Monday, September 12, 2016

Life lessons through Flying [Guest Post]

I have been working steadily behind my real life job on my IFR ticket.I plan on trying to be a CFI and give back this gift of flight. I work anywhere from 55 to 80 hours a week outside of aviation, I am a single dad and engaged. I am stretched pretty thin when it comes to study and flying time. Like the rest of you, money doesn’t grow on a tree for me either. I am lucky if I get to fly once a week so this training has been a long haul. Recently, I had to travel to Las Vegas for a business trip. I had a half day to myself and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could do some IFR training over Vegas while I am there?” Sure! So I made a plan… at least I ‘thought’ I made a plan.  

The next day, hours later, I was arriving in Vegas… empty stomach, not enough to drink, I missed the queues that this was the start of ‘not thinking things through’ as a PIC. Bad decision making had ‘landed’ me on a path of one poor decision leading to the next poor decision. We know in the South, Jesus came to set us free from Hell. However, It was 110 degrees when I walked out of the terminal and thought, “Lord I am going to die, and these people need Jesus!” It was much like walking ‘through’ a blow dryer, and in truth, I have never faced this ‘kind’ of heat… Very high and very dry. I could feel myself dry out. This was one of many twists I wasn’t ready for.

The heat coming off the tarmac was intense and I realized how little I was ready for the environmental differences. Drinking water isn’t always a ‘quick fix’ for dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration range from ‘foggy’ thinking, too ‘tired’, and ‘not fully engaged’ with your surroundings. I began to question this plan of action, but was ‘committed’... Another warning sign I should have listened to.

The next twist, Vegas airspace is one of the top 10 busiest airports, in the nation. There were multiple TFR’s, and areas to avoid. The upside down wedding cake was totally whacked out. Different floors all around the compass from McCarran boggled my mind.

We loaded up in a ageing but well kept 172. “Clear prop’, startup and idle…sweat was pouring down my face and dripping in my eyes. Takeoff was uneventful except for some serious bumps when we crossed from pavement to desert sand. We turned and climbed toward the Hoover dam at 4000 feet. The thermometer was 115 degrees as we churned through the hot Vegas turbulent air. Down came the hood and practice started.

Between the heat, the bumps, and the medical situation of being dehydrated and having had almost no food that day, it only took about 25 minutes and I was ready to puke. I told my instructor I needed to get down so we dropped down and made an approach to a small airport south of Vegas...The goal was to get inside and cool off. That didn’t happen…

The FBO was about 100 degrees inside, the water was lukewarm and there seemed to be no escape from the heat. Back to the plane we went, startup and taxi out. Once we were tracking down 27 the instructor was telling me about how dust-devils can last for minutes and move. Before we knew it, 50 feet off the ground, the airplane spun around to the right, causing me to give it left rudder, then we were pushed to the right we caused a left rudder dance. I vaguely ‘heard’ my instructor say ‘good job’. I was just trying to breathe through the heat and keep the wings level!
It took about 10 minutes and the nausea was back. I asked my instructor to take the controls. We went straight back to McCarran. We landed, taxied in, walked in, and I found a small airconditioned room to have an internal flip out/let down. Man that was rough, and boy did I feel stupid. This didn't pan out they way I thought it was, but let me tell you it was a lesson big time.

Life lessons were staring me in the face!

  • Heat - I wasn’t ready for the dry hot desert. I didn’t ‘think’ through the difficulties this would present. How often do we not think things through something in life and not look ahead but look down at the moment! Plan ahead!
  • Empty stomach - I didn’t have anything on my stomach and the wonderful hot air thermals brought on the ‘green’ pretty quick. My physical body is where I dwell. If it isn’t taken care of, don’t expect it to hold together for me!  
  • Busy airspace - Vegas has a pretty complicated airspace with different floors side by side around the ‘wedding’ cake. I was not ready for the pace of changes along with the unstable air. Too often we end up in situations where so many things are going on we get lost in the moment.

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