Saturday, April 8, 2017

A New Pilot is Born

What is the ultimate accomplishment in aviation? Is it earning your own certificates and ratings? or is it giving the gift of flight to someone else? I really don't know. However, I can tell you this... going through a check ride from the CFI's seat is much more stressful to me than doing a check ride myself!

On Wednesday, April 5th, 2017, I presented my first ever candidate for a Private Pilot Certificate to an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. Ty, my student, found me in Squadron 2 one day shortly after I earned my CFI certificate and asked me to train him. I didn't know him and he didn't know me. However, I think the experience was very beneficial to us both. He turned out to be a real pleasure to train and fly with. And, according to him, I was a great CFI. While we got along great and I was confident in his abilities, I was not prepared for the extreme stress of presenting a candidate for a check ride. Especially when my instructor told me many months ago that, statistically speaking, the first person a CFI puts up for a check ride will fail.

Examiner, New Private Pilot, CFI (aka me!)
My instructor was also the DPE for this check ride. Some would assume that would give me a special advantage and perhaps leniency from the DPE for my student. I knew better. I've seen him fail candidates from other CFI's he's trained. He'd already warned me that my candidate was likely to fail.  And I know, no matter how much it would sadden him, he would absolutely fail my candidate if he could not demonstrate he will be a safe pilot and fly to standards. So, no, I expected no handouts from this particular DPE. However, I couldn't think of a better examiner to validate (or invalidate) that my student was ready to operate as a Private Pilot.

Because I do know this DPE I was comfortable enough with him to validate that my student was, indeed, eligible before the check ride (he would do that for any CFI) and ask if I could be there for at least the start of the exam. His response was funny to me. He said, "Yes! Absolutely! Present your candidate!". I had this bizarre vision of putting a bow around my student and handing him over to the examiner as a present! 

The big day arrived and I was up early to let my student, Ty, into my office so he could prepare his flight plan. I told him from this point forward I couldn't help him unless he specifically asked for it. He was on his own. I worked on lesson plans for my CFI-I training while he did his flight planning. Then the examiner arrived at 9AM. Right on schedule.

He went through the paperwork and pre-amble explaining the ride and the potential outcomes. He re-validated that all of the endorsements and time were correct in my student's log book and verified the airworthiness of the aircraft. Then I was politely told to leave the room so the test could begin. 

Now I knew I had, if things went well, at least 5 hours to wait before the outcome of the test was known. Fortunately I had two students to fly with to distract me from waiting anxiously. Around noon I got a text from my student saying he would lock up my office when they were done there. But he didn't say if he'd passed the oral or not. When I taxied back to the club after my first lesson I saw Ty. He gave me a grin and a thumbs up. So that meant he had passed the oral. 

Time for my next student. I met up with him in my office and then we taxied out to the run-up. There I saw Ty was in the plane in the run-up with the examiner. My thought was "he made it to the run-up!". Then I saw them take off, "he made it to the take off!" Then I had to focus on the flight at hand. I had a great flight and was back at the club a little after 3PM. Then I had to wait. 

As I waited I got more and more stressed. My husband was there with his camera to capture the moments and tease me. At one point I told him and another friend that I would much rather be taking the check ride than waiting! Finally we saw Ty's plane taxi up to it's parking spot. I knew it was possible to fail even now and I sat so I couldn't see Ty or the examiner. I just couldn't take it. 

Finally they were done securing the plane and walking towards us. Ty looked grim and shook his head. The examiner looked stern. As they walked up to us, the examiner said, "You know, statistically, the first candidate a CFI puts forward fails.... but you never were one to stay in line with statistics!" Then he grinned broadly. Ty gave me a huge grin and a thumbs up! "You Passed!?!" I said. "Yep!" 

My first student passed his check ride. First try! I had given the gift of flight. It was amazing! 

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