Pitts hours 3-5: It’s all fun and games until…

…someone loses an eye.

This new thing of flying the Pitts was going so amazingly well that today was a good test. Not of my flying but of…I’m not sure what. My will? My interest? My determination? I flew poorly, or at least not as well as I’m capable of, for the first half of the lesson. It started with a botched takeoff that was so bad Bill had to take control. Then I botched my arrival at Easton and my next five trips around the pattern were humbling. I was behind the airplane, sloppy in judgement and control, and generally failing spectacularly to be spectacular. The most worrisome part: I wasn’t having fun.

I take solace in knowing they were all landings, safe and effective, if not good landings. I have a hunch, based on nothing of course, that it’s these kinds of days when many of the incidents and accidents that make up aviation’s safety statistics are more likely to come out to play, seek us out wherever we are, and bite us. Today was incident free. But how would I have fared if presented with something simple like an unexpected request from ATC, a system malfunction, or an emergency?

I’m being a bit melodramatic in my analysis, but humor me for a minute. After all, Bill was in the back seat doing his Instructor thing, acting as PIC (Pilot in Command), and well aware of my struggles. The chances of an accident chain escaping both our notice, while small, is never zero. But while I’m spending brain cycles analyzing my performance I have to remove Bill from the equation, just as I do to some extent while I’m flying. Of course I’m relying heavily on him for instruction and guidance, but at the same time there is a delicate balance between self-reliance and over-reliance. I trust him to keep us safe, he’s a better pilot than I’ll ever be, but to grow as a pilot I need to take an increasing amount of responsibility for the flight. How much I rely on him is relatively large right now but needs to go down as I get more experience in the airplane. Remember, the goal is not only to be safe, but have fun as well, when there is no one else around. If I’m not “pushing the boundary” of reliance, I’m not advancing as quickly as I could.

The good news is I flew fine for the second half of the lesson. After fueling at Easton we headed down to Cambridge for more circuits and I was on again. I take heart in this because hopefully it means I was able to forget the mistakes and not let them affect what came after.

The alert reader might notice this flight was the same day as my fun aerobatics flight with Dan. In fact Bill and I took off about 90 minutes after Dan and I landed, with lunch in between. The full analysis is I was probably still recovering physically from my first exposure to aerobatics. In future I’ll plan flight training further removed from any aerobatic exertions, like the next day.

My plan is to eventually fly aerobatics so often I acclimate to a point where I continue to function afterwards! (I accept that I must learn to crawl before moving on to, insert maniacal laughter, world domination.)

Onwards and upwards…and hopefully some upside-down, too.

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