19 June 2018

Emergency manoeuvres training with Jim Alsip, Master CFI, at Indiantown, Florida.

In this post I’d like to share with you my two days’ experience meeting Jim Alsip and taking his emergency manoeuvres training in Indiantown, Florida.

We visited Florida last January with my wife who was attending a business training seminar with Tony Robbins. In fact we have developed a kind of unwritten rule that whenever she goes to the US for business purposes I join her on the trip and while she’s attending her business matters I enrol on some kind of flight training. It’s a good opportunity to fly in a different environment and have some contact with a slightly different training approach.

Enjoying the Florida sun

In 2015 I used our trip to Arizona to do some flying with Chandler Air Service, while this year (2018) I met Jim in Indiantown. Actually I have known Jim before meeting him in person as I came across his Hangar Talk videos on YouTube. My first impression of Jim from the videos was of someone having deep understanding of flying as an art, someone who goes beyond technique to help understand flying on a more profound level. I wasn’t wrong in that, but more about this later. I also made small online research about Jim before deciding to follow his course and I could find information confirming his status as a respected aerobatics instructor actively engaged in promoting aviation safety.

Jim Alsip, Mastrer CFI and yours truly

Looking at Jim’s website www.dylanaviation.com I was able to compare which of the courses he offered best suited my needs and I decided to take the emergency manoeuvres training which promised to include such issues as: Advanced stall recovery, early spin recognition and spin recovery; Top rudder and zero G maneuvers to recover from unusual attitudes; The fabulous chandelle, wing over and forward slip; Maximum rate steep turns and engine out turn-a-rounds.

I arranged my arrival with Jim by e-mail for the morning of 17 January – a day before my 39th birthday. The morning of our meeting I arrived at Indiantown airport which turned out to be a small but charming grass strip dotted with a few hangars, somewhere in the Florida country side about one hour’s drive from West Palm beach where I stayed. Incidentally, I later learned that Jim – apart instructing aerobatics – is a farmer and although his father was a fighter pilot during WW2 he started his flying career when he was in his fifties. To me, Jim’s personality and his history have been quite intriguing, proving that airmanship is much more about deep understanding of the matter than simply about mastering technique (not to say that Jim’s technique isn’t spotless).

Indiantown airport, Florida – the oasis of peace
The airport office

Jim has his own little hangar where his Super Decathlon gracefully sits and a little corner where he will sit with you for the flight briefings and de-briefings; nothing upscale and fancy but it has its own appeal.

Jim’s hangar
Jim’s briefing corner and his Super Decathlon

In two days spent with Jim we performed five sorties of approximately 30-45 minutes each. We started with some really easy exercises intended to reconnect the pilot with the aircraft and understand some subtle nuances of using flight controls, and later we progressively moved to some advanced exercises including many aerobatic elements. The instruction provided by Jim is excellent and has enabled me to understand my skills and technique on a more profound level. The major breakthrough for me personally was the spin exercises. During the basic flight training you talk a lot about spins and about how to recover from them but you never actually practice the spins in reality – this creates an air of mystery and fear around them. It was a great experience to see how the aircraft behaves in a spin and how you can get out of it. The exercises with Jim helped me to demystify the subject and in fact at the end made me even enjoy the manoeuvre. Although very short, the course with Jim was very useful. It wasn’t long enough to really internalise all the skills and manoeuvres that we have been practicing but allowed me to better understand the principles of stick and rudder flying and left me with an appetite for venturing into aerobatics training in the future. I also left Jim’s hangar with his book XXXX, which neatly summarises his teachings and is a really handy reference in order to refresh the knowledge acquired during the course. Ideally, it would be best to be able to come back to Jim once a year to brush up and solidify the knowledge and skills he teaches…..I’d love to do that in the future.

Checkout Jim’s great book the Artistry of the Great Flyer!

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