My Written Test

Sometime in the last week of April, 2001

Ideally, they say, you should do your written test as soon as possible in your training. That way it's done and out of the way and you can concentrate on learning to handle the airplane. So, naturally, I took mine about two weeks before my checkride (flying test).

You also, by the way, HAVE TO have it done and passed before you are allowed to take the checkride. So there was no pressure on me to pass it... It's a 60 question test, you have to get 70% to pass. That means you can miss 18 and pass, but the more you miss, the more brutal the oral part of the checkride is. The examiner has to go over the parts you missed to make sure you went back and learned it.

Plus I was in competition with a buddy of mine who was a few weeks from taking the test himself, and I didn't want to win as much as just not lose. :-)

I think I studied harder for this than I did for anything in school. Maybe it just feels that way because school was a long time ago... but there were a few things that I hadn't done, and probably never would, but had to know them anyway. So I crammed as much into my head as I could.

The testing site was the old American Aero Club office at Natomas Field. The runway was closed, but they still had an FAA approved testing site there. It has to be lockable, audio and video monitored, and whatever else. So I got there early, and sat in my truck outside studying a few last things, and sweating. :-) Finally I said "The heck with this, I'm not going to learn anything in the next 5 minutes that I don't already know" and went in.

The guy running the place made sure what I had with me was ok (calculator, course plotting tools, etc), took me upstairs, sat me in front of a computer older than I was (well, almost), and downloaded the test from the FAA's bulletin board (yes, bulletin board) over a 1200 baud modem... this was gonna be fun! He gave me some scratch paper and locked me in.

The test is multiple choice. And not the kind where there's three obviously wrong answers and one that's obviously right, they put in the right answer, a couple of wrong answers that are what you'd get if you make basic (and easy) mistakes, and one that's wrong as long as you have actually studied. Getting a pilot's license isn't like getting a driver's license, you do actually have to know how to fly.

Ok, that's the last comment on how frickin' easy it is to get and keep a drivers license I'll make. No, really. ;-)

Anyway, I got through the test in about an hour, which must have been pretty quick, cuz I called the tester and let him know I was done. He came in and sent my answers back to the FAA over the same modem he got the test from, and said something like "That was quick". (That's why I thought it must have been fast - I'm pretty sharp that way) I told him you either know it or you don't. He said I must know it, cuz I got 97%. I missed two! That was nice! Not only did that mean I would have a (very slightly) easier oral exam, but my buddy would have to EARN it to beat me now! ;-)

You can look up the topics for the questions you missed, but can't necessarily tell what the exact questions were. I looked mine up, and figured out what the first of the two questions was. The other one I never figured out, the topic was too vague. I was quite happy with 97%, though.

Oh, and my buddy? He got an 82%. A decent score, but not as good as mine. ;-)

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