GATTS days 8 & 9: judgment day(s)

The title of this post gives it away: I didn’t pass my check ride on the first try. Read on to find out why…

On day 8, I woke up early, loaded the car, and drove to the airport to meet Peter. We’d arranged with Ken to meet early because the weather from Manhattan to Topeka (and the surrounding area) was poor: 1200’ or less ceilings, with lots of wind and a good bit of rain. Peter and I agreed to head east and see what the weather looked like when we got there. Short answer: it was terrible. The entire flight was in clouds, with plenty of bumps, then on arrival, ATC gave us about 20 minutes of holding on the localizer, which was, um, invigorating, not to mention bouncy. We finally landed and this is what we saw:

Paul robichaux net 20140903 001

Ken was there waiting for us, so we went inside and went through the standard check ride prep; he and I both signed into IACRA to complete my check ride paperwork, he briefed me on the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, and so on. Then we spent about an hour on the oral exam, which was perfectly straightforward. I wasn’t surprised by any of his questions, largely thanks to the combination of Peter’s coaching and my own study. The weather wasn’t good enough for us to conduct the practice approaches on the check ride under VFR conditions, so we adjourned to the airport restaurant for a snack (which was interrupted by a business phone call for me, alas). After about an hour and a half, the weather had lifted enough for us to fly. We took off, and Ken had me intercept V4 to give us some distance from the airport. We flew west a bit, then he had me recover from unusual attitudes, which went well… except.

See, I was having a hell of a time keeping to my assigned altitude. I’d like to blame it on the wind, but it wasn’t just that; my scan was deteriorating faster than ever before. I’m still not sure if I was nervous, rattled from the weather, or what, but after a few gentle reminders from Ken (example: “Do you know what the PTS requirements for holding altitude are?”, just in case my poor performance was due to ignorance vice lack of skill), he had me head in to the ILS for runway 13. I flew fairly well despite the wind gusts, intercepting and tracking the localizer without a problem.. but, again, my altitude control was poor, and I let the glideslope needle hit full deflection down. I was too high, and that was that: he had me land, gave me the dreaded letter of discontinuance, and held a short debrief with Peter and me. Then I flew us home, in a funk the whole way; we did some remedial training en route, which I obviously needed but didn’t want. After landing I went back to the apartment, sulked for a while, worked a bit, and then mentally steeled myself to repeat the process the next day… and that’s exactly what happened. The next morning, we went back to the airport, flew to Topeka, met Ken, did the same IACRA stuff, and went out to the airplane.

When you retake a failed (or interrupted) checkride, the examiner doesn’t have to retest you on the portions you passed, although she can. In my case, Ken just wanted me to fly the approaches and holds, which I did, starting with the ILS for 13. It was still breezy, but nowhere near as windy as the preceding day, and/or maybe I was less nervous. In any event, I flew a textbook ILS approach, did a decent job on the hold (despite a stiff and inconvenient crosswind), and followed with the VOR and localizer back course approaches. I landed, taxied in, and Ken shook my hand to congratulate me. Here’s what the airport looked like when we taxied up:

Paul robichaux net 20140901 003After another debrief, in which the often-heard and completely true phrase “license to learn” was tossed around several times, we bade Ken goodbye and headed back to the ramp. After a short and uneventful flight back to Manhattan, I shook hands with Peter for the last time, got a fresh diet Coke, and headed home. The flight home was smooth and clear, so I didn’t actually get to perform any approaches, more’s the pity. After such a long time away, I was delighted to get home, sleep in my own bed, play with the cat, and generally settle in a bit.

Once a little more time has passed, I’ll write up my overall impressions of GATTS. It is safe to say that I’m pleased with what I learned and their teaching methods, but I feel like I need a bit more experience before I form a complete opinion. Meanwhile, I’ll be flying!


Filed under aviation

8 responses to “GATTS days 8 & 9: judgment day(s)

  1. Tom

    Excellent write-up – still very informative several years later. In retrospect, do you recommend an accelerated IFR course over the traditional approach? If so, do you recommend the provider you used? It’s not easy to find unbiased user reviews of accelerated courses.

    • robichaux

      I absolutely still feel like GATTS was the right choice for me. My two co owners both went the conventional route and it took them approximately forever. As soon as I can arrange it, I plan to return to GATTS for my commercial– so yes, I do recommend them still. Good luck!

  2. Gino

    Thank you for writing your detailed review. Been trying to do some research to decide if the GATTS approach is right for me and it was great to see what an entire week was like. Take care!

  3. TX_FlyBoy

    Was wondering how many hours total you built during the instrument course?

    • robichaux

      About 45. I’d already met the requirements for simulated instrument, XC, and PIC time, along with all the point-to-point requirements, so 100% of my time was spent training. If you go there and don’t have the minima, they can probably structure your training to make sure that you get it.

  4. John

    Please understand that GATTS has been sold, and the new owner doesn’t seem to be maintaining the old owner’s standards. I have spent a total of 30 days at GATTS, and failed the checkride twice. I was told that “studying for the oral portion was on me”, they don’t work on that with you. On day one the instructor took my log book, and filled it out on the day of the checkride with totally made up numbers. The instructor who took me for my second checkride wasn’t even a CFII. Several other student’s were dramatically less than impressed with GATTS while I was there. Most of their great references are several years old, you don’t see many dated after it was sold in 2019. I won’t be going back, it’s just easier to do it locally than fly halfway across the country to Kansas where the weather is always terrible.

    • robichaux

      I’m not sure where you were getting your information. I was there in November and the original owner is still on the premises. I had a nice visit with them. His son Jason is running the day today operations. I went out to work on my commercial writing and was very satisfied with the quality of instruction and facilities. I had to discontinue my training because of an extended period of bad weather plus work commitments that mean I could not stay to wait it out, but I am going back in January and I’m looking forward to it. Sorry that you did not have a great experience, but I’m not sure your experience is representative of their product.

      • John

        Interesting, Matt Hennessy told me on day one that he bought GATTS in 2019. The entire 30 days I was there I never met Jason or his father, who Matt told me was in poor health. They are still “on premises”, in that they have offices there because they own the King Air & Air Tractor training and simulators that are there. However, Matt stated that he was an instructor at GATTS until he purchased it, and is now the sole owner of GATTS. It was pretty obviously true as all of the instructors reported to him. The school is like most flight schools these days, the instructors are time building to go on to bigger and better things, I saw several come & go while I was there. If Matt does not own GATTS the owners have a bigger problem than high turnover and poor training.

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