Well, after a long and arduous process, I did my PPL flight test on Friday, and the end result was a good outcome. Even two days later, I'm not sure it has all exactly sunk in, and I'll try and go through some of my thinking. My trajectory through the system has been a somewhat painful process. Some will probably remember the thread I started about the Royal Queensland Aero Club going bankrupt. I was caught up in this mess, fortunately not in a financial sense, but it definitely hindered my progress. I started training at Archerfield with the RQAC (strictly speaking their training subsidiary, Airline Academy of Australia or AAA) in November 2015. My logbook is packed with entries from the basic handling stages in November and December 2015. I did my first solo during this time. Then things got very busy for AAA as they were taking on lots of VET FEE-HELP students (what eventually sunk them) and they were preparing for an influx of Griffith aviation students. I had started off doing all my flights with one instructor but I quickly found myself flying with different instructors pretty much each flight. This was OK for me, and I met lots of good pilots that way, but I can see how this would be problematic for some people. Now, AAA sold me on the idea from the new Part 61 rules around granting licenses and endorsements on demonstrated competency and that I should try and expedite matters by not sitting an RPL flight test. This was almost certainly a bad idea. Anyway, as planned, in January 2016 I started navigation training. Things slowed down here a little as I had booked a summer holiday many months before and it's a notoriously busy time for conferences in my work (at the university, people schedule workshops and conferences whilst teaching duties are less). So I had to take some time away from flying but I did complete a navigation flight every few of weeks. This was also one of the times where I had a lot of "what the hell am I doing?" moments, al la Mythbusters. I would complete the Nav, which would be roughly a 3 hour flight and they were generally pretty awesome. Then get an invoice for ~$1500 and think: "How on earth does anyone afford to fly?" or more precisely "How the hell am I going to afford to fly?". I had gone into this with a plan for how to manage the costs of flying after getting a licence, but I think I just told myself that my training would soon be over and I just concluded that I would probably be flying a lot less than I expected initially. I was endorsed to do my first solo navigation during March 2016 and I had booked the plane for my flight and shortly afterwards I got the news. The flight school would stop all operations immediately. I really had no idea what to do (and subsequently posted a thread on here). I pretty quickly called a number of places to see what they could offer. I ended up talking with the guys as Southern Skies who I eventually completed my training with. The sticking point was the lack of RPL. They really wanted me to do that, and maybe I should have. But after considering the opinions from here (another thread) and talking with others I tried to push them to stick with the initial plan. We managed to transfer my training records but, understandably, they wanted to see where I was at. So we had a few steps backwards. What made things many times more difficult was that AAA had a way of doing navs which was different to how the guys at Southern Skies operate. Not having seen what they do, it would have seemed to them as if I hadn't actually been trained on how to navigate. Anyway, what transpired was a drastic slowing of progress. But then the my deadline loomed. Due to the way universities are funded, many who work there find themselves on short term employment (even if you have been around for a decade or more). I am no exception. My job was to end in September 2016. As the year went on, I had to dedicate more time to sorting that out. I eventually sorted out another 12 months, but my teaching doubled and I had little time to do the work required for flying. Then the university semester ended in November 2016 and I pushed myself hard to get over the line for PPL even if my calendar would soon be full again. Navigation solo was finally achieved. I was to head to Gympie, then on to Nanango back to Archerfield. It was on the cruise from Gympie to Nanango where I had time to reflect on what I was achieving. There I was, just me and the plane, a view like you'd never believe and a feeling of understanding of what was going on and realising that I _could_ do this! I also had a couple of commitments in December 2016 and January 2017 which, even if I wanted to fly, I couldn't. But I tried to sick with it as best I could. If I couldn't fly, I could read the VFRG, or plan out a "fake" nav of my own doing. End of Jan early Feb I did some more dual flights and given I didn't have an RPL, we did lots of practise of stalls, steep turns, etc. It was Monday last week when doing a "pre-test" nav when I felt like it all came together. Managed controlled airspace with ease. Used the navaids without drama. Diverted from our plan, no problem. Did the IFR component and quickly figured out where we were after being "lost". Did some perfect stall recoveries and beautiful steep turns. We did a forced landing and PSAL and sometime after that my instructor turned to me and said "Oh! Send me home!! We're done!" I think that was the official sign that I was ready for the test. I had it booked for Thursday, but due to some unfortunate circumstances with the testing officer, we had to change who was to do the test and the day. So Friday 8am it was. I did lots of practise going through the Part 61 PPL test checklist so that I covered everything that I thought may be covered. But when I went into the oral component, the questions I got, were not those that I expected. I spent some time thinking about what the right answer was in each case, and I think I'd pretty clearly demonstrated that I had read and understood the VFRG. But the questions were tricky and needed some knowledge of the wording in the CAR or CAO. So I wasn't awfully confident about that, but the thing that kept me going was that I was learning a lot just in this short time and I could converse about the topics from my own knowledge base and understanding. We got to the end and I was told that we should get ready for the flight. So I took this as a good sign that I wasn't going to fail from the oral component. Things went pretty well for departure, I thought. When we got back I was told of a couple of things I could tidy up on. I had also rang the tower the day before and told them that I was going to do my test and in which plane. I also asked them a few questions about some oddities of procedures in Archerfield which I really wanted sorted out. I'm not sure if they knew or not, but things went perfectly on the taxi call and getting ready to depart. We departed the zone and there is lots of opinions out there of leaving the zone at Archerfield and how to stay clear of the CTA above it. I was told when we got back that I should have climbed earlier, but I was so concerned about not busting into the CTA steps I delayed the climb until I was more than doubly sure that I was clear of a step. We headed into Sunshine Coast and I was already a bit flustered from the experience and I needed to confirm a couple of things with the tower. Did they actually clear me for a visual approach? Did they want a left or right circuit for runway 18? Anyway, I have always been told to ask if unsure, and it didn't seem busy there so I don't think I caused any dramas in asking. It wasn't mentioned when we got back, so presumably I did OK. Being a student pilot, crosswinds and gusts on final have always been difficult for me. And we were to land on runway 18 with a easterly wind of about 12 knots. I saw the windsock, knew exactly what I had to do, and after my checks on final I said to myself, "left wing down, right rudder" over and over. On short final I put in the slip, and I amazed myself at just how well it all happened. I felt the left wheel touchdown, a second or two later the right. I thought to myself "that's exactly how it _meant_ to be". And in that moment, I released the crosswind correction. Very little happened, maybe a slight lift up of the left wheel but it was just a little bit. Once the nosewheel was down I realised what I did and put back in the aileron correction. Not to mention this was talked about when we got back. We taxied to the GA apron as required, and I pulled up in the short term parking area. Then one of the most embarrassing times in the test. It was put to me that we have flown here for some friends to catch a flight and I should describe what I'd to do get them to the terminal. So I look over to the terminal building looking for entrances. I say something like, "well, the terminal is that way". The response was a little laugh. I did see the big sign saying "security controlled area". I had never been posed this question before, though I had thought about it. It was put to me that this was "Ground Navigation". I admitted that I had never heard of this before. I said that if I was actually in this situation, I'd call ground and ask for advice. This was an OK answer, but answer that was required was to go to the gate and read the sign. I think this is a really good question, particularly if you have passengers. What do they do? Where do you go? Nobody had explained this to me before. Then we departed, crosswind takeoff which seemed to go well. I was to depart by the VOR but I got so caught up in making my departure report (not required in Archerfield when going into class G) that I took up the track without intercepting my track early enough. I did realise this and deviated to line up the needle and when I did the departure report, we weren't actually tracking the track I reported. So it was all a bit of a mess. Needless to say, this was mentioned when we got back and I got some questions about what the rules are for taking up your outbound track, which I answered. It was one of those "in the moment" brain fades. We departed the zone and I started navigation on my WAC. We went right over Kenilworth, which was where my line was and I marked it down on the WAC. Then the difficult DR navigation began. After Kenilworth, there is really nothing to use to find your location. The terrain is just rolling hills and nothing stands out particularly. There is a road, but good luck finding it. I took my best stab at it and thought we were slightly slow and maybe on track. I was then asked what attitude I was trying to maintain. I said 3000 as we have cloud directly above us. The reply that came from that was "nah, you have another 2000 feet to the cloud." I didn't really believe it, but I climbed and sure enough the clouds were higher than I thought. Then I found we were heading right for a town. I noted the power station and tried to orient things relative to it on the map. We were getting close to the time for an inbound radio call point and I kind of freaked out a bit. Were we at Kingaroy? It didn't make sense we should need more time and the power station was in the wrong location. I saw another town on the map, Nanango. That was my guess and it seemed to work. I declared that we were almost certainly over Nanango and that we will have to make a significant heading deviation to head to Kingaroy. There he said "you bet, but you figured it out." I was then asked to divert to Watts Bridge. Was this the "go home" point? Presumably he would have asked to go direct to Archerfield if I'd failed. I thought it couldn't be so I tried to forget it. It took me a while to do the diversion to Watts Bridge. The conditions were bumpy and the thought of failure was in my mind. We did 4 orbits of Nanango whilst I did the planning for the diversion, almost 10 mins!! But we were on our way to Watts Bridge. There we did some IF which I found OK. We did some unusual attitude recoveries and they were OK too. So we ended the IF and simulated engine failure. I picked an obvious enormous clear paddock which we were almost directly over the top of it and executed my plan. Did the restart checks maybe a little late, but I did get through things. As we were over the top of the paddock I found myself a little high to land in it, so I did a sideslip and we looked like we were going to make it and we did a go-around. When we got back, he told me that we were well in range of Toogoolawah field and that was clearly the best place to go. I just didn't see it. Then we did some low-level navigation to Watts Bridge where I did a PSAL. This went OK but I kind of stuffed up the short field landing. Then he asked me to divert via Amberley restricted airspace back to Archerfield. Well, I knew we didn't have much time. It wasn't too many miles to the boundary of the airspace. I dialled up the NDB and heard they were still active. (Some other bloke should have done this. Every minute or two they were trying to get hold of someone squarking 1200 and not on frequency in the restricted airspace.) I had my plan to go via the Wivenhoe dam wall to Goodna so I called up the clearance delivery and asked to do that. He gave me a squark code and then didn't get back to me! I didn't know what to do so I thought I should orbit. Then it was pointed out that the airspace I was avoiding was above 4500 and we were at 3500, so we progressed forward. And just before the boundary he gave us the instruction to contact approach which I had already in the radio so managed to do that very quickly. Then we were going home! So I asked if it was OK to dial up goodna in the GPS and go direct there using that. Not only was the answer yes, but I got shown the usefulness of OzRunways! It all went pretty well going in, but I just needed to confirm in my head the runway assigned. Sometimes things go into my head and straight out again. I definitely don't remember the words "change of runway" and we were going to be coming from the west so that'd be runway 10R (I remembered the 10 bit). So that's what we went for. Sure enough the clearance for 10R came through. Back on the ground, I parked and shutdown and suddenly felt kind of exhausted. 3.6 hours on the engine. But I did mention SARTIME as soon as I saw my phone. As the plane was to be packed up I said I would do everything and meet him inside. But he wanted to hear me do the SARTIME phone call as he was listed as PIC. Whoops. Anyway, back in the room, we discussed many of the above issues and started filling in the paperwork. I must have had a confused look on my face as at some random point I heard the words "Congratulations" and saw a hand being extended in my direction. That was it? It didn't hit me like I expected it to, it just kind of happened. I had passed the test. My mind was almost exactly like the training flights, thinking about what I could improve and when I should book the next one. It didn't dawn on me in that moment that I didn't need to think about when to book the next nav flight. So here I am, downloading my thoughts into this document. The paperwork needs to go through CASA before it's all official. But I'm trying to get my brain into answering the question of what am I going to do from here. There is time, and I still have other part of my life that need more attenuation than I have been able to give them since perusing this dream. But one thing that does hang over my head is the cost. If I were to fly just the C172 my budget would allow for only about 10-15 hours of flying a year. Is this how much other people fly? I was kind of hoping to get to 300 hours in a reasonable time frame. Now it looks like I won't get there for another 15 years!! Anyway, I have achieved something significant for me. I promised myself when I was about 13 years old that I would one day learn to fly. Pending paperwork, I'm at the stage where it is an official documented fact. That, is really quite extraordinary.