I've been developing a method for quantitizing the amount of terror I experience in flying. It turns out that terror is directly proportional to how long after I drive away from the airport that I begin to feel hungry.
To a certain extent, this terror index is conditioned by the time of day I take off and by what and when I eat beforehand. I've been flying around noon, most days, after eating breakfast about 8:00 and a light sandwich at 11:00, just before driving to the airport.
However, I've observed that the elapsed time before I begin feeling hungry seems to be more directly related to how terrified I got during a flight than either the time of day or what I've eaten.
For example, most of my flying lessons have begun at noon, and I've
flown for something more than an hour, during which time Adam makes me
do lots of maneuvers within narrow tolerances. Some days it goes
easier than others, but I always work hard and sweat a lot and burn plenty
of adrenalin. The main factor that determines how much adrenalin
I burn is the wind. If the air is smooth and there's no crosswind,
less adrenalin flows. If there's a lot of turbulence or gusts, or
there's much of a crosswind, more adrenalin flows.
And it's the adrenalin flow that regulates hunger. On a typical day, I leave the airport between 2:00 and 3:00 and get hit with a hunger pang about 20 minutes later. It's really a pang, by the way. It usually comes on suddenly and is quite pronounced. But there's quite a wide range. On smooth days I sometimes get hungry while still on the airport drive. And on rough days I usually don't feel hungry for an hour or more.
Last Monday was the first time I flew solo in wind that was more than I was prepared for. Frankly, it scared the bejesus out of me. It was the first time I've ever been up in a light plane and not had any fun at all. And when did I start feeling hungry after that flight? About 4:00 Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday--no kidding. Monday was ...an experience.
Today, however, I got hungry about 30 minutes after hitting the parking lot. What that means is, today was a pretty good day.
It really was a good day. I phoned AWOS before leaving home and found that the wind was light--about 6-8 knots--and right down runway 15. All the same, I arrived at the airport feeling anxious--still feeling anxious from Monday--but determined not to chicken out.
Once off the ground, I began to feel good (pumping adrenalin like mad, of course, but good). The air was smooth and the sky clear and bright blue. I stayed in the pattern, hoping to cancel out the anxiety I still felt from Monday's flight. There were two or three other planes in the pattern practicing landings, and others came and went. I flew around, got on final, and landed--smooth as the air itself. Whew. Quite a relief. Taxied around and did it again, and three times more. Each landing presented its own problems--mostly from having to stay clear of other airplanes--but all of the landings turned out nicely. By the fifth time around the pattern the wind seemed to be picking up a little, and I was beginning to feel the effort, so after easing two five bravo down onto the runway I taxied to the ramp and tied it down.
So I learned a few things today--or, rather, I learned them on Monday and applied them today. I stopped when things were going well and before I got too tired. And (except for forgetting to switch the transponder from STBY to ALT one time) I didn't make any mistakes that I was aware of.
Tomorrow, if the weather's okay, Adam and I fly to Charlottesville. I got the weather today and will work out the plan as much as possible this evening.
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