Friday, June 29, 2007



This pic was taken in Hungary a couple of weeks ago. Pretty boring eh? Not so fast...these clouds have nothing to do with anything, except that the clouds are rare, special noctilucent clouds that form really high up in the northern hemisphere during Summer. How high? Well, normally clouds don't get up much higher than 30,000 feet or so. Thunderstorms can get up to 50 or 60,000 feet if they are really bad-ass. The noctilucent clouds in this picture are at 250,000 feet above sea level, or around 85 km straight up. Amazing.

Anyway, on to my 'real' post for today...

Past passed.

I got my Private license in 1988, when I was 17. I passed it even though I set up for a downwind landing on a forced approach, and would have landed with a honkin' tailwind. The guy said that he would have failed me but because I did a decent job on everything else, he would settle for spanking me (figuratively) and sending me on my way.

I passed my Commercial license in 1990. I passed it even though my flight test examiner fell asleep during the ride, only waking up when I nudged his shoulder and told him we needed to exit the hold and land eventually or else we would run out of fuel. The debriefing was very brief indeed and he sent me on my way.

I got my Multi-engine rating in 1990. That one was uneventful.

I passed my Initial IFR rating in 1990. I passed it even though I flew in cloud during the flight test and the examiner said that he should have failed me for it. I'm still unclear on why I should have failed, but I wasn't going to argue the point with him as he gave me the rating anyway.

I got my float rating in 1997. I passed it even though I didn't even want to fly floats (the boss made me do a float rating) and never ended up doing a single float flight after that. Then again, doing a float rating isn't really a test, but I wanted to include it here anyway for the purpose of completeness.

I passed my Airline Transport License exams in 2000. I passed them even though I didn't know the correct sequence of events to land a 737 on a short, soft field. I also screwed up the weight and balance questions, but those ones weren't really my fault. The exam I wrote used lines on charts to determine various parameters, and the lines on my exam booklet were really blurry due to having been photocopied a few bazillion times. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I got my first type rating (on the MU-2) as a First Officer in 2004. I passed it even though the flight test examiner fought with the Captain during the ride (coincidentally, the captain was also the spouse of the flight text examiner) and they ended up screaming at each other for the last half hour. I was really, really nervous at first, but that actually relaxed me a little; they were so over-the-top that I just pretended it was all fake, and I was just going through the motions with no real consequence if I failed. The only note on my debriefing was "You got better as the ride went along". I don't think I told them why that was :)

I got my first type rating (on the Citation 550) as jet Captain in 2005. I passed it even though I hadn't flown for 9 months previous and I wasn't sure if I was actually up to doing a Captain's ride on a jet, or if I was too rusty. Fortunately for me the instructors at FlightSafety were great; they really helped me to learn the important stuff and were enthusiastic about it even when I asked stupid question after stupid question. I went into that flight test feeling like a freakin' lion or something, full of confidence and ready for the world to hear me roar. The examiner's only note was that I didn't know what a compressor stall was, so he told me to learn it and then signed the piece of paper that allowed me to earn my living at this company.

Each one of those events brought me great stress beforehand, ending up with sweet relief and a good night's sleep after I passed the various checks.

I'm betting that you are probably a pilot too. Which one of your licenses or ratings was the biggest source of stress? Which one was the biggest accomplishment? Or is that the same thing?

5 comments:

Chris Nielsen said...

I am only a PPL but that was surely my greatest flying achievement - two of us did our flight tests on the same day in October 2002, and the first guy came back and told me the examiner tried to get him to do his forced landing downwind, so I made damn sure I didn't make the same mistake!! The rest of my test was average, but good enough to get signed off. Probably the next big achievement for me was to go from Archers to the Arrow in 3 hours, which included retract and CSU training, and two months later I'm loving it!!

Pedro said...

I only have Glider License so far so... :) Flew for a year or so, but haven't got the time go back to it.

But I still remember, how cool it was flying when I was still stupid and irresponsible with that 17 year-old-feeling of invencibility!! aha, those where the days.

This has to be my favorite post of yours so far :) Thanks for being so straightforwardwith and honest with us (your faithfull readers).

I believe that no question is a stupid question, and the fact that you know exactly what you don't know (or didn't knew back then) is what makes you a good pilot - a pilot who knows it's limits, and safely returns home safely for another day !!

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Landing a B737 on a "soft" runway? wot the??? ;-) I recall the Pacific Western 37s with gravel deflectors on the nosewheel for the northern airports... but soft? Does anyone actually operate them on turf?

Aviatrix said...

Wow, that's a nice list. It's funny the things that stress us. I remember forgetting to turn the transponder on in my line up checks on my PPL ride, so I turned it on during the takeoff roll, followed by a chill of horror that I would fail liteally at the last moment before getting off the ground because I had diverted my attention from the all-,portant take-off roll to flick that switch. The examiner didn't even notice.

I have a should-have-failed-you-but incident, too, but the examiner told me not to tell anyone, so I won't.

As for the worst, I think it's always the one yet to come. Because the ones behind me couldn't have been that bad, seeing as I passed them, eh? It's definitely worse when a flight test risks privileges you already have rather than is a try at new ones.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Sulako, it really brought back some memories of my own training. I would have to say my most challenging was my Private/Instrument ride. I was in an experimental NASA program called AGATE, part of the Small Air Transportation System (SATS) project. They wanted to see if you could train a person from the ground up as an instrument-rated pilot. There were about 30 of us, and I'd say 50% made it through. I'm happy to say that I finished in just under 6 months with 90 hours. The best part was that I got a lot of actual instument time during my training because of the smoke from some huge wildfires in the state of Florida at the time. The worst part was the massive 8 hour or so checkride (oral and flight). Stressful, yes, but the reward was great.