Celebrating my first year as a licensed pilot
May 3, 2011 will be a date I’ll never forget, along with some other important dates in my aviation career. Like my first solo flight March 14, 2011.
May 3, 2011, I passed my Private & Instrument Check Ride (Yes, I did them both at the same time!)
My instructor Ben to the left and my check air man Abu to the right. Abu is flying for a regional airline in the US now, and Ben is about to start his ground school flying the CRJ with another regional! Way to go!
Back to my check ride. I can still remember it as if it was yesterday.
The check ride started the day before, May 2, when I got to school to pick out a route to do my IFR navigation log for. Naples-Melbourne was a fairly easy route, as there is a preferred route prescribed in the Airport Facility Directory. I did my nav-log fairly quick, had a nice dinner, reviewed my notes, then relaxed the rest of the evening.
My day started at 04.00 am when the alarm sounded and I knew it was time to get up. I got in the shower and got dressed. My uniform shirt was ironed the night before, I want to look the best when doing flight exams. Looks are not really a big deal, but it is important to at least look well-groomed. A quick cereal breakfast meal, then I headed out to catch the shuttle to the airport. My school offered twice-an-hour shuttle between the apartment complex where I lived and the school.
At school, I got the latest weather and finished up the navigation log, and did a weight-and-balance sheet for the oral examination.
My oral examination started at 07.00 (yawn) and lasted for a good 2.5 hours. We went through pretty much everything there is to cover. We spent the most time, however, on my navigation log, which the examiner thought was very nicely done. We also went through lost-coms scenarios and flight planning quite a bit, before he decided “Let’s go flying!”
Phew, passed the oral. That’s one big obstacle. Time to get ready for the flight. I was the most nervous about the oral, and I was pretty confident in my self when it came to the flying portion of the check ride. We have to randomly pick the route of our check ride, right before filing a route to the Flight Service Station, and my two airports of intended landing were Lakeland (KLAL) and Kissimmee (KISM) and then back to Sanford (KSFB).
Pre-flight was tough. May is apparently mating time for some love bug. They are everywhere. The wing was almost completely covered with them, and when I opened the door to the plane, they started crawling in. Ew. My examiner decided that I should just to the walk-around, and he’ll turn on the lights and I’ll check them, and give him a thumbs-up when they were all checked. Good deal. I started up the six cylinder, 200 HP Continental engine, and off we went.
To the run-up area. My run-up was quick and efficient, and we were given taxi instructions to 9C, which is pretty much “taxi straight ahead” Take-off was smooth, and soon I was handed over by Sanford Tower to Orlando Departure and their busy frequency. I called in, and we were all set. Flying almost directly west until we were clear of the city limits of Orlando and away from the localizer to RWY18/17 at Orlando International (KMCO)
I got an update on the weather in Lakeland which were reporting clear skies. Time to put the hood on (view-limiting device). I briefed the ILS 07 approach and we were then handed off to Tampa Approach and then to Lakeland Tower. At Decision Height, I still hadn’t received any information from the examiner that he had anything in sight, and missed we went. We did the published hold (well, he just had me enter it correctly, then we were off to KISM!)
Kissimmee has a VOR approach that can be a little intense. DME-arc to the VOR approach. I hadn’t done that specific approach before (nor the ILS into Lakeland) so that gave me a real-world challenge, but I worked it out. The only thing was that my examiner decided to check something on the GPS and changed my set-up a bit, to something I wasn’t used to, so I forgot to put the flaps to 50 at the “right time” (according to the school standardization manual) but he was fine with it. He was after all checking me to FAA standards, he said to me, after the flight.
We did a circle-to-land approach in KISM, followed by a touch-and-go, before the examiner said “My controls”. Damn. I thought I had failed. Because of the wrong flaps configuration. Damn. Damn. My heart dropped and I almost started crying. But then he said “Take a look at the City Beautiful, Orlando” as we were flying above the many famous attractions and sights in Orlando at 3,000 ft. Phew. He wasn’t going to fail me. Yet. I still had one more approach to do. GPS RWY09L KSFB.
Easy. It was autopilot coupled. Then he failed my PFD, and I was flying in simulated instrument conditions (with my hood on) with just my three standby instruments and the GPS. No worries, I had done this many times before, and was well prepared. I even at one training flight had to turn off the auto pilot and hand fly the GPS 09L approach to SFB with my hood on, with a failed PFD (circut breaker popped by Mr Instructor) because of traffic in front of me. GPS approaches partial-panel is my strongest side. Probably. Besides from autopilot coupled GPS approaches, full panel. 😉
Okay, so the GPS approach it self was quite uneventful. I did everything right according to the procedures. The examiner thought I didn’t meet the minimum requirement for issuing me a pilot certificate (70 hours total time) because he looked at my dual received hours, not the total time, so according to his calculations I needed 0.1 more on the hobbs to be good. So he said “let’s just fly one or two laps in the traffic pattern here in Sanford.”
Did I mention he popped the circuit breaker and that my PFD was just one big red cross? Yep. I was flying in the pattern, partial panel. To make matters “worse” he said I might as well practice some precision landings (power-off 180s) on the second lap in the pattern. Tough guy 😛
I landed three times partial panel – good practice! I taxied slowly back to the ramp and we got that extra 0.1 on the hobbs, that my examiner thought I needed. Well, not really. But with my log book signed, I had 80.1 hours total time. Not bad, considering I had to do “instrument time in the airplane” time building for 15 hours right before my check ride.
On my way back to the ramp, he congratulated me and said I had passed. If my ears had been missing, my smile would have circumnavigated my head.
I was officially a Private Pilot with an Instrument Rating. Life changing moment, and a day I will cherish forever. My first solo flight was a great feeling of accomplishment, but this actually succeeded that feeling. Knowing that you have been deemed a safe pilot is a great honor, and I am now a part of those 6% licensed women in the world. It is a great honor, and I can’t wait to get more experience, add more certificates and ratings to my license and keep exploring.
Thank you for taking the time read everything (for now) I had to share with you concerning my check ride!
Do you have any special moments from a check ride you want to share? Please feel free to add a comment!