I’m a firm believer that everyone has a super power (or something that they are marginally good at), and a super weakness (or something that they suck at disproportionately to everything else that they suck at).  All this time I thought that my super weakness was swimming. Yes, I am a grown man, a commissioned officer of the US military forces and I can’t freakin’ swim.  I’m a Navigator, not Delta Force.  So, while I do indeed suck massively at swimming, my great weakness is that I cannot make a level turn.

If you’ve been in an airplane then you know that the ability to turn the airplane without losing or gaining altitude is a valuable skill. One that I have not yet mastered. They teach you to make these turns visually, that is by not looking at the instruments that will tell you if you are doing it right. You’re supposed to look outside at the horizon and keep the turn level. For our training, I’m required to do this at an atrociously, ridiculously high bank angle. 45 degrees. If you think that 45 degrees is a bit ‘sissy,’ then you underestimate the amount of ‘sissy’ that I am.  Now, coming from the B-52 and the C-135 there is rarely an occasion to do such a turn. I don’t fly fighter jets, and I don’t enjoy being upside down unless I’m at Cedar Point (or possibly Ferrari world… it’s in Abu Dhabi, you should check it out, totally worth it.)  For the old school BUFF guys who reminisce about doing air refueling at high angles of bank, well it was stupid then and it’s stupid now.

I'll admit that it looks cool, if you'll admit that it's an unnecessary risk.

I’ll admit that it looks cool, if you’ll admit that it’s an unnecessary risk.

(it was called a “whiff” and it was a confidence maneuver and I’ve never done it and I don’t want to)

Where was I? Yeah, excessive bank angles are not cool. Why does the FAA want me to learn this? I think I’ll file this under stuff I’m not going to do any more once I get my licence (like Chemistry, I promised Westminster College that I’d never do Chemistry if they let me graduate).  Looking outside and trying to stay level is supposedly easy. But I can’t do it.  So last flight I took some data. (you should also not underestimate the fact that I am a big freakin’ Nerd).

Why do I suck at this?

Why do I suck at this?

The horizontal axis (for the mathematicians, that would be the independent variable) is the compass heading and the vertical axis (or dependent variable) is the relative nose position above the horizon.  If I was doing it right this graph would be a horizontal line through all the compass headings.  And you can see that for headings 330 clockwise through 180, I’m pretty good. But for headings 190 clockwise to 320, I suck.  What is the problem?  My instructor taught me to trace the horizon. If you’ve been to Colorado then you know that the scenery changes when you’re facing west. Oh yeah, the Rocky freaking Mountains are there. And I have been tracing the mountains of the front range.  Take a look at it again, this time with labels.

Damn you mountains...

Damn you mountains…

So obviously I have to (A) stop sucking, while simultaneously accomplish (B) learn how to do it right, and (C) use the damn instruments.  I have also contemplated (D) bribe the flight examiner and (E) move back to North Dakota.


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