10 Day IFR C207T with G500 / G430/530, S-tec 50 and GTX330 

Hi Tony and John:

I am a relatively low time pilot (150hrs), but have focused on moving at a good pace up the experience ladder.  I received my PPL in May of 2013, and promptly received my High Performance and Complex endorsement.   I flew 172’s with the G1000 and 182’s with the standard 6 pack primarily.  A year later I received my Tail Wheel endorsement in a J3 Cub, which taught me a lot about coordinated flight, what the rudders are really for, and controlling the plane with small incremental movement.   By year end I had purchased my first aircraft, a Cessna 207, as I had the need to really carry 6 people and about 1100lbs after fuel.  I learned to handle it VFR relatively well and was taught how to do some pretty good short field work by a phenomenal local instructor.  However before I put people in the plane I wanted to make sure I felt confident and ready for whatever the weather could throw at me, or of course really know to stay on the ground when that was the best decision!

I contacted several outfits to do my accelerated training, since I didn’t want to spend a year or more getting my Instrument rating.  Tony at AFIT was by far the most responsive, helpful, and on the ball of all of them.  Because my aircraft is relatively unusual in the Northeast, I had to find an instructor with some real time in a 207, both for experience and for insurance.  Tony recommended John, who unbeknownst to me had been in three Plane and Pilot articles, which were the ones that had originally sparked my idea about an accelerated program.   I quickly put two and two together. It took John two flights, a missed connection, and a train ride to get to upstate NY.    He arrived at 8pm after traveling all day, and yet the minute we met at the station, he was positive, engaged and ready to go. 

It is difficult to describe the tremendous balance that John had in his teaching style right from the start.  I had done several types of training before (short field, tail wheel, high performance), and having learned at Westchester Airport, surrounded by the class Bravo of JFK/EWR/LGA, I was used to the rapid fire radio work needed to speak with NY approach and the ATC environment  (I didn’t know any better!), but I sort of treated them separately.  But somehow, John put it all together for me.  The radio, combined with rudder work for the small adjustments on approaches, the “box” work on the 530W/430W, the glideslope captures, pattern work at minimums, holds on a fix, VOR work, all of it.    He would let me get just enough out of the envelope to correct me the first few days, and as training went on, we would add repetition, and then a bit more work, and so on.  In addition he taught me how to use Foreflight to file flight plans in detail, and additional aids in the cockpit to make the information flow well.

We were lucky to have varying weather, so we got some actual IMC time, and we went to 6 states (NY, CT, PA, MA, NH, VT) during the XC time that I needed (20 hours) to exceed the requirements.  Not until I took the oral with the examiner did I realize that, all the while in the plane in midflight, John was prepping me for the Oral.  A question here, an explanation there, on approach, clarifications, all orchestrated incredibly well.  Always with good humor at one point, and demanding the next, tremendous balance.  By the day of the check ride, I was flying at ATP standards, +- 50ft. 

And good thing he taught me that way.  On the day of the check ride, weather moved in over Albany where we would be doing the partial panel VOR work.    During the Oral, which took about 3 hours, I kept looking outside at the rolling clouds.  By the time we went up in the air at 1pm, and as John said (If you went to the plane, well you passed the oral!), clouds were pouring rain to the north, with winds moving in.  We had to originally deviate from the plan as we were going to do VOR work first, and then localizer at the Pittsfield airport and back to Hudson for an approach and circle to land.  We diverted to Pittsfield, where everything went smoothly.  At the recommendation of Albany approach, they steered us around the worst of the weather, but it was actual conditions in hard rain all the way. 

About 20 miles east of Albany, mid storm, it was partial panel time.  Everything gets covered and I have VOR’s, the 530 and the steam dials.  We are vectored to the approach to runway 28 and as we are beginning the procedure, Albany Approach calls and advises that an airliner has just reported 30 knot windsheer at approx. 500 ft right in our path.  Albany vectored us around for a second approach.   Again once we had captured the approach and we were past the Initial Approach fix, another airliner coming out of Albany reported windsheer again of more than 30 knots, and Albany vectored us again. 

The examiner, a 40 year flight veteran and examiner, looked over and said, “perhaps we should do an ILS for now at runway 19?”.  I knew Murphy had come to spoil my check ride,  but Murphy apparently had no idea that John had trained me!  I calmly said to the examiner, “no worries, let’s do this approach again, I’m comfortable with partial panel”.  I was PIC, period.  We did the third approach, horizontal deviation barely out of centerline the whole way, fixes hit within almost 20ft of altitude, and then the climb out to the missed approach.  ATP standard.     

The rest of the check ride went very well with approach fixes, and RNAV approaches all easy after that.  When we landed and went into the FBO, John was there waiting.  The instructor, said “you did an incredible job, he did partial panel in that kind of weather”, then turning to me “everything you did was well done, but that VOR control was something I haven’t seen in a very long time.  It was one of the most enjoyable check rides I have ever had.  If my kids asked me to fly with you, I’d let them.”    John only smiled.      

Thank you John for everything.  You really are the Merlin of aviation – a magician.   

Rolando Cohen
N377CF – The Dragon Lady
Cessna T207