'Patience and drive': Thomas Newman

October 11, 2012

By the time most student pilots have logged about 30 hours of flight time, they know something about aerodynamic concepts such as density altitude. They have also been made aware of the need to check carefully for such activity in their airspace such as temporary flight restrictions (TFRs).

For Tom Newman, calculating density altitude and checking on TFRs has been part of the preflight routine every time since he returned to training after a 13-year absence.

Not just for practice.

The density altitude chore, required by flight instructor Earl Allen, makes total sense when you consider that the men fly from Journeys Aviation at Colorado’s Boulder Municipal Airport, elevation 5,288 feet msl.

As for the TFRs, they have been popping up in Colorado because the state is viewed as a “swing state” during the fall election campaign, Newman said.

Indeed, he said in an interview, having to reschedule a training flight has been more likely because of a TFR than because of the weather, which has been great in the area lately. The upside of the TFR issue is that he has “developed the good habit” of checking carefully for airspace restrictions that tend to appear with little notice.

“You just never know,” he said.

For Newman, who started flight training in 1999 in a Cessna 172 and is now learning in a Diamond DA40, life experience makes it easier to be philosophical about small delays.

A number of “significant obstacles” have confronted him over the years, both in and out of flying. Aviation had to wait while, as a member of the Colorado Army National Guard, he worked to complete an interrupted education, earning a GED, and then college and graduate degrees.

Newman had pondered an airline career, but could not make the numbers work. Switching to information technology, he worked for an airline in a ground support role, and now is employed by Lockheed Martin, working on space programs. He is also a captain in the Air Force Reserves, ever grateful for “the opportunities that my country has afforded me.”

Priorities changed, but Newman never stopped thinking about learning to fly. Now the goal may be within his grasp as he works to earn a private pilot certificate this fall in fulfillment of what he describes as “my oldest ambition.”

Best of all, he said, is that the project has his wife’s “unending support.”

While there’s no guarantee that the TFRs will cooperate, other things are also going Newman’s way. His instructor’s schedule and aircraft availability have been a big plus, and so far the weather has also been playing ball.

“That’s really helped keep me progressing,” he said.

Also helpful has been his instructor’s teaching style that has helped Newman develop confidence.

“I appreciate having an instructor that actually lets me learn,” he said, expressing gratitude for his teacher’s style of explaining what Newman might be doing wrong, rather than simply taking over. (Newman also wondered aloud, as do many students with admiration for an instructor’s abilities, how Allen manages to exercise such restraint during his student’s occasional struggles to master the skills.)

If delays and struggles have marked the past, one source of them should be less of a factor now that Newman has been named the winner of the Jimmie Allen Flying Club Scholarship, which he planned to travel to Palm Springs, Calif., to accept during AOPA Aviation Summit. The AOPA Flight Training Scholarship program awards $5,000 to a student pilot pursuing an FAA sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. Scholarship recipients were chosen on merit, ability to set goals, and a demonstrated commitment to flight training.

That should let him focus a little more clearly on tackling those landings in the DA40, which he finds demanding from an airspeed management point of view compared to those he made in the Cessna 172.

There was a silver lining in that difference, too. It taught him how to recover from the (occasional) rugged landing, and it drove home the idea that, if there is any doubt about the success of a landing, yes, go around.

Through it all, “patience and drive” have kept him moving forward and brought the goal of a pilot certificate within reach, Newman said.

Just as important has been the support of those around him.

“You can’t be successful in life on your own,” he said. “There always has to be someone there to help you.”