Taking The Plunge – New Job

My call centre job is one that pays decently well, so I’ve known for a long time that whenever I ended up getting a job in the aviation industry, it was going to be a pay cut, and a fairly massive one. Which is scary, with a lot of debt, but I’m very grateful that my Dad is in a position to help me out so I’m not afraid my husband and I will end up on the street or anything while I transition to a completely new industry.

So it’s scary, leaving my decent wage job for something minimum wage, and I wanted to wait until I’d passed all my tests before starting to search. Which I’ve done now.

Most pilots don’t get their first job in the industry flying. Usually they start by getting their foot in the door with a company by taking a job on the ground, typically either working the ramp, loading cargo, fueling planes, etc, or dispatching.

Apparently I interview well. Most of the time, if I an get an interview, I get the job. I was taught basic manners and stuff and that goes over well.

I put out a bunch of resume’s and after all of a week of searching, a friend passed my resume on to management at a local Medevac company, and they called me in for an interview for a position dispatching.

Now, at least in this setting, the dispatcher is kind of the central nervous system of the company, responsible for knowing where all the planes are at a given time, receiving estimated arrival times and passing them on to parties who need them, relaying details of trips to pilots and medics to send them on their way to pick up patients. A lot of responsibility for an entry level position.

I remember years ago, I was working back at EDS, another call centre, and a call came out for applications for a position within the project called “Incident Problem Management”. My manager suggested I apply.

I hadn’t even considered it. It didn’t sound like anything I was qualified to do, though I really didn’t have any clue what was involved. I was just a phone monkey – in no way whatsoever, did I think I had a chance at getting that position; for sure there was someone more qualified than me.

But they interviewed me and gave me the position. Now, in my head, they sat down in a room and went, “You know what? I think we should take a shot on Lindsay – give her a chance, what do you think?”

My friends, who have worked with me in the past told me the conversation likely went more like “Lindsay’s demonstrated she’s competent and doesn’t slack off, we want her.”

My duties turned out to be monitoring ticket queues and acting on patterns I saw that could indicate a major problem, and facilitating communication between departments in order resolve issues in the company’s IT environment as they arose.

I did do well, and when the company lost the project to a lower bidder and the position disappeared, I soon got a supervisor position in another project within the company based on my performance in the IPM position.

Fast forward to now, interviewing for the dispatcher position, which is a job with huge responsibility, despite being an entry level position. But I listened to the description of the job and realized, I can totally do this. In fact, I’m literally their ideal candidate, and when I described by previous job experience, I got the sense the manager interviewing me realized that too.

So I was offered the job on the spot, and now I’m dispatching for Sky North.

Writing About Aeroplanes: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I started writing stories about pilots before becoming an actual pilot myself, which is kind of an interesting contrast to Timothy Gwyn, who started writing after establishing a career in aviation. I imagine he didn’t make a lot of the silly mistakes I did.

Part of the problem is when you start researching planes and flying, there’s lots of talk about design, and neat things like, I learned early on how the radial engines gave way in design to the sleeker in-line positioning of the pistons to reduce drag, and I’d learned how many crew were needed in a Lancaster Bomber and what their positions were from when the Lanc visited Winnipeg last. But when it came to the basics, I had learned about the Bernoulli principle, and I understood the control surfaces and how they worked, that the rudder was controlled by pedals, while the elevator and ailerons were connected to the stick or control column.

That was…it.

So I go off on my merry way writing my novel, and then I bring it to a critique group where one member had got his private pilot’s licence many years before, and he pointed out some of my incorrect assumptions about how planes work.*

Oh. Well that is very helpful. It was one of those things, I just would never have thought to ask.

I tried to do more research, but I kept finding that the basics were hard to find resources on. The information online about aviation tends to be geared towards people who already know how to fly a plane and the info presented only builds on that. I could have looked up the answers to specific questions, but I didn’t know enough to know what questions to ask.

Fast forward to where I had decided I was seriously going to make a go of becoming a commercial pilot and I’m out at St. Andrews for my first ever flight, and we’re doing the walk-around, and my instructor is pointing out all the plane parts. I’m like, I can tell you all the things I know about airplanes – ok, propeller, fuselage, rudder, elevator, ailerons. That’s it. Oh, wheels! Yep, those are wheels.

Good job, she says, except those aren’t the ailerons, actually, those are the flaps.

The what? In all my reading about aeroplanes, this term had not come up. Or if it had, it wasn’t explained, and I just assumed it was some kind of auxiliary fancy thing that the big planes had. I’d been on jets, you know when you look out the windows at the wings and there’s these little squares that lift up on different parts of the wing?**

I had always intended to hunt down a pilot to help me edit my story, and it turned out I didn’t actually do that badly – fixing my mistakes didn’t break my novel’s plot, it was just touch-ups here and there.

But as a pilot now, the amount of knowledge I have to pour into a novel about pilots affects the type of stories I’m telling now. It’s not just a mode of transportation, or a mount to ride into combat anymore – they’re complex and I have a way more detailed understanding of how I can use these things to almost, but not quite kill my characters.

That and an understanding of the diversity of aircraft and features available, and enough knowledge to not put a feature on an aircraft that’s unrealistic. I mean, a Cessna 150 is not going to have autopilot installed. It is possible to have a plane without flaps, but I know enough not to make it a large one, and know what that means for the plane. I know the differences in ground handling between tricycle and conventional landing gear now and can throw that into a story, or simply portray it accurately. I know enough to describe accurately the characteristics of a good versus a bad landing.

I know what’s dangerous, and what seems dangerous but isn’t actually a big deal. Like, you see videos of WWII planes being started by hand-swinging the prop so often you’d think that wasn’t big deal, but that’s one of those things that kills people or takes limbs if you aren’t careful. Whereas, doing spins was something so easy to do and recover from, I was doing it in my first week of flying, and doing it solo in my first hundred hours with my instructor’s blessing, but it’s something that people think must be horribly dangerous.

There’s just so much to know about aviation, and I’m still a rookie low-hours pilot looking for my first job.

So how do you get that base level of knowledge if you want to write about pilots without becoming a pilot yourself. Well, there will be snobs who will say, just go get your private license, but not everyone has that kind of money kicking around.

One great way would be to take a ground school course. Most schools offer it in a classroom setting, but there are online versions as well – my school’s online ground school is Transport Canada approved. There are textbooks available too – the one my school uses is called “From The Ground Up”. It starts assuming no knowledge of aviation. There are others, and this one is specific for Canada, though that’s mainly only relevant for the air law side of things.

The other thing you can do that’s not horrifically expensive is most schools offer a “Discovery Flight”, which is just an introductory flight that goes over the basics, they take you up in the aeroplane and let you fly it, show you some of the basic maneuvers. There’s some real danger in going this route though – huge risk you might realize you love it and need to get your licence. Take precautions.***

On that note, I can confirm my attendance at Keycon this year. Timothey Gwyn will be there too, and I hope to do at least one panel covering a lot of these sort of topics for writers who might be interested in writing about aviation. Hope to see you there!

 

*Apparently, planes taxiing are propelled by their propellers, same as in the air – there’s no power transfer to the wheels to move them on the ground. Who knew.
**Ladies and gentlemen – those are spoilers. The flaps, incidentally, are the things that extend and curl downward in preparation for landing.
***Just kidding, do it, it’s amazing!

Multi-Instrument

Last year was a rough year. MIFR has taken a lot longer than I planned on it taking, and on the one hand I tend to be the first one to blame myself, but in truth, there’s been a lot of shit thrown in my way this year.

I’d been waiting for call volumes to go down and scheduling to be more flexible forever. At the beginning of the year I finally decided that I couldn’t keep waiting and hoping things at work would get better – I had to pick up flight training again, or I would never get out of my current job.

So I called up Harv’s Air and started sim training about once or twice a week. It was coming along, though my work schedule was  unrelenting, but my spirits were up because I was finally back to making progress.

And then I pulled into the parking lot at Harv’s and looked at my phone before I went in, and got the message that my Grandma was dying. I rushed back home to be there when she died. Her death hit me hard – it wasn’t like most people losing a grandparent – this Grandma was a parent to me.

I got all of three days bereavement leave off work and went straight back into sim training, and right away after, started my multi rating. We had weather, and we had plane maintenance, and I was exhausted with my schedule at work, and I was ready to pull back and take a break. I was far enough into my multi rating though that my instructor said it was a bad time to take a break. I made it through my multi flight test.

So next was some brushing up on IFR, and then back in the plane for multi-engine instrument training. There was more weather. Planes went down for maintenance. But I had vacation coming up, and that was when I was planning on doing the last big push to finish up.

My vacation came – Somewhere in there I wrote the instrument rating written test and passed it. But I was running out of time. I asked my work for more time off. Unpaid now. I got it, two weeks, in fact.

Then the first of the two multi-engine aircraft the school trains with went down for maintenance, not just for a fifty hour inspection – something had to be done with the engines that involved them being sent away for maintenance. Two months of downtime. Which meant all the students booking on the second plane. The second one at one point was also down for a week for other maintenance issues.

And we needed to get the IFR cross country trip done. lol…

Anyway, between my work schedule, weather, and plane maintenance, losing my Grandmother, among the biggest things but among a multitude of other stressors, I’ve been feeling very much like something just doesn’t want me to succeed. Like the end of the movie “The Labyrinth”, where David Bowie starts frantically sending everything he can to stop Sarah from making it the last little way to the castle.

Losing my Grandma affected me is ways I didn’t expect. But I was just less emotionally resilient than I normally am, and it made it harder to fight the inner voices one gets from having been a past victim of abuse. The fact that my work schedule isolated me from being able to spend time with the people I draw emotional support from made it worse.

But it’s not my instructor’s responsibility to be my therapist, and I did my best to not make excuses. I worked my way past it the only way I know how – stubbornly ploughing through head first.

I remember before I ever hopped into a plane to learn to fly, thinking about whether or not I was ready to do this. Because I was used to the way my life was – used to just never getting anything I want unless I’m ready to give it everything I’ve got and just refuse to give up.

I don’t know if it’s God, or the fates, or whatever, who’ve decided they don’t think I’ve been through enough, tried hard enough, worked hard enough, but I have something to say to them: I’m not the wilting teenager I once was that had so little confidence she would never have considered embarking on this journey in the first place. I look back on my teen age years and think, hell, I made it though that, I’ll make it through this too. If you want to break me, you’ll have to do better than this.

Multi-Engine Instrument test is done and passed.

New Year’s Post 2016

Well, this has been a year of success, and I have a feeling next year will only get better.

That’s what I wrote in last New Year’s post. Then, 2016 happened.

You know what I’m talkin’ about. It started with celebrities dying, then it seemed like every one of my friends was losing a loved one, and by February, I was like, dude, my Grandma’s in the hospital and her health’s not great, I don’t like how this year is going. And it went exactly where it looked like it was going.

Well, goal have been hit and miss this year, so might as well get on with it the round-up:

-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! – Well, I’m good on this one. Can’t say the same for everyone this year.

-Get my Multi-engine rating. – Made it through this one.

Get my IFR rating. – Almost there, but not quite.

Writing wise, finish a revision of Skybound. I think that’s reasonable. – Still focussed on flying, but actually got some decent work done on this. Ultimately, not a full revision, but I’m pleased with how it’s going.

Short stories:write one. Any one. I do about one a year. It’s fine. – I wrote one. Actually, maybe two, can’t remember when I wrote the short one, but Saturday’s Child was a good long one and a solid story, I’m very pleased with it.

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. – I did none of these….no wait, I read a female author – finished Elizabeth Wein’s Black Dove, White Raven. Also read Gerald Brandt’s The Courier, and looking forward to the sequel.

So – the multi-IFR is the biggest thing at this point, and there have been so many obstacles thrown at me this year, it’s frustrating that it’s taking me this long, but my Grandma’s death hit me hard. I’ve never lost anyone close to me before, and it affected me in ways I didn’t expect. That and the long breaks between lessons due to weather and maintenance and my work schedule have made things even harder. And miscellaneous things I won’t even bother to list.

But I don’t know any other way to deal with things besides plowing through head first. So without further ado, my goals for 2017:

– Not die Same as always.

– Remain happily married. Realized I missed that one last year, and husband is miffed he didn’t make the list. Maybe to be more specific, I’ll throw in see a movie or go out for dinner once a month, since that tends to be our date night thing. Husband and I are great together – have to be grateful for that. Can’t imagine my life without him.

– Finish my Multi-IFR.

– Quit my job. It’s like a ball and chain, it’s exhausting, and while I like my co-workers for the most part, and they’ve been the one redeeming element aside from getting paid, it’s a terrible environment for someone like me to work. It burns me out, and it’s stopping me from succeeding with flying. While I’d originally planned to wait until I’d finished my MIFR to quit, I might have to just take the plunge. I won’t find another job that pays as much, but my first flying job was pretty much guaranteed to not pay as much as my current job, so while it’s scary, it’s inevitable, and I think it’s time.

– Editing Skybound: make significant progress. I’m on a roll with this one, I’m enjoying the story and world, and really getting into the characters,  so this one has been good. Also, having my regular critique group meeting monthly gets me focused on having a scene ready to present each month, so I’m making steady, if small, progress without it being an overwhelming thing that I need to set aside to focus on flying.

– Short stories: write one more. Same as last year. Usually one just randomly comes to me and I’m like, omg, I have a story to write.

– Reading: I haven’t had as much time to read lately, so I’m just going to simplify this one to reading more. I may have only read like two or three books last year, so I’m going to make a reasonable goal of reading five novels. Five seems like a good number.

– I feel like there should be something else, something nebulous, and I stopped to think about it, and what I want to put down is I want to do something to honour my Grandmother’s memory. I want to be like her and practice the things she taught me, from growing plants and cooking, to being kind and loving my family. I’m going to have family over for dinner and board games sometimes. I had my brother and my dad over for Christmas eve for a quiet evening, just the four of us, and it was really nice. We’ll do that more.

2016 was a shit year, but I’m a stubborn bitch, so 2017 better be ready to bring it.

Multi-IFR Cross Country

Quick update.

They do their best to pair up students for the IFR cross country so that one student can fly the leg outbound and the other inbound, saving money for each student, since the trip needs to be a certain distance one direction.

But the weather was turning colder, and this aircraft doesn’t have de-icing or anti-icing equipment.

We booked the flight, and planned to be able to go either east or west, whichever direction the weather was better.

The date came, and there was icing conditions in both directions.

We booked it a second time, and same deal.

We booked it a third time. Third time’s the charm right? Nope. Plane grounded for maintenance.

We booked it a fourth time. I was up early, glanced at the TAF, looked good – vis on the Winnipeg METAR looked fine, plus six miles. I headed out to the airport.

I got halfway down Main, before I could see about three street lights ahead of me and the fourth was hidden in the fog.

I got to St. Andrews, and the visibility out there was 1/4 mile. To legally be allowed to take off, we needed 1/2 mile. I texted my laments to my fellow writer/pilot in Kenora, Tim, and he teased me about being absolved of any novice ideas of “all-weather flying”. We waited. We were watching the old tower, and every few minutes it looked like the fog was dissipating, but the next minute, the old tower on the next ramp would be nearly hidden by the fog. We waited it out three hours, until my cross country student partner had other commitments.

We had an unseasonably warm late October and early November, but one of the two Seminoles Harv’s flys was down two months for maintenance, and the one still flying was over booked. The time it was available – night.

Well, extra multi-engine-instrument-cross-country hours never hurt a pilot. We booked it a fifth time.

I figured we’d only be on the ground a few minutes, but I messaged Tim because I’d feel weird being in Kenora and not letting him know. And despite reassuring him that we’d probably not be on the ground long enough to do much more than wave, and as a pilot I knew he’d understand, he still cared enough to pretty much insist on meeting us at the airport.

My partner flew the inbound leg while I nibbled on graham crackers in the back. Most of my IFR flying has been through controlled airspace, so it was kind of different to go through the motions of passing in and out of controlled airspace. Class E airspace is also a bit of a quirky mashup of controlled and uncontrolled airspace.

For the Americans following me, it’s my understanding that there’s not a lot of airspace out there that’s not covered by radar. I’ve heard stories from Canadian pilots flying in the USA, tell me they were told by flight following “There’s gonna be no radar service for a few miles in front of you, are you okay with that?” And the Canadian pilot being confused as to what the big deal was.

My understanding is that in most countries, there’s almost no such thing as IFR flight in uncontrolled airspace. Canada is a really big country, and there’s a lot of uncontrolled airspace. IFR flight in uncontrolled airspace is a fact of life here.

Anyway, we got on the ground and Tim met us wearing a headlamp and a reflective vest, and I seriously almost kinda felt like I had a ground crew. It was cool. I could get used to this.

Anyway, we stayed on the ground long enough for a pit stop, and I learned Tim had drafts of the cover art for his upcoming novel, which is super exciting, and I can’t wait to be posting more about the launch!

Back to Winnipeg though. Pro-tip – there’s a tower like, right in the path of  the eastbound runway. Keep your climb going and stay on course.

The approach in Winnipeg and the second in St. Andrews was familiar, which is good because I was tired at that point.

Anyway, it’s done, and I’m almost finished. Stay with me.

 

Female Pilots, Male Pilots, And Their Wives

One of the forums I keep an eye on is the 99’s mailing list, and a little while ago, a subject came up that was honestly kind of sad.

A fellow 99’s posted a story about how when she was time-building, her instructor had proposed pairing her up with another student, so that they could fly together and have two heads in the plane for safety. But later, the instructor came back to her and told her that unfortunately wasn’t going to be an option.

The other student’s wife didn’t want him sharing a plane with a woman.

And this wasn’t even the only such incident for this one woman. Later, she had a mentoring relationship with a more experienced pilot who gave her career advice. That pilot’s wife also contacted her and forbade her to contact her husband.

She said that with all the resources of the 99’s available, female pilots shouldn’t need advice from someone’s husband.

Where’s that .gif of the stick man bashing his head into a bloody pulp onto his keyboard when you need it? What year are we in now? Ugh.

Seriously, I have no words. To explain why it’s stupid for a woman to forbid her significant other from associating with other women would be a pointless rant. This is nothing more than women being territorial and insecure.

One explanation was brought up though – the tendency for women taking a professional interest, or networking, being mistaken for personal interest. I think that stems from women not being seen as professionals and equals to men.

As Captain Steacy found on a flight in 2014, that sentiment can often be more up-front coming from outside the aviation community than from within. Steacy’s company and her flight crew spoke up in support of her. It was a passenger who came out with the blatant 1940’s sexist opinions.

So far in my experience, the male pilots I’ve met and spoken with have treated me with respect and thus far I couldn’t say I’ve had anyone from within the aviation community so much as imply that I didn’t belong there because of my gender. Perhaps it’s because I’m up here in Canada – I hear the sexism in the states is far worse – but the stories I do hear are far more often sexism coming from people who know nothing about aviation.

Even in other areas of my life, I’ve dealt with sexism. I’ve been in tech support for years – my co-workers know I’m good at my job, but when I have a customer on the line, they hear a female voice and they interrupt me, they refuse to believe me when I tell them my instructions will fix their problem. They cling to incorrect information provided to them by an new trainee earlier when I try to give them correct information. When I tell them I can’t get them a tech out first thing tomorrow morning, the earliest is the afternoon, they think it’s because I don’t have the authority and they demand to talk to a supervisor. I know when they say “I want to talk to your supervisor” what they really mean is “I want to talk to a man.”

And it’s not just men who do this. I’ve had a woman literally tell me “You’re not going to be able to help me, I need to talk to a man.” I’ve heard little old ladies whisper in the background that “The boys seem to be better at this than the girls, don’t they?” to their husbands when they think I can’t hear them. Women are at least equally guilty – possibly more often guilty of it, because them men usually know better than to go overboard and the women think they’re not capable of sexism because they’re women.

Let me tell you, women are more than capable of being sexist.

Multiple male co-workers hearing these stories have told me these things don’t happen to them.

*sigh*

It’s just terribly sad and wrong that I should feel like I need to be careful about the way I converse and network with fellow pilots, not even because the male pilots might mistake professional networking for flirting, but because they might have a wife who’ll assume I’m a home-breaking hussy.

We can do better ladies. Other women are not your enemies. We face enough struggles as women and as human beings – lets put supporting one another before petty insecurities.

Life Lessons From Flying – Be Patient With Yourself

I’m coming up to the end of my flight training; getting those last couple of ratings that will make me employable at a job that I could afford to leave my current job for. And It’s got me looking back at how much this journey has caused me to grow as a person. As I work on my Multi-IFR rating (passed the written today; just the flight test left), I thought I’d do a post to share some of the things flying has taught me.

One of the first was to be patient with myself as I’m learning.

This is my first sewing project:

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It looks like one of those pictures people post of them trying to replicate some instagrammer’s DIY project and it coming out horribly wrong, I know. I remember being frustrated that the back and the front wouldn’t match up because I didn’t understand if you were going to sew them together with the velvet side out and have them match, you had to cut them out with the velvet sides together, not both layers with the velvet facing up. Mainly because I was five. (ETA – Mother has advised I was actually three.)

I can’t begin to imagine what my mom was thinking as I went about my business, but I bet I was adorable. She was working on something else – she’s quite the seamstress – and she showed me how to cut it out so the back and front matched. She might have even let me use the sewing machine to sew around the edges myself – I can’t remember.

It’s very unevenly stuffed. At least one leg or arm is stuffed at the end with thread, because that was the closest thing at hand to stuff it with. When the scraps of thread on the floor ran out, I started cutting lengths of thread off a spool until my mom suggested stuffing it with scraps of leftover fabric. My mom’s a freaking genius, I’m telling you. She taught me how to read a pattern even before I got to home economics in junior high. I started making three dimensional stuffed animals, and getting a feel for how adjustments to the pattern would affect the toy once it was stuffed, to make the animal less ridiculously proportioned.

As I got older though, I got to be that talented one who catches onto things quickly. Drawing, painting, playing guitar, all those things I picked up and was just good at them without a lot of effort. I forgot how to work at something, and then when I ran into something I wasn’t instantly good at, I learned to just not bother.

And I wasn’t instantly good at flying. I wasn’t a prodigy or anything. And there were definitely points when I felt like I wasn’t getting it, wasn’t progressing. Learning to land was a big one. And the instructors all just said, keep practicing, it’ll come.

I knew they knew better than I did how people learn to fly, so I kept at it, and it eventually did come. It was just a very new experience for me. It sounds ridiculous that working hard and practicing to get good at something was a new thing for me, but really, most things I can go okay, show me what to do, and then just do what I’m shown, with not more than a couple tries before I get it. I never learned to be patient with myself this way, and give myself time to learn, and to not give up after a couple of tries.

I think I started to get back in touch with that five year old that was buried, who happily stumbled though mistakes as she learned, adding tools to her toolbox of knowledge about sewing.

My Grandma Batke kept that bunny all these years though, and she gave it back to me at my wedding. This is the dress I wore:

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That’s right, I sewed my own wedding dress. And I see people attempting things all around me, and being frustrated when it doesn’t come out right – their cake falls flat, or they draw something and it’s not art gallery quality, their knitting project has uneven stitches, they build something and the boards aren’t perfectly even. They get frustrated and conclude they’re no good at it. Well obviously not, it’s only the first time you’ve tried. Or even the second or third.

Because I also see, when someone decides they’re going to learn something, and starts earnestly practicing, the people around them watch in awe when they start to see that person getting better. Peter S. Beagle wrote in The Last Unicorn “Perseverance is nine tenths of any art.”

He added onto that “Not that it helps to be nine-tenths an artist, of course.”, but I personally think to a certain extent that last tenth might just be made up of having a brain and opposable thumbs.

In any case, I know there are a lot of people out there who have forgotten how to learn, and they’re not even old enough to use the old-dog-new-tricks excuse. Maybe it has something to do with the culture of instant gratification we live in today. Good isn’t instant though. You have to work at it.