Cloud License, Part II

The good, the bad, the ugly.

The bad:

I failed the first time around. The oral portion, about which I was most nervous, went surprisingly well. A few ding ups here and there, but my stage check oral (the Parks version of the FAA) prepared me very well. Examiners can smell bullshit a mile away, even if you sound confident about your answer. And my examiner was straightforward. “No it’s not,” he said when I gave a completely made up answer.

The flight was going well. We got vectors for the ILS into Alton, and the airplane quickly got in front of me. Approach plate on my lap, I tuned in and intercepted the localizer— tower told me to report at the outer marker. At the last moment, I realized that I didn’t overlay the approach in the GPS. While not necessary for the approach, the GPS not only gave me situational awareness, it displayed the intersections (essentially the outer marker where I needed to report) along the approach. I was cleared to land by tower, but I knew I messed up— I forgot to report. The examiner told me to turn left and climb; he told tower that we were departing to the south. He explained my error and gave me the option of continuing the rest of flight. I decided to continue, so I didn’t have to do the rest of the flight the next time.

For the first 10 minutes after the flight, I was ready to change my major and call it quits with flying. But then, I thought, what the hell would I do? I couldn’t answer the question, other than writing, and even that doesn’t trip my trigger as much as defying gravity. I’m in it for the long haul— the ups and the downs. (Puns are rampant).

The good:

The follow up flight was amazing. I executed all three approaches with finesse and thoughtfulness. I was very calm and relaxed. I’m not a good test taker to begin with, so any hype dramatically decreases my effective operation. Note the Yerkes-Dodson law of arousal and performance: the one time you play the piano in front of three people, and you fumble, not remembering a single note.

I found out that failing a checkride isn’t uncommon and is not the end of the world. Many airline pilots have failed, and they are regarded as competent pilots— the beauty is in the resilience to accept the failure and prepare to pass with flying colors the next time. I have many people to thank for their support, most importantly my mom, Delia, and my previous flight instructor Sara.

Now I can fly through clouds by myself, save for the fact that Parks’ Diamonds aren’t rated for instrument flight conditions; the carbon fiber builds up static electricity and is at risk for electric discharge. It’s really a great feature when we’re trying to learn how to fly. sarcasm.

The ugly:

Actually, there was no ugly. I looked damn good for each flight, as per usual. Who says Gap khakis from Goodwill can’t look good? And for three dollars, one can’t go wrong (except for the fact that, before washing the garment, I found an Adderall pill in the pocket. I can’t help but wonder if I disrupted a drug deal).

Overall, what did I learn? In the wise, comforting words of Delia, “Lick your wounds.” I did, and I moved on, and most importantly— I passed.

I may now, in fact, have my head “in the clouds.”


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