May 29th, 2009


my airplane feelings

Flight 6. I'm at 8 hours.

I have a very complicated love-hate relationship with the airplane. Like right now this second sitting on the ground, I cannot wait to be back up in the air. I feel like I can put a game plan together, do better accounting for the wind, watch instruments, handle the radios... I make radio progress every time. But at 8:00 tonight I was an absolute shaking wreck.

What was my day like? Well around 11am, I looked at the airplane schedule, knowing I had time after work, and noticed a reservation slot open, asked my instructor if he was free and he was so I grabbed it. Then I started getting nervous. And that happens... I can feel my heart beating in my chest, I have to get up and walk around. Then I'm weird and distracted and keep thinking about it. I can't explain my feelings because it's not fear per se, I know I'm not going to fall out of the sky and kill myself, it's a good airplane and I have a real pilot sitting next to me. But something still makes me feel awful, like I'm about to take an impossible test that I have no chance of passing.

By 5:00 I was a little more calm, and we went flying. I had a takeoff that I don't feel good about. Later on, my instructor (who I think I'll call S) said that he asked me what our airspeed was and when I glanced at it we veered off to the left... I don't remember that, I just remember veering, and wondering to myself how I'd thrown things off so quickly. And maybe that's what shook me the rest of the flight... some things were good and calm, other things need practice, it was all so-so, then there was the normal assisted landing and that's really what always gets me. All landings freak me out.

Funny thing happened... when we were on the ground doing the tiedowns the instructor asked me how I felt. He's never done that. In fact I try to hide the way I feel usually, because I get the idea he's aware of how much this freaks me out and what can he do about it? Tell me to get my head out of my ass? Anyway I couldn't put english words together to describe what I wanted to say, I just mumbled like a crazy person. What I should have said was, "Never ask me that again."

By the way, I've read other pilot blogs, and you are getting an unusual amount of crazy right here with this one. Even students... pilots are sometimes frustrated, often accomplished-feeling, never as freaked out as me. Or maybe no one talks about it. Maybe I shouldn't talk about it. I guess I want to be honest to all of you, because I don't feel comfortable being honest with real people I know.

On the ground, S. said he felt like I had a lot more control of the airplane than I had previously. Really? But looking back maybe I should give myself more credit... I am doing some things right, I have some bad tendencies and reflexes to work out but I can turn, my stall recovery was better, my rudder control in slow flight feels better. And when I think of it that way, that's when I remember happy times in the airplane when I'm enjoying it. But we usually review lessons post-landing, when my adrenaline is skyrocketing and I can't concentrate for anything. He says things and I have to have him repeat half of it, because I can't keep track of how a sentence started by the time he's at the end of it.

My neighbor told me stress lowers your blood sugar and low blood sugar increases stress, that's what shock is about, that cycle. So, she said, next time I fly eat a cookie first. She said even if it doesn't work, at least there's cookies. I'll tell you how that works out.