One Handed First Flight!

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by AMFlying, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. AMFlying

    AMFlying Filing Flight Plan

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    Hello Everyone! I have been lurking here for over a year reading about all of your training journeys. It has all been an incredible help. I figured it was only right that I post my own story now that I have officially started one- so here it is.

    The short story:
    WhooHooo!! I've officially logged an hour of flight! My brain is complete mush now. I didn't sleep at all the last couple nights. I almost chickened out when I got to the airport parking lot (and 4 times on the way to the airport). My heart was beating so hard that I think I could see it through my shirt... but I did it... and I have the log book to prove it!

    The longer story:
    I'm in my 40's now. I have been fascinated by flight for as long as I can remember. I wanted to get my certificate when I was younger but I had no money. Then I got married and had a few kids, managed to make some money- but then I had no time (tiny humans really consume a lot of your free time - who knew??). Now the kids can all at least bathe themselves and make a jelly sandwich so I figured this was a great time to get started. Better late than never right?

    The full story:
    I lost my left hand at the wrist when I was an invincible teenager. Actually, it was during that period between where the invincibility wears off and you start to develop rational risk calculations. I obviously miscalculated. The missing digits never really limited me from doing anything I wanted to do though so I figured flying should be no different.

    I started with the knowledge test because I was actually more worried about the mental aspect than the physical flying part. I have always been terrible at studying and have been out of the studying game for over 20 years so it was a struggle to say the least. I took the Sportys online class and, after lots of studying (far beyond just taking the video course and practice tests), managed to pass my knowledge test. Barely... but a win is a win right?

    The medical was the next hurdle so I met a local AME who cleared me for everything except the obvious. He says I should get a denial letter in a several weeks that will give me instructions for setting up a medical flight test and getting a SODA.

    So now it was time to see if anyone would actually teach me to fly. I did some research and found an older retired air force pilot & CFI that appeared to be very much safety oriented. I called him up, explained the situation, and he agreed to give it a shot. I didn't have anything that would work to hold a yoke so I 3D printed a 'gripper' that I thought should do the job and met him at the airport that weekend. He was very nice but right to the point. He indicated that he didn't really expect my situation to work very well and he would not hesitate to tell me if he saw anything unsafe or if I was in over my head. That's exactly why I was there.

    We agreed that we might as well get some of the hard parts out of the way first. GULP. The wind was terrible and, for the next hour, I bounced around and did what seemed like endless forms of stall recovery, simulated engine failure, untrimmed flight, maintaining altitude in steep turns, and slow flight. I absolutely hate roller-coasters and don't love heights. I'm sure I would have gotten sick if it wasn't for the fact that my brain was so over-saturated with inputs that there was just no more room in there for nausea.

    When we landed I was EXHAUSTED! Mentally and physically and everything in between. The good news is that the instructor saw nothing that would limit me from flying and suggested we schedule more lessons. I'm going to upgrade my gripper and then it is game on!

    I just want to thank everyone for posting on this forum and encouraging each other. If it were not for this forum I would have seen my complete mental overload after my first flight as a sign that I was in way over my head and probably would have given up. Well... I might still be in way over my head but at least you all give me hope. :)
     
  2. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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    In turbulence? On a first lesson?? Holy SMOKES!! That would sap the mental (and physical) energy of any new student, even if they had three hands!...
    Usually we start with things like "straight and level". :)

    "Nothing that would limit you from flying..." yeah, I should say so! Sounds like your CFI has a gift for understatement. He sounds like an interesting person too. I hope you'll keep us updated as you train. I'm curious how your CFI proceeds with you from here, if he keeps up the crazy pace or not.

    Take note, PoA. I think this one's gonna go far.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
  3. CharlieD3

    CharlieD3 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Wow, that instructor put you through the wringer on your first flight...

    But, I really think he just didn't want to waste your time. He said he'd let you know if he thought you'd be unsafe.. and when you "raised his eyebrows" with the first test... He pushed a bit more...

    Yeah, we need to watch you.... You're gonna be a good 'un....

    Congrats!
     
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  4. Daniel Biltz

    Daniel Biltz Filing Flight Plan

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    Heart goes a long way making up for physical shortcomings. Sounds like you have it in spades.
     
  5. geezer

    geezer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I had many of those turbulent flights working on my PPL, and they sent me home exhausted, but exhilarated too. There are few thrills greater than fighting the forces of nature and winning.

    You also have the finest kind of CFI, one who will stress you to your limits, and honestly advise you of your ability to proceed. He is not one to milk any student who comes his way until the student gives up. You have demonstrated your ability, and are ready to go on and become a pilot. Congratulations!
     
  6. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    This post made my day. Great story.
    Well done!
    Keep posting your progress; we'll be watching for them.
     
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  7. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Welcome good post. Had an instructor in a seaplane who was missing a hand.
     
  8. EppyGA

    EppyGA Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You'll never have the CFI yell at you for having both hands on the yoke, you're ahead of the game. :cool:
     
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  9. NoBShere

    NoBShere Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good stuff!
     
  10. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    You actually have one advantage over two handed pilots. You won’t have to overcome the tendency to have a death grip on the yoke.
     
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  11. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    Of course, flying a plane with a stick instead of a yoke might be easier, since you'd be able to use your good hand on the sick and gripper on the throttle.
     
  12. mryan75

    mryan75 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Welcome aboard! What a great story! It is odd, in the past month I've gotten to know two paraplegics and one gentleman who lost an arm to cancer. Their stories, like their lives, have been so inspiring. I keep thinking about the hings I complain about in life!

    I wish you all the best in your journey.
     
  13. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Can you post a pic of "the gripper" you constructed?
     
  14. OkieAviator

    OkieAviator Pattern Altitude

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    Welcome to POA!
     
  15. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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  16. AMFlying

    AMFlying Filing Flight Plan

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    Wow thank you all for your replies! I was not really expecting much interest.

    I completely agree and that is exactly what he told me. He said he didn't want for me to waste a bunch of time and money only to find out that I didn't have the ability/mobility to perform in a certain critical situation. I am very grateful for that.

    I actually played around with a ton of different options before deciding to go with my left hand attached to the yoke. My number one requirement was that I would not modify the aircraft at all. I didn't want to be locked into one plane so any necessary modifications would need to be made to me. I saw some other amputee pilots online that use their good hand on the yoke and a prosthetic device of some kind to control the throttle. My thinking is that, in an emergency, there are going to be multiple things that need done quickly and I want my good hand free to do them. Runaway trim for example- I don't think I could quickly pull a circuit breaker with a hook, for example, while having to fight the yoke with my good hand. Or even change radio frequencies while in a turn or write down instructions, try to restart an engine, and stuff like that.

    Oh cool! Which hand was he missing and did he use a prosthetic of some kind or just multi-task with one hand?


    :) Oh those look interesting. Didn't know they made such a thing.

    That little button was also something the instructor was bothered by. He seemed to think that might be a big deal. I told him I would just reach over with my good hand and push the button on the yoke. I didn't really see the problem. So... he sprung a radio call on me (my first ever) while turning a left base (so yoke/button would be turned away from my good hand I presume). I completely failed the test but it was not because I could not push the button. It was because my brain overloaded as soon as I pushed it and all of the words I was told to say 3 seconds before completely disappeared. I ended up announcing to the world what I imagined to be just some grunting sounds and maybe some animal noises. OK... It probably wasn't really quite that bad but it certainly was not a proud moment. After fixing my radio call he said well what about when you are taking off or something that requires throttle control at the same time. My reply was, very politely, that I thought it was aviate, navigate, and then communicate. He agreed that there was really not a likely scenario that would require an immediate reply and that I could almost always delay my communication until I was ready.

    Absolutely! It is at home but I will try to get some pictures tonight. I have actually found a better solution from a company called TRS. It is their Multi-D (new member so I can't post links). They were super helpful and that gripper works really good.
     
  17. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    This? https://www.trsprosthetics.com/product/multi-d-terminal-hand/

    Many years ago, I flew with a guy who was missing purd near all of one arm - he used that side to hold the yoke - it involved a lot of hunching the shoulder to get the gripper to open / close. Worked for him.
     
  18. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Yeah, there are times when you shouldn't take your hand off the throttle. And communicate definitely comes after aviate and navigate. So you don't absolutely have to have a real handy push to talk switch. But it can help things go smoother. That elbow thing in that that link may not be ideal because your elbow isn't always going to be in the right place to push it. It was just the first link that popped up when I googled the situation. You seem like a pretty resourceful guy. You just might come up with and build something that suits you. You'll have a better feel for how you'd like it work as you progress into cross country and other things in your training that may be a little more involved with communication.
     
  19. AMFlying

    AMFlying Filing Flight Plan

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    That's it! And that's my picture that I just sent over to them :) They are fast!

    I originally wrote my first post last week but talked myself out of posting it until yesterday. I didn't really expect much interest but figured I had already typed it up so why not.

    Quite a lot has happened this week. The original instructor has tried to schedule a couple flights with me but there was something else always going on at that time. Since he is just doing this part time- he just fits lessons in when he is free and usually on very short notice. I would really enjoy flying more with him but, realistically, he said a best case might be one possible (weather & schedule permitting) flight per week and I really need a little more than that I think.

    So I contacted a local flight school and got in right away yesterday with a former trainer for the Italian Air Force. He is really nice but pretty serious so far. He didn't care at all about my arm. In fact he was actually kind of like "....and?" when I brought it up and then went right into the lesson. The school uses Cheetahs which are easier for me since the yoke only turns 90 degrees vs the 172 which turns a full 180 degrees. That last few degrees of extra rotation in the Cessna were a little difficult for me to reach so this is a relief.

    This first flight at the school was what I would expect for a first flight. There was a little taxi work trying to get used to the differential braking on the Cheetah. People watching probably thought I was drunk or suffering from CO poisoning. I was all over the place. It was windy again but I was prepared for it this time. I didn't love it but I was prepared. We just practiced the basics but all seemed to go as well as could be expected for a person that was clearly operating far beyond their mental capacity.

    I was really worried about how we would handle the transition of command. My 3D printed hand was designed to un-clip from the yoke quickly but it just didn't really feel very secure. It was not like it was going to slip off or anything but there was not the solid connection that I wanted. The new one from TRS is very secure but not quite as easy to remove from the yoke. I un-clipped it a few times to give the instructor control but he actually preferred that I just stay attached to the yoke when he was in command so I could follow along with what he was doing. It seemed to work just fine but I'm sure I will eventually find or make something else that I like better.

    The journey continues!
     
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  20. Amsirahc

    Amsirahc Filing Flight Plan

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    You'll be surprised at how awesome the crowd is around here! They take interest, invest their time and knowledge in helping out, and go well above and beyond what you would ever expect or hope for.

    Excellent intro, and best wishes on your journey!
     
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  21. AMFlying

    AMFlying Filing Flight Plan

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    What kind of winds do the rest of you normally do your early stage training in? My second lesson was 02008G21KT and the first was very similar. Thinking back about the flight- it just seemed like I was all over the place. I know there will always be windy days and I'm not really worried about it. Just more curious I guess.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  22. airheadpenguin

    airheadpenguin Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Here in New Hampshire it's starting to be turbulence season so 8G21 seems about right until April or so. The gust factor on the ground gives you some insight into the level of turbulence at trainer altitude. You can also check for AIRMET Tangos to get a sense of turbulence at altitude.

    That said I did the bulk of my training for PP and IFR in winter. Have the right expectations but if you can cope with this you'll do fine in summer.

    Have your personal limits and live within them. What did your instructor say about when winds make it a no-go for now?
     
  23. texasclouds

    texasclouds Cleared for Takeoff

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    We have a high time cfi with a prosthetic arm, here is his story:
     
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  24. bluerooster

    bluerooster Pattern Altitude

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    You should have no worries getting you PPL. Years ago there was a guy at RYY with one arm, (right arm) and a Stearman.
     
  25. Hippike

    Hippike Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Love your story, keep up the great work and share with us! Very inspirational.

    I know of a one-armed guy, who is not only a CFI, he just recently passed his CFII!
    https://www.theclippedwing.com/