The Debrief

We both cab back out to the airport for the seven a.m. appointment. I know that it will start with my own assessment and I know the greatest weaknesses of my performance. Knowing one's weaknesses is more important than not having any. I've written down a list. It starts with "I'm sorry about the paperwork problems ..."

I don't get much further than that for a while. She practically explodes. She says she still doesn't have my training records. I'm very surprised. I had understood that my chief pilot e-mailed them right away. The conversation continues, and she points me at a computer in the other room, telling me that if they were e-mailed here then I should get them for her. It finally dawns on me that the examiner, who made that GPS unit do things I still haven't figured out how to do, doesn't do e-mail. I get the camera operator to print the things off for her and I continue with my biggest weakness: not using the GPS to its full advantage for situational awareness. I didn't because it was not for IFR use and I didn't want to get in trouble for relying on an instrument that wasn't certified. But I could tell from the way she brought things up on the GPS that she was demonstrating to me how I should be using it and wasn't. And I would like to be better at using it. Maybe I should spend more time with it and less with e-mail.

She lectures me for a bit on that, a little too intensely for me to ask where the boundary is between situational awareness and reliance on an uncertified tool. When that subsides I venture that I knew my systems well, but was confused by some of the general knowledge questions because I was trying to answer with CARs numbers instead of personal judgement. And that's when the worst of it came. The operator, returning with printouts of my training later tells me that he came that close to intervening and just stopping the whole procedure. He called the chief pilot to say I was catching hell in there, but the chief pilot knows that I've been through a few of these and can keep my cool. I'm being specifically chewed out for not being familiar with the section in my operations manual that deals with company takeoff minima. I have read manuals for three different companies in the last few months, and I'm pretty close to certain that the one for Eagle makes no mention of take off minima. I just nod and say yes, I should know that stuff.

She moves on to my not knowing what 'not assessed' means, and has me turn to the appropriate part in the CAP GEN. It says "IFR departures have not been assessed for obstacles. Pilots-in-command are responsible for determining minimum climb gradients and/or routings for obstacle and terrain avoidance during an IMC departure from that particular runway(s)." I said that it means the pilot is responsible for determining a safe departure route. I'm seriously being told I'm incompetent because I didn't say "Not assessed means that the runway environment hasn't been assessed for obstacles"? Really? That's not what it means it's what it says. Is that how dumb people are? Are there people out there smart enough to be flying airplanes but so dumb that they need to look in the help to know that the "File Save" command "Saves a File" while the "File Delete" command "Deletes a File." She says she could tell I didn't know the answer, so she didn't ask me any more questions on that because she didn't want to get me upset. There's no way for me to say now "I know not assessed means not assessed, what else could it mean?" and "I practically quoted the rest of the section, isn't it obvious I knew what it meant?" I just resolve, as I do after every single interview and flight test, to remember to state the obvious. Even the firetrucking obvious. She also says that re-land capability is required for all commercial IFR operations. That I didn't know, so I'll take that hit, although I haven't been able to find it in the CARs.

I catch flack for what I knew I hadn't done, not having the single-engine climb performance, accelerate stop distance, and the like precalculated for the conditions. I deserved that. I can't quite make myself believe I should do it for every take-off, more that I should know the conditions under which it might be a factor in decision making and calculate it then. But that's what a flight test is an artificial demonstration of. There's no excuse. Maybe I'll create an operational flight plan and do it every day, my legacy to the next poor pilot to have to fill in this OFP. Don't you hate forms that demand unnecessary calculations?

On to the part in the airplane. I didn't brief the emergencies and departure. "I have been told in the past not to do that on a single=pilot ride," I explain truthfully.

"That's probably because you talk too much." Ha! She is exactly right. I talk too much. She wants me to brief them aloud, and then shut up. I'll try that next time.

More nits. She says I didn't check my instruments on the taxi. "I did that one. Probably not the same place most students do, but I know I said it aloud." She believes me. I didn't, however, double check my altimeter with the published runway threshold elevation, double check my watch with ATC or the GPS, make notations on my flight log during the flight, perform a true air speed check, groundspeed, or a revised ETA calculation. I didn't draw my hold on the map. (I've never done that. People do that?) I forgot a lot more things, enough to make me wonder how I remember to breathe on a regular enough basis to remain alive, and how I keep passing these things.

She gives me a bit of heat too for letting a company push me into doing a ride under difficult circumstances and I don't point out that she could use exactly the same advice. The really odd bit is that at the end she tells me it wasn't bad, all things considered. And she offers me a job. It's more or less the same job as I have. I guess everyone needs cheap, flexible survey pilots, but I keep the contact information under consideration.

The operator pays her fee and I go out to the airplane. When he comes behind me I ask, "do they have antelopes here?" I just saw either the smallest antelope or the biggest rabbit I have ever seen. It ran off the taxiway and through a gap in the fence. I'm going to guess it was a rabbit. I bet it chases dogs for sport.

After discussion with the clients we decide not to fly today. We'll just hang out and wait until the next weather opportunity. We find someone who can look at the heater and he tells us to start it up on the ground, but it doesn't even start. He pulls out the igniter, bangs it on the ground a couple of times and and then replaces it. The heater fires up on the next try. I wave my hand in the exhaust to see if it's warming up and it is, but apparently the exhaust should be so hot I could't put my hand in it. The next theory is plugged nozzles, but the entire heater is so old that company says we'll just order a new one. Which takes a month. We call all over the province of Alberta to see if someone has one sitting on a shelf, but the best we can do is an express order that should get us one in a week. I guess we'll be cold for a week.

Meanwhile the operator asks me, "So are we allowed to fly above 18,000' now?" We iPhone the new signature in my licence booklet to company and then we get the thumbs up from Transport Canada that we are.