Location: Bridgewater, Virginia, United States

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Learjet school day 13 and Checkride Day

i didn't want to write last night on day 13 because it was the infamous Checkride Eve, a term which I am coining at this moment. Checkride Eve means cram, rehearse the weak areas for the last time, have a little flying fun, relax at night, and ATTEMPT to sleep. Oh, the latter is the least in my control.
I had a great time on Day 13. I had a very efficient cram session in late morning / early afternoon. Then we flew our LOFT flights in the sim, which included fighter-jet-like blasting through mountain valleys in Austria and barreling down a 5.9 degree ILS slope into London. I practiced a V1 cut from the right seat without a problem and taxied into the lineman because the guys were provoking me! Hahaha. The lineman simply disappeared.
Charisma and the kids were at the Arlington Convention Center mingling with Michelle and Josie Duggar, so I came back to a quiet hotel room and watched some SportsCenter and Lord of the Rings on TV while I ate dinner. That's relaxing.
How about the overnight? Well... The hours I did NOT see on the alarm clock were 1, 2, 3 and 4. I was quite frustrated that I was not sleeping. Which assured that I would sleep less. It was not a good night. But I had work to do, a checkride to pass. My strategy was to be consistent with everything I did Saturday. Same clothes, same travel route, same Vemma Verve energy drink, same seat in the briefing room, same first turn at flying, same pen on my shirt.
My particular situation was that i was receiving a checkride from a Training Center Examiner who was not yet approved for Basin Aviation, so he had to be observed by an FAA examiner throughout my checkride to receive his sign off. That added a little extra pressure, but FAA Tom was a really chill guy, and besides, the worst harm I've suffered has been self - inflicted. Nobody can fail my checkride besides me. The verbal exam went 90% well. I was stumped on a couple questions, which means that I spent 10% of the questions in the learning direction. How many days do we spend learning ten percent of everything that comes at us?
I would say the same about the practical (flying) part of the checkride. I encountered a heading miscompare; a starter that wouldn't disengage, an engine vibration warning followed by an engine fire; a single engine missed approach, single engine landing; flap failure and zero-flap landing.
I did feel like I was going to lose the game during the single engine landing. I had the rudder trim compensating for an approach slope at Vref, and when I broke out through the clouds I aimed at the runway and cut the power from the operable engine. When I did, I encountered a yaw control imbalance, then added power and opposite imbalance, and somehow got the plane onto the runway centerline and touched down smoothly at the stall horn. The post-flight briefing my examiner gave was a more forgiving than I was expecting; he said that if customers were in the plane they would be like, "okay...and...we're here." I should have took back some rudder pressure on my own foot so I could feel and control the yaw better during my power variations. It's one of those moments that I'll remember for the rest of my life and never do again, simulator or elsewhere! I still review the seconds in my imagination and am so grateful that God granted me that dispensation of grace.
In the end, I left the simulator with a handshake and "congratulations" from my examiner, and walked out of Bombardier with my first type rating. I'm a Learjet pilot!!!
I got the rental car to Enterprise at two minutes after close time, and my man Jeff allowed me to turn in the car at 3/4 tank AND gave me a lift back to the hotel.
We celebrated with a trip to Rainforest Cafe with my longtime friend Mark Say! We also returned to our hotel room and enjoyed ice cream - the end of my dessert fast. The ice cream was this Moose Tracks from Kroger, and man was it delicious!
I expect to sleep very well tonight.
Give God the glory, great things He hath done!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Learjet school day 12

Going by the records, my Lear training is complete as of tonight. I sit here one step away from a Learjet type rating, and here is my honest one fear: that when I get the engine failure after takeoff on Sunday, I may push the wrong rudder pedal and send us veering off into an uncontrolled chaos. I've never made that mistake before, so I guess the reason I am afraid is that it is the one thing that can't do wrong and then correct later.  That besides, the checkride should be a slow, methodical execution of  airmanship that meets the practical test standards.
In a text message chat tonight, I told my friend Greg that I need to commit my checkride to the Lord so that He will give me the desires that my heart has during the checkride, and I want to keep that truth highlighted this weekend.
My classmate told me that the period between tomorrow night and the checkride needs to be a total relax. Trust me, he says. Don't study, don't open a book. Just go into it fresh. Hey, the dude has tons of checkride experience. Gotta go with it.
My instructor Chris did a real good job with us tonight. He got out the verbal test and pounded us with sample questions and made sure we understood what we did not plainly know. The flight sim session was quality as well. As mentally unprepared as i was today, I wasn't the worlds best crewmember tonight, and he did a respectable job pointing out the flaws. Another quality I can note of Chris is his constructive criticism: he gives feedback that reinforces instead of telling me that I'm a lost cause, and he says more than the pat-down "it looked good" but highlights what I did right.
We flew the checkride profile tonight: V1 cut, air work, engine fire / manual shutdown, single engine hand-flown ILS, single engine missed approach, coupled ILS, and non-precision to a circle to land.
It's already so late tonight, but I feel I need to cram in the time of useful consciousness remaining. 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Learjet school day 11

I've almost got it! Or not... I'm having difficulty finding the right way to describe my current state of learning this jet. I know enough and have the skills to be a safe and efficient pilot and to do the right thing, but I lack the experience to be consistently and authoritatively on point with that knowledge and skills. I think the word I'm getting to here is "sophomoric".
For example, tonight I misquoted the wind shear advisory memory response items; I botched the Bleed Air check on the after-start checklist; and I let the plane dunk under MDA minimums as I watched the auto pilot continue down a LNAV-V approach vertical path. In all three cases, I knew enough to get myself to the point of failure, but not enough to know entirely what I was doing. This is an important bridge to cross in my experience because I'm learning all I can these two weeks, but I'm not learning with perfection ; there are frailties to my knowledge and skills that only pokes and prods will reveal. I smarted with some pokes and prods tonight, but it is good.  Aware of what needs to be reinforced, I get to work there. Whatever pain doesn't kill me will make me stronger.
This morning / afternoon i sat observer to Jamie and Martin again, and again took in more and more. As we sat at lunch, an A380 took off toward the south. That was the Emirates flight 222, taking off for Dubai. As of this hour, the craft is still aloft en route.
A dazzling array of lightning shot all around the sky as I drove home. The invisible cloud shapes would seem to transform themselves on each bolt of lightning that burst nearby.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Learjet school day 10

im feeling good at the end of the day because I plugged in a formula for results, and it seems to have been a winner. I spent a few hours in the Lear 75 observers seat behind a pair of excellent pilots, and I saw a lot that I liked and saw a lot that I needed to learn from. Perhaps the most profound lesson was in CRM (crew resource management) and the manner which they interacted, split tasks, and operated professionally.
When time came for me to fly late that night, I felt like I was much more "with it" and proficient.
I flew well through a V1 cut, electrical failure down to the "pea gauges" and flying around to land with a total trim failure.
But what I want to mention tonight is the real outstanding contributor to the fun was my classmate. He was just on top of it, assisting me with situation awareness and making timely announcements about everything. He did a phenomenal job, and overall the night was very enjoyable.
I'll have to say our sim instructor for tonight, Nick, did a really good job as well with explaining things and keeping us in a focused training environment .
Due to the lateness of tonight I'm not spending a lot of time on this entry, so I will be content saying that I'm feeling highly favored of God to be here. That favor is what I should really be excited about. Amen.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Learjet school day 9

This is one of those days that you can trace through and conclude "I had my plans and I had my ways, but what God brought about was better."  This morning, I was walking out to the car, and I suspected I saw someone in the hotel that I ought to say hello to. Later I learned that who I saw was not the person I suspected. Glad i didn't waste my time!
This evening I had two possibilities of spending dinner with friends, both of which fell through. But then I got a text from the guy I met last week in the hotel, and he invited me out to dinner with him. I learned a lot about my new connection, who is a distinguished long term asset of a large national airline. We shared airplane stories for hours and had a nice dinner at Jason's Deli. Turns out, this guy was one of the latest instructors of Jeff Skiles, before Skiles copiloted US Air flight 1549, the "Miracle on the Hudson."
Lunch at Bombardier was delicious: fajitas and all the fixins. Happy Cinco de Mayo.
I did a better job debriefing myself from today's simulator session. It was quite necessary because I got a lot thrown at me today: rejected takeoff, low oil pressure, engine failure in flight, single engine go-around, aileron control jam, engine fire, and circle to land. I've been performing at par, especially since I go second after being SIC for my classmate. It helps getting to put a lot of time in reflection after these training sessions, especially when I ask the questions "what did we do? What could I have done better? What will work better next time?"
As with any craft, it's simple in principle; but one must add layers upon layers of complexity until it transcends the complex and becomes a thing of beauty. I tell you what- it is a lot of hard work, but it's fruitful. The way I see it, I am positioned by God here to train up for His work.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Learjet school day 8

The second week of Learjet training has begun, and that on a very positive trajectory.
Over this week, my classmate and i will be in and out of the simulator and given about two hours each to practice maneuvers, emergencies, procedures and plain old knob-ology, all of which will conclude in a check ride sometime this weekend. Today's sessions began early, meeting at 0600 for briefing. I felt quite acute and sharp during the performance time in the simulator, and after that was finished my stamina began a slow dive that I denied and denied for hours. Finally the need for rest won out and I quit studying at Bombardier and returned to my hotel just so i could sleep.
My first flight in the Learjet simulator - with the motion actually ON this time - was exhilarating. I did really well handling the simulator and the airplane, and truly the mistakes I made / learned from were errors in execution as opposed to errors induced by my poor interaction with the feel of the simulator. The simulator airplane is really fun to fly. It was fortunate to not have to deal with frustration over the way the simulator is flying for me; it was truly doing what I wanted it to do, and what I wanted it to do came out clean, smooth and easy. My mind is still obviously behind the pace of the events, but my heart is totally in this. It's so sweet to be here, right now, learning an airplane I never imagined I would have the opportunity to fly anytime soon. I'm thanking God profusely for this privilege , yet taking each day in stride because the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord, who gives abundantly into our necessities here and gives us heavenly stores of imperishable treasures, the foremost of which is Christ Himself.
I'm looking forward to getting to sleep a bit earlier tonight. Big day planned tomorrow.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Learjet school day 7

Today was a day off from training, and certainly a pleasant day it was.
In the morning I went to Grace Church Frisco, and little to my knowledge I walked into a day of celebration for that church. For eight years, this church has been working and praying towards a transition into a larger building, and today after many confirmations and sweet provisions from the Lord, they broke ground on the new church building. And I got to be there!
Pastor Craig gave a very fitting message for the significance of today, centering the message on Numbers 6:22-26 where Aaron is told what to say when he gives God's blessing to the Israelites. The takeaway from the passage, and the message, is that Christ Himself is our blessing, and that He positions us sometimes to reflect the beauty of Himself and His Gospel toward our generation.
The location of the new church is in a very key position, no doubt. The land was actually donated, and the streets themselves are quite providential. A back-hoe was the first to take a scoop from the virgin soil that would soon be where the new church rests.
After a slight bit of studying in the afternoon, I met up with an old colleague of mine from Dynamic, Greg Phillips, at the Bear Creek Park for a round of disc golf. Good workout and good conversation enjoyed by both of us. On the 18th hole, I tossed the disc directly into the basket from about , no kidding, one hundred feet away. I need to get the picture uploaded here so you can see my perspective from launch point to the basket. That moment was absolutely thrilling!
A small scope of very thorough studying closed out the night.
One closing thought since I haven't gotten into much by way of airplane in this entry: I was listening to selections of my sons Disney kids' music album off my iPad, and when I was working on the structure of my memorized takeoff briefing, the song "The green Grass Grew all around" came on. You have to understand where a pilot comes from, but just hear me out ; that that song is very relevant to flying an airplane. The song starts with a hole in the ground, around which green grass is growing. By the end of the song we are visualizing "there's a feather on a bird in an egg in a nest on a twig on a branch on a tree on a root in a hole and the green grass grows..." We always come back to the green grass growing. In the song, strictly, it's the center of the picture. Another example how to us pilots, flying the airplane is at the center. No matter how mixed up or pretty everything else is, flying the airplane is at the center of the picture. It's the point at which everything is connected, just like the grass in the song.