My experience with having David Hall as my flight instructor is slightly different than most of his students. This is mainly due to the fact that my son, while in high school, got his Private Pilots certificate in 2014 while under David’s wing. When we met David for the first time in May 2014, he came highly recommended already. As parents, we wanted to make sure we trusted the person that was going to teach our son the needed skills to master flight. After that first meeting, my wife and I felt confident that David was the person who we could trust to teach our son to safely fly.
In January 2016, I decided it was my turn to try to learn to fly, and David was the only choice for me. Growing up in a family of pilots, I am now the 17th, I felt confident that I had absorbed all there was to know about flying. After the first lesson, I cannot express how wrong I was. I could never had imagined, how much there was to learn- airport traffic procedures, communications do’s and don’ts, airspace, regulations, flight planning, weather and the all-important airplane and its systems. Not to mention, how to fly the airplane.
I remember telling my wife after each lesson, how much I had learned in that lesson and amazed how much more there is to flying… The pace we kept was challenging and never dull. The balance, between class time and actual flying time was good and it all came together in May 2016 when David stepped out and told me to go fly pattern on my own. I remember looking at him, and wondering if he was crazy! I had to believe that he thought I was ready, which gave me the boost of confidence I needed. Even though, I had landed with David between 50 – 60 times in practice, the first to time solo was totally different and a unique experience, like no other. I kept hearing David repeat in my head: GUMPS, Altitude, Distance, abeam the numbers, “click”, 45 degrees to the numbers, “click”, reduce speed (click) to 80, wings level, look at the sight picture, aim or the numbers,.. don’t let her land, protect the nose. It wasn’t pretty, but WOW… I just landed an airplane by myself!! I was now a Pilot or so I thought…
A few day’s later while trying to repeat the successes of the week before, I learned one of the more important lessons, of my training experience. P factor is real and has to be tamed! If not, you can end up off the runway and on the wrong taxi way. David was flying pattern with another student that morning, he looked down and wondered how the heck I got to be where I was at the airport. The next day David got me up in the pattern again, and got my confidence back where it was before, where it needed to be.
Over the next few month, I leaned how much more there was to learn, weather, cross country planning, air space, charts and that darn E6B. While at the same time continuing to fly with David and fly the pattern time every chance I could get. Next came the first solo cross country trip. I was amazed that I could fly to Eufaula, Al. and return safely. I was even more amazed that it took me 3 hours of planning for a 1 hour round trip. Best of all when I calculated TOC and time to waypoints, I was accurate and could really navigate from this. That was very COOL! What I learned over the next couple months was that there is a reason behind everything that David puts you through. My skills were improving as well as my confidence.
I knew the date was getting near when David told me to get the Private Pilot Practical Test Standard book. When I got it, it felt like David asked me every question in the book, but in reality I think we only covered the first 10 pages, in over 2 hours. After several frowns and multiple “better write that down”, I knew where the conversation was going. This was check ride prep… but was I ready??
In the last two weeks, David and I flew a great deal, making sure that I knew the material, but also to make sure I knew the procedures… we practiced them all..diversions, stalls, steep turns, emergency descents, forward slips, go-arounds, slow flight, short field, soft field take off and landings to name just a few. I think I learned more about “controlling” the plane in the last few weeks than I did in flying in it the 12 months before. This practice was really a confidence boost for me. I also learned, to slow down, think and then do!
Finally, I had “demonstrated” all the required maneuvers to a level of proficiency that David required. He signed me off for my check ride, but was I really ready?? At least David thought so...
On Sunday we headed off for Prattville for my check ride, my biggest fear was putting in all the work, the time... the MONEY and not being successful. I was pretty confident in my ability to fly the plane and I felt I knew most of the material that would be covered in the verbal.
Once Jeff, the examiner, went through my log book and the maintenance records on the plane, we started the verbal portion of the exam. David went to lunch.
I did well enough on the verbal. I knew much of the material from heart, but stumbled through some of the questions, using my FAR/AIM and notes as reference when needed and then Jeff said get your stuff and let’s go flying. Whew.., passed step 1.
The flying portion was almost what I expected- take off according to your flight plan, do the diversion to Selma, once the other field was in sight, we performed the turns (ground reference and steep) and stalls. Check, check, check.. I was not perfect, but I knew how to perform them and most importantly..control the airplane. We then used Selma to for the remaining landings and takeoffs. Finally, Jeff said take me back to Prattville. Using David’s advice, once you perform a maneuver throw it out of you head and think of the next. I did this literally after the diversion, so my chart, E6B and rule were all laying on the back seat of the plane. This was the first major mistake of the day!! I did not think ahead and anticipate I that would need them again. Lucky, using the resources at hand, Jeff, I asked for the chart, did some dead reckoning for my second diversion of the day and successfully brought man and machine back to Prattville.
Jeff’s hand was the first one I shook as a “Pilot”, David Hall’s was second.
I am proud to be number 17 in my family number 23 on David’s wall. But proudest of accomplishing a goal that I have been chasing since I was child and being able to go fly with my son.. who will now be teaching his dad to become a better pilot.
Reflections of this overall experience:
I have more respect for my wife’s grandfather who flew a C-47 from California to Australia during WWII. How did those guys do that without ForeFlight and the modern tools we have at our disposal today? Absolutely amazing to imagine what that was like.
Trust your instructor. David is a much better judge of one’s capabilities than own. I had to believe that when my son initially soloed as wellas with myself.
You will hate flight planning and the E6B. Why use it when you have an IPAD? Why spend hours on something that you can do in 20 seconds. Because it makes you better! You learn what is required and it keeps you thinking of every step… and if you don’t you will never pass the check ride.
Some of the things that you will need to remember include: As PIC you are to use all the resources available to you.Use your VOR to determine your radial and location, use the examiner in the right seat to grab stuff off the back seat. Your memory is a resource repeat David’s words out loud to yourself in each procedure:GUMPS, Speed, Heading, Altitude, distance, speed will kill you, trim is your buddy..David was with me on my entire check ride.
Each procedure has a purpose, learn them, you will be tested on them. Luckily for me, David Hall was my instructor. I know the student in Prattville who did his check ride flying right before me on Sunday is wishing he had David as well... He will be returning on another Sunday to demonstrate his forward slip, something he did not learn from his instructor.
When you get in the plane with your examiner, is when you begin the transition from student to hopeful pilot. It the first time you have a passenger, and you are PIC. Remember to brief your passenger on the plane and safety and Emergency procedures, ..E,F& G.
You’re not expected to be perfect.You’re demonstrating a level of competency and an ability to think. Your examiner will try to make you think about what you are doing. For example: when you’re at 1200 ft on the north side of the field and you’re told to land, which requires you to be on a left pattern approaching from the south. You need to determine how to safely fly over mid field at minimum of 500 ft above TPA and enter the pattern properly.
Remember that you will likely do your check ride on an uncontrolled field., so practice your calls and know when to make them.
Read you FAR/AIM. Understand some of the regulations better. The examiner wants to see your depth of knowledge.
Aviation is a big club, but still relatively few members. Everyone wants you to be successful- fellow pilots, the very patient controllers in the tower (the mother birds who will watch your every circuit in the pattern, put up with your bad radio calls and bad landings), the line guys, mechanic and your examiner. Everyone is there so that you can have a successful and safe flight.
Flying is a commitment that takes time away from family and other activities. This would not have been possible for me without the support of my wonderful, loving and generous wife!
Michael H. Sr.