Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Enunciate, please

It seems that night currency time is the only time I get these days to work on improving my own flying. This evening, my son's Cub Scout meeting was cancelled, so I grabbed the opportunity to run out to the airport and do my night landings. It was a Moonless night, too, so night really meant night.

The three landings make me legal, but I wanted to do something to keep me proficient. It was too late to call anyone to ride along as a safety pilot for instrument work; I decided to do a short cross-country and play a little game. So I got a DUATS briefing and headed out. [I know a lot of experienced pilots who don't think that they need to bother with a preflight briefing, although I have to say that I don't understand their reasoning. I mentioned last month the pilot who neglected the briefing and flew to an airport with an active Flight Restriction.]

The game is this: you are alone in the airplane, but you can't do anything without asking for someone to do it, out loud, and saying "please". It's a variation on "Simon Says" or "Mother May I?" I developed it a few years ago when, under the wrong-headed impression that I wanted to be an airline pilot, I used it to practice for interviews.

It's even more fun with a British accent, so I listened to the BBC in the car.

So here's how it goes.

  "500 feet, landing light off, please."

  "1000 feet, fuel pump off, please, and mind the fuel pressure."

  "Set the heading bug to 016, please."

  "Tune the Idaho Falls VOR, please."

You get the idea.

While it sounds silly, I have found that playing this game really makes my flying smoother. There must be some fancy explanation of the cognitive benefit of multi-modal expression in relation to the neural pathways. Whatever; it works.
It really was a lovely night.

After my third landing I let myself into the FBO (I have a key, but the lineman had left the door unlocked and the coffee pot on) and put my flight bag in its locker. I was looking forward to flying with my students tomorrow, but that short time alone talking to myself gave me some wanderlust. (This is ironic, since I have visited the East Coast twice already this month, but I want to be a pilot, not a passenger.) "I want to go somewhere," I said aloud, not impolitely but not saying "please", either. I looked at the flight tracker, counting arrivals strung out on a path from Lovelock, Nevada to San Francisco. I stood by the big map on the wall, pulled the string to San Francisco, and sighed: too far, for now. Maybe Reno? Rapid City? Bozeman? Alas, no big trip for me, at least for a while. So I turned off the coffee and locked the door and listened to the BBC on the way home.

At least my mind could travel.

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