduce yourselves. Especially the the ones I don’t know, or haven’t interacted with outside of this blog, I find myself curious to know who you are and what brings you here. And the people I do know from elsewhere, by all means, introduce yourselves too – I know some of you have your own blogs and who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone here who’s interested in following your blog. I’ve always been afraid to ask for feedback on anything on my blog so far – I’m scared no one would answer 😛 But I think I have enough followers now that at least someone will reply.

Just reply to this post with your introduction – you don’t have to give your name, just a bit about you, how you came to find my blog, and if you’re a fellow writer, what do you write? And if you’re a published writer, feel free to post a link to where we can buy your work. I may have more than one pilot following, I think, so if you’re a pilot, tell us about that too.

I look forward to hearing from you!

P. S.: On the Aviation Medical Front – my family doctor has faxed in the report they wanted and Civil Aviation Medicine has received it. It should be processed today or tomorrow, and with any luck, that will be all they need, and they’ll send it on to licencing. *fingers crossed* If all goes well, first solo could potentially be Wednesday.

ETA: I have my cat 1 medical certificate in my hot little hands!