The Good, The Bad, and The (Plane) Weird

It’s time for pilot bloggers to think back and reflect on the highlights (and lowlights) of their flying “careers”, even for those of us for whom it is an avocation rather than a vocation.

The Good

There have been so many high points, but there are two that are definitely the highest:

  1. The day I passed my checkride, I got to take my wife flying as a “thank you” for her patience while I obsessed over the studying and spent vast sums of money on flying.
  2. The day I landed at Oshkosh. I felt like I had finally arrived as a pilot, even if I wasn’t manipulating the controls, I was PIC because we were IFR and the guy in the left seat wasn’t rated.

The Bad

Oh, this is embarrassing. I’ve never told anybody but my wife the truth about this.

The worst thing that happened to me flying was on my very first flight. I had just signed up with the Rochester Flying Club, and had interviewed a couple of instructors, and one of them, Geoff, wanted to take me for a flight, as a first lesson. The weather wasn’t great – it was overcast and the visibility stunk. But Geoff was ok with it, and who was I to say no? I had read books about flying and how to fly obsessively, so things went pretty well doing basic maneuvers. But the lack of a good horizon was making me air sick. I didn’t want to mention it, but he clued in and we headed home. But as we got close, he still had me flying but just as we turned downwind suddenly I doubled over with a cramp. And instead of spewing out the mouth, my sphincter let go and I did something I hadn’t done since kindergarten. I guess that big vindaloo curry I’d had the night before hadn’t agreed with the air sickness.

Geoff was a trooper. He went into the FBO and got some carpet cleaner while I tried to sneak into the toilet to clean up. Even more amazingly, he agreed to continue training me.

The (Plane) Weird

Hmmm. This category is harder. One of my aviation pet peeves is the fact that when you check in with a new controller en-route, some of them expect you to read back the altimeter setting and will prompt you again if you don’t, and some get annoyed if you do. There is no consistency. I find that weird.

Another weird thing is when you go to fly a route that you’ve flown before, and you file the same clearance you got last time, but this time they give you an entirely different route. And once or twice, I’ve gotten a full route clearance for a totally different route, and after I’ve gotten my GPS reprogrammed and into the air they give you a re-route back to what you filed. Or when you file a good route and they give you a full route clearance with what you filed instead of just saying “cleared as filed”. The whole process of handling IFR routes and clearances between flight service and air traffic control (ATC), and between different ATC sectors is seriously fucked up. You’d think by now they’d have it straight.