Turandot has finally opened. My thirty third opera. Damn that’s a lot of singing.

In keeping with the theatrical tradition of ‘bad dress / good opening’, our preview performance started off so dismally that we re-ran half of the first act after the show was over. Apparently we’re supposed to be singing behind the conductor, not with him. First time I’ve ever heard that.

The opera goes by surprisingly fast. I guess that’s what happens when you’re on stage the whole evening rather than sitting in the green room for two hours between entrances, a la Mozart. I’m enjoying the show immensely. Liu’s death scene in Act III is one of the finest parts of the opera, not on in the way Puccini wrote it, but in the way our Liu — Zvetelina Vassileva — sings it. In general, there’s a lot of energy in this show. The cast is huge. I think I counted something like 100 people, and that doesn’t include the 70 musicians in the orchestra, the backstage banda, the stage managers, dressers, and crew.

We’ve got four more performances, then it’s back to studying for the December CFI course in Las Vegas. I’ll be sad when this show ends, because it’ll be the last one that Paul and I do together. Opera without Paul is going to suck. I come up with all these brilliantly hairbrained schemes for funny stuff, and he’s always willing to act on them. Add in some Seinfeld and Jack Daniels, and you’ve got a brilliant combination.

During tech week, I managed to get in some glider flying from the back seat and received the signoff for my commercial checkride. Flying from the rear seat is about what I expected. The control stick in the rear seat has a shorter throw than the one in the front, which is an advantage because it’s easier to put in full control deflection, and I do that fairly frequently for things like no-dive-brake landings. Being in the rear seat also makes it tough to see the instruments since they’re all in the front cockpit, but it’s not a huge deal.

I’m a little nervous about this test, because I’ve never had to fly with the FAA before. The only pilot examiner for commercial glider ratings in the area is an FAA employee. On all my previous checkrides, I’ve been tested by a Designated Pilot Examiner. DPEs are independent contractors designated by the FAA to give practical tests for ratings and certificates. There’s no reason to be apprehensive about it. Every examiner works from the same book, the Practical Test Standards, so in theory it doesn’t matter who the examiner is. In theory.

There is one positive aspect to flying with an FAA examiner: it’s free. DPEs charge for their services, usually to the tune of $350 or so.

I’m hoping to get this checkride out of the way before the end of November because the current examiner is retiring and the new guy will probably be pretty stringent and by-the-book on his first few checkrides. I’d rather not slog through a four hour oral and two hour flight for a simple commercial glider add-on rating. If nothing else, I’ve been prepared for the way the current examiner likes to run his checkrides. With a new guy, it’s a total crapshoot. No one knows his history because he won’t have one yet.

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