Commercial Single Engine Checkride Result


Well-Known Member
Earlier today I took my commercial checkride. Here's a not-so-brief synopsis of my experience:

The Oral

It was Approx. 2 hours long, first I was asked about aircraft Inspections (annual, static, ELT, altimter, transponder, Airworthiness directives, how to find airworthiness directives, who is responsible for complying with AD's, recurring AD's). I was also asked if I could change the tire on this airplane if I had the equipment to do so but was stranded at a field with no A&P. I answered "yes" because changing a tire is listed under preventative maintenance in part 43. Turns out, I was wrong. You cannot do preventative maintenace unless you are the owner of the airplane. Next we moved onto advanced aircraft systems. He asked me to describe the advantages and disadvantages of:

1. Constant Speed Propellor
2. Retractable landing gear
3. Pressurized Cabin
4. Turbochargers

We went pretty in depth about the prop and gear, although on the prop he was more conerned with WHY we want to be able to change the pitch than how it actually works. The *buzz word* he was looking for was torque (low pitch provides more torque during climb); he tried to get me to say "torque" but unfortunately he ended up just having to tell me. Then he asked me to "describe the landing gear system". I basically went off on a spiel I had memorized out of the POH and he seemed satisfied.

One surprise was how much he asked me about turbochargers, considering the plane I was using did not have one nor have I ever flown a plane with a turbocharger. I explained to him that a turbocharger used a turbine to compress air and compensate for decreased air density and that it allows the aircraft to operate at higher altitudes. Then he started asking more in depth questions about turbocharges. He asked me how the turbine was driven, how many turbines were there, and what "critical altitude" was. I confused critical altitude with service ceiling and I couldn't seem to remember wether a Turbocharges was engine or ram air driven; turns out it was neither. They're driven by exhaust gases from the engine.

On pressurization, he was primarily concerned with how the pilot controls the pressure inside the cockpit. I told him there was a gauge and control that the pilot used to make sure the differential pressure between the inside and outisde did not become to great. He wanted to know if the "gauge" controlled the air that was flowing in to the cabin or the air that was flowing out. I said "both" and again he seemed satisfied so we moved on to my VFR flight planning.

The examiner had me plan an x-c that would've taken me directly over P-49, the prohibited area over Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, if I planned it "straight-line". I put a slight angle in the route to avoid p49. On the sectional, there is also a large 30NM radius "expaned TFR area" depicted around P-49, outlined in dashed blue lines and shaded white within. I was asked if I could still fly through the airspace if the TFR was active. I answered no, since the prohibited area was expanded and you can't fly through a prohibited area, but also added that I would always call the FSS and check with them on the status before attempting to do anything in the area. Then he pointed to some class D airports that were covered by the expanded TFR and asked "so all these airports have to shut down when the president is at his ranch?". Time to backpedal......but all I could come up with is that I would always call the FSS before attempting to fly into the area. I guess this was good enough for him, because he didn't mention it again. Next we moved to weight and balance. I was asked about the effects of a center of gravity forward of limits and a center of gravity aft of limits. I was also asked to demonstrate that we would remain within CG limits through all phases of our cross country. That about covers the oral, onto the flight phase of the test.....

Practical Exam

I was instructed to do the first takeoff as a soft field takeoff. I did pretty well considering a nearly 90 degree crosswind at 7-12 knots (the wind was not conducive to smooth take offs and landings today). I started my timer, turned to my heading, and climbed up to 2500 MSL to stay below the cloud decks. I overshot my altitude by a little bit and got up to 2600 MSL because I was preoccupied with calculating my ETA to the first checkpoint (only 6 NM ahead) and the climb was only 2200 ft. The DE didn't say anything and we reached the first checkpoint about 10 seconds early. We proceeded to the second checkpoint which was actually a Class D airport that I had planned to overfly. I tried to get the ATIS about 9 miles out but couldn't manage (don't know if I had the wrong freq or what), but I went ahead and contacted their tower and told them I was going to transition across the area, which they approved. Abeam the airport I marked off my second checkpoint. After this, the DE said "fly to your next checkpoint then give me a revised ETA to our destination based on your current groundspeed." I read our groundspeed off the GPS and used the E6B to calcuate a revised ETA. At the third checpoint I told him that I anticipated us arriving 5 minutes later than planned and gave him the new ETA. He achknowledged, then told me to divert to a new airport about 25 NM away. I used my plotter to get the angle between my current position and the new airport, then slid that over to a VOR to get a magnetic course. I told the DE what my approximate heading was going to be and also used my E6B to get an ETA and stated that we were going to have enough fuel to get there.

Next I was told to do steep turns. I asked "which direction would you like me to do the first one"? He seemed kind of annoyed and just said "do it by the PTS". So I did my clearing turns, then did a steep turn to the left, then one to the right and stayed within +/- 50 ft. This was just fine since the PTS tolerance is +/- 100 ft. Next he had me put the airplane into slow flight, which I did succesffuly, followed by another clearing turn, a power off stall, another clearning turn, and a power on stall.

Now for the performance maneuvers. He pointed out some railroad tracks and asked me to perform my lazy eights along them. I did more clearing turns and executed some of the best lazy eights I've ever done. Then he asked for a Chandelle, which I did to the left after clearing the area It also went very well. After completing my chandelled the DE said "we've got smoke in the cockpit". I executed an emergency descent by pitching down and maintaining about Vso. By this time I knew we were nearby the airport that he was having me divert to, so I changed to CTAF and announced that we were going to be maneuvering in the area. The DE then told me that the smoke was gone and that he wanted me to enter the traffic pattern and execute a short field landing.

The crosswind strikes again. During my flight around the pattern, I could not make an accurate determination from the windsock which runway the wind was favoring. I made a decision to land to the north since that was the direction I had originally taken off to and we were only 35 NM away. I made a pretty good short field considering the wind; I used about 1/3 of the 3200 ft runway to come to a full stop.

After coming to a full stop, the DE asked me to "taxi to one end of the runway and do a short field takeoff". This should've been a big hint but I didn't pick up on it. I back taxied and took back off the same direction. I really didn't pay much attention to the windsock when I was on the ground, but I should've, because it turns out I was operating with a slight tailwind. Despite the wind, my short fields were still passable. After takeoff, we headed back to the original airport, but on the way he pointed out an area where he'd like me to perform Eights on Pylons, I cleared the area, picked two points, and used my precalculated pivotal altitudes. Eights on Pylons went fine and we proceeded the rest of teh way back to the airport. I overflew the field at 500 above pattern altitude to check the windosock, made extra sure of the wind direction this time, and entered the pattern for a landing to the north. The DE told me to execute a soft field landing. I made a good pattern, then at about 200 AGL on final I heard "Go around". Full power, flaps 20, cowl flaps open, carb heat off, turn slightly to the right to avoid the danger on the runway. Finally, I made one more trip around the pattern and did my not-so-good soft field landing. Again, the wind was at about 70-80 degrees to the runway at 10 knots or so. I added a bit too much power in the flare, floated up a bit then settled down rather firmly on the upwind main gear. I held the nose off as best I could, but it was pretty awkward touching down in the slip. All I could do was maintain back pressure as much as possible and told the DE what I was doing to keep the nosewheel from digging in.

I was then told "this portion of the exam is complete, park the airplane". I complied with his instructions, and tied it down. No "congratulations" or "good job". He said "do your post flight and meet me inside when you're done". When I got inside he handed me a slip of paper and told me to sign it. Luckily, it was not colored was my temporary commercial certificate, woohoo! Then we reviewed a few things with me that I missed on the oral. He told me my chandelles and lazy eights were my strongest point and "better than most people", but said "your short and soft field landings could've been smoother".

All in all, a great learning experience and a satisfying experience. Hope this helps anyone looking for tips on their checkride. If anyone actually reads this whole thing, be sure to reply and tell me
Thanks 602, PG, I'll probably go for my multi add-on next, then start working on the CFI.

One thing I forgot to mention during the oral:

The DE gave me three hypothetical situations about people calling me and offering me various jobs using the airplane.
In the first situation he said someone had a sick relative in DeRidder Louisiana, and because there is no airline service to DeRidder they wanted to pay me to fly them there. I responded that I could not take the job, because the person was effectively paying for a seat on the aircraft, and you need to be a commercial operator to sell seats.

In the second situation, he asked what I would do if someone called and requested that I fly from The TX-Louisiana Border to the TX-Mexico border everyday and count the number of shrimping boats off the gulf coast. Initially I said yes I could take the job, since patrol-type operations and aerial work are permitted without being in possesion of an operating license. Then he told me that I was not going to be doing the counting and that they wanted me to bring an observer with me in the right seat who would count the ships. After he mentioned that, I again had to say no, because I felt that they would be paying me for the carriage of the observer, effectively making me a commercial operator.

The last situation had to do with "christmas flights". He said that he had seen a sign up in an FBO that offered aerial christmas tours. He wanted to know if I would take this job or turn it down. I said I would take it since aerial sight seeing tours are permitted without a commercial operating license.

I believe I answered all three situations appropriately, because he didn't make any comments about them after we were done. I talked to my CFI after I got back and he said that the christmas flights were fine since they would not be more than 25 NM from the departure airport, but the gulf coast patrol with pax from Louisiana to Mexico would not be acceptable becaue it was greater than 25 NM and wasn't really "site seeing".
That was a GREAT review of what happened. And very helpful. Gives me a good idea of extra things to keep in mind when I go for in a couple months. Always helpful seeing the notes on the oral questions. Before my other checkrides, I kinda hang around and get any input I can from the CFIs around on what some information would be that I'd need to know for the oral portion, and this is adding to my list.

Congradulations on passing your checkride! I'm getting ready to take my in the next few weeks and I appreciate your detailed discription of your checkride. Again congrats!
Good job. I don't agree with his 'torque' theory though. A constant speed prop allows the engine to make full rated horsepower for take off due to it's lower pitch. At cruise it again allows for higher power settings since you can increase blade angle so it will not overspeed. It is true that the propeller will change pitch settings in relation to engine torqe, but this is not the primary reason why they are used.