Quite apart from the ex Air Force crowd of instructors is the flight chief. There's an air of enigma around him, and we've not heard a consistent one-line description of him. The only common thread in the descriptions we've heard is that he's a kind and gentle chap with a sense of humour. Tall, lanky and with this intense professorial look, he has a knack of putting students at ease just by his behaviour, yet speaks the bare minimum.
His driving, though, put us at distinct unease.
Today was the first time we interacted with him proper, since he shared transport with us back to the guest house. He drove and gave the driver time off, while we piled on in the remaining seats on the Innova. The mental picture I had of him all but shattered when he started driving, as my colleague and I were bumping about in the back seat, holding on for dear life. For a while, I wondered if his driving indicated anything about his piloting. Maybe he considered it tedious, the drive at the end of a day spent flying around. Yet he did seem to be at ease behind the wheel, doing things the way he pleased, passengers be damned. I quit my analysis of him, though, when i suddenly remembered that my mom was once so scared that she jumped off a moped i was driving, and has never sat behind me on a two wheeler in the eleven odd years since then. Oh well, at least we have one thing in common, passengers wondering if they'll ever make it through the ride.
I've already introduced him in a previous post, he is the top dog around the place. So much so that the place has collectively breathed a sigh of relief and let things go haywire for a bit now that he's gone on a five day holiday. Prototypically ex air force and a wonderful motivator, and always full of stories. Quite often the classes are stories and you wonder what the point of the stories are, until he cuts to the chase and you realize that the stories were all sequenced to serve a purpose, either to explain a concept to our thick heads or to motivate us in a certain direction. The first time he flew a civil aircraft on a simulator post his air force career, he had a tail strike apparently. He was used to fighter jet reaction times, and the two seconds it took for the Fokker he was flying to respond to his rotate command was too slow and he overcooked it. And burst out laughing. Apparently, further humiliation came when he was flying in malaysia, and the cars on the highway were moving faster than the tiny Piper he was flying. "oye yaar what a shame yaar, the bloody cars are faster than us" in a Punjabi accent made our day. He has very specifically asked me not to answer any of his questions in class, in a bid to curb my 'Me, me me pick me sir, I know the answer' habit.
Never in my life did i think i would end up in an aerodynamics lecture. As much as I admire the subject, the actual classes can be mind numbingly boring. Enter, the comedian. I think its fairly admirable when a teacher knows exactly how boring his subject can be, and how difficult it is to keep his pupils engaged, and does everything he can to fight it. Our guy has chosen comedy. His lectures are dotted with jokes, anecdotes and improbable examples. His rationale is that we will remember these jokes, and by association, the concepts he was explaining. I remember dad using a similar tactic to help me with history, a subject I hated as a kid (but am absolutely in love with, now). In any case, I managed to stay awake throughout his lecture, and am now re-familiarized with some of the physics I forgot after 12th standard. Which is funny, because I used to love physics, and my parents and physics tuition teacher (an inspirational man who was working on submarine to submarine communications, and who is no more, unfortunately) had to get together to dissuade me from thinking that physics was a viable career option and that i should go to NID instead.
I'm the wide eyed overgrown kid in the middle. There's this feeling of being home each time i walk into the hangar. I'm still fascinated by airplanes long since science demystified them for me, and my ears still prick up at the sound of a takeoff in a place where takeoff are a dime a dozen. I love the stripe on my shoulder, and keep checking it out from the corner of my eye, and can barely wait to fly solo which will earn me a pair of wings to pin up on my chest. I was never ashamed to be the airplane geek who would drop everything and run to the window at the sound of a plane, and now I'm certainly very proud to be the airplane geek amongst a bunch of airplane geeks. Its unlikely I will ever fly for a living, and I might not get much more flying done that what's required to keep my license, assuming I clear the exams and get it. But for just this once, I wont be worrying about anything in the future other than the 10-12 days from now when flying is scheduled to start. Over the years, I've wondered whether it was the right thing to do, chasing what is essentially a boyhood dream. I can't tell you how glad I am that I did.
#1 - MP. All that people seem to do here is shit. Every morning, there's lines of people sitting by the roadside, lotas by the side. sometimes in the evening too. It's almost as if they wait for us to commute to the airfield. The other day, we noticed a man in a t-shirt that said 'Lota', which was obviously a Lotto rip-off, carrying a lota, walking to a field. Bizzare coincidence.
#2 - Weather. Rather strangely, I have been doing well at meteorology of all things. I have read up on a lot of aspects of aviation over the years, but not this particular subject. I was expecting to be hopeless and it, and the class is indeed boring, but I loved what i was taught about clouds. It's nice to be able to look up at the sky and make sense of the clouds. The sky is a classroom every day.
#3 - Epiphany. All the introspection I've been doing has led me to one. While it was never a stated aim to fly (eventually building planes was the original dream), I realized that consciously or unconsciously, I've been collecting skills and knowledge that would be of use to a pilot. And now I'm on my way to hopefully becoming one. Maybe there is such a thing as fate, after all.