Its over. L.A. traffic, the verbal abuse while "instructing", and now the final entry in my first logbook has been made. My Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) checkride filled the last empty spot in my logbook that dates all the way back to 1998. Its barely holding together at this point, but in it there are many stories, lessons learned, and moments of pure exhilaration. On this day of thanks I cannot help but think of how blessed I have been to have all these experiences.
Although not recorded in this logbook I remember back to the first time I was alone with a plane in the air. I was 14. It was a glider which was towed into the air by a truck with a 1000' cable. With the thermals in Euphrata, WA it made for about a three minute flight which for a 14 year old was an absolute riot. As soon as I disconnected the tow line on my solo flight I snapped a little self portrait which makes me smile to this day. The intensity, the passion, the pure love for what I am doing at that exact moment is seen all over my face. I try to keep those characteristics every time I prepare to take the controls, unfortunately I have learned to keep those emotions inside.
Skipping ahead to the year 2004 with a whopping 70 hours under my belt I was a counselor at a summer camp in Molalla, OR. I was asked to give airplane rides for some kids which was an experience I will not forget. With a rented 172 I took 28 kids up in one afternoon. Not sure that I need to explain anymore about that.
Being a part of the greatest Air Force ROTC detachment in the country at USC, I was given opportunities to fly the F-16D. Being strapped to the front of 29,000 lbs of thrust is something that few have the opportunity to enjoy and enjoy it I did. Watching Top Gun does not do justice for what a plane looks like passing at 800+ knots within 100 yards. The feeling of weighing 180 lbs one second and 1620 lbs the next while trying to keep all the blood in my head definitely tops the list for my aviation moments.
The summer of 2006 Servant Wings acquired the first plane of its fleet, a Cessna 172 which I helped ferry from Orlando, FL to Portland, OR. Every stop was a new experience. Figuring out weather, cheapest gas stops, and navigating without GPS was all part of the fun in getting back home. I made the worst decision to this day as a pilot on my way out of Denver. It was similar to the way many accident stories start. It usually takes three bad decisions or omissions in preflight for an accident to occur. I took off at max gross...from Denver...in August...later than planned...and did not lean the mixture. Did I learn that day? You bet. There is no classroom or book I could read that teaches what I learned that day.
The seaplane. I had heard all this talk about how great it is. I thought there was no way that flying an airplane in the water environment could ever live up to all the hype. This last summer I had some time to find out. Yeah, it blows the hype out of the water. Flying into a secluded mountain lake, beaching the plane, and then jumping into the water on a 90 degree day is what some might classify as refreshing ;)
Finally, I have spent the last six weeks in Santa Monica, CA working long and stressful hours on my CFI rating which has been the hardest work I have done with regards to aviation. I found out pretty quick that I have the ability to talk a lot without saying anything. Standing up at a white board constantly being challenged helped me not only as a teacher and pilot, but also as a person communicating thoughts in my head to others. Getting in a plane with an instructor who acts as a child one moment pressing buttons and then turns into a yelling drill instructor the next was more experience recorded in my first logbook. It was all preparation for the final exam which was similar, only with a few added elbows to the stomach when I used the wrong words to explain how to do something.
These experiences have all been collected and given to me by the Lord so that I may serve Him better. I make my way over to Idaho in ten days to begin my two week evaluation with Mission Aviation Fellowship. Please keep me in your prayers as I prepare and travel.
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