Tuesday December 16th 2003, N182AK, 1.5H IFR Checkride

I took my IFR Checkride with a DE based in Mather Field (KMHR) in Sacramento. The following is the “debrief” I fed back to my CFII after it was all over. I was my CFII’s second student to take the checkride so I’d got a description ahead of time from the first student on what to expect.

No problems on the flight up, had a great tailwind and made 150 knots ground speed. Visibility was 10sm. I got lazy, and approach was busy so I didn’t bother with asking for vectors for the ILS into MHR. When I called the tower, I was given right traffic for Rwy-22 and told to report abeam the tower, then given a clearance to land on 22L. Tragen is very easy to find – get off on taxiway D, then left on A and you can’t miss it. I parked in the wrong place – hint park beside the Cessna 150 not the Falcon Jet – the line guy moved my plane over with the other spam cans while I was doing the oral.

The DE was waiting for me outside, when I got there. We went into a little conference room in the very plush Tragen FBO. He started with the paper work, checked the forms and my PPL and Medical. Never looked at my Aircraft Logs or Log Book. Same reason he gave before, “You’re PIC so its not my problem if the aircraft is not airworthy”. Paid $300, he said that the price is going up in January to $325 (decided after a meeting of the local DE’s recently), still cheaper that the $350 I paid for my Private checkride.

Here is a list of the questions I can remember from the oral and the answers he accepted.

  • What is the static port for ? ..provides static air pressure to the VSI, Altimeter & ASI
  • How does the VSI work? …Calibrated leak (I explained what that was and how it worked).
  • What instruments are vacuum driven ? …AI, DG
  • Is it allowable to have all the gyro instruments driven off the same source ? …I said I had never read the FAR that said that, but that I thought it would be a good idea to NOT run them all off the same source. He said the FAR is in the part dealing with maintenance (part 23 ?).
  • What VOR checks are required? …Every 30 days
  • List all the ways you can check them …VOT+/-4, Designated point+/-4, In the Air center of an airway over a landmark +/-6 & dual check – no more than 4.
  • Then I got the VOT question – when you measure an error during a VOT check then should you apply the error to normal navigation? …No, the system is setup to work with the allowable errors.
  • What are the requirements for filing an alternate? …1,2,3 rule
  • What about if the alternate has no approaches? …VFR from MEA down
  • The airport has no forecast weather, how do you know what its going to be? …Area Fcst, nearby airports, other weather reports (internet), call someone on the field.
  • Then the Joe Lineman question? If you called an FBO at a destination to check the weather and somebody told you it was CAVU could you use that as a valid weather report ? what about if he said it was overcast at 1,500” ? …Yes, I’d accept Joe Lineman’s assessment that it was CAVU, but not his weather report of 015OVC RVR1000.
  • He drew a hold over a VOR on a piece of paper and then asked about the various entries – What entry from here ? for a parallel, teardrop and direct. He greatly favors the teardrop entry (So I treated him to two of them on the practical).
  • How would you know you were abeam the holding fix to start the outbound timing? …My first answer was I could setup the second VOR on a radial 90 degrees from the inbound radial (he said yes, but not the best way). Then I said, time from wings level which he didn’t like and we proceeded to analyze how a 40 knot tail or head wind would completely screw that method up. Finally, I said that the ambiguity flag should flip as you pass the point directly abeam the VOR – this was the answer he was looking for.
    Are the various holding entries regulatory? …No
  • What is regulatory about holds? …I said reporting entering the hold and staying inside the protected area. I said there were speed limits depending on altitude, but I couldn’t remember them and would have to look them up.
    How long are the hold legs? …1 minute
  • What about if you are at 14,000′? …I said I didn’t know. Right answer is 1.5minutes.
  • Was my aircraft certified for know icing? …No, I’m not that rich.
  • What was known icing? …An actual pilot report of ice.
  • Could you fly if the freezing level was 3,500′, the cloud base 4,000′ with tops at 6,000′ and an MEA in the clouds? … Legally yes, but not very smart.
  • Could you climb up through the clouds to VFR On Top in the same case? …Legally yes, but again not smart (and I added that ice could prevent you from ever climbing out).
  • What if there were reports of “Light Rime Ice” on the route? …Legally No – now it is known icing.
  • He spent some time trying to but the fear of god into me about flying anywhere near ice and telling me about an encounter he had in a Barron. One hint – if the prop is iced up – cycle it quickly to break it free.
  • Pulled out the Low Enroute chart asked to explain the following: MEA, MOCA, DME distances as shown on the chart.
  • Are VOR radials True or Magnetic? …Magnetic.
  • What is the COP on a airway? …Halfway point
  • What is it on an airway with a marked COP? …The mark
  • What is the COP on V23 between RBL and SAC? …Its GRIDD because the airway changes direction at that point (we were there on the IFR XC).
  • Is the VOR COP regulatory? …I said I had never read the regulation that said it was, but that I thought it was good idea. The right answer was simply Yes (where is this written down?).
  • You are on V199 from RBL to ENI, in solid IMC. Your clearance limit is ENI VOR which for the sake of the question can be assumed to be an IAF for some approach into Ukiah Airport, your destination. You were cleared to climb & maintain 3,000′ and expect 9,000′ in 10 minutes. You realize that you have lost coms after takeoff. What do you do? …You are assigned a route so you fly it. You maintain 3,000′ then start a climb to get over HENLE at or above 5,000 (its MCA). Climb to 9,000′. At ENI you start the descent & approach based on your ETA.
  • What about if you are at 3,000′ just before HENLE when you realize you have lost comms? …Hold at HENLE, standard turns on inbound course while climbing to the MCA.
  • What about if you arrive at ENI 10 minutes before your ETA? …Hold at ENI until your ETA.
  • Must you fly the ILS approach into Ukiah? …No, fly whichever approach you want.

Then it was onto the flight. We didn’t file IFR – he said to pretend that he wasn’t in the plane, he would be playing ATC and would be unavailable to help with anything other than holding something like a map. He gave me my clearance while still in the conf room and told me to plan out the flight. It was” Cleared to SCK, SAC, V585, ECA direct, M045, xpond 1200″. There is a published hold on this route at WAGER intersection which I guessed correctly would be where he would ask me to hold. We took off on 22R straight out, I managed to get SAC identified on the climb out before I put the hood on. Then “ATC” informed me that they had lost radar and to report reaching 4,500′ and the SAC VOR. I made the reports, hit the VOR dead on, got established outbound on V585 without any problems. Then I was told to “climb and maintain 5,500′”.

After tracking V585 for a while he told me that “continued radar problems would require us to hold, inform me when ready to copy hold instructions”. I think I was still getting level at 5,500 so I told him to standby, got the plane trimmed out and then got the hold instructions: “Hold SE of WAGER as published, maintain 5,500′ Pretend to have an EFC”. I almost screwed this hold up in two ways. First (and I’ve made this mistake before), I set 083 for the intersecting radial instead of 093. He said, “was I completely sure I had everything setup correctly”, I started checking everything I had done a second time and was just looking at the radial when he pointed out my error and admonished me greatly for the dumb mistake. Putting this behind me (not busted yet at least), I then proceeded to work out the heading for the teardrop entry. I managed to add 30 degrees to the heading (a right turn) instead of subtract it (a left turn). I caught this one myself before getting to the hold (at which he was greatly relieved, saying it would have been a bust to turn the wrong way). I remembered to report entering the hold and then really nailed the flying part – lovely intercept of the inbound course.

He then gave me an amended clearance, “Direct to LIN VOR, V113 ECA direct”. I got LIN tuned in and ID’d and was just getting turned towards it, when he asked what was I planning to do. I explained fly direct to LIN, then outbound on 192 radial to ECA. He said this was correct and gave me a vector of 240 to go and do some airwork. He told me to get the plane setup for steep turns – so I slowed and did my standard maneuvering checklist. Then one turn to the left and another to the right. Neither were great, but they were within limits (just). Then he had me slow down to 70 KIAS holding altitude and then accelerate back to cruise. Then descend 200′ at 80 KIAS.

Actual GPS track superimposed on SAC ILS Approach Chart

We then called up NORCAL and asked for vectors for the ILS Rwy2 approach into Sac Exec. The controller was real busy, we got the vectors, but he never gave us missed instructions or cleared us for the approach. The last thing he said was intercept the localizer before, he passed us off to the tower. I asked them for missed instructions and after the expected “didn’t you get them from approach”, tower gave them to us. As the glide slope came in I realized I wasn’t cleared for the approach (sound familiar) and said this – the DE said he was clearing me (ok, not a problem, start down the glideslope). I made a poor job of the ILS – my usual tendency to overcorrect. But I didn’t really miss anything critical and never got outside PTS once we were inside the FAF (I simply flirted with the limits). By the end I got to DA with the needles centered.

We went missed and then asked for pilot nav VOR Rwy2 approach which we were given. I made a pigs ear or trying to find the radial direct to SAC (there is really no time to get setup for this approach). I think the DE was getting a little impatient with me hunting for the radial, over correcting the heading and generally doing a poor job of flying direct to the VOR. I also managed to get NORCAL’s attention, he asked me twice was I really flying direct to the VOR and what was my heading. Yes, it was that bad. I finally staggered my way to the VOR and made a good attempt at the teardrop entry for the procedure turn. Nicely intercepted the inbound and actually made a pretty passable attempt at the approach. Needle stayed centered, didn’t bust MDA, got the timing correct. Just before the MAP, the DE called the tower and asked to depart VFR to MHR. That was it – kept the hood on until we got onto the right downwind for 22R. MHR Tower was asleep, I think I forgot to call them abeam the tower to wake them up so I had to verify I had a clearance to land when I was on short final. Breaking my tradition of making a dreadful landing with a new instructor in the place, I nicely greased the landing.

I got an earful on the taxi back about overcorrecting – “just hold the heading”. Then a short trip back the conference room to get the paperwork and my new Temporary Airman’s Certificate. He said, my oral was well above average – and we didn’t talk anymore about the flight (enough said already).

The flight back was a dream, bit of a head wind, only made 130 knots ground speed. Busy getting back into RHV (#4 to land). Made another nice landing, which will be my last for this year in N182AK.

Sooo. No partial panel, no unusual attitudes, only two approaches – feels like I got off easy. Don’t care, feels good to have the rating and it just gives me plenty of reasons to keep practicing & training this stuff.