Private Pilot – Almost Done

This past weekend, I completed two big milestones in pursuit of the private pilot license.

First, Saturday was the first time I flew in nearly two weeks. Within that flight, we simulated instrument flight, as it is one of the requirements of private pilot training (3 hours). And with that, all of my FLYING requirements have been completed to fulfill the FAA’s prerequisites.

We took off and flew down to Naples airport, a first for me and then came back.

But since we were under what is called flight following (air traffic control is watching us and directing us as necessary), we were able to fly right over RSW. RSW

RSWWeather Looking out towards Page (the far left side, middle of the picture), we noticed a wall of rain north of the field. After landing at Page, there was a little sprinkle as we parked. Fast forward just a little bit after I left the airport and the weather became fierce.

Yes, that is PEAK WINDS at 48 knots (55 mph)!!

Sunday, I decided to have an expensive fun day. We like to visit Busch Gardens and soon enough, Atticus should be tall enough to ride ALL the rides. The drive up can be about 2 – 2.5 hours, depending on traffic. But, conveniently, there is an airport relatively close to the amusement park, KVDF, Tampa Executive.

I asked if we could fly up there early in the morning not only to get a better sense of the airport, but more importantly, to practice flight following and requesting clearance into a Class Bravo (B) airspace. These are the big, busy airspaces in the country. A pilot MUST HAVE explicit permission to enter these areas or must fly below the “shelf” of the airspace. If you fly through it without permission, you will likely be asked to speak with someone from air traffic control or the FAA. Since it was early in the morning and it was not busy, we were given clearance into the airspace to continue to the airport. We landed, had a coffee and then headed back. The flight time up was about 50 minutes, which, if all conditions are ok, the round trip flight is the same as a one way car ride.

To finish out the aviation weekend, Monday morning I had my written private pilot exam. Looking back, I should have completed all the online ground courses and exam earlier in the learning experience as concepts and methods would have been clearer in training. The other part is in the event one does not pass, you must wait 30 days to retake the exam. With that hurdle out of the way, it is one step closer to the check-ride. To top off the weekend, I had a late afternoon (6 PM) flight Monday. Usually the weather might be questionable during this time, but amazingly, the rain/showers occurred earlier in the day, thus making the late afternoon flight quite enjoyable. We were flying around Fort Myers while the sun was beginning to set and came back to work on lands right at the last little bit of day light.

The instructor took this one while we were turning to land.

With Paragon, they do everything in stages. Stage 3 is the final one and next week, I will have my Stage 3 check, basically a mock of check-ride, which includes an oral segment and a flight segment. If all goes well with that, I can be placed on the cancellation list for the examiner flight for my license. Otherwise, I am scheduled for September 17th for my check-ride.

This has been a long journey, but one that has been fun and a completely new experience. I took this one after we had parked Monday night and, to me, it encapsulates the reason I am doing this and the continuing journey of this adventure!