The Checkride.

So I thought I would take a moment to write up the notes from my PPL checkride, since others may be as apprehensive as I was when it came to showing the examiner that I could actually fly the airplane.  This is a slightly modified version with the notes I shared with the Flight School.

My checkride was originally scheduled for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The examiner is a charter pilot by trade and he travels a week at a time, Sunday to Saturday. He’s here a week, gone a week, etc.

We completed the oral exam as scheduled but found it was going to be too dark to complete the checkride in its entirety. Though I had the option to, I didn’t want to do part of my checkride and then go up and do the rest of it at a later date. He gave me a letter of discontinuance.

The weather and schedules were not cooperative for a couple of weeks, but we scheduled the ride for the 8th of December. The forecast was looking promising, though they were talking about some gusty conditions; wind coming directly out of the west. Since KRME has but one strip of pavement for runway purposes (15-33), this could make for some tricky crosswind conditions. The morning of the 8th arrived and I was feeling mostly confident and ready to go, despite the last ride I had done on the 6th with my instructor in where I couldn’t do anything right. I went to the airport early, thoroughly pre-flighted the airplane and then decided to warm the airplane up by doing one turn around the pattern. I wanted to get a feel for how the winds were behaving. The crosswind component was near my personal limit, around 8 knots or so as the wind was coming out of 110 at 12 knots. I could handle it but I knew it would be some work.

I landed on 15 after getting bounced a little around the pattern and just as I was getting ready to touch down on the 1000′ marker in an every so gentle manner, the wind shifted a little bit, caught me off guard and I ended up to the right of the centerline. It didn’t scare me, I was never unsafe but it jarred me enough to realize to make the decision to not fly that day. When the examiner arrived, I told him of my decision. We went over a few miscellaneous items from my oral exam (I had forgotten what hotspots look like on an airport diagram) and we covered the revised flight plan I had done for the checkride. My original flight plan was from KRME to KPWM (Portland, Me.) for the oral exam; since the checkride would be at a later date and I had proven that I could write up a sound flight plan, he had me plan from KRME to KGFL (Glens Falls, N.Y.) for the checkride.

With the flight called off I was bummed. The rest of that week turned out to be awful for flying. In fact, the next two weeks were solid Marginal VFR or IFR for the entire time. We finally got a break on 12/21. With a fresh flight plan to KGFL but a somewhat low ceiling, we decided to do the checkride at 3000′ since we wouldn’t really be going all the way to KGFL (after clarifying that I would have gone out there at 5500′).

Here’s the notes from the actual checkride on 12/21:

  1. My first two checkpoints were Route 12 and the Fairfield Windfarm. Both were 6-7 minutes apart and I went over them as planned and on time. He asked me what my ETA would be KGFL if we kept going and I told him. He was satisfied. There was a cloud directly in front of us so we had the perfect diversion scenario.
  2. To keep my head firmly grounded in the checklist, I verbally read the checklist and touched everything with my hand (door locks, etc). I used the checklists for everything, including the maneuvers checklist.
  3. I verbalized everything, even when I was creeping up or down in altitude a little bit and he appreciated that.
  4. For the diversion he had hinted at KART (Watertown) but I advised that Frankfort-Highland (6B4) was closer. I dialed it up on the VOR and started heading there. He told me we could do a short field landing at 6B4 but I declined, since 6B4 isn’t plowed in the winter and I wasn’t sure of the condition of the runway.
  5. He had me pinpoint my location using two VORs. I wasn’t high enough to receive Glens Falls, so I ended up using Syracuse. He helped me with pilot resource management by unfolding the sectional so I could look up the frequency for the Syracuse VOR.
  6. We did foggle work on the trip to Frankfort-Highland. I asked about clearing turns before putting on the foggles and he said he would do them. He was aggressive with the clearing turns while I had the foggles on. I did a couple of climbs, descents and straight and level and then we did a couple of unusual attitudes.
  7. After we flew over 6B4, we did air work. I started with clearing turns and then we did slow flight. Instead of recovering from slow flight he had me do a power off stall out of slow flight.
  8. Power off stall was followed by a power on stall. He talked to me during the maneuver, asking what I was looking for (coordinated, etc).  The power on stall was the maneuver I was least confident in but I was fine, despite my nerves.
  9. I did two steep turns, one in each direction after clearing turns. I didn’t have a really good visual point of reference so I just did them off the heading indicator. I was within PTS but they were not my best steep turns at all. He said I worked way too hard doing them.
  10. After the steep turns he told me his pants were on fire from the engine being on fire and we did an emergency descent.
  11. After the emergency descent we did S-turns along the Erie Canal. I did two of them, one in each direction.
  12. We headed back to KRME and we ended up on a really long, straight in on 33. He wanted a short field landing and I jimmied up the approach so I opted for a go around as I felt I would have come up short. He liked the decision to go around. I’m not a big fan of the long, straight in final approaches.
  13. Completed the short field landing and had me do a short field takeoff.
  14. Came around the pattern and did soft field landing and takeoff. He noted that I could use a little more right rudder on the soft field takeoff but I was well within PTS and safe.
  15. Came around and did a no-flaps, forward slip landing. I had never combined the two, though I had done plenty of each, so I ended up going around and doing it right the second time around.
  16. On the takeoff he pulled the power and asked where I would go. I pointed to a field off the end of the runway and went to best glide and started heading that direction. He put the power back in and told me to do a normal landing on the 1000′ marker, take him back to the hangar and I’d have myself a ticket.
  17. We made it back to the hangar without hitting anything and completed the paperwork.

The examiner did try to distract me a couple of times with extraneous conversation and I asked him to stop talking once so I could make a call to the tower to report midfield. I ended up reporting one midfield when I was abeam the numbers due to others on the radio and he was fine with that and asked what I would do if I couldn’t report midfield, I told him I’d extend my downwind until I was told I had landing clearance.

The examiner’s approach to the whole thing was very relaxing and helped ease my nerves a lot. He was encouraging and gave me pointers after I completed a required maneuver. My biggest takeaway, other than my ticket, was that it was a good learning experience for me.

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