My first checkride

I’m posting this mostly for Tina Marie’s benefit, since her checkride just got postponed.

My private checkride was in several parts. On the first day, I showed up with all the required paperwork and everything, and we did the oral. The examiner, Bill, did a great job of putting me at ease, it felt more like a chat than an examination, although I did miss a few things. But when it came time to fly, we discovered that some work that had been done the day before on the landing gear hadn’t been logged. I rushed around trying to find the mechanic to get it signed off, but by the time I got the logbook signed it was too late and Bill had another appointment to go to.

It was a week or so before I could reschedule with Bill. I arrived bright and early, once again with my cross country planned and ready. We took off and Bill was chatty. He talked over the tower handing me off to departure, so I told him he needed to be quiet while I made these radio calls, which I guess was his little test to make sure you can handle distractions and exercise PIC authority. But as we were climbing out, he said “what do you think about the visibility today?” It had been reported as 6 or 7 miles, but I couldn’t tell you if it was 6 miles or two miles – it was a bit soupy. Then he said “You know, if you call off the check ride before you bust any regs, you don’t have to wait 30 days for the retest.” Ok, you don’t need to hit me over the head. I said “You know, I don’t think the visibility is good enough to do this test.” He said “I agree, let’s keep down in the class G airspace and do a couple of things, and then we can finish it up some other time.” I still don’t know what he thought he was doing, because if the visibility was less than 3 miles we had busted a reg leaving the class C (unless we’d got a Special VFR clearance, which we didn’t), and if it was greater than 3 miles we were legal in the class E outside of the class C. Maybe there was a cloud layer that would have kept me from having the required altitude to do the maneuvering. I guess I’ll never know.

Anyway, that day we did some stuff at low level – I took some vectors under the hood, ground reference maneuvers, etc. We went back to the airport and asked for “the option”, and Bill cut the power and told me to a simulated engine failure. I turned in and had it all set up correctly, but then he said “ok, that looks good, now show me a forward slip”, which I did. All in all, we had about half the stuff on the practical test standards checked off.

Later that day, Bill’s business manager Isabel phoned me up and said that Bill had a charter flight the next day at 9:30, but if I were to be in the plane and ready to go in front of his office at 7:30, we could probably finish up before he had to go on his trip.

So I did the cross country plan once again, and showed up bright and early. He jumped into the plane, took a brief glance at my flight planning (he’d already seen it twice before, I just had the new winds aloft plugged in) and made sure I’d briefed the weather. We took off on the flight doing a simulated “short/soft field” take-off, and I demonstrated a few ground speed and ETA calculations. Then it was straight into steep turns, stalls, unusual attitude recoveries. Because I’d been flying all over the place to do these maneuvers, he used that as an opportunity to make me show him how I could relocate using VOR cross checking (never mind that I could look out the window and tell where we are on the sectional – I *was* a champion orienteer, after all – he wanted radio relocation, so I played along). I forget what else we did, but evidently we got everything checked off pretty quickly, and headed back. We did a simulated “short/soft field” landing. Bill didn’t say anything until we had parked and shut down, when he congratulated me.

To me, the interesting bit about the last day of my three part checkride wasn’t what we did, or that I passed, it was that I felt completely at ease. Previously, I’d been nervous and a bit in awe of my examiner, then I was totally concentrated on the tasks to be done, but by that day it was more like I was showing off my skills to a fellow pilot and friend.

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