Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blast From the Past Part 3

When we last left our intrepid hero, he was hurling straight at the side of a mountain at 80 knots. Will he be able to turn away in time? Will he puke all over the windshield, or just wet his pants?? We are about to find out in the third installment of the MAF Technical Evaluation. This was one of the last-first steps to becoming a missionary with MAF. Enjoy!

The natural tendency is to pull back on the yoke, but this is discouraged (trust me, it is TOUGH to ignore the feeling in your gut SCREAMING at you to pull back). We got roughly as close as 1/4 of a mile from the mountain and turned away. With a horizon full of mountain in every direction, it’s very difficult to tell if the airplane is climbing or descending. I know it sounds simple, but it is really a difficult thing to do. We in fact did that a few times, then actually flew up a canyon, and then performed a ridge crossing. The mountains in this area are absolutely stunning and rugged. After this we went to another airport to practice short field landings and takeoffs, using the MAF checklist system. These went pretty well. Scott demonstrated a few for me and I was able to duplicate the same procedures and get the airplane off the ground and back on the ground in about the same distance as him. Then we went back to Nampa and were done flying for the day. He briefed me on the cross country he wanted me to plan and we were done.

Thursday I got to the airport, with the flight plan in hand, and we departed. Again, the beauty and ruggedness of the area are so hard to comprehend, even looking at it. We flew north to McCall, did a landing, then instead of flying directly to another airport west of there, he gave me an altitude not to go above, which required me pick my way through valleys and canyons and other terrain. This airport was 1800 feet above sea level, in an area where most of the terrain was around 5800 feet. So needless to say, it was Ray Walker’s voice deep down in a huge canyon, at the very bottom right next to a beautiful river. This airport was closed so we just did an approach and then instead of landing, climbed out of the canyon and went to our next airport. We landed there and ate lunch. He then gave me 10 minutes to plan the remainder of the flight which was to another airport then back to Nampa. After we took off, he "failed" the engine on me. I found an airport, mentally planned the gliding approach, and landed safely.

 We took back off, and he simulated an emergency medical call to an “airport” not even on the map. He had to draw the “airport” on the map, and I had to find the headings and distance, and then navigate to it. After the time it should have taken to find the “airport” elapsed, I couldn't find it. I was sure I had failed the flight evaluation. We searched around a little and didn't see it. So went back to my last known point on the map and tried it again. This time I found it....remarkably. The “airport” was nothing more than a clearing of tumbleweed on the side of a mountain and a windsock. Then he had me go back to Nampa. All the flying we did that day was without any GPS or other navigation equipment. All I could use was a compass, map and clock.

            Normally, in flying or leisure or for corporate, we just wear a headset and maybe sunglasses if needed. These weigh next to nothing and pose no strain on a neck. During the flight portion of the Technical Evaluation, we wore helmets which had a sun visor built in, and a headset, much like what the military fighter pilots wear.

      They are pretty neat looking and surprisingly light. However, with my nerves, and having to look at a map in my lap every few minutes, then out the window straining to find land marks, then back to the instrument panel, then to the instructor, then back to the map in my lap, the weight of my helmet took its toll on my neck. Once the adrenaline of the day wore off as I walked back to our apartment, my neck just about completely locked up. 

(Editors note: Thanks to Hosenfeld Chiropractic in Knoxville, TN the neck issue should be no problem now. They put in a lot of time and effort in aligning everything and giving me exercises to strengthen it and keeping it in check, plus much needed support and encouragement in the fundraising process. Thank you so much for your help! My neck loves you for it!)

Stay tuned for the last in the series next week.

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