Flight Lesson #2 or "I’m Glad They Put Shock Absorbers on Airplanes!"

Yeah, you see this one coming, I suspect. But here goes anyway…

I flew yesterday afternoon. It was another perfect day here in Virginia. I arrived early, dropped off a check for flight hours at the front desk and sat in the classroom reviewing the stuff I should have reviewed the night before. From this, I concluded that my study habits haven’t changed a lick since college. I suppose there’s some comfort in consistency.

Anyway, at about 12:25, about 25 minutes after the scheduled time, my instructor lands with one of my fellow students, We exchange insincerities and head off to the cubicle where the flight instructor hangs his hat. (Or wings. Not sure what the correct aviation analogy is. I guess we haven’t covered that chapter in ground school yet.)

After a VERY VERY almost unsettlingly VERY short pre-brief, he says “Go file your flight plan. I’ll observe.” I had only seen this done once, but dutifully got on the phone with the disembodied voice of the woman who does whatever it is she does with the flight plan. Check. No problem. I look over to get the thumbs up from the instructor, and he’s on the cell phone. I chose to interpret this as a sign of confidence in my abilities, though I think he was just ordering pizza or some such triviality.

Out the plane and up the air we go. I learned a LOT from this guy. He’s very good, though it was tough to hear his soft voice through the intercom.

We did turns and talked about level flight and ascents and descents and all sort of things, then headed back. And, of course, it was up to me to line it up and get it on the ground. Which I did, albeit with a startling bump.

So here’s the deal, I think. You know when you’re learning basic stuff, somethings are SO basic that the teacher, who’s been doing it for decades, doesn’t even think to mention it?

I still don’t think anyone’s told me exactly how to land a goddamned plane yet!

It’s kind of important.

I have seen it done now a few times, but no one has ever sat down and laid out the proper steps for my poor little brain to put in sequence and follow. I can even dance when I’m choreographed. Why didn’t someone think to tell me how to land? I could probably do that, too, if someone would just freakin’ tell me!

It was a case of not knowing what you don’t know and not knowing which questions to ask in advance of the necessity of the knowledge. It’s a little late to ask “Hey, how DO you get one of these things on the ground anyway?” when you’re on final approach.

So it bounced. And bounced hard. The impact startled and surprised me, though in retrospect, it shouldn’t have. After all, I flew the effin’ thing right into the runway. Shouldn’t have been a surprise.

The instructor must have thought I had it under control, ’cause he was startled as well. But he took charge and got it all back under control and the rest of the procedure was just fine.

It was still a blast. I got high marks for the day with the instructor even saying that I might be a little ahead of the other students, so I must be doing something right. But I learned a valuable lesson.

Quoting from Don Rumsfeld, “… we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

It sounds like gobbledygoop and bureaucratic doublespeak. But in this rare case, I think he got it right. In the case of my attempt to land the tiny little aircraft, I was in the realm of “the one(s) we don’t know we don’t know.”

Ok, he was almost right. He forgot to add “… but should.”


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