New Year’s Goals

It’s been a rough year. Between home drama, moving in april, worrying about my husband’s health and him being in and out of the emergency room, I’m not where I had hoped to be this year. But I’ll give myself a break because I’ve worked hard and haven’t given up. Checking over my goals for last year:

– Reading goals: Read a novel eligible for the auroras and vote in them. Read a debut novel. Read an author I haven’t read before. Read another book in at least one series I started. Read a novel by an author I know in person. I think i got all of these, Samantha Beiko’s debut novel The Lake And the Library, and Chad Ginther’s sequel Tombstone Blues both count as novels by authors I know in person; an author I haven’t read before: Chris Wooding’s Retribution Falls, and another book in a series I started: Kinslayer and Endsinger by Jay Kristoff. 

– The usual: Stay happily married and not die. No surprises here. 

– Get my commercial pilot’s license. Did not make this one, but I have made progress, building time and passing my commercial written exam. 

– Get my multi-IFR rating. Commercial license first. 

– Finish Skybound. Got this one. 

– Get a solid start on revising another novel. Started Earthbound, the sequel to Skybound.

So I didn’t do as bad as I thought. I haven’t flown as much because I’ve been under a lot of stress, and that’s not a good way to learn. I got some aerobatics training in, and that was fun. I needed something to challenge me.

Plus, I’ve got a short story coming out in an anthology, and the Chiseries event coming up.

Anyway, my new goals for this year:

– Stay happily married and not die.

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

– Get my commercial licence.

– Get a good ways through revisions on Skybound.

– Write a short story for that idea I came up with inspired by the documentary “Blackfish”.

– 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.

It’ll be a busy year. We very well might be moving again at some point, but with Chiseries in a week, and Athena’s Daughters coming out this year, I think 2015 is getting off to a good start.

Meet Your New Manitoba 99’s Web Admin

For the uninitiated, the 99’s is a club started by none other than Amelia Earhart, the famous aviatrix lost on her way to Howland island in her attempt to be the first woman to circumnavigate the earth in an aeroplane. The club was founded in 1929, and originally had ninety-nine members, hence the name.

You have to be a woman to be a member, and you have to have a pilot’s licence, or at least a learner’s permit. Which makes it that much more special to me to be a member.

Anyway, the time came around to hold elections, and I got invited to run for a position. I showed up to the meeting and realized that the chapter’s membership had been flagging for years, the leadership long on the shoulders of only a few women, who’d carried their burden a long time. It was refreshing, for them, to see so many young women showing up for a leadership meeting, ready to carry the torch they passed on.

The elected individuals are named at the bottom of the Manitoba Chapter’s page, and as you can see, I’m their new web admin.

They’ve set me up with a login to the site now, and now that I have all the info, I’ve realized something. The Manitoba chapter’s page is just a child page to the national site. Which means they’ve given me write access to the national 99’s website.

I always get a little bit giddy when people give me that kind of power. I mean, if I was a complete bumbling idiot, I could click the wrong button and delete the entire website. Obviously I’m not that kind of idiot, but I do admit to a mischievous nature. My husband calls me his fox, after all.

Let me tell you a story.

This isn’t going to be nearly as funny as it was when it happened. It was one of those you-had-to-be-there moments. But at my previous job, I was part of the second level support team and we all had a chatroom to communicate efficiently, and one day one of the supervisors came in bragging about how he’d spent so long tracking down this guy who’d left us a voicemail with no info except what city he was located in, and after calling every company building in the city, he’d finally got in touch with the guy.

I commented that he’d spent way too much effort on this guy, and this was (company name detracted), not Myst.

Everybody laughed and Sean said, “That was awesome, now do one for Sim Ant.”

I may be dating myself here. I don’t care.

I told him I can’t just do them, you have to set them up for me, and we went back to work.

About a week later – you know, long enough that something’s not forefront in your mind, but recent enough to remember it – one of the team leads sent an email that was ambiguous in meaning, and I was getting after him about clarifying. And Sean started making fun of me, going “Can you explain that? Be more clarified? What does that mean?”

And I said “It means Sim Ant.”

Now, keep in mind that we were working long hours, we were stressed out and exhausted, every one of us, to the point that anything would have been funny. It was a classic you-had-to-be-there moment, but I shit you not, none of them could talk for five minutes, they were laughing so hard. I didn’t think it was going to be that funny either, but at the time, in that mindset, it was.

Fast-forward to my last day, when there was no IVR message to record (my plan for my last day was always to record an IVR outage notification and end it with “this message will self destruct in ten seconds.”) I had another job lined up and was working out the last of my notice days. My team leader gave me explicit orders to log out of my phone and do something unproductive.

I had write access to their knowledge base (internal website that stores all the info and processes for the employees to do their jobs). There is, in that knowledge base, and still is, as far as I’m aware, behind a link under the subject matter expert heading that says “hymenoptera simulation.” If you click on it, it leads to a screenshot of Sim Ant that reads “Your health is low, find some food!”

Now, I’m too professional to do something like that on the 99’s website, but temptation is there. Oh it’s there.

That said, I may or may not have planted an easter egg on my website from my favourite vintage Windows DOS game. I also may or may not have spent two hours trying to get the game to run on Windows 7 to get the screenshot I wanted. If you find it, send me an email through my contact form, and I will come up with some kind of prize!

Achievement Unlocked

Last November I wrote the commercial written exam, and failed one section by one percent. If I’d got one more question right, I would have passed and it would be over with.

It’s the math that gets me, and it’s something that instructors don’t seem to understand how much trouble I really have with it. Actually, I shouldn’t say instructors – teachers all through school never got why I had so much trouble with math. Because I’me good at algebra, I understand it, and I can manipulate a formula without a problem. My problem is when the numbers start getting substituted for letters, I get lost. If I’m doing practice questions, it takes me longer than other people, because I lose track of numbers and because I know it happens, I’m constantly double checking my work and doubting my answers, but part of the problem is when I’m being taught these things, they go over a problem too fast for me to follow. I’m good at estimating though, if I don’t have to be precise, once I understand the concept behind something, but sometimes I get blindsided not realizing how much I missed out on learning when I miss the math stuff.

I’m a perfectionist, and at school I never had to try very hard at anything (except math) so a big part of my identity is bound up in being smart, but I’m also a victim of the phenomenon of easy success leading me to believe I’m not good at something if I’m not successful right away, the first time around. Failure hits me hard.

It didn’t help that home life got stressful right around them (that stress might have contributed to me not doing as well as I might have on the first writing of the exam.) Plus the whole day job thing I have to do due to my severe addiction to having food to eat and a roof over my head. Life happened. It’s been a year, and I spent my work vacation for the last week studying and agonizing over whether I was ready or not. I wrote one of the practice tests at Harv’s Air last night, and did reasonably well – passed with some decent wiggle room, and caught some of the mistakes I was making so I could make sure I didn’t do that on the exam. That did a lot to boost my confidence, getting seventy five percent, when a passing grade is sixty.

So I wrote the supplementary exam today for the section that I failed; General Knowledge. Eleven minutes into my hour and a half time limit, I looked and realized I was over a third finished. I hadn’t got to the math questions, but I’d answered most of them fairly confidently. The math ones, especially the weight and balance one I was so much more confident going into those than I was the first time around. And when I got the results (they give you the results right away, within a minute or so of you walking out the door of the exam room) I got all of the math ones right. I passed with eighty three percent, even higher than the practice exam.

I’m so glad to have that over with.

What’s next:

Next thing I need to get done is my three hundred nautical mile trip. I haven’t decided yet if I want to go East or West. My instructor says plan for both, and then do whichever one has better weather. I do what Sandra says because Sandra knows things.

It’s quite possible I might be doing this trip on skis. They’re putting skis on the plane sometime in January last I heard, and ski flying experience will be a good thing to have. I’ll have more vacation time to book next year, so I’ll see when the weather is likely to be nicest and then book some vacation time then.


COPA For Kids

COPA, for my American readers is Canada’s version of AOPA – the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. They, and other groups, have events where they invite kids to come take a plane ride. They organize a day where they get as many pilots and planes together as they can muster, and all morning and afternoon, planes are up and down taking kids for twenty minute plane rides. It’s about exposing young people to aviation, to let them get the chance to see if they enjoy it and encourage them to get involved.

I was at the EAA event earlier this summer, mashalling, and heard there was going to be another one for COPA, so I signed up to fly this time wth C-FLUG, the RAA 150.

I’ve flown at a busy airport, but mostly St. Andrews, where there’s the tower to tell you what to do, and worry about spacing. This event was as busy as the busiest day at St. Andrews that I’ve been flying, but the difference is Lyncrest doesn’t have a tower or air traffic control, so you’re responsible for spacing yourself. You have to pay attention to other pilots making radio calls, and make sure you’re making radio calls yourself to let other pilots know where you are. That and keep your eyes on the sky for other planes.

I think I did all right – I got some feedback about wide circuits, but I was just trying to stay behind the guy ahead of me who was doing a rather wide circuit. I did a couple circuits  alone before taking passengers, on the advice of the C-FLUG chief pilot, since it’s been a few months since I’ve been flying solo, even if I’ve still been flying.

It was neat to be involved in an event coordinating so many planes. At the briefing they went over what route we’d take. With that many planes in the air, having them all following the same route makes things much safer. We were all on the same frequency, and there were set points to make radio calls, and instructions for abbreviated routes if we had a kid starting to get sick and needing to get back quicker.

The air was the smoothest I’ve flown in months. Once the fog finally cleared, there was minimal wind, and once aloft, the plane sailed like we were barely moving.

I got two passengers. The first one was a boy, and he was excited to go flying. He was completely comfortable in the air, and I showed him what happens when you give the plane full rudder back and forth, and he wanted to do “the zero G thing.” Which is just a sudden pull up an then down, to give you a couple seconds of free-fall. It’s one of those things that can be frightening if your passenger’s not expecting it, and a little uncomfortable, but fun, and not at all dangerous.

My second passenger was a girl, and she was really nervous. I told her how my husband was nervous for his first time flying too, and I hope that helped. I wondered if I should have told her she didn’t have to go if she didn’t want to, but she didn’t seem unwilling, and while she told me she was scared several times, she never said she didn’t want to go. It was kind of interesting, reassuring a young passenger. I was never afraid of these sorts of things at that age – I had a bit of blind trust of adults then, and always assumed that no one was going to put me in physical danger. But I think it was good that she was telling me; expressing her feelings. That’s something I had trouble with at that age.

It didn’t help that she was hearing on the radio that bad weather was on it’s way either though. I wish I’d realized that it was the strobe light on the tail that she was mistaking for lightning, or I could have reassured her about that better. I didn’t do anything interesting on that flight with her – didn’t want to scare her any more than she was.

After two passengers, though, the rain swept in from the north-west and we were grounded again. It was a great day though; I love sharing my love of flying with others.

An Amusing Anecdote For You All

So, I have a smartphone – I’m an android girl, of course – I work in tech support, and 99% of tech support people do go with android. A few months ago, my phone started popping up with notifications about “Time to home.” I never paid that much attention to it, because I was pretty sure I’d never entered a home address into my google account, and it shouldn’t know where I lived.

Well a little while ago, I tapped on the notification, to see what it said. Lo and behold, the neatest thing, I realized the machine had been tracking where I carried it with me, and figured out where I live.

I live at Lyncrest Airport….

Limits: The Sky Is The Limit

Lots of limits in aviation, and different types. There’s weather limits, limitations of aircraft design, legal limits, even speed limits. (Yes, in certain places there are speed limits in the sky, though even those don’t apply if your aircraft stalls at a high enough airspeed.) And then there are personal limits.

Things like weather limits are easy to define, though not always so easy to implement. Stay five hundred feet from clouds vertically, and one thousand horizontally. Okay. *Gets in the plane.* Okay, there’s a cloud, how far away is it? Am I five hundred feet above it? (Is my instructor on board? No?) Sure, I’m callin’ that five hundred feet. Visibility can be easier to judge around Manitoba at least, since all the roads in southern Manitoba are mile roads, so you can just count how many roads away you can see to estimate visibility. But if it’s all trees, or water and lakes, you’re guessing.

Until you get into a control zone and they have terminal weather reports an tower control that can tell you the visibility is X. If you’re out busting VFR weather minimums, that’s generally when you’ll get caught, from what I understand.

Then there’s wind and crosswind – schools or anyone renting planes will have rules on how much wind you’re allowed to fly in. There will be a limit on wind in knots (usually twenty). And then a limit of gust factors – how much the wind is gusting up to – the low and high max. Gust factors of five of more take some special consideration when landing – you want to come in a little faster so that when the gusting disappears, you don’t suddenly find yourself near stall speed close to the ground.

Then there’s crosswind, and a school will usually give you a maximum crosswind factor you’re allowed to go out in. That’s, for the uninitiated, how much the wind is blowing across the runway. Obviously the easiest wind to land in, is a steady one, blowing straight at you, straight down the runway. The farther off the end of the runway the wind is originating, the trickier it is to deal with. Also, in a Pilot’s Operating Handbook, there will be a “demonstrated crosswind limit” which is basically what a test pilot has proven the plane can handle. It’s not a hard limit though. A good pilot may be able to land in a stronger crosswind than the POH has demonstrated if they know what they’re doing, and it’s not breaking any laws. Though it would likely be breaking school rules, if the pilot isn’t flying their own plane.

Of course, the wind can pick up and change  while you’re flying, which is why you want to get a weather briefing if you’re going anywhere far from the airport. Getting a weather briefing is important. It’s just a quick phone call, and you have someone on the phone that really knows their shit. A lot of new students, me included, are shy about calling flight information services, and feel like they’re a bother. But having talked to them some, I know now, we’re not a bother at all, any more than when I’m at work (telephone tech support) and customers call saying “sorry to bother you, but…” No, people answering phones in a call center are paid to answer phones and give you information. They’re always happy to talk to me, and I can see why my instructor encouraged me to call them as often as I like.

Lyncrest To Kenora

Flying in summer can be a bit exhausting – at least in a plane as small as a Cessna 150. The thermals really bounce you around. Tuesday I had calm winds forecast at least, so I headed out to Kenora to meet up with Timothy Gwyn, who writes science fiction about female pilots, and runs the Ice Patrol website, that connects with local pilots flying over some of the local lakes to report when the ice melts off the lakes in the spring and is clear for fishermen and boaters.

The weather is the weather, and when I got to Kenora, the tower gave me the wind at 9G17, almost straight across the runway. I’ve bailed on landings before when the wind was more than I thought I could handle, but that was a lot of hours of crosswind practice ago, and my limits have definitely shifted. I had just finished a day of practicing in 12G24, 40 degrees off the runway, so I was feeling pretty confident, and handled the landing like a pro. I hate that there’s never anyone in the plane with me or watching from the ground when I rock an awesome landing in challenging conditions. There’s always someone watching when I make a shitty one. Life’s not fair.

Anyway, I found the Walsten Air hangar and parked the old lady around the corner while Timothy Gwyn admired her snazzy new paint job, which, for pink, is pretty professional looking. When people hear it got painted pink, everyone always thinks “oh god, it’s going to be aweful….” but then they see it, and they say, hey, that actually looks pretty sharp.

Timothy Gwyn had promised me a tour of the King Air he flies, and despite being pressed for time, he did not disappoint. It was more than a tour, it was a whole ground school lesson, going into how a PT-6 turbo-prop engine is built kind of backwards from most turbine engines, and how the design affects the aerodynamics and performance of the plane. The last time I got to tour a big plane, I got to sit in the left seat and all, but I certainly didn’t get the detailed explanation of the whole instrument panel, from left to right. When you look at the instrument panel of one of those big planes, it looks so unbelievably complicated that how I ever keep all that straight. And yet, I know enough already that within the twenty minutes or so Timothy had to skim over it, the mystery was stripped away, and suddenly it wasn’t near so complicated. Just little machines spitting out information.

It really is a nice aeroplane, the King air. I can see why pilots talk about it the way they do. And it was good to get out on  a longer cross country again, and navigating in areas where there are fewer roads and man-made landmarks to navigate by. Need that to get ready for my 300 nautical mile trip, requirement for my commercial licence.

Discarded Passions

I used to draw and paint when I was younger, and have a ton of art supplies that I haven’t touched in years. I spent a lot of money on them, and had them packed away in a tackle box to keep them organized.

I’ve been writing for the last 16 years, and that’s the art that stuck with me. From an early age, even my art was about telling a story, so it makes sense that I eventually found my true passion in writing. Since thn I’ve also become a pilot, which is only the most awesome thing in the world.

So I figured I’d put away my art supplies in a box, and used that lovely tackle box for office supplies.

You know how when you pull out something you once loved, and suddenly you want to get into it again? I was thinking, I’m gona go through this stuff and suddenly I’m gonna want to draw or paint something again.

And I went through my art supplies and thought, “Shit man, I’m never gonna use any of this shit ever again.”

There was a distinct lack of nostalgic feelings. Nothing. Like the art thing was just something to do, something to justify my existence, something I did to please the people around me and get that pat on the head I so desperately needed. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s what it is. I was decently good at it, having practiced, and anything I was decently good at, I’d do it more because it got me positive attention. I don’t think I really differentiated between enjoying an activity and enjoying the attention I got for doing it.

It’s kind of a weird revelation. The stereotype is the young girl passionate about art, chasing her dream of being a professional artist, drawing and painting for the love of art. I was good at drawing, so I embraced the role. That’s a thing about Aspies – they imitate. I can’t even help it. At least now that I’m older, and I know I’m an Aspie and have that tendency, I can consciously pick and choose who to imitate, and what roles to embrace. Like my flight instructor – I can adopt her attitudes towards aviation safety, and aspire to one day fly as well as her.

But painting, it seems maybe there wasn’t the passion there that I thought there was. There was a lot of encouragement – way more than the encouragement I got when I took up flying. But with flying, the passion is there. It’s different. Writing too – I couldn’t stop writing, even if there was no hope of anyone ever wanting to give me money for it.

Anyway, I’m gonna go finish dumping my art supplies into a bin and see if my roomie wants any of it before I see about donating it to a school or something.

C-FLUG 50 Hour Inspection

The old lady had her fifty hour check-up the other day and is in perfect health.

There were a couple of us there to help out, which is cool because there’s some parts that are two person jobs. Like the cylinder pressure test – one person needs to hold the prop in place at top-dead-center (the point where both valves in the cylinder are closed) and one person turns on the air hose and reads how much pressure is being lost. That test cam out very well – Leon, the AME (aircraft mechanical engineer) said that he had done a pressure test on this very plane and engine shortly after the cylinders were replaced, and the results were not nearly as good. Apparently that’s one of those things that improves if the plane is being flown regularly.

The one thing that’s still a little bit sketchy is the mixture, and Leon figures the valve could be twisted a bit, or worn. The issue is the engine doesn’t shut down, but sputters when the fuel mixture is cut off, meaning there’s enough fuel getting to the engine to keep it just barely turning over. When it sputters and doesn’t die like that, they call it “dieseling.” The trick to getting it to shut down in that situation is to push the throttle in a little, and run the engine a bit harder to burn the fuel faster so that it starves and shuts down.

Worst case scenario, you can turn off the mags, and then there will be no spark in the cylinders to ignite the fuel, then the engine shuts down instantly. The problem with that, though, is it leaves unburned fuel in the cylinders, and firstly, that can cause fouled mags, as well as making it more likely the engine will start, and run longer in the case of a ground wire failure.

I haven’t had too much trouble getting the engine to shut down myself, but Leon figures some of the girls may have had more trouble due to pushing the throttle in too fast. If you push the throttle in fast, you engage the accelerator pump. It’s for when you need power fast, and gives the engine an extra shot of fuel if you ram the throttle to the firewall really fast. In case you’re abandoning a landing and need power to climb right away after having had the engine running on low power for a while. If if you do that when you’re trying to shut the engine down and starve it of fuel though, then suddenly you’re dumping a bunch of extra fuel into the engine.

Anyway, enough rambling about engines. Hopefully I can get out and do some circuits with the old lady today. She’s also got a new paint job.

Cross Country Time Building – Lousy Weather

So I hadn’t been flying so much for a while, first because of the stupidly cold weather grounding C-FLUG, then after, because I was working on Redwing because someone who matters may have offered to look at revisions.

But I’ve got back in the air, three times in the last week. Jill says C-FLUG missed me. I did some circuits, and the second day, once I was less out of practice, Jill went with me and commented she wished she could make all her landings like the three of mine she saw. I bet she tells all the girls that though.

Anyway, I’ve been on a couple of cross country flights with Jill in her Land Africa and her Pietenpol, to Lake Manitoba, and Beausejour, respectively. She let me fly and navigate both times, so it helped keep me in practice, but both times were impromptu, so I didn’t get any navlog planning done, and just flew by pilotage. It helped that it was familiar territory, with easy landmarks.

So when I planned to fly to the Carman Fly-In, June 8th, it was in a direction I’ve only been once during the day, not the area I spent most of my time training. I did my best to prepare, and got a weather briefing. They said there was a slow moving trough approaching, patches of showers, etc. I could see as much when I got to the airport, but the visibility didn’t look any worse than the ten mile vis I’d dealt with once before.

That day I went out in ten mile visibility, it was haze. Today it was different. It was virga and rain, and wind. When I took off, there was no wind on the ground. But when I hit about five or six hundred feet, I hit the turbulence, and it was rough. At one point, early on, one gust startled me enough to make me gasp. I honestly started thinking, holy shit, should I be turning back and not going?

Part of my decision to keep going was that Jill was flying ahead of me, and knowing that she was making it through that mess in an open cockpit plane that was lighter than C-FLUG. I looked around and the patches of rain were still only patches – there were spaces between them. The air was rough, but after the first few buffets, I kind of assessed how I was handling it before deciding what I was going to do. What I can handle is often a fair bit more than what I think I can handle, and I’m not the pilot I was when that one gust knocked my wings 45 degrees on my second solo cross country. I’ve got maybe eighty hours of flying since then, and I realized that yeah, it does make a difference.

I decided I’d keep going, as long as I was fairly sure I could turn back if I got someplace I couldn’t get past. The air got rougher when I got close to the murky patches of rain, so I stayed away from them. I flew around them, thinking all the while, as long as I can see a certain distance, I’ll keep going. And that distance was probably a fair bit more than the distance that would have been in a more experienced’s pilot’s head, but it was less than it would have been when I first got my license.

I didn’t get lost. I ended up significantly south of my intended course, trying to avoid the patches of dark  rain, but I never hit a point where I was expecting a landmark ahead and didn’t eventually spot it, unless I could see it was hidden in one of the dark patches. That certainly made navigation more difficult, but I managed.

It was definitely a learning experience, and it’s built up my confidence. When I thought back, it really was the worst weather conditions that I’ve flown through thus far as a pilot. I’ve flown through visibility as bad, but through calm air, and through rough air, but with good visibility, but this was both. It would have been nice to have had a 172 today, that wouldn’t have been buffeted around quite as much, but still, I learned a lot about where my limits are and what I can handle, and it really is so much more than what I could when I first got my license. I’m really pleased with myself.

When you learn to fly, they talk about personal limits a lot. Or at least my instructor did. So I always have that in mind, and on the one hand, you don’t want to get yourself into anything you can’t handle, but on the other, you don’t learn if you never push your limits. And that’s what time-building is all about. Practice, and learning, and experiences like this are a necessary part of the learning process.