PPL Checkride

NOTE: This was originally posted to rec.aviation.student

From jean@kcco.com Tue Jun 16 12:13:39 1998
Path: news.wwa.com!not-for-mail
From: jean@kcco.com (Jean-Michel Smith)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.student
Subject: Another Pilot joins the crowded skies! [LONG]
Date: 16 Jun 1998 17:12:49 GMT
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Greetings! Yesterday (Monday) I managed to take the Oral Exam and Checkride without killing anyone and, more importantly, passed the damn thing!!!

When I got up the sun was shining, contrary to the weather forecasts the day before. I had set my alarm, planning on going to work and rescheduling the checkride, but as luck would have it, the forecasters were wrong. I ran downstairs, grabbed GTE DUATS of the internet, and saw that there was a slim chance the nice weather would hold until two in the afternoon (when my checkride was scheduled). I opted to take the gamble, take the day off of work, and hope for the best.

After a good brunch at a local cafe, and some last minute studying, I grabbed my back pack aka flight bag and headed out to the airport. There I got another DUATS briefing, and the forecast had improved. T-showers were now expected after four o’clock. Good news — I might just be able to squeeze the checkride in! I spent most of the morning and early afternoon going over the weather, checking the weight and balances, and getting all the required documentation organized.

At 2:00 the FAA Examiner arrived and the moment of truth was here! The oral exam lasted for about 40 minutes. I did miss one question, but got the rest right (and so was able to redeem myself). After that I preflighted the plane (going over the preflight checklist after the preflight was done), and we were off!

I had been asked to plan a flight from Midway (MDW) to Peoria (PIA), so I requested a departure heading of 230. Alas, we were vectored to the south initially, after which the busy controller forgot about us, so I requested a heading change back on course and was given it. Hit the first checkpoint (LOT), which was challenging because of the haze and the fact that I had been vectored way off course. Basically I estimated a heading, with a slight bias to the north, explaining that I thought the heading ought to get me there, but if I erred to the north a little I could follow the river down and pick up the planned course at LOT.

Once I was able to confirm we had passed out of Midway’s Charlie airspace I started my climb to 4500 feet. I wanted to be as high as possible when radar services were terminated — just in case I had my engine out happen right away. I was at about 2500 feet or so when I was diverted to Howell-New Lennox (where I first soloed!). As I approached the field at around 2000 feet to overfly it my ears were suddenly deafened with silence as the engine was pulled to idle. The wind sock is favoring 05, but that is not doable, so we’re going to to a cross-wind landing strait in on runway 12! Quick, trim for best glide! Identify the “field” (runway 12). Line up with the runway while announcing our intentions on CTAF (“Howell-New Lennox traffic, Cessna 5309E executing simulated engine out on runway 12, Howell-New Lennox”). OK, we have the field made, but we’re too high. Full flaps, and trim for a short field landing using the last two thirds to half of the runway. Check fuel selector valve, mixture, throttle, carb heat (pull it out!), magnetos, and primer in and locked. No time left, we’re landing — make sure we’re lined up with the runway and our airspeed is correct. Good.

“Now do a go-around.”

Fighting the trim with the yoke full forward on the go around, dump first 10 degrees of flaps, oops, carb heat in, we’ve got Vy, dump some more flaps as our altitude reaches an acceptable level, re-establish Vy as I spin the trim wheel upward to a more reasonable setting. OK, our altitude is even better, so dump the last bit of flaps. Now it’s time to enter the pattern properly for runway 05. I set up a beautiful pattern entry, entered the downwind, started to announce my intentions on CTAF, and realized I was flying a left handed pattern for runway 23! Ouch!!! I was certain at this point I had failed the exam. There was no way she wasn’t going to be aware of it, so I admitted my mistake and noted that the safest way to recover was to leave the pattern I was in at a 45 degree angle and ascend to 2000 and fly over the top of the field for another 45 degree entry into the pattern — this time the correct pattern for the correct runway. As I did this, and explained what I was doing and why, the examiner agreed that this was the best way to recover from that kind of situation.

As I was passing over the top of the field, and rechecking the wind sock to see if 05 was still favored (the winds were shifting a fair amount). Right turn to 45 degree while descending for entry into the pattern, announce my intentions, turn to downwind. Damn, I’m just a little low. I note that the pattern is going to be tight because of my altitude (1300 instead of 1500 feet), and decide to attempt the landing, but comment that I’ll probably have to go around. Yup, sure enough, my cross wind is way too short and, although my final is long enough I still have too much speed to really do this thing right. Execute a go around and fly the pattern correctly (wider, at 1500 feet). Much better, and a nearly perfect landing! Back taxi for a soft field takeoff with a 50 foot obstacle, which turns out to be the best soft-field takeoff I’ve managed to date (usually the plane is way too eager to get out of ground effect, but today it glides perfectly along the runway while accelerating to Vx). Now it’s time for a short field landing, which I nail perfectly, even earning a compliment from the examiner! I begin to nurture a faint hope that all may not be lost as we back taxi for departure to another airport to do some cross-wind work (the winds at Howell-New Lennox are very weak).

We head over to Frankfurt, where the wind is more directly across the runway and a little stronger. UNICOM isn’t answering, so we overfly the field for the usual 45 degree entry into left traffic for runway 09. Again my entry into the pattern is a touch low (1400 feet instead of 1500 feet). ARGH!!! Once again the pattern is too tight and I go around. This is the problem with flying mostly to controlled airports — you rarely have to do this. My euphoria at having nailed the short field landing and the short-soft field takeoff is gone as I execute another go around. Second pattern is picture perfect, as we come in for a pretty good cross wind landing on 09. Cross wind landings at Frankfurt are challenging because of all the buildings — you have bursts of cross winds followed by areas of still air, ending in a steady cross wind as you get farther down the runway. A definite challenge! The cross-wind takeoff goes well, and I track the runway out perfectly with a pretty good crab. Now it’s time to climb for some maneuvers. First are steep turns, which I do pretty well after executing a 180 degree clearing turn (I lose some altitude but catch it in time, correct, and come out perfectly on the correct heading at the correct altitude, very relieved to have managed to stay within the minimums!). Another clearing turn and we do some slow flight, which also goes real well. Power on stalls, power off stalls, and various other maneuvers, and then she asks me if I’d like to try some spins! I had mentioned that I’d been wanting to do spins during the oral exam, but that my instructor and I hadn’t managed to get around to it yet. She emphasized that this would be for fun and is not required for the test, but that if I’d like, she’d be happy to demonstrate one. Of course my response was “you bet!” We climbed in a spiral to 3300 feet, using the climb as our clearing turns. Then she brought the nose of the plane almost strait up, with extreme left rudder (the ball was buried on the right side of the TC) and, as the plane stalled, kicked the rudder. Flip! We were over and spinning, then a recovery into a nose dive and back into level flight.

“We have plenty of altitude left, would you like to try another?”


Another stall, flip, we’re over, this time a couple of turns before recovering. What a complete rush!!!! Spins have got to be one of the funnest maneuvers I’ve ever experienced! Even if I don’t pass the checkride, it was worth it just for this!

“OK, put the hood on. You’ve just flown into a cloud.”

With my senses reeling, recovery from unusual attitudes will definitely be a challenge. We do the usual maneuvers, then she has me look at the floor, and then — yee gods! We’re in what looks like it’s about to become a spiral dive! Power out, level the artificial horizon while pulling up gently to recover from the dive. Horizon is flat, pull up more firmly until we’re flying at a more reasonable angle. Once all is back to normal we do a couple of more maneuvers, then I’m free to remove the foggles and return to normal flight.

She tells me to head on back to Midway. I grab ATIS, call approach and give them my position. We are handed off to tower in the usual fashion and first told to cross over the field, expecting left traffic for runway 4L. Then we are given a strait in approach to 4R, but told to keep our speed up as there is a Boeing 737 on six mile final. OK, this’ll be fun, I’ve never done this before. Wait until fairly close to begin reducing speed and applying the first 10 degrees of flaps. Now begins slowing rapidly (but gaining a touch of altitude, damn it!) as I apply the rest of the flaps. Slow up to 65 knots as I request a wind check. A slight cross wind landing with full flaps, but it goes OK. We’re down with nary a scratch, manage to get off of the runway onto the first taxiway, and look back to see the 737 on short final. We switch to ground and are cleared for taxi back to the south ramp, where I park the plane.

As I’m tying up the plane and going through the shutdown checklist I am given the good news. Not only did I get to experience spins for the first time today, but now I’m officially a private pilot!!!

Now I just have to talk my friends into actually climbing into an airplane with me …

Oh, it never did rain in Chicago Monday. The weather was beautiful, VFR the entire day and well into the evening.


Jean-Michel Smith                           +
PP-ASEL                                     |
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