Today I formally earned my Civil Air Patrol
Wings, so I thought I would share with everyone how that works.
It's actually pretty neat
The CAP is the USAF Auxiliary, so they want to
make sure that the pilots that fly their planes are current, and have been
formally tested-- as well as current with all FAA standards as well (of course).
My Squadron Commander was super about telling
me about what I needed to have, tests to take ahead of time. I had called
ahead a week ago and scheduled my check ride with Tom, a retired Delta 777
Captain with about a billion hours (at least) of flying time. Before I
arrived I had taken an on-line Civil Air Patrol test to ensure that I knew my
CAP regs, so I brought proof of that with me as well as some key information on
my plane and Civil Air Patrol Cessna 172's.
My Squadron Mate Courtney Brooks met at the
airport (today was election day no less!) and we pre-flighted Trixie and took
off, heading for McCullom Field in Cobb County, about a 35 or 40 minute flight.
Beautiful Autumn morning, clear blue skies. Had trouble finding McCullom,
but managed to get us there and parked the plane. We met with Tom at
Northside Aviation at 9:00 AM for Ground School and orals, which lasted from
9-11 AM. That sounds hard, but it wasn't. He wanted to review, not
grill me, and we did several exercises together. Very interesting guy that
went out of his way to get me to relax so we could discuss things at length.
We discussed my flight plan at length so there would be NO surprises, but he
also gave Courtney and I some very usable and helpful information to make us
better (translation: SAFER) pilots.
I pre-flighted the plane, and we taxied and took
off. As you can see from the photo below left, I turned to my left and
immediately flew over a deep rock quarry right next to the airfield!
We spent a pretty intense hour where he wanted to
ensure I knew how to fly slowly, to control the airplane, to recover from
takeoff stalls and landing stalls. I did fine on all of those, with a bit
of coaching from Tom on power control. It was a very short flight from
McCullom to Cartersville, so he flew me north of Cartersville to a practice
area, we climbed and worked for about a half hour. Controlling a Cessna in
slow flight is much harder than it looks. I was having to control the
plane's altitude and airspeed at only 10 MPH over her rated stall speed-- it's a
lot of work and takes a bit of finesse, and certainly something I generally
practice without passengers in the plane. But I did fine.
Next we flew back south towards Cartersville, he
showed me the field and I set up for a normal landing. That went just
fine. After we taxied off and headed back to take off, he told me to do a
soft field takeoff and soft field landing. My takeoff was fine, but my
landing stunk. Borderline. I had committed to a 70 MPH landing
speed, but decided that I would let it drop to 60 MPH. Not a good move-
everything was great except I ran out of airspeed and put the plane down HARD on
the runway. We talked about it- he said I knew where my problem was and he
let me do it again.
The middle photo is me turning to final for my
third landing, which went much, much better. We taxied again for a short
field takeoff and landing. Both were fine, but he gave me some great
pointers for making them much better. I really like flying with a CAP
instructor- not only is it free instruction, but it's from guys who usually have
thousands of hours and thousands of landings. My final test was emergency
landing, but I didn't know when he'd do it. He told me to take off and fly
the pattern, no mention of emergency of course, and at 700 feet above the ground
and about 1.5 miles from the end of the runway, he pulled the throttle and told
me to return to the airport and land it. NO problem! Did a beautiful
360 degree turn, and had plenty of altitude for a smooth landing back the way
we'd flown out.
did great. You passed. Let's go back to McCullom." So we
turned the plane around at the end of the runway, did a normal takeoff, flew
back to Cobb County, ate lunch while he took apart my flying. (Believe me,
criticism is good. Smart pilots always want to hear it.) So Ross is
now a qualified pilot AND a qualified Civil Air Patrol Mission Pilot. Very
cool. Glad to get that done!