To: DIPLOCAT Judith Bradt
No edits. I would like to offer you just thoughts the way they
are today, willing to take whatever criticisms you offer. I'm
just feeling weary, more than anything. Just sort of warm-front-drizzly-weary
of this effort, and not wanting to face six hours of "preparation
for your IFR flight test" tapes -- which my instructor asked
me to take notes of because he disagrees with some of the advice
there but doesn't remember which parts.
Sometimes, I get tired of being positive about things. After
last night's lesson, last night was one of them. I cannot even
say that it was an accomplishment to be completely without emotion
or frustration when things went wrong with some of the approaches.
My instructor was giving me so many bits of information or advice
-- a number of which I asked him to hold onto until we got down
-- that I felt it wasn't even my airplane anymore. I was concentrating
on what I thought I was supposed to do, and then he would tell
me to do something else -- twice, in contradiction of a clearance
or instruction that I had already heard and received and was acting
on. Analysis: he was hearing the clearances he EXPECTED to hear,
not the ones that were issued. This is disturbing.
This is clearly
a mistake on his part -- he isn't communicating very well -- and
an instructor is -- by definition -- supposed to do it better than
anyone!) This is compounded by you, Judy, not questioning him or
repeat, IMMEDIATELY asking him to confirm his instructions withwhich
you note variance. You, as the student, should ask ATC to confirm
if you think HE (your instructor) has it wrong.
tired of being positive about things... I wasn't going to have
an argument with him up there; I had too much else to do. You
are right, I do get prickly. However, I don't lash out at people;
you get to see me get prickly because you and I don't communicate
in real time. I have time to think about what you say and decide
how I feel about it. My anger almost always arises from frustration,
and mostly from frustration with myself for not acting much more
quickly on an instinct that a particular thing or event is Not
Right, but instead letting it show its bloom of full colours (or
fester into maleficent and possibly dangerous prominence) until
you CANNOT sit there and let bad instructions, clearances orinformation
quietly get you killed. You MUST learn how to confront thingswithout
letting them get to the point where you're fighting panic (or anger
late, he was tired, I was tired -- very mentally weary. I had
studied the approaches, and run through written and mental checklists
of things in my mind. I was furious with him on the way home.
I wanted him to let me fly the approaches and if I got messed
up to just let me figure it out -- just like I would have to do
in real life. Maybe that was unreasonable, as this WAS real life
(as in, we were flying with a live clearance, and had to be where
we were supposed to be).
You're tired, and he's tired. He should know better. YOU now know
Frankly, learning to fly instruments is one of the most unnatural
ever going to do in your entire life -- you're learning to extendyour
senses beyond the flight deck and do what no other creature on earth
can do -- fly
and maneuver in the blind. It's frustrating! There's nothing
wrong with that. It's frustrating, also, because intense learning
frustrating -- particularly when you get to the saturation
point and you
can look at things without really reading them; you hear things
without really listening; etc, etc.
You mentioned elsewhere in your letter "I keep looking...without
seeing it...I didn't have the MAP procedure clearly in mind..."
See the warning signs? You're reaching a saturation point. You've
reached a point, on that particular evening and at that time, of
overload.When you get there, you need to realize that there's little
to be accomplished at that point other than getting good and frustrated,
or, worse yet, having some first-hand experience at accident practice.
You work a demanding job and have your head filled with a zillion
details spinning around the information loop at 70 MHz, and --probably
at your lowest physical and mental acuity state, expect to go out
and fly, thus risking physical and mental burnout WHILE you're at
the sharp end. Surprise, surprise, surprise. The brain overloads,
and the best you can do is fight back tears and self-rage for, what,
being stupid? Nahh.
hard at your office, and then go out to the airport to process a
few zillion other things with countless trillions of details to
juggle and sort while some motor-mouth CFI is going on and on about
less and less with ATC blaring in your ears, the systems taking
a convenient crap at the same time and you wonder why you're feeling
a little frustrated.
wonder why instrument students just don't run into a spinning propeller
at the conclusion of a lesson.
-- and I'm sure you will confirm -- that I had studied the approaches
too much. I freely admit that I had spent a lot of time doing
that. Maybe I just concentrated too hard and therefore lost my
focus...is that nonsense? I find it hard even when I'm sitting
at home reviewing what I expect to do for a flight, it's very
difficult to put into mental sequence all the things that I will
have to do. And when I am flying the approach, and all I really
need to get from the approach plate is:
the target altitudes
the MAP / MAP procedure
Well, I get
a lot more out of an approach plate than that, but now isn't the
time to go over that. In terms of concentrating too hard, I'd suggest
that you should mentally fly your approaches at lunch -- if you
must fly after work -- and not prepare too much immediately before
flying. Give the mind some time to get through the processing stack
before dumping more into the hopper. You can be too prepared, I
guess, but I think your problem, in part, comes from being at your
lowest physical and mental state while trying to go out and fly...
Don't feel too
bad. I constantly have to ask the miss instructions from the PNF (pilot
not flying) while doing an approach to mins -- particularly when I
know there's a good chance I'll miss (or when I'm on a checkride...)
looking back at the plate anyway, as if I have looked at the information
without seeing it, and been unable to pick up the information
I need and put it into the correctly-shaped mental box for the
information. I need to somehow put the entire plate into a mental
never reinforces the things I do right, and just lists the things
I did wrong; I have to stop him time and again to write down the
point positively so that it will stick as a positive reinforcer.
He is quick to just list this stuff as if (a) I will remember
it just because he said it, and (b) by him telling me the things
I did wrong, I will therefore not do them anymore.
instructor should learn -- for himself -- that people do much better
when THEY de-brief the flight but HE reinforces the positive before
and after the de-brief. Most instructors NEVER learn the secret
of the GOOD instructors: let the STUDENT state what went wrong;
let them ASK what went wrong if they don't know or can't figure
it out for themselves. Tell people what they're doing right; have
them self-critique the flight; and you'll have students lining up
at your door because you're known to be the world's best instructor.
that I not interrupt my scan for quite so long when I am checking
radio frequencies -- that I tune part of the frequency, look back
at the instruments, and change another part of it. It seems to
take me a long time to move the knobs to the right frequency,
and when I do, I tend to drift off heading.
This is tough -- particularly when you're flying an airplane not
equipped with a comm system capable of storing frequencies. Anything
which breaks the scan can -- repeat, CAN -- be bad. You just have
to learn to include the radios as a part of your scan, the same
as you learn to adjust course bars and directional gyros, etc, etc.
Try it peripherally, too.
And we lost radios again. No, it was not the alternator or the
battery; he thinks the 9-volt battery in his intercom went dead.
Unfortunately, we lost first com2, then com1, though the navs
were working, when we were inbound for the ILS. He unplugged a
bunch of the intercom cords and plugged in the mic and took over
the radio communications; approach, breaking up, switched us over
to the tower, which came in fine.
approach heading was 162. IAD had asked me to fly 120 heading
in, and then moved me to 060. Then we started to break up. I didn't
understand, once we were in communication with the tower at Manassas,
that I was supposed to continue to approach; one of the tower's
instructions finished with something about a westward heading
to join the downwind, and I thought we were being told to break
off the ILS approach. Then Tom got left and right confused, and
told me to fly away from the LOC, when he wanted me to fly towards
it. I didn't think we had been cleared for the approach, so I
didn't know what I was supposed to do.
at his saturation point, too.
follow one of your suggestions, and call the tower to find out
whether they would be able to offer me the clearances I wanted
for my set of local approaches, and found out the useful information
that towards 8:30 p.m. that was unlikely as they had a lot of
incoming traffic then. This was most helpful to know, as I had
some idea of an alternative request when they were unable to accomodate
my initial request. Thanks. That was off to a pretty good start.
Good. You're learning!
yeah: again, the aircraft I wanted wasn't available. I was in
the Warrior again, and I didn't know until I got out to the airplane
that this one didn't have DME. Tom advised me to inform ground
of the revision when I picked up the clearance. I had expected
DME, and had flown with it in almost all the other flights. This
was too bad; it wasn't REQUIRED for any of the approaches, but
would have been darn nice to have on two of them.
Why did the
business change the airplane? You MUST tell them, in no uncertain
terms, that you've scheduled a particular airplane and if they don't
want to honor the commitment of the schedule, you'll consider alternate
flew inbound to the VOR, I was cleared for the 17 approach, which
was actually the 14 approach. I made what was in retrospect the
wrong kind of radio call: instead of asking him to say again,
as I was pretty sure of which approach he meant -- which left
him with the impression that I didn't understand him -- Tom advised
that I ought to have repeated back "cleared for the VOR 14,
Warrenton. So we're having this little discussion about gratuitous
radio calls, and I'm thinking, I don't want to hear about this
right now. What I did wasn't the best choice, but it wasn't wrong,
This is a VERY
IMPORTANT POINT: ambiguity kills. ASK the controller to say again
his instructions and DO read back the instructions (legally, it's
a clearance!) each and every time. If the controller screws up,
or misses that you read back the wrong information, he will be charged
with the error -- NOT YOU! NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER assume
that you know what he meant.
(surprise) miscalculated the heading I would need to fly in crossing
the VOR in order to enter the pt. The outbound track was published
as 299. I looked at that and decided that, coming in from the
east, I needed to fly 300. This is junk. I needed to fly 270,
which was about what I was doing anyway. He asked me what heading
I intended when I reached the VOR and was not doing 270, and I
thought about it and realized I had made the wrong choice and
corrected. I don't know why I picked the wrong heading.
I suspect that
OVERLOAD is working here. Stop flying when you're exhausted.
You did the mental
gymnastics when it counted. Good. Now if the flight school hadn't
sent your originally-scheduled airplane out on a charter or some other
flight, you'd have had DME -- which is what you needed.
a smooth entry into the pt, but didn't turn far enough right before
stopping to see if the needle was coming in. I had forgotten that
I needed to turn right until I was 45 degrees shy of the desired
heading for the inbound track and wait until the needle came in.
In sitting down beforehand, I was confused about this anyway,
and all I could think of was trying to figure out ho many minutes/seconds
the turn would be in case I had real or enforced gyro failure,
and had not been able to figure out the answer. Tom asked me why
I was stopping at 030, and told me to keep going around to to
the 45 degree-point -- by which time, rewardingly, I was tracking
that thing very well indeed. However, I realized just after started
the time once I hit the FAF at 2.2 miles out that I should have
started the time at the IAF at 7.6 NM. You know what I did? I
actually roughed out, at 90 knots, about how long 2.2 NM was going
to take me at 90, and did the miss at exactly the right place.
This was gratifying.
I didn't have the MAP procedure clearly in my mind (WHY?WHY?WHY?),
and had to look twice at the plate. I wanted to make sure that
I had positive rate of climb before lifting the flaps, and between
those two things, I went apparently four miles out before turning...and
even then, I was flying so the needle was centred, to return direct
to the VOR as instructed when I called in the miss, but was flying
a FROM flag, and didn't realize that I neded to turn 180 degrees---you
know, like it's depicted and described in tw different places
on the plate? I got confused.
confused, too. And I'm not nearly as tired as you seemed to have
single pilot, you have to rely on practicing the mental game of
STICKING ESSENTIAL INFORMATION someplace where you can immediately
retrieve it. What helps is a quick review of the first two or three
essential instructions of the missed approach procedure so that
you can at least get away from the ground and obstacles and get
safely airborne – then, you can set the missed approach up
on your radios and call the missed.
correctly work out which way I was going to turn to intercept
the outbound heading from the VOR. I felt a little blind without
DME, on which I had I suppose come to rely too much for location
information. As we passed where the NDB was supposed to be, Tom
told me that I'd missed a reporting point. Two things were wrong,
and there was a third procedural error involved, too. First, I
had neglected to test the ADF on the ground. If I had, I should
have noticed that its switch was on "ANT" not "ADF",
and changed it. I had wondered idly whether the needle was pointing
to where I expected it to be; no, it wasn't, but I was too mentally
crowded to figure out why not and correct the problem. Again,
cockpit was getting dark, ADF was on the far side, I couldn't
see it that well and it didn't occur to me to look at its switch.
Tom identified the problem, by which time we were past the NDB
and needed to get reoriented. We hadn't missed a reporting point,
as I wasn't told to report over the NDB. The controller was busy,
and just told us to report pt outbound. We were only outbound
from the IAF...or, trying to be, at that point. (I DID ident the
NDB -- and all my navaids on this flight, actually -- but didn't
keep its beeper going low in the background like I was supposed
to for the entire approach).
A couple of errors like these and I'll think fondly of you when
reading the accident report.
anytime that you brief an approach that the gear is able to serve
you as planned. Check the ADF for ADF/ANT; check the comm/nav switches
so that you can hear the ident of the NDB and can hear the marker
beacons as you pass them.
Tom tells me to fly the outbound heading. My idea is to turn to
fly a heading 20 degrees less than the heading outbound from the
NDB, in order to intercept that track, and get set up for PT outbound.
No, no; he wants me to fly the pt outbound heading NOW, so that
I can tell from the NDB needle where I am. This is information
overload. I cannot process this information, and I have no idea
why he is telling me this. I do it anyway, and watch the ADF needle
without comprehension, and eventually simply make the inbound
portion of the pt, reporting to ATC that I'm at the end of PT
inbound, turning outbound. I'm cleared for the approach. I get
slightly screwed up about which bearing I'm on to the station;
by the time I get it right, it turns out that I started the PT
so close in that I'm already over the station. I call a miss,
and tell Tom I want to do that one again. He helpfully suggests
asking for clearance to the NDB rather than the VOR to save some
time, and I agree. My instructions are to fly direct to the NDB.
Turn, Turn, Turn, he calls out. I have gotten confused again,
and am flying a course direct to the VOR, not the NDB.
overload is right.
a strong interest in giving up and going home, but it's not even
a passionate interest. It's like I'm completely dead inside; this
is like swatting a fly in an otherwise sterile room. I don't even
have any anger at making these mistakes. Afterwards, I don't know
whether this is constructive or regressive. Thinking about it
now, it was probably helpful, as anger and frustration create
even more problems and utterly stall thought processes. I guess
it was good.
Judy, you can
see how fruitless it is to fly when you're exhausted or reaching
a point of overload in your day. You're making mistakes because
you're tired. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that
out. Your instructor isn't doing much better, and to compound the
problem, you're flying at an FBO whose management doesn't think
much about breaking commitments about airplanes, etc, etc. No wonder
why you're having trouble.
remember much about doing the next NDB approach...but it was a
good one. I put the flaps in too soon, I think, on one of the
approaches, and was reminded when we returned that the FAF is
the place to do that. I DID do a reasonably good job of remembering
to slow to 90 knots when crossing the IAF.
much about an approach is NOT a good sign. You should remember what
you did right and why more so than what went wrong.
know, I kind of like NDB approaches. Don't ask me why. They just
seem friendly. I associate them with this little lonely transmitter
atsome out-of-the-way airport with maybe good burgers...(and I
don't even like burgers all that much...) They are less complicated,
in some ways, that ILS.
are tough -- they're a little difficult to figure out. Until you
learn to fly an RMI.
started shouting at me, because he thought that I was unable to
hear him with the BOSE headset still noise-cancelling. I will
have to let him try it to understand what it does and doesn't
make quieter. I could actually hear the transmissions better than
he could, and could certainly hear him just fine. I just missed
hearing the Manassas controller because I guess I had mentally
check out and was waiting for Tom to convey their instructions
to me -- which sometimes we do when he is simulating an ASR approach.
someone in a student-instructor relationship is a grave mistake.Yelling
at a student in an airplane is also a grave mistake.
to say, that isn't an approach that should have been continued.
We needed to land, because control was so busy they weren't too
interested in giving us another shot at it...and after all the
foregoing, I don't know how constructive it would have been.
Well, the NEXT
time you get yourself into this situation, you'll probably remember
that it doesn't pay to fly when you're not at your peak mentally
get into the pattern nicely at 1200 feet, and flew a good approach
-- the lights were white with just a tinge of pink -- which I
was told was lower than it should have been at night, and it was
a gratuitously lovely landing. All the time, I heard him thinking
"nose wheel. She's going to whack the nosewheel." He
didn't even remember the landing. Now, you yourself have told
me that artforms in night landings are really beside the point.
I was just pleased that it was set up well, and concluded well.
Well, I've done more good night landings by accident than by design.
suppose it wasn't a disastrous flight; there were just all these
loose pieces hanging all over the place, and I find it's an enormous
effort to try and scoop them up and string them together in the
right order, like graduated beads. All things I know; and no reason
why I should not be doing all of them extremely well at this point.
I call what
you went through a rough learning experience -- just the type that
encourages most people to quit their instrument training. The fact
that you didn't, and haven't quit, says a lot for you. The instructor
is paid to HELP you learn without feeling rectally raped in the
process. The business is supposed to honor commitments about aircraft
in order to give you the proper tools to learn -- rather than foisting
some junk off on you so that you can experience something less than
success due to changes they made for greater profitability (or whatever
excuse they have to offer...)
I was "up" for this flight; I had looked forward to
it, especially after having to cancel last Sunday. Even though
I had had a long week of some really mind-numbing stuff (and I
am getting really worn down by all the work involved in running
one of my projects: I know all the things that need to be done,
and I could tell someone what to do if the right person were there,
but I no longer feel like doing it even though I am the only one
who can right now), I had changed gears happily on the train on
the way out to the airport. As my early June mexico trip was cancelled,
I am not under particular pressure to finish within the next 10
days. I had studied, and put a lot of mental energy into affirming
my confidence in my abilities to do this lesson. I was, at the
end of the lesson, just utterly weary, and didn't have the mental
energy to sit down with Tom and tell him what I need from him
as an instructor (I know better than to tell just about anyone
"here are all the things I don't like about you"). And
maybe I just don't know. I'm just so tired of trying without things
working all that well. Visualizations, affirmation, concentration...all
this effort...does it ever get easier? Or, if it does, does that
simply mean that one is on the slope of skills decline for want
of constantly striving to hone a finer edge? This is just so hard
sometimes. (Sniff. Sniff. Drip.)
This is a very, very important point I'm going to make, and I'd
like it to sink in as far as it can. You state....(I) didn't have
the mental energy to sit down with Tom and tell him what I need
from him as an instructor...
do this, and the next time you see him. And you'd better keep repeating
this to him until it sinks in for him. You'll teach him, perhaps,
a lesson he needs to learn, and learn to stick up for yourself ("Assert
yourself") until he does better. One result of him learning
to do better is that you'll do better. Obviously, the way NOT to
approach him is by stating that he's acting like an ass -- though
he is. You can insist, also, that he's going to be short-tempered
and overloaded himself, you'd like to insure that he's in proper
condition to fly.
Talk with him
about your concerns, Judy. He OBVIOUSLY was overloaded, as you were.
He's got the legal responsibility to cancel the lesson if he's not
in proper condition mentally and/or physically.
Does it ever
not true. There are always a million new hurdles to overcome in
flying, new stuff to learn, new equipment and techniques to master.
If instrument flying was easy, there'd be a lot fewer accidents,
regulations and FAA people.
Those who are
good at it have probably gone through the same trials you have of
late: they've come away feeling wet, exhausted, frustrated and demeaned.
And they got right back at the books and the flying, mentally flew
the procedures time and time again after they first got a good night's
no, you know I don't give up.
Yes, and that's
one reason why you're likely to be good at instrument flying. If
you keep working at it, but, from now on, with realistic limits...
Tired, yes. Distracted, yes. Incoherent? Think about getting into
a relationship with someone who IS willing to put themselves into
your education 100%, not just on a come-as-you-are basis. After all,
you're the customer...
come to pick me up, and overheard some of the debrief. Tom is
just syntactically incoherent sometimes. I really do not understand
him, more and more often, and have to restate and clarify more
and more frequently. Maybe he was just tired at the end of the
day; I suspect his mind was partly on the air races he's heading
out to crew for for the next 10 days.
Tomorrow, if the front edge of the cold front blows through early,
I will fly...with a different instructor. And do those approaches
As you did. Good. I'm glad you got a different perspective.
As you said, the ability is there. I have all the pieces. I just
don't know what I need to do to bring them together. The answer
is probably just to go practice.
First, you need to get a good night's sleep, and keep working on
flying in that RELAXED state of heightened awareness.
everybody has down days.
I can't tell
you how tough my instructors made it on me when I was going through
my instrument ticket IN A BARON, no less. I had to fly with some
jackass who positively disliked me and sabotaged the lessons through
lack of participation in any sense. I changed instructors after
the first three or four simulator lessons, after I figured out that
it simply wasn't a matter of me being stupid. Fred just stuck me
in the simulator and didn't offer a single suggestion about WHY
things weren't working -- all he did was offer a running, non-stop
criticism of my mistakes without going back to basics and showing
me HOW to fly instruments properly. I don't think he really knew
HOW to fly instruments himself, in hindsight, and he certainly didn't
know how to teach. It wasn't until 1980, some five years later,
that I had a clue what I was doing wrong -- and had a GREAT instructor
take my instrument flying apart and put it back together again.
Thanks for listening.
It goes beyond
Perishable skills, indeed. But what is more important is that you
need to be at an optimum of mental and physical states in order to
fly well – anytime -- and far more so when the flying involves
instruments. Optimum, Judy, is NOT the LOWEST acceptable level of
minimum mental and physical readiness. You can look forward to something
emotionally, and yet the body and mins WILL fail you.
one finds, is not a once-off qualification. How is it that so
many of life's more interesting challenges are not certificates
to hang on wall, but perishable skills that must be practiced
and honed and learned and re-learned?
I've related the bad news for the most part.
Comments? Entrusting a somewhat battered self unto you,
good news is that almost everyone goes through a very rough time
learning to fly instruments -- it IS an unnatural act where you
learn to disregard your senses in order to fly "blind".
instrument student reaches a threshold where they butt their heads
against the wall, trying to force something into their brain but
without success. This stage of frustration is the BEST time for
a pilot to relax a little and back off temporarily, because, usually,
as soon as they do, the drive gets them going afterwhile and they
crash through the barriers of learning that frustrated them earlier.
It does get
better. Sometimes it gets a little easier, too. Particularly when
you get to fly with better equipment.