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Faculty Grant Program Funds Flying Lessons for Anna Marie Smith

Sep 3, 2021 11:08:34 AM

IMG_0357I had the honor of receiving funds from the Waring School faculty grant program to continue my flying lessons. Therefore, I’d like to share a bit about the role that flying plays in my life. For me, the real thrill of flying is landing the plane. Taking off and flying around is fairly straightforward. Looking down on familiar landscapes offers a new perspective on terrain that I know well. Directing this craft is like driving a car, a tractor, a bike, a boat. And, I’ve always enjoyed driving. I’ll happily get in my car and drive 12 hours to my grandmother’s house in OH. The joyful journey consistently offers news experiences. When I first started flying (controlling the aircraft from the pilot’s seat myself), it was a bit scary. I’ve been flying since I was little, but that was different. Both of my parents had their private pilot certifications at one point. My uncle flew, my cousins too. Therefore, my brother and I used to attend airshows and ride co-pilot with someone fairly often. I’ve always thought of the desire to be up in the clouds to be in my blood. That, however, doesn’t mean this study has been easy for me. Once I learned the capabilities of a plane, I slowly pushed myself to bank more steeply in turns and fine-tune my heading and altitude. What has always challenged me is the landings. 
I started my lessons back in 2008. Then, I took a long pause and restarted in 2019. This time, I was really determined to conquer those landings! So, I started taking lessons more consistently. As with most studies, practice and repetition help. I tend to work methodically and slowly. One of the tricky parts of the landing for me is simply the fact that I only get to do it once during a lesson. That is, unless I am specifically practicing landings, but, even then, after about 4 landings, my brain tells me that’s enough for today. I’ll do my best to explain what the landing requires. The set up, ok, great, I’ve communicated with the control tower, they’ve given me permission to land. That’s the easy part. Now, I’m downwind (parallel to the runway, but headed away from it), carefully checking behind me to turn at the moment when the runway isn’t too far away, but also isn’t too close. I’m lowering my flaps in stages to slow down my craft; I’m starting to descend, but not too quickly, because I don’t want to be too low on base (perpendicular to the runway) before I turn final (facing the runway). There’s nothing magical about it and yet it appears (and feels!) magical! There’s a visual picture that pilots talk about. Basically, it refers to what one desires seeing during an ideal approach. The physical items in your visual picture “grow” as you approach the earth. I don’t actually think a “perfect” landing exists. I have learned that every landing is different and the trick is to adjust one’s craft to meet imperfect conditions with skill to safely land. Sound familiar? For a sailboat, the wind is never too weak or too strong; one simply needs to adjust one’s sails. Interesting. It’s a great metaphor for life, and it’s definitely how I like to tackle my day to day. All of those tiny adjustments that allow one to safely bring this craft back to the ground need to happen rather quickly. However, during my best landings, time slows down. It seems like I have an eternity to think through the steps and adjust. I don’t really have an eternity, but the perception of eternity definitely keeps me calm. I suppose it’s what some musicians, actors or sports players refer to as being “in the zone.” Everything comes together that needs to come together. At this point in my lessons, I can pretty consistently land the plane well. Having said that, I still experience a bumpy reconnection with the earth every once in awhile. Then, it’s the response to that bumpy landing that matters. Next time around, I jump right back in the pilot’s seat and tackle it again. I know that I can land the plane. This is why I need adventure. Flying, sailing, driving, traveling, working on my car, playing the piano—these activities present me with challenges. Sure, the challenges can fatigue me, but they also invigorate me! I crave them! I suppose it’s the problem solving thrill. Even if I don’t solve the problem today, I know that I can solve it! I can do it! I can land the plane! I just need a bit of time.

Created in 2018 entirely by Waring’s parent community to show their deepest gratitude for Waring’s teachers and staff, the Faculty Grant Program provides funding for Waring employees to pursue enriching experiences beyond the walls of campus. The Faculty Grant Program affords faculty and staff the opportunity to think outside the box, pursuing passions for subjects that they might not otherwise be able to access. In return, they will then bring that experiential knowledge back into the classroom to inform and enrich their students’ learning. 

Anna Marie Smith
Written by Anna Marie Smith