A lot has happened since my last post. I got engaged and about to get married. Had a change of instructor and yes, a very important thing, I appeared for my checkride !!! Did I make it? Well, read on :)
After a change of instructor I flew out with my new instructor for about a month (on weekends) till he got comfortable to sign me off. My first attempt at scheduling a checkride was for last Sunday, Jun 10. However a strong stationary front over the area meant bad weather and low ceilings so had to postpone the checkride. The checkride was then deferred till the following Tuesday morning.
After getting all the paperwork reorganized on Mon, I checked the weather. The forecast seemed reasonable with ceilings as 4-5000 getting worse towards late afternoon. So I decided to go ahead with it.
The day of the checkride I woke up at like 4:30 in the morning. Got the weather, did the wind/speed/time/fuel calculations. The DPE had given me a theoretical weight/balance problem, so completed that and by 6:30 was ready to leave. Mostly the weather was fine (most of the ceilings were to our east staying there till afternoon). The only path that concerned me was an IFR over sussex and somerset due to fog. I decided to check up on them before going for the actual flight.
After reaching the flight school at about 8:30, I gathered the maintenance logs for N5353K, the plane I would do my checkride in :) Went over the logbook and my paperwork to ensure that everything was in order. Checked the weather once more to see the progress and met the DPE at about 9 am. As I had read before, DPEs seem to have an ability to put candidates at ease pretty soon. My DPE, didn't seem to be an exception.
We started out by getting the paperwork in order. Since he uses the IACRA site, it was a matter of couple of clicks before we were done. He went over my logbook and my flight folder (part 141) to make sure I was ready for the checkride. He then briefed me on how the checkride would proceed. We took a 5 minute break and moved to a different room.
Next up on the list was the oral portion of the exam. He started out with airworthiness, PPL requirements, maintenance logbook etc and then went over the flight plan, navigation, stalls spins and a plethora of other questions covering the aspects mentioned in the PTS. Every single time before answering a question I reminded myself "stay to the point!". Surprisingly I did pretty well and answered his questions with confidence. I guess that did the trick and we were done pretty soon.
He then briefed me on how the checkride flight would proceed and told me exactly what to expect during the flight. He also told me what he was looking for in my flying skills. No surprises, no tricks. Wow, what a relief. Now I knew exactly what all I had to do and so I could mentally prepare for it.
Before starting on the preflight I called up the weather briefer again and the weather seemed to have gotten a lot better by now. The IFR had cleared en route and the ceilings had moved up to 8-9000 scattered. The forecast for the weather going bad in the afternoon was still there though. So I went ahead and did the preflight. Walking up to the plane I noticed Josh (who works at the school and had given me a ride to the school this morning) had left me a post it note on the attitude indicator wishing me Good Luck :) How sweet.
I did the preflight reminding myself to stay calm. The DPE was meanwhile on the phone at a distance perhaps occasionally observing what I was doing. I did the preflight as I normally do, and by the time I was done, the DPE was also there.
So far so good. I climbed into the cockpit and started going through the preflight checklist. I asked him if he wanted me to give him a passenger briefing and he said "Nah, its fine" So I went over doing my checklist. With the engine started, I did the brake check and off we went taxiing. I was constantly reminding myself to talk aloud what I was doing, so he could have a better idea of what my plan was and in case I goofed up somewhere, he would still know that I knew what to do, just that I perhaps didn't do it right.
The winds were variable at 6 knots and we got cleared to taxi to rwy 4. Being a Tuesday morning, there was hardly any traffic at caldwell and so the radios were pretty silent. While taxiing he asked me a question or two, otherwise he left me to do what I was doing.
Holding short of the runway, I did the run up. He gave me a couple of tips as I went along. Everything was fine till I checked the magnetos. As I checked the right magneto, the engine shuddered a lot. I hadn't seen this one before. So I said there seemed something wrong with the right magneto and it definitely was not right. He asked me what to do and I said I would taxi back and get it checked. He said good and then told me that this could also be caused because of carbon deposit. So he put full throttle, leaned the mixture and let the engine run for about a minute. Then brought back the power to 1700. He then asked me to check the magnetos again and this time all was clear :) Wow, already learnt quite some things even before the checkride had begun.
With the run up done, I did the departure briefing (including how I would get to my first checkpoint). I requested a downwind departure and we were then cleared for takeoff. "Lights, camera, action" and off we went. As I was about to turn crosswind I remembered that I had not tuned morristown tower in COM1, shucks. I immediately tuned it and said aloud that I should have done it before we took off. On the downwind, I requested a frequency change to morristown and then we got a clearance to transition to the west/south-west at 2500.
The wind was pretty steady so it was pretty to keep the plane steadily climbing on course. I identified my first way point and then flew towards it. Coming over the first checkpoint I reset the timer and then set myself up on the course I had planned for the day.
Things went pretty smooth and surprisingly I didn't feel lost at all. Maybe I was too cautious. Even more interestingly I was able to spot my second checkpoint, with which generally I've had difficulty in the past. As we came over our second checkpoint, the examiner asked me to diver to sussex. So I immediately put the plane in a bank circling my checkpoint and started planning for sussex. Luckily the heading turned out to be 15 degrees and when I checked the heading indicator we were on heading 090 turning left. So all I had to do was turn to the heading and we were on course to sussex in almost one turn :)
Next up on my list was to do the time/speed/distance calculation and give him an ETA for arrival at sussex. I picked a point just ahead on the sectional on course, measured it and then reset the timer. Coming up over the point I found that we were doing about 104 knots and so I estimated that it would take us 16 minutes to reach sussex. The rest of the diversion went smooth and I was pretty much on course with minor deviations. The part that surprised me was that I had sussex in sight at about 14 minutes so we would have been there pretty much around 16 minutes.. wow.. the day sure was working out good for me.. I already had a grin on my face..
We then did some uncontrolled field operations at sussex, and did a normal landing at sussex. My airspeed on final was a bit too fast so we had quite some floating to do over the runway and then eventually landed. He asked me why we floated so much and I said, too much airspeed :(. Cleared of the runway we taxied back to the runway. en route he told me about sussex airport and his experiences there. This time around we did a short field takeoff. On climb out he cut out my power and we did simulated engine failure on takeoff and then on the downwind he again cut out the power and I did a simulated power out emergency landing at sussex. This time around my landing was much better (although not as great as I would have liked it to be).
We again took off sussex (soft field takeoff) and then started heading back to caldwell. En route we did steep turns, stalls, hood work and the goodies. I had some trouble with unusual attitude. The highlight was perhaps the steep turns which had given me some trouble in the past. I pretty much nailed the turn at 45 degrees and altitude at 2500. The grin was getting wider. But then I goofed up a little bit on unusual attitudes, so I guess there is always a party pooper :) He gave me some tips and asked me to do it again and this time around much better.
On the way back the DPE said that he was surprised that I did so nice on the instrument work since I hadn't done much instrument training in the quite some time. The grin was getting back. The approach into caldwell was pretty uneventful and he asked me to do a soft field landing into caldwell. Again, soft field landings have been a pain point for me and this one wasn't fun either. And especially with winds variable (mostly flowing down the runway), its a bit difficult to judge what type of correction I need. So I landed a bit crooked and he said what I should have done to correct for it. I sheepishly said left aileron down and right rudder. Taxiing back to the ramp he said that there were still some things I needed to polish up and this was a license to learn, but a license I deserved to have :) I could feel the grin spreading from side to side on my face !
Walking back to the front desk I didn't have to say a word before the person at the desk congratulated me. I guess it was the grin that gave me off :)
A few minutes later I walked out of the flight school with a temporary private pilot certificate in hand and a world of aviation before me. Wow, what a day ! And as for the weather it did get pretty bad by evening and we had thunderstorms.