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Feb 18, 2002
Hello Gentlemen.

I've been lurking here off and on for a few weeks and I thought I'd say hello. A little bit of a long intro, scan to the bottom if you would like to offer some advice on a couple of things. I've tried not to repeat any questions I've seen you guys answer recently.

While in school about 10 years ago or so, I joined AFROTC and received a pilot allocation. Long story short was that I was signed up for 18 years but right before my last year of school, the AF broke the contracts with most of the pilot/navigator cadets due to cutbacks and then had a change of heart and offered an intermediate position with no guarantee when we'd get to UPT. I declined. I had been taking some hours as I could afford it over the summers and solo'd at 10 and racked up a total of 20 or so.

Due to schooling costs, new career, etc. I got out of it for a while. I've been working as an automotive software engineer for about 8 years and I've decided to get back into it and finish now that I have the time and money again.

Well, one instructor ( a fellow engineer and hell of a stick and rudder guy- but a chain smoker ) has been grounded due to heart problems. Another instructor I had died in crash a few years ago, apparently trying to take off in some weather he had no business toying with ( not exactly a huge confidence builder there ). So, I've looked around and I found an older gentleman, say 50-55 (older than me that is- I'm 31), who's been a lifelong pilot and is the chief pilot at our airport. Downside is that he has to call off for charters, but the upside is that he is knowledgable, particular and encouraging, and he doesn't want to be anywhere else. I may even get some right seat time on some of those charters. =)

After about 3 flights he was ready to turn me loose- but I opted to ask him to stay onboard for one more flight. I have been flying a 1998 172R which is by far the newest plane I've ever flown with the best avionics. GPS is great.

So, next flight he got out of the plane, gave me a few final admonishments and waved me on. I found that soloing this time was no less of intense introspection than it was the last time- maybe even more since I'm more aware of my mortality at 31 than I was at 21. It's funny how those first few flights you hold onto those things which have been pounded into your head like a security blanket ... 'Don't dive at it...trim for 65' ... 'Ok now transition your vision to th opposite end of the runway ... hold it up .. hold it up...' That's about all you have by way of confidence at first- at least for me.

The only hitch was that there was another student in the poking around the pattern and not announcing his positions...first time around, I lost him but was sure he was two legs ahead of me until I had just throttled down on the downwind and kicked in 10 and saw him on base about 1/4 mile in front of me and a few hundred feet below. I don't know- I guess he had a long crosswind.

Regardless, this was not the by the book trip around the pattern I had hoped for. I thought 'Oh man, he's going to kill me if he sees me that close to this guy.' I decided ( and announced ) I was going to leave the pattern and come back in on downwind for spacing and fretted about whether that would constitute leaving the airport which I was not supposed to do on this flight.

It's humorous to think about it now because it was such a trivial thing, but you probably remember how your nerves were on your first solo. I finally decided that a long downwind was good enough and brought her around to final (and announced spacing was good now ). No problem. Not a peep from the instructor except 'Good job' after touchdown.

So, I've been hitting the books hard again practicing with some of the Internet-based FAA exams. I'm at 27 hours we'll be moving into cross-country work next. I guess I'm a little behind the curve after having spread my training out over a decade, heh.

A few questions for you:

- All I have by way of training is the old Cessna 'Red Bag' which includes a flight manual. Of course, I have the 172R manual as well and the FARs. What's the coventional wisdom on the DVD programs? Which is the best or do you think I am good to go with what I have?

- I commute an hour to work and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to 'Cincinnati to Ohare IFR' which I purchased from Sporty's. It's been great just for the radio training. Do you recommend any other audio tapes?

- I've picked up a few magazines lately, such as 'Flying' and through rading these and talking with some people, it seems like there is a lot more discussion about the dangers involved in flying these days. Is that just me? Have things gotten more dangerous or is there just more of an emphasis on it these days? What do you suggest as the best ways to supplement my training with an emphasis on emergencies, etc?

- What's the job market like out there? I plan to finish my IFR and then take a serious look at whether I want to take it to the next level. It's starting to feel like it's time for a career change and this is the natural choice. I saw that the FBI was hiring special agents with fixed-wing experience, but convincing my wife that I should take a 60% pay-cut isn't going to fly. So?

Thanks for any other insight or advice you guys can offer.
Here's what I think.

First, I wouldn't get the Cessna DVD course. I believe that thing costs around $400, your money would be better spent on some less materials. Also, I wouldn't bother getting any ATC tapes, you should be able to pick it up through the course of your training and by listening to your scanner.

I don't know if Flying or other magazines have talked more about accidents then they have in the past, but safety is a big part of aviation training. Reading those Aftermath articles and NTSB reports will hopefully prevent you from making the same errors that someone made before. Your instructor should make sure your proficient with every emergency he can think up. Off the top of my head you should be able to deal with these when you're able to solo: engine failure, engine fire, cabin fire, electrical failure, radio failure, and flight in IMC conditions. There might be a few I can't think of right now.

However, GA has slowly become safer each year. Make sure you're very proficient at dealing with emergencies, but the chances are low you'll have one.

The job market varies as the economy goes up and down. Right now were're in a slump, but statistically it's still not as bad as 1990-1995. However, if a major airline was to fail it could get quite worse. Hiring should improve as the economy gets better, but, even the best of times don't expect to make much money starting out. You and your wife will have to come to an understanding that it'll take awhile to start making money, maybe quite a few years before you reach the level you're at now. However, if flying is really what you want to do I would go for it. You'll always regret you didn't try it.
Thanks for the advice Wiggums.

It always seems that a fair amount of time is given to engine failure and I've had more than one instructor pull the throttle on me and tell me to put it in a field. I live in Indiana, so that's usually a pretty easy thing to do.

I've reviewed the checklists for most of the other items, which are mainly common sense. I'm not familiar, though, with the acronym IMC. I wonder if there are ways to prepare for these other than checklist memorization and discussion with the instructor.

What are the most common mistakes a student could make to get himself into trouble? My guesses..

- Not checking the weather and paying for it.
- Forcing the issue on a questionable or bad approach.
- Missing a item on a checklist?

As far as the ATC tapes...there are no controlled airports within range of my scanner, except one air reserve base which seldom has much traffic these days. How do you feel about the exam preparation tapes?

Thanks again.
Flying and jobs

I'm nearly 51; watch out who you call an older gentleman! Your instructor might not appreciate that! :) In this business, no matter what our chronological ages may be, we're all young at heart. I was nearly 31 when I started flying.

Your observations are very perceptive.

IMC means Instrument Meterological Conditions. In other words, non-instrument rated pilots can and do get caught in non-visual or low visibility conditions and are not qualified to fly the airplane in these conditions. They have little or no training flying on instruments. They can experience spatial disorientation and lose control of the aircraft. That's what happened to John F. Kennedy, Jr. I don't know or recall if he checked the weather or paid no attention to what he was told, but that event would come under your question about not checking the weather and paying for it. In his case, the weather conditions were legal VFR but beyond his capabilities. Unfortunately, Mr. Kennedy lost visual reference and we know the rest.

Pilots do get in trouble by forcing the issue on a questionable or bad approach. Too many pilots feel they're admitting weakness if they have to go around. An aviation axiom is a good landing is preceded by a good final which is preceded by a good base which is preceded by a good downwind. Nothing wrong with going around and trying again. Sometimes, you just can't salvage an approach. One of the hazardous thought patterns taught in Aeronautical Decision Making is the macho, can-do attitude, "I can do it." The antidote is, "taking chances is foolish."

Many professional schools (and good instructors who may not necessarily work at a school) teach the flow system for completing checklist items. Sometimes, the layout of switches, levers and knobs in the cockpit lends itself to a checklist(s). You start at a particular control and move your hand to the next control, and to the next, and so forth. When you are finished, you glance at your checklist to see if you moved all controls as directed. This is a very professional method of checklist usage. Some places mandate memorization of the entire checklist or, for emergencies, memorization of the immediate action (boldface) items. These are all ways to ensure you don't miss an item. Indeed, missing an item can have consequences.

I understand your plight about finding good ATC to listen to. However, I agree with Wiggums; you'll pick it up as you fly. I did buy a $15 Radio Shack transistor ATC radio. I would drive to the airport and listen to it, but I don't think it helped much.

Finally, the pilot job situation is tied to the economy. It rides the same rollercoaster. Take it from one who paid his admission to that amusement park ten years ago. I was a career changer and by the time I was ripe, i.e. had my ATP and enough hours to meet the commuters' requirements all of a sudden, poof! hiring stopped cold. During that time we were waging war and were in a recession, and Eastern and Pam Am folded. Plenty of pilots found themselves in an already-flooded job market. No commuter wanted me and I spent my professional career as a flight instructor. When times are great, airlines say they can't find enough pilots, which is baloney, by the way. When times are bad, some of the best and most experienced pilots in the world find themselves working at Target to put food on the table and never go back to flying. Not to dissuade you, but you should be aware of these things. If I were your age again, I'd give it a try. Your background will give you something to fall back upon if things don't work out.

Good luck with your training.
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Just wanted to say thanks for your time. My instructor's story is very similar to yours which makes sense since you two are about the same age.

So, he missed the big airlines on his first chance, but kept instructing. I'm not sure how many years he's been flying charters, but I'm hoping to get some rides. I think maybe we are still in the 'getting to know you' stage, so I don't know when that will be.

Glad to see that I'm not the only one who has the Hal tape from Claremont County Direct to ORD IFR amongst their collectibles.

Don't you just love how he 'cracks up' his captive audience after speaking with ATC.

Listening to the tape in the car does NOT make one a dorky pilot!

"Listening to the tape in the car does NOT make one a dorky pilot!"

But does listening to a dorky pilot in the car make you a dorky pilot? Anyone know anything about who that guy is?

I actually purchased the one I mentioned, plus the Oshkosh on a busy day tape and the Mayday tape. The latter two were somewhat more of a disappointment.

Also on the topic of 'Training' I did something today I have not done in a while- I purchased MS FS 2002 Pro Edition. After reading some reviews of it, I could not resist. :) I also purchased a MS Forcefeedback 2 Joystick, but I may decide to take it back and purchase a flight yoke. The package includes the Skyhawk and I thought maybe flying it might be good practice for some things on rainy days like today.
60 percent pay cut? How about a 90 percent cut when you try to build hours as an instructor? I did all this while I was single, so I cannot council you on that. However, even when I was making little as an instructor, it was the best time of my life. I wouldn't have traded it for all the money anyone could ever make. I had to leave my normal job, and now I love going to work.

I would suggest you read the book "I could do anything I wanted, if I only knew what it was," by Barbara Sher. It helps you to find your dream job, and leave your "safe" job. It also helps you to see that there is no such thing as a safe job anyway. Good luck, and I hope it helps.
I'm only a few months younger than Bobby, so ditto on the "older gentleman" tag. I too left the auto world (my transitional job after broadcasting...) for aviation. While working on my instrument rating I listened to Hal's flight to O'Hare in his Aztec. I also listened to Mayday, a replay of several ATC communications with pilots in distress, and also the Rod Machado audio tapes. Rod is a humorist and expert teacher.

Hal Shevers is the president of "Sporty's", a pilot supply outfit in Ohio.

If you can't pick up ATC on a radio, look around on the internet. Many towers can be heard in live streaming audio on several sites. For example, the Philadelphia International Airport site has tower audio and a webcam set up on the end of concourse "E" so you can watch the ramp and the planes on the landing rollout landing on both "27" runways.

Many pilots have a low tolerance for Martha, but in small doses the King Schools tapes are a real help in passing the various written tests for certificates and ratings. The Kings custom designed the Cessna Pilot Schools CD ROM course, and I have seen it for as low a $299. Many of my students preferred those CDs as their primary source for ground instruction.

Magazines? First, join AOPA, and get Flight Training magazine, which they took over a couple of years ago. Lots of good articles with the student perspective in mind.

If you want to make a move flying for government organizations, do it before you turn 37. That's the magic cutoff I have been given by almost everyone, even the reserves.

Jobs? Go the CFI route, make friends, and maintain contacts. Pay attention to what you see posted here on the board. If you act quickly enough, you could get a job with a major. If you dawdle, or get a stonewall from you wife about the pay, forget it. Working as a parttime instructor while continuing to earn wife-pleasing money may be your best bet. An airline career track is best begun at 16, no matter what the various schools would have you believe. Age discrimination laws mean nothing to airlines. Gender and ethnic preferences still rule in many HR departments. One more thing: THERE IS NO PILOT SHORTAGE. For the forseeable future many experienced pilots are available to most carriers.

My final recommendation: do not buy a crew position for yourself. A job is defined as an employer paying you, not you paying the employer for the job. You can search this board for an almost infinite number of discussions on this issue, known as "PFT".

Oh, yes: welcome aboard.
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