Flight School Update – Test Prep

Ok, so I’ve run out of terrible puns for post titles – I’ll use them if any new ones come to me.

The major part of test prep is the Pre-flight – which is basically, you go through the flight test, as if you were actually taking it with your instructor, to get a sense of where you are, and what you need to work on.

I should have put it off. It was right after Keycon, and I didn’t have the time to prepare. The ground part – I didn’t have everything together that I was supposed to, I didn’t have time to get the navlog prepared all the way. Good thing it wasn’t the actual test. Now I know just how much time I need to get everything ready.

The practical part – I got confused when she strung the emergency procedure (engine fire) together with the forced landing, and I shouldn’t have because she totally warned me that examiners like to do stuff like that. So it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t remember what to do, more that I was trying to figure out what she wanted, and then by the time I figured that out, I’d lost a lot of altitude and limited my choice of fields – didn’t make the field. First time I haven’t made my field in a forced landing approach in a while.

Also did my first landing on a grass field, at oak hammock airpark. That was interesting. Hard to tell how roughly you land, because the field itself is rougher than our nice paved road, or even the paved one at Steinbach.

I did decent on the steep turn – I practiced that one. But then I bombed the slow flight, which is one I’m usually really good at.

So we get to briefing, and I’m thinking I did just terrible – so many things that I normally perform so much better on, and my instructor tells me I did pretty average, when it comes to preflights. And I was like, average? Seriously? I thought it was terrible.

I was rather out of practice with circuits, so we’ve been doing that, and reviewing air work the last few days. I still don’t feel like I’m going to be ready for Friday – but apparently the examiners are swamped at the moment, so my test might not be until Monday. Depends on the weather.

But I seldom *feel* ready for anything. I’m not sure I know what it feels like to feel ready for something. If I get hung up on confidence issues, I’ll just get distracted and mess up. I mostly just try not to think about whether I’m ready or whether I can do something. I just do it.

And anyway, the whole exercise is for getting me ready for the real test anyway, and now I have a better sense of what to expect. I think I’ve finally recovered from a string of crazy busy weekends, though, given an extra day to rest with the cloud bases so low yesterday. My stress level has gone down in the last day or so, so I’ll manage, whatever happens.

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Keycon 30 – Report

Now that I’ve recovered….

Actually, I behaved myself this year – the whole flying thing makes me not want to wreck my body to the point where I’m staggering in to flying lessons, though I had a couple days between the con and my lesson today. I didn’t do a lot of drinking though – I had to drive, mind you. We don’t live walking distance from the hotel anymore 😛

It was an awesome Keycon – one of the best, IMHO, and that’s been echoed on twitter. My panels went well – the one of the science of flight – well, I started with two people, but when the masquerade let out, people trailed in and I ended up with fifteen or twenty, which is pretty good as panels go.

Then there was the Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk one on Sunday morning. Now, Sunday morning is a terrible time for a panel – it’s the earliest time slot of the day after two evenings of carousing, so getting around fifteen people in that one – that was shockingly good.

The last one was the movie screening of The Wars of Other Men, which I was put in charge of, and we showed the movie, and closed with a Q&A with Scott Norman, the lead actor in the short film. While there were some technical difficulties with the play – it was freezing, which it didn’t do the night before on the same computer, so I can only guess it was a problem with the computer communicating with the projector. It wasn’t too too bad though, and the film itself is pretty decent. Professional presentation, and it went over well. I plan on doing a review of it for http://www.thepunkettes.com as soon as I get the time. Probably after my flight test….

Other notable occurences: We summoned Cthulhu. The Con Chairs led a chant during opening ceremonies, and no sooner than that, Ambassador B had a sprinkler malfunction, flooding the room.

Blue Pencil sessions: We had them. An opportunity to make a published author or an editor guest read three pages of your work and give you feedback on it. I participated in a similar session at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, and had mentioned to Robert J. Sawyer that the author/editor I’d chosen had spent that time trying to convince me to self publish. Sawyer said I should have picked him, so for Keycon, I did. He read my three pages and marked them up with red pen, then told me aside from nitpicky line editing, it was good, and I should finish my revisions and get it to an editor. I had two other sessions, though, one with Anne Aguirre, who made some similar line editing marks, and that was most of it, and then J. M. Frey, who’s writing steampunk, and pointed out something I had not thought of. Someone else had once told me that the opening of The Eyelet Dove was not only a little overdone on the element of the main character masquerading as a man in order to take part in activities otherwise exclusive to men, but very similar to another book – Leviathan by Scott Westerfield, a premier Steampunk work of the century.

So then I realized, Damn it, I have to fix it! Fortunately, the main character, in the original version of my opening, Claire gets found out by the end of the scene, so the required rewrite didn’t extend past that. I scrambled that evening to rewrite at least the first page (the rest is done now) so that I’d have it fixed before presenting it at Writer Idol.

Writer Idol, same as at SIWC, is where opening pages are anonymously read by the moderator, and a panel of four to five (we had five) editors/agents/authors would raise their hands at the point where they would stop reading. When a set number of hands were raised, they would stop reading, and the panel would provide feedback. There were several manuscripts that the reader made it to the end – the panel was a fair bit kinder than they were at SIWC, but there were two that made it to the bottom of the page, and got no negative feedback at all. The authors were invited to take credit for their work and received an ovation from the audience. The first was a submission from Sherry Peters, and the second was, yes, yours truly!

That evening, I even came home to an email from one of those editors, inviting me to submit to him directly.

So now I’m all motivated to get some writing done, and finish the revisions I have planned for The Eyelet Dove. I still have a few scenes to write from Leon’s POV, and more to shfit over to his POV.

And I don’t have time. I’m busy with flying, and flying is my priority right now.

*le sigh*

I’ll work on it when I can. In the meantime, flight test coming up – I’ll try and make a post on test prep if I have a chance, but I’ve been crazy busy. Wish me luck.

Flight School Update: Cross Country

Well, with my medical and first solo out of the way, and some solo time built up, it’s full speed ahead with training, and the short version of the update is that I’m done the cross country section, which is pretty much the last thing before we start flight test review and prep.

But about the cross country thing first. There’s a lot more to soaring away from home base than you would think there would be. First, all that sky up there – that’s not just sky. There’s different classes of airspace, and different frequencies you have to monitor on the radio in different areas, and in some cases, at different altitudes. The longer cross country trips took me into terminal airspace, which is controlled airspace, which means we have to be in contact with terminal before we get there, and do everything terminal tells us, and request clearances to do anything as small as changing altitude or heading. Which is a little intimidating, but once I was there, it wasn’t so bad. Mainly because when you ask for clearance, they generally say yes. And they’re aware of your flight plan and will generally be anticipating that request and making sure that there’s no conflicts nearby. They’re also cool because they warn you if there’s other traffic near by, and where to look for them. Outside of those controlled airspaces, you generally talk directly to the other pilots, and work out conflicts between yourselves.

All that’s intimidating at first, but your instructor eases you into it and makes sure you’re ready. The first test was being sent to the practice area solo. They sent me on a route to Garson then to Libau, and back. And because I’d never been away from the circuit before, of course I was anxious and uncertain and worried about how embarrassed I’d be if I got lost on a trip that everyone made sound like an easy thing – so much easier than what was coming. I just hadn’t tested by navigational abilities in the plane before – not alone anyway. And if I haven’t done something alone before – well, I guess I tend to have less faith in my own ability than I should. I’ll hold someone’s hand until they push me off the boat. But then I got out there, and you know, the lake is really big, and really easy to see, and the river runs into the lake, and the airport is *right* beside the river. I would really have had to be trying hard to get lost.

So we went on the dual cross country trips, though the second one I had to go with another instructor because mine was unavailable. One thing I realized early on was when it comes to navigation, my brain works a little differently than most people. Sandra suggested that most people find it easier if they turn the map to line it up with the ground. All well and good. I can find where I am on the map, that’s fine. About half way through the trip though, I finally realized I couldn’t do that, because every time it came time to make a position report, it’s, okay where are you, and I couldn’t tell her. It wasn’t that I didn’t know where I was or how to get where I was going from where I was. But you can’t point to a spot on the map over the radio. The problem was with the map turned sideways and upside down, I couldn’t keep north/east/south/west straight, and I constantly give her the wrong answer. So I said, you know what, I think I need to keep the map right side up. So I did, and I was fine describing our position then. When I went on the second one with the other instructor, he was baffled by my need to keep the map upright and commented several times that he didn’t know how I managed that. I seem to be an anomaly. I do all right with working out where I am with the map right side up. I do turn it every once in a while if I’m having trouble identifying landmarks by the angles they make with other things, but working out where to go and how to get there, if the map is upside down, the whole world is turned upside down and that doesn’t make sense, and my brain knows the world can’t move like that and doesn’t like it.

The other neat thing is the VOR – “Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range” which I haven’t actually used to navigate, but have been taught how to use. It’s one of those things that reinforces my old feeling that navigation is an almost magical ability. The VOR is a radio beacon that sends out a signal that an instrument in the plane can use to tell what direction they are from the beacon’t location. Using two beacons, you can find where the radials intersect and work out your precise position. But it’s neat, using invisible things far away to determine where you are. And the thing is not easy to read – it’s actually quite complex, and reading it could qualify as one of those logic problems they give people on IQ tests. It doesn’t tell you where you are or what direction you’re travelling, or how far away from the station you are, all it tells you is what radial you’re on, and the to/from marker is misleading – it doesn’t actually tell you if you’re travelling towards it or away from it. It’s complicated. I read the section in the book, and it didn’t make sense – I needed Sandra to explain it.

Anyway, between some nasty crosswinds while being quizzed short final about how long I’m going to be in the circuit at Lac Du Bonnet, an engine that wouldn’t start (had to be hand cranked, that was exciting), and having to circle south of Steinbach for ten minutes or so trying to spot that stupid runway that was farther north than I remembered it being, then being stranded at Steinbach waiting for bad weather to pass, I’ve made it though my solo cross country trips.

Wish me clear skies for my test prep.

Reasons To Hang Around A Flight School Looking Bored

So, I had a whole update post that I had ready for today, but I’m going to save that for another day, because I just had too much fun today. See, when have time between lessons, and you’re sitting around at your flight school studying, or watching planes land, or otherwise looking like you have no pressing engagements, every once in a while somebody says, hey, do you want to come sit in on a lesson with another student, we have an empty seat in this four seater plane. That happened last week, when I got to ride with them in the Seminole while another student got a multi-IFR lesson. That was fun, got a bunch of nice pics of Winnipeg from above. They did a couple of engine failure simulations. We saw a bright yellow an red water bomber, and the instructor picked the moment the student was most distracted by it to cut the left engine.

Today though, it was the Citabria. And it wasn’t another student’s lesson, it was one of the instructors doing his aerobatic instructors rating. And yes, this is going exactly where it sounds like it’s going. The Citabria is a plane with tandem seating – two seats, one behind the other. The instructor sits in the back, so he’s practicing flying from the back of the plane, but for weight and balance, that plane can’t be flown without someone in the front seat – the balance would be off. It’s fine to have just one person in it, but they have to be in the front seat.

Oh my gods, it was so much fun. I was a little nervous about it at first, until we did the first loop, and then it was just pure fun. Loops, rolls, barrel rolls, hammerhead turns, cuban eights, and a snap roll – also known as a “holy shit roll” because there’s no lead in to it, and you can do it when your passenger’s not expecting it. (No, I’m not planning on doing it to my mother when she comes to Canada and I get to take her flying – I swear….)

I assumed I was just going to be a body along for the ride, but since this guy was already an instructor, and he’s supposed to be learning how to teach someone else how to do this stuff – yep, I got to take the stick (Citabria has a stick instead of a yolk – it’s old school) and I learned how to do a loop and an aileron roll (not expertly, by any stretch, but we did not die and the plane was upright at the end without the instructor’s help).

I have officially made an aeroplane go upside down.

(On purpose.)

First To Solo Challenge

So, this happened.

There was an award presentation, with several awards today. One for St. Andrews Airport for being the most women friendly airport for sending over 600 women and girls up for rides during the women in aviation week events, one for a helicopter pilot that took up something like 300 women and girls that day, and one for me for being the first of the women who participated to fly solo after the event.

It was also the day that they were doing the discovery flights for any girls who signed up for that at the event in march, so my instructor was there doing some of those, and she got to do the presenting of my snazzy new headset (fancy expensive one – it’s so nice!) and said nice things about me while people snapped pictures. I was nervous, and I had kind of wondered if I was supposed to say something but no one had told me I should have anything prepared. So when someone from the crowd called out asking if I would say a few words, what came out was entirely on the fly. I froze up at the camera flashes at first too, horribly nervous – I’m not a crowd person. But once I found my words, I think there must have been enough emotion in my voice that it wouldn’t have mattered what i said. Afterward, two different people came up to me to tell me that I made them cry, so even if I was nervous, it sounds like I still got my point across.

I also got introduced to a woman from Calm Air, who’s invited me to come out to Winnipeg International Airport to their facility for a tour to “check out what kind of job prospects are in my future.” I’m not sure I would know if I was being scouted, but it would be awesome if that’s what it meant. And of course I jumped at the opportunity. In any case, I’ll meet people, and make connections, and that’s what gets one jobs in aviation, apparently.

Nathan, my husband commented on the positive vibes surrounding the event. He often feels a little bit alienated by feminism (even though he is, by beliefs, a feminist himself) on the internet, because of the negativity that comes out there, but that’s largely because the anonymity of the internet brings out a lot of men who feel the need to tear down women, and the women are reacting to that. Here though, there’s very little of that men tearing women down, and when there isn’t that, and there is instead men supporting women, then the atmosphere is very different. That helicopter pilot was a man given the title of “Most supportive male pilot”. Here, instead of women being forced to point out where they are being mistreated, they have the opportunity to point out and celebrate where men are being supportive and welcoming women to come stand by their sides as equals. And we feminists really do wish we could do more of that, because feminism is absolutely not “anti-man” – it’s just women wanting equality. And it’s important to bring attention to men who treat women as equals and hold them up as examples.

I am proud of myself. And being the centre of attention that way was such an unfamiliar feeling. I remember being a young woman, and going to events like that where someone was getting an award – times where I was supposed to look up to that person as a role model. Now there was a crowd consisting largely of women and girls who had just flown an aeroplane for their first time, and I was the accomplished one up front, supposed to be leading the charge that people pointed to saying “see, you can be like her.” And I felt, not so much an obligation, but a responsibility if you understand the difference, to say something to them. And I wanted to even though I was afraid. I always say, fear is a terrible reason not to do something. Everyone said how inspirational I was when I took the microphone, and I’m glad because if I said anything that helped give any of those girls and women the confidence to pursue aviation if that’s what they want to do, then it was worth the stage fright and letting everyone see me nervous!