So, having passed the portion of the flight test that takes place on the ground, I head out to the airplane. You don't go flying unless you pass on the ground.
When we get to the airplane, the examiner surprises me by pointing to parts of the airplane and asking me questions about them. Not that I mind, I know the systems well; it surprises me that he thought there was a reasonable chance of an instructor candidate not being able to identify and describe the function of a wing root cabin air intake, the filtered air intake, the alternator belt and the underwing fuel tank vent. He is satisfied with my answers, although I have to think a moment about whether the overvoltage light will go on in this aircraft in the case of a broken alternator belt. I hold his door for him, let him know the seat is adjusted full aft, and start to explain how to get in, as if he were a student. That's okay, he says, just get in. "I take it you decline the passenger briefing?" I ask.
"Offered and declined," he says, a mental tick in a box. "I want to spend as little time as possible in these things."
I start up, get taxi clearance and taxi out. He asks for a soft field takeoff, my favourite, and I demonstrate one. Next he wants me to teach him straight and level flight. I show him how to use the trim, and chastise him for looking inside the cabin for it. He makes it easy to pretend he is really a student, as he's a good roleplayer, so I just relax and do what I am good at. He asks me to demonstrate some maneuvers, teach others and evaluate others as he does them. He demonstrates a beautiful perfect steep turn and I tell him he would get a four out of four for it on a flight test. steep turn pretty much perfect, Mine was not as good. I am hamfooted, if that's a word: hamfisted with my feet. The airplanes I fly for work need bootsful of rudder, whereas this little airplane needs me to merely think about the rudder for it to be too much rudder.
As we approached the airport he said that he would do the landing and that I should assess him, as I would before a first solo to see if he was ready to go on his own. I give him control and see that he is set up very high for the field. I ask him matter-of-factly (not with the "you might want to think about this" edge in my voice that an instructor uses when hinting) what flap setting he plans to land with, and what he planned touchdown point is. He says twenty degrees flap, and the beginning of the third centreline stripe. Both are reasonable choices, although I don't usually teach a student to land with more than ten degrees flap until after first solo. I look at his eyes to make sure he keeps a proper lookout, He keeps his hand on the throttle and makes small, necessary corrections around all three axes of movement and with the power. He is on track for a for a flawless landing. He carries it to the runway like that and at the last moment I realize what he is going to do. I brace and put my hand ready to grab the yoke, even though I know that he won't carry through and do what a student might do.
The airplane rounds out sightly and then meets the runway smack!. The nosewheel comes down at the same moment as the mains. It's a perfectly calculated bad landing. I'm not sure I could do a bad landing so well. I say nothing until we have taxied clear of the runway, then I take control and debrief him, praising him for setting up a perfect approach and telling him--as the student--that he will be rewarded for all his good work on the approach if he just holds the airplane off the ground a little longer. I tell him as the examiner that if I were supervising a new instructor with this student I would tell her that she could solo him as soon as he was holding the nosewheel off right through touchdown, and that if that was achieved in the next three lessons, I did not need to fly with the student again.
In the real debrief he tells me that when he does that stunt, many candidates will criticize him for landing long on that exercise. He always responds with "you didn't tell me where to land." So I have scored points for determining where the student planned to put the airplane. I criticize myself for my poor rudder work, and he agrees that that is the worst thing. I am praised for being articulate, adaptable, and am criticized for using trigonometry during the briefing. I admit that I put in the trig because he was pretending to be an instructor and am surprised when he says that knowledge is not necessary, even for an instructor. Not everyone agrees that trigonometry is a beautiful thing and should be exercised whenever possible.
It was one of the most enjoyable flight tests I've ever done, and despite my propensity for overusage of both rudder and trigonometry, I am once again qualified to be paid to tell you how to fly. According to Transport Canada statistics, as of March 2008 there were 302 valid class 2 instructors for aeroplanes in Canada. I wonder how many of them work as instructors.