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Thread: Got my Pilot License back...!!! The process and all it entails...

  1. #1

    Got my Pilot License back...!!! The process and all it entails...

    Well, it was a LOOOoooong drawn out process, but I finally took and passed my SODA test (Statement of Demonstration of Ability) with the FAA, and I now have my FULL priveledges to pilot small planes again.

    Anyway, for those in a similar situation I thought I'd do a quick write up.

    First - you just go for your normal pilots medical, which you will FAIL. The doctor sends some paperwork to the FAA who will send you a letter back with this classic line: "We have reviewed your application for medical certification and notice a history of paraplegia..." Really??? you noticed it too huh!?! was it the chair that gave it away??? ....and I thought perhaps I was just imagining all this

    The letter goes on to ask for:
    1. ALL medical records from everyone that ever touched you regarding the SCI
    2. a current neurological evaluation
    3. a current urological evaluation
    4. a current orthopedic evaluation
    ....so this is enough to keep you busy visiting doctors and explaining to them what you need....they were all quite baffled as what to write, but I eventually got it all done.

    Eventually they get back to you and give you a 6 month window in which to take an FAA test where you demonstrate your ability to the examiner.

    At this point, I lost my job and had to change my priorities......the 6 months lapsed and I had to start all over again, back at the doctor.....

    You also need a flight instructor to write a letter to the FAA stating that in his opinion you are able to fly again.

    Modifications required to fly
    This is down to the individual. I tried to fly using a commerically made rudder control, that has a handle you push/pull to yaw left/right. They are pretty cheap and easy to use. However, since I have some use of my feet I decided to try steering the plane with my legs.

    At first I used velcro and straps to attach my feet to the pedals, since I didn't feel confident in keeping my feet in place. The problem then was my knees, having a tenancy to want to come together. Also my ankles wanted to rotate. It was all a bit sketchy.....

    In the end I modified a pair of AFO's to keep my ankles pointing straight, but alowing my toes to point. I then made some knee spreaders using some PVC from the plumbing department of Home Depot. This comindation worked really well and, once in place, my feet stayed on the rudder pedals with no issues.






    The Test itself
    I flew with my flight instructor to Fulton airport in Atlanta, just under some of the world's busiest class B airspace.
    When I arrived I was greeted by 2 men in suits: one was my examiner....the other was HIS examiner...! How fortunate I was to have 2 examiners on board my little plane...this test was going to be done by the books. Geeez.

    Anyway, they had me taxi out, take off and climb to 3,000ft. We then did a steep turn to the left and right (don't forget those clearing turns first). Then a power on stall. Then a normal landing followed by a steep approach where they made me slip all the way in (a good way to prove good rudder control).

    Finally, once back on the ground they gave me one last test....."the planes on fire..!!! get out as fast as you can..!!!".

    I was so tempted to just sit there and start yelling the lines from Talladega Nights "I'm on fire! I'm on fire! help me jesus! Help me Allah! Help me Tom Crusie...!!!". But I'm not sure about the FAA's sense of humor.... Instead I managed to get out to the wing just fine and explain that I would let gravity take me down the wing from there....

    And that was it!

    They shook my hand and handed me the piece of paper authorizing me to fly again. It is such a great feeling knowing I can fly again.

    My big plan is to fly the 350 miles cross country to Wilmington the next time that work needs me to go up that way. It will take 3 hours each way and cost less than the commerical flight....



    Anyway, if anyone has any questions about the process then hit me up. Here are some pics...




  2. #2
    Congratulations!

    I took some flying lessons awhile back, it was great fun!
    Andrew

  3. #3
    Senior Member flying's Avatar
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    What an ordeal that was. So how much pressure can you put on the rudder peddles with your legs? Unfortunately my rans has always required very strong legs to operate the rudder. My brother has a 172 so am going to see if I can push hard enough the operate that plane. What about the toe or heal brakes, how does that work with the AFOs, I'm guessing that you have some calf muscles that still work, I have none. Great to see you back in the air, congratulations.
    T12L1 Incomplete Still here This is the place to be 58 years old

  4. #4
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    Foolish

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."-POGO.

    "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it."~Edgar Allan Poe

    "Dream big, you might never wake up!"- Snoop Dogg

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by flying View Post
    What an ordeal that was. So how much pressure can you put on the rudder peddles with your legs? Unfortunately my rans has always required very strong legs to operate the rudder. My brother has a 172 so am going to see if I can push hard enough the operate that plane. What about the toe or heal brakes, how does that work with the AFOs, I'm guessing that you have some calf muscles that still work, I have none. Great to see you back in the air, congratulations.
    Yes, that was almost as much of an ordeal as becoming a US citizen....phew.
    I am lucky to be able to exert enough force on the rudder pedals. I wanted to demonstrate this to the examiners in the air so I started yawing the plane from side to side as hard as I could. The guy in the back dropped his clipboard and said "whoooah"....I stopped with a "sometimes too much of a good thing..." the other examiner chuckled.

    However, I cannot actuate the toe brakes with my toes. Actually I could operate the left one, but not the right. So I keep my toes clear of those brakes. This has therefore limited me as to what planes I can fly; they have to have some kind of hand-operated brake. The Cherokee PA28 has such a brake (the C-172 does not).

    This does mean I can't perform super tight turns by using one of the brakes, so all my turns are with the nose-wheel.


    Anyway, thanks for all the congrats, much appreciated

  6. #6
    Congratulations, Mark!
    I can't decide if the FIRE! thing was a dirty trick or a reasonable part of the checkride.
    I let my medical lapse due to glaucoma, but I sure miss flying the Skylane. OTOH, I've saved a lot of money.
    Have fun poking holes in the air!
    - Richard

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by rfbdorf View Post
    I can't decide if the FIRE! thing was a dirty trick or a reasonable part of the checkride.
    Well, he did give me a headsup on that over the phone ahead of time and we practiced a few emergency exits.

    I made the point to him that; flying was something I love, and something that I can do sitting down. The benefit of being able to fly vastly outweighed the increased risk that I was willingly exposing myself to; the risk that I might be stuck in a burning aircraft.

    At the end of the day, it would be my choice to run that risk, and me being last to exit the plane would not expose any passengers to an increased risk to their life.

    He agreed with what I was saying. He said that basically the FAA wanted to just see that I had a fighting chance to save myself in a fire. He respected that it was my choice ultimately as to how much risk I face.

    In the end, I was able to scoot out of that cabin in just a few second, so it was all a moo-point (you know, moo like a cow....irrellevent, like a cow's opinion).

  8. #8
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    Give us a warning before flying over....duck n wave....duck n wave LOL

    No really, Congratulations sounds like you are doing something you really enjoy.
    T12-L2; Burst fracture L1: Incomplete walking with AFO's and cane since 1989

    My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am. ~Author Unknown

  9. #9
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    That is awesome! Congrats!
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  10. #10
    Senior Member fromnwmont's Avatar
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    Congrats!!! I took my lessons in a piper Cherokee tail #7164R it seems like a whole different life now.. Way to go...

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