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THE VINTAGE INSTRUCTOR

Are you ready for a new flying season? DOUG STEWART The sound of hundreds of wings in flight was distracting me from the job at hand, that being to get an article written in time to meet a deadline. But as I sat at the computer, the buzzing of all those wings was starting to get irritating. How could that be? A lover of flight such as myself being irritated by the sound of wings in flight? Distracted, perhaps, for like so many of us I cannot help but stop what I am doing and look skyward whenever I hear the sounds of flight, but bothered? That’s certainly not what the sounds of flight do to me. Yet here I was, starting to get really upset. So I went over to the window. Looking outside I could see that it was one heck of a beautiful spring day. The snow was gone. The grass was starting to green up. The sky was inviting me to get out to the airport and add the Tennessee Red and Diana Cream of my Super Cruiser to the cerulean blue that stretched to the horizon in all directions. This was a day to be out flying, not sitting indoors writing, or tending to the “honey do” list. This might be what was causing my irritation. But I have learned that there are times when certain responsibilities dictate that I cannot be flying, no matter how badly I wish to be up in the sky. So that was not the cause of my aggravation. What was the cause were the hundreds 8

APRIL 2004

of cluster flies buzzing around the window. They too were eager to get outside, to stretch their wings in flight, before heading to the

And so it is with many, many pilots across this great land of ours. For whatever reason,they have managed to rationalize not flying throughout the winter months. greening grass to propagate their species. Those cluster flies appear every spring, filling the windows of many older houses, trying to get outside. They have lain dormant in the attics of our buildings, wings

folded in silent submission to the cruel elements found outside throughout the winter. They can’t wait for spring to come so that they can once again be airborne, fulfilling their purpose here on Earth. And so it is with many, many pilots across this great land of ours. For whatever reason, they have managed to rationalize not flying throughout the winter months. They wait impatiently for that first warm spring day to head out to the airport and partake again of the gift of wings. For many of these pilots it might have been at least 30, 60, or maybe even 90 days or more since they last sat at the controls of their aircraft. But unlike the cluster flies whose instinct for flight is inborn, these pilots have in many cases let their flying skills atrophy. Come the first nice weekend day of spring, they flock to the airport, as do the cluster flies to the window, to regain the sky. Unfortunately it becomes quickly evident, especially to those of us who have stayed current throughout the winter, that the adage “Use it or lose it” is a true saying. For me, those first few weekends


(or weekdays for those not constrained by other responsibilities) are some of the most dangerous times to be flying. It seems as if every pilot who has spent the winter chomping at the bit to be back in the air is taxiing for the active runway, or in the pattern, or en route to his or her favorite $100 burger destination. And whereas the bicycle analogy (you never forget how to ride one) is indeed often true regarding the ability to fly an aircraft, it is also true that if you have not flown within the past 30 days, your piloting skills have probably deteriorated to a certain extent. And if the last time you took the controls was before winter set in, I think I could safely say that a little recurrent training might be a useful thing. It is not only stick and rudder skills that can get rusty (Did you remember to “dive away” from that quartering tailwind as you taxied to the runway?), but also the memory of procedures and regulations might be affected. For example, have you remembered that if you have not flown within the previous 90 days you will need to perform three takeoffs and landings (each to a full stop if in a tailwheel airplane) before you can legally carry passengers? Do you remember the right of way rules? Sometimes observing the antics that occur in the traffic patterns of nontowered airports makes me think that no one remembers those rules or, worse yet, no longer cares about them. Or is it just as simple as the fact that pilots forget, during the long winter, that the best equipment for collision avoidance is the two eyes each of us was born with? So I have a suggestion that could help all of us who share the skies on those wonderful days of spring flying. Why not use these early days of the season to get some recurrent training? The FAA Wings program is a wonderful way to do that! I certainly see more pilots attending winter safety seminars than I do in the summer. If you have already been in the process of improving your knowledge by attending a seminar during those dark winter months, all you need to do now is get three hours of flight training…one hour each of maneuvers, takeoffs and landings, and instrument flight. By getting the recurrent training of the Wings program, you are not only satisfying the requirements of a biennial flight review, and quite possibly reducing your own personal insurance premiums, but you will also make yourself a safer pilot. At this time of year, when your pilot skills might be at their lowest level, why not use the Wings as an excellent opportunity and incentive to knock off the rust that has accumulated over the winter? Doing so will certainly aid in elevating you from being a good pilot, to being a great pilot. That is a never-ending endeavor we should all be taking. Doug flies a 1947 PA-12. He is the 2004 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year. Visit his website: www.dsflight.com.

2004 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year Douglas Stewart, MCFI North Egremont, Massachusetts Congratulations go to Doug for earning the distinction of 2004 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year.Doug holds a Master Instructor designation and operates Doug Stewart Flight Instruction (www.dsflight.com) at Kline Kill Airport (NY1) in Ghent, New York. A veteran of U.S. Army service, he is a longtime aviation safety counselor, designated pilot examiner, and member of the National Association of Flight Instructors.

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