Since I had ignored everyone’s advice on taking the written test before the flight test, I was in the awkward position of having told everyone that I’d passed my flight test but that I still didn’t have my licence.
After explaining this situation to three or four people I started to get a bit embarrassed and resolved to get the written test done. Although Transport Canada does provide a private pilot written test study guide online, it’s pretty vague and still leaves you with the task of hunting through source material.
Instead I bought the 2013 Private Pilot Exam Guide from Sharper Edge. It’s not a professionally designed and laid out book and some of the diagrams are amateurish. In some cases the diagrams make actually make concepts MORE difficult to understand. However it did come with 400 review questions and did serve as a useful guide in what to study and what not to study, so absent any alternatives, I would recommend the book.
I also had a book of eight 2011 practice tests from Accelerated Aviation left over from my ground school kit that I used to test my knowledge after answering the review questions in the Sharper Edge book. There was the odd question that was in the practice test books that hadn’t been covered in the Sharper Edge book which was probably explained by the difference in the edition year.
On the day of the test I arrived at the Transport Canada office. I introduced myself to the receptionist who checked a wire-bound datebook which presumably had my named written inside for 9 am. There wasn’t much of waiting area – only two chairs and a half empty magazine stand with some safety brochures.
After a few minutes a woman of maybe 29 walked in with a pink t-shirt and flip flops.
I asked if she were also there to write a pilot test but as it turned out she was a mechanic who worked on vintage airplanes! She was at the office to write an exam for her aircraft maintenance engineer licence. She had basically learned to fly with her dad and had aced the flight test in Grade 10. However, she couldn’t pass the written test (meteorology!) and decided not to try again. “Besides,” she said, “I’m kind of more interested in working on the planes than I am in flying them. If I need to go anywhere I can just go with my dad.”
The Spitfire was her favourite plane to work on, not in the least because the airplane was apparently easy to work on, with plenty of space to manoeuvre tools, yet accessible enough to preclude using too many ladders and scaffolds. I can’t imagine the number of retirees out there were would be extremely envious of a paid job repairing Spitfires.
The test began late because of something wrong with “the system” and for I moment I was worried that I’d have to come back again. However everything got sorted out with a call to another regional office and I wrote the test. It’s a computer test with a handy bar that graphically shows your question progress against time remaining so you know if you are falling behind or not. As it turned out I finished and reviewed the test with time to spare, but not before somehow injuring myself on a sharp edge of the computer table, my only aviation related injury to date. I tried to ignore it but then I didn’t want to bleed over everything and so I ended up going to the washroom to grab some paper towels. From this experience I can only conclude that the most dangerous part of learning to fly planes is writing the test.
After I was finished I clicked “Finished” and emerged from the exam room. The receptionist did me a merciful favour and made some other clients wait so she could pull up my results.
“Wow, you did awesome!” she said. “I’d fly with you!”
From the printer emerged a sheet with my results by section, and on the back some areas to review based on what I had gotten wrong.
88%! I actually did better than I thought I did. A few questions came up that I hadn’t seen anywhere else before so there isn’t perfect correspondence between the exam prep books and the actual exam.
Now I was almost a licenced pilot. I just needed someone to sign my paperwork. Should be easy, right?