Marin 99 Val Westen passes her checkride!!

It was a long time coming, but on December 11, 2017, my flight instructor, Marc Ashton, and I flew to Vacaville, Nut Tree Airport, for my private pilot checkride.  We left Petaluma early, flying east 40 miles into the sunrise.  I was strangely calm even though I was sure my adrenalin was pumping overtime.  At Nut Tree, I met my checkride pilot, Ashley Snider, in the pilot lounge.  She’s young enough to be my daughter, I thought.  Then I wished I had started flying when she did, in college, rather than in my retirement.  Enough I thought, and the real part began: the paper work for the FAA, and the oral exam, which focused very practically on the type of plane I fly, a flight she had asked me to prepare, and myriad other things that go into making the decision of whether to fly on a particular day.  Then—to the plane for the checkride itself.

I was incredibly lucky—the weather that day was atypical for winter, the sky was clear blue, with only wispy very high clouds, and the air was still.  In short, it was a wonderful day for flying.  We sort of followed Santa’s lead, going over the hills and through the valleys.  Again, that eerie calm, while I wrestled the air charts, changed frequencies on the radios, talked through what I was doing, and hoped that my memory got each of the steps in the right order for each maneuver.  At her direction, I did high air maneuvers over Yolo County’s beautiful open land and landed at Yolo County airport, where she told me to do short field and soft field take offs and landings.

When she said to head back, I followed a highway toward Nut Tree and from a few miles out, I could see the sun glinting on the water in the canal just to the southwest of runway 02.  What a great day.  We simulated an emergency landing, taxied off the runway, and pulled the plane into a tie-down area.  More strange calm and quiet as I shut the engine down.  After a little conversation in the cockpit, she said the magic words “you did fine.  Let’s go finish your paperwork.”

Back in the pilot’s lounge, she completed the computer process with the FAA.  The printer spit out my Temporary Airman Certificate that entitles me to FLY—by myself, with friends, with family.

I can’t stop smiling.  I can’t stop being grateful to all the instructors who taught me, to those who believed I could do this, and to everyone who encouraged me.  My daughter told me early in the process “The Sky’s the Limit.”  Now I believe it.

2 Responses to “Marin 99 Val Westen passes her checkride!!”

  1. 1 clpickett December 19, 2017 at 7:05 am

    Stretch those wings! It’s a great world to fly in that you deserve. Congrats! Cindy

  2. 2 December 19, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Wonderful description, Val. Captured the essence of what it means to fly.

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