Sunday, May 31, 2009

Update on My Status - Grounded

If anyone is still subscribed to this blog, you've obviously noticed that I haven't posted in a very long time. I'm here today to describe my situation in full.

I've been sidelined from flying because I occasionally suffer from depression. There have been a couple of instances in my life in which I have been pretty adversely affected by circumstances in my life, to the point where I have had to seek help. Unfortunately, I've gone through both of these situations during my flying career (I've been flying for about 6 years). Bad timing, huh?

The first time I went through a situation where I sought help from counselors, and I had to get on medication for a few months. I was on an anti-depressant which disqualified me from flying. I did however eventually get off the medication and recovered from my depression. Regardless, I had to report in when I went to get my next medical, and my application was deferred to Oklahoma City and I had to wait on there decision on whether they would give me a special issuance (SI).

Luckily, it did happen, and they did give me medical clearance on an SI. It was a huge relief. For the last 2 years, I've been flying on an SI 2nd Class medical. However, due to some other personal issues in my life, all starting around November of 08', I suffered from some depression again. I was able to fight it off all up until around January of 09'. Then I just had to get some help again. I spoke with a couple of therapists, and tried a couple more anti-depressants.

The bad thing is that this time, the anti-depressants didn't even really help me out, and it turns out, that after I stopped taking them, I ended up feeling a lot better. Crazy how it worked out, but this time the anti-depressants, actually made me feel a little worse. So I didn't even need them at all. I've been off of them completely for around 3 months now, and it is killing me being away from flying. The irony being that I'm grounded now for something that didn't even help me, and this whole dilemma may not even have to exist.

I feel good enough to return to flying right now, but I've got a little bit of an issue to deal with now. The FAA rule is that you have to be off of medication for 3 months, be evaluated by a physician, then the FAA medical staff decides whether you are a safe enough risk to be certified again.

Let me state for the record that I am a down to earth person, and I'm NOT CRAZY. I should be a perfectly acceptable risk for flight to the FAA. I just went through a couple of difficult life situations and sought help. I hope I'm not punished for it by never being able to fly again.

So now, I'm getting ready to contact the FAA to determine what it is I need to do to get my wings back. I know I'll have no trouble getting my physicians writing any form of letter for me stating that I am fine. I guess my only concern is that this is the 2nd time I've been grounded for depression. I hope they don't look at my history and determine that I CONSTANTLY suffer from depression because I don't. There have just been about 2 occasions in my life in which I have suffered. It's not chronic or ongoing, and except for these 2 times. When I'm free from depression (which is 99% of the time) I am a damn good and safe pilot. Both times I've suffered from symptoms of depression, I voluntarily grounded myself. That should speak for itself. I do not fly, unless I am perfectly physically and mentally capable. Period.

So anyway, that's where I'm at. I'm grounded and ready to get back in the skies. It kills me whenever a plane goes over my apartment, or any time I pass by the airports, it is torture. So for the time being, this blog went from being about flight training tips, to a blog about a guy trying to get is wings back. I hope you will all wish me luck and I will post back with any new developments. Until then, treasure every moment you take to the skies, because you never know when something could happen to take your wings away.


P.S. To the man in Indy who contacted me about flight lessons, I'd be happy to work with you in the future if I get my wings back.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Online Flight Resources for Training

Well if you’ve been paying attention you’ve probably noticed I didn’t even make one post in the month of December. That’s mainly because I hardly did any flying in the month of December. If you live anywhere close to the Midwest, you probably know that it was one of the worst flying months you can have. Ice storms about every week, freezing levels at the surface, and low ceilings plagued us all month long. Fun stuff.

Therefore I was left with no inspiration of anything to write about. Sure I could pick up my books and pick out one of 300 topics to write about, but I like to provide commentary on topics that go somewhat “outside the books.” When you don’t fly you don’t have those inspirations.

I did however think that it would be nice to post a list of online resources that I use often to help out my fellow aviators. Here goes. – Basically this is like an online version of the Airport/Facility Directory, but it has much more information. I use it to look up airport and FBO information. If you are staying overnight, it provides hotel and rental car information as well. – An awesome website that allows you to look at navigation charts online. Use it if you don’t have Sectional or L-Chart where you’re going, and need to check out airspace information. However, always be sure you posses the current navigation charts with you in the cockpit, wherever you go.

ADDS Aviation Digital Data Service – This is the website of NOAA and the National Weather Service that provides weather information relative to pilots. Great resource that is free to everyone. I get my METARs, TAFs, radar/satellite, and all other WX information there. It’s basically like a WSI system that you can access from anywhere.

Tim’s Air Navigation Simulator – Although I’ve already posted about Tim’s Air Navigation Simulator, I thought I’d mention it again here. It is an awesome tool that I use and recommend to all of my instrument students. You can practice basic navigation skills, simulated approaches, holds, etc.

Those are the main flight resources I use while conducting the everyday duties of a CFI. If I think of anymore I’ll let you all know. More posts coming soon. Talk to you later.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Preflight Inspection - Does Your Instructor Join You?

During my student's preflight inspection the other day, I was thinking to myself about how so many of my other instructors never bothered to come out and join me, until it was time to hop in the plane and go. I don't want to come out and say that if your instructor doesn't join you and help you out on your preflight inspection that he/she doesn't care. What I will do is tell you why I DO.

First, I don't want the student to feel like I'm just there to put in my hour or two, and tally up my hours. I always liked it when my instructor came out with me to help me out with the inspection. It gives you a feeling that you fully have their attention, and they are concerned about the lesson.

One of my pet peeves has always been when my instructor sends me out to do the preflight, when all they are doing is just standing around the FBO, shooting the breeze with other people. Or when it is really cold out, and they just don't feel like getting chilly. No I admit, preflight inspections can be uncomfortable when it is below the freezing mark, but if I go and help out my student, it goes a little quicker, and we can fire up the engine and get the cabin heat going that much sooner.

With all that being said, here is the REAL reason I join my student for the inspection: I want to make sure it is airworthy, because my life depends on it.

My body will be in that airplane just like my student's will be, and I want to check everything first hand and make sure it is in good shape to fly. After all, these are STUDENTS that I'm flying with. Students are prone to miss things. Not that I'm not, but if there are two eyes checking everything, it gives us a much greater chance to catch anything that should prevent us from conducting a safe flight.

Once again, if your instructor doesn't always join you on your preflight inspection, it doesn't make them a bad instructor, so don't go and confront them about it. I'm just telling you why I do. I'd love to hear comments.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

VOR Station Passage Discussion

During an instrument lesson with one of my students a couple weeks back, he asked me an interesting question while shooting the LOC BC RWY 23 approach into KHUF.

If you look at this approach, obviously it is a localizer back course approach, but his question was concerning the final approach fix. When you look very close, you will notice that the FAF is defined by the VOR station passage. The VOR happens to sit off away from the back course of the localizer, slightly to the left about 1/8 of a mile or so.

In the 172s we fly, we have dual VOR receivers. So to set up for this approach we must set our CDI 1 to track the localizer, obviously. But to assure that we can identify the FAF, we must set our CDI 2 to get the TO/FROM flip, which identifies station passage, and the FAF. At this point, we start our time, and descend to our MDA of 980 ft.

So anyway, my student's question was this. "It doesn't matter what I have the #2 CDI set on, because I'll get the TO/FROM flip no matter what, right?" I then told him no, and that it had to be set up on the final approach course, because you'll get a good clean and fast flip that way. But then I thought, wait a minute, is that right?

That night I went home on got on my trusty little tool, Tim's Air Navigation Simulator, to experiment with this matter. I hadn't studied how this worked in a while, so it was time for a good refresher. Turns out I was right, you do need to set the #2 CDI to match your final approach course, but here is why.

I learned that whatever course you have your CDI set up to, the TO/FROM flip occurs when you pass an imaginary line perpendicular to your dialed in course. For instance, here is our setup on this approach.
You can see, we have our avionics set up to simulate the LOC BC RWY 23 approach that we were practicing that day. We have the CDI 1 representing the localizer back course final approach course, and the VOR (FAF) in the CDI 2 just adjacent to the approach course. The lines indicate the radial we have tuned in.

This next picture will show some drawing by me indicating with this setup on the avionics, where you will get to and from indications on the #2 CDI. The solid lines indicate the radials we have tuned in, but the dashed line indicates where we will get a TO/FROM flip. As you can see, even if you are slightly off course, you will still get a flip. In fact you will get a flip anywhere you cross this dashed line, even if you are not on the dialed in radial.

However, let's say that we weren't paying attention to what we had our CDI 2 set on, and we left it on say a 320. Let's take a look at what that scenario would look like.

You can see that you would never get a flip on this setup. If you tracked the localizer all the way in, with a 320 set up on #2 CDI, you would have a FROM indication all the way in. Let's say you had #2 set up on a 140, and you happened to drift off course before you hit the FAF. You would actually get a TO/FROM flip way before you crossed the VOR.

Needless to say this would be very dangerous. You would actually start your descent way before hitting the FAF. They publish those altitudes for a reason, and if you descended before hitting the FAF, you could have some lovely radio towers, or buildings waiting for your arrival. :)

Bottom line is this. Any time you are identifying the FAF by an off course VOR, make sure you have the the published final approach course dialed in on all avionics so you get a TO/FROM flip at the right spot.