29 November 2009

The Logbook: 0.0-0.7 hours

This is the first in a series of posts chronicling my journey from earth-bound Neanderthal to Homo Pilotus. I hope you all enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed doing it!

Every pilot owns a logbook.

I was taught, by previous examples as well as articles and books, to write as much information into the logbook as you can possibly fit.

Though serving mostly as a legal record of aviation accomplishments and experience, a logbook is more than that: once the actual flight fades from experience to memory, the logbook becomes the only record of the flight.

When my Bride and I were planning our wedding, we discussed the flower situation. Our conclusion was to purchase silk flowers.

We reasoned that in many years, long after the ceremony and the reception, long after the real flowers had wilted and died, the things that would be left from that time would be the pictures.

And when we looked at the pictures, after those many years, it would not matter much whether or not our flowers were real. What would matter was the pictures. Honestly, you can't even tell the flowers weren't real anyway.

So as I went through flight school, I wrote as much as I could about the flight, weather conditions, what I practiced, what my instructor and I did, where I went. Because after some long years, all that would be left from that time would by my logbook.

Ernest Gann wrote an entire book based mostly on his logbook notes and other notes of his many hours aloft. It's called Fate is the Hunter, and it's well worth reading, even if you're not all psychotic for airplanes.

For what it's worth, here is my pithy, nearly empty logbook, laid out flight by flight. 68.2 hours of my life, in mostly hour and a half chunks.

The first flight in my logbook was one of the shortest, at .7 hours. I had called Adam, my flight instructor, the previous week, and said that I wanted to learn how to fly. He took all my information, and scheduled me for an introductory flight.

When I showed up at the field, imagine my surprise when he told me to climb in the left seat.


"Well, that is where you fly it from." he said. "You said you wanted to learn to fly."

Adam had to pick something up in Grand Haven, so it worked out that he took me along for the ride.

It was a clear, calm day, perfect for spring and perfect for flying. Adam spent the time quizzing me on my aviation experience and history. I told him that I had grown up around airplanes, and that my Dad had taken me up quite a few times as a child. But then I told him to assume that I knew nothing about airplanes, and teach me accordingly. He assured me that he does that anyway.

When we landed in Grand Haven, Adam took care of whatever errand he was on, while I looked around in the airport lounge. I had been there a few times as a child, so seeing the building was almost like seeing an old friend. Not much changes quickly at airports, and Grand Haven was no exception. About the only thing really different was a weather computer on the desk in the flight planning room. Even the pictures on the wall were the same, or at least as I remembered them.

It was time to go back now, and Adam graciously let me actually handle the plane more on the way back. I got to call out positions on the radio, and Adam taught me to always call out near the radio towers on GVSU's campus. The towers are close enough to Riverview Airport that every pilot who flies there regularly knows exactly where they are, and can use their position to know where you are. It would become a sort of mantra for me over the next summer: "Riverview air traffic, November One Three Five Three Uniform off the towers, inbound..."

My first landing was fairly decent, although I could feel Adam's feet on the rudder pedals fighting with my inputs, so I don't know how much was me and how much was him.

When we went inside, Adam showed me how to properly fill out my logbook, and gave me advice often read and repeated, "Fill every available space with notes. You'll want to remember this."

He promised to call me and bug me until I scheduled my next flight, but he didn't have to, because as soon as I got home, I did schedule it.


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