Time Management For Student Pilots

A few years ago, I went to a panel at my local con called “Time management for writers.” I expected a lecture on writing every day – maybe even pontificating on how you’re not serious about writing if you don’t write every day. The first panelist said she did indeed write every day, and if she didn’t, she lost rhythm and didn’t get anything done. She didn’t necessarily write a lot each day, but she wrote every single day. In contrast, the second one said he got all his outlining ready, and made a big three month push to write a novel, then edited at a more leisurely pace  the rest of the time. The third got a hotel room for three days and exited a wreck, but with a completed first draft of a novel.

In the flying community, you’ll hear people pontificating about making sure you fly at least once a week, to keep your skills fresh, especially once you’ve finished your private license. Because a lot of people finish their license and then barely ever fly again, citing that it’s so hard to get into the swing of things again. When training, they say to fly at least once or twice a week, or you’ll end up spending more hours on training, catching up on what you’ve lost.

They’re probably right. But the reality is, not everyone has the money on hand to do that.

When I started flying, I was able to give away most of my shifts for several months and flew 4-5 days a week, finishing my private license in about three and a half months. Not everyone is able to do that, and most people complete their private license in 1-2 years, flying once or twice a week.

Many young people are in school or university, but are living at home and have more money to put toward flying, making it possible to train faster. I have a full time job, we’re a single income household and I can’t afford to take too much time off outside of vacation. In fact, after I did my private, possibly as a result, the union wrote a clause into the new contract preventing people from giving away more than one shift a week. I like to say I have my own clause in the union contract.

I do much better when I can focus on just one big thing at a time, so time-building was hard for me. I couldn’t give shifts away anymore, so it was a flight here and there, and sometimes when it was very cold, I didn’t fly for months at a time. Because I was mostly flying the RAA club plan and not the school’s planes, my instructor couldn’t tell how frequently I was flying, I’m sure she worried that I might lose my momentum and give up. So many do. She would send me emails every once in a while, about every six months, asking how I was doing, and I’d send her an update with my hours and where I’d been, that I’d passed the written when I passed it. And finally I was finished time-building and one of those replies was “Okay, I’ve got vacation booked in May/June, and this is my plan.”

And for the flight test, I just did exactly the same thing as I did for my private, flying 4-5 times a week for several weeks. It’s what works for me, and I’ve succeeded doing it this way. I was able to give my instructor lots of notice so that she was able to make sure she was available when I needed her. Not all schools or instructors might be as awesome as that, so that was one struggle I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with.

On the other hand, doing my float rating, or likewise, my night rating, I was working full time at the same time. I tried to fly once a week, but often things didn’t work out that way. The other difference is there’s no test at the end of these ratings, so once I had the hours and the instructor was satisfied with my performance, that was all I had to do.

I think it’s far more important to have goals and a plan, than to fly a particular number of days a week. That plan naturally has to take into consideration the fact that if you haven’t flown for a while, your skills will go stale, but that may mean that you just need to get practiced up sometimes. If your goals are to stay current and develop your experience as a pilot, then maybe a goal of flying once a week or however often you can afford it might be your best plan. When I’m prepping for a test, that short period of intense flying multiple flights a day is what I need, so I’m not as concerned about staying current in between times when I’m forced to drag my ass back to work. I’ve put my writing on the back-burner a long time now, which is also okay, because I have clear goals and a plan, and I know it won’t be forever.

The pontificators are right about one thing though. You don’t find time. You make time. You ditch your video game and study. You skip social outings. There was a writing event the whole weekend I had planned my 300nm cross country trip, and I stopped in after I landed to to catch the last half hour. You do what you can do, and what you have to do, and there’s no right or wrong way to pace yourself, as long as you have a plan.


New Year’s post 2015

One of the neat things about blogging is kind of the same as keeping a journal or diary – I can go back and see where I was a year ago. 2014 was a rough year. I was recovery from a move, and suffered a lot of setbacks and stress.

Anyway, as I’ve established tradition, here’s my new year’s goals from last year and my assessment of my completion:

– Stay happily married and not die. Gonna call this a success – my husband and I are one of the most stable couples I know. So far, not dead yet.

– Do my three hundred nautical mile trip requirement for my commercial license. Done!

– Get my commercial license Holy shit man, I did it!

– Get a good ways through revisions on Skybound. Okay, I got some good progress on this – I’m gonna call it a win.

– Write a short story for that idea I came up with inspired by the documentary “Blackfish”. Not done. Not done at all. Maybe I’ll do it someday, but I did write a 9.8k story that I absolutely love and sent it to Tor.com, who have had it for 3 months now, and not responded, and my fingers are crossed 🙂

– Reading: I think I want to get back to reading more female authors again. I also want to get through a bunch of novels I’ve had kicking around on my TBR list – The Name of the Wind being one major one, I need to get to, because people keep raving about it, and we have it and the second book. hahaha. Okay, did not read The Name of The Wind. Honestly I haven’t had a lot of time to read this year, but I read my friend Sherry Peter’s debut novel Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, and Elizabeth Wein’s White Raven, Black Dove. 

So, writing wise I did so-so last year, because I was focusing on flying. But holy crap, the goals I set for flying, I not only met, but exceeded, because I not only finished my commercial licence, but rather than slough off the rest of the summer, I got my float rating. The commercial license, I was thinking, okay, this is a challenge, but not unreasonable, but it’s also huge. I didn’t want to just leave my 300nm for this year and hope to make the next step next year, I went ahead and put down that I was going to get my commercial license. I believed in myself and I did it.

And it’s not like I haven’t had challenges and setbacks. My freaking car died in the middle of getting my float rating, and I almost didn’t finish it. I might not have finished but for the grace of the weather gods who deemed to leave the weather nice and Norris Lake un-frozen into mid November.

Still need a new car.

And then there was the event that shall thus forward be known as the great hard drive failure of 2015, and my computer was limping along booting linux from a flash drive for a month.

But I prevailed. I was awesome.


And now that I’ve been suitably poetic and inspirational, my goals for 2016:

-Not die. I’m re-phrasing this from previous years – the original was “survive another year” followed by “Screw survival, I want to LIVE.” I’m living now, so I’ll be happy with keeping myself safe in the process!

-Get my IFR rating.

-Get my Multi-engine rating.

-Writing wise, finish a revision of Skybound. I think that’s reasonable.

-Short stories:write one. Any one. I do about one a year. It’s fine.

-Reading: I think this year, if anything, the goal should be to read more books period. Gonna put The Name Of The Wind on that list again though, along with my new favourite author’s newest book, Illuminae, and Chad Ginther’s trilogy finale, Too Far Gone, and if I can make it to that one, Sherry’s sequel, Mabel, the Mafioso Dwarf. Also, at least one female author and at least one POC author.

You’ll see “getting a job as a pilot” is conspicuously absent from that list. Part of that is realizing that in the past, making a goal of getting published or selling something was something I wasn’t entirely in control of. And maybe I’m wrong – maybe getting a job as a pilot isn’t unreasonable in the next 12 months, after I get my multi-IFR rating. It may very well be in the cards. But I’m going to leave that as icing on the cake. If that happens, then I’ll consider myself of have exceeded my own expectations, though never my hopes, because I hope for all!

See, 12 months ago, I was coming to the end of “time-building”. This is building experience by taking friends for aeroplane rides, flying around for fun, etc. The hardest thing about that stage is the lack of definite flags on accomplishments. I’d definitely developed myself as a pilot, but there was nothing to say that I had done so. At the very least, I had passed the written test. In contrast, this year, I got my commercial license and everything.

I remember a couple of years ago saying, “this year has been rough and I have a feeling the next is going to be worse”, and I was right. Well, this has been a year of success, and I have a feeling next year will only get better. So much has happened and I feel like I’ve got the boulder to the top of the hill and I’m about to give it that last shove down the other side.

Lets roll!