Flying High and Falling Hard (JHP Day 29)

Flying High and Falling Hard (JHP Day 29)

I figured it’s been too long since I’ve blogged, so here I am, back at it again, on what looks like Day 29 of a series that’s still going long after the start date 😄

In all honesty, I feel I would be doing even more of an injustice not finishing this challenge with a post that says Day 30, than I have failing to stick to the 30-day plan. So, we’ll continue for these last two ‘days’, that have somehow carried on into November, and see where we end up!

The Last Few Months

First, some updates. About myself, university life, and my plans as we head into the final months of ‘22 - a year that’s seen a hesitant return to normalcy from the COVID era, and the return of many long-forgotten aspirations - from all of us.

The new academic year began for me in late September, with the events of intro week, all the related uni fairs and society intros to go to, as well as hiring workshops - specifically in Project Kestrel, where we returned once again in full force, running a series of recruitment events. On 4 different evenings, from 6-8pm, we invited a total of about 80 students to sign up for the university’s best drone team (sorry Hex, we’re coming for you!).

Teams gathering round to test their final builds at the hiring workshop

It was a blast organising challenges, giving presentations about our project goals, our team structure, taking interviews for each aspiring recruit, and giving each group their challenge: to design a free-standing bridge from nothing but 2 sheets of newspaper and some tape, that could support an apple in the centre.

All in all, the workshops were an amazing start to the year - getting to see so many old and new faces, working with friends to build the foundations for a project that now has 50 working members, and improving my public speaking skills at the same time. It was something that made my role as avionics lead in the team even more involved with the wider project picture - a real lesson to take forward as the year continued.

One of the team's builds, a bridge to hold an apple in the centre (without falling!)

On the whole, September was a very predictable start to the year. Timetables were uploaded to calendars, 9am lectures returned, and business as usual in the Diamond began. Once you get into the third year of your degree, I think a lot of the activities become second nature, and from a mental perspective, decently manageable. You aren’t running around trying to find lecture theatres, you aren't so worried about missing classes. Having settled into the degree - work becomes work, and all that's left to do is get your head down and study.

Having said that, Sheffield definitely doesn't let up with the workload in aerospace!

The Flying

One week in, and we'd sat down for our first lecture of Private Pilot Instruction - the module I'd most been looking forward to. The one that would take me from an engineer on the ground, to a pilot in the air. Dreams of flying solo in a Cessna started swirling, and in class we began to talk about how amazing it would feel to go on our first flights, organised by the university and Sheffield Aero Club, who were supporting the module.

Two weeks in, and I'd been handed 9 separate textbooks, each about 3cm thick, a ruler, a square protractor, highlighters, a chart of Southern England, a flight logbook, a flight guide, and a high-vis vest as a token of good luck, for my first exam which I'd be sitting in a week.

Needless to say, I was in for a ride.

Yesterday, I had my first flight in commands. Can’t describe the visceral pleasure of flying. But I can take a shot and share it on Unsplash

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The Falling

Among 6 other modules, it's definitely an intense course to take, trying to complete all 9 of the required PPL theoretical exams, and go on my first few hours of flying before the end of semester. And sadly, it's come with its fair share of ups and downs, including failing my initial sittings.

It hit me hard to know that I was still failing tests in my third year of university, on topics that I thought I'd at least gotten a decent grasp of. Seeing myself lagging behind others too, the effect was multiplied. But hearing from friends about their experiences, and taking some valuable advice, I figured out a plan of action to keep going.

scrabble, scrabble pieces, lettering, letters, wood, scrabble tiles, white background, words, quote, fail your way to success, persevere, don't give up, try again, get up, move on, keep innovating,

One of the best pieces of advice I had to take forward was this: if you haven't failed at least once, you haven't learnt it properly. The true test of your knowledge is bringing it to the breaking point - to the point where you recognise exactly how much you now know, and how much you don't.

And I think that applies to much more than just those pilot exams. Failure isn't just a lesson for the future, it's an indicator that you're putting yourself in a position where you're struggling; and the only way to get to what you want is to struggle - so know that if you've failed, you're on a path of growth, and success is around the corner as long as you keep going.

Moving forward with that insight, I hope to use it as a springboard to get some proper revision done, come back stronger, and then share not just the technical knowledge that I've gained, but the story I have to tell with it, of my journey to get off the ground.

So, to anyone that's looking to become a pilot, know this: learning to fly is very, very difficult - but rewarding, if you can get it right. Don't lose hope.

View from above

The Road Ahead: Internships, Apartments and Unfulfilled Goals

In the few months we have left of 2022, I'm looking at organising an internship over summer. Going along with the space dream, the ones organised by the European Space Agency are something I've thought about for quite a while, and so I'm in the process of choosing where exactly I'd like to work there and putting together an application. Who knows, maybe 6 months from now I'll be sitting in Paris somewhere, working on a rocket launch system!

I've also put some thought into living plans for next year, and my preference towards privacy as I become more focused on my personal projects/work/the final year of my degree. The chance to have a space all for yourself can be enticing, and something that gives you a lot more control. It's an interesting discussion to have - I generally lean towards saying that if you have a solid support group around you and you feel you won't get lonely, then having a place to yourself can be quite nice, coming back from the busyness of the day to some solitude. In any case, we'll see what the future holds!

I took these for AirBnb, but they’re so pretty

And on the unfulfilled goals front - well, as always, there are so many things left undone, both in my goals list for the year, and in day to day life. But I guess that's reality. Every day brings a new challenge, and a chance to set your sights high. The sky's the limit.

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