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Checkride Insights
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Phase CheckitisCheckride Oral; …Diversion; …Checkrideitus; …A Checkride List; …Checkride Checklists?; DE Checkride Perspective; …Dealing with Checkride Stress; ...How to Pass a Checkride;  …Checkride Designated Examiner; …Checkride Failures; …Checkride Success; …Checkride Opinion; …Checkride#1;Checkride#2; …Checkride#3; Checkride#4Failed Checkride #4; ... Follow-up on a Failed Checkride; ...Commentary on a Checkride; 2004 Checkride2006 Checkride

Phase Checkitis
---No one likes to be evaluated
---Knowing the evaluator helps
---Periodic evaluations like medicals go with being a pilot
---Plan to be the best you can be at that time
---Try to go into any evaluation with intentions of passing
---Get your instructor to take you to meet the examiner.
---Get someone to help you get prepared in addition to the instructor
---This second person is very important to get you used to flying with and talking about flying.
---Cramming is not the way to go.
---The extent to which you have acquired confidence in your capacity to succeed is essential.
---Know the initial and ultimate purpose of every maneuver or knowledge area of the PTS
---Student should see practical as a learning experience
---They can expect to learn more than they know.
---While prepared to show how good they are are.

Checkride Oral
Just as it's not cheating to study the test-prep books, it's perfectly fair to ask students who've worked with the DE what he's likely to pull. It won't work if there are a ton of examiners and/or few checkrides going on, but I suspect that at a lot of places like mine, there will be several other students near checkride stage when you are, and one or two examiners who give the checkrides.

Ask those who've passed (or failed, if they'll talk) what it was like. Any surprise questions? A chatty guy, or one you're best off giving one-word answers? Are you likely to face trick questions, or someone who brushes off the W&B and wants you to be able to point to the nearest airport outside your planned X-C route?

In my case, there was a whole crop of us, and every one was asked to plan the same X-C. And the examiner had the same tough question: you're heading out to the faraway airport, weather closes in, and it'll be below VFR minimums at your destination. You can't land. The correct answer for this was knowing more than one place you could call to get a SVFR clearance to land.

The first student was told he'd flunked the oral, but then went up for the flight anyway. At the end, the examiner helped him figure out the answer to the question, and passed him. My CFI asked if he could sit in on the oral (I was his first student to take the checkride), and the examiner seemed pleased to be asked. When he backed me into a corner with a particularly tough question, he hinted "You could ask someone who knows the answer."

I turned to my CFI (I'd already clearly heard him THINKING "shut up!" more than once during the oral) and asked him the question, he got permission from the DE with a look, and he answered it. The answer stood, and I survived what's so far been the most stressful hour of my life. The stress was mostly my own doing, by the way.
Stella Star

As far as the diversion goes, I don't think you're going to be expected to provide exact numbers. My instructor taught me the "pencil rule." Take a pencil, place it on the chart with one end where you are now, and the other end on the diversion airport. Then, without changing the angle of the pencil relative to the chart, slide it over to the nearest VOR compass rose and read the heading. If you want, you can make some marks on the pencil to estimate distance with.

As far as computing the time en route...I can't imagine the examiner is going to give you a diversion airport so far away that you'll need to get new winds aloft. In addition, if you can assume that your airspeed is around 120kts (it's probably a bit slower than that if you're flying a typical Cessna 152/172 trainer) you can just take the distance and divide by 2 to get the number of minutes it will take to get to the diversion airport. Add or subtract several minutes as necessary for the winds and your plane.

The above methods should give you enough accuracy to satisfy the examiner (they did on my checkride), unless of course the airport he diverts you to is 200 miles away. In that case you might just have to get out the plotter. Also, after you do the computations and turn on course, be sure to tell the examiner that you would now call FSS and amend your flight plan.

On my checkride, after we turned towards the diversion airport, the examiner started asking me in depth questions about the charts, which required that I completely unfold and refold two charts all while flying the plane in turbulence. Remember; always fly the plane first.

S. Miller wrote:
I feel really confident about the checkride *except* I am not sure what all to expect for the XC part. OK, doing ground speed calculations in flight is  stressful but I think I can handle that. The diversion scares me, though.

One of the best tips I ever got for doing time/speed/distance problems quickly is to realize that if you look at your airspeed indicator and divide whatever you see there by 10, that's how far you go in 6 minutes. That is, 120mph gives you 12 miles in 6 minutes, for example.

Yes, this ignores wind effects, but for the purposes of your (presumably nearby) checkride diversion it gives you a reasonable estimate of time. Your examiner will want to know if you can do two things:
1) figure out if you have enough fuel to get to the diversion airport, and
2) figure out how long you're willing to fly before you decide you've passed it.

If the airport is close enough, and it usually is, the rule of thumb works fine. Remember, also, that the diversion is a simulated emergency situation, and if you can find a way to avoid complicated navigation
issues you should do it. For example, don't overlook a road, railroad, or power line that may take you right to the airport.

...My experience has been that the diversion numbers do not have to be exact, the de just wants to know that you can plan a diversion in flight that will not take you outside of your aircraft's safety range. You do not want to divert to an airport that is three hours away if you only have two hours of useable fuel on board. Estimates are usually o.k. for this portion of the flight.

--All should know about the soldier who received a letter from home saying that his wife was home in bed with arthritus. He, of course, knew all the Ritus boys and Arthur was the worst of the bunch.
--The flying Rituses range from gethomeitis to checkrideitis. Rituses attach undeserved importance to themselves.
--Periodic evaluations are going to be a part of your flying life.
--You are apt to be overly concerned with presumed weaknesses
--You should be prepared to pass and enter the evaluation with the expectation of passing.
--The more frequently you interact with the person giving the evaluation the better you will do.
--Be prepared to explain and justify the reasoning behind what you do and the way you do it.

A checkride List
1. You will find that what you're prepared to do is a lot more than what you're asked to do.
2. Talk with other people who have taken checkrides with your DE and find out what their experiences were, and what the DE asked them.
3. Treat the checkride as just more dual instruction.
4. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know".
5. If you don't perform something to your satisfaction, tell him/her that, and ask if you can do it again.
6. Don't forget to bring your camera.

Checkride Checklists?
Interesting points. One area that almost got my checkride busted was checklists for the in-flight maneuvers! I was under the impression that I had to do them all from memory, so I did (mostly 8-)). However, the DE told me that I should be using checklists, even if they're 3x5 cards, for each maneuver.

It is interesting to see the different approaches different DE's take. My DE was all about "real-world" flying-- for instance, for the power on and power off stalls, he simulated a real-world approach (e.g. for power-off, he had me get into the PO stall configuration, then said, "ok, you're on final, and a flock of birds just popped up, so pull up to avoid them." This got me into the stall and recovery.)
Checklist During Checkride
The worst thing you can do is to FAKE the use of a checklist. If you usually do not use a checklist the checkride can easily produce a situation where your unfamiliarity with use of the checklist will show.

For this reason I advocate flow checklists based on the fingers of one hand. Sequences of five items one for each finger. Not easy to make but readily at hand. (Pun intended.)

DE Checkride Perspective
A LOT of detail. I expect an applicant to know EVERY symbol on a Sectional chart. And have a VERY good understanding of the Airspace he/she is about to go flying in. I expect the applicant to have a CURRENT AIM. Not one of those God awful FAR/AIM publications that are always out of date. I expect the applicant to demonstrate to me that the aircraft is "airworthy", meaning that it has been inspected, that all ADs have been complied with, and that the required documents are on board. I expect the applicant to be able to fly the airplane within the parameters stated in the Private pilot Practical Test Standards. That's about it. By the way, 90% is a good test score.

I don't expect an applicant to memorize everything. But I do expect that they know where to look for an answer. That's why legends, table of contents, POHs, AFMs, etc. exist. If I asked you about a particular symbol on a chart and you weren't sure what it was then by all means use the legend or the chart user's publication to find it. Ditto an aircraft related question, rule, etc.
Rick Cremer, Designated Examiner

Dealing with Checkride Stress:
1. Prepare thoroughly, start studying way out and always study every day on a regular basis.
2. Knowledge and certainty reduces stress.
3. Be positive in attitude and assertive to show the DE that your are as capable as you need to.
4. Use a flight planner (AOPA's web site) and complete all preflight, route and arrival planning.
5. Be confident but be willing to admit when you don't know. Offer to find the answer with references you have with you

How To Pass A Checkride
"Let's talk checkrides for a moment shall we? It's an interesting and important issue to all of us who fly, and I believe it deserves some special attention. I've noticed through the years that this issue comes up many times when pilots get together to talk shop, and it's been an issue on the student newsgroup as well. It’s an issue that all of us, from our pre-solo checks through our ATP route checks have to deal with sooner or later if we intend to remain pilots. We'll have phase checks, flight tests, checkout flights, and continuing proficiency checks to deal with sooner or later in our careers. I've been both taking and giving checkrides in airplanes for about fifty years now, and I believe I've learned a few things about both ends of the spectrum. With your indulgence, I'd like to pass some of what I've learned on to you, especially those of you just starting out on your long aviation journey,

Let's concentrate on the flight test check flight for a Private Certificate as an example. I choose this scenario because it's really the first "serious" flight check you will receive as a pilot, and as such, many have a tendency to bring unneeded fear and apprehension into this equation. I'd like to address these possible fears and apprehensions, and perhaps steer you into a proper state of mind for taking on this all important checkride.....the one you have worked so long and hard to pass! Lets talk for a moment about attitude, then we'll take a short look at the checkride itself, and how you should interface with the examiner during the test. You will notice immediately that I am shying completely away from maneuver technicalities and maneuver discussion. I think we can all assume that prior to taking a check flight for a certificate that you have been properly trained and recommended for the flight test. What I'm getting at here is above and beyond this. It concerns the attitude and mental preparation you take with you when you get into the airplane with the check pilot or examiner.

First, and this is probably the most important single factor involved in a fight test; RELAX! Realize that the examiner doesn't expect you to be perfect; the examiner expects you to be SAFE!!!!! Now, what does this mean to you? You should arrive for the test as prepared as possible. This doesn't mean you have to know the answer to every question you will be asked. It means that if you don't know the answer, you DO know exactly where to find it. It also means you should expect to make mistakes. This is extremely important so remember it; the examiner EXPECTS you to make mistakes. In fact, the examiner WANTS you to make mistakes so he/she can immediately see if you can both recognize that you have made that mistake, and as well CORRECT the mistake within safe parameters.

Now this point deserves a bit more attention, so listen up a moment here. Why are mistakes important to an examiner? Here's the answer. The examiner is constantly asking him/herself all through your flight, "How safe is this applicant" "How would this applicant react to this or that if I wasn't here?" These are important and pertinent questions. How does the examiner deal with this? ERROR ANALYSIS!!! That's how! There is absolutely no better way to evaluate a pilot in flight than allowing that pilot to fly into an error; then view EXACTLY how long it takes for the pilot to recognize that error, and EXACTLY how long it takes to initiate orrective action, and most importantly, EXACTLY what that corrective action is!!! What I have described
here is not only what a good examiner is doing, but also the formula for teaching someone to fly an airplane properly. A good instructor NEVER rides the controls on a student. A good instructor knows EXACTLY how far to allow the student into an error and makes every effort to talk the student through a correction without grabbing control from the student. Doing this correctly is the mark of both a good CFI, and a good check remember this.

Back to the examiner; they want to observe your errors, so if you make them, and you most certainly will make them, face the error immediately; state the error; and begin correction immediately. Nothing impresses an examiner more than a pilot who faces a mistake immediately by recognition and correction. Remember this!

You will probably discover somewhere in any check flight that the pilot giving you the check does things a bit differently than you do, or how you were taught to do it. In almost every instance, you will find that you can
do it BOTH ways correctly, so demonstrate it as the examiner suggests. In closing, let me say that it really all boils down to keeping calm.....being relaxed......and giving the examiner a SAFE, HONEST, flight. Recognize those errors.....correct them immediately....and when in doubt....take the SAFE option. Best of luck to all of you on your future check flights!!!"

.Checkride Designated Examiner
--FAA now requires pilots being tested by the FAA be evaluated on safe airport ground movements.
--DE is FAA representative using FAA guidelines.
--DE is expected to test everything in the PTS and everything should be taught according to the PTS.
--DE should advise student of what to bring to the test situation.
--DE should give overview of how the test will be conducted. Ask!
--DE will have a written 'plan of action' to keep track of test events and results.
--All documents will be closely studied for completeness and accuracy.
--Student will be required to show DE that the aircraft is legal to fly.
--Oral test can and will be continuous throughout the test.
--DE questions must be valid, discriminating, comprehensive, useable, and reliable.
--Questions are to require applicant to apply, correlate with understanding.
--Safety, parameters, objective and procedures of operations and procedures.
--PIC status does not change during an emergency simulated or actual.
--Distractions are a part of the test.
--DE is not required or expected to allow applicant to repeat a failed maneuver.
--DE will take notes to use for post-test debriefing
Unsatisfactory consists of:
--Exceeding aircraft limitations
--Inappropriate emergency procedures
--Absence of smoothness or accuracy
--Poor judgment
--Incorrect aeronautical knowledge application
--Mastery of aircraft questionable
--Doubt of a maneuver's outcome
--DE takes control for safety reasons.
--DE's post test debriefing is given for both pass and fail situations

Checkride Failures
Inability to read in interpret sectionals and charts
--Use of the VOR
--Knowledge of aircraft systems
--Cross-country planning and performance
--Insufficient PIC time.

Checkride Success
--Review the D.E. 'book' to learn questions asked, how to perform maneuvers, etc.
--Know the required 'knowledge' for the rating.
--Be able to demonstrate what you 'know'.
--Prepare for what is required by the PTS.
--Know where to find the answers to what you don’t know. Have your resources organized.
--Be confident. Confidence is based on preparation.

Checkride Opinion
I had to take the checkride (or a piece of it) twice. But it was not, in my biased opinion, a failure. Instead, the DE identified a small area in which my training was just not complete. More accurately, he identified a
weakness in how I'd been taught something.

It was "minor enough" that he had trouble deciding whether or not to ignore it. After a brief discussion, I told him that it was not a problem if he wanted to go over that part again with me. In fact, I was more comfortable with that, as what he'd found disturbed me.

Remember: the goal of the checkride is to confirm that you're safe in the air. Having a DE identify a problem is akin to having a lifeguard pull you out of the water. It's a good thing, especially when you consider the alternative.

Exercising your power at pilot in command during your checkride may include finding another place or altitude to perform a maneuver. Doing this can be and should be a big PLUS because it shows that you accept the PIC status and will go contrary to a passenger's desires. Do not give the examiner a responsibility that is yours and do not allow him to take it.

Checkride #1
Unbelievable as it sounds, I passed my PP SEL test! Gee only took me 116 hrs.
Actual, the main credit goes to my CFI, Gene Whitt, who put up with my complaining and whining. If you need to get you PP-SEL go see Gene. If he can get me through the Private, he can....After two weeks of prep (40 + hours of ground, flying and studying), the checkride was sort of anti-climactic. Last night I stayed up way too late and could not get to sleep. I had about 4 hours sleep before the test. To top it off, they had just worked on the plane yesterday and it had not yet been flown.

In my planning, I had a very detail flight plan from Concord to Pine Mt. Lake to Fresno. I had checkpoints very 15 miles or so, times to the seconds, step climbs, etc. I also had all the weight and balances for take off, at Pine Mt Lake, and at Fresno. Had the Standard DUATs weather brief ready to go with all winds factored into heading and times.

The examiner wanted to fly first and then to the oral. That was great with me since at 8 AM the wind would be less. We go to pre-flight and he watches me for a bit and then says he has to go to the bathroom. He comes back about 20 minutes later and we're off. While taxing I asking what type of landing to do and he says soft field and  by the way we are diverting to Napa as soon as we are airborne. I take off with the best soft field I have ever done and climb within 2 knots of Vy.

As We turn on course, I compute and give him the ETA to Napa. Two minutes later there is a house on fire below us. We make a minor detour to fly over head and watch the fire crews work. We go to Napa I do emergency, short field, & slip landings and were off to go do ground ref. My landings were legal, but not pretty. He points me to a train track and tells me to do S turns. We do 3 and then he points to an intersection and tells me to turn around it. We has me put on the hood, tune CCR on the VOR, and climb to 3000. I climb to 2000 keeping speed right at Vy and VOR centered. At 2000 he says my plane and puts it into an unusual attitude. I straighten it out and we climb to 3000. He has me take the foggles off and we do a power on stall, a power off stall, and some steep turns. He says time to go home. I get the ATIS and we head back. He asks me to do an emergency descent to 1500. I do it a bit too quick and scare him. He tells me to do a soft field and we land. On the way back in he says my flying is OK, but my landings are "klutzy". He says I passed the hardest part.

After I tied up the plane he points to the board and tells me to do the Weight and Balance problems, take off calculations, fuel consumption, and diagram the fuel system. It takes me about 15 minutes. He pulls out the sectional and points to 4 or 5 things and has me tell him what they are. We do aero-medical,... questions. Radio out procedures..

After about an hour were done and he whips out his typewriter. All told the test took 4 hours. I really liked flying first. The flying was actually the least stressful part. My suggestions are to be prepared and try to get some sleep. The time will go by faster than you can imagine.

I. Preliminaries:

I went down to the field 3x in 4 days to check the a/c and log. I didn't want to be surprised if "my plane" was pulled for annual or 100-hr, squawked, or anything. Ensured ARROW paperwork all in place.

The week/half prior to the checkride date, I made sure I scheduled myself for the same a/c. The FBO has a little over a dozen C-150/2s, each with their idiosyncrasies, equipment, and set up. I wanted to minimize any lapses in reaching for a control (adj or location) such as digital vs rotary comm, detent flaps vs the one with the one-one-thousand...flaps, inop HI, seat w/crank, the shoulder belt that chronically slips off the metal post, etc.

Went down to the FBO 2 hrs early. Went over charts, secured wx briefing, calc nav log, ensured all paperwork i order (8710 form, medical/student certif, photo ID, logbook, W&B calc for 235 lb DE, etc), grab hood from CFI's desk. Flipped through FAR/AIM and Gleim books. XC destination and waypoint info was given to me by DE 10 days prior. Ample time to plan and plot.

DE asked for 8710 form and logbook. Spent about 10 minutes carefully scrutinizing required totals for flight time, XCs, night landings, dual, solo....

He then asked me to pull out the sectional chart and grilled me on the following, as well as vis a vis the planned XC:
Where are your checkpoints?
Why did you pick the checkpoints?
How will you ID the checkpoints using pilotage, dead reckoning, and radio nav?
ID obstructions on chart.
ID apts and differences between hard/other surface.
ID apts w/service.
ID apts restricted/private.
ID rwy lengths.
ID airspace at various apts.
What does Class E airspace mean? (IFR traffic, VFR minimums, and SVFR expected to be explained).
If ceiling is 500' at Class E, can you t/off or land?
What are SVFR minimums?
Who specifically would you call for SVFR?
What is significance of 30nm radius (points to Bravo 30nm veil)?
Is every a/c required to have Xpdr w/n 30nm veil?
What is planned ETE for XC?
How much fuel will you use?
How much fuel does your a/c hold?
What are VFR fuel minimums?
Where do you plan to refuel?
Reviewed W&B calculations.
How are center-of-gravity limits determined?
XC route takes you through MOA. Explain caveats.
Can students fly into Class C?
Can students fly into Class B? Explain fully.
Explain airspace indicated by fuzzy magenta and fuzzy blue.
What does flag on chart denote?
What does [27] indicate on chart next to Delta a/space?
Is this measured in AGL or MSL?
Recite terminal forecasts for XC destinations.
Any Airmets or Sigmets today? If so, what are they?
Highlight all significant NOTAMS along XC flight.
Would you (or not) fly XC today? (I said no, due to my personal limits, some IFR, fog, and low vis along route.)
What is hypoxia? What are indications of...?
Recite minimum equipment for VFR day/nite.
When is maintenance required for a/c....Xpdr, ELT, 100-hr, annual..?
If annual has been done, will this suffice for 100-hr?
If 100-hr not done, what are limits of a/c use?
What is definition of high-performance a/c?
As new PP, can you fly a C-172?
Who is responsible for ensuring that Annual is performed?
Who is responsible for determining if a/c is airworthy?
Where are a/c maintenance logs kept?
What is significance of temp 65, dew point 60?
What is Va of a/c?
What is reading of ASI if a/c is in a spin?
What is significance of density altitude? Recite causes and effects.
Low pressure winds revolve which way?
If you're flying with high density altitude, how does this affect your ASI?
Recite light gun signals.
What are differences in airspaces: restricted, warning, prohibited, MOA, Alpha, above refuges...
If DE wanted me to fly him to (x), can I be reimbursed?
If I'm flying to (x), can the cost of trip be split?
Would you fly PTS today? (yes)

Preflight of a/c...yacking at each step to explain not only what I was doing but why.
Queried on diff color/octane of fuel. What does our a/c take?
Review of AROW paperwork.
Review of maintenance sheet for a/c.
Preflight talk to DE who is now taking "...his first flight in airplane." To this, I included briefing on wx, what I was looking for during pre-flight, chair adj, harness un/latch and adj, door/window op, primary controls (my operation), their eyes needed for traffic, headset (PIC/ pax vs PIC/ATC communication), if airsick...
Normal takeoff. Start stopwatch. Sim FSS/open flight plan.
Queried on various traffic patterns used at BFI (Boeing Field).
Asked me to explain radio nav, eyeball of, and time clocked to first checkpoint. Within acceptable time tolerance?
Diverted me from XC leg and asked to track (x) VOR radial.
When would a pilot purposely track *away* from the VOR needle?
What is difference between PILOTAGE and DEAD RECKONING?
Using pilotage, now head towards (y) airport. How long before you will arrive over this field?
If lost what would you do?
What is Xpdr code for "lost?"

While under hood, hold 2000' @ 200 degs.
Demonstrate straight and level flight.
Slow to 70 kias, 200 deg, and 2,500 MSL.
What primary instruments are used when performing this maneuver?
Hold 70 kias, descent to 2000, hold heading 200.
Return to normal cruise.
Maintain 2000', turn to 270.
Close eyes (as he rock n rolls). Open eyes and recover from
unusual attitude. (it was a spiral - approaching yellow arc).
Hood off.

Demonstrate POWER ON stall and recovery. ID imminent, then go to full stall.
Demonstrate POWER OFF stall and recovery. ditto (saw that I was on extended centerline to nearby, yet distant Class E, so relocated further away)
Demonstrate SLOW FLIGHT. Hold heading 180, then recover to normal cruise.
Demonstrate STEEP TURNS, 360 and 720s, both left and right turns.
Set up and demonstrate TURNS AROUND POINT.
Set up into S-TURNS
Head to first apt on XC and demonstrate....
SOFT FIELD LANDING....but he called GO AROUND right at flare.
SOFT FIELD LANDING....then called sim engine failure abeam numbers.
Demonstrate SLIP TO LAND on sim engine failure maneuver. FULL STOP.
SHORT FIELD LANDING....floated a bit as I carried a tad extra airspeed but still landed w/n specs. Should have chosen go around.
Returned to BFI for normal landing.
NOTE: DE tried to pull a fast one by opening door as I was taxiing to stall. I firmly asked that he stay put until complete shutdown. He just smirked. (Mamma didn't raise a fool.) DE helped me pushback, watched me tie-down, and secure plane after I gave it a final 30-sec look over, inside and out.

Forgot to fasten my shoulder harness (nervousness?) and tried to fake it by pretending it popped loose.
On the SHORT FIELD T/OFF, I didn't raise the 10* flaps until well beyond the departure end of the rwy (ie over my obstacle). (C-152 not C-150)

On POWER OFF STALL, DE had to prompt me to idle the throttle when I left it on 1500 rpm.
On two of the clearing turns (I use left, then right 90 deg) I failed to note heading for roll out purposes. Used SOP and butt/body clock as a result
On one SHORT FIELD LANDING I floated a tad but still within PTS specs.
I remembered to taxi w/respect to winds, normally a chronic forget for me.
Be sure to perform clearing turns prior to each required maneuver !!! You'll never be marked down for making "excessive" clearing turns...but you can be sure you will be if you don't.

Remember to glance at switches, fuses, and settings on the chance your DE tries to set you up with a "how would you handle this?" kind of surprise.

I made a special, "Checkride Checklist" which was laid out sequentially beginning with pre-flight checklist/tips, passenger briefing hints, before start, etc like POH text, V-speeds, reminders to "start stop watch," "open/closing flight plan," TPA of local apts (in case DE picked one I was unfamiliar with, etc.... all the way to shutdown.

I constructed this partly because I needed a good one, discovering that the Jepp plastic sleeve version I've been using didn't allow me to write on them w/o pulling the page out of the plastic. When I was introduced to (DE)
a couple of weeks earlier, all he said to me was "Pretend that I'm the dumbest first-time pax you've ever flown". Then before turning away, he shook his finger at me, saying, "checklists!..checklists!..and checklists." Ergo, I made

Show awareness of other a/c in vicinity by listening to comm radio, and on freq appropriate to your location. This seemed to impress the DE that I was savvy to the traffic around me.

Talk aloud, explaining any safety tips and moves which explain what and why you are doing something a certain way. If you know it, flaunt it. Get credit for it. The DE can't read your mind e.g "squaring the turn....lifing the wing, looking", "turning final, looking for possible a/c on a straight-in", "noting any areas below in case of forced landing". "I'm turning the landing light on during departure/approach for visibility" (AIM's "see and be seen" recommendation)

I had CFI *viciously* grill me beginning two weeks prior to checkride. He ripped me to shreds, revealing my weaknesses on FAR/AIM.. PTS booklet is good to know what, and how, you will be expected to perform in the air.

However, note that Gleim's redbook enhances on the PTS with beefed up explanations as to the whys/hows/background on each maneuver. Written in outline form in outline form for quick reading. I also read Randy Fowler's book, "Flying the Private Pilot Flight Test." This has nice narrative of PTS and how to perform maneuvers. He writes from a more systemic point of view and teaching.

Not disappointed (as I grabbed the temp airman's certificate and ran for the door), but I was a bit intrigued that the ORAL was not more intense than it was. I felt the same as I did with the WRITTEN...knowing that there were questions that I *did* have trouble with. Interesting (or lucky) that these questions didn't come up during both tests. No problemo, "ahm goin ta Dinny-land" regardless.

This is like a job interview. Go in there and show confidence, and above all, awareness of safety moves, tips, and maneuvers performed safely. On the couple of questions which I blanked out on, I paused, smiled, and said, "I don't know, but I do know where to look for the answer"....reaching for the FAR/AIM book and leafing through the index.
Good luck, and I hope some of the aforementioned stuff proves useful to you.

Checkride #2

What started out as a challenge to overcome my fear of heights/flying last November turned into an addiction. I found my life turned upside down as I struggled with this obsession to complete flight training. All the stress that came with studying, memorizing, the apprehension, sometimes stark terror...culminated last Tuesday when I met with the DE for my checkride. After 3.75 hrs of review, it was his opinion that I possessed the modicum of skill necessary to be bestowed private pilot privileges. Hot damn!

Misc for books, charts, Flight Guide, tri-fold, plotter, E6B, flight bag, stopwatch, sunglasses, headsets, nav logs, thank-you-gift for CFI, etc.
Velcro - I made heavy use of this on all smaller items (pens/pencils, stopwatch, lights, etc) with large mating patches on tri-fold lap/board.
Pens/pencils - Funny how the smallest details can be crucial. I found that the BIC-click type pens the most useful (one hand operation) vs roller ball pens which required two hands to remove cap. Same thing goes for pencils....I went with mechanical pencils with soft lead so that it could be used as back-up, nav logs, and E6B.

Spin training - to acclimatize you to sensation, recovery techniques, and to assuage fears of stall recovery. My apprehension to stalls, especially to power-on stalls, disappeared after the 1.5 hr training. Ergo, my confidence rose exponentially immediately after this training session.

Visit FSS, ATC - to give you an insight to the faces and operation behind the voices and instructions. I had tremendous state/mike fright. Once I visited the services, keying the mike became less a performance on-stage rather, I grew more at ease as if I was now talking to someone I knew.

Fly IFR - with someone/CFI to see how easy one can succumb to spatial disorientation; to learn how important it is to trust and use your instruments.

Fly for fun - to remind yourself that this is why you fly and when you need a break from the stress of training.

Library - incredible number of magazine titles, all of the Tab flight books were available at the doubt due to the importance of local Boeing industry. Great aeronautics collection at the library. Also, they had all the King Private Pilot videos, and Jepp books on PP training. Because they are also a Federal depository library, I was able to access most of the FAA publications.

Important that students (especially) read NTSB reports and/or reviews of mishaps. Learn from what has already occurred, so that you may avoid doing same. Note conditions, frame-of-mind, the 20/20 hind sights, and "shoulda-woulda-couldas". Very helpful. Internet - rec.aviation.* were of immense help. Much was gleaned from the posts. Free access to the Internet and WWW is available at (yup, again) the library. DUAT and WX maps were easily accessed prior to each flight.
FAA Workshops - Local FSDO sponsors regular how-tos on ATC tips, accident prevention videos/discussions, new ICAO wx reporting, mountain flying, etc.

CFIs - I went through two instructors. My first instructor was a good pilot but had a one dimensional teaching style, differing from mine. I arranged to be assigned to another CFI who was more methodical, patient, and willing to work at my pace. Wow, what a difference! My comprehension and progress skyrocketed from that point on.

Checklist - Knowing my propensity for memory loss when nervous, I printed up enhanced cheat sheets covering POH info, pre-flight, V speeds, local frequencies (comm/VOR), pax briefing, open/close flight plan, clearing turns and proper altitude prior to each maneuver etc....for easy access during flight. The sheets were all sequentially laid out (similar to POH) from preflight, before TO, TO, maneuvers, landing, etc. I knew of my weakness for memory failure when nervous. This worked wonderfully during the checkride.

Flight School - I had several in mind, debating the merits of one 45 minutes away (uncontrolled airport and very low rates) vs an FBO who was only 5 minutes away (Class D, and 30% higher rates). I elected to go to Boeing Field, deciding that if wx was good, I'd be there in 5 minutes. Maintenance crew was more visible and eased safety concerns I had about getting into a plane.

Tape recorder - Patched a tiny VOX microcassette unit into the plane's intercom prior to each flight. Debriefing was done, noting areas of improvement and making mental/logistical tweeks for next outing.

When I started flight training, my fear of heights overwhelmed my ability to focus during flight. Taping of each lesson allowed me to relax at home and listen to what I may have missed. This information was logged on paper and kept in a notebook for review of wx, maneuvers, idiosyncrasies of a particular plane, frequencies used in diff a/spaces, communication errors....etc all with the intent of improving with the upcoming lessons.

Ham radio
- Made a minor modification to my radio, allowing me to receive the aviation frequencies. This allowed me to acclimatize myself to the verbiage used by ATC and pilots. To enhance the reception, I pieced together a 1/4 wave antenna using coat hangers and tossed it in the attic....ugly, cheap, and effective.

--Cockpit management - My photographers vest proved invaluable given the plethora of pockets, allowing me to gain access to needed items quickly.

--Frequency of lessons - I tried to fly a minimum of 3 hrs a week based on colleagues' advice as well as input from folks on rec.aviation.

--Navigation Logs - I began using the Jepp version, migrated to the ASA logs, then decided to customize my own using Excel spreadsheet.

--Medical certificate - Got mine before the 1st lesson. Read of folks who waited until just prior to soloing and surprised that they may have physical problems.

Missed a 'go around' call plane did not respond to Ground and was about to cross the runway. Terse communiqués followed. Replayed the tape to find that ATC's go-around instruction was blocked by another plane on the ground keying up at the same time. ASRP form submitted (students! sure to keep a wad of these handy :-) ATC reversed the traffic flow during my 2nd hr of solo and I didn't know this was possible (then). Some very confusing moments when tower tried to get me to understand what was happening.

Practicing TGs in the Aerobat during my low hours and disappointed that I had difficulty landing at less than 2.5 - 3 Gs. However, it WAS helpful to have a G-meter to refer to during this stage. Approaching to land and had a plane cross 4 to 2 o'clock, no more than 150' below me....nary a peep from tower. Do not DEPEND on them; YOU are still ultimately responsible for separation. Pay attention and try to be aware of radio calls from other a/c.

First unobserved solo found me snaking my way towards the runway. Run up performed and clearance requested. Tower response: "..uh... Cessna Zero Eight Kay-beck, you're at the wrong end of the runway...." They proceeded to call out the intersections and hold my hand until I was positioned at the hold-short line. Oh brother...
90-day solo signoff - Mine expired prior to checkride, requiring me to try and schedule time with CFI, who by now, was busy with another student/job interviews. I was unable to fly for over a month. When I wave good-bye to him and signed on with another CFI, I had to get checked out on maneuvers all over again: another $200 and another two days of review time.

Written test - To some degree, a joke. But as long as it was required I made the best of it. Many questions were of dubious quality and I hope they are reviewed someday. Nevertheless, primarily with the help of the King computer program (over and over and over....) I was able to score a 90.

Oral and Flight Test:

Induction icing - corrective action
electrical system parts and their functions, malfunctions
Airport lighting VASI, PAPI
Function of elevator and horizontal stabilizer (downward moment)
ADs as part of maintenance logs.
Everything on Sectional especially transition areas northwest of Ukiah.
Controlling agencies of MOAs
Isogonic lines
Highest point in quadrant
Weather charts
Vacuum system

Flight Test
Short/soft field operations
Use of checkpoints.. ETA to first during climb --why error?
Diversion to Rio Vista
Non-control tower procedures/departure
Emergency spiral descent
Slip to landing
Power on/off approach/landing stalls
Turns about point
Steep turns
To CCR VOR while distracted...heavy conversation

Checkride #3
"You'll do great." That's what everyone said as I did my final preparation for the big checkride in hope of receiving my Private Pilot Certificate. Only I knew how prepared I was, and my confidence was questionable. I studies volumes of information...FARs, AIM, Aviation Weather, Private Pilot Manual, Cessna 150 POH, and reams of Gene Whitt's computer print-out of compiled information on everything and anything a proficient pilot should be know.

After spending 7 months of flying on a regular schedule and completing all the necessary requirements in flight training, (I had previous experience but dropped out for 9 months...I strongly recommend that you stay with the training till the license is in your hand.) I was finally ready for the true PIC time to begin. Reservations were made with Rich Batchelder one week in advance, and flight time was schedules with Gene Whitt CFII 3 days in a row and the checkride to follow on the fourth day. This is very helpful in becoming familiar with the airplane and current weather patterns.

On Wednesday afternoon I called Rich and got my cross-country route. I planned my cross-country; did weight & balance, and fuel calculations for distance , time and gallons. The following morning, I called FSS for a standard weather briefing. I calculated ground speed and WCA for MH; then calculated my distance times to complete the flight plan form. Soon I was packed with a book bag and flight bag and on my way to meet him.

When he arrived we took a walk to get a cup of coffee and talked about life outside of airports (short conversations) Soon we were in a classroom getting the process on way. First in order was the log book, then review of written test results, medical license, driver's license, and application form. Rich had a few sample problems of cross country planning. "If wind is 010-degrees at 20 kts, TC 270, TAS 95K, V= 16E, temp 12-degrees Celsius, pressure altitude 4000'. what is MH, CC, Ground speed, density altitude and hemispheric rule for flight level. I had about 10 minutes figure and explain results. We then moved on to oral questions. In general we covered the sectional, cloud clearances for VFR in different airspaces, FAR questions on aero-medical, radio out procedure, private pilot privileges, and aerobatic rules. We covered AIM on airport signs, lights, beacon colors for military and land, VASI, PAPI, tricolor VASI. Weather questions covered were....What is an airmet, 3 examples, sigmets, 24 hour prognostic charts, SA reports, 9900. Know weather signs * . ;etc; radar analysis including intensities, hooks, NE 120 . Next...Airplane systems, pitot static, vacuum, fuel types & systems, purpose of oil, aileron purpose, flap purpose and spin recovery.

Finally, to the airplane for pre-flight. He watched as I did the complete preflight check. Then he questioned me of the antennas, counterweights (on control surfaces) fuel volume & type and oil volume and purpose. We boarded the plane and I briefed Rich on the seat, seatbelts, and door. Soon we taxied to the active runway with aileron controls set for the wind. Rich told me to takeoff on course for my cross-country with a short field takeoff. Mistake #1. I started to taxi to the wrong runway.

I takeoff (fair) , note time, assume direction on course to first checkpoint. Halfway to my first checkpoint Rich directs me to Byron (the old Byron field) Yuk!! Of course, it is hot, windy, and turbulent. The winds were changing directions constantly. I am asked to make a short-field landing. Unfortunately, I screwed up because suddenly I had a tail wind. I pulled off a clean go-around. Next time I get the airplane down, but not in the first 200 feet as ordered. I taxi it to the opposite end of the runway to do my next takeoff.

Meanwhile, I am always using my checklist, communicating appropriately. Next is a no flaps slip to land, then a short field landing. Rich fairly agreed that the landings were difficult in those conditions, but felt that I always maintained control of the airplane. I knew if I didn't put all my concentration into those landings he would have surely failed me.

We departed from the airport to do "S" turns, turns around a point at 900' MSL. Then we did hood work with VORs and unusual attitudes. Slow flight with and without flaps, steep turns left and right, stalls-power on, power off and departure stall. Finally we return to CCR for a soft field landing with perfect conditions. I pull off a well trained Gene Whitt landing (nose high, yoke full back, smooth) Thank God! We taxied back and Rich informed me of my results. I passed.

Always remember that you are the PIC. Don't wait for the examiner to tell you to do anything. i.e. go-arounds, descents, radio work. Use your checklist!!!! If conditions are difficult, be safe and also be aggressive to show control of the airplane.

In general, the checkride process takes between 1 and 3 hours depending primarily on your preparation. It should be noted as an aside, that he will ask you questions to see HOW you will answer them. I.E.: If he asks you the four basic characteristics of flight...answer him Lift, Weight, Drag, and Thrust...that's it...don't go into the rationale of why the Wright Brothers decided to fly...remember KISS (Keep it simple stupid) If he perceives a weak area, he WILL dig until you tell him why the Wright Brothers did decide to fly!

Although this is an accurate assessment of my test with Rich and he does not materially change the test from exam to exam, additional aeronautical knowledge is essential in passing the checkride (in other words, just don't study these pages for your checkride!)

He will go through every area within the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards, not every question, just the areas. A good study guide is the 64 question/answer sheet he made up. (ask Gene Whitt for a copy)

Be able to recite the following FAR's in your sleep: 61.87, 61.91,61.93, 61.95, 61.102, 61.103, 61.118, 67.17, 91.1xx, 91.205, 91.213, 91.215, 91.4xx
He will move on to the weather section next and concentrate on areas such as reading Surface aviation weather reports, Terminal forecasts, area forecasts, winds and temps aloft, in-flight advisories (know Sigmets/Airmets cold and give example of each). He will give you Surface analysis charts and point to specific examples of station models in various sections of the country.

He will ask what the different concentric rings mean in a Radar Summary Chart and ask you to identify tops and bases in certain areas of the country.

The Weather depiction chart is one of his favorites to focus on because it has to do with VFR, MVFR, and IFR weather areas which shows your ability to determine which are safe areas to fly into. KNOW THIS CHART
is another favorite....know that the bottom section is for 12 hour(left) and 24 hour(right) for the surface...and the top section is for 12 hour (left) and 24 hour(right) from surface to 24,000 feet. Also know the signs for turbulence, intermittent rain, continuous rain, and the direction and speed of pressure center movement.

Know in general the following: Corriolis affect, Different cloud types, affects of density altitude, characteristics of warm and cold fronts, Microbursts, wind-shear, ground affect, and high/low pressure systems

After weather, he will want you to go over a sectional or TCA chart. YOU MUST KNOW EVERYTHING ON THESE CHARTS, MANDATORY.

He focuses in on the areas around TCA's and will ask what levels of flight are acceptable and which ones aren't. Other things I was asked were: Isogonic lines and meaning, Control zones and characteristics, ATA and speeds within, Requirements in and around an ARSA, the difference between Prohibited, Warning, and Alert areas. Uncontrolled and controlled airspace requirements, Continental Control area, Positive Control area, He will ask you to give him the longitude and latitude of a point he picks on the map  (Mount Shasta), know the oxygen limitations and requirements as well.

He will move on to the Electrical system and overall knowledge of the aircraft. He will ask you how many amperes and volts there are in the alternator and battery. This is the part I got nailed on. He will ask you general questions and find your areas of weakness and then go into very minute areas. Just study from the Private Pilot Manual by Jeppesen and you'll be fine. Other areas to know specifically are: Pitot static system, Vacuum system, BHP and engine, effects of carb ice and how to eliminate, what to do if your alternator goes out, what to do if your engine sounds rough, hot magneto check, every V-speed for the plane!

He'll give you about three-five problems to do: 1) weight and balance of the aircraft, 2) calculate the Magnetic Course, Compass Course, Ground Speed and what altitude to fly given certain x-country info and 3)given P-alt is 4000, OAT is 7 degrees C, and CAS is 100 find D-alt and TAS.

You are now done with the oral...congrats, it either took 30 minutes or 1 1/2 move on to the flying!
General comments: USE A CHECKLIST ANYTIME YOU EVEN THINK OF LOOKING AT THE AIRCRAFT, I MEAN IT!!! He will bust you before you even get airborne...another way to bust the checkride before your wheels feel air, is not using the correct position of the yoke with relationship to the wind...JUST DO IT EVERY TIME YOU GET IN THE PLANE, IT WILL BECOME A HABIT.

Go thru regular preflight, make sure his safety harness is on and his door is shut, check the fuel selector...twice. TAXI @ 800 RPM unless you have to get the aircraft over a hill...he may ask you for a short field takeoff when you start the plane and then a soft field takeoff when you are at runup...WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN ON YOUR HAND WHERE YOU CAN READ IT...You might get to your 2nd checkpoint and he'll divert you to either Byron or Rio Vista...use him for a table with all your charts etc...keep a watchful eye on Altitude and speed, not doing so is the most likely way to go home early.

He will have you do all the stalls, eight's around a point, rectangle, circle, descending around a point @ 60 degrees bank, tracking and intercepting a VOR, unusual attitudes, possibly spin recovery (his recent area of concern), and emergency procedures. On landings, he will ask for soft field, short field, x-wind, and slips.

You are expected to do a power-off landing. Once abeam the tower reduce the power to idle. Glide to landing. Control the airspeed by pitch to make the runway. This will help you develop your emergency landing skills. You are allowed to confirm engine operation during the descent.

If you make sure your airspeed does not bleed below 60kts in the Cessna 150 you're ok. You must land within 200 feet of the markings on the runway. Iif you're short, add power, keep the yoke locked until you have the runway made and pull power...if the aircraft balloons while in ground effect, execute a is exactly what the examiner is looking for...correct pilot judgment.

After touchdown, the last few things the examiner will be looking for is correct yoke position according to wind. This should be followed by taxiing @ 800 RPM to the parking location and shutdown according to your Checklist. These are the items covered by my checkride one day ago with Rich Batchelder. Take these notes to heart. He admittedly does not change this test regularly because he is bound by the questions he can ask by the FAA. Study this material in addition to the aeronautical books you have and your Private Pilots license is made.

# 5 Failed Checkride
I went for my checkride last week and unfortunately things did not go so well. I thought I’d post the story here in hopes that someone else may benefit. In retrospect, it was alarming to me that despite being a generally cautious person, my decision making broke down completely.

First of all
, let me say that I don’t blame my CFI, the school or the DE…this was on me.  The ride was originally scheduled for early April. With the weather in New England this year, it had been cancelled twice already. Of course, it was hard to get lessons in during that time also. With an early May date, I got in some solo time but my CFI was transitioning out of single engine training and had to cancel the last 2 lessons before the ride. By the time I went, it had been almost 1 month since I’d flown with an instructor. I was concerned that at only 55 hrs, and so long out of the plane, that it would be easy for me to have developed some bad habits that a CFI could easily pick up and correct. I talked to my CFI but he was certain that I had demonstrated the required skills to him and that a brush up flight the morning of the checkride would be sufficient. >>Lesson#1. Instead of trying to squeeze the test in, if !I! didn’t feel confident, I should have cancelled the test and got another instructor whose schedule was more compatible with mine.

The weather the day of the ride was good but the winds were supposed to pick up as the day went on. By the time we took off, it was getting pretty blustery. In fact, the DE even gave me a hint when he asked if my CFI let me fly in these conditions. I acknowledged they were just above my solo endorsement and it would be a challenge. This came back to haunt me when I made my landing at my diversion airport and it was clear the wind had become well beyond my capability.

Lesson#2. Despite the guy giving me a hint, I chose to fly into conditions beyond my raining. It’s the same as "continued flight into IMC." The irony is that as I said, I’m generally a cautious person. In fact, I was talking to a guy I work with that week and I had said that I thought that my solo endorsement would probably be good personal minimums until I could build some more experience…and yet still, I went ahead.

It’s alarming to me that I recognize in my own story the same themes that lead to tragic accidents…feeling "pressured" to get the ride in (like get-home-itis)…going ahead when something (training) didn’t feel right…continued flight into conditions beyond my ability. That scared me more than anything else.

So where do I stand now? Frankly, I thought very seriously about quitting. I really scared myself and wondered whether it was worth it. However, after talking it over with friends and family, I’ve decided to continue my training and take the test again. Hopefully, I’ll always remember this feeling and will always fly in conditions within my abilities.

Follow up on a Failed Checkride
Thanks for this post. I have read so many terrific posts on r.a.s. that I hesitate to say this, but...I think this may be the best I've read. It was surely the bravest.

The pressure to get the checkride over with, especially after several delays and cancellations, can build to a level that leaves some of us (maybe any of us) with the feeling that we just can't take it anymore...we have to get it over with. Better to fail than continue to live with the frustration, self-doubt and the pressure. I bet you learned more on that checkride and the self-analysis you've gone through since than you have learned in any other experience in life (flying or otherwise). Just thinking through your experience is almost like living it.

Now, for what it is worth, I'd like to offer you a different perspective. Let's look on the upside. All you did was fail your first checkride. That's not much of tragedy and it's an experience you share with a lot more pilots than you'll ever know. You're the first I've seen brave enough to advertise it here and to put the blame where it belonged. You tried it under adverse conditions and without the recency of experience you felt you needed, deferring to your CFI on the latter point. You didn't succeed. I think you're lucky you didn't succeed. Success would have reinforced the wrong lesson. Now, can you think of a better setting to learn the lesson you did?

You'll never forget it because that pink slip is such a sharp slap on the nose, took nearly zero risk to anything but your ego. The DE wasn't going to let you put yourself (or him) in any real danger and I'm sure you didn't fly into anything he couldn't have handled well within his comfort zone had that been necessary. The best part is that he warned you and then let you make the mistake.

Pilot in Command means just that. I'd be willing to bet that the next time you take that checkride and on every flight after for a long long time, you are going to be just that...starting with the go/no-go decision. As a student pilot you have been used to deferring to your CFI and relying on his superior experience to convince you that you can do things you're not sure you can. It's going to be a long time before you let somebody talk you into that again. It may be that you never think like a student pilot again. You bought that lesson cheap but posting it here (where it will surely do the most good) took some character. Thank you again.

Commentary on Checkride
Sometimes the best learning comes from the times when you scare yourself. The trick is to do it in small bites that you can manage, under controlled situations.

Sounds like you did a lot of learning on your checkride about human factors. It's really easy to talk about making rational go/no-go decisions on nice days. The real hard part is making them in the face of a long series of frustrations such as extended bad weather.

While it's certainly a bummer to come away from a checkride with a pink slip, it's happens even to the best pilots. Don't sweat it. Learn from the experience and come back for another checkride.
---First, good for you for posting this story. Lots of people don't get their ticket on the first try. Hopefully they will take some comfort from the fact they are not alone.
---Secondly I think this experience leaves you off much better off then you were before. You obviously found out what happens when you try and push your limits. You did it with the safety of a very experienced pilot with you so you weren't in any real danger.

I think just about every pilot faces a situation like this and the ones that survive get the same lesson, but only after scaring the sh*t out of themselves.
Flying skills can be learned and polished up with some practice, judgment skills are harder to come by sometimes. You seemed to have taken this lesson to heart and that will make you a much safer pilot in the future.

Kind of like that credit card commercial:
Price of plane for failed checkride: $100 
Price of DE for checkride: $250
Value of lesson learned: Priceless
You definitely got the better end of the deal.

2004 Checkride
Hi All...
After just 86 days and 48 hours of flying I passed my private pilot checkride today! I must admit I was quite lucky with aircraft and mid-western weather along the way, but will also say that it was a lot of
work and a lot of home studying required. Here's an account of my oral exam and checkride for history's sake.

I was to meet my examiner at TAC Air at OMA at 8 AM so I left CBF in N3748L, my 1966 C172G at 7:30. After leaving CBF's pattern, I listened for clear air on Omaha Tower, then made my call. No response. I tried again, but still no response. Started checking around and noticed my COM 1 volume was all the way down! My third call was successful and squawked 1200 and idented. What a way to start the day.

I followed another C172 on final onto 32R, and cleared to land, but to both my and tower's surprise he made a full stop instead of going around. I was ordered to cancel my clearance, go around, and right 360. I confidently performed this, then successfully landed and taxied to the ramp. I gathered my documents and was in the conference room around 7:55.

My examiner arrived around 8:20 and for the next hour and a half we had a free but directed conversation. We started just by talking about airplanes out the window, but before I knew it we were discussing
airplane systems! We went from there to pilot credentials and recency requirements. From there we talked about aircraft requirements, and on to cross country planning. I had arrived with a flight plan to ABR, and
we spent time talking about airspace including that on both the Omaha and Twin Cities sectional. We talked about class G to 14,500, the MSP class B, and MOAs. We then talked a bit about stalls and spins. My only area of uncertainty was in spin recovery... I knew that I needed to break the rotation and gain airspeed, but never realized I'd need to push the elevator down even more!

Looking out the window the sky was darkening to the north (the way to Aberdeen) so I called Columbus FSS and got a reassuring report from them which I passed on to my examiner. We discussed preflight briefly and he shared a story of someone stealing gas! This was about at 10 AM. He gave me about 8 minutes on my own to do the preflight. I did a thorough job, including looking in the tanks!

I made my radio call for VFR to Tekamah, Nebraska (TQE) which was my third cross country checkpoint (I forgort to tell clearance that I had information Quebec, an awful habit of mine). I confirmed I had the
information after the readback instead. By this time 32R was closed for painting so we taxied first to the runup area, then over to the big runway. Takeoff was great, and we maintained runway heading which was
basically my X-C heading anyway. Climbed out through light rain with 10SM visibility. We were then cruising at 4,500 above a 3,000-3,500 broken level, and I identified by first two checkpoints, then radioed
that we had TQE in sight and then descended to 2,000' TPA. Flew the pattern, then he directed me to do a normal landing. Despite a 17 kt headwind right down the runway, the landing was totally uncoordinated
and slipping all over the runway. The landing was ultimately pretty soft, but nowhere near the centerline of the 75' wide runway.

We taxied back and he called for a soft field takeoff. Just as I pulled off, a gust came up which pulled me way out of ground effect... so so much for my technique there! We ran the pattern and did a shortfield
landing which was a bit better, but still not my top performance. We climbed out straight ahead from there and at about 700' AGL we did a simulated engine failure, which I covered well. From there we headed
back to OMA and on the way did instrument flight, unusual attitudes, steep turns, slow flight, stalls, a single S-turn across a E-W highway, then headed back to Omaha. Perfect radio calls on the way in and
entered downwind for 36 on the 45. Again, that landing was what I would call marginal, but after taxiing back to the ramp he congratulated me and gave me a bit of criticism in my pattern work and... well...
something else but at that point I was mostly relieved I had passed!!

So we went back to TAC Air, and he retrieved his typewriter. We finished up the paperwork, and he handed me my ticket! A final piece of advice he gave me was to warn my passengers about the possibility of weather before I head out on a cross country. He said that if passengers have weather in mind before the trip they'll be caution and questioning of the weather before the return trip instead of demanding their trip home through questionable meteorologic conditions.

All in all, I think I had a borderline performance, particularly since I wouldn't consider any of my landings with my examiner top-notch. And I'm all the more aware of issues I need to continue to practice. But it
is reassuring that the performance I did have, despite my self-criticism, was enough to convince this examiner that I will be a safe pilot. In the end, I do feel confident in my capabilities as a beginning pilot, and feel comfortable and excited about sharing the joy of flying with my friends.
Neil Bratney, M.D., PP-ASEL

2006 Checkride
Just a few quick notes on my checkride Saturday. Since I benefitted from others' checkride stories, I thought I'd give back.

Some of you may remember the screw ups by my AME that caused my medical, which I obtained before ever starting flight training, to be revoked the day before my checkride was scheduled. I got my medical back, but between travel for work and the period spent getting my medical back, I only flew 3 hours in the last two months. Needless to say, I wasn't at the top of my game, but I have a good instructor, and I felt competent enough to get through.

Conditions weren't ideal. Although high pressure dominated and the day was warm (by January in DC standards), winds were shifting from a direct crosswind to a slight headwind, and gusting from 8 to 14. Of course, I couldn't get away to do it Friday, when it was dead calm...

We started by checking over the paperwork. I paid the fee. The DPE was pretty tough (he has a reputation for that), but fair, and tried to teach me a few things in the process. Right off the bat I though I failed - Friday the DPE told me to plot a course to Capital City (CXY) in Harrisburg. I drew the course line to Harrisburg Int'l (MDT), next door, instead, and did all of my nav log based on that. I know the difference between the two airports; I was just dog tired by the time I got home and plotted it. I offered to re-do the nav log, saying at least he could observe me doing the work. He told me that in days past, they used to give the candidate the destination just before the checkride and he or she would have 30 minutes to do the log.

I'm OK with plotters and the whiz wheel, so I was able to fix the log in about 8 minutes. We then went on to look at the chart; he quizzed me on some pretty obscure stuff. Can you get fuel at this airport? Yes, it has tick marks around the symbol. How about this one? Should be able to; it's a big airport, but no tick marks. Answer: It houses a National Guard Unit. Possibly for security reasons (?!) the availability of fuel is not marked on charts for military bases, even if they are on otherwise public use airports. Why does this airport with a Guard unit have tick marks? The rule is applied inconsistently... We went over my calcs for weight and balance, and he gave me an out-of-the-envelope scenario and asked me how much weight I would have to shift from the baggage area to the backseat to fix it. I showed him my short field landing and takeoff calculations, and where I added 50% to them because of airplane age and my lack of experience. He didn't like that part; thought it was too conservative.

He quizzed me further on an Alert Area, types of airspace, the Washington, DC ADIZ, and airplane systems. I knew some of it, but not others (I didn't know the master cylinders for the brakes were at the firewall under the pedals...) He pointed out some fun places to fly when I get my certificate. I filed my ADIZ flight plan, got a briefing. Then we flew.

I got my squawk code from Potomac, and checked in with them in the air, as required in the ADIZ. I hit the first couple of checkpoints from my nav log right on, then he had me calc groundspeed - all fine. I then had to divert to a small, inconspicuous airport. I estimated the heading and distance, estimated the time en route, and headed over.Pilotage told me I was right in the neighborhood, but I didn't see it. I turned for another pass, but didn't see it then, either. He told me I had one last chance. I turned once more, and during the turn lifted my wing to look, and it was right there. I was spot-on with the navigation, but had passed over the 1800' strip twice without seeing it! Naturally, this shook my confidence just a little, but I pressed on.

Under the Foggles, I did turns and ascents\descents at a fixed airspeed, followed by unusual attitudes. He really pulled the plane around -- the first time I ever felt queasy in an airplane. Each time, he asked me what attitude we had been in. The last time, he surreptitiously pressed down hard on the right rudder pedal, and when I had trouble centering the rudder, I asked him if he was pressing on it, and if he would please stop doing it.

We did short and soft field takeoffs and landings. I intercepted and tracked a VOR heading he set back to home field. Along the way he offered some friendly tips on things that would help my precision when I started training IFR. We got back to the pattern and he pulled power when I was on downwind abeam the numbers. I had never done one close in like that, and turned right to the airport -- I was too close. I slipped, but couldn't lose altitude fast enough, and went around. Second time was better, but still not good enough; went around. Third try, he said, was my last. I did better, but had some speed and floated a bit. I wasn't down by the midway point of the 4,200' runway... I had understood him to say that this was my last chance to pass, but I was uncomfortably close to my personal minimums and didn't want to run out of runway. 

I decided to sacrifice my checkride for safety, and announced a go-around as I pushed in the throttle. He said "NO!" and in the next second or two, I pulled throttle, then added a little back to arrest the sink rate. Needless to say, we landed; he
had taken the controls, and as we taxied back he asked me for a self-assessment. I felt about half of my checkride was several notches below my normal performance, but I said I appeared to be within PTS tolerances. On the last go-around, I was pretty sure I could have put the plane down if it had been an engine failure, but didn't want to get too close if I didn't have to. He essentially asked if I was doing sort of a dance on this issue, and I told him no, that I knew he said it was my last chance on the engine out, but I made the decision to go around because I thought it was the safe choice. It was a true answer, because as I was making the decision, I really expected it to cost me my checkride. It was only after we parked and I started tying down in a kind of resigned manner, when he said he couldn't think of any major reason not to type up a white piece of paper for me! We went to his office, and he filled out the paperwork, joked with me a bit,

I didn't really get that sense of elation people write about -- I felt kind of traumatized, actually. I could barely stay awake the rest of the evening because I was so fatigued. I was pretty surprised when I looked at the Hobbs and it had only been 1.8 hours. I feel a bit better now, but the fact that I didn't perform as well as I could have is still kind of gnawing at me, and I don't feel the joy and relief I expected... I'm hoping the "Alright - I have my pilot's certificate!" thing will sink in at some point. I am considering sitting down with the DPE and letting him know that I wasn't totally satisfied with my
performance, and asking him for more a debriefing if he's willing.

Thanks everyone for sharing your training and checkride stories with me. I considered checking this newsgroup a valuable part of my training.

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