Private Pilot Checkride


Does It Really Matter....?
Staff member
June 20th, 2003 - CHECKRIDE... The day had finally arrived. After several scheduling conflicts; some of my own and some of the FBO's it was now time. I had my flight planned and got plenty of rest the night before.
I awoke at 6:00 thanks to my hungry 3 yr. old. The weather was supposed to be good and when I looked outside, sure enough. It was beautiful and there was not a cloud in the sky. There did appear to be a little wind, but nothing to prevent me from flying today. My flight was scheduled for 1300 but I left for the airport at 1100. I wanted to have plenty of time to go over the maintenance logs and get in some last minute studying done. I had plenty of time to preflight and double check my flight plan. I also needed some time to have a quiet space so I could clear my mind and collect my thoughts before the most important test in my life to this point.

It was 10 minutes before 1PM and Andy (DE) was nowhere to be found. I was getting a little worried becuase this was not like him at all. I knew he would be here, but I was ready to go and getting anxious. One o' Clock came and Andy was still not there. He was actually out at Lake Minnetonka with an individual in his sea-plane. There were about to take off when a boat pulled in front of them and they had to abort the take-off. I knew he was on his way, but I kept thinking the longer it took, the shorter my checkride would be. Andy finally arrived about 1:20 and apologized. When went over some last minute paperwork and headed out to the plane.

After a quick pre-flight it was time to taxi out to the active RW; RW-18 for today. Andy said that I was to treat him as a passenger today and that I could ask him to do anything that I would ask a passenger; hold a chart, look for any traffic, read something for me, etc... After explaining the seat belts and emergency procedures to Andy he gave me my first "test". I explained the use of the door and how to lock it. Somehow he forgot to latch the upper lock which I promptly caught. Nice Try! I was actually hoping for RW28 because it would mean one less turn I would have to make. My desired heading was 269 so it would only have meant a slight adjustment. Oh well. First up on the flight was a soft-field take-off. The wind was at 17011 so there was a slight crosswind, but not too bad. I kept the yoke back as we started rolling and was tracking the centerline fairly easily. Once the plane came off the ground I started to drift left immediately. I did not have enough right rudder to counteract the left turning tendencies of the plane. I came close to the taxi lights but not close enough to fail. When I drifted towards the lights, I pushed as hard as I could on the right rudder and like magic, we headed right back towards the centerline. Another lesson learned.

I got off the ground and got on my desired heading right away. I nailed my first two checkpoints and figured out my groundspeeds and estimated times for the next checkpoint and destination. After the second checkpoint Andy started playing with the throttle and I could not figure out what he was doing. Could he be giving me my engine failure so soon. After a split second I started my emergency procedures and when I checked the mags he would alternate the throttle between open and closed. He asked what is happening? I paid closer attention when he said that and noticed he was closing the throttle when I switched to the left mag. I told him that the left mag was bad and that meant only the right was working. At this point I would land at the closest (practicle) airport and get it checked out. I said if this were real we would turn around and head back to KFCM right away. He was happy with that answer and on to some more of the the test. He happened to do this as we were coming up on my third checkpoint. Another distraction and I did catch it. I made note of the time as we were passing Lake Waconia and figured out the times as soon as practicle.

Next was the uncontrolled airport entry. He pointed out a grass strip on the chart and wanted me to go through my normal uncontrolled airport entry. It was hard to see the windsock because it was between two buildings but after finding it I circled the field and flew down RW9 at CA. I exited the field on a 45 and circled down to PA to reenter on a 45 degree downwind. There was no CTAF, but I simulated the communication and that went well with Andy. We flew a low approach for RW9 and departed the field after that. For a second I thought he was going to have me do a soft-field landing for real on my checkride after never performing one in my training. Whew !

After departing the field he took the controls and had me put on the hood. Here we go. I took the plane and was told to perform a climbing turn to 240 while under the hood. A few minutes under the hood and he had me close my eyes and look down in my lap. I knew it was now time for unusual attitude recovery. He had me do a standard rate turn to the left and then a standard rate turn back to the right. When told to recover I looked up and I was in a climbing turn to the right. I added full throttle, pushed the nose down, and rolled the wings level. Recovery successful.

Slow flight was next up on the menu. I reduced the throttle and got the plane set up for slow flight. Of course before that, I did my clearing turns. I think he was waiting for me to forget them. Not today, I was ready. Everything was fine, pretty much uneventful. After the slow flight he had me go right into a power-on stall. I set the flaps, added full throttle, and tugged back on the yoke. Andy did not say much. I announced the stall horn, buffeting of the airframe, and then recovery. I only lost a little altitude and was able to keep the heading with relative ease.

Now it was time for more slow flight and a power-off stall. I got the plane set-up and slowed down to 60 kts. I started the flare and slowly the speed began to bleed off. After a few seconds, the horn came on and that was followed by the buffeting of the airframe, and the recovery. The power-off stall was the worst of the two stalls. I lost a bit more altitude when recovering.

I climbed back up to 3000 and then it was time for the dreaded steep turn. Andy asked for the turn and I asked which direction he would like to go. He said we would do one each direction so I started off to the right. I announced 10 degrees, 20 degrees, 30 degrees, I then added a bit of power and hit 45 degrees. The little bit of power with a touch of trim did wonders for the steep turn. I lost very little altitude at all. It amazes me that things actually worked the way Marsha, Andy, and Kyle said they would work. We only did one steep turn for whatever reason. I was able to roll out on the exact heading so I think that helped my cause.

We had yet to do the simulated engine failure so I knew it was coming. After we rolled out of the steep turn Andy pulled the throttle and told me I just lost my engine. I started to switch the tanks and then remembered the first two steps: obtain best glide of 73kts and locate a suitable field, which I did in order. I started my checklist: switch tanks, check mags, check primer, throttle, mixture, fuel pump, carb heat, NO RESTART. Now back the other way: unlock the door, sqwak 7700, 121.5 on the com, carb heat off, fuel pump off, mixture idle, throttle idle, mags off, and just before landing and after the last radio contact, hit the battery/master switch. Don't forget to add the flaps when landing. Once you know you have the field made, you can add them when needed. In one of my last flights with Marsha she gave me a very helpful tip. Before departing, set the hdg. indicator on the DG to the current winds. It was much easier to look at the indicator to help in finding a field in which to land. When I started doing the engine failures, I spent/wasted too much time trying to locate a field in which to land.

After the failure, Andy said to use whatever I needed to take us back to KFCM. I dialed in the VOR on the NAV radio and identified it, then twisted the VOR and headed back home. We were over Lake Waconia and I called up the tower and told to report 3 W for RW18. I reported 3 NW and was told to proceed inbound for a right base on RW18. I was cleared to land and added my first flap before entering the pattern because I was entering on the base leg instead of the usual downwind leg. Once in the pattern I added the second flap and started to descend. I made a right turn over Starring Lake and added the third flap and really started to descend. I turned a long enough base that helped greatly in getting lined up with the center line. At first I was well above the glide slope so I pulled chopped the power to descend down to the glide slope. Andy asked for a short field landing on the second centerline stripe. There was little crosswind so I really lucked out in that respect. I was coming down on the glide slope and just before the RW I had to add a little power because I had lost a little too much altitude. I touched down just before the second stripe so Andy was pretty happy with that. A little short, but not too bad. The wind was right on 18010 so I barely had to use any brakes. I managed to make the first taxiway so the short field landing was a success. I was all prepared to taxi back for another trip around the pattern, but Andy took the controls and said "take a break", tell the tower we are going back to Thunderbird. As we were taxing back to T-bird Andy and I debriefed the flight. He asked what I thought I did wrong or could have improved on. The biggest blunder was the soft field take off and I knew that. Andy parked the plane and shut everything down. He said that he wanted me to spend an hour or so with an instructor going over soft fields takeoffs and how and why they are performed. At that point I thought CRAP, I have failed. He mentioned everything else was fine and then said, "GOOD JOB!" and shook my hand. I asked what do I need to do at this point? Should I schedule some time and then retake the checkride with you? "Nope, you are all done. But before you actually do any soft field work, get with an instructor and be sure you know everything about how and why they are used". I could not believe it, I had to ask again, "so I passed?, the ticket is mine?" Yep, you are all done, GREAT JOB and CONGRATS !!!Holy Smokes, I am now a Private Pilot !!

Who would have thought that I would obtain this "License to Learn"?. Before I started taking my lessons back in July of 2002 I would never have stepped foot in a small so-called crop duster. After 48 hours of training I had achieved something that I never imagined possible. There were many times I thought I was crazy for doing this, but it feels great knowing what has happened. I had worked with several instructors while I Thunderbird Aviation: Shane Allen, Kyle Stroup, Marsha Moe, Andy Lott, and Brett Nelson. I did not change instructors for any bad reasons, some of them were hired on at other jobs and the others were used for my stage checks and checkride. People always say how important the instructor is and that is so true. Although I had a few instructors, I have nothing bad to say about any of them. They were all very helpful at different times. They definitely made this a pleasant experience, especially when I was going crazy and having trouble with different portions of the training. CHOOSE your instructor carefully, it can make or break your training. Thanks to everyone at Thunderbird for all their help. It has been fantastic. I plan on flying for the summer and starting my instrument training in the fall. Take Care and I will see you then.