On July 5, 1999 I took the checkride for my PP-ASEL and passed it. Here’s a quick run down on how things went.
First, I took my training at Princeton Airport in New Jersey. I started on August 5, 1998 and was going full tilt until the winter hit. The weather was so poor that between Thanksgiving weekend and the end of February I logged only four hours. Soon after, though, the weather changed for the better and by the end of June I was ready for the checkride.
The morning of the exam I showed up at Princeton and went up with my instructor for one more run through the material. Everything went well so I went and had lunch and tried to relax.
At the appointed time arrived, John arrived and after some brief introductory explanations of how the testing would proceed, we began on the oral examination. Some of the areas John covered during the oral portion included: what documents are required to be in the airplane for it to be airworthy, airframe and engine logs, weight and balance data, performance charts, private pilot privileges and limitations, spin recovery procedures, and a thorough review of the planned cross-country: Princeton, NJ (39N) to Lehighton, PA (22N) with myself and John as front seat occupants, one 180 lb. rear seat occupant, no baggage, and full tanks.
A word on the weather. The temperature on the airport the day of the flight exam was 102 degrees. The heat index was reported as 110 – 115 degrees. Surface winds at Princeton were between 290 – 340 and 8-12 knots, though there seemed to be some stronger gusts now and then. Visibility was 10 miles. Trenton-Mercer (TTN) reported the density altitude as 2,600 feet. Fun-fun. But I was going on vacation the next week and wanted to get this out of the way since it had been weighing on me for a while. The conditions were fine. It was just going to be HOT!
We walked out to the aircraft and the preflight of the aircraft was uneventful. The only question John asked me was “why are you checking the propeller for nicks?” We boarded the aircraft and after insuring that my first “passenger” was acquainted with the use of the seat belt and shoulder harness, I went through the appropriate checklists. With the Starting Engine checklist complete, I began to taxi. At this point John unbuckled his shoulder belt to “adjust it”. I stopped the taxi until he finished buckling up.
As we taxied out to runway 28 from the ramp, we held at the runway for a Seneca that we observed, unexpectedly, turning right base to final. I commented to John that the current New York sectional incorrectly lists 39N as having a right hand pattern and that this guy had obviously not checked his NOTAMs.
John had me perform my choice of takeoffs. I chose a soft field takeoff since I had been practicing them earlier in the day. The acceleration within ground effect was uneventful as the wind decided to cooperate for the moment. I announced VX, brought the flaps up at 200 feet and established a VY climb. Passing through 900′ I turned toward the first checkpoint, announced we were leaving the pattern to the northwest on the CTAF, and climbed to 3000′ as John had directed. During the whole climbout, as well as numerous times during the flight, John became very interested in various things on the ground and would comment to me about them. He would then ask me if I knew what they were, where they were on the map, etc. The answer…realistic distractions, of course.
The first checkpoint of the cross-country was Route 202 just south of the bend it makes by Flemington. We arrived right on time and the course I was following was perfect. (Good thing I double-checked the winds aloft before we left…they had changed, big time.) I gave John the time to the next checkpoint. He then asked me to show him, on the chart, exactly where we were. I dialed in Solberg VOR and using that, the DME, and various landmarks, showed him our location. He let me fly on a few more seconds and then said that the weather was now no longer satisfactory in the Allentown area and we would need to divert to Hackettstown.
I turned us to a rough heading for Hackettstown, backed up by tuning Broadway VOR in. I then did a quick plot to get a new true course. Using the new TC with the E6-B, I got a new wind correction angle, ground speed, and finally an ETA for Hackettstown. I related this information to John and started to turn to the new heading when he yanked the throttle to idle and said, “Uh, oh…your engine just quit”.
After seeing that I had established the recommended 65 knot best glide airspeed, had a forced landing field picked out, and had run through the engine out procedures he let me glide down to about 2500′ and then pushed the throttle back in and had me head up to 2700′.
After executing some clearing turns to check for traffic and to get us heading back towards the Princeton area, John requested that I perform a steep turn, my choice of direction. I chose to do the first one to the right and as I was rolling out to reverse the turn he told me to instead start setting up to slow fly the airplane.
I performed clearing turns and then started to slow the airplane down. The slow flight consisted of about 15 seconds of straight and level flight at 50 knots indicated followed by a 30 degree turn to the right and then a left turn back to the original heading.
Another set of clearing turns and we went into stalls. John requested two. The first was a power-on turning stall to the right. I went in with about 10 degrees of bank and lost about 50 feet of altitude after the actual stall. After more clearing turns, I went into the second, a power-off turning stall to the left. I again used about 10 degrees of bank and recovered within 100 feet. During both maneuvers I announced the decay of flight control effectiveness, buffeting (as it occurred), and the actual stall event.
After recovering from the stalls, John took the airplane while I put my foggles on, and then it was time for a little work under the hood.
The instrument reference maneuvers began with maintaining straight and level flight. After about 30 seconds of straight and level, John had me execute a 90 degree turn to the right followed by a climbing left turn and a descending right turn. One unusual attitude recovery was performed. The plane had been set up into a climbing left turn.
Removing the foggles, I found that we had crossed back over the ridgeline to the west of Princeton and that we were now over the railroad tracks by Hopewell. John had me perform an emergency descent from 2700′ where we were at, down to 1000′ where I recovered from the descent and began to prepare for some ground reference maneuvers.
We followed the railroad tracks up to Belle Mead where I executed the “Turns Around A Point” maneuver using a small farmhouse as a reference point. One pass around the reference point was sufficient. John’s next request was that I show him some S-Turns. Using the railroad tracks as a reference line I did one series of S-turns. Again, my performance seemed to satisfy John and we headed back toward Princeton. He requested a soft field landing at Princeton. I climbed above TPA to overfly the field so I could check the windsock. I also called Princeton UNICOM to double check the runway in use.
After overflying the field I announced on the CTAF that I was going to be entering the downwind leg on a 45 for landing 28. However, I misjudged my distance from the field when I entered and the resulting downwind was a little too close to the field. I related this to information to John and corrected for it by extending the downwind leg slightly. Once I was on final approach everything looked good.
The landing however, to put it bluntly, sucked. The wind gusted up just as I started to flare and the next thing I knew the plane was ballooning down the runway. I tried to ease it down but just as I was getting ready to add some power a foot or two off the ground, the wind just died. Result: the airplane dropped, bounced twice, and finally decided it wanted to be on the ground again.
I followed the rest of the procedures for soft-field landings during the rollout and putting the poor performance behind me, we went back up again. This time John requested a short field takeoff. The takeoff was fine even with the windsock twitching from errant gusts. I held the extended runway centerline and flew a traffic pattern that John later called, “excellent.” We remained in the pattern and John asked for a short field landing. I set the approach up much better this time but as I was getting ready to flare, John called, “go around.”
I executed the go-around procedure (full throttle, carburetor heat off, flaps up to 20 degrees), called it on the CTAF and remained in the pattern. The last landing was to demonstrate a forward slip. I turned base to final about 100-200 feet higher than I should have been and slipped down to an appropriate altitude once I was fully established on final. Just as I turned final and began the slip, John noted that I had just added full flaps in and asked if I knew of any limitations on slips with flaps deployed for the airplane (more distractions). I responded that slips with flaps were not prohibited but that the POH carried a warning that slight elevator oscillations might be felt during a slip using full flaps.
The altitude came off…quick. Don’t try this one at home, boys and girls. I recovered from the slip and flared neatly over the centerline. This landing was a “squeaker” and John had me taxi to the ramp where I executed the appropriate checklists and secured the airplane.
On the way back in I asked how I had done. John told me that didn’t think he was going to have to fish out the pink slips so, provided I could get the plane back to the ramp and tied down, I was a private pilot.
For the record, logged prior to the checkride, I had:
Dual: 36.4 PIC: 17.4 Total: 53.8
121 landings PIC X-C: 7.0 Dual X-C: 15.5
Night: 4.2 Simulated Instrument: 3.0
Written Score: 97%