There's a ritual that I think many student pilots eventually get to go through. Sitting down, you carefully remove the textbooks, AIMs, Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and other training tomes from your flight bag. Next, you lift up your bag and for the first time feel what it will weigh now that you are a fully certified pilot. I can tell you now that it is more than a little satisfying.
Three years to the month from getting my student certificate and medical, two years to the month from passing my FAA written test (that expires after 24 months), one year to the month from getting my tailwheel endorsement I stepped into a Cessna 172P and flew from Martin State Airport (KMTN) to Easton (KESN) for my checkride. When I flew back (much, much later) I was a private pilot.
It is a strange feeling to have spent so long and finally to get here. I was fourteen in England when I first started to seriously talk about getting a pilot's license. 19 when I had made enough money to make the choice of starting lessons or buying a car to take to university. The car won. At twenty four I found myself in France and funded long enough to solo a Robin DR400, but no more. Only now that I am based in the US have been able to complete the task.
Six instructors, eight aircraft types and about seventy five hours is not an efficient way to get you license. Don't do it this way. Stick to one instructor, change instructors if yours is not meeting your expectations (remember, you are the customer; this isn't school, you are hiring a private tutor) Find friends to fly with and learn from (the more and the more varied the better) and if you really want to be an accomplished pilot get a tail wheel endorsement as soon as possible. Everything I did well in the flying portion of my checkride came from skills I learnt in the Citabria. To be honest the list of items flown well was nowhere as long as I'd like, but a constant dialog with the Examiner and clear corrections when things were not going well helped stave off the "you've failed, would you like to continue?" question.
In fact, I only realised I'd passed when we were taxiing back and the thought struck me that rather than mentioning failure he was asking for my photograph for Facebook. Er, yeah. Erm, sure.
So now I'm a pilot I have flown myself everywhere right? Er no. I've done one flight since passing and that was with an instructor to get re-checked out in the Citabria. It has been a year since I last played with it after all. A 15 knot direct crosswind was quite a workout after all that time, I can tell you.
And last weekend? Last weekend I flew right seat in the Mustang 2 to Oshkosh. I'm sitting there now, typing this up on my iPhone.
I am a pilot at the greatest aviation celebration in the world. How good is that?