Multi-Engine Flight Test

It’s been a rough couple of months – I’m really still recovering from losing my Grandma, and work has been crazy busy and no one is able to pick up shifts when I try to give them away like I did when I did my private licence. Various family stress that aren’t my stories to share – honestly sometimes I figure I should make a list and keep multiple copies on hand to hand to people when I tell them I’m a bit burned out and they ask me what I’m so stressed about. I manage.

But I got my multi-engine test done and passed.


That’s a pic of the left engine while we were flying around with the left engine shut down and the prop feathered. It’s a thing we do while training.

So many things went wrong – right down to the weather. I was feeling pretty good after the two flights the day before. Ready even. Then there was the storm.

We had power all through the evening, but my brother in Southport was reading by candlelight, and multiple other areas of southern Manitoba were without power. I got up to get my math all together for my afternoon flight test and my instructor phoned me.

The airport was without power and they couldn’t open the hangar doors to get the planes out. All the school planes were hangared and safe, which was good because this was an epic storm – the Navajo that was tied down on apron one was found in a field south of the airport, and there was a little Cessna flipped upside down on apron four.

Anyway, they had me come in to do the ground portion in the hopes the power would come on and they’d be able to get the planes out they needed for two flight tests.

The ground went well – probably the most confident I’ve been on the ground portion of a flight test so far. About halfway through the ground portion, the printer started making noises, and we realized, zomg, the power’s come back on. Hail Hydro. (Manitoba Hydro, that is…) I had a two hour wait on the other student who had a flight test scheduled that day, but it gave me some time to go over some notes I’d made.

The weather: redonculously hot.

So the gear-in-transit light wouldn’t go out on the second takeoff. See — this is why I was told I might get brownie points on the test just for taking GGOO (airplane registration – we use C-GXXX or C-FXXX for registrations in Canada, for my US followers). Anyway, this plane has multiple snags per page (snags = things wrong with the plane) in the logbook, and currently even has one deferred snag, with an electrical issue with the autopilot. We didn’t need the autopilot for my flight test though, so no big deal.

Halfway through the test the screws in the plastic knob on the right throttle lever came out and I ended up finishing the test just using the metal part of the lever. I guess the plastic part is really just ergonomics anyway. I managed. I think I got brownie points for dealing.

Landings wise, the wind was 270@15G20. Our airport has three runways, 18/36, 31/13, and 04/22, so for my non-pilot followers, that basically means it’s a decently strong wind, and it’s literally the least favourable wind direction for *any* runway at my home airport. I checked and it was apparently about 2 knots below the demonstrated crosswind capabilities of the aircraft. Again, I managed well enough to pass.

And when got home, test passed, rating signed off, I broke down in tears as grief hit me like a tonne of bricks. Since I passed my private flight test and got my pilot’s licence, the first person I phoned to tell about my accomplishments was my Grandma, who died three months ago.

But don’t worry. I’ll manage.

Canada Day Tragedy At Lyncrest

It’s a surreal moment when you hear news like this.

There’s been a crash.

Holy, crap, is everyone okay?


I was at the Osborne street festival in Winnipeg when I got a text from a friend asking if I knew someone who flew a PA-28. It was noisy and I didn’t hear my phone, but two minutes later, the friend texted my husband, who was with me, asking if I’d been flying that morning, because a plane has crashed next to Lyncrest airport.

I’ve flown out of that airport. I know a lot of people who do. It could be someone I know. Whoever it was is a member of the local aviation community that I’m a part of. I spent a couple years time building on the 99’s plane owned by the RAA, C-FLUG. The RAA has a second plane, C-GNUC, and it’s a PA-28…

So I immediately thought, could it have been C-GNUC?

It was.

And of course there’s something about plane crashes that captures media attention. Both the RAA planes had gone flying, and the pilot of the other plane, who had no idea what had happened, was accosted by the media when she landed. Someone said the reporters were there before the emergency crews. The sneaked into the clubhouse to take photos of the phone list so they could call people at home and pester them for information. The photo of GNUC that first appeared on the news articles was quickly replaced by actual photos of the crash site, which I don’t even really want to share here.

Fatal car crashes don’t even make the news, but pilots are held to a higher standard than drivers on the road. I think that’s why there’s many times as many fatal car crashes, but they don’t garner the we need to find out what happened so we can make sure this never happens again reaction that plane crashes do.

Which is not to say that reaction is wrong. I mean, the roads would be a hell of a lot safer if drivers were held to the same standards as pilots and I don’t know why they’re not other than society thinks driving a car is a right and flying a plane is a privilege.

But that attitude is one of the things that defines the aviation community. When there’s a fatal car crash, people look at it as a random act of fate. Something that could happen to anyone. Maybe someone did something stupid or reckless, but anyone could do that. Drunk boater drowns, they go ugh, those guys, they should know better. Snowmobiler hits a tree at 180 clicks, they roll their eyes and lament the irresponsible attitudes of snowmobilers.

Not pilots. As information from the crash site trickles in, we all want to know what happened. I think it’s probably because of the level of training required to get a pilot’s licence, and just the whole environment of open discourse about safety, but I don’t think there’s a lot of pilots who take off thinking to themselves It won’t happen to me. The take off telling themselves I have the competence to be able to handle it if something happens, and I’ve taken all possible measures to prevent something from happening. Recklessness is not accepted by the aviation community – if someone brags about doing something dangerous, the community as a whole responds with disapproval. There’s a reason the accident rate is so low.

That’s why when something does happen, the whole community is left reeling. We work so hard to be safety conscious and make sure safety concerns are communicated, and instructors work to instill a cautious attitude into their students. I know the people at that airport, and the people who manage that plane, and I know what sticklers they are for following rules of safety. Apparently Transport Canada is often impressed with their diligence, and the diligence they require from anyone flying those two RAA planes.

It’s quite possible we may never find out for certain what happened. There was a briefing tonight, and I went out to Lyncrest to attend, and we got what information there was. Speculation on what may have caused it is counterproductive at this point, and only spreads misinformation. The TSB is investigating.

I didn’t know the pilots who died, but I know a lot of people who did know them, and I’m still part of that community. I listened to my friends in the 99’s tell about how they heard, others describing when they heard the news but didn’t know who it was, how they breathed a sigh of relief every time one of the people they knew chimed in on facebook or responded to a text, confirming they were safe.

It’s been a sad weekend; I don’t really know what else to say.

The Time My Boyfriend-Now-Husband Got In A Nerf War

I’m tired and stressed and getting close to finishing all the ratings I need to actually start looking for a flying job and huge changes in my life and with my Grandma’s passing still fairly fresh, it’s got me thinking about the past. So you get another random story – probably the most entertaining story about me dating my current husband.

I had just met my husband, and it was either the first or second time I had him over to my place – I was living with my dad at the time. Anyway, I went downstairs for something, and he followed me.

My brother and I both had the Nerf bow and arrow, from way back when we were kids – we used to play a game where one person would try and dodge the arrows while the other fired them. We picked it up from step cousins.

But for some reason, I was twenty-two and the Nerf bow was laying out on the floor and my husband found it while I was getting whatever I was getting. I came out to him aiming it at me and firing off the three arrows as fast as he could re-load.

I ran into the storage room while he retrieved his arrows. He was blocking my path to the second bow, but this was my house. This was my turf, the house I knew like the back of my hand. And as he came around the door to the storage room with a freshly loaded Nerf bow and arrow, there was something he didn’t know.

What he didn’t know was the storage room was where we kept the Nerf Gatling gun.

Six arrows. No waiting.

IFR Part Two – Good Days And Bad Days

I’m kind of posting this for the benefit of other student pilots who might read it because it’s an observation of the learning process and what’s normal, and that you can have bad days, and just push past them to succeed.

I’ve had good days and bad days since my Grandma died. One of those bad days was my first lesson back in the Redbird. Part of it was being out of practice, having cancelled one lesson, then the next lesson back was in the other sim, doing a multi-engine intro, since the Redbird was booked. Part of it was stress and being exhausted from work, and part of it might have even been me starting to come down with something. But I did really terrible, no improvement, and regression in some areas.

Sometimes I feel like I’m just a complete failure. But today I was thinking, you know, if I knew someone who was dealing with all the shit I’m dealing with right now, I would wonder how she managed to get as far as she had with flight training, knowing how much dedication flight training requires to get where I am. I need to give myself a break sometimes.

Last week I had a conversation with my manager that was overdue, the result of which was my hours being reduced to part time, to give me time to cope, time for myself, and most importantly, time to fly.

The next lesson in the Redbird I was back on the horse, and the one after definitely steady improvement again.

And then there was last Thursday. I ended the lesson and began the de-breifing frustrated and disgusted with myself, feeling like I’d done awful like that other day.

But then I realized something as I recounted all the things I’d got wrong or missed. It was the first time that list was short enough to start to zero in on what I needed to work on. The first point – in my IFR training at least – where I wasn’t just happy I was doing more things right.

I remember now, hitting this point in learning circuits, where things suddenly didn’t seem quite so overwhelming, and that was that tipping point where things  it wasn’t long after that I was ready to solo. My IFR instructor agreed, and even said, if all goes well, maybe after next week, we’ll be hopping in the real plane to work on the next step.

I’m really grateful that all my instructors have been really positive and encouraging, while still demanding everything I can give them.

Person First vs Identity First Language and Labels: An Autism Post

I haven’t posted anything about Autism Awareness Month so far (largely because the awareness thing isn’t going to make autistic peoples’ lives better without acceptance and understanding) but this topic has come up a fair bit lately in various articles.

First a definition: Person first language means using language that emphasizes that a person with a disability is a person, afflicted with a thing. Some people prefer this way of talking about autism because they don’t like the idea of emphasizing a label, so they say “person with autism.”

Identity first language is language that embraces the label as a part of a person’s identity. Some people prefer this way of talking about autism because it emphasizes that autism is a part of who they are and that they accept themselves as they are, so they say “autistic” or “aspie.”

If you start looking at the conversations going on on the internet, you’ll see a pattern in who prefers person first and who prefers identity first language. The parents of autistic children prefer person first language, because it allows them to say things like “I love you, but I hate your autism,” and lets them love their child without accepting their child for what they are.

Autistic people themselves for the most part prefer identity first language. They want to be able to take pride in who they are. And they want to encourage the world to understand them and accept them.

And another thing I’d like to touch on is parents who know their child has been diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder, but don’t tell their child, because they don’t want their child to be labelled. If you take away words, you make it impossible to talk about something. Imagine you’re trying to tell someone you need something to drink, but you have no word for “water” or “thirsty”.

I’ve never understood this fear of “labels” that everyone talks about. I’m not a person who’s married. I’m not a person who writes novels, or a person who flies aeroplanes. I’m a wife, a writer, a pilot. The only time a label becomes frightening is when it’s considered innately negative and shameful. No one fusses over a war vet being referred to as an amputee, and that’s because people don’t think being an amputee is shameful or that an amputee needs to be separated from their disability.

And Autistic people should not have to separate themselves from their diagnosis in order to be worthy of love, respect and understanding.

Diane Kitson: Feb 28th, 1921 – April 6th, 2016

Diane Kitson

I’ve mentioned my Grandma has not been well for some time. At Christmas, she wasn’t well enough to travel, so my cousins and I collaborated on having Christmas dinner at her house in Portage. I think we all knew it was possible it could be the last Christmas we had with her.

In January, she had an episode that turned out to be another heart attack, and had been in the hospital since. They’re not actually sure how many heart attacks she’s had, because sometimes when she’s felt that way, she didn’t actually go to the hospital, just toughed it out. My dad has been with her nearly half the day every day, especially toward the end. She hated being in the hospital, and she hated not being able to look after herself. She was a person who looked after other people.

She turned 95 in the hospital and all the family in Manitoba went in to have supper with her. I went early with Nathan so I’d have time to spend with her when I had her to myself. She said the nurses tried to tell her not to dwell on the past, and focus on the present and look forward to the future. And she told them “I’m sick in the hospital and can’t go to the bathroom my myself, and there’s nothing in my future except saying goodbye. I had a good life and it makes me happy to think about good times.” She didn’t let people tell her how to think.

I last saw her three weeks ago, to show her the new car. I stayed all afternoon and had supper with her and my dad. I told her how I was almost done with my flight training and would be able to start looking for a job soon. She said she was proud of me and how hard I’d worked. And she said she was glad I’d listened to my Dad’s advice on a new car, and that the foolish man thinks he knows everything, and the wise man listens to advice. She took my hand with her good one and squeezed it as I left. She knew every time she saw a loved one, it could be the last.

I had told my dad that if anything happens to call me and I’ll drop everything to rush into Portage and be there. I got that message on Wednesday. She’d had more than usual trouble breathing the night before, and everything went downhill from there. When I got to Portage, she hadn’t been conscious since the night before, and they had her on a breathing machine to keep her alive until family got there. I walked in and my cousin looked over his shoulder and said “I’m so glad we did Christmas.”

My Grandma was the kindest person I know. She was the sort of person Christians aspire to be. She was Christian, but not especially religious. She didn’t go to church often – I think she was too busy *being* what they call Christ-like to sit through sermons telling her how to be more Christ-like. She didn’t judge people. When someone was mean, or angry, she always described it as “They’ve got something inside them, see, riling them up and upsetting them. It’s because they’re hurting that makes them hurt others.”

She lived down the street my whole childhood and spent as much time raising my brother and I as either of my parents, so our relationship with her was always more like a mother than a grandmother. I don’t know how I would have made it through my parent’s divorce if she hadn’t been there. There was a lengthy custody battle and a lot of both parents badmouthing one another to us, and we were very confused. I felt helpless and had no control over what was happening. I remember I was crying in my room one day when I was ten or twelve, and Grandma sat down and cried with me. Because it hurt her to see me hurting. She told me she understood, and that my parents were too busy trying to hurt each other to see what they were doing to us kids. At the time when my parents probably couldn’t have handled the guilt of validating my feelings, she was there for me.

She was always disappointed she never got to finish school, and had to stay home and help her mother look after her younger siblings. Of which there were many – her mother had fifteen children, though only thirteen of them lived to adulthood.But she made sure her own children had the chance to go to school and be whatever they wanted to be. She always supported me in whatever I wanted to be as I searched over the years trying to figure out what that was. When I told her I wanted to be a pilot she was surprised, but never hesitated to carry on being supportive of my decisions. She was afraid of flying herself, but she never thought there was a profession women couldn’t do just as well as men, never discouraged me, and sent money to help me along. I know she was proud of me. She was the first person I called to tell when I got my commercial licence because I knew she’d be proud.

I will miss her.



It been a long winter, but I got back out the St. Andrews the last couple of days to start working on IFR training.

For the non-pilots reading, IFR stands for instrument flight rules. As opposed to VFR, which is visual flight rules, IFR means you’re flying without visual reference to the ground, and using your instruments to tell you where you are and where you’re headed, and for that matter, if you’re in cloud, whether you’re wings-level.

At the commercial level, you have to be able to do an intercept to a beacon. Most people do a VOR because it’s easier. Even so, I nearly slipped up being given an inbound intercept and when asked what heading I was going to turn to once I reached the radial, blurted out the radial heading instead of the inbound heading, but caught myself and changed my answer.

The last couple of days has turned my brain to mush. Yesterday we did holds in the simulator, starting with a VOR. Since I made it through that and wasn’t yet curled up in a fetal position on the floor of the sim cockpit, the second session was over an NDB, first with an inbound leg of 090, then switching to non-standard left hand turns, then switching to holding with an inbound leg of 270. All following procedure turns, and expecting me to make the appropriate radio calls entering and established, and since I was doing so well I guess, he gave me a 15kt crosswind.

I think it’s like learning a new language. You can learn the grammar and the vocabulary, and look up unfamiliar words and kind of manage. But to really function in society, you have to gain a certain minimum fluency, and there’s no way to do that but practice. IFR, it’s one thing to be able to answer questions on a paper, but to be able to figure out whether you’re going to do an offset entry or a parallel entry before you cross the beacon and have to start your turn, and then you have 60 seconds of a standard rate turn to figure out what the ADF with display once you’re abeam the beacon, and then throw in wind correction to muck up your angles, that just takes practice.

In any case, I have a hard time being certain what a realistic timeline is for finishing these things. When I got my commercial licence I had three weeks last may to finish up and prepare, and we were definitely cramming, but I did it. I now have vacation planned for August this year, leaving myself lots of time to get the written test done and then finish up in my three weeks of vacation. He shook his head and said, nah. And told me I was going to be finished well before then. I guess I’m doing okay!