My final check ride

When I was ready for a limited license, the chief flight instructor, a former World War II fighter pilot named Clem Atkins, Took me up for a check ride.  With a limited license I could take passengers on flights, but could only fly in the training area.  I had yet to do my cross-country navigational training.

The main thing about the check ride I remember, is that Atkins tried to disorient me to see if I could regain control of myself enough to maintain coordinated flight.

Remember, now, that the training aircraft is a fully aerobatic DeHavilland Chipmunk.

I don’t remember all the aerobatics he did.  He threw the airplane all over the sky.

I do remember the last maneuver, though.  It’s called a ‘roll off the top.’

Atkins put the Chippie into a steep dive to gain airspeed.  As he pulled out of that dive, I noticed that the airspeed was about two knots above the not-to-exceed airspeed for the Chippie.  The whole airplane shook as he climbed up, vertically, then into a loop.

When he was at the top of the loop, and upside down, suddenly he rotated the plane so that it was upright, in straight and level flight.  Then he immediately said, “let’s see a coordinated rate-four 720-degree turn.”

I did that, and then we flew back to the airport.  He seemed reasonably pleased with my performance and signed me off.

For my next flight I invited an accountant-type from CRAE named Jim, to come with me on a flight.  Jim talked about flying all the time.  His favorite expression was, “There we were, at dot feet, with nothing on the altimeter but the manufacturer’s name, and that was in French!”

Jim and I flew on a clear, calm afternoon.  The ride was smooth; I gave Jim a tour of the training area.

Then I asked Jim if I could try a couple of incipient spins, a docile maneuver in which I put the aircraft into a power-off stall and let one wing drop a little bit.  The plane turns and loses a little altitude, then I just go back to straight and level flight.

I did just one incipient spin, and Jim said, “You’d better not do any more.  I don’t feel so good.”

“Would you like to head back to the airport, Jim?”


I flew as carefully and smoothly as I could, back to the airport.  I didn’t want to have to clean up the plane, from Jim’s barf.

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