Monday, October 27, 2014

Fishing for Students

I've always felt -- well, OK, maybe even preached -- that everything a pilot does is a preparation for flight.  Like many investments, though, you never know what, exactly, it is that you're preparing or what, exactly, you're preparing for.  You just have to trust that you're preparing something.

Take what happened in this story: at one point I decided it would be fun to learn the American Sign Language alphabet; many years later it came in handy when giving a Young Eagles ride to a trio of deaf girls.

So, you never know.

Something similar happened today.  I was scheduled to do a "Discovery Flight," you, know, the half hour introductory lesson at a reduced price.  These are invariably fun, even if the pay works out to be approximately minimum wage.

Sometimes people want a half-hour of sightseeing while they try out the controls, and I am always happy to let them try to fly to see their house or some other favorite landmark, as long as we stay within 25NM.

Today's couple wanted to look at some of the streams south of town; they had a special interest in beavers.

Beavers?, I said.  Let me show you the beaver pictures I took this summer.

They got all excited.  I think they liked the pictures better than the flight, which was pretty nice.  I emailed them pictures of the beaver pond, dam, and the beaver himself.

So, what's the story here?  Last summer my wife and daughter wanted to take an Australian friend hiking, and I decided that fishing would be more fun.  The access was a little difficult and I was fishing small pocket water with just a little success.  I went from opening in the willows to opening in the willows, fishing each stretch for a couple of minutes before moving on.  This fishing requires a little stealth and a delicate presentation.

One opening took me to the beaver pond, and I could see the beavers working.  So I took some pictures, posted them to facebook, got a few likes, and forgot about the whole thing.

Until today.

Mike enjoyed the story and pictures, and he really seemed to enjoy his time at the controls, too.  He asked lots of questions about the syllabus, the controls, and the like.  This might turn into a new student!

CFIs, including me, sometimes complain that it's hard to find new students.  It seems unlikely that we will find them hanging out at the too-quiet airport.  The way to find students is by being out-and-about, letting your joie-de-voler about flying spill into your joie-de-vivre about life.

In other words, if you want to attract new students, go fishing.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Irony isn't what it used to be, but still, only a few weeks after resurrecting memories of flying a Cessna 414, one has arrived on the property, and I have been designated to train everyone in it.  It's pretty; it has the RAM VII conversion; and it has winglets.   It has dual Garmin 530s and weather radar.  I like it!

I don't know much about winglets, so I asked a friend who flies for an all-737 airline and he shared some information (this always impresses the guys who don't know you: "My friend at XXX says that winglets...")

The interesting part is that none of the pilots I am training have much time in piston twins, and there is a lot to learn here.  They have been flying King Airs (with autofeather and rudder boost) and Citations (almost centerl-line thrust, and nothing to feather), so the piston-engine drill is new to them.  This puts me in a dilemma: proper training is hard on the engines, but a little must be done in any event.  When I first flew it to regain my multi-engine currency I waited until the final pattern to fail an engine on myself and flew a singl;e-engine pattern to a full stop landing with a slow taxi to parking to make sure the turbochargers cooled adequately.

The RAM conversion adds 25 horsepower a side, but that's only 100 feet per minute of extra climb on one engine (see this post).  Which might be enough in a crisis.

OK, time to go to the airport.