Friday, April 25, 2008

Unbelievably, Instrument Checkride Passed!!

Well, it's finally happened. And before you ask, no, I don't know anything about the frogs falling from the sky, and I did not see those four dudes riding down the street on horseback. I most certainly did not see a four legged piece of other-white-meat traveling through the air, snout upraised, without a clearance. And I may be going straight to hell, but if so, I'd better go out and get a nice thick winter jacket.

Yes, it's finally done. I'm not trying to be melodramatic about it, but it's been a really, really long time. It's APRIL!! Of 2008!! I started my instrument lessons in March of 2007. Now, what I've learned from this is the following:

  • You have to take control of your own training. No matter how much of it the CFII handles, it won't progress until you take control. You're pilot in command, not just of the airplane, but also of your life.
  • Don't attempt this rating when there's too much else going on. I started my training in the middle of what was a really rough time personally for me; I wasn't emotionally ready to really focus on anything. In addition, I moved twice and bought a house, I was heavily involved in my sister's wedding festivities, I trained for and ran a race, I went to Europe for three weeks....don't do it this way. Focus on it, get it done in 6-8 months.
  • I'm a much better pilot than I used to be. I fly so much more precisely, I'm so much better on the radio, I know so much more about aircraft systems and ATC. I still feel like I have a lot to learn, but still.

I feel like there's so much more I want to do. I want to fly something other than Cessna 172s. I like 172s, don't get me wrong, but man, I'm bored with it. Something bigger, something smaller, something with a tailwheel..whatever!!

Anyway, I'm going to give a short account of my checkride experience. I'm not going to go into great detail, but I would like to thank Sherry Diamond for, first off, being sympathetic to my situation and accommodating my schedule on very short notice, and secondly for being very much a professional and a pleasant person to fly with, as well as a thorough examiner.

To review: Last Thursday, April 17, I had a checkride scheduled with Mike Shiflett, but he had to cancel due to a personal situation. Unfortunately that cancellation happened very close to the time of the checkride, a little over an hour beforehand, so I was pretty disappointed by that. We rescheduled for Tuesday. On Tuesday, Mike and I completed the ground portion of the exam, and it was a good experience -- however, I can't help but think that if we'd started earlier, we probably would've been able to complete the flight. Furthermore, I've since learned that not all examiners insist on conducting their checkrides in VFR conditions, and Tuesday would've been perfectly good IFR weather to fly in. Anyway, what's done is done.

Mike is a very good examiner, and as such, his schedule for the rest of this week was full. I am going to Hawaii next week, so the prospect of just not completing the checkride until afterwards, however unpleasant, was seeming more and more likely. Mike did offer a time on Sunday morning (at 5:00am!), but that wasn't going to work for me (5:00am!!). There was a possibility of Saturday, but...Sherry had talked to John on Thursday and offered that she could complete my checkride today (Friday). So I went that route.

I met Sherry at 1:00, exactly on time (yes!!), and she proceeded to give me a full rundown of the plan and her expectations. I really appreciated this. She'd given me a list of three approaches to prepare the previous night, which was also very helpful. Sherry, unlike Mike, conducts her checkride almost entirely within the IFR system: I file, I get a clearance, we fly three approaches IFR, I talk on the radio. It's almost like....REALITY!! What a concept.

We flew SNS ILS 31, SNS VOR 13 and WVI GPS-A. The plan was to do the ILS 31 pilot nav with procedure turn, but ATC told us they were unable. We ended up on the DME arc, which I flew pretty well, and intercepted the localizer. There was some weirdness with ATC, in that they gave me an altitude alert and chided me for going below 5500 before being established..except, I WAS established. Whatever. I told them so and they didn't argue, so I'm fairly confident it wasn't my mistake (besides, if it were, that would've been a failure!). I flew the LOOONG ILS quite well, and executed the missed. I never did hold at MARNA, though; we were worried about ATC delaying us again so we went straight into vectors for the VOR 13, partial panel. I set up for this quickly. Oh, and I remembered to start my time on both of those approaches. I flew the missed, and once again went straight into vectors for the WVI GPS-A. Here I fell behind; I didn't get the minute weather beforehand, and at some point along the final approach course she prompted me: What's your plan? So I got the weather, and got in a radio call asking if any runway was active. She asked what my circling plan was, I told her, and that was that.

Since we never did hold at MARNA, she basically had me set up for the hold at OSI (Woodside VOR) on the way back to PAO. And we did unusual attitude recovery, which I did very well.

So that was it! It, I say: 2.3 hours on the Hobbs meter. That's a long ride by anyone's standards. But, it's pass, and it's a pass with compliments from the examiner. So I'm done!!!

I'm getting increasingly incoherent (or, perhaps decreasingly coherent) so I'll stop here, have some fun in Hawaii and go from there!


PlasticPilot said...

Congrats ! And welcome in the family of self-learning IFR pilots.

Your check-ride seems really similar to the one I got here in Europe, except that we need only two approaches (one precise, one non-precise).

In your quest for something different that the 172s, you should look for a complex and more powerful aircraft (182RG, PA32, C210, C350, Cirrus...).

You'll see that IFR at 160kts has a different taste. Enjoy !

Janna said...

Sweet!! Huge conratulations!

Having known you while you've been in this process, I definitely know what a big deal this is, so ... well done!