Friday, December 27, 2013

Experiment Fail or Was It?

The march towards my CPL continues. Yesterday I met with my CFI to start reviewing the oral/knowledge portion of the check ride. This is something I normally do extremely well in the actual practical test.

This time is a bit different. I did all of the knowledge study on my own for this rating, most of it from June to September as I waited to start the CPL flight training. I had a great result on the written and my CFI knows I study well so he wasn't worried about it. I was wondering though, what gaps do I have from not having done much "ground school" with my CFI this time. I figured I would find out.

Since the day before my flight lesson was Christmas I decided to read a book, not aviation related for a change, instead of studying. I would go into the oral test run cold and just see how it would go.

Yeah... ummm... it went about as well as could be expected. The first question he asks me is what are the privileges a commercial license would allow me to exercise. I stumbled and stammered through the answer. I knew but I couldn't explain it clearly and concisely. He emphasized how important it would be for me to answer those particular questions well. I need to make a very good first impression. He described a very simple way to answer that question.

I got through the recency and currency questions OK and was able to explain the rules around the medical certificates and how long they last, etc. I also knew what logs a pilot needs to keep. Then we got into the Airworthiness Certificate and Registration. Should be easy, I answered. He dug in and I stumbled again. I got the KOL (kind of operations limitations) confused with the Operating Limitations that have to be on board the plane.

By this time I felt I had to explain my "plan" for the lesson and the way I didn't study. He laughed and said, "So how's that workin for ya?" I said I'll definitely study next time.

On to required equipment. I start off strong, then we get into determining if specific INOP equipment is required in different circumstances. I had the answer right for the plane I fly, but he pointed out this is a commercial license. The expectation is I would be flying many different airplanes and being commercial operations, the MEL (minimum equipment list) is king.

We covered maintenance and inspections. I knew the answers in general but didn't have them memorized. I asked if the expectation would be that I do have them memorized. Yep. Commercial is different from private yet again. I need to step up my game. We spent considerable time going through the maintenance logs for the plane I would be using for the check ride. We had many questions and had to piece together where some old and new ADs were done. I learned a lot going through those.

In the end we spent about two hours almost covering the pre-flight knowledge portion of the oral. We had a couple of good laughs at my ineptness and I assured him I would definitely be more studied for next time. 

Next time would be weather and cross country flight planning. I remember I really struggled on the weather the last time my CFI and I covered that preparing for my instrument check ride, but I did extremely well on the actual oral. Since my instrument ride I've developed my own pre-flight weather briefing process that I do for every cross country that actually goes through the same process I learned for my check rides. I should knock that out of the park next time. Cross country flight planning, I'm very good at that as well, though this one will be interesting. From RHV in San Jose, CA to Las Vegas, NV. The direct route goes right over the Sierra Nevadas. The long way is south of the sierras and then east and north but it avoids most of the mountains. I wonder how my CFI will evaluate the flight plan I'll provide him.

I got home last night and spent a couple hours updating and editing my study notes. I found the stuff I didn't know was in my notes already. Studying would have helped. Then again, I learned a key piece of the commercial pilot puzzle, commercial flying is rarely in only one plane, so I need to expand my thinking to many types of planes and types of operations, not only for the check ride, but for my future career as a pilot.  That is very important lesson to learn.

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