Ground School: Week 1

I’m taking a private pilot ground school class with a friend from work, so that should give me something to write about every week. Today is my first post, but hopefully not my last.

Before we could attend class, first we had to drive there. With all of the rain we’ve been getting, several roads were closed. Normally to get to Santa Monica, we’d just zoom along the Pacific Coast Highway, hop on I-10, and drop onto surface streets. On a normal day, I’d guess it would take about 25 min.

Today was not a normal day. PCH was closed between our office and Santa Monica, so we had to drive around. Unfortunately, Malibu Canyon was also closed, so we had to drive west up PCH to Kanan-Dume. Kanan was backed up for miles because the 101 was slowed to a crawl, and nobody could get on the freeway. We know a bit of a shortcut through the hills, so we exited at Troutdale and took that over to Mulholland. We took Mulholland to Las Virgenes, and it wasn’t until we got to the 101 that we realized how bad it was. To avoid the mess, we took surface streets all of the way east to Topanga Canyon.

Our other option was to get on 101, and take that down to the 405 south. We could see that the freeway was just inching along and what couldn’t be more than 10 mph. Even with all of the added traffic from people avoiding the freeways, it seemed like Topanga couldn’t be worse. We were doing fine. We made it almost all of the way back down to PCH before we saw the break lights. We’d heard that there was a lane closed on Topanga, and they were alternating the traffic between north bound and south. What we didn’t expect is that the south bound would be closed for nearly half an hour at a time. We actually sat there for at least 20 min. (I didn’t look at the clock when we stopped, so it could have been more like 30.) I was starting to wonder if they were ever going to let us go, or if they were going to start turning people around. Eventually they opened up the road and within a few minutes we were back on PCH. It turns out that half of the road through Topanga Canyon is washed out. It’s going to take some time for them to get that fixed.

The drive from Topanga to Santa Monica Airport was pleasant. What should have taken less than half an hour ended up taking more than two hours. Luckily we had planned for it, so we arrived in time for class. I really hope they get PCH opened again. I don’t want to have to repeat that trek next week.

Before class really got started, we had a little time to walk around the building and get something to eat. It’s amazing how many memories of college were brought back to the surface. Back when I went to Cal Poly Pomona, I used to buy coffee and cookies out of the vending machines. I swear, they have the exact same vending machines at the airport. It was nice to be able to have a quick drink and a bite to eat before sitting down. I’m thinking about making it a habit, at least the coffee. The classroom also brought me back in time. I don’t know how long it’s been since I sat in a chair with a desk attached, but somehow it felt normal. The instructor wheeled in a big TV on a cart before class started. The only thing different from this cart, and the ones we had in high school and college is that this one also came with a DVD player. Of course, the added piece of equipment added one more remote. For some reason, they never label those things, and teachers are always trying to figure out what controls what. Today was no different.

The class itself was a little less interesting, but a lot more fun than the drive there. We started out by watching a video that covered the basics of the parts of an airplane and what makes it fly. Most if it I already knew from flight simulators, but it was a good little refresher. The instructor spent another two hours or so talking about the history of flying, and of the airport. Several people asked questions which was cool, and we all introduced ourselves.

I need to buy the text book and read chapter one by next week. I should probably order it tonight, but I’m going to go to bed instead. It’ll probably get here in time if I order it tomorrow.