KCLT 172052Z  17008KT 7SM OVC006 13/12 A2971 RMK AO2 SLP 057 TO1330122 58026


“I’m going home!.  No sense in hanging around here with nothing to do.”  That’s what the line above told me today.  I didn’t say it to anyone else, just to myself, but its a true statement none the less.  The line at the top of this post is a METAR for the Charlotte NC, area.  A METAR is a routine aviation weather report and this particular one isn’t good for flying.  The first group of letters (KCLT) represents that  the observation was taken at Charlotte/Douglas International airport, about 3 miles from the station.  The second group of characters gives you the date and time.  172052Z means its the 17th of the month and it was taken at 2052 zulu time.  Which is 8:52pm GMT and 3:52pm EST, about 3 hours before the end of my shift.  The next block gives you the winds, 170 at 8 knots.  The fourth block is the visibility 7 statute miles.  Then, in the fifth block we get to something that matters, OVC006.  This means the cloud layer is overcast at 600 feet.  Well below my minimums of 1,000ft.  I was not able to see the top of the Bank of America tower.  The tallest building in Charlotte.  It’s well known but seldom used nickname is “The Penis of The Piedmont”.  At 872 feet the building is not that tall by skyscraper standards.  But it towers above downtown Charlotte.  That has been my most steadfast weather rule since I have had this job.  If I can’t clearly see the top of that building, I won’t go.  Don’t even ask me, It’s not even worth checking.  The station is aware of it and I think that this rule has served me well.  It keeps me from doing something I shouldn’t. I stick by this rule and they know it so there is no “oh but we really need this footage”!  or trying to guilt me into going flying when I shouldn’t.  That is the rule and we follow it.  It is understood and respected.  The sixth group of characters in the METAR, 13/12, is also helpful.  It states that the temperature is 13 degrees celsius (about 55 degrees fahrenheit) and the dew point is 12 degrees celsius (between 53 and 54).  Anytime you have a temperature and dew point spread that is 2 degrees or less you can expect increasingly poor visibility and rain showers.  That is why when I saw this weather report I decided to pack it up and go home early.  These are instrument conditions that my helicopter is not rated for.  And one look at the radar told me that it was not getting any better.  No flying today, should not have bothered to come in, a waste of gas.  

Some days are like this. You can’t control the weather so you should find things to do with yourself while you are stuck on the ground.  Honestly, this is a great thing about being a pilot.  I still get paid for simply reading the report and saying that I can’t fly.  It is as simple as that.  There was no analysis necessary on my part.  In fact there never is.  It is either VFR (visual flight rules) or its IFR( instrument flight rules).  That’s all there is to it.  There really isn’t any decision on whether to go or not.  I can go or I can not.  Easy life.  No one I work with knows anything about flying and they definitely don’t want to do anything unsafe so they just take my word for it.  I could tell them the weather is bad any time I want.  I could take advantage of this and get time off whenever I have errands to run or am just not in the mood.  Of course I don’t.  I usually only get in a couple hours of work in a day so I don’t want to shirk out  of it.  

So great news!  I spent the morning shopping for Jackie’s christmas present.  Im really excited to give it to her.  I would write about it but she might read this.  I was at work for a couple of hours.  Then around 4 I got the weather report and decided to go home.  I got to the library and started on my much neglected blog.  I’m a lucky man.  Most of the news room is working on how to cover the shooting in Connecticut.  I do not envy them for that.  I can not deal with that!  I don’t want to read or see anything about it.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to handle it.  It’s only getting worse. Kids names and their faces are just too much for me.  I haven’t wrapped my head around it and I don’t want to.  So many times I have been envious of the reporters and photographers.  Going out in town, meeting people, hearing their stories and learning new things.  Then to come back and create a packages that informs the public. They are jobs I have come to respect and wonder if I could do it myself.  Today I want no part of it.  I don’t even want to see the stories that come from our station.  Not about this.  I’m Glad I’m just the pilot.  

On Saturday I did about an hour of flight instruction with Michael Reeves,  Michael is training for his private pilot certificate.  He LOVES to fly!  Every time out he can’t wait to go up.  I fly everyday and to be honest I have to remind myself that I am doing something cool.  I go to an awesome job everyday that so many people would love to do.  Flying with Michael, reminds me of that.

As someone working on their private pilot rating, a large part of Michael’s lessons are dealing with basic skill in maneuvers and communications.   Also, he doesn’t get to fly that often.  We try to get together every Saturday but he often has a conflict with his work schedule or I want to go out of town for the weekend.  So the infrequency of Michael’s training sessions add to the need to go over basic maneuvers, radio communications, and emergency procedures.  You might think that someone who flies for a living wouldn’t want to spend time on the basics.  That it would seem like a waste of time for me, well, except for getting paid of course.  Truthfully, I saw it that way when I was a ful

Michael's first experience in Charlotte's Class B airspace

Michael’s first experience in Charlotte’s Class B airspace

-time instructor.  While I gave everyone the best training I could, I did not think that it was making me any better.  I was dead wrong!  And as someone who doesn’t instruct full time anymore I feel lucky that I still get to do it.  That’s right, the job that I worked so hard to get away from is the same one I hope I get to continue forever, albeit only once a week.  I would encourage anyone to look for a way that you can teach your skills to other on a regular basis.  Job or hobby, piano or programming, if its something that you want to continue to improve on then you should find an opportunity to give lessons.  Do it for free its great,  get paid for it even better.  You will give the same lessons over and over again.  And that’s the point.  Every time you do it you will reach a new level of mastery.

The first reason to teach your skills to others is what I just mentioned.  It gives you the opportunity to work on the fundamentals of your craft.  The much needed time to get back to basics.  During a flight lesson with a primary student I get a chance to go over all maneuvers to FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS).  We go over proper procedures for radio communications as well.  This makes me really pay attention to these things that I like to think I do perfectly all the time.  The fact is, no one is watching me fly Monday through Friday.  I have to totally police myself.  The photographers and reporters I fly with have no Idea if I don’t read back the control tower’s instructions properly.  And they certainly wouldn’t know if I got lazy and set  a bad approach angle coming into the Pad.  You can get into bad habits when the only judge of your performance is you.  So I feel teaching others the right way of doing things keeps you tuned into how your progressing or perhaps regressing during the week.

In addition to basic maneuvers and communications students have to practice emergency procedures (EP).  This another thing (thankfully) that I don’t practice when I am on my own flying for T.V. news.  Although while we are flying I am constantly thinking of what I would do in case of an emergency, luckily we haven’t had them (knocking on wood).  So when I do several autorotations in a lesson with a student I feel that I have done my practice for me, my company, and those who fly with me.  And when I demonstrate these moves I am teaching at the same time.  When I can show and tell at the same time It makes me confident because It forces me to be GOOD, not just adequate.  Often during the week adequate is enough.

Michael after his first solo. A proud moment for student and instructor.

Michael after his first solo.
A proud moment for student and instructor.

I have to have a lesson plan when I do flight instruction.  I get in the books, read over the PTS and think about how I want to explain the procedures.  I know this is good for me.  Ground instruction is a great excuse to get in the text book and study your craft.  Weather is one lesson I don’t like to give.  As I only fly around Charlotte I really only care if the visibility is good enough to fly or not.  I don’t really care about the forming difference between radiation fog and advection fog.  But the student, who is paying you,  wants to learn everything he can and expects you to be an expert.  So you better study!  That’s another great thing about instructing.  No matter what it is, teaching makes you do your homework.  Plus many of the things I don’t use now, like instruments, I will use later.  It’s better that I get a regular dose of it now than need to relearn everything so I can progress in my career.

Teaching can also keep you in the loop.  When your off on your own you can get set in your ways, inflexible, and be out of touch with new information. Like an old guy using a fax machine when he has all he needs to scan, PDF and email.  When you give lessons you get to constantly meet new people and learn from them.  When you are around like minded people you get to swap stories and try out other people’s suggestions.  And the simple fact that you are teaching motivates you to keep abreast of regulations and procedural changes.  A good instructor is always up to date on the latest information.

Two books that I recommend are Outliers by Malcom Gladwell and Bounce by Matthew Syed.  There is a chapter in Outliers about the concept of the 10,000 Hour Rule.  This states that to become world class in a given field it requires 10,000 hours of purposeful practice.  Bounce expounds on this one idea for just under 300 pages.  The books have examples ranging from Motzart to Bill Gates to You Beatles.  In each of these cases 10,000 hours of practice was the number that kept coming up.  In Bounce author Matthew Syed also states that this should take around 10 years.  No matter what you are doing, that is a lot of hard work and dedication.  For me, its easy to let my job become routine.  It is easy to treat every flight the same and not get much out of it.  But Saturday’s flight with Michael, and any flight lesson I give, is my chance to reset and remember what I am ultimately trying to do.  To continue to improve every time out.  To become the best pilot I can be.  So I encourage anyone to find a way to teach their skills to others.  If you look at it as an opportunity to gain purposeful practice towards that magic 10,000 hours you will get better at your skill and be a better teacher.  It also goes without saying that it is very rewarding to help someone achieve their goals.  You also might make some extra cash doing something you enjoy.


This morning when I got into work I started to update my resume.  I hate updating my resume.  I can tell you why in two words: Fucking Formatting!  Getting the bullets to match up, different fonts, spacing.  It never works and I am always so pissed of I have to start completely over.  So much for just a little up-to-dateness.  Anyway, I have decided that I am going to have this thing finished and sent out BEFORE Christmas.  I want to get this stagnant life of mine moving in the right direction and maybe get a jump on the competition.  This got me thinking about new years resolutions.  So often we have these grand goals for the coming year.  Things we want to have checked off the bucket list, a new career path or lower bodyweight.  Most of us are to hungover on January 1st to hit the ground running so we start the big life change on the 2nd, hopefully.  A lot of times these lofty aspirations for the new year seem daunting to get started.  

So how about this?  Get started now.  We still have 2 good weeks in 2012.  That is enough time go lay the ground and go into 2013 with a plan.  Me? I want a job flying turbine helicopters full-time this year.  That is why this ream need to go out by the first of this week.  I have a lot of people to contact and I need the momentum going into the month on January.  Otherwise it’ll just be another thing that can wait until tomorrow.  Do you have anything that you can get done now before the new year starts.  Do you have a diet plan to help you lose 30 lbs in the coming year?  Do you have a saving plan to have the money to go to Hawaii for next Christmas or to take your family to Disney World?

Once the new year starts the days blur together just like they did this year.  


Lets ask ourselves 3 questions:


1.  What can I still accomplish in the last 2 weeks of 2012?


2.  What is a goal I have for 2013 and what can I do these last 2 weeks to prepare for it?


3.  What are some short term deadlines I can make to get the task done incrementally?


For question number 1, Let’s find a way to finish strong in 2012.  There is still 2 weeks to finish the Theodore Roosevelt biography, organize your garage and edit all of the photos you took throughout the year.  These are things on my list, you fill in your own.   This will get somethings marked off for the year and it will also give you something else, a win.  Go into the new year with the feeling of getting things done.  

Question #2 is the resume, diet plan, saving money question.  Have you updated your resume with a generic cover letter complete with references so that its ready to send out?  This would be a huge momentum starter for the coming year.  Have that out of the way so that you aren’t faced with it as your starting point in a couple of weeks.  Go ahead and research your diet/exercise plan now so that you don’t waste a week of the new year settling on one.  I had never been on a diet in my whole life until two weeks ago.  I started the Slow-Carb Diet.  It is outlined in the Tim Ferris book The Four Hour Body.  I highly recommend this book to anyone whether you want to get in shape or not.  It is loaded with information ranging form rapid fat-loss to increased sex drive to holding your breath underwater for 5 minutes.  Its just a fun book whether you want to try any of the stuff or not.  I will say that on the diet I don’t go around hungry and I’ve lost  ten pounds in two weeks.  And if you want to take that trip with your family on the kids spring break its time to put a money saving plan into action.  Start saving from your first paycheck of the year!

The third question on the list is about getting some of the minutiae taken care of so that you are not overwhelmed by the whole thing.  Give yourself some direction going into the endeavor.  How much will I need to get my instrument rating finished?  Who do I need to contact and get my resume to when I send it out?  Go ahead and create the template for the family budget.  Have it done before Christmas!  We still have 2 weeks until then  so we really have 3 weeks left in 2012!  It’s tough to get stuff done after Christmas though.  We go into holiday mode. 

So that’s what I’m going to do.  I am getting all of these questions answered and accomplished by Christmas.  I haven’t weighed under 190 since SAR school.  I weight 192 this morning and with 2 weeks to go I am very confident I will weigh in the 180’s in 2012.  In the next year I want a full time job flying Turbine helicopters so the resume is going out by the end of this week.  I want to get published in some kind of way, a website or a magazine so I am going to write one of these posts every damn day until I find out what topics I want to cover and I start making them worth reading.  So that’s my plan.  I am going to be fully engaged in my life and my family’s this year.  Its time to cut the crap.  I can’t wait to see where it takes me.