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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sigh of Relief, Shout of Joy

Check-ride came on Friday, ready or not.

Early in the morning, I climbed out of bed, and put on "instructor" clothes.  American Fliers school recommends that you "look professional" when you meet the FAA to take a CFI check ride.  Slacks and a short sleeved polo shirt seemed to to do it for me, and as they turned up dressed the same, it was a good choice.  I say "they", because 2 examiners showed up - the real one and one in training.

I made a bagged lunch, and drove to McKinney, taking off for Addison just after 7am.  I used my Sundowner, 49C, flying from the right hand seat.  I arrived at the AF facility around 7:40, and spent a few minutes making sure everything was just right, and put an "inop" label on the DME, which was acting up again.  I set up in one of the classrooms and settled in to wait.

A few minutes past 8, the 2 FAA guys showed up.  Inspector "Dan" and Inspector "2".  They were both pleasant, but it was clear from verbal and body language that they considered themselves THE FAA, and we were all on notice.....

We started with the dreaded "Fundamentals of Instructing" (FOI).  The first part of the oral exam was on the FOI's, covering The Learning Process, Critique and Evaluation, Planning Instructional Activity, and Flight Instructor Characteristics and Responsibilities.  These were titles of the sections I was grilled on 2 hours.  I did pretty well - I don't think I made any errors.  It was noticeable that when I talked about a subject, they would probe until I said the "Magic Words" they were looking for, then they would relax and ask me about a different facet of the subject at hand.

After a short "nature break", we took up Aircraft Flight Instruments and Navigation Equipment, Log Book Entries Related to Instrument Instruction, and Aeromedical Factors.  Those I was already confident about, as I've been quizzed on them all at least once, in some cases twice, for previous ratings.  Once again, they would quiz until the magic words came out.  I did a great explanation on how the altimeter works, but until I said "aneroid wafers" they kept digging.  I refused to say it, since I knew that not all altimeters in fact have the aneroid wafers inside, but eventually I gave up and said it.

Then we moved on to flight planning.  Inspector Dan had told me by phone to prepare an IFR flight plan from Addison to Little Rock.  So I pulled the weather, and did a far more thorough job of planning than I would in the real world.  Of course, on the day, they glanced at the flight plan form, and didn't even ask about the weather charts and winds forecasts I had brought along.  Instead I was grilled about why I had selected that route, what the waypoints were and the headings, and distances of the VOR radials.  Then we pulled out the IFR Low Altitude En-Route Chart, and they tried (without success) to find a symbol I couldn't identify and explain.  When I finally had to look up the symbol for a Military Visual Flight Track above 1500 feet AGL, that made them happy and we quit for lunch., after nearly 4 hours on the spot.

The inspectors asked me in Inspector 2-in-training could go along for the checkride to observe.   I said that I didn't have the useful load, but I could offload some weights I'd put in the back for center of gravity balance, and we could just make it.  So over lunch I ate my sandwich, and took out the weights and baggage from the rear, and changed into shorts.

Taking off, at 2000 feet Inspector Dan took control, while I put on my foggles, then with the controls in my hands again, he told me to climb to 2,500 feet, maintaining 030 deg heading. Next he told me to maintain 090, which was taking me around north of McKinney airspace.  After we were clear, he said to go direct to BIRRD and enter the published hold at 2,500ft.  I set up the GPS for the VOR-DME approach to McKinney, and then entered direct BIRRD.  I explained as we tracked to BIRDD that the hold entry would be direct, but the if we had approached from the south it would have been a teardrop entry, or from the west it would have been a parallel entry.  I also explained that at our heavy weight and in the very bumpy conditions, I would not slow down to 90 knots in the hold for safety.  (they liked hearing the work "safety", and it avoided me having to slow down, re-trim, and hold it - it was VERY bumpy").

After 3 turns in the hold, during which they asked about wind correction, and demonstrated a better method than I knew (which we tried out on the 3rd time around), they asked me to continue and fly the rest of the VOR-DME approach.  For each approach, I remembered to brief the approach chart, talk about the missed approach procedure, do the written checklist, and get the current weather.  On an aside note, a couple of times I forgot to start my timer, but each time I said something like " I started timing at 20 seconds past, so I have 30 seconds to go", and they had no way of knowing I forgot.

Coming off the approach, Insp. Dan asked me to do a touch and go, but we were close and high, and although I said I could still land in the first 1/3 of the runway (Sundowners with no power and full flaps can descend like a Stuka dive-bomber), he decide I should go around.  Adding full power, I brought up the nose and retracted the flaps, and climbed to 1500 feet before starting a left turn.  He then simulated ATC radar vectors heading North, and told me to set up for the ILS 17 approach at McKinney.  I remembered to identify the localizer and the Localizer Outer Marker NDB "FLUET"  We didn't do the full approach, he vectored me onto the localizer about 5 miles north of the outer marker.  I then flew the approach until the Tower told me to go around for a departure at about 300 feet.  Inspector Dan handled all the radio communications throughout, while I was under the hood.

After that approach, I was feeling pretty good. I knew I had nearly busted altitude once or twice, and sometimes I was as much as 15 degrees off, but they said "it was the bumpy, windy conditions", and hadn't said "OK, that's it. Take us home", the verbal sign of a busted check-ride.

Following Insp Dan's directions, I set up for the GPS for runway 15 at Addison.  He had a couple of quibbles about how I set up my instruments, and said it could be confusing for the student, but had to agree it was OK and not actually wrong.  At the Final Approach Fix at 2,000 feet, we captured the GPS glide-slope and I switched to the GPS OBS view that shows how the track width was automatically shrinking from 1.0 miles on each side down to 0.1 miles, and that we had RAIM because the Garmin unit only tells you if it has not got RAIM (some units such as the KLN-94 GPS show a positive RIAM indication if they do have RAIM, this one only messages if there is a problem).

Then I relaxed, and nearly blew the whole thing.  At about 500 feet AGL, the winds changed, the deviation went almost to 3/4 scale, and I nearly had to go missed.  But I managed to wrestle the Sundowner back on course and glideslope, and at 300 feet he told me to take off the foggles (hood) and land.

Back in the American Fliers office, he said nothing.  But he did ask me to bring my logbook, and meet him at the computer terminals.  He signed in, pulled up my application, and then moving the curser over to the "Denied" link, he held it there for a second or two, and finally moved it to click on  "Approved".  I'm sure he thought that was funny.  Then they both shook my hand and said "Congratulations".

So, I am now a Certified Flight Instructor, with the "instrument - Airplane" rating.

Man, am I tired........

1 comment:

Gary said...


Great write up and awesome flight!