Friday, 27 January 2012

Practice may not make you Perfect but you sure get better at it

I was once invited to play a game of Golf, in fact my first, when I think about also my last. So we are ready to tee off, I remember listening to every word of my partners, heart pounding, watching, waiting, thinking this could be embarrassing. Wisdom said I should go last, I took note of their every movement, imagining melding into their posture, raised eyebrow, twitch of the forfinger, then it was my turn. Feet apart, balanced, poised, tense like a coiled spring, so with eye on the ball, I untwisted and the swing... the swing, surely it would have been the envy of any professional. The ball was hit to perfection,  it could only be described as a beautiful shot, probably still talked about  in Golf Clubs throughout  the British Isles... well may of been, had it been repeated it sadly never was, not even near. Politely it was best described as a fluke, from then on I did not have a clue, though previous time spent crazy putting at Beau Sejour came into its own when eventually any ball condescended to join me on the green.  Despite the obvious excellent start, it was a game that just did not catch my imagination and I have  never played or been invited again. 

As a pilot one thing I am quite good at is landings, in fact I have done about 10, 000, according to my log books into several hundred airstrips.  As it happens I have a similar number of take-offs, some would say based on 'alleged' bounces I have substantially more of the former than the latter! However the only  reasons I am good at landing is practice, also is there is a standard of landing and I practice to achieve that standard, anything less really is a poor show. The most demanding landings are to be had on water, certainly less forgiving if you get them wrong  but on land or river it is fun, challenging and at times quite exciting. 

This week I have been in Johanesburg in South Africa doing an Instrument flying course on the Cessna 208 Caravan. I have an Instrument rating already but  I do not use it for the type of bush flying I have been doing this last 20 years - as of July 2012. It is almost a year since I have practiced instrument flying seriously, as a result I would describe myself as a qualified Instrument pilot but not a proficient one and there is a difference. I have got out of practice and when out of practice you can think yourself competant until like a club rower who finds he has to go against Steve Redgrave you suddenly realise you are well and truly out of your depth. 
One way of practicing instrument flying and emergencies, is using a simulator, I am sitting happily in this machine in the picture above. The beauty of it is you can repeat an exercise, almost instantly with a tap of a computer key. Whilst I hated it for the first few days, as it had a mind of it's own and it did not feel at all like the real thing.  By day three when unexpectedly we simulated flying into a flock of birds, the engine stopped with a mighty bang and the glass on my windscreen fractured and the engine went quiet it seemed pretty real as I glided for an emergency landing. I was getting the hang of it, things practiced before kicked in and I landed the 'aircraft' safely.
So now as I look back over the first week it was interesting seeing how practice had made such a difference, next week flying is in the real aircraft - we will skip flying into a flock of birds! I can say I have loved the training, as things I should have known but had perhaps forgotten have been repeated, checked and repeated, the standard is being raised and experience is starting to come back into play. This course will cost MAF thousands of pounds, yet it is an essential part of training if I am to work in an Instrument programme where there is a shortage of pilots. Plus as pilots we are required to practice, that is a fact. The course is hard, long hrs, fun, challenging and exciting. 
My wife and I are doing a Kingdom Theology course with New Wine Training Partnership and it is brilliant. I am learning new ideas, challenging old ones, finding the Old testament is a remarkable book as is the New in more ways than I had thought, finding things I should have known before, remembering great truths. Plus there is a real practical side to this Theology  - is there any point in Theology that has no practical application? The work/study is hard, long hrs, fun, challenging and yet exciting.
I love going to the gym and kayaking, funny really that we put all our effort and at times funds into training, practicing, and becoming good at our work, our hobby, our sport perhaps all three even when it is hard, involves long hrs, yet we do it because we love the fun, challenge and excitement.
You know it is the same with being a disciple of Jesus to be any good at it* involves practice. You need to practice prayer, you need to practice reading the Bible, you need to practice loving people, you need to practice being generous, you need to practice being a servant, being a disciple, being different and wholehearted. It is hard, long hrs, fun, challenging and exciting. It's a mans calling...**
Christopher Bergland wrote recently in The Athlete's way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss pub in Oct 2011 that essentially  'practice, practice, practice anything that you want to become world-class at.' 

Jim Le Huray our intrepid Bush Pilot joined me in the simulator. Check out Jim's films on youtube bigglesgsy

* Wholehearted - think about Caleb in Joshua 14:10-11
* *  Ladies, girls boys it is also a calling for you 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Tea time on the 'lawn', top notch airbourne refreshment! ?

One of the great mysteries about the English is that when all hell is breaking loose around them, there is always time enough for a cup of tea, warmed pot - Darjeeling not tea bags, by no means is it only the British, who use tea for a restorative break but they do like to do it with style. You can see in MAF, tea is an essential part of keeping the operation going and one cup of tea rapidly evolves into a tea party. Reminds me of the amusing quote from the American film Mary Poppins  "As the ship lay anchored in Boston Harbor, a party of the colonists dressed as red Indians boarded the vessel, behaved very rudely, and threw all the tea overboard. This made the tea unsuitable for drinking. Even for Americans." Actually folk from the US do do great cold tea. 
Tea really does do something for you. Alas here I am in South Africa and rather a fan of Rooibos, and I have not had a cup of tea in 3 days as there is none left in the guest house, I have found hot water an adequate 2nd but then again perhaps not as I read this delightful quote from a PG Woodhouse book, which Trish and I are reading aloud together. "'Morning, Jeeves," I said. "Good morning, sir," said Jeeves he put the good old cup of tea softly on the table by my bed, and I took a refreshing sip. Just right, as usual. Not too hot, not too sweet, not too weak, not too strong, not too much milk, and not a drop spilled in the saucer. A most amazing cove, Jeeves. So dashed competent in every respect. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I mean to say, take just one small instance. Every other valet I've ever had used to barge into my room in the morning while I was still asleep, causing much misery; but Jeeves seems to know when 
I'm awake by a sort of telepathy. He always floats in with  the cup exactly two minutes after I come to life. Makes a deuce of a lot of difference to a fellow's day."

Often wonder who had the most need for restorative cups of tea in the Bible. Think it would have to be Paul .... think this inspiring paragraph would have generated the need for more than a few cups of soothing tea. 2 Corinthians 11:25-29 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,1 in cold and exposure.  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  

Time for a tea break and dig into 2 Corinthians in the New Testament ... 

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Day in Africa - Jim Le Huray Bush Pilot - Stars in his 2nd Film

There is nothing, absolutly nothing quite like the whine of a PT-6 turbine coming to life, propellor spooling up half a step behind the rising crescendo, a whiff of fuel & exhaust carried through the vents, a couple of Ugandan Cranes pause their courtship as the howl distracts them but for a moment. Jim's eyes are fixed on engine instruments, poised to disable the start-up if all is not well but alls well, tthe £250,000 'lump of engine' declares to all and sundry that it is living, the 'bird' is alive, transforming a huge aluminium can into a remarkable life saving tool, ready to 'Fly for Life.' Jim seems content with the array of equipment before us, his well practiced hands run through the checks confirming for him at least that all is at 'peace' with the world.

I am indeed fortunate to be able to join Jim again as he heads up to NE Uganda to Karamoja , East Africa. Golly those hills are amazing, we show 9,500ft on our altimeter yet the rocks are just outside the windows! As we glide past to the waiting airstrip.

Jim has been flying in Uganda and working alongside the MAF Congo programe as well as flying into South Sudan since he arrived last year in 2011. 'Most of the pilots, engineers and programme managers seem to be married!' I remarked, Jim  laughed, throwing is head back as he did so, 'I guess I don't keep my feet long enough on the ground to get caught!'  Jim is one of MAF's newest pilots and from the Island of Guernsey (land of the Guernsey Cow and the book Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Society). 

He is a very popular pilot not least because of his delightful grin  and relaxed manner but Dave our Operations Manager (who is from MAF US) reckons it could be something to do with his lightweight,as he remarks 'there is room for another 80kg on any flight that Jim skippers!' 
He has a particular heart working with young people, always ready to tell them of the exciting challenge of being a Jesus follower, perhaps also because he is altitudinaly challenged himself! 

He was very eager to do a bit of filming with me, the results of which you can see below or on bigglesgsy. Jim's first film was 4m so this one is twice as long and sorry if you recognise a couple of clips! Once again the similarity in our voices is surprising.

I think you will enjoy this 'Day in Africa.'  ... do contact me on if you would like to know more.