After meeting the required training and experience for a Commercial Pilot License, there are three tests one must pass. The first is a 100 question multiple choice written test. The second is an oral examination administered by a FAA Designated Examiner (DE). The final test is a flight test with the Examiner which typically consists of two flights.
The Written Test
The FAA publishes the majority of the questions in the pool for the written test on their web site. As a result, a small industry of test prep books and software has sprung up around the written test. I use and highly recommend the ASA Commercial Pilot book and their software.
A passing score is 70% or more.
So there's really no excuse for not passing. In fact, it's hard to imagine not getting a decent score. The written test for the Private Pilot certificate is like this too, except that it is composed of 60 questions instead of 100.
There are three hours allotted for the test. I went through the whole test twice (had to check my work), using only 24 minutes, and walked away with a 98% score. This met my goal of beating the 97% I got on the Private Pilot written test two years ago.
A passing score on the written test is valid for two years.
The Oral Test
On the assigned day, you meet with the examiner at the airport. He or she will go over your paperwork (application, written test score, etc). In addition, you will have prepared a weight and balance worksheet for the glider you'll be flying. Similarly, you'll have prepared a cross-country plan for a flight you could make in the glider you'll be flying. You'll need the maintenance records handy for the glider (to make sure it's legal). And finally, you'll need recent weather reports and data for the area you're flying in.
With all that out of the way, the examiner will then ask you questions about aviation regulations, aircraft performance, or anything listed in the FAA's Practical Test Standards. This continues until the examiner is satisfied that you're know your stuff--or you don't. If you don't, the day is over. If you do, the flight test comes next.
My examiner was Dave Morss, who also administered my oral and flight tests for my private pilot license two years ago. Dave is a great guy who flies anything and everything. He's a test pilot and also flies in races. Plus he's just a total flying addict.
We talked about the privileges and limits associated with a commercial license, weather, and a few other things before my oral exam was complete. But we had to wait for the weather to clear before flying, so he told me we were "done" but he was going to keep asking me questions about the DG-1000 we'd be flying, mainly because he wanted to know more about the ship.
So we spent some time looking at the flight polars, comparing the 18 meter and 20 meter configurations, and learned a bit about the water ballast system as well. He also demonstrated a cool application and service on his phone. For $13/month he has access to a ton of aviation related services. We looked at the local weather radar a bit so that we'd know when the rain might end.
The Flight Test
This is the fun part. :-)
The flight test typically consists of two or three flights in which the examiner will ask to your perform various maneuvers until he or she is convinced that you can do them smoothly and accurately. Anything listed in the Practical Test Standards if fair game, but most examiners will do a subset of those. Typically they'll ask you to box the wake on tow, recover from a slack rope situation, turns and stalls, a no spoiler landing, and a precision landing.
As the clouds were clearing out, we prepared for the first flight. We pushed out to runway 24, hooked up, got in, and launched. The tow pilot took us toward the big blue hole that was opening up in the clouds. Dave asked me to box the wake when I was comfortable. I told him I'd do it when we were above 1,500 feet and did so. Then he took the glider to induce a slack line situation before giving the controls back so that I could correct it. No problem. Compared to the slack I had practiced on, it was easy.
Once we got to 3,500 feet, I released and got situated. He asked for a straight ahead full stall. I performed a 360 degree clearing turn and then demonstrated the stall. Next he asked for a turning stall with recovery in the turn, so I did that. Then he said, "okay, let's go look for lift!"
We were at 3,000 feet, so I headed toward the clouds and we spent some time playing in zero sink and 1 knot lift before finding the nasty 5 knot sink. At roughly 2,000 feet he suggested that I might do the no spoiler landing on the first flight, then launch of runway 31 and use 24 for my precision landing on the second flight.
I dropped the gear, did my landing checklist, and flew the landing without spoilers--no problem. I even came in nice and low over the fence, just like I hoped I would.
For the second flight, we took off on runway 13 and departed to the right. At 1,400 feet Dave asked me to release and then asked for the controls. He wanted to thermal! So I let him fly us around for about 10 minutes before getting the controls back to land. I flew a normal approach to runway 24, got a bit low on final, but hit the landing zone just fine.
We pushed the glider out of the way and finished up the on-line paperwork. I now have my temporary certificate and expect the real thing to appear in a month or so form the FAA.
The practice is always so much more work than the test.
Posted by jzawodn at April 07, 2005 09:33 PM