“They are looking for perfection, and perfection doesn’t exist.” Ted shook his head sagely as he said that. He was telling me about pilots who wouldn’t go up on this windy day. They were waiting for it to smooth out and become a bit calmer.
I had come back from my flight and told him it had been quite lively, more than I enjoyed. “But you did it!” he exclaimed. “That’s what matters. And it was good for you.” No remorse that he and James had told me it was lovely up and I absolutely should fly. Just, ‘It was good for you.’
It’s a big question, isn’t it? What is actually good for you? Just how far out of your comfort zone should you be pushing yourself? A little nudge, or way out there?
Way back in the early days of my lessons, I found the whole concept of how one was moving through the air utterly confusing. One of the best images someone gave me was a duck bobbing up and down on the water. Actually a rubber duck in a kid’s bath! It helped me enormously to see the air as a fluid mass and accept the motion that happens in flight.
“I do enjoy it when it’s a bit more dynamic,” confessed a new friend. For dynamic read turbulent, or what I would have termed wild. But then he went on to explain to me that as a glider pilot, he used to search out the movement in the air, so playing with the wind was something he went looking for, rather than shied away from.
“It’s thermal. That’s summer flying. Just get on with it!” James finds my skittishness about the wind rather annoying. “It’s not gusty, the air is unstable,” corrected the CFI when I called it a gusty day. To be fair, the weather app was showing gusting 15 knots, “but gusts only pertain to when you are landing,” the CFI explained. “When you are flying, you may fly through pockets of unstable air, but that’s not a gust. Gusts can throw you around on landing or take-off.”
A few weeks ago, Ted and I were going to meet someone at Old Warden, but I looked at the windsock and I wasn’t comfortable. I was already the only one up at the airfield, so I chose instead to do a bimble with Ted. Later my friend told me he’d got tossed around all over the place. “The plane can handle it, but this was getting silly. Reset and track back home. It was horrible. Serious gusting. I elected to use our emergency runway. And was relieved to get down. So well done for your earlier decision. Rather live to fight another day!”
Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad at having opted out of Old Warden.
I was reminded of my pride three years ago at being able to cope with turbulence that would have terrified me just a few weeks earlier. The instructor was worried about the weather and suggested I come back later, when it would have smoothed out. But I accepted the challenge and went up, and was thrilled I managed to last the entire lesson. Today I doubt I would notice that level of turbulence, so it’s good to have some markers to see how far you have come, when you look at where you still want to get to.
What levels of turbulence do you find easy to cope with?