September 1986

Dear Ms. Earhart,

Sorry I haven’t written, but between regular classes and my flight blocks, I’ve pretty much had to study day and night. The last couple of weeks have been a little better in the cockpit. My instructor still yells the entire flight, but I heard around campus that if you wear ear plugs beneath your headset muffs, it knocks IP’s rants down a few notches. (And it does.) My flight maneuvers are getting better, and during my last debrief, my IP even gave me an average rating. (Way up from failing, by the way.) I was delighted, since every night I sit in a chair in front of a cockpit poster on the wall and mentally practice the maneuvers. This chair flying has also helped me run the checklist more efficiently. The ritual, however, does nothing to help my smash and bounce landings. My IP said she doesn’t know what to do with me, so she’s recommended that I fly with another instructor pilot for remedial training. She said anyone who has ten hours of practice should be way better at landings. So she scheduled me with another IP in her flight bay. She said that when she asked around, he volunteered. We are on the flight schedule tomorrow. I asked my roommate how she prepares for flights and she told me that she had already soloed before she came to school. (A very good idea in hindsight.) She said she learned from a veteran flight instructor in North Carolina, and he patiently taught her the flying ropes, so she said she always prepared with her instructor. (Not an option in my case.) I wanted to ask her some follow up questions, but her boyfriend from back home called. They talk every night for hours, and at some point in the conversation she inevitably winds up crying. I don’t think she knows I hear her because I go into the bathroom to study. (The walls in our apartment are paper-airplane thin.) She’s a really nice girl, from what I can tell, and must be a good pilot, since she gets above average marks on her flight debriefs. I sure wish she was happier here. I have another roommate who is learning to fly, but like me, she’s a beginner. My fourth roommate is in the aeronautical engineering program. Perhaps I’ll get lucky and this new instructor will be patient and helpful like my roomie’s IP back home. No insult meant to my current instructor; I still think she’s a cool lady pilot, but something about her seems a little angry and sad.

How many instructors did you fly with, Ms. Earhart? I wonder how many hours you logged before you soloed?

Signing off,

“Pitch for glidepath, power for airspeed.”

A struggling student pilot