Cindy’s Commercial Ride

This trail began as an interface between 37 years of dental hygiene and the great beyond. What does one do when the day to day of work discipline is no longer there? The whole ‘issue’ of retirement never entered my mind. I was looking to do some- thing significant while my injured hand took a sabbatical. How can one retire when there’s so much to do?

I had been following the activities of Phyllis Lee at the O69 airport. She has been riding right seat in a turbine. My envy meter was pegging out. WOW! Wouldn’t that be cool? Much of the biz aviation requires a stable of pilots that would be oh so fun to

So here goes… My commitment to the Commercial rating. My original notion of the rating, way back when, was a simple step up on the aviation ladder. Guess what? Things have changed. In the early years it might have been a half step to your CFI. Now a days it’s the huge environment of maneuvers, regulations, network, performance systems and aerodynamics of aircraft.

Back when we were teens and the guys were dinking around with cars and engines, my interest were more the guys. There was absolutely no interest in sticking my head in an engine block. Somehow the mechanical gene wasn’t passed on. (Mind you.. later in life I did dismantle and rebuild my Volkswagen engine.) So now I need to really live induction, injectors, and engine operating specs. AIM has taken up residence on the bedside table. Performance charts have been on the kitchen table so long there’s a dust ring around them. Electrical diagrams are taped to my bathroom mirror. Alternator, bus bars, circuits, relays, voltmeters, ammeters, battery discharge are my favorite cocktail topics. I am now immersed in the world of commercial piloting. The flying part is great fun. You roll into 50’ banks with- out a second thought, pull up into steep, arching climbs totally glorying in the delight of being aloft. Chandelles, lazy 8s, 8s around pylons, soft field landings so soft you don’t wake up the baby, short field landings to peg a spot and power off/glide to land when there’s no engine purr to insure your arrival. My poor Comanche that was always a ‘going places’ plane is now tethered to a 10 mile leash from the airport. The beauty of the work recess was that I could dive into the rating 100% and live, eat and sleep flying.

Since the best way to learn is with a buddy, Don took on the challenge too. We would roll out early in the morning and fly lazy 8s around the sunrise. When the whole household is dedicated to learning even the sound of Martha Kings’ voice sounds like music. Yes, John and Martha were our long, lost buddies once again. There are over 600 test questions that require new storage in your brain. Where to put all this stuff and better yet, how to retrieve were the challenges. ADF!?! Who needs such in the days of GPS? For the commercial you’re flying correction angles, timing and distance to stations out in space with the help of the old technology. We had E6Bs in kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. How I loved the richness, the immersion, excitement, and brain expansion of this exercise.

One learns, that even at this age, the brain can grow. Maybe it takes us more energy to put aside the rest of life, but we never loose the ability to expand our minds.

My hiking buddies, Pat and Sarah, deserve a big thank you for the endless miles of my chatter about the rating. They are ever, patient saints. Hiking became the center balance to all that went into aviation. One needs a ground of sorts to keep from disappearing into unreality. When my 3-4am wake up interval became dominated by maneuvers, and regs I knew I was close. (Remember the days when you could sleep an entire 8 hours?) Wx became the nemesis as our spring devolved into winter. When yet another wet one barged into the region I would hunker down and knock back another 100 questions. Ground instruction with Art Haysen was around a propane heater in a friend’s hanger. Art is one of the best instructors around.

My check ride was not as smooth as anticipated. I wasn’t prepared for the depth of understanding about aircraft systems. Steve Benedict, our local examiner, was able to weed out what I didn’t and needed to know. This was one of the opportunities that I’m eternally grateful for. It made me go back and really learn this stuff I thought I never would need. Learning on the ground, at your leisure, is an easier way to understand a problem than in the air in an emergency.

So the day finally arrived and I gained the rating; what joy, what pride, what a relief! Knowledge is power and I feel so strong. They can never take it away from you. I will miss the saturation, the intensity and the thrill. 7am dawns and I miss my calls to Art discussing life, weather and flying. I miss the intimacy with my Comanche; she fits like a glove. Time to light up the engines and take her out for a real flight. Great friends, great flying, great fun. ..CindyPickett

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