So this was what all the training was for. March 9, 2021 was the big day. It was finally time for my Commercial Pilot Licence practical test. After 12 months of theory study and 7 exams followed by 12 months of practical training that was interrupted by COVID-19, the day had arrived. My plans of reducing the stress in the morning by having the C182 VH-ROC fuelled up and ready to go the evening before were foiled by another member returning it from Roma after closing time. So I was out there at 7am to preflight and top up the fuel. Luckily the test examiner was running one hour late so it gave me some extra time to prepare.
I submitted my flight notification YBAF-YBOA-YKRY-YBSU-YRED and did some theory revision with the examiner before heading out to the aircraft. I asked for a transponder code and clearance direct to Boonah as we taxied out but once we were in the air it was clear from the amount of chatter on the radio that I wasn’t going to be cleared through Brisbane airspace. It was too busy. The cloud was down at 2500ft so there wasn’t much point anyway. This was VFR after all, so we had to stay clear of the clouds. So I switched on the autopilot and climbed to 1500 on heading 220 then near Petrie turned towards the TV Towers and climbed to 2000 as we approached Keperra and The Gap. As we passed Archerfield Brisbane Centre asked whether I’d like a clearance through Amberley airspace so I responded “yes if possible” and they handed me over to Amberley Clearance Delivery who rapidly gave me my clearance direct to Boonah at 2000ft. Dodging around Flinders Peak we started descending into Boonah and did a circuit and approached for a short field landing but the examiner said “there are kangaroos on the runway – go around” so we did, and set off in the direction of Kingaroy. Of course there weren’t really any kangaroos, he just didn’t want to stop at Boonah and wanted to see how I handled an emergency go around.
On the way to Gatton we did a practice forced landing without power and then after reaching Lake Wivenhoe the examiner instructed me to do a diversion towards Gympie. I climbed to just under the clouds and we did some steep turns and stalls over Lake Somerset, then some limited panel work wearing “the hood” as we made our way north. A lost procedure was conducted over Kenilworth and then we headed back to Redcliffe for a couple of circuits with one normal landing and one short field.
It was 2.6 hours of flying all up in less than ideal conditions. And the result? A pass. Time to celebrate!
I’d have to say thanks to the whole RAC team for the training over the past 12 months but especially Mal for constructing a tailor-made syllabus for me, Stephen White for helping me to lose my fear of the wing drop stall and Mark for his professionalism and patience while showing me how to polish up the gamut of aviator skills to CPL level. And also thanks to examiner Tim Holland who put me at ease during the test so I could concentrate on the job at hand.
Some take homes were: 8 hours bottle to throttle doesn’t really mean that. It’s 8 hours before commencing any safety sensitive aviation activities (which includes anything airside and flight planning), use rudder more in general and remember to balance those steep turns, use the VTC whenever possible rather than the VNC (more detail when you’re trying to work out where you are) and always notify ATC after making a diversion from your planned route (no search and rescue pilots should have to risk their lives looking for someone who’s gone missing in the wrong location). I highly recommend CPL training to any PPL holder who would like to rid themselves of any bad habits they may have acquired over the years and lift their skills back up to PPL test level and beyond, to achieve a much higher level of competency.