Well, today was a big day. I had two checkrides scheduled back to back and I needed to pass the first one (SE Commercial add on) in order to have a shot at the second one (SE CFI add on). I’m extremely happy to say that I passed both of them and am one checkride away from completing the program and starting to work with my own students 🙂
As usual it started out with the oral which was pretty short. I’ve already earned a commercial certificate (license) so all I had to do was answer some questions about the systems of the plane, its limitations, weight & balance, and a few other bits and pieces. Then we went out to the plane and got started with a normal takeoff from the home airport before flying north and going over the maneuvers. First was the chandelle, which is a 180 degree turn where you basically trade off your current airspeed for altitude, finish the turn near stall speed, then accelerate back to cruise speed without losing altitude. Then I did the lazy eight which is a couple of 180 degree turns where you start and finish at the same altitude and airspeed, so it’s another exercise for energy management because you don’t touch the power during it. Those were within standards but the examiner said they were a bit robotic and not smooth, so he quickly demonstrated one for me to show how I can get it to be smoother. We climbed up a bit more in altitude and he had me do the steep spiral over a pool complex. I started out doing it at best glide speed and around 30 degrees angle of bank, adjusting the angle of bank so I could keep circling the complex evenly, but he emphasised that it’s a steep spiral so the bank was increased closer to about 50 degrees bank (maximum is 60) which made him much happier. After completing the steep sprials he then killed my engine and had me go through a simulated emergency landing, so I went through the process of picking a place to land before recovering at about 1000ft and getting ready to complete some eights on pylons. The eights on pylons is basically flying a figure eight around two reference points on the ground. swapping between the two. I was probably three quarters of the way through the first one and he stopped me since I handled it fine and explained everything I was doing such as pivotal altitude and its adjustments correctly.
Then it was on to the landing side of things at a nearby airport, so I tuned in to the radio and got ourselves set up to land there. I was #2 behind another aircraft and the examiner just wanted a normal landing to a full stop, which I did as it was pretty straightforward. We taxied back and he wanted a short field takeoff followed by the short field landing. Those were both good, but he was especially happy with my short field landing. He wanted me stopped the smaller markers at 1500ft, but if I did the full braking I would have been stopped by about 600ft or so maximum, and he said it was very good I didn’t fly the whole final at the slow speed on final because he has had students start flying at the minimum speed on a 2 mile final before. I didn’t slow down until landing was pretty much assured. After that landing we taxied back again and he had me a soft field takeoff followed by the maneuver I’d been concerned about because of how my last couple of flights had gone…the power off 180 degree accuracy landing.
The soft field takeoff was really good since I had the stall horn blaring as I lifted off, and stayed in ground effect (low to the ground so the plane accelerates easier) to go faster and climb out back into the traffic pattern. I thought the examiner was going to cut my engine and I had to ask him if he was going to. He just said to cut it when I felt comfortable, so I just said “Ok I’ll just cut it now.” I was at about the end of the runway when I did that, so with no power the plane turns into a glider and I have to manage the airplane’s airspeed and altitude to land precisely on the 1000ft markers. I don’t like doing the strict base leg then turn onto final method, I prefer to make it a circle instead of squaring them off when practicing in the last couple of flights. I think that stems from my simulator flying as when I do the circling base-final I find it easier to adjust the flight path when coming in to the runway. It feels more natural for me to do it that way and it worked. I was coming in right on the money and I popped the last notch of flaps before landing on the 1000ft markers. The examiner asked me what I thought about it, and I explained that I landed a bit flat because I used the last notch of flaps In ground effect that extended my glide further than I wanted. The examiner said that was right and I was looking perfect until I extended that extra bit of flaps. Still, actually hitting my point given how I flew those power off approaches over last couple of days felt great 😀
The examiner then said that the hard part is all over with so we went back to the home airport where I finished up the checkride with a soft field landing that was pretty good. I missed the taxiway he wanted but that was because I was holding up the nosewheel as long as possible… “popping a wheelie” so to speak. I shut down the plane and I wasn’t sure if I passed as he didn’t tell me if I did or not, but since he asked if we’d be flying this one again because he wanted to leave the headsets in the plane that was as good as hearing I passed 🙂
It was lunchtime so I grabbed some food and came back to get started with the oral for the SE CFI (instructor) addon. Like the commercial addon I just passed it was relatively short because I already have a flight instructor certificate. I did some talking about other things like runway incursions, logbooks, certificates, and endorsements for students which he was very happy and said he could tell I knew my stuff. He was posing various scenarios that he had encountered as an examiner where instructors had screwed up before when he has turned up to checkrides, and I worked through those with him to show I caught on to what was wrong and how the instructor should have properly done things. With the oral out of the way we went out to the plane and took off again.
The maneuvers for the SE CFI addon are for the most part all the same as the commercial ones I did, but with me talking through them instead (which I did during the commercial checkride anyway so it was the same flight essentially). Some of the extra maneuvers I did were a steep turn, power off stall, secondary stall, and an accelerated stall but the highlight of this checkride was the power off approach I made. At about 2500ft the examiner killed the engine and asked me what I’m going to do. I explained that since we are relatively high I have some time on my side so I set up best glide speed and my descent rate was about 700ft per minute, giving us about three minutes until we hit the ground somewhere. I knew that geographically we were probably north-west of an airport I know (that short narrow one) so I looked outside and found it, pointed the plane at it and went through the troubleshoot checklist for the engine failure. The checklist didn’t “fix” the simulated engine failure so I planned to land at the airport instead of a field somewhere.
Originally, the runway I took off from was RWY 15, so I assumed this uncontrolled airport is going to have roughly the same wind direction since it is close by. Because of that assumption I set up on a right base, announced it over the radio, and began approaching the airport to land on RWY 17. After that I tuned in to the automatic weather there to see what the winds were doing. Well, it turns out the wind was blowing from a heading of 050, so that means I was technically lined up for the wrong runway end and would be landing with a slight tailwind instead of a headwind. The examiner then asked if I’m thinking about going for the other runway, but I said I wouldn’t make it anyway so I’m committing to the tailwind landing. I had plenty of excess altitude while I was on base leg, so I extended the first notch of flaps and as I came in on final I performed “S-Turns” to bleed off the extra altitude without getting too much closer to the runway. This means instead of flying straight to the runway I flew a snaking flight path towards the it. I was in a much better position now, so I extended the next notch of flaps and performed a slight slip over the power lines at that end of the runway to bleed off that little bit of excess altitude, leveled off, put in the last notch of flaps, slowed down, and landed right on the runway numbers. The examiner said that was an excellent approach because I managed the energy of the plane really well by getting those S-turns and slip done perfectly to come in right on target. It’s hard to describe how happy I was at nailing that landing…considering the circumstance it really couldn’t have been any better and it left me almost in a state of disbelief at doing it 😀 I mean, I had only done one tailwind landing before months ago and never with a power off approach. After that it was a short field takeoff, flew back home for a normal landing and a quick debrief on the flights.
I’m pretty tired after today but I really enjoyed both of these checkrides as I always have with this examiner. Although I had to show the knowledge and skill required of the training standards the examiner said that since he has done the majority of my checkrides he knows what I’m capable of, so he also wanted to use the opportunity to give me some extra insights to help make me a better instructor. The examiner finished by saying he enjoyed the checkrides, that I really did a great job today, and he thanked me for making his job easier and not keeping him until 5 or 6 o’clock at night as happens elsewhere. I said that my job is to make my instructor look good and to make his job easier, but I gave a lot of credit to my previous instructor for how I fly now because he helped set up a very solid foundation for me to build on.
I only have about five hours of flight time left in the program and one checkride remaining…the CFII which is the addon that lets me teach students how to fly using instruments. I should find out when that will be precisely in a day or two. If I can get through this final checkride without problems then I will have completed the program and attained all of my certificates and ratings without having “busted” (failed) a checkride 😀
– Requiem (Total hours = 229.1)