Nothing like a David Bowie title to start off a post. I do believe he had a song for everything. But this post is not about David Bowie, great though he is– it’s for you, my most faithful followers, who have been with me since this blog’s conception in early 2014 and through these dry spells of late. Over the past few years I’ve written about so many things interesting and important to me; World War II, aviation/flying, and my travels. Really, all these subjects were united in that they encapsulated my dreams.
Many of my past posts stemmed from the fact that I wished for something different and was dreaming of something more; whether that be a world more informed on the Eastern Front, a closet full of 1940s fashions, or a life spent half in beautiful destinations and half above the clouds. Although I’m sure my readership has dropped somewhat over the time that I’ve been silent, I know there are a few of you who remember me and who will be interested to know what that silence has yielded. And yes, it has brought many changes.
I’d like to take you back five full years to this post: In Awe of Aviation. Here there are differences beyond the pretentious writing and wishful thinking that dominate the post. To quote, With aviation having held such a monumental place in my life for such a long time, I expect it will continue to feature heavily for the rest of my life. Several years ago, before realizing I wanted to be a writer, I considered training to be a commercial pilot or even joining the Royal Canadian Air Force- although I may not have taken that path, I do know that I want aviation to be a part of my life no matter what I am doing.
Well, I still don’t know what I was waiting for… as evidenced in the above post, I’ve always had an enormous love for flying. Now I believe I was kidding myself for a long time that I was going to do anything other than that. But I’m proud to announce that now in 2019, as a 24-year-old with her savings already blown on a misguided university stint and periods of unemployment, I’m following my dream skyward. I have my own Cessna, hangar, and am nearing the end of my Private Pilot License training with over 38 hours’ flight time to my name.
Toronto Pearson Airport from 2000 feet. Can’t say I ever expected to fly over Canada’s busiest airport in a Cessna, at least not with my hands on the controls
The epiphany leading up to this began in July 2017 when I saw an airshow in my hometown. At the time I was preparing to start trade school in the autumn, but as I witnessed a weekend of flying I started questioning why I was considering anything that didn’t involve aviation. As you may know, my dad has always worked in aviation so of course he was happy to advise and encourage me along that path; and it didn’t take long for me to withdraw from school and for us to begin exploring flight training options. Given the fact that I have to work full-time to finance this journey, we decided to find our own plane to buy and to recruit a freelance instructor. This has offered me the most flexible training possible, as well as being cheapest in the long run. And I’m in it for the long run!
The chosen one… purchased in May 2018 (after a very frustrating search across the province) from a gentleman in North Bay.
Meet Bluebird, my very own 1973 Cessna 150 (thanks Mum & Dad!). Named after the song of course; and one day I hope to fly her over the White Cliffs!
I began flying in June, with a local instructor who has most recently taught for a prestigious college flying program. My main instructor is currently flying left seat for a commercial airline; and between their two approaches I’ve gained confidence and a whole lot of industry knowledge. I’m endlessly thankful that my parents and family have been willing to support this dream while my resources were low, and I’m so glad that we’ve gone about my training this way. Although going to a university/college program or just a flight school would have been quicker, it would also have put me into terrible debt and I’m fortunate indeed to be able to keep myself afloat while learning to fly. I guess I like having flexibility and I like doing things in unusual ways, so this arrangement has worked well so far.
Welcome to the flight deck! Don’t mind the ugly cushion… I realised on my very first flight that I was going to need some sort of adjustment for the seat height. Good luck staying straight and level by the horizon when you can’t see it
Sometimes it really feels like the pursuit of even my Private License (which requires 45 hours to the Commercial License’s 200) is taking forever; and I’ve had some points where I’ve been extremely down on myself and not confident in my flying. But I always try to remember one particular flight in July or August last year– my instructor was just teaching me the circuit, and I remember wondering then and there how on earth I was ever going to be able to maintain control of the plane, plus fly a good circuit, plus watch for traffic, plus make radio calls by myself, plus be responsible for a safe landing… it really seemed so distant and alien and impossible. Well, at the end of September I ended up soloing (and actually had minimal nerves in doing so), so if that’s not proof of progress then nothing is.
Another proud moment of progress was at my airport’s Gathering of the Classics event, which brings together a classic car show and a fly-in; drawing hundreds of aircraft and visitors every year. I was nervous to be around so much traffic in a relatively-uncontrolled setting, but I taxiied Bluebird out to the grass and parked with all the other airplanes. Seeing other pilots and visitors admiring her was awesome and made me feel really proud of myself. Even better though was when I taxiied her back to the hangar at the end of the day… the Harvards always fly to the Gathering and offer rides, and followers of my blog know exactly how I love the Harvards… when it was my turn to taxi out, I ended up being in line behind two of the Harvards! Following them down the runway while at the controls of my own plane made the dream very real. Definitely a wow moment, and even more special as my brother was with me; he has since moved across the pond to London and I miss him very much.
Bluebird made some friends!
My view of the Harvards as I taxiied along 08/26 to the hangars. Thanks mate for the photo
I’ve got to give credit to my family for helping make this a pretty ideal situation. My dad is trained as an AME (aircraft mechanic), and he’s able to do much of the maintenance on Bluebird and has connections who can do the stuff he can’t. And the fact that my parents were willing to help finance my career has given me a lot more peace of mind. Thank goodness Dad wants to learn to fly with Bluebird too so it’s not just me… My brother seems to fancy the thought of jumping out of planes, so we’re a good pair and always have lots to talk about. He’s definitely a big supporter and despite being in the UK permanently now, we are extremely close as siblings and he`s a big influence. As for my other half, our first sort-of date was at the 2017 Gathering of the Classics and apparently I pretty much introduced him to aviation. He`s been very supportive in my pursuit of this and has seen the whole journey; I can`t wait til I can give him his first flight in a small aircraft.
Dad tinkering away. Knowing your particular aircraft plus a general knowledge of engines and airframes is a big focus in learning to fly. I`m spoiled to have someone to answer complicated questions
Learning to fly has helped me develop in a lot of ways outside the cockpit too. Although I`ve always been quite inclined to discipline and thoroughness, in aviation it’s amplified. A pilot has a lot of responsibility; not only the hands-on operation of the aircraft but also over its condition, flight-planning and navigating, troubleshooting, and preparing for various scenarios that may occur. I’ve already had a few snags in the air– like flaps not extending on approach, a flock of birds crossing the runway just prior to touchdown, and unexpected traffic in the circuit. Once my door even came open on climb-out, which was a bit of a shock. Although none of these are desirable and they seem frightening, when they happen in the air it’s important to simply take charge and address them in the safest way possible. Fortunately, I’ve found that I don’t panic when these things happen, which gives me some confidence that with continued training I can handle those bad situations properly.
I feel I’m also a better and more aware driver thanks to flying, and am more precise in tasks that I do. As my instructor told me, it takes just as much concentration to stay within your lane on the highway as it does to drive to one side of it; the latter is just laziness. Good advice for more than just flying or driving. And if you’re curious like me, aviation is a great thing to get into. I’m learning navigation (on the ground and literally on the fly), meteorology, emergency procedures, airmanship, and so much more. There is so much to learn!
This is my flight computer… it looked like a disc of a whole lot of confusion when I first saw it, but now it’s another thing I’ve learned. It can be used in flight planning and in the cockpit to calculate time, distance, and speed
A very visual lesson in the dangers of icing. This was accumulated on the propellor as we taxiied to the fuel pump, and we knew something was wrong because a lot more power than usual was needed to get us moving.
Flying has helped in other ways as well. It really is another world up there, and when flying I’ve never had earthly problems in my mind. Even if work was rubbish or money is tight, those things just aren’t something I think about when I’m up there. It’s really calming, and it takes a lot of focus! My brother’s recent move to London has been one of the biggest things on my mind over the past few months. Living together for 23 years and then suddenly living in separate countries hasn’t been easy for anybody, but it is a little better when I think that perhaps one day I’ll fly jets across the Atlantic for a living, and will be able to visit him more often.
I watched my brother’s departing flight leave the Toronto area on FlightRadar24, and it really hit home when I realised that only a month before I’d flown along that same shoreline with my instructor.
As for the highlights in my flying journey so far, there have been many. Of course my first solo was a big one; just like driving standard it took me a long time to nail the landing flare so that milestone was a long time coming. Doing a downtown tour of Toronto’s lakeshore area was massive for me at the time and is still exciting to think about; it was my first foray into controlled airspace and was my first proper cross-country flight.
Yes, that is the CN Tower… tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Breathtaking!!
Another highlight was my most recent cross-country; 160 miles to Muskoka in the north and then Oshawa on the shores of Lake Ontario in the south. I was very on-edge and anxious for this flight for some reason and didn’t perform well at all on the first leg to Muskoka, but after that I fixed my mistakes and dealt with heavy traffic and high winds at Oshawa in what was a good learning experience. Honestly, most of the highlights are just small things; like being proud of how I handled my door opening suddenly on takeoff, or thinking ahead and maintaining good awareness in the circuit. Having my instructor pat me on the back and say “you got it, good flying” even for something small is what I’m most proud of.
Obligatory airport selfie at Muskoka airport back in February
Bluebird’s eye view of my city of Barrie
As for the view ahead, I have some solo time, a solo cross-country, and instrument time before I can go for my checkride/flight test. There’s also a written exam to write, which I am enrolled in ground school for. I started flying in June 2018, and my goal is to be a Private Pilot License holder this summer! I feel like there’s much to do, but I have a lot to motivate me. My brother is planning a trip back to Canada come summertime, and I sincerely hope I’ll be able to give him a flight. Beyond that, I want to fly to Tillsonburg to see the Harvards’ home airport, and to St. Thomas to visit my grandparents. It will also be exciting to add ratings to my license (obviously if I’m going to fly a Harvard then I need my taildragger rating!) and to begin the requirements for my CPL. I’m going to be busy but this is such an exciting journey and I’ll try to share it here with you.
Check ignition, and may God’s love be with you…
Visiting London earlier this year provided an extra reminder of how fascinated I am with flying
Me and Bluebird, Edenvale Aerodrome, August 2018
See more of my journey on Instagram @bluebird_over
All Text and Photos © Adair E. R. Jacobs, 2019