Having not had much sleep, I woke up as early as I could, got ready and my Dad took me to Midwest, arriving at 9:15am.
My examiner, Van Wormer was due to arrive at 10am but he arrived soon after me at 9:30. I realised quickly that the destinations which Van chose for me to plan the check ride flight for were carefully chosen as when getting my weather and information briefing, it took half an hour on the phone because of so many taxi way closures and notices on the airports he wanted me to plan to land at!
Nevertheless, Van sat with me whilst I did my flight planning – I wanted to have it all done by the time he arrived but he knew the briefing was going to be long so he was very relaxed with me.
So I finished the flight plan and then the oral part of the exam began. I studied quiet hard for that part of the exam, going through everything in the syllabus with Brandon which took about 4 hours the previous day. Van was very relaxed about it and it was pretty easy and even when I wasn’t sure I openly said I don’t know but made an educated guess and every time I was right! He would perhaps elaborate and build a bigger picture of the theory he was asking about but I had a grasp of everything that was asked.
Van is a Boeing 757 test pilot. He has a several of his own aircraft, including gyrocopters and gliders. He has his own private runway at his house, so not only is he extremely experienced, but he is living the dream! His daughter is an airline pilot too, so aviation runs in his family. My check ride was the first time that anyone from Career Pilot School was using Van as an examiner and so I was the first student of CPS to receive an exam from him. We usually have our examinations from Mike Garrison but he went to Mongolia so we were all quite nervous using a new examiner!
Moving on, I preflighted the aircraft, talking through every check. Van had no questions and was happy with my checks.
We set off for the cross country.
When I was given the winds aloft from the weather brief, they were very strong. So throughout my flight plan the appropriate calculations for which heading to fly on were calculated. Unfortunately, we left earlier and it was almost completely still, so all my calculations were “wrong”. This means that instantly, I was going the wrong way and even though I knew I wasn’t flying on the right heading and I corrected as much as I could, I had gone really gone off course. I made my way back on course and during this, Van asked me to manually calculate my ground speed. Unfortunately, because I was off course, that meant that I wasn’t near any of the checkpoints which I had made. Additionally, because I was so focused on flying, I wasn’t timing my legs, so my timing was off too, which is another thing needed to calculate ground speed (essentially speed = distance/time). So whilst flying, I had to start drawing new checkpoints and figure out a new strategy for working out my ground speed. It took me quite a while and I was a little worried that I may be failed for this. But when I eventually got it, I was 1kt off (it’s shown on the gps – Van just turned it off whilst I was calculating it). So I think he was impressed by my calculations that he let me off for taking a while to calculate it.
Next, I was asked to tune into a local VOR and after I did that, I was asked some question on it regarding navigation and how I could use VOR with the DME to find my way if I got lost.
We moved on to unusual attitudes and Van was extremely abrupt with the aircraft so it was a tad scary having to recover from a spiralling dive, but I did good!
We did slow flight but without the flaps which was interesting because I have never done that before. But it’s essentially the same thing as with flaps but just a tad faster. Slow flight is where you fly the aircraft at the safest slowest speed just before stall. With the flaps, you can fly slower because you’re generating more lift, so with the flaps up, the minimum speed achievable is higher.
After being examined on steep turns which were perfect, I flew for a while under the hood. It was quite a while actually, not that it was a problem since this is one of my strongest abilities because of the hours I’ve spent on home flight simulators, however I knew why I was made to go under the hood for such a long time – so Van could take me into the middle of no where so I didn’t have a clue where we were!
Then came all the emergencies. So Van brought the engine back to a low rpm – not fully idle, just to a low rpm, to simulate a scenario where the engine is spluttering and struggling to run smoothly. After showing Van what I would do to troubleshoot that, we simulated a full engine failure. Both the emergencies went well. For the full engine failure, Van took us into the middle of nowhere in a forest so I would find it very difficult to find a place to land (ie. the place I’d choose to land for the emergency), but I still managed to find a field and lined up really well for it – he was like WHAT!!!!
So after that, he asked me to take us back to Midwest National. So by this time, I had about 10/15 minutes of under the hood time, unusual attitudes, steep turns, slow flight and emergencies. So I had absolutely no idea where we were and I was only a couple of hundred feet above the ground so I couldn’t really see that far into the distance either. No GPS either – Van turned it off!
Nevertheless, as I climbed and circled, I could see Kansas City downtown in the distance and the Sibley Stack too and I so I knew which direction to head in. He said good that’s what he wanted to hear – that sense of direction then figure out the details after.
Using VOR and DME, I worked out exactly where I was and headed back for Midwest.
We did a few landings – normal, soft, short and then an emergency landing. We also did a go around, which I was expecting because Brandon asked me to do one the previous day to make sure I knew what I was doing.
For the emergency landing, because there was an aircraft in front of us, unfortunately, I had to extend my downwind leg and so I was further away from the runway that Van expected. Once I got to a short final, I told Van that I knew we weren’t going to make the runway. And he said okay, I trust you would have landed safely on the grass just before the runway but you can apply power so we can land on the runway just now.
All the other landings went well, landing on the centre line at the right speed and generally soon after the threshold.
After the emergency landing, we went around once more for one last normal landing. After I landed and was taxing off the runway, Van said, “All right! We’ll do your paper work quickly and then you can take your dad out for a flight!”
YAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!! This is how I was given the great news!!!
So after we parked up, we sat in the aircraft for 15-20 minutes and Van gave me some advice on the check ride, kind of like a debrief of the check ride. He has tens of thousands of hours of experience and so I took notes of everything the shared with me. Ultimately, I flew in a way such that Van felt safe, although as a 50 hour pilot, I would never be as experienced as Van would be if we were to encounter an emergency. Hence, it was important for me to listen to his advice and comments.
We did the paperwork which took a while. This was for Van to put in the online FAA database that he’s passed me and for my pilots licence to be sent to me.
Rahul was there to greet me and gave me a big hug to congratulate me. I didn’t even need to tell him that I passed – I just had a massive grin on my face!
I got a picture with Van. After that, Rahul and I headed for a quick lunch with my Dad who also gave me a hug and congratulated me as we met.
After lunch, we went back to Midwest together with my new shiny wings in a lovely box and waited for Brandon and Onon who were flying together in the 172.
We took photographs of Brandon putting the wings on me. Then, I took my Dad up for my first flight as a private pilot! I took him for two circuits – one of them my Dad filmed a video of and the other, he took still photographs. See below! I dropped my Dad off and then took Rahul up for two circuits since he hadn’t been flying for a while!
After landing, I filled the tanks up with fuel and taxied the Cherokee to our hanger. Since we wouldn’t be flying the aircraft, we were storing it away and it was important to have the tanks filled with fuel otherwise moisture can develop inside the tanks meaning that when fuel was put in, there would be water in there too. We took a final video (see below) and then headed back to the school.
We went out pretty soon after that to celebrate, although we didn’t stay out late because I had to get organised and pack, ready to leave back to Scotland the next day!
Didn’t half leave my flight training till the last minute, eh?!
My feelings? Relief I guess – but again like the solo, almost a non event…
I was feeling extremely nervous in the morning as anyone would but we all knew it’d take a lot for me to screw up since Brandon, Rachel and everyone around me was confident for me.
So I got packed but because I was so happy and relieved, I stayed up the whole night, watched a film and stayed on Skype and just chilled for my last night in the USA.
I got up at 7 and got ready for my flight. I was connecting through Philadelphia. On the flight there, I slept the whole way so the flight felt like 5 minutes, which was amazing. I was flying on a CRJ-200 which is the same aircraft that we have a simulator for, which was pretty cool!
When I got to Philadelphia, it took me an hour and a half to walk from one side of the airport to the other to the gate I needed to be at. I slept at the airport for a while, uncomfortable and cold as it was.
Nevertheless, I managed to pass the time and I hopped on my flight to Glasgow! I also sat beside someone friendly so I talked to them on the whole way home, which passed the time really quickly! It’s kinda funny looking back on the flight – I took out my mac and made them look at all my pictures and videos of my whole flight training experience hehe! …and before I knew it I was back in Glasgow!
Thus ending my American Adventure.
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