As promised, here is a little more detail on my private pilot checkride, which I passed this past Sunday afternoon. It’s funny, I was actually more nervous leading up to this particular test than I had ever been before for any other test I could remember (ACTs, SATs, GMATs, Finals, etc.). In retrospect, that anxiety probably wasn’t necessary, but I guess it helped keep me more on my toes.
I arrived to Westosha a bit before the time I scheduled with my FAA examiner, just to get comfortable and settle myself. The examiner walked in perfectly on time and was a very nice and down-to-earth guy. We chit-chatted for a bit as he went over my paperwork, which helped calmed my nerves somewhat. Everything checked out from a documentation standpoint and he started in on the oral examination part. We first went over my cross country plan, which he had me plan from Westosha to La Crosse, WI (KLSE). I was able to pre-plan that flight before the day – so I purposefully came in very well prepared for that portion. I think that helped as he seemed impressed with my planning system and the documents I prepared. After that, he tended to ask general questions about pretty much anything/everything and have me explain topics as much as I could – to see the depth of how much I knew of certain rules and systems. He had me focus a lot on the systems of the plane (specifically the Cessna 152 – which I was flying that day), then controlled airspace rules, then a bunch on weather actually (apparently he likes to quiz on weather). He then said he had heard enough, was satisfied, and would head out to fly. I was pretty excited at that point knowing I did pretty well so far. It was probably about 1 hour 15 minutes of oral exam.
Upon reaching the plane (my trusty N64920), I pre-flighted VERY thoroughly, walking and talking him through every step and my thinking. Overall, I tried to verbalize my thoughts (for my sake and his sake)….I think it worked well. I briefed him like he was just a normal a passenger (since I’m truly the pilot-in-command for this flight). He explained that he hopefully wouldn’t be saying much, just to fly normally and relax. He had me start out with a short field takeoff, which went beautifully. I then proceeded to my flight plan’s heading. About 4 minutes into the flight, he asked if I was on-course. I said that I was (I was indeed), and he said great, we’ll then proceed with the rest of the maneuvers. I knew I wouldn’t complete the cross-country, but I figured we’d go at least to my first checkpoint – about 15 minutes away. Obviously he was satisfied enough! That was easy…
He had me divert to the west and slap on the “Foggles” (works like the IFR hood – to do simulated instrument flying). He had me just putz around a bit, hone in on a VOR, do some turns, and one unusual attitude recovery. It was only about 6 minutes for that portion. I took the foggles off and he then had me perform stalls, power on and off, but he had me do them accelerated (turning). I guess I did okay because he didn’t even have me do them straight. I did a steep turn (only to the right), then slow flight, and then descended to pattern altitude to perform turns around a point. My CFI told me this examiner likes the pull the throttle during these ground-reference maneuvers, so I purposely pre-spotted possible off-field landing points when/if he did that. As expected, he did pull the throttle after I completed about 2 circles around a point. I quickly pointed out and descended towards the field we’d be “landing” at if my engine had truly lost power. We didn’t have to get too low before he said that was fine and asked me to head back to Westosha. I was a little shocked/surprised because everything was moving so fast and I wasn’t doing as many maneuvers as I remember doing with my CFI during my mock checkrides.
During the ride back, we chatted about general stuff he said he’d have me do a simulated short field landing. That went fine and he asked me to taxi back to perform a soft-field takeoff, run the pattern, do a forward slip for the approach and then land soft-field. The takeoff and pattern went fine, but I have to admit I had never combined a slip and soft-field landing before….so I was a little flustered for the final approach. I mistakenly left the power too high, so although my slip was good, I had way too much speed for the landing. I decided to go around, which I verbalized, and he even said “good idea” – disaster averted! I went around, reduced power appropriately and landed moderately soft (not my best). Apparently it was good enough because he asked me drop him off at the club house. Upon shutting the plane off, he said “let me be the first to congratulate you…you passed!” At that moment, a huge weight was lifted off me and I knew I had did it! It was an awesome feeling!
Looking back, the test wasn’t that bad and my CFI had prepped me exceptionally well for it. If I could offer any advice to other people taking their private pilot checkride… is to prepare well beforehand. With an impressive flight plan and oral test, I think the examiner already expected a good flight. Once you start proving that during the flight, things will just flow easier.
Anyway, that completes my original journey to earn my private pilot certificate! Now I’ll be blogging about all the great flying that I can now do own on my own, with my wife, family, and friends! I can’t wait!! This flight I did log 1.1 hours of PIC (pilot-in-command) flight.