The fog just lifted right before I took off on my flight to Bakersfield. The weather was beautiful and the winds were calm. The flight examiner at San Luis recently left, making the nearest examiner all the way in Bakersfield, and hour flight into the central valley of California. My instructor came with me to give me support, but it did little to calm my nerves. My knees shook and my stomach had been in a knot since the night before when I did my flight planning. In hindsight I can say my expectations for the test were way too high, and I was honestly not sure I would be returning a new member of the pilots club.
The flight was uneventful and we landed just few minutes late to the FBO where I would start my checkride. The examiner greeted me at the door and we proceeded directly into the backroom to start the paperwork. A few snags later and it was the time I dreaded and looked forward to the entire summer. I sat at a large conference table, the examiner directly in front of my with my instructor observing at the side. "So tell me about the airplane we will fly in today," she prodded for the first time of the day. We went over the legalities and requirements to fly. The FAR/AIM opened and close, along with the aircraft manual as I tried to concentrate through the blur of questions, memorized facts and nerves. What the examiner was really interested in was my flight planning abilities. I had planned a flight from Bakersfield(KBFL) to Catalina Island(KAVX). I had never planned a flight through class B airspace or over water before my checkride preparations, so this was new territory for me. She grilled me about my decisions on my path through the class B airspace and my path over the water which turned out inadequate for a safe flight. (I wasn't high enough to glide back to land) We reviewed the weather for the day and I explained to her the sections of the weather briefing and charts. More rules and regulations were discussed and before I knew it, she started explaining what I would be doing during the flight portion of the checkride. A whole two hours had gone by, but I was relieved that the oral exam was over.
We walked out to the airplane, and I started the preflight. She did not seem to interested in what I was doing, but she would interject at portions of my preflight and ask me a question about the airplane. Her questions were phased as an ignorant person might ask, but always with a specific answer she was looking for. "So what is this odd device?" or "Is this normal if this move like this?" With the airplane in one piece we took off. My instructor swears I was in the runnup area for a while, but I don't believe it. (Even if the tach says differently) We flew the first leg of the flight I planned and flew to a practice area after it was determined I could follow check points. In the practice area we did a few maneuvers, stalls, and basic pilotage. The examiner kept asking me random questions about my past and flying. Finally, she said, "Ok to be honest, you are doing really well for only having 40 hours and I can't figure out why." Hundreds of hours in a sim, I replied. We then did some hood work, she got me lost, I got myself found, and only did one landing before she called my checkride over. I had passed. From the debrief I would say I did ok overall compared to other students, but for someone that only had 40 hours, the flying part was a cinch.
I flew home that night excited, relieved, and most of all exhausted.