Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ticket To Ride III

Part III: Don’t get cocky, kid—You’ve soloed. Time to prep for The Ride!

The CTLS and I sail up and out over the southern Connecticut coast...right into the golden brilliance of the westward sea, so bright I have to block the glare with my hands.

Another 1,500-foot tower en route keeps me vigilant, but I’m pumped anyway—halfway home! New Haven tower directs me to land on runway 32 instead of my expected 2. No sweat. Touchdown is nominal, if not artful, and soon I’m on my way down the last leg to Hartford home base.

The tower gives me a long 10-mile final for runway 2. Over the fence, I’m 100 feet up when I see a flock of 100 or so seagulls parked right on the numbers!

Uh oh.

I eyeball them. They eyeball me.

Seventy-five feet. Some start to take off, be ready! Fifty feet. And then, as if Lampson was on the ground shooing them off to give me the ultimate test, the entire flock launches right in front of me. I push in full power, riveting my focus on the nearest birds, climb out and over the flock and go around.

The tower controller says, “Nice job,” then asks if I can do a short approach for incoming traffic. Sure, I say, thinking, “Hell, after that, I can handle anything.” I roll into an immediate base, dump the flaps and touch down in the first third.

“Thanks for the help,” he says.

“My pleasure,” I answer, grinning to myself. Nothing like finishing off your cross-country solo with a little landing emergency.

Drum roll: Now it’s time to prep for the checkride.

Final Schoolin’ & The Big Day
After a few flights of checkride prep with rock star Lampson, I whip out the checkride DVD I received from Dave Jackson at King Schools. The six-CD course is indispensable for quashing flight exam jitters. The all-video course takes you along with John King on his oral and practical test with Rusty Sachs, veteran FAA flight examiner and Master CFI. You’re in the virtual cockpit throughout the checkride. I found it incredibly thorough and helpful in demystifying the whole process.


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