By Sagar Pathak
Hi, my name is Sagar and it’s been one year, three months and nine days since my last flight as Pilot in Command. I feel like an addict craving his next fix. But while I could see the plane on the ramp, I knew that I couldn’t just jump in and leap again towards the sky. One little thing stood between me and my joy. A Biennial Flight Review, the mandatory flight and ground instruction with a certified flight instructor that is required every two years. And just my luck, I didn’t have mine. FAA 1, Sagar 0.
As with most newly minted pilots, there is a drop off in flight hours after we get our ticket. Sure, we may say that we are going up every weekend to chase that elusive hamburger or take our friends out for a weekend getaway to a far and exotic destination, but often those ideas just fade away. I fell into that trap and, over time, my flying slid to once every 90 days to keep up my currency. Eventually even that lapsed leaving my headset to sit alone in my flight bag.
But I had that bug once again. That desire to get back up where I belonged. Where I held my own fate in my own hands. Because once you’ve tasted flight….well, you know the rest.
Unfortunately for me, the reality is that flying is a diminishing skill. One that if not practiced consistently, can come back and bite you, and bite you hard. While clearly I am the world’s greatest pilot (it’s true! I have a mug that says that!), I may have become a little rusty in one or two (or all) areas. (What were the minimums in Class B airspace and what did I need to get in?) The FAA recognizes this and instructs us pilots to sit down with an instructor to brush up on these easily lost skills. As much as we hate doing it, it really is for our own benefit.
They also give us pilots another option – the option to learn something new. A wise CFI told me when I was asking about the BFR process to “Never waste a BFR! Use it to learn something new.” And he was right! Admittedly, I was rusty; lying would only make it worse. And while I could have found a CFI to sit down with and demonstrate that I didn’t forget everything I was taught in training, I would only be doing myself a disservice by completing just enough to get by.
So I reached out to my friend Dan Dyer from the San Carlos Flight Center (SCFC) for some advice. He suggested that I get my tailwheel endorsement. And while that wouldn’t meet my BFR requirements outright, SCFC would be able to tailor a program that could combine the BFR refresher skills I needed with the new skills of flying tailwheels. Ultimately this would make me a better pilot! I was sold!
Having been fortunate enough to fly in more than two-dozen different types of aircraft, it wasn’t until I flew in a Piper Cub that I wanted to get my pilots license. Low and slow was where I wanted to be. But after two years in a tricycle gear Piper Cherokee, I was well in my comfort zone. A new challenge would be good.
San Carlos Flight Center was just awarded the “Best Flight School” in the U.S. in the AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards. So if I was going to get over my fear of ground looping and learn to properly fly using the rudder, it was Dan and his staff of CFIs that would show me the way. Clearly they are doing something right to win that award.
I was referred to one of Dan’s top instructors, Justin Phillipson. If you are familiar with Reno Air Racing’s Formula One class, he was 2012’s Rookie of the Year and placed in the top three of the Gold class in both 2012 and 2013. Having Piloted Outrageous around the pylons in Race 12, I know Justin can “fly low, fly fast, turn left” with the best of them, but could he teach this old dog a new trick – how to fly a tailwheel? Well, in our very first meeting, he summed it up perfectly. “Flying tailwheel is going to be a very humbling experience.” So how did I do? Tune in next month and find out! For more information on the San Carlos Flight Center, visit SanCarlosFlight.com.