Whoever said this stuff was easy obviously never spent hours at the local coffee shop reviewing hundreds of FAA test questions! Well, I am in the middle of my training and am having the time of my life. With just over 13 hours in my log book, it is safe to say that the honeymoon period is over. 🙂
To get a private pilot license, the FAA says that I will need a minimum of 40 hours of flight time. But the realistic bet is that it will be more like 50-60 hours. If you are going to do it, this is one place where you don’t want to cut corners. Luckily my instructor at West Valley Flying Club is making sure I get the fundamentals down before I get my ticket.
And I am definitely on my way. One of the things I’ve noticed is that it really is a bunch of ups and downs. The flying part is great, but the other side of the coin is not so hot. The studying. Maps, Aerodynamics, 4 Stroke Engine, Weather, Airport Operations, VASI Lights, Lat/Long, and on and on. This is all the stuff you don’t thinking about when you get strapped into that plane. But it’s the meat and potatoes of being a pilot. And one of the numerous requirements of getting is to pass a written exam. That part is the one I’m most worried about. There is so much to study, but my Jeppesen training guides are helping me along.The written test is similar to the DMV test. They give you all the questions and then you simply absorb all of the material. But with so much material to cover, it is quite intense.
And in the air I will be expected to complete a series of maneuvers: slow speed flight, slow speed turns, induce and recover from stalls, steep turns, engine out procedures, and of course landing the plane. 🙂 So far I have had an opportunity to try each of the maneuvers and feel pretty good about my skills in the air, sans a few bouncy landings and a dead squirrel.
But I will be spending the first 20 hours or so of my training solidifying these fundamentals before I solo. Then the remainder of my training will be cross country flights, night flights, and learning how to navigate. Once my instructor thinks that I have the necessary skills in place, then he’ll schedule me for my ‘check ride’ with an FAA certified examiner. That will be the ultimate test. The examiner and I will have an oral exam for about an hour where he will ask me numerous questions to test my flight knowledge and where we plan our cross country flight. Then the actual flight portion of the exam will take place. That will be an hour and a half flight where I will demonstrate my flying abilities. After that, if I pass, I will get my license.
But that seems like such a long time from now. Realistically it will be about a 4 month journey, and I’m only at the beginning. I have had good days and bad days. Where once I was fumbling with my cheat sheet on how to call Palo Alto Ground and request taxi clearance, now I just rattle it off. it’s not smooth, but I’m getting there. I have landed the plane all by myself, under the careful guidance of my instructor Josh, and feel confident about my maneuvers. But I have also had flights where it just seems that nothing is smooth and graceful. Josh says that this is normal, and just the way it goes. Close that chapter and move on. Tomorrow is a new day. But that is when I realized that I wasn’t a machine and that chaper on Human Factor really sank in. A bad day in the real world, not enough sleep the night before, fatigue, outside influences, and a lot of other things can really affect the way you fly. It is frustrating, but ‘normal.’
But there will be that one flight where it all clicks and you realize that all the training and hard work is worth it. The skies are clear, tower clears you for immediate take off, no turbulence, you fly like you’re on glass, and all of your landings are on the numbers. What more could you ask for? 🙂 Easy peasy lemon squeezy.