Flight School Update: Cross Country Time Building (Part 1)

This got long, so it’s going to be 2 parts.

Commercial pilots will be looking at that title and going, “uh huh, yep, that.”

So, I’m at the point where I’m supposed to be just kind of going around flying places and getting experience, mainly doing cross country flying to other airports.

I’m a goal oriented person, and I have trouble motivating myself to do something that’s pointless. And I have trouble convincing myself of a purpose to flying around southern Manitoba, once I’ve seen most of it, when there’s no score displayed to show me how well I did at the end of the level.

And getting ready for a cross country is a lot of fuss – the nav log still takes me forever, and getting friends together to go with me, for someone with Aspergers, it’s more stressful than it is for other people. After the first one, I did a couple trips alone, just to let myself get in a rhythm without having to worry about getting passengers organized.

The first time I took passengers was to Lac Du Bonnet, and on the way back I got a bit off course. There’s two sets of power lines running at an angle from Lac Du Bonnet, and I ended up following the wrong set, and when I came to the end of them, and didn’t see anything I should have seen, I realized I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. It was the first time I’d gotten even a little bit lost. And honestly, that was only a little bit lost. There was a bunch of contributing factors – I forgot to get a cushion, so I was having a hard time seeing to navigate, the clouds were low, so I was down at 2000 feet, with only about 10 statute miles visibility – way more than minimums, but, I realized, just a bit more than I was ready for, plus, forgot to reset my heading indicator.

But I did get my time over my set heading point, so knew how far I’d flown. So I knew there was a point where I’d hit Winnipeg airspace, and of course, that’s class C, and you can’t go in there without giving them 30 mins notice, so I had to turn away before then. But if I turned North, there’s the river, and the river’s big and you can’t miss it, and St. Andrews is right next to the river, so all I had to do was turn North and I’d find my way. And at that point where I knew I’d have to turn North, that was the moment one of my passengers pointed out a small town, and I recognized it right away as Oakbank.

I was pretty embarrassed at the time about getting that far off course, but it was also a learning experience. I was a fair ways from making a desperate radio call for help, and I wasn’t short of fuel (I had enough fuel to get a lot more lost than that!) but my mind was working out the next step, if I couldn’t get my bearings. The obvious one was turn North, but had I not had that option, I could have hopped on the radio, because I was still well within radar range and I figured I could ask Terminal to help me out. But I was starting to work out at what point I did have to admit that I was all out lost and make that radio call, so it was valuable experience.

Anyway, after that, I went to Kenora, and did another trip to Brandon – those were the couple I did by myself. Those both went well, though the Brandon one I was racing weather, and that never goes well for me. When I got to Brandon airport, Brandon Radio gave me the winds as something gusting thirty two, and I decided discretion was the better part of valour and did a low and over (flying over the runway without touching down). I think I could have done it – I’ve done landings in winds like that – not solo, but I’ve done it. I could not kill myself, if I had to. But I didn’t have to, and Harv’s Air school rules are that no student go up if the winds are gusting over twenty. I knew the winds would be fine when I got back to St. Andrews though, and they were. It was a piloting decision, and any instructors I’ve talked to agreed it was a good one.

And in Part 2 I’ll talk about my trip with Nathan to Gimli>Dauphin>Brandon and back.

The Randomly Special Ones

There’s a story motif that’s really popular in YA fiction, where certain individuals, usually ones who are underdogs in the beginning of the story. Their story kicks off the moment they find out they are somehow special, or chosen, have special powers. Harry Potter finds out he’s a wizard. Talia of the Valdemar books is chosen by the head companion magical white horse to be a Herald. They form a telepathic bond with a dragon, or some other animal, and become part of some order. A million other examples.

They discover they’re part of a special world and get taken away, and though there are bullies and selfish people just like everywhere else, they’re still special and get to do all these wonderful things. It’s a story structure that’s quite popular and successful, especially in YA fiction.

And I hate it.

It’s not that those books aren’t good, or even that I didn’t enjoy at least some of them. It’s just that, it seems a cop-out to make certain people randomly special, to pull them into the story. And I always think, what about the muggles? What about the one’s left behind? Do they get to do amazing things? What happened to the stories where a character wants to do something so badly, they will fight through anything? But if a Muggle wanted to do magic, they’d just kind of be screwed.

Anyway, I had this neat idea for a premise that I thought would be good for my next nanowrimo novel. It would be set in a world where people are bound to the earth in a magical way, so that if they go too far off the ground, they get sick. People wouldn’t live on second stories of buildings, or build towers. If a person was ill, the village doctor would prescribe a few nights sleeping on the bare grass. But every once is a while, there’s a person who isn’t earth-bound. In fact there’s an order of them, who fly aeroplanes. And of course, my main character wants nothing so badly as to fly, so of course it would turn out that she’s sky-bound. I had a fairly simple, standard YA novel plot to play with – nothing so complicated as usual, though, and I was looking over it for some twist to up the ante and make the plot got bang somewhere.

Then I realized what I’d done, and I hated it.

And I thought, well, what about the people who want just as badly to fly, but they’re earth-bound?

That was when I had my story.

I will be having some fun kicking around some tropes this November.

The Problem With The Warrior Woman

I’ve been thinking about this the last couple of days, and it’s because of one of the last main characters I was working with, and the new one that I’ll be working with for NaNoWriMo in November. They’re female characters with dreams, and their stories are about them chasing those dreams and the obstacles they run into, and what they’re willing to do to achieve their dreams.

A lot lately, I’ve seen agents and readers alike saying they want to see “fully fleshed out characters with dreams and goals.” Whether they say it or not, they usually mean that those dreams and goals should be more than getting married and having children.

I’m gonna grab some examples: Hiccup from “How To Train Your Dragon”: at the opening of the story, he wants more than anything to be a dragonslayer like all the rest of his tribe. Taran, from the Prydain Chronicals, in the opening scene of the series is complaining about making horseshoes because he wants so badly to make a sword and learn to fight like his hero Prince Gwydion. It’s fairly common for a young main character to dream of heroism. Sure, they almost always regret it later when they realize how much they’ve bitten off, but that’s beside the point.

If they’re male.

But female characters? Look at a couple: Katniss – she’s a warrior – did she choose it? Hells no. How about Xena, Princess Warrior? She was driven to it after being shattered by the destruction of her village.

And someone’s going to point out “But male characters are often forced or driven to become warriors too!” But that’s not actually the problem. See, there seems to be some equality in the cases where characters are forced into the warrior role – at least it’s commonly done with both male and female characters. Where the inequality appears is in the former case – when it comes to hopes and dreams. Can anyone even think of a story where a female character dreamed of being a hero and went off to chase that dream?

If fact, can anyone think of any story where a female character dreams of taking on a role that is typically filled by a man, and goes on to chase her dreams? And again, I’m not talking about cases where she’s either forced to, or driven to by a negative experience – for example, a woman’s police officer father is killed in action, and she feels driven to take his place or finish his unfinished business in some way. I’m talking about a young woman who idolizes her police officer father and wants to be like him.

I’m not saying there’s a problem with the stories being told. I’m saying there’s a problem with the stories that are not being told. We’re flooded with stories of women making desperate choices to protect those they love, fighting for the tiny shreds of happiness the world offers and then rips away. Women’s dreams in fiction are the simple humble dreams – they just want to live a simple, peaceful life and the events of the story tear that away from them. And yes, there are male characters with those simple, humble dreams too, but that’s not the problem. The problem is we so seldom see stories with female characters who walk onto the set and say I want something, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it.

Well, not unless what she wants has something to do with a man, of course. Belle from Beauty and the Beast wants so much more than this provincial life, but it turns out what she was looking for was just a different man than the one she was first presented. Ariel? Part of that world means specifically part of Prince Eric’s world.

I think in the near future, there might be some shift in the popularity of this sort of thing. Dystopias are hot right now, and I think that reflects the hopelessness that my generation feels. But I think, or at least I hope, that things will shift towards something more positive, and we’ll see more characters who dream about a life that’s better than what they have. Characters who dare to dream of making the world a better place, or just dream of something more for themselves than get married and pop out kids.

In any case, I’m crossing my fingers that it’s going to spark something in the hearts of my readers, because that’s what I write, and I can’t help it.

Flight School Update: Thoughts On Training Wheels And Safety Nets

Friday was too windy for the cross-country I had planned, so I went up with Sandra to do some instrument and airwork. I realized that between doing solo stuff, and my night rating with a different instructor, it’s been at least five weeks or more since the two of us had been up together.

I did better with the VOR intercepts than I have done in the past – it’s finally starting to sink in. She also taught me commercial level steep turns – instead of a 360 degree turn all the way around, you do a 180 degree turn one direction, roll level, then to another steep turn the other direction. Then we went up to 4000 feet to try and make the plane spin.

I’ll stop for a moment to describe the weather that day – there was a layer of cloud at 3500 feet, but we found a spot in the practice area where there was a good sized hole in the cloud layer so we could get up to 4000 ASL. At which point, we were just above the cloud layer, and below us was the ground, but all around, an ocean of rolling white. It was one of those days.

Anyway, it was a Cessna 172, so it didn’t want to spin worth the dickens. The last time we did spins in a 172, it spiraled the same, right away, and Sandra took over, and recovered from the spiral for me. In briefing on Friday though, since there’s a spin in the commercial flight test, she was reminding me to recover from whatever the plane is doing, not what I was told to make it do. If it spirals, recover from the spiral.

So when the plane went straight into a spiral again, I did a spiral recovery pretty much on reflex, and Sandra said I did well. I’m pretty sure she didn’t help – she definitely didn’t say she was taking over.

Afterward I was thinking about something I wrote in a post a while back – right at the beginning of my training. About how I trusted her to be able to save me from whatever I managed to screw up. And it might be because it was so long that I hadn’t flown with her that I didn’t notice the shift, but I realized that somewhere between then and now, I stopped thinking of her that way.

She must have been happy with it too, because in de-briefing, she said when I was practicing airwork solo, I could go ahead and practice spins if I felt comfortable with it. Which I think I am – I’ll be nervous doing it, but I don’t think I’ll have any trouble actually doing the maneuver. Before Friday, I wouldn’t have been, and I wouldn’t have tried to do a spin solo. Funny, I seldom feel confident doing anything until someone tells me I can. Sandra has pushed me just hard enough that I’m never quite chomping at the bit to be cut loose. I’m the sort of person who’s more likely to need to be pushed out of the nest most of the time. Sandra’s pretty attuned to telling where a student is though, and I’m sure if I hadn’t done well in that recovery, she probably wouldn’t have encouraged me to do spins solo, and it always makes me happy to have flown well, and proven myself.

The Steampunkette Has A New Author’s Website!

My fellow blogger Erin Latimer, AKA the Steampunkette, of The Punkettes Blog has a new author’s website, and it looks gorgeous. She’s also got an interesting thing she’s starting – an interactive storytelling thing. I’ll let you guys read about it in her own words. I was going to send her a rune, but my idea was one that when inscribed on the side of a carburetor, raises the air pressure of the air surrounding an aeroplane and thus raising it’s service ceiling – but I don’t know if that really fits a gothic fantasy story…