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!

By Bert Stover |  August 5, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
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Congratulations Bert I remember my first PC check ride back in 1984. It is a big responsibility but I am sure you can handle it. Oh am I so glad I don't have any more check rides!

Bob Bachand,
CW3, US Army Retired

Posted by: Bob Bachand | August 9, 2006 03:37 PM

Congrats, buddy! You earned this a while back. Now get a hair cut!

Posted by: turbo | August 10, 2006 01:00 AM

Congratulations! May God Bless you and your crew. May he watch over you and guide your hands and your feet while you pilot over hostile terrain. May he give you peace, serenity and peace of mind even in your most difficult moments. And may he grant you the opportunity of getting back home without ever knowing what its like to lose a ship or any of its contents. Best luck and continue with a job well done!

Posted by: James | August 10, 2006 08:42 AM

During my PC training, one comment from my instructor stays with me today always. Especially once I'm airborne. Under any emergencies that may arrise during flight..
Rule #1 "Fly the plane".
Good luck with your flying career.
Practice, practice, practice.
Geno Silvia
AOPA Member #01281363

Posted by: Geno Silvia | August 10, 2006 09:12 AM

When flying in hairy situations and/or conditions, an IP I had once said, "If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't! So, react accordingly". He was right and you know what? That is so true in so many of life's situations.

Congrats on your newly acquired PC designation. Even though as a UH-60 driver you are just a "systems monitoring technician"!! Just Kidding! God Bless you and your crew.

Former AH-1 Pilot-in-Command
CW3 Eric Bradley

Posted by: Eric Bradley | August 10, 2006 09:31 AM

Congratulations Bert!

Here's my two-cents -


Think about it whenever someone says - just take off and we will figure it out enroute...

If you don't leave the ground with it, you won't find it while flying along.

God bless and congratulations.

Posted by: CW3 Gordon Cimoli | August 10, 2006 01:26 PM

I am very proud of you. The IP staff could not have made a better choice. You are an excellent pilot and soldier. I am back in the saddle myself here. Follow your gut and be yourself. Do take care, well done!!

Posted by: CW2 Hill | August 11, 2006 06:28 PM

Congratulations! It's going hit you like a brick when a decision needs to be made "NOW" in the cockpit, especially in that big litter box you guys are flying in right now. It's going to hit you even harder when a mission comes in and conditions are minimum at best and it's your call to pull pitch. If you go, that will be the longest flight of your career to date (and one of the most rewarding if the mission justified the risk). We are all very proud of what you guys are doing and you are all in our daily prayers. Fly Safe! Hawks Up!
Best Regards,
CW3 T.B. Fulk
Safety Officer
1159th Med (AA) OIF-3, Camp Spiecher
(Former B. Co 2/224th 92-99)
Tell the old timers I said hi!

Posted by: CW3 T.B. Fulk | August 12, 2006 04:44 AM

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