I don’t know about you, but it’s been a long month.
When the quarantine started, I had big plans. If I couldn’t fly, I would dig in and improve my knowledge on a wide range of aviation topics. Perhaps begin the bookwork on a new rating or start an article I’ve been meaning to tackle. If Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” and Isaac Newton managed to invent calculus both while quarantining during a 17th-century plague, surely I could muscle through some webinars and training materials.
So how’s that going?
April started off strong. I joined the legions using Zoom and began substituting in-person meetings with Zoom calls. Insider hint: It’s important to recognize the weird light fixture and schmaltzy aviation wall art behind you are, well, just weird and distracting. You can replace it with one of Zoom’s “virtual backgrounds” such as the Golden Gate Bridge, but that’s for rookies. Go pro with a virtual background of your hangar, your aircraft or the ultimate – from inside the cockpit of your aircraft…while flying. Now you’ve got serious Zoom cred.
Because of the pandemic, many flight training entities have been offering live online courses. Sign me up! In early April, Flight Research, Inc., hosted a two-hour live introductory course on upset prevention and recognition training taught by Dr. Scott Glaser. Loss of control is the No. 1 cause of GA fatal accidents and an area every pilot should understand in more depth. The session had 100 slots and it filled in an hour. Because of the overwhelming popularity, the company held the class at least four more times. (Thankfully, I was able to snag a spot – it was excellent.) It’s whetted my appetite to complete an upset prevention and recognition training course that includes a flying component.
With the cancellation of Sun ‘n Fun and other aviation events this spring, my email inbox was filled with invitations to attend a number of other webinars from Garmin, EAA, AOPA and the FAA to name a few. You could pretty much learn anything and everything in a webinar last month, from programming your FMS, to choosing the right brakes for your kit-built plane to understanding the differences between datalink weather sources. I even found a live feed of a mother eagle feeding her eaglets on explore.org,
a live nature network. That occupied a good 30 minutes, although its application toward my piloting skills is somewhat questionable.
Turning to my bookshelf, I pulled out some of my favorites, “Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying” by Wolfgang Langewiesche and Tony Kern’s “Foundations of Airmanship.” Some of the best words ever written about flying are found in these pages. Having these editions on your bookshelf not only makes you look super-smart but actually has the power to make you smarter.
Sensing that a change in environment might be healthy, I moved my social distancing practices to the airport. If you’re like most airplane owners, you can always find a big or small project to do in the hangar. There’s always something that needs cleaning, polishing, mending, tightening, updating, airing up or topping off. If there is a positive to embrace out of this pandemic, I can confidently say my plane has never looked cleaner nor the hangar more organized.
Another benefit of the travel lockdown is that it’s given my spouse and me more quality time together. Thankfully, we share a mutual love of aviation and get along fairly well in the cockpit. Since we can’t fly anywhere, we’ve helped each other keep our instrument skills current and our airmanship skills in shape. When flying safety pilot, we’ve each had fun introducing sadistic instrument failures at inopportune times. The only problem with that is we eventually switch seats. As the Wicked Witch said, “I’ll get you, my pretty!” (Being from Kansas, we never, ever tire of a good Wizard of Oz joke.)
After all that “quality time” together, I can confidently report our marriage remains intact. It helps to have a sense of humor and try not to be too competitive of who nailed the ILS or who executed a perfect power-off landing and made the touchdown point without touching the power. Not that I’m competitive or anything…
All kidding aside, the challenges many face during these unprecedented times are not lost on me. At the end of a flight, I have this habit as I watch the hangar door close and slowly obscure the view of my bird. I whisper a word of gratitude: first to my maker and second, simply in recognition of how lucky I am. That in spite of my frustrations, anxiety about the future, worry for loved ones at risk, and fear for friends on the front lines of the COVID fight, I am okay and today was a good day. In that moment, even my spouse can’t annoy me.
The future is uncertain and none of us know what the “new normal” is going to look like. But in spite of uncertainties, most of us have control over the next minute, and probably the one after that. And while we may not get our “King Lear” completed this month, let’s make the most of our moments.
Fly safe and stay healthy!