I'm a Pilot in Command, Let the Learning Begin
After surviving the first day of the PC check ride, day two would end with my realizing I had blown through a scheduled day off. Over-tired and over-tasked, I'd forgotten to look at a schedule. Days two, three and four lasted just as long and ended with my feeling exhausted and drained, yet surprised at my progress.
Just six months ago, I was unsure of my ability to start an aircraft. Now I talked to instructor pilots about cockpit environment and policing mistakes before they got the chance to matriculate into my enemy.
On the fourth day, the only maneuvers left were instrument approaches, the most critical skill because we do not know when or where we'll have to trade in glimpses at the ground for a dashboard of needles and gyroscope-aided representations of Earth.
In an hour and a half, we managed to practice nine or 10 approaches, getting more and more precise with each one. I was fortunate to have an instructor pilot that flies for a major airline in the civilian world, and found the instrument training to be the best part of this check ride to date. He had no tolerance for sub-perfection and would point out the slightest error, honing my skills. Several times he noted that our approaches were within the standard, but said we could not practice too much.
With the last flight complete I had to take a written test compiled of questions about the current operational environment in Iraq. I deferred for a day. The sleep-deprivation and stress of training compounded, and the decision to delay was an easy one to make when I was given the option.
On the fifth day I handed in the test in an anti-climactic moment of congratulations from fellow pilots. The admission into the PC circle was just part of my job, and left me thinking to myself "That's it?" It reminded me of celebrating a big birthday, when people ask, "Do you feel older?" and the answer is, "not really." I was perplexed that I was considered differently than just minutes before.
One of the instructor pilots sat me down to pass along some initial advice regarding my new responsibility. I guess he sensed my ambiguity. He said I may not understand the importance of this now, but once I turn my head around and see the passengers and crew in the aircraft on my first flight as a PC, I will understand. I cannot wait to find out!
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Posted by: Bob Bachand | August 9, 2006 03:37 PM
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