Sunday, July 29, 2007

1 Evaluation down; 1 to go

I wanted to follow up with info about my exciting first week of evaluation at Missionary Aviation Fellowship, here in Nampa, Idaho:

Week 1: Evaluating Steve's flying skills

We started with a "get to know you" time- me and my evaluator, Scott Channon. As it turns out, Scott was at LeTourneau Univ. as a student at the same time that I was! He was married and lived off campus, plus he had already done a fair amount of flight training prior to coming to campus, so we were only acquaitances back then. This connection with Scott helped put me at ease, a little- I had a fair amount of anxiety about being evaluated.

Anxiety that had been building ever since I put the dates on my calendar months ago!
Scott went over the "syllabus" for the week and we dove right in to a discussion on aerodynamics. Lift, drag, thrust, gravity and all the rest. I got a little hung up on recalling a key phrase regarding rudders- ADVERSE YAW!!! It finally came up from the depths of my brain after a little coaching from Scott. We chatted about airspace regulations, VFR chart symbols, and then it was out to the hangar where I demonstrated a thorough preflight on one of MAF's Cessna 206's. After lunch, we headed out to do some flying. As we walked to the airplane, I was informed that Scott, my evaluator, was being evaluated as well! That meant yet another person in the airplane for me to impress! My axiety jumped a notch and, internally, I asked the Lord to calm my nerves and take it easy. Brian Shepson, an MAF veteran of 20 years or so, would be riding in the back and watching all the fun.

We taxied for takeoff and, once airborne, turned to the south of Nampa for some airwork- stalls, slow flight, and flap exercises. Then it was on to a small airport that sits along the Snake River for some takeoffs and landings- shortfield, softfield, emergency, and normal. After this, it was back to Nampa- a total of almost 2 hours. In my estimation, I performed well but, as we refueled the aircraft at the pumps, I was in search of some comments. Scott had informed me that my evaluation would all be done at the end of the week- not after each flight. To my shagrin, he kept his word and didn't offer any feedback. This was a little disconcerting to me!

We were set for a morning flight, so I arrived early and began the preflight. Scott approached me in the hangar and said, due to the weather (haze/smoke from forest fires), we would be scrapping the flight and doing simulator work. Again, the anxiety hit me hard- I wasn't expecting the simulator work 'til Thursday and would be prepping for it the night before. Without this prep, I was certain to my performance would suffer! However, Scott was calling the shots and it was off to the simulator for some instrument work. After getting used to the feel of the sim, we did some VOR holding, VOR-DME arc work, and then approaches- NDB, VOR, and ILS approaches. It all worked out just fine. On all the approaches, the computer showed a "green" light as we descended to the decision altitude, meaning that I had accomplished the goal- taking the airplane to the airport! Always good for a pilot to be able to do! HA! Scott did make the comment that usually a candidate will miss one of the three approaches, so I breathed a big sigh of relief and was very thankful that the LORD had assisted me in recalling the skills necessary to perform well. After the sim work, we went back to the briefing room and chatted about the flight for the next day.

This day was a lot of fun. It incorporated a bit of instruction on MAF protocols for mountain flying- crossing ridges and flights in and around higher terrain. We headed into the higher elevations south of Nampa for this. From there, we went back to that small strip near the Snake River where Scott demonstrated MAF style pattern work. After each of the demonstrations, I did my best to incorporate what I saw and perform likewise. It went well and I learned a lot about how and why MAF does things in a certain manner. As we arrived in the traffic pattern at the Nampa airport (1000 feet above the ground level), Scott powered off the airplane and said that he would like me to demonstrate a commercial maneuver- the power off 180 degree landing. It had been a while since I had practised this, but, the LORD was good and I nailed the landing exactly on the runway centerline and on the exact spot that I was aiming for. Scott sarcastically joked that I would need to work on my accuracy more! At first, I didnt' catch that he was joking, so I said "ok"- thinking I must have done something incorrect, then he said, "man- you nailed it!". Needless to say, this put me at ease and I went back to my host house feeling pretty good, but being careful not to get a big head about it- one gust of wind and things could of been different.

Thursday was the big wrap up- a cross country incorporating all that we had done through the week, as well as a chance to see my precision in flight planning and execution, especially in the midst of the flight when Scott gave me a deviation. We departed Nampa and headed north to McCall- about a 40 minute flight. We climbed up to 8500 feet and I hit my checkpoints along the way. McCall was pretty smokey, due to all the forrest fires in the area, but I was able to spot it and descend us straight in to runway 34. We pulled off the runway and got set up for the next leg- from McCall to a private strip about 30 miles west- Oxbow, along the snake river and closer to one of the bigger fires. Before departing, Scott informed me that I would only be permitted to climb to about 500 feet above McCall's field elevation on this trip. So, as we departed and climbed West, I quickly noticed that, at this altitude, we would be encountering terrain. So, I incorporated the terrain instruction that I had received the day before and we carefully picked our way around the peaks and over the ridges on our way to Oxbow. We found the airport, down in a valley below, that was filled with smoke, so we decided to turn and head to the third airport on our journey- "Council, Idaho". There, we landed and Scott gave me some on-the-spot instructions for planning the next leg of the journey. He and Brian ate some lunch as I pulled out the charts, put together our course plans and determined our fuel needs. After getting a bite of my packed lunch, we blasted off to our new destination. Enroute, we simulated an emergency landing to a full stop at an airport that was along our planned route. We made a safe approach with no power (power was pulled to idle to simulate) and we landed on the first third of the runway and declared the simulated emergency as a success. Then, we took off and got back on course to our destination. As we approached, another simulation happened- an emergency call came in on the HF radio saying that we were needed to assist with a medical emergency at an airstrip another 25 miles South of the airport that we were planned to land at. Quickly, I needed to plan my course and give a radio call back to let them know of our estimated time enroute. I was able to do this quickly and, 13 or 14 minutes later, we arrived overhead of the airstrip, that looked like no more than a dirt road in the middle of no where. This ended our cross country trip and I was allowed to use the GPS to take us back to Nampa. On the way, we flew over the coolest terrain I think I have ever seen. Canyons, streams, formations- I made a mental note to take a road trip over the weekend to see it all close up (FYI- I did this early Sat. morning and got great video!).

Scott and I met at 8:30 am and went over my evaluation. I was evaluated in about 30 different areas and, I'm happy to say that in all but one area, I either meet or exceed MAF standards! The one area had to do with my aerodynamic theory, which I mentioned above. I was overjoyed to hear Scott tell me that MAF would be very happy to have me back to go through there "standardization" next year- a 6 to 8 week process that sounds very fun! I was so thankful to the LORD for this affirming evaluation and grateful for so many that I knew had been praying for me. It's all a bit overwhelming, after all the anxiety, and the fact that my family is not here to share this with me in person.

Today's drive through the canyons and terrain was a great time of worship and praise to the LORD. He is so good and always faithful.

Next week:  Maintenance evaluation- the area that I have more rust to shake off than any other. It will be great to receive direction from the mechanic pro's, here at MAF, as to areas where I need to brush up on.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's the Frequency, Kennth?

I'm posting an incomplete blog...

Why? I have written myself a note to blog about something that I found funny and insightful, but I don't have the time to fully develop my thoughts... nor am I sure that I can ever fully develop my thoughts... but, I digress.

It has something to do with an airline pilot incorrectly selecting the emergency frequency, instead of the aircraft's intercom, and then proceding to make one of those public addresses to the airfare paying passengers- something like this- "Folks, from the flight deck, this is Captain McStupid welcoming you aboard Jet Blue flight #321. We're now cruising at 38,000 feet and I've just turned off the seat belt sign... blah blah blah...". He went on for about 2 minutes talking about the weather at their destination, the time enroute, etc. ...all of this on the frequency meant for pilots to declare emergencies. Most pilots monitor this channel on a back up radio, just in case the air traffic folks wanna get ahold of you and tell you that they're clearing the skies, ala 9-11.

More on this later.