We’ve had some more press interest, this time in the Shropshire Star (Wed 25 January edition, p8 for reference).
I rather like this article, even if it may make things sound a little more ‘exciting’ than they perhaps really are…
Every now and then little things in life are worth remembering – surreal little things that make you laugh or raise your eyebrows. Simple experiences and the way we tend to look at them often make for nice little stories and so I make no apologies for what I’m about to write about – I am after all part storyteller!
Last week was an interesting one for me on several levels – things have been happening at an intense and rapid pace with the project, and I hope to be writing about some changes and exciting things coming up in the near future, but for now I’m talking about a simple ‘transport’ flight.
Last Friday I was over in Norfolk staying with Al from Wildcat Aerobatics again, and I was asked to assist with some filming work they had going on – it was a fairly miserable day and I was needed on the ground with a radio to help coordinate what was going on (so I was basically asked to do what I’m good at and nag – lots of “slower”, “further back next time”, “lower if you can”, etc. etc.). The filming itself was rather good fun from my perspective as it happens, despite how bitterly cold it was stood out in the middle of the airfield. In terms of surreality, a trip over to see these boys always seems to please, Friday being no exception.
The flight to Old Buckenham in Al’s S2A wasn’t what I’d call a completely ‘normal’ flight. I have absolutely no issue being a passenger, nor do I mind a bit of turbulence or grey weather. That said, being sat in the front seat of a Pitts Special, in incredibly bumpy conditions, whilst attempting to balance a reasonably sized open cardboard box full of beef products on my shoulder (so as to not impede the aircraft controls) did make me wonder how on earth I’d ended up where I was.
Basically, we were taking some frozen beef over to Old Buckenham for the cafe there – seeing that we were flying over someone had to keep hold of the meat as there was no space for it in the limited cubby hole luggage bay bit. Of course, with me being the front seat passenger it was naturally my responsibility to keep control of said meat products. Upon climbing into the cockpit it very quickly became apparent that the obvious option of just sitting it on my lap and not dropping the open box wasn’t to be – unless of course we only wanted to point the nose downward. We both decided that being unable to pull the stick back was unlikely to be particularly conducive to actually getting airborne, let alone getting over to our destination, and as such a better option needed to be settled on. Hence, so it was, that I spent the entire flight balancing a not insignificantly heavy box of frozen cow on my right shoulder, safely above the level of the control wires and well out of the way of the stick and canopy lock.
Mercifully it was only a very short flight, as after about ten minutes I was wondering if I’d actually ever be able to feel my arm again. Obviously no aerobatic flying was undertaken, otherwise we’d have ended up with bits of poor old frozen Bessie in all manner of inconvenient places within the cockpit. The sheer bumpiness of the flight meant I did actually wonder a few times about just how easily I’d be able to retrieve my dignity had I ended up with half my payload down the front of my flightsuit.
The reality was that the flight was pretty uneventful, we arrived both complaining about the cruddy weather, me whimpering about my dead arm and the cafe grateful for their meat delivery. Some food and a cup of tea later and the Wildcat pair were up again to strut their stuff for the cameras, and I have to admit I was just a tiny bit proud to be stood there beneath them.
“It’s all in a day’s work” I think they say…
Late last year I was granted an incredibly exciting opportunity – to be featured on the ‘Across the Pond’ segment of the very popular AirplaneGeeks podcast. I find talking about myself and what I’m trying to do quite a challenge sometimes, and so this was a very enjoyable and nerve-wracking experience!
Anyway, the episode came out today, so if you haven’t already seen it, check out Pieter’s Across the Pond blog or alternatively head straight over to the AirplaneGeeks page to find the podcast. Enjoy – I know I enjoyed talking on it!
A few of you have asked me a couple of times now if I’d write a bit about fitness and the kind of physical training I do. I should just say that the reality of my training is that most of it isn’t really geared toward the flying as I’m already pretty fit and certainly plenty strong enough for what I do, most of it is focused around the mountain biking and rock climbing that I do and have done for years. That said, there is definitely a fair amount to be said on the subject in relation to flying.
Now, I’m no expert. I’m not a physical trainer, I’m not a super experienced pilot with thousands of aerobatic hours under my belt and I’ve never done any formal study – but, from 9 years of training hard as a climber and several years playing hockey quite seriously before that, and from a couple of years as a runner, fell runner, mountaineer and rescue team member, I know what works for me and how hard I should be working myself to make physical gains, or to just maintain the levels that I need to be at at any given time.
Flying isn’t the most physically demanding of past-times, however aerobatics imposes a number of extreme forces upon the body that have a huge effect on how a pilot operates and needs to operate in order to stay awake and functioning as effectively and precisely as possible. I’m not going to go into too much detail about G-forces in this post as I need to do a fair bit more reading on the subject myself, and there is plenty of good information out there already.
For me it’s the psychological and mental aspect of aerobatic flying that are what I try to gear my physical training around, which may sound strange but let me explain: for several years now I’ve suffered with a fatigue illness that has constantly forced me to think very carefully about how hard and how thoroughly I push myself in different scenarios. Over the years I’ve worked out that for me, physical fitness and hard physical training make a huge difference to how easily I cope with day-to-day life. Since I’ve been flying the Pitts Special I’ve also become acutely aware of just how my physical state effects my mental capacity and speed of reaction. The fitter I am, and the more regularly I push my body to exhaustion, the better I recover and the stronger I become in both body and in mind. My focus and attention are also affected by just how hard I work my body and how well I’m recovering.
I’m by no means special – any person will function more effectively mentally if they’re fitter physically, and not just in the air. As I’ve already mentioned, aerobatic flying imposes a variety of extreme forces on the body and also places the mind under extreme pressure – physical fitness will not only help the body react better to the effects of positive and negative g forces, but the stronger and fitter the body is, the less work the mind will have to do to compensate for the environment that surrounds it. Physical fatigue is a huge mental drain, and so reducing bodily fatigue is a fantastic way to very easily improve mental focus and clarity.
What all of this means for me, is that I love to train. I love the feeling of pushing myself and finding my own limitations and so for me physical effort and training is something I take well to. This winter I’ve had to change my tack from ‘vocational’ training (as when my primary focus was rock and/or ice climbing or big running events) as I’ve spent much of the year injured and unable to get out and rack up the miles running in the mountains. I’m also unable to commit the money or the time to any big ice climbing trips this season due to my commitment to the project here, and as a result, I’ve gone back to gym training. Dull and tedious it may be, but regular, creative, well-structured gym workouts can be incredibly effective, not just for training strength or cardio-vascular endurance (I’d actually argue that fell-running is the best type of cardio work I’ve ever done, closely followed by my present activity of choice – mountain biking), but also for rehabilitating and working around injuries.
At present I’m just trying to re-build my baseline fitness back to where it was before injury and illness set me back at the end of last year. I’m heading out on the mountain bike and enjoying myself in the mud and cursing the long slogging road climbs, hitting the bouldering wall for strength and flexibility, but mainly doing general all-round workouts in the gym. I won’t go into detail about my gym training programs as that’s not what this blog entry is about – the important thing is the regularity, length and intensity of the sessions, and the amount of quality recovery time I’m allowing myself. There’s no point pushing yourself to breaking point over and over again if you never allow your body to recover – it’s the recovery that makes you stronger.
Would I say that physical fitness is important for aerobatics and flying in general? Absolutely – keep your body honed and capable and the mind will follow. I truly believe that physical fitness makes for safer and more capable pilots, which is why I’ll be found in the gym so often!
Karlene Petitt is a well known inspirational aviation blogger over in the States, and I’m incredibly proud to share this link to a feature she has written on me as one of her ‘Friday Fabulous Flyers’ over on her blog, “Flight to Success“.
“We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly.”
Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.
The local press have been very interested in my activities of late, and today they published a short piece on me as a local woman of inspiration – click on the image to have a read of it!
2011 is out of the way, and I have to admit I’m not entirely sorry to see it gone – last year started off incredibly badly for us with a house fire that meant a loss of everything we owned. Not a fun few months. Of course though, events like that do serve a purpose, and suddenly not owning anything beyond the clothes I was wearing did very rapidly teach me that ‘stuff’ isn’t everything, and that actually, there are very few things that we actually need to survive in life. Of course, the silver lining to it all has been the fact that we now live somewhere a lot smaller, own a lot less, and I’ve been able to commit my part of the insurance payout to allowing myself to fly the Pitts Special, so indirectly The Aerobatic Project is effectively a product of a really negative period of my life!
2012 is set to be a rather exciting time for me, the site here and the project is starting to grow into something that people are genuinely enjoying, and is a really positive focus for me to develop my own direction with it. I’ve been meeting some fantastic people within the aerobatic and aviation communities, people who are willing to help and encourage me and to whom I feel incredibly grateful. I’ve also been learning a whole lot about myself and about the ways in which I would like to see myself moving, and as such this year will hopefully see some real steps forward, not just in the up-coming competition season, but in everything I’m trying to achieve. Keep watching this space!
So where are we now? G-SKNT is still in the engineering workshop being serviced, and the weather is playing some rather strange games with us anyway, so flying itself isn’t the main focus of the coming few weeks, although of course I’ll jump at any opportunity to get airborne. No, the next few weeks are going to be focused on developing plans for pre-season competition training, fitness work (yes, I mean going to the gym), and more writing and design work on the site here. Other things are also going on in the background, about which I’m going to keep quiet for now.
I’ve also been flexing my graphic design skills again, and have drawn up some initial designs for Aerobatic Project t-shirts, that lots of you have been very interested in – the first test prints arrived today and look like this:
Hopefully I’ll be getting a batch of shirts printed up soon – so anyone interested in having one please watch this space or the Facebook page (all the design variants have been going up there for feedback) and let just let me know!
News and blog updates
- Living the dream and becoming an airshow pilot
- Support from the Air League: the day I met HRH the Duke of Edinburgh
- Another step forward – my first air display
- A fresh season
- News: Feature at Global Aviation Resource
- Testing the Smoke
- Modifying a Pitts in the UK: smoke systems!
- 2012 Year Review
- Competition vs Display aerobatics
- End of the 2012 Competition Season
- June 2013 (1)
- May 2013 (2)
- April 2013 (2)
- February 2013 (1)
- January 2013 (1)
- December 2012 (1)
- November 2012 (1)
- October 2012 (1)
- September 2012 (3)
- August 2012 (1)
- July 2012 (1)
- June 2012 (2)
- May 2012 (1)
- April 2012 (3)
- March 2012 (2)
- February 2012 (1)
- January 2012 (7)
- December 2011 (9)
- November 2011 (5)