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Private Pilot Checkride

The night before she gave me a cross country assignment (Mojave) and four problems to work out. Weight and Balance, Crosswind component, Takeoff distance, and density altitude.

We started out looking at the documents. She wanted me to show her that we were legal to fly. She needed to see the AR(R)OW docs and the logs. Then she asked about the logs. She asked about when the ELT and Transponder needed to be checked and how we can tell that all of the ADs were complied with. She was satisfied with my answer that we pay Pat, our mechanic, to make sure that everything is done correctly when he does the annual. Though she implied that printing out all of the ADs and checking the log to be sure they were complied with would be a good idea. This turns out to be a very good idea. Your IA will have access to a computer program that will print out all of the AD’s that apply to your aircraft. Go over it carefully.

She told me her weight (130) the night before and that we would have 20 lbs of gear for Weight and Balance. My book had very small graphs that are hard to read near the boundary of the CG so I went to the FAA web site and downloaded the type specification for my plane so I could get the actual arm and CG data. I told her about how I had calculated various scenarios and that if my dad and I wanted to fly together one of us would have to lose twenty pounds or we would have to put a bag of sand in the back. She didn’t ask to look at my calculations, she just wanted to know if we were ok to fly.

For the Crosswind exercise—the wind was at 180 at 34 knots in Mojave—none of the runways were appropriate for landing. She wanted to know what I would do if we were low on fuel. If you look at the runway picture, there is a taxiway that is at 180/360 so it would be a good place to land. She didn’t look at the takeoff distance problem. We looked at a PIREP and I decoded the info. We talked about what to do if you lose power on takeoff, and off the record, she said that my plane (Cessna 182) could probably glide back to Rwy 29 or 25 at 500’ and that I should take it up and check it out sometime. This is actually harder than it seems, I think I could make it back at 800′ but not lower.

We talked about the density altitude problem and high altitude takeoffs. She asked some questions that seem to be taken from the Oral Exam Guide. Several questions on stuff I forgot like, whether a transponder was required in Class C airspace, but I looked them up in the FAR/AIM. We talked about spins and stalls, and she asked me if I had heard of the PARE mnemonic for remembering what to do in a spin. (I hadn’t).

  • Power–Off
  • Ailerons–Neutral
  • Rudder–Full Opposite to the direction of Yaw
  • Elevator–Move toward Neutral

We looked briefly at my cross country plan on the map, but she didn’t look at my calculations or weather summary. (The weather part took me several hours to compile since it was marginal over most of the route, but possibly clearing.) We made a decision to postpone the checkride until there was better visibility. The weather was much better on Tuesday, but the wind was gusty. We started off with a short field takeoff. We got knocked around a bit in the air and encountered several updrafts which made maintaining altitude difficult. We did a quick speed check over AG to validate my flight plan, then did the hood work, since we were at 4,500 ft. I flew straight and level for a while then did some turns, and she did three unusual attitudes, though they weren’t too far off from straight and level.

We went over the ocean for the 45 degree banked turns and then a rough engine exercise. She wanted me to actually pull out the carb heat, push in the mixture, etc. Everything except touch the throttle. I’d never practiced it by actually working the knobs before. I don’t remember practicing a rough engine exercise so I did the same thing you would do for an engine out, set the airspeed at best rate of glide and look for someplace to land. Since I had power, I should have just tried to maintain altitude and spiral in to a landing at Oceano. She doesn’t actually land there, because of the noise issues.

We had almost no wind for the S turns so she skipped the rectangular course and turns around a point. We did slow flight for a while, then headed back to SLO for a straight in approach. The controller asked me to do S turns on the way in so I didn’t have a really stabilized approach. Even though the ATIS said there was wind, I didn’t expect to get knocked around as much as I did on the landing since we had just done S turns with no wind. I landed a little rough but close to the centerline and rather than do a touch and go pulled off at Kilo since I didn’t feel that I had enough control over the airplane for a TnGo. She asked if I wanted to continue and I said that I was just surprised by the wind, but was willing to do the rest of the TnGo’s. We did a short field and then one with no flaps and they were much better. She said she does the first landing so you can judge the wind for the other landings.

I know I went 50 feet over on my right 45° turn rollout, I didn’t do the right thing for the rough engine exercies, I had a turn that I thought was too steep in my S-turn on final, and I called ground rather than tower on the taxiback, otherwise I think I was within tolerances for everything. We went back to the FBO and she told me to wait downstairs while she did some paperwork. At that point I wasn’t sure that I had passed, but a few minutes later she came back down with my temporary certificate so I was good to go.

This link is an video of the oral portion of a practical test. It’s rather thorough but over an hour long.

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