Commercial Pilot

It was almost exactly two years ago that I took my private pilot flight test. I don’t think I could possibly have been more nervous. I remember going through the oral part and thinking I was so clueless, having trouble finding things in the reference books, getting confused on reading markings on the navigational charts, second guessing myself. But I guess it was good enough for the private level.

This time, I had quick answers for most things, and had to look up very few. But that’s expected at the commercial level.

When we got the the flying part though, smoke from the forest fires in Saskatchewan had reduced visibility in the area to 1 statute mile. I’m game for a fair bit of wind, and I can handle a crosswind, weather wise, but I have done very little flying in low visibility. The amusing part of that was when the examiner asked me if I wanted to carry on with the test, in a tone that sounded like she was excited to get out there and do this thing. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to trick me into saying yes, or if she was just being really sarcastic. We rescheduled the second half for another day.

The things I was most worried about were the test items where I had to do mental math. I’m terrible at math, especially simple math – it was one of the reasons I didn’t try to learn to fly earlier; everyone said you had to be good at math to be a pilot. Turns out, every single pilot I’ve talked to says they’re terrible at math. When I said I had just memorized how many seconds went with each number of degrees to do a timed turn, I was told I was definitely not the first of their students to resort to that. Practice on the timed turns and VOR intercepts seemed endless, until finally the numbers just starting to repeat enough times that I started to memorize them. I did fairly well on both.

The couple things I didn’t do so well were stupid things that I don’t normally do wrong, and I’m blaming it on the fact that I had to work the night before and I was running on about 4 hours of sleep. Even so, the examiner commented that I had good control over the plane. I dunno, I never thought of myself as having exceptional stick and rudder skills, but then, I’m usually better than I think I am at most things, and maybe it’s partly just remembering struggling at the beginning. The examiner called my spin “beautiful.”

Anyway, the paperwork is signed off and logbook sent off to Transport Canada for them to check over. I had a family barbecue last weekend and got to show off my documents to all of my relatives. I brought a bottle of cheap champagne and shared it with everyone. It was a little strange, getting up and making a big deal of myself, but it felt good. I guess I gotta get used to having a massive ego – I am a pilot, after all.

Kind of like with the number of hours thing, I’ve noticed people react differently when I tell them I’m a commercial pilot. Private pilot, they say, oh, that’s wonderful, good for you! It’s not that they’re not impressed – they are, and they’re excited for me, but when they realize I’m now legally allowed to be paid to fly aeroplanes, there’s an extra tone of respect. Family seems to take the whole thing a lot more seriously. It’s always been me chasing a dream, pursuing a goal, and now I’m there. I did it. I could hear the pride in both my parents’ voices when I told them I’d passed. Even my Dad, and he’s terrible about those things.

So what’s next? If I can find a job, do that and build hours, and in the meantime, work on whatever ratings will help me find a job. More on that later.

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CPL Preflight

Preflight, just like for my private test, is where your instructor basically gives you a mock flight test, to see how well you do, and how close you are to being able to pass. I remember being so clueless going into my private preflight, and coming out thinking I did terrible and I was so far from being able to pass.

We finished my preflight for my commercial test today, and I was a lot more confident through the whole thing. And I did better too. The mark would have been a partial pass, and the things I messed up on shouldn’t be hard to fix. Made a kick ass soft field landing. Made the forced landing approach – that I was terrible at when I started and I came in rather high and had to slip it in to get  low enough to be certain of making the runway, but I remembered where that runway was and checked there first to see if it was close enough to make it when she started the exercise.

Another exercise that’s not on the private test is called the power-off 180. That’s where you cut the power, like you do with a forced approach, only instead of pulling up and overshooting once you know you’ve set up an approach that you could make a landing with, you do it at an airport so that you can actually follow through on the landing. The reason it’s called a power-off 180 is because you cut the power mid-downwind, so that you have to make a 180 degree turn to land.

Also, touchdown points – so much less leeway on them than the private test. But I’m getting it.

One more thing that’s not on the private test, even though they do train you on it, but on the commercial test you’re actually tested on it, is spins. Got full marks for my spin.

My instructor agrees that it went much better than my private preflight – just a few things to focus on over the next few days, and then the flight test. Wish me good weather!