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IF NOTHING WORKS AT LEAST YOU KNOW YOU HAVE YOUR INSTRUCTOR - PART 2

I couldn’t exactly ‘snap out’ of being homesick. It was so bad that I didn’t fly for about 10 days following my sudden meltdown. A lot of uncertainty hung over my head, just like the current climate we are witnessing. I didn’t know if there was an end date to being homesick or how long this episode was going to last. Everyone deals with it in their own way. I kept to my books, became rather recluse by staying indoors – (not recommended), didn’t update my family about anything, occasionally driving to the farmers market and grocery stores to buy supplies. Progressed through topics such as Meteorology and Air Law, became somewhat of a decent cook – surprising.


During my reluctant time in hibernation I realized that becoming a pilot is so much more than just flying the airplane. Even at the student pilot level If you’re not in the right frame of mind, if you allow yourself to sit behind the controls despite knowing that your mind is clouded, the impact your background has had on you and if you don’t give yourself time to process things, what does that say about your conscience when it comes to flight safety. Say for example, you choose to power through all of that and you acquired your license. It still doesn’t make you a safe pilot. If anything, it makes you a at risk pilot. Shows you’d be willing to make more unfavorable and erratic decisions. I wasn’t that nor did I wanted to become one. I lead by sound instinct and when I was feeling much better by the 12th day, I went back to school to continue flying.


I don’t know how other pilots in training dealt with it and how current pilots in the industry deal with it, but I know it does linger and never really goes away completely. I for one am certain that when faced with a similar episode in the future, I’ll be handling it in a very healthy way.


Don’t worry I’m not going to go through every single entry in my logbook but believe me I would if some memories hadn’t faded. Here are some of what I considered most memorable.


October, 2017


October was packed. Still jacket weather for me. I managed to buy an electric blanket – what a genius invention that was and slept in the room with the washroom light on. I also bought a plastic bin to do my laundry in and bought a box set of pots and pans, Target was a like a thrift store haven although I’d imagine it’ll be even cheaper in an actual thrift store. Bought a knife, a cutlery and serving plate set. Everything I needed for less than a $100. The landlord managed to get hold of a spare refrigerator and a coffee table about 2 weeks after I had moved in. My ingredients didn’t go bad for the 2 weeks prior because the temperature in the house was that cold. I just set everything out on the kitchen counter but once the refrigerator came things got better in terms of saving money from buying take-away.


The school hosted its annual Air Race which I saw as an opportunity to participate in and better integrate with everyone. I met another Singaporean and a Malaysian girl who were with the school even before I enrolled. They were at different stages of their PPL program. He was working on his 3rd circuit solo and she had commenced her 1st training area solo while I was just about to start lessons on stalling. We created a Whatsapp group called Pilots to be for ourselves and we all know how that turned out after a while.

Participating in the Air Race was phenomenal. It brought back so many memories of me and my very close friend when we were in secondary school, on our flight simulator doing a race from random airport to the next.


So the deal was that we’d pick an instructor and the aircraft of our choice, fly from Jandakot Airport to Rottnest Island about 20 miles west out over the coast, land, get on a bike and cycle to a café, take a picture as evidence with the Chief Pilot of the school who was hidden amongst the crowd, cycle back to the aircraft and fly back to Jandakot. Whoever had the fastest time on record to do so wins an actual aircraft propeller blade.

Someone already chose my instructor and I was obviously limited to the type of aircraft I could fly which was the C152. I wasn’t really left with any choice other than to go with the 1 remaining instructor available, but he was fantastic. Although we didn’t win, I enjoyed every bit of it, flew over the water at 700ft the whole way.

Blurred lines and False hope


One thing that really caught me off-guard right at the beginning of training was Ground School and how I was basically left to my own devices and to be at the mercy of my instructor by which method he chooses to teach the PPL subjects. There wasn’t a mutual discussion of how he was going to conduct the lessons or how we are going to best approach it together. It was just ‘you study the topics on your own and if you have any questions you can come and ask me.’ This continued until the last day. Yes I was briefed before every flight, he would cover the technicalities and agenda for that day’s flight but it was just at the surface level. I mean come on, how much mud does a candidate have to wade through just to get a foot in the industry. I’m not asking to be spoon fed and some may not agree with me. What I wished for was given that a PPL is the very first license one acquires, wouldn’t it be best that an instructor guides them every step of the way allowing the candidate to refine his or her skills under supervision of good will and then let them be completely independent should they want to pursue further endorsements after they have acquired their PPL.


I have another point to make regarding this vague approach that I faced, but I’ll mention it in the last installment of my blog; ‘if nothing works at least you know you have your instructor’.


I started working really hard from the end of October giving my 110% every day, after my instructor had a chat with me and told me that he was positive he could see me going on my navigation flights by the end of the year, which meant that I could possibly attain my PPL by January or February latest by March. Although inwardly that wasn’t my concern of attaining my PPL in the shortest possible time frame, it really boosted my morale and gave me somewhat of short-term goal that I could set my eyes on.


I really struggled with talking to ATC. Especially during the first couple of circuit practices, so much so that I would profusely apologize to my instructor asking him to do the radio calls one more time and that I’ll communicate with ATC on the next lesson. It was more to do with the lack of confidence, fear of the controller’s tone and the simultaneous actions required by me to fly the aircraft than it was about what you exactly say to ATC. I watched a lot of American ATC recordings and held on to the notion that all controllers were rude and nasty.


Of course, I found out that that wasn’t the case when I was flying in and out of Jandakot but nevertheless, it took time for me to overcome my hesitation of communicating with ATC.


November, 2017


November would become filled with back to back circuits, no breather and a routine that would leave me exhausted by noon. Literally every other day I physically pull out the aircraft from its parking spot by hand to the start-up position on my own, do pre-flight checks, fuel up, check ATIS, brief my instructor, get ground clearance and commence touch-and-go(s). That wasn’t the part that got to me. I enjoyed it and did so with a content heart.


If you would indul