For a start I’m not just calling him that because he passed me, although it did help. I have a suspicion that even if I’d failed, I’d have done it with a smile on my face. He just had that manner about him.
I went in to this test not knowing what to expect. Everyone kept telling me how nice he was, how he’d put me at my ease, how I’d be fine with him. So much so, in fact, that I’d started to get a little suspicious. Why was everyone quite so adamant about this?
Of course it didn’t help that I’d gotten down to the flight school really early and had pretty much all day to stew over this.
He’s doing a CPL test before me and running late. I’m pacing nervously up and down the two floors, alternating between last minute revision and joking with the various instructors who are flitting in and out.
Everyone has a friendly word of encouragement once they realise what I’m down here for, even more so when I tell them who my examiner is.
He’s running late but eventually we meet up. The CFI introducing us to each other. I hand over the plastic folder containing all the stuff he needs for me to be admitted to the flight test. We shake hands.
He tells me how things are going to go, that he needs to fill in some paperwork and then we’ll do the ground portion. He talks me through the stages of the flight test, the order we will do things in. As he talks I’m mildly amused to realise that he’s working off a checklist too, making sure he covers all the points about who is PIC etc. I’m not exactly relaxed but I am a little more at ease. He’s assured me that I can use him as a cockpit resource, if I need him to hold anything etc. He’s friendly and doing his best to break the ice. I’m kind of reminded of Bob. It is familiar, reassuring.
The ground portion is more of a discussion that a question and answer session. Due to the details of the planning scenario he has set me, it isn’t actually a flight I would attempt and I tell him so. He seems perfectly at ease with my reasoning and I wonder if he’s deliberately set it up as so. Maybe, just maybe I’ve passed the first hurdle by not getting lulled in to the “it is just about possible” trap.
He’s shrewd though, he can sense weaknesses. He doesn’t allow me to BS my way through my cross country leg of the actual flight. I know I’m off track. I tell him so. I tell him that I’m going to wait until I’m abeam my first checkpoint before correcting. He doesn’t let me off that easily though, insisting that I do correct my heading appropriately before he’ll let me continue.
Throughout the flight though, he is reassuring. Each successful manoeuvre is met with a “good job!”
Even as we are coming back into the zone, he takes time to comment “well I’m liking what I see so far!”
This takes me by surprise a little, I’m worried that my altitude control has been sloppy beyond belief. Maybe I’m doing okay after all.
He has yet more surprises in store for me though. Just when I think we are done and am about to shut down the plane. He asks me “ So what if your engine was on fire now”
I know this one, Isolate the fuel, isolate the electrics and get the hell out of Dodge City. I tell him as much.
“So do it then….”
Blinking I realise that he wants me to actually pull the ICO and the fuel shut off valve. I do so. He stops me short of exiting the plane as I point out that I’d be taking the extinguisher with me.
He’s perceptive though; throughout the debrief I get the impression that he really gets me. He notes that although my power on stall was executed well (a 4!) he could tell it was obviously something that was difficult for me. He noted the extreme wing drop and that it could be unnerving but praised me for holding the ailerons neutral and noticed that I was quick on the rudder to recover it back. He also noticed how I find the controls heavy sometimes, again acknowledging that I compensate well by frequent trimming. He had some tips about future plane purchasing if I did find the 172 a little heavy at times.
Finally, and the thing I love him for the most I think, was that he complimented me on my use of the milk crates for my walkround. Calling it “highly professional”, rather than mocking me. I think it was the principle of recognising that you need a particular tool to do the job effectively and not caring how it makes you look that impressed him.
All in all, he made my flight test as close to a pleasurable experience as it was ever going to get. He really set the tone when his opening sentence after introducing himself was to thank me for giving him the opportunity to fly with me.