Friday, May 31, 2019

A Texas surprise

Another week of training but a different kind of training, this time in Dallas. For the first time in nearly 4 decades I got instruction on instructing. Though it started out with me thinking that this was going to be four days of my life I was never going to get back, it turned out to be time well spent. It wasn’t so much new info as it was formalizing things learned long ago and practiced for years. What was new was learning to be not just a fight instructor, but a representative for an international organization. Different rules apply when the student is also the customer and the customer is always right.

There were 8 in the class from 4 different Training centers. Five of the eight were straight up flight instructors, including one who teaches on one of the world’s most sophisticated helicopters. She had spent a good part of her career flying off oil platforms all over the world, did a stint with the Maryland State police, and is now joining FSI. She had some pretty good stories and was an absolute joy to work with. 

Another in the class teaches maintenance techs, one dispatchers, and the eighth ocean crossing procedures. On day one the class instructor had us count; there was roughly 235 years of flight experience in the room: airline, military, corporate, crop dusting, acrobatics, chopper, glider, up high, down low, going fast, going slow…everything but balloons and astronauts. I am still blown away by the depth of field employed by the company.  But it wasn’t all good.

Word has it ours was the third to the last group who will benefit from this class. The training we received is being replaced by something more cost effective but will certainly be of less quality. I say that for two reasons. The first is that our instructor was a uniquely qualified person with decades of experience instructing flight instructors. The second is that he is going to be replaced, to a large degree, by e-learning. For some reason the human family has decided that actually interacting with other human beings is of no intrinsic value. It is claimed that listening to a recording of a voice, or the disembodied voice of a person standing in a room hundreds of miles away, is nearly as good as being in a classroom. And, in today’s world, nearly as good is good enough, particularly if it allows those who already have a pocket full of coins to pocket a few more.

And yes, I realize that observation is being made by someone who prefers that interactions with his fellow human be taken in small doses. A classroom with 8 or 10 or a Sim / GFS with 2 is perfect, and likely one of the reasons I am enjoying this job as much as I am.

I was awarded another surprise on this visit, the making of a new friend. Mark is a hard core Texican, born and bred. He lives on 25 acres of hallowed Texas soil, owns enough weapons to arm his own little militia, and usually has more than one either on his body or within close reach. In fact I pretty sure there were at least 3 in the car with us, but he is so comfortable with the whole idea that he didn’t make an issue of, or boast about, his guns. Which made me somewhat comfortable with the whole idea as well. He listens to right-wing radio and loves him some Donald Trump and a pickup truck, though we did ride around in his Japanese 4 door. 

He sat next to me in class and, nearly instantly, we recognized a kindred spirit. We enjoyed two dinners together and spent most of the break time exchanging rogue smiles and skeptical glances over some of the things being said in the class. In spite of that connection I think, at first, he was also puzzled by and curious about someone who, though aware of what is going on in the world around, doesn’t really pay much attention. The fact that I can both; a) know something is vitally important but, b) dismiss it anyway because I know I can’t do anything about it, seemed kind of new to him. But I think he likes the idea. Anyway, I don’t make new friends that often, and have to admit to being a bit surprised that this trip to Texas offered me a chance to do just that. 

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