First 'Fly-Out' as a Non-Owner: Working on My Passenger Rating

8:01 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

For regular readers of Airplanista, you already know I sold the family Piper Cherokee 235 a couple of weeks ago. We had eight great years with 'Katy" but the time was right to let her go to a new owner.
While there were a number of positives with selling the plane, one question was what I was going to do to get my fix regarding flying. Nobody (including me) knows if or when I will get another airplane, but for now, I figured I have enough friends who fly that I could find ways to make the houses get smaller. When my EAA Chapter announced a "fly-out" today, I jumped on a seat in one plane, and welcomed the hunt for $150 hamburgers.
I've earned my private ticket in 1996, and my instrument rating in 2007. So now, from the right seat, it was time to begin a new quest, to earn my Passenger Rating. Never heard of that? Me either, I made it up as I taxied out with Sara T., a new chapter member in her 1969 Bellanca Super Viking. I was not qualified yet to ride in the right seat, always being way more comfortable over on the left, where everything happens. But when earning a rating, there always has to be that first lesson.
But I am a fast learner, so picking up the many nuances of being a passenger could not be that hard. There would be no written, and no check ride. Nobody from FAA would ramp check me, and the only "currency" involved is the folding green type you hand over to the person on the left to pay for the dead dinosaurs they will ignite to turn fuel into noise.   
Sara's 1969 Bellanca Super Viking, with incredibly functional doors.
My first lesson as a passenger did not start off well. Being used to flying Piper and Cessna products, after run-up, I went to shut the cabin door in Sara's Bellanca, and giving it the usual Piper or Cessna tug, promptly ripped one end of the door strap clean off. She handled it well, saying "nobody had ever tried to slam the door that hard." Apparently, you shut the door on a Bellanca more like a Lexus than a Skyhawk.
The rest of my first Passenger Rating lesson went well, I didn't break anything else and was a useful navigator as we got closer to Siletz Bay State Airport on the gorgeous Oregon Coast. I really enjoyed the view from this strange seating location, and for the first time in eight years, could look down and appreciate why flying is so cool. I could get used to this.

After a very nice lunch, we switched it up for the return trip to Eugene, and I rode back with chapter member Ron Parker in his cherry 1962 Cessna 182 Skylane. This has to be one of the cleanest Skylanes I have seen, and it flew very well. I got to experience seeing traffic en route for the first time on Ron's iPad, and being a low-time passenger, probably called out too many blue triangular blips, their altitude and direction of flight. I also really enjoyed being a second set of eyes, keeping the engine gauges and radio frequencies in my scan, because I read that is required in the FAA's Official Passenger Rating Manual® in chapter 3, sub-chapter 16, paragraph 7, as follows:

"At all times, the right seat passenger, having secure fastened their seat belt without leaving the end dangling outside the door shall monitor (a) the radio frequencies; (b) cross-check all positions of the audio panel for optimum radio selection by the PIC; (c) keep a close eye on the oil temperature, oil pressure, suction and any other pertinent engine gauges for safe operations in the "green" range. At no time shall the passenger tell the PIC what to do, with the exception of avoiding closing traffic as depicted on the ADS-B "in" data feed."

Ron and I made it to Albany Airport just north of Eugene, coming in very late for the Infinite Air monthly burger feed. I followed the Passenger checklist upon arrival, which has an item in chapter 4, sub-chapter 19, clause 7 that is very, very important:

"Upon arrival at any FBO, flight school or other in-airport facility not controlled by TSA, the passenger shall perform the required quality control check on the facility's cookies, pastries or other edible items."

So being a good student trying to get to my Passenger Rating, I headed straight for the Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies, and tore into one. It was the perfect blend of dough and chocolate, baked to the exacting specifications as outlined in the addendum of the FAA's Official Passenger Rating Manual® under "Pastries; Baked; Free:

"FBO and Flight School cookies shall at all times be in open view of arriving general aviation transient airplanes. Passengers, upon arrival, shall taste-test a minimum of TWO (2) cookies or other aforementioned pastries for quality, and if said cookies adhere to FAA specifications, any rated passenger shall procure a handful of cookies so that each person flying shall be able to consume a minimum of one cookie per seat occupied when the airplane arrived."
The odd view from the right seat in Ron Parker's immaculate 1962 182 Skylane took some getting used to!
After filling up on some of S12's inexpensive 100LL, and after making sure I logged the Passenger Rating requirement to grab some cookies, we sailed back to Eugene for a nice scenic flight. I was really enjoying the ride, and there were no worries about the kinds of items the PIC has to monitor. I spotted things below us that I have never seen, despite flying this route many, many times. When Ron asked if I wanted to fly the 182 back to Eugene, I politely declined. I was working hard on my Passenger Rating, and did not want to fudge the logbook by grabbing the yoke and actually controlling the airplane.
There are no set rules, no time frame, and no curriculum for earning a Passenger Rating. I enjoyed this outing very mch, and am looking forward to continuing work towards my goal. Far less stressful than my Instrument Rating, this new rating I'm going for will be loads of fun. I need to work on my door closing technique and develop a new scan for each airplane I will learn in, what is where on the panel, how the seat belts work, those things I know are important for any passenger.
But one thing is crystal clear. That cookie inspection part? I've got that DOWN.

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