Two Jobs

From the pilot forums to the Facebook groups I follow, there’s always questions about “how do I pay for flight training” or “how do I save up for flight training” The truth is for most people, it’s hard work and takes time. That is if you don’t want to go into debt.

For my PPL, I had money saved up from my high school graduation that I kept until I knew what exactly I wanted to do with it. It was nice not to have the stress of a dwindling bank account. I didn’t have to try to balance money used for every day life and money for training. Or have lessons be stressful because I had to get this lesson right or otherwise I was out of money.

Now, I’m onto wanting to get more ratings. I’ve been talking about instrument rating for awhile now and I think it’s finally time!

So, back to the issue at hand, how do I save up/pay for flight training? Right, I hear a lot of these questions and a lot of the same answers. “Get a second job” “make friends with someone who has an airplane” or even “barter your services”. Okay….well, personally those all sounded good, but I had NO IDEA where to start. I started mainly with saving up money from Christmas and birthday and a little extra each month. That seemed doable.

Of those suggestions, a second job would be great, but most people have enough trouble finding regular employment as is. Or finding a second job that fits in with your main career can be difficult because I can’t sacrifice my career for an extra job that I’ve taken to save for flying.

It’s taken me years, but I finally found a second job! Actually, I wasn’t actively searching for one. We moved out to California. Jake had taken a second job as a CFI for extra cash. It ended up falling through after the first two weeks due to the location, having only one car, and my work schedule. It got me semi-thinking again about a second job to save up for flying. Living near Silicon Valley, there are tons of start ups here. I was using one to get clothes shipped to me. For some reason, I looked for jobs on their website and voila! A part-time gig that I could work from home. Perfect! I sent in my resume, interviewed, and got the job! Best of all, it provides a creative outlet that I’ve been needing since I left the theater world. I’m enjoying it. It has been difficult recently with the amount of overtime at my regular job, Jake being home, and working an additional 15 hours at this second job. The payoff will be worth it though!

Other people at my work have second jobs too, and they vary from track coach to remote pilot operator at TRACON (sweet gig, right?). To me, the thing that made me actually find one is finding a second job you’d enjoy and you want to do. Not just a second job to pay for flying. I know it can be difficult to find, but also waiting and finding that good job will be worth it.

I know it isn’t so easy for other people, but I truly think waiting and finding the right opportunity is what makes or breaks this idea.

What have you done to save up for your flight training?

 

Goals for 2016

Wow, I can’t believe 2016 is here already. Happy New Year! As always, it’s nice to do a check in with my Goals for 2015 and what I accomplished and didn’t accomplish and set my Goals for 2016!

1. Travel  – I say yes I accomplished this. We went to Belgium for our big international trip. I did a day trip to Seattle to spend an overnight with Jake. I did a long cross country from Kentucky to Virginia and back, and technically flew to San Diego and Vegas for my flight deck observation flights. The biggest thing was driving across the country for our move. Okay, I could improve upon it for next year!

2. Read a book a month – Did I read a book a month? Not quite sure. Have a read more than 12 books this year? Yes! So I mark this as accomplished!

3. Get Published – Okay this I really slacked on. I wrote some drafts of articles I’d like to get published but just got kind of stuck and then all uptight about sharing it. Definitely need to fix this in the New Year.

Aviation Goals:

1. Earn my glider add-on – Didn’t get this accomplished, didn’t even solo. I have a lot of opinions on clubs now from this experience. Their schedule just didn’t work with mine and that was a real hindrance. It wasn’t really made for people with odd schedules and who have to work weekends!

2. Get tailwheel endorsed (Completed 5/4/15) – I LOVE tailwheels, if I could fly them all the time I would!

3. Take an aerobatics lesson (Completed 1/28/15) – And I also LOVE aerobatics now. I want to continue down this path and would love to compete in an aerobatics competition one day, but with other goals and ratings I’m not sure which takes priority.

Overall, 4 out of 6 isn’t terrible. Better than the previous year! I believe the goals should be achievable, but pushing yourself. Now onto 2016:

Goals for 2016

1. Write more – I’ve been terrible keeping up with the writing and it sucks! So I’m trying to hold myself more accountable this year and will continue to write.

2. Learn an instrument – By Christmas this year, I want to be able to play “What Child is This?” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I loved rocking out to that song this Christmas and it seems fun to play!

3. Run a 10K – I’ve been trying to do this for awhile but the closest I’ve gotten is 5 miles. I’m back down to 2-3 miles when I run so trying to work my way back up.

Aviation Goals

1. Take Instrument written test – I’m breaking this down into more manageable goals. First, just get the written out of the way! I’ve started and close to finishing the Instrument Procedures Handbook and then after that will begin studying for the written.

2. Earn Instrument Rating – It’s finding the time for this, but I want to get it done by June!

3. Possibly another rating, but we’ll see after I get my instrument!

I look forward to writing more this year and I really want to work more on making other PDFs like my airspace one for everyone learning!

Always Learning

It feels like I’m always writing about how bad I am with keeping up writing! I’ll put writing more on my Goals for 2016 page, I promise!

I’ve been in my new job for almost 5 months now and passed my comp check about 2.5 months. I may be corny in saying this, but I still learn something new everyday. It’s important to always be learning and growing, especially in aviation. There shouldn’t be a day at work or a flight where you aren’t trying to push yourself to learn something new.

Sadly, Jake has been flying with a lot of older pilots lately and describes to me what happens when a pilot gives up learning new things. Technology moves so quickly now so it’s quite easy to not pay attention and get behind. I mean with social media I’m awful – I still have no idea why Snap Chat is a thing or how to use it. But with flying and airlines it’s different. Every week they release new learning memos that we have to stay current on to know technology or important items about destinations we serve or aircraft differences.

Pilots have crew resource management (CRM) and they say dispatchers have the same thing (they rename it dispatcher resource management – DRM). The main point is, if you’re unsure of something, ask your co-workers. Being on the bottom of the seniority list means I have one of the crappier schedules, which also means newer people work with me as well. Since we’re all pretty new, lots of DRM happens and we solve the issue. I love my co-workers and we challenge each other to think about things the other may have overlooked or not thought about yet. Then there are pilots who call who may have a question because they’re thinking in a different way then we are. All great for a learning environment!

Official training comes to an end, but training and learning should never truly stop. Whether it’s from reading a book, asking your peers or mentors, or just Googling something to find the answer (and then making sure you find an official source in the Google search so you can back it up if questioned).

We’ve learned more about Oceanic NOTAMs since we go to Hawaii now. I learned a lot more about ICAO flight strips. It’s fun and I enjoy what I learn every day at work and I never want to stop learning and growing.

 

Basic ATC Structure

Basic ATC structure is an important thing to understand about our airway system and how to fly within it. While, it’s something that many new and VFR pilots only probably don’t know or possibly care about, it’s valuable information. I learned to fly in NYC, while I didn’t have to file IFR flight plan, I talked to ATC on a daily basis when flying either because of the tower or flight following. Basic ATC structure came up as a question on my dispatcher exam, and I deal with ATC reroutes and delays every day now.

Here is a quick synopsis of how a flight will talk to ATC from beginning to end:

Clearance Delivery

These controllers have your filed IFR flight plan and either clear as filed or tell you the way they want you to go. This isn’t to frustrate you, it’s possibly due to flow control or weather that has popped up (hopefully, you’re aware of it though!) Airlines get their PDC (pre-departure clearance) through their ACARS (Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System) printer to cut down on radio communication and possible error.

Ground

Next, you’ve gotten your ATIS (I didn’t include it since you’re just listening to a recording, not talking to a person) and are ready to taxi. You let these controllers know which ATIS you have and ready to taxi. They’ll give you instructions on where to go and if to hold short of any runways or taxiways. I always write it down, even if its simple just in case I forget with something else going on.

Tower

Ground will turn you over to Tower who will instruct you on when it is clear to takeoff. They will shortly hand you over to approach control after takeoff.

Approach

These are the controllers that work at TRACONs (Terminal Radar Approach Control) in terminal areas. They help vector traffic to and away from airports. Depending on your route of flight, if its short you may only talk to these controllers. If not, they’ll hand you over to the next set.

ARTCCv2Center

If you’re doing a long flight you’ll talk to Center. There are 22 centers in the US and you can see their outlines in the map I posted. I have to refer to this map a lot still to get to know their boundaries since    there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.

Approach

Back to approach and you’re descending into your destination.

Tower

Approach will hand you back to tower to clear you to land. When calling tower, they’ll want to make sure you have the current ATIS and your location.

Ground

Depending on how busy the airport, Tower will hand you over to ground to taxi back to your gate or FBO.

*Ops

This isn’t ATC but most likely you’ll be calling an FBO or an airline their ground operations to fill up on fuel and for other services once parked.

Airline Pilot for a Day

One of the many perks of my job, is I’m required to fly 5 hours every year in the cockpit of the airplanes I dispatch. The other day I had to fulfill this requirement and it was an experience! I’ve flown the simulator of the A320 and rode up front once already. My company allows us to pick whichever flights we want to do to meet this requirement and I chose to do two round trips, one to San Diego and one to Las Vegas.

The first flight was at 10am, so not too early. I parked at work at took the shuttle over to the airport. Signed in with the gate agent and introduced myself since I had to print off paperwork and be up in his business. After almost everyone else was boarded is when I headed down.

IMG_0130The first crew were great guys! Of course, aviation is a small world and I knew people the captain knew from other companies and bonded over that. Flights are much more boring then you think. Sure, taxi, take off, and landing. But cruise there’s not much to do except change radio frequencies every so often. That’s the time we catch up on company rumors and I bugged them with questions.

San Diego is a rare airport since it’s one of the few commercial airports with only one runway. I picked it because of that. We did a visual approach into the airport and pass so close to the buildings in downtown San Diego. I wish I had time to stay and visit, that’s another day.

Quick turn, I got off the aircraft because I had to let the gate agents I’d be riding up front on the way back. Our gate agents are pretty good. Sometimes I find gate agents can be mean, but every single set was nice and we chatted.

Ride back was pretty similar. Another pilot rode up front as well, since there are two jumpseats. Apparently him and his FO were cursing my name since they were commuting and I kicked one off. Oh well! That’s why you always give yourself a few flights to commute (which they did).

12019800_3048143120003_1861663340308308100_nSFO wasn’t foggy so a visual approach. There was an A380 coming in. Definitely the easiest traffic to spot since it’s MASSIVE! We landed behind it, but far enough away not to experience wake turbulence and ended up taxiing next to it. I so want to fly on one soon!

Those flights were less than 3 hours, so I had to do another turn. I just sucked it up and did another round trip to LAS this time since the next flight was in less than an hour, but I’m such a homebody and wanted to go home. I went over to the gate to sign up. There was the gate agent from earlier! I told him apparently I hadn’t had enough yet.

A new crew, these were younger guys and nice. Not as big talkers as the first set. I saw the approach into LAS which is interesting with the mountains coming from the west. During the quick layover, I went into the terminal and played some slots since why not? I’m cheap and only put in 2 bucks, but came out with $5. On our taxi back to the runway, we saw the British Airways plane that caught fire there. The engine was removed and it didn’t look so damaged. The departure was interesting again because of the mountains, but it’s not like the aircraft struggles to get over them.

The real interesting part was the approach into SFO. The sun was beginning to set, and fog was rolling in which looked beautiful. SFO utilizes SOIA (Simultaneous Offset Instrument Approaches) which means when the weather is good enough planes land side by side with less than 1000ft between them. I had my headset on and heard the pilots were looking for our traffic which would be landing next to us. They saw him, but for some reason I couldn’t. Maybe it was the sun, but I kept looking. We were below 1000ft and I was looking at the runway and the first officer got my attention and pointed to the left. I looked over and saw a United airplane right next to us! It was so cool. After we landed, we talked about how the first time you see it that it’s just crazy. I’m not sure if I’d ever get over that!

It was a tiring day even just sitting. Jake told me it’s just like a regular day for a pilot. It’s surprisingly boring and tiring. But I had fun, and I love the perk of riding up front!

KSFO and GDPs

I learned to fly out of Republic Airport (KFRG) on Long Island. It’s a pretty busy general aviation airport with a control tower. Since getting into dispatch, I’m learning a lot more about major airports and how they function. Recently, our class got to visit the SFO tower and get to understand the traffic flow.

When I was learning to fly, I noticed we took off runway 1 a lot, but it wasn’t rare to takeoff from 19 or even 32 (14 was rare though). Major airports love to keep the same pattern for their runway usage.

KSFO has 4 runways, 2 sets of parallel runways.  The way SFO works is that airplanes land on the 28s and takeoff on the 1s, unless it’s a 747 or A380 then they’ll take off the 28s. Aircraft can request to takeoff the 28s if it helps better with their route, but it’s not always accepted.

18855-yamm20zip-22-ksfo

Here are the problems with SFO that normally ends the airport in GDPs (Ground Delay Programs

  1. The airport is just too small!

They try to land as simultaneously as possible on the 28s to have the most traffic volume. When it’s a clear day, it’s possible. Aircraft have to see one another for the approach since the runways are so close together. 750 feet to be exact between centerlines.

Print

750ft pose a problem during IMC though. That takes away landing simultaneous, and cuts down the volume the airport can take in half. A minimum of 1000ft is needed for them to land together in IMC. Technology isn’t there yet otherwise.

2. Winds can be an issue

They will take off the 1s as long as possible. Once the crosswind component exceeds 25kts, they switch to the 28s for take offs and landings. Then the volume of traffic that can land goes down and holding and GDPs happens.

3. Noise abatement

Landing on the 1s is near impossible due to noise batement in surrounding cities of the airport. If you don’t like the sound of an airport, don’t live near an airport. I personally enjoy the fact a shadow of an A380 can cross my living room!

4. You’re gonna have a bad time…

youre-going-to-have-a-bad-time

If they’re landing the 19s, you’re gonna have a bad time in the dispatch office. With Oakland and San Jose also using the Bay Area airspace, it becomes crowded very quickly! Almost as bad as when JFK is in ILS 13 configuration for New York airspace.

 

Full Motion Simulator

Thanks to my wonderful instructor at work, we got a chance to fly an Airbus 320 simulator. The airline’s training is reduced at the end of July so they could fit us in for 2 hours!

IMG_9473   I’m in training with two other dispatchers, so the four of us (including our instructor) piled into the sim with a simulator instructor. I’ve heard Jake talk about flying these types of sims, but it was fun to finally fly one myself!

Being the most current pilot in the group, I was volunteered to go first. When taking off on the Airbus, instead of bringing it smoothly to full power for take off, first it’s brought to half power. This is in case one of the engines fails, so the aircraft doesn’t spin around! Full power and I dance on the rudders to keep on the center line. I’d probably say it’s more of a Waltz unlike the Foxtrot when flying the Cub on a grass strip.

IMG_9521V1 and rotate! So fun to hear those words and get to respond. Soon I set the throttle to the climb setting and just climbed. I wasn’t quite listening to the Flight Director – maybe because I’ve only flown with one once before so forgot about it! Since this wasn’t an actual lesson, but just a fun experience. I decided to buzz the Golden Gate Bridge.

Soon the sim was screaming at me “Pull up! Terrain! Terrain! Pull up!” I probably could have gone lower, but it was still fun. I’ve heard Flight Simulator X doing the warnings when Jake flies, but hearing it fill a cockpit was a bit different.

Next up, stalling the aircraft. Or well, trying to stall it. Airbus doesn’t let pilot’s stall the aircraft. I have to say originally, I wasn’t such a fan of Airbus and fly-by-wire technology, but it was pretty cool to see it stop the stall. We went into a discussion about Normal Law, Alternate Law, and Direct Law on the Airbus.

IMG_9479I was set up for landing. First autopilot was on and it was doing just fine, but the sim instructor took it off and it was all me. I have to say I didn’t look at the instruments, I went with what I know. Visual approach. He said I was doing great, so I kept my focus. I landed where I wanted to, but my flare wasn’t so great. The instructor said it wouldn’t be a big flare but I made it too shallow and bounced it. Glad I’ve never actually experienced that in a real Airbus because it wasn’t fun.

Everyone else got their turn and it was fun to watch and experience. I told the sim instructor to do a V1 cut (engine after reaching a speed when you’re committed to taking off) on our instructor. He didn’t tell him it was going to happen, but instead said there was going to be a crosswind. He did great and got us off the ground without crashing, but immediately after asked “how strong was that crosswind?!” He wasn’t so happy that I suggested we do that to him. I just told him he should thank me for making him look so awesome for pulling it off without knowing!

IMG_9485We had some extra time so we had the sim do a CAT III auotland down to 300 RVR, which was cool to watch and probably terrifying in real life since you CANNOT see much at 300 RVR.  It was difficult to taxi with that little visibility.

I wanted to do an emergency descent to see how that felt. The descent didn’t feel like too much, but the sim doing cabin depressurization was pretty intense the noise and shaking!

Lastly, I volunteered to do a go around. Set up on final again and I knew it was coming. I got down to 50 feet and the sim instructor called for a go around. I knew it was coming, but I found it a bit difficult to push the throttles up so close to landing. In normal takeoff circumstances, the engines need to spool up for a few seconds. But when it’s in landing configuration and in idle, the computers adjust it so the engines spool up quicker in case of a go around. It was a lot more work than a 152 go around!

It was so fun and a wonderful opportunity. I brought my log book and had the instructor log it! I know, I’m such a dork, but I have no shame. Now I have a bigger aircraft in my logbook than Jake!

Simulator Time: 1.5 hours