Lesson 70
11 June
3 hours

This was the oral part of the final stage check with Becky.

The weather was technically VFR, but the ceiling was too low for our purposes, so we had to postpone that part until next Tuesday afternoon.

We had been scheduled for three hours, and she used every second in grilling me.  Feet to the flames.  As soon as I got singed on one side she grilled me on another.  All that was lacking was a spit--and some of the time I felt as though it was there, anyway!

She got right to the point--and then to another and another.  I'd thought I was pretty well prepared; but I learned several things I hadn't known at all and got straightened out on several others that I hadn't quite understood.  In the end she said I'd done quite well.  Actually, she said that twice in the three hours, and after one question she said I was one of the few students she'd ever grilled--she didn't actually say grilled--who knew the answer.  (I think she was trying too hard to be human at that point, as it didn't seem like a terribly difficult questions:  "Explain tail-down force.")

Here are some of the things I should have known better and got straightened out on:

"What's a complex aircraft?"  Harrumph.  Should've been easy.  Turns out it's defined in FAR 61.31e, and I should have known--one with retractable gear, variable pitch prop, etc.

"Explain runway incursion?"  Um, when...  Well, I got close enough to her definition--and learned that you have to get every part of your plane past the hold short line before you can legitimately announce that you're clear of the runway.   I've never seen anyone do that at FCI, including the instructors, but I see the logic in it.

What are FDC NOTAMS?"  I knew about this but didn't know that they're published.  (That's how Becky distinguished them; I'll doublecheck later.)  That is, she said, they're known about some time in advance.  Distant NOTAMS are known to all FSSs, all over the country, and they're of interest because they might affect your decision to fly to some particular area or airport.  Local NOTAMS are known only to the local FSS because they probably wouldn't affect anyone's decision of whether to fly to that airport..

"What equipment is required for day VFR flight?"  Airspeed, altimeter, magnetic compass; oil pressure, oil temperature, fuel gauge for each tank, seat belt, ... um, ...  Aw, rats, I couldn't rattle them all off in a hurry and must memorize them all.

"If you're are Petersburg and your spinner falls off and you have all the screws in your hand, can you put it back on?"  Ha-ha!  I knew that one:  nope, not routine maintenance, pilot's not authorized to do it.  "Right," she said.  But suppose you want to fly to Chesterfield in order to get it put on.  You need a special flight permit, don't you."  Um, yep, sure.  "How do you obtain a special flight permit?"  Um.  "Get it in writing from the local fuzdo."  Uh...  "Flight Standards District Office."  Oh.  (A FAX is okay, she said.)

"At what altitude can you contact Flight Watch?"  Um ...  "Above 5000 feet."  I knew that, but of course couldn't remember it at the time.  (But, then, I've never flown that high, either.)

"If you're at Richmond one day and the ceiling is 1100 feet and the visibility is 1 mile, can you take off?"  Yyyye... I think so.  Ahem.  Yes, you can take off in Class C airspace in those conditions if you get SVFR clearance.   "Yes," she said, "1100 feet plus the airport elevation, about 200 feet, makes 1200 feet MSL, and all you need.for SVFR is one mile visibility and clear of clouds, so you can fly at pattern elevation with SVFR and be below the clouds, and you have more than the one mile visibility.  Okay, then, can you take off and fly to Chesterfield under those conditions?"  Um...  Well...   "No"--I think she said this--"because of the terrain clearance, because you'd have to fly into the Class E airspace above the airport and there you'd be less than 500 feet below the clouds."  Aw, gee.  Well, I still don't really have all of this cold.  Time to hit the books again.

Right then she pointed to a bare-looking spot on a sectional chart, southwest of FCI.  "If you're above 1200 feet, but not in Class A, B, C, or D airspace, what airspace are you in?"  This turned out to be an especially tricky one, because although I've memorized what it says in the books I don't feel as though I really understand it completely, not in my bones..  Anyway, I said Class G, but she frowned and said, "Class E."  That stopped me cold because I thought--or felt--or hoped--that if I was outside A, B, C, and D airspace, and not above 14,500 feet or in a Victor airway or in the Class E airspace surrounding a Class E airport (or a certain few other Class E places) that I'd be in Class G airspace.  Guess again.  She said something about the eastern part of the country being all Class E unless another Class was specified--but I didn't really get it.  Another thing to look up.  [ Later:  I think this may be covered in FAR 71.71--or, rather in FAA Order 7400.9E, which apparently describes all airspace in the USA.  But it's not in the FAR book I have, and I can't locate a copy of it online. ]

Finally, after three hours and twelve minutes, she smiled in my direction and said (somewhat grudgingly, I thought), "You'll probably pass the oral."

Wull...  gee whillakers.  Coming from her, that confidence is almost overwhelming.

I'm getting awfully tired of being checked on.
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