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!

Flight Design’s Tom Peghiny (front) and CFI John Lampson (black beanie) are just two of the many people and resources who helped Jim get his sport pilot ticket.
On the big day, Lampson and I fly up from Hartford to Minute Man Air Field (6B6), as quaint a country strip as you could hope to find. I meet my FAA examiner, Rob Albright, shake off my nerves, and up we go.

Mr. Albright, who hit it off immediately with Lampson—they both have rock bands!—has me climb to 2,000 feet and pull steep turns over a humongous field near some equally humongous radio towers.

Challenging myself to exhibit skill instead of just getting by the test, I turn right instead of my favored left direction. My reward? I finish the 360 within 40 feet altitude of where I started. Yes!

Next is slow flight at 60 with no flaps. “You passed that,” he says, then asks for approach stalls. Back on the stick, ease up the nose until a slight break with no wing drop.

“Good, passed that.”

Throughout, I make sure to communicate every flight-related action in my head ahead of time. I want my examiner to know I’m on top of the game. Near the end, he instructs me to land on an ultralight strip. Relaxed and confident, figuring I’ve got it knocked, I set up downwind, turn onto base...and I’m way high! Not again!

I tense up, throw the plane into a vigorous slip, back off, put slip back in, but I’m still 100 feet up, well beyond midfield, when he tells me to go around.

Unbelievable. All I had to do was pull S-turns or hold the slip all the way down: a big mental screwup. Have I just pranged the test?

“All right, you passed that...barely. Get some practice with Lampson on altitude for landing.”


Back to Minute Man, where I vow to pull off the Mother of All Landings. I feed in 15 degrees of flaps, bank onto final—at the perfect altitude—and grease it on.

“Beautiful,” says examiner Albright.


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