Embracing Change: A New Flight School

In some ways, I’m a little strange when it comes to change.  It’s something I’ve always embraced fairly eagerly.  There’s something exciting about change and it’s usually a good thing. It means I’m stretching myself and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  It’s not ever easy but I find it to be exhilarating once you take that first step.  It feels like falling once you start and then; once you get your footing, it’s like a breath of fresh air.

Angela

I’ve never been one to settle for everyday ordinary but then again, I don’t look at daily life as just ordinary.  I try to embrace each day with the idea of seeing and experiencing something extraordinary.  I love to watch the sun rise as I drive to work each day.  Every day it’s different and every day it’s beautiful.  I’m thankful for each day that I have and I try to live it like it might be my last, just in case it is.

I’m really excited about the transition I made in flight training.  It hasn’t been easy, and almost everything about it has been different.  It slowed me down a bit on my way to get my license; but I’m okay with that, because I think the experiences I’m getting are invaluable to me.  I didn’t realize at first how different everything was going to be, changing airports, runways, planes, and instructors.  I struggled in changing planes the most, not so much flying but landing took a bit to get comfortable with in the Cessna.  Now that I’ve gotten landing the 172 down, I really love the way it lands.  I’ve had the best landings ever in it.  When it finally came together, it was a beautiful thing! The last time I went up to practice, I had one landing that was so light I barely noticed when the mains touched the ground.  It was an unbelievable feeling.  It really boosted my confidence.

JQF Tower
JQF Tower

Moving to a tower controlled airport has been quite the learning experience, every time something happens, it makes me glad I’m getting these opportunities to understand what to look out for and be aware of when I’m flying.  They all add to experience in knowing and understanding how to handle myself and the plane for any future encounters. 

The second time I flew out of Concord with a new instructor, on the way back in from practicing maneuvers, ATC had us follow two Blackhawk helicopters in for landing.  It was awesome watching them glide across the sky below us.  I set up to land and was at full flaps, low and slow and about 300 feet above the runway when the helicopters landed in front of us and stopped.  ATC told me to do a 180 and my instructor took over and told the tower, “Negative” and asked to go around.  There was no answer from ATC and he asked again if we could go around.  Suddenly, the helicopters took off and ATC cleared us to land.  It was quite tense for a few seconds there but we got landed safely.  The instructor said that was really good for me to see and he explained why it was dangerous for us to do a 180 at that point in our approach and why he declined.  He said he would have to explain to them afterwards why he declined the request. 

I’ve learned that setting up a 172 takes a bit of finesse in getting it trimmed correctly for landing when you’re not used to the trim wheel on the dash.  Learning which way and how to adjust it for speed took me a little bit, but now I understand it better than I did in the Cherokee.  My site picture was something else that I had to relearn, partly due to changing from a small runway to a large runway, and it’s different between the types of planes and how they sit.

Quebec
Quebec

I’ve flown three different C172’s now and each has it’s only personality and peculiarities about it.  I was getting really comfortable in Quebec when she decided not to start one day, and I had to switch to Golf.  Well, let’s just say that me and him didn’t get along at all.  I had the worst landings I’ve ever had in a plane in that one.  He has a tendency to like to drop on landings.  He almost crushed my confidence, but I decided not to take it personally and just not fly him again.  My instructor said not to book Golf ever unless it was the last resort. Yeah, there goes the confidence for sure, but he also said he doesn’t like that plane either and not to let it get to me.

Golf

I was going back in Quebec on the next lesson when her flaps wouldn’t extend during pre-flight.  It meant another change in planes for me, and I was worried that I’d struggle in a different plane after my experience with Golf. I agreed to give Victor a try at the encouragement of my instructor. 

Victor
Victor

I was tense and a bit nervous.  This was the first time I was staying in the pattern at Concord, and working with ATC the whole time, and in a new plane.  It wasn’t the flying I was worried about but the landing that really had me stressed.  I was given clearance for a left downwind. As we turned and approached midfield, I got the plane set up and started preparing for my landing.  Turning final, I’m set up at a good height and speed and I can feel my leg starting to shake a little from nerves.  I see the numbers and begin to change my focal point, start easing back on the power and gently start pulling back on the yoke.  I start talking to Victor, “Easy…settle…settle… flare,” and ever so gently, the mains touch the runway. Oh my gosh, I’m thinking to myself, “Did I really just land this thing that well?!”  While I’m still sitting in disbelief, my instructor says, “Good.”  “Flaps up, full throttle, carb heat off,” he continues as we move down the runway.  We are doing a touch and go, we were cleared by the tower for “the option.” 

Once airborne but still over the runway, ATC clears me this time for a right downwind approach. Oh great, I’ve only done a couple of right entries for landing so far and that always throws me off a bit from base to final.  It’s a different view from the command seat as I’m having to look across in front of my instructor to determine my position to the runway.  I overshoot the runway a bit, but I had extended my downwind approach a bit far so I’ve got time to get myself aligned.  I’m little lower than I should be but there aren’t any obstacles to clear on this end of the runway.  Here we go again, I’m still nervous and still not sure that last landing was real.  Again as I’m coming in for the landing, I start talking out loud to Victor again, “Easy…settle…gentle…flare,” and we are down again gently and still rolling.  “Flaps coming up, full throttle, carb heat off,” my instructor says again.  Rotation speed obtained and we are airborne again.  “Are you nervous today?” he asks me.  “Yes, and I still can’t believe that I just did those landings,” I say in a shocked voice. 

ATC comes back on, “Cessna, eight, niner, zero, two, Victor, cleared for left downwind, radio midfield.”  Okay, left approach again, good deal.  Another trek around the airport and another good landing behind me.  We are rolling and airborne again and ATC says, “Cessna, eight, niner, zero, two, Victor, cleared for right downwind, cleared for the option.”  “Really? Right again?  Good thing I love a challenge!” I say to my instructor.  He says, “I’m glad you see it that way.” 

Well, this was one of my best lessons so far.  ATC kept it interesting by having me do right and left alternating approaches which really got me comfortable with the right approaches finally.  Victor lands like a dream and I don’t want to fly any plane but him now.  I feel like he was made for me and together we rocked it.  I walked away from this lesson with more confidence than I’ve had in a while.  Talking with ATC is getting easier, I still stumble with my communication back at times but it’s coming together too.

Once on the ground and back for my flight debriefing, my instructor tells me to book Victor from now on because that was the best he’s seen from me yet.  He said that this is my plane. 

I thought changing planes would be the worst thing and apparently, sometimes it can be but again, you don’t know till you try.  Either way, I always learn something and each plane really does have it’s own characteristics.  I laugh thinking about flying Victor, because I associate the name ‘Victor’ with the vampire from all the Underworld movies, and I kept thinking about his character and how feisty, edgy and yet confident he always is in the movies. So, maybe my Victor is a little like that too, but whatever personality this plane has, he lands like a dream when I’m behind the control, and that makes this change completely worth it!  Sometimes you have to be forced into a change in order to find the right combination that helps you excel.  If it had been left up to me, I’d still be flying Quebec, and although we fly well together, it wasn’t like flying Victor.  The good thing is that I have two good options now if one isn’t available.

I’m continuing my training and very excited about the changes I’ve made.  I love flying, and while making these changes set me back a bit, I think it’s giving me a more well rounded experience in my path to becoming a pilot. I feel really good about my training as a whole and I look forward to every new opportunity that I get to experience even when the change isn’t easy. 

I hope that whatever situation you find yourself in that you learn to embrace change when it comes, and that you learn to look forward to the possibilities and opportunities that it can bring even if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a good thing at first.  Sometimes you might stumble along the way, but if you hang in there, it can be worth it.

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