Thursday, July 4, 2013

Writing - Two Degrees Off Is A Miss

by Bert Carson

This is a small portion of the actual aviation chart that includes north Alabama.  The star, indicating Fort Payne, Alabama, has been added for clarity.

I completed the work for, took the exam, and earned my private pilot's license, at Isbell Field, Fort Payne, Alabama.

One of the final requirements to be performed before a student pilot can take his or her final check ride is the solo, three point, cross country flight.  The route selected by Waylon Lyons, the Fixed Base Operator at the time I finished my license requirements, was south from Fort Payne, to Auburn, Alabama (see chart).  From Auburn the cross country flight went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and then back to Fort Payne.

Waylon chose the route for a number of reasons.  Primary among them was, there are few visual checkpoints.  In order to successfully complete the flight, a student had to understand the principles of dead reckoning and have the discipline to set and hold a course.

I plotted my course, double checked the headings, ran my checklists, and took off for Auburn, Alabama.  Somewhere, early on, caught up in all the things I knew I had to do, I drifted off my course by two degrees.  I was half way to Auburn before I realized my error.  I quickly corrected and even threw in an extra degree to compensate.  No problem, I thought, how far off can I be?

An hour and thirty minutes later, I began to see indications that I was approaching Auburn, except, the airport that appeared on the left side of the airplane didn't match the chart of the Auburn airport that I had strategically placed on the passenger seat.  I looked at the chart and then the airport.  My head swung back and forth like I was watching a tennis match, and nothing changed.  It wasn't Auburn.  I looked to the west of Auburn (see chart) and noted there was nothing but barren wilderness waiting to devour me and the plane.  Then I looked east and saw Columbus, Georgia.  I flipped to the page for the Columbus airport, dialed in their frequency, and contacted the tower.

A helpful controller located me on his radar screen and gave me a new course heading for Auburn.  Before he ended the call, he added, "Now, Captain, you keep your eyes on that compass, you hear?"  I clicked the mic button twice to let him know that I did hear, as I turned on the new heading.

There was a time when writing a book, finding an agent or publisher, and waiting for it to arrive in the book stores was basically a one stop, solo, cross country flight.  Those days are over, at least for the indie writer.  There are many stops on our cross country flight, not even considering all the side trip options.  We, the writers, are responsible for (1) writing (2) editing (3) proofing (4) cover design (5) formatting and (6) marketing.  A lot of those thing can be contracted out, but they remain our responsibility.

There is one thing that has not and will not change - If we get as little as two degrees off, anywhere in the execution of our plan for the successful writing and publication of our book, not only will we miss our next check-point, we will never arrive at our destination.