20 October 2008

Another Step in the Journey

A career in aviation as a pilot is a seemingly endless series of study, training, exams, certifications, and ratings. Indeed, earning one's Private Pilot Certificate (or Sport or Recreational Pilot) is really just a license to learn, because aviation is one of those endeavors that, regardless of one's goal, is truly a lifetime of continual learning. Or it should be.

A few days ago I passed the written exam required for the Instrument Rating.

Yep, got a 90% which is my personal minimum.

I'd been reading, assimilating, and preparing for this exam for several months, and over the past ten days I had a lull in my work schedule — I am a freelance internet professional — so I used the time to focus on this exam by going through a DVD training course and then doing a few practice exams.

In typical fashion, the actual exam proved to be less stressful and difficult than I had imagined it would be.

For some unknown reason, often at the outset of a project, or in this case a new level of flight training, the goal seems so distant, and to overcome the inertia required to begin is difficult. Something about Newton and his First Law of Motion, but in a mental sense. One has to inject mental energy into the project to get it moving.

Then of course, real action needs to be applied for things to start happening. Such as reading, studying, practicing, and so on.

So too with this written exam. Earning an Instrument Rating is one of the more difficult tasks in aviation. Not that each little bit is difficult, but that there are just a TON of little bits that one needs to know. And remember.

When I first dove into the material it seemed overwhelming, and the mental energy needed to concentrate had to be summoned from some deep recess of my brain. Especially because a lot of this reading was done at night before falling sleep. And yes, I did dream of instruments, approaches, and clouds.

Lots of clouds. And flying in clouds. Several times I awoke in the middle of the night, dizzy from disorientation. How the heck could that happen in a dream, I wondered.

Gradually the more I read the more of it got behind me and the less there remained ahead. Until one day I realized I had been through the entire training manual. Then I read it again. And certain parts of it yet again.

Something seemed missing — I was getting all the little pieces/parts but . . . I needed the parts to coalesce into a complete picture. So then I thought I'd try the DVD course and that helped to put it all together. It was the actual USE of the material from the manual that I had been missing, and the videos made it all make sense.

So now, all I have to do is learn how to put the pieces into action. In a real airplane. In real weather.

Might have to move back east, we don't get a whole lot of "real weather" here in Colorado.

I remember growing up in PA, we'd have cloud cover it seemed like from November till May. But that's another story.

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