Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cleared for Departure

Cleared for departure to the Vero Beach Airport.  Upon entering controlled airspace, radar vectors to Commercial Single/Multi-Engine Land, CFI, CFII, then as Filed.  Maintain 3000, expect One-Zero Thousand, 10 minutes after departure.  Contact Miami Center on 132.250.  Squawk 0720.

Yeah its cheesy, but its appropriate considering my departure today.  I sit here in my parent's house, in my somewhat empty room, filled with more emotion than one person should be allowed to have.  Excitement, anxiety, fear, happiness, nostalgia - I could go through a whole list of thoughts racing through my head right now.  But that time has come and gone.  Right now, I have the task ahead of me, for this is the beginning of my great adventure.  My career.  My life.

Let me give you a little background of who I am and why I am writing this blog.  For as long as I can remember, I've had an inexplicable obsession with aviation.  According to my parents, my first word was "airplane" and my first phrase "airplane go bye-bye."  Having been born on Maui (hence "Flyin Hawaiian), we would have to fly everywhere to visit friends and family.  If you've ever been on an airliner, there's always that ONE person who thought it would be a good idea to bring their 6-month old child with them, which ends up crying from startup to shutdown.  Not me.  On my first trip from Hawaii to the mainland, aboard a United DC-10, I was not only quiet as can be, but I sat up in the bassinet, and looked around, fascinated by my new airborne world.

Maybe that is what hooked me on aviation.  Or maybe it was my dad, taking me to the runway ends of Gaithersburg Airpark (KGAI), Gravely Point in Washington DC (KDCA), watching F-14s at the end of NAS Miramar (KNKX), helping John Davis - captain for American Airlines - do a walk-around on an MD-82 (pre 9/11 of course), or any of the dozens of airshows my parents took me to as a baby.  In fact, at the 1988 Air Expo at NAS Patuxent River (KNHK), during Dale Snodgrass' F-14 demo, I took my very first steps.  There have been many instances, which can point to my love of aviation, but I just think its in my blood.  Like most pilots, I know I was meant to be up there not down here.

Fast forward 12 years, and my parents made me a deal:  Make honor roll for the entire school year, and I get flying lessons.  Take a guess what I did?  I took my first flight lesson on June 26, 1999 with Greg French, in a TB09 Tampico N55372.  It was amazing.  Me, doing what I've known to be destined to do, and doing like a champ.  I could hold straight and level, make turns, even hold a heading.  I could even handle unusual situations such as a vacuum failure, as I pointed out the gyrating DG to Greg.  I didn't freak out, I didn't panic, I just pointed it out to him, and thought "don't tell mom."

Through my involvement in the Civil Air Patrol, I attended the 2000 Maryland Wing Glider Academy, where we immersed ourselves into aviation and were guaranteed TWO rides in a sailplane.  Dave Pixton took me up in a Grob 103 sailplane for 30 minutes, and I was HOOKED.  Not only was glider flying within my parent's budget, (I was only flying powered once a month) but it was so much fun.  In a glider, everything slows down, and you truly feel like you're flying.  All you hear is the air rushing by, the sailplane rattling as if it were speaking to you, and your heart beating in your ears.  Sailplanes challenge a pilot in every aspect of VFR aviation:  Formation flying on tow, energy management aloft, dead-reckoning navigation, spatial orientation, situational awareness, stick and rudder skills, and dead-stick landings.  I soloed on July 2, 2001, 18 days before my 15th birthday. It was one of the greatest feelings of my life.  As I released that tow cable, knowing I was up there, alone for the first time, I knew I was a PILOT.  I'm not afraid to admit I wept in joy.  To this day, thinking about that feeling gets me choked up.  Granted, my next thought was how silly it would be if I ran into something (like the ground) because I was all teary-eyed, so I got it together and focused on the task at hand.

A year and 18 days later, in front of many friends and family members, I soloed Cessna 172R N172WG on my 16th birthday.  The following year, I was a licensed glider pilot.  Unfortunately, my departure to Penn State (from which I graduated) put my Single Engine - Land rating on hold, but not indefinitely.  In the Fall of 2006, my mom introduced me to my friend and mentor, JJ Greenway, and by introduced me, I mean he came and picked me up from school in his Cessna 172 - N20336 - and told me to fly us home.  Talk about a meeting!  This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship, and a turning point for my aviation career.  JJ helped me through my SEL Private Pilots Certificate (August 8, 2007), high-performance, complex, and tailwheel endorsements, as well as much of my instrument flying, and introduction to professional-style aviation.  I've logged more hours with him than any other person, and owe a lot of my attention to detail and knowledge to his expertise.

So here we are now.  I passed my Instrument rating checkride on February 9, 2011, and am about to leave for Vero Beach.  My Mazda is packed to the gills (minus my laptop - obviously), and the Auto Train leaves Lorton, VA at around 3:30pm - myself and my best friend Dan on board.  But why am I going to Vero, you might ask.  Simple - I am enrolled in the Commercial Single/Multi-Engine Land, Certificated Flight Instructor, and CFI-Instrument courses at Flight Safety International's Flight Safety Academy.  This blog is going to be a venue to share my experiences with my friends, family, and the world.  I will be posting updates as often as my schedule allows, and hope to continue it beyond this chapter, and into my career.

I apologize for the wall of text, but if you've continued this far, allow me to share with you a passage, which has sustained me through my challenges, and desire to accomplish my dreams:

"A career in flying was like climbing one of those ancient Babylonian pyramids made up of a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were the one of the elected and anointed ones who had "the right stuff" and could move higher and higher and even--ultimately, God willing, one day--that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite... the very brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself."

-From: The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe


  1. Bummer, you got a squawk code that starts with a zero. That won't do you much good for long :)

  2. NICE Job! I am very proud of you and I know you will ROCK down there. Keep the pointy end forward. Dad