September 4th 1996

Dear Ms. Earhart,

Today was a better day. Slightly. I went to a local drug store and bought enough pantyhose to last for the entire semester. (After the debacle yesterday, I figured it was best to have extra.) Since I didn’t have the courage to ask the Flight Supervisor what happens if the pair I’m wearing gets a run, I brought along a few back up pairs. I showed up early again and did my weather check, and when I saw my instructor, I hurried over to the dispatch desk. We were assigned an airplane, and like yesterday headed for the ramp. We had just crossed the ramp threshold, when I heard the Flight Sup’s shrill again. “Miss,” I squeezed my eyes shut and cringed. I blinked my eyes open and turned around to see the foot fashion police, curling a bent finger. I straightened and rolled my shoulders back and strode to his office window. “Let me inspect your feet,” he said and had me lift my shoe to the counter so that he could see my ankles. Unsatisfied, I think, he exited his office, and pinched the hose covering my feet. “Your cleared,” he said and eyeballed my IP. As I lowered my foot back to the floor, I felt an inch shorter. At least I passed the wardrobe inspection. I rejoined my instructor. By the time we climbed into the airplane, I had cleared the whole ordeal from my mind. I was going to get to fly today and that was all that mattered to me. We ran the checklist, cranked the engine and departed to the practice area.

An hour and a half later, we returned, and I have to admit I’ve never been so exhausted. My instructor yelled the entire 90 minutes, which made the flight seem like it lasted for three hours. In the beginning, I thought she was shouting to be heard over the radio and engine noise, but when I turned my headset volume to full, I realized she was frustrated by the fact I wasn’t doing the maneuvers the way she expected me to. (For the record, for the entire flight I had the jitters.) This was my first time trying is what I wanted to tell her, but I guessed saying that might make her angrier. Instead, I decided she was a tough instructor with really high standards. Which would make me a better pilot, right? Once I got this squared away in my head, I figured she was doing all this for my benefit. During the post-flight debrief, she failed me on every maneuver. (Even on pre-flight; fall out, she said, from yesterday’s bare foot encounter.) She did, however, re-explain the maneuvers, in her inside voice, this time in a way in which I could better understand her. She also told me that flying isn’t all touchy feely and only students with thick skin will be able to become professional pilots. According to her, I was miles behind her other students and before our flight the next day, I needed to get serious and hit the books. I considered telling her about all my prep work, but when her eyes narrowed and upper lip snarled, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut. Maybe she was right. I decided at that moment that I would go back over my study regiment and see where I could improve. With this in mind, I’m going to sign-off, since I have a boatload of work to do.

I read in your biography that you also learned to fly from a lady pilot. Was her style like my IP’s? I’d sure like to know how you prepared for your flight lessons. No worries, though, I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Maybe I’ll ask my roommate for some help.

Sincerely,

A student pilot following the rules.

p.s. Any tips on how to thicken skin?