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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Homeward bound

While packing for my final trip home, I found heavy sweaters and fleece, which seemed oddly out of place in the warm spring weather. They reminded me that it was bitterly cold and snowy when I first moved down here to Virginia to begin flight training. Now the trees are full of leaves, my skin is tanned and I feel like an entirely different person.
In the morning, I'll set off in my car for an 8-hour ride back home, where I'll resume normal life with Jen and Emily.
I'm happy. And tired.
Shortly before 2 a.m., I stumbled exhausted into my apartment after passing my CFII (instrument flight instructor) checkride. The 17-hour day had begun at 8 a.m. After some ground instruction and a training flight, it was time to complete paperwork ahead of the checkride, work on a lesson plan and generally brush up on knowledge areas I deemed weak. Around 8:30 p.m., the examiner pitched up after a retest that apparently didn't go so well.
I taught him a single-engine partial-panel non-precision approach, compass and timed turns on a procedure turn and a DME arc on the white board and answered questions until it was time to go fly around 10:30 p.m. Since I'd done my instrument rating with him, he flew the aircraft. My job was to teach him, the person who through several checkrides taught me so much. It felt odd at first, but I soon got in the groove of it.
We headed out to Martinsburg to shoot the full ILS and the full missed, then set up for the GPS-A into Winchester. Eight miles out, I pulled an engine and in short order "failed" the vacuum system by covering up his artificial horizon and directional gyro, all the while talking him through how to shoot the approach. Not surpisingly, he did a stellar job.
From there, we headed to the Linden VOR where I taught him a DME arc and had a blast setting up for unusual attitudes.
We landed back in Manassas at 1 a.m. I was now a CFII. A tired, worn out one.
The past three months seem like an eternity, yet they flashed by me. I came here a private pilot and am leaving a multi- and single-engine commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument instructor ratings and a whole lot to learn. I think the most important thing I learned during the program is what I don't know.
The weather will unfortunately deter me from taking my single-engine CFI checkride as planned tomorrow, but I've already scheduled for next week with the examiner who gave me my private ticket in Massachusetts almost two years ago.

The flying has been awesome.
I love the Seminole. It's taken me safely everywhere I've needed to be and I'll miss the airplane very much. While putting it to bed for the last time last night after my CFII ride, a hint of sadness suddenly overcame me. So I sat in the cockpit for a few minutes enjoying the memories that rushed back, from clumsy training flights to that white-knuckle trip in icy clouds over the Smokey Mountains and many many more. They all made me smile.
I've also made many good friends, from Ron and Eric, my first two instructors here, to flight partners and other fellow students along the way. We were all bound together by the hectic pace of the course and I'm sure they will all turn out to be excellent pilots wherever they choose to go.
As for me, my first order of business is to return to my wife. From there, I'll begin to learn as an instructor, do my best to teach well, pay my dues and make my way to bigger and faster airplanes.
I don't know where I'm going yet, but I'm getting there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats. Glad to hear that you have made it through the program. If willing to travel to ohio, i would gladdly be your first student. Now that you have completed the program, what is your opion of ATP? I wanted to go through them to get all my tickets, but couldn't get approved for the loans. I will have to find another way. But i guess i am asking to see if it would be worth the effort. Again congrats, Capt..


11:27 AM  
Blogger Sean meehan said...

congrats....sorry we never got to meet up. Im headed down to FPR next week for some multi stuff. Maybe one day we will cross paths at the airline. best of luck.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's this Ron Character...probably an awsome instructor...and Eric, isn't he the NAMBLA president?

-Piss on Boston :-)

12:57 AM  
Blogger Capt. Wilko said...

Thanks guys. It's good to be home!
Anonymous from Ohio... sorry to hear about the loan situation. I had to jump through hoops myself. I hope you work something out.
Sean, sorry we never got together. Hey, I didn't realize you knew Eric!
Filthy New Yorker... yup, Eric is the chairman of the NAMBLA and Ron was the angriest instructor I've ever had the pleasure to fly with. You should've seen him the day we couldn't get the left engine started because "someone" grinded the starter... good times.

10:36 AM  

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