Becoming A Flight Instructor

The Pilot's Journey Comes Full-Circle: The Student Becomes, The Teacher....


July 26, 2006   1:30AM

Sleep? I fell asleep briefly but woke again about a half-hour ago and couldn't stop thinking about the rest of my CFI checkride yesterday (if you'll recall, due to aircraft maintenance issues, I was able to complete the oral exam earlier this month ((7/12)), but needed to get the flight test portion, rescheduled - July 25th, 2006 was that day).

The flight test was scheduled for 8AM. Since it was so early in the morning (as was my oral, on July 12th - the six hour oral exam I mentioned in earlier posts), I had made arrangements to book the same hotel/inn (less than 1/4 a mile from my home airport) that I did for my oral exam to save on traveling time and frustration in traffic.

I showed up at my hotel at 3PM Monday (July 24th) only to be told that the power was off (there has been a major heat wave here in California and the electrical grid was being heavily taxed by air-conditioning needs and brownouts were occurring). They also told me that the estimate of having their power back up was not 'till the following morning. I was asked if I still wanted to check-in I excused myself for a moment to call my wife to see if she could find anything online that was close to the airport, had power, and was available - but 'no joy' <g>. I made sure I asked if the hot water was gas heated and I was told it was. So, we settled upon a discount from my already discounted room rate (AAA) after I checked out the room and found the temperature bearable.

In a nutshell, the power came on around 9:30pm and I leaped off the cell phone (chatting with my wife about this part of the 'adventure) and cranked up the A/C (the room, according to the wall thermostat was about 80 degrees - a far cry from the 100+ temps just outside my window at my room). I mysteriously woke up at around 11:30pm and initially found myself wondering why I had awakened (since it was not my normal sleep pattern) and noticed the room had grown warm. So, I ran over to the thermostat and saw that it was back to some default value of 79.4 degrees F. It turned out that it was set to run its' program (intended for when the room was not occupied, to save the hotel money) and that my adjustments to the temp settings were part of a 'sleep function' (i.e., it runs for an hour and then reverts to its' program). So, I figured out where the 'manual' setting was and the room stayed cool for the rest of the night, although I wasn't able to drift off to sleep until a couple of hours later.

I woke up, early, showered and had a light breakfast of a bagel and some fruit juice and milk - checked out of the hotel and was off to my home airport (Reid-Hillview Airport, San Jose, California).

I arrived about a quarter-to-eight and had just learned that he had received a phone call from the FSDO examiner that he (the examiner) would be in a meeting which would result in him not being able to be there until 9am.

Not a problem,,, I did the preflight on the planes and went back to the checkride room and just had casual chat with my flight instructor.

The examiner arrived just a little after 10 am and after a short briefing on what we would do in the flight test and what would be expected during the 'ride' he had me walk him through the preflight on the Piper Arrow III. He asked some questions as I was going through showing/demonstrating the preflight. After we were done, we walked on over the Cessna 172N and went off for the maneuvers portion of the checkride (almost three hours) and after that was done, I returned to my home field and after a restroom break for all of us, and a chance to refill our water bottles (it was still in the low 100's at my home airport - and the owner of the FBO brought me a bottle of cold water to drink and asked me how it was going) we headed off to the Piper Arrow III for the takeoffs and landings, slips, go-rounds, 180 power-off precision landing,,,, etc (a little over 1 hour of flight time)...   Then we landed and after I had shut down the plane, the examiner asked if I needed any help putting it into the tie-down (I told him 'no') and he said he would go into the FBO and fill out the paperwork.

After I pulled and pushed the Arrow III into it's tie-down, I noticed my cell phone went off and it was my wife calling, but I didn't pick up the call yet since I knew she was likely calling to see how the 'ride' went.  At that point, I wasn't sure, so I didn't have anything to report until I met with him inside the FBO for the debriefing.  So, I decided to give her a call when I knew something for certain. Although I considered it a good sign that he had just said he was going into the FBO to fill out the paperwork, I still wouldn't feel 'sure' until I actually 'heard the words or saw the new temporary certificate). A couple other CFI's saw me and came over to me in the tie-down area to find out how it went and I told 'em I didn't 'know for sure' yet, but I hadn't been told that I failed anything, nor given any option to continue or discontinue based on some failing so I was cautiously taking that as a 'good sign'.

Well, after finishing with the plane, making a quick restroom break and handing the pouch to the front desk for billing, I went into the 'checkride room'. The examiner mentioned to me that the owner of the FBO had asked him if he could be included in the debriefing (this really was a point where I thought I should have been asked first if it was okay with me,,, after all it was my checkride,, but a small point and not a big issue) and went through a debriefing/critique. I think I mentioned to all of you that the owner of the FBO had offered me a position (pending passing my checkride) on several occasions already, so there was a certain 'awkwardness' I felt to have my future 'employer' present during the debriefing critique <g> - but I made peace with the situation). SO,, to make a long story less-long <g>..... I got handed a white piece of paper!!! The examiner had to leave, congratulated me and the FBO owner came over to me and shook my hand again and congratulated me.

In terms of time; the flight test was started at a little after 10am and everything concluded at 4:30PM at which point we said our goodbyes. Actual total hobbs time between both planes was four hours total.

As I was leaving for my car, I saw my CFI walking from the ground school building and so I went over towards him. He asked me how it went and I told him that I had got my other 'license' to learn. He gave me a very heartfelt congratulations and said "I am so very proud of you!". Don't razz me, guys <grin>, but I gotta admit that hearing him say that (the fellow that had helped me through my private and all the way through my training) I could feel myself almost starting to get a bit 'misty',,, but covered it well by going into a brief conversation (to distract myself, from the intensity of that moment - 'cause jeez, I wasn't about to be caught having my eyes 'tear-up' a bit in front of my instructor <GRIN>). He was with one of his students and had to head-off to a lesson so we could only talk, briefly.

Before rolling out on the road I gave my wife a call and gave her the good news. It seems that her co-workers had kept checking-in with her, in her office, to see how the final half of the checkride had gone for me and at the time she said she didn't know, at the time. They had heard the story of my 6+ hour oral exam, weeks earlier and the rescheduled flight test portion and had apparently been on pins-and-needles, wondering throughout the day how the last part of the checkride had worked out for me.

I called my dad, got the darned voice mail,, tried later in the evening with the same result. I'm going to try first thing in the morning, 'cause I really want to 'crow' a bit about passing my checkride. Besides our previous phone conversations, my dad had become a regular reader of my online CFI training 'diary' on my just-for-fun website. I gave my best friend from childhood a call and let him know, too. I called my brother, as well, but just got his voice mail.

Getting my CFI,,,, wow,,, I generally consider myself fairly decent at describing things in written form; but I have to admit that I don't know how to describe all the things that I'm feeling. It is a joy and satisfaction that I feel on so many different levels.

I'm not going to let myself delve into all those things we all experience during checkrides; how some things we normally do much better (and the like). I'm just immersing myself in the joy of having made it to this point. There have certainly been moments where it was not easy, but, this is just one of those accomplishments (right up there with my first solo) that I will remember all of my life and I truly have many of you to thank for it! :)

Dear friends; this 'pilot's journey' has come full-circle. The student becomes the teacher and with that, yet another journey of a thousand miles has begun with the first step on this new 'direction'.

As I'm not a 'young-un' <g>, I have no interest in the airlines.   I just want to become the very best flight instructor that I can be. Besides all the necessary and practical stuff, I also dearly hope that I'll be able to nourish/encourage that love of flight/aviation in each of my students. As I've said many times before; what d*mn lucky folks we are to enjoy those vistas that only a runway can take us to. Just think about it - we see things from our 'personal seats-in-the-sky that most people will spend their entire lifetimes never knowing - and we have that beauty waiting for us just beyond that windscreen,, we are part of it and we are immersed in it - pure beauty, joy, rapture, absolute serenity that we come to, from the moment our wheels leave the ground - the shackles are broken and we become part of the sky.

Yeah,,, I'm glowing rather brightly and I'm going to proudly 'crow' a little when people ask about this smile that is on my face. I should try to go to sleep now; my dearest hope is that my dreams are filled with joyful thoughts of flying.

Thank you everyone, from those times that you helped me through my Private, Instrument, Commercial and now, CFI. What a journey it has been and thank you all for being such a wonderful resource and support! So, I have my temporary CFI certificate (with ink barely dry) and know/understand that it is 'again' (just like with that first Private Pilot certificate) a 'license' to learn. As I learn to be the best flight instructor that I can be, I will no-doubt bend the ear of many of the CFI's out there and I thank you all for your continued support in that direction (and your patience <GRIN> with some of the questions I am likely to come up with as my students 'show' me what being a CFI is all about). Additionally, I'll continue giving back to our aviation community and I hope I can continue to be of service to those who are just starting out and those that are on other ratings/certificates.

I'm enjoying this more than you can know; changing my 'signature' is one of those moments that is just too fine and blissful for words!

Thank you everyone!

Now this feels 'too cool' to type!  :

Cecil E. Chapman, Jr.

(Certificated Flight Instructor - Airplane, Commercial Pilot - Airplane, Single Engine, Land - Instrument Airplane)


Special note:  certificate info only blocked out digitally on the photo (original is intact, of course <g>)


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Good Flights !!!


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