Okay, so it was 7:30 in the morning, and I was so nervous and excited I couldn’t eat, or sleep for the previous two days. I was at the school waiting for my Flight Examiner. It was the day of my Airplane Single Engine Land Checkride. The day I would learn if I truly had what it took to be a pilot. I was beyond nervous. The culmination of a lifelong dream, hung in the balance.
My Examiner arrived, and began the process of reviewing all my paperwork, the logbook, my application, my medical certificate and photo I.D. Then he told not to worry, but today was also his annual check, and that we would be joined shortly by an FAA Examiner. The examiner would be grading him, and it had nothing to do with me. I was think, “Okay, yeah. Right. It had everything to do with me. He was being graded on how he graded me.”
Anyway, about five minutes later TWO FAA Examiners show up, and sit on either side of me. I was bracketed! The FAA Examiners, began reviewing my paperwork as well. I was told to take out my PTS (Practical Test Standards) and follow along with the questioning.
The first thing we went over was my cross-country planning. I planned a trip to Kaua`i. Everything was going great, up until the main leg of the trip where I was off by TEN DEGREES!! I was shocked! I couldn’t believe I had missed that. The FAA Examiners shifted, frowned and leaned forward to look.
Next, I was told we were going to run though Aerodynamic forces, Systems, Airspace and Medical factors. We were going to do this without looking at any notes! No looking things up. Okay, so I thought that would be good. Easy. Things were going really well. Then next thing I know I’m answering questions on the Suction system and what instruments are operated by it. One of the FAA Examiners snags my PTS, and starts flipping through it, reading all my handwritten notes. Meanwhile, I can only think of two, Attitude, and Heading. I forget to say the Turn Coordinator is a Vacuum instrument. I can not for the life of me, think of the Turn Coordinator. The FAA instructors shifted and flipped through my POH (Pilot Operating Handbook).
Finally we get to Airspace. Again, things are going well. I identified all the airspaces, the requirements for plane and pilot to enter, and then… things went bad again. I didn’t know there were two floors of Class Echo airspace in the Hawaiian Islands. I only knew of one. The FAA Examiners, were leaning over my sectional pointing at airports with Echo Airspace at the surface and 700′. I knew those. They pointed at the Victor Highways and asked what airspace they were. I said Echo, and all three of the instructors looked at me like I was dumb. I tried to flip to the legend, and a hand was placed on the Sectional. The FAA Examiner says “Do you know for a fact?” Unfortunately, I was already shaken, and responded flimsy, “I do believe so.” He sat back and looked at me dumb. My Examiner gave him a funny look.
To make a very long story short, we completed the entire exam and then my Examiner said he could not pass me. I had failed the Oral Exam. I was devastated. My heart sank. I felt sick. I couldn’t believe I had failed it. I was shocked. He said I need to review the Airspace and my Navigation again. The FAA Examiners seemed overly jovial and started talking about fishing in Alaska. I’m fighting tears as I wait for the pink slip that would confirm I FAILED in my dream.
The Examiner then tells me, that I can retest the following day at the same time on the two areas I missed, Navigation and Airspace. I was still devastated but took it anyway. I texted Stephen that I had failed. I told my instructor I had failed. Then I went immediately into redoing my Cross Country Planning, and jammed on the Airspace. I got confirmation from my instructor that I could meet with him later that day to review. I reserve a plane for the following days checkride, and glue myself to my sectional. Every now and again, my devastation would hit and I’d sit in shock. I didn’t sleep well that night.
The next day, at 7:00 am I was so positive I was ready to answer the questions I missed correctly that I was impatient to begin. I completed my cross country flight plan to Kaua`i with current weather. At 7:30 my Examiner shows up, this time alone. What a relief! We go into his office and he again goes over my paperwork. I wait patiently. Then finally he says, “Are you ready?” “Yes, I am!”
This time everything went exactly as it was supposed to. I answered with confidence. I didn’t stutter on my Airspace. I nailed the Cross Country planning and even added the correct amount of fuel for in flight climbs to altitude. I was on cloud nine. And then he said. “Okay, I’ll meet you at the plane.” Woohoo!!!! I passed the Oral! I was too excited. I practically ran to the hangar to get my headset and the plane’s log book. I knew I could dazzle him with my flight.
I started my preflight walkaround. The Delta Dog (N5207D) looked beautiful. I talked her and rubbed off stray oil spots the previous pilot must have left. My examiner stood in the hangar watching my every move. He didn’t want to stand in the hot sun, and for that I was grateful. I completed my check, and signaled him that it was time to board.
Once inside, I nailed my Preflight briefing, and received a, “Very good.” I got my ATIS information, and taxied to the ramp to begin my Run-Up. Everything was beautiful. I received my clearance to depart Honolulu and Class Bravo airspace, then was cleared by Ground to taxi to runway Four Right at Foxtrot. I taxied straight down the line, keeping my ailerons in the wind. I was talking the whole time about what I was doing, and why. Then I switched to Tower, and was cleared to taxi into position and hold. While I was there, I continued to check my instruments, and suddenly saw four F15’s take off runway Eight Left, right in front of me. Amazing. A very good sign.
I was cleared to takeoff, and off we were. A perfect normal takeoff, straight down the runway, with ailerons into the wind until airborne. My instructor nodded. I completed my climb check and he nodded again. Woohoo. As we flew I pointed out emergency landing spots in the Class Bravo airspace if wasn’t able to make it back to Honolulu. As we exited the airspace, I contacted the tower at Wheeler Airfield and let them know I was transitioning to the North. Then my examiner had me put on the hood and track a radial. Not a problem. I tracked to the 320 radial quickly and maintained my heading on it. Then came the turns to heading under the hood, and the climbs to altitude. Perfect. Finally unusual attitudes. I took deep breaths and ran in my head what to do in each situation. As the plane tilted and climbed and descended and turned I kept my eyes closed tight and just felt the plane. Then he took his hands off and said, “You’re plane!” I took the controls and recovered both times perfectly from an unusually high and unusually low attitude. Hee hee.
Next, the hood came off, and I did two perfect steep turns with no loss of altitude. I was shocked. I had never done them that well before. Then he pulled my power and I did a perfect emergency landing approach, circling down to the field and changing my location when I saw power lines. Next we climbed back to 1500′ and proceeded from the North back to the South Practice Range after getting clearance from Wheeler to do so. And then the Examiner said “You fly very good.” I was beaming.
I entered the area and set up to do the S-Turn across a road. I did my clearing turns and pointed out a plane circling further to south that was not a factor. I began my maneuver and made the first turn perfectly, as I came back around on my final turn to the road the other plane was suddenly barreling down on me, head to head. Immediately I aborted the maneuver and kept clear of the Twin Engine Maniac.
Again, I cleared the area, called my position to Wheeler Tower and began my turn around a point. And about 320 degrees into my perfect circle at altitude, suddenly the twin-engine plane was zooming on my right side less than 500 feet from me. Again, I aborted the mission and kept clear. My examiner was beginning to get nervous. I knew I was clearing the area perfectly. So I headed toward Mililani town, and did a set of clearing turns again. The Twin plane was far to the north, not a factor. So I headed back to Kunia road and began my S -turn again. On the final leg back to the road, the twin comes barreling at me again, and I had to abort. My Examiner grabbed the yoke, and said, “Let me see.” He followed the plane and wrote down the tail number. Then he said, “You’re plane, let’s go to Kalaeloa.”
I was so bummed, because I was told if the examiner takes the controls from you, then you failed. I tried to brush it off, and continue the test. I came into Kalaeloa, for a normal landing. I was going to make a go around, and then realized I could make it. I landed perfectly and came to a stop. Then a perfect short field take off, and a slightly longer than tolerance short field landing. Then a beautiful soft field takeoff, and then the Examiner said, “Take a north departure.” I cleared out of Kalaeloa and back into Wheeler. I contacted the tower and told them I was back The tower acknowledged me. And then the Examiner said, “Let’s go back.” I was depressed. I knew I failed it because I didn’t get to complete my ground maneuvers.
I got my ATIS information, and was cleared into Bravo. I made a downwind for Runway Four left. The Examiner wanted a soft field landing. I came in and did the best soft field landing ever. And then I screwed it up. I hit the brakes! The Examiner started yelling at me to get off the brakes. I was very rattled. I continued to roll down the runway and slow the plane with very light braking maneuvers to simulate a soft surface. I cleaned up the plane and taxied off the runway in a nose high configuration keeping the ailerons into the wind. I taxied in depressed silence to the T-Hangers behind a UPS 767 on his way to runway Four Right.
I taxied into a parking position and completed my shutdown checklist. My examiner, sighed shook his head, opened the door, and then turned to me and said, “Congratulations! You are a Private Pilot!” I was in Heaven. I could have flown without the plane. He said I handled the radio like a pro, flew like I had been flying for years, and handled emergencies with calm and ease. I was ecstatic. He left the plane and told me to meet him at his office for my certificate. Woohoo!!!
I walked on air from the plane to his office, signed my certificate and then jumped for joy. I couldn’t believe it. I am still in shock. I am a LICENSED PRIVATE PILOT!!! A childhood dream come true. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m still excited. I am licensed to do something most people never even think of, and many who do, will never be able to do.
I can fly!