Hanging up the Headset

November 19, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying 

For the time being, I have stopped flying.

There are two primary reasons:  time and money.

With my re-involvement in church, my available time for flying is severely restricted.  Flying and maintaining skills at a proper level requires flying at least once every 2 weeks and once a week is better.  Training for a new rating or certificate requires a minimum of flying once a week (knowing that 1 week out of 4 will be canceled by weather).  Flying that once a week requires about 1/2 of a weekend day with my schedule.  With church involvement, I’ve lost 1 of the 4 possible timeslots.  With youth group, I’ve more or less lost another (the Sunday afternoon/evening slot – particularly with me involved in Confirmation that meets until 12:30pm).  And I still need to do all of the things that need to be done on the weekend – like lawn care, spending time with my wife, chores around the house, etc.

Also, money is … while not getting tight it’s not as free as it used to be.  With reinvolvement with the church I’m giving about half of what I used to spend on flying in a given year to the church.  The other half of my flying budget has been eroded by $3/gallon auto gas, 2% raises for several years where inflation was more like 4%, and the cost of everything going up.

Ever since getting my instrument rating in January I haven’t been flying as much.  I’ve averaged only once a month and I had a two month break in the spring when my blood pressure medication needed to be adjusted.  And I haven’t missed it as much as I might have (though I do miss it some).  The reason for that has to do with my reasons for learning to fly in the first place.

Starting about 2001, management changes at my job began to make my position extremely uncomfortable.  The head of IT at the time took a strong dislike to me and made it a point to harm my career progress.  He also said things in reviews, to me personally, and to others about my performance that my current boss can’t understand.  The problem was someplace between a personality conflict and actual malice on his part.

This took an actual toll on me and resulted in actual gastrointestinal illness.  It took me time to get to the point where the illness was under control.  I needed to find a part of my life where I was in control of my life and able to build self-esteem, to act as a buffer against my work life.

I had always had an interest in flying and I needed to find an activity that met a few criteria:  doable by me, complex knowledge required but still learnable with a reasonable application of time and effort, and interesting to me.  Flying met all of those.

And I did learn a lot.  I learned more than just the flying itself.  I learned the concepts of positive control and immediate correction when necessary.  I learned how to tell the difference between a small problem that can be temporarily ignored and a major problem that requires immediate attention.  I learned a lot about “shades of gray” – very important to someone who works with 1’s and 0’s for a living.  I also learned a lot about learning and how I need to learn in order to grow.

In the process I made a few good friends, a small number of enemies, and did something that only a tiny percentage of the population has done.

The good news is that I can do it again when my situation changes.  I can’t say for certain that my church involvement will continue at the current high level forever.  I also can’t say (and don’t want to) that I won’t find a lot of money under a rock and be able to afford flying as a weekday activity (though Dad tells me that there aren’t any rich relatives).  I’ll just need to get with an instructor for a checkout, maybe a BFR (I’m not due until January 2009) and for instrument currency I’ll need some work with an instructor.

A word to those who might be considering learning to fly or who are already doing it:  My situation is different than yours.  If you are able to afford it and put in the time, go for it.  Some people are driven to fly in the same way that sailors have been driven to sail the sea – a nearly primal instinct that draws you to the air.  I know a number of pilots who have that.  I have never had that need to fly – for me it was an interesting hobby.  I do understand and support that need in others.  If you have that need, find a way to fly – you’ll be happier in the long run.


January 6, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Flying 

That title is FAA abbreviations for pilot certification.

PP – Private Pilot

ASEL – Airplane, Single Engine, Land

(I already had those two)

Today I added “IR” – Instrument Rated.  This allows me to fly in clouds and bad weather (though not too bad in the little planes that I fly).

I wrote up the whole story in pilotese here.

Holiday Roundup

January 1, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying, Life, Religion 

Here’s a roundup of how the holiday went.

  • Flew with my flight instructor for the last time before my instrument rating checkride.  Checkride is scheduled for January 6, weather permitting.  If I didn’t mention it previously, I got a 95% on my written test.
  • Went to 4 hockey Trenton Titans hockey games.  Went with friends, family and co-workers the first two (they lost).  Went with just Carolyn for the last two (they won).
  • Went to 2 services at church on Christmas Eve.  First the morning 4th Sunday of Advent service.  Then the 11pm Candlelight service, which was lovely and included wonderful music.  Then on New Year’s Eve I went in the morning to the regular service (2 baptisms!) and then to the special intimate New Year’s Eve Communion service in the evening (which was also lovely).
  • Went to see Mom, Dad, sister, brother and sister-in-law at Mom and Dad’s on Christmas Day.  We did the gift exchange thing (which is always hilarious for some reason) and had dinner.  Good time.  Everybody seemed to like my gifts and vice versa.
  • Discovered a flat tire the afternoon of 12/26.  30 minutes to replace with the spare – 1 hour to get it fixed and reinstalled at the local Goodyear.
  • On 12/26, Carolyn’s parents came for the Christmas thing and stayed overnight.
  • Watched the Rutgers football slaughter of Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.  Go RU!
  • Got the 15,000 mile service done on the Highlander Hybrid (three days after the tire repair).
  • Rested early and often.  I’ve been overscheduling myself lately between church, flying, hockey and the rest of my life.

I had planned to blog on “Buyer’s Remorse” in terms of joining my church, but a few experiences yesterday told me that the issues I planned to blog about are turning around.  So I’ll hold those thoughts for now.

Happy New Year!

Instrument Written Test

December 19, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying 

Yesterday, I took the FAA Instrument Airplane Written Test, in preparation for my checkride to get that rating.

I got a 95%.  Passing is 70%.  Reportedly, 95% is pretty good.  It’s a really tough test – LOTS of stuff to learn.

The next step is to get 1.6 more hours checkride preparation with my instructor.  Between joining a new church, family stuff, other life stuff and weather my instructor and I have only flown together twice in the last 2 months.  You have to have 3.0 hours in the last 60 days, so I have to fly with him again.

Then, I’ll probably do my checkride in January.  There’s a TINY chance of doing it before New Year’s.

The Interim Associate for Pastoral Ministry is my co-pilot; God is in the back seat

October 22, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying, Religion 

Yesterday afternoon, I went flying with Nolan Huizenga, the Interim Associate for Pastoral Ministry at Lawrenceville Presbyterian.  Nolan and another person are sharing the duties of the Associate Pastor at the church while the church undergoes a search for a new Associate Pastor.  (and I’m pretty sure he’s a Candidate for a call – he’ll make somebody a great pastor someday)

Nolan is a little ahead of me in flying – he has his Private license and his Instrument rating while I’m just finishing the work for my Instrument rating.  However, he doesn’t get to fly much (I imagine that a church paycheck will do that).  When he learned that I am an active pilot, he made his interest in accompanying me known (we pilots call that “begging” with the same cool demeanor expected of us).

So, yesterday we went up.  I needed 2.5 hours of cross-country time.  We flew from South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY) in Mount Holly to Cape May airport (WWD) flying essentially due south across the lower 1/2 of the state.  On the way home, we headed up the coast past Atlantic City most of the way to Barnegat, then turned inland, over Lakehurst, and up to Robbinsville.  We then headed to Lawrenceville and after contacting the Trenton tower, we took pictures of the church from the air.  Then we headed south to Hamilton and I showed Nolan the aerial view of the solar panels on my house.  We headed south back to Mount Holly (with a few zigzags to make sure we had the required hours) and landed.

We had a good time.  The weather was pretty good for pictures – a bit overcast and a little windy but not too bad.  He will let me know when the pictures are uploaded and I will point you there as well.

Update – the pictures are uploaded at Nolan’s Site.  Here is a picture of the Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church.

Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville from the air

Camp Johnsonburg from the Air

June 19, 2005 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Flying, Life 

Yesterday, I decided to put two of my interests together.

In the mid-1980’s I was a camper and staff member (counselor) at the Johnsonburg Presbyterian Center (formerly known as the Presbyterian Camps and Conferences at Johnsonburg, NJ).  I will write more about this summer camp later, but this is truly a special part of the universe – one of two places in my life where I’ve felt totally accepted.

I’m also a pilot.  So, why not take a picture from the air?

My solo flight departed South Jersey Regional Airport in Mount Holly, NJ (KVAY).  I flew the club’s Cherokee 180 to Blairstown Airport (1N7) and landed so that my time would count as a cross-country flight.  I then departed to find the camp.

Here’s the picture that I finally got:

Camp Johnsonburg from the air

This is cropped from this picture:

Camp Johnsonburg from the air full size

This was a really hard picture to take.  For one thing, the camp is two meadows and a pond surrounded by trees, in a landscape full of ponds and trees.  Luckily, my GPS had Glover’s Pond labelled and it was easy to find on GPS.

Then I had to contend with flying the plane with my left hand and feet, while holding the camera in my right hand taking pictures – all in very light turbulence.  Aiming the shot was approximate.  I took 3 shots – the camp was partially over the nose in one, missing in the 2nd, and this was the 3rd.

Maybe someday I’ll go with another pilot and use a Cessna 172 – so that we can make a side pass in a high-wing plane and I can take the shot out the side window.  For now, this will have to do.

I’m a Pilot!

October 30, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Flying 

Mark Smith Temporary Pilot Certificate

I’m an FAA-certificated Private Pilot – Airplane Single-Engine Land!

It’s taken me 16 months and more money than you’d like to imagine to get here. You can read my whole story in My Flight Training Diary.

A quick life update

September 23, 2004 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Flying, Life 

I haven’t blogged for a while, so here’s a quick life update.

Flying – I am still at it. I am probably within a month of getting my pilot license – maybe less if the weather cooperates. I have to do another lesson or two to prepare for the test. After that I have to take a “mock” checkride with another instructor from the club. After that – the big day. I already know who the examiner will be – he’s a pilot for Continental so I’ll probably need to take a vacation day for that as his schedule can be wacky.

Solar Panels – still cooking. With the cooler temparatures and sunny days this week, we are pumping (selling) lots of power back into the grid. Be sure to go to Smith Electric Company for pictures and stories of the installation. I’ll update that blog as soon as I have news.

Hockey – Hockey is almost here again. The NHL is on strike, but my Trenton Titans (ECHL) are still playing. I’ll be attending a game on October 11 between the Titans and their AHL affiliates the Philadelphia Phantoms. Since I’m such a good husband, I give my wife an opera or two every year to offset the 30 or so hockey games that she goes to. Unfortunately for me, the local company is performing their fall presentation on October 22, the same night as the Titans’ opening game. I’ll have another two weeks to wait for the next home game!

My Wife’s Job – She’s settling in. She still has to finish out her old Black Belt work, and she has one new person frustrating her on two projects. However, she’s coming home a little less frazzled every day. I think that’s a good sign. She’s been on vacation without me all week – tomorrow I’ll be home too.

Cats – they’re fine. They’ve enjoyed having my wife home all day this week. They are starting to get snuggly again now that the temparatures are beginning to drop. Still shedding a lot, though.

That’s the roundup!

The Weekend

March 26, 2004 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Flying, Sports 

The weekend is coming up. The weather is looking pretty good for here – temps around 60-70F with just a little rain overnight tonight and Sunday evening.

I’ll be doing the following:

  • Tonight – Trenton Titans vs. Greensboro Generals in Trenton.
    I have season tickets. The Titans pretty much have to win their remaining 5 games to make the playoffs.
  • Tomorrow – Flying Lesson.
    Probably my second supervised solo at Flying W (N14).
  • Sunday – chores and relaxation.

What are you doing this weekend? Answer in the Comments, or Trackback to your own site.

First Solo

March 17, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying 

I solo’ed an airplane for the first time today!

For those who don’t know, this is a huge step for a student pilot, where your instructor signs your student license allowing you to fly alone for practice and eventually for things like required cross-country trips.

The story of the solo is at this page: My First Solo

This link takes you directly to the pictures: Pictures from Solo

Woo hoo!