A month ago I found myself travelling halfway across the world again. This time just sitting in the back for way too long on the way from Europe to sunny California.
I picked a school in Yuba City. Not a very interesting place compared to what’s close by but I was there for my FAA license and not to go sightseeing.
The first day I went to a fingerprint collector in Sacramento because that process takes a while and you need them cleared before commencing training. The guy told me, to my surprise, that it could take up to 7 days. Normally it’s more like 3 but there were a few holidays that week and they were generally busy as the aviation sector is picking up again.
On the second day I was here I went for my FAA CPL written. Not really that difficult if you prepare a bit by learning the National Airspace System and reviewing the basics. Of course my question app helped a lot after doing all the questions in study mode, which doesn’t just show you the answer but also explains it briefly.
After a week of study and waiting for my TSA clearance to come through, I finally got my first flight done. The Duchess there could be in a better state but the engines sounded OK and she flies really well. The counter rotating props make it a stable plane and she is very light on the controls. During my training we had to swap the GPS back and forth between planes which is kind of funny but oh well, not a big issue.
The guys here in Yuba City are really nice. Chances had it that 3 fellow Belgians are here at the same time, albeit for other reasons (initial CFI).
It’s a really constructive exercise when you put pilots with various backgrounds and different goals together. I learned a lot about the FAA regulations just listening to their briefings, chiming in the conversations and asking questions.
The second week wasn’t really productive but things happened fast in the last week. Unfortunately, due to some scheduling changes and me having to do 2 instead of one checkride, I had to buy another airline ticket set for a few days later.
My first checkride was the initial CPL ME. I was obviously nervous but both the ground portion and practical test went really well. Once again I got complements on my SRM and flying style so that was a real boost for my confidence.
However on the IR addon checkride 2 days later I got confused on the VOR approach. I was mentally set up to do one holding pattern and go for the approach. However just before the beacon the examiner said “Just do a procedure turn”. I wasn’t really sure what he meant and I was thinking to go outbound and do a 45/180. I guess that would have worked out but then I initiated the turn to the right instead of left. Darn.
Then after passing the VOR inbound I descended a bit too slow and I was too high on the MAPt, but I guess that’s not really wrong, just a waste of fuel 😛
My second mistake was the dumbest one. After doing a nice ILS and established on the back course heading out after the missed approach, I briefed a parallel entry into the hold, as I should. However, on reaching the fix I immediately turned right instead of flying out for 1 minute. No idea why I did that after briefing and preparing for what I should have done but, it was a bust. He obviously disapproved.
The feeling when you get back is horrible. You know perfectly what you did wrong and what you should have done, yet you didn’t. You feel so stupid and frustrated.
It took a while and couple of beers to accept reality. Luckily I was able to schedule a recheck with another examiner in Chico the day before I left. Again the pressure was on.
However this time, all went well and again the examiner complimented me on the same things. We didnt have GPS and only 1 non-slaved VOR to do all the approaches but they worked out very nice.
And that was that I had my FAA CPL ME IR!! I’m so happy! Finally I can fly twins again and this license is so much cheaper and easier to keep current! Opportunities arise but I had a job waiting for me anyway.
3 days later and completely ridden of my stress from the last 3 weeks I was on an A330 again heading to Dubai.
After landing in Dubai around midnight and dead tired I drove straight to Abu Dhabi and crashed. The next day brought the first flight in the Cessna 401, without any survey done however, and a day later a flight in the AC690.
Progress is slow as we are having massive thunderstorms, very unusual for the region. Hopefully by Friday we will be back in the sky taking pictures of this ever changing landscape as they build like madmen around me.