Sorry for the delay, its been a heck of a couple of weeks. Well, the title says it all, I am officially a commercially rated pilot. About freakin time! It did not come easily, though. The checkride was one of the most challenging things I've faced, not in the sense of weather conditions, or emergencies, or whatnot, but the examiner was a bit of a handful. The oral exam went well, with a few hiccups on some of the weather charts (anyone want to explain what a "dry line" is on a surface analysis chart?). That said, once we got into the airplane, things just couldn't fall my way. First off - it was windy, and they were swinging around all over the place. I've flown in much worse conditions (ask me sometime about an A36 Bonanza into Nashua, NH), but its certainly not what I wanted on my check ride. Secondly, the examiner wanted me to perform the check ride, and its associated maneuvers, HIS way, as opposed to the standardized way I was taught at FlightSafety.
I was warned about this before, but didn't expect it to be as bad as it was. Throughout the flight I was concerned with failing - he constantly told me how bad my maneuvers were and how I should be doing something different - and was worked up, but never let it show. As we came back to Vero, I was soaked in sweat and exhausted, with only one landing left to make. We sailed in along the glideslope, wind knocking us about like a dingy in a hurricane, and I fought to keep the airplane aligned with the center of the runway. I rounded out my approach into the flare, and waited for the airplane to settle down, keeping my cross-wind correction in and hoping a gust of wind didn't float me past my touchdown point. The resulting landing was only realized when we could feel the cracks in the runway pass beneath our tires. No sound, no jolt. The examiner's smile betrayed the mask he had been wearing throughout the flight, as he later said he is especially stern on commercial students to see how they react to pressure. Thirty minutes and $400 later, I had my ticket in-hand.
So there we are! The ink had barely dried on my Instrument rating and I was issued another "Temporary Airman's Certificate." The economist (read: analyst) in me can't let the moment pass without some number crunching, though. The total cost of my training from Instrument to commercial was $10,644.54 - nearly a full $4,000 less than what was originally quoted to me from FlightSafety. I attribute the savings to a few factors. FlightSafety quotes time and cost numbers based on "average" time needed to complete a rating or certificate (under CFR part 61). Coming to FlightSafety, I was already a fairly proficient pilot, and didn't need a lot of recurrent training to adapt to their standards. Also, I was very proactive in my studies and classroom preparation, a point which the Chief Flight Instructor mentioned makes a significant difference. Further, my schedule was only limited by my instructor, aircraft availability, and work schedule. Not once did a lack of preparation or available funds restrict my flying. To that point, only 70 days had passed from my first flight (3/17) to my commercial check-ride (5/25) and in that time, I amassed 50 hours in my logbook, bringing my total to 271.2 hours.
So what's next? Well my multi-engine training has started. Its only 17 lessons, 5 of which are in the simulator and one or two briefs, so it should go fairly quickly. I hope to be on my checkride by the beginning of next month. First thoughts on it though - things get a bit complicated when an engine fails. In single-engine aircraft, you have one option when your engine quits: Land. In multi-engined aircraft, you're still flying, so your approach to handling the emergency is much different than anything I've learned before. The challenge is certainly fun, and I can't wait to have to learn to handle it all, AND fly an instrument approach. Geeze...
Flight Instructor ground school starts on Monday, so I'll be back to report on how that is going as well as a multi-engine update. I'll leave you all with something I came up with while talking to a friend of mine, trying to describe why I love flying:
"It's always a sunny day above the clouds..."