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Private Pilot Checkride

Han Schouten, The Netherlands – 2013-05-17

Intro
The checkride aims at testing your flying skills, concerning the following aspects: take-off, rounding-out from ascent
to level flight, standard turn and rolling-out on the required heading, altitude and speed, steep turn and rolling-out
on the required heading, altitude and speed, cruising descent, flying a standard landing pattern and landing.

The briefing before this checkride is pretty incomplete. The examiner doesn't add much either. So, you will have to
do some homework before flying this checkride. Look-up the information on Bremerton National (KPWT) and
Tacoma Narrows (KTIW), especially the information concerning runways, runway lighting, standard patterns and so
on. Also, try to collect some weather information before taking off.

You will be taking off from Bremerton National runway 19, ascend in a southerly direction (190°) and make a left
turn to the east (90°) on an altitude of 2000 feet at an airspeed of 100 knots. Somewhere along this course you will
fly a full circle with a steep turn. Shortly after that, you will change your heading to 110° and start your descent to a
pattern altitude of 1300 feet. By now, you should be able to see Tacoma Narrows to you right. Enter the downwind
leg of the landing pattern on a heading of 167°, complete a left landing pattern and land on runway 35 (heading
347°). The map below clearly shows what the examiner expects from you:

Bremerton
National
(KPWT)

190°
0 – 2000 ft
110°
167° Tacoma
2000 – 1300 ft
Nm Narrows
1300 ft
(KTIW)
90°
2000 ft

347°
1300 – 0 ft

Hardware requirements
Previously, I have been flying with a joystick having an awkward throttle control and no trim wheel. My achieve-
ments have greatly improved since I have acquired a Saitek yoke, pedals, trim wheel and throttle quadrant. This
checkride is all about precision and that is exactly what these controls provide.

My processor and graphics adapter are less than ideal. I hardly ever reach a frame rate of 20 frames per second.
A low frame rate reduces your chances of accomplishing this checkride, especially in the steep turn.

Be prepared to do this checkride over again many times. The icy voice of the examiner may disturb house mates. Her
harsh denials may become a burden to yourself. Get yourself a headphone!
Before taking off
There is not much time to prepare your flight. When the examiner tells you to take off, you have to take off. Take
care of the following at least:

1. Adjust your trim wheel for take-off (“TO”, 7.9°);

2. Adjust your altimeter (“B”);

3. Release the brakes (“.”);

4. Give 10° flaps.

Takeoff
As soon as the examiner tells you to take off you do the following

1. Give full throttle;

2. Wait until the edge of the instrument panel rises above the horizon;

3. Take the flaps away;

4. Push the yoke forward and keep the edge of the instrument panel just below the horizon; the vertical speed
indicator should indicate 700 to 800 feet per minute by then;

5. Keep the plane on a heading of 190°;

6. Trim the nose of the plane down until you can release the yoke while maintaining a vertical speed of exactly 700
feet per minute;

7. Maintain the plane in this attitude until you have reached an altitude of about 1900 feet; at this point you must
prepare for the transition to level flight.

During this phase of the checkride you won’t make many errors. If you rise too steeply, you will round out too early.
If you rise too slowly, you will round out too late. Just try to be precise! When the examiner exclaims "Good job!",
you have been sufficiently precise.

The transition from climbing to level flight (rounding out)


Whenever you reach this point, you can end up too fast or too slow, or too high or too low. The examiner is pretty
scrupulous about this. Therefore, utmost precision is required. Moreover, the next step (standard turn) follows
immediately afterwards, you have just seconds to complete this maneuver. A successful strategy is the following:

1. Just before reaching an altitude of 2000 feet, push the yoke gently forward until you have reached an altitude of
2000 to 2050 feet;

2. Gently push the yoke a tiny bit further until you attain an altitude of precisely 2000 feet with a speed of precisely
100 knots;

3. Trim the nose of the plane down until you can release the yoke while precisely maintaining the exact altitude of
2000 feet;

4. Reduce your throttle until the engine runs at 2300 rotations per minute; adjust your throttle as required to
maintain an altitude of 2000 feet.
This transition is critical. It must be performed in seconds. You will enjoy having trimmed your plane properly at this
point. If trimmed correctly, you will not have to touch your trim wheel until approaching Tacoma Narrows.

When the examiner rewards you with "Good job!", you may live a while longer to perform the next step.

Standard turn to the left


Probably you are still busy leveling your plane when the examiner requests a left turn to a heading of 90° (due East).
This step is quite easy. Bank to about 20°, keep track of your altitude (2000 feet) and your speed (100 knots) and roll
out to your new heading of 90° in time. Adjust your throttle to maintain altitude. Don't touch your trim wheel as long
as your airspeed is not an issue.

If performed correctly, you will earn another "Good job!" here. You will have a short while to breathe before the
next and what appears to be the most difficult step.

Steep turn to the left over 360°


The steep turn follows some ten or twenty seconds after rolling out of the standard turn to 90°. For most pilots this
is without doubt the most difficult step of the entire checkride. Steep turns are not difficult per se, but clearly bring
to light any lack of control by the pilot. Permanently keep track of the horizon and monitor the plane's attitude. At
the same time, watch your altimeter and your tachometer. Don't overreact.

1. Adjust your throttle to 2400 rotations per minute;

2. Bank to about 45° and actively maintain this bank angle;

3. Maintain your altitude of 2000 feet by gently increasing or decreasing the backward pressure on your yoke;

4. At the heading of 110° reduce throttle to 2300 rotations per minute and roll out of the turn at a heading of 90°;

5. Level your plane using the yoke and take care that it does not rise or descend more than 100 feet up or down;
use your throttle to keep it steady at 2000 feet with the yoke in its neutral position.

You will probably not impress the examiner at your first attempt. Feedback is minimal, but correct most of times.
A close look at your flight analysis diagram, might shed some light on the cause and extent of your failure.

Only if you have demonstrated that you fully master this exercise in all aspects, you will be granted a "Good job!"
again and you will be allowed to proceed. Relax! You just passed the most difficult step in this checkride. From this
moment on, the examiner appears to be somewhat more tolerant.

Standard turn to 110° and cruising descent


Following the instructions of your examiner, adjust your heading to 110° and descend to an altitude of 1300 feet.
Don't touch your trim. Reduce throttle to 1900 rotations per minute and descend with approximately 700 feet per
minute. You have sufficient time to complete this procedure. Start rolling out to a level flight at about 1400 feet
altitude and settle at 1300 feet with trottle at 2300 rotations per minute. If necessary, adjust your throttle to keep
your plane precisely at that attitude.

Standard left landing pattern


Just before reaching the large stretch of water crossed by the Tacoma Bridge, you can see Tacoma Narrows Airport
in front of you and to the right. You will enter the downwind leg for runway 35 on your own initiative and following
your own judgment, You will not receive any hint from your examiner at this point. By now, she is pretty mild
however. I flew past the runway and had to turn back to the right track again, without any repercussions.

Stay on the base leg, maintain a heading of 167° and an airspeed of 100 knots at an altitude of 1300 feet, until you
have the head of the runway at a convenient distance behind you. Make a standard turn to the left. Reduce your
throttle to about 1900 rotations per minute, give 10° of flaps, trim you plane's nose to an airspeed of about 80 knots.

Settle for a descent at about 500 foot per minute, line up with runway 35 (a heading of 347°, actually) and keep your
plane lined up all the way down.

Add flaps, if required. Adjust your airspeed using your trim wheel. Adjust your glide slope using your throttle. Watch
the VASI lights to the left of the runway: two white and two red will get you safely to the tip of the runway. If you see
four white lights, you are too high and you must reduce throttle. If you see four red lights, you should urgently
increase throttle until you see two red and two white lights again and keep it that way.

When you are straight over the head of the runway, push your throttle to idle, wait until your plain is several feet
above the runway, gently pull up and let the plane flair out until the wheels touch the ground. Keep your plane
aligned with the runway and brake to a full stop on the runway. Don't turn into a taxiway! That is the surest way to
forfeit your certificate in the very last moment.

Evaluation
On the Internet you can find a true litany about this checkride and the role of the examiner in it. Don’t blame the
examiner however. By definition she is always right. It is far more productive to blame your misery to your own
flying skills, or lack thereof.

The documentation that accompanies this checkride is insufficient. It would be downright dangerous to put someone
behind the yoke of an airplane that unprepared! Some spatial awareness of what the examiner expects from you
would be helpful. My little map on the first page might fill this gap.

I share the criticism concerning the transition from take-off to level flight. The examiner seems to be extremely
scrupulous at this point. Such strict tolerances should either be documented, or should not be applied at all. The
examiner’s scrutiny at this point seems to have little to do with reality anyway.

I don’t share the criticism regarding the steep turn. Most beginning FSX pilots, including myself, insufficiently master
this exercise, plain and simple. The examiner applies the tolerances as specified. Her ice-cold judgment, over and
over again, is sometimes hard to swallow. A better feedback on what you have done wrong and to what extent,
voiced in a more pleasant way, would make life a bit easier.

The conclusion of the checkride after the steep turn is hardly subject of criticism. Tolerances appear to be less tightly
applied. My own deviation from the prescribed course is one example. Someone reports to have landed next to the
runway and yet have received his certificate!

It is remarkable, that the examiner sends you on a left landing pattern to runway 35 whereas KTIW prescribes a right
landing pattern for this approach. The complete absence of radio communication is not very realistic either.

If someone could tell me how to print your certificate using the Print button, I would be obliged. And – talking about
the certificate – what exactly are the privileges of a Flight Simulator Private Pilot, anyway?

As many people, this checkride has given me some hard times! I didn’t count the number of retries: 40 attempts?
The benefit of all this is, that my flying skills have gradually improved and that I have become much more precise
than ever before. Having passed, I cannot suppress a feeling of deep satisfaction, pride even. Justified?