Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Speed of Time

It feels both trivial and impossible to talk about time without some mention of paradox. Science fiction movies have been eternally milking the subject down to the last tachyon. In my particular case, I find myself often trapped in a temporal loop of perpetually preparing for my private pilot checkride. I do think, however, that there's light at the end of this particular runway. All the CFI's I've been flying with keep telling me I'm ready, to which I reply that I still haven't even reviewed the textbook material ... and the cycle repeats.

For reasons that I can't completely fathom, my ability to sit and read the material from a textbook has all but vanished. Instead I've been trying to enlist the support of 21st century technologies in order to help me learn a bit more interactively. Either that or I just really, really, really like using Paypal. I've now purchased an entire private pilot's video course (King Schools), all the Gleim textbooks as well as their written test software, Dauntless Software's checkride prep software and just this morning both an e- and audio book series reviewing all the material for the checkride. I was surprised at how well the latter went along with driving six hours from VA to NJ.

Some of it is finally starting to sink in. I'm also enjoying the multiple facets of flight once again. The data set is pretty well defined and the topics of weather, aerodynamics, FAA regulations and the rest are starting to carve out permanent niches in my synaptic pathways.

It's amazing to think how long I've been at this. Yet if I take a step back and look at the process it doesn't really surprise me that it unfolded somewhat differently than I may have initially envisioned. This was, after all, a bit of a new adventure for me. It seems to make sense now that I have more than 100hrs in the cockpit (the minimum is 40). Taking the slow road to the sky has and continues to involve learning other things about both aviation and myself.

Plane ownership is a door I didn't even expect, let alone one that I would have anticipated opening for me. It's been extremely rewarding. I genuinely enjoy keeping the plane in good shape. This past week I had a secondary GPS device installed that receives satellite weather. It's a bit of a different world when you "hitch a ride" with some other pilots dropping off another plane at the same shop. Despite calling shotgun, I sat in the back seat as Shane and Tom flew an older (1959) Piper Apache over to KLKU for some check ups by the excellent crew at Meridian Air.

Flight remains magical. A currently popular comedian, Louis CK, had some wonderful perspectives on flying during an interview with former Late Night host Conan O'Brien. I had the treat of being able to reflect similarly last week while flying on an absolutely perfect, calm, warm Spring day. When not preoccupied with scanning instruments or properly implementing a maneuver with the correct combination of control technique, flying is nothing short of sublime.

I shot the following clip on my way back to Charlottesville (in the foreground) while coming back from what we call "the Southeast practice area."

I can't help but wonder what it must be like to do it at ten times my current velocity. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. I think these military trainers only fly at about five or six times my Cessna's maximum speed.

In any case, I hope the learning process for jet engine certification won't take me proportionately as long.

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