Today I was suppose to fly with an FAA examiner for my Private Pilots License checkride. Because I have a habit of getting stressed about this sort of thing, I haven’t had a lot of sleep over the past three nights. I was able to eek out 6-7 hours each night, so it isn’t like I’m a walking zombie, but I’m not feeling like I’m at optimal levels. This sometimes happens to a middle aged man such as myself.
I arrived at the airport about 90 minutes before my scheduled time. This gave me the opportunity to do my thorough pre-flight of the airplane and then I had time to take the airplane up and go around the pattern to get a feel for what the winds were like up there. It was windy on the ground but the direction of the wind wasn’t awful, there’d be a little crosswind but nothing out of my comfort level.
The short flight was routine. I took a few moments to marvel at how wonderful it is to fly and to relish in the disbelief that I am fully capable of flying an airplane all by myself. There are days that I can’t believe that I can do that sort of thing, but there I was, flying an airplane at pattern altitude, talking to Air Traffic Control like it’s second nature and buzzing along at 100 MPH.
As I came in to land, it was evident that the winds were picking up a bit. I describe them as “burbly”, where the windsocks at each end of the runway are basically pointing in random directions and occasionally at each other. This made landing the airplane slightly tricky, but again, it wasn’t anything outside of my general comfort level. I wouldn’t fly in this kind of wind for fun, but I would do it for training purposes.
I then wondered if that was the type of weather I wanted to be flying in for this checkride, which is basically the final exam to earn my pilots license.
I decided to hold off on the exam. The examiner was gracious; we covered some ground school stuff that we needed to cover any way and he indicated that he would be available all week with a little bit of notice. I let my instructor know the same and he urged me to reconsider; he knew I was more than capable of flying in those particular conditions. I did reconsider and conctacted the examiner, letting him know that I’d touch base with him in an hour to reassess the situation.
The winds never died down. I had the option of doing part of the exam and then finishing up when the conditions were favorable. Basically, this would mean doing all the manuevers during flight and then putting the evalution on “pause” and then just landing the airplane without fear of failing the exam if the landings were to go less than great.
I decided against that approach. I ended up sitting at the airport for nearly two hours, trying my best to will the winds down to a more manageable level but Mother Nature had other plans. I finally called the examiner and gave the final no-go of the day. I advised my instructor of the same and headed home and took a nap.
My apparent indecision added to my stress level today and stress isn’t good for a person flying an airplane. I’m confident with my decision today, but I’m not completely happy with the way the day went.
Nevertheless, with the Winter Storm Warning being blared about these parts for the next few days, it looks like I’ll have 72 hours or so to get my head straight, get some sleep and then think about flying again. I’m hoping either Friday or this weekend.
Whenever it happens, I know that I’ll be more decisive about it.