Tales of a Rusty Pilot

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Rooney Freimund, Jul 6, 2018.

  1. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    My story seems to be like a lot of folks: I got my private, flew some friends and the ex-wife around SoCal, and, with 88 hours in my book, stopped flying in 1999. It seems that time, money, and life all got in the way. I have a single entry in 2004 for 2.1 hours of dual out of CRQ. I remember that I did not feel comfortable with the Skyhawk after 5 years of being away on that flight, so I found every reason not to go back up. Fast forward 13 years to November 2017.
    An airport (C29) close to where I work decided to host an AOPA Rusty Pilots seminar that happens to free for members, so I went. It was a room full of 30 people that all had stories like mine. The three hours past in an instant, but it wasn't that bad. "Line Up and Wait" (I still giggle) has replaced "Position and Hold" and my taxi clearance doesn't allow me to go through any intersecting runways without permission. OK, I can handle this. Next step, Medical. Basic Med or Third Class? The answer was easy when my Primary Care Physician didn't feel comfortable signing off on the Basic Med even after I included the AOPA Guidance for Doctors. So, I got a fresh Third Class in January just in case I wanted to get in the air again in the next 24 months. Well, unbeknownst to me, my wife and kids got me a gift certificate at the local flight school for Father's Day and I was scheduled for July 1st, 2018. I got emotional when they gave it to me. During the time between Father’s Day and my scheduled flight, I was as excited as a kid waiting for Christmas. I read as much as I could and found Jason at MzeroA.com videos on YouTube. I printed out airport diagrams, ordered new sectionals, and did two weight and balances with an instructor at 150lbs and 245lbs. I looked up what is reviewed on the BFR and reviewed the POH.
    I was ready, but how much time would it take to knock off the rust? Based on my 2004 flight in SoCal, my educated guess would be about 10 hours or so. That was until I started reading posts online. Super pilots with 5-, 10-, 20-year hiatus’ who were signed off after 2 hours or less seemed to be the norm. Like riding a bike, no problem, all comes back, etc. That is NOT how I remembered my 2004 flight out of Palomar. I did not feel comfortable at all. Maybe things have changed, I thought to myself...
    July 1st came and the wx did not cooperate. I did go to RYV and meet my instructor. He is a Jason as well and, needless to say, I am probably older than his father. Seems like a nice guy and made me feel comfortable. He gave me a tour of the airport and we went to check out 02E, a ’79 Skyhawk. We rescheduled for July Fourth at 1000. I got this, I thought to myself. A couple of flights, a flight review, and I would be taking my wife and kids into the sky for their first-time.
    As luck would have it, the Wisconsin weather dished out 93 degrees and high humidity. Pre-flight was uneventful although I had to exert a lot more energy checking the fuel. It seems that 20 years and an additional 40lbs on my frame makes climbing a plane a lot different than I remember. In fairness, my instructor did ask me if I wanted to bring the short step ladder over before I even left the FBO – to which I smirked and said, “No thank you. I got it.” Instructor 1, me zero…
    My taxing reminded me of a drunken sailor, so much so that at one point I quipped, “I guessed I failed my taxi test.” Jason reassured me that there is no test and he is just looking to make sure that I am safe with the airplane. Take-off was a non-event with a slight left crosswind and I enjoyed the climbout to 2,500’… Jason threw a compliment my way about the quality of my take-off. Thanks! Jason asked me about slow flight (MCA – minimum controllable airspeed back in the day) and I went into action. I remember really enjoying practicing slow flight and I was a master at it and stall recovery. I slowed us down and dropped the flaps. I was getting fast on my airspeed and not holding my altitude. Wait a minute!!! I used to rock this. Pitch for airspeed – Power for altitude!!! WTF! Jason must have sensed my state because he had me recover. Then he asked me how I was doing. That question kind of gave me a moment of pause and I told him the truth: “Well, to be honest, I kinda got a little nervous right then and I don’t know why.” He reassured me and said that we were going to not be doing any stalls today. Stalls? I am a stall recovery master! I am not afraid of stall recovery. I used to do it in my sleep… I ate stalls for breakfast!!! Not today, cowboy…
    We did some steep turns and rolling out on heading. A few practice each way and I was within PTS. That was good. Jason had me pilotage, play with radials, and give me a tour of the area. He was handling the radios as we neared and overflew uncontrolled fields. Cruise flying point to point was fun. The aircraft was trimmed and I got to enjoy the view. This was my first time flying in Wisconsin instead of the busy Class B of San Diego…
    As we came back to RYV from the northeast, I am embarrassed to admit that I mistook a row of white buildings to be the field until Jason mentioned that we needed to head a little more east to circle and line-up for 45 entry to the left downwind for 23. The airport was actually a lot closer. Argh! I was making the calls and Jason was reminding me of the to-dos while on downwind. Turning to base I went steeper than 30 degrees – I know better than that. Turn to final saw speed too fast, airplane too high. Flaps to 30 and fly the airplane. Now, landings are the difference between boys and men. I used to be good at landings. I mean really good…
    My final profile was more of a stair step pattern than a slope. I flared too high and was ballooning. I was about 5 feet left of center when I added a little power with the thought of cushioning her to the earth. It was about that time that Jason said, “Go around.” I immediately pushed the throttle to the panel and reached over to take out 10 degrees of flaps. Jason was not impressed as he immediately put the flaps back to 30. “Positive rate of climb FIRST.” Jason also had to remind me to turn off the carb heat for our climb up to TPA. F*@k!

    “A go-around is not an emergency. It is urgent, but you don’t have to slam the throttle forward. You may end up flooding the engine – did you hear the sputter? Advance it smoothly with your palm and use your thumb to turn off the carb heat”, Jason explained in a very sympathetic way. What Jason said was not new to me. I know this. What the hell is wrong with me? “I will help you on the controls with the next one”, Jason said. Again, turns too steep, airplane too high, and speed was off. Jason’s “help” was probably 66% of that landing. We taxied back and Jason was very calm. I remember thinking, “Mister, you are in this plane with me and saw how bad I sucked. You are pretty calm right now…” To add insult to injury and to top everything off, the line guy had me pull up between the building and a 152. Even under his “guidance”, I cut the turn close to the wing tips – close enough to get Jason’s attention and help me with the differential brake. I felt about two feet high.

    As I got my crap together, secured the airplane, and met Jason inside, I realized that I was drenched in sweat and I didn’t feel good. I held it together but I was nauseous, almost a whole-body kind of motion sick. I got a drink while Jason was finishing my logbook: 1.4 hours of Dual and PIC. I guess it is a benefit of being certified, we both log PIC, but my friend Jason was truly Pilot In Command of that debacle that I just flew. He had another student waiting and we were 10 minutes into that guy’s time. Jason was bright-eyed and cheery, even though I had him on death’s door, all the way until the end of our session. We exchanged pleasantries and I was on my way home.

    When I got to the car, Shaina was waiting for me. I told her that I was hot and felt motion sick. She asked me how it went and, although I didn’t share this with her, I was mentally questioning if I should continue. I was mentally exhausted and physically sick. That is NOT what flying is supposed to be! I told her about my landing and she asked me if I expected something different after almost 20 years of not flying. To be honest, after reading all the postings of the Aces who come back in an hour and seem to criticize us who can’t, I was expecting more of myself. My tail has been between my legs since then. As I dissect the flight, I can say with certainty that I was behind the aircraft for most of the day. I was reactive instead of proactive - reacting to the aircraft instead of controlling it. Slow flight at altitude and in the pattern, I was not scanning my instruments, and I can’t say for certain that I even kept my aiming point for my touchdowns! Although I could quit, I am not going to. I want to become a safe and proficient pilot – like I was. To that end, I have scheduled three more sessions with Jason. I think the 10 hours for me is realistic. It may be more, it may be less. I know that both Jason and I will agree when I am ready. Most importantly, my family and friends will be safe! I write this today as a tool for encouragement to tell folks that doubt, confusion, and, yes, frustration are all normal feelings during this process. Just like when you were a student! If you feel compelled to negatively critique what I did or didn’t do, save your time. There are other Rusty Pilots who are good pilots that should be encouraged to take as much time as they need to get back to the joy that flying brings. I salute those of you can do it in less time, but I just proved to myself it is not me and I would venture to say that my experience is going to be close to “normal” as you get. Happy and Safe Flying!!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
    Jim K, Fallsrider, CharlieD3 and 8 others like this.
  2. jsstevens

    jsstevens En-Route PoA Supporter

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    It will come back. Hang in there!
     
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  3. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    Tl ; dr. Paragraphs are your friend. Please edit some in so I can read your post. In any case welcome back fellow rusty pilot from a former rusty pilot.
     
  4. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Only you know when you are comfortable ,and ready to fly . Why worry about the pilots that brag about coming back in a short amount of time. Remember flying is supposed to be fun,and always fly safe. Welcome back.
     
  5. X3 Skier

    X3 Skier En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Signing up for 3 more sessions likely means you really want to get proficient again. The ability to recognize what you were doing right and doing wrong is a good sign it will all come back with enough “new” experience.

    Welcome back to the air and POA.

    Cheers
     
  6. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    @Rooney Freimund great stuff man. Carpe Diem!

    The skills will come back. I took 8 years off and it took a little coaxing of the (older) brain cells to reconnect hands and feet with them. No big deal!

    You clearly had a good Primary instructor, the voices in your head were talking, now you just have to listen to them and do it!

    No sweat. I bet if you say some of the stuff out loud that you’re thinking the CFI will let you get a little further into figuring out something and it’ll let them know you’re thinking the right things an not just frozen up. :)

    Nice work!
     
  7. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  8. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Great point! Thank you!
     
  9. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  10. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  11. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Keep at it. Enjoy the time with your CFI. No reason to hurry it along.

    I get rusty after a few weeks!

    Thanks for sharing.
     
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  12. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yep, read the first sentence and that’s as far as I got.

    83FDBAA5-AE48-4455-BA76-0FD738AB4D0A.gif
     
  13. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  14. Mike Smith

    Mike Smith En-Route

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    Ha! I read the whole thing. I have always heard the rule of thumb is one hour of training for each year off. So that would be 20 in your case. I suppose there might be a point of diminishing return, I dunno. I guarantee that if you don’t quit you will be fine and will even enjoy it.
     
  15. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy Pattern Altitude

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    I was out for almost 20 years and it takes a bit of time but you’ll get there. Keep it up.
     
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  16. BrianNC

    BrianNC Pattern Altitude

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    I didn't read it either. But as a former rusty pilot, get 'er done!
     
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  17. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I read the whole thing.

    especially that part. ;)

    I rusted from 1989 to 2015. It comes back.
     
  18. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  19. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  20. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you very much!
     
  21. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    It was about 25 years of rust to work off for me. I’ve said that here many times before and said it comes back pretty quick, just like it did for you. Read about your take off again. Taxing? I was turning the freakin steering wheel(yoke), no not because I was all down with the wind direction, I was steering the plane, Lol. What I didn’t say when saying it comes back pretty quick was the details of the first couple flights. Feel a little guilty about that now hearing that what I said may have been taken as a comparison and made someone question their first flight. Like said above, the thing I focused on in your post was you have scheduled you’re next three flights. Welcome back to the sky. Oh yeah, Jason, the kid. Sounds like a good CFI to me
     
  22. Possum

    Possum Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Read the post and enjoyed it. I started flying in 1976 and it took six hours to solo. Took a break from flying in 1980 [ finances, marriage, etc. ] and started back in 2016 and it took 8 hours of dual to do the "second" solo. I had a great CFI the second time around and I was in no hurry to get signed off. I really felt comfortable after about 4 hours of dual. Initially I struggled with airspeed on final and too high in the flair. For me, headset, Foreflight and iPad are biggest improvements in general aviation.
     
  23. N659HB

    N659HB Pattern Altitude

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    Lather, rinse repeat!
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    Give it time. Do a lot of armchair flying meantime. And don't believe everything you read on PoA. ;)
     
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  24. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  25. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you! Thanks for sharing!
     
  26. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank You!!!
     
  27. sarangan

    sarangan Line Up and Wait

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    I took a 10 year break, had 1500 hours when I stopped, but it came back fairly quickly. The first couple of flights were a humbling experience, and I wish everyone could experience it without having to stop for 10 years. It is quite insightful to see what its really like when you are so far behind the airplane. It took 5 hours to get the flight review, and hoping for another 5 hours for the IPC.
     
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  28. chemgeek

    chemgeek Cleared for Takeoff

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    The good news is that you are honest and critical of your performance, a hallmark of professionalism. This will serve you well as you regain proficiency and confidence. I suspect you will do so in short time. Flying safely is not hard, but benefits from effective and honest practice.

    Good luck and get back in the fold soon!
     
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  29. Ken Whitson

    Ken Whitson Pre-Flight

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    Welcome back to the world of Aviators Keep on keeping on!

    As others have said, it WILL come back. It was a Rusty Pilots seminar last year that was the catalyst in getting me back into the air after a 34-year absence. On my first fam. flight with a Light Sport, the instructor complimented me on my ability to taxi on the yellow line. All those 100's of hours of experience, and I can taxi!! No other compliments that day. I was was flaring way too high and pranging in the landings; the gear seemed to hold up though. I eventually goth them under control with better airspeed and power management. Along the way, I have had to actively think out and/or re-establish all of the little (automatic) habits that I had accumulated and developed in my earlier times, such as

    1) find the un-moving spot on the runway
    2) throttle control
    3) speed control, esp. getting slowed down soon enough going into the pattern
    4) flaring to touch-down
    5) fuel management
    6) comm procedures.
    7) a bunch of other stuff

    Although I have been able to acquire several hours in the past 10 months, I still view each flight as an opportunity for sharpening my skills. I prettymuch have the landings under control:cool:, but in cruise I still let my heading drift unless I pay very close attention. Instead of trying to re-acquire the (sharp) skills all at one time, I try to focus on one specific trait at a time until I have mastered it.

    I have used this analogy, especially to my non-flying friends: I could get on a bicycle today (after not having been on one since my early teens) and I could make it move and steer it closse to where I wish, and do the very basics. But I don't think I would be ready to pop a wheelie for quite a while though.
     
  30. Dr. O

    Dr. O Pattern Altitude

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    Keep polishing that rusty jackknife and one day soon you will look down and realize it is shiny like new again.
     
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  31. tspear

    tspear Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Welcome back.
    Great summary, I would suggest you not be that hard on yourself. Focus on getting one skill back before trying to hit them all.
    It can be as simple as taxing around the airport, or slow flight....
    Based on your post you are analytical, so instead trying to eat the whole elephant in a single swallow try it one bite at a time.

    Tim


    Sent from my LG-TP260 using Tapatalk
     
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  32. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Come back and fly. Don’t worry about winning awards, or what you could do before. Just fly the airplane, and relax. Don’t be afraid to ask the CFI for advice. Something as complicated as flying isn’t recalled that quickly or easily. Heck, I was 6 months out from flying my airplane and I think I was about 20 miles behind it.

    Pilots love to lie. Don’t worry about what anyone said they did, they probably never did it in the first place. Fly at your pace, get refamiliar at your pace. It takes as long as it takes. The only important thing is that you enjoy the journey.
     
  33. BrianNC

    BrianNC Pattern Altitude

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    I hate it when that happens. :D
     
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  34. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks for sharing your story. As I read it, I kept thinking "This guy recognizes his mistakes, it'll start coming back quickly." 20 years does a lot to a body. Reflexes are a hair slower, our eyes don't focus as quickly, our brains don't learn as quickly, muscle memory takes longer to program... don't let your mistakes in the first flight get you down. You've got to get your body retuned to itself and the aircraft and that takes a little doing. Schedule those next 3 lessons and I'm sure you'll feel sharper again after each flight. Focus on doing one more thing we'll each flight so you'll feel like you've met a goal, rather than like you failed at a lot of things.

    I've read the 1 hour for every year off rule too, and it seems about right. I took off about 4 years after my son was born, and it took me about 3 hours before I felt like my old pilot self. I was PPL APS proficient after an hour, but my skills used to be a lot sharper than that.

    And don't let the tl;dr crowd get to you. "Too long; didn't read" roughly translates to "Words are hard for me." :)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  35. Donald Strout

    Donald Strout Filing Flight Plan

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    My return after many years has been frustrating. Like you I was a very good pilot. Most people don't forget what to do, they just need practice and constructive coaching to execute. It is really easy for a CFI to unintentionally destroy confidence and create discouragement. Building confidence should be the goal each time you take off and land. Don't stall, control yaw, use good judgement and land safely...then improve your flying by constant, learning, review and improvement.
     
  36. BrianNC

    BrianNC Pattern Altitude

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    Your instructor beating you up?
     
  37. Donald Strout

    Donald Strout Filing Flight Plan

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    No, not really...starting over or starting late in life is always difficult because people often assume that you are somehow potentially handicapped. Bringing back someone from a long time off requires a different mindset than teaching a rookie. I am sure that I will be a much better pilot than I was when I was in my 20's..I have much better judgment.
     
  38. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you for sharing!
     
  39. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Thank you!
     
  40. Rooney Freimund

    Rooney Freimund Pre-Flight

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    Good stuff! Thank you!