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Watch Out for Each Other

From NAFI's Chair

Watch Out for Each Other

A few weeks ago, I wrote about summer heat and being careful to monitor your condition as well as that of your students. Something happened to me since then that made me want to reach out to all of you to ask that you redouble your efforts paying attention to your own health and your family's, friends', and students'. Before I go further, I want to note that I'm not telling this story for sympathy. Rather, it's a cautionary tale to my fellow instructors to be careful of our tendency to dismiss aches and pains, being the type-A achievers most of us tend to be.

This started on the Sunday a week before AirVenture. I woke up with the worst back pain I'd ever had in my life. I was convinced that I pulled a muscle when I tossed a backpack over my shoulder the day before. I elected to take the day off and watch a couple of movies and just relax. During the day, no matter how I sat or lay down, I just could not find a comfortable position.

The next day, after a pretty restless night, my back hurt even more. I decided to go to the clinic at my office to find out just what I'd done to myself. About halfway through a three-block walk from my apartment to my office, I called a co-worker, Kevin, and asked him to meet me on the way and help by carrying my backpack. Just before the company promoted him, Kevin had been an EMT with a volunteer department near St. Louis. When he met me, he took one look at me and said, "Why don't I get my car and take you to the emergency room? That's what they'll do anyway." I thought about it for about a minute, realized that, in my company's culture, if I'd said the same thing to another employee, I'd expect them to go, so I agreed.

Long story short, at the ER, after a series of tests, X-rays and CAT scans, I was informed I had blood clots (pulmonary embolisms) in both lungs. I was admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis after being put on blood thinner. Fortunately, there's no damage to my heart or lungs, and I was released the next afternoon after an uncomfortable night. The really good news is that, because this isn't congenital or disease-caused, there's very little likelihood of recurrence, as the doctors think it was the result of a bad bruise on my calf about six weeks ago. The only downside is that I'm just not allowed to fly anything (not even the back of an airliner) for the next three to six months, depending on the results of a follow up in October. More good news is that I've been reassured by both AOPA and the FAA medical folks that getting my medical back should be straightforward. I'll keep you apprised of that process.

There's a saying attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that has been adopted into aviation that goes, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." Here's what I want you to learn from mine. I thought I had a pulled muscle in my upper back, compounded by sleeping awkwardly. I've been told by the doctors that if I'd continued to self-diagnose and hadn't listened to my friend, this story might have had a very different outcome and that I'm very, very lucky. Regardless of age or overall health, if you or someone you know has an unexplained pain or irritation or even a small wound or bruise that won't go away, get it checked out by a professional - the worst that will happen is maybe some embarrassment and a bill. Think of it as doing a precautionary landing, if that helps. In my case, that "precautionary landing" proved to be a lifesaver.


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

Stay Cool, Fly Safe

From NAFI's Chair

Stay Cool, Fly Safe


Every one of us has at some point deviated from strict adherence to the AIM Pilot/Controller Glossary. Sometimes it's for a request that might not have been anticipated by the Glossary's writers, such as asking a controller to call for a go around as a training exercise for a student or asking them to "forget" a turn on to a localizer or final approach to see how an instrument student handles the situation, and so on.

Sometimes the conversation falls well outside the glossary. We all have humorous stories about what we've heard or said over the years. I have a collection of my own verbal transgressions, some of which I intended to make, others, well, let's just say no one's perfect. One of my favorite examples was when I was returning to St. Louis after one particularly hot AirVenture five years ago. In fact, it stands out in my mind as being one of the hottest weeks I'd ever spent in Wisconsin, let alone at the show.


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Celebrate Your Freedoms

From NAFI's Chair

Celebrate Your Freedoms


A co-worker of mine has always been interested to see what it was like to fly an airplane.  A few days ago, I took him up for about an hour so he could have that experience.  As with any introductory flight, I ensured that the ride would be on a nice day with little or no turbulence.  We, of course, had a briefing beforehand covering the basics, including sterile cockpit, seat belt usage, what to do in an emergency, and so on.
What my friend hadn't expected was the part about exchanging controls.  When he expressed his surprise, I told him that it'd be a lot more fun for him if he got to actually fly the airplane - besides, I already know how to fly.

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Do the Right Thing

From NAFI's Chair

Do the Right Thing


There's a long-out-of-print book called The Conversion of Chaplain Cohen, by Herbert Tarr. It's about a young rabbi who is afraid to fly and finds himself in the U.S. Air Force, SAC specifically. It's a touching book that I think you'll enjoy if you can get your hands on it.

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Summertime Flying

From NAFI's Chair

Summertime Flying

The summer solstice is net week, which means that, as the great Nat King Cole sang, "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" are upon us. Baseball, hot dogs, the beach, camping, all of the fun stuff we like to do in our spare time. For us as pilots and instructors, that means airshows, fly-ins, EAA AirVenture, $100 hamburgers, or just going up for a ride to look at the countryside. It also means we're likely to be busier now with clients, whether they're new pilots, pilots participating in the Wings program, flight reviews, new ratings, what-have-you.

I was reminded of this as I flew on an airliner from St. Louis to Omaha this week. Normally, this is pretty straightforward - take off from runway 12L at St. Louis Lambert, fly to Omaha, and land on 14R at Omaha Eppley. I've done it often enough that I know how the route is filed and how long it takes (48 minutes from takeoff to touchdown). Not this time, though. On this occasion, there was a vee-shaped line of thunderstorms with an apex near Des Moines that was also filling in. Our flight crew elected, wisely I think, to go all the way past Wichita and then make a turn to the right to come in on the back side of the weather that had already passed to the east of Omaha. Great ride, and everyone on the right side of our aircraft witnessed a light show, at the small price of an extra hour in the air.

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Are You a Leader?

From NAFI's Chair

Are You A Leader?

I recently had a great conversation with a good friend regarding leadership. What impressed me was that it wasn't the usual platitudes attempting to define what a good leader is, but instead contained a few of my friend's more down-to-earth observations. One, for example is: "Do you love your people enough to want to help them and help them grow?" The other was: "A good leader gives his followers small tasks at first, making those tasks incrementally more challenging and larger. This will cause your followers to grow and get better at their jobs, making them leaders as well." Finally, "A great leader is someone who will crawl through the mud to give someone a clean dish towel if they need it."

Flight instructors are leaders. By the very nature of the learning and instructor pilot relationship, it has to be that way. Even if it's two peers flying together, the moment one takes on the instructing role, the relationship shifts to one where the instructor is leading the way. That does not mean that there's anything necessarily overt happening or, perhaps worse and very artificially, the instructor saying, "I am your leader - follow." In fact being overt or obtuse like that will likely get a very negative response.

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Learning From Non-Aviation Professionalism

From NAFI's Chair

Learning From Non-Aviation Professionalism

I had to go to the dentist last week. Nothing special, just a routine checkup and cleaning. No problems were found. The reason I'm telling you about this isn't to complain about dentists or even routine medical appointments in general, because, on the face of it, this really doesn't have anything to do with NAFI or even aviation.

The reason I bring it up is because of the trust involved. I was allowing a dental hygienist, someone with sharp implements in her hands, to reach deep into my mouth. She also had a small hose in her hand with which she could easily soak or even drown me, if she so chose. At the same time, she trusted me not to reflexively bite her hands while she was flossing my teeth and doing all the other things necessary for good dental hygiene. Finally, when I did  mention a slight sensitivity in one of my molars, I allowed the doctor to reach in to my mouth with a small hammer to tap it (good news - there's nothing on the X-ray and the tap test only rang in my ear).

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Feeling Proud, You Should Be Too

From NAFI's Chair

Feeling Proud, You Should Be Too

I'm taking a pretty amazing trip. Starting about 10 days ago, I traveled from Omaha to San Francisco to Honk Kong, then back to Omaha via San Francisco. As I write this, I'm in transit to Baltimore for the FAA sUAS symposium and plan to be back in Omaha by tomorrow evening.   The trip will total about 19,280 air miles over 14 days and 19 pilots will fly the jetliners.

 
OK, so what's the big deal, you might ask? Well, considering that roughly 100 years ago this trip would not even have been possible, and that it would have been an incredible undertaking back when I was born, I sit in amazement. Not so much anymore at the engineering or the technology. Those have become routine. We as a civilization have pretty much figured out air travel.
 
What amazes me is the training and the discipline that have gone into mastering the process. None of this happens without the professionals in all aspects of aviation, including the pilots, cabin crews, dispatchers, rampers, meteorologists, staff support, various regulatory bodies around the world, and on and on that go into enabling all of the technology to safely transport people and cargo rapidly and efficiently around the world.
 
Obviously, my bias is towards the flight instruction piece of the equation. As I look back on all of this, 19 individuals on the flight decks in 777ERs and 737s worked diligently to move me, my fellow passengers, and cabin crews all of those miles - without fanfare, without fuss. That takes training, both initial and recurrent.
 
These thoughts were triggered as I gazed upon an Airbus at a gate neighboring my flight's 777ER in Hong Kong. A young man I helped train in St. Louis is now based in Hong Kong and flies those very same Airbuses on intercontinental trips for one of the majors.
 
So it is with no small measure of pride that I say that I have and continue to contribute to this amazing infrastructure in my small way. Consider these musings when you next fly with a student, regardless of whether the lesson is an intro flight or the final prep for an advanced rating. And share the pride I feel.
Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

What Is A Pilot?

From NAFI's Chair

What Is A Pilot?
I n a recent conversation with a good friend who's a flight instructor, NAFI member, and Part 135 pilot, the subject of "drones") came up. He told me that he hated the fact that Part 107 certificate holders were considered pilots.    
 
I pointed out to him that I have a Remote Pilot certificate myself. His response was something to the effect that, "Yes, but you got that on the basis of your commercial certificate and flight review." What my friend was referring to was the ease in which a Part 61 pilot with a current flight review can obtain a Remote Pilot certificate under Part 107. 
 
That conversation and the cover article by Joe Clark and John Robbins in the latestMentor magazine prompted these thoughts. As I've stated in the past, with the ease of use and the popularity of sUASs, entire new industries are springing up around them. In terms of certification alone, the FAA forecasts that there will be 301,200 remote pilots by the year 2022. By that date, the FAA predicts that there will be between 415,000 and 717,000 non-model aircraft in the registry. This is explosive growth by any definition.
 
That begs the question which is at the root of my friend's conversation and the article - are the people who are entering the system "pilots?" That is, regardless of the rating they've received, are they well trained enough to be in National Airspace System, interacting with manned aircraft as well as other unmanned aerial systems? Given the number of aircraft and some of the more ambitious plans of companies like Amazon, as well as local law enforcement and fire/rescue officials, this is a conversation that is being voiced in both the manned and unmanned aviation worlds.
 
Regardless of how you may feel about remote pilots and drones, this is the future - unmanned systems will not go away and we best embrace that fact. At this early stage, this is the opportunity for the flight instruction community to work with the regulators, manned aircraft pilots, and the unmanned flight industry to successfully and safely integrate both the new technology and its operators into the system. There are a lot of very smart people working on these issues, and more. And, universally, I've found that the newcomers to aviation, both the remote pilots and the manufacturers, are eager for our input and guidance. This is true at both an industry and an individual level.
 
So to answer my friend's question: Yes, by FAA regulation, drone operators are pilots. To answer his concern: Let's help them be pilots through our outreach.
Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair