Thursday, August 10, 2017


     The flight test required for my pilot’s license should have been a cinch, but my state of nerves was such that I could scarcely add two and two. “You may not get checkitis,” my manual observed. “If this is the case, you’re one of the chosen few. The examiner probably has had it himself and will always make allowances.”
     I kept my examiner busy making allowances from beginning to end, starting with an error in my weight and balance computations and ending with a short field takeoff, which he said, after he had caught his breath, was more like a soft field takeoff.
     “Next time wait till you’ve hit sixty miles an hour, then lift off,” he suggested.
     “You mean you want me to do another one now?”
     “No, no,” he said, “I’m sure you’ll remember all right.”
     When I was doing the pre-flight check, I hoped the examiner wouldn’t ask me any questions about what goes on under the cowling because the way an engine functions has always been an insoluble mystery to me. Ed tried very hard to explain about pistons and cylinders and spark plugs, but the whole idea of it makes me anxious, especially the way the gas explodes when you push the starter.
       Mr. Fahey asked what I’d do if I saw a crack in the exhaust stack. Not sure what part of the engine was known as the exhaust stack, but sure I wouldn’t be happy to see a crack in it anywhere, I said I would look for a mechanic. Mr. Fahey seemed satisfied with my answer and we proceeded to the next phase of the test:  proving I could fly without getting lost.
     I managed to find Providence and return to Norwood without disgracing myself or my instructor too shamefully. One thing Mr. Fahey seemed to approve of was my landings—after they were accomplished, that is. He shifted uneasily in his seat during my approach—“Don’t get too far to the right, Mrs. Malley, that’s it, a little more to the left, there’s quite a crosswind today but you’re handling it very nicely”—and then he sat back with a sigh and said, “Good, good!” as wheels touched asphalt with a soft thud.
     Coming in for my final landing, I touched down on runway 17 and was informed by the patient gentleman at my side that I was now a private pilot.

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