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Pilot_MKN

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My College Experience
« on: June 11, 2010, 01:45:35 PM »

This is a long post, sorry for the wall of text but I thought some people may find my college experience with a government-run flight school interesting:

  This story starts in high school, where I fell victim to college propaganda. You see, I grew up around airplanes. My grandfather owns
an airplane and I worked for his friend picking up crashed airplanes for insurance companies. I also helped my grandfather build his own
grass airstrip over the course of the four years I was in high school. Needless to say, I wanted to be a pilot. Well, during the college fair
at school, a small university in our state had a display set up about their commercial aviation program. In four years you could get your private,
commercial, and flight instructor ratings along with multi-engine airplane time. This was great! I mean, why even consider just going to a
private flight school and not getting a COLLEGE DEGREE at the end. You can't get a REAL job without a degree.

  Believing this university's horse manure, I signed up for open house and drove the two hours down to visit. I got a little concerned on the way
down, as this university is located in the poorest regions of one of the poorest state in the country. Poor, run down towns with trashy yards
littered the roads down there. No bother, for as soon as I arrive I was surrounded by shiny airplanes. I spent the afternoon being spoon fed lies
about all the cool awesome things I'd get to do, like fly the university's private business plane and how in just a few short months, the school would
get a bunch of brand new airplanes with all the latest bells and whistles. Man, I was impressed. Sure, the town left a lot to be desired, but I was hooked.

  Here's where we get to an important part of my story. I NEVER CONSIDERED ANOTHER SCHOOL. DIDNT EVEN VISIT ONE OR DO RESEARCH ON THEM. Why? Well, for
starters, I wanted to be close to my friends and family. I live in one of the nicer parts of the state, and a 2 hour drive to come home on weekends
was already pushing it. The other reason was that everybody and their uncle knew somebody who knew somebody that went to this university and 'just
loved it'. There wasn't a negative thing to be said about this school. HOWEVER, not once did I hear from anybody that actually went there. It was all
just second or third hand stories from people about their friends and relatives that went.

  Fast forward a bit to my first semester. We found a fairly decent apartment, but it was still a crap hole compared to what a college student could
get in my hometown. It was considered a 'new' apartment, but was built in the late 1960s. The town had a BAN on all new apartment construction. There are
empty plots of land scattered all over town just waiting for this ban to end. Some developers have found a way around this and have built really nice 'houses'
that look suspicously like apartments and are being sold for OUTRAGEOUS prices to ensure that they will be empty until the town changes its mind. Anyways, my 'advisor'
had recommended a course load of 21 hours, since I seemed like a bright kid. This was overkill. In high school, I had been one of those kids that could barely
crack the textbook open and get an A or a B. I had never taken notes, never developed study habits. I ended up flunking one class, and barely pulling through
some of the others. The one bright spot was in my flying. I had an awesome instructor who introduced me to photography as a hobby and hung out with me outside
of class. Unfortunately, he got an airline job and left the school in November of that semester.

  The aviation classes are all structured to teach you to worship your masters at the FAA. They can do no wrong. Classes include:

-Air Traffic Control: where you learn that despite the fact that the airlines came to together cooperatively on their own to start the first air traffic control systems,
                      (FDR forcibly took them over, FYI) that this system would NEVER work without government

-Air Safety: this course teaches you to worship the EPA, OSHA, NTSB and FAA, who are ALL THERE TO MAKE YOU SAFE! And can do no wrong. Nowhere in the textbook is a single
             criticism of any of these agencies.

-Aviation Law: Learn how the FAA will bend you over and rape you for not following every single one of their dictats.
               Let your buddies pay you $50 bucks to fly for an hour when you aren't an FAA-approved air carrier? Say bye-bye to your pilots license.

  There are no courses on what its like to work for an airline. There's really nothing at all about airline life other than a single class that is more of a history of the airlines
than anything else. You'd think a program structured around preparing you to be an airline pilot would focus a little more on airline life......


  [As an aside, let me explain the flight instructor set up at this school. During your 4 years here, you get your flight instructor rating from the FAA, and the
school hires you for roughly 14 bucks an hour while an instructor in the private market makes about 40 bucks an hour. The flight school expects them to be at the
airport from 6:30am until between 5pm and 11pm (some of our flights take place at night, so its not uncommon for an student to be out flying that late). You don't
get a lunch break. That's right, you work 2 hour flight slots all day with MAYBE 15 minutes between them and no lunch break. As you can probably guess, this leads
to VERY disgruntled flight instructors, who are just students like you are and taking classes as well as putting up with the bureaucratic nightmare that constitutes
the leadership of this flight program. Instead of grizzled veterans who love to teach, we get stuck with people who are more or less forced to be there and only
want to get paid while they finish their classes and leave the school as soon as possible]

  [I'll explain the airplanes here too. The school has 24 airplanes, most of them built in the 1970s or early 1980s. A few of them are from 1996, and have very basic, low end
GPS units. All of them are beat up badly with peeling paint and ragged interiors. The radios are staticy and barely work in a few of the planes. You'd be luck if a scrap yard would
take a few of them off your hands. None of the airplanes have glass cockpits, which is the aviation term for the new computerized instrument panel that is standard on airliners and
even standard on most new private airplanes. We're stuck with old-fashioned steam gauges and 1940s era radio beacons.]

  Anways, back to our story. In January of my spring semester, I had the first of many airplane problems. We get nearly the whole month of December off for Christmas
Break, and the first week of January. So, when I showed up for a cross country flight that afternoon, the airplane I was assigned had been sitting in a hangar for a month
without being flown. The battery was completely dead. I notified maintenance, and they charged it for a couple of minutes and told me I was good to go. I pointed out
to the CHEIF MECHANICE that the 'Low Voltage' light was on and the Ammeter was showing a drain. He told me that was fine, and it would go away eventually. Despite my
concerns, I climbed into the cockpit and took off towards Bumfuck, Arkansas. As I neared my destination airport, POOF! Every piece of electronic equipment in the
airplane went out without warning. It was nearly night, so I decided to park and call for help rather than risk a flight back in total darkness with no radios or
strobe lights. I called the school, informed them of my situation and they told me they'd send someone immediately. 2 hours pass. Keep in mind, this airport was roughly
45 minutes flight time from the flight school. Also keep in mind it is January, at night, and the temperature is below freezing. The airport is locked tight, and with
no battery power, I can't crank the airplane to stay warm. I call the school and get no answer. Next, I call my instructor, who tells me he will go see what is going on.
A few minutes later he tells me that they had FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME and that a plane just took off to come get me. Think about this for a minute. They FORGOT about a student
with a broken 100,000 dollar airplane stranded in below freezing temperatures in Arkansas. Long story short, they rescued me and then tried to blame the battery trouble
on me til I informed them in no uncertain terms that their own Chief Mechanic had told me I was okay to fly and I wouldn't be taking the rap for that.

   A few weeks later I get my Private Pilot's license, a lifelong goal of mine. I won't go into detail on the checkflight, but I will mention that I had to do it twice, because
the first time they made me do it on a day where the visibility was roughly 2 miles if not less. I want to see you go out and find your way around using a map when you can only
see two miles in any direction from a plane. My next adventure was getting my INSTRUMENT RATING.

   The INSTRUMENT RATING means you can fly the airplane only using the instruments and not looking out the window. It involves hours upon hours of flying around with
goofy looking goggles on your face that prevent you from looking outside and trying to interpret poorly designed government-issed instrument approach plates
(https://www.echoflight.com/approach_copy.jpg) while holding an exact altitude and heading. Its challenging and fun, but not when the school drags it out way, way
longer than needed and your in an extremely hot airplane (no, air conditioning in small planes.) Yes, I said drag it out because in the private market you can
get an instrument rating in LESS THAN A MONTH. It took me 2 and a half semesters, roughly 12 months. You see, in the middle of your instrument syllabus the school makes
you fly cross-country flights that are part of your commercial rating requirements. They count nothing towards your instrument flying. So after wasting hours and hours
making long trips in the plane, you get to return to flying around with goofy goggles. I'll spare more details and just say that I got stuck with one of those particularly
bad instructos who was only there to get a paycheck and didn't give two shits whether you knew what you were doing. He slept half the time we flew. When I went to the Cheif
Pilot and requested a new instructor, I was told 'we don't do that here'. On top of this, one of those semesters they had me schedule to fly only twice a week due to
planes being booked solid.

   The semester after my instrument rating, the flight school decided we needed UNIFORMS to look professional. We already had to wear ID badges in the 'kill zone' per TSA requirements
(yes the TSA gets to boss around flight schools. They also made us install doors with keypad locks. fun stuff). Well, I'm a very tall guy. 6 feet, 5 inches. I have to buy
tall size shirts because regular shirts are not long enough. I can't even tuck a regular shirt into my pants. Of course, as I expected, I was told that these unforms DID NOT COME
IN TALL SIZES. These uniforms were really just polo shirts with the school logo on them, so I requested permission to order tall size shirts in the same color and have the logo
embossed on them. DENIED! WE HAVE AN EXCLUSIVE CONTRACT WITH A COMPANY TO MAKE THESE SHIRTS. So I was forced to pay 80 bucks for two polo shirts that were too short for me and had to
go through the embarassment of constantly being told to 'TUCK YOUR SHIRT IN!' like i was back in fucking high school. I should also point out that this school is in the southern united state,
where its quite humid and hot. Shorts were BANNED with the new uniforms. So were tennis shoes. We could only wear khaki pants (not cargo pants either) and dress shoes or boots. Talk about uncomfortable.

   I was also working on my COMMERCIAL RATING this semester. Well, first off they stick you in the basic airplane you learned to fly in and let you learn all the maneuvers that
the FAA requires a commercial pilot to know (most of which have little, if anything, to do with the duties of being a commercial pilot. After you learn them in this airplane and
do a checkride on it, you have to learn them ALL OVER AGAIN in a completely different airplane that handles much differently. (Can you hear the cash register ringing $$$). This airplane,
the Cessna 172 Retractable Gear is quite possibly one of the shittiest airplanes ever designed. They break down constantly. Luckily for us, the school has 3 of them, however one of the
three was crashed and the school decided to rebuild it from the ground up rather than buy a new plane so it was out of action. Here's where things get crazy. You have about 20 students
working on commercial ratings, who have only 2 airplanes that break very often to do this week and have regular classes to attend but per school requirements have to fly 5 days a week. To
say this was a nightmare is an understatement. Some days you would show up to the airport and find out the school bumped you out of the plane so another student could fly. Sometimes
you'd spend three or four days in a row waiting for a student to cancel a flight so you could fly. Sometimes one of the planes would break and be down for a week and everyone would
be fighting over the one plane that was left. If you made it through all that and actually got inside the airplane, sometimes you'd find a problem shortly after cranking up
and have to write up the airplane and face the wrath of all the people angry for not getting to fly. There was a lot of pressure to 'ignore little problems. just fly it and let someone else
be the one to take the heat for writing it up'. Often times, if you did write it up you would get chewed out for downing the plane over a 'minor issue' like a radio being broken
or a gauge not working properly. One day the landing gear broke in one of the airplanes, so they inspected the gear in both of them and found significant cracks in important parts and replaced
the entire landing gear system in both planes (apparently, the school never performed more than a cursory inspection of the landing gear system on airplanes that are regularly
booked solid ALL DAY, 7 days a week and making hundreds of landings a week) This replacement took two weeks, during which we couldnt fly.

   This is where we get close to the end of my involvement with this school. The end of the semester was getting close, and I only had a few flights left before I got to go
fly with the FAA for my commercial rating. This is when the landing gear broke and the planes were down for two weeks. It became apparent, thhat I wouldn't be able to finish by
the end of the semester and the school was nice enough to tell me that I'd be reciveing an 'F' and have to repeat the entire, 30 lesson syllabus. That's 30, 2-hour lessons at rougly
$160 dollars an hour for those who are counting. No small amount of change. I looked at my schedule for the semester and saw that I had missed roughly 47 days of flying due to weather
and the airplanes being broke. I went to go meet the chairwoman of the aviation department for an exception. She wasn't there however. On the final week of the semester, she had decided
to take some personal days and was unavailable. Next stop, the Dean of Business' office. This helpful individual informed me that he didn't know much about flying, so he wouldn't go over
the Aviation Chairwoman's head and said that I should email her and wait for a response. That was it for me. I couldn't deal with this bullshit anymore. That afternoon, I withdrew from
the flight school and switched my major over to Aviation Management. Its a business degree, but several of the courses overlap with the flying degree, so at least my 3 years of school so far
wouldn't totally have been a waste. I requested funds back from my flight account and was told I'd have to wait 2 weeks.(the school doesn't bill you directly, you have to pay into a university-run flight account and
aren't able to access the money unless you graduate or quit the program). I was done with final exams, so I packed up and went home for the summer. Two days later the chairwomen called me to tell
me congratulations, I would be able to finish my flying over the summer and not get an F! I politely told her I would no longer be spending any money on their flight program and hung up.

I know this was a long story, and there's much more I could say about this place but I'll spare the details. In 3 years and nearly 100,000 in student loans, all I really have to
show for it is a private pilots license and my instrument rating, which could be had at a private flight school for less than 15,000 and probably in 6 months time. I finished all of the
aviation-specific classes that had to be taken at that university and transferred to the much nicer university in my homewtown to take the remaining business courses I need and hopefully I'll be graduating
in December and moving on with my life. At some point, if the aviation market picks back up, I plan to go finish my commercial rating at a private flight school, but for now
the only flying I'll be doing is for fun in my grandfathers plane. And that's just fine with me.
















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davann

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Re: My College Experience
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2010, 04:17:21 PM »

Yes, but how many swamp rats did you rain death upon from the air?

Your story sounds bad. Sorry.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 06:34:36 PM by davann »
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anarchir

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Re: My College Experience
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2010, 04:30:11 PM »

Sounded good to me. I read the whole thing.

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Pilot_MKN

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Re: My College Experience
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2010, 04:47:10 PM »

Yes, but how many swamp rats did rain death upon from the air?

Your story sounds bad. Sorry.

i dont get it
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anarchir

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Re: My College Experience
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2010, 05:23:58 PM »

Yes, but how many swamp rats did rain death upon from the air?

Your story sounds bad. Sorry.

i dont get it

I think its a poorly written star wars reference.

Quote
I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They're not much bigger than two meters.
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davann

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Re: My College Experience
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2010, 06:35:23 PM »

Yes, but how many swamp rats did rain death upon from the air?

Your story sounds bad. Sorry.

i dont get it

I think its a poorly written star wars reference.

Quote
I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They're not much bigger than two meters.

Yes, very tired today. Sorry, badly written and not funny.
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ForumTroll

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Re: My College Experience
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2010, 09:16:40 PM »

TL;DR
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