Private Pilot, Airplane, Single Engine, Land

For all of you who thought I would never get this private pilot thing finished (including me at times), I did! It has been a long road with a lot of starts and stops, highs and lows but; I saw it through and this morning I was handed a temporary airman’s certificate. Yep, I am now a private pilot.

I got to the airport before 8AM but, Sandy was already there. We checked over the paperwork to make sure I had everything in order. She endorsed my logbook and gave me a few last minute suggestions and cautions. I have to admit, I was more nervous about this checkride than I was about my first one.

The temperature was below freezing this morning so we went out to see how much frost was on the airplane. It was a light coating but still enough to be a hazard so we pushed N35092, and two other planes that were going out early, into the hanger. The examiner arrived as I was doing the preflight. I finished up and met him in the office.

He completed his portion of the IACRA application then filled me in on what we would be doing. We would take off from Waukegan and fly to Westosha for some short field landings. Then we would depart 5K6 and I would put on the foggles to simulated me accidentally flying into clouds. After the hood work, we would go back to Waukegan and do the soft field landings there. Sandy and I had done most of our practice at Burlington expecting that I would be going there so, Westosha was a bit of a surprise. It isn’t the easiest airport to find from the east and that made me even more nervous.

We pushed the Skyhawk out of the hanger, got in and I started it up. The cold engine gave me an excuse to take my time setting up the radios. I put Westosha in the GPS but I expected Mr. Examiner to shut that off soon after takeoff. It was too cold for a run up on the ramp this morning. I called ground and taxied to the end of runway 23 to give the oil temperature time to come up a little before adding a lot of RPMs.

Cleared for takeoff and in the air, I was allowed to use the GPS all the way to 5K6. Pilotage wasn’t part of this re-test but, it was still a pleasant surprise to be able to use it.

My nerves were showing when I made a sloppy pattern entry at Westosha. I was way to far along on the downwind and had to pull the power back as soon as I finished the turn. This was supposed to be a short field landing so I tried to hold 62 knots on final. At one point, my airspeed dropped to 57 and I pushed in too much power to get it back up. Those nerves again. I ended up landing fast and flat. The examiner knew I was nervous. He just told me to do a short field take off and try the landing again. As we back taxied on the runway, he pointed out a spot and said he wanted me to touchdown short of it.

This one went better. I was stabilized on final and held the speed right down to the flare. I touched down just short of my mark and got stopped in decent short field distance. I back taxied again and he told me we would be departing to the southwest this time.

As we leveled off from the climb out and made the turn to the southwest, the DPE took the controls while I put my foggles on. He told me I had just flown into a cloud and asked me to show him what I would do if this was real. First, I turned on the autopilot and used it to hold my heading and altitude while I got oriented. I used the AP to make a 180 degree turn which, of course, didn’t get me out of my pretend cloud. My next step was to make a simulated call for help on 121.5. From then on, the examiner played the part of Chicago approach.

He gave me a transponder code, which I pretended to set then told me that he did not have radar contact. He wanted me to tune the Kenosha VOR and tell him my radial. As I was tuning the radio, he turned off the autopilot. It had just failed. I gave him the radial and he instructed me to fly direct to the VOR. I turned the OBS dial to the show to and a centered needle and turned to the heading. While I was turning, he asked me for a climb to 3000 feet.

Just as I leveled off at the new altitude, my “controller” told me that Kenosha was now low IFR but, I should be able to get into Waukegan. Could I fly direct to the airport? I told him I could and began a turn to the east as I started to set KUGN in the GPS. This is where the DPE started to load me up until I couldn’t keep up any more. He gave me a turn for traffic, a descent and asked for my direct heading to Waukegan all in rapid order. I tried to keep up but overshot the altitude by 200 feet before I confessed that I couldn’t handle it all at once. He then started to give me vectors to the airport so I could skip the GPS.

I kept the foggles on most of the way home. The DPE got the ATIS and, when he called the tower, told the controller we would be staying in the pattern for a series of landings. When he let me take the foggles off we were about about 4 miles out.

As I entered the right downwind for runway 23, he told me to make this one a soft field landing right on the aiming blocks. I made good base and final turns and nailed my speed right at 65 knots. I was aiming for the second centerline stripe in front of the blocks. As the wheels touched the ground gently, I saw the blocks out of the corners of my eyes.

Mr. Examiner said; “That was perfect, let’s go back to the ramp.”

I told the tower we would be taxiing to Skill and took us on into our parking spot. The DPE congratulated me, told me I had done a very nice job and then went over the few nit picky things he had written down. He didn’t give me the standard line about this being a license to learn but, he did tell me that he thought I was a very safe pilot and that he hoped I would use my certificate to keep getting better. Then, he went in to fill out my temporary certificate while I tied the airplane down.

Debra, one of the school’s students and receptionists, came out to congratulate me and take a few pictures. After that we went inside were I got more congratulation from Sandy and the other CFIs.

In the end, this re-test was just one Hobbs hour long with three landings and about fifeteen minutes under the hood.

This post is getting long so, I will end it here with just the report of what happened. In my next post, I will talk more about what this whole process has meant to me and where I hope to go from here. The primary training may be over, but flying, the learning, and this blog, will go on.

  • Matt says:

    Great story! Keep up the good work. I also posted it on … you should vote it up!

  • S says:

    Congrats!! It’s finally done. Keep updating your blog. Thanks.

  • CFI says:


  • Anonymous says:

    Congratulations! There’s hope for the rest of us middle-aged students. Stay safe, and
    Have Fun,

  • Julien says:

    Congratulations! I’ve been following your adventures for a while, which mirror mine as a student pilot in Australia, and I really appreciate your honest and detailed reporting of your flying adventures. Keep posting!

  • Millz says:

    Awesome, congrats!
    I’ve tracked your blog almost since the beginning – nice job!

  • Zach says:

    Congrats man! It was nice to read this post. Keep posting of course and happy flying!

  • TheNewsBlogger says:

    Great job, Pilot! Congratulations! 🙂

  • Russ says:

    Greetings. I won’t bog your blog down with a lot of text here, but did want to let you know about an aviation news item that you might be interested in. I realize how much work it is keeping a blog current. Maybe this will help.

    The Art & Science of Better Landings is now available online. You can learn more about it in this news release:

    This is a 2-part system consisting of a downloadable book and narrated multimedia lessons. It is published by the same company that produces the Gold Seal Online Ground School (

    Best wishes and Good Flying!
    – Russ

  • Tom says:

    Thank you all for your congratulations and for all the support along the way. Please, stick around, there is more to come.

  • David says:

    Holy Smokes!! I go away for a weekend and miss this! Congrats! Been a long time coming, and well earned!


  • Ex Gravel Cruncher says:

    Wow congratulations! That is fantastic!!

  • Michael says:

    Congrats to you!

    I kinda wish my DPE had given me a realistic “simulated cloud” experience like yours did.

  • Shawn says:

    Tom – Congratulations! When one of the select few complete the process to become a PPSEL, we sometimes feel it is anti-climactic. That’s usually because we’ve been working on it for so long.

    You have accomplished something that many, many people have started and quit. So many others dream about it yet never take the leap. What you have achieved is unique among our population. Welcome to the membership of an exclusive group. Quite an achievement!

    Welcome, Tom. As you wrote, this is just a license to learn. Beyond that, the fun has just begun! Keep practicing and learning… and sharing it with whoever will listen.

    Enjoy your new ticket. Congratulations and safe flying!


  • bill says:

    I am a member of UFO, “United flying Octogenerations: It means I am 81.
    You had GPS automatic pilot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I still say the best landing I have ever made was the day of my exam and getting license.

    Have fun!!


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