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2004 Instrument Rating PTS Checkride Musts; IFR Checkride Items to Know; Instrument PTS; ...IFR PTS Navigation; VOR Skills; Terms; Reports; Radio Failure; Subjects Covered; Flight Test; Oral Exam; Icing; Checkride Failures; Checkride; Summary; Something Else I Learned; A Checkride; ...Had my IFR checkride Today; ...Passed on Third Try; ...IFR Checkride; ..The IFR Checkride; ...IFR Checkride (Opinion); ...An IFR Checkride; ...Another IFR Checkride; ... IFR Training Flight; Still Another IFR Checkride; A Collection of Reasons IFR Checkrides were failed; ...My IFR Checkride; ...How to Prepare; ... Expectations on Successful IFR Checkrides; ...Instrument Rating Checkride PASSED; ...2005 IFR Checkride; ...
2004 INSTRUMENT RATING PTS
Recovery from unusual attitudes no longer has to be without benefit of the attitude indicator.
Straight & Level, Change of Airspeed, Constant Airspeed Climbs and Descents, Rate Climbs and descents, and Timed Turns to Magnetic Compass Headings are all eliminated as individually evaluated tasks.
Steep turns are eliminated.
---The autopilot: is expected to be used
---Autopilot to be disabled for one of the non-precision approaches.
---Two Non-precision approaches (NPA) are to be expected since two non-precision approaches are required.
---One autopilot coupled approach required if equipped
---IFR approach approved GPS and current database, equipped then one NPA uses GPS
---One approach must include a procedure turn or an RNAV (GPS) Terminal Arrival Area (TAA) procedure.
---The TAA requirement is met if the first way point crossed is an Initial Approach Fix (IAF).
---Tracy VOR or GPS A, A vector to ECA (the IAF) would not suffice as a procedure turn or TAA
---Only one NPA may consist of a vector to final.
---One non-precision approaches must be without primary flight instrument(s). No AI or HI.
---Glass cockpit airplane, primary flight display (PFD) must be de-activated for approach.
---In the Cirrus do the Avidyne PFD Loss of Attitude Data procedure.
---This would count as the autopilot coupled approach.
---Or, blind the PFD and fly back-ups.. Cirrus could do the Garmin CDI page in a non-coupled approach
---Early in 2004 I flew two months in an early C-22 with most every flight using back-ups due to computer problems. Personally feel high early accident rate was due to lack of back-up instruction.
---Until WAAS is installed precision approaches are the same.
---Expect missed approach at ILS Decision Altitude.
---You must do a circling approach. Critical not to descend too low until on final. ---DE is expected to give you ‘what if’ situations for decision and risk evaluations ---Test is now more realistic and fits better as a Practical Test Standard
--Know lexicon definitions
--Proficient partial panel
--Get good preflight information with NOTAMs.
--Request ATC clarifications of clearances
--Manage workload with established priorities.
--Set and re-check altimeter setting
--Know differences between local and remote altimeter settings.
--Readback EFC correctly.
--Work on organizational skills.
--Know where you are at all times.
--Keep an eye in the sky perspective of the approach.
--Have a useable checklist.
--Run an approach briefing.
--Follow published IFR departures
--Know departure terrain clearance route and altitudes
--Know what an OFF flag looks like on VOR, ILS, LOC, Glide slope
--Ident all navigational frequencies
--Know your holding directions.
--Fly only the procedure for which you are cleared.
--Know when to make the procedure turn
--Watch for station passage on VOR.
--Avoid flying through the approach course.
-- FAR 61.43 requires all applicants to apply their knowledge during all phases of the test, ground and flight.
Examiners do not like to see the knowledge without ability to apply.
Checkride Items to Know
the weather picture for the planned flight
the use of ATIS, AWOS and 122.0
rules for filing an alternate vs. your legality
fuel consumption and aircraft range
FAR requirements for fuel
to use and anticipate radio frequencies
by saying aloud what you are doing and why
self briefing of approach elements and missed
a scan that anticipates and precludes surprises
to monitor trends and stay ahead of aircraft
to look for what is about to happen
make continuous study of weather
low weather occurs with darkness
fog gets worse with sunrise
weather will be worse as you fly toward a low or front
real time weather trends will replace a forecast
stronger winds from the south than forecast promises worse weather
warmer winds at altitude than forecast means more water
colder temperatures than forecast means less stable conditions
the 180 is always a viable alternative
a landing with an hour of fuel is always a good plan
things happen slowly with a properly flown airplane
when approach trends go awry go missed
never leave a safe altitude until things are right
When things go wrong reconsider your options
The use of GPS and demise of the ADF has changed emphasis. There is an Increased emphasis on partial panel skills. Single vacuum source problem requires applicant be familiar with alternate sources if any. . PTS requires performance of basic flight maneuvers with and without full panel. A non-precision approach is required while flying with partial panel.
The IFR check ride is designed to test and confirm the pilots ability to perform within the PTS limits. When checkride tolerances are 10 and 100, practice to 5 and 50. Every flight is a checkride. The unexpected cannot be allowed to cause the flight to come unglued. The formal checkride is a third opinion on student progress.
--Knowledge of VOR and DME interception and tracking
--Tunes and identifies is a MUST DO procedure
--Sets intercept radial and heading to intercept
--Intercept heading within 5 degrees, altitude within 100
--Sets tracking heading for radial inside 3/4 full deflection.
--Uses VORs to determine aircraft position
--Intercepts DME arc and tracks within 1 mile (Stay inside arc)
--Recognize navaid failure, reports failure to ATC
Knowledge of CDI (course deviation indicator) will indicate that when full deflection occurs you are 10 degrees off your course. At 30 miles from VOR a one-dot deflection put you one mile off course. Any interceptions must be at a predetermined angle. While you are doing something else an examiner may fail a navaid. Be aware that this is a part of the process and you must detect the failure or fail the test. Expect to orient yourself using VORs after being given examiner headings to disorient you. Be SURE to confirm compass and heading indicator setting before doing anything with the VOR.
--Tune and ident
--Center OBS FROM
--Set OBS so you will fly to needle
--Set and compare Compass, heading indicator, OBS setting
--Fly to needle
--Direct to VOR center needle fly TO
--Given a radial (FROM), put radial at bottom of OBS, fly to + wind correction
--Inbound and direct means TO the VOR
--CDI always points toward wind
--Set OBS radial under course index, needle is always on same side as station and moves toward and to center when on radial.
--VOR very high-frequency omni range
--VORTAC is collocated VOR and TACAN
--VOR-DME is VOR with DME
--CDI is course deviation (deflection) indicator
--OBS is Omni bearing selector
--Course index is top of VOR display
--Reciprocal course index is bottom of VOR display
--Ambiguity is the TO/FROM window
--Region of uncertainty is where needle swings back and forth.
2. compulsory when not on radar
3. un-forecast weather
4. emergency or equipment failure
6. missed approach
7. reaching end of clearance
8. changing altitude or airspeed
When do you begin approach? ETA or ATA whichever is later
When can MOCA be used? When within 22 NM of VOR
When is ceiling and visibility not on ATIS? Over 5000 and 10 miles
Know the static system (draw diagram)
--Primary and Secondary instruments
--Weight and balance
--Weather symbols or abbreviations
--Important! Assume the entire flight test is conducted during actual IFR conditions. Do not, for example, climb up to VFR pattern altitude after "breaking out" for a circling approach at 600 in clear weather.
--Always know your position and expect to be asked where you are.
--Expect to fly your flight plan as planned with minor changes.
-As soon as established on an airway, be ready to give an ETA for some checkpoint ahead.
--Know and use standard reporting procedure sequence. Position, time, altitude, next position, etc.
--Only one published hold for one orbit following a missed approach which gave little time to think about it.
--No request to demonstrate specific airspeed changes or rate/airspeed climbs or descents except as required during normal approaches.
--Only one 45 degree 360 degree turn required
--Examiner simulated ATC during most phases of flight exam except during actual approaches
--All altitudes must be held within 100 ft or less except when established on final approach. Then it is -0 to + 100.
--Circle to land approach must be to a landing that keeps the airport in sight.
--Although it was not spoken, the criteria for an acceptable NDB approach seems to be if you can find the runway after breaking out.
--Failure to ident any nav aid used will conclude the test. If you are not sure if you did, ident it twice.
--Approaches are not a best two out of three situation. The applicant has one shot and can either do it or cannot. If asked to repeat an approach assume the first one was marginal and the next one had better be much better.
--If the applicant does anything that would be dangerous in actual IFR conditions or if the examiner must intervene at any time during the flight, the test is over for that day.
Know AIM part 1 and portions of part 61 and 91 (mostly) that pertain to IFR flight
Icing system on aircraft, carb heat, pitot heat, defroster
--Option on encountering ice
--Where to first see ice.
--Flight into known ice
--Preventing prop ice
--About SIGMETS and AIRMETS
IFR checkride failures are in order the NDB approach, the VOR approach, en route procedures and partial-panel emergencies. In an emergency where the HI is lost you should resort only to timed-turns not compass-turns. Use time for larger turns and a count for small heading changes. Caution: Some turn coordinators have not been correctly calibrated.
When I got there, the examiner was out flying but he had left an IFR XC to flight plan, with a specified destination weather (guaranteed to make me flight plan an alternate). I sat down, pulled the Jepps and a flight plan sheet, identified the most obvious route and called the FSS for a weather briefing.
In actuality, the visibilities and ceilings along the route were pretty nice, but the killer was forecast showers combined with freezing levels SFC to 4000'. SIGMETS were out for heavy rime ice. The conditions were prevailing, not just local, so no alternate route was any better. I went ahead and did the flight plan including alternate, but I noted down that the flight was a no-go as far as I was concerned.
While I was working it out, the examiner stuck his head in to make sure that I had gotten started and then went to his office with my application, flight log, aircraft logs, and other paperwork. I finished fairly quickly as the route was familiar from the IFR XC I had actually flown. While I was working, he had reviewed all the paperwork (He was very meticulous in double-checking that all the requirements had been met.) He then took a look at the flight plan and asked me various questions about the route, fuel, alternate, etc; pretty much as expected. I pointed out that I would not fly that plan today for the reasons stated, and he was satisfied with that.
He then had me open up the enroute chart and made sure that I knew the various symbols. He did the same for a sample approach plate. The oral then skipped on to some miscellaneous questions about requirements to maintain instrument currency, VOR check methods, instruments required for IFR flight, etc. My guess is that my written test score created a pretty good initial impression and he was skimming a variety of subject areas quickly and making sure that my knowledge was commensurate with the score. Satisfied with that, he cut the oral exam off after about 30 minutes and told me to go file an IFR flight plan for our departure with a destination at CNO. He advised me that he intended to fly the ILS and NDB at CNO, then come back on the VOR approach to CCB. I called and filed, then pulled the plates.
Now that it was flying time, I got a little bit more anxious, but I tried to follow instructor's advice to me before the checkride, "Slow down, keep the scan up, and 7T's. So, I began following his advice by taking some deep breaths and deliberately slowed my walk to the plane. I did a simplified pre-flight, but emphasized flight controls, engine oil, and instrument checks, and indicated to the examiner that the initial pre-flight had been more thorough, but these checks on a second flight of the day should catch any real problems and he seemed to accept that.
We taxied to the runup area and called for our IFR clearance and release. After being advised of a 5 minute delay, I took the opportunity to double-check the radios, OBS settings, and ID'ing the stations. Since the stations came in on the ground, that saved a task that would have been done in the air. I also had the ILS approach to CNO up on the yoke clip and the CCB VOR approach topmost on my clipboard in the event of an emergency return. These were all organizational nuances that I had been taught and I think the examiner noted them.
We got our release and we took off. He had me put the hood
on at 50' and we proceeded to our transition point. Along the
way, we got a couple of altitude amendments, a heading amendment,
and finally radar vectors to the approach course. The air was
a lot bumpier than when I had first arrived, but not as bad as
the day I was all over the place. I was really focusing on keeping
the scan up, managing airspeed, and using the attitude indicator
and the climb and headings were being held well within tolerance.
While we were flying to the VOR, he shoved some approach plates under my nose and asked me what type of holding pattern entries I would fly for them given my current heading (I gave him the right answers). I slowed the plane down one vector before intercept and when I got the vector for intercept I was pretty stable and was able to turn on to the localizer with the needle centered in the doughnut. Intercepting the glide slope, I waited till I had the glide slope centered then pulled power for descent and kept one dot above the glide slope. I did lose the localizer briefly out to 2-3 dots, but a couple of quick, minute heading changes, brought it back to one dot and that's about where it stayed when I hit DH+80'. (I could hear him saying, "don't wait for DH, you'll bust through it for sure".)
At that point, I applied power for a missed approach, and the plane descended to DH +50' then gained a positive rate of climb as I continued to clean it up. We headed back to the VOR for the missed approach hold and then requested the NDB approach. The ADF was already set up to the NDB (which is the LOM on the ILS), so all I had to do was to set the VOR for an intersection as a backup to NDB station passage as the stepdown fix. So far I had down everything textbook, I was ahead of the plane, and I wasn't getting flustered.
As we were vectored to the approach course, we were cleared direct to the NDB and cleared for the approach. The direct course we were on was within 5-8 degrees of the approach course and within 4 miles of the NDB, so I then made a pragmatic decision and used the time and a few quick heading changes (all within +/-5 degrees) to set up my bracket and crab for the approach course rather than strictly maintain the direct course. We passed over the station as I began the descent with the wind correction angle already cranked in. I held it close enough to what it should have been that the examiner actually told me that he thought the ADF was off a bit and to look up and see why (we were 1000' north of centerline despite the steady course).
Again we were out on the missed and the examiner requested the VOR approach at POC. Wait a minute POC? I thought it was CCB. Did I hear wrong or did he spring this on me? We were climbing and getting vectors to intercept the approach course as I reached toward the back seat to try and find my Jepps. Fly the plane first, hold attitude and heading.
I finally got a hold of it and pulled it into my lap, almost knocking the examiner's headphones off :-). I forced myself to slow down and continue scanning the panel, while I flipped through looking for the approach plate. I finally got to it and succeeded in getting it out and up on the yoke clip without any significant deviations. I quickly dialed in the VOR's and OBS's and ID'd them as we got a vector to intercept.
Once set up, the pace slowed down again and the approach went off very easily. He called off the approach just before the VOR (one mile short of the airport). A brief bit of airwork and some more partial panel work, which was anticlimactic (I think he had decided that I really knew what I was doing - little realizing how sloppy I had been just before), and he told me to take off my hood and head for CCB.
I knew I had passed, but he hadn't said so yet. (Oh, please, don't let me screw up a VFR landing after all these hours of IFR!) I landed safely and, as we taxied to transient parking and stopped, he reached over to shake my hand, I had passed my IFR checkride.
During the debrief, the only two things he mentioned were: 1) I began my left turn on the NDB missed approach late, which calls for a climb on runway heading to 1400' then a left turn whereas I had delayed to 1700' before I began the turn, and 2) I have a tendency to bracket the turn indicator for a standard rate turn (roll-in, roll-out, roll-in, roll-out) - the natural result of paying more attention to the turn indicator rather than the attitude indicator. (Of course this is not a good practice, that will require improvement on my part; but at the same time, I have to give some credit to my lack of emphasis on the attitude indicator with doing well correspondingly on partial panel work and partial panel approaches.)
Would I recommend PIC? Well here's sort of an answer. It's not for everybody, I'm glad I got my rating, I'm not sure *I* would do it again this way. Not because PIC didn't do their job as promised - they obviously did. But despite the minor miracle of taking a 100 hour pilot and getting him IFR rated in 10 days, this pilot almost burned out. On the morning of the tenth day, I almost didn't care whether I passed or failed. Fortunately, I pulled it together for the afternoon of the tenth day.
Is there something special about the course? I'm not sure, but I'm inclined to say not. The material was straightforward and is out of most IFR books. I think the two most important factors were the instructor himself and the effective use of a simulator. I don't know what the other PIC instructors are like, but mine clearly loved flying and was a great pilot and teacher. The simulator is also a great help for pilots who might have trouble visualizing some of the more complex procedures: entering a hold, intercepting and holding an NDB bearing, flying a DME arc, etc; giving them lots of chances and repetition. For some other pilots, like myself, who are lucky enough to find that easy, more time might have to be spent in the plane because their flying skills aren't commensurate with their navigation/visualization skills.
Despite the fact that the one-time bill is hard to swallow ($3250 + airfare/motel [if needed] + plane); I have decided that it is probably less expensive than the slow and steady piece-meal route. But, you must be COMMITTED. This is going to take 10 days of *full-time attention*.
If you have a wife or girlfriend (or husband or boyfriend)
they had better understand this and be supportive. You cannot
be returning pager calls or thinking about work. Get rested up
beforehand (and don't offer to post a daily diary that can cost
an extra hour of sleep ;-) ).
My impression is that it is the ideal course for a pilot who has a few hundred or even a few thousand hours under his belt, is very comfortable in the plane, and just needs to focus some time and energy to get their rating. Or perhaps the short version, 3-5 days, for the IFR student who has put in 50 hours of training, 2-300 of total time, but can't quite finish up.
Else I Learned
It is probably a good idea to be very comfortable with the plane you intend to use. I made a lot of work for myself with my high-performance plane; the Cessna 172 really was easier to handle and so left more time to manage the approaches. Also, when you get your XC time, don't just work on heading and altitude maintenance, like I did. Work to understand the plane's behavior, responsiveness and performance, as you *change* the operating conditions, not just what you have to do to maintain the operating conditions.
At the same time, don't use your own plane - use somebody else's ;-). The kind of engine cycling that you go through practicing approach after approach is very abusive. As I found out. If you practice with an IFR simulator, practice for real; don't just fly the approach for fun. Fly the approach plate, change the plane configuration as you would in real life, make sure you run through the 5 T's at each appropriate point; do it for real because you want to get the habits ingrained.
While I feel that I really do know what I am doing, I also know first-and how easy it is to lose it when the workload increases in IFR. There was a discussion on one of the newsgroups about the validity of "personal minimums", with some people saying that personal minimums didn't make sense. I.e., if you were rated for IFR, then you should be able to fly to the published minimums. Now that I have been through this and gotten my rating, I agree with the concept of personal minimums. Yes, I can technically fly to published minimums, but my *margin* to overload early on is going to be lower now than it will be with more experience. Thus a progressively decreasing threshold, to increase your initial safety factor, Would I recommend only makes sense as experience is gained.
Had the instrument check ride November 3. It was very thorough, 1.5 hour oral and 1.5 hour practical. Covered all aspects of weather, what types of reports, what they are used for, when they are valid, icing conditions, thunderstorm distance avoidance, etc.
Discussed personal minimums as well as required minimums for ceilings and visibility. Discussed regulations as pertaining to requirements for instrument. rating and what an instrument. rating allows a pilot to do. Reviewed flight plan beginning with route selected as determined by approach (I was taught to plan an IFR route from the arrival to the departure) and ending with current weather conditions. All of the oral went extremely well, I had studied so long that I was able to answer questions that I didn't even realize I knew.... It was becoming second nature!
The practical, however, was a different story. I did the normal
preflight and etc. I was taxiing I was advised that clearance
was available on request. I advised 'tower' ( the FAA examiner
in this case) to standby until I had finished taxiing. Upon holding
short I advised 'tower' "ready to copy clearance".
But, the clearance I received was nothing even close to what
I had 'filed'. Of course I copied the clearance instructions
and read them back verbatim - but it was enough of a distraction
to get me a bit behind the aircraft, even before taking the runway!
(I forgot to put in the ATC frequency. in the second nav - I
try to do as much on the ground as possible)
After take-off the next fix is approximately 7 minutes, and that is where the route deviated from what I had filed. Well, during those 7 minutes, I was busy trimming the airplane and flying a 'perfect' path to the first fix (to impress the examiner) that I didn't spend as much time as I should have reviewing the clearance received (it should have been done on the ground!)
So now I am only minutes away from my next fix and receive my handoff to Kansas City Center. Oops! now I have to dial in Center's frequency (because I didn't do it on the ground - taking up precious time now) By the time I finish contacting Center and advising of my altitude, I am over the next fix! This is where the clearance received differed from what was filed.
I have to review where I was filed and make sure that I am on the right Victor airway, but there is no time as I am already at the fix. So a quick review and I discover that my current flight path has placed me approximately 20 degrees south of the victor airway. I make a quick correction and advise Center (the examiner) and (after a pause that seemed an eternity) am told to advise when on the victor airway. Whew, I thought I had failed the ride right then! Approximately 1 minute later the Victor airway is intercepted and we proceed on course as cleared. Shortly thereafter, about 1 more minute, I receive further clearance instructions, i.e. advise time of arrival at the next intersection and proceed on course to an alternate VOR.
Fortunately, I was back ahead of the airplane and made no more glaring and ugly mistakes. We completed intersection holds, approaches (NDB with vacuum failure - no attitude or directional gyro, ILS, VOR), loss comm procedures. Eventually I was vectored back home. As I was pulling of the foggles I thought that I was finished, but there was one more item. The weather this day, although clear, was rather 'bumpy', a lot of thermals and changes in wind direction. Also, the airport that I call home (MDH in Carbondale, IL) is under construction and the long runway is out of service, this day.
Therefore, we would be using the shorter and narrower runway 18L, which I have landed on many times but not recently. As we approach the airport on final(vectored straight in) I notice that my groundspeed was faster than usual even though the airspeed indicator is pegged at 75kts, right where I want it (flying a C172RG). On short final I notice the wind sock is pointing AWAY from me! That explains the faster groundspeed, I am landing with a TAIL wind! Right as I begin the flare, a quartering left tail wind gust almost pushes the A/C right tire off of the runway. I added just a bit more power and realigned the A/C with the runway and finally settled down, but this is a shorter runway. By the time I was able to slow to a taxi speed I was at the last exit prior to the end of the runway. Wow, an 'intense' landing with an examiner sitting next to you, that definitely gets the blood going. After the victor airway mess at the first fix and now this landing, this examiner must absolutely think the worst.
After parking and securing the A/C, the examiner proceeded
to debrief me on my performance. He said that the oral was excellent,
but that I had gotten behind the A/C as soon as I received a
clearance that was other than 'filed'. His comment was that my
performance at the first fix was 'marginal' simply because I
had not adequately reviewed my clearance, but that because of
my oral and the way that I handled the A/C (almost anyone can
fly though ;-)) he had decided to see how I would handle the
situation of not being on the victor airway as filed. Since I
was able to accurately identify my position and make the appropriate
corrections AND communicate with ATC my position, that he allowed
the flight to proceed. Also, as many of you know, a large part
of the Practical and real world flying, is dealing with distractions
and handling situations that are NOT pre-planned -- the examiner
wanted to see how I would correct the situation. So, what I had
showed him was that I was able to identify a poor decision, make
the correct assessments and take the appropriate actions to correct
So what I had thought was a fatal error turned out to be a situation in which the examiner could really assess how I would perform in a situation that was not planned... a dark cloud with a silver lining! The examiner informed me that I had passed! Wow! I felt very proud!
But what about that landing?! Surely he would have a negative
comment about that! Since the examiner had already
informed me that I had passed, I felt that it was probably safe to ask him what he thought. His reply, "yeah, I was a little perturbed at the tower for giving us 18L. It should have been 36R. Did you see which way the sock was pointing? Nice job on handling the gust and getting us down!" He thought it was a GOOD landing! Incredible, two silver linings in one day....
Had My IFR Checkride Today.
2 hrs oral, that was pretty easy, I've been studying for it since I got my private, over a year ago. Lots of questions about approaches, interpreting approach plates, flight planning, CG calculations, alternates requiments. No questions about en route charts. A lot of real life experiences, including an old guy that got an instrument rating with him that died about a month later due to fuel starvation, after missing 2 approaches on his planned destination and missing 2 approaches on his planned alternate.
He was ok with doing my flight planning with DUATS. Told him I'd be happy to manually calculate any leg of the plan he would like to. But he didn't asked me to.
Then we went flying. He asked me to do a hold on a dog leg intersection of a airway, got a bit confused at first, but finished 2 trips around the pattern ok. I switched instructors too many times, and I was never been asked to perform that type of hold, I ended up getting 1 minute further out than I was supposed to. ILS approach, almost perfect all the way through. The wind was howling, we had a little of mechanical turbulence and some convective as well.VOR approach partial panel (VOR on the field)
VOR approach full panel circle to land (VOR 5nm from the field). I was concerned about the hold, when we landed, he told me I passed, but said I barely made it. He didn't asked to, but I promised to fly with my instructor again, to redo all the maneuvers, that in my opinion weren't what I expected, but that according to him were acceptable, but not good in my opinion (I'm very demanding on myself). Important factor is I've been flying only in the night, with smooth air, it had been a while since my last day IFR flight in bumpy conditions. As an advice, try to make that last flight before the checkride as tough and realistic as possible. There's a world of deference here in south Florida between day and night conditions.
on Third Try
I passed my Instrument checkride on the third attempt Wednesday. For my first attempt, I studied really hard and knew my stuff, but when I got there to take my test, the DE said that I did not have enough cross country time. Apparently, you have to have 50 hours of PIC cross country time not including any cross country you did during your student pilot days.
A week later, I had gotten my cross country in, but I blew the knowledge portion of the test and also my NOTAMs were out of date because I had prepared my cross country flight plan the previous week. I got a 92 on my written test, but that was three months back, and some stuff was starting to fade a little. Also, the weather deteriorated unexpectedly, so I wouldn't have been able to do the flying test anyway. As it was, the clouds were only a few hundred feet above VFR minimums, and I had to reroute myself several times on the way back to my home base in order to maintain VFR. I felt like such an idiot because I knew that I knew this stuff, yet I hadn't been able to perform.
So on the third week, I put friends, family, work, and well-being aside and went back to the books. This time, I aced the oral and the flightwork. On the holding pattern, I got :53 outbound and :53 inbound. I did the comm work without any of my usual tongue-slip screwups. The only thing the DE commented on afterwards was that I should get a clipboard or something for my approach plates, and perhaps photocopy the approaches I intend to use. This is because I was having a little difficulty keeping the pages from turning in my approach plates. On two occasions, the page turned without me noticing, but I managed to catch it before doing anything wrong.
OK, here goes...
Background: I was born in a small Texas town called.....oh...let's not go that far back....Started flying lessons in March, got PP in June, started IR training in Mid-September. I took a week and a half off of work at one point and flew about 30 hrs, so that got things going in a hurry.
I took my checkride at Maryland Airpark (2W5) just south of D.C. My CFI flew over there with me in case there were any problems with the forms. A good thing, since he had messed up one of the dates. I met the DE inside the dilapidated FBO "building". Saying it was rustic is a compliment. Even so, the people there were extremely nice and the DE was a really friendly, laid back guy. I was nervous about the oral moreso than the flight.
We sat down and went over my logbook, checked the times and the long x/c. Then went over the flight plan. He had me plan a trip to Raleigh-Durham. No sweat there, just a few questions about flight time, fuel consumption, etc. Asked if we needed an alternate (no, great vfr forecast for the whole route), what are the required fuel reserves, what are the reserves if we filed an alternate, what kinds of things would I look for when filing an alternate.
Then we talked about ATC and radar coverage, what reports are required when out of radar coverage, and what are required when in radar coverage. We briefly went over the low altitude enroute chart and the planned route. A couple of questions about airway width, MEA, MRA, etc.
Then we moved on to A/C systems, what instruments quit with a vacuum failure, what happens when the pitot ices over, what if the drain hole ices over too. An interesting story he told about a Cessna that had the pitot and drain hole iced over and the guy didn't know it. He started a climb, and the airspeed kept going up, so he kept pitching up, and eventually stalled it, lost control and crashed. This guy must have been *really* fixating on that airspeed indicator. He asked a couple of things about what might happen if the elevator linkage broke, or the aileron controls broke. I hadn't thought about it too much but I was able to figure those out.
We talked about v-speeds, and autopilot use and a little about weather. No questions on approach charts, so I figured he'd ask me in the air. And that was it. The oral was about 1hr 45 min, but it went by quickly. He had me file a flight plan and then we went and did the preflight, during which he asked some more about IFR preflighting and what things to look for that you might not pay quite as much attention to when going VFR.
After preflight I had to go back inside and pick up the clearance by telephone, since we can't reach Cl.Del. on the ground. I called up and got "cleared into class bravo, etc, etc," and "talk to ya soon". Obviously the Washington airspace wasn't too busy yesterday afternoon!
As for the flight, we took off and I called approach when we hit 1000' and we were cleared to our destination. Our first waypoint was a VOR near Fredricksburg, VA (Shannon). The DE didn't say what approaches we were going to fly, but I figured a couple at Shannon since it was close, but he made copies of the plates for Quantico and Davison AAF and brought those along. We changed our destination with ATC to Shannon, and requested the VOR approach there.
So I open up my Jepp binder to Fredricksburg, VA and guess what...no plates. I had taken them out to study the night before and left them at home. DOH!!!
Luckily, he was very cool about it and said lets head over to Quantico and do the VOR there instead. We did that and despite a *lot* of bumps, I nailed that one. Took off the foggles and we were right over the runway with about a 15 degree crab for wind. We did a low approach and asked to head to an intersection about 1/2 way between Quantico and Davison. On the way we requested a left 360 and I did a steep turn for him. I think it was a good one, I'm pretty sure I hit my own wake, but with all the turbulence it was hard to tell. We requested 3 circuits of the holding pattern at the intersection, and I was a little worried about getting that down with the stiff crosswind, but I used the GPS and VOR together and hit it pretty close the first time. I guess that was ok, 'cause he had me ask to go to Davison AAF after just one circuit of the hold.
Over at Davison, we did the ILS to 32. Winds were 310 to 330 at 15kt, so tracking the localizer was pretty easy. I held the glide slope well until the wind quit on us for a minute (I had been holding only about 250 fpm 'cause of the low ground speed) and I got above the glide slope. I dropped off some power and captured it again no sweat. The only thing I missed was I forgot to turn on the Marker Beacon audio. I saw the light flash for the OM, and thought "damnit I forgot the audio". This happened just as the DE reached up and hit the audio panel button. He asked me how I planned to identify the OM/FAF since the audio was off, and I said that besides the light, I had the ADF set to the LOM, and I had a VOR set up for a radial/feeder route that intersected the LOC at the OM. He seemed satisfied, and we did a low approach and requested the NDB approach to 32.
Here I got lucky on a couple of counts. I've done *a lot* of NDB's since my home field has one, so I wasn't too concerned, especially since the wind was right down the final approach course. They gave us radar vectors outside the NDB which put us right on course, and meant no procedure turn to worry about! The only thing I kinda missed was descending to the published altitude once established on course. I caught it late, but in time to get down before the FAF. One other thing...I still had the LOC tuned for the runway from the ILS, and I thought "hmmmm should I turn this off, or use it along with the ADF????" Ok, you guessed it...I left it on...until the DE noticed and changed it. By that time I was within a few degrees of having the course nailed, so fine tuning it on the ADF was easy. The rest was just battling the changing winds and that stupid-ass ADF needle on the outbound course. Looked up right over the runway, and we headed toward home.
I should say that we flew the VOR approach on partial panel (no AI or DG) and the ILS without the AI, in addition to some other partial panel stuff enroute between airports. The last thing to do was some unusual attitude recovery, and boy were they unusual. Much more than what my CFI had done with me. On the first one we were in a climing right turn. The stall horn was really going and the airspeed was near 45. I recovered fine on that one. Next he had me in a descending left turn with the airspeed well over Vno. We started this one from 2000', so I was a little worried for a second, but I pulled off power, neutralized ailerons/rudder and slowly recovered, but we did get a hair below 1000'. I assume he was ready to help in case I needed it.
And that's it....landed, did the paperwork and then he took my old license. Now I've gotta wait another 2 months for the FAA to send me a permanent one. What the hell, it was worth it.
I plan on going on my first solo (with wife) IFR flight next weekend. About an hour and a half flight, but I'll only go if the weather is good, or light MVFR...gotta start slow. I got in a fair amount of actual IMC time, but that was with the CFI.
Hope you enjoyed the story, good luck to all you IR students out there...it's a great feeling.
The IFR Checkride
Took the IR checkride today. Oral went great. At runup, I discover the Hartford VOR is OTS. Hmmmm ... this'll be interesting, since nearly every approach uses it for something (if only situational awareness).
Climbing out, get the BDL ATIS, and sure enuff, HFD VOR OTS. Off to BDL for the ILS 33. Nice approach, worked out fine. "Maybe I can do this today", I thought. Although I have done many perfect approaches, I've also noticed that at any time I can completely screw one up, and that's not good for one's confidence.
Now direct LOMIS NDB for the NDB RWY 2 approach to Brainard. I pick up the HFD ATIS, no mention of the VOR being OTS. DE inquires about it, and I get to fiddling with the NAV radios and the audio panel as I come up on the NDB (bad move!). Hey, when did that needle turn around? Let's turn outbound, time, slow down, descend to 2500 ...never did get properly established inbound (no wind or turbulence to blame either!). I manage to set up an approach course that would've landed me about 2 miles south of the field. "I've busted, why isn't he telling so?" ... my mind was racing, my heart rate climbing, and my left foot somehow unconsciously was mashing the rudder to the floor. "Man, I'm having NO fun today", I thought. We take the missed, and head back to LOMIS for the LDA RWY 2 approach.
By this time I was thoroughly shaken and proceeded to blow the LDA approach by descending through the procedure MDA to the inbound MDA before established inbound. I knew it, but it ain't easy to cover up a 3 hundred foot excursion. "Crap! I think I wanna go home now ...puleeeeez!", was all I could think. Continued on inbound, a fairly rotten approach, and instead of descending to the stepdown of 640, I level off at 1000 to the fix, and then by the time I reached MAP I was high over the runway (about 1000 as opposed to the 400 it should have been).
OK, missed approach, let's head back home. I would have been happy to hand the controls to the DE and jump out right there ... grin! On the way, a few unusual attitudes (no problem), some timed turns and other whatnot (no problem).
The most unusual attitude in that plane was my own ... I was beaten, and had mentally given up. Not the way for a PIC to think! I was embarrassed, for myself, and for the instructor who was confident enough in me to endorse my log for the test.
As we taxied to parking, the DE, who, by the way, is as nice a fella as you could hope to meet under such circumstances says, "you'll have to show me those last two approaches again". "That's it", I thought, "the nail in the coffin" ... dramatic, eh? I take my time tying down, while the DE goes inside to type up the Notice Of Disapproval. I think how funny the language is ... getting the nod usually has a different connotation ... g!
A de-brief with the DE exposes my sins to the light, and we part amicably. I slink out of the FBO, careful to avoid anyone who might ask "so, how'd it go?". Picked up a bottle of good wine on the way home, and then made a nice dinner for the family (while managing to empty the bottle ... g!).
As Scarlett O'Hara said "tomorrow is another day". OK, so I have to do those approaches again. But I already know how to them ... what can I do differently?
1) Don't get distracted, especially before a fix!
2) If the approach is FUBAR, try to remember to be PIC. Firewall the throttle and get the hell out of there! There's more to being an instrument pilot than making the approach ... sometimes it's knowing when NOT to!
3) When it's time to call it a day, call it.
4) Any others?
Hmmm ... can I still post as PPL-ASEL-IA ... instrument almost?
Back to the drawing board ...
PS. For anyone I may have given checkride advice to recently ...
remember, free advice is worth what you paid for it ... grin!
PP-ASEL (IR student)
Dennis Collin wrote: this today", I thought. Although I have done many perfect approaches,
I've also noticed that at any time I can completely screw one up, and that's not good for one's confidence.
Sounds like me before my checkride. Having passed, I'm currently taking a break to let my wallet cool down and stop smoking. I'll pick it up again in January. This means going back to the instructor for some a refreshing coat of polish. It, and I get to fiddling with the NAV radios and the audio panel as I come up on the NDB (bad move!). Hey, when did that needle turn
BTDT, Very Bad Move. Comes under the heading of "Realistic Distraction" in the DE handbook. A de-brief with the DE exposes my sins to the light, and we part amicably. I slink out of the FBO, careful to avoid anyone who might ask "so, how'd it go?".
As Scarlett O'Hara said "tomorrow is another day". OK, so I have to do those approaches again. But I already know how to them ... what can I do differently?
Next day after flunking mine, I was back in the sim with similar wind conditions dialed in and I nailed the approaches flawlessly.
1) Don't get distracted, especially before a fix!
This is worth repeating. Don't get distracted, especially before a fix! Don't get distracted, especially before a fix! Don't get distracted, especially before a fix!
2) If the approach is FUBAR, try to remember to be PIC. Firewall the throttle and get the hell out of there! There's more to being an instrument pilot than making the approach ... sometimes it's knowing when NOT to!
Good Judgement (which comes from experience, and we know experience comes from bad judgement).
Back to the drawing board ...Not all the way back.
PS. For anyone I may have given checkride advice to recently ...>remember, free advice is worth what you paid for it ...
You'll do fine on the next pass. One can survive flunking a checkride. The instrument and initial CFI ratings have the highest
bust rate. They are tough.
Two months ago, I sold my TriPacer and bought a Twin Commanche. I had my reasons. After being told for years to get my instrument rating, I finally got around to it. The rating in itself wasn't difficult. I did find that while a TriPacer makes a fine platform for instrument training, it only took a single long trip in IMC to convince me that flying actual in it was bullshit. I wanted to fly instruments, but I didn't want to do it in a TriPacer. And there was another, maybe better reason. After 400+ hours, after flying the plane South to the Gulf of Mexico, North to the Great Lakes, East to the Statue of Liberty, and West to the Golden Gate, I had outgrown the airplane. I'd landed it everywhere from grass and gravel to SFO, I flew it down low in the scud, over the mountains, IFR, with parachute jumpers - and it was time to move on.
Moving straight to a Twin Commanche was a big step - one that quite a few people told me was biting off more than I could chew. In a sense they were right. I could not believe how quickly things happened. The old TriPacer climbed out at a sedate 400 fpm with two on board and full tanks. This gave me a little over a minute to get myself situated on the climbout, look around, and get ready for the crosswind turn.
The TC climbs at 2000 fpm. This gives me less than 20 seconds to get established in the climb, look around, and get my turn to crosswind started. I was behind the airplane from takeoff to landing. Sometimes, at my best, I would get a glimpse of the tail.
The first 10 hours were a struggle. Knowing that PA-30 qualified DE's were in short supply (there is ONE in the Houston FSDO) I set my checkride up a month in advance, and in the meantime I flew all I could. I could not imagine how I could possibly be ready in the 20 hours of dual the insurance company wanted to see.
At 15 hours, something happened. All of a sudden, I caught up with the airplane. As it happened, I could have easily taken the ride at 20 hours. I wound up going in with 26, only because I was ready 2 weeks before the checkride was scheduled and not flying for 2 weeks before the checkride is not a recipe for success.
The checkride was at 8 AM at LBX. My instructor and I arrived there at 7:30 and topped off the main tanks. He had to go there with me because my insurance company does not permit solo in the airplane without the multiengine ticket. We met the examiner, made sure the paperwork was done correctly, and in a supreme display of confidence my instructor had a friend pick him up in another airplane and told me I'd fly the TC home myself after I passed the checkride. Of course if I failed, someone would have to come pick me up.
The oral took a little more than an hour. We covered the basics - gear and flap systems, multiengine aerodynamics, fuel management, critical speeds, certificates and documents. We didn't do any weather or regulations - since I already had single engine, glider, and instrument ratings I was presumed to know this stuff.
After the oral, he told me how the checkride would go. We would perform a short field takeoff, climb to altitude, do the airwork (steep turn, power off stall, power on stall, slow flight, shut down the critical engine, and VMC demo) and then an emergency descent to 2000 ft. Then vectors to final for an ILS with both engines to a touch-and-go, published miss from the touch-and-go, full procedure ILS with an engine failure to a full stop, taxi back, aborted takeoff, normal takeoff, engine failure on takeoff, and then a normal pattern and short field landing.
We discussed how he wanted some of the procedures done. Some were different from the way I had practiced them, and I spent some time making sure I understood exactly what he wanted. I was beginning to see that I was not going to get any surprises, and sure enough I didn't.
He watched my preflight, and I explained about hitting the high points on my walk around inspection - fuel (4 tanks), oil (2 dipsticks), security and proper movement of control surfaces, general condition. I did not use a checklist for this and he did not seem to object. Then we got in the airplane.
I went through my pre-start checklist and started the engines. In the course of my training, I developed my own set of checklists. The ground checklists are on a laminated card, and cover pre-start, after start, before runup, after runup, before takeoff, after landing, before shutdown, and after shutdown. The in-air checklists are limited to only a few critical items and pasted on the panel. They include a checklist for cruise climb, level cruise, approach, and securing an engine. He seemed satisfied with the checklists.
The first takeoff went reasonably well - he felt I was overly aggressive about pushing the nose down to get blue line. The air was smooth as silk, and I got the plane established in the climb to 3500, all nicely trimmed out. The upper airwork was all routine - he wanted slow flight done at lower speed than my CFI so I had to guess at a power setting, but I guessed close to right and he was patient about letting me dial it in. The emergency descent went well, especially considering I had never actually done one. The problem started on the first approach.
I got a little distracted, and did not catch the localizer needle coming off the peg. I started my turn onto the final approach course with the needle almost centered. It did not help that the examiner had vectored me pretty close to the marker in order to keep us out of clouds. Basically, I blew through the loc.
Knowing I was still outside the marker, I turned to an intercept heading and told the examiner "I was slow to intercept and blew through the course, but I still have time before we hit the marker to get it back." Sure enough, by the time the glide slope came alive I was within a dot of centered. As the needle moved down I turned on the electric fuel pumps, advanced the props, put down approach flaps, and, as the glide slope centered, dropped the gear. And all down the glide slope, I kept it within a dot and a half. At minimums, the examiner told me to go visual and I lifted the hood and made a touch-and-go.
As I climbed out, I put my hood on and started the missed approach procedure. All went well as I crossed the marker, waited about 90 seconds, made my procedure turn outbound, waited 60 more, and turned inbound. That's when he failed my engine. I identified and verified correctly (he told me not to feather) and I did a good job of holding altitude and airspeed, but I shallowed my bank too much. As a result, I blew through the loc AGAIN. I did the same thing as last time, and made a good single engine full stop landing.
As I taxied off, I realized that I had only a little bit to go, but I was already tired. We did the aborted takeoff (a total non-event because he killed an engine at walking speed, just as I was starting to accelerate) and then, after takeoff and climb to 200 ft, he killed the left engine. I started my mantra of "Everything forward, everything up, identify, verify, feather" but he missed the "everything up" part. It took a bit of convincing but finally he accepted that I had said it (there was nothing to do - everything was already up) and allowed me to complete the verify and feather (simulated) steps. As soon as had a good climb going he let me have the engine.
As I began my crosswind turn, he asked "what direction is the traffic pattern here?" I had started turning left and LBX has right traffic for 17. I made my usual gentle 180 onto downwind, but of course I had gotten too far left. I was too tight on the runway. I thought about moving the downwind out, but I thought too long, and it was too late. I took downwind out a bit, and base was only a momentary leveling of the wings, but I overshot final for the THIRD time. As before, I corrected my mistake and short final was looking good. I slowed it to 90 as I approached the numbers (90 is too fast for a short field landing in that airplane, but that was what he wanted) and made what I consider to be a normal landing but which he felt was short field.
I taxied up to his office, and the ride was over. In a way it was anticlimactic. I didn't feel like I'd really been tested. It was just after 11 AM (for a combined ground and flight time total of 3 hours) before we sat down to do the paperwork. I sat and rested for a while - I felt drained and slightly disappointed. Then it was time to go home.
Weather had deteriorated, and my flight home was going to be challenging. The straight line distance from LBX to EYQ is only 50 nm, but I filled the tanks, acutely aware that I now had a range of 900+ nm and thus had many options. This was a good thing. The southern portion of the route was marginal VFR (low broken ceilings) with T-storms. The storms ended about 20 nm short of my destination - but there the ceilings were reported below 1000. Too low to scud run in an airplane that fast. After some consideration, I made a plan. I departed LBX VFR and climbed through holes to get over the top, because I certainly wasn't going to file in an area of convective activity without weather avoidance equipment. From 7500 ft I could see the big stuff. I deviated West to stay out of the Class B, and got North of the convective activity. I could see that there was nothing but low stratus between me and EYQ, so at that point I contacted approach and filed IFR. They gave me an immediate descent so pretty soon I was in the soup for real. It was silky smooth, and I broke out on the NDB approach about 500 ft above minimums, flew to the airport, and landed.
The total flight time was 0.7, with 0.3 of that actual including an NDB approach. Now I felt like I had earned the rating.
Michael Masterov PP-AS/MEL,IA,G
Another IFR Checkride
The oral began with a check of my application form, current pilot certificate, and medical. Then it was straight to the
airplane logs. The examiner wanted me to prove that the plane is legal to fly IFR. I had gone over the logs the day before, so I was able to quickly find the log entry for the pitot-static and altitude reporting inspections as well as the one for the most recent annual, which happened to also be within the last 100 hours. Then the
examiner asked about the airworthiness directives (AD) for the airplane.
My FBO uses a system that calls for of all of the maintenance information for the airplane to be kept in a three-ring binder. Finding the log entries is simplified, and the AD information is right at your fingertips; each AD has a single page dedicated to it, upon which is the exact wording of the AD and space for the mechanic to describe the fix and sign off the AD. Unfortunately, I had not looked closely enough at some of the AD entries, and the particular AD that we looked at was a recurring AD that, according to the text, must be inspected and signed off every 100 hours. Alas, it had been more than 100 hours since the last signoff. Before we flew, we had to get a mechanic to check the applicable aircraft systems and sign the log.
Then came the expected questions about the currency of the pilot, including the use of a simulator, and general guidelines and regulations for IFR flying. I was asked to diagram and discuss the pitot-static system (could have been the fuel or electrical system as well). What is a VOR-A approach? When should circling minimums be used instead of straight-in minimums? Is there ever any restriction on which direction a circling maneuver may be made? (Yes, when so stated on the chart, e.g., circling NA north of runways 10/28.) We looked at approach charts and enroute charts, showing that I know what the symbols means. What are MEA, MCA, MOCA, MAA, etc...? What are the ways of checking a VOR?
One aspect of the oral that I found quite interesting was the fact that the examiner asked questions that took into account the knowledge that I obtained during training for my private certificate a year ago. For example, an interesting question was a problem that was posed using an example of a real-life route on my chart, and in the airplane that I was about to fly. I was given the following conditions: I'm in a Cessna 172 at max gross weight on an airway at the MEA, 4000 feet. I'm told that a nearby airport is reporting a temperature of 102 degrees F. I'm following a route upon which I'm approaching a fix that has an MCA of 5000 feet, and another fix that's just a few miles after that with an MCA of 9000 feet. Suppose that I lose two-way communications before crossing the first fix. When should I commence my climb? Of course, my answer was that I should be to 5000 by the first fix and 9000 by the second fix. But then, after some prodding by the examiner, I take the temperature and the fact that I'm at max gross weight into consideration, and into the airplane manual I go. To my surprise, I find that I would not be able to make 9000 feet by the second fix if I'm only at 5000 feet by the first fix, based on climb gradient information taken from the current conditions. It was an excellent problem. And it a very good extension of what I had to know for my private practical: density altitude, climb rates (ft/NM) at full gross weight, etc..
Another question that was interesting regards what I'd do if I noticed that my vacuum was slowly dropping. I said that I'd keep in mind that my AI and DG would likely become inaccurate, and thus I'd rely solely on the other instruments for pitch and bank information. The examiner asked me to imagine this in reality, and we came to the conclusion that everyone should carry something with which the instruments could be covered should they become inoperative. This seems like a good idea to me, because I would likely still include the AI and DG in my scan, because that's what I'm trained to. (Most of our training on partial panel is done with the instruments covered, eh? So why leave them uncovered if they are actually broken? And hey, there's a good marketing slogan in there for companies that sell those little instrument inop stickers...
Another question that I found interesting was regarding the maximum bank angle at which a wet compass is still reliable. The formula that I've seen for bank angle for a standard rate turn is approximated by [(KTAS/10) + 7], and thus if you're going 120 KTAS, that's 19 degrees of bank (and more if you're going faster). Check the literature and you'll see that this is over the theoretical limit for a wet compass. This is good information to consider when losing vacuum; at certain speeds, one might wish to inform the controller that half-standard-rate turns would be used.
Another question was the following scenario: I take off from my home airport, which does not have a precision approach, and weather is below the lowest minimums at that airport, and as soon as I get into the soup, my alternator dies. So I have a short amount of electrical (battery) time left; what would I do? I thought that the examiner was testing my knowledge of lost comm procedures. In fact, the idea was that there is an airport nearby with a precision approach, and with my remaining electrical juice, it might be better to simply declare an emergency and shoot that approach, instead of remaining in the system and risking further problems. The point of the question was the idea of situational awareness. Always have a plan for emergencies. This, another excellent question, drove the point home. In general, the oral was a set of questions that required analysis of the information at hand, rather than simple repetition of memorized information.
Then came the flight. Fortunately, from my home airport, there's only one direction in which to fly where there is an NDB within a reasonable distance, so my instructor and I concentrated our practice flights in that area, and this is the direction in which the flight went. I am moderately familiar with the airways, radials, and intersections in that area.
I offered to do a VOR check during run-up, but since I had answered the questions regarding VOR checks during the oral, I only had to show in the permanent log that the VORs had been checked within the past 30 days.
The examiner gave me a clearance to fly, and I made sure that I could fly it before accepting it (thanks Roy Smith). The examiner played ATC during most of the flight. The route was unique, in that I had flown a similar one only once before. It included "...radar vectors SUNOL intersection victor 195...", and during the flight, I was told to resume my own navigation and thus fly to the intersection, which is defined by two VOR radials. I tried to use my DME and immediately, the examiner said that it was inoperative until further notice.
There was more wind and turbulence than on any of my training flights, and I had about 20 degrees of wind correction at one point while flying the airway. I was given hold instructions and asked how I would enter the hold, then the instructions were amended to expect the VOR approach at a nearby airport.
The VOR approach went well; the wind was varying by about 30 degrees during the approach, and the controller was doing an excellent job of keeping we pilots up to date regarding its direction and magnitude. And its magnitude was strong enough to cause me to use a different approach groundspeed than I would normally use for timing calculation from the FAF to the MAP.
Next were vectors for the NDB approach. I wish I had done this approach better. I intercepted the inbound course quite well, and there was little wind correction, but as soon as I passed the FAF, a compass locator, the controller gave a wind report that made be believe that I should change my heading, and I did. In retrospect, the controller's statement that the wind had changed didn't mean that it changed for me right over the FAF, but I corrected for it anyway, which was a mistake. I should have stayed with the heading that got me to the fix for at least a minute -- and I know this -- and then corrected based on the needle indications thereafter. Thus, upon taking off the hood, I was dismayed to see the airport off to my left.
Next was the ILS, which went smoothly, even with the turbulence
through a thousand feet. The only interesting thing
about the ILS is that the examiner intended for me to remove the hood at DH and continue along the glideslope in visual conditions to a landing, but I started the missed as soon as my altitude was within thirty or so feet of my DH. I was just going by my experience with my instructor, which is that if he doesn't say anything, I leave the foggles on and go missed. There are probably a variety of ways to communicate whether a landing is desired or not, and I'll bet this is a problem with student/instructor combinations as well.
Then came the airwork. There was a vector to climb to a certain altitude given a heading, and then instructions to do a steep turn once stabilized. (After the approaches and before the airwork, the examiner allowed me to remove the foggles for a minute or so. Then I was instructed, "Put the foggles back on when you're comfortable", to which I responded, "Okay, I'll put them on when we're back on the ground", to which the examiner responded with a laugh, "Foggles on NOW!"
I nailed the steep turn. Then the AI and DG were covered, and I did compass turns, altitude changes during turns, and unusual attitudes. After all this turning about, I was asked to show on a map where I was, and at first I read my OBS indication incorrectly after centering the CDI needle; I was off by 10 degrees, but I quickly realized that I was 10 degrees off when told to fly to intercept an airway and fly to a fix, and thus correctly stated my position moments after incorrectly stating it.
On the way to the fix, I determined the type of entry correctly, cross-checking myself with two different methods. (This is something that I learned very late in my training: I draw the hold on the chart and draw my direction of flight into it and use that to determine the type of entry. Then, if I there is enough time enroute to the fix, I double-check that with the exercise of super-imposing the 70-110-degree lines on the DG. Since determining hold entries was somewhat difficult for me, I would make mistakes somewhat frequently; this double-checking greatly reduced my mistakes.)
There was also enough time enroute to the hold to allow me to consider some of the winds that I'd be dealing with. It was great that I thought about that because my DME and second NAV/COMM became inoperative (per the examiner) immediately preceding my entry into the hold. Thus I was using a single NAV radio to determine the fix, which was defined by crossing VOR radials, during the hold. And the hold itself was interesting because my first inbound leg was fifteen seconds long (quick: how long should your outbound leg be?), and a 20-degree correction on my first outbound leg still didn't seem to be enough.
And then it was over. The examiner said, "Take off the hood and take me home." And here was another way the examiner could determine whether I've retained my VFR abilities, too: We returned to an airport that's under both Class B and Class C airspace, and thus I had to be down below the airspace by a certain point. The flight back was also an opportunity to discuss the flight and the oral portion, but I remained sure that I kept my mind fully on the flying.
In retrospect, the experience was an educational one, and
even though I was nervous, I had fun! I recognize that I'm not
a great and one-hundred percent proficient instrument pilot at
this time, but I look forward to using the rating.
I hope this note was interesting reading and I hope that it helps those that are studying now for their instrument rating. Other stories in r.a.ifr helped me.
I flew 1.8 with a pilot who just paid $6,000 for a one-week IFR rating. I have been checking him out in a C-182 RG and he learned a bit more than he expected. I had him pre-file for three towered airports all within a fifty mile distance. I told him we would be making full stop landings with taxi backs at each airport except our home field.
The night before we had talked over the en route courses, altitudes and procedures in the cockpit required to stay two steps ahead of each present position. This included when to get the ATIS, presetting the navs and coms ahead of time for #1 to fly and #2 to intercept. The weather was expected to be IFR throughout with ceilings above all minimums.
At the airport we sat in the cockpit and did a dry run with the radios, changing the frequencies and practicing what to say and when to say it. We started exactly on time and then the unexpected began to happen.
--The weather was improving more rapidly than expected.
--Pilot did not note manifold drop due to carburator icing.
--The clearance came as expected except radar not available.
--Only limited services were available from departure with position and altitude call-outs required.
--Our handoff went smoothly and pilot indicated that he had ATIS and was planning a full stop. Curve: ATC gave pilot a choice between two approaches a localizer or a VOR. Pilot chose VOR.
--I had to suggest setting up for the approach including an intercept radial for descent change to FAF.
--Even though there is a full approach procedure it is never allowed. Curve: Unexpected vectors
--We had discussed slowing up the RG before making descent but I had to tell him before it was too late.
--VOR runway was not the active but I felt that wind would allow a straight in landing. Told him to ask.
Straight in was allowed with a two mile call.
--Approach has a visual descent point (VDP) so at proper DME distance I had pilot remove foggles and to request roll-out to the end and activation of his pre-filed plan.
--Clearance was simple but required expedited climb before crossing a pre-determined VOR radial a new
procedure for the pilot but aircraft did it easily.
--Pilot had obtained ATIS for this approach while on the way to the first one so he was well prepared for the handoff which included this time his requested approach and planned full stop.
--Once again the necessity for getting slowed up and requesting lower altitude helped us to get established ahead of time for the intercept and descent. Curve: We had an increasing tailwind throughout the approach so
the rate of descent had to be gradually increased to 800 fpm without appreciable increase in speed. Pilot had to be told to add flaps.
--Coming out of foggles at minimums and making a good landing is perhaps the most difficult flying procedure of IFR flying. He did not wait out the float of the aircraft due to tailwind so pulled power and hit hard. Learning!
--Taxied to departure runway and copied clearance which required immediate right turn to intercept VOR radial and heading turn on reaching 1500 feet to intercept distant VOR radial. lStudent tiring but still game while setting up radials
--Different frequency to Center than used on arrival confused pilot momentarily.
--Departure procedure was thought out for departure on Rwy 14 but tower sent us to 19. Curve: I helped pilot on to 19 and into the requried intercept heading.
--Before reaching the distant VOR we were handed off to a different facility. I told pilot to ask for lower but ATC was unable until we entered her airspace. Advised pilot to slow up in preparation for approach and to advise ATC that we had the ATIS and would be full-stop.
--Had to descend from 5000 to 1300 in less than four miles. We already had gear down and 10 degrees of flap. Went to 20 degrees and made our intercept altitude just in time. --Curve: We had been vectored in close for the LDA expecting to do a circle to land but tower offered us the modified straight-in of the LDA so once again pilot had to adapt his altitude and timing to the new situation.
My point in giving you all of this is to indicate that just as ATC can vary from what is expected, so should you be aggressive in making suggestions for changes that will make your IFR flying more efficient and suitable to your needs. Learn to negotiate.
Take a look at the IFR part of my web site at
Still Another IFR
Things to know:-I forget little things like getting my time off -My instructor is very picky so maybe I'm doing better than I think (he points out things liek being 25ft off on altitude or being 1/2 dot off on the VOR.)
-I flew yesturday with the wind 180@ 15 G25 and the winds
at 3,000 190@27 (also low level wind shear) and I got off on
my altitude several times. Thats usally not a big problem but
with the winds I was having a really hard time managing power,
airspeed, and altitude.
lInstrument flying is a three- parter (at least).
Part one is knowing the rules cold. You said you don't have anxiety re the oral, so you must be good in that area.
Part two is procedure. You said you keep forgetting little
things like timing. I found the "cure" for this, at
least for me, was sitting in a chair at home and "chair
flying" the problem areas over and over. It's the cheapest
sim time you'll ever have and it is very effective. Just practice
the procedures so that you get them right every time. I put cure
in quotes because you'll always forget some little nit. The point
is not to look like
you're unsafe (for the check, or be unsafe for real). If you practice fly at home, I think you'll beat most of those nits down.
Third is flying the aircraft. In a light aircraft with winds blowing like you described, I doubt anyone could fly on speed and on course the whole approach. You just keep fighting to get back to center. Some would say your instructor is being too critical. I would disagree. As long as he isn't an obnoxious sort, pushing you to be perfect is what he should be doing. You should be doing it to yourself as well. Everyone gets off center, just always correct back in a smooth, coordinated manner. It's the attitude/practice of correcting back, not the getting off center, that is most noticeable to most examiners.
Oh, I just thougt of a fourth part. Put on a game face. I always went into check rides knowing I would pass. Easy for me to say sitting here with a cup of coffee on Saturday morning, but you're facing a challenge; don't let it beat you. Be nervous, but be confident (distinctly different than cocky). You can pass this check and all others in the future by being prepared; know the rules, practice the procedures until you can do them with no thought, fly safely and conservatively.
The ticket is in the mail Zach. Keep practicing, keep reading,
hanger fly with your CFI, chair fly at home and you'll have no
Best hint I ever heard for flying a good ILS is "Get
established on the glideslope, then DFWTP (Don't F*** With The
Roy Smith, CFI-ASE-IA
Don't forget to Identify. In fact, always use a mental checklist for your approach plates. Review all of the local approaches in case you happen to get one. Hopefully you've done quite a few of them already. Don't worry, it takes a lot of experience to have complete confidence on instruments -- all YOU have to do is pass a check ride
Oh, most importantly- while your just sitting there doing
nothing but flying- develop your situational awareness picture!
Power management probs? you should know the numbers by now (tach
and man) for each phase and then trim.
IMHO, whatever way works best for you is what you should use. Certainly no DE should fail you on the basis of the method you choose, as long as you stay on the glide slope.
I *will* say that I personally, and most pilots I talk to, find that using pitch control (and the trim in particular) to control glide slope works best for me. You get finer control over your glide angle using pitch, since power adjustments are difficult to make with much accuracy (too much play in the control cable, for one thing).
As long as you fly the approach above best glide speed, it's very easy to steepen the glide angle by increasing your airspeed and to reduce the glide angle by decreasing your airspeed. In most planes, the trim gives you very accurate control over your glide angle, and the control inputs are very natural (nose down for steeper approach, nose up for shallower approach).
But that said, as I said up front, if that technique isn't doing it for you and you find that controlling power is easier, there's no reason to not stick with that. Pitch and power are inseparably intertwined, and in many situations, one can be used to accomplish the same goal, albeit in slightly different ways. In fact, the "pitch for glide angle" technique works ONLY if you have the power roughly in the right place in the first place; if your descent angle is way off, you'll need to adjust power to at least get it in the ballpark before you start using pitch to fine-tune things.
One final note: your success with this technique will vary
from airplane type to airplane type. Pitch control is, I think,
more uniformly responsive than engine control. I understand that
pilots flying large turbine aircraft use pitch control exclusively
for glide angle control, since the engines take so long to respond
to power setting changes. These may not be the only aircraft
in which you find that pitch works better than power. Be prepared
to relearn your technique if and when you start flying other
collection of Reasons IFR Checkrides were Failed
--Flew approach but circled to land a wrong runway.
--Maintaining control under partial panel.
--Unable to hit the fix required for a hold.
--The student did not know how to use the equipment in the aircraft.
-- Unable to maneuver within altitude requirements when doing steep turns.
--Unaware of icing differences
--Unfamiliar with reading weather charts
--Not knowing how reverse sensing works on a VOR.
--Flying the back course of a localizer, and not remembering the reverse sensing on his HSI.
-- The number one cause of busting the instrument check ride appears to be decent below minimums.
My IFR Checkride
Well, after one year, two instructors, 9 hours actual, and nearly 70 hours of training I passed the instrument checkride. It was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but if you read my other post you know that it was IMC followed by t'storms, so we did the oral. I didn't realize how well it went until yesterday when I decided to fly one last practice session before the big day. My instructor and a few other people that worked at the school told me that the DE, who is also the manager of the flight school and FBO, said something along the lines that I was one of the best prepared applicants he had ever seen. That was great to hear and I hoped it would have a halo effect today.
I made it to the airport around 12:15 and the DE arrived at 1:00, which was the scheduled time. After preflight we got underway after he gave me my clearance and I picked up the ATIS. As it was mid-day, it was fairly bumpy as I tracked to the Sparta VOR. But I was diligent with my heading and altitudes. We departed Sparta on the 022 radial and I contacted New York Departure to request two ILS 27 approaches at Stewart International (SWF). We received vectors and I briefed the approach. Other than receiving a bad vector the approach went fine, and at Decision Height I flew the missed as published to the Kingston VOR.
The entry was a parallel entry and I quickly established myself on the outbound course, flew out for a minute, then intercepted the inbound course. My instructor was up with another student in the same area and since I could hear him I knew he was following what I was doing. Back on the ground he admitted he was a little concerned when he heard us request the second ILS. After one trip in the hold the DE covered the AI and DG for a partial panel LOC approach. I placed the LOC frequency in the #2 radio as not to be distracted by the glide slope, and placed Kingston VOR in the #1 to ID the final approach fix, POPOW. Well, we received another bad vector and I also forgot that the LOC was in #2 so I flew through it, but soon realized the error of my ways and corrected. But between the bad vector to intercept the localizer and diverting attention somewhere else, I missed the final approach fix. So, four miles from the threshold I'm still at 2500 feet MSL. Although I'm not proud of it I had to make a dive and drive. Fortunately Stewart has a 10,000' runway, but my landing was as crappy as they come. I knew I was going to be busted, but I was prepared to go missed if necessary if I couldn't make the field.
After the touch and go and not hearing I had failed, we climbed out and did a few timed turns, followed by steep turns. I had done steep turns the previous day and was able to nail them with nearly zero altitude fluctuation. In fact they were my best steep turns to date, including private. Then we did unusual attitudes. I heard this DE was aggressive on unusual attitudes but his nose-up unusual attitudes ended with the plane veeeery close to stall. I'm usually pretty good with unusual attitudes, but on the first one I ended up pushing over too much, pulled a few negative G's and put us into a dive, from which I quickly recovered. He had me perform another nose high unusual attitude partial panel, and my recovery was far smoother the second time. We followed this by two nose low unusual attitudes, then flew direct to Sparta to fly the VOR 6 approach at Greenwood Lake. At Sparta I entered the hold/procedure turn and flew the approach with no problem. We descended to MDA and because Rwy 6 was in use and he wanted to see a circling approach, he had me overfly the field for a circling approach back to Rwy 6.
Once established on the downwind and descended to pattern altitude, he gave me a heading and an altitude to fly back to Caldwell. We flew back to Caldwell partial panel with the DE giving me vectors and descent instructions to simulate a no-gyro approach. He had me take the hood off on final and 130' AGL and again I made another crappy landing. I think this one was due to the relief of not hearing that I had failed up to that point. Overall, 2.4 hours on the Hobbs. I am totally beat, but it was certainly a fair checkride. As he prepared my temporary certificate he told me that based on Tuesday's and today's performance he had no doubt that I should receive an instrument rating, and that I had performed well on all the required tasks.
Thanks to all that have read this far and those on this board that provided encouragement. And best of luck to others working on your ratings, instrument or otherwise.
How to Prepare
Alan Pendley wrote:
I am scheduled to take my Instrument checkride on October 20. Any advice on how to prepare for the checkride will be most appreciated.
First and foremost, you would not be scheduled if you were not ready, so knowing that is 1/2 the battle.
Tips I would suggest since I am fresh off the block....
USE THE PTS CHECKLIST!!! It will save your bacon.
For the Oral part:
Get to the airport at least 2 hours early, get all the paper laid out on the table (you will need a large table) with the airplane log books bookmarked with all the appropriate inspections (.411 and .413 pitot static and transponder), last annual, last elt check, battery replacement and so on). Have it marked so you can readily identify each. I used post-its marked with each inspection. The more organization you show on the oral, the better the oral will go.
Have your flight plan, your navigation log, maps all highlighted and organized. I printed my DUATS briefing, printed the radars, and sigmets maps so I had everything with me to explain why I made decisions the way I did.
Know your V speeds of your plane. Know ARROW, GRABCARD.
Know how to read TAF's METARs, be able to explain various icing and so on.
Know why you selected your alternate airport for your IFR flight plan. The DE liked that I selected an airport BEFORE my destination with the knowledge that there would be a better chance of me flying from good weather to bad, and turning back into better weather was a good choice.
For the practical:
My DE told me where to plan for (MBO to LIT). If you know where you are planning your IFR "cross country" for your test, take a practice flight to the first intersection. I wish I would have done it, as it was over 2 months since I had tracked a VOR. I didn't have any problems but I didn't expect to go as far as to the first intersection. Be able to identify when you get to the intersection whether it be by DME or intersecting VOR radials.
I asked my DE to attend my preflight. I vocalized EVERYTHING. (on sumping of fuel, I said out loud, blue tint to the fuel, no water, no debris) I even asked him for opinions of what could make me even safer then what I am. The more you talk, the less chance the DE gets a chance to ask questions!
Practice partial panels. Practice partial panels and practice partial panels.
VOCALIZE what you are looking at, what you feel, if something is wrong, acknowledge it AND CORRECT IT. If I was looking at the instrument, I would say what it read, so he could hear what I was looking at. On my ILS, I would "talk to myself OUT LOUD", High on glideslope, fix it, left of
localizer, fix it, so he would know what I was looking at and know what to expect from what I was saying. I would say, descending one thousand five hundred for five hundred forty one foot decision height so he would know I was aware what DH was for the ILS at all times.
I once found myself drifting 80 feet higher then assigned altituded, I pointed it out to the DE, and immediately corrected it. I was figuring the DE expects deviations, but don't let the deviations compound themselves by not acknowledging it.
Hope this helps!
Expectations on Successful IFR Checkrides:
--- Good CFIIs will ensure that these characteristics are established before they sign that 8710-1.
---Be flexible and ready to adapt to changing situation
---Avoid training routine where every approach has the same ending.
---Be assertive in dealing with ATC and examiner, ask for what ever help you need.
---Learn to use ATC to give you time and space to do things at your speeds. ---Do not let ATC work you above your comfort level.
---Know how to say what you mean
---Know how to tell ATC if you are having difficulty understanding what to do. ---Situational awareness must not be a problem, ever!
---You must not let ATC misdirection create a problem
---Do not passively comply where other options are available.
---If you do not know your position, you are not in command of your aircraft. ---Situational awareness weakness shows up when illogical maneuvers result of misunderstood or incorrect ATC instructions.
Instrument Rating Checkride
After many months of study and training, I flew my Instrument rating checkride on 10 December 2004, and passed! What a relief! I am now the proud recipient of a Temporary Airman's Certificate with an Instrument Airplane rating.
It all started one year ago when I enrolled in an Instrument Rating ground school at my local junior college. I took the class only with the intention to learn about Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operations. Then, when
returning from a cross-country flight, I had to divert and land at another airport since my home base was closed to Visual Flight Rules (VFR) approaches by the persistent Los Angeles marine layer. I made the decision at that time to get my Instrument Rating.
I began training and flying with the Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) that I used for my Private rating, and we were soon flying instrument approaches at many of the airports in the Los Angeles basin, with me wearing a hood to prevent me from seeing outside of the airplane. Flying IFR is much more demanding than VFR - you have to be very precise about maintaining headings and altitudes, not to mention that you can't see where you are going! I also logged a number of hours flying the simulators at the college. During my training, my CFI took a seven-week vacation, which delayed my progress in obtaining the required minimum of 40 hours of flight solely by reference to instruments. During his absence, I took and passed
the required FAA written exam.
After I had logged all of the required flight hours, my CFI signed me off, and I was scheduled for my checkride. The evening before the checkride, I had a fitful sleep due to the self-induced stress over flying a checkride (those of you that are pilots know what I mean). Plus, it rained all night, and it was forecast to continue raining into the next morning. In the morning, it was still raining with a low ceiling. Since the checkride needs to be flown in VFR conditions, we had to cancel and reschedule the checkride. (It is amusing to me that the weather must be VFR to fly an Instrument checkride even though I am under the hood and can't see out the windows in the first place. The reason is that the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) who is Instrument rated that administers the checkride is only a "passenger" for the flight, so we can't fly IFR since I am not instrument rated until after passing the checkride. Go figure.)
The DPE's (Designated Pilot Examiner)schedule was very busy, and so I had to wait for three weeks for the rescheduled checkride. So another fitful night's sleep before the checkride, and the weather for the next day again was forecast to be marginal VFR at best. In the morning, I met the DPE at the airport, and we started with the "oral exam" that is required to determine my knowledge of IFR operations. He previously had asked me to plan an IFR flight to a distant airport, and we began discussing the flight plan including weather reports and forecasts.
I told him that I would not fly that trip on that day, since there were reported and forecast low ceilings and a low freezing level, which invites icing. There was also a forecast of strong turbulence and a strong headwind. Also, the distant airport was forecast have weather less than minimums for ceiling and visibility, which required selection of an alternate airport with forecast weather above minimums.
He then asked me questions about what instruments are required for IFR flight operations, quizzed me about failed communication procedures, the Federal Aviation Regulations, instrument flight charts, and aircraft systems. He kept digging until he found areas for which I did not have a complete knowledge or understanding, and then had me look up the information.
After the two-hour Inquisition, he allowed that I had passed the oral exam, and that it was time to fly the checkride, which is documented in a FAA Practical Test Standard (PTS). The Instrument PTS requires, among other things, flying a holding pattern at a fix, executing recovery from "unusual flight attitudes" and three different types of instrument approaches. Being anxious to end the torture and to get my rating, I agreed to fly.
The weather was just barely VFR conditions, and we planned to go up to see if we could fly any approaches. We took off and climbed to 3,500 feet, dodging around and under scattered clouds along the way. As we were making our way to the practice area, the DPE was getting stressed and stated at least twice: "I hope we can get back to the airport" under VFR conditions. In the practice area, I put on the hood and he covered the attitude indicator and directional gyro as if the vacuum pump that powers them had failed. He put the airplane in an unusual attitude, the first of which was a full power descending graveyard spiral, and then told me to recover.
Using the seat of my pants and the rudimentary turn coordinator instrument, I recovered to level flight. Then another unusual attitude, with the nose high in a turn and approaching a stall/spin, and again I recovered.
He then looked over to a nearby airport, and saw that it might be possible to fly the Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach and remain clear of the clouds. Scattered clouds obscured other nearby airports, so he said we would fly just this one approach, and the other two at a later date. With me still under the hood, I called Air Traffic Control (ATC) and got a clearance to fly the ILS. I was not fully prepared to fly this approach, and felt rushed by the DPE. As we intersected the final approach course and were descending down the glide path, I was handed off late by ATC to the tower.
Making matters worse, I did not have the tower frequency tuned and on standby, and in an attempt to simultaneously tune the frequency and fly the ILS, I exceeded the course deviation tolerance permitted by the PTS. With FAA checkrides, as soon as you do something that is "disqualifying," the DPE immediately announces that you have failed the checkride. In other words, no news is good news. Well, I got the news that I had busted the checkride, and we dodged clouds back to my home airport in barely VFR conditions, ending the checkride with a "Notice of Disapproval of Application" which is otherwise known as a "pink slip." At that point, I had passed everything but flying a hold and the three approaches.
In order to re-fly the checkride, I had to log additional flight training with my CFI, and get signed off again by him for the checkride. I flew three more times with him, got signed off, and rescheduled the checkride,
with another three weeks lost. On the appointed day, I met the DPE at the airport, and the conditions were not VFR until an hour after we were scheduled to fly. There were no clouds, but the visibility was barely 3
miles in haze, which is the minimum required for VFR. The examiner had mentioned that he had to be at another airport in two hours time, and I sensed that he was not anxious to fly. Not wanting to get rushed into
another bust, I elected not to fly. So, another three weeks goes by until the DPE was available.
On the appointed day, the weather in LA was unseasonably warm (80 degrees F), and the ceiling and visibility were unlimited, making it perfect for flying. After yet another fitful night's sleep, I got to the airport early to remove the tie down chains and to do the preflight inspection of the airplane, and to get prepared for the checkride.
I left the left wheel chock in place to keep the airplane from moving, since the ramp was not completely level. I made a mental note to be sure to remove the chock before boarding the airplane. The examiner showed up, and so it was now time to fly the three approaches and a hold. He told me that I was going to
fly a published hold at a fix, and approaches at two nearby airports, and a final approach back to home base.
We got strapped into the cockpit, started the engine, and I called ground control for clearance to taxi to the end of the runway. I then applied power to begin taxiing, and the airplane did not move. I looked outside,
and saw that I had neglected to remove the wheel chock! I thought, "this is not good, I may get busted even before I get off the ground." The DPE told me he would hold the brakes while I got unstrapped, opened the door with the engine running, and removed the chock. How embarrassing, but no news is good news. I jokingly stated that I bet that had never happened before, and the DPE said in his 13,500 hours in the air, this was the first time ever (I knew it was likely to have happened before, and the DPE made light of the situation).
We launched into a beautiful clear sky with visibility at least 50 miles, and shortly after getting airborne, I put on the hood and flew out to the practice area for the holding procedure. I had practiced flying this hold
both in the air and on the simulator, and so I confidently flew to the fix and turned to execute a teardrop entry. Over the fix, I turned to the outbound heading, and the instructor asked what I was going to do next. I
told him I was going to fly outbound for one minute, and then turn to the inbound heading. He said, "I've seen all I need to see on this hold" even though I hadn't even flown one complete circuit. Okay, one hold down and three approaches to go. No news is good news.
I called ATC and got clearance to fly the ILS. This time, I had ample time to get the radios set up and the tower frequency on standby. ATC vectored us around, and I intersected the final approach course. In a couple of instances, I was on the ragged edge of exceeding the tolerance allowed for altitude and heading, but recovered in time. The DPE also helped me as if he were an instructor, so I sensed that he really wanted me to pass this time. We flew the approach to 250 feet above the ground, and I raised the hood to see the runway right in front of me! No news is good news.
We then got clearance to fly a different type of approach, known as a VOR approach, at another nearby airport. Along the way, I again was flirting with exceeding the tolerances (10 degrees off heading or 100 feet off altitude), particularly when trying to tune radios and fly at the same time. No news is good news. We got vectored to the final approach fix, which requires a 30-degree turn to final over the fix. As I was executing the turn and beginning my descent, the DPE again covered the attitude indicator and directional gyro as if they had failed (part of the PTS), so I had to fly this approach with limited resources. The magnetic compass swings around unreliably when making a turn, but I staggered to the missed approach point just short of the runway. No news is good news.
I then executed the missed approach, called ATC and got clearance to fly back to home base, using the localizer approach, and still under the hood. We were given vectors to fly, and I intercepted the final approach course. Again, I flirted once with exceeding the tolerances, but recovered in time. We began our descent at the final approach fix, and were handed off to the tower. We were cleared to land with one airplane ahead of us. About two miles from and 800 feet above the runway, the DPE said he couldn't see the
landing traffic, and told me to raise the hood to help him look for it. What a relief that I didn't have to fly this approach down to minimums, and I made a normal smooth landing. No news is good news.
After landing, I taxied back to the hangar, expecting to hear from the DPE that I had passed the checkride. I don't know if he forgot to announce it, or if he was intentionally extending the torture. No news is good news. I parked the airplane, shut down the engine, and he jokingly busted my chops by asking me if I wanted him to install the wheel chocks.
We walked back into the hangar, sat down and he started pulling paperwork
out of his briefcase. I saw that he was preparing my Temporary Airperson's
Certificate, but he still had not announced that I had passed, but I knew at
that point that it was a fait accompli. He then handed me the certificate and
said "congratulations." What a relief!
In summary, getting my Instrument Rating was much more challenging than getting my Private rating. After I got my Private rating (which has been said to be a "license to learn"), I learned a lot. I expect that to be the
case with my Instrument rating as well. Wouldn't you know it, the forecast is to be severe clear in LA for at least the next week, so I will have to wait for an opportunity to fly IFR in the clouds when the marine layer
returns. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to being able to see outside the airplane in the interim; after all, that is what is all about for me in the first place!
2005 IFR Checkride
Took & passed my checkride (first try) yesterday. Here's the extended narrative. Paragraphs enclosed in  are explanatory for the non-aviators who will receive this.
[Ah, well, why don't I start out with talking about what the "instrument rating" is all about. You can think of it as, basically, an "addendum" tacked onto a pilot's license that gives you additional privileges
namely, the ability to fly in weather conditions below "VFR" minimums. All aviation is carried out under one of two sets of regulations - VFR (visual flight rules) and IFR (instrument flight rules). Upon becoming a pilot, you've got the skills and the right to operate under the former, but not the latter - that's what the instrument rating is for. The instrument rating makes flying a much more practical endeavor as you're not nearly as much a slave to the weather when you're capable of flying by reference to instruments only. It also makes you a statistically safer pilot across the board, if statistics mean anything.]
[And now, a bit about the "checkride". This is the "practical test" by which an FAA "designated examiner" (DE) is authorized to issue an instrument rating upon successful completion. "Practical test" means both an oral (ground question & answer) session as well as a flight test. My instrument checkride lasted a total of about 3 1/2 hours, which is typical. A prerequisite to taking the checkride, in addition to having logged the 40 hours of instrument flying (simulated or actual) that's required, is having passed the FAA's written test, which I did back in December.]
My ride was scheduled for 1PM at MWC. I'd been asked in advance to plan a cross-country IFR flight of at least 200nm; I chose Crystal, MN (MIC), as it met the requirements and is a destination I've flown to VFR in the past. I also planned for a fuel stop at La Crosse (LSE), as with me and the examiner's 220lb, there was room for only 19 gallons in my 152. I showed up at the airport at 12:30 to finish up my nav logs and get a weather briefing, and the examiner was already there, having arrived in his Bonanza. I gave him my paperwork (8710 form, written test results, logbook) and his payment and told him I'd need a few minutes to finish up.
After getting my briefing, which correlated well with the somewhat earlier weather reports I'd planned the flight based on, I decided it would be a definite "go" if the flight were for real, and decided I was
ready for the oral.
He began by asking me to go through the flight, which I did. I explained why I chose the route (airways) and altitude (wind) that I did, and explained the reasons for the alternates I'd chosen, even
though they actually were not required. [The regs require you to file an alternate airport if weather at your destination at ETA is below certain minimums.]
He then got into the "what-if" failure/emergency scenarios I was expecting - lost comm, vacuum failure, icing. He seemed satisfied with my answers. By this point his demeanor had pretty much changed from "formal" to "friendly/informal", and I had a good feeling about the oral
and the ride.
[The most challenging and involved area of instrument flying, in terms of knowledge and flying skill, is the "instrument approach procedure" (IAP). The purpose of such a procedure is to allow one to descend from the enroute structure and make an approach to a runway, by reference to instruments only, with no outside references, to a point very near the threshold of a runway from which the transition to visual references can be made, if possible, followed by a landing.]
[Each individual IAP is completely custom to a particular airport, runway, and means of navigation. They are described on charts known as "plates" that contain all the information necessary to fly the approach. The navigation aids used, their frequencies, headings, altitudes, times, communication frequencies, landing minimums (visibility and ceiling), and "missed approach" instructions - what you do when arrive at the decision point and are not able to continue to a landing due to inadequate visual references or other reasons. Each one is a work of art, IMO.]
We talked about approaches for quite a bit (no surprise there). He got out a couple plates and asked me many questions about them, all of which I answered with no problem. He talked quite a bit about making the go-missed decision - how to determine if the required visibility is met, mainly. He brought up some nuances I hadn't fully considered before, such as the fact that pilot visibility can overrule reported RVR values.
I did know some fairly obscure things such as the rules regarding ILS approach lighting systems (the lights allow you to descend to 100' AGL but no lower unless you have the red lights, or part of the runway structure itself), which seemed to impress him.
Talking about VOR-A (or -B, etc.) approaches, I won brownie points by knowing the answer to this question: Why might an IAP be designated -A (no straight-in minimums given) when the course is within 30 degrees of the landing runway? The answer is that, in that case, the MDA puts you too high to execute a straight-in landing "at a normal rate of descent". My instructor had happened to discuss that topic with me a few weeks prior - the DE said I was the only checkride applicant he'd ever had
that got that one right. Cool.
We then talked about attitude instrument flight for awhile; he asked about primary/secondary instrument in various flight conditions, and I answered all of that correctly.
I think that was about it. A few more topics were touched upon, but they were more informal chatting than any sort of grilling. I came away really impressed with the DE's knowledge - he'd shown me different sides of a number of topics. He obviously knew instrument flight inside and
out. (I suppose that's logical for a DE.)
He then told me what we'd be doing on the flight, to a level of detail that surprised me. He gave me all three approaches we'd be flying, and the hold, with the disclaimer that the plans *might* change - as it
turned out, they didn't. All the approaches were ones I'd done before - the VOR-A and ILS 10 at UES (Waukesha) and the LOC 15 back into Timmy - although all but the first involved using feeder routes that I'd never used before, including intercepting the localizer back course for the full ILS 10 UES.
We drove out to my hangar; I'd previously pre-flighted. As we climbed into my 152, I apologized for owning such a cramped airplane and he apologized for being so fat, as he put it. I made sure to use every checklist, even the pre-engine-start, religiously, as I, uh, always do.
He told me he'd be playing ATC and that he'd have a mock clearance for me to copy. I did, and readback correctly, and he told me to proceed direct Badger (BAE), which was the first fix on my flight plan, up to 3000' msl.
[Holding patterns are another part of instrument flying - as the name implies, the purpose is simply kill time, by flying in a circle, for traffic separation, to wait out weather below minimums, etc. There isn't a ton to it - you need to know how to enter the hold, which is a function of the heading you're approaching it from, how to properly correct for wind drift (important in almost every aspect of aviation), and how to correct your timing to produce inbound legs of standard length (one minute unless otherwise specified).
The first thing we did was hold at BAE, R90 - meaning a very obvious direct entry, approaching almost due west. It turns out I completely lucked out on the winds - they were almost non-existent. After dealing with 30-40 knot winds aloft the last few times out, this was a nice change.
Unfortunately, I made my first and only real mistake on the ride in this hold. Since holding can be so simple, almost boring, I let my mind wander a bit on the 2nd outbound leg, and was thinking ahead to the VOR-A approach and the published missed there - I looked down at the chart, which I'd put on the yoke clip ahead of time. The hold for the published missed is at BAE on the 270 radial. You can probably guess what happened - that extra clutter in my head caused me to basically lose situational awareness for a few seconds. I was in the middle of the turn inbound and I simply stopped, on a 180 heading, half way through! Man, that was just awful. I recovered quickly but I could have blown it right there, and how stupidly! Thoroughly pissed at myslef, I decided to keep my mind on what I was doing, at all times, no matter how simple, and vowed no more stupid mistakes (or any mistakes).
After the 2nd turn of the hold he had me call UES tower and request the two practice approaches, starting with the full ILS 10, and told me to fly the BAE R212 feeder route to the outer marker.
The ILS was uneventful. As I noted, the calm winds today made things so easy, frankly. I had flown this ILS with a 40-knot tailwind a couple days earlier; today, it was all standard numbers, airspeed nearly equal to ground speed, only the slightest crab necessary, and no bouncing all over the place once I got low, as I'd gotten accustomed to lately. Easy. Down to decision height and then the published missed, back to BAE. I turned for the parallel entry for the hold and then he covered my attitude indicator and asked me to close my eyes and put my head in my lap.
[This part of the checkride is designed to test your skill in "partial-panel" instrument flying. Two of the main gyroscopic flight instruments in most light aircraft are powered by an engine-driven vacuum pump, and the reliability of these units is something less than stellar in general. Losing vacuum in IFR conditions is a full-on emergency because you lose these instruments - the attitude indicator and the directional gyro, which gives you your heading. When flying partial-panel, you must rely more heavily on indications from other instruments to augment your knowledge of the aircraft's attitude and heading. This information does exist via other instruments, but it's less direct and less readily available. Partial-panel instrument flying is challenging.]
[The exercise the DE was giving me here is unusual-attitude recovery - a situation you may very well find yourself in when you realize you've lost your gyros! The DE puts the aircraft in a "crazy" flight attitude, gives you the controls, and evaluates you on your ability to recover. Any intervention necessary from the examiner in this exercise deemed necessary for safety is a guaranteed failure of the checkride.]
He gave me only one UA - with him yelling "recover, recover, recover!", I open my eyes, take the yoke, and note the altimeter unwinding, the VSI pegged downward, and the airspeed well into the yelling range. I simultaneously level the wings and pull the power, then gently recover. Done. My eyes *did* go to the covered AI, initially, though - I'd actually never done an UA recovery partial-panel before! (My CFI was present for the debrief after the ride and it turned out he didn't know they were a part of the ride - the PTS is not clear on this.)
After this, he has me intercept the BAE R333 outbound for the full UES VOR-A approach, partial-panel. Now, a couple words about this - it turns out that this particular DE covers only the AI for the partial-panel approach - his concern being that looking up at the compass if the DG is covered makes "cheating" a concern. Now, I'd practiced PP approaches with no DG and never once did I have any inclination to try to "cheat" by looking outside, but he has that concern and he's the DE. There's no doubt that the PP approach is easier when you have your DG, but I'm quite confident I could have done it without as well, as I'd done so on several occasions.
This approach, again, was, pretty much flawless, and should have been given the conditions. I was able to hold alt within 25 ft or so and keep the needle extremely close to centered all the way in. Missed back to the north, intercept the BAE R61 feeding route for the MWC LOC 15, he has me call tower and ask for a circle to 22. At this point, I know that I have the ride in the bad unless I do something exceedingly stupid.
[A word about the "circle to land" maneuver. Sometimes, you execute an instrument approach to one runway but must land on another, usually due to the wind conditions. The circle-to-land maneuver is tricky because you are doing a lot of maneuvering at a very low altitude.
On the checkride, you have an altitude tolerance of +100, -0 ft (which goes for every instrument approach minimum descent altitude or decision altitude), so you must be very careful to maintain that range while circling, as well as stay within the maximum distance allowed from the end of any runway, which is a function of your approach speed and for me is 1.3 miles.
The tolerance of -0 is there because descending below MDA while circling can easily result in hitting something, which is bad. Climbing is also unacceptable because on a real approach in instrument conditions that could easily put you back in the clouds, and if that happens you must immediately discontinue the circle and execute the missed approach.]
The DE decided to mess with my head on the circle. I had been expecting such a "distraction", but for some reason at this point I in fact did not recognize it as a planned "distraction", and instead of asking him nicely to shut his pie-hole until we landed, proceeded to answer his questions as best I could. "Where are we going to land?" "Uh.. the runway". "Where will the mains touchdown?" "I'm shooting for the numbers". "Do you think you should use full flaps with this wind." "Sure.. why not?" Ok, I think I was catching on now. On the rollout, he asked me why I missed the numbers. "Well, I was just a bit high on final." I knew he was messing with me now. "But instrument flying is all about precision, isn't it?" "Yes, sir, but I forgot how to land." He cracked up and gave me a "good job", telling me that I had the ticket unless I managed to hit his Bonanza on the ramp.
[Instrument students do typically let their landing skills slip a bit, as there generally isn't much landing going on. We already know how to land airplanes; we practice approaches to the missed approach point, as it's the approach that's being practiced. Also, I'd had an engine modification done 6 weeks ago, and because the engine was still in break-in, pattern practice (landings) wasn't a good idea.]
So, that's about it! He took my nice plastic certificate and gave me a crappy temporary paper one instead, but since it says "Instrument Airplane" at the bottom, I'll take it!
That's right, another checkride story. Yesterday I spent an hour chatting with an examiner, then took him on a 2.2 hour sightseeing trip around the area (he was sightseeing, I was minding the gauges). He liked it enough to give me an instrument rating at the end of the day.
OK, so it wasn't that easy, but it was fairly unremarkable. This was my sixth checkride (including one retest) so I knew what to expect and wasn't as nervous as the previous times. It was also different than the others. The instrument checkride has a reputation for being hard but that's somewhat misleading. There's very little flying skill involved, it's mostly a mental game. Or a video game, except the visuals aren't as good. I knew how to play, so as long as I stayed alert and planned ahead, I believed I'd do fine.
I turned up an hour early to find the examiner already there, chatting with my instructor. I still took my time to go through the airplane logs, look up some last-minute things in the FARs, preflight the plane and eat lunch. We then chatted for a bit, mostly about my glider flying, then it was time for the oral. Currency, inspections, navigation instruments and principle of operation, flight plan, lost comm procedures, some chart symbols, today's weather, some other random questions.
The one thing that stumped me was what the "antenna" mode on the ADF was for. I didn't know, so the examiner asked some more questions about the ADF (how many antennas, what do they do, etc.) I knew the rest but not about the antenna mode, so he told me in the end. Google it, AVweb has a better explanation that I can give here.
For the flight portion, we did the Salinas - Watsonville run (partial panel VOR at SNS, ILS at SNS, published hold at MARNA, full procedure LOC at WVI with circle to land). The first two approaches went perfectly, I even remembered to adjust my timing on the VOR approach for the tailwind. The hold was also fine. The localizer approach was the only part where things almost got a bit sticky. I was too late to set it up and also misread the outbound heading by 10 degrees so zig-zagged across the course a bit until I figured out what's wrong. After the procedure turn, when it was almost time to start descending after the final approach fix, I realized I didn't have the ASOS info yet or the CTAF tuned in (uncontrolled airport). Got a little busy there but got it sorted out on time and in the end it
worked out fine.
A funny thing happened during the unusual attitude recovery. Closed my eyes and the examiner abused he controls for a while, then gave them back. First, I looked at the airspeed indicator. The speed was high so I pulled the power to idle. Next, the turn coordinator. It was showing a turn to the left, so I turned the yoke to the right until the little airplane was wings level. Next, pulled back on the yoke and look at the altimeter - pulled until it stopped unwinding, then pushed a little to hold it there. Looked at the tach and added cruise power. Then back to the altimeter to make sure I'm maintaining altitude. And then... I looked at the center of the panel to find out that the attitude indicator wasn't covered. I'd gotten so used to doing these recoveries partial panel with my instructor that I didn't even *see* the attitude indicator until it was all over. The second unusual attitude was easier...
The examiner flew us back VFR and the only task remaining for me was shutting down - I didn't screw it up. Yay!
The next step would be to get the ticket "wet". I managed to get some actual (IMC) time during training (4.2 hours), but it was pretty hard to get even with a willing instructor and rainy weather. Northern
California has only two seasons - dry and wet - and the wet season is almost over, so it might be a while before I find a good bad weather day (you know what I mean).
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