Page 6.45 (13312)
More Checkride Insight
Return to Whitts Flying
Things I Learned on my Checkride/Oral; Oral Technique; ...Dudley on Checkrides; ...Checkride #1; ...Checkride #2; ...Checkride #3; ...Checkride #4; ...Checkride #5; ...Checkride #6; ...Checkride Failure2; ...Best Checkride Account Yet
Things I Learned on my Checkride / Oral:
- I had the definitions of Vs speeds mixed up.
- I see weather information as a big glob of information, and don't differentiate well between AIRMETS and SIGMETS.
- I don't do slips very well.
- I let the airplane control my altitude, to a small degree.
- I've got lots of room for improvement.
On the other hand:
- I know when the airplane stalls in any configuration.
- I know all the weather significant to my flight.
- I don't get distracted easily.
- I fly well enough to be a private pilot.
- Now I've got a whole lot of letters after my name!
Brien K. Meehan
Another trick, that I know personally from other situations (job interview) is to ASK questions -- sometimes they will give away the answer or at LEAST the "direction" they want you to take with an answer.
Many people just give up with a simple "I don't know"
-- first ask for a re-statement (except for the VERY simplest questions) or explanation of how you should approach the question and answer.
on Checkride (Opinion)
I'll give you one of the most important tips you will ever get on passing a check ride with a good examiner.
--When you make a mistake, and you WILL make a mistake, tell the examiner immediately what you did wrong and correct it yourself.
--A good examiner will watch and wait for these mistakes to happen. They want to see how you correct and fly out of an error
--More importantly, they want to see how much TIME it takes for you to recognize the error and begin corrective action.
--Nothing bugs an examiner more than having an examinee fly a "perfect" flight test.
--They don't learn much about you that way. So expect to make mistakes, and be quick to recognize and correct them.
--The DE will treat you the same regardless of the hours you have..
The checkride itself will involve a full range of PTS maneuvers for the ratings you hold. Private, commercial and instrument requirements can be required during the flight. Not only will you be required to fly the plane, you will be expected to get and follow ATC clearances while maintaining the proper terrain and cloud separation as well as knowing the airspace requirements for where you fly. Expect to be exposed to the most demanding situations that the examiner can dream up. This will not be a fun time of your life. However it comes out positively or negatively, it will be remembered.
Dudley A. Henriques
What a month. After a 10 month break in flying due to work, I started flying again last September. Only flew 17hrs in three months, but my instructor was confident that I was more than ready to take the checkride. Before the ride, I did not get a chance to study a whole lot, and was worried about not passing the oral....but I was fairly comfortable with my flying, stalls being my forte.
Got to the airport early on December 3rd and checked the maintenance logs.
DE arrives and we start on the oral. Aside for a few prompts here and there, the oral part goes amazingly smooth. DE says that I seem to know enough and let's go fly. We go out, I pre-flight the plane (no comments), and we strap ourselves in. Taxi, runup, takeoff all go fine and I follow my cross-country plan. He has me deviate to nearby airport and everything's going fine. Asks me to do steep turns to the left and right, and I absolutely nail them. DE compliments me on "excellent" steep turns. Has me put on foggles and track to a nearby VOR. With the foggles on, he then has me do a few turns, and then unusual attitudes.
Up to this point everything looks just great. He has me take off the foggles. We do slow flight, and then he asks me for a power on stall. The wing drops considerably, and even though I recover my confidence is shaken. He then has me do a power-on stall in a right hand turn, and this one is worse...now I'm stressing out. He then asks for a power-off stall (looking for improvement), but by this time I'm not thinking, and the airplane goes through a quarter turn spin when I recover. Then he says the dreaded words "I think you need more practice in stalls, let's go back". I am shattered. My mind reels, but I fly normally and enter the pattern, and make very nice normal landing, smooth and straight down the center line. DE says "nice landing". We go in, and he writes out the pink slip. I am humiliated, ashamed, and angry at myself. The DE is very nice and understanding. He seems just as broken up at having to fail me.
The next week I go up with my instructor, and my confidence in stalls is gone. It's so bad that I don't even let the airplane break before I let the nose down. We do softs and shorts and then end the lesson. At this point, I'm doubting my abilities to be a pilot, and postpone lessons a couple of times making excuses about work, even though I could have flown.
I finally decide that I've invested too much time, effort and money into this to give up...plus, I really like flying. So I schedule a lesson, go to the airport and spend an hour and a half with the instructor doing nothing but stalls...my confidence starts creeping back. We do few landings and call it a day.
A month after my initial bust, I find myself back at the airport, ready to "finish" the ride. I'm really concerned about my lack of practice with ground reference maneuvers. I pre-flight the plane before the DE arrives, and he says he does not need to see me do a pre-flight. We do a short field take-off and head to the practice area. He has me do a power off stall, and it goes fine. "That's the way to do 'em" is his comment. He then has me do a power on and that goes fine. Next is again a power off, but in a left hand turn. Miracle of miracles, I recover flawlessly. He then has me descend and show him an S-turn. My performance in that, in my opinion, was shameful...and I'm thinking "I can't believe I'm busting a second time". But the DE remains quiet and then asks me for turns around a point. That goes a little better. He then asks me to go back to the airport and go a short field to a stop and then a soft-field takeoff. The landing and takeoff are good. Then he asks me to do a soft-field landing and park the airplane. The soft-field in my opinion was not soft enough, but I at least hold the nose wheel off. I park the plane, and the DE smiles and says "Starting today, you can take passengers". Suddenly all is right with the world.
So after a year and a half, lots of work, money, uncountable weather cancellations, and a busted checkride, I'm a private pilot. All I can say is "What a ride". I'll be starting my instrument rating training soon, and the saga continues.......
Thanks for listening,
Well, it was today. After six months, and 78 hours in three different types of airplanes, I blew it.
The oral went great, in fact the D.E. made the statement that it was the best he's seen in quite some while. That was particularly well received, as I was stressing the oral much more than the flight. The D.E. had an appointment at another airport after the hour and a half of oral, and we agreed that I would fly the C-152 over to MYF (from SEE) after noon and we would proceed on the flight portion from there. So far, so good.
Before I left SEE I had to deal with getting fuel out of the 152 for weight and balance, and then oil into it, as it was a quart low, then do a quick trip around the pattern just to warm up. Then, off to MYF. Landed just fine, and taxied to the terminal. Found my D.E. and got briefed, then off we go. First up, Hood work! Whoopee!! He gives me vectors and altitudes for awhile and we finish the hood stuff with some unusual attitude recovery. So far, so good. But, here's where the feces hits the rotary wind turbine. Right after taking off the hood, he say's "Take me to Oceanside". I'm at 2500' just off the coast, heading roughly northbound. In my myopic haste to get the time and distance estimate correct, I totally spaced on the fact that I was about a quarter mile away from the Palomar Class D. As soon as I saw the lake, I firewalled the throttle and climbed to 3000', but it was too late. Nicked the upper corner of the Class D. Dammmmmm. And after I worked so hard at making sure I stayed clear of the San Diego Class Bravo!
He didn't say anything, and I mentioned that I thought I was late in catching it, but we went on. Steep turns were O.k., turns around a point and S turns were too. We flew back to MYF and skirted the Class B, during which time he tried the distraction - talking about a favorite place to eat...But, I made it by with out a second Airspace violation for one day. But, I wasn't done yet!
We shot a few landings with a fair crosswind, and I blew the traffic pattern altitude for the runway we were using. I was too low. Hmmmm. I knew that I was unfamiliar with MYF. I had only flown in there four times in six months, and today was the fourth!. But, this was too easy. Anyone can read the Flight Guide or AFD and get the altitude for "Both" runways, not just the one I just landed on an hour ago. I could see right away that I needed to get ahead of these things. Felt pretty stupid for making such easy goofs.
So, today's lesson is, do my homework, and don't let anything get me behind the plane. I could have circled while I calculated exactly where I was, and how long it would take to get to OCN. Maybe long enough to see the blue segmented circle on the chart - dead ahead. I damn well could have cracked the AFD open a little wider and found the TPA for 28L too. Seems like rookie mistakes, and until now, I didn't really look upon myself as belonging in the rookie standings. Hmmmmm.
So after I collected my pink slip, I preflighted my 152, and flew back to SEE. My instructor was there and we discussed this whole thing in some minute detail. Then we got back into the plane and went out and flew the pattern for some "remedial" practice. (my words, not my CFI's). After another hour of ground, he signed off the 8710 for the retry. I only hope that the scheduling works out so that we can finish this up while I'm still in the good graces of the D.E.
I couldn't have asked for a better D.E. Very personable, and reasonable. Obviously my performance as a whole today earned the outcome I received. With the exception of the two little issues above, I wouldn't change anything about this whole experience. Well, maybe the fact that I didn't sleep at all last night, and that I didn't eat anything all day today. Those I would change too.
All in all, the entire experience was a good one. Even though I'm still a "Student" and not a "Private" pilot. I learned first hand, that I've got more to learn. Lots more. But, I'm going to be a better pilot because of it. Well worth the price of admission, if you ask me.
Sorry for the ridiculously long post. I've been lurking here
for awhile and thought that this experience might be of some
value to another student. I would suggest that you don't stress
over the checkride too much. The world
really doesn't stop turning when you don't make it on the first
try. Heck, sometimes you actually learn a valuable lesson in
the mean time. I did.
Thanks all, and happy flying!
As promised, this post has the full details of my private checkride, which I completed successfully day before yesterday, 11/15/00. (Yeah! :-)
At the risk of damaging the entertainment value of the story ("Always leave them wanting more," my dad says), I've tried to report as many of the details as I can recall, since I got a lot out of other people's detailed checkride posts. And before I get into it, let me say that this group has been a tremendous resource for me over the past 5 months. Thank you all for your stories, comments, links, and advice!
I have been flying with Executive Flyers Aviation out of Hanscom Field (BED), Bedford, Massachusetts USA. This is a busy Class D GA airport, with an increasing amount of commuter (Dash-8), corporate (Hawker, Citation), and charter (727) traffic. EFA is a high-class outfit, and I feel like I've gotten a rigorous flying education there. I started in mid-June, so my training has occupied 5 months. I had a bit over 70 hours before my checkride, meaning I've been able to log a bit under 4 hours per week.
My progress was pretty steady, though they closed runway 5-23 for resurfacing just as I was trying to polish my landings for solo. Coincidentally, the wind was almost always 220 at 11 for the next month, which meant I learned to land on 29 in a 70 deg left xwind. This took me a bit longer than planned, and going on vacation for 3 weeks didn't help. 5-23 is supposed to reopen next week, but anyway...
My instructor recommended Ray Collins as the right DE. He is a Delta captain and frequent examiner with a reputation of being rigorous but fair. His fee was $200. My checkride was originally scheduled for last Thursday, the 9th.
On Sunday the 5th, my CFI and I met and filled out form 8710 with all my info and logbook times. He wrote it, which is good, because his handwriting is much neater than mine. He had me pull together the 8710, my sealed written test report, my student pilot/medical certificate and my logbook. He then copied the checklist out of the front of the PTS and made sure I understood what other items I needed to pull together. He stressed the importance of having all the paperwork correct and well ordered. Lastly, he assured me that if I just flew like I did with him, I'd have no trouble passing.
I got a couple good tips from him and the Chief Pilot:
o If you're en route west on your (pretend) xc at 4,500 feet, and he asks for a 180 deg turn, don't forget to descend to 3,500 feet, or to <= 3,000, since you're now headed East! (I'm sure this would have caught me...)
o Don't forget to add half the gust speed to your approach speed, if it's gusty.
I was assigned to plan a xc from BED to Utica, New York. I picked UCA out of the AF/D as the "right" Utica field, though there's a smaller Class G field nearby, not to mention Griffis (ex?) AFB.
The xc planning took a little longer than usual. The first decision was whether to refuel. Even with pretty strong headwinds (23kts, say), the flight would take about 2.5 hours. The plane (C152) carries about 3:45 usable (assuming a conservative 6.5gph burn rate), so even with a 1 hour, 6.5 gal reserve, the flight would leave 15 mins of fuel before starting on the reserve.
Yah right! Of course I decided on a fuel stop - it was an opportunity to demonstrate "a disciplined conservatism about fuel use." I would probably have planned the stop even if it wasn't my checkride because an hour and a half in a 152 is plenty long enough so I need to stretch my legs. Going the full 2.5 without stopping doesn't appeal.
Next question was how far I could use the Gardner VOR (GDM), and would I be able to pick up the Cambridge (CAM) VOR without losing GDM? For this, I got out my AIM and found the section on VOR service volumes. Very educational - above 1800 ft, you get 40nm radius. GDM and CAM are about 67nm apart, so no problem. I did mark the overlap on my course line, noting a good river/highway combination to use as a waypoint for switching. This let me go around the Albany Class C without adding unduly to the distance.
Then I looked and saw the straight shot to GDM VOR took me through R-4102, a restricted area near our practice area. Wasn't going to be caught by that one! I picked my first leg to go north of it via Fitchburg (FIT). The sectional (at the bottom) says 4102 is only active on Saturdays, but I asked FSS and they said every day. So, that confirmed my plan to go around.
Lastly, I saw that UCA lies inside the Griffis TRSA, so I read up on those. Looked to be little different from flight following or Class C operation, so no big deal. I can turn to a heading and hold an altitude. <g> Still, I had to applaud the DE's assignment - it ensured I had to grapple with some issues my student solo xcs hadn't raised.
Once I was done with the xc plan, I started studying for the oral. I spent two days of moderately hard review, focusing on FAR part 91, sectional symbology (reputed to be a pet subject of the DE), and the PTS. In particular, I made sure I understood all the PTS requirements.
I flew with the Chief Pilot Monday morning, and the airwork went OK. He had asked me what I wanted to practice, and I said steep turns and ground reference maneuvers. I did OK on those, thought he helped me clean them up a bit. He threw some hood work and unusual attitudes at me, and that was fine. However, my landings were a bit ugly. He properly diagnosed that I was fixating on the ASI, and "chasing" it with pitch and power changes, making it hard to establish a good, stabilized approach. The result was I was a bit low and slow on final, leading to somewhat dropped-in landings.
On Tuesday morning, I was going to solo in the pattern to work on my landings, but my CFI bummed a ride. He promised to be quiet, but I think the bossman had spoken to him about my landings, and he was looking to see how I was doing. I wasn't much better, so he went into coaching mode, and that helped.
On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the hangar and got a tour of the mx logs so I could show off the annual inspection and the ADs. That was educational, and the mechanics were all really helpful and nice. I put a big postit on the 5406H's logbook saying "DON'T TOUCH - checkride 11/9" and went home.
I was still bugged by the landing issue, so I got out "Stick and Rudder" and flipped to the section on glides. And there I was! He described my error explicitly as one of the typical student errors, and had the fix. I needed to stay higher on short final than I had gotten into the habit of flying, and keep the nose pointed at my aiming point, especially as I went to 30deg of flaps. That plus trusting in the landing configuration and not chasing the ASI would fix things, I felt sure. See, I had gotten in the habit of flying kind of nose high ala slow flight on final, and if you pick up excessive sink rate that way, there's not much you can do about it that close to the ground.
I got up on the 9th, and the wx was as crappy as forecast. Low ceilings and IFR. However, the Worcester TAF held out hope for the ceiling lifting to 4,500 by 1pm, high enough to do the checkride. My CFI had said it would be a bad idea for *me* to cancel the checkride for wx, so I had to go ahead and finish preparing. I got my actual wx briefing and the one for my pretend xc to UCA. The answer on that was an easy No Go due to IFR conditions. Nevertheless, I worked my E6B and filled in my magnetic headings, groundspeed and fuel burn for both legs. I was interpolating up a storm - it was beautiful.
I couldn't do the weight and balance, though - I had forgotten to get the weight and balance info the day before. I filled in what I could, packed up and headed over to the FBO at about 12. That gave me an hour to retrieve the logbook, check the ARROW docs in the plane, and finish the weight and balance. I had put on the biplane tie and tie-tack my wife had gotten me for luck, so while nervous, I was also eager to get it done.
I grabbed the book, grabbed the keys, checked the papers, noted the basic empty weight, the arm and the moment, and headed back inside. It was about 12:30. That's when I heard from my CFI the DE had scrubbed due to the wx. I was pretty disappointed, especially that he hadn't at least wanted to do the oral. I was eager to get the talking out of the way before I forgot the Class G VFR rules again. Not only that, but the wx was forecast as lousy for several days, so it wasn't going to happen soon. I kind of stalked out of the FBO, harrumphed my way to the hangar to drop off the logbook, and decided to go drown my frustration in a milkshake. Of course, the ice-cream place was closed. I didn't bite anyone, but went home and growled for most of the rest of the afternoon...
CFI rescheduled for Wed the 15th at 10 am. I didn't think that would work, since I had a meeting at 2 pm and would need to be in my car departing at 1:30. DE said he'd get it done by then for sure, so we went with it. I actually found that encouraging, because it meant a 3 hour oral (like I've read about here) would be impossible.
Sun afternoon and the wx was nice, so I grabbed the chance to solo. Sure enough, I fixed my landings! Phew. Also saw a Pitts and an Arrow flying formation in the pattern behind me, but not on purpose! They were less than 75 feet apart, with the Pitts at the Arrow's 12 o'clock high. I was trying to figure out what to say to ATC when the Arrow clued in and slowed up. ATC didn't call them on it, but it was a near thing. Never a dull moment at BED, especially on a nice, "remain outside the Class Delta, right 360, extend your downwind, I'll call your base, square your turn to final, can you give me some S turns, go around", busy, Sunday afternoon.
Forecast for Wed looked bad, but CFI encouraged me to prepare anyway, and what else could I do? He also cautioned me not to over-study, which I am wont to do. So I tried to take it relatively easy. I did go through the PTS again and filled in the actual 152 speeds for all the "1.2 Vs0 +10/-5" bits. I even "chair flew" some maneuvers like steep turns and stalls while wearing my headset at the kitchen table.
Spent 7:30 to 9:30 Wed morning re-working my xc plan with the actual wx. Once again, the UCA call was a No Go due to icing and SHRASN (rain and snow showers) west of Albany. However, ceilings and visibility were good for the checkride!
Only issue: wind was forecast as 30018G32. I thought about that a bit. On the one hand, 32kt gusts are pretty big bumps. On the other, they'd be right down the runway on 29. I'd flown in 27kt gusts and done OK with my CFI along. Plus, I remembered all the posts here from pilots in Kansas and Oklahoma about how they always fly in winds like that. I decided to go. I also figured the wind would make a good cover story for any sloppiness on my part...)
Got to the FBO, grabbed the logbook again (I had called the afternoon before to make sure it would be there), grabbed the key and went out to pre-flight. Got back inside at 10pm on the dot, feeling smug the timing worked so well. Then I waited 15mins for the DE. I had just decided that he must have scrubbed again on account of the wind and my CFI hadn't got his message yet when the DE walked in.
I introduced myself, calling him "sir" and "Mr. Collins." I had my biplane tie and tie-tack on again with khakis and penny loafers - I was trying to look like I'd dressed up a bit for the occasion, but without overdoing it. I think it helped some. He had on slacks and a flannel shirt, no tie.
He was very businesslike, and was not trying to make a friend of me. He asked for the paperwork, which I was able to lay out before him handily due to having gone through the PTS checklist in advance. That was a plus I'd say. He looked it over, did not pause over the 97 score on my written (I was a bit in fear that I'd get extra grilling because of that) and quickly filled in a couple boxes on the 8710. Then he told me the basic outline would be review of paperwork, logbook, mx logs, xc plan, W&B, oral exam and then flying.
He then went through my logbook, apologizing for how long it would take and mildly complaining that this was the hardest part of his job. We spent about 10 minutes of silence while he did this, but fortunately I had everything done and totaled, so there was no issue.
Then we went over the mx logs, and he actually read most of the annual notes. He lectured me that despite looking at the logs, it's very hard for a renter pilot to really know that the plane is legal. You must rely upon the competence of the FBO, but should not take that for granted. You need to assure yourself the FBO is good, and he noted that fortunately, EFA is. I found this refreshingly sensible.
We discussed the xc, and I started with a summary of the plan. Then I noted the No Go call and showed the TAFs I had printed off of http://adds.awc-kc.noaa.gov/ to support the decision. He asked some questions: why the fuel stop, what about R-4102, what's up with the TRSA, what are your pilotage landmarks? Pretty easy to answer. He looked at both the chart and my plan/log pages while we talked.
Then he told me we'd only use the first leg - and only part of that - on the simulated xc portion of the flying. Said if we got more than 20nm from BED, something would be very wrong. That made me happy, since I didn't want to keep up the "I'm going to Utica" charade more than I had to. We also agreed that the 6,500 feet I'd put on the plan wouldn't work locally at that time, and so picked 3,000 feet as our target altitude. (And I silently stopped worrying about descending from West to East and vice versa.)
At this point, he went into a several minute description of how he'd evaluate me (no tricks - phew!), what he'd be looking for, and what he didn't want to see. For the oral, he wanted to focus on sectional symbols (yes!), some systems, V speeds, a bit of National Airspace System, wake turbulence avoidance, right of way and the new anti-runway-incursion questions. Didn't plan to cover regulations much because that had already been covered on the written.
For the practical, he explained that he would select one maneuver from each section of the PTS, not all of them. Might be any of the ground reference maneuvers, but not all. One stall, but could be clean or with flaps, power or not, turning or level. We would do all of normal, short and soft takeoffs, as well as normal, short, soft and no-flap landings. Hood work, one unusual attitude, steep turns.
As for no-nos, he said to make sure I was looking outside of the aircraft, that was his most important warning. (I mentally chanted "Don't fixate on the ASI, don't fixate on the ASI.") Don't fail to use the checklists. Don't begin a maneuver until I'm ready, because once I say I'm in it, he's judging it. He stresses that _I_ am PIC, and he's a passenger, so "fly like you're PIC."
thresholds, but one had arrows and one had chevrons. He asked me what the difference was, and I erred slightly: I knew chevrons meant no taxing or takeoff, but I thought arrows meant taxi only. However, arrows mean taxi and takeoff, just no landing, as he explained. So those were my oral errors.
Then it was oral time. He asked the questions as he'd outlined them. We did spend a lot of time on the chart, and I handled everything except that I forgot what an L means on an airport label ("lighted"). I fessed up promptly, said I knew where to find it, and he was satisfied. He drew two runways with displaced
The rest of the questions I could answer. It was a brief exam. I guess I looked like I didn't have an attitude, as he displayed no need to establish that I don't know everything despite my written score. I was glad of that, as I will freely admit I don't know everything - I didn't want it proven through an inquisition.
Then it was time to fly. I re-checked the fuel, oil and control surfaces, since my pre-flight had been over an hour previous. He asked me what the fuel vent was (I knew), what the cabin air vent was (ditto), and what the little scoop intake on the side of the cowling was for? That I didn't know - he said it's to let in air to cool the avionics...
We got in, and I started the checklist. From that point on, I was verbalizing everything I did and why. Checklist went fine, though I had my lapdesk on my lap instead of the floor because I wasn't certain when I'd need to refer to my xc plan. I explained that "this is where I would brief my passenger on the door, the seat belts and what to do in an emergency" instead of role-playing an attempt at an actual briefing (tip from CFI).
I got cleared to taxi to 29, so I looked for people nearby, pulled out and checked the brakes _gently_ (tip from Chief Pilot), then I invited him to check his (tip from my CFI), and he did. I picked the path with fewest turns and made the appropriate xwind corrections as I taxied. I kept it on the yellow line and was scrupulous about saying "clear left/clear right" as we approached intersections.
No one else was flying (scared of the wind?), so for a change, we had the runup area to ourselves. I pulled up nice and smooth and did the engine runup checklist. My nerves showed in that I skipped the ammeter check, but I caught it immediately and took care of it. Did my flow check and DE said we'll do the pattern work first since it's empty. Wanted to see a normal takeoff followed by a normal landing, whereupon I'm to set the flaps for a soft field takeoff.
I pulled up to the hold short line and called "Hanscom Tower, Cessna 5406H holding short, like to stay in the pattern." Get told to hold short for landing traffic, but the radio's a bit hard to hear - uh oh (DE diddled the squelch just as I was thinking to reach for it and all was fine thereafter). A Piper landed and we got cleared to position and hold. DE said he's changed his mind and wants a short-field takeoff, so I put in flaps 10 and pulled out, as close to the end of the runway as I could get.
As I pulled out, Tower cleared me to take off. I acknowledged, lined up on the centerline, held the brakes and went to full power, but just for a couple seconds. I had discussed and cleared this in advance with the DE - since BED is so busy, once you're cleared to go, you can't sit at ull power for 30s as per the POH, you'll surprise the controller and screw up the sequencing. I released the brakes and off we went. Engine instruments green, air speed alive, xwind correction out. At 54kts I pitched up and hoped like heck I had the Vx pitch attitude because I was only glancing at - not fixating on! - the ASI.
Leveled, accelerated, flaps up, and pitched for Vy. Scanned for traffic, then around the pattern in left closed traffic. I was careful about rudder use on the turns, but the plane is rigged poorly and needs a little right rudder in a left turn. I'm sure I could have been better coordinated, but I tried to not use the rudders much at all, and it worked out.
Whoops, I got more than 100 feet above pattern altitude - doh! I began to suspect the tach was reading low, because I was going too fast and with too much lift for 2000 rpm. No comment from DE on altitude, hoped I was OK. Cleared to land, told DE I'm using flaps 20 due to the wind, and we discussed adding 1/2 the gust to approach speed. He says in an MD-11 they add all the gust plus half the wind - but this isn't an MD-11, so do what I think is right.
I was high on final, so I did a slip to a landing, probably my best ever. Took care of _that_ requirement. Slowed down, went flaps 10, added full power, pulled back on the nose, and off we went on the soft field takeoff. It worked OK, although my ground effect flying was not long lived. <g> He says this is the start of the xc, so I call the tower and request a straight out departure, which is granted. I forgot to take out the flaps until he pointed this out at about 600 ft whoops.
I scanned for traffic, recorded the departure time, and then realized I'd forgotten the VOT during runup. So I quickly tuned the NAV to 110.0, got the ident sounding, and verified 000 gave FROM and 180 gave TO. Then I tuned in GDM and set the course to show I'm thinking ahead a leg. (I should've done both things during runup - doh.)
My xc flying was the worst I've ever done. I was S-ing over my heading +/- 10 degrees and at one point managed to gain 200 ft. I never do that! Also, with the engine at the firewall, the tach reads just 2300 rpm, further evidence it's miscalibrated. That's why I'm gaining altitude, yeesh. But I think the wind covered for me.
I switched to the practice area frequency and made a call - nobody there. Then DE spotted a Cessna at 11 o'clock about 200 feet above us. I elected to descend to about 2600 and it passed well over us. Finally, I was relieved when he told me to put on the hood. Positive exchange of controls, and he had me turn and climb, turn and descend, then climb and descend wings level. I remembered to work the carb heat and throttle appropriately, and did ok (I've never had a problem with hood work).
One mistake was, on my first turn, I got impatient with standard rate and increased the bank angle. The nose started to come down, and he had to mention it. I confessed my impatience, and his reply was to "Focus not on getting around to the desired heading, but focus on doing the aneuver right - then you won't feel impatient." Good advice.
Then it was unusual attitude time. Quick set of bounces and I had no idea which end was up. He called the recovery and I looked at the ASI - increasing! Reached for the throttle and actually bumped it up (uh oh!) a bit before pulling it out while leveling the wings and leveling off. But he didn't fail me on the spot, so I was still hopeful.
He had me take off the hood and I saw we were over Lowell, about 10nm NE of BED. He asked me to show him slow flight at 50 kts, heading 090, no flaps. I pulled power to 1500, slowed it down until the stall horn was screaming it's first pitch and the ASI showed 50. No problem! Until he pointed out I was losing altitude. I caught it just after 100 ft, but rats. After that, nailed the turns while maintaining speed and altitude, AND I remembered to scan for traffic. Spotted some, too, but no factor. He had me recover, which was a simple matter of full throttle, carb heat in, 3000 ft, power to cruise.
He then picked out a mountain to be my visual reference and asked me to show him a steep turn to the left. Now, something was niggling at me about my setup, but after a couple seconds of hesitation, I started the turn. He said, "You're going to need more power to hold your altitude." Sure enough, when I had reduced the power earlier, I had gotten it too low for the steep turn. I added power and around we went. It was good, fortunately! I think that was the first time I did a steep turn to the left correctly on my first try.
But at this point I've had altitude excursions and he's had to prompt about 4-5 things. In the back of my mind, I was really wondering whether I'd have to do the whole practical over again.
He suggested we get the ATIS and head back to land. After a brief discussion about where we are, wherein I find I have two major highways confused and so am 90 degrees off (ack - another mistake), I acknowledged he was correct, and he chuckled and said "That's why they pay me the big bucks." This was his first bit of any sort of joviality, and it rekindled hope in me. I got the ATIS, reset the altimeter, called the field, got told to report midfield right downwind, and did a pre-landing check. Spotted some more traffic before the DE did. (My final score was 3 for 4. :-)
I descended smoothly at 500fpm all the way to pattern altitude at entry (yes!), and mentioned that, due to the wind, I was aiming considerably upwind of midfield. As we got close, a King Air was crossing behind and above us. ATC cleared it number one, so we had to keep an eye on it as it went behind, passed on the left, and got in front. DE said he wanted a short field landing, so I turned base as soon as the King Air turned final. Brought it in pretty high, but still made it with a nice steep descent at 60kts (added a bit for wind) and landed it OK despite a bit of rolling during the flare due to gusts.
Was off by the first taxiway no problem, and then realized I couldn't find the checklist. I had sort of nonchalantly tossed it behind me, and now I couldn't feel it, doh. I explained the situation, told him I had it memorized, and he said fine. So flaps up, carb heat in already, mixture max lean, radio to ground. Got my taxi clearance and headed back, with xwind corrections the whole way.
Pulled up and did the engine shutdown checklist from memory. I was afraid to say anything, but the first thing he said was, "Well, you passed - congratulations." Then, he went over his feedback. Good things: hood work, landings ("You weren't bothered by the wind at all"), comms, pattern, taxiing. Not so good: S-ing around on xc portion, being behind the airplane sometimes, like entering the steep turn with too little power. "However, you showed you were ahead of the airplane with your comment about aiming upwind on pattern entry," quoth he, so maybe that one comment saved my bacon!
He said I'd done well overall and not to be thin-skinned about his criticism. Which I sure wasn't - he was dead right, and I'm comforted that I know I average better. I think I was a bit task-overloaded due to nerves and verbalizing everything.
He headed in to do the paperwork and I tied 06H down and gathered all my junk. Went inside and got my temporary certificate and a reiteration of the feedback. Then he shook my hand and I got the heck out of there - I wanted to leave before he changed his mind! My CFI walked over to the hangar with me while I told him the brief version of this story, and we shook hands.
I still can't believe I've done it. It's sinking in slowly. Next comes 172 transition and then flying friends for $100 hamburgers. I'm really looking forward to those!
So anyway, that's my ridiculously long checkride story. I hope someone finds it helpful, if only to see that it's not as hard as the PTS would lead you to believe. I guess it was easier than I expected, but I flew worse than I'm capable of, so it evened out. <g>
Blue skies! -- Peter
Peter H. Schmidt
Checkride Story #4
After some 86 hours and an ungodly number of landings the aviation gods smiled upon me in the end and I'm now a genuine Private Pilot! It was tough, but in the end I think the most rewarding and satisfying thing I've ever done. It seemed like today was to be yet another of those days when everything that could go wrong would go wrong, but it worked out in the end.
The checkride was scheduled for today (11/17) about a week ago and I've been watching the nasty weather creep in from the west all week. Getting up this morning, it was heavily overcast with a light, spotty rain falling. The winds were moderate, about 9 knots on average with gusts to 12 or so. I wasn't worried about that much. The reported ceiling was 4000 and forecast to get worse, developing into snow later towards afternoon. I was thoroughly convinced there'd be no ride today, but saddled up and went to the airport anyway around 8:30 AM.
I fly from Burlington, VT which is Class C airspace though the traffic volume is sporadic. All my training has been in Cessna 172s and most has been in N6555J. Like most trainers, she has a few quirks which I'd gotten used to. Unfortunately, she was unavailable and I ended up in N180TA, which I hadn't flown in probably 2-3 months. I was concerned about that as the avionics suites are quite different and 180TA handles a bit differently due to the long range tanks and some other oddities between the two. For example, 55J's artificial horizon is actually off a bit and a level horizon on the gauge will actually get you a slow right turn. I had to remember not to compensate for that today.
So I arrive at the FBO and, what do you know, the weather computer is on the blink. Last METARs, TAFS, etc. are 5 hours old. My instructor reboots it, but still no dice. Looks to me like weather blocking the satellite signal. The clouds look really thick, dark and nasty. We do the necessary forms and some last minute review of key topics and then my instructor must bail out for King Air ground school. He goes to Charter service in a week or so, and I'm feeling some pressure to get this done before I lose him. After he leaves, I'm getting my ducks in a row when I realize he hasn't made my log endorsement and didn't sign the back of the FAA application. Uh-oh. Well, nothing to be done about it now; perhaps I can catch him after the oral if the DE doesn't mind.
At 10 AM, as scheduled, the DE shows up and after finding the weather computer out has me just go and call FSS anyway. He likes to do his landings and takeoffs over at Clinton County, an uncontrolled field on the NY side of Lake Champlain so that's what I've planned. They're reporting ceilings at 3300 with light rain and winds from the southwest at 9 knots. The briefer suggests, when prodded, that he thinks things are going to deteriorate by afternoon but doesn't really give a timeframe. The DE takes this all in and asks me what I'd like to do. Uh-oh, key decision here. Will he think I'm too aggressive or too wimpy? I don't much like the forecast either, but my schedule and the DEs have been tough to get together, so I ask if he can get me in again before December 9, when I have to travel to Florida for business until Christmas Eve. He cannot accommodate that. We decide to go outside and eyeball the sky ourselves and after a minute or two of that, he says "Tell ya what, let's go fly now before it gets worse. We'll get up and take a look and if we don't like it, we'll just come back." Sounds good to me, so off we go.
I preflight with him kind of just hanging around. He tosses out the occasional question about why I'm checking this or that, but he generally just observes. We need fuel and oil, contrary to what I'd been told, so I get that taken care of and we hop in. He seems pleased that I take the time to make sure I have charts, plotter, E6B etc. easily available to me. I ask if he'd like a passenger briefing, and he would, so I run through that using a script I'd prepared and practiced - Operating the seat belts and doors, hands off controls, emergency procedures and my requirement for a sterile cockpit during takeoffs and landings. He mentions that he explicitly warns his passengers not to brace on the yoke or pedals during a crash. We do a normal startup and runup check. I talk through everything, so I think I cut off some of his questions simply by reciting the mag drop limits, etc. I call for clearance to Clinton County VFR and am directed to runway 19, holding short of 15 on taxiway Alpha. That's a pretty normal light-plane departure here at BTV. I'm careful to note the winds and make sure I'm holding proper control positions as we taxi, so he has nothing to complain about there :^) As we taxi, he describes the procedure he will follow - takeoffs and landings at Clinton County, hood work and VOR navigation and tracking on the return to the practice area, unusual attitudes, ground ref maneuvers, stalls and all the other air work when we get to the practice area and then a return to BTV. He also explains that just because he's quiet doesn't mean I'm flunking :^) He's just there to observe, not instruct, though he might offer a suggestion if he feels it's appropriate. I'm fine with that.
We're cleared to go, he wants a normal takeoff, so I get lined up on 19 and, I swear to God, just as I reach full throttle the wind does a 180 and the plane gets shoved sideways then forward with the new tailwind. Somehow I got it back on the centerline and it seemed forever until we reached our normal rotation of 55 knots and then flew it off. As we climbed out I commented that it felt like the wind went around behind and he agreed. As it turned out, we heard the tower switch runways just before they handed us to departure, so I guess we were right.
We switch to departure and after a couple of vectors in the general direction of Plattsburgh, we're given the "proceed on course" and head directly for Plattsburgh. He asks a couple of pilotage questions which I easily answer since I fly and boat here. Ceilings have dropped considerably and we can get no higher than 1500' but it looks better across the lake so we continue.
BTV departure cuts us loose so we can change frequencies but doesn't specifically say to squawk 1200. I set it up anyway and the DE advises that I could have left it but this is OK too. I get the Clinton County ASOS and winds are looking good at 210 with 9 knots. This should be easy - maybe it's my lucky break after all. Well, fat chance. I switch to Unicom and ask for advisories and the kind folks at PLB advise winds at 240 at 18 gusting to 22. Now I'm sweating bullets... I don't like crosswinds and I like Plattsburgh even less. It always seems unsettled there and today is no exception. It's very turbulent and gusty, so I decide to add 10 knots. I advise the examiner and he thinks that's a good plan. Whew! First up is a normal touch and go. I decide to enter from the extended downwind to 19 and for a change I remember to make all the radio calls correctly. It's so rough, though, that I completely blow the rectangular pattern and turn final way too early and too low. I managed to correct those errors but the touchdown was heavy with a little side load, but not enough to skid. Fortunately, I was centered OK. The departure went more smoothly as I got a handle on the winds and he asked for a short field landing to full stop.
During the pattern, the DE commented on my crosswind technique, which was to crab the airplane and kick it straight at the last moment. He suggested the wing low method and I told him that I preferred that, but my CFI did not. He asked me to try it so I did from this point on. It went much better. Now I can do it the way I prefer! This pattern was much better and the approach was stabilized even though the airspeed was all over the map. With the gusty winds, I just decided to ignore the needle excursions and go for the average and that worked much better. These were by far the toughest wind and turbulence conditions I'd flown in. The short field, amazingly enough, was pretty darn good. Probably one of my best ever. After the stop, I set up for the short field departure which is always pretty easy and it went fine. Next time around was a soft field landing, with a stop and a soft-field departure.
Once again I felt the pattern and approach were good, but just before touchdown, the wind dropped significantly and we hit a little heavy. I got it stopped and then did a soft field departure which went well. On climb out, the DE commented that the soft field looked good to him and not to worry about the heavy landing. He said it was almost inevitable with those gusty conditions and a really good one would be mostly luck. I wasn't sure if he was trying to settle me down or what, but I figured I hadn't blown it yet! I was pretty pleased with the crosswind work and the landings, I felt, were as good as I could do on the day. We'd see...
Final task at Plattsburgh was the forward slip. My CFI had advised me that the DE liked to see the slip nearly all the way to the ground, and that had worried me a bit since I hadn't practiced it that far down. As it turned out, we needed enough crosswind correction that we pretty much ended up in a forward slip anyway, so it was no big deal.
We departed Plattsburgh on a downwind departure and I contacted Approach to advise them we were heading to the practice area and they let us proceed as we wanted to. He had me put on the hood and we want through all the instrument work plus unusual attitude recovery. It was tough to hold heading and altitude in the conditions, but I though I had done OK and he hadn't said anything yet. The unusual recovery was different only in that it was an "airspeed increasing" scenario that was much steeper than anything my instructor had used. I was careful to get the power to idle right away and then level the wings before a gentle pull up out of the dive. The examiner complimented me on the recovery, so that gave me a second wind I was needing badly as I was getting physically tired by this time as the flying was very demanding and active.
After the hood work, we did power-on, power-off and trim stalls. I knew what a trim stall was, and why we were doing it, but it wasn't anything I'd practiced at all so I was psyched when I pulled it off. Ground reference maneuvers went pretty well, although he commented that he thought my turns around a point were in a little too close. He had me widen it out for one circle just so I could see the difference and it was a lot easier. Steep turns were excellent today, with no altitude loss and a rollout right on heading so I was pretty pumped by that too. I was getting the feeling I was gonna do this!
Then came the power failure drill... I did all the preliminary things right, got set up at best glide, found a field, ran the heck-list and entered the downwind at a normal pattern altitude around here, which is about 1300 feet. As I turned to base, the examiner decided to mention that he preferred a circular approach to a standard rectangular approach! I had never heard of such a thing but it looked like I could pull it off so I went for it and it really worked well. I'm going to have to spend some time with my CFI looking more closely at that. The DE explained that he prefers it because he can merely circle down over the field and just continue the circle, narrowing or widening it as needed to hit his aim point. Anyway, he carried this approach down to probably 30 feet, much lower than my CFI had ever gone, and then asked for the go-around. I applied power, carb heat off, and went to take out the 40 degrees of flaps as I'd been taught and he went nuts. "No, leave those in until you get some airspeed. Get the nose down and accelerate, then bring the flaps up!" This startled me so much that I lost track of the yoke pressure I'd been maintaining to avoid the trim stall and the airplane pitched up pretty steeply. I recovered it but it was just real sloppy on the go around from then on. Well, I'd been taught that 40 degrees of flaps on this 172 was all drag and that it was best to get it out right away so the airplane COULD accelerate. I continued the way he wanted but I was sure that was it. I could feel myself slump into the seat and pretty much just give out, but then after a minute or two, he directed me to set up for slow flight. Hmmm, could it be I'd get by with that one?
Slow flight went well, then he took the controls and set up the emergency approach scenario again, though at altitude. We went through the go around procedure again and I did it his way, satisfactorily this time. We discussed this for some time without really reaching a conclusion. I believe I will proceed as I usually have and get 40 degrees out right away. I thought the airplane felt too sluggish with them down. At this point he asked for a return to BTV so we headed in. Of course, the gremlins needed one last dig at me and Tower cleared me for 33. This is Burlington's larger runway and we light airplanes almost never use it. Due to the size illusion, I always smack it down there and today was no exception. My performance, or lack thereof, was not aided by the 18 knot crosswind at 80 degrees off the runway heading but I managed to plunk it on the centerline with just a little side skid again.
The DE commented that he would normally fly it on with power in those conditions because a standard full-stall landing, as I was doing, had the possibility of losing directional control as you get slow, and that was what caused my slight skid. I agreed, explaining that I felt at the end as if I didn't have enough rudder authority. The taxi and parking was routine and as we tied down, he complimented me on my crosswind handling and said I had done fine on the flying portion. I almost cried, the stress relief was so great. Now for the oral and it'd be all over!
We went inside and found my CFI to complete all the paperwork. The examiner mentioned to him that he thought the flying was fine, especially given the conditions. I commented that even had I flunked the ride, I would have been satisfied with my performance in general. All was now in order so we went in and sat down for the oral. He reviewed my log and written test report. I scored a 97 on that and I think it helped with this examiner. The oral was very easy, I thought, and he only caught me out on a couple of things.
He got me on the necessary additional endorsements when I had a brain dump and couldn't come up with the tailwheel requirement. He got me on the night Class G VFR requirements, which I always get wrong and then he got me on the ability of student pilots to fly in Class B. I thought they could go anywhere with an endorsement from their CFI but he said they could not land at the primary airport. I wasn't sure of that but thanks to all the discussions here I kept my mouth shut and didn't generate any further interest on his part in pursuing that topic in more detail :^)
He asked me about a VOR identification and what 122.1R meant, and I explained that correctly. He then suckered me in when he asked how I might get some FSS information there and I said I'd call on 122.1 and listen on the VOR frequency. He admitted that would work, but asked why I wouldn't use the RCO that was labeled right next to the VOR! I 'fessed up that I just hadn't seen it! We went through the weight and balance I'd done for the flight and then he had me explain my takeoff and landing distance numbers. After a number of other widely scattered areas of questioning, he stuck out his hand and said "Welcome, pilot!" I just flopped back in the chair and went comatose for a moment or two before thanking him for his time and willingness to try and squeeze the ride in. He passed over the temporary certificate and my logbook and away I went. It's sure nice to be able to sign this..
I have cancelled and rescheduled my check ride 4 times in the past two months. Attempt #5 was scheduled for 9am, Monday morning. Weather outlook for the weekend was generally crappy, so I was giving myself a 50/50 chance of yet another scrub. Called the DE Friday afternoon to confirm the appointment and agreed to call him before 7:30 on Monday if the weather looked bad.
Around 1am Monday morning I awoke to a line of severe thunderstorms moving through the area and figured I was screwed for sure. However, when I called for a weather briefing in the morning the briefer assured me that conditions would be clearing around noon, so I called the DE to see what he wanted to do. Turns out he had been trying to call me (had my phone number written down wrong) to reschedule for Thursday because he was coming down with something. Although I was a little disappointed at the prospect of another cancellation, I agreed to reschedule and said I would go in to Ellington Field to see if the plane would be available that day. At this point he said if there would be a problem getting the plane on Thursday he would pull himself together enough to get the exam done that day.
I grabbed all my gear and headed over to Ellington. The plane was indeed available on Thursday, but only had around seven hours left on the tach before the next 100-hour inspection, and one person had it reserved for a few hours in the meantime. I called the DE back and explained the situation. He decided we would go ahead and do it that day. We arranged to meet at 10:30am at Clover Field (LVJ), which is closer to his home than his office down at Brazoria County (LBX). Since I had some extra time, I figured I'd leave early and fly around a bit to warm up. I had to re-do the cross-country plan for a departure from Clover, but in the time it took to do that, Ellington went to IFR conditions with a 700' overcast. Sheesh.
By 9:30 it was not getting any better, though we could definitely see the shit moving to the east. Called the DE and moved it back to 11:30. At 10:30 the ceiling was barely high enough for me to get out legally, but I was not about to resort to scud running just to get to the exam. We moved it back to 12:30 and I told him if wasn't clear by 11:30 that we would just have to reschedule for Thursday. Around 11am I started seeing more blue than gray in the west, and by 11:30 it was definitely clearing over Ellington. Called the DE one more time to say I was heading out to preflight the plane and would see him at Clover.
By the time I took off from Ellington you could count the number of clouds on one hand. The wind was around 8 knots out of the west, and the air was smooth as glass. Spectacular weather for flying! Took a round-about way over to Clover, as it is almost within spitting distance of the approach end of Hobby, and got there about 12:15. Time was not an issue, as the DE was 15 minutes late anyway.
The oral exam went fairly well. He managed to ask a couple questions I could not produce an immediate answer to, and we had a brief "failure to communicate" on one question about the weight and balance I had done for the flight. He then gave me a briefing for the flight test, explaining exactly what he was going to have me do, that he did not play "dirty tricks" like setting applicants up to bust some regulation, and that if I did not perform any maneuver within standards he would inform me at that time that I had failed the test.
Went through the pre-flight and startup, making damned sure I didn't miss anything on the checklists. I have heard about people failing before they ever got off the ground for simply forgetting to test the brakes immediately after moving forward. First maneuver was to be a soft-field take-off, which by a wonderful coincidence is the maneuver I have had the most trouble with. Well, if I was going fail, at least it would be a short flight. :)
Wasn't a particularly graceful soft-field takeoff, but it was apparently good enough, as he said nothing as we climbed out. I had been told beforehand that this DE is a real stickler for not turning crosswind until you are within 300' of the pattern altitude, so I made a point of telling him at exactly what altitude I would be turning. :)
Set course for the first checkpoint of the cross-country. DE tells me to compute the ground speed ASAP. Naturally I had neglected to work this into the flight plan, so had to sort it out on the fly, all the time wishing I had an extra arm or two. Managed to get an acceptable solution without straying off-course into a nearby group of 2000' towers. Upon reaching the first checkpoint he had me plan a diversion down to Bay City, computing distance, heading, and ETA. DE seemed to be satisfied with the results and told me to put the charts away and climb south to 2000 for some air work.
Remembered to do clearing turns, then went through a couple turns in slow flight, departure stalls, and approach stalls. Piece of cake! Next came some instrument flight, climbing and descending turns to a heading, and unusual attitude recovery. I got a touch of motion sickness the first time I did unusual attitudes with my instructor, but have never had a recurrence. Until yesterday, that is. As I was taking the hood off I could feel the cold sweat starting to form on my forehead. I mentioned that I was feeling a bit queasy, so I guess it should not have come as a big surprise that the DE chose this particular time to throw a simulated engine failure at me.
Now it is a favored trick of instructors and examiners to pull power on you and then ask why you chose to ditch in a field when there was a perfectly good airport right under you. I started going through the emergency procedures, set best glide speed, looked around for an airport, saw none, announced that I was going to put down in the large field to my left:
DE: Why not use that airport down there?!!
Me: Uhhhhh (looking again), sorry, I do not see an airport.
DE: Right there! To your left!
Me: (still looking) Uhhhh....
DE: You see those four ponds?!
DE: Well, what's that next to them?
Me: Uhhh, it looks like a housing development.
DE: No, that's an airport!
Turns out it was what they call an aviation community, a small private airstrip with houses built alongside it. OK, got set up for the approach, and the DE was not happy that I didn't elect to use a forward slip to get in. Had me go around when I was sure I'd make the runway, if a bit hot.
Since we were now low he had me pick out a reference line for some S-turns. I asked if he wanted them to the left or right. He said I'd be doing both, so it was up to me. Started to the right, a bit too steep (and, man, did he ever let me know it), completed the S and started to reverse the turns to the left:
DE: "Did I tell you to go left?"
Me: "Uhhh, no. You want me to do it again?"
DE: "No. Take us back to Clover."
Confidence starting to waver a bit, I dug the chart out and figured out where we were and started heading back. Announced that I had the field in sight and was told to do a short field landing, using the road at the approach end of the runway as a simulated 50' obstacle. I said I didn't see the road he was talking about, then realized I was about enter a left downwind on a row of trains west of the field. D'oh!
Got into the pattern (the correct one) and proceeded to do the butt-ugliest short-field landing in my short career as PIC. DE: "What in the HELL was that supposed to be?!!! OK, give me a short-field take-off and do it again. And this time I want to see a STABILIZED APPROACH!" Short field take-offs are simple: rotate at Vx, climb like a bat out of hell, and adjust pitch to keep the speed pegged at Vx until obstacle clearance. Managed a better approach this time, but still set it down a bit "firmer" than I should have.
Final task: a soft-field landing, no obstacle. Well, to put it succinctly, my soft-field landing just plain SUCKED. DE: "All right, I have the plane. Let me show you how to do a proper soft-field landing." At this point I was convinced I had failed. It was a great landing, of course. Man, they make it look so fricking easy. Handed control back over to me and had me taxi to parking.
Went through the after-landing and shutdown checklist. DE asks me what pastel color I'd prefer (one gets a pink slip for a failed check ride, dontcha know) and says I'll just need to bring my log book in. I hardly believed my eyes when he handed over two copies of my Temporary Airman Certificate to sign. :)
After we parted ways, I flew the plane back to Ellington Field. The air was smooth and clear, the sun was setting, and I had the plane trimmed for fingertip control. What an incredible feeling. It occurred to me that I had spent a shit-load of time and money getting to that point. I will never regret it.
Of course, with no more pressure (and nobody in the right seat watching), my final landing of the day was the greasiest of all greasers. Go figure. :)
PP-ASEL (<-- ink still drying.
As for the "Not exactly". I had started my training in the mid-eighties and stopped after 12 lessons and 14.4 hours. I took my next "discovery" flight on June 7th of this year and have my Temporary Airmans Certificate in my grubby little hand now, 5 months later!
Training went along as most everyone elses does. Some may recognize that I started and enflamed a thread about my apprehension about departure stalls, which were the main thing keeping me from my check ride. All things finally came together and Fred said that Im more then ready. After more than 50 years of training students, he ought to know.
I took the past few days off from my studies figuring if it hadnt sunk in by now it never would. I did cheat and read through the emergency procedures in the PIM a few times last night.
I met with Fred at 7:00am to make sure I had all my paperwork ready. I was in the air by 8:15 and was on the ground at Crystal River (CGC) by 8:45. I went in and told the person at the desk I was there for my check ride. He went in and told the DE, Tom, that I was here. When Tom was ready, we started the oral. He asked for my log, the planes log, where it showed its annual; You know, the basics. Then on to the X-C planning I had done. "What are your check points?" "How do you arrive at that number?" "Where did you get this number?"
It was then on to questions about the chart and its symbols, airspace along the route, requirements to fly in each airspace, cloud clearance and visibility for each, etc. He then said "Youve done pretty well. Well take a break and then fly. I know you pre-flighted the plane to get up here so just go do it again; I dont need to watch you do that. I looked at my watch. 45 minutes?!? I was expecting 3 or 4 hours for oral test. Most of the Private pilots I work with told me the better the oral goes the easier the ride is... Hmmm, but 45 minutes? That was a surprise!
After I secured my bags in the plane and did an abbreviated pre-flight, I returned inside to wait until Tom was ready and looked through an issue of AOPA magazine. There inside is an ad with the a picture of popsicle and the tag line "Keep your Cool". I smiled at this goods advice! On the way out to the plane I asked him how through a pre-flight briefing he wanted, as in "Are you a first time flyer?". He told me that hes familiar with the plane, egress, seat belts, etc., so I didnt need to go over those items. I did one quick walk around to make sure the plane was as I left it and we were off. Some simple conversation during taxi about what I do, how long he was in the Navy (The FBO has paintings and models of Navy aircraft all around it - mostly F4U Corsairs) and topics like that brought simple but uninterested responses.
During my runup and systems check he said "OK, lets do a short field take off and start your cross country." Since I hadnt finished everything, I told him I would once everything was checked.
The takeoff was OK and I turned to my heading. The AWOS reported the scattered clouds at 3500 but by the time I was getting to 2200 they were looking awful close, so I told him Id stop the climb here. Then I told him they look too close so I would descend to 2000. I started to look for my first checkpoint, a highway under construction. At the time I should have been crossing it there was nothing but trees and power lines which will parallel the roadway. I spotted the end of the road and announced that I had made a mistake, that the road construction had not yet made it as far north as I expected and identified our position on the sectional in respect to the power lines instead. "OK, emergency diversion to Inverness."
I found it on the sectional, turned to 090-degrees and checked the frequency. I said "Same frequency as Crystal River, so thats all set. "Whats the heading, distance and ETA?"
"It looks about 090-degrees, which is what Im now flying, and about 15 miles, so itll take about 7 minutes." "When you spot the airport, let me know."
Seven minutes comes and no airport. It has to be around here somewhere... Ahh "I have the airport at about 10 Oclock." "OK, give me a turn to the left to 360-degrees;. When you are stabilized I want a steep turn to the left for 360-degrees and roll out again on north. Not the best turn Ive done, but within limits. Next slow flight. 1.2 x Vs1 = 53kts indicated (I clarified this on the ground - did he want indicated or calibrated since calibrated is 60kts) I gained some speed and lost some altitude on one turn but stayed within the PTS for all of the slow flight. Power off stall was next then power on (My nemesis!) Slowed to 55kts, full power, held climb attitude, continued to pull back, watched for yaw out the side of the window, break and recover- back to climb attitude! Wow it worked well! Only a slight drop of a wing, which I handled and find myself climbing again within 5 degrees; of my original heading. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.
Next comes turns to headings under the hood, then unusual attitude recovery. Both are simple (I started my instrument training two weeks ago!) Once the hood comes off, there goes the engine. I immediately set up 65kts best glide speed and start looking around for a field. Just under the window sill on the right side I glimpse the runway at Inverness. I announce "There is an airport there so thats where Im headed." I go over what I would do "Check fuel on both, call mayday on 121.5, squawk 7700, carb heat on, check the mags one at a time if I have some power, restart procedures if the engine has completely stopped, consult checklist if I have time for anything Ive missed.
When I have a moment I announce on Inverness frequency, "Simulated emergency landing, Rwy 18, Leesburg." Someone else replies Leesburg doesnt have a Rwy. 19. Tom says "This is Inverness" Ugh. I correct my radio call as Rwy 19 Inverness.
I do some S turns to bleed off altitude, line up on the runway and drop full flaps. Still a bit high so I pull the nose up a bit to slow some more. Coming down nicely 200, 100 50 "Go around!" The next landing is to be a short field, which I blow and go around again. Decent short field on the next try even if I am a bit too long, but I have it stopped well before the designated end of the runway. Taxi back and do a soft field takeoff. Once the wheels become light, I start drifting to the left. A problem I havent had since just after I soloed. I think damn, I just failed) I correct and climb out.
"Intercept the 215 radial on the Ocala VOR. I have some trouble with receiving the identifier and Tom helps out. Once its sorted and I see which radial Im actually on I proceed to the north west to intercept the 215. I spot Crystal River Airport ahead and to the south west so I punch in Comm 2 which still has the AWOS frequency in it to check the cloud heights. Once I have that information I turn it off and Tom says, "Take me back to Crystal River." Uh oh. Bad takeoff and now radio nav problems? I did bust the ride.
We enter the pattern at CGC and Tom says make this a soft field landing. Looks good, nice descent centered, slow... A touch of power during the flare... The mains touch, but not a softly as I hoped and with a very small bit of side load, but acceptable. As we are rolling out, Tom says "Taxi back in and shut down. If you dont hit anything well right up that license for you." All I can say is "Thank you sir!"
I had my camera with me and asked him if he would mind me taking his picture next to the plane and after that was done, he took one of me. The test was MUCH easier then flying to satisfy my instructor! Now its time to really start learning!
I was scheduled to take my checkride this morning at 9 AM. I showed up to the flight school at 8 AM just to be extra ready, and to be sure the paperwork, logbooks, etc. was all in order. The examiner showed up at 9 AM promptly and we began the oral exam once the paperwork was reviewed, and I paid his fee. He started asking me questions on airport beacon colors, which I did not know. I told him we could find the answer in the FAR's and he asked me to show him. I spent 20 minutes looking, then I recalled it would be in the AIM. We moved on to performance questions which I was able to slip through OK. We reviewed my cross country planning and we discovered I had confused true course for magnetic heading. I was able to fix that. The examiner asked me some questions on regulations, and I was able to do OK on them, but not great. He then gave me a situation "Your company needs a part for their mainframe flown from Wichita to Garden City. Can you jump in your C172 and deliver the part?" I said yes, since it was incidental to the flight; at that point he warned me that if I missed one more question on the oral it would be a bust. He then explained
the part 135 rules to me briefly. I was asked some aerodynamics questions, and I did OK on then. We then ended the oral and he told me to go pre-flight. As I was walking towards the restroom he told me
"You really need some additional instruction on your oral topics, if that was with an FAA inspector, you would have busted."
Finally we get out to the airplane, and get in. I startup and we taxi to do a runup. The examiner faults me because I did not immediately do a brake check. I do not find the brake check right off the bat necessary since I will soon find out if the brakes work, but that was his opinion anyway. He asked me to demonstrate a short field takeoff to him. I did the takeoff OK, except he wanted me to hold the airplane in ground effect, I simply rotated abruptly and accelerated away from the field. Again, I think different people have different techniques for the maneuvers. We then began our cross country, we ended up at the first fix six minutes late, which the examiner seemed OK with. He asked me why we were late and I told him it was because I was climbing at 60 rather than my planned 65 knots, to which he agreed with. We then diverted to Hayes, and we did our takeoffs and landings there. The examiner was happy with them. We went up to do a ground reference maneuver which went fine, but the examiner said I was a bit high. He asked me to take him back to the airport, and we'd do instrument work and steep turns and stalls on the way home.
He put me under the hood and I pretty much lost control. I started out at 4,500 and he asked me to track a radial and descend to 3,500 followed by a climb to 5,500. Once I began the descent I had to turn about 40 degrees to intercept the radial. I entered this turn and apparently lost track of my scan because when I looked back down the heading indicator indicated a turn of about 70 degrees and the VSI was pegged at 3,000 FPM down. The examiner said "MY AIRPLANE" to which I told him absolutely not, I am PIC and I am recovering. He once again said "MY AIRPLANE -- NOW!" I gave him the airplane and he said he'd fly us home.
When we got on the ground we debriefed, and he told me that he was going to pink slip me for instrument work, steep turns (never did them), stalls (never did them), short field takeoffs, as well as FAR and AIM knowledge. I explained to him that he could not pink slip me now since he did not tell me that I had failed as soon as a blew a maneuver. He, in not so many words told me "bullshit." So now I have a notice of disapproval, and I never even knew I failed the checkride. The guy was a prick. I talked to the FSDO manager this evening and he is going to look into it. I admit that I didnít do flawless, but by virtue of him not telling me I'd failed, I thought I passed. Oh well, hopefully the FSDO will take administrative action against the bastard.
Now I need to find a new examiner...
Best Checkride Account Yet
Questions or comments are welcome ! PREAMBLE: Honestly, the entire day was a blur...seemed like I was walking back to my truck clutching my temporary certificate almost before I'd pulled into the parking Wednesday morning. This is going to sound kinda weird, but I'd describe the entire affair as a "near out of body experience." In my mind's eye, during the oral, I was floating up by the ceiling, watching myself sitting across from the DPE and when we flew, I was Superman watching ol' N5225A slip through the sky from some vantage point above and behind the plane. Of all the possible emotions that one could attach to such a "make or break" day, you wouldn't think CALM would be on the list, but that's how I felt. Here then, is my report to the group: THE ORAL EXAM (Duration 2Hrs 45Min): I have to say that the oral exam was a very cool experience...any concerns I had been harboring vanished almost immediately. My DPE (Mr. John Ortag) was right up front and said that there would be no spotlights and rubber hoses involved. This wasn't an inquisition, so much as it was a chance for me to demonstrate my strengths and to ferret out potential weaknesses. Weaknesses that I may not even realize I have. And, I just might learn more stuff along the way too! One of Mr. Ortag's favorite things was to ask me what I thought about a subject, before we'd dig into it. I think he was trying to see if I thought any particular segment of my training was either boring or something in which I didn't place much stock. He really did a masterful job of just nudging me in certain directions and then would sit back and see if I could glue together all the fragments that were a part of the material he wanted to cover. A couple of examples: -- "What do you think about this schools rental fleet and how can a renter pilot ""stack the deck in his/her favor?"" -----> Disection of airframe and engine logs for annual and 100 hour inspections, ELT and recurring ADs, preflight, fuel contamination, MELs and required equipment, airworthiness, AROW, POH/PIM, checklists, etc. -- "Why do you suppose we harp on slow flight so much?" ----> Discussion of Stall-Spin Awareness, the two really bad places to stall, what is a spin, spin recovery (I close my eyes and chant the mantra: Idle, Ailerons Neutral, Rudder Opposite Spin, Break The Stall, Recover Smoothly), aerodynamics, left turning tendency, P-Factor, slipstream, precession, washout/washin, thrust line, the four forces, the four things you can do with a plane, etc. -- "So we live here in sunny Arizona, we don't have to worry about the weather nearly as much as pilots back east do, right?" -----> Dissection and discussion of weather and weather-related issues...DUATS, NOAA, NWS, WX Depiction, Progs, FSS, Outlook, Area, Standard, Abbreviated, Fronts, Wind Shear, stable, unstable, lifiting force, microbursts, etc. I think I really hit a home run here, because I told him (and I do think this...) that the weather (or potential for weather...) can actually be more important in Arizona. Having so much good flying weather can lull you into a false sense of security. Woe unto the pilot who doesn't appreciate and respect the convective nature of the desert!! Pop up T-Storms abound and can be really unpredictable. With the possible exception of our "Monsoon Season", weather doesn't often come in easily identifiable fronts and air masses. Out here, bad weather can be very mercurial, very severe and it can blow up and bite you in the ass really quick. The Calender and The Clock rule all... For a lot of the year, if you aren't up, done and back down early, you're going to (at best...) get some pretty good convective turbulence. Mr. Ortag had assigned the ABQ (I can't spell Al-ber-ker-kee) International Sunport as our XC destination. As such, I made sure I brought up the TFR over the balloon festival. I pointed out NOTAMS for the Copper State Fly In which will be this weekend and that A39 (Phoenix Regional) already had amended operations in place (temp tower, ATIS, grnd freq, etc...) A39 is actually south of home base, but I wanted to show him that I was able to comprehend a bigger picture when it came to the airspace in our corner of the Phoenix valley. I even managed to dig out a nugget regarding one of the airports I had routed us over...en route to KABQ...the runway numbering had been changed from 7-25 to 6-24.when I got to the end of my weather briefing, I said, ďn light of the current weather picture, we're not flying to KABQ today." I think the No-Go descision was the right call and said so. I wasn't going to score any points by trying to BS him by saying well, we could fly a little more north here or a little more south here. I planned the route, te weather was sitting squarely and broadly across my route, I'm a 50-hour ilot and I'm not going to fly to ABQ...period...no wiggle room. This got smile and re-assuring nod from Mr. Ortag. Ok, I guess it was the timing, but I was a little taken aback when he dragged ot a deck of flash cards to quiz me on runway and taxiway signs, etc. As h had just finished a rather extensive session of weather interpretation, it seemed like a weird segue and I almost laughed out loud. In hindsight, it was brilliant because we had just been working on material that took divination and interpretation and he hauls off and hits me with 10 rapid-fire symbols and signs that you just have to flat KNOW. Next, we dug into the flight plan I had put together to ABQ. I hadn't made a conscious effort to balance pilotage, dead reckoning and electronic navigation, but it worked out that way and Mr. Ortag liked the route and my thought processes in putting it together. - No, we don't have to "run away" from the Class B...we can stay under it and still get out of the valley safely. - We fit nicely between this 4000' shelf and the 3400' top of this Class D airspace...but we'll call up and let them know we'll be overhead. - We're still close enough to this VOR to grab a radial, but in case we aren't, this feature will work as a visual turning cue. As a way to explain the route to my wife, I had printed up a map from MS Streets & Trips showing direction of flight and positons along the way relative to place names she knows. Mr. Ortag thought this was really neat. I'm going to have to remember to do this for all my trips as it does help with identifying specific roads and street patterns along the way!! Anyone out there keep a road atlas in the plane? So, I boldly begin to head down "Light Gun Lane" because my CFI and I had had several discussions about what to do if I ever came back from the practice area without radios (this, to a Class D field...) when Mr. Ortag stops me short, asks me to grab my AIM/FAR and read him the section for entering Class C without radios.
reading the FARs. What they DON'T say, is as important as what they DO say !!! Learning opportunity duly noted and filed away for posterity.
He: "I'm tired of talking...let's go commit aviation."
THE FLIGHT TEST (1.7 Hrs):
The first thing I did was look at my watch (see note above about time of day / desert convection...) and realized that we probably weren't going to get the smoothest ride possible, but I'd flown when it was hotter and I knew what to expect. My over riding thought was, "Be Proactive and Fly The Plane
... You're Not Just Along For The Ride!"
Since it had been out flying while we were talking, good ol' N5225A needed gas. So rather than just stand there in silence, after I called the FBO for fuel, I asked Mr. Ortag how he had come to flying, how many hours, etc and learned that he had been flying since the '70s, had been in ATC in the AF and in civilian life, but had gotten caught up in the PATCO/Reagan bru-haha, moved on to engineering work but that the "Sirens Call" never let him get away. It was a nice way to pass the time while I pre-flighted, it kept the
awkwardness level down and it helped me see a little more of where he was coming from vis a vis his own flying experiences.
Once fueled, I gave the tanks about 10 minutes to settle out, sumped all 13 points and we were ready to go...Almost...
I had "CLEAR" on the tip of my tongue when I realized, I FORGOT THE DAMN HOOD. The owner of the school must have been watching us because no sooner had I climbed out, he came bolting out the door asking what I needed...."I need a hood please...*SIGH*" I had even stuck a post-it note on my truck
dash board with the word HOOD in sharpie...and sure as hell, I left it sitting inside.
Ok, NOW we can go commit aviation...
The usual morning winds dictate RWY 4L for departure...so I was sure we'd
just have to make a little bend to the left past the airport boundary to 008
and we'd have Falcon Field right on the nose, no sweat.
In the Cessna Pilot Course, one of John Kings major talking points regarding the art of XC flying is: "If The Plan Changes...Change Your Plan."
ME: "Chandler Ground, Cessna 5225A at Tailwind with November...taxi to the active"
GRND "Cessna 5225A, Chandler Ground, Taxi to RWY 22R." Hmmm...wind shift...no biggie
ME: "Taxi to RWY 22R...25A"
Go through the run up...it's all good...no more theory...time to fly!! And we get to start with a soft field take off too boot! I like short/soft field stuff.
If you have a Phoenix Sectional...feel free to play along at home, because we're about to play "Let's Trap The Newbie!" Like I said, heading up off RWY 4L would have made life pretty good, BUT, taking off from 22R and the subsequent right-downwind departure happened to put me just enough more to the west that a shelf of the Sky Harbor Class B (100/30) airspace ended up right, smack in front of me as I climbed out fat, dumb and happy to my planned altitude of 3500'. I was almost dead meat before we'd even really started.
..NOW!) to hold us at about 2850' until we entered the next Class B shelf
(100/40) which would allow us to get over Falcon Field . Once I'd
unclenched my cheeks (yes...those cheeks) I managed to croak out a transition
request with Falcon, arrived overhead as planned, made the turn to 348 and it
was about then that my heart started beating again.
We discarded the flight plan once we reached an area to the east of Scottsdale and north of Fountain Hills and got down to the business of flying the PTS:
-Slow Flight: Bumpy but I held my parameters.
-Stalls: Clean breaks, good recoveries.
-Turning Stall: A little steep in the bank but recovered well.
-Hoodwork: Headings and altitudes as requested.
-Departure Stall Under The Hood: Just to the horn...chase it a little to find level...acceptable.
-Unusual Attitudes 1: Key on the airspeed... Increasing ... power out and pull.
-Unusual Attitudes 2: Again, key on the airspeed ... Decreasing ... push + power.
-As I'm removing the hood: Engine Out ... Flow ... No Restart ... trim ...look outside ... secure engine ... look outside ... brief pax ... look outside ... only option = dry creek bed. It might have been messy, but I
would have made it down.
Learned later that Mr. Ortag likes to do that to students in that particular area in order to find out if they can see that an iffy option may be your only choice! Don't try to invent landing areas that aren't there. He has an honest to God, off-field landing in an urban area under his belt that proves that point!
-Ground Reference Maneuvers: Rectangle=V Good ... S Turns=Good ...Point=It'll do
-Diversion to Prescott: All Good, but Oh Yeah, don't forget to amend the flight plan with FSS!!
-Back to Chandler ... much, much more aware of airspace, thank-you-very-much..
-A soft field landing (made kinda less soft by gusty winds...but it was pretty soft, no really it was...)
-Short Field Takeoff = Solid!! Called my Vx and Vy numbers and flew right to them.
-No Flaps Slip to Landing = Brought her in a little hot but it would have worked had I not been asked to"GO Around Please" (Fun when you're cranked sideways facing straight at the tower...)
"Now, give me a short field right on the second centerline stripe past the numbers..." The second the wheels hit the runway (right in the middle of the requested stripe, I might add...), that weird calm sensation came back.
In my mind, there was no doubt I'd passed. I just looked at Mr. Ortag who
gave me a thumbs up, shook my hand and said "Congratulations...Pilot."
The subject of busting airspaces and the severity of doing such was topic number one. Mr. Ortag gave me credit for catching on to what was transpiring and for taking corrective measures, but the point was abundantly clear: stay ahead of the plane, know where you are, and stay in the game at all times!!
- He suggested I get out of the habit of making initial ATC calls with A/C ID only and waiting for a response. Just spit out the entire request in one go which lets controllers handle you and move on.
- Be aware of runway / taxiway incursions ... they're on the rise.
- Always fly defensively and always expect another plane to be where you want to go.
- Make the AIM/FAR you're favorite book. The more you read, the better it gets. Really!
- Don't hit anything.
- Have Fun!!
Once all the paperwork was signed and all the handshakes and thank you's were exchanged, I walked outside, tried to call my wife to tell her the news but I had trouble seeing the keys on my phone. They were all wavy and something wet was dripping on them. Fortunately, it was only localized "personal weather", and when it passed, I was able to drive home home a very happy camper.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope recounting my exam /checkride experience will help others to achieve their dream.
Regards To All...
Jay Beckman, Chandler, AZ PP-ASEL
Still nowhere to go but up!
Return to Whittsflying
Continued on Page 6.46 Checkrides