Never Have Two 'Letters' Been So Hard-Fought For:  

The Commercial Checkride, At Last !


September 21, 2005

If you have been following my adventures with getting a Commercial Checkride you already know that my first one was cancelled due to a freak sulphuric acid spill on a major highway that my D.E. needed to get to my airport (cancellation number one). The reschedule of the next checkride found me looking around for one of the flight pouches on the day of my checkride for the Arrow III, only to find it had just been pulled offline to replace the engine.

Now, today,,,, at last... the day was here (albeit the third time); both planes were available and I was primed and ready.

The oral begins and it was one of those moments where it occurs to you that 'geez, you really know a lot of stuff, after all'. For the most part, answers were just rolling off my lips and I had to do everything I could to keep myself from presenting additional information just to show how much I had prepared, in my studies (I had heard enough times that one can 'dig their own grave' in an oral exam by volunteering too much 'knowledge' which could end up being further explored beyond the depths of someone's familiarity - so, I didn't). I was also queried on emergency procedures in both airplanes, spin recovery, crosswind techniques, and more....

Passed the Oral,,, no problems, really, and then the D.E. asks me which plane we would be flying in first. I mention it will be a Cessna 172N for the maneuvers portion/partial cross-country' . She told me to preflight the first of the two planes that we would be using for the Commercial Checkride (if you'll recall I was using a C172 for the maneuvers and an Arrow II for the complex stuff; 'boutique landings' <grin> and the like).

I finish the preflight and I attach the towbar and the two of us begin towing it out of its' tie-down row. We reach the end of the row - stop and get into the plane. Going through the checklist, start up the engine and then eventually get to the point in the checklist where I turn on the avionics switch and we both hear,,,, NOTHING - as in NO sidetone, no radio absolutely nothing. I run through all the possibilities I could think of and told the D.E. that I was going to taxi over to the maintenance hangar row and get a mechanic to take a look at the issue. The D.E., was fine with that and I brought over someone from maintenance. They took a peek at the radio and intercom and announced that it had to be replaced (obviously not going to happen today). Yikes,,, the 'reschedule specter' was trying to raise its' head... :0(

Like a bird of prey looking for its' quarry, I scanned the tie down areas for a 172N that I could use. I saw a plane that was just getting ready for flight and since I knew that checkrides had the booking priority (after being unable to find the pilot who was taking the plane) I went into the FBO office to let Vicki, who worked the front desk that I would need to 'commandeer' the aircraft for my checkride. She said no problem and cancelled the reservation and notified the CFI.

Preflighted the plane and we were off!

In actuality we flew very little of the cross-country. While I certainly realized it wasn't something that we would complete (i.e., that essentially the planning process was an academic one to aid in directing questions regarding flight planning and airspace during the oral exam), she had me perform a diversion to another airport (we didn't even enter the pattern) and then the test moved on.

I was then asked to perform some of the Commercial maneuvers, followed by slow flight, turns in slow flight and a power-off stall. All went well and she asked me to return to RHV and land, after which I would preflight the Arrow II and begin the final portion of the Commercial Checkride.

Lori (the D.E. on this checkride) was the same D.E. that I had for my Private checkride and I hadn't had her as a D.E., again, since then. Flying over the reporting point for my home airport at 3,000 feet my mind briefly 'flashed back' so-to-speak to being in a very similar situation - returning to my home airport to land and conclude my private checkride with this same D.E. on my right. Washing over me, I had a sudden appreciation for how very far I'd come since that September just five years ago. I probably haven't described this moment as well as I should; all I know is that it felt very treasured and special to me as the past to present recollections unfolded. What a long way I had come; sometimes when one is in the midst of a 'process', it is easy to forget the long journey along the way.

So, we land I tie down the C-172N and head-off to begin preflighting the Arrow II.

Lori, comes out and helps me tow the Arrow II from the FBO that it belonged to (i.e., if you'll recall my FBO owner had arranged to get hold of this Arrow II so that I ((as well as others)) wouldn't be stymied in their Commercial training and checkrides).

We belt ourselves down in the plane (yes, I'd already checked the radio and intercom to see if there was another 'snafu' waiting to 'bite me') and I go through the checklist. I begin to start the plane but it won't cooperate. After more than a few efforts, I announce to the D.E. that I was going to get a mechanic over to take a look at THIS plane to see if they could find a reason for the reluctance to start. As I said the latter, I grinned and told the D.E., that the obstacles to this checkride have been like getting one's teeth pulled... We both had a laugh.

Using a series of 'magic incantations,,, <g> actually the mechanic moved the throttle into different configurations, finally after more than a few efforts, we got the engine started. I saw the D.E. climbing over the back of the wing of the Arrow II to board the plane. I asked he if she'd like me to stop the engine while she boarded and she said not to.

I was asked to begin with a soft-field takeoff which was to be followed by a soft-field landing. Followed this up with a short field takeoff and a short field landing. Then the rest of the Complex landing demonstrations that followed really didn't take long at all and before I knew it we were rolling down the taxiway back to the tiedown area.

I shut down the plane and the D.E. shook my hand, smiled and said; "Congratulations!!"

While I was tying down the Arrow II for the day, the D.E. said she would go into the lounge area of the other FBO and complete the paperwork. When I finished I came in and she congratulated me again and handed me my temporary Commercial Pilot certificate.

What a relief!!! With all the delays along the way, three checkride rescheduling and more - all I can say is that though I feel a bit exhausted to think about it all,, in some ways it probably made that simple little white paper in my hand with my new 'initials' feel even sweeter.... In retrospect.... what a 'ride' ! :0)

I've been wanting to type this for awhile: 

CP-ASEL-IA (Commercial Pilot - Airplane, Single-Engine, Land - Instrument Airplane)

.... Just feels too cool!!!


Coming Soon:  Onto the C.F.I......... :0)

Good Flights!

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