Thursday, February 8, 2018

You've been a pilot all your life

You know me... my son would say "You've been a pilot all your life", and it's true.  I started with Estes rockets in 1st grade; migrated to Cox control line airplanes in 3rd grade; in 4th grade learned how to fly radio control and have done that ever since. My oldest son had a little tiger-woods effect - flew Citations and decided to serve his country from the back seat of an F-15 (amazing, right?).

In my younger years, I'd wait for the National Geographic to show up in the mail because there was always a Beechcraft ad on the back cover. Usually a V35B or maybe a King Air. I even wrote letters to Cessna, Beech, Piper and Gates in the 5th grade to ask for brochures to dream over. I had a 3 inch stack before it was all over.

My RC career has been pretty amazing.  I can feel myself in the airplane and got real good at what's called 3D flying.  It's making the airplane fly at the edge of what it's capable of.  For me, I can just feel the airplane and was pretty good at flying. This of course is measured by crash ratio :)

I have great memories of flying RC in my college years with my best friend Dan (OD). He flew a glider called the Gentle Lady that ultimately ended up being branded the "wicked bitch".  Anyway -- I've been a pilot my whole life.

Enter 2017.  With total support from my wife, it was time to go get my Private Pilots License (PPL) and fulfill a life long dream of piloting full size airplanes. I live in Sarasota, FL and work in Venice a few miles south.  The Venice Airport VNC is about a mile from my office, is an uncontrolled airport and has a lot of training going on. Perfect.

You may have seen the videos on youtube -- He's out of VNC and got me real excited. I studied those videos for weeks to get ready and start to learn.  The dude had a great style and I was hoping to get with him as my instructor (CFI). He also had been the owner of a flight school out of VNC called Sarasota Aero (, so I called and setup a Discovery flight ("disco") to get started.

After a few weeks of weather delays, my day had come.  I met with the new owner of Sarasota Aero (Shane), we climbed into Cherokee 07W (from the FLY8MA videos) and headed out on our flight. Shane reminded me a lot of my middle son who is 100% millennial. His approach to a disco flight was orientation and "let's see if I can get this guy sick." He didn't deter me. I signed up for lessons beginning asap.

Shane suggested King Ground School online training. I got setup and filled all of my spare time with the lessons.  Every day at lunch; after hours when my family was sleeping; full blast. He also suggested getting my FAA medical done -- which I passed.

On my way to work every day, I'd practice radio calls anytime there was a change in my car's direction. Venice Traffic; Audi TT17; Left base highway 41; full stop; Venice.

I was moving full speed towards the PPL.  I remember after my first flight, Shane said I'd have my solo by 10 hours. He could tell I was pilot material. ha

I flew 7 times with Shane. Here are some of my memories:

  • No ground prep before we went flying. He'd say "got any questions? let's go"
  • There was never a plan. It was more about overwhelming me with things we'd never discussed. One day he decided to fly us to SRQ and asked what the frequencies were there. Got upset that I didn't have them memorized (we had never flown there before). At the last minute he decided to fly to Punta Gorda instead. Once in the air he started quizzing me on operations of the VOR (I had no clue). Then throwing the GPS at me that I had never even touched a button on; then talk to the tower (no working; never done it before); then touch and go while a 737 waits for you. No planning; no conversation; just judgement. 
  • I always felt rushed. He didn't really want me to learn, he wanted me to get done. If I took so long during a run-up, he'd cross him arms and tap his foot. His attitude was more like "I already know how to do this, why are you taking so long"
  • Not once did he say "you have the airplane" or "I have the the airplane". He'd bleed in rudder without me knowing; he'd grab the controls... and then let go and ask why my altitude was off. Dude, who's flying the plane?
  • He made fun of every other airplane he saw. (ex: The cirrus ($500k) is crap.  Can't get out of a spin. ha ha ha) Never a positive note.
  • He made derogatory comments about the other flight schools and pilots at VNC.
  • No coaching thru a landing. He'd just wait to see what I was doing; grab the controls and then say something like "that didn't go well". 
  • He'd get us yelled at by cutting in front of someone on final.  "Come on let's go. He's a ways out" as the guy on final was yelling at us on the radio.
  • He'd get mad and quiet if I wasn't doing something right. I mean, he'd stop talking altogether like a hormonal high school girl. 
  • He'd come to the lesson in a bad mood. I'd call him out on it and he'd just say yeah, I'm working thru some things.
  • As a millennial, he didn't like the fact that I had to wear a tie, had a successful career by going into an office and working all day; drove a nice car (said I should "practice humility"); and supported my family. 

My dream is over.  I'm very thankful that I got to try it out, but somedays feel ripped-off.   One of my PPL friends suggested that Shane was not an instructor who loved to fly and loved to teach, but simply a guy trying to build hours. Probably right Big Jim!

My son also suggested to try another CFI... that might happen one day but for now I can enjoy the good memories of flying.  It's like childbirth, I'll just forget all the bad memories. My interaction with a millennial in the wild just bolstered and reinforced my view of that generation.

I do believe that if I was allowed to walk up to the Cherokee or F152, at my own pace, I'd have ZERO problems all the way thru a solo. No problems.

I've been a pilot my whole life.

My only PPL Picture