Flying Journal - Renewal Time

The financial markets have those "triple witching hours" when all the various reports from a quarter come in around the same time. This is the time of the year when flying usually slows down, due to weather and shorter daylight hours, but it ended up being an eventful aviation month for me.

Since I started the first level of treatment for slightly elevated blood pressure this year, I had to get an ECG, extra lab work, and three blood pressure readings before I could get my medical renewed. I knew hypertension is called the "silent killer." I still remember one of my first flight students, about 29 years old, heavy, barrel-chested, with a florid complexion, and an intense demeanor. He was approaching solo time and went to get his medical. He was shocked to find his blood pressure was quite high, but got it treated and was able to fly. Of course that probably saved his life.

In my case, I probably got by longer than I should have because I have a severe case of "white coat syndrome." My dentist would always be concerned about my pressure, but when I'd go to another doctor it was OK. I decided that was probably because my parents sent us to a dentist for a while who didn't believe in Novocain! As children, we actually had cavities filled with no pain killer! No wonder my pressure went up in a dentist's office. Then I spent several periods of time living in my wife's hospital room with her as she was treated, and finally died, of cancer. I had a lot more on my mind at the time, but several years later it dawned on me that I had been quietly avoiding any kind of medical facility or situation whatsoever.

For a couple years, I was able to explain this during check-ups. I would do a little meditation and when they'd check it again it would be lower. (Some studies suggest at least a third of the population has some degree of "white-coat syndrome"). But finally bio-feedback wasn't enough.

When you start monitoring your own blood pressure, you learn some interesting things. For one, it's not just one set of numbers. It varies a lot. You know when the most heart attacks happen? 9 a.m. Monday morning! That should tell you something about most of our jobs. The check-up when I was finally diagnosed with mild hypertension was 8:45 on a Monday morning. It actually declines during day. That was also during my last very stressful year of grad school.

I was also shocked to find that I rather liked the feeling when my pressure was elevated. I felt alert and ready to do something. I also told my examiner that the medical exam had become the most stressful event involving my flying and the only time in my almost 3000 hours in the air when I felt as anxious and worried as I did during the medical exam was the time I struggled through a Surveillance Approach in hard IFR with multiple partial instrument and equipment failures. The examiner pointed out that there are pilots who are happiest and most relaxed when flying, but are not allowed to fly because they take a tranquilizer or anti-anxiety agent for the other stresses in their lives.

Anyway, I caught it in time and as I exercise and lose weight I can expect to get off the mild medication soon. So my 2nd class medical was renewed just in time for me to rent a friend's Archer and fly Dianne to Louisville, KY. (It was her turn to read an academic paper at a conference).

I also had to get new glasses to get the second class plus my flight instructor certificate was up for renewal, all at the same time. In fact, it was the first time I had to renew my CFI. When I got my Instrument Instructor, that gave me another two years and then my MEI renewed it again. If I had been ready for my gyroplane instructor checkride that could have been a renewal, but I wasn't ready so I took a renewal course in Kansas City. It was a good experience, both reviewing the material and meeting other instructors in the area.

And I finally got a question answered. Occasionally I would hear someone talk about a "Gold Seal" instructor, but no one seemed to know exactly what that meant. They had the advisory circular at the course so now I know. A "Gold Seal" instructor also has an Advanced or Instrument Ground Instructor rating and has recommended ten students for checkrides in the past 24 months, with at least eight passing the first time.

I realized my best chance was a year or so ago, when I could have still counted the large number of students I had when I was teaching full-time. I may never again be close just teaching part-time. However, I have seven within the last two years and by luck the three students I have worked with over the last year are getting close to check rides. If I can get them finished by the end of January, I just might make it. So after all my renewals I discovered a new aviation goal for the near-term. Winter seems to be here, but my two Private students are doing checkride prep and then I have two instrument students who are easier to fly with in the winter, so I have high hopes.

Earl


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