Skip to the end: I’ve passed my flight test and am now a pilot. Yay! If you’re more aviationally minded, here’s a summary of how the flight test went.
After the disappointment of failing my first flight test I was feeling quite nervous about the prospect of a resit. I’ve done about ten hours of flying since Dunedin, plus had a month back in the UK, and felt I was a better pilot because of it, if only since I had a greater appreciation of things like trim and balance.
I knew that I was capable of passing the test, but not confident I would do it. Tried working on a positive mental attitude but it didn’t completely work! Although I was more worried that I’d told too many people here I was taking the test and had started having visions of passing, but would then fail get embarassed. The things that concerned me most were forced landings and precautionary landings, mainly as there is a lot to plan and remember compared with a basic turn or circuit.
Just before eight I arrived at the Aero Club and pre-flighted the aircraft. Despite trying to start the engine several times, it would not fire up, so I placed the pre-heater underneath (a home made device using a fan heater and foil tubing) to warm things up. At least it wasn’t -6C, unlike in June.
My examiner was Carlton Campbell, the ex-Chief Flight Instructor at the club, who’s down for a few days of instructing instructors. By all accounts he’s a flying legend, and is effectively responsible for flight training standards in New Zealand, so if anyone knows whether or not I’m a suitable candidate, it’s him!
The weather this morning was looking unpredictable with a miserable forecast:
TAF NZQN 212135Z 212112
02010KT 20KM -SHRA BKN090
BECMG 0103 26008KT
2000FT WIND 35030KT
BECMG 0103 31020KT =
Of course, a key part of flying is knowing your own limits. Visibility of 20km is less than I’d be comfortable with at this stage but I expected I’d still be taken up for the test.
First up, the technical knowledge and weather checks. Got through these okay, although the crazy format of the Tecnam flight manual didn’t help, and my performance planning was fine. Time to head outside for the flight test.
After dropping a clanger about the mass balance on the flaps on my previous test (if you don’t know what a mass balance is, don’t worry about it, just remember that you need one), I was tighter on the pre-flight inspection and survived that, as well as the role-playing of stupid passenger and private pilot.
Having detached the pre-heater and pulled the aircraft out, I tried to start up with the choke in. Having flown 78 of WAK’s 160 hours, I should know what I’m doing, but the aircraft just wouldn’t catch, again. Having summoned help I realised that the engine was now so warm from an hour and a half’s pre-heat, that the choke was making things worse. D’oh! At least it started after the choke was in.
Having completed my pre-flight checks I gained clearance before realising I’d not completed engine run-ups! That done, we taxied out to the far end of Runway 23, a last minute request for backtrack and we were off.
With the carb heat still on. Duh.
My compass turns were iffy, since I got the calculations wrong and tried counting rather than just using the compass (ask me to explain another day).Steep turns were better than usual, although exited one a little high, and finally remembered to report I’d cleared airspace about a minute too late. Up to 4,500′ for stalls where I gained up to 100′ on the entry to each stall, although recovered them reasonably. Within limits but still scrappy.
Reading the reports of other students on their flight tests, it seems that forced landings are a problem. Well, beat this one. I chose the field, was happy with my 1,000′ point, and got down (although forgot a couple of trouble checks). But I turned in too soon and was hot and high for the landing, and would have missed the strip completely in real life. I made the go-around decision early, thankfully, and got a second chance. Although the examiner’s first words in the debrief were broadly ‘if I had my way, students would only get one chance at a forced landing, and I’d fail your test if you failed that exercise’.
The second attempt was much better and I got into the strip. Then climbed out with the carb heat on. Doh.
Over for some low flying, which was alright although I lost height in the turns. The precautionary landing was acceptable although I forgot a couple of checks and came in rather low, plus I left the carb heat in once. Doh. Normally I never do that.
Finally it was back to Queenstown and some circuits whilst the clouds closed in. For once the TAF was wrong, and for once my straight and level flight was straight and level.
The standard overhead rejoin went well but my precision landing was not very precise. I didn’t call a decision point and was about 15 metres short of the markers. I called a go-around about 5′ off the ground and touched the wheels, almost without thinking about it, but it sounds like if I’d not made the go-around then I could have failed. The second attempt was marginally better, and the flapless was fine after dumbelling onto the 23 runway to cater for a landing 737, and then it was back to the Club.
The suspense didn’t last too long and I soon found out that I’d passed, albeit with a detailed series of caveats. I’d never like to go through that stress again, at least not until my commercial licence, and that will be a long way off…
So, I’m a private pilot, or at least will be when I receive the licence in the post. And now I’m off to the pub. I believe club tradition is downing a yard of ale (probably Speights, eugh), so wish me luck.