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IR checkride story!



 
 
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  #1  
Old July 30th 03, 05:56 AM
Guy Elden Jr.
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Default IR checkride story!

Ok, time for me to fill y'all in on today's adventure... my IR checkride!

First, let me thank all of those (in rec.aviation.student at least!) who
have posted their PPL checkride stories. I've read a few over the past week
or so, and they helped calm me down quite a bit in preparation for today. I
actually managed to get a pretty good night's sleep and had a nice drive to
the airport as well. I took a suggestion I read in another checkride story
and brought along a favorite CD, nothing too energetic though, good music
all around!

I got to the airport (CDW) a little after 8:30am and expected to basically
sit around waiting for things to get going after 9:00am. The examiner is
also the guy who runs the flight school I attend, and as it turned out, he
needed to get his examiner license renewed as well. I expected one guy to
show up from the FSDO, so was a bit surprised when two appeared... turns out
the guy checking out my exmainer was _also_ being checked out. My, but those
FAA guys are thorough!

So... I show up, expecting some downtime, and wham! Examiner meets me at the
door, already in a rush, muttering about incomplete forms, things my
instructor should have filled in, etc. Doh! This wasn't what I was
expecting! I go with him to find the chief instructor busily dotting the i's
and crossing the t's in my progress chart that they have on file so he can
print up a graduation certificate... otherwise I can't take the exam... only
42 hours or so x-country, so I need a graduation certificate from a Part 141
school. I also had barely the minimum hours of instrument time... 36 or so
in the program, but explained that my instructor knew that and he (and I)
felt confident I was ready to take the test.

Well it took about 30 minutes to sort out the whole mess, but I wasn't
really concerned. I know this guy (the examiner/owner of the school) has a
habit of getting anxious about paperwork, and knew he was just looking out
for our best interests... getting my paperwork done correctly was definitely
a priority for me as well as him, so I helped clarify a few points on my
chart and got the 8710 all nicely ready to go as well.

We finally finished that up, and by that time the FAA guys showed up.
Introductions were made all around, and then the fun began!

First, the examiner explained the whole situation to me. I was already
pretty sure I knew how things were going to work, but he wanted to make sure
that everything was clear before we began the exam. One of the FAA guys was
evaluating the examiner, and would have no bearing on the examiner's
decision as to whether I pass or fail... that was entirely up to me. The
other FAA guy was evaluating the FAA guy evaluating the instructor, and
_both_ FAA guys would basically be sitting behind me (during the oral at
least), so I was to just forget they were even there. No problemo, I was
already aware of how this would work thanks to my instructor explaining
things beforehand.

So, formalities out of the way, the examiner began the "plan of action" he
had for the test... explaining all the ways the test could end, etc. Then we
got to the good stuff... the oral! In a word... I breezed right through it
without blinking an eye. I had studied with the red ASA Oral Exam guide, and
wouldn't you know it, the examiner had exactly that in front of him, with
certain questions highlighted. He basically asked all of the basics...
requirements for IFR flight (systems, when you need the rating, etc), some
weather questions, flight planning questions, charts, procedures, etc etc...
I nailed every single question, and the only one I remember even being a bit
flustered on was when he asked what an LDA approach was. I drew a blank for
a minute, but managed to remember: localizer approach not aligned with a
runway. *whew*.

I was quite relieved when the oral was over, because even though I presented
myself as calm, I was definitely nervous inside. The examiner said I'd done
a very good job, as did one of the FAA guys in the bleachers behind me, so I
was pretty well charged up for the ride itself! My basic approach to the
oral is to treat it like a grueling technical interview (I'm a software
developer). I've been on quite a few of those, and have learned to just keep
calm and really focus on the subject at hand. If I can do that, I usually
have no problem answering questions, or at the very least giving an answer
that demonstrates I understand the material even if I don't know the exact
answer.

After a quick 5 minute break, I got the book for the plane I'd be flying,
and also proceded to fill out a weight and balance... something I hadn't
really expected to do but knew needed to be done just to make sure everybody
was happy. Plane checked out ok, so I went out and began the preflight. That
took a few minutes, and I chatted with the FAA guy who was evaluating the
examiner for a few minutes before the three of us climbed in to the plane.

One of the quirks about the examiner is that he doesn't wear headphones in
airplanes. At all. Even when he's PIC! He's a retired captain who flew
Airbuses for god knows how many years, and he never once wore headphones!
I'm amazed he has any hearing left at all, but be that as it may, it's one
of the _many_ things I quickly discovered would make this _the_ most
challenging flight I've ever taken!

The examiner said I should make myself as comfortable as I could, and
encouraged me to use my headphones, even though he'd be using the speaker /
microphone in the plane. So I decided to put my Dave Clarkes on, with the
left speaker on and the right one slid back so I could hear instructions
given to me by the examiner. I didn't realize until a few minutes into the
flight that this was just not going to work very well. Basically what would
happen is I'd have my mic near my mouth so I could talk to ATC. Then the
examiner would say something to me so I'd have to shout back an answer at
him, moving the mic. Whenever I moved the mic, the headphones would slide
around on my head. This was because with only one earpiece firmly attached
to my ear, there wasn't enough friction to keep them from shifting.
Arghghg... it was quite frustrating, and proved to be a very worthy
distraction for the entire 2.1 hours of flying we did.

I called up Caldwell clearance and got my clearance to Trenton (TTN). One of
the things I find incredibly funny and useful about the usual clearance I
get here is the initial left turn to 180 upon departure... which basically
puts you on a direct course for Newark Int'l. This pretty much insures that
you'll get a response from NY departure as soon as you call them up, so they
can get you vectored the hell away from their primary airspace. :-)

As I taxied out the examiner asked me at what speed I'd be rotating today.
He was basically hinting at the fact that I _might_ like to rotate at
somewhere around 60 kias instead of 55, due to the extra weight in the back.
I realized that on my own, and didn't really know how to take his "hint"...
was he trying to fail me before I even left the ground, or just trying to
teach me a bit about his approach to flying. I'm pretty sure it was the
latter.

We departed nicely into a very warm but very calm late morning. It was
probably around 12:00pm by then, so there were a few bumps here and there,
but _nothing_ compared to what I and my instructor (and one of his students)
endured a couple of days earlier... some nice 25+ gusting winds. I was
really glad the day for my checkride turned out as nicely as it did, because
I had originally scheduled it for a week before... unfortunately 4 straight
days of nasty thunderstorms sidetracked my plans for a week.

As we departed I called up departure and got cleared direct SBJ. Tracked the
VOR pretty nicely, and leveled off at 4000 without too much trouble. The
thermals picked us up every now and then, so I was definitely having to work
the throttle and trim a bit to keep things under control, and I think the
examiner realized that as well. I knew that he was a stickler for the PTS,
but not unreasonable. He stated at the beginning of the test that he was
interested in making sure I was safe to operate with an IR, so altitude
deviations weren't necessarily a show-stopper... as long as I took firm and
decisive action to correct them. Something left uncorrected would be a far
worse problem than a 200 foot gain in altitude which I quickly corrected
back down... and let me tell you, I lost count the number of times I busted
that +/- 100 foot rule for the PTS (due to the thermals). But each time I
did, it was when I was already busy adding or cutting throttle to get back
to target alt at 0fps.

So we proceded to SBJ, then were cleared direct ARD (Yardley... not sure if
abbreviation is correct). This time the controller instructed me to go
direct ARD, then proceed outbound on the 270 radial. Or at least, I
_thought_ that's what she said. Doh! I didn't realize my confusion until...
you guessed it... it was time to turn! Well I started to turn to 270, then
twisted the OBS to 270 as well to track from the station. As soon as I got
on course, I keyed my mic to ask for clarification... first x-mission went
something like "Trenton approach, Skyhawk 1234K, clarify 270 heading or 270
radial." No reply. Next x-mission, "Trenton approach, Skyhawk 1234K". Again,
no reply. Oh, and did I forget to mention... the examiner noticed almost
immediately after I got to 270 that I didn't know which to do... heading or
radial... so he's bugging me about that, and I tell him I'm already on the
case with ATC... ugh!!!

My third transmission, I _finally_ realize my error, and thus spake, "PHILLY
approach, Skyhawk 1234K, clarify yadda yadda...", and _then_ she responded
with this: "Oh, ok, 1234K turn left heading 250 vectors for the ILS 6
approach into Trenton." *WHEW*... BIG relief there. :-)

The rest of the ILS approach went off like clockwork. I nailed the headings,
nailed the localizer, and nailed the glideslope, all the while the examiner
is querying me about DA, and telling me to fly it down to minimums, and what
am I gonna do if the runway's in sight, and oh boy guess what I've got this
secional that I'm going to block your windshield with, so why don't you look
up now that you're at minimums, and see! There's no runway! So fly runway
heading and climb to 1,500, and now go direct SBJ (which of course wasn't
tuned in, because ILS is on VOR-1 and ARD is on VOR-2 for missed approach).
Nice! Thank you sir may I have another! :-)

Well it probably wasn't really that bad, but boy did it feel like a thousand
ton weight had been lifted off my shoulder once I got established inbound to
SBJ and level at 1,500. But wait, there's more! During this segment of the
flight we had some fun... steep turns and some "slow" flight. The turns
themselves weren't that bad, but I could've done better. The "slow" flight
wasn't much at all, just slow it on down to 80 kias for a minute, then climb
to 2,000, then climb to 2,500, at 500fpm, holding 80 kias. I think I
developed about a 100% increase in my scanning ability with just that one
minute exercise. I'm actually going to try that more often, because it
really worked. You have to look at every single instrument in order to
accomplish that task (while holding a heading). I highly recommend it to all
IR pilots and students.

So we neared SBJ, and the examiner gave me some holding instructions...
using the PT/D method of dividing up the VOR, I easily determined the
appropriate entry, and then proceded to fly one of the best holds I've ever
done. Having to do holds on the incredibly windy days I practiced on over
the past couple of weeks made this one, with no wind, a no-brainer! That's
another suggestion I have to any IR trainee... go with your CFII on really
gusting x-wind days. It'll build up your tolerance to motion sickness (my
threshold now is at 2 hours of solid moderate turb), and if you can nail
just one hold on a gusting day, believe me, you'll nail every single one on
a non-windy day.

As I completed one full trip around the pattern, the examiner handed me an
approach chart for Somerset airport in NJ, and told me I'd been cleared for
the approach, radar services terminated. So I flew the whole approach, PT
and all, and got it down to minimums as appropriate. We then departed the
area enroute to Morristown for... da-da-da-da... the dreaded NDB-5 approach!
Yep, you know the one (at least if you're from around here you do)... it's
the one with the nice little 15 degree turn _after_ you pass the NDB FAF
inbound!

I was _really_ glad my instructor nailed me with this one in the sim a few
months ago. I completely missed the fact that there was any sort of turn
involved after the PT, and missed the airport completely back then. This
time, I knew exactly what to do... but... there was still one more wrinkle!
The examiner cleared me to the NDB, then told me to shoot the approach...
radar terminated, etc. We were pretty well established on the proper inbound
course to the NDB as defined for the approach (035 deg), but I figured I
needed to still fly the full procedure. This is probably the one thing I'll
always be vexed by, because to me, it seems very reasonable to be able to
just slow down and descend to MDA, if you're not too high on the leg before
crossing the NDB. I basically had to do a 180+ course reversal, _then_ fly
outbound for 2 minutes, _then_ do a 2+ minute procedure turn, then another 2
minutes back to the station, then proceed in to the airport. All because ATC
didn't have me in radar coverage. My take on these sorts of situations is
that the approach is intended to get you lined up with a course in to the
airport, and if you're already lined up, why bother with the extra 6+
minutes of reversing course twice, unless you're really high.

Ah well, I followed the approach to a T, and again nailed it. Circling to
land on runway 5, however, was almost a brain freeze for me. We were already
over the middle of the field by the time I clarified I was to circle to land
on 5, and for a second couldn't figure out how best to do that. I realized I
could just fly over the runway, then turn left over the 23 numbers to join
the left downwind. And that's exactly what I did... kept it in nice and
tight as well just as if the visibility were at minimums. No problem on the
touch and go, and the only remark the examiner made to me afterwards was
that it's not necessary to fly to the end of the runway before starting the
turn, but he sees pilots do this all the time. Well, I guarantee I won't be
forgetting that little "lesson"!

We departed Morristown for Caldwell, and he had me put the hood on one more
time. This time, he gave me speed restrictions as well as radar vectors for
the approach. When we were on a 1/2 mile final, he told me to "take the hood
off and land the airplane" (exact words). Niiiiiiice.... at least we weren't
too high. I think he was trying to simulate what it might be like to get a
no-gyro approach to a field, and I'm glad for the experience. My instructor
hadn't really gone that far with the training. This landing was just a wee
bit hard, but I got it down and taxied off. As I pulled in to the ramp area,
I couldn't believe what happened... the examiner patted me on the shoulder
and said job well done!


WOO HOO, I PASSED!!!!!


*whew*... the most challenging flight ever was finally over! And... I was
now a bona-fide instrument rated pilot! And the examiner even patted me on
the shoulder! I _never_ expected him to do that... he's just not that kind
of person. I knew I must've done something right to earn that sign of
respect from him.


Now my thoughts are turning toward trips... and vacations... and things to
do with my wife and friends. We've got some ideas in mind, one of them is
pretty ambitious... involving a trip down and back up the east coast of the
U.S.... so we'll see...

I'm just relieved that things turned out as well as they did, and that I was
able to survive that checkride. I now know I can handle myself in situations
that might prove deadly without adequate training, and I also know a little
bit about my limits. I don't plan on flying anywhere close to legal minimums
for quite some time, but it's good to know that, just in case fate plays its
cards against me, I do have the skills necessary to get down safely.


Thanks for reading, and many safe and enjoyable flights to you!


--
Guy Elden Jr.
PP-ASEL


  #2  
Old July 30th 03, 06:13 AM
Ryan Ferguson
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Holy bejeezus, two feds and a DPE who wouldn't use headphones, and you still
aced it. Fantastic! Thanks for the great story too.

Enjoy your well-earned rating.

-Ryan
CFII-A/MEI/CFI-H

"Guy Elden Jr." wrote:

Ok, time for me to fill y'all in on today's adventure... my IR checkride!


  #3  
Old July 30th 03, 12:00 PM
Thomas Borchert
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Guy,

thanks for the report - and congrats!!

That thing about the headsets should get him out of business real soon,
though, IMHO.

--
Thomas Borchert (EDDH)

  #4  
Old July 30th 03, 12:57 PM
Jeff Doran
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Default

Fantastic story Guy! Congratulations, and thanks for bringing me back
to that moment in time, which for me was in '92...since then, I have
made that "trip down and back up the east coast" almost 2 dozen times,
with my wife...and I have the IR to thank for making it a practical
vacation and weekend getaway option...
Good luck, file often and fly it wet...

Jeff Doran
Mooney N1159P Atlantic City

"Guy Elden Jr." wrote in message ...
WOO HOO, I PASSED!!!!!


*whew*... the most challenging flight ever was finally over! And... I was
now a bona-fide instrument rated pilot! And the examiner even patted me on
the shoulder! I _never_ expected him to do that... he's just not that kind
of person. I knew I must've done something right to earn that sign of
respect from him.


Now my thoughts are turning toward trips... and vacations... and things to
do with my wife and friends. We've got some ideas in mind, one of them is
pretty ambitious... involving a trip down and back up the east coast of the
U.S.... so we'll see...

I'm just relieved that things turned out as well as they did, and that I was
able to survive that checkride. I now know I can handle myself in situations
that might prove deadly without adequate training, and I also know a little
bit about my limits. I don't plan on flying anywhere close to legal minimums
for quite some time, but it's good to know that, just in case fate plays its
cards against me, I do have the skills necessary to get down safely.


Thanks for reading, and many safe and enjoyable flights to you!

  #5  
Old July 30th 03, 03:56 PM
David Megginson
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"Guy Elden Jr." writes:

Now my thoughts are turning toward trips... and vacations... and things to
do with my wife and friends. We've got some ideas in mind, one of them is
pretty ambitious... involving a trip down and back up the east coast of the
U.S.... so we'll see...


Congrats! Isn't it great? I passed my (Canadian) IFR flight test
only six days ago, and I've already logged several hours of IFR and
over an hour of actual IMC during four trips since then.

In case you're interested, here are some of the early lessons I've
learned now that I'm flying IFR for real, outside the bounds of
overly-familiar airspace (our weather in Ottawa is very similar to
yours down in New Jersey) -- these may be useful, since they're things
that matter to us newbies but more experienced IFR pilots might take
for granted:

1. When you have pax and the air is bumpy, it's still not always worth
trying to climb above the afternoon cumulus cloud in the summer --
the tops are higher than you'd think. You'll make life harder on
the pax during the long, slow (assuming a normally-aspirated light
piston) climb through the heavier turbulence in the clouds for the
last few thousand feet than you would just flying level through the
lighter turbulence underneath, assuming a decent ceiling. I
actually had a passenger throw up for the first time Monday
afternoon. You have a good chance of getting above fast in the
morning (it worked well for me twice), but by early afternoon those
tops are just going up and up and up and the insides of the clouds
at 7000-9000 ft are pretty rough.

2. On a related point, when you're climbing through cumulus at maximum
gross weight, hold Vy right on, even if the VSI shows level or a
slight descent sometimes (and the ASI isn't moving). Pulling up a
bit will show a temporary climb as you trade airspeed for altitude,
but in the end, you'll be worse off. At 7,000 or 8,000 ft on a hot
day, sometimes the best you can do in cumulus cloud is just to hold
your altitude at Vy and full power until you get through the
downdraft.

3. On another related point, mid-to-late afternoon is pretty much out
for flying in actual IMC in the summer around here, since every
afternoon seems to have a 30% probability of TCU and CB. If the
only way to fly is through the clouds, and you don't have 'sferics
on your plane, plan for early morning or late evening flights
instead.

4. Now that you're not in training, when conditions on the ground are
better than MVFR ATC seems to always offer you a visual approach,
unless you ask for something else. My approach plates have been
useful primarily for SIDs and STARs so far, except when I've
explicitly requested an IAP.

5. ATC is *very* grateful when they're busy and you cancel IFR once
you have the field in sight (assuming good VFR). They cannot ask
you to do that (at least not in Canada), but it reduces their
workload and might save you 10 minutes or more, depending on the
airspace. I'm assuming that the U.S. makes the same distinction
we do between a visual approach (still IFR) and cancelling IFR to
land VFR.

6. Everything else notwithstanding, when you can do it, breaking out
on top into the sunshine is an awe-inspiring experience for
everyone in the plane.

7. I don't miss the foggles, not even a little bit.

Enjoy your first few trips, and I'll look forward to reading your own
observations and lessons if you have a chance to post them. I was
down in New York for a business trip in May, and I parked my Warrior
at Caldwell Air Services at KCDW -- it's a nice little airport. I'll
probably choose Teterboro next time, though, since it was a long trip
into Manhattan and back to Caldwell.


All the best, and have fun,


David

--
David Megginson, , http://www.megginson.com/
  #6  
Old July 30th 03, 04:01 PM
Maule Driver
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Default

Congratulations and Thanks for a great story.

I would have crumbled with all the extra oversight! The headset thing alone
would have sent me to another examiner.

I'm having a brain fart at the moment - what was the diff between flying the
270 radial upon crossing the VOR and turning 270 upon crossing?

"Guy Elden Jr." wrote in message
snip
This time the controller instructed me to go
direct ARD, then proceed outbound on the 270 radial. Or at least, I
_thought_ that's what she said. Doh! I didn't realize my confusion

until...
you guessed it... it was time to turn! Well I started to turn to 270, then
twisted the OBS to 270 as well to track from the station. As soon as I got
on course, I keyed my mic to ask for clarification... first x-mission went
something like "Trenton approach, Skyhawk 1234K, clarify 270 heading or

270
radial." No reply. Next x-mission, "Trenton approach, Skyhawk 1234K".

Again,
no reply. Oh, and did I forget to mention... the examiner noticed almost
immediately after I got to 270 that I didn't know which to do... heading

or
radial... so he's bugging me about that, and I tell him I'm already on the
case with ATC... ugh!!!




  #7  
Old July 30th 03, 04:06 PM
Peter R.
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Guy Elden Jr. ) wrote:


WOO HOO, I PASSED!!!!!


Congratulations! I enjoyed your tale of success.


Now my thoughts are turning toward trips... and vacations... and things to
do with my wife and friends. We've got some ideas in mind, one of them is
pretty ambitious... involving a trip down and back up the east coast of the
U.S.... so we'll see...


Sounds like a plan! Stay proficient, fly often, and practice often in
actual, if this damn t-storm season would ever end.

Most of all, enjoy the added flexibility and utility of your new rating.


--
Peter










  #8  
Old July 30th 03, 05:17 PM
David Brooks
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"Maule Driver" wrote in message
.com...
Congratulations and Thanks for a great story.

I would have crumbled with all the extra oversight! The headset thing

alone
would have sent me to another examiner.

I'm having a brain fart at the moment - what was the diff between flying

the
270 radial upon crossing the VOR and turning 270 upon crossing?


I wondered that. It makes a diff if there is a significant wind from the N
or S, but he did say "very calm"!

-- David Brooks


  #9  
Old July 30th 03, 06:10 PM
David Megginson
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Default

"David Brooks" writes:

I'm having a brain fart at the moment - what was the diff between
flying the 270 radial upon crossing the VOR and turning 270 upon
crossing?


I wondered that. It makes a diff if there is a significant wind from
the N or S, but he did say "very calm"!


Here's a guess.

I don't remember what direction he was coming from, but let's say it
was from the south in perfectly calm winds. If he waited until the
flag flipped then turned left to 270 in a rate one, he would end up
maybe a mile to the north of the 270 radial flying parallel to it
(assuming that VOR twist was the same as magvar). To intercept the
radial quickly after station passage, he'd probably need to turn to a
heading of 255 or so until the CDI centred.


All the best,


David

--
David Megginson, , http://www.megginson.com/
  #10  
Old July 30th 03, 06:55 PM
Andrew Gideon
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Guy Elden Jr. wrote:

I got to the airport (CDW)


Hey! Another CDWer rides the clouds.

a little after 8:30am and expected to basically
sit around waiting for things to get going after 9:00am. The examiner is
also the guy who runs the flight school I attend,


Who was the DE?

[...]
I was quite relieved when the oral was over, because even though I
presented myself as calm, I was definitely nervous inside. The examiner
said I'd done a very good job, as did one of the FAA guys in the bleachers
behind me, so I was pretty well charged up for the ride itself! My basic
approach to the oral is to treat it like a grueling technical interview
(I'm a software developer).


Damn. Are you me?

[...]

I called up Caldwell clearance and got my clearance to Trenton (TTN). One
of the things I find incredibly funny and useful about the usual clearance
I get here is the initial left turn to 180 upon departure... which
basically puts you on a direct course for Newark Int'l. This pretty much
insures that you'll get a response from NY departure as soon as you call
them up, so they can get you vectored the hell away from their primary
airspace. :-)


Not quite. When heading to the south (esp. to some airport along the NJ
shore) I've often passed right over Newark. If you think about it, you'll
realize that this is an area relatively free of aircraft on approach.

[...]

As I completed one full trip around the pattern, the examiner handed me an
approach chart for Somerset airport in NJ, and told me I'd been cleared
for the approach, radar services terminated. So I flew the whole approach,
PT and all, and got it down to minimums as appropriate.


I hope there wasn't anyone in the pattern. As I recall that airport, an
approach would run you right through that.

[...]
WOO HOO, I PASSED!!!!!


Congrats!

- Andrew

 




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