Checkride + 2014


Today was quite the day. After a 2.5 hour oral exam over all things aviation and a 1.5 hour flight, one of my childhood dreams came to pass–becoming a pilot.

The whole summer after high school, my dad, knowing I had been drooling over flying my whole life, jokingly offered to pay for my private certificate if I would stay home for my first year of college. So, when I saw my tuition bill at UT and decided to pull back, I held him to his offer. Unfortunately, neither of the planes were airworthy and wouldn’t be for quite some time. It wasn’t until March that our Piper Cherokee, the same plane my dad trained in, was close to being in annual. I took some time away from pursing my career in film and started ground school later that month. It was late July before the plane actually made it into the air, and the Fall was filled with almost as many setbacks as successes. Our alternator went out–down for three weeks. The prop started chaffing on the engine cowling–three weeks. A joint in the exhaust system corroded and snapped in two–three weeks. The directional gyro failed–seven weeks. Second directional gyro on loan failed–a week. When I came back from San Diego three weeks ago, I had 14 hours left on my license, all of my cross country flights remaining, a faulty directional gyro, and only three weeks left in Tullahoma. Things looked less than slim. To top it off, my instructor was going to be out of the country starting on the first of the year. I drove 8 hours the day before Christmas Eve to pick up all the parts necessary to fix the plane. On the day after Christmas, I logged 5.6 hours and my towered landings in Chattanooga. The next day, as I taxied out to start my first solo cross country, my radio completely died. We scrambled to find a loaner, and on New Year’s Eve, I logged 6.8 hours including my to cross country flights–one KTHA to KMKL and the other KTHA to 2M2. By 9:00 that night, all of my paperwork had been processed, and I was signed off to take my checkride at 40.7 hours (40 is the bare minimum). 

Today, I didn’t know the first three questions on my oral exam, but the rest wasn’t much trouble. I really think that was worse than the checkride itself. My FAA examiner was extremely reasonable, though, after I botched up my soft field landing, he played it off like I failed by saying “Just take me back to the terminal.” He didn’t say a word after that, got out of the airplane, went inside….and printed my temporary certificate. Ten minutes later, I was back in the air–this time a private pilot and my mom in the right seat. Faith and I went up after dark and flew over some of our favorite places in the area like we’ve dreamed of for months. She even got to fly for a little while. It still doesn’t seem real. Maybe it’ll start to set in during my long car ride next week. 

Monday, I’m packing all of my things into my car and heading west. Though it’s been in the works for months, I’ve been reluctant toadvertise it because my dates have been dependent on so many different things. I have an internship lined up at an aviation-based production house in LA. It’s a small gig, and it’s mostly post production work, but I know the director/owner, and he has agreed to mentor me in the industry. While I’m there, I’m planning to do some interning and volunteering in different types of roles. That way, I can be a little more well-rounded, have a better idea of the direction I want to pursue, and be well-versed in the politics of the industry. It’s quite the leap, but I really feel like I need to get my feet wet before I do anything else. It’s too hard guessing from this side of the country. Besides, I have family and friends in the area. If it’s a total bust, college is always there, but some of the opportunities now won’t be later. 

It’s amazing how much changes in a year. This time last year, I was counting down the days to Florida and still in shock that I, Mr. Most Likely to Succeed, had just dropped out of college. 2013 entailed more life experience than any I can put on paper, and I feel like I’ve really honed in on what I value and want out of life. It’s a really neat time. I have no clue what 2014 holds or where I’ll be writing from on January 3, 2015, but that’s the fun in it. Each day counts, and you have to be there for it.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through the constant change, up’s, down’s, setbacks, and successes. I am blessed beyond belief. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!