Tuesday, July 31, 2012

     I've actually slept like a normal human being the past couple of days. I can go to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up without feeling like I'm baring the weight of the world on my shoulders. (That sounds almost like a commercial for anti-depressants...) I wasn't depressed, just really nervous.

     If the weather agrees today I'll be getting checked out in a C-172L up at New River Valley Airport. (Where I started flying.) After that, I may rent to my liking! Better get all the flying in I can, for I only have two weeks left here. Kind of sad, but it's time for me to leave. The 'Prologue' of my life is finished. Now it's time for Chapter 1.

“It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice-cream sandwiches.” 
~Lemony Snicket

I'm not leaving for Ice-Cream Sandwiches, so it will be a little while longer. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

            It’s 6:00AM. You know that brilliant moment when you wake up and for a split second your day is empty? You have no plans. Your biggest plans are that you have none. Then, to your horror, you realize that everything in the WORLD is taking place today? Well my check ride was today.  I immediately get this nasty feeling in my stomach. It’s that feeling that normally comes when you’re nervous about giving a presentation or you’ve eaten WAY too many burritos. I’m assuming it wasn’t the latter. I brush my teeth and make my way downstairs. I can barely make the steps considering the different books, bags, and binders I was trying to take with me. Breakfast or not? I can’t decide whether I’m even hungry. The shear volume of emotions swirling around in my brain don’t allow for such an unimportant thoughts to permeate my synapses. I grab a breakfast bar and go.
            I make my way to my mom’s work. There I printed my weather charts. Weather Progs, Surface Analysis, Weather Depiction… Blah blah blah. Turns out, these would be of little use to me considering that two of those are only valid for three hours. I updated everything when I arrived.
            I make my drive to Tri-Cities. An hour and a half. That allowed me to think about everything a little too much I now realize. If you know me, I’m one to over analyze every situation. That applies to taking tests as well as mundane tasks such as peeling an orange. I somehow find a way to make things incredibly difficult on myself. I pulled into a gas station about five minutes out of Tri-Cities Airport. I used their facilities and grabbed a water to help me squeeze down this breakfast bar that I was dreading. As I somehow managed to get the bar down, I picked up my ‘Private Pilot Oral Exam Guide’, and began to review with the time that I had left. I realized what I was doing was silly; idiotic even. If I didn’t know it now, I wasn’t going to know it when my DPE asked. I threw the booklet in the back of my car, finished my water and bar, and headed down the road.
Those last five minutes felt like what I imagine the inmates feel when they walk down death row for the final time. I obviously wouldn’t be sentenced to death if I failed, but I realized that I would either leave with or without my license. It may not make sense to you, but if you’ve experienced a critique from hell, you understand that harrowing feeling that I’m describing to you. Those last few minutes I felt as if I was taking mental pictures. “Enjoy this time. It is truly the calm before the storm.” Then it slipped in. “What are the three phases of a thunderstorm?” I laughed at myself, gathered my things, and locked the car.
My DPE greeted me with a big grin as she handed me a piece of paper with a Short-Field Takeoff and Landing problem. “Thanks,” with a period, not an exclamation. She insured my logbook was ready to roll and that my electronic application was submitted correctly. I made sure my wind correction angle was still up to date and completed my sample takeoff and landing distance problem.
I learned a couple of things today other than how truly terrifying being critiqued is. I can answer questions regarding definitions without a problem. When it came to scenario based questions, it takes me a while to catch on. She sat back in her chair. It squeaked. I notice weird things like this. “So Mr. St. Clair, if you and your friends land at an airport that’s runway is 1,700 feet long and you run the numbers to insure that you can land in that distance, but for some reason running the takeoff numbers slips your mind how are you going to get out?” I had not the slightest clue as to what she was looking for. She said, “Sit on it. You have as much time as you need. Let me know when you have an answer.” After a minute or two, I conjured up an answer. I told her I would tell everyone to get out of the aircraft and grab their luggage. At this point I would takeoff and burn off some fuel so that we would be able to possibly make it out of the strip. She was satisfied with this answer, but she wanted to see if the math worked out. It didn’t. She wanted another answer. After another minute or two of just sitting their running through my available information, I came up with something else. I had been supplied with the outside air temperature. It was the only variable in the equation that I had some kind of control over. I explained that we would have to wait on the field until the outside air temperature dropped to __ degrees Celsius. That is what she was looking for! I supplied her with the math to back it up, and we were on our way. After she finished up her questions about airspace weather minimums she said, “I could drill you forever on these questions, but you have shown me that you demonstrate the proper knowledge concerning flight planning and the required knowledge set by the FAA.” That was a good feeling for sure, but it wasn’t even close to being over.
She made me a sandwich. Okay, it was just a half. I couldn’t even eat all of it. I was so nervous. While trying to stomach my ham sandwich she was talking to me about how much she loved salsa. I agreed. “A food group to its own,” she said. She sealed the jar of salsa and we made our way to the plane.
Before startup I gave her my best pre-flight briefing. No. It wasn’t your… “Ladies and Gentlemen this is your captain speaking.” It was your… “ We have three exits aboard this aircraft. One is to our left, one to our right, and if my fat ass can make it, there is a cargo door in the back.” I had her laughing. If she’s relaxed, then I’m relaxed. After getting cleared VFR to the north at or below 6,500ft we completed our run-up. All was well. She liked that I treated her as a passenger under certain circumstances. She said that I picked my times well. After all, I was the pilot in command. I completed my short-field take off over a 50ft obstacle. We rotated around 50 knots and we were off! It then hit me. This is really why I fly. It’s terribly nerve-wracking to be critiqued in any situation, but you can’t forget that flying is truly your passion. We got on course for our mock cross-country flight to Blue Ashe Airport. I knew I would survive this day after all.
After completing my simulated instrument work, she got me lost. I cross-triangulated our position and she gave me fifteen minutes to have the aircraft on the ground. I gave her a rough heading and my plan of action for my approach. I chose Hawkins County Airport for my diversion. I set up for a soft/short field landing and entered a left base for runway 25. I set it down nice and soft right past the numbers. Something was funky. No! Not the fact that I actually landed like I was supposed to. The nose gear wasn’t absorbing any of the shock. After a quick shutdown, we checked to see what was going on. Sure enough the nose gear strut was completely depressed. No wonder we felt every bump once the nose lowered to the tarmac. My DPE, being the incredibly resourceful person that she is, knew the mechanic at that airport by his first and last name. We planned to bring the aircraft back to the airport after we finished the rest of my check ride. At that point we would be picked up by my examiner’s boyfriend. We departed and completed all of the required maneuvers. The only maneuver I felt like I could have done better was the turn around a point. Something about that one sets me on edge. Apparently it passed practical test standards so we were good to go! I landed back at Hawkins where the aircraft went in for maintenance.
My examiner pointed out the restroom to me as she made her way to the women’s. Well? She hadn’t said the words yet. In the three minutes that I was in the bathroom I had convinced myself she was cooling me off right before she told me I had failed. See what I do to myself? I’m so cruel! It’s ridiculous! I get out of the bathroom and sit down on one of the FBO’s large sofas. She exits and does the same. She them makes small talk with me about things that were completely nonrelated to the check ride. Somewhere amongst the non-flight chatter she said, “Oh! By the way! Congratulations, you passed!” I composed myself. I didn’t scream until I was in the car on the way home.
Her boyfriend picked us up. Fortunately we didn’t have to drive back. The aircraft was going to be finished in a relatively short amount of time. She still wanted to go get something to drink so we made our way into Surgoinsville, Tennessee. We found this little tobacco outlet that luckily sold drinks as well. This business was about as shady as they come. Later my examiner told me the only reason she came in with me was because she thought I might get kidnapped. That and also the fact that neither she nor her boyfriend had any money on them! This was no big deal. I was more than willing to pay for a drink and a snack for the person who had just given me my private pilot’s license! We entered this establishment. You know what a house looks like when it’s being moved into or out of? Well it looked like that. Boxes of tobacco and toys and fruit and weird lady hygiene items were littered everywhere. Might I mention they weren’t actually moving as far as I know. It just looked like that. There was a woman, who could have easily been five hundred years old, purchasing the WHOLE box of Beachnut chewing tobacco. My examiner kept shooting me strange looks that I would assume meant something like, “Oh my God, where the hell are we?” At that moment a fat man in camo-crocs and a t-shirt that was thirty times two small for him, emerges from the back. I got the idea that he owned the establishment. But really, who would let their employees come into work looking that THAT!? He of course inquired as to where we came from. My examiner is a businesswoman at heart. She ended up giving this man a business card. We made our way back toward the airport and departed for Tri-Cities.
July 26, 2012 was undeniably the best day of my entire life. The experiences aside from the check ride will stay with me throughout my entire life. Who can say their check ride was as interesting as mine? I appreciate you being interested in my studies and reading this monster of a ‘short-story’.

We’ll see you in the air,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

     These past few days have been quite stressful, but all have ended on a good note. On Friday I went to have my First Class Medical Physical completed. Rather painless! Only thing they told me, was that I was color-deficient. Hah! You don't say! In fact, I was the first color deficient patient that the office had seen since the FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) had changed regarding colorblindness. I ended up having to call the CAMI- Civil Aero-Medical Institute in Oklahoma City, where I placed an application for my Letter of Authorization. The LOA is then requested from the Regional Flight Surgeon. I will then receive a letter in the mail telling me where i need to report to for my test. It will most likely be Charleston WV. That is as long as I'm still in Virginia when the letter comes. If not, I'll be taking it up in North Dakota!

Here is what a Medical Certificate looks like:


<----       Obviously in this text on my medical it              says, "Not Valid for Night Flight or by Color Control" 

     I would like to go ahead and apologize. I wasn't able to get any video from my night flight. As a matter of fact, it didn't even cross my mind! Maybe some other time! The night flying was wonderful as always! It's the most smooth ride you come across in an airplane! Quite relaxing as well! Unfortunately the airplane stays pretty booked, so I'll most likely be taking my check ride at the beginning of next week unless there is a cancellation. 

See you next time,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

     I was on the phone for what seemed an eternity today. I was in touch with the Washington FSDO. Luckily I had a FAA inspector on the other end of the line who was quite helpful. He explained some things that I needed cleared up and showed me where to find the applicable regulations in the FAR/AIM. (Giant book full of very useful information concerning Federal Regulations and Aero Info) I was also lucky enough to schedule an appointment for my First Class Medical Certificate tomorrow. I currently hold a Third Class.

The use of Medical Certs in conjunction with licensure are as follows:
  • 1st Class: Airline Transport Pilot
  • 2nd Class: Commerical Pilot, Corporate Pilot, Crop Dusters, etc.
  • 3rd Class Private Pilot, Recreational Pilot, or Student Pilot
Medicals are to Pilot Licenses like the keys are to your car. My car is cool, but without the keys it just... kind of... sits there...Get caught without your medical to accompany your Pilot's Certificate? Eeeeeeeek!

     And even though I'm not considering Airline Transport as a job, I decided to go as far as I can with the medical. The reason being that if I go to 'Demonstrate my Color Abilities' with a 3rd class medical, and later on I wanted to get a 1st class. I would have to take the Demonstrated Ability test AGAIN along with some other things. So simply, it's worth my time to go in for this physical so I only have to take the test once. I'll be finishing up my night hours next week. (They're calling for nice weather! Would you believe it?) After that I'll be scheduling my check ride again. Getting that out of the way allows me to go down to Lebanon, TN on my own time with my crisp license in hand! 

     I'll be getting some video *hopefully* of my night flight next week...

Stay tuned,

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's the hold up?

     You may have heard me griping the past couple of days. I have to go have my color vision abilities inspected at a local FSDO (Flight Standards District Offices). Unfortunately the offices aren't as 'local' as we would like them to be. Luckily I am a pilot. (Bet you didn't remember that!) And I'll be flying down with another gentleman and a flight instructor. I'll be flying and paying for the flight down and he will do likewise on the return. I am pretty excited to see what exactly it is that I can or can't see. I've been researching about how the tests may go, but it still seems kind of vague.

     First off, when you go to have your Flight Physical done, there is a portion of the test devoted to color vision. In fact here is just one of the three or four different kinds of tests and this particular test was the one I failed. TWICE


     Believe it or not, I can only see two of those. You can imagine what the woman thought who was administering the test the first time I took it. They had apparently never had a color deficient patient receiving a medical before. ( I highly doubt that, but I acted surprised anyway.) The last time I went to get my medical was no different. I couldn't see the numbers. This particular doctor had seen many color deficient pilots. Based upon the Doctor's findings he was required to manually type, with what looked to be a typewriter built at the beginning of the last ice age, "Not Valid For Night Flight or by Color Control." At that time I didn't realize what I was truly in for. *Insert REALLY sad face here*

    So about a week ago I had planned to take my check ride. The final BIG test before I either receive a beautiful white temporary license, or a pink failure notice. Hopefully it will be the latter. But anyhow.... A few days prior to taking my check ride my Pilot Examiner (Who is a wonderful lady and who I'm very lucky to have helping me through this process) wanted to double check with the Federal Aviation Administration that as a 'color-deficient' pilot, I had satiated the experience requirements. And in fact I had for the Restricted License. Which means NO night-flying or color control. My examiner wasn't just going to go for that. She really wanted me to have a shot at the full license. So this is where we get to the present time. Within the next week and a half. I'll be flying down to Lebanon, TN to demonstrate my color vision abilities. The test will be composed of these two things, and possibly more:

Light Gun Signal Test:

FYI: It's not as easy to tell the colors as the chart makes it out to be....

Section Chart Color Identification:

It's composed of LOTS of colors. Blues and Magenta.

     Before I go down to take the test I'll be finishing up some night flying hours. I'll be bringing you along for that ride! Expect that post near the end of the week! 

I'll see you soon,

Monday, July 9, 2012

UND Orientation 2012

     Welcome! First I would like to start off by saying, thank you, for you interest in whatever it happens to be that i'm doing. I created this blog simply to track my final weeks before I finish my Private Pilot's License and my final months living in Virginia! I'm excited about what may come in the next 4-8 years of my life. I have a lot of positive and loving people behind me who make my life absolutely wonderful. I don't want to lose touch with everyone back home, so I've created this blog to keep you up to date on the interesting things going on in my life. 

     As for the name of this blog, you might be wondering what it means."Cleared for the option" is a term in aviation spoken by a tower controller giving an aircraft the 'option' to make a touch-and-go, low approach, missed approach, stop-and-go, or a full stop landing. I find that the saying "Cleared for the option" applies in more than just aviation. We live in a country where you are given the 'option' to do whatever you wish with your life. And as long as you make smart decisions and take responsibility for your actions, no one can tell you otherwise. I made the decision a few years ago that aviation wasn't just going to be a passion or a hobby, but more of an outlet to express my feelings in a more constructive way. It's fun to fly but rather hard to motivate yourself to study during what most consider to be the relaxing summer months. Pffft! These past few months haven't been very relaxing... My check-ride is coming up and I'm ready to be independent as far as my flying goes.

     I figured I would created my first post about my trip out to North Dakota for my class orientation! Most of you have probably seen this video and I appreciate your responses! We'll see you soon and just maybe I'll have a crisp temporary license in my hand. 

     There will be more to come. My vision for this blog is mostly aviation oriented, and since I can't bring all of you along I would like to record and share my experiences with you!

Stay in touch,