What I Was Doing 14 Years Ago Today: Getting My Pilot’s License

It’s hard to believe, but it was 14 years ago today, April 3, 2000, that I took the day off work, drove over to Van Nuys airport, and (with thankfully good weather) took my oral and practical exam for my private pilot’s license.

The oral exam lasted about an hour or so and seemed to consist mostly of the examiner talking about the movie script he was planning to write. Intermixed in that monologue, were questions about weather, night flying regulations, flight planning and various certification requirements. Then I was instructed to head out to the plane to get it ready for our flight.

I had to plan a flight up to Paso Robles, but we quickly diverted to Oxnard Airport. I did my hood work (instrument work) while enroute to Oxnard. My first landing was a short field landing, and so I got that out of the way pretty quickly. I did a short field takeoff and then headed out over Thousand Oaks where I did some turns around a point. This is where the examiner tried to distract me, complaining that I couldn’t hold my altitude in the turn (I knew the tolerances were +/- 100 ft and I was well within +/-50 feet so it didn’t bother me much. We did a few more maneuvers and then headed back to Van Nuys airport.

On the downwind leg, the examiner told me that I’d just experienced an engine failure and needed to make an emergency landing. I did this on th Van Nuys’ long runway 16R, and was off the runway at the first high-speed taxiway. I taxied the plane carefully back to Group 3 aviation. When the plane shut down, the examiner said to me, “Nice flying. You lock things up here while I go write up your certificate. A little while later, he gave me this:

Airman Certificate

I was pretty thrilled. It was my Dad who first got me interested in planes. It was my cousin who first took me flying in a private plane. As soon as that happened, I knew I wanted to fly. I was 28 years old on that day, 14 years ago, but I still think of it as one of my big accomplishments, right up there with selling my first story.

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