6,000 hours is the amount of time my student John has spent flying planes of different types, from props (1 and 2 engine) to jets. He has spent 200 hours in the Grumman Mallard pictured above.
Saturday all that cockpit time paid off.
We were going to fly to Death Valley to spend the weekend and John wanted to take his beloved Mallard. It was stormy, crosswinds 27 mph gusting to 40. The takeoff and climb out was the roughest I’ve ever experienced. Turning to the east we were hitting some sickening down drafts and up drafts, but I knew once we cleared the Pine Nut Range it would settle down. Which was a good thing as I didn’t think we would be able to go back and land in this worsening weather.
The words, “I don’t like the looks of that.” snapped my attention to John who was fighting the controls with both hands and looking down at the oil temperature gauge for the right engine. The needle was in the red. Engine cowlings were opened and we both tapped on the gauge (I gave it a pretty good whack) but no change. I looked at the engine and saw no smoke but there was oil on the top jug.
“We’ve got to go back”, was calmly stated but barely heard over my internal voice’s, “Shit!!”. The people in the cabin were told to tighten their belts, and John calmly, but grimly, turned back for what seemed an impossible task.
We came in sideways, wings rocking back and forth, nose zooming up and down, and at the last second the Mallard refusing to touch the ground, but John, with total concentration continued doing what his training told him to do: fly the plane.
We landed safely because the pilot had tons of training and he has never stopped training. His muscle memory took over and he did the right thing at the right instant, resulting in the right outcome.
Time in training in the martial arts and time spent at each belt level are equally important. Time building muscle memory can save your bacon one day. 6,000 hours would take 12.5 years if you practiced 10 hours a week, so you had better get started. There might be a storm coming your way.