It’s been a busy week for Your’s Truly. While it took me a little longer than I had initially hoped, I took my Instrument checkride on Saturday.

Passed it.


Earlier, when I had gotten my results on the written test, I went through a 24 hour period where I was so depressed and angry I wanted to jab #2 pencils into my eyes. As the guy at the testing center was printing out the result, he started smiling big and shook my hand.

‘Congratulations! You passed! Excellent score!’

I couldn’t read it from where I was standing. ‘How many did I miss?’

‘Only two! You got a 97%! That’s one of the best—‘

‘Two? TWO?!! Jesus H. Chr—!

‘What’s the matter? You’ve gone pale as a ghost! I said you passed!’

Two wrong? TWO?? Son of a bitch! Goddam it!! Worthless sack of ‘ ‘ and so on. I wanted that 100 so bad. So bad. So very, very bad. Verrrry bad. Very, very bad. Real bad.

Anyway. Now I can fly from coast to coast and not see anything. It’s really weird. Several times during training I’d fly to the Mojave, or to San Luis Obispo. I’d get out of the plane after landing, look around, and have no sense of having come here at all. Just gauges and dials and radials and vectors and assigned altitudes. Was in Santa Monica; now I’m in the desert. Never saw it change from one to the other. Very odd.


Just before my checkride, I took off into what I thought would be a typical thin marine layer. No such luck. Level at 4,000, you couldn’t see the wingtip ‘ no exaggeration. So I look down and notice that my vacuum-driven attitude indicator ‘ I’m wearing AI goggles in the picture ‘ indicates a turn to the left, while my electrically driven Turn Coordinator shows a slight bank to the right.

That is an unpleasant feeling.

One of them is lying. Which one? Compass and vacuum driven directional gyro both showing a turn to the right. That agrees with the turn coordinator. The AI ‘ my primary flight instrument ‘ has failed, but the vacuum system doesn’t seem to be the culprit since the DG ‘ also vacuum driven ‘ seems to be working fine. So now I have to use the altimeter to tell me when I’m climbing or descending.

First thing to do is cover the dead AI. It’s right in front of my face and it’s lying to me. I stick a failed instrument cover over it.

So there I was: surrounded by Bengal tigers’I mean’there I was, 4,000, somewhere over the Santa Monica foothills, can’t see the wingtip, partial panel. It’s one of those times ‘ I’ve had three or four now ‘ where you can feel that panic starting to squeal like a monkey trying to tear its way out of a paper bag. And you just have to beat it down through sheer will.


I turn to my flight instructor. He looks at me, smiles that sick, twisted, repulsive little smirk that Flight Instructors are trained to make.

‘Bummer!’ he says.

So I re-trim the airplane, and then, out of the blue, he gives me the best piece of advice I have ever gotten in my flight training. Ever. This will save my life innumerable times in the years to come, because I tried it, and damn, does it work!

I looked over at him. He said,

Bill? Kick it’s ass!


That’s all I needed to hear!

So I did! I kicked its ass!

Socal Approach, Cherokee Two Five Three Foxtrot Delta. We just lost our attitude indicator; we can continue the Burbank ILS.

I mean, we have to, don’t we? They’re not going to send up a helicopter and get us out by ladder. We’ve got to land this thing somehow.

Cherokee Three Fox Delta, roger.

Vectors for final, flew a perfect approach. About 1300 feet above our decision height, I could look straight down and see a little tiny oval of houses and streets. Thirty seconds later, we were below the layer, and there, about six miles ahead, I could see the approach lights to Runway 8 at Burbank ‘ not a little off to one side, not slightly off to the other’ just a straight line of approach strobes ‘ the ‘Rabbit’ ‘ pointing straight smack down the runway centerline, which was to the right of me but to the left of the co-pilot.


I never thought I’d feel that good again ever in my life. Then came the election.

Anyway, I have read and done some minor tweaking to the essays. They are now ready to go to the publisher. The cover art will be ready in a few days. It will take about two weeks to get the book set up and a proof out, and then we are in business. Books should ship within 48 hours of getting the order.

I think I can assure you we will make Christmas. Price will be high for a run this small: about that of a printer cartridge. Pay me or pay Epson. Your choice. The essays will remain on the site for free, as they have been, and as all the new stuff coming will remain.

Home stretch now. Stocking stuffers coming your way. Papa needs a new pair of wings.


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