Friday, November 18, 2011

Negative, 209 Kilo Romeo

Yesterday was my day off. I did the usual fun stuff like laundry, groceries (hit the market for the first time, 5 papayas for a buck and avocados as big as your head) and finally registered my motorcycle. The first time the office was closed as part of a statewide furlough program to save a bit of money. I was in line last week when I saw the proof of insurance requirement. I had insurance but of course didn't have the form with me. But third time's a charm. Guess how much these bastards charge to register a motorcycle? Five dollars, FIVE dollars, highway robbery.

I've flown a few times now. The first flight was a cruiser down the Southern coast. Pretty casual, me getting a feel for the machine and my instructor getting a feel for me, as in my general demeanor and ability to follow instructions. If one gets nervous while at the controls of a helicopter, those feelings travel through the fingertips and erratic movements are sure to follow. Because the controls are so sensitive, a firm grip is too much and one will pull the stick without realizing it. So the first flight was filled with little tips like that.

We also passed the controls back and forth several times. There is a specific three-step process involved in handing off control of the aircraft. If a pilot lets go of the controls of an airplane it will generally straighten itself out due to its inherent dynamic stability, mostly because its wings want to fly straight-and-level and need to be acted on by an outside force to veer from that state. If one lets go of the controls of a helicopter, which way the aircraft goes is anybody's guess but cross straight-and-level off your list of possible answers. So anyway, the instructor drills that into your head from the get-go. Apparently some folks have trouble understanding/remembering that.

Subsequent flights have been practicing patterns, basically flying rectangles just east of the airport. You gain altitude on two legs of the rectangle, descend on the other two to get a more precise feel for things and how moving one control will invariably require moving the other two. And you develop good cockpit management and scanning habits. Example: Making a turn to the downwind leg. "Clear to the right, clear to the front, clear to the left." "What about that 737?" "Well yeah, except for that 737, it's clear to the left."

After some patterns, with a general improving trend, time to ask air traffic control for permission to land. I've been using radios for a long time, so they don't intimidate me and I realize that the only way to get better at anything is to keep after it. So when Corbin asked me if I wanted to make the call, I said yes. We did the exchange between us, he said yep that's it, you got it, and I pushed the big red button. Somehow pushing that button caused a disconnect in my brain and I asked ATC to come to a full stop in a spot where stopping is frowned upon. So that's cool, I established a level to improve upon, I don't want to peak too soon. I screwed up a radio call to air traffic control and didn't have to buy anybody beer. This career path is way different than my last one.

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