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S is for Stress

I remember early on in flight training about the acronym “I’M SAFE”.  While a seemingly ambiguous phrase in normal conversation, it holds a deeper meaning for those in the aviation community.  It was developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a tool for pilots to use before they went out flying.  It was a quick way to check if you were physically and mentally ready to fly, hence the acronym “I’M SAFE”.

I is for…

For my readers not familiar with this checklist, here is the meaning for each letter.

  • I is for Illness. Have I been ill lately?  Do I feel like I’m coming down with something?  Will that sinus infection affect my ability to fly?
  • M is for Medication. Have I been taking an over-the-counter drug?  Is this drug allowed to be used when I’m operating heavy equipment, like an airplane?
  • S is for Stress (and my focus for this post). Am I stressed about something going on in my life?  Do I feel like there’s too much going on in life to focus on this flight today? When’s the last time I relaxed?
  • A is for Alcohol. When was my last drink?  Was it 8 hours ago or less?
  • F is for Fatigue. How much sleep did I get last night?  Have I been sleeping enough each night over the last few days?  How much sleep should I be getting to be fully rested?
  • Lastly, E is for Eating. When was the last time I ate?  Did I eat enough?  Did I eat something that will carry me through the whole flight?
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Borrowed from FAA.gov.

S is for Stress

Today’s post is focused on one particular element of the checklist: Stress.   Yes, I probably picked the most difficult item on the list to ascertain whether or not I’m safe to fly.  This item has always been a difficult one for me to tackle personally.  Now, I don’t fly as much as I used to, but this checklist is great for other things besides flying.  It’s good for getting ready for your next busy week at work, or school, or that next big exam, presentation, and the list pretty much goes on and on.  I spent all of college really learning how to deal with stress and it wasn’t as if there weren’t plenty of opportunities to practice it.

The real break-through came somewhere around four years ago when I developed tension headaches.  I don’t normally go to the doctor if I can help it but when they didn’t quit, I knew it was time to get them checked out.  Turns out these headaches have a lot of different triggers such as lack of sleep, poor eating habits, too much stress, caffeine and more.  Since there wasn’t any one trigger, I worked on a variety of ways to help with the headaches.  I quit of my many jobs, set a mandatory bedtime, ate better, and cut way down on caffeine.

A few years later, I’m much healthier and I brought exercise back into the picture over the last few years in small ways.  It started as a fun socializing event with friends in school which led to running all last winter, and now I’m hiking and running all over the town I currently live in.  While Undergrad is officially over and I’m now working full-time, I found time to squeeze a Grad class in here and there.

However, I deal with stress much more constructively through a good night’s sleep, proper eating habits, as well as lots of physical activity.  Plus, living in the Pacific North West leaves no shortage of new places to explore.

Stress Be Gone!

Everyone deals with stress differently and at their own pace, so just don’t take my word for it.  However, whether you’re off for a challenging flight lesson, or a challenging work week, think about how stress affects you personally.

Maybe go take a walk or read a book, or run a 5K – you just might find yourself a little less stressed and certainly a lot more productive.

Happy De-Stressing!

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Caught this picture of a fire bomber on my last hike.
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Map-Making for the Non-Cartographer

Did you know that you can learn now to draw maps in six weeks or less?!  As we are in the 21st century, lots of things are made easier and less time-consuming with the advent of technology – map-making is no different.  The advances in technology combined with the class offerings of higher education institutions have made interest and skill obtainable on a much tighter time frame than ever before.  So, what does this have to do with map-making?  As promised, this post will touch on just a few things I learned this summer from my graduate class on Cartography & Visualization.

Map Basics

In any introductory class, you are presented with some basics of the subject on which the class is based.  My recent class was no different and as the song goes, “let’s start at the very beginning”.

Maps are unique in that they provide both a visual and written representation of data.  Our professor used the following phrase to define a map:

“A map is a graphic representation of the milieu.” (Dr. Enru Wang, University of North Dakota)

So, what does this mean for John Q. Public?  This phrase means that a map is a picture whether on paper, or on your screen, that represents all aspects of the cultural and physical environment.  This could be interpreted as the acreage of farmland per square mile in the state of Minnesota, or the total number of dairy farms per 100 square miles in Wisconsin.

Whatever data you have complied, it generally can be represented with a map using a variety of colors, shapes, symbols and more.  This data can be mapped using different styles of maps such as General Purpose (reference) and Thematic (Special purpose, single topic, or statistical).

General purpose maps often are focused on showing the location of objects and are primarily used for reference navigation.  Think of topographic maps, road maps, atlases, etc.

Thematic maps are a little more complicated and often have more than one purpose.  These maps display some type of structural characteristic beyond just a location.  As the name implies, thematic maps present a theme about a subject — in the world of Geographic Information Science (GIS), thematic maps are a graphic display of attribute data.  Attribute data can be population density, income, temperature, and the list goes on and on.  Furthermore, thematic maps are broken down into two groups: qualitative (nominal data) and quantitative (numerical, colors, dots, etc.).

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This is a good example of a general purpose map.  Pretty general, right?

Drawing Maps in the 21st Century

Besides learning about the different types of maps, design, coordinate projection, history, etc., the main focus of this particular class was learning how to use a software called ArcGIS.  This software system has a variety of sub-programs including a mapping software (ArcMap) that I used primarily this summer, an online mapping platform (ArcGIS Online), and a variety of applications that work in conjunction with ArcMap.

As you can see from the featured images, ArcMap can be used to create virtual maps in a matter of hours compared to the number of days and months that cartographers years ago would have spent on one document.  Additionally, ArcGIS Online makes wayfinding and tour maps that much easier (click here for an example) with the aid of an Excel spreadsheet.

Overall, programs such as ArcGIS and others make the once painfully slow process of map-making that much faster – these programs also allow the integration of numerous types of data in a variety of forms bringing map-making in the 21st century.

Why GIS and Map-Making?

I am often asked for my reasoning behind GIS and the graduate certificate I am pursuing.  After spending my undergraduate studies in Airport Management, I was often exposed to other areas of my field besides airport operations.  With the advent of GIS and programs such as AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and others, the opportunities to expand my skills into other areas became available.  With my alma mater’s graduate certificate in GIS, I saw an opportunity to explore a new interest in addition to adding to my resume.

For the last several years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been collecting data on airports and other areas of aerospace using GIS.  ArcGIS and other programs provide a way to map that data which increases the ways to apply that data when developing airports, structuring airspace, mapping pavement condition, and much more.

Images courtesy of Google Images.

In the images above, we see different uses for GIS and mapping.  Pavement conditions, concourse 3D rendering, noise contours and more provide the basis of many different types of maps applicable to the aerospace industry and more specifically that of airports. In digital mapping, the possibilities are almost endless – if you have the data, you can map it.

Future Career or Just Curiosity?

The subject of cartography and digital map-making is something I have wanted to pursue for a few years now.  After earning my Bachelor’s degree, I was able to take these classes for credit and earn a certificate at the same time.  While I love my work in airport operations, I have wanted to work for a firm in airport planning and GIS – this certificate is a way to help myself get there.

But when it comes right down to it, I love learning and this is a way to learn something new and useful about my field.  When you work in a field you enjoy, why stop the learning after graduation?

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Here is a fun picture because sometimes I find weird FOD on the runways.

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings from Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport!

If you told me three years ago I’d find myself in Oregon, I probably would have laughed.   When I started at the University of North Dakota (UND), I had a different plan – in fact, I was on the track to becoming a commercial pilot.  Long story short, I got my Private Pilot’s License, but along the way, I found a new passion in airport operations and management.  Fast forward a few years and I find myself in the high desert of Oregon surrounded by beautiful mountains and working at an airport that is the only training base for F-15s in the nation – who could have guessed it?

So, I want to introduce you all to Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport!  This awesome gem of an airport has four runways, seven taxiways, and is home to Kingsley Field (OR Air National Guard).  Besides the Guard, there’s a hopping General Aviation population including a United States Fire Services base – there’s currently one airline here, Peninsula Air, which has an average of two daily flights.

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KLMT (And no, that doesn’t mean Little Mountain Town)

The great thing about working at a small airport is getting to learn how to do a little of everything – and yes, I do mean everything!  I could be managing wildlife, mowing the grass, doing a field inspection, a perimeter check, fixing a gate, or fixing pavement – and that could be all in the same day!  When I was looking for that first post-grad job, being able to learn a little about everything on an airport and be responsible for fixing it, maintaining, etc., was something that really appealed to me.  It meant I could gain valuable experience that I could carry with me to future positions.  Oh, and all those possible tasks I listed above?  I really have done most of those in a day – how cool is that?!

The funny thing about higher education, or even UND’s Airport Management program, is that it doesn’t prepare you for everything in your first job.  I had two degrees, a specialization, and a professional certification walking into my first job, and I went home that first day feeling like I still had so much to learn.  Don’t get me wrong: a degree is very valuable, but you can’t put a price on the hands-on experience that a first job can offer.  Also, there is so much to learn from different people in the industry no matter where you find yourself.  So, don’t think of us kids as so crazy as to move half way across the country for that first job.

That’s all for this post – check back soon for an update on my new educational endeavor.  In the meantime, check out these photos from my first few weeks on the job!

The End…Maybe

Spring is here to stay and that means that already the academic year has ended!  You would be surprised how fast nine months really is – especially when you are on the cusp of graduation.  Of course, congratulations to all of the graduates this spring! You should be proud of yourselves and what you have achieved.  This spring marks a momentous occasion for me as I was among those that graduated.

It is hard to believe that in August of 2011 I was starting my higher education journey at a community college in Minnesota only to find myself transferring to the plains of North Dakota.  I certainly did not count on graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Education, a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Airport Management, a specialization in Business Aviation, and earning my Certified Member (C.M.) initials through the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE).  Looking back now, it does seem like a lot of schooling.  Let’s not forget my favorite certification which was that of my Private Pilot’s License!

It is also hard to think of how much I managed to fit in since then.  Working at a library, a Fixed Based Operator (FBO), a student magazine, a commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) park, a student magazine, financial aid, and more.  Besides just putting myself through school, I still managed to find time to be involved with the University of North Dakota (UND) AAAE Student Chapter as well as the Women’s Air Race Classic Team.  Of course, writing this blog for the past two years has been a big part of my higher education experience as I have been able to chronicle my studies as well as my experiences.

As graduation has so quickly come and just as quickly left, it means that this is my last post for the academic year (maybe).  When I first took on this position writing for not only myself, but www.Globalair.com, I never thought it would last as long as two years or that I could possibly have that much to write about.  I also never thought I would have so many opportunities to write about so many different topics or interview so many truly inspiring people from the aerospace industry.  While this may be my last post for a little while, be sure to keep checking back, especially my Facebook page (Blue Skies & Tailwinds) where I share photos and links to articles about the aerospace industry.

As for the next step, I’m heading west!  I have accepted a job offer to work for the City of Klamath Falls in Klamath Falls, OR at the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport.  I will work as an Airport Operations Specialist and do a little of everything including airport inspections, wildlife management, maintenance, and much more.  I’m very excited to a) have a job, and b) work with an airport in a beautiful part of the country.  I know I will learn much and I’m hoping to share a little of my experiences with you all at some point.  However, I’m ready for a little break here!

So, thank you all for following me and be sure to check back soon for the next phase of my aerospace story.  Until then, may you always have blue skies and tailwinds!

University Life 101

As we are only 13 days away from graduation, I thought it would be fun to pass on some university life knowledge that might be helpful for our readers, or students that they know.  As I am about to finish my second degree and, hopefully, add another certification to my resume, I guess one could say I have picked up a few tips in academia.  So, here are my three tips for keeping your cool in school (pun intended).

#3: Never Underestimate the Power of Sleep

For all of you more experienced readers, I am sure you are shaking your head because I am suggesting getting more sleep and skipping class – yes and no.  While I am a morning person, and a firm believer in not wasting the day, I have also learned the hard way that not getting enough sleep or rest is physically damaging and can only be maintained for so long.

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We have all heard that a solid eight hours is recommended especially the younger you are.  I have learned on several occasions that I need at least seven hours, if not eight.  However, anything less than seven is really pushing it – especially if I maintain that for several days.  It is important to figure out your threshold for sleep early on in college, because things only get busier after Freshman year.  Also, when you are scheduling your classes, flight labs, or work hours, be aware of when you do your best work.  For instance, I know that I am a morning person, so I would rather be at work at 0730 than going into an eight hour shift at 2pm.  The great thing is you have a lot of control over your schedule in college, so use that to your advantage, because after graduation you are there when the boss says, regardless of how little you slept.

#2:  Schedule Time for Fun

I learned in college that people had very definite ideas of what “fun” was and it was not the same for each person.  Do not worry if your idea of fun is a book versus your roommate’s plans to have a party in your dorm room.  If you want to spend your free time introverting, or working out, that is OK.

Kermitfreaking out

You will find that there will be pressure to do this and that in during your free time (in fact, that is when the fun things seem to always happen).  If you are an extrovert, go hang out with your friends – play basketball, see a movie, etc.  If you are an introvert, it is OK to sit in your room to unwind.  I am an introvert and sometimes it is difficult to explain to others that after being around people all day, I do not want to be around people.

However, do not just introvert your life away.  If you can get out for a movie, or dinner, or coffee, do that!  It is important to rest and recharge and sometimes all it takes is a few hours away from your room or apartment or house (or roommates).

#1:  Build Good Habits Now

This a fairly open-ended tip, so I will just cover a few good habits to have that will benefit you for years post-graduation.

Learning to write well is a good habit I have carried with me since high school.  I remember my parents urging me to write about one of my experiences when volunteering with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and 10 years later, it is one of the most important habits I have.  It is also shocking to learn from Seniors that expecting them to write like Seniors in a Senior-level class is an “unrealistic” expectation – if you want to argue with me on this one, I can argue every way until Monday that learning to write well is one of the most important skills and habits a young adult should have.

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Learning to schedule your time wisely is something you will take with you for a lifetime.  I cannot count how many times people have been surprised and astonished when they see the calendar in my binder, or my day planner.  Truth be told, I have about four different calendars, which may be overload, but it helps me remember everything.  You do not have to be that organized by any means, but just having a place to put down every activity and knowing when that activity will occur will help you make good use of your time.

Put in the effort now, so you can enjoy your free time later.  My parents always stress doing a job well and putting in the effort to produce excellence.  I cannot tell you how many students comment that “Cs get degrees” or that no employer will ever look at your Grade Point Average (GPA).  Wrong!  Your first few jobs after graduation you won’t have quite enough experience to take your GPA off your resume and it is a good indicator of how hard you worked in college.  Building the habit of putting in the effort to learn and do well translates into life after college in more ways than one.  Hard work is how people get promoted, get job offers, and get the jobs they really want.

The End?

Now, if you are thinking that I have just handed you the comprehensive checklist to university success, think again!  Just take all I say with a grain of salt and realize what works for me will not always work for you.  However, I think these tips are generic and easily scalable to your daily lives.

My last piece of advice for this week is to develop these good habits and to find your student/work/life balance – honestly, that might take a lifetime to achieve.

Images courtesy of Google.com.

 

3 Ways to Study More Effectively

It’s that time of year again!  Yes, Finals are just around the corner and this is when life get exceptionally busy for college students.  We’re all busy finishing up last projects, presentations, papers, and preparing for our last round of exams plus our Final exams (yes, some professors give two tests back to back).  The great thing about college and higher education, you learn several ways to study.  I’ll cover three ways you can study more effectively and hopefully it will save you some effort whether you’re taking a final exam or studying for your next checkride.

#3: Do Less & Not More

Now, I know this seems a little backwards, but cramming more material versus being strategic about your study time has been shown to be more productive.  In a study done by the University of California – Las Angeles (UCLA), cramming for a test or burning through a pile of homework was less beneficial than getting the extra sleep and picking up again in the morning.

The pattern of cramming more homework in a few hours at night is often derived from habits in high school when most students are at school for hours a day only to come home to that many more hours of homework.  In addition to these habits, colleges often suggest two to three hours of studying for every one credit hour.  For the average student, taking the average full-time load of 12 credits, this is at least 24 hours of study per week.

Now, add the “recommended” 24 hours of studying, if you’re only taking 12 credits, and add your part time job (or jobs).  Most students are taking above the full-time limit to either finish programs on time, or just to quality for scholarships and financial aid.  Pretty soon, your “recommended” study time creeps well above 30 hours, not to mention your work schedule.

You end up being stuck with a few hours at night to accomplish everything you need to and you end up at the point of diminishing returns – less sleep, a propensity to become sick, and reduced attention spans.  This is where it is important to come to grips with the fact that sometimes doing less is actually more.

#2: What Worked Once Won’t Always Work Twice

A few years ago, I remember an individual asking me how I studied for my classes – I think they wondered if my study methods directly correlated to how well I did in class.  Moreover, it seems a common misconception is that a student uses exactly the same method for every class – this is far from the truth.

We learn many study methods over the course of high school as well as college.  However, I have found what works in one class does not work in others.  For instance, if you’re taking a class that is full of facts and numbers, such as a science class, you may find yourself using a lot of flash cards to memorize terms and definitions.  On the other hand, you may find yourself in a class that requires understanding concepts, and not just recognizing terms.  You will probably have to understand the context behind a definition and connect that to a real-world example.  This does not even account for the fact that no two professors teach or write tests and assignments the same.  For these reasons, I find myself adapting in almost every class when implementing my studying strategy.

For instance, I am currently in a class that prepares me for a certification exam in airport operations and administration.  The study material is almost entirely context-based, meaning I need to understand what something does rather than just memorize a term or a name.  I probably won’t get asked to select the correct year for a piece of important aviation legislation, but I’ll be given the name and date of that act and asked what it accomplished for the airport industry.

So, it’s important to get a feel first for how the professor teaches and what they test on and then adjust your techniques accordingly.

#1: Take a Break

I saved this tip for last because I think it’s the most underappreciated tip out there.  We all think “of course I take breaks!”  However, those breaks are probably after we’ve done an all-night study session and we want to grab a few hours of sleep before our big comprehensive final.  The most important piece of advice I got while in community college was to do intense periods of studying (30 minutes max) followed by 10 minutes of break.

This break could be on social media, listening to music, or some other relaxing activity such as walking.  The point is that you concentrate on studying with no distractions for a certain period of time followed by a real break.

Similar publications and articles suggest between 30 and 50 minutes of concentrated studying along with five to ten minutes of a break.  The goal is to get quality study time in which you actually retain knowledge versus pulling an all-night session and not being able to retain even half of the information.

Honestly, few people actually enjoy spending hours studying, but hopefully you have a few new ideas how to study more effectively.

Remember:

  • Study less, not more;
  • Be strategic in your methods;
  • And, take a break!

For all of you out there in the final throes of the semester (like me), keep up the good work and study smarter, not harder!

Image courtesy of Google.com.

3 Ways to Dust Off Your Logbook

Spring is here!  It’s hard to believe I was just writing about winter weather flying and now spring has officially sprung (as of nine days ago).  For many of you, you might be tied to the weather during the winter when it comes to flying.  This could be due to the ratings you hold, the airport you hanger at, or even the equipment your aircraft is equipped with.  Whatever your reason may be, the arrival of spring means the return of better flying days!  So, today I will share a few ways to dust off your logbook.

#3: Get Current

I know, it’s probably the old standby for when we want to fly, but have no idea where to fly to.  Spring is the perfect time to sneak in an early morning flight to get day current.  So, that means that every 90 days, you need to get out there and do three take-offs and landings, full-stop, to carry passengers.  This could easily take up an hour of flying and it gets you back into the pattern at your home airport, or maybe a nearby airport.

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Likewise, you should get night current while you are at it.  Although, darkness comes a lot later these days, so plan accordingly.  Another great way to get current, as an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rated pilot, is to get instrument current.  Every six calendar months, you will need to log at least six instrument approaches, holding procedures, including intercepting and tracking courses using a navigation system.

While you probably should not wait every 90 days to practice landings, or every six months to do instrument work, it does happen.  If it has been awhile, be sure to take up a current pilot with you as a safety pilot, or better yet: find an instructor!  Getting current is a great way to ease back into fair-weather flying.

#2: Do Your Flight Review

What once used to be called the Biennial Flight Review, now is just shortened to Flight Review (FR).  This requires a pilot holding any certificate to go through a review flight with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) every 24 calendar months.

I would describe the FR as an abbreviated check ride.  You go through many of the same topics in a checkride, but it is much shorter.  You might remember reading about my interview with Woody Minar, a seasoned Designated Pilot Examiner.  In that interview, he gives some good tips in preparing for your upcoming FR.  If you want some additional tips from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), check out this link to their FR guide.

Lastly, did you know that safety seminars through the FAA Safety Team (FAAST) can give you credit towards an FR?  Through attending seminars in various topics around or at your home airport and a little extra flying with an instructor, you can get credit for an FR.  I’ve done this once before and made it through the Basic Level – you get to learn a lot, fly a little, and get a cool pin to wear.  Furthermore, the goal of working through all the levels is a good way to push yourself to keep up with your weekend flying (or whenever you can work it in).

#1: Fly for Fun!

I realize that all of us can’t afford to rent an aircraft all the time.  Sometimes the harsh reality of the bank account is enough to keep even the most passionate pilot from flying on a sunny spring day.  For this reason, I encourage all you pilots to find a flying buddy.

Finding a fellow pilot to fly with is great for several reasons: you have someone to talk to, you can both brush up on your skills, and (most importantly) you can split the costs!  Not only do you need to find a fellow pilot to fly with, but you need to find somewhere fun to fly to – this could be a lake place, a golf course, a friend’s private airport, a museum, and more.  The possibilities are endless and they give you a purpose for flying.

Enroute to fun destinations is a great time to practice slow flight, stalls, Commercial maneuvers, landings at other airports, dead reckoning, instrument approaches, going under the hood, or simply building cross-country time.  You really can’t go wrong when your fun flying has a learning purpose.

Happy Flying!

Hopefully you have some ideas now on how to take advantage of the better weather and dust off your logbook.  I’m hoping to get some flying in myself in a few weeks when I get back home for Easter – by the way, did you realize that is just around the corner too???

Happy Spring Flying!

Images courtesy of Google.com