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JerryG

My real life flight training continued... The End

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I have to start this post by saying I'm not religious. Not anti-religious, but I just wasn't brought up that way. My parents tried to get me to go to Sunday school, but as soon as they dropped us off, we made for the bushes, and then the playground.I think I do believe in Karma however. Last Tuesday, when I was supposed to take my checkride, the weather didn't cooperate. So I went to work as usual. As I left at about 4 pm, I was driving down the road, and saw a big plume of smoke. As I got closer, I saw an SUV with the front smashed in, and smoke pouring out of it. There were 5 or 6 cars on the side of the road. As I approached, I didn't see any police or ambulances. It didn't take long for me to realize this had just happened, and I noticed that the people in the cars were just sitting there kind of stunned. I pulled in front of them and as I drove by a woman motioned that she was dialing 911. I parked, hopped out, and ran up to the SUV. There was woman in it smoking a cigarette. I asked if she was OK, and she said yes, but was very stunned. I told her she needed to get out of the car, as it could be on fire, and there was gas all over the road. She said she couldn't get out, and tried to open the door, which had crumpled. I grabbed the edge of the door, and yanked it as hard as I could. The woman was able to slide off the seat and out of the car. Holding her arm, I brought her about 20 yards away onto the sidewalk. She needed to call her husband, so I gave her my phone. I asked what happened and she said she hit someone. I didn't see anyone else there. All of a sudden, this HUGE guy (6'6") comes running out from a parking lot with blood all over himself and yells "WHO THE F*** HIT ME?". He comes running up with his girlfriend crying and pulling his arm. He runs up to the woman and starts threatening her. I jumped in, and the guy turns and threatens to start to punch me! So his girlfriend pulls him away, and they start back down the road, with this guy just screaming obscenties at anyone within earshot. I decided to move my car, and as soon as I did, the police showed up, so I just drove away. A few woman from my office had witnessed it, and the next morning at work, they all told me I was a hero and declared it "Christian Holmes Day". I don't believe that for a second that I did anything heroic, I just did what needed to be done. But I definately think it maxed out my Karma reservoir.My probably-soon-to-be-ex-wife had told me she would take the girls Sunday night as a favor, but went drinking in Boston with her "friends", and forgot, so I had the girls. They were good and we all went to bed at 8, but the little one likes to get up around 6, so I didn't get quite the night's rest I would have liked, and I didn't get to do my cross-country flight plan.But the good news was that the weather could not have been better- I think this was Karma coming back to me. 50 miles reported flight visibility, and a few clouds scattered at 5000. I was nervous to do the cross-country flight plan since it was a long one (150 miles via pilotage). It took me from 12 until 1 to do the waypoints, and then I had to do the weather, heading corrections, performance, etc- this made me start to panic a little- It's not hard, but takes a while to punch all this stuff in an E6B and write it down. I went over to the computer to get the winds aloft for Bradley and Albany, and almost fell over. I almost couldn't believe it- 6000 feet for BOTH stations was "9900". If you don't know, that basically means dead calm. I have never seen that before. So, I had ZERO wind corrections to do. I was done. Karma saved my read again. Then fifteen minutes before he is supposed to show up, I remember the weight and balance. So I do that, and find that with the 4 passengers he gave me, we would only have 16 gallons of fuel to be under MGTOW, and not make the destination. At this point, I realized I'd have to concede defeat since I don't have the time to modify the flight plan for a closer fuel stop.So in he comes, and I am nervous and feeling unprepared. He introduces himself, and says if I don't mind he's going to grab himself a cup of some horrible coffee and smiles. Right away I knew this guy was a real veteran. Turns out he was a chief pilot for TWA for years. So he jumps right in and asks me to prove to him that this aircraft is legal to fly. I open the logbooks and point to the inspections, and he asks me to compare the tach times to the current tach time to make sure it's still under. I look and realize it's not, so I have to find the newer inspection. It was nerve wracking. So he asks me about the weight and balance. I told him the problem and he said fine, he figures anybody can do a weight and balance, and a skilled pilot will always realize how valuable they are- he wanted me to see the importance of that. We then discussed what happens when you fly over MGTOW- the plane will probably fly, but those limitations are there for a reason, so don't mess with them. He showed me a picture of a cockpit, and asked me what was wrong. The ALT light was on, and the ammeter showed a negative charge- so the alternator was not working. He asked what I would do, and I said check the fuse. He said, "Ok- the fuse is fine- what else?". I wasn't sure, but I said "I'll look to see if there is a checklist". Bingo- he liked that answer. Sure enough, the three steps on the checklist are alt off, check fuse, alt on. He asked what that would do, and I said if the fuse was fine I had no idea. And he said that is exactly why you should use checklists. The manufacturer wrote it for a reason, so you should use it. He went on to explain there is an over-voltage relay on the alternator, and if it trips it disconnects the alternator. Flipping the switch off, and then back on will reset it. About 90% of the time, that will solve the problem. We went over the cross-country, and he asked me a few questions. He asked what would happen if we needed to land at Manchester and take off again. I pulled out the performance charts in the POH, and realized we would need 2500 feet of runway, and there were only 2600 avaiable. He asked if I would go, and I said "no way". Good answer he said- the airplane they wrote those charts with was brand new, not 30 years old. Could you make it? Possibly- but what risk it? He explained everything is about risk management- just because a number falls in certain guidelines, nobody ever died because they chose not to take the risk. He asked me about some symbols and airspace stuff, and then said "Ok, you know this stuff- let's going flying".So I went and pre-flighted, and just as we are strapping in, I realize I can't find the first page of my flight plan. I had to run back in to the FBO to find it. Great start- he must think I'm a last-minute, disorganized mess. Or maybe everybody does this?So off we go on our cross-country. I even remembered to keep my hand on the throttle during climb-out, which I never do. My heading was on, but I realized the crappy checkpoints I had picked out were not exactly jumping out of the horizon. I faked the first few, and then looked over and saw Meriden Airport and to my relief, we were dead-nuts on course. A few seconds later he said, "Ok, take me to Windham". I guess-timated a heading, turned to it, and picked out some waypoints on the sectional, and pointed them out on the horizon. He asks me how long it will take, and I froze. I tried to do it mentally, and realized with all the stress- why not use my resources? I pulled my E6B out of my flight bag, punched in 100 knots at 35 miles, and read out about 21 minutes. He said "Sounds great". A few minutes later he says "Ok, good- right on course- that's it for the cross-country". So next we did instrument stuff- I did great on that, and I don't think we did it for more than 10 minutes. He did one unusual attitude under the hood, and I did it fine. Next, we did some steep turns, and I remembered my pre-maneuver checklist and my clearing turns. I did slow flight for about 2 minutes, one approach stall while banked 15 degrees, and a departure stall. Aced all of them. We went down to 2000 and did an S-turn, which was less than perfect because the powerlines weren't straight. He asked me to explain the maneuver and I explained it correctly, so we moved on. We climbed back up, and all of a sudden he closes the throttle. Emergency time! I went through the re-start checklist (memorized), made the distress call, and ran through the forced landing checklist (also memorized). Those are the only two you should really memorize. I found a big, clear north-south field, and setup for a left base. Upon getting closer, I noticed powerlines at the end of the field, and mentioned I might have to duck under, or over those. He said whatever you need to do is fine. We got down to about 400 feet, and he told me to recover, and it was perfect. Sweet. I was worried about that one. We headed back to New Haven for some landings. The first time in, he said he wanted a normal full-stop, and then taxi back for takeoff. I planted it nicely on the numbers with a slight left crosswind, and said it was a great job. We then did a soft-field takeoff, follow by a no-flaps landing with a slip. He said all of them were perfect and he was convinced I was a safe pilot. We taxiied back toward the FBO, and he said "Well, let me be the first to congratulate you. You did a great job, and that was about as textbook a checkride as I've ever done- I don't have anything to criticize."As you can imagine, it was a pretty special moment. All these years dreaming of this, and working toward this final test, and it all paid off. I almost feel sad that I am done- but VERY excited to be PIC now. My friend is meeting me at my office at 2:30, and we are going to meet my brother at the airport for a quick flight. And with all the uncertainty in other parts of my life, it gave me a boost of confidence that I really needed.This concludes my story. Maybe I'll wrap it all up, edit it, and see if AVSIM wants to post it somewhere. It's been fun writing these and reading all the responses. Thanks to all of you for your support and input- And if you have been thinking of taking the plunge yourself- do it! You're not gettting any younger, and somebody will take your money no matter what- might as follow your dreams.Here's to blue skies and calm winds!Christian

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Outstanding end (beginning) to a marvelous story! Sell it to Flying Magazine. Congratulations!

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Congrats Christian. I remember mine like it was yesterday (you did a much better job than I did).Good luck in the future. Stay current.

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Fantastic !!!One of the best thing about FS is hearing stories of the people who've taken the plunge and gone the real world route.Yours have been inspiring.

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C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S !! !! !! Glad to see things worked out in the end!(And nice work with the karma the other day, too!)-Greg

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Great read and congratulations Christian. It brought back "fond" memories of my checkrides. My favorite was my private check ride. When the examiner put me under the hood and put me into an unusual attitude he had me recover with the airplane climbing at about a 45* deck angle, slight bank and looking at the base of a cloud. Bases were about 6500'. Even if you looked outside you had no idea what the airplane was doing. After a succesfull recovery he immediately pulled the throttle back to simulate the engine failure. To make it more interesting he acted like a panicked passenger may act under those circumstances. He was nervously shifting around in his seat asking, "What's going on?.....Where are we going?......Look, there's a nice stretch of highway....How about that field?"All the time I,luckily, knew exactly where we were and kept circling as we descended. He gave it one last effort to rattle me by asking me, "Do you know where you're going? There are some great fields over there all well within gliding distance". I told him to relax and agreed that those were nice fields to land on, but not as nice as the private grass airstrip that was right underneath us. I continued to circle and entered a nice base leg for the strip. When he let me recover I'll never forget that smirk he gave me, like,"####, I thought I'd get you on that one". When I became a CFI I used to pull the same trick as what happened on that checkride and,somewhat to my surprise,I found that about 1 in 4 pilots (not just student pilots, I even got an ATP once) will fly over a perfectly good landing strip (sometime even a paved runway) to get to a farmer's field or stretch of open highway when given a simulated engine failure. So those of you that are still going through your checkrides beware.....that 3000' long freshly cut farmer's field may look enticing, but it won't look good if you fly over a 2500' grass strip to get to it. Always be aware of what's around you.John

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Thanks guys- It's been a pleasure keeping you all informed. There are only a few people in my life who cared, so I get very excited to let you all know about this stuff, because I know you find it interesting.I went for my first flight as PIC yesterday- I took my friend up, who had never been in a small airplane. He was nervous, but very calm. We had beautiful weather with 50+ visibility, almost no clouds, and light turbulence. HE LOVED IT, and just e-mailed me to ask when we can go up again, and said he wants to go on the Robinson dinner flight. We flew around his house, and down the CT shore so he could see all the familiar landmarks. What suprised me is that there is a teeny weeny airport right on the Connecticut River called Goodspeed airport:http://www.airnav.com/airport/42BIt has a narrow 2100 foot paved strip, but the approach from either side is crazy- on 32, you fly your base right into a mountain, before a sharp turn to final flying right through some trees. Taking off, you fly right over a suspension bridge, and with the power lines, and rising hills you don't get more than 300 AGL until you are almost 2000 feet up. The approach for 14 over the bridge is just as crazy. So I tell him this, and that I've only landed there once with my instructor- and he says "Let's land there". I thought- you know what, I am PIC, and this is an airport- let's do it. So we did the 32 approach- did a nice short field landing with plenty of room left over, back taxied for takeoff, and I (obviously) did a short field takeoff over the bridge and hills. It has no room for error- and I didn't make any :) It felt really good, and my confidence level was high (not foolish- but high). When I was a student I thought twice about things like that, but if the DE says I can fly- I trust him, and I now trust myself. That's what flying is all about- new experiences and accomplishments.

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Thanks Christian for all the updates over these past months!It's been fun reading.Congratulations!JerryG

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