Monday, August 30, 2010

Mixture Madness

Today I had the pleasure of learning more about the integral guts within Bob's airplane.  This past weekend his mixture gave him quite a surprise upon starting when it flew (no pun intended) right in, with no resistance whatsoever. The culprit was a worn ball joint assembly that attached the mixture control rod to the arm that leans and richens the mixture attached to the fuel injector.  When such the mixture rod disconnects from this arm, the mixture is stuck at the previous setting and cannot be changed; this can be hazardous when changing altitudes and unable to adjust the mixture.  This issue lead us to the airport tonight, to take out that joint to set out and see if it can be easily replaced.  Excuse my very non-technical terms and explanation above and enjoy some pictures of the pieces:

(Click to enlarge) A. Mixture Control Rod B. Mixture Control Arm C. Ball Joint Assembly D. Fuel Injector

This joint is threaded onto the control rod. The hole at the top is where it connected to the arm on the fuel injector.

Bob taking out the ball joint assembly.
 Lovely night at the airport

Update 8/31: Replacing the worn piece proved to be inexpensive.  Yay for a $3 replacement at Aircraft Spruce:! That makes Bob a happy man :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Second class medical: achieved. Oh sweet blissful relief! Apparently the FAA will keep track of me for two years to make sure all is well, then let me be. I'll take that over the alternative any day. This whole experience proves to me more than ever that this is where I am supposed to be; time to celebrate.

Tick tock tick tock....

Ambition is like love, impatient both of delays and rivals. ~Sir John Denham

I am an overly ambitious woman and when it comes to my aviation career, patience gets thrown out the window. Today I  had an appointment I had been looking forward to, yet dreading at the same time.  Today was the day I would meet with an aviation medical examiner and see if I would qualify for the second class medical certificate required for commercial pilots.  

I woke up before my alarm due to nerves and left extra early for the hour and a half hike to Saginaw to visit the "miracle worker" AME.  Due to my early departure and little traffic I arrived a half hour early early and had a chance to catch up on some aviation magazines while I waited. 

Dr. Greg Pinnell is a private pilot and a flight surgeon through the USAF, he is very involved in the aviation world (he met Harrison Ford several time-I told him he had to hook me up) and hates to see a pilot grounded due to medical reasons.  He doesn't just sign off everybody and anybody on their medicals, but he knows how to present it to the FAA as well as figure out the best course for the pilot.  His office, OK2Fly, is housed within Valley Aviation at Saginaw Browne Airport (KHYX) featuring two asphalt runways hidden within miles of cornfields.

After a successful eye test, blood pressure test, and "coordination" test (actual it's the time you pee in a cup but that's what he called it, LOL) we got started on filling out the paper work.  He looked over my form 8500-7 and visual field testing results and concluded that there were no issues with those.  His concern, however, was the laser treatments and the fact that there be more in the future.  He called upon a fellow doctor to get his opinion as to if this would hinder my getting my medical certificate.  Unfortunately, we had to leave a message but expects to hear back from him today.  So...I wait...ever so impatiently. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My new employer is in the newspaper

Aviation advocate joins commission
Originally published August 23, 2010

By Patti S. Borda

Aviation advocate joins commission

Photo by Sam Yu

Jon Harden has a real interest in aviation. Here, Harden checks out the engine of his Pitts S1S aerobatic biplane that he keeps at the Frederick Municipal Airport. Harden is also the newest member of the Frederick Airport Commission.

A flight from a frozen Wisconsin lake more than 40 years ago indirectly landed Jon Harden on the Frederick Airport Commission.

Harden, who has been appointed to a four-year term on the commission, is a pilot whose love of flying started when he was a child: The day he took off in a Piper Cub on skis from that frozen lake in his native Wisconsin. He remains friends with the pilot who took him on that first adventure.
From that day he decided he wanted to learn to fly and took a few lessons in high school until money ran out. He could not afford to learn until after college, he said.

Once he had his license, he said he realized he wanted a job in the aviation industry. He compared flying with skiing or boating because of the way it consumes enthusiasts "once it's in your blood."

Harden began a career in aviation insurance 30 years ago. He had been with aviation insurer Avemco in Frederick for 17 years when he was let go, and it was the best thing that ever happened to him, he said.

He started his own company based in Frederick: Aviation Insurance Resources. Several Avemco colleagues joined him, and he remains friends with others.

Aviation Insurance Resources has offices around the country, but Frederick is special, Harden said, because it is the home of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Avemco and other aviation-related groups.
"Frederick is one of the best aviation communities in the country," he said.

The airport benefits the whole community, not just the corporate users and recreational fliers, and it has potential to do more, he said.

Many airplanes are already based at the airport, and a new control tower could attract others. With those planes come job opportunities and revenue from fuel sales, he said.

With so many national and international companies located in Frederick County and in the Washington, Baltimore region, Frederick's airport is ideally situated for corporate traffic, he said.

"Not a whole lot of cities have an airport so convenient," Harden said.
Having the tower would not mean larger planes would use the airport, but some corporate jets are not permitted to fly into airports without a tower, he said. Frederick could attract traffic that has been going to nearby Hagerstown and Westminister instead.

Harden said he thought he had something to contribute when an opening came up on the Frederick Airport Commission. It has only an advisory role, but he wants to do what he can to help the airport realize its potential.

"I think our previous commissioners have done a great job," he said. "It's a good thing for a citizen to get involved in something they have some expertise in."

The airport is an asset to Frederick, he said. "It sure does add value to the community. ... Everybody benefits from it."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Visual Field Test

Field Testing Machine
I had my visual field test today, it's a pretty interesting test, yet also boring at the same time.  First step is you become a pirate (arg!) by putting an eye patch over one eye.  Next, the pirate sticks their head into the contraption and peers into a dome with a little orange light in the middle.  When the test starts the pirate will see very small flashes of light, from very bright to very dim appear throughout the bowl.  The pirate is given a clicker to click each time he or she sees a flash of light.  The lights can appear very fast and make the pirate feel that they are clicking to much, as can they appear slowly, making the pirate think they had missed something.  The trick is to always look straight ahead towards the orange light and blink often, otherwise the pirate may be seeing spots that aren't really there!  The test goes on for about five minutes on each eye (that's where it gets boring) and the pirate hears a beep with each click of the clicker (which gets obnoxious) but all in all is harmless.  Luckily, the spot where I (I mean, the pirate!) am blind did not seem to affect the test  results much  and the doctor checked that area again concluding that it is healing well.  Next step is to take the test results to the AME on Thursday.  

P.S. They did not let me keep the eye patch, I can no longer play pirate.

102 Posts!

The day I became a pilot: I had no idea where  it would lead me!
Somehow I passed my 100th post without marking the occasion.  So cheers to the 102nd post!  This blog is still pretty new, but I believe it to be a lot more beneficial to myself and has helped me connect with many more aviation enthusiasts, current friends and avid blog readers than my previous.   Since this blog's first posting, my site visits have increased 190.9% (whoa) and has had visitors from all over the United States as well as 11 other countries. I'm surprised at the amount of time I have dedicated to it and how I tend to "miss" blogging when I haven't for more than a day or so.  So much has happened since my first posting from aerobatic flights to written exams to airshows; from new airports and a new career to medical issues which tested my faith and strength.  Looking back at those past five months, however, it is great to see how much I have grown-as a pilot and as a person; which reminds me that every experience is a chance to learn and to build.  So let's toast to 102 more posts, full of growth, adventure and hopefully a few good literary pieces!  :o)

Favorite Flight: Aerobatics in a Pitts
Blog Highlights:

Flying Couples (also see additions one and two)


Go Pee Girl!

Interested in connecting with more blogging pilots? Check out:!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ice Pilots

Boyfriend and I were just discussing that they need to make a TV show about Alaskan bush flying, kind of like Ice Road Truckers.  It turns out, there is!  Can't wait to catch up on the reruns!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Awesome new hot air balloon!

I mentioned it in my old blog, but have yet to share this amazing experience here on this new one. Last year, in October, Bob surprised me with a fantastic hot air balloon ride (gold star for you, boyfriend!) that departed near Smoketown Airport near Lancaster, PA. It was amazing not hearing a thing as we floated through the air, it was pure silence minus the occasional puff of fire to keep the balloon from descending.   Our ride was an half an hour longer than anticipated because it was difficult for the pilot to find a decent landing spot under our wind conditions; we didn't mind one bit!  We ended up landing in a church parking lot, surrounded by the Amish assisting us to put the balloon away.  As good flights always begin and end, we enjoyed a great lunch just a short walk from the airport (loooved the coconut cream pie) and dinner with my uncle who only lives ten minutes away.  Check out the slideshow of our ride below (glad I no longer have that hair!)-can't wait to do it again!

The whole reason I brought that hot air balloon trip up is to share the following article I just found and to hint to Bob that someday we need to ride this thing!  The article notes it as a "terrifying" experience-I find it absolutely exciting!

If taking to the skies in the traditional wicker basket wasn't enough for you then the first glass bottomed hot air balloon is sure to make the knees wobble.

The balloon with a transparent floor, made its maiden flight at this years' Bristol International Balloon Festa, Europe's biggest balloon festival. The balloon is designed to carry two passengers and two pilots on glass just two inches thick. 

Although the Palletways Dragon Balloon won't make it easy to keep your lunch down, compared to other designs at this year's fiesta, it can be considered "sensible". Among the other 150 balloons joining it in the sky are a motorbike with a helmeted rider, a huge wine box, a Jaguar car and a dog.  

The creator of this stomach-wrenching basket was invented by Christian Brown, who despite many years flying balloons, is the first one to admit this is a "terrifying experience".  

As reported by flight in an article written in 1967, looking back out how the balloon fired its way into the skies. In the 1950s NASA first pioneered the hot air balloon as a way of brining its spacemen back to earth after the ship had burnt out, the burner was radio controlled and a total of three re-entries were made using this technique. 

In 1960 an American company, Raven Industries used NASA's balloon to begin production. Soon after a British company emulated the success in America and turned hot air ballooning into a sport. 

More recently in 2009 the Ultramagic MV-22 hot air balloon brought performance and racing balloons to a new level as a more streamlined shape allowed it to move quicker. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The calm after the storm

Tornado sirens were blaring and the wind was howling as I clenched my teeth watching our picnic table hurdle towards the sliding glass doors.  Luckily, it settled back down and the doors are intact.  It was a very intense storm and I see more red dots on the radar to come.  However, I took some time during our storm "break" to go outside, inspect the damage and take in the fresh scents of wet nature and admire the calm lake.

Update: turns out it was a tornado! Tiny one, but a tornado just the same!

Happy Aviation Day!

I woke up this morning happy to hear today is National Aviation Day.  I had no idea such a thing existed!  Apparently August 19th is Orville Wright's birthday and in 1939 then president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, designated this date National Aviation Day in order to celebrate the history and the future of aviation.  So take a moment today to think how far we've come since the day of the Wright Brothers and channel their energy to encourage all those future and current aviators out there!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Delays are common in the flying world from weather to mechanical issues.  I have experience many of those delays which have delayed my flight training as well.  My worst training delays have been that in money, time and now several surgeries! 

My left eye was treated two weeks ago for a retinal detachment and some tears and is healing very well.  It stayed dilated for two weeks (it's supposed to last only six hours) so they used a less intense one this time.   I now can notice at times the section that I am blind in that eye but the doctor said it was always there; I am only noticing it now because it had been pointed out to me.  My right eye usually takes over fast and it does not affect me.  My right eye had some holes and tears lasered today and I will have to see a retinal specialist in three weeks, once I am in Maryland, to make sure that all is healing well in that eye as well.  

Monday I return to my present retinal specialist for a visual field test as well as have a FAA form 8500-7 (Report of Eye Evaluation) filled out.  These are two important things that are important for a pilot to bring to an aviation medical exam when you have had a retinal detachment.  My ophthalmologist assured me that the visual field test is very boring and that I will want to fall asleep.  He said to use my flying career as motivation to stay awake through it.  Basically, you put your head in a machine and for about 15 minutes you press a button when you see a light.  Without this form and test, an aviation medical examiner cannot determine that you are fit to fly and therefore will delay your medical.  After I receive these I plan to in the same week visit an AME and make sure that I can get my 2nd class medical (required to fly for hire) or any medical at all.  So any prayers or well wishes are greatly appreciated.  I'm apprehensive about this because it is so important, but I'm keeping my chin held high.

My commercial pilot will not be finished this month as planned.  It's time to take care of my medical issues and focus on my new job.  My grant money is all used up and to train in Maryland it will cost at least $2k extra to learn a new retractable gear aircraft since they do not have the same type I flew in MI.  So, I plan to complete my training at my school in MI (maybe freshing up in MD a bit) in a weekend or two when time allows.  I WILL complete it this year as will I receive my CFI. So there :)

I have been partying non-stop since Friday, what a blessing my crazy family is and it was so great to see all of the out of towners! I'm, bummed all of the fun has had to come to an end so quickly and so painfully; the laser treatments give me HUGE headaches and I am getting my wisdom teeth out Friday!  Luckily, I have some great friends willing to stay home with me this weekend and laze about and watch movies as I will not be going into public with my puffy cheeks and bloody looking eye.

"Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight (haha! the pun was not intended) of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs."  Mario Andretti

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back in the Air

This evening I took my first flight post surgery and I did just fine, my eye problems have not affected my flying at all.  I signed up to have an instructor along just to be on the safe side; it turns out he wasn't really needed, but he got to enjoy a scenic flight.  I didn't set aside this time to be a lesson because I have a lot of family in town for my grandfather's 80th birthday bash this past weekend.  I took my cousin, Stephanie, from Colorado along to enjoy her first flight in a small airplane.  We departed from Pontiac (which was very windy) and had a surprisingly smooth ride to my lake.  Once there, we did many tight circles around the lake with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins waving from the paddle wheel boat and off of the dock.  I even got a text from my uncle on my cell phone "We saw you in the air" and my cousin got a voice mail from her mother saying, "we saw you flying, just thought I'd let you know." It was quite a hit.  It wasn't as big of an airshow as my boyfriend did for us on my aunt's lake yesterday on his flight home, but his plane has a little more 'umph'.  Needless to say, it was great to fly some family members over the other family members.  Steph was nervous at first but ended up really enjoying herself; all she kept saying was, "this is so cool!" I love taking people up for their first flights and I was so happy to be back in the air :o)


Toriafly has broken into the aviation industry.  I finally have a job related to what I have trained and have been educated for!  In just two short weeks I will be the proud employee of Air Pros

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Power of Friendship

This is a non-aviation related post. Ok well maybe kind of because it has to do with my surgery.  I was really upset about it obviously because everything has been put on hold once again.  I came back from Frederick to a redecorated bedroom.  It had been taken over by my beautiful friends Rakhi and Tara to cheer me up, encourage me and to show me that I am loved.  My room had banners, stickers and hidden presents (to include a cute puppy dog stuffed animal and a whoopie cushion under my pillow) all over it.  My closet was even filled with streamers-making it an adventure to get to my clothes!  It really reminded me that no matter what happens in my flying career, I truly am blessed.  A big thank you to them and let it be known that if I am ever need of some redecorating in MD, they better be hopping on a plane in a jiffy ;)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Love this poem

When this life I'm in is done,
And at the gates I stand,
My hope is that I answer all
His questions on command.
I doubt He'll ask me of my fame,
Or all the things I knew, Instead,
He'll ask of rainbows sent
On rainy days I flew.
The hours logged, the status reached,
The ratings will not matter.
He'll ask me if I saw the rays
And how He made them scatter.
Or what about the droplets clear,
I spread across your screen?
And did you see the twinkling eyes.
If student pilots keen?
The way your heart jumped in your chest,
That special solo day-
Did you take time to thank the one
Who fell along the way?
Remember how the runway lights
Looked one night long ago
When you were lost and found your way,
And how-you still dont know?
How fast, how far, how much, how high?
He'll ask me not these things
But did I take the time to watch
The moonbeams wash my wings?
And did you see the patchwork fields
And moutains I did mould;
The mirrored lakes and velvet hills,
Of these did I behold?
The wind he flung along my wings,
On final almost stalled.
And did I know I it was His name,
That I so fearfully called?
And when the goals are reached at last,
When all the flyings done,
I'll answer Him with no regret-
Indeed, I had some fun.
So when these things are asked of me,
And I can reach no higher,
My prayer this day - His hand extends
To welcome home a Flyer.

- Patrick J. Phillips

A bit frustrated

My left eye is not as bloodshot looking as it once was, but is still dilated, causing my vision to not be the best.  It is hard for me to read and I feel that my depth perception is a bit off.  I called the doctor's yesterday and they said it was common for people with blue eyes to stay dilated this long and to check on it tomorrow.  No change.  I had to leave a message with a gal to call me back, so we'll see what they have to say.  Not that I can visit them at the moment, because I am still in Frederick.  I signed up for a few lessons when I get back so I can get in the air before my next surgery.  Hopefully my vision is back to normal or doesn't affect me as much by then.  I really really really still want to finish my commercial before I move and if my eyes and my doctors cooperate, I think it can happen.  Otherwise, if I complete it in Frederick, it is going to cost me a lot more money because I will have to get used to a non-Cessna retractable gear aircraft.  Which would be awesome and all, if I had the funds.  Also, whether or not I nab this job comes into play as well.  So I'm waiting and it's frustrating because I'm a doer, not a gal who waits real well.  Presently I'm waiting on my slow cooker to slowly cook and for Bob to get home to munch on the BBQ chicken I'm making for him.  This past week has been a good test for both of us, I think we're going to do OK at this whole living together thing. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Eyed Pilots

Post surgery my eye is still pretty blurry but it is expected to return to normal soon.  It's scary when you are told that you may not be able to receive an aviation medical due to having this surgery, especially when  I was ok to fly before the surgery and will see no different after the detachment.   It's also scary that if it hadn't been caught, it could have been way worse; I may have lost my sight in that eye. I have received overwhelming encouragement from many pilots determined that I will still be able to pursue my career, one of which is a private pilot with monocular vision.  It got me curious as to how many other people like him were out there  successfully flying with sight from one eye and I was surprised that the results:

Jay Adkisson: Jay is a sucessful author, financial and legal speaker and creater of  He is also the founder of, a website that serves as a support group for those that only have the use of one eye.  Jay drew on his own experience when creating this website as he lost an eye to cancer.  Following this experience, Jay was still able to become a private pilot, and is very active.

Bruce Pied: Bruce is a commercial pilot with monocular vision and has flown a flawless record for several tourism and cargo companies.  Pied's name hit the headlines in 1990 when he applied to be a pilot for Aloha Islandair in Hawaii and was not hired.  He brought Aloha Islandair to court and was awarded $1.4 million. determining that Aloha Islandair was discriminating against the pilot.  The decision was later reversed stating that Pied was not hired for other reasons; he is presently flying for another cargo company.

Edward Mick Mannock: Mannock was an Ace Pilot in WWI and was often dubbed the "one-eyed Ace".  He was not blind, however had contracted an extreme infection at a young age that caused the sight in his left eye to be extremely weak.  Mannock took naturally to flight and was awarded the Victoria cross and holds the record as Britain's highest scoring ace.

Wiley Post: Wiley was a performer in the fabulous barnstorming days and jumped out of planes in airshows to make ends meet.  He longed to be a pilot and started saving money he earned at an oil company in Texas to buy a plane.  It was on this job that Wiley received an injury that caused one of his eyes to have to be removed.  He became even more determined and learned to fly using only one eye.  In  July1933 Wiley became the first person to fly around the world; he did it in eight days.

So there's my Google research for the day :) Let me know if you happen to find other good one-eyed flyin' stories!  Have monocular vision and worried about gaining a medical?  Yay for the Wikipedia siting the FARs: An individual with one eye, or effective visual acuity equivalent to monocular, may be considered for medical certification, any class, through the special issuance section of part 67 (14 CFR 67.401). (

Monday, August 9, 2010

Update from FDK

I am 3/4 of the way moved in and it's starting to feel more like home, I'm even starting to learning my way around more.  Had a second interview with an aviation insurance broker today, it seems like a really great company that I would enjoy being a part of.  It's just a waiting game right now.  Also in the waiting area is my eyes at the moment.  Luckily the gentleman that I have been interviewing with is friends with one of the best retinal specialists in the country who happens to be a pilot as well as resides in this area.  So now there are less worries about finding myself a decent specialist to visit upon moving.  His understanding and his willingness to find me help regarding my visual health situation made me even more excited at the prospect of working with this company.

I drove up to Hagerstown Airport today after the interview to assist Bob assist on his airplane's annual inspection.  I did this last year and loved the hands on experience and learned quite a bit.  His A&P has a wealth of experience and is a natural teacher and fun to talk with.  Last year Bob's annual could not be completed and we flew back to Frederick with the A&P in a Beech Baron, with me in the left seat!  It was so much fun and yay for free multi time!  I was sad to learn that the gentleman who owned that aircraft flew into known iceing and crashed, destroying the airplane and killing the pilot and his wife.  It's a strange feeling when you learn that an airplane you had once piloted met such a horrid dimise.

On a more positive note, I am presently relaxing and watching Click with Bob after some great margaritas and mexican food and not to forget....the Superman ice cream :)  Tomorrow I may get checked out at Frederick Flight Center and/or take a discovery flight at the helicopter school, we'll see where the wind moves me (and depending on my blurry eyesight).  I'll propbably do a bit more job hunting just in case as well.  Until then, Toriafly out :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pilots Stick Together

It is really amazing what a warm and friendly group pilots are.  The second I was worried about my surgery and aviation future many pilots (most whom I only speak to online and have never met in person) were ready to jump to my aid.  Many sent best wishes while many offered advice and assistance.  One who gave me even more hope (and made me feel slightly whiny) is a new friend I met on myTransponder (it's like a Facebook for pilots) who only can see out of one eye, yet is still flying fabulously.  He knew first hand what I am going through and jumped in immediately, not even knowing me, to offer me encouragement and advice.  As another internet pilot friend wrote to me, "we pilots have to stick together."  When you are in a circle of pilots, I know firsthand that you are guaranteed many fun stories, but you are also guaranteed overwhelming support. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Quick Update

My eye still looks like someone socked me in it and my head still hurts, but all is well. I made it to Maryland just fine and have a car full of my stuff to unload.  Looking forward to interviews in the coming week and helping Bob with his airplane annual. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reasons are Many

I admit I panicked and lost all hope yesterday.  It happens when your doctor tells you that you may never be able to do what you have worked so hard for for so long.  It gets even worse when he asks you what your "backup" is.  Luckily I have the great support of all those around me, flight instructors determined to help, friends there to encourage me and a boyfriend who insists everyone is wrong but him and that everything will be ok :)  I believe everyone comes into your life for a reason and sometimes those reasons are many.  There are many reasons my boyfriend is in my life, but one the main ones is that he always tell me to calm down and that everything will be alright.  The reason my flight instructor is in my life to always offer encouragement and tells me he'll always fly with me, even with the threat of being blind.  I thought the reason my aerobatic/Cirrus instructor was in my life to teach me more things and to experience more aircraft.  Well, he has another reason too, the fact that he has a similar problem and is a successful aviator, including the aerobatics, gives me a lot of hope.  He got me in contact with a aviation medical examiner who is guaranteed to be a lot of help.  So I'm still kicking, I'm still trying, I don't stay down for long!

Just went on Facebook and did one of their apps that randomly send you a message for the day that mimics the mindset I need to form right now.  It was messages from God (well, it's probably just a message made up by the app programmer randomly sent to you-but maybe God has a way of hacking in and sending me a message meant just for me):

Yes, of course, you want to control so everything happens in just the way you want it. But at the end of the day, we control nothing, - it's all in God's hands, - has always been, and will always be. So, do what you can, and then let go, and let God handle the rest.

P.S. I promise to have a fun, exciting, or educational aviation post coming up soon.  No more of this aero-medical drama!

UPDATE: Talked to the AME, he says I should be able to fly and once I get my second surgery I'll have my ophthalmologist fill out some paperwork to bring up to him in Saginaw to get working on my case.  So that's good news. He did say, however, to consider my aerobatic career over that it is too much of a risk.  I'm upset, but as long as I can still take to the skies, I will be grateful for that :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My eye

 is mended. It was scary and painful. I am no longer allowed to do aerobatics and it is doubtful whether I will be able to become a commercial pilot at this point. My heart is breaking.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Shoe Dropped

Becoming a commercial pilot has had many ups and downs over the past few years, I've had to put off the dream many times.  It's very hard to just sit and wait on the sidelines.  I've experienced and learned so much this year and have been plowing towards this commercial rating at such a great speed I couldn't help but think in the back of my head, "ok, what's going to stop it this time?" especially with me being so close!

I went for a routine eye exam to get new glasses last week, the doctor wanted me to visit a retinal specialist due to the fact that I am very near sighted and she saw stretching on my retina.  Near sighted people are born with eyes that are too large and the eye is stretched and can cause stretching, tears and retinal detachment.  I have been warned that I am very high risk for this before and doctors have said they wanted to monitor the stretching.  I went into the retinal specialist today assuming that I would come out ok, but the doctors would want to continue monitoring the stretches (thinner spots) on my eye.  This was not the case.

Apparently both of my eyes have substantial tears surrounding both eyes and part of my retina in my left eye is detached with fluid filling into it.  If this were to go unfixed, I could lose my eyesight.  I am scheduled to have surgery on the most troublesome eye, the left tomorrow; then will have the right done when I come back from my trip to Frederick next week.  The surgery is done with a laser that will seal up these holes and tears.  Unfortunately, this is not the surgery that can fix my eye sight-I wish!  I'm saving up for that though.  My eyesight will have to be monitored following my surgery and I will be requiring yearly appointments for the rest of my life with the retinal specialist to monitor my eyes.  My doctors assured me I will keep my sight because we caught it soon enough.

It's not the surgery that scares me or necessarily the thought that I could have ended up blind.  I am depressed because it may stop my flying.  I can see just fine and have had no issues; if I did not decide to get new glasses I would not have gone to the consult.  This surgery however, will cause an aviation medical examiner to not grant me my pilot's medical certificate and defer it to the FAA.  This I confirmed through the Airplane Owners and Pilots Organization (AOPA) medical hotline.  I then signed up for the AOPA Medical Services Program to help me through the process of appealing for my medical to the FAA.  They will follow my case closely and help me fill out any and all necessary paperwork.    My instructor feels safe still flying with me so I can continue my commercial training, however, it is up to my checkride examiner if she feels safe to take a checkride with me.  So there we have it, the other shoe has dropped.  I may not be able to receive the medical required to become a commercial pilot and I may not even be able to take the final checkride to become one.  

As I always do when something like this happens, I take charge and fight.  Getting the AOPA Medical Services Program was part of that.  For now, I will just keep my chin up and hold strong to the fact that flying is what I am destined to do.  I am determined to live by the following quote during this trial:

The last of the lonely places is the sky, a trackless
void where nothing lives or grows, and above it, space itself. Man may
have been destined to walk upon ice or sand, or climb the mountains or
take craft upon the sea. But surely he was never meant to fly? But he
does, and finding out how to do it was his last great adventure.
— Frederick Forsyth


On a more upbeat note, I was curious as to where the "waiting for the other shoe to drop" phrase came from.  It has been traced back to this story, which may have started it:

A man comes in late at night to a lodging house, rather the worse for wear. He sits on his bed, drags one shoe off and drops it on the floor. Guiltily remembering everyone around him trying to sleep, he takes the other one off much more carefully and quietly puts in on the floor. He then finishes undressing and gets into bed. Just as he is drifting off to sleep, a shout comes from the man in the room below: “Well, drop the other one then! I can’t sleep, waiting for you to drop the other shoe!”

You can read more on it here if it sparks your interest as much as it did mine :)

---> I'd like to thank everyone for their support and concern, big shout out to Bob, mom and Tara for being there for me today.  Also thanks go to Jeff, my new Facebook friend and a counselor for FAAST for his offering his assistance!

UPDATE: I can still take my checkride :D

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Itchy and Tired!

What an interesting night yesterday turned out to be!  This little requirement of a dual night cross country for my commercial rating has been looming over my head for awhile now and it was about time I got that checked off.  My usual instructor Joe is becoming increasingly popular and there hasn't been a chance for me to schedule time with him.  So, I turned to my Cirrus share selling/aerobatic buddy, Don, to be my CFI for the night.  

We hopped into aircraft #1 for the night (there would eventually be three in the count) and was all started up and ready to go when we realized that Don's side of the intercom wasn't working.  We tried every button, dial and knob to get it to work but we could still not hear him.  I resolved to turn off the airplane so as not to burn more time on it and we tried to troubleshoot the problem.  After trying my headset in the right side jacks we determined it was not a headset problem, but an aircraft problem.  On to airplane numero dos.  By the time we were testing out the second aircraft, I was convinced we were missing something; we had the same issue with airplane #2.  By this time my late night slap happiness had kicked in, it was 11:00 at night and Don was screaming into the headset trying to break the squelch.  I lost it; I laughed my little butt off.  Just before we started airplane #1 a student pilot and CFI had taxied back in; that airplane's intercom had to work and it did!  Offering another challenge, there was not sufficient gas for us to stay in safety margins to our destination and the school was closed.  Luckily, I frequent the FBO next door when Bob comes to town and the line guy recognized me, used to do the fuel trucks at my flight school and offered to come over and fuel us up.  Big thanks to him.  We finally departed at 11:08pm.

The air was gentle and smooth and we started the flight flying direct to 35D to Padgham Field in Allegan.  Don took the time to go over with me the many functions of the Garmin 430, most specifically how to track an airway and creating a leg for it.  We tracked from the Pontiac VOR to the Lansing VOR using this method as well as the actual VOR.  

Following this we had an "electrical failure" I put it in quotes because it wasn't real, it was Don induced to strengthen my flying abilities.  I admit my mind is a bit mushy when it comes to recalling my instrument training as well as all the various tricks for finding your location when on a cross country.  I've been doing to many lazy eights and chandelles in my training lately.  It was quite a challenge to use a large sectional chart to find VOR frequencies and recognize landmarks in little light with a plane that was determined to constantly bank right.  The best way to find our way around in the dark was to record our location by dialing in two VORs.  Apparently, I was spoiled in my previous training being able to do this on dual VORs, I had to do it last night switching between two frequencies on the same instrument.  A better memory and more sleep would have helped with this, LOL.

After having to descend due to entering clouds and some brain farts, I finally drifted in our  proper direction and found the airport.  We still were experiencing an "electrical failure" and using the second comm we realized after circling the airport for several minutes that the com 2 radios were too weak as we were failing to bring up the airport lights or any flight service station.  Our electrical system was magically restored and we used the radios on the 430, circled down and landed.

The flight home proved uneventful, had to rely on instruments a bit more than usual due to the overcast layer above us and the increasing haze.  It was very hot and humid on the ground and we opened the windows to let air in while we taxied.  Big mistake.  The mosquitoes swarmed in as if screaming "Fresh meat!  Fresh meat!"  I now itch up the whazoo.  However despite all the problems, itches and exhaustion of the night I learned a lot and was glad to finally check this flight of my to do list.  I was also glad to get in my bed!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Flying with Rachel

I've been trying to get as many friends who have been wanting rides in an airplane with me as I can before I move. It was about time that Rachel, my awesome friend of 18 years, joined me in the sky. I took Rachel low and slow over Lake Orion pointing out a few landmarks and enjoyed circling around the lakes full of boats anchoring and partying in the coves.

A Pilots Story


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I just joined, it's like Facebook for pilots.  Still figuring it out, could be a fun way to connect with more pilots :o)