my controls

My controls. This phrase can have so many different connotations and tones. I've said this phrase in good will and good manner, and even fear or anger. I've used it to correct mistakes, maneuver the aircraft away from WAY TO CLOSE traffic, or demonstrate what I'm trying to convey to the student. Today I used it calmly after my single engine airplane started getting a little too quiet.

In every pilots dreams, or nightmares rather, I think we all hope for and wish that if any adversity or difficulty strikes, we handle it calmly and professionally. It's sure easy to look back on something that turned out to be no big deal and brag, "I had it under control the whole time". Regardless of truth or lie, I think sub-consciously we want to believe we did.

Today I experienced a power loss and engine roughness while departing the pattern. I was a few short miles away from my airport and climbing smoothly through 2000 feet when it happened. I had been here before, a lot closer to the ground previously, but very similar indications. Inconsistent power output, roughness, vibrations, fear. Through my training, and experience as a flight instructor, I've become pretty comfortable in the aircraft I fly. However, when a single engine airplane starts acting like a glider, you get uncomfortable.

Once I glanced at the tachometer to confirm a reduction in power, I said the magic words.

My controls.

I had plenty of altitude for a return to the airport, I felt like I still had at least partial power for the moment. I turned for the airport and informed the tower. I don't think it came out as smooth or as debonair as I had dreamt. My voice was probably shaking noticeably, and I probably stumbled over a few words. Power loss. Emergency. Return to the airport. These aren't words I say very often outside of a controlled training session.

I did everything the checklist wanted me to do. Nothing was working, power was still reduced, engine vibration more than usual, this was starting to sink in. This engine could fail completely any second. Fortunately for me it didn't, and the landing was uneventful. In fact, it makes me feel like an idiot when I land with 'engine trouble' and then taxi to the ramp under my own power. I often wonder if the controllers laugh at that.

Today just emphasizes to me how important it is to just fly the aircraft. In an emergency no matter how big or small the problem, there is never anything more important than maintaining positive aircraft control and flying the aircraft. Teach your students to be calm, and trust the training they received. Follow the checklists, fly the aircraft, and get whatever assistance ATC can offer.

switzerland or bust

After much deliberation and debate, and excellent input from friends, I’ve decided what to make of the next 5 years of my life.

Talking with the head honcho of SAT(Swiss Aviation Training), he expressed interest in still giving me a job. However now a few of the details have changed. What hasn’t changed is that they want to get my ATPL exams done and to learn some basic German.

However now they want me to finish my ATPL exams AND learn basic German BEFORE anything else. On top of that they want me to pay for the exams and the language lessons. Which when compared to what they’re going to pay for(travel to Switzerland, Flight training, medical examination, etc) it’s NOTHING even at the $4000 ish price tag.

I’m trying to finish this by the end of the year. Which means I need to finish my US ATP, 14 ATPL exams, learn German, and not kill myself. I’m sort of excited to see if I can actually do it.

So, I have another meeting tomorrow about some more details of the training. For now I’m enjoying the last few days of my free time. I don’t expect I’ll be doing much other than studying, studying, studying. Oh and sounding like an idiot trying to speak German.


should I stay or should I go?

I really, truly, never thought I would ever have this debate with myself.

Should I stay in aviation, or should I go find something else to do that I can actually make money with?

I use to scoff at people who lacked the decisiveness to make a career choice, after all I had my entire life planned out. Or at least the first 5 years after I started my flight training. Here I sit at year 4 from when I moved to Florida and now I myself sit at the proverbial ‘fork in the road’.


I have some options still. I can stay where I’m at. I can move to Switzerland(maybe- dependent on approval of a Visa) and continue instructing. I could move anywhere in the US to a different aviation job, that is if I could actually find one. I could move anywhere in the US to a different job altogether, that is if I could actually find one.

I’m getting slightly frustrated with where aviation has left me. Just enough income to survive, not enough income to actually thrive. Breaking even every month is a blessing, and going negative is nearly a guarantee each month.

Main factor here is work. Since October’ish I’ve been primarily conducting stage checks. It’s been an interesting road of ‘WTF did you just say/do?’ to ‘WOW you can fly my kids around any day’. The experience gained from this has been beyond any stretch of the imagination. My knowledge level was good before I started, but it’s just ridiculous what I know now(even though I still know nothing). However, after all this ‘rainbows and lollipops’ talk of how superb doing stage checks is, there is a dark side. It’s boring, it’s repetitive, sometimes can be mindless, and I don’t make nearly as much.

I want to be in a position that I don’t have to be AT WORK to make money. That’s not possible in the career field I’ve chosen, I know this. I would love to fly professionally for FUN. On the side, in addition to whatever else it is I can do. I just don’t know what that is yet.

I feel like the decisions I make in the next few months and the next year, will determine what I’m going to be doing for the next 25 years of my life. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of pressure for a few seemingly easy decisions! What’s more important? What will I be happy with when I’m on the edge of my death bed? Why am I even thinking about this? Who even reads this?