It was a dark and stormy night. Peanuts fans know that Snoopy always bangs that phrase out on his typewriter. Mr. Schultze's beagle gives homage to Edward Bulwer-Lytton. That's the opening line to what many consider the worst piece of fiction ever written, there's even a bad fiction contest named after him. What does that have to do with helicopters? Nothing except that Corbin took his three students out for a drink last night to celebrate. Each passed a check ride this week. A CFII, one CFI, and a PPL. I chose a rum and ginger beer concoction called a dark and stormy. It's a refreshing libation but I bet if you spent an entire evening consuming them, the drink name would be a good description for your commode come morning.
The check ride is a two part evaluation; a 2 hour oral exam followed by the practical exam. I felt pretty prepared for the oral because I've been studying with the big kids (potential CFI's) for the past few weeks. And I spent a bunch of time writing key things over and over. Turns out all that trouble I got in through the elementary years was worth it. Tangent alert. I got caught doing something stupid (no idea anymore what it was) and Mrs. Kluetch assigned me to write something 500 times as homework. That night my dad showed me how to tape pencils together to write two lines at a time. Nine-year-olds think their dads are the smartest men in the world. That night convinced me that I had the coolest dad as well. O.K. back to the front.
Early on Corbin suggested that I spend some of my free time writing various things over and over to make them stick. Do them until you have it verbatim, then once a week after that. Occasionally he would give me a new paragraph or what ever as we went along or he'd randomly ask me to give him the definition of land as soon as practical to make sure I was keeping up with my studies.
It's a super boring way to study but I got the pay off in the oral exam. Question number 1: Tell me everything you know about the rotor system on the R-22. Deep breath. Rattle off: The R-22 has a semi-rigid, deep under-slung rotor system with modified coning hinges. Two symmetrical blades of D-spar construction with stainless steel leading edges, aluminum skins, and aluminum honeycomb. The blades cover 25' 2" and have a 7.2" chord. Pause to inhale. Examiner raises his hand to stop me, O.K., O.K. that's enough, good job. Part of me was all, right on and part of me was fuck off dude, I ain't done, I haven't mentioned the 8 degree twist.
The wind socks stiffened nicely while we were inside. 18 gusting 24. For sure the limits of my ability. The practical exam is a list of maneuvers that you must perform within a certain standard, example: the student will maintain a hover height of +/-2 ft, a heading of 10 degrees, and be within four feet on pivot turns. Well shit, I can do everything maneuver-wise but flying is like skiing, you can tell what kind of day you're gonna have on the first turn.
My first turn was good, I felt loose and relaxed. I banged out a quick-stop (that one took me a while to learn) on take-off. Immediately into the auto rotation. I've never done one into that kind of breeze before so I didn't know how far I would glide but its +/- 200 feet for the private standards so really all you need to do is not scare the examiner to death and you'll pass.
He got out his red pen (it really was red) and scribbled a bunch. He looked over and said, don't worry this is just for the debrief. Remember what I said inside, each maneuver is pass/fail and I'll tell you right away if you failed so no news is good news. Now show me a shallow approach to North Lima.
That was a beautiful shallow approach, nice job on the power management. But this is North Charlie. Check ride nerves, relax, you're doing fine.
We ended with my nemesis, the slope landing. Luckily the wind was still nice and gusty so hovering was a bitch, much less landing one skid at a time. I approached the slope and yawed to and fro while I tried to keep her steady. I started a descent then pulled in power, announced I was starting over and backed away from the slope. The examiner said, remember movement is stability. Just set it down.
So I did. Then I picked up and he instructed me to ask Tower for a full stop. Shit did I fail? Must have, cuz we haven't done a governor off landing yet. O.K. Shane, I'm satisfied. Your ground knowledge is impressive and your flying is right where it should be at this level. You don't have any bad habits that need correcting. Congratulations. Really? Yeah, really.