Instrument Checkride


New Member
After just over a month of instrument training, I took my Instrument check ride this week. For those of you who are looking for a gouge, keep reading!

The oral:

I took the oral two days before the practical due to scheduling conflicts. The oral began at noon on Monday and I had planned a flight from Merced (MCE) to San Diego - Lindbergh (SAN). Turned out that the weather sucked with a strong front causing havoc and mayhem as it moved through California. Icing levels were low, winds and turbulence were high, and there was a rather solid overcast from 2000 to 25,000 over most of the route. Needless to say, I announced that we wouldn't be going in a real-life situation. However, that didn't get me out of explaining the weather charts, reports, forcasts, and trends. This was actually one area where I could have done a bit better. After presenting the information from the FSS briefing, the examiner asked me to show that the information was valid. I immediately turned to the printed information I had gathered and began showing the similarities and agreement between the FSS briefing, the TAFs, METARs, graphic weather charts, and the FA. The examiner didn't seem happy with that course of action, and asked me, again, to validate the information. I took a different tack and pointed out the times and dates for the reports, forecasts, and charts to show that they were 'valid' during our flight times. He still wasn't getting what he wanted, and I was at a loss. I had no idea what he was wanting from me and after asking for further clarification, I was still confused. He then took the FA and, using the synopsis and regional forcast, confirmed the weather conditions described by all other weather products using knowledge of weather dynamics. That was what he meant by 'validate' - he wanted me to analyze the FA and see if the other reports and forcasts agreed with what I deduced. I certainly could have done that, but I didn't understand what he wanted from me . . . strike one!

Then we moved on to the flight plan. That went quite well all the way down to the LAX VOR. At that point, he asked why I had requested 'No STARs.' I responded that the STARs all took me quite a ways out over the water and I prefered to be cautious and remain over land. He pointed out that STARs streamline the transition from enroute to arrival and that I was in a multiengine plane: why not accept one? I took the bait and accepted the LAX.HUBRD Arrival. That took me to an intersection north of the MZB VOR where I was to get radar vectors to final . . . but he killed my comms before I could get them. Turns out that because the STAR didn't end at an IAF, he preferred that I turn it down as well, but for different reasons that what I had originally stated. Strike two . . .

We then went over the enroute charts and approach plates. That went quite well with me only getting stumped by the FAF on an ILS approach. I said that it was where you intercepted the glideslope. Unfortunately, it's actually where you intercept the glideslope only if you're at the minimum intercept altitude or a lower altitude as designated by ATC. If you intercept higher, the FAF is reached when you decend past the min intercept altitude while on the GS. Strike three . . .

There were also a few things I wasn't as solid on as I should have been. For instance, if given a STAR, when can you descend to the altitudes published on the STAR. I hesitated before answering that you could only descend after cleared by ATC. Being cleared for a STAR clears the route, but not the altitude unless accompanied by a 'descend via' clearance. Though I answered correctly, it was suggested that I check to make sure I was right when I got home. I also blanked on a few of the instrument failure indications and had to think them through based on Pitot-static knowledge rather than firing them out from memory. I also got those right, but took a little while to figure them out. It was also suggested that I refresh on those when I got home. We covered a lot more that what's above, but those were the areas that I wasn't 100% on.

After 4 hours (noon to 4) the oral was over. I passed, but with the knowledge that I'd made a few mistakes. I felt lucky and went home to brush up on all of my weak areas for the practical that was two days away.

The Practical:

The day dawned with a sunny sky but shifted to SCT 1800 and BKN 4500. I got to the airport, preflighted, and was waiting for my examiner when he got out of the instructors meeting. He gave me the approaches to shoot, we got the plane fired up, and tooled on down to the approach end of the runway. First was the VOR DME - C into Fresno - Chandler (FCH). About 5 miles from FRAME intersection (where the DME arc begins) my gyros suddenly suffered a catastrophic Post-It note failure of the light blue variety.
I continued the approach, nailed the DME arc, turned inbound, sighted the airport just before the missed, turned upwind for 30L (30R was closed), turned lefthand crosswind and downwind and 'lost sight' of the runway abeam the numbers when the hood was slapped back on. The only thing that I was aware of not being on top of was my 'No Gyro' call to ATC. I called it about two minutes after the fact when I was stabilized on the DME arc. We climbed out for the missed, requested and received vectors for the NDB at FCH, and cruised for a few minutes. Then, right as ATC calls to turn us for the final approach, I lost an engine. I stabilized the plane, secured the engine, and followed ATC instructions for the turn to final. We got lined up for the NDB, nailed the approach, and amazingly got the engine back right at the missed approach point!
We held over the NDB as published for 1 and a half turns and requested the ILS back to FAT. While on the vectors to the LOC, we did one 360 to cover the steep turns, and moved on. We picked up the LOC with no trouble, intercepted the GS, and tracked them with less than 1/2 dot variation all the way down. Unfortunately, the tower gave me a side step and I already had the ILS DA in my head. The MDA for the side step is about 150 feet higher . . . I busted it by a bit and was told to take off my hood. We then sidestepped and landed on the neighboring runway.

I recieved two main comments from the examiner. The first, of course, was the MDA for the sidestep. I got a strong 'Watch out for that and don't ever do it again!' The second was the I had been flying the approaches at about 120 KIAS. My instructor and I had been doing it as a way of spicing things up and increasing the workload for the sake of practice. We decided that because I'd been shooting them at 120 for the last three weeks, I'd do it on the checkride, too, rather than changing patterns and habits at the last minute. The examiner felt that 120 was too fast and that I should have been closer to 100. I took note and promised to slow it down until I was in a plane that needed to move faster. (Important to note, however, that I was not landing at 120! The approach to landing was at a stabilized 80 with 75 on short final.)

The result? I'm now instrument rated!

I know that there were a few areas that I could have been stronger in, but you can be sure I'll take care of them in short order.

And that, my friends, is the end of the Instrument Checkride Saga!
Nice write!
105 down the pipe usually works in a mooney.
90 for an Arrow.
120 is not too fast - you will hear request "Keep Your Speed Up" often into CMH, BNA, MDW, MEM, DAY, and so on - and it will be a pleasure to competently and safely accomodate. Just be ready for the surprise switch to another runway, or to a lower approach speed. Once ATC notices you can perform, they will sometimes take advantage of your competence.
Now you can really fly where you want more often when you wish.

Congratulations man, that is quite an accomplishment. Especially if your examiner was who I think he was.

Now onto the fun stuff!

Congratulations man, that is quite an accomplishment. Especially if your examiner was who I think he was.

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I'm sure that you're right on with your guess . . .

And thanks! I'm excited! I listen for your tail number every time I'm up, but haven't heard you in a while. Last time was over MAE a few months ago . . .

- PhotoPilot