I passed. I now hold a Private Pilot certificate and the United States Government says that I can carry passengers in a small, single engine airplane which lands on terra firma (as opposed to the water).That’s the important thing. The truth is a long story. There’s a story for the way up (I forgot to bring a check, Nick forgot to give me the logs for the plane (but he wrote a check for the examiner, so I forgave him), and I saw a missile launch as I went past Vandenburg Air Force Base.
There’s a story about the check ride, because a strict examiner would not have passed me, but since I have a strict instructor, and the examiner knows the quality of instruction, I was allowed a little more latitude (and altitude) than the FAA specifies.
There’s a story for the way down, because it became my first night solo, included a period where I was totally JFK Jr in greyed-out conditions, and ended with my first solo night landing. I had a really solid instructor for my Private Pilot. When I was greyed out I could hear him, “Fly the plane. Don’t look over there, fly the plane. If you need help from Los Angeles Center, they’ll help you, but fly the plane. Fly the plane first.” I flew the plane. Unlike JFK Jr, I looked at my little artificial horizon, with the little plane, and kept it’s wings level, nailed the altitude (7,500 feet above sea level), and followed the radio beacon radial toward Camarillo. Half an hour later, after a lot of instrument staring, the grey faded to black, the night sky started to show up, and the lights on the ground started to glow gold. Then I could see to fly again. It helped that I could ask Point Mogu Approach to check if Santa Monica was clear enough to land (it was), and in general have those people out there on the radio with me in some sense. More tomorrow.