Thursday, February 20, 2014

Newest Pilot in the United States - Passed My PPL Checkride!

It's the end of the beginning portion of my aviation journey, as the title of this blog reads, "From Private to Professional Pilot." Fittingly, getting my Private Pilot's License is a major milestone, but just one of many for the future! 

Just a heads up to all of those interested, I will be writing a separate article for the blog about my PPL Checkride experience, with details about the major stages, etc. I'll give information about my cross-country flight plan, studying strategies, etc. This post is more about my relief and happiness that I've finally reached a major life-goal of mine. 

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Finding words to describe what today has been like is going to be a challenge. Getting my pilot's license is something that I've been dreaming about for as long as I can remember. After finally becoming reality, it still hasn't hit me yet. I've been training so hard, for so long; all of this almost feels unreal somehow. Knowing that unless I really mess something up or loose my medical, that I have a pilot's license for life is an incredible feeling.

Two weeks ago, I flew my last flight as a student pilot, with my awesome instructor Graham Frye, out of Hanover KOFP (HOVA Flight Services). It was in preparation for today, my PPL Checkride. As every pilot knows, right when you really want the weather to cooperate, it won't. So for the next 2 weeks from that day, we planned 3 checkride flights, all of which were cancelled due to snow storms. On the bright side, I got school off for a few days around and on my 17th Birthday! 

With my awesome instructor, Graham Frye

Waking up at 6am today to do some final flight planning, I was nervous, anxious, and didn't quite know what to expect. Checkrides are something that pilots go through constantly over their career, but being the first, I had no idea what was heading my way. Having studied for the past few weeks, and knowing that my parents and grandparents were going to be there, I didn't want to let myself or anyone else down. 

Arriving at the airport, I met my examiner for the first time. He instantly put me at ease with his laid back, yet knowingly systematic style. As he put it "let's get this mission done." After passing the oral (saving this for another post!), we headed out to the plane to pre-flight and got on our way. 

I'll save the flight portion for another post as well, but I will point out one very distinct feeling I remember. I remember being on final approach for my last landing (a soft field landing), knowing that I had passed everything thus far. I told myself "ok Swayne, let's get this landing down and not screw it up at the last second." I felt so at ease yet highly alert. One more landing, and I would have that certificate in my hand is what I told myself. After a flawless calm-wind approach, just as I was passing the numbers a few feet off the ground, the wind gave a brief but sudden gust, as if it was saying "remember to stay on your toes." That little bump pushed us down, requiring nearly full aft elevator, but still resulted in a greased landing. It's almost like nature was reminding me to stay alert, especially at the times I'm starting to feel the most comfortable. 

After parking the plane and shutting down, I was greeted by the much appreciated handshake and congratulations from my examiner. Walking back inside the FBO, I couldn't help but have a huge smile on my face, and gave my mom and grandparents a big thumbs-up and hug as I walked through the door. After the paperwork and official "Temporary Airmen Certificate" was signed, we got down to some pictures! 

Imagining the future?

Did I get much sleep last night? - No. But now that I've finally accomplished one of my biggest goals in life, I can put my head down in a few minutes, and sleep soundly knowing that I've done something I only dreamed of until this moment. 

Do you know what the best part of this is? My journey just began. 

Thanks for reading,
-Swayne Martin 
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

I want to say a special THANK YOU to all of my friends, family, followers,  mentors,  and instructors that have helped me so far on my path. I know for a fact that I wouldn't be here right now, writing this article, if it hadn't been for each and every one of you. 


  1. So thrilled for you, Swayne!!! I can't wait for a ride with some of the posse.

    1. Of course! Seeing RVA from the air is really cool. Would make for a great post for your blog!


  2. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, it's an awesome feeling.

  3. Cant wait to read the full checkride description article, and what comes in the future!

  4. Full articles nearly ready to be published. Thanks so much,

  5. Woo Hoo!!!! WAY TO GO! Now get that instructors license and you will be my instructor!


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Many Thanks, Happy Flying,
Swayne Martin