April 19th 2021 is a day that will forever remain in my mind. It was the day that I sat, and passed, my Multi-Engine Piston Class Rating & Instrument Rating (MEP & IR) flight test; the final hurdle of the long journey to becoming a pilot. One month on, I’ve had time to reflect on it: how I felt, how I prepared, what I thought the test was going to be like (and what it actually was like), and things I wish I’d known before my MEP & IR phase of training.
Moving from being taught skills to honing skills
Moving on from your Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) to the MEP & IR focusses on preparing you for the final test. By this point, you know how to fly, so instead of learning new things you’re now honing the skills you’ve already acquired leading up to this point. You’re treated differently too, but in a good way! You’re treated as a professional pilot conducting a flight. It’s your flight, you’re the Captain, so you’re making the calls. Yes, the instructor is still present, but they will remain silent and only speak up if the situation requires it.
Don’t be a one trick pilot
I’ve seen cadets flying the same, or very similar flights leading up to their test, therefore not covering all eventualities that could come up on their test. Maximising the number of airfields you fly from and varying the type of approaches you do helps cover these eventualities. That way, if your examiner decides to do your test slightly different, or if air traffic control situations dictate how your test goes (as was the case for me due to a radar outage), then it’s not completely new to you. The last thing you want to be doing on the day of your test is panicking because you are doing something new.
You’ve done the test before without realising
At the end of the day, it’s just another flight. Yes, I know that’s a cliché that every instructor tells their students, but it really is. It follows the same format as all of your profiles and you may even be lucky enough to get a route you’ve already flown before. At the end of the day, an examiner is also an instructor, so just imagine you’re with a new instructor and you want to impress them.
Don’t fear the examiner
I can’t stress this point enough. No examiner wants to fail you. They want to see you pass. The reality is, examiners are humans, who were once cadets and have been in your shoes! They know what it’s like to go through the training process. Their job is to see that you’ve been trained properly and to the required standard, and by reaching this stage in the first place means you have!
Forget and move-on
This applies to every flight test. Once something happens, forget about it and move on with your flight. You can’t go back in time and change it. If you get hung up on something that has happened, it acts as a distraction to your flying and will also remove mental capacity that you will require at later stages of your flight. In most cases, something you think you’ve done wrong, isn’t actually wrong at all. As my examiner told me: “move on, because I may not have noticed it, or it may just be trivial and you’re most likely worrying about nothing”.
And finally… Enjoy yourself and be proud of what you’ve achieved
As cadets, we often forget how lucky we are to have the skies as our classroom and fly around them on a weekly basis, so enjoy the training! You only go through training once, so make sure you have great memories to look back on. You’ve come a long way since that very first day at ground school. The training process is far from easy, and it’s guaranteed to have its high and low points. So be proud of what you’ve achieved!