26. Life of a Pilot (interview)

[smart_track_player url=”https://d3ctxlq1ktw2nl.cloudfront.net/staging/2019-4-29/16104988-44100-2-e448b4a211e2d.m4a” artist=”Wonder in English” title=”Life of a Pilot”]

podcast transcript

Courtney:         Okay, I’m sitting down with my friend Luke, who is a pilot here in United States. And I’m going to have him tell you what his experience is like being a pilot. So Luke, you were telling me that something happened to you today, what was that?

Luke:                Oh my goodness. Well there was a lot of things that happened today, right? Things in aviation. There’s good things, and then there’s embarrassing things, and then there’s bad things that happen as well. We avoid the bad things as much as possible, and try to do a bunch of good things. Like a good thing that happened today, I soloed a really cool student.

Courtney:         What does that mean when you soloed?

Luke:                It means that I trained them up to the point where they could land the airplane completely on their own, and then with this student, I needed to push him a little more. Which is another interesting part about being a flight instructor, just having to judge each person individually and determine who they are going to learn how to fly an airplane the best. And everybody’s different, oh my goodness I’ve seen that so much.

Luke:                Yeah, so everybody’s different. Right? And being an instructor, I mean you learn that everybody’s different, but actually experiencing it is so so different. It’s like flying itself, like you can read a book all day, and that’s going to try and help you learn how to fly, but actually doing it is so different.

Courtney:         Definitely.

Luke:                And that’s just what it’s like being a flight instructor too, trying to learn each individual student and how they can learn best based on their needs. And this particular student that soloed today, he is very capable, right? Like he learned how to land very quickly. He knew how to do a lot of other things too, I was very surprised with how quickly he could learn based on some of my other students, and experience with them too.

Luke:                But he was telling me after our lesson on Monday, like yeah man okay, oh I should probably be ready to solo in about two weeks. And I was like, no man you’re going to solo on Wednesday. And he was like, uh no, that’s probably not a good idea. And I was like, no no no man, you’re ready, you’re ready.

Courtney:         So how do you [crosstalk 00:02:23] determine when they’re ready though?

Luke:                You can just tell, like if they’re doing things safely. A lot of the times, like when I’m in the airplane with somebody, I’m talking the entire time, just training, teaching, talking about this and that. And then at a certain point I start getting quieter, and I start saying less things and expecting my student to do the things that I would have told them to do. But I don’t say it. Yeah, so at a certain point students just start to automatically do things.

Luke:                Right, so with this student that I soloed today, right. I learned very quickly with him that he’s very capable, like he listens very well. Like, whatever I tell him to do he understands and can replicate it, very easily, it doesn’t take a lot of repetition for him to understand something. And he was under the assumption that, yeah I should have a few more hours before I get to my solo. And I was like, yeah no man you’re at 12, 14 hours of flight time, which is not a lot. Usually people solo around like 30-ish hours.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                20 or 30 hours.

Courtney:         That doesn’t seem like much even.

Luke:                Yeah.

Courtney:         30 hours.

Luke:                And really people aren’t doing a whole lot.

Courtney:         That’s less than a work week.

Luke:                Yeah, right? But in the airplane there’s so much going on. Yeah, definitely it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of hours, but to do a solo all you’re doing is taking off and landing at the same airport that you’ve been doing all your training in.

Courtney:         Are you in the plane with them?

Luke:                I am at first, and then I leave.

Courtney:         How do you leave?

Luke:                And then I just get out of the airplane. Just get out. I mean its kind of a small airplane. Like little 172.

Courtney:         I don’t understand. Wait, so you get out mid-air.

Luke:                No.

Courtney:         That’s what I don’t understand.

Luke:                That’s a pretty epic life as an instructor.

Courtney:         Then you parachute down. But how do you start of with … Oh you mean like you do one ride with them.

Luke:                Yeah.

Courtney:         Oh. So we do-

Luke:                Okay, that makes more sense.

Courtney:         We’ll do on the solo day itself I don’t just let them go. Oh that’s hilarious. I don’t just let them go, I’ll do like three landings with them, so I’m sitting down with them in the airplane. And then they land, stop the airplane, and then I’ll get out safely, yeah on the ground.

Luke:                Got you. That was the missing piece.

Courtney:         Yeah. No worries. And then they just go out and do the exact same thing basically, just land the plane three more times.

Luke:                No. If I were your student I would be so scared to go by myself.

Courtney:         No.

Luke:                I would.

Courtney:         I think-

Luke:                There would be a confidence level that I would make sure that you were at before I sent you on a solo.

Courtney:         But you said your student didn’t want to go for another two weeks.

Luke:                Which is what I was just … Yeah, that’s what I was just thinking too. But with him, like everybody’s different right. Some people you need to kind of push them out the door, right?

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                It’s like with all those cartoon little birdies, that’s what I think about sometimes. Like I’m mama bird and sometimes you got to just push the bird out of the nest so they can open their winds up and fly. Right?

Courtney:         Definitely.

Luke:                Because they don’t realize that they can, but you know that they can. And then some other birdies you got to help fly along with them for a little while to show them that, yeah no, this is how you do it. And this is [crosstalk 00:05:54].

Courtney:         Do you have some students that are over confident, that think that they can do more than they can?

Luke:                No actually, not yet. Yeah. I know it definitely is a probability that I’ll have a student that just walks in thinking that they’re hot shit, that they can do everything. But right now, I’ve been pretty lucky I guess with students. There is one student who, this dude could get his private pilot license like walking in the door. He was like, hey so I want to get a private pilot license. I did one flight with him, I’m like, you already know how to fly. I don’t understand.

Courtney:         How did he know?

Luke:                It’s not that he knew, it’s just that he picked up on things very quickly. His confidence level was exactly where it needed to be the entire time. He was a very humble person too. So it wasn’t like-

Courtney:         That’s a perfect pilot personality.

Luke:                Yeah, exactly. And speaking of pilot personality, that’s a huge part of it too is like I don’t want to send a student out on a solo if I don’t feel like they’re going to be able to remain calm. Like in a stressful situation.

Courtney:         Yeah, definitely.

Luke:                So a lot of my training initially with a student is introducing emergency situations to them. Kind of seeing how they respond.

Courtney:         Do you simulate an emergency?

Luke:                Sometimes, when I can. But recently I’ve had some real emergencies too.

Courtney:         Really?

Luke:                Yeah. Which has been exciting.

Courtney:         Exciting, is that right word?

Luke:                Exciting, so exciting. Nothing too crazy.

Courtney:         Okay.

Luke:                Yeah, just like this morning I had an electrical failure where my communications equipment went down. This thing that tells air traffic control that like if they’re watching me on a radar, there’s a little … it’s a thing called a transponder that tells air traffic control where I am, what altitude I’m at. And so while I was taking off out of Melbourne this morning they reported that, hey we lost you on radar. And do you still have communications?

Courtney:         But if you lost it, how did you get that message?

Luke:                The first thing that failed was my transponder, right? The thing that tells ATC where I am and how high I am, kind of where I’m going a little bit. But that’s not related to my communication equipment.

Courtney:         Okay. Got you.

Luke:                So it’s kind of like for me this morning, I don’t know if this is how it always happens. But at least for me this morning, one thing failed and then another thing failed.

Courtney:         Okay.

Luke:                And another thing failed, right?

Courtney:         You’re lucky that it happened in sequence.

Luke:                Yeah. For sure, so they could be like, hey this thing we just noticed that you’re … It’s called Mode C, just tells them what my altitude is. Hey your Mode C went out. So I told them, okay well I’m going to power cycle my transponder and then let me know if you see anything. So I turned it off, turned it back on, and I noticed that it didn’t turn back on. And so I just was like, okay maybe there’s some kind of malfunction in the transponder itself.

Courtney:         That’s what power cycle means, to turn off and on?

Luke:                Yeah.

Courtney:         Okay.

Luke:                Yeah so like your phone or computer or something. Like when you call IT and they’re like, well if you try turning it off and back on again.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                That’s just the go to for any electronics.

Courtney:         Yeah, of course.

Luke:                And then you just turn it off and on.

Courtney:         And it usually works.

Luke:                And it usually works, right, but this time it did not for me. And I still don’t know exactly what happened, because the plane just … it’s still in maintenance right now. But my transponder went down and then my com, my communication … So we have two different communications boxes that have a whole bunch of frequencies that we can tune into and communicate with different people, right? And so I was not communicating with Melbourne Tower on this particular communication box. But it just, like the symbols on it just went hieroglyphic, like started making all these crazy symbols and just powered down

Courtney:         Oh no.

Luke:                And I was like, oh awesome. So I just started turning off all my light. Like first thing that you want to do is reduce your electrical load.

Courtney:         Okay, that makes sense.

Luke:                Yeah, because you have an alternator that’s powering the entire electrical system. But if the alternator fails then you’re just running on battery. And all of my planes are from like the 80s and the 70s, right? Like in the aircraft manual it says that, yeah if you have an electrical failure you’re probably good for about 30 minutes. But I had an electrical failure and all my stuff started failing, like almost immediately.

Courtney:         Oh no.

Luke:                So I was like, okay I don’t know what’s going on but the battery clearly isn’t able to support the amount of electrical load that I’m demanding right now, so I just started shutting everything down. And yeah, I was like, so much for 30 minutes, so instead of having all this, right? It’s like [crosstalk 00:11:14] minutes.

Courtney:         I feel like the books always prepare you in a certain way, and then reality, it never plays out like that specific scenario, you know?

Luke:                Yeah. Yes, and which is also why they want you to become a flight instructor too, right? Because to get into the airlines there’s a mandatory hour requirement, and it’s different for-

Courtney:         Commercial airlines.

Luke:                Yeah, for commercial airlines, right. But that hour requirement is different with different circumstances and situations, like with different colleges. But pretty much for everyone you need to have 1,500 total flight hours.

Courtney:         That’s a lot.

Luke:                That’s a lot, right.

Courtney:         Wow. Much more than 30.

Luke:                Yeah. I know right, that initial to get your solo.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                Right, yeah.

Courtney:         It’s a big difference.

Luke:                Building a ton on top of that, right. And they want you to have that much experience, expecting almost that you’re going to have some sort of emergency situation come up.

Courtney:         Hoping.

Luke:                Hoping in a way. Yeah, so that they can hear your story. Hear how you lived. Or what you did anyways to assess the situation and make a safe decision or unsafe decision, like whatever you did they want to hear about it.

Courtney:         So in that moment when everything started failing, you’re electrical-

Luke:                Well luckily with the general aviation, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same with the big jets I just don’t know, I haven’t studied them. But I know with a lot of general aviation aircraft we have these things called magnetos that there’s two of them. So there’s a redundancy in the system already.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                And each magneto powers the spark plugs for the cylinders in the engine. Like in my 172 I have a four cylinder engine, but I have eight spark plugs. So each magneto is powering four individual spark plugs each. And that runs independently of my electrical system, so I could have my whole electrical system can be shot

Courtney:         And you can still fly.

Luke:                Yeah, my engine will still run.

Courtney:         Okay.

Luke:                Because of those magnetos. So that’s basically what happened, I couldn’t land back at Melbourne because … I mean I could have, but it would’ve been complicated. And luckily there’s like un-towered airports, airports that don’t have a control tower, that it’s just people can land all day, take off all day without talking to anybody. Like it’s basically just a wasteland at these airports. It’s not a controlled environment, it’s just people hopefully are making these radio calls and looking out for traffic and area aware of what’s going on around them. But nobody has to do those things, they’re just recommendations.

Courtney:         But when you’re up in the air, how do you know where that’s located? If you don’t have anyone to communicate with, you can visually see them?

Luke:                Mm-hmm (affirmative), like the airport itself? Or, like other traffic, other airplanes?

Courtney:         Yeah, like if you’re flying over the beach or something, how do you know how exactly to get to that specific airport? When you’re up that high can you see where you need to go? And you just know because of experience?

Luke:                Well partly because of experience. But yeah, I mean if I didn’t know beforehand then I would have to be visually looking for this airport, or like today, like the last thing I did today was fly from Melbourne to Okeechobee. And I’ve done the flight before, a bunch of times, so I just know how to get there, but I have to train other people on what they need to do in preparation to get to an airport that they’ve never been to.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                Right? Most of the flying that I do right now, and what private pilots do is called VFR, or flight under visual flight rules. So they have to be able to at least look at the ground or have such precise flight planning that they’re able to time each individual turn that they make. Like knowing that okay, I took off at this time, and at this time I need to turn to this heading, right? That’s just the difference between what’s called pilotage and dead reckoning.

Luke:                Pilotage is actually being able to look at the ground and see like, okay cool there’s that lake that I picked out because I looked at this giant map. And awesome I crossed that late at this time, so cool, my calculations are working. Or my prior planning has actually worked out, or it’s not and this is how I can make adjustments to the next set of checkpoints that I have set out for me that I planned prior to actually taking off. So that I can still get to these checkpoints and have enough fuel to make it to that airport.

Courtney:         I didn’t even think about that. I didn’t even think about the fuel.

Luke:                Yeah, fuel. Yeah, right? Yeah that’s a huge thing.

Courtney:         That’s massive.

Luke:                Yeah. That and oil, right? And gosh, just the idea of oil makes me cringe right now.

Courtney:         Why?

Luke:                I’ve heard all these stories from all my old instructors who had an engine failure because they trusted their student. The student said, yeah got enough oil, so cool, all right. I did a visual scan, did a little, what’s called a CFI scan. Where the plane looked okay so awesome I’m just going to get in and go. And they take off, or they get in, they do their run-up, everything looks fine. And a run-up is just testing the engine before you actually take off to make sure that it’s going to perform under certain conditions for you.

Luke:                But yeah, so they do the run-up and everything’s fine, and then they take off and they go 1,000 feet or they end up get going for a little while. And their oil pressure just drops, engine temperature just … or oil temperature just skyrockets, right? And then your engine fails. Very very shortly afterwards, and then yeah, engine fails that’s a huge deal. Like I just had an electrical failure, not a big deal, still have my engine.

Luke:                Like I was fine, I landed in Valkaria, pulled off, I had maintenance tow me over and it was fine. Like, it was okay still had my engine. But holy shit you have your engine fail and that’s a whole different thing, right?

Courtney:         So you have to glide the plane down and try to land it somewhere?

Luke:                Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Courtney:         Anywhere?

Luke:                Anywhere, yeah, literally anywhere.

Courtney:         That’s really scary.

Luke:                Yeah. And so learning from their experience, always check the oil in my planes, right? Even if my student’s like, yeah we got enough, we got exactly this amount. Or if my student is like an airframe and power plant like aviation mechanic, and they’re like we’ve got plenty of oil, blah blah blah. I don’t care, I’m still going to check.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                So before my flight over to Okeechobee today I went to check the oil, and my student said, yeah we’ve got plenty. And so I checked and we had four quarts, and I like to go with six quarts. Right? Because it can take up to seven or eight depending on some planes. I don’t like to go if there’s less than five, like less than five I won’t go. And they all know this, they’re my students, right? So he’s tell me, yeah we’re good to go we got four quarts. So I was like, I’m going to add at least one, right?

Luke:                Gosh, so I get the funnel to pour the oil into the engine, and never done this before. And of course I do it right as our lead mechanic, like the dude who oversees everything. The guy who has like inspector authorization is watching me. And I just had a conversation with him, I’m finally on his good side, right? And I stick the funnel into the engine and I start pouring oil in. And as I’m pouring it in the funnel, I had just stuck it in and didn’t actually look where I put the funnel, and it just felt like I put it over-top the engine.

Courtney:         Oh no.

Luke:                Of course, I didn’t, so I’m just dumping oil all over the engine, right? And my student’s still doing his pre-flight inspection, looking at the plane. He walks over, looks down at the nose gear, it’s covered in oil, right? He’s like, is that normal? Is that supposed to happen? Because they just have so much respect they don’t want to be like, yo.

Courtney:         You fucked up.

Luke:                Yeah exactly. So they’re just like, um sir, is that okay? I look down and I was like, fuck. I’m like literally laying down on the ground rolling around, like I can’t believe I did this. And the lead mechanic’s running to me. He’s like, I can’t believe you did this.

Courtney:         No way.

Luke:                Like, a first grader wouldn’t make that kind of mistake. You know I was like, I’m so sorry, forgive me.

Courtney:         Oh that’s harsh.

Luke:                Yeah, he was tearing into me.

Courtney:         Wow.

Luke:                Because we had to put the plane down because it’s covered in oil, right? And I was like [crosstalk 00:20:46].

Courtney:         So how do you fix that? What do you mean by put the plane down?

Luke:                Putting it down just means that no one can take the plane and go fly until maintenance actually does something about my fuck-up.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                And all they can do is just wash it off.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                Because we can’t just take off with it, because the engine’s covered in oil it’s going to get super hot. It’s going to cook the oil and just have white smoke just billowing out all over the place, right?

Courtney:         Okay.

Luke:                So I was like, so obviously the plane’s not safe to fly. He’s like, no shit Sherlock, way to be a good PIC and make a determination that the plane’s not going to be able to fly covered in fucking oil. And I was like, I’m so sorry. Oh my gosh. Yeah, and everyone’s coming out to take pictures, like I can’t believe you did this.

Courtney:         Are you serious?

Luke:                Yeah. And on top of all that, it was our brand new airplane too.

Courtney:         No.

Luke:                I had not been able to fly it, I was stoked that I was going to be able to fly in this new airplane, and take it cross country over to Okeechobee. And yup, I just poured oil all over the engine.

Courtney:         But the great thing about things like that is that you’ll never do that again.

Luke:                Exactly. Right? Always a learning opportunity.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                I had so many learning opportunities today, an electrical failure, I soloed a student. Actually it was like my fifth student in two weeks that I’ve soled too.

Courtney:         Wow.

Luke:                Which is crazy, right?

Courtney:         Did they start around the same time?

Luke:                No. Some of them have a lot more hours. I was just able to solo this kid today because … I call him kid, he’s older than me. But I was able to solo him today because of how capable he was. A lot of my other students, they’re at the average, like 20, 30-ish hours. And yeah, which is great news too because as soon as they’re done with their solos then we can start doing the more exciting stuff with flying. Like I just get them to the point where they can land the airplane themselves and then I’m like, cool here’s a bunch of new crazy stuff, let’s go. Wee.

Courtney:         Now that you just got comfortable.

Luke:                Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Courtney:         Let’s get uncomfortable again.

Luke:                Yup. So I tell them, like okay cool you learned normal landings, now pretend they don’t exist at all. Okay we’re doing soft field landings, we’re going to go find some grass strips to land in. We’re going to land at night, we’re going to do short field landings. We’re going to find some super short runways to land on.

Courtney:         And you’re with them during all this?

Luke:                Yes. Yeah. Demonstrating a lot of it and still kind of being on controls with them. Because it’s like I said, they get very comfortable doing all this normal operating stuff. And I’m like, great, cool, you know enough to normally operate an airplane, now let’s extremely operate the airplane. Because we need to be ready for-

Courtney:         Everything.

Luke:                -crazy scenarios. Anything can happen, right? And yeah, we’re in this critical environment. So I start introducing emergencies to them a lot more. Like we’ll be taking off at 1,000 feet and then I’ll just pull their engine out, and I’m like, cool your engine failed. What are you going to do? And that stuff’s just for some students, right? Students who are getting their private pilot license and that all they want is just their private pilot. And then they’re just going to go buy an airplane and then fly around with their private pilot license. Like they don’t actually want to be a commercial pilot so, cool I got to change your training and introduce a lot of emergencies to you, right?

Courtney:         To the private pilots?

Luke:                To private pilots because they’re not going to do anything else with their training. Right? So I need to be confident in their ability to handle an emergency with not as much aeronautical experience or knowledge, right?

Courtney:         Okay. All right.

Luke:                So I just do a lot of different … It’s called scenario based training. Because I know they’re going to buy an airplane. And I even had a student who bought an airplane after he got his private pilot, and he was like, hey Luke can you teach me how to fly this airplane? Because it’s very different, very fast plane that he bought. And I was like, yes I will teach you, but we’re going to train, and we’re going to train all the emergencies and that’s it. Like you’re going to be very stressed out flying with me in this airplane.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                And that’s good, that’s part of what my instructors did to me. They fed me their anxieties for aviation.

Courtney:         Yeah, everything that could go wrong.

Luke:                Yeah exactly, especially during my multi engine training. All of my multi engine training, I didn’t have a single flight where an emergency didn’t happen.

Courtney:         Wow.

Luke:                Simulated emergency, but still an emergency nonetheless. Where my instructor would fail one engine, and as soon as I secure that engine he failed the other engine, so I’d have to restart that engine and secure the other engine at the same time. So it’s just like I’m moving back and forth all the time.

Courtney:         So in the scenario where the student reaches out to you like that, when he has his own plane, is he hiring you himself, like privately?

Luke:                Yes.

Courtney:         And how much … I mean if you don’t mind me asking, how much is something like that? Because that’s interesting.

Luke:                Yeah, it depends. And I can sometimes just do contracts with students where it’s not like an hourly thing. Where it’ll just be like, yeah like with this particular student he’s got a really fast plane that I’ve never flown it before. But I’ve flown fast planes like it, so there’s a lot. But because I’ve never flown it there’s a lot of ground knowledge that I want to feed to myself, like reading the manuals for it. Putting a lot of non-flight time into the airplane. And training myself almost before I can start training him.

Courtney:         Definitely.

Luke:                With that, that’s just all still my time. It’s not just like, how much time did I actually fly with him? It’s all the stuff building up to that too, so in that case I might do a contract with him. That say, like it doesn’t matter how many flight hours we do, I’m going to intricately learn this airplane so that I can teach it to you, and then we can both go and learn it in however much time is necessary, right? So this contract, we haven’t settled on a number for it yet, but I started pretty high with it. He’s talking to me now about how it might not need that much ground knowledge, but I’m like, it’s a very fast airplane you just don’t understand.

Luke:                Things change. And it’s just different for every person. But right now if someone wanted to just not hire me and go through my company to learn how to fly it would be … And it’s pretty close to the standard, we’re actually a little bit less. But for me, to hire me, I’m like $60 an hour. And then to rent the airplane it’s $125 I think, an hour, $120 and hour, something like that.

Courtney:         All right. So $200 bucks an hour. And how many hours do you think from start to finish it would take?

Luke:                For your private pilot? Probably about I’d say anywhere from 40-60 hours.

Courtney:         Okay.

Luke:                On average.

Courtney:         So what’s the math on that?

Luke:                The math on that.

Courtney:         200 times 40, 8,000?

Luke:                8,000, yeah. So yeah, about 8-10,000, right?

Courtney:         That’s not that bad. I mean in the grand scheme of things if you have that money.

Luke:                And that’s doing it part 61 too, right? So there’s actually two different flight schools, or two different ways to learn how to fly. There’s part 61, which is what I’m teaching. And then there’s part 141, which is how I learned. And part 141, that’s like commercial pilot training school. You wear a uniform. You’re super professional all the time, like you devote your life to this school. It’s basically like this … Well not your whole life, right? But your life at this time that you’re in the school, right?

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                Because your whole schedule’s determined by what that school says you’re doing. So part 141 isn’t for everyone. People that I was training with were more like high school kids or kids that didn’t go to college, and they went to flight training first, or they were just out of college and then they wanted to also do flight training. But it’s a year to two years-

Courtney:         That’s their career path.

Luke:                Yeah exactly. A year to two years where you’re just learning aviation. Right? It’s 141 school, it’s like a private school of aviation almost too.

Courtney:         So do you need any kind of AA or bachelor’s or anything to get into that school?

Luke:                No.

Courtney:         Or you can go straight from high school?

Luke:                Straight from high school, yeah. There was a lot of kids that I was training with that were 18 years old.

Courtney:         Wow.

Luke:                Which is kind of crazy too.

Courtney:         It’s really young because I feel like your brain … I think your brain’s and your body completely stops developing around your mid 20s.

Luke:                Yeah, like 28, 27. Something like that.

Courtney:         So yeah, it seems … I mean I think that’s partially why car insurance companies charge more if you’re younger driving a car because you don’t have the same-

Luke:                A knuckle head.

Courtney:         Yeah, you’re a knuckle head, you don’t have the same processing. You’re more likely to take risks, so it’s a little bit scary to think that you’re flying with 18 year olds who … yeah.

Luke:                I mean I can imagine if I was flying at 18 years old. Like I was a knuckle head until I was like-

Courtney:         Yeah, me too.

Luke:                Yeah you know, into my 20s, of course.

Courtney:         Well behaved knuckle head.

Luke:                Yeah. Even still I’m kind of a knuckle head. But much worse when I was 18, right? Like I can’t imagine. And that’s actually when you were talking to me about anyone who’s over confident. Every single 18 year old that I was flying have that problem. That they have this over confidence issue, right?

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                Where they’re like, huh I learned how to do this so quickly. And I just breezed through this. And you know it’s like, like being a pilot in general you’re going to tend to be a bit more over confident about things. And then throw in the fact that you’re this pre-adult, like legally an adult but the world is all coming at you. And then suddenly you’re making all this money too. Just all of these different factors.

Courtney:         Yeah, definitely.

Luke:                That just boost your confidence in a really bad way, I think.

Courtney:         It goes straight to your head.

Luke:                Yes.

Courtney:         For sure.

Luke:                Yeah, for sure.

Courtney:         That’s funny. What’s the best part about being a flight instructor?

Luke:                The best part about being a flight instructor?

Courtney:         Or a pilot.

Luke:                Well okay, yeah different answer.

Courtney:         Okay, cool.

Luke:                All right? So being a flight instructor, I really think the best part about it is helping people do something that they want to do. You know, every single person that I’ve been teaching, they’ve either gone through something in their life-

Courtney:         Really?

Luke:                -that brought them to aviation. Or it was like, that’s the best part about part 61 I think. Is that people have their own lives. And then they’ve either always wanted to learn how to fly, or they work right now and they’re fitting flying into their schedule. So these are people with a life.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                You know? And they all have crazy stories. Like I’m teaching people from all over the world right now too. And right now, like I have some people who yeah it’s awesome. Like they passed their practical test, they got their private pilot. I’m giving them high-fives and chest bumps, like it’s the coolest thing ever. But right now I love soloing people.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                I’ll even push the guy that I just did to go and solo because I know he’s ready, and I know what that’s going to do for him as a person, and as a pilot too.

Courtney:         And what it did for you.

Luke:                Yeah, exactly. It changes the game, and you can really see that as a flight instructor too. Like when someone goes on their solo and they live, and they come back, and everything’s fine too. And, like the guy today, Melbourne Tower can be kind of sassy, but that’s the best way that I can put it. They can be real sassy sometimes. And to get like a, oh wow good job. Or, good landing, from Tower, it’s like you’re just floating on cloud nine at that moment.

Courtney:         That’s amazing.

Luke:                Yeah. Like on his last landing they gave him clearance to go taxi back to the ramp, and they’re like, excellent landings today.

Courtney:         Wow.

Luke:                I was like, he got an excellent landing. Yeah so, that’s been the best part about being a flight instructor is helping people get to a level of confidence that they didn’t realize that they had this whole time.

Courtney:         That’s really fulfilling.

Luke:                I kind of saw in them and was like, no no, this is a part of you. And they’re like, are you sure? And I’m like, yes.

Courtney:         So what about for the last question, what’s your favorite part about being a pilot?

Luke:                Okay, so there’s two answers to this. My family is aviation. Like my grandpa was a pilot for the Marine Corps, he flew the Corsair in … I don’t even know which wars. But he flew in the Marine Corps. And then as soon as he was done in the military he started flying for Delta and was a Captain at Delta. And then that got my dad interested in flying. And so my dad became a pilot and went through all the stuff that I’m going through. My dad didn’t go military, he went the general aviation route too, so that’s been really cool, sharing that with him.

Courtney:         Yeah, definitely.

Luke:                Yeah, and he’s a pilot for Southwest now too. And my grandpa passed away a couple years ago now, but sometimes when I’m up there, like I’m flying by myself there’s something that’s different about it. It’s very very quiet. And especially in times when the clouds are very low, like closer to the ground and you’re just way up above the clouds, right? It’s like earth doesn’t exist.

Courtney:         Wow.

Luke:                Yeah. And you’re just in this cloud world. You’re like in a-

Courtney:         Like a heaven.

Luke:                In heaven almost. Yeah you’re in this very peaceful place. And you just feel very peaceful too. So in a way being a pilot has brought me a lot closer to my grandpa. So just never really knew him too, he died when I was pretty young. And I don’t know, it’s like a very unique way of feeling connected to him, that I just had never experienced before. And to my dad too. Yeah, just being up at altitude. It’s like nothing else, you know?

Luke:                The other thing is kind of the same in a way, it’s like that feeling of freedom. You have this freedom of movement now.

Courtney:         Yeah, you’re like a bird.

Luke:                Yeah, exactly. Where I can say, all right I kind of want some Cuban food, and book a plane with a buddy and fly down to Opa-locka and go eat at Versailles in Miami, and we’re there in like an hour.

Courtney:         Have you done that?

Luke:                Yeah. Totally.

Courtney:         Okay, I’m here if you ever want to do that.

Luke:                Yeah, right?

Courtney:         That’d be so cool.

Luke:                Dude, we should. Yeah, just having that freedom to be able to go wherever.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                It changes you.

Courtney:         Yeah.

Luke:                It makes you like a much more confident person too.

Courtney:         Yeah. And I feel like you’re just in touch with something else out there. Because you have a moment away from the world and the earth and what’s going on here.

Luke:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Courtney:         And I kind of feel that way about scuba diving. Like you’re just out there and you’re in another world for that time. Yeah, it’s super peaceful. Well thank you so much, Luke. I appreciate it.

Luke:                Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me on.



AviationFlying an aircraft or plane
“Soloed”To fly alone
Land (a plane)When you guide the plane to touch the ground
ReplicateTo do again the same way; to make an exact copy
While in air
Epic (life)
“Epic” is used as a slang word here to mean amazing or awesome
Parachute (down)
Noun and Verb. The parachute is the cloth canopy that fills with air when you are falling from the sky in order to slow you down so you can land softly on the ground after skydiving.
Birdies (ies ending)
This is an ending we put on words to signify youthfulness, littleness, cuteness
Simulate (emergencies)
To pretend to have or feel. If you simulate an emergency, you do something to pretend that an emergency is happening.
Electrical failure
When all of your electrical equipment starts to fail and not work
Air traffic controlPeople on the ground at airports who sit in control towers and direct the traffic in the sky of controlled airspace so no one collides or hits each other.
RadarA system for detecting the presence, direction, distance, and speed of aircraft, ships, and other objects, by sending out pulses of high-frequency electromagnetic waves that are reflected off the object back to the source.
TransponderA device for receiving a radio signal and automatically transmitting a different signal.
AltitudeYour height in relation to sea level
Take off (in a plane)To fly a plane off the ground
MalfunctionTo stop working properly
ITInformation technology — We use this word to refer to the people who help you with technology when something goes wrong
MaintenanceThe process of keeping something in good condition
Went downThis is a phrasal verb we use to talk about power going away. For example, if your house has power and the lights are on, then suddenly they turn off, you can say the power went out or the lights went out.
FrequenciesThe number of times a radio or sound wave vibrates within a specific period of time
Hieroglyphic A stylized picture of an object representing a word, syllable, or sound, as found in ancient Egyptian and other writing systems
Reduce your electrical load Lower how much electricity you’re using
Power downTo shut down
AlternatorA generator that produces an alternating current.
JetsPlanes with jet engines
RedundancyThe inclusion of extra components which are not strictly necessary to functioning, in case of failure in other components. We use this also in terms of employees. If someone is redundant they aren’t useful and will be fired because their job is no longer needed.
Spark plugsA device for firing the explosive mixture in an internal combustion engine.
CylindersA cylinder is the power unit of an engine; it’s the chamber where the gasoline is burned and turned into power.
Something is shot (ie. My whole electrical system could be shot.) If something mechanical is shot, it means it’s broken and no longer working.
A wastelandAn ugly and neglected area of land
Looking out for somethingTo search for, often while doing something else. Example: “Can you look out for the next gas station? We’re almost out.”
TowWhen one motor vehicle, boat or plane pulls another along with a rope, chain, or tow bar.
Glide (the plane down)Make an unpowered flight, either in a glider or in an aircraft with engine failure.
FunnelA tube or pipe that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, used for guiding liquid or powder into a small opening.
Dumping (oil all over)To deposit or dispose or get rid of something carelessly. In this case, he carelessly poured oil all over the plane.
Landing stripsA runway
RunwayWhere the plane lands
AeronauticalRelating to the science or practice of building or flying aircraft.
ManualsA book of instructions, especially for operating a machine or learning a subject; a handbook.
Knucklehead A stupid person
Sassy To have attitude; to be cheeky

Idioms and Collocations

Push someone to do somethingEncourage (often forcefully) someone to do something
Under the assumption thatThis is a collocation we use in English to say that someone had assumed something
Hot shit (thinking that they’re hot shit)When you think you’re amazing and perfect, you think you’re hot shit
Assess the situationTo examine and make a judgement about a situation
Tear into someone
Criticizing and being mean to someone
No shit sherlock
A saying based off of Sherlock Holmes, who was a detective in a fiction story. It means “duh” or “of course”.
Someone reaches out to you
This is a collocation we use to mean that someone contacted you, often because they need help or had a question.
In the grand scheme of things
This is a collocation we use to think big picture and not just at one element of the story. For example, in the grand scheme of things, my parents’ divorce was actually a good thing.
Boost your confidence
This is another collocation that we use to show that we are increasing our confidence.
It goes straight to your head
This is an idiom. We use it to mean that someone thinks very highly of themselves after achieving something. For example, sometimes with celebrities the fame goes straight to their head and they become less relatable.


1. What do you have to do to become a pilot in your country?

2. Would you ever want to fly? Why or why not?

3. What is something you can do to boost your confidence?

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