When it rains we get wet.


Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I had a long conversation with Eric from Texas and told him that; based on his experience and our conversation we could probably get him signed off for his Sport Pilot Gyroplane proficiency check ride in three days of hard work; weather permitting.

He is an experienced single engine land pilot with an instrument rating and had been an active part of his local FAST team so I suspected he was current on the Federal Aviation Regulations.

I train out of the Santa Maria Public Airport with very benign weather for training. We often have fog in the morning and wind in the afternoon. We sometimes have scattered rain showers; it is rare for it to rain all day.

I called Eric Monday and made him aware that there was rain predicted for some of his three day visit and he might want to wait. Wednesday was 37%, Thursday was 65% and Friday it was 78% chance of rain. After we made some fun of the ability to predict weather he decided to come ahead.

I have been told by one of the best weathermen in the business that they win awards for accuracy if they are right 65% of the time. They would not have won any awards for those three days and the prediction seemed to change every few hours.

The Predator is open and if it rains we get wet. The last time I got wet so did my transponder and I had to have it replaced and the replacement. The certification costing over $550 so I am cautious about flying in the rain.

I checked the weather Thursday evening when Eric called to say he had arrived. We moved our meet time up to 8:00AM Wednesday in order to give us the maximum chance at weather.

I checked the weather before I left the house and SMX was visual flight rules. When I arrived the new Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) had just come out and it was four miles visibility with an 800 foot ceiling. Minimums are three miles and 1,000 foot ceiling. I could not see the tops of the hills west of the airport.

I had done the preflight the night before and figured I could teach him about preflight in the afternoon.

I had sent him lesson one so he knew what to expect. He had experience with a free castering nose wheel and based on our conversation I began with Eric in the front seat. I went through the safety briefing and explained the instruments and controls of The Predator. This is not a small job to familiarize someone with the instruments, switches, controls and procedures and Eric did well in less than an hour.

We checked the weather often to try to identify trends and searched the sky for any sign of blue. We mostly saw clouds with dark bottoms.

I had Eric call Flight Service to get a weather briefing and VFR (visual flight rules) was not recommended.

Eric was meticulous about check lists so off we went. Normally I don’t let people land our takeoff in The Predator till they have flown ground reference maneuvers to practical test standards. The Practice area is about ten miles south of the airport and I didn’t want to get stuck out in the rain for a half hour so we decided to do pattern work first. This makes learning the sight picture more difficult.

I did the first takeoff and the first landing and gave the aircraft controls to Eric. Based on his experience he was making the radio calls from the beginning. I talked him through his first landing and did not have to touch the controls. On his first takeoff things looked very good. When doing pattern work at SMX we request a stop and go down wind mid field and runway three zero was clear for stop and go. As we turned base I felt some rain drops so I told Eric to ask for a full stop landing. The communication didn’t go well and he asked for and was approved for a full stop landing on short final. I cannot talk to Eric when he is talking to the tower. He finished just in time for me to say; “begin your round out and look all the way down the runway”. We ballooned up a little and Eric handled it nicely with a somewhat aggressive flare at the end. Eric’s first flight in The Predator was four tenths of an hour.

It was drizzling by the time we reached the hangar so we quickly stashed The Predator and we headed off to lunch.

It stopped raining during lunch so we hurried back to the airport only to have it begin to drizzle as we went through the startup procedure.

This was a pattern that would repeat itself for the next two days.

Day one we snuck in a second flight of point five hours with seven takeoffs and landings for a total of point nine hours of dual instruction with nine landings; all in the pattern.

When we finished it was still instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) so we covered the pre-flight inspection.

We checked the weather for Thursday and went for optimism despite the dark forcast. I decided I would call him in the morning with a more updated weather report and would probably cancel.

It was gloomy Thursday at 5:00 AM when I first checked the weather.

It stopped raining at the house around 9:00 so I called Eric and told him that I was headed down to the airport in case it stopped raining for long enough to fly. I told him I would not charge him for ground and only charge for dual instruction. I felt his long trip and commitment might be for naught and without briefing and debriefing I was floundering with such a high percentage of ground. I don’t like to charge for floundering.

We would get ready to fly several times only to have it begin to rain and as the sun set we still had not flown. Eric had some great questions and took full advantage of the free ground instruction.

We check the weather before leaving the airport and rain was predicted to last all day Friday. We were running out of time and decided to meet at the airport anyway.

To our delighted surprise; Friday was blue skies and very little wind in the morning and we took full advantage of it to do ground reference maneuvers getting turns around a point, S turns over a road, recognition and recovery from low airspeed and a high rate of decent, slow flight and steep turns finished to practical test standards. When we got back to the field Eric did five landings. The total flight time was one point three hours. I don’t like to do long missions but we were trying to suck all the benefit out of the good weather.

I could feel through his control inputs that Eric was becoming more confident.

We were both struggling with too much mission focus and made an extra effort not to shortcut anything.

Friday afternoon we were struggling with 28kt gusting winds and still managed the rest of the required takeoffs and landings. Eric cut it a little short at four tenths of an hour because he was starting to make mistakes. He had trouble separating the environmental inputs from his control inputs. I only took the controls once.

Eric worked my check lists hard. He is responsible for some changes in the pre-takeoff list and I may start over again with a different format. I am usually the one pushing check lists. Eric wants to do thing perfectly so he needed better check lists.

We headed back to the hanger to fill out his 8710-11 to authorize a proficiency check ride. It was the end of the month and signing it Saturday would give him an extra month to get his check ride done so that became the new plan.

We speculated at length about how much time he needed to catch his flight out of Los Angles.

Rain showers were predicted for Saturday so we didn’t give flying much thought.

It was blue skies and calm winds when we arrived at SMX on Saturday morning so we finished up all the things Eric felt unsure about and with eight tents of an hour of dual instruction and he still managed to catch his plane out of LAX.

In retrospect the extra ground instruction on Thursday helped us accomplish the mission.

I have no doubts that Eric will ace his proficiency check ride weather permitting.

Eric plans to return to fly with a little less pressure to learn some more advanced maneuvers.


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