CFI Checkride Report by Richard Kaplan

This week I passed my CFI Airplane checkride! I thought I would post some background on my training for those who might be interested.

I took my first flight lesson in March, 1991 in Rochester, MN (RST) in a C-152. I was hooked and earned my private 4 months later and my instrument 6 months after that. At that time, I belonged to a flying club and accumulated 300 hours flying 172s, Cherokees, and a 182.

About a year and a half ago, I moved to Maryland and was located in a town with no flying club and expensive rentals with high overnight minimums… So I purchased a 1967 Mooney M20C for $31,500, which I felt was a safe, inexpensive complex aircraft in which to build flying skills. Since July, 1994 I have put 175 hours on that plane (including Commercial and CFI training).

This Spring I decided to relocate my medical practice to Pennsylvania. In the process, I had the opportunity to devote a solid block of time to flight training…. the perfect time to work on additional ratings, including my Commercial (which I received in early September) and my CFI.

I chose to work on the Commercial and CFI ratings simultaneously, first learning the maneuvers from the left seat (chandelles, lazy 8’s, 50 degree power turns) and then switching to the right seat to teach my instructor “student” the same maneuvers. In between lessons, I recruited a few fellow pilots to be mock students.

As with many other skills, there is no better way to learn than to teach the subject. And so it was for landings, *especially* in a Mooney. Sitting in the right seat forced me to concentrate much more on landing attitude than on airspeed once over the fence, and that improved my landings immensely, as well as my confidence in being able to judge when a good learning experience might turn into an accident if I did not take the controls.

And finaly, the checkride… Current FAA policy requires all applicants for an initial CFI certificate to take a checkride with an FAA inspector. I scheduled the ride 6 weeks in advance and, of course, when checkride day came a violent cold front was scheduled to come through at the end of the day. I hoped to at least complete the 4 hour oral exam, but the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, PA) FSDO would not let me even start the oral unless the weather all day were forecast to be 3500/5 or better.

So a week later I came back. While we did the oral, another inspector examined my airplane and its maintenance records. I was issued a “Notice of Inspection” advising me to install a doubler for a loose NAV antenna and to install placards for 100LL only, but my plane was certified as fit to fly.

The oral exam focused primarily on teaching techniques and explanations of basic aerodynamics (various wing designs, effects of losing horizontal or vertical stabilizers, stall characteristics of various airplanes, nuances of my aircraft). Then I was instructed to plan a lesson plan for Eights on Pylons. I briefly taught the ground portion to the inspector and then we were set to fly. Unfortunately, due to some last minute scheduling problems we could not complete the flight test the same day… so back I went the following afternoon.

The flight test was somewhat different from those I have heard described by other CFIs in that the FAA inspector did at least half of the flying, expecting me to point out his errors. He asked me to teach him straight and level flight and seemed particularly interested in my teaching students proper rudder use from the very first flight. He made numerous classic errors such as not returning mags to both, not using right rudder approaching a stall or the top of a chandelle, forgetting to switch fuel tanks, etc. He gave me control of the airplane to demonstrate an emergency engine out, emphasizing selection of a field in which an actual landing could be made if the engine really failed. He also asked me to perform a demonstration stall (trim tab stall, secondary stall, or cross-controlled stall, my choice) as required by the PTS.

Finally we headed back to our starting point, Allegheny County (AGC). Entering the pattern we got a classic new-Mooney- student-overload situation, being 500 feet above pattern altitude and being told, “Keep your speed up, Report Downwind, Correction Report Base, Turn in now, …..” I requested to be cleared for the option since I had a “student” on board and planned a go around. The examiner said that is what he would expect for a new student, but now treat him as an advanced student and talk him through the landing. I gave the examiner headings, throttle settings, airspeeds, and pitch attitudes to fly, all of which he executed flawlessly to a squeaker landing as if he were a seasoned Mooney pilot (which he probably was).

All in all, my sense was that the FAA examiners are a bit more limited in scheduling than designated examiners, though nonetheless they are clearly out to be teachers and resources and wish to meet instructors in their region. I would call the experience quite positive overall.

Oh, yes… Though I will give BFRs to local pilots in their planes and I will also do a small amount of commercial training in my Mooney, one of the major reasons for my obtaining a CFI certificate is my interest in wheelchair aviation, an outgrowth of my medical practice. If anyone out there should come across a physically disabled potential student pilot in the Southwest Pennsylvania area, please refer him/her to me. My instructional and medical services will be free of charge, and I will try to find a local flight school willing to partially subsidize flight training costs.

Richard Kaplan