Student Update: David Smith

As of Friday, I can officially call myself a pilot!

I started the program on 9/26 and 12 weeks later with some weather delays, I passed my private checkride!

Here are a few things I learned and my experience during the private phase.

Before getting into the weeds, I want to emphasize that this training is your $100k investment. The program has an outline but you are responsible for staying ahead of your studies and by ensuring your instructor is staying on top of the ball and scheduling flight blocks even if the weather is marginal. Especially in the beginning of the private phase as the weather will slow you down in the later part. How do you hold your instructor accountable? Sit down with your instructor at the beginning and let them know what your goals are to get through the program as well as setting your expectations. Your instructor can’t control the weather so go easy there but if you feel your quality of instruction isn’t benefiting you, then you need to have that conversation with your instructor. If you still feel your education isn’t on par then you need to speak with your Lead and TSS. I finished ahead of others at my TC because I was always at the TC and was ready to fly.

You’re going to learn new things about yourself like I learned I liked to throw up in the plane! Jk I don’t but that I get nauseous when I’m stressed and when my attention is too focused. I got sick on my 3rd and 4th flight but after kicking off the training wheels, flying became more fun and I was able to relax. From this experience I also learned to check if there were air sickness bags in the plane as part of my preflight. Or should I say you only clean the plane once?

I would recommend taking the bull by the horns and hopping on the mics as soon as possible because coms are a skill that needs to be practiced by doing. Don’t wait till you’re about to solo to be on the mic. Pro tip: write down the basics of the coms for flying the traffic pattern. Leave the variable information blank on a note card and read off the card. I would say it had taken me longer to solidify my coms because I was trying to go off memory and always was missing something. Especially when I hadn’t flown in a week.

Have a plan for your solo shirt design before you solo. It may be way easier if you’re not artistic to have a shirt designer come up with a design for you and print it on the shirt. Will save you so much time or else you might end up with a backwards letter…



I’m not a superstitious person but there were times when it seemed like my aviation guardian angel was looking out for me by either by lifting or clearing the sky’s when I was about to go fly or by making me need to take a pit stop on my second solo xc. Before proceeding on my last leg of my cross country, I needed to stop at the FBO to use the restroom even though I went before setting off on my cross country. Texted my instructor to let him know I was stopping when he let me know the clouds had came in earlier than the TAF had forecasted. Needless to say had I instead turned around and took off, I wouldn’t had known it till I was halfway there and may have got caught in IMC. Flight Ops had me Uber back to the TC but the hour long Uber wasn’t as fun as flying the last leg.

It may seem like there is a lot of material to cover during the private phase but if you show up, learn and study with others, you’ll find the private oral and checkride are straight forward. All the questions you’ll be asked are given to you before your first day of flight school in the Private Airplane ACS book! I would highly recommend for you to study by starting from the beginning and marking up the pages with your notes.

Everything you’re going to be asked during the Oral portion of your checkride are found in section 1 task A-H of the Private Airplane ACS. The Oral portion of the test is for the Designated Pilot Examiner to determine if you, as a PIC, can determine whether you should go flying or not by following the P.A.V.E. principle. You should prepare for the oral by creating a PAVE checklist and bring it with you to the oral. I created my own Pilot’s Checklist.

ATP has an Airworthiness Checklist you should reference during the oral.

The enVironment checklist consist of both the ATP VFR Flight Planning Worksheet and the Nav log.

I didn’t have an external factors checklist as it is about human factors and gauging your ADM.

It may not be true for all DPEs but my DPE loved to teach and I walked away from my checkride having learned several new things. For every question he asked, he had a story to tell to go with the question after I had given my answer. I heard stories that the DPE is a plane cowboy and will do some crazy flying with you. But what I found was he just liked to teach even at times when I needed to get a call in. I was mind blown when he demonstrated stalls. I was being too aggressive on my stall recoveries so he kept the plane in landing configuration and showed how all you need to do is lower the nose and still be flying. He stalled the plane, slowly lowered the nose 5 degrees and said “we are stalling now we are flying” and then did it again and said “we don’t have lift, now we have lift.” It seemed like the elementary first step of learning to recover that I hadn’t learned. I felt I trained to be recover fast by getting the nose pitched down, power full and flaps 10 when I should have practiced on relieving back pressure initially and then everything else after I had nailed relieving back pressure. I was worried about my performance landings going into the checkride but they all were SAT on the thousand footers even the power off 180 was to commercial standards!



Anyways off to learning instrument!

David

9 Likes

David,

Congratulations on officially becoming a pilot!

Thank you for the detailed write up. I must admit, I have never heard of anybody hiring out a design for the solo shirt. When Adam and I learned to fly in the era on bi-planes and preparing to bomb Berlin, we just used whatever shirt we were wearing.

Good luck with the instrument phase!

Chris

2 Likes

David,

Congratulations on passing your Private Pilot checkride!

It was a pleasure to read your write up and hearing your experiences sound like you had a wonderful journey so far. It sounds like you are going to really enjoy your Instrument phase and soon after that you will be flying cross-country with a crew partner.

Enjoy your holiday time off here! :snowman_with_snow:

Brady

The point I was trying to get across was I spent way more time than I wanted to on my shirt and I still made mistakes. Plus the darn shirt paint took three days to dry after I smeared it thinking it was dry. If I had to do it again I would’ve just paid someone.

Congratulations! I started the same day as you and passed my checkride just slightly before you on 12/6. Now it’s time to buckle in for instrument!

1 Like

Congrats to you both! Best of luck in the instrument phase. It’s a completely different kind of flying.

Please continue to check in with milestone events! We love to hear of your successes!

Hannah

Koby,

Congrats on passing your checkride earlier this month! Goodluck to you as well in your Instrument phase.

Brady

Only took 7 hours from start to finish but I received my instrument rating on Wednesday! David Luse is a great DPE and although it may seem like a long checkride, it really was only a 2 hour oral and 2.1 hr flight. The rest of the time we were talking about flying and his time driving the 747 for 25 years.

5 Likes

Very cool David! Congrats on the instrument rating. That’s a tough ride and doesn’t come naturally to most people.

Be safe and have fun on crew! It’s such a fun experience.

Hannah

David,

Congratulations on the Instrument ticket! It sounds like your checkride went smoothly.

Please keep us posted when you get a chance. Enjoy your crew experience, it is really fun to demonstrate the skills and knowledge you have up to this point.

Brady

David,

Congratulations!!! Thank you for the update and the picture. Enjoy the cross countries, they were the most fun part for me.

Chris

Update as of 8/9: I passed my CFI Checkride at GKY! I was on the tail end of the backup and was in CFI for 8 weeks. However, things are turning around where mocks are being conducted at the end of week 1 or on week 2 and not week 5 like I had to wait for.

My examiner shared three valuable bits of advice during the debrief that I’ll take with me into instructing.

First one was what my examiners flight instructor told him 50 years ago! “If you can get off altitude without touching the power, then you can get back on altitude without touching the power.” He labeled it as one of the most common errors he sees in checkrides as applicants become throttle jocks and then they get behind the plane trying to get the power setting back to where it needs to be.

Second note he had was to dim the pfd on my students and I when demonstrating a maneuver. When I was demonstrating lazy eights and eights on pylons to the left, he said they weren’t as great because I was looking at the pfd too much. He wishes he could record applicants so he can show them where their eyes are at. But when I went to the right everything was in standards because I was looking outside and using my visual references. So then he had me demonstrate turns around a point to the right where I held my altitude and finished on heading without looking inside. Point he was getting to was that the students are going to do what they see you do. Trust in yourself and your abilities.

Last note he had was that you are a better instructor after your first 100 hours than when you take the checkride. 15 hours of prep for the CFI Initial is no where near enough time to master being able to talk through a maneuver while demonstrating at the same time. Also, the checkride doesn’t correlate to how instruction is actually conducted during training. Instructing is very hard and that’s why not everyone can become an instructor. You really don’t start learning till you are able to sit in the right seat and observe your students errors. That’s when you as the instructor learn to master your skill at providing effective instruction tailored to your student. Training doesn’t stop after receiving the certification.

David

7 Likes

David,

Congrats! The CFI checkride is definitely the most challenging checkride, so to come out successful is a huge accomplishment. It sounds like your DPE already gave you some great advice moving forwards. Passing a CFI checkride and being a good CFI are two different challenges! Never stop learning! I learned so much as a CFI, it is incredible how much teaching someone improves your own skills.

When I had commercial students nearing the CFI phase, I always emphasized that at CFI school they should teach to focus primarily outside and use reference points. What does the sight picture look like throughout all the maneuvers, climbs, descents? It really simplifies the training and builds a good foundation for the ‘learners’. Once you start teaching instrument, you’ll really see how people play with the power too much to maintain altitude, especially on turbulent days. I used to have them set it for a specific RPM and airspeed, and then told them they could primarily use the trim and magically things would improve drastically. They would go from ±200 ft to ±50 ft in a couple of minutes! These are all things you’ll learn when you are out there with real students, as you mentioned.

I could go on forever about things I learned when I was CFI. My number one takeaway and piece of advice is to keep the training fun and enjoy it. Happy student + happy instructor = better learning! I used to hold pretty high standards for my students, but I always made sure to keep it light and enjoyable.

Again, congrats! Good luck on the remaining checkrides and keep us updated!

Roscoe

1 Like

David,

Congrats on obtaining your CFI ticket! It sounds like you had a very nice checkride, especially examiner. Examiners that provide great feedback is important to the growth and knowledge that you develop when leaving the checkride atmosphere. Happy to hear things are moving forward for you, David.

When I was instructing, I noticed many students even during the private phase developed this idea or subconscious need of staring at the PFD during critical phases of flight. It was then I had dimmed the PFD down and made them look out front using visual cues of the airplane and horizon to fly around. When you’re introduced to a student, make sure to review everything you can without sensory overload, and build upon the previous learned material. Set standards that are achievable during early phases of training and enforce them until they are able to hunker down to what the ACS says. If during the first few maneuver flights a student gets +50’ high beyond standards, reinforce the standard, but show a technique that may benefit them next time. Visual cues, visual cues; especially in the private phase.

The first few hundred hours of dual instruction is when you will learn a lot - and where a lot of mistakes can happen. As you progress through the career of being a flight instructor, you will develop techniques, tricks and tips of your own that will set each and every student you take under your wings, for success. Every flight is a learning opportunity, just like every checkride, evaluation flight or admissions flight (if you get the opportunity to do those at your training center).

Brady

1 Like

David,

Congratulations, that is a huge accomplishment! Thank you for the update, what is next for you?

Chris

1 Like

On to Multi! The current track is two weeks for Comm Multi and then another two weeks for CFII and MEI. Hopefully I’ll finish up before my one year mark. I was hoping to be done before my 30th on July 30th but the backlog hampered that goal. Anyhow 1 year to receive 7 certifications is still an impressive feat in of itself!

David