Multi-Engine Checkride… by John Stricker

I thought some of you might be interested in this. I passed my multi-engine w/instrument a week ago last Thursday (10/22).

First off, perhaps a brief explanation is in order. I’m 42 years old, farm primarily and also run two other businesses. I’m not a professional pilot. I don’t ever intend to be one. I don’t own an aircraft, but I’m working on building an experimental. So why get the multi?

In 1990 I lost an eye in an accident. This resulted in me losing my medical. For a couple of years, it was all I could do to recover so flying was the least of my concerns. Afterwards, it seemed like I “never got around to it”. We’ve all been there and done that with something. I kept up my AOPA membership, kept getting flying magazines and so on, but didn’t fly. A couple of years ago, I really wasn’t too happy with life in general. Nothing major, you understand, but enough that my wife of 18 years knew something was wrong. If she’d have asked me what, I couldn’t have told her at the time. For my birthday that year, she made me an appointment to get my medical, bought me some block time after talking to an old friend/CFII, and gave it to me for my 40th birthday. I got dual until I was ready to take my medical checkride for my SODA. It was the best thing she could have done for me.

BUT, I’m here to tell all of you, unless you fly for a living and/or own your own aircraft YOU WILL HAVE A PROBLEM STAYING CURRENT, SAFE, AND PROFICIENT. I know I did when I was flying before.

I made my mind up to add a rating every year. And I’ve done that. I got my instrument rating last year and my multi-this year. I intend to get my commercial next year. In addition, I fly every other weekend or during the week. Period. No excuses. If I don’t have a reason to fly, I do it anyway. IMHO, this is the MINIMUM you need to do to stay safe.

OK, off the soapbox now, on with the ride.

For those of you curious, getting your multi is really learning how to fly a twin with one engine shut down in as many different ways and configurations as possible. This is also what the multi checkride mostly is as well. It took me about 12 hours of real dual before I was ready for sign off. I also had the opportunity to go along on a couple of trips with my MEI and log it as dual for another 8 hours. This wasn’t all that much instruction, but I did most of it under the hood so it also gave me some dual multi/hood time, which never hurts.

There is no written for the multi. Only dual and a sign-off. If you have the instrument rating, you have the option to take just the multi checkride or the multi/instrument checkride. If you decide to do both, it saves you some money because it doesn’t add that much to the ride. The downside is that if you fly a perfect ride, but bust an approach, you bust the multi ride and can’t go back to just that. FWIW, the DE charged me $150 for the ride. This is the going rate in my area (central KS) from what I have heard.

A multi checkride is really kind of a “mini” type rating in the aircraft you take to the ride. The DE has to be certified to give the ride by the FSDO in that aircraft type. This means he/she have a good knowledge of the aircraft systems, etc. This isn’t a small thing as the multi-engine is good for any aircraft with pistons, more than one engine, and less than 12,500 pounds.

Because of this, the oral is pretty extensive. As with most of these, if you make a good first impression, it really helps. In my training, the a/c I was in was of mid ’60s vintage and the Flight Manual was held together with scotch tape and a prayer. The checklists also leave a lot to be desired. I made my own checklists and “mini” data cards (power settings, W&B, etc). I also made copies of the Flight Manual pages as well as printed out the AD’s applicable to the a/c and put them in a three-ring binder. I strongly encourage students for any rating to do this because you get really familiar with the a/c and are able to take the whole thing home and study it.

The first part of the oral the DE told me to do a weight and balance and an accelerate stop while he looked at the logbooks, both aircraft and mine. When I was done, he was satisfied with the results and the quizzing started. He concentrated on the a/c first. Where is everything. Emergency gear extension. Asymmetric flap deployment. Electrical failure. Fires. Emergency descent. All of this I had down cold except for a mistake on emergency gear extension. After giving him a very detailed and perfect explanation, he said “Don’t you think you should maybe slow down before you try that?” OOOPS, forgot step 1, slow to 100 mph.

Then he went to aerodynamics. What’s Vmc, Vy, Vyse, what effect will altitude have on Vmc, is it the same at Denver as it is in Wichita on take-off. This stuff I mostly got right, except that he seemed to emphasis that there would be more difference in Vmc at higher airports than I did. We discussed it a bit, no arguments, and in the Twin Comanche, there really isn’t much difference because the placarded Vmc is actually 10 mph higher than the actual Vmc so it really doesn’t change much. The oral took about an hour or a little more, and he said “let’s go fly”.

He had to make a call, so he told me to go ahead and pre-flight but to leave half the aircraft if he wasn’t there by then. He then watched and asked questions as I finished. On the Twin Comanche, I use the checklist to pre-flight religiously so he asked WHY I was doing what I was doing and what I was looking for. He was satisfied so we got in and buckled up.

Before I started, I asked him if he needed to be briefed. He said “No, thanks for asking, but consider me briefed.” I said “You remember about the door latch on the Comanche and it’s operation?” “Yup, let’s fly.”

Some DE’s are really particular on Twins that you Yell “Clear Prop”. I always feel a little silly doing that, but in this case I looked carefully out my side and just said “Left Prop’s Clear”, looked again, and started. He just nodded yes so I guess that was sufficient for him. After the left was running smoothly and oil pressure was up, I looked right and said, “Right Prop’s Clear, Unless You See Something”. He said “Right’s Clear to Start” so we got it running.

I hit the avionics switch and made a common private pilot checkride mistake, forgot to get the atis and called ground to taxi. Ground responded “99Y, clear to taxi RWY 17 any taxiway, do you have Delta?” Damn, everything was going too well, and I forget the basics. “Ground, 99Y, Negative on Delta, but I’ll get it on the second Comm as I’m taxiing.” Ground came back (bless them) “99Y, that’s OK, ” and proceeded to read it to me. The DE didn’t say anything, but I’m sure he wasn’t impressed.

The airport this was at has a main runway of 13,300′ and taxiing can take quite a while if we went to the north end. We taxi out, and as we’re going I ask him “Do you have a particular taxiway in mind, just in case we lose an engine on takeoff?” “Oh”, he says, “you think we might?” I said “I was taught that every takeoff should be planned that you’re going to lose an engine.” He says, “True, but in this case halfway down is more than sufficient. Go down to taxiway D.” (The accelerate stop distance for that day and weight came to 2600′ and “D” is at the 6,000′ mark)

He never did pull an engine on me on takeoff the whole ride.

We took off and he told me to go SE of the airport and climb to “whatever altitude you’re comfortable at” to do the airwork. Engine out practice is supposed to be done so that the maneuver is completed at least 3,000′ AGL in most twins. However the Twin Comanche is placarded to 5,000’AGL. I climbed out, and as I went through 4,000 AGL, he says “aren’t you comfortable yet?” I said “Yeah, I am, but the a/c is placarded to do the work at 5,000 instead of 3.” This embarrassed him a little, I think, because he said “Oh, that’s right, I forgot all about that.” and after a little pause “I guess I should have taken your offer of that briefing after all.”

We get to altitude and do the steep turns, power on and off stalls, and the rest of the conventional stuff, and I’m flying pretty well. Everything is well within standards and I’m feeling pretty good. So he pulls the engine for the first time.

Now when I’ve been training, I Identify (everything forward), Verify (Pull the throttle back on the inop engine to make sure you have the right one) and then Secure at which point I just touch the prop control and my MEI gives me simulated “0” thrust on that engine, unless he’s told me ahead of time that he wants me to shut down and feather. Well, the DE and I didn’t have our communication straight, and I did the same thing so as I’m pointing to and touching the prop control, he’s sitting there going “yeah, well, and now what?”.

So I give myself “0” thrust and get the rest of the checklist items secured and then we talk it over so that next time we are both on the same page. Everything goes Ok though, as it was just a straight and level shutdown. So the next time before he pulls the engine he says “OK, we have to shut one down completely sometime in the ride, so the next time I pull an engine, go ahead and feather.” I say OK and he asks for a demonstration of Vmc. I give him that and after recovering and just getting back to low cruise, he pulls the engine. So I shut it down and feather.

I no sooner get it feathered, and grab my checklist to make sure I haven’t missed any of the secure procedures and he says “That’s OK, As long as you grabbed the checklist, I assume you can read, you can go ahead and restart.” During training, we must have shut down an engine a dozen times, and the little Lycomings always restarted on 6 blades or so. But not today. I crank and play with the throttle. No joy. I say “I think it’s flooded from windmilling and trying to restart so quick.” so we try again and he keeps pushing the mixture open. Finally, I say “Let’s just cruise around a couple of minutes, let the starter cool down, and try again.” He agrees so we do and the next time I try I leave the mixture closed and it fires up almost immediately. He then says “That’s good. You have a good checkride going and if it hadn’t started this time I’d have had to discontinue the ride.” In the PTS it says that if an engine does not come out of feather after this maneuver, it should be considered an emergency and the ride immediately discontinued.

He then says “OK, I watched while all this was going on and you held altitude and heading real good even with all the restart distractions, so I’ve seen enough engine out, let’s do the instrument work.” Looking back, I’m still not sure he didn’t flood it intentionally to cause the distraction because of his actions on the mixture control. Maybe not.

Before we left, he told me I’d fly the SLN ILS 35 approach and the VOR 17 approach so like a good little well prepared instrument student I had the plates out and clipped on the yoke, radios tuned, the whole works. So as I turn to head back to SLN, he says “Damn, you know what, those military guys just scattered parts all over the runways at SLN, we’ll have to divert to MPR. 99Y is cleared direct to MPR, pilot’s discretion to 4,000. Advise what approach you’d like.” So I dial in MPR on the GPS to get an initial heading, grab the plates, find the two approaches there. They have VOR approach off the HUT VOR that’s 24nm away, which I have flown before, and an NDB approach at the field. So I dial in the ADF and verify my heading and say “99Y would like the VOR approach for 35, circle to land MPR” and start dialing in the frequencies. He says “99Y cleared to join the 14 DME arc off HUT VOR, VOR 35 approach to MPR.” This goes pretty well, except that I have myself in a not so hot position of a heading of 210 or so and the VOR approach to MPR is on the 20 degree radial. So I effectively have to hit the 14NM mark, +/- 1nm and make a U-Turn back north. This goes ok and lo-and behold, I break out right at the MDA with the runway where it’s supposed to be.

The circle to land should be done so that you are 1 mile or less from the runway at all times. I like to make sure it’s less so I was pretty tight and as I turned downwind to base, he pulls the right engine. I get it secured and he gives me 0 thrust and I’m still in a pretty good position to turn final to land so I ask him “Do you want me to go ahead with the landing?” he says “Well, it’s up to you, but personally if I am flying with half as many engines as I should have, and I’m in a position to land, that’s what I’m going to do.” I took that as a yes and landed. We back-taxied and took off to head back to SLN where We asked for the ILS, but the tower wouldn’t give it to us because of heavy military traffic in the pattern. So we asked for the VOR 17 and that they approved. We headed out to fly the full approach, my hood on, and as we’re outbound to the VOR, the tower is calling traffic of a BeechJet inbound on the VOR 17 approach. And the DE can’t find him. When we’re 5 miles out, and the inbound traffic is 4 out the other way, he’s not liking this one bit so I ask him if he wants me to lift the foggles to help look and he says “No, not yet, but maybe in a second if I can’t spot him”. I can tell he’s not happy because he can’t see the traffic, so I ask him “What if I just start a long teardrop entry from here and give him some separation and then just stretch it out?” He says “That would be good, let’s get out of his way.” So I turn to a heading of 310 and almost immediately he sees him about 3 miles out and beneath us.

With the traffic cleared, I head out and turn inbound, but with the early turn and all, come in right on top of the VOR. Needle wagging all over the place, to/from flag changing. So I just fly a heading of 170 and see where the needle ends up. After it steadied, I was 3/4 scale deflection and was really pissed, but correcting and thinking about going missed. But the needle came back and centered. In addition, with all the confusion, I forgot to start the timer. But I did have DME so I used it. I was not happy because I really assumed I busted the last item in the ride. But he didn’t say anything so I kept going and at MDA and the appropriate DME, I lifted my foggles.

He said “go ahead and land on 12 so we do the crosswind landing”. So I request it from the tower, they approve, and we land. As we turn off, he says “Well, I’m happy if you’re happy”. And I respond “If you’re happy I’m ecstatic.”

As we taxi in and have to wait for 3 T-38’s, he says “IF it were really IMC, what would you have done on that VOR approach?”

“I’d have gone missed and done it over. As it was, I knew where I was, but not exactly where the needle would be when it settled down, and I wouldn’t want to have done that in the clouds.” He said “That’s the only squawk I have of the whole ride. I’d have liked to have heard you say “I’m going missed” at which point I’d have just given you a heading to fly to intercept and continue on, but you never got full deflection so you had a real good idea where you were and it all worked out.”

It was a good experience for me. The DE was really a good guy and wasn’t just worried about busting my ride. He tried to teach while he tested. It was also the first time I’ve ever flown with a DE that wasn’t one of my instructors, and that made me nervous.

I’m in a bit of a unique position in that my CFI is also a CFII/MEI and also a DE for private, Instrument, and Commercial.I’ve known him for over 20 years. He’s given me all my checkrides and nearly all of my biennials. My older brother is also a CFI/CFII/MEI and former FlightSafety Citation instructor so I fly alot of my dual with him and he signs me off. Both of these guys are exemplary pilots and they have over 40,000 hours between them, so I’m really spoiled by having them teach me, but I’m also sheltered because no one else really tests me either. I was glad to get out in the “outside” world and find that I measured up to other’s standards as well.

Sorry for the long post. I re-read it several times and whittled on it, but just couldn’t get it much shorter and still explain about multi-engine training for those of you that may not be familiar with it.

John Stricker