PPL Checkride Experience...


Well-Known Member
Last night was the most serene night flight I believe I've ever had.

I departed out of Portland at about 8:00 pm and flew up to Lewiston-Auburn to do a few landings at an unfamiliar airport at night. On the way back to the Jetport I had the chance to just fly and enjoy the night. The sky was black as pitch and it looked as though millions of stars were shining through it. On the ground the lights were gleaming up at me from Gray, Cumberland, Portland and several smaller communities... beyond that... the darkness of the Atlantic. It felt like I not only had stars above me... but also stars below. I was following the thumbnail moon all the way back to the ocean. There was little to no wind... it was a smooth flight.

It was one of those flights that made me realize how much I enjoy flying. My new office will be in the air. The romance of flight... there's just something about it. I knew for certain that I was making the right decision after that flight.

I landed about 10:00 pm, after doing a couple of night landings for practice and to get my night currency back. Then went home to get a good nights rest... however, I haven't had much sleep these past few nights because I've been studying so much for my Oral FAA interview. Last night was no exception... I ended up staying up until 3:00 am.

Ordinarily, that wouldn't be so bad... I mean, after all, my wife and daughter were in Texas visiting family. So I didn't have any reason to really go to bed that early... except... I had scheduled my FAA Oral Interview and Check-Ride for 8:00 am, this morning!

Before I went to bed, I had to do some cross-country planning from Portland to Albany, NY. This was a required part of the interview. I plotted several different courses before I found one I liked... By the time I did my weight & balance, time & distance, weather, and fuel calculations it was already 2:30 am... Then I must have packed & re-packed my flight bag at least 5 times to make sure I had everything I needed. Must have been nervous energy...

Cut to 6:00 am... and me dragging myself out of bed... ate breakfast in the shower... (just a granola bar), got dressed, let the dog out, grabbed my flight bag, and off I went to the airport... Don't remember much of the drive... not that I was sleeping, but I had my study materials in front of me the whole time! Trying to cram right up to the last minute. I arrived at the Jetport at 7:50 am... before the examiner! That allowed me to get set up in the conference room and start to study and relax before he arrived.

He arrived at 8:05... and we got started promptly... He immediately reviewed my Cross Country Flight Plan and asked me several questions about it before moving on to the Oral. Then... What's a Special Flight Permit... What's an MEL?... Does your aircraft have one?... If so, where?... What is a METAR?... SIGMET?... AIRMET?... VOR?... NOTAM?... FA?... Describe what a Surface Weather Analysis Chart shows you... Define & describe Class A airspace, Class B, C, D, E, & G while your at it. Define VX, VY, Vso, Vs1, VA, and VS for your aircraft. Describe your planes fuel, oil, and hydraulic systems. Pitot-static system? Emergency Procedures... and even... How do you get out of a spin!?

Speaking of Spins... 2 hours later... I felt as if my head was spinning from all the questions... It was just then that he said... "That's it... the hard part's over, now let's go have some fun!". Woo-hoo! I had passed the Oral!

It was an absolutely beautiful day to fly! I did the pre-flight on my aircraft as he watched me and asked me several questions as I went... We then got in... started up, got clearance from the tower and proceeded to take-off. I was no longer nervous... To me, flying seems very natural... and I was eager to impress him.

We flew out to Old Orchard Beach, did some maneuvers, stalls, steep turns, hood work, VOR nav, and such... then called Portland-Approach for clearance back into their Airspace... We finished it off with several Touch & Go's, and finally as I was at TPA mid-field downwind of Rwy 18, he pulled out the power and said... "OK... Get me on the ground safely with no power."

I set up "best-glide", and proceeded to set up my final approach. I got him to the runway with air to spare... set up my flare for landing, and gave him the smoothest landing all day! We then exited the runway and proceeded to the taxi-way to take us back to the ramp...

He then turned to me and said... "Congratulations! You're now Private Pilot!"

You couldn't wipe the smile from my face for the next several hours. I had just accomplished something that a very small percentage of the population has (present company excepted).

It was exhilarating! ...and to celebrate... I went home... and napped!

Well done! I read a news article about a 95 year old guy who just got his AA, and he said he is going to celebrate differently then his classmates. He is going home and having a nap with a smile on his face!
Thats awesome man!! Congrats!

Great story, brought back some good memories for me!!
Did you do these night flights solo? When I was getting my PPL, students were not allowed to fly solo a night.

Just curious!

Hey, congrats! I am wondering, I have heard that the person who checks you is required to add a distraction while you are flying, what was it for you? I am just wondering.

It is to ensure that you are able to handle real world distractions (bee in the cockpit; door poping open; passenger throwing up) while maintaining control of the aircraft at all times.
on my PPL ride, we were on the 45 entry for an uncontrolled field ( near the end of the ride). My DE kept asking me to turn a little more to the right and go lower... claiming he was trying to see his friend's house. I fell for it only for a minute and then stated, "We're in the traffic pattern and I would prefer to fly predictably if at all possible". It was a nerdy response, but he loved it.

How times have changed: just today I did a 1/2 hour scenic and we had to circle points around a house exactly at the crosswind to downwind location of the airport.

Self announce and eyes peeled out the window helped...
Congrats on the PPL!!! Hearing your story brings back some fond memories of my checkrides (and all of the checkrides still ahead of me!). Anyways, enjoy your new freedom to fly! Now that you've worked so hard to get it, go out and enjoy it!

Happy Flying!