It took over an entire month, but I am now officially a Certified Flight Instructor – Airplane. The test comprised two days, with a six-week break in the middle, and more than 7 hours in length.
I started the exam in August at the Greensboro FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) of the FAA and completed the 4.5 hour oral exam before the Cessna 172RG that I flew over to use for the flight portion was grounded by the FAA aircraft examiners. The flight school where I rented the airplane had to obtain a “ferry permit”, which is a one-time permit to fly for maintenance, to return the airplane. That airplane immediately went into an engine overhaul and is still out-of-service until the end of October, at least. I then could not find another suitable airplane, or suitable weather, for the next 6 weeks!
I was finally able to rent a Piper Arrow from Elon Aviation in Burlington, NC and spend a few hours learning an entirely new airplane before going and finishing the checkride with the FAA. Luckily, a Piper Arrow flies and looks very similar to the Piper Warriors I had been flying with the flying club, just with a retractable landing gear and a constant-speed propeller.
On October 3, the weather was great and I flew the Arrow back to Greensboro (only a 20 mile flight from Burlington) and spent the final 3 hours of the exam preparing to fly and actually flying.
The flying portion of the flight instructor exam is to either observe and critique the student (which just happens to be the FAA Examiner) or to demonstrate private pilot and commercial pilot maneuvers. I won’t go into the minutia but it is an intense couple of hours that go by really fast! It is a progressive test in that as long as the examiner doesn’t stop you to say you did not meet standards (i.e., you have failed), then you are still passing. When I landed back in Greensboro, I knew that as long as I could taxi back to the general aviation area, then I had passed. It was a great feeling but I was too numb for it to really sink in until today.
What’s next? I have the opportunity to fly several mission-style flights domestically, especially through Civil Air Patrol, with Hurricane Matthew headed this way. In addition, I have several student, both missionary and just aspiring pilots, looking to start training ASAP. Finally, I still have to add the Instrument Add-on to my instructor certificate so I can teach people not just to fly, but to fly in the clouds! Stay tuned for more excitement!