The day before the checkride we took advantage of a break in the weather to move the the checkride airplane from KSBP to KSMX. I found a hole in the clouds and did some scud running to get out of KSBP but KSMX was clear. On the way back we tried to practice some holds but the clouds came in fast and we ended up climbing to 7,000′ to get above them. One lesson I learned is that you can pick up ice even in light mist, so be careful when flying in air that is below freezing. The holes in the clouds filled in so I got to do GPS approach in actual back to the field.
The next day we drove down and the skies were clear. Unfortunately, by the time the oral was over lots of puffy clouds arrived at 2,600′ right over both ends of the runway. Since approaches start higher than that, there was no way to do a checkride without either lots of vectoring or going IFR, so we cancelled the practical portion. So I have 60 days to finish and the ride is scheduled for the next time he will be in town, either March 30 or 31.
The paperwork portion of the exam took a while, but the oral portion only took an hour and forty-five minutes. Make sure you bring your IACRA userID and password because you will need it to e-sign the paperwork.
I messed up two things, but otherwise did OK. He gave me a clearance from KLBG to KVNY with fly runway heading, radar vectors, V264, climb and maintain 4,000′, expect 5,000 five minutes after departure, V264, V394, SLI, 120.4, 3412.
Current weather was SKC ceiling 12,000′. You depart the airport and lose comms. What do you do? Easy question, you return to the airport. You are at 500′ and in the clouds what do you do? Remember MEA AVEnue F. The assigned is runway heading, so fly that. You don’t want to fly that forever, since you were going to be vectored to V264. You are expecting vectors to DARTS so that’s where you fly to. Altitude is the highest of Minimum IFR, Expect, or Assigned. So for the first 5 minutes, you fly 4,000′, then climb to 5,000′. It’s 11 miles to DARTS so you’ll probably be at 5,000′ for a little while before reaching DARTS. At DARTS, you join V186 where the MEA is 5,500′ so you climb. The MEA drops to 4,000′ on V394 and then 3,000′ after the turn but you stay at 5,500, which is the highest of Minimum IFR, expected, or assigned. At SLI there is a feeder route to the ILS approach. The feeder joins the approach at an angle of more than 90° so you will need to do the procedure turn. If you are early the rules say that you hold there until your ETA, but he agreed that ATC expects you to begin the approach. If you are high you can cut the power and get down in one circuit of the holding pattern.
I didn’t remember that you can enter Victor airways in Foreflight (you can’t do that on the GNS430), so I wasted some time looking up the fixes for the route. Then he reminded me that the route was one that he had given us beforehand, so I pulled it up. I also had printed the route so we used that version for the discussion.
The one thing I was unprepared was the departure from South Lake Tahoe. As I wrote last year in this post the SHOLE2 departure is the one to use. The issue, like the issue with the missed approach is can you depart with a minimum climb rate of 300′ per NM to 9000′. I got tangled up in calculating whether the C172 could make—which I know how to do, just didn’t pull up that info when we were talking.
MY CFII uses this examiner all the time, so he knows how he operates. He doesn’t ask clear questions so you have to guess what he wants and then expand on the answers. That tripped me up a couple of times when I gave him the rote answer and he asked, what else. We’ll there was nothing else, so I just started talking about things that I knew the ACS wants covered and that seemed to satisfy him. I have access to three airplanes, a Cherokee, a Cessna 210, and a Piper Arrow, so my strategy going in was to use them as examples for different scenarios. The CFI exams stress that the objective of the practical tests is to go past the rote memorization to understanding so I tried to give examples of the things I was regurgitating.
He started off asking me about the PAVE acronym. I hate memorizing stupid FAA acronyms and this one is no exception. I remembered that it is Pilot, Aircraft, and Environment, but forgot about Emotion. It makes me mad when I do that. He said we were going to use the acronym during the oral, but if we did, I don’t see how.
The first question was what does it take for you as a pilot to be legal for IFR. There is an acronym for that, but I don’t know what it is. I just remember that you need to have a Flight Review, medical, and IFR rating and 6 approaches, holding patterns, and intercepting courses in the previous six months. This is the first time he asked “What else?”. I guessed that he was asking about carrying passengers so I gave him that info. He asked again, so I started talking about proficiency versus currency and talked about the ways you could be current but not proficient. This came up a couple of times in the exam. I also digressed into Basic Med and how pilots on any medical need to self-certify before each flight. Talked a little about how Basic Med works, e.g. I can fly any of the planes I have access to up to 18,000′ but not to Mexico or Canada (Update: Basic Med is now accepted by Mexico and the Bahamas). He needs a third-class or better to be a DPE but a CFI only needs Basic Med (Update: If acting as PIC, e.g. Instrument training, Flight Review with a person whose Flight Review was more than 24 months ago, or Student Pilot. No medical is required of not acting as PIC.). I also digressed a bit to talk about how there are even STCs for converting a 7-seat Saratoga to a 6-seater so you can fly it with Basic Med.
Then we went on to what equipment you need to fly IFR. I talked about the GRABCARD items and as far as I know that’s it. He wanted to know what else, and I was stumped, but as I was writing this, I think he might have been referring to all of the dar VFR items that are required as well, TOMATOFLAAMES. That didn’t occur to me so I started talking about how you aren’t required to have a heated pitot-tube and my Cherokee doesn’t but it would be a good idea if flying for any time in the clouds. I touched a bit on anti-icing systems and de-ice systems and how our planes are not certified for known-ice. Since I ran out of things that are required I started talking about how to placard inoperative items and how an old LORAN in the Arrow was placarded since it isn’t worth $150 to have it taken out. Also how I left an old radio in the Cherokee and placarded the nav side.
I think he got bored listening to me so he switched to systems. The first was the pitot-static system and how it works. I like the explanation Andy Munnis gives to I talked about that. This was a good place to bring up the Air France crash when they mis-identified clogged pitot for loss of airspeed and kept pulling up. As you know, if the pitot tube is clogged, the airspeed acts like an altimeter. So as you pull up, the altitude increases and the airspeed increases, so you pull up some more. It’s not clear why the crew didn’t cross check other instruments, especially the pitch and power, but they didn’t and stalled the aircraft.
Then he moved to the vacuum system. I brought up the fact that non-catastrophic failure is especially hard to catch because it happens gradually. I blanked for a moment on how to detect a failure, confusing the alternator warning light for the vacuum gauge, but then I remembered.
We moved on to the fuel system. The system on the C172 is dead simple. You only have a choice of L/R/Both and normally fly with both. I told him a story about a pilot who told his passenger to pull the red know to get air if they got hot. A little while later, the engine died. Turns out that the passenger pulled the fuel shut-off knob. I also talked about how the fuel selector on the Cherokee doesn’t have detents and you have to be careful to watch fuel flow after changing tanks. And finally talked about a pilot taking off from Catalina who rushed to get ahead of a fog bank that was rolling in. For some reason, he turned his fuel selectors off when shutting down and when he started up, didn’t remember to turn one engine back on. He had enough fuel in the lines to start and taxi, but when he took off her ran out a few hundred feet off the ground, rolled the airplane, and ended up at the bottom of a cliff—on fire.
He then moved on to talking about the flight plans. I covered this in a previous post and he is using the same basic flight plans now, except that he skipped Paso Robles and Whiteman.
We didn’t talk about much more than what is covered in that post. We had some interesting weather the week before and I printed out some of the icing and turbulence charts for the route. Icing up to 7,000′ was not forecast from KSMX to 3O8 but there was a 25% probability at 9,000′. I mentioned that it was legally flyable but that I wouldn’t do it in the 172, but I probably would in the Turbo 210, since I would have enough power to turn around and get back to an area without ice. I also mentioned that icing layers are usually not too thick, only three or four thousand feet, but climbing to a layer above where there is no icing isn’t usually possible in the planes we fly. I think this is where he asked about the kinds of icing and I just talked about rime, clear, and mixed and how rime was dangerous because it was usually caused by super-cooled liquid droplets and smooth was dangerous because it was hard to see. Either one will cause the airplane to stall because it disrupts the flow of air over the wing. One thing I didn’t mention is that in airplanes with altitude hold or select, you should disable the altitude mode of the autopilot. The autopilot could keep increasing the angle of attack to compensate for the ice, until it reaches a point where the autopilot kicks off and the airplane stalls.
For the last question he told me that we were departing Van Nuys at 10:00 PM and the destination was Camarillo, the entire area was 600′ overcast and Camarillo was 1,100 overcast 2 mile visibility. Did I need an alternate. Yes. Can I use Oxnard if the ceiling is 700 and 3 miles, There is an ILS there and the standard minimum would be 600 and 2 but there is a note on the chart for non-standard minimums. The note says that the ILS is not available if the tower is closed. Then he asked if I can use Camarillo as an alternate if the ceiling was 800′. At first I said no, since the tower was closed, but then I looked more carefully at the note and it only applied to the ILS—not the GPS approaches. To use a GPS approach as an alternate, you need to have visibility greater than the LNAV or circling minimums and 800′ meets that standard.
As I was doing this he was looking out the runway and after an hour and forty-five minutes he asked if the weather was good enough to fly today. The ceiling was few at 2,600 and 10 miles vis, wind right down the runway a 8 kts. So it was perfect for flying but both ends of the runway were covered in clouds so my answer was that unless he was willing to vector me a lot on the approaches, then we couldn’t to the flying portion. The clouds looked like they were moving in from the south so the chance of it clearing in the near future were slim, so we cancelled.
On the way home, I tracked the localizer outbound and couldn’t get higher than 2,000′ and still stay below the clouds so it was a good decision.