It has been a long road to my Instrument ticket. I started out two years ago trudging along every week with a goal of taking the check ride before I needed to have my hip replaced. I finally was scheduled and was ready to make this all happen in April of 2009. It wasn't meant to be. The Archer I was flying let me down for the very first time with a nav/com failure the day before my ride. I could not push the check ride date because I had scheduled hip surgery the very next day. Looking back I guess that wasn't to smart.
I was self grounded for three months with recovery and climbed back in a plane midway through July of 09. It took some time to knock off the rust but eventually I was ready to get back to the pursuit of the instrument ticket. I met my new instructor, Chuck, who made flying instruments fun again, I was looking forward to finishing up. Well the real world calls and Chucks job took him out of the area with little chance of us hooking up. Needless to say I was not thrilled about looking for instructor number three. I went back and forth hooking up with friends that were rated and would fly safety pilot for me. This at least kept me interested until the next instructor could be found.
My good friend and Safety Pilot Mike B pointed me to a local CFII out of Wilmington Airport that he thought might be a good fit. I had nothing to loose at this point, my test was going to expire in October. I met CFII Tom and instantly hit it off. Tom was very organized and had a syllabus for us to review. We briefly covered all the basics and then worked on polishing up my skills, and they needed polish. Tom was dedicated and patient with me, answering all my questions, even the ones that were out of left field. Tom set up a mock check ride with Len who helped me with some wx questions for the oral and fine tuned the flying skills. With the mock check ride complete and Len giving his approval Tom and I scheduled with the Designated Examiner.
The date was set, the wx was so so but I was getting excited. I flew with Mike B to confirm the numbers for 08Romeo. Mike provided a nice excel table and we filled in all the blanks. The flight was good for my confidence and Mike helped me with some "dragging the yoke" issues. I was ready! Last night I had my folders, airplane logs, reports, flight plans and you name it spread all over the table. I made a check list, checked it at least twice and made a to do list for this morning. I guess I passed out around 9pm, getting old I know, and really hoped I got a good nights sleep. I had strange dreams of problems with my SUV and not having a way to get to the check ride, crazy stuff I know, maybe I shouldn't eat so late. I was up at 3am and did the flip flop until finally giving up at 5:15 when the dogs wanted out.
The day is here...
I gave up any hope of more sleep and decided to start on the final flight plan and wx print outs. I could not believe it was 7am, where did the time go? Off to shower, pack the truck and get on the road for the airport. I arrived at 08Romeo and we had a nice chat. These are the times I miss my father the most and the, you can do whatever you set your mind to talks. My Pop was in my heart and thoughts all morning, more then most days, I knew he was right there with me. I decided to wear his ring today, call me crazy but it helps my mind. I ordered fuel and waited for the folks from AeroWays to top off to 20 gallons each tank. I would pre-flight when I got the word from the examiner we were going to fly.
I hauled all my books to the examiners office which is located upstairs in the old flight school above Red Eagle. It was obvious by the overwhelming smell that someone was painting in the attached hangar. I looked out the window from the office into the hangar bay to see an L-39 getting coated with a hemi orange paint scheme. The smells were out of control and the examiner was not happy. I was asked if I wanted to cancel and I said no, there's bigger bumps in the road of life then this, let's do it. And so we did, the oral was a very good review of wx and flight planning with many what if emergency situations tossed in. I drew a blank on the direct to flight plan required width for obstacle clearance. I did understand and explain where to come up with the altitude and how to check for obstacles with a vfr sectional. I could have done better with HAA and HAT but muddled through it. I think he made one note about my wx briefing and explanation of all the charts, something about low pressure systems and troughs.
All of 08Romeo's paper work checked out fine except when he asked me for landing distance. I did not have that chart blown up so we could read it. I went to the POH and found out that page is missing, I'm printing one from Beech Aero Club as I type this and adding it in my POH! The oral went smooth and the examiner said I was very prepared, that sure made me feel good. Thanks Tom! I headed out to pre-flight and get ready to fly. I updated my wx brief and advised the examiner we were good to go. I was advised by the examiner that he was strictly a passenger, I was the PIC and everything was my call. I did a passenger brief, explained the control swap for traffic avoidance and how to exit the aircraft and secure the door and belts. The DE suggested adding more info to non-flyers about keeping clear of the controls.
I picked up my clearance from Wilmington ground and was ready to roll. Out of habit I asked the examiner for a brake check, he smiled and said you let passengers touch the brakes? Ok...brain fart, you got me. I didn't have the heart to really tell him about the slap to the back of the head if anyone touches my controls, I didn't think it would go over to well. I advised ready to taxi and headed out to runway two seven.
Instrument checks were completed during my taxi to the runway. I advised ground I was ready for release. I just beat out a C-130 and was spared sitting in the heat, I hope the C130 doesn't run me over on upwind. Our clearance was as follows:
R RH RV OOD V184 Direct ACY
A 2000 expect 3000 in ten minutes
F 119.75 Philly Approach
T 71xx squawk code
I climbed out at 700 fpm and switched over to Philly. I was directed to climb 3000, direct OOD, woodstown. I made the change on the 530 and kept the climb going. The examiner made a change and directed me to request direct to Cedar Lake, VCN. I went through my normal steps for the direct to and selected VCN, Cedar lake. About eight minutes out the examiner advised we would change our destination to Millville, KMIV and shoot the VOR A approach. I contacted approach (Atlantic city at this time) and advised on the change of destination, I would like the VOR A with a procedure turn. Atlantic City was great to work with. I had to ask to step down to two thousand since AC got busy and didn't give me the ok. Finally approved I pulled the power to the pre-set numbers and continued my descent as I was performing a parallel entry for the PT over Cedar Lake. Winds were not bad at all but I still cut a big angle to intercept the inbound 216 radial from VCN. I was on track inbound with time and distance to spare. I went missed on this approach, hit the OBS to take the 530 out of suspend and continued on course with climb back to VCN.
At this point I canceled with Atlantic city and contacted Millville radio to advise I was going to shoot the ILS 10 approach. I briefed the plate and set up the comm/nav's then picked up the wx once again at Millville. I was right on time picking up the localizer, nailed it! That didn't last long as I strayed off almost a dot wide futzing with locking down the throttle. I was on the glide slope, never really much out of the "bubble". A few small 'S' turns as I chased a bit but was in the bubble when given the look up to land command. This was going to be a circle to land runway 32 as I held altitude very nice and made a smooth touch and go. I did get dinged for power then flaps but I was soon climbing out. The examiner provided vectors for KILG and we were on our way, homestretch I was thinking, don't blow it now.
It was a bit thermally but not to bad and I let my altitude stray a bit just to +100 feet but had caught it and was correcting. Right at that moment the examiner said my plane....oh God, noway, I busted. He said close your eyes and put your head down for some unusual attitudes. Alright!!!!...I'm still in the game! Unusual attitudes were fine and worked through them twice, one climbing turn with little airspeed left and one nose down and a good banked turn. Following the attitude work I was following vectors to the GPS 27 at Wilmington.
I contacted the tower, advised them of my position and that I had the ATIS with my intentions for the GPS 27. I was directed to report GUSTE inbound. I was just 3 minutes shy of GUSTE when I pulled the power and configured for 90 knots. Must shoot this approach on the money, I'm almost home. I turned about half standard rate and joined the final approach like it was attached to the bubble. I was rock solid on course and power was set to descend to the required altitudes for each fix. Finally, lift the foggles and land, music to my ears. I slowed 08Romeo to 1500 rpm and added flaps. Over the numbers and a sweet landing. It's a done deal, I made it through the ride!
The examiner asked if I needed help with the plane. No, I'll take care of it and he said he would get the paperwork finished up. I slowly packed up the cockpit, savoring what I just completed. I thought of my Dad and wondered what he would say, how he would feel. I knew he had a smile on ear to ear.....just like his son.
Special thanks to my Bride Mary, I could not have finished this rating without your support, you my love, have been my favorite cheerleader, You never had a doubt. Think of all the fun places we can travel to now! Ok, well maybe after I get some things done around the house like painting and some new appliances.
To my CFII Tom, you are the man! Thanks for all your dedication, patience and for sharing your knowledge. You made it happen and got me ready. Today we share the win.
Mike B!!! I did it!!! Man have we logged some hours. You never gave up on me, always encouraged me to get it done. When I thought I really sucked you were there to fly those thoughts right out of me. I kind of liked being called the 'machine', I wore it as a badge of honor. For all your late hours, endless landings, late night meals at Eats, hours of sweat, I offer my sincere Thanks. I hope I can pay your example forward.
Its over...completed. I am relieved, tired and happy all at once. Gary Mascelli, Private pilot, Instrument Rated. I like the sound of it.