Jason’s Commercial Pilot Checkride

My test began at about 9:00 AM, with George Barone at the Wurtsboro Airport. George had given me my Private Pilot Checkride as well, so I knew what to expect first – rigorous paperwork. Stu turned up unexpectedly, and helped with this process some. But although tedious, it was at least fairly straightforward.

I didn’t find the oral exam as challenging as when I took my Private, probably because I was over-prepared. I had several CFI-ATP licensed friends put me through the ringer in preparation for the test, and these are people who know their stuff. Also, I’ve been reading nearly non-stop since I got my first license. So I handled most of the questions quite well.

George asked to see my weight & balance calculations. I had done these carefully and prepared a computer printout, and was able to explain it concisely. We then went over airspace, emergency procedures, commercial privileges, and a few other topics. Then it was on to the flying.

We flew the Apache first in order to do the cross country tasks, as well as the “complex aircraft” section of the test. George had me fly through several checkpoints of my navigation, then asked for a diversion to the airport in Sussex, NJ. There are no working navigational instruments in the Apache other than the compass and directional gyro, so it was strictly pilotage for this problem. It was quite hazy, and for a moment I was concerned about how to get us there. After examining the map and our position (just northwest of Sullivan County Airport), I figured the best way would be to simply follow the Delaware River down to Port Jervis, at which point I could take a direct heading over the mountain ridge to Sussex. This worked well, and when we reached Port Jervis, George asked me to take us back to Wurtsboro.

I put us on a heading toward Wurtsboro, and soon I was easing the Apache into the landing pattern. I had dropped the gear a bit before reaching the airport to act as a speed brake, but went through my normal GUMPS checklist once we were established in the pattern:

Gas – on, fuel pumps on

Undercarriage – 3 green lights, nose wheel visible in the engine nacelle mirror

Mixture – full rich

Props – full forward

Speed – within gear and flap operating ranges

George called for a go-around after turning final on my first approach to land. The go-around constitutes the major test of being able to handle a complex airplane. I handled this well today, as Dave Freer had worked with me on the procedure intensively. I made a good landing on my second approach, and we taxied the Apache back to its hangar.

After grabbing a quick soda we headed back up, this time in the Warrior for maneuvers. The air was unstable, and the airplane didn’t want to fly straight and level. I tried several altitudes, hoping for some stable air. In spite of this, we got through slow flight, power on and power off stalls, a power off spiral descent to landing, and short and soft field takeoffs and departures. George also pulled the power off shortly after one departure, and I was able to return to land.

My steep turns and Chandelles were acceptable, but I felt somewhat sloppy. I made two minor errors during steep turns. First I forgot to take the carburetor heat off (it had been on during slow flight). Then I stopped one of my turns at the incorrect heading. I had been thinking of the heading for the previous set of maneuvers, and this was only about 3/4 of the way around.

I felt my Lazy-8’s were quite good. And I did my best 8’s-on-Pylons ever! I had a funny moment toward the end of that maneuver. My flying was smooth and precise through two circuits, and I was just heading into my last one by flying toward the pylon I had selected, which happened to be a silo. I flew the required straight-and-level portion between the pylons and then looked to my left to pick up the silo, and couldn’t find it anywhere. I was nonplused, as I had been flying the maneuver very precisely up until then. As panic began to creep up, I decided to bank the plane to the left in the hope that I would see the silo.

As I rolled into a 30 degree bank, I suddenly saw the wingtip point exactly at the silo! This meant I had flown the maneuver well enough that the pylon was precisely where it belonged, although I would have felt better had I been aware of this!

A few more landings and we were soon in the office to complete the paperwork. And for the second time in my life I enjoyed the music of my new pilot’s certificate being typed up!

Jason Catanzariti