Highs, Lows, And Adiabetic Lapse Rates

I remember sitting at one of the desks at the very front of the class. For some reason the teacher’s desk is on a little elevation, as if that gives him more leverage over the rowdy teens before him. As usual I have no clue whatsoever as to what is happening on the blackboard. I always zoned out during mathematics, since I didn’t get it anyway. Sensing I wasn’t paying attention, the teacher calls on me to solve the equation on the board. I blankly stare at the numbers and letters on the board, as if the both of us don’t know I won’t be able to do it.

Shaggy looking prick

For some reason our normal teacher was absent, so the principal was filling in for him. I look the principal in the eyes for a second or two, just to let him know I’m on to him. Shaggy looking prick, singling me out like that. As if making me sit at the front of the class, for some reason, is going to help me solve the gibberish in front of me. Well aware I’m not going to get away with a half-assed attempt, I spend a few seconds taking it all in. The principal loses his patience, and is looking for someone else to give him the answer. No one seems to know. Yet, just before he’s about to do it himself, something clicks in my brain. Hesitantly I utter the first step, then the next and before I know it, I’m giving him an answer. One I even believed to be true.

He looks at me, and I think I can hear him sigh. I must have given the wrong answer, as usual. He puts down his chalk, and takes a seat, as he takes in the classroom. His eyes end up resting on me, and he says; “Some people have the type of brain, that won’t start working until things get really hard…”. As a teenager, the first thing I thought was “the hell is that supposed to mean?!”. But then I realised he was actually paying me a compliment. Turns out, we weren’t really supposed to get the solution, he was trying to show us how much more difficult maths could be. It wasn’t a magical moment either, mind you, I was just as bad in maths after my epiphany as I was before.

“don’t fly when you’re drunk”

I can’t figure out why that single remark has stayed with me for all these years, but it has. Maybe it stayed with me because it was the only praise I ever got in relation to mathematics. If you don’t count “Wow! You actually made it to class today!” that is. A few days ago, the mailman delivered 15 kilograms of paperwork. Binders, maps, and booklets, all necessary for my upcoming four exams. And reading through some of it, sometimes makes me wonder what I’ve gotten myself in to.

I didn’t have the feeling I was struggling much with Aerodynamics or Aircraft General Knowledge, yet I “only” scored 75% and 77% on my exams. Remember, 70% is the lowest passing grade, and for Air Law it’s even 80%. So how will that translate to the harder exams? Meteorology, Planning & Performance, Air Law, and Navigation, are all much harder, allegedly. Human Factors doesn’t seem to scare anybody, and I have to admit it sounds a lot like “don’t fly when you’re drunk”.
At least I don’t suffer from a fried brain anymore every afternoon. Maybe that’s because it is being challenged now. Maybe I’m just getting used to the rhythm of study again. I have been stricter on myself in regards of time spend studying, so that might be paying of too.

Meteorology is a lot of new knowledge, about high and low pressure systems, different clouds, how they form and what it means to us as pilots. The other half of “Met” has to do with applying that knowledge operationally. The first time you lay eyes on a TAF (aerodrome weather forecast) you say to yourself; I wouldn’t be able to read this to save my life”. The second one you read, however, seems to be an open book. It somehow reminds me of working at the post office, all the abbreviations and requirements or limitations that come with them. I even use them now to get an idea of the weather, instead of just looking on my phone. Fair enough, I use the NAIPS app, which is technically looking on my phone.

it’s supposed to be hard

Speaking of phones, you know your study just turned serious when auto correct no longer recognises the words you’re using. Which reminds me of a brief conversation I had with the pilot who flies the Bell 206 in the hangar next to us. I expressed my believe a novice pilot should probably be happy to get a job flying at all. He wholeheartedly disagreed with me, claiming a novice pilot has just finished a highly specialised training, and is capable of doing something not many people can do (flying a hunk of metal fatigue, spinning around an oil leak i.e. a helicopter). The novice pilot, therefore, should not at all settle for just any job, he should take the job that pays him fairly. And I have to say, I thought that was a pretty compelling argument. But perhaps more compelling about his take on things, was the realisation that what I’m doing is indeed a highly specialised training, and it’s supposed to be hard.

In the meantime, CASA is slowly getting up to speed with my medical certificate and now requires me to do more additional medical tests. My diastolic blood pressure was exactly on the threshold, so now I need to get my blood pressure tested again, and I’ve got a Low Dose CT-scan appointment scheduled for tomorrow to check for kidney stones. I sure hope that will be the last of it, because this whole medical testing party is feeding to many mouths that are not family by now.

seemingly insurmountable mountains

So with CASA on one side, and an impressive mountain of information on the other side, I sometimes find myself caught in the middle, not sure if I did the right thing by chasing down this dream. However, I have another memory from my high school mathematics classes. We had an equation, requiring us to determine the minimal rate of climb for a helicopter to have it clear a mountain top. I couldn’t get the right answer, and I accepted I could never be a helicopter pilot with my level of mathematics skills. Long before I even knew how hard it would be to become one, I already convinced myself I couldn’t do it. Yet, here I am, well on my way to become certified, be it with sometimes seemingly insurmountable mountains of knowledge in my path.

I am not the type of person to have regrets, but talking myself out of chasing a dream as a teenager is one. Starting smoking as a teenager is another one by the way, that’s about it. And in a strange way, the harder the next four modules look, the more I look forward to mastering them. With every chapter in the book I understand, and with every exam I pass, I’m closing in on catching that dream. But maybe more importantly, I’m proving that teenager wrong, and rectifying the mistake he made.

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