Monday, August 15, 2005

I have met the enemy.....

OK, the FAA isn't exactly the enemy. And I'm going to meet with them this morning. DC and I have an appointment at the Richmond Flight Standards District Office, to present our logbooks, licenses and medicals, and the aircraft documents.

I have basically figured out what I expect to happen over the coming months. Whatever the NTSB finds, 99% of the time it comes down to two little words: "pilot error." That is the quick and easy explanation for most crashes. It saves having to explain any of a thousand reasons for the actual crash. In the end, I figure it is almost a certainty that I will get a 709 ride. So I go to Richmond at some point in the future, do a checkride with them while they berate my knowledge and flight skills, then they pass me, and I continue on with life.

I recall the first time I ever set foot in that building. I was testing for my initial flight instructor license, in the fall of 2001. I was really nervous. I still had a tendency toward nerves at that time. Worst dry-mouth I'd ever had. I ended up making it better simply by admitting I was nervous, and then demonstrated I knew more than the examiner. On the oral exam, I pulled out formulas for things that he knew nothing about, gave answers and explained them more than he was asking for. I took the offensive, and wore him down on the questioning. By the end, he knew there was nothing he would be tricking me on. It also became a very short oral exam.

Since I started instructing, my take on checkrides changed. I don't really get nervous. I know that I know far more than the examiner will ask. If I mess up on something in the flight, so be it, but I know going in that I am ready. My last checkride was in January, for the instrument rating in a helicopter. The examiner admitted at one point, that he had to dig to find some sort of question that I might miss. He did finally catch me on something, but it was minor, and nobody in the room but him (including another applicant, and my instructor) knew the answer. The flight was flawless. I never even came close to missing anything.

This checkride, assuming they make me take it, will be a little different. They know I have the ratings already, they are just looking for any kind of fault to pick up on and exploit, so they can mark a "fail" in the box. It isn't that they are all out for blood. Quite the contrary. But being a government organization changes the attitude there. They have to show cause for their existence. If they fail the applicant, they can appear to be doing their job better.

With the benefit of experience, my mindset has changed though. I no longer see these guys as ogres. I know several of them on a personal level. A couple of the inspectors there will drop by my office occasionally to chat. I also have more knowledge than the majority of them, in the areas that can be tested. There really isn't anything to be nervous about.

But today, none of that. Just present the logbooks to let them photocopy all of it for the records, and leave. I intend to do a little schmoozing though, to whatever extent I can. I have met this inspector before, but don't know him too well. Rather than look at him as the enemy, I can see him as a regular guy, just doing his job. Maybe he has enough leeway with the guidelines, that I will get out of the whole 709. Even if he doesn't, it will be good to start off having him like me.


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