Friday, February 6, 2009
My first flight lesson as a student pilot was on May 8, 2008, almost exactly nine months ago.
Today, I took the checkride, which was a 4 hour test of my knowledge and flying skills that I've accumulated over the last nine months.
The first two hours was slated for the oral exam portion of the test. The examiner, Marsha, quizzed me on weather, airman privileges, airspace, and more. Except for a few really obscure things she threw at me for the heck of it, I did very well on this portion of the test.
Then I went to preflight the plane, but alas, it was not there! Some commercial student had taken it up to St. Cloud and was fueling it up when he called in. Knowing that he was at least 30-45 minutes away, I elected to take the solid but clunkier sister ship, 2240G. Marsha did not watch me preflight the airplane, which was sped things up a bit (seeing as I didn't have to explain everything I was doing). We started up the plane and she had me dive right into on my planned flight to Des Moines.
I hit my closely spaced and easily recognizable checkpoints. One thing I wasn't happy about was the insane windspeed at 2500 feet. Marsha told me to calculate my ground speed vs. airspeed. The first time I used my E6B flight computer to determine our groundspeed, I looked at her and told her I wasn't sure my answer was right. But it was...our groundspeed was 68 knots, or about 78mph. Our airspeed was 110 knots, so we were facing a 42 knot headwind.
After the first couple of waypoints, she had me divert to the airport I assumed she would choose. Unfortunately it was lousy with traffic. I made an over pass, and then had to circle before I could see the tiny windsock. After I overflew, I attempted a cloverleaf to 45 entry to downwind, but I started too close the airport. After I flew south a bit to get some space, I made a nice 45 to downwind and thought I was doing a nice pattern when she started acting a little nervous and saying "look how close we are to the ground!". I kind of looked at her and said, "uh, the altimeter says were at 700 feet" (plenty of altitude). She kind of backed down and said "oh yeah it does". I then made the only real mistake that came close to a bust...I made a hard soft-field landing. The reason was, it was very windy and gusty, and just getting the bird down was a chore. I know she gave me some credit for the windy conditions, plus, the landing wasn't bad, just firm and a little left of center.
She said I was still within the standards, but if I busted I could still continue (then reminded me I hadn't busted). I gritted my teeth and told myself "I am not failing this test".
She then had me perform a short field takeoff, and I cleared her imaginary obstacle by a large margin. She was happy with that, and told me to run the pattern for a short field landing. Turning downwind, we spotted a plane above and to our side, which appeared too low to be just passing through. We watched it as we made our pattern, and I extended my downwind a bit to give me some time to setup my landing. Just then, this guy, who was not on the radio, swooped inside our pattern and landed!
Marsha was NOT happy, and attempted to raise the guy on the radio, but he wasn't talking. She said "this isn't safe, let's depart the area". So we did, and moved onto maneuvers.
She had me do turns around a point, slow flight, instrument maneuvers (no unusual attitudes though), some stalls, and a simulated engine failure. I did all of these well within the standards, thankfully. Then she told me to dial up the Flying Cloud VOR and head home for a full stop landing.
But I knew one more test remained.
The short field landing. I was cleared for a straight in to runway 10L. Marsha said "The threshold is a 50 foot obstacle. Clear it and make a short field landing."
Ok, now, none of my CFIs ever had me practice this way. They always told me to pick a point and hit it, +200 / -0 feet tolerance. I honestly didn't know what point was my target, and maybe that was the intention. So I configured for a sink rate that would bring me over the threshold at about 100 feet, and then I flared hard and I THOUGHT I floated and landed way long, but the touchdown was a greaser. Marsha smiled and said "well that's a nice way to end a checkride!" I didn't argue with her.
I parked the plane and shut it down, and Marsha shook my hand and said "Congratulations, you're a pilot now!" I was exhausted but happy.
They typed up my temporary airmen certificate, and that, ladies and gentlemen, brings the first chapter of my flight training to a close.