Chris Snowden's Checkride

Another successful ride, once again re-enforcing that being a competent, confident pilot is the important part!

December 30, 2006. The day started very early for me.  My appointment with the FAA examiner was at 10am, but the appointment was in Clermont Co, Ohio and I live in Kentucky.  I live about 45 minutes from my home airport and the flight from my home airport to Clermont Co. was about 50 minutes.  So I crawled out of bed at 6am after an almost sleepless night.  (I kept waking up thinking about what the day was going to be like)  I gave FSS a call to check the weather and get the winds aloft for my cross-country to Clermont Co. and put the final touches on my cross-country the FAA examiner had me plan.  Good news so far, the surface winds were nominal at 2 knots and the forecast winds aloft for my entire route were 240 at 6 knots.  Pretty darn good for a December day.  I spent a few minutes doing the calculations and made sure I had everything I needed.  (Weight & balance, 8710 form, written test results, picture ID, planned cross-country and of course the fee for the check ride (250 dollars)). 

I arrived at my home airport and began to pre-flight my plane.  The plane I was using was a 1978 Cessna 152.  It was the plane I received most of my flight training in and was the cheapest to fly.  (I had asked the examiner if he was comfortable with a 152 and he was)  I was getting real nervous at this point.  The check ride was a couple hours away and I was beginning to second guess myself.  Oh well, I thought too late now you will be fine.  I finished the pre-flight and began my trip to Clermont Co.  The flight up there was awesome.  It was a beautiful day; visibility was greater than 10 miles, no rough air, and very few clouds.  I almost forgot I was going to take a check ride.  I used this opportunity to make sure my navigation skills were up to par.  Before today I had flown the past 5 days to hone my skills on maneuvers and landings.  (A very good Idea for anyone to do!!) .

I arrived in Clermont Co. at 930am and after parking the plane proceeded inside the FBO to locate the examiner.  Someone pointed me in his direction but said he was finishing up with someone else, so I found a seat and waited.  The nerves started hitting me again.  I was only seconds away from my practical test.  A year and three months in the making, 78 total hours, and 8,000 dollars later there I sat, nervously waiting.  A few minutes later the examiner came over and introduced himself.  A really nice guy he turned out to be.  He sat down and had a soda with me, asked me to tell him a little about myself and then he told me how he got into flying and became an examiner.  We talked about 20 minutes and then he asked if I was ready to get started.  He began by looking over the paper work, very carefully he looked at every box and line to make sure it was filled out correctly.  One of my PIC boxes was blank, so he filled it in.  He then looked over my logbook to make sure I had all the proper endorsements and met all the requirements.

Then, he explained everything we were going to do today.  He said we were going to start with the oral, talk for about a hour and then get in the airplane, if everything went well we would call it a day and I would be a licensed pilot.  The other two possible outcomes were a notice of disapproval, or a notice of discontinues. 

The Oral

What can a private pilot do?

What must a private pilot do to stay current?  What must a private pilot do to carry passengers?  What about at night?

Can a private pilot carry passengers or cargo for hire?

When does your medical expire? 

What inspections are required for the airplane?   

If an aircraft does not meet its current airworthiness how can a pilot fly it to an airport with a mechanic? 

How do you obtain a special flight permit?   

What kind of electrical system does your Cessna 152 have?

How do you determine the landing and takeoff distance for your aircraft…show me? 

How does density altitude affect the performance of your aircraft? 

-He then asked me to pull out my sectional and weight and balance and explain to him how I planned the flight for the day.-

Explain to me how you determined the aircraft is safe to fly with the current weight?

Explain how you calculated the maximum amount of fuel we can carry?

How did you get the weather information for our flight today?

What are some of the things Flight Service tells you?

What kind of briefing does Flight Service usually provide?  (Standard, abbreviated, outlook)

Tell me about the route you chose to fly?  What made you choose these checkpoints? 

-He then pointed to several things on the sectional and asked me explain them-

MOA, National Security area, Class B (describe), Class C (describe), VOR and their Radials

-He then gave me several scenarios of things that might happen to my passengers-

Your friend and you are for some reason flying your Cessna 152 at 10,000 feet, you look over at your friend and notice his lips are turning blue, he is having trouble concentrating, and he is looking pale, what is wrong with your friend?    Hypoxia

How do you handle the situation, what action would you take?  Lower altitude, supplemental oxygen if available, land asap

Your friend and you are flying along; your friend has been reading a magazine the entire flight and looking down into the airplane.  All of a sudden your friend says he doesn’t feel good.  You look over and he is pale, and complaining of being dizzy and disoriented.  What is your friend suffering from?     Motion Sickness

How do you help your friend?  Tell him to concentrate on the horizon find a point out there and stare for a few minutes, if he continues to feel sick, land asap

You are flying along and the temperature outside is cold and you have been using the cabin heat.  You soon notice you feel very tired and you are having trouble concentrating, what are you suffering from?   Carbon monoxide poisoning

How do you handle this situation?  Open the windows immediately, communicate with someone on the ground and let them know what is going on, land asap

He then congratulated me for passing the oral section, said I was very descriptive of each area asked, and said he could tell I had put a lot of thought into the cross-country.We then took a short break, he told me to go ahead and pre-flight the plane and he would rejoin me shortly.  He explained that I am Pilot in Command, if a real emergency develops the aircraft is mine, he would not take the controls, he said he will only take the controls during the unusual flight attitudes portion of the test.

The Flight

After taxi and run-up, we started with a soft field takeoff.  Once we were at pattern altitude he said to begin the cross country.  We flew to two check-points, the first check point my time was off by 6 seconds, and the second was off by 45 seconds.  Not bad he said.  At the second check-point (which was Brown Co. Airport) he gave me a scenario in which the oil temperature was rising and the oil pressure was dropping.  He asked me what was causing that, (I said low engine oil…correct) how do you handle that?  Throttle back and try to save the engine I said.  Ok make an emergency power-off landing at Brown Co.  I was at 3,000 feet about 2 miles east of the airport, no problem.  I pitched for my best glide speed, lost the extra altitude and made a right pattern entry for Brown Co.  An almost perfect landing, he said I handled the situation excellent and liked the way I used right traffic.  He said if I had tried to use left we would have used too much altitude and ended up short.  We stayed at Brown Co. and did a short-field takeoff followed by a short-field landing.  The first short-field landing was a bust, I did a go-around.  No problem he said.  The second attempt a bust again.  I came in too high and a little fast.  He said he could tell I was trying to fix it and thought I had the understanding of a short-field landing, next exercise he said. 

We headed back towards Clermont Co. and on the way back did flight reference maneuvers and unusual attitude corrections with foggles.  No problem there he said.  Steep-turns were next.  One to the left, a little low but I fixed it before my roll-out, one to the right, almost flawless.  Next was slow-flight with no flaps.  A little difficult, I had always practiced with flaps first then slowly recovering to no flaps.  I didn’t let him see it bothered me, slowed down and actually stalled it a little bit.  “Well your at the right speed now”, he said and laughed.  Ok looks good he said add some flaps a little at a time all the way down to full.  No problem there.  Recover from slow fight.  Next was power off stall; No problem could have used a little more right rudder.  Next was power on stall; again no problem just a little more right rudder.  That was it; he said to head back to the airport.  I was a little surprised that we did not do any turns around a point or S-turns. 

As I entered the traffic pattern he said to do a soft-field landing.  No trouble there touched down on the numbers and held the nose off the runway for a good while.  He said congratulations you are now a Private Pilot.  I was not even off the runway yet!  My taxi back was not all that pretty because I was so excited.  He shook my hand after we parked and said that this was an easy pass for him.  We went inside did some paper work and he issued me my temporary certificate.  He explained that my permanent one would arrive in the mail in about two months.  We talked for a little while longer, then I flew back home.  Excited the whole way back.  

Copyright 2007 Chris Snowden, all rights reserved, used with permission.