July Checkride Story by Hal Sandstedt

NASHVILLE, TN: July 9 — Pouring rain woke me up at about 7:30; only about thirty minutes earlier than I’d planned to wake up anyway. I stumbled to the shower and hoped the weather would clear up. Just before ducking out the door I peaked at the weather channel and the forecast was for intermittent thundershowers all day. Not good.

I got to Cornelia Fort Airpark (M88) at a little after 9:00. The rain had stopped and the clouds had even started breaking up. Things were looking up. I opened up my bag and laid out maps, plotter, flight computer, and navigation logs. Called Nashville flight service and asked for a standard briefing for my mock cross-country flight to Asheville, NC. The main front was to the north and west, so things looked OK from that perspective. After getting the winds aloft forecast I began the calculations of wind correction angles and flight times.

While I was in the middle of all this, my instructor Brett, showed up. He wanted to fly with me one last time to make sure I was fully prepared for the check ride that afternoon. We jumped in 6119H, a Cessna 152, and taxiied out to runway 4. Doing everything by the book I soon had us cruising northeastbound on the first leg of the Asheville route. Using the VOR navigation radio I pinpointed our location on the map. Spotted Lebanon Municipal (M54) right on schedule, so we knew my wind calculations were OK.

Brett wanted me to run through the PPL (private pilot license) maneuvers one last time before doing them “for real”. So I did some clearing turns to look for other traffic and WOW! A huge National Guard C-130 was headed our way and at exactly the same altitude. We corrected course to avoid but the other plane was in the middle of a lazy banking curve which brought it around towards us again. So we dumped altitude and got the heck out of his way. What fun!

Practiced slow flight, stalls, and got ready to do steep turns when Brett pulled the throttle to idle and said, “you just lost the engine” I executed emergency procedures and started looking for a suitable open area to steer towards. Brett chuckled and mentioned something about wasting a perfectly good runway. I looked out the left window and saw that we were basically set up for a downwind approach to runway 17 at Sumner County/Gallatin airport (M33). I turned us around and we had a nice short final for a landing. We were all set to gently touch down when Brett said “Go round” and I had to floor it to get us up in the air again.

Headed directly back to the Fort and admired the way the weather was clearing up. Things might just work out OK after all. Got a quick Subway lunch and then it was time for the FAA Examiner to arrive. Bill started it off right away with questions about Federal Aviation Regs. Air space classifications and requirements, minimum altitudes, VFR weather, etc. Then questions about weather, aerodynamics, and PPL priviledges and limitations.

Before I knew it (after about two hours) I was instructed to plan a short cross country flight to Outlaw Field (CKV) in Clarksville. In about 15 minutes I had the route mapped out, the winds, and some good checkpoints picked out. The weather was getting a little marginal again, with towering cumulus forming at random points around the area. Flight watch said there should be no major problem with a VFR flight to CKV as long as we stayed away from any localized nasty weather.

Bill walked out to the plane with me and kept an eagle eye out as I went through pre-flight. He seemed to approve that I had edited the Cessna checklist so that it would be in an order that flows more naturally around the aircraft. (Keeping things in sequence makes it harder to miss things.) The plane was fine, so we hopped in and I started it up.

The winds were favoring runway 22, so as soon as we were airborne I was able to turn us on course for Clarksville. Within a minute or so I could see my first checkpoint; a 2000′ pair of antennas with white flashers. I estimated our flight time to get there at 6:30 and by the time we reached them I saw that I was off by about fifteen seconds. I described how we were going to see the next checkpoint in about seven more minutes and this was enough to convince Bill that I knew what I was doing when it comes to navigation.

He had me divert to John C. Tune airport, JWN, to the west of Nashville. This was a godsend, since I have flown out of there twice and have done touch and goes there on a number of occasions. I entered a right base for runway 19 and the examiner said “make this a short field landing.” We had much more altitude than we needed, so I did a savage slip and dumped full flaps in order to drop down right on the numbers. It wasn’t a smooth or a pretty landing, but I got the plane stopped long before the 1st turnoff, so I had used less than 1000′ of runway.

Bill asked to see a soft field take off, so I kept 10 degrees of flaps down and taxiied slowly back out onto the runway. Got us off the ground quickly and did a decent job of accelerating in the ground effect. Once we were at altitude in the pattern and on downwind, Bill asked to see a soft field landing. This went more smoothly than the short one had, but it still wasn’t the graceful thing I had hoped to impress the man with. I demonstrated a short field takeoff and we headed north.

Steep turns ended up being the highlight of the checkride. Earlier in the day when I practiced with Brett the haze was so bad that there was little horizon to speak of. Now the line between ground and sky was sharp and clear and I kept altitude and bank angle with a precision I hadn’t ever done before. Bill had me put on the hood and fly by instruments only for a few minutes. Then we did two unusual attitude tests that went well.

Before it seemed like the test had even started, I heard the words, “Take us home.” It was just a few short minutes before we were entering the traffic pattern for runway 22. I did a slightly better landing than the earlier two and taxiied off the runway. Thinking we might have a few more things to do in the pattern, I asked “which way should we turn at the intersection?” Right was the way back out to the end of the runway; left was the way to the apron & the tie-down.

“As long as you can get this airplane parked safely, you’re a private pilot.” I let out a WHOOP and pounded the dashboard a few times. Then turned left and parked the plane dead-center in the spot we had started out from.

It was a great feeling to have finally completed the ticket to fly. Thanks to everyone who had encouraging words along the way. Some statistics:

Start date: September 30
Hours to solo:………….9.5
Written score:…………..90
Total hours:…………..59.2

Hal Sandstedt